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Archive for the ‘Disaster’ Category

The Flu (2013)

The Flu movie poster

A container which is full of Hong Kong illegal immigrants arrive at a port in South Korea. When the smugglers open the container the people inside are all dead except for one survivor who flees from the scene. The man is infected with a deadly variant of the bird flu virus and soon the virus starts spreading all over the city of Bondang, a rich suburb of Seoul.  As thousands become infected with the disease, the government orders the army to lock down the city in order to contain the virus. Extreme measures are put into place which angers the citizens of the city. Anarchy and chaos soon takes over. Dr Kim In Hae is a part of the scientific taskforce charged with trying to find a cure but first they must find the survivor and hope his blood contain antibodies.

This is a cracking South Korean apocalyptic blockbuster disaster/thriller. It shows the terrifying consequences of what happens when a variant of the bird flu virus is released and it spreads like wildfire amongst the population. There is no cure and the fatality rate is 100% within 36 hours. The plot contains a lot of edge-of-your-seat drama and it has a good pace about it. It’s true that comparisons to Outbreak and Contagion will happen but I thought that this movie was much better and more enjoyable than either one. The story concentrates on 3 individuals – a rescue worker, a female doctor and her cute young daughter. The rescue worker falls for the female doctor after saving her from a car accident. The female doctor has a personal reason than most to find a cure for the flu as her daughter has been infected. What the movie also does well is show how the government tries to contain the epidemic with many difficult decisions having to be made. You can feel their helplessness as the disease threatens to get completely out of control and perhaps engulf the world. The sense of magnitude of what is taking place is shown in all of it’s gory detail with dead bodies scattered around and sick people coughing up vast amounts of blood. There’s a horrifying scene as the viewer is shown the eventual fate of anybody who’s got the flu virus. They are to be thrown into a mass grave where they’ll be incinerated by flame throwing military personnel. Ji-Goo bravely rescues Mi-reu before she’s about to be torched. There’s a bit of a sly dig at South Korea’s ally in the US as the villainous advisor to the Korean Government who orders a missile strike at the climax to wipe out Bondang by fighter jets is American.

The Flu screenshot

The emotional side to the story is mostly carried by the young daughter Mi-reu who is separated from her mother and she finds a friend in the noble hero Ji-Goo who becomes sort of like a surrogate father to her. The rapport between the two characters is touching. I’m sure there’ll be some tears from some viewers during the climax when Mi-reu reunites with her mother in a zone where anybody crossing from the quarantine district into the non-infected area is shot on sight if they go over an orange line. There is more than a fair share of melodrama introduced during the second half as Asian fans are known to like this sort of thing in their movies. It’s not all doom and gloom in the story as the comedy relief is provided by Ji-Goo’s co-worker.

Soo-ae and Hyuk Jang give convincing performances in their roles but it’s the plucky little actress Min-ah Park that stands out. She is incredible as Kim Mi-reu. She’s definitely one of the best child actresses I’ve seen. I may not be a parent myself but I so wanted to protect that little girl from all the horrors she was exposed to during the movie. You start to care for the 3 main leads as to what will happen to them.

This is a fantastic disaster movie which joins numerous others that Korea has produced over the last couple of years. It’s well written with just the right amount of tension and suspense, it has a terrific pace about it and has superb acting from all the cast. This is a great comeback movie from director Kim Sung-su whose last movie came out 10 years ago. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Pandemic (2009)

pandemic-movie

A young ER doctor at a hospital by the name of Matsuoka receives a male patient who seems to be displaying the classic symptoms of flu. However, the tests they do come back false. Soon enough the man begins to bleed from the eyes and nose before convulsing and finally dying. This is only the start as many people start to become infected with this deadly virus which is given the name BLAME by the newspapers. All the early signs point to a poultry farm where the chickens there have died in large numbers. A recent outbreak of bird flu has happened in the Phillipines and infected chickens from the country have been transported to the farm in Japan. The World Health Authority sends a team to tackle and isolate the virus led by female doctor Eiko Kobayashi . She asks Matsuoka to assist her team and though he is reluctant at first (as there is a past history between them) he relents in the end. A hospital is placed under quarantine as more patients start to die but the problem isn’t confined to one city as the virus spreads all over Japan. After rigorous tests, it is discovered that the virus may not be bird flu after all but something far more deadly that could bring mankind to it’s knees unless an antidote is found. Society falls to pieces in Japan. The race is on to find where this new virus has originated from and to find a vaccine that can stop it.

