Thursday Movie Picks: Non-English Language Movies

Shame on me, it’s been forever since I took part in Wandering Through the Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks. I got into the swing of it, came across a week where I had nothing to contribute, and then fell off the wagon, hard. Typically now I’m back off holiday this week’s theme is a real struggle for me, but I do (just about) have 3 movies to bring to the table this week.

The theme, of course, is Non-English Language Movies. I’ve largely avoided these movies for the majority of my life because…well. I’m from England where we rarely learn any other language at a high level, and the thought of reading a movie was offputting. I’ve widened my horizons in recent years though, and I’ll happily watch any movie that other bloggers are raving about, no matter the language!

Here are my 3 favourites that I’ve seen so far…

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Incendies (2010)

If you’ve seen any of Denis Villenueve’s other movies (Prisoners, Sicario, Enemy, to name a few) then you know you’re in for a wild, often brutal ride. There are no happy endings here. Incendies is the story of a set of twins traveling to the Middle East to discover their family history, and it was one of those endings that has haunted me ever since. 100% a must watch!

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Memories of Murder (2003)

Speaking of no happy endings…Joon-ho Bong’s Memories of Murder was an exhausting (but worth it!) watch. It deals with three detectives desperately trying to solve the case of multiple murders. If you’ve watched Wind River (2017) and found it a good watch, then this should definitely be next on your list.

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Roma (2018)

A weird choice, considering I wasn’t exactly singing it’s praises when I reviewed it last year, but despite Roma not being the most exciting movie I’ve ever seen, it’s stuck with me ever since. On the surface, it’s a quiet story of a housemaid and the life she leads, but there are some really powerful moments in there.

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Best & Worst Will Ferrell Movies

It’s been ages since I did a list like this but I haven’t watched any movies whilst I’ve been feeling ill – and I find myself in a writing kind of mood so with no reviews to write it seemed like a good time to make a list. IMDB tells me that today is Will Ferrell’s birthday, so what better time to look back at my 5 favourite movies of his, and point out his worst!

Has Will Ferrell played a serious role yet? I’ve seen quite a few of his movies but they’ve all been comedies. As we all know, comedy is hugely subjective, so some of you might disagree with my list entirely, but where would the fun be if we all had the same opinion? I don’t know what my first Will Ferrell movie was, but generally, I think he’s a really funny guy. He was great in The Office in the small role he played, and he’s one of those actors who will always draw me to a movie if he’s in it.

In the last few years, it seems he’s turned his hand towards producing, with a number of projects in the works, but I hope he has an acting role in those projects too! Here are my favourite movies that he’s starred in:

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#5 Daddy’s Home (2015)

This stupid movie grew on me for sure. When I first watched it I wasn’t impressed, and apart from the last scene at the school dance I didn’t find it that funny, but then on one of the flights during my honeymoon we were on one of the older planes with the TV screens in the aisles, and I found myself forced to watch it for a second time. Maybe I was just in a better mood, or maybe it was the free food, but I really enjoyed it upon a rewatch! The sequel was trash though, sadly.

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#4 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

I might be wrong, but I’ve always thought that Ron Burgundy is the role that Will Ferrell is most famous for. I have to admit, I haven’t watched Anchorman for years but I watched it a lot when I was in college and still remember a lot of the lines. It feels like one of those rare comedies that seems to have wide appeal, I’m yet to find someone who didn’t like it…until now maybe?

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#3 The Lego Movie (2014)

I’m still mad that the Academy snubbed this movie! Anyway, I’ve always loved animated movies and I have huge respect for the actors and actresses who can do voice work so well. It’s something I think a lot of people assume is an easy thing to do, but I’ve watched a lot of interviews and read a lot about the work that goes into it, and it sounds tough. Will Ferrell provides the voice of the evil Lord Business here, as well as an in-person role at the end of the movie.

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#2 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Thank you, Dad, for introducing me to Austin Powers when I was a kid. I love those movies so much! They are a must watch if you’ve never seen them before. Will Ferrell only plays a very small role as an Egyptian henchman of Dr. Evil, but his role is one of the most memorable, especially when he is sentenced to death after causing Mr. Bigglesworth the cat to lose all his fur. “I’m still alive! But very badly burned…”

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#1 Elf (2003)

How could my #1 choice be any other movie? I’ll never forget watching this movie for the first time…at the cinema…for my brother’s birthday…in an empty screen…because it was the middle of January! Why was the cinema still playing Elf?! Who knows, but I think I’ve watched it every Christmas since. Buddy the Elf is my spirit animal.

