2013.10.4 Now PlayingTough as Iron (15)
Drama / 108 / Korean
Kang-chul (Yoo Ah-in) is a former gangster who cleaned up his ways for the sake of his mother, Soon-e (Kim Hae-sook). He works in a loading dock in Busan taking care of his mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As her disease gets worse, Soon-e increasingly wanders around town and gets into accidents. She doesn’t recognize her own son, confusing him with her deceased husband.
One day, though, his mother needs an expensive operation that he cannot afford. Without any options, Kang-chul goes to some local gangsters to borrow the money he needs.
Under the direction of Ahn Kwon-tae, who also directed “My Brother” in 2004 and co-directed “An Eye for an Eye” in 2008, “Tough as Iron” is a mix of brutal gang violence and tender family love. In fact, it is quite reminiscent of “Friend,” the 2001 hit on which Ahn served as an assistant director.
The Busan-gangster motif is familiar, perhaps even a little boring, but “Tough as Iron” differentiates itself with its strange characterization. Unlike Jang Dong-gun in “Friend” or Zo In-sung in “A Dirty Carnival,” Yoo plays Kang-chul with an uncommon sense of positivity.
Crime, Thriller / 153 / English
Two girls from two close families are lost on a cold winter day. No one knows what happened to them, save that the girls were playing outside and a creepy camper was spotted nearby.
After the two children go missing, one girl’s father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), tells detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) about the van.
Loki tracks down the driver Alex John (Paul Dano), suspecting he could be the kidnapper.
But without any further evidence tying John to the disappearance, the police are forced to let him go. Desperate, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands.
“Prisoners” has gotten strong reviews - 80 percent fresh at Rottentomatoes.com - thanks to its strong cast and vivid emotions.
The film manages to depict the rage and desperation of families facing a terrible tragedy. However, some have complained that the mystery itself is a bit confusing at times.
It is a Hollywood-debut film of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who gained recognition for his film “Incendies” in 2011.
Rodencia and the Princess Tooth (ALL)
Animation / 87 / Korean (dubbed)
Rodencia, a peaceful kingdom of mice, is invaded by troop of rats commanded by the evil Rotex. Rotex wants to dominate Rodencia and take their treasure. In order to save Rodencia, a small mouse named Edam, a clumsy wizard’s apprentice, and Brie, a beautiful little girl mouse, must find a princess’s tooth, which is full of magical power.
While there have been plenty of family-friendly, 3-D animated adventure movies, “Rodencia and the Princess Tooth” stands out for the sheer cuteness of its animal characters.
As the Peru’s first-ever 3-D animated film, “Rodencia and the Princess’s Tooth” is gradually gaining global recognition, a year after it was released back home.
Are You Ready? (12)
Documentary / 87 / Korean
“Are You Ready?” presents an usual look at North and South Korea and potential reunification through a Christian perspective.
After Kim Il Sung took control of North Korea, it was the North’s sizeable Christian population that rebelled against his regime, getting locked up, tortured and killed for their struggle. Despite the North’s long hostility toward Christianity, an underground network of churches still exists. “Are You Ready?” explores the history and the presence of Christianity in Korea.
The film asks the audience, specifically Christians, whether they are ready to love the North Koreans.
First-time director Hur Won talks a lot about the unity of the Korean Peninsula through the church. To gain information about the underground church in North Korea, he had to contact missionaries in China and America. He even shot in several locations in North Korea. Above all, though, he had to be discreet, putting an emphasis on avoiding to harm people in the North.
The film is obviously directed by a Christian and made for Christians. Without an understanding of Korean Christianity, it is very hard to follow much of the story. It depicts North Korean refugees as special envoys sent from heaven to help unification - obviously, this calls for a religious perspective.
However, the movie is a breath of fresh air, at least for being a rare religious documentary.
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (12)
Action / 128 / Chinese
A prequel to the massive 2010 hit “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame,” “Sea Dragon” tells of the beginnings of Di Renjie and how he started in the imperial police force.
This time, the movie begins with the Tang Navy crushed by a mysterious, shadowy force from the sea. A rumor swirls that a dragon’s curse was responsible, and people want Yin Ruiji (Angelababy) to make a sacrifice to calm the dragon. However, Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau) doubts there is a dragon’s curse, and suspects the attack is a treasonous plot. Enter Di Renjie (Mark Chao), aka “Dee,” who had 10 days to uncover the plot or die trying.
Under the direction of longtime great Tsui Hark, the film offers lavish spectacles that evoke the splendor of the Tang Dynasty. The story is also full of amazing martial arts, shot on wires instead of with computer effects.
Monsters University (ALL)
Animation / 95 / English
Pixar is back with a tale of its much-loved monsters for the first time in 12 years. “Monsters Inc.” introduced the world to the lovably scary duo of Mike the giant green eyeball (voiced by Billy Crystal) and the big, hairy Sully (John Goodman), as well as the rest of the monster universe. It turns out that the monster world is powered on the fears of children, so “scarers” like Mike and Sully generated power by appearing from behind the closet doors in children’s bedrooms.
“Monsters University” is a prequel, looking at how Mike and Sully met in college. We learn how Mike wanted to be a top scarer from childhood, but, with his round shape and big eye, he was just too cute to make human children afraid.
In contrast, Sully is a scaring star from day one, but that only makes him overconfident and without finesse. Both get rejected from the cool fraternity of Oozma Kappa, so instead join Roar Omega Roar and try to get some revenge.
Even though “Monsters University” falls a bit short of Pixar’s best, the film still boasts plenty of gorgeous animation and a lot of laughs.
The Conjuring (15)
Horror / 112 / English
Loosely based on a true story, “The Conjuring” is a surprisingly effective horror story reminiscent of “The Amityville Horror” or “Poltergeist.” It’s the story of a family that moves into a beautiful but terrifying haunted house, and the paranormal investigators who try to help them deal with the foul spirits.
The film is set in 1971, when the Perron family move into an old, desolate house in the distant countryside in Rhode Island. Of course, it isn’t long before strange things start happening - and not long after that, strange turns to horrific. By the time the family realizes how deeply they’re in trouble, the evil spirit has latched onto them; even if they had the money to move, the ghost would only follow them.