2012.6.22 NOW Playing
Comedy / 118 / Korean
If you are sick of feeling helpless in achieving your life goals in this harsh society, do not look any further and follow the guidance of Heo Go-soo (Sung Dong-il), the legendary master of flattery, and use this skill of flattery to get what you want. This is exactly what Dong-sik (Song Sae-byeok) does, a stiff insurance worker, who with the aid of Heo becomes the king of insurance salesmen.
Dong-sik is an ordinary man who works at an insurance company. As his relationship with his girlfriend goes kaput and his father is being chased by a loan shark, Dong-sik is in grave need of a good energizer. One day, this naive worker meets the master of flattery, and the rest is history. With actors such as Song and Sung, who are widely known for their comical roles in a number of previous movies, viewers have no doubt that they will spend two hours of utter merriment in front of the silver screen. “Comedy King” is directed by Jeong Seung-koo, who was formerly an assistant director of “Secret Sunshine” (2007), which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the directorial debut of Jeong and strives to send out a message to the audience that this movie is not merely a light comedy but a bitter satire about the current state of Korean society.
Thriller, Crime / 102 / English
“Faces in the Crowd” is a psychological horror-thriller written and directed by French director Julien Magnet who is most famously known for the 2002 French horror-action film “Bloody Mallory.” Starring Milla Jovovich, the film revolves around a female protagonist who develops prosopagnosia, or a neurological disorder of face perception where the ability to recognize visages is impaired, after a brutal attack by a serial killer.
Lodged safely in the familiar traditional horror genre, the setting of a visually impaired heroine and a largely veiled assailant conjures reminiscence of some other old-school spine-chillers like “Los Ojos de Julia” (2010) and “Blink” (1994). The semblance of the synopsis is by no means an attack at its entertainment value as Jovovich’s gripping and anchoring performance keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the feature.
Unlike “Los Ojos de Julia” and “Blink,” the “Faces in the Crowd” features a strong male support figure (played by Julian McMahon) whose face is uniquely recognized by Jovovich and thus she comes to rely upon. Magnet’s second feature film serves as a perfect coolant for the summer night’s heat, as the movie not only inspires chill with the constant looming threat of the vindictive serial killer but also with the anxiety that comes from the disorienting disorder of constantly changing faces of those around her, including her own.
Mystery, Thriller / 101 / English
Starring Antonio Banderas, “The Big Bang” is a film that you’d expect would feature the charming actor. Shot in the style of an old Western, it tells an intriguing story that hits all the right themes: money, sex, love, greed and beauty. The private investigator, played by Banderas, gets the assignment of a lifetime when a frighteningly giant client asks him to pursue his supermodel girlfriend in search of diamonds she has stolen. Along the way, Banderas runs into a porn director with a penchant for cameos, a science-obsessed waitress, the mob, corrupt police officers, and strangest of all, a mad scientist hidden beneath the desert of the Wild West. The story line is entertaining enough, with violence and love scenes to keep the audience focused throughout the feature. But it is with the overly eclectic assortment of characters of whom it falls dramatically short. To incorporate so many characters with such diverse backgrounds, the plot takes leaps and turns that would not be allowed in any conventional movie production. What begins as a typical detective story turns from a chase after a beautiful girl and her jewels into a wacky science fiction tale about an eccentric old man living under the ground whose work might just end the world. If it were divided into two or even three separate films, then “The Big Bang” might be worth watching.
Drama / 87 / Hebrew
Written and directed by and starring Hagar Ben-Hashar, this Israeli drama follows a beautiful young mother, Tamar (Hagar Ben-Hashar), and her struggle to control her ravenous sexual appetite. Tamar offers her sexual services to several of the men in the village until Shai (Ishai Golan), a young veterinarian, returns to the village and tries to tame her. Though the two fall in love, the question lies in whether Tamar’s love for Shai is enough to satisfy her insatiable sexual desires. Aside from one prolonged graphic scene, most sexual encounters in the film are suggested rather than explicitly shown. Dialogue is sparse and the film has received criticism for its lack of emotional appeal. However, the film’s strong style, atmosphere and cinematography have appealed to viewers and earned Ben-Asher the Wolgin Award in 2011 for best director at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
The Stoning of Soraya M. (19)
Drama / 114 / English, Persian
Stranded in a remote Iranian village by car trouble in 1986, a journalist (James Caviezel) is approached by Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a woman with a story to tell about the downfall and stoning death of her beloved niece, Soraya (Mozhan Marno), on the previous day. The journalist gets everything on tape, but he needs to escape the village with his life if he wishes to spread Soraya’s sad tale of misogyny, religious fundamentalism and mob violence to the rest of the world.
Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” is based on French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1990 non-fiction book “La Femme Lapidee.”
For reasons that should be obvious, this book is banned in Iran. The film, however, did quite well at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was voted runner-up to “Slumdog Millionaire” for the audience choice award - a meaningful coincidence, as each movie is perhaps the closest thing possible to the emotional inverse of the other.
“The Passion of the Christ” is another apt comparison - not least because they share a Middle Eastern backdrop, or because Caviezel played Christ in the latter, but because of their sheer violence: The climax of “The Stoning of Soraya M.” is a 20-minute public execution that leaves the viewer helpless in the onslaught of its blood-slicked reality. Opinions on the film are split.
The film is held together by Aghdashloo’s strong performance and the irrefutable moral force of its subject matter- but heavy-handed characterizations, undiscerning rage and Greek-tragedy pacing almost cause it to needlessly crumble. Not a feel-good flick, that much is fact.