This is the second batch of the Korean Movies 2011 reviews I am doing. Part 1 can be found here. You can also look at my Korean Movies 2011 posts, where I talk about all the movies of 2011 I want to see. Although I now have more to add there.
This time, I am talking a bit about "Moby Dick", "Suicide Forecast" and "Clash of the Families". For plot synopsis and more info, go to these pages before reading my mini-reviews.
There is an ending spoiler for Moby Dick in this review, but the rest are spoiler free. I warn before this spoiler as well.
What I liked:
Unfortunately, very few things. I mainly got into this movie because of the cast. When I see Hwang Jeong Min's name, I take a closer look. Also, Kim Sang Ho was there and that's always an additional reason to look into it.
The acting is good indeed, but it's unfortunately one of the very few things that are. There are a few scenes where you really do see just why Hwang is such a terrific A-list actor.
The plot and the conspiracy theories work well up to a point and for the most part and they get you thirsty for explanations and resolving, even if they get too messy at times. There is a slight more human side to things, although the balance between those two is lost.
The movie wastes some fine talent
What I didn't like:
Some very big and important things. For one, the movie does not seem to know whether it wants to be a personal story focused on the player or then focused on the game. There is this witness to the conspiracy and we go through his personal journey for redemption. But it feels like a completely useless side story and you don't see enough of it to sympathize. Especially early on.
On the other hand, the main conspiracy plot suffers because of this switching between these two types of storytelling. Now, every movie has a side plot, but it needs to be done in a way that makes sense and doesn't break flow. This doesn't do it well.
Furthermore, there is the ending. This is an ending spoiler so do not read further if you mind.
There is no ending. That is my problem and why this movie gets a very low score. You expect a solution to the conspiracy and the movie just ends with the lead still in the process of exposing it. I know they probably wanted to say something about real life and how you can never really win in such situations, against such strong forces etc, but movies are not real life. And in some aspects, they shouldn't try to be. An audience needs a resolution. And it has to be the kind of resolution you hooked them with and made them want during the entire work. The conspiracy theme and the suspense work well in the movie. But then they cop out in the end and just drop everything and turn the cameras off.
Maybe it wasn't about the conspiracy, but about how it affects people. They failed at that already, by trying to do both and not well. Or maybe the movie did want to show how hopeless life is. Yes, point taken and you're right in saying life is sometimes unfair, but you are still making a movie here. This might have some sort of smart moral, but it's still unacceptable as a movie and a fictional story.
They deliberately set you up to want and expect a big finale and then close the cameras right before the hero starts working on making it happen. You know when this is acceptable? When there is a planned and announced sequel. This feels like the first part of a duology and the abrupt ending which didn't solve anything would be less shocking then.
This film is an all around case of "too much ado about nothing"
Good way to build suspense, good idea for a plot, well filmed (even though it had some quite boring moments and a bit "all over the place" directing), good acting, but the very big problems this has with the way it tells the story can't be overlooked, even in light of the good elements. It's a movie you'll never finish, because it never does that for you.
For me, having such a good cast, doing suspense so well and generally making an interesting movie only to have it ruined by its indecisiveness and wish to be cool and different by butchering the story arc at the end is unforgivable. A good cast and good production value deserve to convey a good story. If there is no sequel, then this was a waste of actor and film-maker talents, frankly. And even if there is a sequel, they still needed to make the movie differently and keep the expectations of the audience to get answers lower.
What I liked:
This is actually one of my favorite movies of 2011, mainly because it surprised me by being more than what I expected. I thought it would be a comedy with some simple drama thrown in and I got a very human drama, a smart one and definitely not one which should be named a comedy. This is a heavy movie. Don't be fooled by the poster and trailers. Korea has yet to master promotion of their movies and they often promote a work as an entirely different genre than what it really is and in a whole different mood. They promote this as comedy, which is crazy, because it's not one.
I will make a bigger review on this at some point, because it really represents what I find a meaningful movie. No symbolism, no shoving "See! This is meaningful!" in your face like many works try too hard to do in order to convince you they do have something to say, no such insecure and cheap tricks.
