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Fumo Chitai
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1 day ago
  • Overall 6.5
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 7.5
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
I had been meaning to watch Fumo Chitai for a long time. I like business dramas...and the author of the original novel and other dramas based on her novels...and the majority of the excellent cast...so this should've been a winner for me. But I just couldn't get into it at *all.*

I felt sure I'd like it based on all those reasons and the rave reviews here, but it just felt like read more both the script and characters were missing something crucial. I was bored, I was annoyed, I kept waiting for it to get better...all things I didn't expect at all. So disappointing!!

For one, I couldn't feel invested in the characters, who should have been compelling based on the story elements (all of which were fictional, so it's not like they were just trying to keep things true to life). I mean, look at this cast! So many stellar, veteran actors, many of who have incredible chemistry in other dramas and films they've worked together in. But there's just no spark, anywhere. There were no fascinating characters, just a lot of stock characters.

The conflict was predictable, both within the family and business plots. And while yes, it might have been realistic that someone who had lived as a POW for 11 years would be expressionless and stilted, it just didn't work for a drama. Karasawa Toshiaki is an awesome actor, and he did what he could with his catatonic-faced character, but it got really old watching him march around like a wooden soldier expressing little emotion. His colleagues, many played by some of my favorite character actors, were beyond boring. No interesting schemers--just caricatures (and I both get and like Japanese stock characters, I should add)...and don't get me started on how some of these great actors were wasted. Some did the best they could, and some had shockingly bad performances. I don't blame them, though, as the dialog was terrible for the most part, and all in the context of very shallow relationships that never do much but skim the very surface. Just ugh.

The storytelling structure was similar to other Japanese TV historical-setting dramas, but it just didn't feel right for this story. The narration, time jumps back and forth, huge time skips...it just felt flat, and made Iki feel like an even more flat character. As for the plot, I was expecting brilliant strategy, chessboard intrigue, intellectual creativity the best serious business dramas have, but I just wasn't impressed by how they played out Iki's supposedly amazing strategies. There were no real twists or surprises, and I was only slightly emotionally invested at some points.

I did enjoy the idea of showing the progressive growth of the postwar economy through specific industries or trades, although I feel like this has been done better. The perspective on the war and post-war decades was super PC (as usual), but to me seemed to be going a little overboard with the melodramatic nationalism for a fictional story (whereas I can understand it for a biopic or something). I guess it can't be avoided for an anniversary-related drama as no major network is going to take any risks.

As the other reviewer said, the romance was a waste of time and annoying. It would've been far better without that arc even if it was part of the novel as it didn't really serve any purpose except to create some generic conflict. It served some purposes to push the plot, but that actually seemed more like contrived conflict. If it was taken out, it would've been more interesting to see how he worked out his family relationships and guilt. Overall motivations were very muddy and not fully convincing. Even the personal inner conflict Iki is dealing with feels flat and underexplored. Or maybe this was supposed to reflect the whole theme of "The Wasteland?" Not sure any medium but a novel could do this in a meaningful way.

OST was okay; some of the orchestration was typical melodramatic historical nationalistic music (ehhh); other themes were better; there was an interesting use of Western music (didn't get the closing Waltzing Matilda, but it did fit the mood). Mostly it fit the story and didn't distract, so that was a plus.
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Control
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10 days ago
  • Overall 8.5
  • Story 8.5
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
Control is a fascinating Hong Kong thriller that will have you guessing to the end. The story concept is a great twist on on the thriller plot trope of being blackmailed and controlled by an all-seeing eye, or the downward spiral of being 'forced' to commit crimes to cover something up or protect the one thing you care about. Sure, it could have explored the ideas and themes here far more deeply read more or creatively, and I do wish the characters could've been developed just a little more so we could understand their motivations better. But the movie isn't trying to do that, it's just that I feel it could've done so with just a bit more script tweaking.

I enjoyed the tone set by the stylized cinematography (which utilized many CGI sets) and slightly futuristic setting. The CGI is for the most part creatively done, and gives the film so much more style--kind of a graphic novel feel (some have said it had a Sin City vibe). It could've been set in the present day too, but the slight upping of the CCTV world does make the plot more credible, even if still slightly fantastic. I'm sure Hollywood folks would criticize the technology/production design, but I actually liked how the futuristic setting wasn't distractingly overkill but instead felt subtle. There was actually something more realistic about a present world with some remodeling rather than a rebuilt world.

Acting was good; nothing hugely special, although Daniel Wu pulls off his multi-layered character quite deftly. I don't think I appreciated the nuances until I finished the movie. That said, rewatch value is highas a second watch will be a different experience thanks to the twists. The music was really well done--it fit the story and pacing and tone just right.
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The Admiral: Roaring Currents
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12 days ago
  • Overall 7.5
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.5
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 7.5
This had so much potential. It should've been great as a film--it had all the elements: a great historical story worth telling, a talented director/writer, some great veteran actors, a high budget, etc. So I hate that I'm in the Super Disappointed camp and not the This Was a Masterpiece camp. I guess my melodrama tolerance is too low, and my expectations were too high considering how great Kim Han Min's last read more movie was and how iconic this film is always going to be in Korean film history. I mean, pretty much everybody went to go see it when it came out. I love historical films...especially epic historical films...but this one just left me feeling let down, considering how great it should've been.