This movie gives us the frightening premise if a new deadly virus would begin to spread around the population and how unprepared we are should the unthinkable happen. Japan has tackled this genre before in the 80’s with the movie Virus but with the threat of new diseases such as SARS which has appeared in the last 15 years this was director Zeze Takahisa’s chance of giving a new slant on the genre. Part disaster movie, romance and thriller, it has an interesting story though hardly original with plenty of tension and suspense as the infection takes hold on Japan. It’s also quite believable too as what takes place in the story could actually happen. Usually in these kinds of movies the focus is more on the military declaring martial law and taking over operations but thankfully that doesn’t happen here. There is a military presence in the movie but it mostly focuses on the medical team trying to find a cure which makes it rather refreshing.  There’s a good balance in the story between dramatic set pieces and drama between the characters as they desperately search for anything that will narrow down the source of the disease. At times it seems like no cure will be found as each strand of investigation draws a blank until a trip to a small Asian island leads to a breakthrough. There’s a rather pointless romance sub-plot going on between Eiko and Matsuoka. He was her student at medical school some years ago and then they got involved with each other but as Eiko was ambitious she left Japan and left Matsuoka heartbroken hence the reason for his initial frostiness towards her. There are plenty of scenes showing the breakdown of society as more and more people start to die from the disease. A backlash even starts against the owner of the chicken farm Shosuke Kamimura by his neighbours where his entire stock has died. The poor man cannot handle the shame and stress. He is found dead having hanged himself in his barn by his own daughter even though the disease has nothing to do with his birds after all. The doomsday images of empty deserted city streets are very eerie and hospitals begin to overflow with sick and dying people. The doctors have to make a decision to only treat those who have a chance of survival and let the others die which is quite a scary scenario.

pandemic-still

The biggest gripe with this movie is there’s too much melodrama and crying going on and it runs a little bit too long at 2 and a quarter hours. I did groan at the miraculous sight of snow falling on the night the medical team find a cure for the disease. Thought that was a bit tacky to be honest. Satoshi Tsumabuki takes the leading role of Matsuoka and he gives a strong performance alongside Rei Dan as Eiko Kobayashi. They make for a good pairing together and handle the medical scenes very well. There’s even time in the story to see the background between the two of them in the past. The supporting cast are good but I did it find it rather strange how a hospital is filled with so many attractive staff!! Comparisons with the US movie Outbreak will of course be made and to be honest I do prefer that movie to this one. As this movie features scenes set inside a hospital, do expect to see some scenes with bloodletting. I’m just saying that in case some viewers out there don’t like the sight of blood.

Overall, Pandemic is a fairly standard disaster movie. The story is gripping, it never gets boring and the cast perform well in their roles but in the end it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before. It’s worth taking a look if you like this type of story.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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The Tower (2012)

The-Tower-2012

It’s Christmas Eve in Seoul and for the brand new Tower Sky twin residential skyscrapers a big party is being held on the 70th floor for some very important people and no expense is being spared even getting a couple of helicopters to drop down artificial snow on the partygoers. During a sudden gust in the wind, one of the helicopters crashes into one of the towers and suddenly it is on fire. The fire sprinklers are unable to work properly and soon people are leaping from high up down on the busy street below and a lift is sent tumbling down a shaft in flames. A team of fire-fighters from a nearby fire station who have a new rookie in their ranks are assigned the task of getting the fire under control which is no easy thing but first the safety and rescue of the people trapped on the floors above the fire is their priority which includes a manager and his young daughter. Then some revelations come out that the tower’s owners have cut back on some safety features on the building’s design. As the fire begins to rage out of control, the tower’s engineers say that the steel of the entire building is buckling because of the scorching heat and it is likely to fall down. A decision is made to put down some explosives and bring the tower down even if there are some survivors still in the building. Will the brave fire-fighters manage to save everybody before everything comes crashing down?

