Daytime Drinking (2008)

 

“I got a drink here…it’s good for helping you get over a breakup!”

words: Desmond Childs

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Hyuk-Jin is gonna have a bad time. Why? Because he’s had a bad time here recently. He recently broke up with his girlfriend. His friends won’t offer any real comfort for the heart ache he’s feeling. They only seem interested in drinking. Well, until they offer to go on a roadtrip with’em. A trip to get away from it all–nice people, good food, and all the Soju (Korean Vodka) a man can stomach. So what’s the problem? How on Earth is Hyuk-Jin gonna have a bad time now?

 You &@#$!?

Jinro and Lotte Soju are the first and third highest selling alcohol brands in the world. Our hero, Hyuk-Jin (played by Sam dong-Song) is drinking it in nearly every scene. It’s an exaggeration, but not by much. In fact, this movie is one big bottle of Soju. Bottoms up and cast all your worries into the drink. What I found interesting here was how exhausting it is to abide by the drinking rules in Korea. Now check this out, a version of the rules provided by koreaexpats.com.

So about Hyuk-Jin–he has a miserable time in this picture. He’s taken advantage of constantly, and even gets put in a situation where he’s penniless without a way of getting home safely. But don’t get me wrong, this is a comedy. There were so many small moments of zaniness that make this film work. If any of you want an example of  an independent film–this would be one I’d point you toward. It was the forefront to what followed after, and plays out like a fantastic journey for Hyuk-Jin.

I was searching–high and low–for the message writer-director Young-Seok Noh was trying to deliver. I suppose it’s that sometimes; you’re going to have a bad time. People are going to break your heart, someone is probably going to steal your money, and there may even be a creepy trucker who tries to spoon with you in exchange for your company (like he’s doing YOU a favor). And sometimes we need that sort of message repeated. Things can and will go wrong, but do we have the intestinal fortitude to pull it together and move on? The other message, which spoke more toward Hyuk-Jin’s character was probably more along the lines of “Sometimes you need to get away. Get out of your comfort zone. Test your limits, and try something new”. You know? Maybe? Well, at any rate it was a serviceable trip through a series of unfortunate events featuring some very ‘independent film like’ cinematography from Young-Seok Noh. Did I mention Young-Seok Noh did basically everything here? Well you gotta remember–independent film directors often put up most of the funds to get their projects made. So hats off to Young-Seok Noh for serving up a strong glass of awkward encounters, heavy drinking, and unfortunate mishaps.

I found Daytime Drinking at my local library

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Roleplay (2012)

“I cried out endlessly!”

Words: Desmond Childs

 The main players in this one.

Jung-ho (played by Lee Dong-kyu) is a novelist willing to do whatever it takes to write a best-seller. His wife Ji-Soo is a teacher who often questions her husband’s commitment to their marriage. In fact, she begins to suspect he’s cheating on her. Is she onto something? Or can Jung-ho’s distant personality be explained by his commitment to the success of his novel? And what about the questions of infidelity? And just when it all begins to come together like a good romantic novel–it becomes an erotic-thriller.

 

This movie really sort of messed with my head at times. I understood the basic elements presented here, but for some reason the film still felt the need to backtrack. Let me explain my problem with backtracking or as I like to call it: doubling up on exposition: Whenever a movie makes the choice to backtrack to divulge more information about the story or a specific character–I think delivering that extra information in an almost completely incomprehensible, ambiguous way is unfair to the audience. Not in a “you fail at cinema” sort of way, but because as a member of the audience–I feel like I’m being teased. Like there’s an itch I can never scratch and not just because I can’t reach it–but each time I itch, it’s a different part of my body. I felt that level of confusion with Roleplay.

