“Thirst” (2009)

Available to rent on streaming platforms

“Thirst” has a been a film I’ve been extremely interested in watching for quite some time. It is directed by Park Chan-wook, who also directed Old Boy (2003) which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Before I get into my more detailed thoughts I will say that I really enjoyed this film. It is a South Korean horror/romance film revolving around a young priest who volunteers to get experimented on in the hopes to find a cure for a certain virus. The testing goes wrong and he receives a very cursed gift in return. The story is very interesting and it goes into very good themes like temptation and self interest. If this seems interesting to you, then I would highly recommend to watch it before reading the rest of the review.

Spoilers after this point

Pacing

This might be one of the only cons I have about the movie and it might only be because I’ve only watched it once. So I’ll make it quick so I can get to all the good things I found with the film. It is a little over two hours long and I definitely started feeling it during the mid point of the movie. Personally I feel that being unable to predict exactly what’s going to happen next in a film makes the film feel like it goes on a lot longer since I am constantly in a weird state of suspense. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can get exhausting. Again, my opinion on this might change with a second viewing but as far as my first viewing goes, it felt very long and dragged out.

Practical Effects

Although I mentioned before that some of the visual effects looked cheesy (the flying and jumping mostly), the practical effects were very well done. Something that added a lot to Park Chan-wook’s “Old Boy” was that a lot of the punishments and violence felt so real and this film is no different. The scenes where Sang-hyun is throwing up, the fish hook scene, the leg stabbing, the killings, everything just looked so real and disturbing. There are a lot of horror movies that just have a bunch of gore a blood effects for the sake of shock value but any time there was ever a violent scene in this movie it felt so purposeful to the tone the film is trying to present. It takes a lot to make me flinch and when the fish hook scene got a reaction out of me I knew that the practical effects were doing their job.

Acting

The actors were great! Something I really enjoy about this director is that he knows how to work with these actors to get exactly what he wants from them. Kang-ho Song has become one of my favorite actors at this point after everything I’ve seen him in. He brings this charismatic energy and is honestly so hard to hate even though he does some very messed up things in this movie. There are small mannerisms that he does through out the movie that just add so much character to him and the chemistry that him and the lead actress had seemed so real even though their relationship was very unusual to begin with. I hadn’t seen a movie with the lead actress, Ok-bin Kim, but she also did a great job. She was charming when she needed to be and did such a good job at being a somewhat manipulative antagonist(using antagonist in a very loose definition). The rest of the cast did a great job as well. The mother character actually had a lot of depth same with her son and even the worshipers were convincing.

Writing and Character Development

So I usually don’t really notice how well characters are written but it was something I had to point out for this movie. There is so much depth in each character and all of their actions are justified considering the kind of people they are. Usually when it comes to horror movies, the characters are written to act irrationally and that has always been such a pet peeve of mine. With the characters presented in this film, any time they ever act crazy or do something ridiculous the viewer can look at that character see the way they behave or the way they are developing and see a reasoning behind their actions. Even the side characters like the worshipers, the ex-police officer, and the old priest all have a good amount of depth with them regardless of their very little screen time.

Mrs. Ra

On the surface Mrs. Ra can easily be seen as a stuck up rich woman who constantly feels entitled to boss around Tae-ju, but there are small moments where you can see that she genuinely cares for her and other characters. It is often said that a person’s true thoughts can be seen when they are drunk and this character is the definition of that. When she’s drunk she reveals a lot of her true feelings towards Tae-ju and even states that she will eventually give her the dress store. She is presented to be the person who acts the most on her own self interest, but by the end of the movie she ends up being the one who did the most for people and was the one who went through the most pain. I even started sympathizing with her a lot more than the main characters even though she was technically just an annoying drunk for the most part.

Tae-ju

Even though the mother ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the movie, I think my overall favorite character was Tae-ju. She was such a complicated character through in through. She was extremely manipulative but at the same time I just sympathized with her so much. She was in a position where she was tired of her life with these people but also depended on them to survive. She wanted to break free from any type power over her and it made sense because all of her problems were solved by other people. Her husband helped her by asking his mother to house her, her husband’s mother gave her a job, and Sang-hyun gave her an escape from the frustrating husband and son. So it makes sense that throughout the movie she rebels against everyone, even the person who gave her all the love he thought she wanted. Tae-ju wasn’t just some one dimensional character that wanted to find love and break free from her suffering. She was greedy, manipulative, and was only ever concerned for her own self interests. Even with all those traits, she just wanted to be happy and do something for herself which makes her first death such a huge moment cause she finally accepts the fact that she had what she wanted all along. It was only after her husband’s death and seeing how things were starting to back fire that she started realizing that she really didn’t have it that bad. Of course she comes back to life and seems to have a completely different mindset but that’s mostly because she now has the power to do whatever she wants. In a way Tae-ju can be a symbol for man kind and how man will tend to only act out of self interest and greed. Of course this is only my interpretation of the character and even though I find her to be an awful person, she’s the most interesting to me.

