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Archive for May, 2014

Protector 2 poster

Set 5 years after the events of the first movie, Kham is teaching kids how to communicate to elephants with the help of his beloved Khon who he treats like a brother. He learns through a friend that somebody wants to buy his elephant but he refuses. Kham leaves Khon with his friend whilst he goes to town. When he comes back to his place, his friend has been attacked and his elephant kidnapped once more. Kham goes to the house of the person that wanted to buy Khon only to find he’s been murdered. He’s caught in the house by the dead man’s two nieces who assume that Kham has murdered him. Kham is forced to go on the run from the two women. The real culprit is an organisation headed by a foreign man named LC. They kidnap Kham and ask him to assassinate a politician to bring about a civil war between two countries or Khon will come to some harm. With the help of an Interpol police agent and one of the nieces, Kham sets out to destroy LC and his organisation.

This movie heralds the return of Tony Jaa who went on hiatus for a couple of years and allegedly became a monk (not sure if that’s true or not?). His last movie before he disappeared (Ong Bak 3) was a total disaster. The problem that led to his hiatus was because of a 10 year contract with Samhangkol Film International that Jaa was tied up to. He wanted to do other movies but they weren’t going to allow him to do that. It’s alleged that Jaa had a bit of a breakdown because of this problem so he walked away from everything and waited until the contract had finished. This has now happened which is why he’s back making this movie. The funny thing is Jaa has signed up to the same studio again and they’re the ones behind this movie. I just hope Jaa has asked for some concessions this time with his new contract or the same problems could arise again. Another person returning is female action star Jeeja Yanin. Back in 2012 she shocked her fans when she announced she was pregnant and was going to get married. A movie containing both these Thai action stars you’d hope would be a right cracker but as you’ll see in the review below this movie is a bit of a mixed bag and it doesn’t really deliver.

It’s best for me to tell those that expect this movie to mark a return to form for Tony Jaa to lower their expectations. Trust me, if you do this you won’t be disappointed by what you see. It is nothing like the enjoyable first Protector movie. The biggest problem with this movie is the overuse of CG effects which is really ropey and looks terrible. Gone are the real stunts and proper fights we saw in Jaa’s previous movies. The reliance on third-rate special effects and wirework is shown at its worst in an overlong motorbike/rooftop chase during the first half which at times looks fake and it isn’t even believable. You have to suspend your disbelief watching this sequence. I have no idea why the Thai filmmakers turned their backs on the raw stunts/fights – elements which had made the previous movie so successful.  It seems that Jaa isn’t even fighting at his usual speed during the movie, perhaps he was asked to slow down to accomodate the limited martial arts skills of RZA and Marrese Crump. I did find it strange why they also chose to rip Star Wars lightsaber sounds for one of Jaa’s fights on electrified train tracks. Wonder if George Lucas knows about it?

Protector 2 screenshot

Tony Jaa is just OK in this movie, he is definitely not at his best here. It’s gonna take a movie with a better script to repair his reputation. I was quite pissed off at the treatment of Jeeja Yanin. She is shamefully underused and only pops up now and then to help Jaa’s character out and coupled with the fact that she is made to look weak in certain scenes this really annoyed me. What an opportunity the director had in having two of the hottest Thai martial artists around in his movie and he totally screws it up. The worst actor of all in the whole production is RZA (he of The Man WithThe Iron Fists fame) who doesn’t come up to scratch as the lead villain. He is just terrible and his acting is pathetic in this movie. Couldn’t they have picked somebody better to go up against Tony Jaa? I’m sure there are plenty of actors who could have done a much better job. Marrese Crump as RZA’s no.2 in his organisation manages to outshine his American co-star by having a couple of great one-on-one scraps with Jaa.

