Tag Archives: CJ Entertainment

Operation Chromite (2016, John H. Lee)

There’s no indication there’s a better movie anywhere in Operation Chromite. Director Lee just doesn’t have a handle on it. The script’s an uncomfortable mix of predictable and manipulative–director Lee and co-writer Lee Man-hee lay on the war movie jingoism so thick, it actually takes a while to realize Lee Beom-su’s giving a legitimately great performance as the North Korean bad guy. There’s too much crap going on with really questionable guest star Liam Neeson.

While the decent parts of Operation Chromite are a South Korean film with actors speaking Korean, there are these horrendous moments with Liam Neeson as General Douglas MacArthur. It’s a terrible performance, the kind you’d think Neeson would only give if he didn’t think the film would get a release in the United States. Sean Dulake did the dialogue for the English language scenes (he also appears as Neeson’s sidekick); it’s awful dialogue. You don’t have any respect for Neeson, but I did feel bad for Jon Gries, who shows up to have an awful expository dialogue argument. I hope Neeson bought something nice with his paycheck.

Worse–sort of–is the digital composites intended to convince the audience Neeson is filming with the rest of the cast. He’s clearly not, as the terrible composites betray. Chromite’s cinematography is weak to begin with, especially since they attempt to match the overblown lighting of the composite shots. As if Lee Dong-joon’s soulful but adventurous, rousing but melancholy music doesn’t slather on the vapid anti-Communism message enough–more on it in a second–with that overblown lighting and Neeson’s porky performance….

Neeson and Lee’s handling of his scenes, not to mention the crappy, manipulative resolution, sink Operation Chromite. Because even though it was a dumb, jingoistic action war thriller, it was a relatively fun one. Sure, whenever the movie tries to juxtapose Communist Lee Beom-su and ex-Communist Lee Jung-jae and their ideologies and whatever, it’s crap. But it’s crap whenever Neeson is around too so it’s a familiar experience. You just wait them out, because otherwise it’s sort of fun. None of the characters get enough attention but they’re at least likable performances, some of them good. Director Lee doesn’t know how to get a good performance–not in English, not in Korean–but he does recognize when he’s shooting one and gives his actors occasional space. The leads anyway.

If Operation Chromite were a completely different dumb, jingoistic action war thriller, with a different script, a different director, no Liam Neeson, but the same Korean cast and the same concept, it’d be better. With an excellent director–someone who knew how to make a war movie (since Chromite goes through various types of war movie sequences, haphazardly stuck together with CG), someone who knew how to balance a big cast–and a better script, the project might deserve the performances Lee Beom-su and Lee Jung-jae put into it.

Lee Beom-su’s evil little North Korean commander is a dangerous person. Even in the exaggerated scenes, Lee Beom-su brings something real to it. Everyone in Operation Chromite is a caricature (at best), but Lee Beom-su makes it feel like his character is pretending to be a caricature. Shame the script can’t keep up.

And Lee Jung-jae’s great as the soulful ex-Communist turned action hero. It’s not a deep role, but it’s got some details and Lee Jung-jae’s able to make it work. He’s got some excellent scenes in the film, even if his character’s way too thin.

The most disappointing thing is, after a rocky start, Operation Chromite gets better. The less Neeson, the better. Then he comes back. And down it all goes. But it’s not just him–it’s got a weak third act. Chromite is a mess with occasional smooth patches.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by John H. Lee; written by Sean Dulake, Lee Man-hee, and John H. Lee; edited by Steve M. Choe; music by Lee Dong-joon; produced by Chung Taewon; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Lee Jung-jae (Jang Hak-soo), Lee Beom-su (Lim Gye-jin), Jin Se-yeon (Han Jae-seon), Park Cheol-min (Nam Ki-seong), Kim Hee-jin (Ryu Jang-choon), and Liam Neeson (Douglas MacArthur).


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Windstruck (2004, Kwak Jae-young)

Narratively, Windstruck falls apart in the last thirty-five minutes. Director Kwak’s screenplay stops and starts–not vignettes really, but definitely episodic. Leads Jun Ji-hyun and Jang Hyuk have their romantic courtship, which gets off to a rocky start as police officer Jun confuses Jang for a purse snatcher, set to sixties American rock and roll and it’s kind of awesome. Kwak shoots Windstruck Panavision and knows how to frame it. He also knows how to direct his actors. Jun and Jang have that wonderful combination of charm and ability and Windstruck, even with its jerky narrative, is delightful.

But as the film hits what should be the tail end of the second act, it turns out Kwak’s script structure isn’t anywhere near solid enough. Instead of feeling episodic, Windstruck starts to feel like Kwak’s resetting the film in an attempt to find a way to keep the story going. Jun and Jang are still good and it’s still well-directed, but Kwak loses the spark of the film. He tries a lot–including some awesome cop movie action–but it never connects. It’s all a distraction.

Even the film’s final feint, which ought to be adorable, just doesn’t come off well enough.

The film has phenomenal editing. Kim Jae-beom and Kim Sang-beom cut Windstruck sublimely. Even when things go downhill in the second half and Kwak’s struggling to keep things going, the editing is terrific. The editing might even be its best when Kwak’s out of story and Windstruck is relying entirely upon his visual sensibility and Jun’s acting ability.

