4 Shots From 4 Films: Park Chan-wook Edition


With August 23, 2015 winding down I thought it was time to wish South Korean auteur filmmaker Park Chan-wook a happy birthday.

His films have been lauded both in his home country and worldwide. He has recently made his way into finally making a film in Hollywood with the 2013 psychological horror film Stoker. So, while people enjoy his first foray into the the Hollywood film system I thought it best to remind everyone that Park Chan-wook was already a great filmmaker before making the big leap across the Pacific.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Thirst (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Thirst (dir. by Park Chan-wook)

Val’s Movie Roundup #17: Hallmark Edition


Usually these roundups are short, and I like it that way, but not this time. Not by choice either. These movies just happen to give me a lot to talk about. To borrow from one of my all time favorite TV Shows Quantum Leap: “Oh, boy!”

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Strawberry Summer (2012) – Man, was this a stinker! This is like a prototype version of Recipe For Love. You have a girl who comes into the life of a male star with problems. That star is pretending to be something they are not. They have talent, but it’s being hidden by their fake persona. The girl helps him to throw that facade aside and be himself. The two walk off in to the sunset together. Simple. Shouldn’t be hard to do, right? Here’s how you screw it up.

In Recipe For Love, she is assigned to ghostwrite a TV cook’s cookbook. She was in a job position she didn’t care for, so she has a strong motivation to make this work and push past his initial standoff nature. In Strawberry Summer, she’s basically a stalker. She lives in a small rural town in the California Salinas Valley where they are going to hold a strawberry festival. She’s the queen. She uses the fact that the country singer’s manager is an old college friend of her’s to get him to come and perform. Then she all but proceeds to jump him. But of course she can’t, so instead she looks up information about him online so she can get closer to him. This all plays out rather innocently, but that’s what she’s doing. They screwed this up by removing any good reason for her to be in his life. She’s just a really big fan who thinks she can fix a celebrity she likes a lot. In real life those people have restraining orders put on them. Have his aunt live in town and she invites him to the festival where the rest of the film can then proceed. There, I fixed this part of the movie. I said this part because there are other blunders like the computer screens.

I don’t think I have seen any other Hallmark movie show the screens of a computer more than this one does. The computer screens are hilariously fake. You can actually see that the URL is a local file. In one case she is supposed to be looking at a pseudo Wikipedia page for the singer, but it’s referred to as “Internet Web Search Online Encyclopedia”. When she typed in the search it was called “Internet Encyclopedia Search”. The URL is called “C:\Users\LLP\Desktop\Jason Wiki Page.htm”. They couldn’t call it Wikipedia, but it’s in the URL of the page. And LLP stands for Larry Levinson Productions who seems to make all of these Hallmark movies.

In general, they have the most generic titles for things: “Video Search” and “search engine”. That’s not too uncommon in movies. Remarkably generic, but I’ve seen some stupid ways of avoiding saying Google. However, while she uses “Video Search” at the beginning to show her Mom a video of the singer, later in the movie the singer is talking to his manager and the manager says he saw what he did because there’s this thing called YouTube. But that’s not all! While she is doing a search on “search engine” we can see the box in the upper right corner of Internet Explorer for doing searches that says Google. I can’t do these justice. I apologize for the quality of these screenshots, but I watched this on TV and this was the only way I could get these.

IMG_7265 IMG_7266 IMG_7267 IMG_7268 IMG_7270Along with everything else, notice that the “Community Theater” has an area code for Mexico. They couldn’t even be bothered to do a Google search to put the area code for where the movie takes place. I’m guessing they just made it up. You might say I’m nitpicking and that of course I noticed because I have a degree in Computer Science, but the reason I bring up all these errors is because these screens don’t need to be there. All she does is look at the screen and read it out loud anyways. Have her look at the screen, but don’t show it, then have her talk or make a phone call to her local Mexican Salinas Valley Community Theater. There! I fixed this part of the movie too. But there’s more.

She is the head of a glee club. The members of the glee club want to do R.E.M. or Journey for the singing contest at the festival. But no, that would mean LLP would have to spend money on this production so it’s suddenly important for the kids to do When The Saints Go Marching In. She also says she picked it because it’s one of the top marching band songs. Marching band? I thought they were a glee club? If they are a glee club, then do Shiny Happy People. If they are a marching band, then do Separate Ways (Worlds Apart). In fact, when I went to Cal their marching band did that song. And if you were confused about which they were before the ending, then the performance itself isn’t going to help.