The 70’s was the era that saw Hollywood deliver on some epic disaster movies such as Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno starring the late great Steve McQueen.  The Tower rehashes the plot of that movie albeit with some minor changes to bring an epic edge-of-your-seat story filled with excitement and drama. The plot remains the same – a tall skyscraper which accidentally catches fire although the skyscraper here is a twin one with a glass bridge linking the towers together on one of the high floors. OK, so it’s a tried and tested formula seen before but when it works so well as it does in this movie why try and change it. The set up for a disaster waiting to happen is introduced fairly early with sprinklers not working to a warning that there would be strong gusts of wind outside the towers. The first half of the movie introduces us to the main players such as the brave fire-fighters whose Captain is more at home battling blazes with his crew and inducting a new rookie to the ranks rather than being at home with his wife to the meek security man with his potential love interest colleague and his daughter. The characters never try to be different from any other disaster movie – it’s the usual stock caricatures……. although I have to say I’ve never seen a group of Christians gathered at the tower to celebrate Christmas used for comedic effect before in this type of movie! Most of the characters are given a chance to shine onscreen. Some of them will survive and some will perish. You can’t let everybody survive in a disaster movie! There has to be casualties to up the tension and some of the deaths come quite unexpectedly when you least expect anything to happen. The question is trying to guess who will make it and who won’t. Some of the characters are easy to identify with so the viewer starts to care enough to want them to get out of the tower alive. There’s even a villainous character in the story in the President of the Tower Sky complex who is more concerned about the VIP’s in the party and asks the fire-fighters to rescue them first. Well you can guess what the answer from the Captain back to him is!!!

The Tower 2012 screenshot

The second half of the movie focuses on the rescue services dealing with evacuating people trapped by the raging inferno, the losing battle the fire-fighters face at containing the huge blaze and the shocking scenario that both towers will eventually topple down.  The set-pieces involving real fire and scenes of destruction are fantastic to watch and very gripping. The scene in which people are shown trapped in a lift with a fire burning underneath them is one that stands out as the shoe of one guy starts melting and faces and hands get burnt when pressed against the lift wall due to the extreme heat. You really get a sense of how scalding hot it is inside the lift carriage and that in itself makes it terrifying. Another spectacular sequence involves the collapse of the glass bridge between the two towers which is full of suspense as some survivors including Dae Ho’s daughter walk gingerly across the bridge which starts to crack under the weight of too many people attempting to walk across it. Naturally with this kind of movie there is going to be some melodrama used which some viewers might find to be a little cheesy. One of the best things about this movie is the fantastic CG effects used. It looks and feels like a lot of money has been put into creating some truly incredible sequences which are unforgettable.  It’s obvious that the Korean movie industry has finally caught up with Hollywood and can match them for anything. To be honest It’s the effects you’ll remember more than the story or the acting in this movie.

There’s a fair number of cast members in this movie but two stand out more than anybody else. One is Kim Sang-kyung who plays the movie’s unlikely hero Dae Ho, a single parent who is thrust into a life or death situation of not only trying to save his own little daughter Hana but also his beautiful female colleague Yun Hee who manages the tower’s kitchens. He’s not your usual macho testosterone hero but just a normal guy who has to do extraordinary things and is pushed to his limit in the face of a disaster. Equally as good is veteran actor Sol Kyung-gu as the grizzled Captain of the fire-fighters Young Ki who displays immense courage and sacrifices his own life in order to save the remaining survivors and his fellow fire-fighters.

