Monthly Archives: August 2018

L Storm (2018)

Director: David Lam

Starring: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Kevin Cheng, Stephy Tang, Toby Chan

When the suspect of a bribery case and the main person of interest in a money laundering case manage to give the ICAC investigators the slip, William Luk (Louis Koo) and JFIU Chief Inspector Lau Po-keung (Julian Cheung)  are at a loss what to do next.

Unknown to them a new boss moves in to take over the money laundering game and does away with his competition. He also sets events in motion that will get the ICAC internal investigation unit L looking into Luk’s affairs so he can’t pursue the case any longer.

When the bribery suspect’s girlfriend is killed he decides to turn star witness and meet up with Luk. At the rendezvous they are attacked and Luk’s partner is hospitalised and the bribery suspect runs away (we never see him again).

The rest of the movie follows Luk being chased by the ICAC and arrested by the JFIU to keep him out of harm’s way. After being detained for 48 hours he decides to go it alone and follows the suspects in the money laundering case to a ship, where he ends up being captured by the gang.

The race is on to capture the gang and the client before they can launder $10 billion and get away with it and to clear Luk’s name. Will they do it in time?

This movie was screening up against Mile 22 and I didn’t know which one to go see, but this one was recommended to me so I thought I would give it a shot. I had not seen the previous movies in the series and it did not seem like I was missing anything.

There is a lot of action and chase scenes with Luk jumping across rooftops and car chases with suspects being tailed and Luk trying to get away from people when he is wanted.

The performances are all fine with no one seeming to overdo it.

There are a few fight scenes with the bad guys fighting Luk on occasion with the fight on the boat being pretty good two against one.

Louis Koo’s hair is indestructible as it even survives getting electrocuted and his suit is always immaculate.

A good police drama with some action mixed in and worth seeing.

MIFF 2018: The Spy Gone North (2018)

Director: Jong-bin Yoon

Starring: Jung-min Hwang, Sung-min Lee, Jin-Woong Cho, Ji-Hoon Ju

Based on the real case of the Black Venus spy from the 1990s we follow said spy as he infiltrates the North Korean inner circle in search of information about the North’s nuclear weapons program.

After a somewhat confusing opening of a North Korean spy being arrested we see the spy telling of how he covered his identity after leaving the army by drinking and gambling and ruining his credit rating. His new identity is as a businessman working in Beijing looking for North Korean products to sell. He is warned by his superior that if he is captured or exposed that the government will deny all knowledge.

Due to it being based on real life and less James Bond style theatrics there is a lot of dialog and meetings in this movie. There are the classic spy movie tropes of bugs and tails but the main character knows enough to act accordingly when he goes to North Korea and ends up drugged and interrogated when they take a blood sample.

Great performances all round including from the actor playing Kim Jong Il. His little dog got a lot of laughs from the audience for some reason.

The scenery for North Korea was good but the movie was shot in Taiwan for obvious reasons.

There are political machinations involved when the secret service agency tries to change the election outcome by asking for the North’s help, something which the spy does not agree to and decides to act on his own initiative to change things.

If you like more thoughtful spy dramas and less action then I would recommend this movie.

MIFF 2018: Milan Caliber 9 (1972)

Director: Fernando Di Leo           

Starring: Gastone Moschin, Barbara Bouchet, Mario Adorf, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Ivo Garrani, Philippe Leroy, Lionel Stander

When Ugo (Gastone Moschin) is released from jail the local mob are after him as they think he ripped off $300,000 from them, which he denies. Nobody believes him, not his friend or his ex-lover and he has a bad time of it at first with Rocco and his heavies roughing him up.

He goes to see his friend for help and they end and up in a fight with Rocco. As it turns out the head of the mob the Mikado wants Ugo to work for him. The gang deals in moving large amounts of currency for rich clients and one such job ends in a bomb going off in the railway station.

Ugo’s loyalty is tested when the gang wants him to rub out his friend, leading to an endgame with his friend set on dealing with the mob once and for all.

This movie is 70s to the max with a great soundtrack, excellent characters and costumes and some over the top sets like the apartment of the dancer.

For some reason I am thirsty for J&B whisky as they do about five different product placements for it as it is Ugo’s preferred drink.

The scene with the dancer (Ugo’s girlfriend) is great with a lot of strange angles you would not think they would use for such a scene.

Rocco is pretty stylish with his pencil thin moustache, curly hair and suits. He is a bit dumb but does respect Ugo at least.

In the police station one of the police makes a speech about socialism but it was hard to make out as half the words were not subtitled. “Americano” kept being said in the dialog but was not subtitled.

After the film there was a talk by Malcolm Angelucci from the University of Melbourne who said the bombing was based on a real terrorist attack around the same era and Milan was the centre of the student protests of the late 1960s.

This film is available online or there is a new release by Arrow Films which I would recommend as it has a load of special features.

MIFF 2018: Outrage Coda (2017)

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Starring: Beat Takeshi, Toshiyuki Nishida, Tatsuo Nadaka, Hakuryû, Ikuji Nakamura, Sansei Shiomi, Yutaka Matsushige, Kanji Tsuda, Ren Osugi

Otomo (Beat Takeshi) is a former Yakuza retired in South Korea who works as a fixer for Mr Cheng’s gang. When a visiting Yakuza roughs up some working ladies Otomo pays him a visit and demands reparations, instead one of Cheng’s men ends up dead. One of the top Yakuza tries to settle the situation but their money is refused.