Jung-ho lived through a very traumatic experience. The sexual violence the movie flashes back to did not happen to him personally, but being beaten up and forced to watch it take place can be just as scarring, I get that. However, the movie wants me to believe the girl who was sexually molested was Jung-ho’s first ‘love’ where in reality she seemed more like the key to his sexual awakening. He realized she had boobs, that he liked how beautiful her legs were, and her being able to recite poetry was a plus. I understand that many first-loves double as a lot of our sexual awakenings, but for some reason Jung-ho never really showed anything more than an almost carnal desire for the young woman. In fact, it kind of creeped me out. With that being said, I was willing to run with the notion (at least) that this man lost someone he cared deeply about. So I begin to see Jung-ho, not necessarily as a depressed, middle-aged guy desperately missing his one true love. I instead saw him as a deranged, sexually charged person who got off on mistreating his wife (indifference) and having his sexual partners dress up as the first girl who ever gave him a boner. Maybe I’m coming down as a little crass, and a bit too harsh when it comes to the film’s intentions–but Jung-ho’s personality came off way more sleazy than earnest. He was detached from reality most of the time, and spent hours rolling around on the floor daydreaming about this poor girl who was raped and killed. It’s almost as if the only way Jung-ho could deal with that pain and loss–was to inflict sexual violence himself, which we do see in a scene or two with his wife, Ji-Soo. The movie also shows us that Jung-ho was simply using his mistress Hye-In (played by Han Ha-Yoo) to fulfill any sexual desire he had reserved for his long-lost first love. Hye-In apparently resembled her in looks, and although the personality didn’t match–Jung-ho demanded her to become more ‘timid’ and ‘shy’. Gross. Just gross, disturbing, and sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are some aspects of what I’ve interpreted from this picture that the filmmakers intentionally put in–but Jung-ho’s psyche was so much more interesting to me than his story. The film rattles along from his planning and plotting (in his novel and in his reality) toward a horrifying finish that didn’t necessarily stun me. Besides, one can only be ignored for so long, right?

At any rate, the three characters in this one did a solid job, and while director Baek Sang-Yeol’s hand seemed to muddle the already grainy characterization of Jung-ho–I was still entertained. And as I always say about movies–what’s the goal, if not to entertain the audience?

You can find Roleplay on Hulu.com as of July 4, 2014, watch it for free with no subscription required

 

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Independence Day – ‘Thank you God’

Fire up the grill, toss on some burgers, and have a drink–beer, soda, punch? I’m taking this time to honestly reflect on my personal triumphs and shortcomings as an American citizen. I usually do this with all the major holidays, because the special days mark a ‘pause’ in the hustle in bustle of day-to-day activities. So as I sit here pounding away at my keyboard, and keying in this stream of conscience–I can only smile at where I am today. Generally speaking, it’s rare that ANY of us can say that we’re right where we need to be–but I can say that I’m on track to where I wanna end up. My goals are still visible, and God is still granting me his grace and guidance–so I know I’ll get there eventually.

A lot has happened over the past year or so. I’ve been hired, and fired twice. I met the love of my life and best friend I could ever hope to have. And I also found new purpose for the online radio network I run. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have made some of the friends I have today, and it all seemed to have come to fruition around the time I stopped feeling sorry for myself and reached out. And so for that, I can only thank God–my Lord and savior for without him, none of this would be possible.

With that being said, I can’t really talk about the way this world (and more specifically) this country is shaping up over the last 5-7 years. This isn’t a ‘BASH OBAMA’ rant, but more of a look at how political correctness tends to be a very sharp, double-edged sword. On the one hand, I wholeheartedly support equal rights for all men and women. I’d like to think that the majority of you reading this do too, but there’s one big caveat that seems to really stick in my craw:

Someone being granted equal rights a the expense of someone else

I feel like going into detail about that now would require  another blog post altogether, but it’s really something I’ve begin to notice. Also, the idea that America can simultaneously become so tolerant but also intolerant of a number of different issues just boggles my mind. So much does it boggle my mind, that I started to make the semi-joke that I was probably going to move out the country in 10-15 years. Where would I go? Probably South Korea. Maybe Japan? I dunno, but there are times when I read the paper (online or traditionally) and I just shake my head at what America is slowly forming into. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here and I understand this is probably as ‘free’ as it gets in terms of pursuing the things you want to do–generally speaking. Me being a black man limits it to a certain extent. Me being a Christian does too. Me being #teamnatural doesn’t, but that’s not the point (LOL)–there are many ‘small’ factors that limit the ‘freedoms’ we’re all supposedly granted. Which is why whenever July 4th rolls around, I like to  spend that time thanking our forefathers for paving the way for us as a country. I also thank God for my family and friends. However, if you asked me how I felt about America’s future, don’t be surprised if I express some sort of concern with how things are going for the home team.

Now, are you gonna finish that burger? Or do I need to go ahead and grab my own? I HATE wasting food!

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Private Eye in the Distant Sea (2013)

Take The Wave: The 17th entry into the movie series ebbs and flows

Words: Desmond “Neo” Childs

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Given my long love affair with the anime series, you’d expect me to be raring to get my hands on a copy of the latest movies fromGosho Aoyama‘s Detective Conan franchise.

The less children on-screen the better

I guess after watching the 16th installment, I sorta came to a realization about the last half dozen films in the movie series: The quality is somewhere below an actual theatrical film, and just a tick above a television special. And the resulting experience neither “wows” the audience nor does it disappoint; at least on the most basic level of entertainment. There’s the typical mysteryConan Edogawa and company encounter. The story continues to play out, with several clues strategically dropped along the way for the audience to sniff out. And when the second half of the movie kicks off, the pace does pick up. However, there is something noticeably lacking in key parts of the movie.