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I can only guess that they were going to do a marching band, but then must have realized how ridiculous the kids would look or it would cost too much, but they already had the uniforms and they couldn’t change the script. I don’t know! I don’t know! And no, they can’t sing well either. No worries though, because apparently the 11 other acts, which we don’t see, must be abominable and these kids win. But this part is even worse. The rationale she gives the kids for going with When The Saints Go Marching In is that the important part is taking a song and making it yours. Fine, but then why is the rest of the film about how the singer needs to stop riding his one hit wonder song that he didn’t write to do his own material instead? Oh, and since I don’t know where else to stick it, when he announces he actually grew up in New York City, he then corrects himself to say “not those parts”, but “the good parts”. What parts exactly are “those parts”? Parts that are so well known and looked down on by rural folk that it’s really important for him to say “the good parts”. Oh, and he can’t sing either. He just does a generic Hank Williams impersonation.

Oh, then there’s the scene where he eats strawberries. Apparently, he’s never eaten them before. Fine. Then he has a major allergic reaction to them. Fine. But then he gets miraculously better. Really? Then of course Hallmark has to show commercials for EpiPen, which is a device you would use for just such a violent allergic reaction. And while I didn’t see it myself, according to other reviews, he later pops a strawberry in his mouth and nothing happens. Of course.

I guess the last thing worth mentioning is that this is my second Hallmark film that wastes Shelley Long. Why? Why get her and then completely waste her? I actually paused the movie, went to YouTube, and watched the morgue fight and desert jump scenes from Outrageous Fortune (1987) just to remind myself that she can be funny.

And there’s three more of these Hallmark movies to review still! At least the next one is decent.

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Mystery Woman: Wild West Mystery (2006) – I’ll keep this one short. It’s like every other Mystery Woman movie I’ve reviewed except this one does something I really liked. It has Bruce Boxleitner in it, and instead of like Falling In Love With The Girl Next Door, which wasted him and Shelley Long, he has some great moments in this one. I loved the parts where he acted like a total slime ball. It was great! The movie as a whole is average, but it was so refreshing to see them actually use one of the older well established actors’ talents instead of squandering them. The plot is just an old Western TV star, played by Boxleitner, who does wild west shows and someone apparently is accidentally shot. Kellie Martin and Clarence Williams III are on the case. I just wish they had done Mystery Woman as an actual TV show so they could have dialed back on the complexity of the cases and actually developed Williams’ character’s spy past more instead of just teasing it all the time.

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A Gift of Miracles (2015) – I don’t know how this time around I wound up with three Hallmark movies that were really bad. At least this one is better than Strawberry Summer.

The movie is about a girl who is a PhD candidate who doesn’t realize you have to write appropriately for your audience. Her advisor at the college tells her that, reminds her that she needs to make this pitch for her research work in order to get her PhD, and sends her to meet with a guy who apparently is good at writing. He tells her the same thing and agrees to help her. Then she storms off. Apparently, her mother died when she was one, a window breaks at night, and she finds a box with things in it that also contains a list of people.

Now she goes back to the guy and soon the two are off on an adventure to get these items to the people who are supposed to have them. Somehow this is going to help her writing. I don’t know how, but the film tells me so. Also, this guy apparently has quite the imagination because he has the worst looking poster for Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land I have ever seen on his wall.

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Good thing they picked that book instead of Time Enough For Love. That one has the main character go back in time and hook up with his Mom. Seriously. But then again, why go with the book that is about a Christ-like figure and a hard line agnostic either? I’m not entirely convinced these people have actually read Heinlein. Maybe there’s something I’ve forgotten. It has been a long time since I read it.

Anyways, the two start going around and magical coincidences happen. Some aren’t so magical like running into someone you were looking for in a parking lot after you have to pull over having had car trouble. A few years back I was doing research on a club that was at my old high school in the 1980’s. Sometime in the next year or so after I was actual hit by someone in the club while in my car stopped at a light right outside that school. Really weird stuff happens. It didn’t mean my dead grandmother made it happen. I love when they bump into the lady in the parking lot and Rachel Boston, who plays the girl, gets a look on her face like she just saw Chuck Norris eat a Cadillac.