Complicating matters is the Yakuza politics as the chairman decides to bump off his right hand man to clear things up. Things don’t go according to plan and Otomo ends up going over to Japan to settle some scores.

This film is the third of a triology but you don’t really need to have seen the other two movies to follow the story. There are a lot of characters introduced in a short time and a lot of dialog in the Yakuza meeting scenes. It is also a sausagefest with a lot of macho on display.

For a Yakuza movie there is hardly any violence at all for the first hour or so, when Otomo finally goes into action it kicks it up a gear with the body count in one scene matching entire movies.

Otomo is not really around for the first part of the movie and there are a lot of scenes with the Yakuza where they are just talking.

There were some laughs from the movie with a few of the situations being a bit absurd.

Beat Takeshi was great in this and is a real force of nature once his character gets more screen time.

It is a shame there won’t be any more in this series as Otomo is a great character but he goes out on his own terms.

MIFF 2018: Animation Shorts Program

The Lost Sound

Director: Steffie Yee

Based on a poem this short had a unique style of animation using modelling clay cut into slices and hand drawn animation.

The story concerns old sounds no longer being heard in new forms of language and the visuals are also abstract.

An interesting short with a unique visual style.

Lost & Found

Directors: Andrew Goldsmith & Bradley Slabe

Two soft toys are best of friends. When one gets into trouble at the fountain the other runs off in a desperate struggle to save it only to get itself snagged on a nail and start unravelling.

I enjoyed the animation in this and the fox and dinosaur toys were cute. The setting was a Japanese house as there was a paper screen and a bamboo water feature that the fox fell into.

A fun film with some enjoyable scenes.

[O]

Directors: Mario Radev & Chiara Sgatti

In this strange world various creatures go about their business and the cycle repeats.

The animation style and creature design reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s work

Was a weird looking film and a bit hard to work out what was going on but I did enjoy it.

Perfect Town

Director: Anais Voirol

In a strange looking town the residents are ejected from their residence whenever they do something too weird. Still other people come in to replace them via the narrow stairs leading into the town.

I enjoyed the animation in this and the character design was very weird and wonderful. There were some funny jokes like the dude sucking his own dick.

The director was a guest of the festival and said the soundtrack was made up of toys and the voices from Google translate.

Mr Deer

Director: Mojtaba Mousavi

Set on the underground, animals dressed as people go about their business. A deer gets onto the train with other animals and various things happen. There is a fight between the animals after a snake sleazes on the lady deer and spits venom at the male deer. Meanwhile an earthquake occurs and the deer exits the train to see who he can save.

A very interesting short with stop motion animation and the animal designs are great. The monkey and the gorilla were good as were the other animals.

Agua Viva

Director: Alexa Lim Haas

A woman from China talks about her life in the beauty salon as the world unfolds around her.

Very nice watercolour painted animation style and some interesting scenes.

Down Escalation

Director: Shunsaku Hayashi

In a strange world a figure in the ruins stands up and is taken by a giant hand, only to be rejected and pushed into the ground.

A strange abstract animation style and negative images with interesting character design. Not really much story to speak of but fun to watch.

Bless You!

Director: Paulina Ziolowska

In a street full of people a sneezing epidemic breaks out with absurd consequences.

I enjoyed the painted animation style in this with some great character designs and effects when the people sneezed. It reminded me of all the old communist animations from the 1970s and 80s.

Obon

Directors: Andre Hormann & Anna Samo

An old woman in Japan talks about her life. A story about her working in the bank ends up being a retelling of the destruction of Hirsoshima during World War II.

I enjoyed the painted watercolour animation in this very Japanese looking in the traditional style. During the scenes of destruction it was very harrowing.

The Subject

Director: Patrick Bouchard

A figure on a mortuary slab is cut into and begins to sprout weird contraptions. The person dissecting then pulls an anvil from the body.

An interesting live action stop motion animation style with interesting mechanical creations for the contraptions that come from the body and I liked that the flesh turned to clay once it was cut. An interesting short with an ambiguous outcome.

Mermaids and Rhinos

Director: Vikoria Traub

A man runs to the sea shore, during the course of the story we find his daughter and mother are living in a hostel and his wife has left him. The family used to be performers in the circus but the mother fell in love with another performer and left them.

This short has a great hand drawn animation style with some interesting character designs. I don’t know why the people keep turning into rhinos but it has something to do with the description at the start about them being “sensitive creatures”.

Inanimate

Director: Lucia Bulgheroni

A woman becomes self-aware that she is in an animation and tries to break free of the world. In the background we see the blur of the animators and the scene pulls back to reveal other scenes being worked on under time lapse.

A great stop motion animated short with good looking characters and sets. Great concept for an animation too and I would like to see more of this director’s work.

MIFF 2018: I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story (2018)

Director: Jessica Leski

Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSQBPzGL8EI 

NB: I was one of the Kickstarter backers for this project

I had been looking forward to this ever since I put money into the crowdfunding project and I wasn’t disappointed with it with a lot of laughs and some tears from the participants.

We follow the story of four different women and how their obsession with boybands shape their life.

As the producer said there were male fans interviewed but they decided to go with a limited amount of people so the story could be told better.

Two of the people in the documentary were also at the screening and one of them even taught a boyband dance move to the audience.

The youngest participant is now studying pre-med and is doing fine according to the director.

A lot of the footage and other content in the documentary was provided by the participants such as the Backstreet Boys cruise footage.

As a backer of the project I can say I am happy to have put money into it and hope it goes on to do well on DVD and inspires other young people to follow their dreams and not be ashamed for liking things no other person they know seems to like such as boybands.