2012.4.20 NOW Playing
Drama / 96 / Korean
Child actress Ko Ah-seong, who received accolades for her role as the youngest daughter in the hit blockbuster film “The Host” (2006), returns to the screen as aspiring singer Nancy, who leaves Korea for the U.K. to get over a breakup. The role is the first starring one for Ko, who is also set to star in “The Host” director Bong Joon-ho’s much-anticipated film “Snow Piercer.”
In “Duet,” Nancy meets a British guy Jude (James Page) on her trip, and the two develop a relationship as they talk about their mutual interests in music, photography and travel. Filming takes place in numerous locations throughout the U.K., including the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Nancy is portrayed as a sentimental and purehearted girl, while Jude’s laid-back, artistic character is the perfect complement to her personality. However, the romance comes to an end when Nancy has to eventually return to Korea. During production, Ko said that she introduced some of her favorite Korean indie tracks to Page in order to get closer to him before filming started.
The soundtrack for the film is filled with tracks by both mainstream and indie artists in Korea, including Yojo, Kim Joo-yeon and music director Kim Young-soo.
The Box (15)
Thriller / 96 / Korean
Richard Kelly, he who wrote and directed the cult classic film “Donnie Darko” (2001), brings us another psychological thriller in “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple who wake one morning to discover that their world as they know it will change very, very soon.
Norma (Diaz) and her husband Arthur (Marsden) find a strange package at their doorstep one day. Intrigued and confused, they open it to find a locked wooden box and a button on top of it as well as a note telling them that someone will pay them a visit in a few hours. Sure enough, a man named Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) knocks on their door to tell them they can choose to press the button on the box for $1 million. But there is a catch: Somebody, somewhere in the world who they do not know will die. Norma decides to press the button, and a series of strange and frightening events follow.
“The Box” was written by Kelley and is based on the 1970 short story “Button, Button” by fantasy/horror author and screenwriter Richard Matheson, which was also turned into a “Twilight Zone” episode in 1986. “The Box” was originally released in the U.S. in 2009 and received lukewarm ratings, with movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes calling it “imaginative but often preposterous” as well as “too piecemeal.”
It is interesting to see Diaz and Marsden take a step outside of their usual lighthearted, romantic comedy-type roles - however, cliche seems to be the downfall of this story that has a fascinating enough premise but doesn’t quite thrill and mystify in an original manner the way that audiences would hope for in a movie coming from the director of “Donnie Darko.”
The Ides of March(19)
Drama / 101 / English
This brilliantly executed political drama garnered much attention in Hollywood with Oscar-winning George Clooney taking the megaphone as well as in screenwriting and acting. While movies directed by overambitious actors generally pale in quality relative to their more charismatic on-camera performances, “King Maker” is an exception for not only great casting but also for interesting and less-than-obvious plot twists atypical of Hollywood films.
The movie is packed with heavyweight talents like Ryan Gosling, who plays Stephen Meyers, an idealistic and ambitious junior campaign manager for a presidential race; Paul Giamatti, who plays a frighteningly calculative and beguiling opposition campaign manager who knows the ins and outs of the game of politics; and Philip Seymour Hoffman, a paranoid, heartless senior campaign manager and Meyers’ boss.
The title “The Ides of March” is a reference to the day Caesar was brutally stabbed to death in a coup staged by conspirators. It is not clear whether the metaphor for Caesar’s death is represented by the death of innocence and optimism, an actual suicidal death resulting from abuse of powers or the termination of one’s career in professional politics - it is up to the viewers to decide.
The movie presumably draws an accurate portrait of the contemporary American political campaign behind closed doors, laden with secret agendas, power struggles, sex and money. Fans of politics who enjoyed the documentary film “The War Room” (1993) will enjoy this drama for a fresh insight into American politics as well as for the thought-provoking and realistically grim ending.
Romantic Comedy / 104 / French
“Heartbreaker” (French: “L’arnacœur”) is a 2010 French rom-com that centers on the amorous antics of Alex (Romain Duris), a professional heartbreaker who promises his high-handed and wealthy clients that he can turn any husband, fiance or boyfriend into an ex by sweeping their lovers off their feet. Alex has only one caveat: He will not demolish relationships in which the woman is happy. But what happens when massive debts to a loan shark force Alex to lay his crosshairs on the perfect couple only 10 days before their wedding?
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 69 percent. In favor, Rebecca Barry of Flicks.co.nz points out, “This is fun, frothy screwball stuff that won’t demand much more cerebral participation than reading the subtitles. But, like Duris, it should charm your pants off.”
But Phillip Martin of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette damns it with faint praise, writing, “Heartbreaker really isn’t terrible - there are a few moments of manic slapstick and the actors are charismatic even when their characters are boorish. But it’s a movie for people who think movies are about wasting time.”
Following the film’s blockbuster success in France, it was announced that Working Title Films had acquired remake rights for a U.S. version.
The Beaver (12)
Drama, Comedy / 91 / English
Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson bring us the tale of a father, caught in the whirlpool of his depression; his family, beleaguered by his lethargy and distance; and a discarded beaver puppet, which serves as the father’s psychological crutch and impromptu therapist.
Rotten Tomatoes gave “The Beaver” a score of 61 percent, reporting the consensus that “Jodie Foster’s visual instincts and Mel Gibson’s all-in performance sell this earnest, straightforward movie.”
Critics regard “The Beaver” as Foster’s strongest directorial work to date, though it was also her weakest-grossing debut, making only $1 million in the U.S. On the poor showing, Foster said, “Americans are not comfortable with [comedy-drama].”