This batch of films actually contains some thematic resonance betwixt the three, which was quite the serendipitous delight. In all films the male lives in a sort of stasis (be it forced, voluntary, or super secret supernatural somethings), with the effect of such meaning they all demonstrate infantile or devolving behaviors not befitting for “normal” society. Isolation becomes another key theme, and it’s not until they establish a firm connection with someone (namely the female), that they may finally start to feel human again. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is random happenstance, or a common occurrence in Korean cinema. Even Kang Ji-hwan in My Super Ex-Girlfriend is a Secret Super Spy, seemed to be a bumbling genius till he met up with “girlfriend” and became a bumbling genius in a tux. (Was that a stretch..nah)
Anyway, it may be hard to believe but there were some slight differences as well. Which means onto the reviews!
Oldboy – aka Boyz to Men with less R&B more H&R (Hammers and Revenge)
Genre: A tale as old as time…The dark Korean revenge thriller (This time with added bleakness.)
Alright. So you know those occasions where you deduce the twist or ending of some story, so upon reaching your correct conclusion it leaves you less than satisfied?
Well I surely don’t because that NEVER happens to me. I suppose it’s a good thing as it allows me to enjoy content and all the surprising (or not too surprising) twists or beats I am always blissfully unaware of. Well there is a first time for everything because I actually guessed what would occur right around octopus scene (perhaps my Game of Thrones viewing became handy here). This literally is so rare for me I wonder if the audience was supposed to be in on it the whole time… Regardless, this certainly dampened my thoughts of this film, even with its excellent direction, music, and discourse it brings to the table. It also was on the much-too-violent spectrum for me, though the long take fight scene was a thing of wonder (CGI knife aside), plus I was still throughly engrossed for the first 20 minutes. I know this is oft considered the pinnacle of Korean cinema, and even kinda knowing where the film is headed shouldn’t impede a critical reaction, and yet… I was left underwhelmed while suddenly being astutely aware of my tongues presence…
Werewolf Boy – “Wait, how should I know where the wolf is? and I’m not a boy!”
Genre: Supernatural hybrid family melo drama with bits of puppy love.
Rating – 9
Get ready y’all because I was over the moon for this film. First off, for some reason it’s really hard for me to cry from fictional properties, usually because my bodies prepared to recognize the upcoming “feelz” moments, so when the time comes, my heart says “wah”, while I remain dry-eyed with perpetual resting bitch face.
But here I was like a baby in Chicago during the cicada infested summertime. A complete and total mess. Song Joong Ki is to thank for this, because he brought some serious vulnerable animal magnetism to the role, and now forever owns me (come back soon SJK!). As for the film, if you take away the werewolf aspect, it’s really just a family drama set in the smallest town ever. Which is probably why I’m howling my love for it so. Nailing the family dynamic while also making it compelling is no small feat, which they did almost perfectly. Throw in some genre based hijinks done in a creative fashion that’s used in service of the characters, makes me one happy camper.
The film wasn’t perfect though. For one, the villain is another mustache twirling dick, who has no narrative purpose except to cause trouble for the sake of causing trouble. Pass. Also, this film makes the case for why teenaged girls are THE WORST. As someone a few years removed from such a time, I can say this is not without merit, but doesn’t mean I need two primo examples in one movie. The granddaughter had little screen time so whatever, but I could not fully hop on board with the main girl, who may have suffered from respiratory problems, but her real illness was stage 4 teenage angstus abnormalas. In hindsight, her selfishness now makes more sense, but the character still could have been a wee bit better written and acted. Still though, this emotional beast of a movie I will remember for many blues moons. Available on Netflix/many illegal sites.
Castaway on the Moon – Not a Tom Hanks Sequel Set in Space
Genre: Slight Rom-Com with two extra helpings of Dram
Awe, that ’twas a delightful little film. Liked the bits of surrealism as it adds a sort of mystic feel to a film that is needed when your dealing with a man stranded on an island under an overpass in the middle of Seoul. Of the three, this film is the most hopeful, and manages to bring up the question of a persons’ purpose without making you depressed hours afterword. Also, Castaway did the best job in making the female lead her own person, and not just a figure to revolve around the main character. Their parallel journey through isolation kept me in the film during its slower moments.
Worst part? in what was possibly meant as an homage to that other castaway film, they totally did a pulled a Wilson, and y’all there can only be one Wilson scene in this world, and this version isn’t it. Other than that it was quite lovely, and makes me appreciate the occurrence of having introverts as main characters for how utterly rare it is. Now, if only next time we can have introverts that aren’t shut-ins or stranded island inhabitants, how crazy cool would that be?