I guess the general rule is that when it’s your birthday, everyone has to be nice to you, but then there are birthday beatings! So, with that in mind, let me share Will Ferrell’s worst movie…

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Holmes & Watson (2018)

Even the poster for this movie annoys me. So much about this movie annoyed me! It actually started on a visual joke that really tickled me, and I had hope that I would be one of the few who would enjoy the rest. Then it gradually got worse and worse until I was actually groaning at some of the jokes. Believe the reviews guys, it really is that bad. I expected so much better!

Over to you guys though…what’s your favourite and least favourite Will Ferrell movie?

Thursday Movie Picks: Revenge

Thursday Movie Picks

I had to bow out of last week’s Thursday Movie Picks topic (hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves) simply because I only watched 1 new TV show last year! Hopefully, that will change this year as I get into some more of Netflix’s offerings.

However – this week’s topic is ever so slightly awkward in the sense that I’ve had it pre-written for a couple of weeks now and it features the currently infamous Liam Neeson. If you’ll allow me to be ever so slightly crude for a moment, it comes to something when you see one of your favourite actors trending on Twitter and think great, are you dead, a pedophile or a racist?!

Aaaaaanyway, let’s move that to one side so that I can tell you about my 3 favourite revenge movies.

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Taken (2008)

As if Taken is over 10 years old now! I was late to the party with this one – my husband (back when he was my boyfriend) really wanted to see Taken 2 at the cinema so I was forced to see the original just so I knew what was going on. It’s one of those movies where even if you haven’t seen it, you know the famous line “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” Also – I just this second learned that they made a TV Show of the series, has anyone seen it? Is it any good?

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John Wick (2014)

As you can see, I’m not going with obscure picks this week. Weirdly, John Wick is another series I was late to, again being forced by my husband (he was my fiance at this point) to give it a watch. If you should learn anything from action movies let it be this – don’t kill another man’s dog. You won’t live to tell the tale!

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Oldboy (2003)

Finally, it seemed criminal to not mention Oldboy this week even though it’s all I’ve been talking about for a couple of weeks now! Oldboy is the ultimate tale of revenge on both sides of the coin. The main who imprisoned Oh Dae-su is after revenge for…well, I can’t tell you for spoiler reasons. Oh Dae-su is after revenge after being locked up and fed fried dumplings for 15 years. It’s dark, gritty, twisted, and an absolute must watch!

Oldboy (2003) vs. Oldboy (2013)

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I had so much fun writing my Point Break (1991) vs. Point Break (2015) post that I was dying to do something similar. My chance finally arose when I decided that Oldboy (2003) would be my first Blind Spot movie of the year. I’d heard terrible things about the 2013 remake and since I ended up enjoying the South Korean original so much, it was an easy decision!

You can read my full review of the original Oldboy here, but let me recap my thoughts for you quickly. It was brilliant, it was dark, twisted, uncomfortable at many times, and smart. So smart in fact that one of my very few criticisms would be that I struggled to follow the story at some points, but that’s largely down to my inexperience with foreign movies and having to rely on subtitles.

From what I can gather, Oldboy fans didn’t want a remake. Why mess with a classic? The same question is on many lips with all of the Disney remakes we’re getting this year and I can see where they’re coming from, but I do have a counterpoint. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for an Americanised remake to stir curiosity in moviegoers, enough to make them watch the original?

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So let me cut to the chase. I watched the remake. I really enjoyed it! Was it as good as the original? No – but as a couple of my fellow bloggers told me – a lot of the hate is undeserved.

Spike Lee’s version is very much a reimagining of the original, it’s been adapted for a Western audience. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying it’s also been ‘dumbed down’, but I would say not to the point where the twist becomes less shocking.

There were two noticeable nods to the original that I spotted. The street vendor who sold Joe the rubber duck for his daughter is wearing a pair of angel wings, just like Oh Dae-su wore in the opening to the original. Marie has a tattoo of an octopus on her arm which is a reference to the octopus that Oh Dae-su ate in the original. I love spotting things like this and I wonder if there were more!

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A few things that I want to complain about:
– The ending didn’t have the same impact. It was moving in the remake but horrifying in the original.
– The bad guy in the remake was almost funny in how over the top he was. The bad guy in the original was quiet and chilling.
– The fight scene in the corridor. You know the one I mean. It was just nowhere near as badass!