But apparently if you string enough of these things together, then a very scientifically minded person will start believing her dead mother is making things happen from the afterlife. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: FINE! But tell me how this has anything to do with her inability to recognize that you need to write for the audience who will read it? How is a belief that her mother is watching over her from beyond going to fix that? Why is that in the movie at all? Why couldn’t she just find the box. Set off to return the items. Place the romantic interest at a central point thru which she has to travel in order to return them like they did in My Boyfriends’ Dogs. Then she learns about her mother and believes she is watching over her. There! Movie fixed!

Oh, and her pitch that she needs to write to get her PhD is plagiarized from an actual WWF report (pg. 15, http://www.wwf.se/source.php/1154907/ebm_report%202006.pdf). Here’s her pitch and here’s the part of the real world report where they just ripped it off for the movie.

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We actually see her type some of it at the end of the movie just in case we thought for a moment that maybe she was just reading this report earlier in the film.

The part about her inability to write for people who aren’t an expert in her field and her need to do so to get her degree had no reason to be part of this movie. All it does is send the message that when you are too scientific, believing in the afterlife will mean you can suddenly teach difficult things in easy to understand sentences and deliver them with passion. Couldn’t have any similarity to Jesus, right? Nah! Hallmark isn’t a religious station anymore. At least it is harmless rather than offensive like it was with Your Love Never Fails. At least I hope this was meant to be a religious reference and not just really bad writing like Strawberry Summer.

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For the Love of Grace (2008) – Yes! We’ve made it to the last movie here and it also isn’t good. I have watched numerous Hallmark TV Movies that are obviously failed pilots, but this one is new to me. I swear it must have either been a three hour movie that was then edited down or was a whole season of a TV show that was edited together into a single movie.

Okay, she’s engaged to the guy who played The Shep (Kevin Jubinville) on Degrassi: TNG so we know he’s a douchebag already. The fireman who couldn’t look any more different from our Barbie main character grabs a piece of pizza, looks like he had his nose shoved in poop, then we see a couple pictures of a girl. That’s how we know his wife is dead. Then a fire happens, and for reasons I still am not sure of, he is walking by her house and saves her.

The most frustrating thing is how the female lead’s friend keeps telling her how much she changed after the fire. It’s infuriating because we only got to see her for a few minutes before the fire so there is no change as far as we are concerned. It’s just the way we see her in the first place. So, she’s suddenly into photography? Really, you don’t say. How does that matter to us! Oh, I mean except to sell Nikon cameras. Yeah, they make sure you know that camera is a Nikon camera. But honestly, why the photography when what she does is make a cookbook?

The rest is a love story that revolves around her finding out these fireman also do a lot of cooking. She was going to do a different book, but decides to do a fireman cookbook instead. And no, no one makes the joke about whether they serve dinner with Molotov cocktails.

The main problem with this film is that it has swiss cheese character and plot development. This could have been decent even though I kept looking at the two of them and thinking this would be awesome if that was Britney Spears and Danny Trejo. Yes, she has more chemistry with her female friend, but this still could have been okay if it didn’t keep making these leaps, then saying things as if we were there the whole time. It’s very annoying. However, this is the least worst of the three bad ones here.

Plus, it also has Justin Kelly from Degrassi: TNG in it as well! Obviously, the upcoming Lifetime Unauthorized Degrassi movie will be that while it appeared they were in school the whole time, they were actually starring in lots of Lifetime and Hallmark movies.

I really recommend that if you need to watch a movie with “For the Love of” in the title, then watch For the Love of Rusty. And while you’re at it: Adventures of Rusty, The Return of Rusty, The Son of Rusty, My Dog Rusty, Rusty Leads the Way, Rusty Saves a Life, and Rusty’s Birthday too. Cause German Shepherds rule!

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For those who read the beginning and made it to the end. Here’s a compilation of Oh, Boys! And yes, I’m aware that the show is basically about God sending a man around in time along with a guardian angel to fix things done by Satan.

Review: Fear the Walking Dead S1E01 “Pilot”


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“We’re safer in numbers.” — Tobias

There’s a scene early on in the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead that really helps set the tone for what could be the running theme for this first season. We have the awkward high school student Tobias getting caught by his school guidance counselor (Madison Clark played by Kim Dickens) with bringing a knife to school. His reasoning after some prodding from Ms. Clark is that he didn’t bring the knife for protection from the school bully. He never outright says what, but his rambling about viruses, microbes, people dying and that it’s a situation that is spreading even sets Ms. Clark aback. Tobias truly believes that there’s a storm coming and that everything he has been preparing for will fall by the wayside. It’s not just his plans, but everyone’s.

