This will be my usual "End of the Year" List but with the delay, in this year's edition, I will only list my top 10 films of the year and I promise that I will try and get it completed earlier next year.
10. Waiting For Superman
Now I had no real desire to see this film but the more I heard fellow critics talk about it, the more it sounded like I should at least give this film a look. I was thinking one thing when I went into this film and I came out thinking an entirely different idea.
The majority of the Ex-pats here in Korea are teachers, so you will be able to take ownership of this film because you will have actually lived through some of the insanity that is shown in the film. I was very disappointed that the Academy Awards did not nominate this documentary for an award.
The film has a simple idea, What if people can steal your dreams, you secrets and what would happen if this idea was real? It was a new idea and I must say that I found it very interesting and when the film was over, I could not believe that I had actually seen all of this film and after the 2nd time, I am still not sure that I have seen all of this film yet.
The films director was Christopher Nolan and after this film, he has made me think that, If he directs it; I will see it! With his direction he helped the main actors take this film to a new level of film. I was really that impressed with this film.
8. I Saw the Devil (Korean: 악마를 보았다)
Now before we can go into the review we have to go back into actually why this film was banned in the first place.
Back in 2002 Korean set up a film ranking of Restricted rating (제한상영가). Films with this rating were restricted to adults over 19, could only be shown in specially licensed theaters, and could not be advertised or released on home video. The rating was ruled unconstitutional in 2009 after a challenge from the local distributor of Shortbus(Wikipedia)Korea has 1 of these theaters and its in Kwangju.
So when I had heard that the Korea Media Rating Board had given ISTD this rating, I could not believe it. This particular rating has been ruled unconstitutional so I have no idea why they gave it to this film. (All attempt to try and find out why have only led to more confusing comments)
When the Director of this film Kim Ji-woon came out to present the film to us at the midnight screening he stated, through his translator, that this version of the film had received a 14 rating in Canada and I yelled WTF. If you ever see any video of that, the loud fan is me.
The audience was in a great mood, everyone wanted to see the unrated version. Then the film started and the audience saw what happened the first few minutes, you knew hell was coming in the form of Lee Byung-hun and you believed it. The madman took away his pregnant fiancees. He was going to take away him.
This film was different because in most vengeance films, once you catch the person you slowly kill him or her and then the film is over. This one was different because once Choi Min-sik character was captured. Lee took him to the brink of death, then stopped and let him live. This goes on for awhile and after the 3rd time. LBH characters fiancees family ask him to stop the vengeance because its used in movies and this is enough.
What was also nice about this film was the secondary people in this film, both the good guys and the bad ones. They all really helped t take this film to the next level.
What I liked was that the devil CMS had taken 3 of his best hits and he was still alive and when he figured out how the spy was working and who the spy actually was it was time for the hunted to become the hunter once again and then you see what vengeance true cost was.
When the film was over, I knew that this was the version that I wanted in Blu-ray. The audience applauded loudly and no one still could explain to me about the crazy rating. See the unrated version anyway you can.
7. The Edge (Russian: Край, translit. Kray)
Now with films from Russian they have either been hits(9th Company, Night Watch)or Misses(Day Watch, 12) with me. The only reason I saw this film was because of of my students thought I’d like it. She was so right on this film for me.
What we see is a girl running away from men shooting at her and then she falls into a huge river. Then we are told about World War 2 and how the USSR treated Russian prisoners of war and Russian citizens who worked for the Germans. You are then told that these people were sent to exile to live the remainders of their lives working in a very remote part of Siberia.
You are then show a Russian war hero by the name of Ignat, who hates all of these so-called German collaborators. He soon meets and has a relationship with one of the Russian ladies there who has a baby by a German military officer. But Ignat loves trains and you are slowly shown his past. The the film introduces you to a ghost. At last that is what this person is called. This person has lived in an old abandoned train since 1941 and has no knowledge of the USSR German war. To make maters worse she is German and the entire jail city hater her because of this except for Ignat.
Now with this film one was never sure what was coming next and the film told a great story that never seemed too long. I will not spoil the film for you but I will say this when the film was over the majority of the audience applauded and they had smiles as they left the cinema. It was a week later when this film was chosen by Russia to be its’ official film for the foreign-language honor at 83rd Academy Awards. The film deserves to be seen at least twice to make sure that you truly see what this film has to offer.