All in all, you just can’t beat the original. That said, I really don’t think the remake deserves the hate it got. If you’re intrigued by the premise of the movie but don’t have the patience to read your movie, I don’t think you’d be doing a terrible thing by giving the 2013 version a go.

Blind Spot Series: Oldboy (2003)

oldboy-movie-review-2003-posterDirector: Park Chan-wook

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Runtime: 120 Minutes

Main Cast: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jung, Kim Byung-ok, Oh Dal-su, Lee Seung-Shin, Yoon Jin-seo, Ji Dae-han, Oh Tae-kyung

Plot: One night, an intoxicated Oh Dae-su is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years with nothing to live for but fried dumplings and TV. One day he is released without question and given just 5 days to work out who kidnapped him and why.

My Thoughts: I came across the remake of Oldboy when on the hunt for a good plot-twisty thriller. It’s been on my list for a long time now but from what I’ve read, the remake isn’t very good – and it’s the 2003 South-Korean original that should be watched. Thing is, I’ve only ever watched 2 foreign language movies (terrible I know) and I’ve been apprehensive about adding to that number. Hence, Oldboy was a perfect choice for the Blind Spot Series and a great start to the year!

What I find difficult about foreign language movies is the fact it’s impossible to just switch off and enjoy the movie. You have to pay attention to everything happening in front of you whilst also reading the subtitles, so it’s not relaxing in the basic sense. It also doesn’t help when you’re fairly sleep-deprived!

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Oldboy. It’s a fantastic tale of revenge with a lot of well-orchestrated violence thrown in for good measure. It’s a long time before the pieces of the puzzle all start to fit together but the payoff is well worth it, even if there are some elements I’m not sure I understood completely. It was one of those endings that makes you say ‘wait, what?!’ and it’s left open to a bit of interpretation. I love a movie that keeps me thinking long after the credits are over.

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Despite the poor reviews, I am definitely going to see the 2013 remake soon, even if to just compare the two movies. I did the same last year with Point Break and it was fun to do!

Best Bit: When Oh Dae-su returns to his old school to search his memories for clues, and we get a flashback to the start of the events that led to his imprisonment. It’s then when you can start to figure it all about and get that lightbulb moment.

Worst Bit: I’m not against strong violence in movies by a long shot but what I absolutely cannot stand is anything to do with teeth. I’m terrified of the dentist and to have not one but TWO scenes of teeth being forcibly torn out of someone’s mouth….arghhhhh! I’m getting all shivery just typing this out.

Fun Trivia: The famous one-take corridor scene was shot in three days. No CGI was used to cleverly edit the sequence like a single shot but the scene was actually shot in one take (although a little CGI was used to show Oh Dae Su getting stabbed in the back with a knife and to correct some punches landing).

My Rating: 4 out of 5 live octopodes/octopi/octopuses, a delicacy apparently!

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blind-spot-series-2019-bannerThe Blind Spot Series was created a few years ago by Ryan at The Matinee, and is now hosted by Sofia at Returning Videotapes. As part of the Series, bloggers choose 1 movie to watch and review each month that is deemed a ‘classic’ or ‘must-watch’. To see the rest of my picks for the year, check out my announcement post here.

Review: Memories of Murder (2003)

memories-of-murder-2003-movie-reviewAfter a string of 2017 releases, it’s quite refreshing to blog about a movie a little older! Let me tell you about a cool website I stumbled across the other day. It’s called Taste, and basically how it works is that you complete a profile by rating movies that it throws at you. Once your profile is complete, you’re left with a list of movie recommendations based on your tastes. Simple, huh? I wanted to give it a try, so I completed my profile, and the number 1 recommendation for me was Memories of Murder (2003). There was only 1 way to find out whether the site was any good really, wasn’t there?

Directed by Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer & Okja), Memories of Murder is based on a real life serial murder case in South Korea. In October 1986, a young woman is found raped and murdered in a field. Detective Park Doo-man (Kang-ho Song) is first on the scene and has never dealt with a case like this before. It’s clear that him and the rest of the department are well out of their depth, so another detective, Seo Tae-yoon (Sang-kyung Kim) from Seoul, volunteers to help.

If I remember rightly, this might be my 2nd ever foreign language movie. It’s shameful actually, because the only other one I’ve seen (Incendies) was absolutely incredible, so I’m definitely open to suggestions. In fact, I almost enjoy a subtitled movie more, because my mind simply isn’t allowed to wander, or I’ll miss a huge chunk of what’s actually going on.