At the end of the day, whilst it’s good to see Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin back on the big screen, I can’t rate this movie other than plain average. The plot is a bit of a mess and the awful CGI effects doesn’t help things one bit. Hopefully things will improve for both stars in the future and I eagerly await their next movies.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Deadful Melody dvd

A little girl and her brother are forced to flee with the family’s magic lyre when their parents are massacred although they are split up during the pursuit by their enemies. The magic lyre has the power to kill and certain people are desperate to get their hands on it. 16 years on and the little girl named Snow has grown into a woman. She is the current owner of the lyre and hasn’t forgotten about what happened to her parents. She sets out to seek vengeance on those that wronged her. Snow has a plan which will draw out her enemies by asking a courier Lui Lun to transport the lyre to a certain person. She knows that if her enemies find out about the lyre, they are certain to attack the courier in order to steal it. Lui Lun’s father is killed by the villains only for him to discover that he wasn’t his real father. He was adopted when he was a child and that he is really Snow’s sister. Although angry with Snow at first for getting him involved with her plans of revenge, he is eventually reconciled with his sister. They team up together to fight off their enemies once and for all.

This HK wuxia movie isn’t that well-known over in the West but it has all the ingredients of what makes the genre so much fun to watch (which includes people fighting through the air, a ludicrous plot, some OTT characters and plenty of swordfights). The story starts out very promisingly with an exciting action-packed sequence and this sets the pattern for the rest of the movie with the energetic and inventive action scenes coming thick and fast with hardly a pause in between them. At least nobody will be able to complain that the movie is boring!! Viewers could get confused with the complex plot as there is so many characters and trying to fathom which side each of them are on might make your head spin!!  Then again this isn’t a movie to be taken seriously so let the plot go over your head and just enjoy the spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

Deadful Melody screenshot

The plot as you’d expect from this genre is totally bonkers and the lyre in question when played properly can kill a person (in fact they explode in a cloud of multi-coloured dust!!). It seems to me like the filmmakers went in with an ‘anything-goes’  approach to the action scenes. I’m glad they did as that what makes this movie a joy to watch. You just never know what the hell they’re going to come up with next. The special effects and the wirework scenes are exhilarating. The humour in the plot is funny at times as well – some of the colourful dialogue in particular will make you smile! Unfortunately there isn’t a resolution to the story which suggested to me that there was a sequel being planned (which obviously didn’t take place after all).

Some might say that Brigitte Lin is typecast once again in a cross-dressing role but I thought she was great in it. You can always count on Brigitte to give a good performance which came a year before she quit the movie business. Her character isn’t quite so straight forward as you think – her mind has been so consumed by revenge she’s close to becoming just a cold hearted murderess and not somebody that’s out for justice for her parents. Yuen Biao holds his own with Brigitte Lin but he sure looks his age in this movie. He also doesn’t get to show a lot of his usual acrobatic martial arts skills because it’s more about sword-fighting so I felt a bit let-down because of that. Biao and Lin complement each other quite well in this movie. Although she’s not in a lot of scenes, Siu Wing-Sang is stunning as a witch who is deadly with a whip and the reliable Carina Lau is also funny as a feisty woman. The actors playing the clan leaders who are after Snow and her lyre also give good performances

If you’re a fan of OTT wuxia movies you should find this enjoyable enough. It’s far from being a classic but it will hold your interest due to the enthusiastic action scenes. I had fun watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Failan (2001)

failanposter

Kang-Jae is a lowly member of a gangster organisation who has seen his best days gone by. He and the boss of the organisation who is Kang’s best friend built up the company but has seen his status change over the years. He is seen as a washed out member of the gang by his young peers. One night Kang’s boss murders a person in a parking lot and rather than going to prison, Kang volunteers to go to jail instead as a favour for his boss. Some months previously, a young woman from China named Failan comes to Korea after the death of her parents to look for work. Her aunt whom she was supposed to be staying with has moved away to Canada. However, because she has no family there now, it will be difficult for her to get a working visa……although there is one way of getting around this. She would have to get married. Kang-Jae who is after some money agrees to marry Failan without having seen her properly apart from a quick glimpse. Failan is sent to work to a small coastal village as a laundry assistant where despite the language barriers at first she is seen to be a valuable worker to her boss. Fast forward to the present day and just as Kang-Jae is about to turn himself in to the police, they come knocking on his door to tell him that Failan has died. In order to go through all the paperwork following her death, Kang has to go on a trip to where she lived and worked. After being handed some letters that Failan had written to him, Kang learns more about her and realises just how grateful she was to him for marrying her. Even though Kang never met his late wife, he begins to develop some feelings for her………

There may be some of you out there that really like romantic dramas and seen plenty of them in your time but I guarantee you won’t have seen an original romantic drama such as this one in which the 2 leading roles share a love for one another but never meet or even speak to each other. All the usual clichés you’d expect in a drama such as this is thrown out of the window to create a unique heartbreaking story which will make a lot of viewers cry. It’s hard for anybody not to be moved by the end credits. It’s a romantic tragedy about two lost souls which really hits you hard in a way that can’t be easily shaken off but I should tell you that it’s not a tearjerker in a normal traditional way.

