Challenging myself to watch 52 movies once again! I’ve been pretty successful in 2016 and 2017 so let’s keep the ball rolling!
(1) The Shape of Water (2017): I never thought Guillermo del Toro would ever write/create a romantic story and succeed at that too but HELLO HERE COMES THE SHAPE OF WATER. I only have praises for this film. The production design, the coloring/cinematography/palette, the musical score, the acting, the story, ALL WERE ACES. The symbolism and social awareness were high and there was no single prop/thing/plot that wasn’t eventually used. And what’s amazing is that, you don’t see it coming. They didn’t feel conveniently placed. The story was tight and moving and I LOVE IT I LOVE IT ALL. Chekhov’s gun at its finest.
(2) The Edge of Seventeen (2016): Because Mino mentioned this movie in his V Live, I finally decided to watch it. I wasn’t very impressed by it, probably because I had super high expectations. Even before Mino mentioned this one, I’ve been hearing raves about this, especially Hailee Steinfeld’s performance. I do admit I teared up while watching The Edge of Seventeen and I related to Steinfeld’s character so much. The more I think about it though, the more I appreciate Hailee Steinfeld’s acting. She was Nadine and it didn’t feel like she was acting, which just meant she was so natural. A quote I got from the movie though would forever be etched in my memory. It was kinda sad but quite comforting too. “Everyone in the world is as miserable and empty as I am. They’re just better at pretending.”
(3) The Beauty Inside (2015): I was interested in this one at one point in time, as I’ve read rave reviews as well. But I forgot all about it and was just recently reminded when my friend Q mentioned that he wanted to watch it. So I watched it last Saturday and it was beautiful and wonderful and well-acted and I had tears too and it was just so sincere. In a film whose main premise was something quite fantastical, it never felt quite like a fantasy. It felt so human, so raw, so real. Han Hyo-joo buoyed the film into what it is. This worked because she was able to show E-soo’s emotions. You never felt like she was in a scene with a different person even if it was actually a different person, with a different face.
(4) Midnight Runners / Young Cop (2017): And because I saw Park Seo-joon in The Beauty Inside, I thought I’ll get into Midnight Runners right away too, to end the night with something light and funny. Ohgod, I had so much fun with this one. The bromance is strong on this one! The brain+brawn trope is very formulaic but I don’t even care because it works. Kang Ha-neul and Park Seo-joon’s characters were such adorable doofuses, and sincere ones too. The action scenes were good too and this is one buddy cop film I can see myself rewatching. More bromance films, please!
(5) Forgotten / Night of Memory (2017): And because I’ve seen Kang Ha-neul in Midnight Runners, I thought I should watch Forgotten too, especially that it was recently uploaded to Netflix. GOOD LORD THIS ONE. I thought it was a straight-up psychological thriller so imagine my surprise (literally) when I started watching it and the horror vibes were strong. I’m a wimp and I was so scared. It’s the damn music and score, I tell you. It feels like a jump-scare is coming right at any second. I still haven’t dissected my feelings and thoughts about the film yet. I’m in awe of it yet also, I feel like I’m disappointed too? Hopefully I can review this one when I find the words. Should add that it’s worth watching though even just for Kang Ha-neul’s acting. Everyone was good but he really ran away with it all.
(6) Like for Likes (2016): Two hours is too long for a rom-com. Or maybe not. Two hours is just too long for Like for Likes. I’ve been eyeing this one since Yoo Ah-in is in here but I never got around to watching it yet. That is, until I got into my Kang Ha-neul phase and practically binged a couple of his projects in a single week. I mean, I now have two reasons to watch it! Anyway, Like for Likes was just so lukewarm to me? Maybe it’s because the characters didn’t make me feel invested, except for Kang Ha-neul and his deaf composer character who’s falling in love with Esom for the first time. Yoo Ah-in and Lee Mi-yeon’s story wasn’t interesting to me but the ending of their arc was satisfying, albeit simplistic. I don’t know, their story didn’t seem full enough to be a complete vignette. Choi Ji-woo and Kim Joo-hyuk (RIP) were cute as the friends-to-lovers older pair although they too didn’t really get me invested in them. I think Kang Ha-neul got the best bit in this movie because he was able to do a lot with his character. The range of emotions he was able to portray!
