Archive for 2016

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Train to Busan’: Grab your baseball bat!

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Studio: Next Entertainment World

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A South Korean train ride takes a deadly turn when a zombie apocalypse breaks out!

Yes, it’s Korean and therefore subtitled and, yes, it’s another zombie movie. Those things being said, Train to Busan is a terrific throwback to the original Romero-style zombie movies, where it’s half about the scary zombies and half about the potentially worse stuff we humans do to each-other during the zombie apocalypse. I can never remember the actual character names in many of these Korean flicks, so they get designations and you’ll just have to live with it – onward we go!

So Big Daddy (Gong Yoo) is a businessman, your typical Korean male who has little time and patience for his ex-wife’s shenanigans or his Daughter’s need to be with him, while he negotiates business deals on his cellphone all day long. It’s finally Big Daddy’s chore to take his sad little Daughter on the early-morning train to go see her mother, especially after missing what was meant to be her live singing performance at school and all. And this ill-fated train ride is where it all begins.

On the train itself, Big Daddy is still on his phone and mostly ignoring Daughter (Kim Su-An), while she attempts to familiarize herself with the other passengers. Here we meet Boxer (Ma Dong-Seok), the strapping muscle-bound train-goer with his very-pregnant wife, whom I’ve aptly dubbed MomtoBe (Jung Yu-Mi), and other everyday passengers as we go along – the Elderly Sisters (Ye Soo-Jung and Park Myung-Sin), two aged women taking a train ride together; the Baseball Team and their Cheerleader squad; the older gentleman who is anything but, that I designated NastyMan (Kim Eui-Sung); and of course, the Homeless Guy (Choi Gwi-hwa), who knew about everything going on before anyone else did.

Technically this first train Big Daddy and Daughter are on isn’t going to Busan, they just kind of end up getting thrust in that direction. The first train is where the outbreak begins, at least as far as train rides go, and these are virus-class zombies – get bit, you turn in just a few minutes; black veins on the face and white-blue death eyes are the main indicators; running and shrieking and attacking anything that moves, as the survivors eventually figure out, is the SOP here. Homeless Guy hopped onto this first train and as he sits muttering to himself about how they’re all dead, one thing leads to another and suddenly, everywhere, zombies!

Big Daddy thinks he can just call in favors to get himself and Daughter rescued, even as they try to switch trains in a station after several near-misses, and it just doesn’t work out in the end, so they have to board yet another train, this one being the one officially (eventually) heading for Busan. Here we meet NastyMan, the asshole who will not be denied, who incites everyone panicking into barricading themselves against the rescue attempt Big Daddy and Boxer have to go and make. Daughter and MomtoBe mistakenly end up stuffed in a bathroom and to get to them, Boxer and Big Daddy and the one remaining Baseball Boy (Choi Woo-shik) who wasn’t turned have to guard their arms and arm themselves with baseball bats and go through like 4 cars full of zombies, twice. (As in, go through 4 cars to get there, rescue everyone, and come all the way back.) Even after watching one of the Elderly Sisters sacrifice herself, NastyMan is doing everything he can to insist people not let the rescuers back in this one uninfected car, and that means he doesn’t see the other Elderly Sister go to open the other door to the zombies until its almost too late!

We’re whittling down the survivors on the way to Busan, and even the Conductor is starting to have his doubts about safety once there. A blocked train at a pull-in station forces our survivors to try and switch trains, but the trains are still running and crashing into each-other without Conductors and hordes of mad zombies are exploding out of broken windows to come get you! Will any of our survivors make it to Busan?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, it is heart-wrenching. Enough story snippets have been tossed in among the zombie carnage to make Train To Busan much more than just a brain-eating fest of a movie, and I thought it was excellent. Right down to NastyMan finally getting a well-deserved comeuppance, damn it.

Grab your baseball bat to watch Train To Busan right now on Netflix!

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San Diego International Film Festival presents ‘Pushing Dead’: It’s only funny if it’s NOT you

Posted in comedy, drama, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Tom E. Brown

Studio: Bugsby Pictures

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When an HIV-positive man makes a tiny banking error that abruptly closes off his financial aid, suddenly he is forced to deal with a snail-like bureaucracy or somehow come up with the $3,000+ or so per month he needs to continue his life saving medications.