Failan screenshot

The story is told in a series of flashbacks relating to Failan’s life in Korea and Kang-Jae’s journey to identify her body after her death in the present. The first part of the movie introduces the viewer to Kang-Jae’s seedy world after he’s released from jail for selling porn videos from his shop and the 5 members of the gang he is associated with. Kang-Jae’s life has been in free-fall for some time which is why he’s now just a lowly gangster. He is looked down by fellow gangmembers and even his boss abuses him. He’s what you might call a born loser who thinks by swaggering around acting all tough and being loud that people will respect him. A change occurs in Kang-Jae when he learns of his wife’s death – a person he’d forgotten that he married (he only did it for money after all). He doesn’t seem to care at first but by visiting where she worked, talking to people that knew her and reading the letter she wrote to him, Kang-Jae gets a picture of who Failan was. By learning how she appreciated being given the chance to work in South Korea by Kang-Jae, we see him beginning to develop some feelings for her. His transformation is complete though when a second letter is given to him after Failan’s cremation. It is this letter that finally hits home to him just how much he liked her. But by this time it’s too late and the person he never even met, who gave him the dignity he wanted is dead and he realises the opportunity he’s missed. The term “two ships passing in the night” comes to mind.

If Kang-Jae represents the dark side of life, Failan is the pure and good side. Her shy, quiet and innocent charm will endear you to her and the tragic plight that befalls her will have you in tears. She is probably one of the sweetest female characters you’ll ever see in an Asian movie. It is shown early on that Failan is quite ill but it isn’t explained until much later on in the movie just how seriously ill she is. Her experiences as she tries to fit into her new surroundings with only a very basic grasp of the Korean language will captivate and make you care for her. Failan has no comprehension what kind of a man Kang-Jae is so based on a small photo she has of him smiling and thinking he was so kind for marrying her she assumes he’s a good man. If only she knew the truth about him! It’s because of her beautiful personality and the undying gratitude to the husband she never met that makes her death even harder for viewers to comprehend. I’m not ashamed to say I had tears in my end right at the end of the movie.

The acting by the leading pair is superb. I’m not going to praise Choi Min-sik again because I’ve done it before from other movies I’ve watched him in but I have to say he really is superb here. He gives a faultless performance in this movie and seeing him break down after reading Failan’s 2nd letter it’s difficult not to become emotional yourself. It is Cecilia Cheung though that will surprise many people. I know she’s a good actress and has starred in many HK productions but this role is probably the best thing she’s done over the years. She shows another side to her acting here. Her portrayal of a sad and lonely young woman trying to find her place in a foreign land is stunning. I was astonished just how good she could be given the right role.

All in all, Failan is a remarkable, touching and extraordinary movie with a wonderful plot and excellent acting from everybody involved. Despite the long running time, this is absolutely necessary to develop things in the plot for the big impact near the climax. Don’t miss out on watching this classic movie. It’s as close to perfection as you’ll ever get. Very highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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The Wind Rises (2013)

The Wind Rises poster

This Studio Ghibli movie is a fictionalised account of Jiro Horikoshi’s life. Jiro was the man responsible for creating the Mitsubishi Zero Fighter airplane which was used for the Pearl Harbor and kamikaze attacks by the Japanese air force during WWII. As a young child Jiro was always dreaming of airplanes but since he had problems with his eyesight he discovered he could never be a pilot so he had ambitions of designing them instead. He attends university and passes with flying colours. Jiro gets a job with the Mitsubushi Internal Combustion Engine Company and after failing with his first aircraft he soon gets a chance to go to pre-WWII Nazi Germany to see how they design their aircraft. He comes back to Japan with more drive and desire to create the perfect airplane even though he is somewhat distracted at times by a woman he likes named Naoko who he met in the past.