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Memories of Murder is a reasonably long movie, but it doesn’t ever really slow in pace. From the opening of the movie, we’re presented with the first victim, and the way the story flows it really does feel like we’re part of the investigative team as they desperately search for clues. Once the team work out that these murders only happen at night when it rains, the tension really ramps up. I felt just as frustrated as the detectives when things didn’t go their way, although Park Doo-man’s investigate techniques are extremely questionable!

In fact, his character started out as quite unlikable for me. He was presented with a decent lead, but rather than work with the suspect to gather as much intelligence as he could, Park Doo-man actually creates false evidence to make the suspect look even more guilty, and actually tortures him until he gets a confession. It’s quite hard to watch in some parts. By the end of the movie though, you can see how much his character has grown.

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Memories of Murder is up there with Zodiac as my joint-favourite detective movie I think. As far as that website goes, it was spot on with recommending me something to watch! I’m not affiliated with them in any way by the way, just to make that clear. I just like sharing interesting things with you. This movie gets 4 out of 5 Nike (or should that be Nice?) sneakers from me.

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By the way, in case you’re curious, it’s also recommending me Persepolis, Letters from Iwo Jima, Short Term 12, In Bruges and City of God, to name a few. I’ll be tracking these down soon!)

Review: Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2 (2003 & 2004)

I’ve been putting this review off for a while, because I’m a little scared of what you might all think. Let me introduce this in my usual way to put my nerves at ease first however.

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My New Year’s Eve was extremely tame, I spent it at home with my ill husband. It was still a good night though, we had take out pizza, played a few board games, and we decided to watch a movie too. There was nothing on Netflix that took our fancy and rather than bringing in the New Year flicking through every movies going ‘no…no…no…’ we grabbed a DVD off the bookcase which we’ve been putting off watching for ages. Kill Bill: Volume 1!

I’m not well versed in Quentin Tarantino movies. I watched The Hateful Eight and Django, and really enjoyed both. Other than that, I’ve only seen Pulp Fiction, and that was alright too. More than anything, it was nice to see where all the references I’ve heard over the years came from. In fact, I’m not even sure why we owned Kill Bill, but I’m guessing that we’ve been told so many times what a classic it is we thought we should see what the fuss is about.

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Perhaps it should have been obvious, but we didn’t realise that Kill Bill is literally a 4 hour movie split into two halves, so we ended up watching Volume 2 the very next day, because we knew if we didn’t, we’d probably never see it.

For those who haven’t seen it, Kill Bill is essentially the story of ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) working her way through a kill list. Her assassin colleagues and boss tried to murder her on her wedding day, but they’re clearly not the A-Grade assassins they make themselves out to be because they failed, and she’s out for revenge.

Let me start with Volume 1. This was a whole barrel of fun. Knowing nothing about the story, the non-linear story really pulled me in, and it’s always enjoyable to watch some bad-ass fighting! In particular I loved the origin story of O-Ren (Lucy Liu) when the movie turned into an anime style animation. The over exaggeration of the bloodiness reminded me of an anime I used to watch called Bleach!

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It felt like everything was leading up to The Bride’s fight with the Crazy 88, which there weren’t 88 of, which is funny in that ironic kind of way. The fight itself was incredible to watch, and the violence doesn’t hold back in the slightest. We ended up watching and going ‘ooh, ouch’ along with it, as if we could feel those blows ourselves! All in all, it was something I normally wouldn’t watch, and although some parts were quite slow, I enjoyed it.

Which brings us to Volume 2…

First of all, I really liked the opening sequence, where we learn what happened at the chapel those 4 or so years ago. That brought me the closure I needed. What stuck out like a sore thumb though, and perhaps I just didn’t notice it in the previous volume, these camera shots in black and white, for reasons I can’t work out. In the buried alive scene, the screen is much smaller and that makes complete sense, but the other shots seemed so random.

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What else felt random? The Bride is buried alive, and she’s about to punch her way out of the box. How is she able to do that? Training montage! It just wasn’t very…subtle. If that scene was much sooner in the movie it would have been a ‘eureka’ moment, but instead it just felt lazy. I fully except at this point that I’m the minority here whinging about a universally accepted great movie!

Even the finale with Bill felt a bit lacklustre. With such a huge build up in Volume 1 to the fight with O-Ren, I was expecting something even bigger for Bill, but it was literally *SPOILER* a punch to the chest that killed him. *SPOILER OVER* I was expecting something a little more…showy?

I still enjoyed both movies, but they just felt overrated to me. Volume 1 was far more enjoyable, but paired together as they should be, Kill Bill gets 3 out of 5 pussy wagons.

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