Director Kim Ji-hoon’s last movie ‘Sector 7’ was a bit of a disaster in itself (to pardon a pun) about a monster on the loose on an oil rig so my expectations weren’t high when I saw he was helming this movie but thankfully he has managed to redeem himself.  Despite the story being unoriginal, he manages to make this movie such a thrill ride and there is never a dull moment due to the quick pacing.

As a disaster movie, The Tower hits all the right buttons. It’s a visually breath taking spectacle with plenty of excitement that should keep most Asian movie fans happy. If ever there was a movie that can be called a blockbuster this is one of them. Recommended.

Sadako’s  Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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prophecies-of-nostradamus-poster

In feudal Japan, a man is persecuted for possessing Nostradamus’ writings and saying the world will come to an end in the future. Fast forward to the present day and Dr Nishiyama is now the owner of these writings (as they’ve been passed down family generations) and is trying to warn the Japanese government that something is about to happen because of overpopulation and pollution. The signs are there for people to see when giant slugs start appearing and large plants take over the Tokyo subway system. But that is only the beginning as bigger problems take effect. Planes start falling from the skies, snow appears in Egypt, the polar ice caps melt and Japanese children get some super powers such as jumping great heights!! An expedition by a UN discovery team to Papua New Guinea ends in chaos with an attack by radioactive cannibals and giant bats. Then all hell breaks loose as food is rationed and the population starts rioting, the O-Zone layer is destroyed leading to people being burnt to a crisp and nuclear missiles start raining down on major cities around the globe. Is there any way that the human race can survive?

Believe it or not, this disaster movie is banned in Japan with Toho Studios basically disowning the title. It has never been given an official video or DVD release in the country and probably never will be. So why is this then?  The reason is that there are several scenes showing the after-effects of radiation which greatly offended the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. The scenes in question will seem rather tame to Western viewers but you can understand and sympathise with the survivors why they would not like to see something that felt a bit too close to home for them. After only 80 days, the movie was pulled from cinemas. Even though the movie is banned in Japan, an international version of the movie which cut 30 mins from the original 115 min running time was shown and renamed as The Last Days Of Planet Earth/Catastrophe 1999. Many movie fans are not happy with this cut as some important scenes which included the Japanese Prime Minister giving a passionate and heartfelt speech have been left out. Thankfully there are unofficial sources which have managed to find a print of the original uncut version of the movie and put it on a bootleg DVD and it is this version that I saw. I really do hope that one day there will be a proper DVD release of this movie even if it will only be available outside Japan.

Prophecies of nostradamus screenshot

I’m sure at the time of its release this movie was terrifying and frightening to Japanese viewers but we now know that the end of the world as predicted by Nostradamus never happened in 1999. Although the movie may seem to be a bit preachy in constantly saying that a huge catastrophe will befall the Earth, there is some hope and optimism by the end only if mankind changes its ways. Even though it was made in 1974, the environmental message of the movie is still relevant in today’s society.  This movie doesn’t hold back in showing what would happen if ever there was a big disaster on the planet, it goes straight to the jugular. The story takes its time in setting up the doom laden mood with each apocalyptic event becoming more frightening in nature. The final scenario in which nuclear missiles are launched with those responsible for having their fingers on the trigger dead at the control centre is probably the scariest of all the scenes. It even shows the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant being destroyed. I found it chilling watching this part knowing how close it came to going into total meltdown in March 2011. The special effects in this movie by Teruyoshi Nakano is fantastic from showing a reflective image of the Tokyo skyline in the sky to a devastating set-piece of seeing many cars exploding on a highway in a massive pileup.  Some of Nakano’s effects though don’t work out quite so well such as the giant bats which is frankly embarrassing. However, it is the scene of two mutated deformed children fighting over a worm to eat in a post-nuclear wasteland that upset most people in Japan and gave this movie the controversial tag it now has. There are some other scenes which are strange and look out of place in this movie. One shows a group of young hippies dressed up in kimonos with painted faces going on a suicide sailing ride. Another is supposed to show that people are starting to go mad – a group of motorcyclists (even though it is only 2 people doing the same stunt over and over again) is seen deliberately riding over the edge of a cliff into the sea. If you watch this part closely you’ll see that one stuntman gets his timing all wrong during 1 take and crashes his bike into some rocks at the bottom of the cliff. No idea if the stuntman managed to escape injury or not?