Hayao Miyazaki has threatened to retire from making anime movies many times in the past but this time round it seems certain that this movie will be his swansong. The man is in his 70’s now and he deserves a well-earned rest though he won’t be disappearing entirely. He’s just going to be overseeing future Studio Ghibli productions instead. The legacy he leaves behind will be spoken of for a long time to come. However, this movie is likely to attract controversy from certain quarters because of the touchy subject manner in glorifying a man that designed military aircraft for the purpose of killing people. It is based on Miyazaki’s own manga and is probably the most adult of his movies. It’s also a personal movie as Miyazaki’s father was an aircraft engineer who built planes. This isn’t a movie that panders to children and to be honest I think they’d be bored with it anyway. It is after all a historical biography of a man pursuing his dream during a time when his country was going down the path to war. Don’t expect to see any cute characters, floating castles or some strange creatures here. The only thing that links this to Miyazaki’s other movies is his love for flying machines. Nearly every movie Miyazaki has done features some kind of flying machine in them as he has an interest in aviation. The animation by Ghibli is up to its usual high standards and Joe Hisaishi has composed a lovely soundtrack to accompany the story.

yoko_out

The plot is grounded in reality but of course it wouldn’t be a Miyazaki movie without some kind of fantasy element and in this case it’s Jiro meeting up with famed Italian aircraft engineer Giovanni Caproni in his dreams where he gets his inspiration and creativity. I’ve always enjoyed Miyazaki’s movies and have never felt any of them to be weak so far but I felt this movie dragged on for way too long especially during the middle section which focuses more on Jiro’s relationship with his wife who he first meets as a young girl during the aftermath of the Great Kanto earthquake and how she ultimately falls ill with TB. While all of this is touching and sad, I actually became bored by all of it. I wanted the story to stick with Jiro’s dream of creating the ultimate aircraft. It felt to me that these scenes stopped the natural progression of the plot. I just couldn’t connect with the character of Jiro either as I didn’t find him engaging enough. I was a little disturbed as well when Jiro tells Naoko he fell in love when he first met her. I’d guess she was only around 10 years old at the time and Jiro was in his late teens. Even though some people might say this movie makes Jiro some kind of hero in Japan for making warplanes, it is made clear that Jiro isn’t happy that his finished designs are being used for war purposes.

Whilst it was an interesting movie, I was still a little bit disappointed with it. I wouldn’t say it’s up there with Miyazaki’s best work. I’m more of a fan of his traditional movies such as Totoro etc. I was expecting something far more epic with tons of fantasy for his last movie. Despite my negative views on this movie, you definitely need to check it out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Gatchaman movie

The evil organisation Galactor headed by Berg Katse have invaded the planet Earth and are trying to conquer it. The I.S.O though have a trick up their sleeve in a group of teenagers who have special powers to combat their threat. Will Galactor’s scheme come to fruition or will Gatchaman save the day?

Gatchaman or Battle Of The Planets as it was known to everybody in the West was a very popular show in the 70’s and 80’s. Running for 3 seasons in Japan, it is the first season that viewers in the West is more familiar with than the other two (though the 2nd season was eventually translated into English during the late 90’s and aired as Eagle Riders). Sandy Frank bought the rights to the first season of Gatchaman where he began to butcher the original Japanese editions by cutting the most violent parts out such as people dying and adding new animation made by Gallerie International Films. These contained added characters 7-Zark-7 and his associates 1-Rover-1, and Susan to inform the viewers from the G-Force base called Center Neptune what kind of mission our heroic team was going to do each episode.  I loved BOTP as a child and had no idea it was a Japanese anime until the early 90’s and with the internet in its infancy I began to try and find out more about it. It was during this time I discovered what Sandy Frank had done and that the Japanese originals were far more violent than what I had seen and that the annoying 7-Zark-7 wasn’t even in it. This piqued my interest so much I just had to get my hands on the originals. In the end there was a man from Kansas selling the last 5 episodes of the first season which had never been aired in the West on a bulletin board (no Ebay before late 1995!). On watching those episodes you could see straight away how far superior it was to BOTP. Since that time I’ve grown into a big fan of Gatchaman and I was excited upon hearing that a live-action movie was coming out. The trailer didn’t do anything for me but I was prepared to give it a chance. You’ll see below that it didn’t turn out quite as I expected it to be.