It was very odd to see James Roday, most known for his starring role on USA’s Psych, playing Dan, a funny character in a rather unfunny situation. Danny Glover in a supporting role as Dan’s boss and friend Bob, with his side stories of love gone wrong and own health issues, brings the same gruff but ultimately lovable fatherly-type figure he’s known for. Khandi Alexander is Bob’s wife Dot, and their off-again-on-again relationship is a hoot to watch. Robin Weigert as Dan’s roommate Paula has her own odd things going on too, but we never doubt her love and concern for Dan.

So we begin with Dan in his usual watch-beeps-time-to-take-meds routine, receiving a $100 birthday check from his mom and depositing it without really thinking about it. Next thing we and Dan knows, this sudden influx of riches has pushed his health benefits plan past the breaking point and he gets apologetically cut off. His friends, his boss, his roommate are all completely impotent when it comes to actually helping Dan, and the bureaucracy of the health care benefit system has all the sympathy of the Walrus and the Carpenter and the Oysters.

Dan proceeds to take this situation and does, well, he does fuck-all with it. He complains to his friends, he tries to help others since he sincerely cannot help himself, and in general Dan continues to live as though he might die tomorrow. (Given how his life is based around the taking of all these HIV medications, that is actually more possible than the audience seems to realize.) Time is counting down, despair is spiraling inward, and Dan is trying all sorts of desperate moves to either get the money or the meds he needs before he, potentially literally, begins falling apart!

It all comes to a head when Dan saves a transvestite from a severe beating and, despite his own current unhealthy condition, does his damnedest to get the sobbing woman to a hospital. There is a moment in here where, after Dan staves off the attack and goes to help the woman, she protests and tells him she’s “positive” and he should beware. Without a second thought, Dan replies that so is he, and lifts the rather heavy woman into his skinny arms, because that’s the kind of nice guy he is.

And this one instance of fellowship, of white-knight syndrome that Dan just can’t seem to help, is what actually saves his own ass. I don’t want to give the ending away, it is a rather neat and heartfelt way of wrapping the entire situation up before the movie ends. It is kind a shame that that sort of thing almost never happens in real life and far too many HIV+ folks who need all sorts of medications to stay alive and even semi-healthy are ignored or ridiculed for it, but Pushing Dead does seem to bring their plight to life in a loving, funny, and sympathetic way.

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Three’: Cast your vote, for the Cop, the Crook, or the Doctor

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2016 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Johnnie To

Studio: Media Asia Films

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A showdown in a hospital brings the life choices of the three main characters – the Cop, the Crook, and the Doctor – to bear the consequences simultaneously!

The latest in a long line of Johnnie To action films, the zany Three is an almost non-stop ride of wth coincidences, amazingly choreographed fight scenes, and even slapstick comedy. To has a large cult following which includes the likes of Quentin Tarantino, and if you haven’t seen the Chow Yun Fat-starring movie Office, or the over-the-top film Drug War yet, you really should.

It took me awhile to figure out why the film is called Three, when, duh, there are three main characters whose life choices kind of all culminate in this one catastrophic night in a hospital. First we have the Doctor (Vicki Zhao), overworked and underappreciated, who pushes herself way too hard to pick up other peoples’ slack and in doing so, causes the death of a patient. That and, yknow, a severe lack of sleep, has her on a short leash when the next player in our farce is delivered to the hospital, the Crook (Wallace Chung).

The Crook took a bullet in the freaking head when the far-too-determined Cop (Louis Coo) told one of his comrades to just shoot the Crook, already, and by gum, he did. Now the philosophical Crook has been hauled into the Doctor’s hospital by the Cop, and though he is terrified of the retribution from the Crooks gang he just knows is coming, the Cop demands the Doctor save the Crook.

Here, it gets sticky: the only way for the Doctor to save the Crook is of course to remove the bullet in his head, and the Crook is refusing to let the hospital and the Doctor operate on him. It is apparently his right under the law. The Doctor mostly just wants to save the Crook’s life, though she wrestles with her own ethics versus the Hippocratic Doctor’s oath of “do no harm” and the like. The Cop tries to insist the Doctor go ahead, but there’s a whole bunch of other important stuff going on in the background and side-bars, that ends up twisting the main three all around.

The main fight scene of the whole movie, you’ll know it when you see what I mean, is truly epic and Matrix-like, but also has a bunch of mini funnies tossed in, like those gleeful “fuck-youuuu” moments of Wanted or even Fight Club. A wonderful romp of an action film with a zany round-robin storyline of drama, guilt and even mercy, Three is a movie worth catching multiple times, for the teensy jokes To left in there, if nothing else!