OK, as suspected I watched a whole heap of things whilst away. Some good, some not so good. A couple are going to make it on the list proper, but as I have not posted for a little while I thought I would give some short write ups.
Ueno Juri to Itsutsu no Kaban (Juri Ueno and the Five Bags)
A short series of five 25 minute TV dramas starring the ever watchable (and lets face it slightly quirky) Juri Ueno, with a vague theme that the stories are something to do with a bag. They are all pretty watchable, and a couple excel. “Guitar Case Girl” is possibly the weakest, but only because it tries to cram way too much into the 25 minutes. “HOPE” is a lot of fun, but is maybe hampered by its somewhat Hackneyed premise. “My Neighbor’s Neighbor Akira” is just wonderful, possibly helped by the fact Juri Ueno does not have to carry the episode herself. “On The Road” is an interesting piece, a pseudo-documentary set during the filming of “Guitar Case Girl”. The utter highlight is the final episode, “One Morning, Hinata Suddenly…”, which is a tale worthy of Haruki Murakami. Recommended, but not essential viewing.
An interesting sorta comedy romance from Hong Kong. Stephy Tang has gotten married too young to Alex Fong. Alex Fong hooks up with his first love. Stephy leaves Alex. First love realises Alex really loves Stephy. Stephy fails to have an affair with toilet paper salesman. Alex wins Stephy back with impassioned speech. So far so ordinary (and indeed that is what it is, a mildly amusing, occasionally affecting rom-com). Except there is a rather negative coda to the story, which whilst probably quite realistic, actually ruins the emotional climax to the film rather too suddenly. Sadly it left quite a sour taste in my mouth. It is doubly sad as there are some nice performances and set pieces here. It also has some badly placed flashbacks, which ruin the flow of the story. Not recommended.
It had to happen, but eventually I have had to review two films with the same name. The Taiwanese “Secret” I have already waxed lyrical about, but this is something quite different – a South Korean thriller. A Police Detective suspects his estranged wife of murdering the brother of a major crime boss. He fights to keep her possible guilt a secret whilst struggling to unearth the truth. It is one of those murky films, where just about every character is hiding something. The operative word of course is “Noir”. Even though it falls into the “horrible people doing horrible things to each other” category (which I usually find quite a turn off), I rather enjoyed this one. There are enough red herrings and genuine reveals to maintain interest, although it is quite hard going at times, but it does eventually reward the viewer by the time we reach the conclusion. And for once, the final end of movie reveal actually works. Recommended.
An interesting bit of fluff. My Sassy Girls’s Cha Tae-Hyun plays an ex-popstar who now hosts an afternoon Radio show. He is tracked down by a previously unknown 16 year old daughter and her young son, and he battles to hide her existence to avoid a scandal which could ruin his career. Cha is rather better than I expected as a very self absorbed minor celebrity, Park Bo-yeong is even better as the musically talented daughter, and young Hwang Seok-hyeon steals most of the scenes he appears in as the young grandson. It is very amusing at times, but struggles to quite meet the mark. I think my issue was that there is an underlying theme of how scandals affect celebrity – but the focus of a previously unknown child seems to be a lesser scandal than the fact his daughter is winning a talent contest on her fathers radio show. It also falls apart a little in its conclusion which makes the complete package a little disappointing, but on the whole, I think this one gets a Recommended.
Stop me if you have heard this one before. Headstrong Policewoman (Kim Seon-a) has to go undercover in a girls school to get close to a student whose rather is a criminal on the run. Kim Seon-a plays her role just right – I have not come across her before, but she seems to be a quite talented comedic actress, and I will be tracking down some of her other work. The film as a whole feels a little unoriginal, which in itself is not a problem, but it lacks that special spark to allow it to rise above the crowd. It suffers some of the same tonal issues as “My Wife Is A Gangster” when mixing the comedy with violence, but the real crime is in the story, where it completely chickens out on the deaths of two characters in the final moments. It is not horrible, but only gets Mildly Recommended.
A Japanese version of “Cold Case”, where a team of detectives try to sold long-unsolved crimes before the statute of limitations runs out. Primarily a vehicle for the ever watchable Aya Ueto, this show is not bad. Actually, the crimes themselves are the most interesting aspect – the show has some big issues because of the 45 minute running time and the large ensemble cast that make up the investigation team. Now I have only seen the first 6 episodes (I do wonder if things might come together in the closing episodes), but too little time is spent on fleshing out the standard cast, and Aya Ueto spends far too long just wandering around looking confused. I liked it, but I just felt there could be a whole lot more done with it. Recommended though.