Sang-hyun

Now we have our main character. The development for this character was actually quite interesting. He goes from being a very selfless priest who ends up eventually showing his true nature letting his temptations take control over him. A theory I had thought of was that he symbolized Jesus and him being released into the world after his procedure was basically Jesus coming to save the people (with a bit of a twist). Of course I wouldn’t make it a huge parallel but it makes sense. With the people throughout the movie treating him well and hoping he will save them it puts him in this savior role. People will try to do nice deeds or even mention good deeds they have done in the past while he is in the room. Adding on to the fact that people will only act out of their own self interest, even if they are good deeds. I was constantly reminded throughout the movie of the saying “the path to hell is paved with good intentions” and I think it really fits. The mother constantly needing to remind Sang-hyun about all the things she does for everyone, the ex-police officer getting Sang-hyun out of trouble, the man in a coma telling him about how he once gave cake to starving children, and even Sang-hyun believing that he is doing all of this work of God to be a good deed. Ironically out of all the characters I just mentioned, Sang-hyun is the only one who ended up being the most self interested of them all. He is in a constant state of denial, justifying all of his misdeeds and thinking that at the end of the day he is only doing what he does for the greater good. At the end of the day the only problems he actually solved, was the problems that he created on his own. Although Sang-hyun comes across as more kind and logical, he is no better than Tae-ju. In fact one of the reasons he could have such an attachment to Tae-ju could be because she is basically an uncensored version of him that gives in to temptation. While he punishes himself for even thinking about anything sexual, she welcomes it and basically forces Sang-hyun to give in to her. While he tries to keep his blood consumption to a minimum, she goes and kills when she’s thirsty even though she technically doesn’t need it. While he tries to only use his powers when it’s necessary, she uses them for basically everything. As the movie goes on, it is shown that he gives in to all of these desires ultimately making him the same person. There might be more observations that I get on this character after a second viewing but this is a good amount of what I got on the first viewing.

Other Nitpicks

As mentioned before, the film seemed to drag quite a bit. The super human powers were also not great. Another thing I would like to add to this is that there are moments of this film that are not really made for an American audience. Certain sexual parts of the movie are a little too aggressive and could even be considered rape and inappropriate. However, these moments did have a purpose behind them so I don’t think the movie is trying to romanticize these actions even though it is somewhat a romance movie. Other than that I don’t really have many complaints about.

My Rating: 8/10 (Maybe a 9? Need to rewatch it)

“Ready or Not” (2019)

Available on Amazon Prime

“Ready or Not” is a horror comedy starring Samara Weaving where she has to spend her wedding night having to play a dangerous game with her husband’s new family. Hide and seek. The game is hide and seek. So seeing that there was a horror movie based around a game of hide and seek, I obviously had to watch it.

To start off, I loved Samara Weaving in this movie quite a bit. She was my favorite part of this movie and was so good at making her character believable. She didn’t just pose the whole time for the camera like other cliche woman characters in horror movies nor did she over act. There were plenty of scenes where her comedy hit pretty well too. Aside from her great performance, I think the comedy was more hit than miss, which is also pretty good. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and it helps a lot. If this movie were to be just a serious horror movie about hide and seek I would have had a difficult time taking it seriously and enjoying it. There were a few shots I really enjoyed with the handheld camera like in the very beginning chase scene and a few other chase scenes. However, the handheld was a little overused throughout the movie and definitely got annoying seeing it shake as often as it did. The messages the movie is trying to present are pretty on the nose as well so there really isn’t much to look into or much of a reason to re-watch in terms to trying to find multiple interpretations and such. Another thing I personally didn’t enjoy was the fact that the characters were written so poorly and it could have been a choice by the writer to do that? Having a normal character and writing all these cliche characters around her and see how she deals with them. It makes sense, but it’s honestly not something I enjoyed. I won’t go much into spoilers but overall I really had fun watching this movie and would recommend it to anyone just wanting a fun horror comedy. I do have my gripes with it but none of them were enough to keep me from enjoying this movie a lot.

My Rating: 6/10

“Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” (2020)

“Have a Good Trip” is a Netflix Original Documentary where the pros and cons of drugs are showed. And it was so bad. This week has been a bad week to catch up on new Netflix stuff. As soon as I saw bitmoji like animation used to present these people’s drug stories I stopped taking it seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-drugs or anything like that nor am I promoting drugs as well. I’m rating this based off of how entertained I was, how well it was shot, did it achieve its goal, and if I learned anything. In my opinion, it did none of these things. They got a bunch of famous people, including the late Carrie Fisher and Anthony Bourdain, to talk about how cool drugs can be and their experiences. It’s so draining and annoying. The old timey commercials were pretty funny to watch just cause of how corny they were but I wouldn’t really credit the documentary for that either. Other than that all of their advice was the most obvious garbage that everyone already knows. They would say something along the lines of “Oh yeah that was like the greatest night of my life, it was crazy, but don’t take drugs from strangers kids”. I had to endure so much to actually finish this and it wasn’t worth it. It didn’t educate, nor was it entertaining, nor was it made well. I would rather listen to my friends high on weed and talking about their day. Because it is a lot more entertaining than these random rich people do it. Waste of time.

