2013.12.30 Now Playing
Adventure / 161 / English
The journey of the little people of Middle Earth continues in the second film of the “Hobbit” trilogy, as the 13 dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) finally come face to face with Smaug, the treasure-hoarding dragon that’s been wreaking havoc on the townspeople of Dale.
They say the journey is half the fun, and the movie really tries to convey that through the adventure-filled route that takes Bilbo and company through Mirkwood, Esgaroth, the town of Dale and eventually to the dragon’s lair. It’s a winding journey, but it’s also a lengthy one.
As in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) appears sporadically, which means that the dwarves and Bilbo take center stage for much of the movie.
There is danger lurking behind every corner and the action is fast, but the pace is slow (and painful), and you are forever wondering when the dragon Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, will rear its ugly head.
The movie is the fifth by director Peter Jackson to take place in Middle Earth, and by this point the foes and locations are all very familiar. While it’s still exhilarating to see the CGI, gruesome orcs, elven kingdoms and even sneaky giant spiders that speak, unfortunately it’s nothing new by now. To make up for the lack of originality, there are a few twists penciled in by the producers.
Drama / 127 / Korean
With only a high school certificate, Song Woo-suk (Song Kang-ho) manages to pass the bar exam. But because of his limited education, he is an outcast and a joke to the rest of the legal community. Song focuses on tax cases his colleagues regard as lowly cases, but they are enough to make him affluent.
Then one day he accidentally comes across a case that involves an acquaintance’s son who was tortured. The case changes Song and spurs him to become a human rights lawyer.
The film drew the public’s attention even before its release because its synopsis is based on the true story of the late President Roh Moo-hyun. That caused a lot of controversy, depending on what side of the political spectrum you fall on, but actor Song Kang-ho pleaded with viewers to focus on the film itself.
But even without the political subtext, the film can still be viewed as a touching story of an attorney who faces a life-changing experience. It is also a treat for fans of Song, as he shines in the genre that he is best known for.
Action/ 138 / Korean
Dong-chul (Gong Yoo), the best special field agent in North Korea, was abandoned by his government. While he is on the run from assassins, he looks for his wife and child, who he thinks were sold as slaves in China, only to find out that they were killed.
With that revelation, Dong-chul is out for revenge, looking for who was behind their deaths.
Within its lengthy running time, viewers may be surprised to find first-class action scenes, with more than half of the film filled with spectacle.
Gong Yoo, who is back on the screen for the first time in two years, was highly praised by viewers and critics.
It is true that the film is rather similar to other North Korean spy films, such as “Commitment” and “Secretly Greatly,” in which North Korean special agents were also the main characters. But this film tops them when it comes to thrills.
Wild Bill (19)
Drama / 98 / English
Billy Hayward, just released on parole after eight years in prison, makes his grand entrance back to his hometown and family. But Billy soon learns that you can’t go home again.
All that awaits Billy is the devastation caused by his absence in the form of his two kids, 15-year-old Dean and 11-year-old Jimmy. Back in the real world, Billy is unsure where or what he’s supposed to be while coming to terms with the fact that his boys have been fending for themselves since their mother ran off to Spain with her boyfriend. Billy is thinking of going north to work in the mines, but when his parole officer informs him that by doing so his kids will be taken away from him, he decides to change his plan. How will Billy and his sons build a family and a life together?
About Time (19)
Rom-com / 124 / English
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) was never really good at first impressions. His encounters with the ladies in particular are extremely awkward, and he never says the right things. That is, until he gets the chance at saying them right the first time.
Tim learns from his father that the men in his family all have a special gift: They can travel back in time. At first, Tim thinks it’s crazy. After all, what’s crazier than going into a dark closet and wishing to go back in time? Except, in Tim’s case, it actually works. Tim gets to go back and rescue his buffoon-self from stuttered encounters and missed connections. After playing around with the gift, and learning that some things cannot be forced, he is soon presented with the chance to get it right with the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams), with whom Tim quickly falls in love.
Yet when Tim travels back in time to help one of his friends, he discovers that his time traveling has consequences - such as losing Mary to another man. He learns that there are some things time travel just can’t fix.
Directed by Richard Curtis, of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994) and “Love Actually” (2003) fame, the film packs witty humor with touching moments between Tim and his father, played by the British actor Bill Nye.
A perfect rom-com for the holiday season, and McAdams shows yet again how talented she is, both visually and as an actor.
Romance, Comedy / 114 / Chinese
Ping (Michelle Chen), the daughter of a small-town bakery owner, is not interested in her retired father’s business. So the apprentice baker Gaobing (Chen Han-dien) has to look after the business instead of Ping. Most people in the village think that Gaobing is destined to be Ping’s husband, but she turns down his proposals, saying she longs to leave for France and experience more of the world. But for Gaobing, whose name means “cake and biscuit” in Chinese, there is no place like home. Making things worse, Bread (Anthony Neely), a half-Taiwanese, half-French celebrity chef arrives in town to look for the bread that his deceased mother often talked about. With his charming attitude, the whole town loves him, including Ping. Meanwhile, Gaobing is troubled as he sees Ping and Break growing affectionate.
So the two bakers decide to hold a baking contest over Ping - if Bread wins, she goes to Paris with him, but if Gaobing wins, Ping stays with him.
Adapted from a 2006 TV movie of the same name, “The Soul of Bread” is packed with humor and romance. And led by Michelle Chen, who rose to instant fame with “You Are the Apple of My Eye” in 2012, this is a true crown-pleaser.