The movie started out brightly enough with an impressive attack on Tokyo by Galactor in which they use a massive spiked spinning wheel to destroy roads and buildings. The Gatchaman team is quickly introduced (leader Ken, Jun, Jinpei, Ryu and Jo) who use their powers to foil the attack. Now you would think that this would set the tone for the rest of the movie but sadly it doesn’t. This is probably the highlight of the entire movie. It’s all downhill for the rest of the story. The majority of the movie is as flat as a pancake with no spark in the cliche ridden script. Not even the climatic fight between Berg Katse and the team on some stone pillars did anything for me. I couldn’t wait for the movie to end. Those that expect this to have resemblance to what you loved as a child will be really disappointed – I guess it was my fault for setting my expectations too high.

Gatchaman screenshot

This is a modern remake of Gatchaman. I’m not a fan of remakes to be perfectly honest, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to shows I adored as a child. The costumes and the Phoenix have been radically altered and some things have been left out altogether. Where is Sosai X, Jun’s yo-yo weapon or the individual team vehicles inside the Phoenix?  Even the Bird Go transformation cry is missing. I’m not too enamoured with the Gatchaman characters either. The underlying animosity between Ken and Jo which ran throughout the original Japanese anime is retained but with a poor explanation of why that’s the case. The whole team is just bland, forgettable and downright uninteresting and it’s hard to feel any empathy towards them. And then we come to the special effects. It’s very inconsistent to say the least.

I’m glad to say that I wasn’t the only one complaining about this movie. Japanese movie fans gave it a big thumbs down and it only scraped into the Top 5 in the box office charts before disappearing completely soon after.  I’m sure had there been a director who loved Gatchaman and had at least tried to be faithful in tone to the anime it might have worked. It seemed to me that the director wanted to piss the hardcore fans off with his own version and disregard the history of the show. Well he certainly succeeded if that was his intention!

In the end, this wasn’t a good movie at all. Maybe I woudn’t have minded all the big changes if the movie had been fun and entertaining. Even though there is a hint of a sequel at the end,  I would imagine the chances of that happening has gone down the drain after this disaster. I’m sure newbie fans to the franchise will enjoy it but if like me you were hoping for a welcome blast to the past be prepared for a big letdown.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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space-battleship-yamato-resurrection

It is the year 2220 and 17 years has gone by since the Yamato was seriously damaged while saving the Earth from the threat poised by the planet Aquarius. During that time Kodai and Yuki married and have a daughter named Miho. She is now 15 years old and works as an assistant for an animal shelter. The crew of the Yamato have gone their seperate ways. Kodai is working in deep space on freighter cargo missions leaving Yuki back on Earth. Then a new threat faces the Earth. A massive black hole enters the Milky Way and its trajectory unfortunately coincides with colliding with Earth. Within 3 months the black hole will have reached Earth. With no way of stopping the black hole, only one option can be taken  – mass migration to another planet to ensure the survival of the human race. The Amare system has one planet which can take all of humanity and plans are set in motion for a mass exodus. The first wave of civilian transport ships departs for their destination and Kodai’s wife Yuki volunteers to be a Commander for the military escort. Without warning, the transport ships come under attack and the ones that haven’t been destroyed manage to warp out of trouble. However, Yuki’s ship has been heavily damaged and when it comes out of hyperspace Yuki is missing. Kodai rushes back home to Earth only to be pushed away by his daughter. She blames him for abandoning her and Yuki. Kodai is summoned by Sanada, formerly an officer on the Yamato but now a Minister. He wants Kodai to escort another fleet of civilian ships to Amane. He is informed that the Yamato has been salvaged from Aquarius and upgraded with the latest technology. Kodai accepts as he can also try and solve the mystery of where his wife has disappeared. The new Yamato and the civilian ships come under attack from an enemy that is known as the S.U.S. They don’t want mankind to come to the Amare system as they think they will threaten the peace of the system. As the Amare system is aligned with the S.U.S, Kodai has a difficult decision – attack their enemies knowing full well that the S.U.S will launch an attack on the planet where humanity has landed or do nothing? What will Kodai do and what is the eventual fate of planet Earth from the oncoming black hole?

