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Review: 'The Housemaid' Is A Remake That, Surprise, Pales In Comparison To Original

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 19, 2011 3:09 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A Korean city square is bustling. Folks window shop, eat out, and party in lavish apartments. Restaurant workers bust their ass to meet the demand, taking shots in-between flipping whatever's on the grill. A young woman stands on a balcony, gazing at the crowds before ending her life with a fall. Some stop to look, some debate whether they should go closer, few seek help. Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon from the terrific "Secret Sunshine") rides by the scene after a hard night of work, finding empty streets and a vague chalk outline on the pavement. Director Sang-soo Im firmly stamps his view of a cold, uncaring society right from the start, displaying humankind as a selfish entity devoid of any semblance of decency. He'll make a full circle with this sequence eventually, but until then he uses this current to tackle modern Korea's huge gap in living conditions (the "super rich" and poor, as he puts it), revel in soapy melodrama, orchestrate highly arousing sex scenes, and shoot probably the most elegant and beautiful visuals this side of "I Am Love." The fact of it being a remake hangs overhead, but at the end of the day, whatever you say about 2010's "The Housemaid," it is an all-together different beast from the 1960s post-Korean War oddity, though simply nowhere near as strong or lingering.

Review: 'Barney's Version' Is Oscar-Baity Yet Goes Through The Motions

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • January 13, 2011 3:21 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The following is a reprint of our review that first ran during the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Review: 'Green Hornet' Lacks Sting, Anything Else Even Remotely Interesting

  • By Drew Taylor
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  • January 12, 2011 3:28 AM
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  • 12 Comments
Loud, clamoring, haphazardly thrown together and risibly scripted from what feels like a poor first draft, Michel Gondry's unfunny, unengaging "The Green Hornet" lands in a January release date because it's exactly warranted: it's a throwaway action picture meant to fill the early new year void, but contains zero substance and few genuine joys or laughs.

Review: 'The Dilemma' Chooses Wacky Hijinks Over Intelligent Comedy

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • January 12, 2011 3:07 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Overrated screenwriter Allan Loeb is curiously one of the most in-demand writers in Hollywood right now, and we're beginning to understand why. His screenplays tend to sell high-concept work which makes executives and producers feel good about themselves, but the actual execution undermines whatever originality and vigor the original premise may have had, keeping things safe for mainstream audiences to embrace without thinking too much, which makes studio heads happy. But if you look closer, Allan Loeb seems to be writing the same script over and over with entire plots hanging on one character struggling to tell somebody the secret he's holding. Exhibit 1: "The Switch" spent nearly half its running time with Jason Bateman agonizing over whether or not to tell Jennifer Aniston that it's actually his sperm she used to have a child. Exhibit 2: In "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" Shia LaBeouf could have avoided a world of hurt he had just been honest with his girlfriend, Carey Mulligan, about what he was doing with her Dad. Which brings us to Exhibit 3: "The Dilemma." Once again, a character grapples for the majority of the film's running time with a should I?/shouldn't I? situation, in this case it's whether or not to tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him. Yes, "The Dilemma" is another one of those movies where you're going to wait for somebody to stop acting like an idiot and do what most normal people would do without hesitation. It's pretty painful.

Review: 'Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune' Makes An Interesting Life Seem Average

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 8, 2011 3:02 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Despite fan backlash at his decision to go electric, Bob Dylan has had it pretty good, especially by comparison. Any average Joseph on the street could tell you who he is and probably hum a tune or two, whereas his politi-folk peers were largely forgotten. Dylan was able to transcend; artists like Phil Ochs, subject of documentary "Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune" by "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls" director Kenneth Bowser, were not so lucky and mostly forgotten. Labeled as the "anti-Dylan" not only for his radically different singing style but also for his penchant towards undisguised topical protest songs, something Mr. Zimmerman masked in poetry and eventually outright abandoned. Ochs didn't just sing about Vietnam or his distaste for politicians, he rallied; making activism just as important as his very vocalized opinion.

Review: 'If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle' Starts Off Well But Takes The Path of Least Resistance

  • By Christopher Bell
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  • January 7, 2011 3:07 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Movies tend to to depict jail in one, collective fashion: scummy, bleak, frightening. Juvenile prison, however, is rarely touched upon in cinema. For this writer's money, the only film to represent it at all was the pretty terrible "United States of Leland." Although the inclusion of classes, work, sport, etc. are more or less offered in "big boy" prison, the way juvie implements them make it feel more like a super strict boarding school than a place of punishment. Quite an oddity indeed, so much that it's a wonder why few filmmakers have taken a dip into that world. Leave it to Romania, motherland of broody art house affairs, to set one of their realist dramas in the untapped locale. "If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle," the second feature by Florin Serban and Romania's official entry to the Academy Awards, captures the bizarre summer camp vibe well but fails to conjure up any mystery or surprise in the narrative, ultimately going down the road of predictability.

Review: 'Season Of The Witch' Provides Swordplay, Ghouls And Ron Perlman's Forehead

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • January 6, 2011 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There's black magic everywhere in "Season of the Witch." Be prepared for winged demons taking to the sky. Gird yourself for the specter of zombie monks. Secure your temperament against the threat of mutant werewolves. And mind the massive forehead of veteran character actor Ron Perlman. No stranger to swords, forests and monsters, Perlman -- all upper body and grunts -- smirks his way through the production, setting the tone in that he's not going to take anything all that seriously. But when a supernatural monster comes at him, you can be sure he will headbutt said demon several times.

Review: 'The Way Back' Is A Stride Of Pride

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • December 30, 2010 7:43 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Reinventing the struggles of yesterday for cinematic purposes is a practice as old as the art form itself. Of course, there’s the three-act structure and the Joseph Campbell bullshit that contorts history into protagonist(s) battling incredible odds to provide a last second miracle, with theme being the overriding purpose. Did our hero save a lot of people? Did he/she rewrite the course of history and lay the groundwork for what’s going on today in our world? Should we count our lucky stars that one noble freedom fighter did what he needed to do to preserve our future and teach us a lesson about appreciating humanity?

Review: 'Another Year' Is Four Bittersweet Seasons Of Laughter, Love & Tears

  • By The Playlist
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  • December 29, 2010 5:25 AM
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  • 1 Comment
This review originally ran during the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

Review: 'Blue Valentine' Delivers With A Prickly, Raw & Devastating Punch

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 29, 2010 2:39 AM
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  • 0 Comments
This review originally ran during the Cannes Film Festival.

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