6. 71-Into the Fire 포화 속으로 (Po-hwa Sok-eu-ro)
I didn’t know much about this film before I saw it. I knew that it was the Korean big screen debut of K-pop star T.O.P (Choi Seung-hyeon) and that the films preview looked like a Korean version of the Alamo or 300. I knew that this was the 2nd film to arrive at the Korean box office about the Korean War this year and after the huge failure of the first one A Little Pond I really wasn’t sure what to expect about this film.
I soon learned that this film was based on a true story in which On Aug. 10, several hundred South Korean soldiers and 71 teenagers were drafted for the national emergency in Pohang. Due to the shortage of men, the small city was left in the hands of the 71 teenagers to try and stop the advancing North Korean Army.
What I really liked about this film was the young hero Oh Jang-beom (played by T.O.P.) When he is placed in command of these 71 teens, you soon discover that he has no idea how to be a leader. All he wants is the war to be over so he can go home and see his mother. In the film, it was stated that he wrote a letter to his mother and he wrote this to her, ” Mother I might die today… I’m not afraid of death, but I’m afraid I might never see you or my brothers again. I wish the war would end soon so I may return to your arms.” You see this thought the film, a simple boy wanting to return home.
I also liked the North Korean officer in charge, General Park Mu-rang (played Cha Seung-won) Once he figures out that he is going against teens, I saw how arrogant he became in his expected victory.
The film has its moments of humor, when the radio man ask by making a call, how they actually can operate a small artillery piece was funny. But as in war film there are the moments of terror that the film shows. The audience I was with were cringing at the final battle scenes. They felt the loss of these young teens who were trying just to stay alive in the insanity of war.
After the film was over the credits stated that Some 60 North Korean soldiers lost their lives while 48 of the 71 boys died. One of the fallen heroes, 16-year-old Lee U-geun, left behind letters addressed to his mother that testify to the horrors of war. When the film showed an actual survivor of the battle talking about that day and crying for his lost friends, the entire audience did not move at all.
This is when I knew that I had just seen a great film that I will want to add to my DVD collection ASAP.
5. The Fighter
Well, going into this film there were no surprises for this lifelong boxing fan. I knew of the boxing record of the main person of this film, “Irish” Micky Ward. I also knew of his brother’s life story and I knew the results of all of Micky Ward’s fights. Even with me knowing all of this is, I still wanted to see this film and I will again when it comes to the big screen here in Korea on March 10, 2011. Yes, the film is that good and maybe you’ll need to watch it more than one time to make sure that you have seen all of what this film is trying to show you about the recent life of Micky Ward.
A few days before I saw this film, I rewatched the Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward trilogy, to remind myself why Ward was such a great fighter. I also knew that these fights would not be included in the film.
When I first heard of this films coming out, I was wondering who will play Micky, and when Mark Wahlberg was announced, I really had a good feeling about it. You had to cast someone from the Boston area or the actor couldn’t pull off all of the little things that a local would know about Mickey’s life story and his background and Mark pulls it off very well. I also watched some of Micky’s fights after I watched the movie and the Mark really acts and shows what a fighter Ward really was. It would not really surprise me to see an Oscar nomination for Mark for his role in this film.
The film starts with a HBO film crew following his brother around and they both think that it’s for a HBO Boxing special and when it’s revealed to be about an ex-fighter crack addiction, you really start to see the film go to the next level. Christian Bale was cast as Dick “Dicky” Eklund, Micky’s brother and trainer and by his acting you really think that you are watching the brother decent into crack hell and how he slowly tries to redeem himself to his brother and to his family. When Mark and Christian are both on their acting game here in this film, you slowly see that this isn’t a good film, it’s a great one.
What I also liked about the film was that they showed the relationship that Micky has with his mother and his sisters. At times it looked like a mess but at times so do families. So I liked that they showed the story of his family.
The film ends with Ward winning the WBU title and does not show the trilogy and for this film that is the right decision. You would need another film alone just to show that epic fight trilogy story.
4. The Town
I had a feeling that this was going to be a good film, I had no idea that it was going to be a great one. This is the 2nd film that Ben Affleck has directed and I have really liked both of them.
What I really liked about this film was that I believed that everyone in this film was from the dangerous streets of Charlestown, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, in which a lot of bank robberies have occurred in the past. the actors really gave the film a local feel to it.
I also liked how the thefts were tied into the film and how the film ended. I was really disappointed when this film wasn't nominated for Best Film by the Academy.