After a gap of 30 years from the big screen, the Space Battleship Yamato returned with a brand new adventure and an all-new crew. I’m sure that Yamato fans were salivating from the mouth on hearing that a new animated movie was going to be made at the time. To be honest 30 years was a hell of a long gap and I’m sure somebody could have come up with a good storyline for a movie well before 2009. The successful formula that made Yamato so popular is all here from a big threat to our planet, exciting space battles, a dash of romance and melodramatic moments. I loved the idea of a massive black hole heading for Earth and the only available option for humanity is to leave. How can you stop a force of nature that pulls everything inside it? Ships can’t destroy it and it’s course can’t be altered. This could have been a story where all of the old crew get back together to save the day but it was great to see that this would be different. With Yuki’s mysterious disappearance, Kodai has a reason to rejoin the military. Not only has he got to make sure that humanity is transported safely to a new planet but he has to look for his wife as well. There is no explanation why Kodai left the service after the Aquarius incident and why he took a job as a freighter pilot. In fact he had not returned to see Yuki on Earth for nearly 3 years – obviously there was something bothering Kodai for this to happen. This creates animosity between him and his daughter Miho as she thinks he just abandoned her although on Yuki’s part she didn’t think so. It’s a shame this aspect of the plot doesn’t get developed that much. In fact nothing about Yuki’s disappearance is resolved in the end paving the way perhaps sometime in the future for another movie which will see Kodai resume his search for his wife or maybe not. I know that there’s another Yamato movie scheduled for release in Japan in December 2014 but that will be based on the anime Yamato 2199 (remake of the first series) which aired during 2012/2013.

Yamato Resuurection screenshot

There’s an interesting mix of characters that portray the Yamato’s new crew from the young twins that are the chief engineers for the ship to the female doctor who also doubles as a fighter pilot when the need arises. Of course the new characters aren’t a patch on the classic crew. I did enjoy seeing Kodai getting a tour of the new and improved Yamato. Even the ship’s feared wave motion cannon has been improved and instead of it only being fired once as a last gasp solution to a crisis, it can now be shot 6 times. The scriptwriters have tried to cram a lot into the storyline by including not only one villainous race but another more powerful enemy as well. The majority of the movie has the Yamato pitting their wits against the deadly SUS Alliance but just when you think everything has been resolved and the Yamato has triumphed against a massive fortress by destroying a sun and then makes it’s final journey to Earth to pick up the last remaining inhabitants and to rescue his daughter, a new and more deadly foe who was a part of the SUS pops up to say that he is responsible for the black hole. There’s a rather poor explanation that the reason the black hole is heading for Earth is because there is a lot of energy on the planet. So the Yamato has to fight one more battle to save the Earth. I won’t spoil the outcome for you.

The CG animation for the movie is superb and it looks brilliant especially during the many space battles. There is more detail on many of the ships and they move about a lot smoother so the transition to CG for the Yamato in this movie is definitely an improvement. I did have a problem though with the soundtrack for this movie. For the first half traditional Yamato themes were used but then it strangely switches to classical music during the dramatic moments of the second half and I didn’t think it suited the storyline at all. It just sounded completely out of place and I’m just questioning why did the filmmakers need to do that. Very odd.

Ultimately whilst it was great to see the Yamato back and looking better than ever in this new movie, somehow it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the previous movies that I’ve seen. Perhaps it was to do with the new crew or there was something lacking in the script, it just doesn’t get the top marks that I gave the other 3 theatrical movies. It’s still a very enjoyable movie so if you’re a fan of the classic Yamato series/movies you should like this a lot.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Castaway on the Moon poster

