save the green planet!

another korean film. i was tempted to place it in the “recently watched genre films” thread but i am having a hard time coming up with a genre for this: science fiction? comedy? horror? police procedural? love story? all these and more are mashed up unpredictably in this film and the tone shifts as abruptly and yet organically. a young man, who seems increasingly deranged, is convinced that aliens from andromeda are among us and preparing to destroy the planet. he kidnaps a sleazy industrialist who he believes is one of the key players in this plan and begins a very specific program of torture/questioning to get him to divulge the details. or is something else going on? is he in fact taking revenge on the industrialist (and maybe others) for things done to him and his family in the past? this is what the industrialist claims as he begins to turn the tables on his captors (oh right, i forgot to mention that our protagonist is being helped by his lover, a not-all-there tight-rope walker from what seems like a very low-budget circus). meanwhile, the police circle–including the wonderfully loopy detective chu played by our own hungarian, mark mauer (see below).
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a few recently watched genre films

looper. pretty good but a little overhyped, i think.

lockout. yes, it is escape from new york in space. and yes, it’s a luc besson production. but goddammit, guy pearce is magnificent as a knowing action star knock-off. worth watching for that reason alone. alas there are as few people of colour in the future in this film as in looper.

sorum. a south korean film, billed as horror, and certainly utilizing many horror film tropes but not really a horror film; or at least you’ll be disappointed if you come expecting genre goosebumps. but it is really quite good, with some great performances and a very bleak view of lives on the fringes of global capitalism and the dislocations and ruptures of community attendant on it.

safe house

if only.

actually, the first 40 odd minutes are not bad. then it goes downhill fast, doubling its rate of descent every 15 minutes. i hate to say it but one of the biggest problems with this film is denzel. he’s one of the executive producers and this i think is what led to his character essentially going through the entire catalogue of charming denzel washington tics. casting a lesser known actor, or even someone like jeffrey wright who could disappear into the role, would have been a better idea.

[spoiler warning]
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i watched this last night. i’d wanted to see it on the big screen when it first came out but fear of seeing a major part of my childhood destroyed kept me away. i’d read that the film mashes up the plots of a few books and rewrites characters etc. and all of this seemed like more desecration than i could take. and, of course, i feared the spielbergization of the whole thing: tintin as a young man trying to gain the love of his father (captain haddock probably) and so on.
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more like plotholetheus or portentous, amirite? nonetheless, it held my attention. michael fassbender is a delight, channeling o’toole as lawrence of arabia. idris elba has some moments and the set design is beautiful. all else is crap. the lack of explanations at the end was nice, but i fear that this was done a) to set up the sequel, and b) to force fanboys to watch it over and over to come up with theories of their own. still, it’s rare to see a summer blockbuster that is willing to leave so much ambiguous and open to interpretation, even if it seems that this may be a byproduct of a shoddy script.

low budget

for reasons unknown i just watched something called hunter prey on netflix instant play. science fiction. ship crashes on a planet–soldiers have to track and capture alive an escaped alien prisoner. some not so surprising reveals, some ham-fisted war on terror allegory. it’s not too bad, nor is it good. but it was cheap. as per wikipedia it cost $425,000. it doesn’t look so much cheaper than many big budget sci-fi epics though. what on earth do the fuckers spend the money on?

orientalist swashbucklers

i’m teaching a new class next year on imperial adventure/intrigue narratives from the turn and first few decades of the 20th century. this is a 100 level class and will be light on theory. the reading list so far is as follows: conan doyle, the lost world; kipling, the man who would be king; sax rohmer, one of the fu manchu books; rider haggard, either she or king solomon’s mines; the first tarzan book; and herge, tintin in the congo. i’d welcome more suggestions for readings from the era, but what i’m mainly looking for here is recommendations for the secondary list of texts which will provide a (more or less) contemporary slant on the subject: action films that inherit/re-write/exploit the conventions of those texts. so far i have: the second indiana jones, the brotherhood of the wolf, the ghost and the darkness, zulu, and the mummy. i need two or three more. i’m not looking for high art or anything aimed as oscar bait (no out of africa). suggestions?