Fear the Walking Dead has the difficult task of satisfying not just the legion of fans that make up the prequel series’ parent show, but also set it separate with it’s own identity from The Walking Dead. This show takes us, the viewers, back to the beginning when zombie apocalypse hadn’t landed on the world’s lap. It’s a look into the days gone bye that were only hinted and talked about in the The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes still in a coma, Glenn’s still delivering pizzas in Atlanta and Herschel still has an empty barn.

We find the world still turning and turning with it’s people oblivious of the storm looming over in the horizon. The worry about a prequel series is that as an audience who has seen five seasons of The Walking Dead we’ve learned how this encroaching world operates. We know that anyone who dies becomes a zombie (or walker, biter, etc) who will attack anyone living and propagate the outbreak. The writers of this new series must now try and convince this audience that the actions of the cast are not born out of stupid horror tropes, but on uneducated decisions during situations that they’re not prepared for.

The series focuses on the lives of what would be considered a typical American family. Two families trying to combine into one with children either resentful or apathetic to their parents’ attempts to create a new family from two broken ones. We witness the opening stages of The Walking Dead zombie apocalypse through their eyes as they go about the normal routine of their lives. Whether it’s going to school as a student or as a guidance counselor or a English teacher. This world we recognize as something we see everyday of our own lives.

The question the pilot begins to raise through some tense moments of dialogue is whether the world is prepared for the apocalypse that’s coming. In this world, as in the world of The Walking Dead, the term zombies and the rules governing them don’t exist. There’s no George A. Romero zombie films or Italian zombie knock-offs to help educated the masses through the years. This world has no analogue for the horror descending on them which should explain why some of their behaviors might seem frustrating to those who have watched horror and zombie films.

Yet, it’s through the characters’ very naivete about the crisis happening around them that looks to be a strength for the show. There’s no Rick Grimes, Shane, Daryl or Michonne to come in guns blazing and blade slicing to save the day. These characters must adapt quickly to this encroaching nightmare world or die. It’s as simple as that: adapt or die.

If tonight’s pilot episode stumbles a bit it’s through some of the backstory sequences that episode was trying to dump wholesale to the audience. The one major criticism that the original series continue to get from fans and detractors alike was how so many characters in the original series have been left underdeveloped. Pilot episode writers Robert Kirkman and David Erickson seem too intent on not making that same mistake with this series premiere, but it did lead to some major expositions that, at times, put the breaks on the episode’s forward momentum. It’s understandable to try and flesh out these characters before the zombie mayhem arrive in full-force, but the adage of showing rather than telling still goes a long way even when the intentions are good.

The zombie mayhem that fans of The Walking Dead have become used to appear quite sparse in this pilot episode. We see what we could call as “Patient Zero” for this series in the episode’s tense-filled first three minutes. We see glimpses of them in parks and from amateur video footage on the net. They’re not as spread out and coming at our cast in horde-like numbers. These people have nothing to fear from the walking dead. Yet, we sense throughout the episode that this outbreak has already started randomly all over the country (most likely around the world) and the very institutions meant to protect the population doesn’t have that very population’s trust. Misinformation and mistrust of institutions make for a dangerous recipe that the student Tobias knows full well.

Fear the Walking Dead has the luxury of having a built-up audience courtesy of the massive success of The Walking Dead. The question looming over the series is whether it will be able to use that head start and distinguish itself from it’s older brother series. We have five episodes left in this shortened first season (just like The Walking Dead) and we shall see if these characters will get tossed into the deep end as the crisis grows and grows. One thing Fear the Walking Dead shouldn’t do is to be deliberate. It’s the one mistake that The Walking Dead made during it’s first two seasons that it’s still trying to fix as we near the start of season 6.