(7) The Last Princess (2015): I know almost nothing about Korean history and most that I know have been because of kdramas and k-variety shows. So, not a lot of history and more on the side of historical fiction. And couple that with me not being a history buff, I wasn’t exactly excited to watch this one when I saw that it was recently added at iflix. But I knew that Son Ye-jin was highly lauded for her performance in this one so I was curious. But what tipped me to finally watch it is because Yeo Hoe-hyun is in this one! Even though I knew it was a small role (he plays the teen counterpart of Park Hae-il’s character), I had to see him. So I did. And he only appeared twice. Woe is my fangirl heart. Haha! Anyway, as expected, Son Ye-jin was amazing in here and I cried buckets of tears when she was reunited with Ra Mi-ran, her lady in waiting. While the film said that it’s only inspired by the last princess of Joseon, the story woven in the film was very moving. Unexpectedly, I wasn’t bored and was truly riveted to the life of Yi Deok-hwa and the independence fighters. Their lives weren’t easy and even though some died without seeing Korea free, they indeed lived a fruitful life. It made me think about my own feelings for my own country and what I can do for it.
(8) Cart (2014): I watched this because I wanted to see more of Kyung-soo acting but I don’t want to start the dramas with him in a minor role. (Too much of a commitment to watch something that long for only Kyung-soo.) Kyung-soo was the featured thumbnail in the poster of this film so I thought he had a large role but false advertising, Netflix!! Still though, the movie was good and it’s something with the stark whiteness of the fluorescent lights in the supermarket that made this one feel so bleak even without the usual bleak lighting cues and set-up. This film was all too real and I kept on wishing that it’s gonna end with sunshines and rainbows but of course, greedy corporate capitalist pigs won’t let that happen, in fiction and even more so in real life. Cart was hard to watch because it’s so real and it made me look so hard to the privileges I enjoy.
(9) Man in Love (2014): A terminally-ill gangster falls in love for the first, and possibly, last time. That was the plot and then we don’t discover that he’s gonna die until almost halfway into the film??? I mean, I guess that’s fine since you’re always just waiting for the other shoe to drop and you can’t even enjoy the cute things because in your mind, you’re screaming “THIS IS GONNA BE PAINFUL HE’S GONNA DIE”. Anyway, despite knowing the plot, I didn’t expect to cry as much as I did. It was a testament to Hwang Jung-min and Han Hye-jin’s acting chops because when they cried after Han Hye-jin discovered that he’s gonna die soon? THE FLOOD STARTED AND NEVER LET UP. I cried the hardest though with the family bits because those always make me bawl like a baby. How can Hwang Jung-min be such a great actor? He was his character and he even walked like a gangster. Good lord, he just got me to where he wanted with my emotions.
(10) The Bros (2017): Ma Dong-seok and Lee Dong-hwi!!! This was fun, albeit a bit predictable. Enjoyed watching the hijinks at the first part because just the plain disparity of how Ma Dong-seok and Lee Dong-hwi look is enough to make me laugh. Hahaha! Being the crybaby that I am, I still cried at the exposition and the family bits. The ending was quite a deus ex machina but at least it wasn’t an aggravating one. Overall, still an enjoyable film, primarily buoyed by Ma Dong-seok and Lee Dong-hwi’s charisma and natural screen presence.
(11) Let Me Eat Your Pancreas / I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (2017): I’ve been seeing this around and I finally saw it this past Saturday after remembering that Namgoong Min recommended it. (He posted about it on Instagram.) The teen actors were good, really. And I deeply appreciate that they cast actual teens for the teen roles. These teens will definitely go places. Hamabe Minami reminded me of Shida Mirai for some reason and it’s amazing to see that apparently, Kitamura Takumi was in one of my favorite Japanese films, Gravity’s Clown. He was just a kid in there and now he’s here all grown up with soulful eyes that can express a lot. I’m not entirely happy with the film though, not because it features a terminally-ill character, but because I didn’t entirely connect with the film. Maybe I’m also tired of Japan’s love for terminally-ill-girl-heals-boy trope because it’s bordering on being a manic pixie dream girl trope. The cinematography is lovely though, especially the transitions. But then again, I feel like every movie set in Japan is beautiful just because Japan is such a beautiful country landscape-wise.
(12) My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday / Tomorrow I Will Date with Yesterday’s You (2016): And in another round of I Get Movie Recommendations from Korean Stars, I watched this film because Kang Seung-yoon (of boy group WINNER and web drama Love for a Thousand More) mentioned watching it three times and crying every time he watched it in one of WINNER’s interview in Japan. So I figured, okay, I’ll watch it. I think there must be something wrong with my tear ducts last Saturday because I watched Let Me Eat Your Pancreas and this one back-to-back and I didn’t cry with either when I’m the biggest crybaby ever. I don’t know why. Anyway, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like this film because I did. It moved me, in fact. It was lovely and the couple was cute, and yet somber too. It was so bittersweet, this couple. I do feel like it’s a film I can watch again and might watch again, even if I already know how it all goes down. Not because it’s something that will make me happy but because it’s something that will make me feel. Something that’s beautiful.