The story works well, the movie has something decent to say about how we face life and change it, it's well filmed and easy to follow, the acting is very good and what a cast indeed. Also, it's sad to see Im Joo Hwan is not receiving more attention, because he is quite an interesting actor and a good one.
He hit the fine balance between awkward and endearing, for this character
What I didn't like:
See, if I am struggling to find something here, I know I'm thinking about a movie I really like and find good. I really can't find any major problems with it. One thing which could be negative for some, is the fact that some happenings are a bit too "convenient".
Event and action-wise, there are some deus ex machina moments, but they don't feel offending because the movie is about how people change through these situations. Also, even if it feels like there are way too many coincidences at the same time, they are the kind that could happen in real life. They do catch one's attention because this is a movie and the fact that they all happen in such a small "movie timeframe" can be off putting. Personally, I did not mind them by the end of the movie, because it was the journey they put characters through emotionally that mattered to me.
Movies have to do certain things in more dramatic ways. That includes happenings as well. Real life would be boring as a movie or a series and it's not what people want. They want heightened versions of it. Making such versions, but still keeping them meaningful and faithful and descriptive of real life, that's the trick and what is appreciated. And this movie does that.
However, if you're not willing to overlook those plot elements and enjoy what this film is about, you'll have a problem. If you are one of those "that is SO contrived" viewers who can't just see the meaning in a movie, let it pull them in and only watches to spot errors and inadequacies, this is not for you. Frankly, no movie would be.
It also has all kinds of people and not just pretty idols. A minus, for some.
Good human drama, about a very dire problem in South Korea; that of extremely high suicide rates. It takes a look at it on a human, individual level and it does so through a main character who acts as a catalyst and observer of these situations.
Nice acting, very good cast, nicely done. I'd recommend it to anyone, but I am aware that a lot of people appreciate their meaning a bit more intensely displayed and stated so I cannot guarantee you'll find this as good as I did.
Clash of the Families
What I liked:
What didn't I like? This is also one of my favorite 2011 movies and one of my favorite Korean movies in general. It's just so easy to like and if your own culture helps things along, it's priceless to watch.
The movie is cute, funny as heck, nicely done, with a good cast you just adore, and I mean every single character, even the annoying one.
The couple is adorable, sure, but the families also have their own charm. You can tell that each character was well thought-out, their problems and wants ring true for any person and they are just so endearing.
The movie is also handling the animosity of the two provinces in a wonderful way and all the little cultural and also period elements found in it (this is set in 1989) are simply adding so much to this movie. It's a "full" movie. One that you know has had proper attention paid to every part of it as you watch it.
This "bed scene" could be from a drama. And that's sad. For dramas.
What I didn't like:
I loved it all, but let's look at "What you might not like".
Because my culture is so very similar, because almost every cultural element I see I know exists and existed in my own country, I just "get" the movie. When I watch it, it feels like I'm home. It's a warm and very unique feeling and I understand all the happenings and little tidbits of information I get.
But if your culture isn't similar, you might not find certain things funny or relate to them. There is also the language issue. A lot of jokes are lost in translation. Jokes that are about the language and the dialects. I missed out on a lot of those as well, I'm sure, even though I can tell these were two very unique dialects of Korean language.
If you're looking for a romantic comedy with emphasis on the romance, you might also be disappointed. This is an ensemble work. This is about each character and all the characters. The couple are the "normal" ones caught up between a bunch of more colorful people. It's a family comedy and it's the family that is the biggest thing here.
I particularly enjoy the father's in law look here...
It's very hard to think about what to say here. I recommend this to anyone, but I am also aware that I just can't step into someone else's shoes and judge this one. It's simply not possible for any person to let go of the elements of their culture that define them and think 100% as a person from another place. So, I cannot say everyone will love this as much as I did.
That said, a lot of things will be funny and endearing to any viewer, regardless of culture. This is a feel-good movie. It's a pleasant afternoon, it's a movie that lift your spirits and it's a fun ride. It's also smart and it's a lot more rich in content than most romantic comedies. It operates on many layers and each part of it, be it the cultural references, the feel of the era or the characters and their views, it's so well done.
Scores for the movies(although I hate ratings):
Moby Dick - 5
Suicide Forecast - 7.5
Clash of the Families - 9