3. Toy Story 3
I have no idea what will happen in this film but the preview looked awesome and in 3D IMAX, This has all of the hype of being a huge summer hit. I had one question about this film, how could this film be so good and really leave me angry, at the same time be this great of a film.
As I was reading another review of this film, the answer became very clear to me…
Now, we’ve never found out why ANDY had Woody – and in all the time in that house, we’ve never seen Andy’s father. I bring this up, because I’m writing this on FATHER’S DAY. What is Andy’s father situation? The father isn’t there the day the boy goes off to college? We met Andy right after the birth of Andy’s sister – and there was no Father then. I like to think that Andy’s father died in some manner that left Andy’s mom with the money to buy the house and take care of the two kids. Whatever happened to Andy’s father, he was out of the picture significantly in advance of the first film… but… I always harbored the suspicion that WOODY was Andy’s father’s toy. That Woody’s obsessive compulsion to be there for ANDY came from that relationship he had with Andy’s father. And that it was possible, that Woody never necessarily knew this. I imagine that Woody was played with by his previous owner, that he went into the attic – then perhaps when Andy’s father passed away, his Grandmother went through her son’s things and found Woody – remembered how much that Woody meant to Andy’s father – and felt it should go to Andy.
When I read the above part of the article, that’s what click for me also. Where is the father and how did Andy Davis end up with Woody? I was hoping that this film would have answered these 2 questions but sadly it doesn’t and I thought that it kind of hurt the story. If the film is basically about Andy growing up and moving on without his toys, then how can we if we don’t know how they came together?
Now with that one complaint out of the way, this is a really good film and when I saw it in the CGV 4-D Plex, the audience really seamed into it. The film has all of the things I want for a film to be a great one. A fantastic story a somewhat believable plot and one heck of an ending to tie it all together. The scene of the toys at the dumpster, with all of them together was a stroke of pure genesis. I also loved it when Buzz gets accidentally resent into a Spanish speaking mode and he goes crazy over Jessie in a very original way.
I also liked during the credits you are shown a little more of the story and it was a nice surprise.
2. How to Train Your Dragon
For those who do not know “How to Train Your Dragon” is the first in a series of eight books set in a fictional viking world about a young, 10 year old Viking named Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his pet dragon, Toothless.
All I really remember about the first time I saw A preview of this film was, that this cost 165 million to make? I thought for sure that this was going to be such a huge failure at the USA Box Office, that I didn’t even bother to read any of the first few weeks reviews of this film.
Then I started to see that the film kept doing good at the Box office and that parents were taking their children to see this multiple times because of their kids enthusiastic word of mouth. So far it has created an outstanding sustained run that led to the film being reassessed as a major success and maybe, the start of a new media franchise for Dreamworks. So when it opened up in South Korea on 20 May, 2010, I knew that I wanted to see the film in 3D. (It is playing in 3D in a Korean dubbed version along with a Korean subtitled version here in the ROK.)
I really had no idea what the film was going to be about so when I saw that it was Vikings vs. Dragons, I though, “OK sounds interesting so far.” The I heard Gerald Butlers voice at the Stoick the Vast: the chieftain of the Viking tribe and Hiccup’s father, the hero of this film. It started to gain my interest. Then when I heard Jay Baruchel as Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III voice, I knew that this was not going to be what I had expected to see in a film.
The idea is quite simple Hiccup wants to become a Viking but he’s going to do it in his own way and his way sure isn’t the Viking way. You see him befriend a dragon and soon many other dragons and then the film really takes off.
I really liked the film and it deserves at least one viewing in 3d, but don’t be surprised if you want to see it more than once.
Now for my number 1 film of the year and I had this film selected before the Academy Awards..
1. The Kings Speech
I had heard from a few people who opinion that I respect that this was a very good film. So when I was able to watch the film, it took me by surprise. This was not a good film, this was a great one and it was the best film that I watched last year.
The film has a very simple idea, what if you never wanted to be King but by your older brothers action, you are thrust into becoming King of the United Kingdom. The other problem is that this new king (King George VI played by Collin Firth) has a stammering speech impediment. The new King is shown trying to correct this problem.
What I really liked about this film was that the actors made you think that you were back in the 1930's and you see how the King overcomes his problem. I loved the scene where the King is watching a newsreel speech given by Adolph Hitler. The look on the Kings face when he realizes that he has to be a better public speaker to go against this person was the shot of the film.
Please see this film when it arrives in Korea on March 17th.