STORY:
I felt like the downfall of what could've been truly an epic, emotive film were these two things: a seriously mediocre script and melodrama overkill. So I get that filmgoers would have already known the story from history, and I get that in some ways the first half of the script's very sparse storytelling decisions were somewhat typical of this genre for a well-known historical event. But I thought the script was such a waste for the most part, and not only messed up the pacing of the first half, but kept us from being fully invested in compelling character roles.

Here we have in the historical story such complex and rich conflict...but in the film, it hardly plays out in an emotive or visceral way, except for Admiral Yi's inner conflict (which Choi Min Shik did an admirable job showing with very little to work with in the script) and the too-few scenes with Im Joon Young and his wife. No one else's character is remotely developed, and sure, 2 hours isn't a lot of time, but it's plenty. With better writing that first half could have been so compelling instead of dragging like it did. As a result I just didn't feel as much as I should have. The stakes were high, but the storytelling didn't let me actually feel with the characters, and the few that had the potential just weren't capitalized on.

The themes had a ton of potential too. I did like that it went a bit further beyond the typical "stand and fight never bow down" thing (which I do think epic Korean historical films are great at doing in emotive ways). There was that, and it was fascinating to wonder what the admiral would think of next or how he would solve his next impossible problem of doom rather than give in like everyone wanted him to. And on that front, there were some nice plays on typical Art of War strategy ideas. I always enjoy that in war movies, where there's a subtle debate over the philosophy of a particular one. But I thought so much more could have been done with those themes, and so many small relationships and overall plot points that were totally ripe for development. That was disappointing...and ultimately why even the cool plot turns were just cool and not emotionally satisfying.

Instead, there was wayyyyyy too much time spent on melodrama overkill. So Korea does melodrama oh so well and I realize my personal taste has a pretty wobbly line that gets easily crossed. So if your tolerance is way high or you're Korean and super patriotic, you may love what I did not. But I found myself continuously pushed out of the story by the way too loooong shots of Choi Min Shik staring all heroically into the camera or to the side or the way too long slo-mo scenes of battle that actually made some of the otherwise good fight choreography look distracting/ridiculous [e.g. watch soldier stunt man unconvincingly get his brain bashed out with the same move for like 30 seconds instead of 3]. I should note, however, that the battle scenes were for the most part really well done considering how tough it must have been to direct in the studio. Kim Han Min really excels with action scenes.

That said, his War of the Arrows is proof that incredible action/cinematography/direction coupled with good writing goes so much further (he also directed and wrote that script). I don't know for sure, but I'm wondering if more of the script was written by co-writer Jun Chul Hong who also wrote Kundo: Age of the Rampant...another film with tons of potential but similar script flaws.

ACTING:
I was really let down by the acting too. Choi Min Shik was totally the best person for the role of the grizzled leader pressed against the wall, and I was impressed with what Ryu Seung Rong did with his character (the badass enemy Kurushima), who didn't have any interesting dialog but whose presence totally seethed. Otani Ryohei had little interesting dialog too, but had great presence, as did a couple other secondary officers I didn't totally recognize. Jin Goo (the scout) was so good in his few scenes, and his character interesting enough that I was sad we didn't really know who he was in spite of the heroic role he ends up playing on numerous levels.

And while normally I'm not too bothered by Korean actors playing Japanese characters with horrible Japanese accents (especially when it's only a small part of the story), I did not get the choices made here. I mean, there was a ton of Japanese dialog, and there are quite a few excellent Korean actors who speak excellent Japanese. I don't get why they cast Kim Myung Gon in a role many others could've played when he sounded soooo bad it was totally hilarious...and even the actors who were well cast (like Ryu Seung Rong and Cho Jin Woong) are very proficient speakers, and big names, their still-not-convincing accents were pretty distracting...I don't understand why they couldn't at least dub some of the more sub-standard lines in post production like the Chinese do for less-than-fluent second-language speakers? I realize not everyone cares, but sheesh, with such a high budget and so much Japanese dialog, why not do it right?? I mean, this film had a release in Japan, after all.

OST:
As others have said, the epic OST was on point. SO good! Emotional without being too melodramatic, and dramatic without being exhausting...and a great theme. One you'd want to listen to over and over. If anyone knows who the composer is and what other film scores they've done, I'd like to know.

REWATCH:
The naval battle direction in the second half was pretty great and worth rewatching. And if you're not familiar with the story, it's also worth rewatching so you can actually get what's going on in the first half, which can be slightly confusing as there's very little character introduction or set up.
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