2012.5.4 Now Playing
Drama / 127 / Korean
For a brief moment during the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships, North and South Korean players united to overcome the odds. It was the first time that a unified Korean national table tennis team was formed, and the South and North Korean players were given only 46 days to overcome their differences until the competition began.
The filming process heavily relied on South Korean table tennis player Hyun Jung-hwa (played by Ha Ji-won), who delved into every aspect of the film from the screenwriting process to teaching table tennis to the actors, who had to practice for more than six months.
From language barriers to training styles, Hyun and North Korean player Lee Boon-hee (Bae Doo-na) had to come together and solve their differences. In the process, they soon find out that their first impressions of each other are different from their true characteristics.
Although Hyun at first glance might seem like a cold-hearted person, she is portrayed as responsible sister as well as an earnest woman.
Lee also comes off at first as a woman who is full of confidence and has a strong ego, which turns out to be untrue. As the two women get to know each other, they soon become friends, and their intimacy is reflected in their game. They have worked for 46 days and now the competition they’ve been looking forward to awaits.
Animation, Family / 86 / English
Another beloved Dr. Seuss tale comes to life in the computer-animated 3-D film “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” directed by Kyle Balda and Chris Renaud, two experienced animators who collectively have such films as “Monsters, Inc.,” “Despicable Me,” “Ice Age” and “Horton Hears a Who!” under their belts, in which they worked in various aspects of production such as storyboard artist, directing animator and even director.
Lending their voices to the film are: Danny DeVito, who also voiced the film in four other languages (Russian, German, Italian and Spanish); heartthrob Zac Efron from the “High School Musical” series on the Disney Channel; country-pop superstar Taylor Swift; Ed Helms of “The Office” and “The Hangover”; former Saturday Night Live cast member Rob Riggle; and Betty White, best known for her role in the 1980s TV series “The Golden Girls.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the children’s book “The Lorax,” it is the story of a young boy named Ted Wiggins (Efron) who lives in Thneed-Ville, an isolated city in which everything from the wildlife to the air they breathe is artificial.
Ted only wants one thing in life: to win the heart of the girl of his affections, Audrey (Swift). Audrey lives and breathes nature and has just one wish herself - to see a real tree.
Ted decides to consult the Once-ler (Helms) on the matter, who proceeds to tell him the story of how Thneed-Ville came to be - a story of greed, corruption and environmental degradation. The Lorax (DeVito), an orange creature who used to be the protector of the land Thneed-Ville sits on, was left helpless and homeless after the Once-ler arrived and took control of the land for his own profit.
Children and adults alike will find something to like about this movie, whether it be the adorable animated renditions of Dr. Seuss’ lovable characters, the catchy tunes or the moral lessons that pervade the film.
Comedy, Fantasy / 108 / English
“Mirror, Mirror” is an adaptation of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale “Snow White.” It is directed by Tarsem Singh and stars Lily Collins as the princess, Julia Roberts as the evil queen and Armie Hammer as Prince Charming.
An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful dwarfs to win back her birthright. The plot is unique in that it focuses predominantly on the evil queen’s point of view. With visual genius Tarsem Singh at the helm, the film is a pretty one. But is it a classic?
Robbie Collin from British newspaper The Telegraph gave the film four stars, noting it as “an exuberantly charming fairy story that owes as much to the gnarled folk tale illustrations of Arthur Rackham as the stagey, saturated lunacy of that half-loved, half-feared East German fantasy ‘The Singing Ringing Tree.’ It’s a Grimm piece of work, but far from a grim one: without rehashing the seminal Disney animated version, it radiates gorgeousness and good humor with a near-nuclear intensity.”
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, however, gives the film a 50 percent rating, with some reviews citing a lack of depth or originality in the plot. At least it’s fun for the whole family.
It will be interesting to see how this Snow White stacks up against the other two renditions slated for 2012.
Crime, Thriller / 118 / English
Written and directed by Cannes Palme d’Or-winning Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, “This Must Be the Place” drew much attention at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals last year upon release. Paolo Sorrentino is most famously known for his 2004 feature “The Consequences of Love,” which stylishly weaves the Mafia and solitary human nature into the story and won Sorrentino his Golden Palm. “This Must Be the Place” is Sorrentino’s first English-language feature and is set in Ireland and the United States.
“This Must Be the Place” follows the footsteps of a jaded retired rock star, Cheyenne (Sean Penn), who doesn’t have a care in the world, perhaps evidenced by his outrageous pink hair and red lips.
He comes across as indifferent but his abrupt voluntary career suspension is due to the suicides of fans.
Cheyenne’s character, while easy to dismiss as a prototypical former celebrity, is more than meets the eye as he struggles with the memory of his youth marred with utter neglect by a distant father.
He nonetheless decides to travel across the Atlantic to reconcile with his estranged ailing father in New York in his final hours, but arrives too late.
He inherits, among other things, his father’s journal from which he discovers shocking information about his father’s lifelong search for a Nazi prison guard who abused and tortured his father in the most horrifying and ineradicable ways in the concentration camp. Cheyenne delves in to fulfill his father’s vengeful pursuit, only to discover an even more shocking fact that alters his life forever.
The movie is critically acclaimed not only for the superb acting by two-time Academy Award winner Penn, but also for the poetic and poignant lines that make the movie inexhaustible in terms of quotable wisdoms.
With gradient buildup of suspense, Sorrentino satiates American audiences, displaying an understanding of the complexity of American society in a manner that is quite unusual for non-American directors.