Overall, Toho did a magnificent job with this movie. The intelligent story of a man tirelessly working to try and stop an apocalypse of epic proportions is fantastic. If you ever have the urge to get this movie, do yourself a favour and skip buying the international version as the story has been butchered to bits and instead go for the uncut original version. It may be difficult to obtain the DVD but it’s well worth watching.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Aftershock (2010)

This is the story of the devastating Tangshan earthquake in 1976 which killed 240,000 people and how it rips apart a family of four. A mother of two children loses her husband in the quake and has to make a decision no parent should ever go through – which one of her children should survive as both are trapped under a slab of concrete. One has to be sacrificed say the rescue workers. She chooses her son unaware that her daughter survives. She’s adopted by a couple and given a new identity. The story follows the lives of the siblings over a period of 30 years until fate brings both of them together once more after another quake.

This isn’t your typical disaster movie. It’s more about people trying to move on with their lives. The director displays a careful attention to the characters and their relationships, and creates people that the viewer can not only identify, but also empathise with in their joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations, hopes and anxieties. When the siblings are finally reunited in a tearful reunion, only the hardest of hearts will not be moved. All of the performances from the cast are top notch. There are all kinds of wonderful and heartbreaking scenarios touching on the nature and loyalties of family.

Overall, Aftershock is a grand epic Chinese drama that will tug at your heartstrings and is a must see.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 out of 5

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Dragon Head (2003)

Teru Aoki and his classmates are on their way back from a schooltrip in Kyoto on a bullet train when all of a sudden there is a blinding flash of light. When he wakes up, his world is in darkness, the train carriage he was in is a wreck and even worse his classmates are dead, strewn all over like carcasses. What could have happened? In shock, he somehow manages to stumble out of the carriage to find that the train he was travelling in trapped in a collapsed tunnel with both exits hidden under heavy rubble. Along with a female classmate Aki, both make it to the surface where a shocking view awaits them. The world they once knew is gone, replaced by total devastation. The landscape resembles a waste land in every direction they look and the sky is raining heavy ash. The only option left is for both of them to try and make their way back home to Tokyo hoping that they find somebody on the way.

Even though this movie drags on a bit I think it’s still an awesome disaster movie. I love movies with post-apocalyptic scenarios in them. They could have cut at least 30 mins from the movie as the pace is really slow – I can see that making a lot of viewers switch off. The highlight has to be the amazing special effects which rival Hollywood’s efforts. It really is visually a stunning movie to watch. Saying that the movie doesn’t really focus on the destruction as such but on the 2 leads as they rely on each other in the face of adversity. You are never told what led to the devastation and it’s a bit frustrating not knowing. Was it a nuclear disaster, 2 nations blowing each other up or a massive meteorite from space – you just don’t know. It’s up to you to wonder and think what could have made this disaster happen. If you can manage to stay awake for the first 40 mins then I think you’ll find this movie ultimately rewarding and enjoyable. It could have been a hell of a lot better if somebody had given a little bit more thought into the plot. A missed opportunity. Give it a chance anyway.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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A massive earthquake deep under Japan destroys a major city. A scientist Toshio Onedero caught up in the quake emerges from his wrecked and overturned car to find the city in flames and a young girl Misako walking between the ruins. Both are saved by a young female Japanese Hyper Rescue Unit member called Reiko. Due to frequent earthquakes, the Americans predict that Japan will sink during the next 40 years but this prediction is way off when a geo-scientist called Tadokoro who is using a deep sea submersible sees unusual activity in the ocean. By using a simulation on his computer he predicts that Japan will sink in not 40 years, not even in 10 years but in less than a year’s time – 338 days.