Seong-geun is ready to kill himself by jumping off a brudge into the Han River. His life has fallen apart – everything has gone wrong. He has lost his job when his company went bankrupt, he has a huge debt and his girlfriend has also left him. He jumps off the bridge but doesn’t die. Waking up, he finds himself on what he thinks is a desert island but in reality he is only a few hundred yards from the bridge he jumped and he can see buildings from across the river. He tries to swim to the other side but he’s not very good at it and has to turn back and even signalling for help to the passing pleasure boats doesn’t help his situation. To make things even worse, his mobile phone battery has died so he can’t call anyone. He is well and truly stuck on an island in the middle of Seoul! He tries to kill himself again but he fails once more. The only thing he can do is try and survive on the island by using whatever resources he can find which is a lot as a ton of rubbish has been washed up. To try and attract attention he writes HELP in the sand, not that he’s confident that anybody will see it. Meanwhile in an apartment, a young woman Jeong-yeon who has locked herself in her room for 3 years and whose hobby is taking photos of the Moon spots Seong-geun’s message on the island using her camera. In her mind she thinks he’s an alien. Wanting to respond to his plea for help, Jeong-yeon ventures out of her apartment in the dead of night to deliver a message in a bottle by throwing it from a bridge.  Seong-geun responds by writing more messages in the sand and Jeong-yeon writes back every time. How long can Seong-geun stay on the island? The answer may not be too long as a typhoon threatens to destroy the shelter and everything Seong-geun has built on the island. Will he also manage to find out the identity of his mysterious messenger?

I’d heard some rave reviews for Castaway On The Moon a couple of years ago but because I had so many other movies to check out first I put watching it on the backburner until now that is. Hands down, this is one of the best Korean movies I’ve ever seen and I can understand why it’s been wowing viewers all over the world. Let’s get one thing straight as I’ve seen many people saying this is some kind of rip-off of Tom Hanks’ Castaway. Yes, there are a couple of similar things between the two movies in that it’s about a man cut off from society on an island but as far as I’m concerned they’re two completely different movies because Tom Hanks’ character is stuck on an island far away from civilisation and you can’t say that about Kim’s situation as he’s just stuck on a small island in the middle of Seoul! I think this movie is far superior to Castaway as well.

This is an original romantic comedy about isolation and loneliness between two people at their lowest ebb and how they connect with each other through the strangest of circumstances. In turn they begin to learn about enjoying life once more. You’ll never be able to look at black bean noodles again without thinking about Seong-geun’s experience on the island and how he manages to change from being a loser to somebody that is able to adapt in his environment and create his own little paradise by using things that regularly washes up on the shore. A discarded pedal duck boat for example is used as his sleeping shelter. Gradually he learns new skills such as ploughing a small patch of land to grow black beans from a discarded seed packet and catching fish from the Han river. Soon enough all thoughts of wanting to be rescued disappear from Seong-geun’s mind. On the island he is King and free from society that pushed him to the edge of despair he is content with himself.

Castaway on the Moon screenshot

Jeong-yeon’s story is equally as brilliant as Seong-geun. Here we have a young woman who in Japanese terms is a ‘hikikomori’ (not sure if there’s a Korean term for people like that?). Everything she needs is supplied by her mother who drops it next to her bedroom door. Why Jeong-yeon has shut herself from the outside world is never explained but it could be something to do with the burn mark that is on one side of her face. Perhaps she didn’t like people staring and commenting about it whenever she went outside. Although I may have seen some Japanese movies with people such as Jeong-yeon changing for the better, I don’t think I’ve seen a more interesting portrayal of a ‘hikikomori’ before. You instantly feel for her and don’t even think for one instance that she’s a weirdo but of a vulnerable person that’s been hurt by the world.

The relationship between Seong-geun and Jeong-yeon is very unique and I liked how they came to rely on one another and overcome their fears and issues but you have to ask yourself why did they communicate in English – maybe Jeong-yeon thinks he’s a foreigner! There is some wonderful comedic moments that take place such as the take-away delivery man who brings some food over to the island to Seong-geun after Jeong-yeon has ordered them for him. The last third brings more drama than comedy to the movie as Seong-geun’s time on the island draws to a close. You sort of hope that both characters will eventually meet up with each other and start a proper relationship as they are so likable but does that happen? You’ll just have to watch this movie won’t you to find out!!

Overall this movie is very funny, charming, full of wit and depth with excellent acting and a perfect script. You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve seen this movie. It’s easily one of the best movies I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Truly amazing. Go see it now. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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