Random Notes

  • Tonight’s premiere pilot episode was written by series creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner David Erickson with directing duties handled by Adam Davidson.
  • It’s great to see two veteran actors such as Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens as the leads of a major project as Fear the Walking Dead. They’re definitely the anchor and foundation that this show will revolve around.
  • We get two shout outs to recent zombie films during the episode.
  • First one was the traffic jam when Travis and Maddy were trying to drive home only to have them stuck in traffic with helicopters overhead and police motorcycles driving past dangerously close to Travis’ truck. A scene similar to 2014’s World War Z.
  • Second one scene was of the faculty staff and some of the students watching videotaped footage of fire department personnel and police responding to the cause of the traffic jam only to have the supposed dead victim come back to life and bite one of the firemen. The scene looks eerily similar to footage from George A. Romero’s fifth zombie film, Diary of the Dead.
  • I do believe that was Lynn Chen from the Buzzfeed videos that was playing the nurse when Nick’s elderly roommate patient went into Code Blue.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lovecraft : “Cool Air”


Trash Film Guru

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H.P. Lovecraft would have turned 125 years old the other day, and given that Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence has proven to be the impetus for the biggest “Lovecraft kick”  I’ve experienced since high school, I figured, what the hell? Why not mark the occasion by reviewing a few Lovecraft-inspired flicks over the next handful of days? And given that pretty much everybody has seen the Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna productions of Re-AnimatorFrom Beyond and Dagon (my personal favorite of the bunch), we’ll avoid those and try instead to zero in on a few celluloid Lovecraft adaptations that are easy enough to find, but that haven’t been seen by many apart from seriously hard-core fans.

First up is legendary B-movie auteur Albert Pyun’s ultra-low-budget, shot-on-HD-videocam 2006 take on Lovecraft’s Cool Air, a film that is, admittedly,  tempting to dismiss before even seeing it simply because any movie…

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Hidden Gem: Natalie Wood in PENELOPE (MGM, 1966)


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When I first recorded PENELOPE, I thought it would end up in one of my “Cleaning Out The DVR” posts. But after watching this hidden gem, I’ve decided to give it a full review. PENELOPE not only gives Natalie Wood a chance to show off her comedic skills, it’s a perfect time capsule of mid-60s filmmaking. The movie bridges the gap between the old screwball comedies and the more modern attitudes to come. That’s not to say PENELOPE is a must-see classic, but it’s an underrated film that I recommend to anyone who likes comedy, 60s style.

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Penelope Elcott is a scatterbrained kleptomanic who, feeling her husband James (Ian Bannen) is neglecting her, robs his bank. She tells it to her shrink, Dr. Mannix (the always funny Dick Shawn), who doesn’t believe her until she shows him a wad of cash. Flashbacks (including one with Jonathan Winters) reveal Penelope’s criminal history. Penelope takes the yellow Givenchy dress she escaped…

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So that was the Unauthorized Full House Story…


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So, last night, after months of nonstop promotion, Lifetime finally aired The Unauthorized Full House Story and…

Meh.

I have a confession to make.  I am 99.9% sure that I have never seen a complete episode of Full House.  I’ve seen bits and pieces, of course.  But I don’t think I have ever watched a single episode from beginning to end.  And yet, despite this, I still feel like I know everything about the show.  I know that John Stamos was obsessed with his hair.  I know that the Olsen Twins played Michelle.  I know about “Oh mylanta!” or “Cut it out” and “you got it, dude,” and all the rest.  I know that Dave Coulier may have inspired Alanis Morissette.

And, though I’ve never seen an entire episode of Full House, I have seen The Aristocrats, a documentary that features Bob Saget telling an incredibly long dirty joke.  And, of course, I’ve also seen Half Baked, which featured Saget asking if Dave Chapelle had ever “sucked dick for coke.”

So, naturally, I figured that The Unauthorized Full House Story would feature a lot of cocaine being snorted backstage while an actress meant to Alanis went down on Coulier in a theater.  I mean, it had to be unauthorized for a reason, right!?

But no — much like last year’s Unauthorized Saved By The Bell, the Full House movie was notable largely for how little drama it featured.  Apparently, there were no scandals.  There was little to no conflict behind the scenes.  John Stamos was apparently a little stand-offish at first.  Bob Saget occasionally forgot there were children around and made an off-color comment.  Dave Coulier apparently was just happy to be there.

In other words, it was all pretty boring.  But, I still had fun live tweeting the film and apparently, a lot of people enjoyed reading my tweets.  So, in honor of what the Full House movie was truly all about, here’s a collection of my best tweets from last night.

Hell yeah!  But, before they get to Unauthorized Degrassi, Lifetime will be showing Unauthorized 90210 and Unauthorized Melrose Place in October!  Now, those shows will be worthy of being unauthorized!