As the worst case scenario begins in earnest, long dormant volcanoes on Hokkaido start to erupt and the region is devastated by a huge earthquake. Even the Prime Minister of Japan is killed in his plane during a volcanic eruption. All over Japan, quakes are happening and volanoes erupt, tsunamis devastate coastal towns and cities. A geo-scientist however comes up with a solution that could save the day – as once Mount Fuji blows her top a massive crack will rip the Japanese islands in half. He insists that hundreds of N2 explosives which are dropped in drilled holes on the ocean floor and simultaneously detonated will stop the sinking of Japan. The first attempt at this ends in failure and a young pilot called Yuki loses his life. It seems that there is no hope but Onedero steps up to the plate insisting to Tadokoro that by using an old submersible that’s been mothballed the job can be achieved. However, this will be a one-shot deal. Onedero will be going on a suicide mission in which he cannot return back alive. Will his mission be a success? Can he stop all of Japan from sinking?

This is the updated remake of the 1973 disaster film. Spectacular is what I thought after watching this film. A really well made production shifting between scenes of devastation, science bits and human drama. The special effects are amazing, rivalling Hollywood standards as satellite images from space show the whole Japan archipelago in flames. The disaster sequences are short and I would have liked to see them for longer onscreen but what you’ve got in the film is effective enough to show the horror and havoc of the situation. A panoramic shot of Shibuya and the nearby area falling is breathtaking. You could say the special effects is the real star of the film and if you like them then you’ll enjoy The Sinking Of Japan. The plot is great but I thought that the suicide mission by Onedero was copied a bit too much from Armageddon for my liking but apart from that I really loved this film. The science bits made it that much more interesting, explaining why and how the present dilemma has happened.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Haeundae (2009)

Haeundae is a beach resort in the Korean city of Busan. When similar activity to that in the Indian Ocean which triggered the massive tsunami in 2004 happens in the Sea Of Japan, nobody believes geologist Kim Hwi. His superiors tell him that nothing will happen and Korea is safe. Soon afterwards however, a mega tsunami is formed and races across the ocean towards Korea and Haeundae at 500 miles per hour. There’s no time to evacuate the city with only 10 mins until the wave strikes. Who will survive the devastating tsunami in Haeundae?

This, the first ever Korean disaster movie starts out real slow, introducing us to all the characters going through their various problems in the first 75 mins which involves a lot of shouting, screaming and crying with a little bit of light relief peppered throughout. It just takes far too long for the tsunami to strike the rich Buson beach resort of Haeundae that many of you may have fallen asleep. When the inevitable happens, that’s when the movie really kicked in for me. The disaster sequences and aftermath are pretty well done and very exciting even though some of the CGI looks a bit dodgy. The human drama aspect after the tsunami is also very well done and not too overdramatic. There’s another twist to the tale near the end which I didn’t expect to happen. Overall I liked it but it’s a shame the first half dragged on way too long.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5

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A freak hailstorm shower is the prelude to a massive tsunami which hits the Shinagawa area of Tokyo. People rush into the subway stations but there’s no escape from the devastating giant wave. Many people are killed but the survivors which include a father and his blind young daughter who are now trapped underground band together and wait for the rescuers to get to them. But there’s a problem – a large typhoon is heading for Tokyo!!

252 is the signal used by rescue workers to say that there are people alive under rubble. This movie is a tad over dramatic and sentimental for me. It started out so good but after the tsunami it got rather boring full of the cliched close calls you expect in disaster movies. The disaster scenes are OK (rather short scenes) but I expected them to be a bit better. Where does all the water go after the tsunami hits? It just disappears! Saying that the sets are magnificent showing great devastation to the area affected by the giant wave. As for the cast they were fine but the little girl that plays the blind girl Shiori was just so adorable. It’s an interesting movie to watch but don’t expect too much from it. I think this was a missed opportunity to create something spectacular and it dragged on for way too long.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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