There’s some excellent supporting work, but no one really gets to finish their character arcs. Even Jun’s is a little contrived. Kwak’s trying to go for some kind of fantastical comedy action melodrama and he doesn’t make it. If he had made it, Windstruck would’ve been something singular. Instead, it’s an awkward, unsuccessful effort. Even though it’s got some wonderful pieces–Jun and Jang, for instance–Windstruck isn’t cohesive overall.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Kwak Jae-young; screenplay by Kwak, based on an idea by Jung Hoon-tak; director of photography, Jeong Han-cheol; edited by Kim Jae-beom and Kim Sang-beom; music by Choi Seung-hyun; produced by Choi Su-yeong, Jung and William Kong; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Jun Ji-hyun (Kyung-jin), Jang Hyuk (Myung-woo), Kim Chang-wan (Chief), Kim Jeong-tae (Inspector Kim) and Jeong Ho-bin (Chang-soo).


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Snowpiercer (2013, Bong Joon-ho)

Snowpiercer is relentless. There are three quiet moments; I’m not estimating, I’m counting. The final quiet moment comes with some commentary on the earlier quiet moments. The relentlessness is appropriate, as the film concerns a train traveling through a frozen wasteland housing the last survivors of the human race. It’s a post-apocalyptic rumination on remorse and violence. Director Bong treats the viewer as a passenger on the train, forcing the viewer’s perspective through protagonist Chris Evans.

At times, the film seems episodic, which is only appropriate as the first act comes to a close and Evans–along with his fellow insurgents (they’re the poor people in the rear of the train)–discovers the train’s cars are all different. So it’s appropriate the journey through those cars is going to be different. Vignettes might be a strong description, but maybe not. Especially not when considering how Bong lets supporting characters’ subplots play out in background.

The casting is flawless. While Tilda Swinton spectacularly chews through all of her scenes, there’s great work from Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Ewen Bremner. The three leads–Evans, Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung–are all fantastic. Song only speaks Korean, but is excellent when just walking around. It’s a reluctant leading man performance from Evans; he, and all the other actors, show their characters’ sufferings without exposition.

Snowpiercer is also a visual feast. Bong’s presentation this train and its passengers is a constant surprise.

It’s a hard film; Bong doesn’t offer any quarter, neither does his cast.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Bong Joon-ho; screenplay by Bong and Kelly Masterson, based on a screen story by Bong and the graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette; director of photography, Hong Kyung-pyo; edited by Steve M. Choe; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil; produced by Jeong Tae-sung, Lee Tae-hun, Park Chan-wook and Steven Nam; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Chris Evans (Curtis), Song Kang-ho (Namgoong Minsu), Tilda Swinton (Mason), Jamie Bell (Edgar), Octavia Spencer (Tanya), Ewen Bremner (Andrew), Ko Ah-sung (Yona), Alison Pill (Teacher), Vlad Ivanov (Franco the Elder), Luke Pasqualino (Grey), John Hurt (Gilliam) and Ed Harris (Wilford).


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A Werewolf Boy (2012, Jo Sung-hee)

Besides an utterly absurd title–and one nowhere near as clever as the film itself–A Werewolf Boy is something of a success. Jo proves one can successfully marry science fiction, werewolf romance, class bigotry and… I don’t know, ageless romantic melodrama. He doesn’t cop out at the end either, but turns the picture into some kind of a fairy tale. It doesn’t succeed on those terms, but there was no good finish for do a wild child romantic picture with so much sci-fi.

In terms of composition, Jo does pretty well throughout. He apparently told cinematographer Choi Sang-mok to make everything as pretty as possible–the light’s soft yet vibrant. The film’s utterly artificial yet completely engrossing.

The film’s mostly in flashback to the mid-sixties, when a family newly moved to the country discovers the titular character living on their property. The boy, played by Soon Joong-ki in appealing but rather easy performance, immediately takes to the older daughter, played by Park Bo-yeong. She’s really good in her role, which gets more and more difficult as the film progresses.

Much of the picture works just because Park’s family is so appealing. Jang Young-nam is great as the mom, Kim Hyang-gi is the adorable younger sister. It’s all very nice. Except, of course, odious villain Yoo Yeon-seok. Jo goes overboard with him.

A Werewolf Boy is a competent, sincere motion picture. It can’t work because of bigger things than Jo can control.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jo Sung-hee; director of photography, Choi Sang-mok; edited by Nam Na-young; music by Shim Hyun-jung; production designer, Kim Ji-su; produced by Kim Sujin and Yoon In-beom; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Song Joong-ki (Chul-soo), Park Bo-yoeng (Suni), Jang Young-nam (Suni’s mother), Yoo Yeon-seok (Ji-tae), Kim Hyang-gi (Sun-ja), Yoo Sung-mok (Professor Kang Tae-shik), Seo Dong-soo (The Colonel), Woo Jeong-guk (Mr. Jung), Gu Bon-im (Mrs. Jung), Nam Jung-hee (Dong-seok’s grandmother), Ahn Do-gyu (Dong-seok), Shin Bi (Dong-mi) and Lee Young-lan (Old Suni).


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