Where’s the real suspense?

Jimmy Kudo with the currently known members of...

Episodes or movies featuring the black organization ALWAYS have the suspense. This movie didn’t feature them in any shape or fashion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mind you, the danger that the threats in this movie pose, are veryreal. Real adult threats. In a family-movie, a plot centered around a spy giving away hyper-sensitive Intel on a US-funded Sonar system doesn’t sound like it would hold the interest of children. That is until you consider that the intended audience of children are Japanese. I’m not necessarily suggesting this film is too high brow in it’s content for an American child to comprehend and enjoy; but there is a distinct patriotic flair underlying the entirety of the picture.

Private Eye in the Distant Sea is a tribute to the Japanese navy

In a franchise where many of the core characters are below the age of 20; many of them are mature beyond their years. Heck, Conan Edogawa and Heji Hattori are two 17-year old, genius detectives. Ran Mouri is highly proficient in karate. And even her pal, Sonoko Suzuki is a teen anxious to become an adult. Why should that matter? Because when a movie starring a genius-level detective feels more like it was made for an older audience, there is an inevitable disconnect with a younger audience. Yes there are a handful of children in this feature, but the movie often sweeps them to the side in favor of the more grown-up espionage and murder plot. The two kids integral to the entire picture, are Conan and another little boy who has been kidnapped. And honestly, the less children on-screen the better. Most of the time, the kids would appear to unintentionally block Conan from where he needed to be, or they would wander into an area of the giant, navy vessel they had no business being. So in other words, they were being kids; relegated to being nothing more than observers of the action and then later, to ramp up the emotional factor to get the audience to weep along with them.

English: Gosho Aoyama, the creator of Case Clo...

English: Gosho Aoyama, the creator of Case Closed (Detective Conan). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The movie itself was a solid experience albeit one better suited for a 4-part episode run on theanimeseries. I liked getting to see Ran fighting to protect the little boy, and there were some choice scenes involving Heji and his girl-friend (Friend that is a girl, of course) Kazuha Toyama. I won’t spoil it, but fans of the pair will get a decent return toward the end of the film. The series lead, Conan Edogawa was in classic form, which may or may not be good news for fans of the franchise who would actually like to see him struggle to solve a case for once. I will say, for all intents and purposes, that the last fifteen minutes of the film felt a bit tacked on and was easily the least believable of the film. I guess the power of love will always win the day, am I right? Here’s looking forward to the next regular film in the series which should drop sometime next Spring. But before then, we get to see our favorite little detective in a rematch with none other thanLupin the 3rd. My body is ready, is yours?

 

3 Seconds Before Explosion (1967)

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(Directed by Motomu Ida aka Tan Ida) A director who did the majority of his work in the Mid-60s.

Akira Kobayashi stars as a special agent whose been assigned to a critical case. He’s to locate some stolen jewels that a newly freed country has lost. Can Kobayashi’s handsome, daring superspy overcome the jewel thieves and any others trying to get their ‘filthy mitts’ on the merchandise?

I’ll save you the trouble of speculating about the film’s feeling like a ‘Japanese James Bond’ picture. While there are some movies I’ve seen that resemble a Sean Connery spy-film, this isn’t necessarily one of them. The story, characters, and action are very familiar, but the lead character is much more professional than any of the Bond’s we’ve seen on screen. Super-spy Yabuki (Kobayashi) is much more by the book, and seems to be a master of the art of subterfuge. Although the movie is quite dated, I was entertained–mostly by watching the spies, thieves, and law enforcement scramble around over the valued jewels.

The action here is fast-paced, and the camera is in love with double takes, full zooms, and whirling around during fire fights or whenever characters were busy beating each other up. There isn’t too much to say about this movie, and I’m not sure there is any real reason to seek it out, unless you’re also curious as to what a standard spy-film looked like in 1960s Japan. I was, so while this was more of a study than anything, I was treated to some nice camera work from cinematographer Izumi Hagiwara. It felt like a period piece the way things were so dated–with the mobsters shooting what looked to be ‘fireworks’ from their barrels at night so the audience could see the muzzles flash. I even recall seeing a strange, fake spider killing scene to showcase just how proficient Yabuki was with his sniper rifle. At any rate, 3 Seconds Before Explosion may be hidden somewhere in your local library, but I wouldn’t recommend you actively seeking it out unless what I’ve spoke on interests you. The movie isn’t bad from an entertainment standpoint, although dated–but I feel some may be turned off by the cheesy, oft-used plot points and stiff acting of some of the characters.

For more information on the film, click here for the IMDB.com link.