My Rating: 1/10

Zombieland: Double Tap

“Zombieland: Double Tap” was the unexpected sequel to “Zombieland” aaaand it was pretty bad. So bad that my first attempt at watching it I had to turn it off. Just like the first movie, “Double Tap” revolves around Columbus and the gang surviving in this zombie apocalypse.

As I mentioned before, I could not get through this movie in my first sitting. I recently re-watched the first movie expecting it to not be as good or as comedic as I remembered, but it was still pretty darn good. So when I go into this movie and I don’t laugh a single time it says something. The self aware vibe is still there but it constantly misses at being funny. The relationships in this movie are also very forced and everyone just seem like a plot device. It seems that the development made in the last movie didn’t carry on to this movie at all. Maybe in the last movie Wichita would have been moody and spontaneous and straight up leave but I have no idea why she would do it here? To add on to that, I have no idea why Columbus was written to be an even bigger dork in this movie. The whole point of the first movie was to make him not as big of a dork and we see that at the end of the first movie. So why are they just erasing the entire development made from the last movie? It wasn’t funny, the awkwardness was a complete miss, the chemistry between the characters was forced, and it honestly had no heart. There was no reason for this to be made besides the money and it showed.

My rating: 3/10 (Tallahassee was still ok)

Uncut Gems (2019) Spoiler Review

Available on: Netflix

Making more analysis type reviews has been something I want to scatter around this page so I can discuss my favorite movies and I guess I’ll be starting with “Uncut Gems” since it was recently released on Netflix. Of course a good amount of this will be my opinion and I understand if people don’t enjoy this movie as much as I do or maybe people will enjoy it even more.

Quick Overview

“Uncut Gems” is a film directed by the Safdie Brothers, the people behind “Good Time”(which is also a huge recommend from me). The tone of the two films is very similar but I’ll be getting into that later into the review. This film is centered around Howard Ratner, a sketchy jewelry store owner who is having to deal with the constant consequences of his gambling addiction. It’s an extremely fast-paced, suspenseful thriller and it will keep the viewer wanting to rip their hair out. Of course not everyone wants to watch a movie like that but if it interests you I would say give it a watch before reading the rest of the review.

SPOILERS START HERE BTW

Cinematography

So one of the biggest things I love about a Safdie Brother’s film is the suspensful/anxiety inducing tone it presents. Other movies can present suspense with overplayed tools like the cliche violin score, or long pauses, or overdone editing techniques (shaky cam,quick cuts, etc.), but this film takes suspense and anxiety to a whole new level. Although this movie includes a lot of quick cuts, it follows through with them perfectly. Typically when other movies use quick cuts, they are used to hide flaws such as action scenes not looking very convincing or lighting problems or even because the editor just has a million takes of a shot and decides to use every single one. In this movie, they are used to present a certain tone. For example, when Howard is having a conversation with the majority of the characters in this movie the viewer can often see Howard giving the least amount of attention to the person talking and only focusing on a separate matter. Whether it be his wife or long time employee or even a mob of thugs, he finds a way to make it feel like they are the priority to him. The cuts portray this by constantly focusing on Howard’s actions while cutting back to the other person for just a moment then immediately going back to Howard. In a way it’s showing the viewer where Howard’s attention constantly lies. Another way this film presents the constant anxious tone is by the many close-up shots. You will mostly get a good look at the setting then the shot will focus in on the characters and their expressions. In fact the camera gets so close to the point where you can even see Adam Sandler’s pores a lot of the time. This is a difficult way to film because the entire tone is decided on how well these actors can present the correct emotions. Sometimes it might seem like Howard is very confident with his words but every now and then you can see a little bit of his panic be demonstrated in his eyes or his facial expressions. Little things like this help a film out so much because it gives depth to a character without needing to write a bunch of exposition.

Acting

As most people know, Adam Sandler has never really been known for his stellar acting skills. However, I’ve always been a fan of Adam Sandler. Whether it be in his garbage movies that were probably just vacations for him or his better movies like “Punch, Drunk, Love” or “Click”, I have always found Adam Sandler to be oddly charismatic and this was the perfect role for him to play. The thing about sketchy jewelry store owners is that they need to actually make business somehow. They need to be clever, they need to have that charisma, they need to be confident and Adam Sandler did exactly that in one of his best performances ever. The way he communicated with characters showed how manipulative and persuasive he was and his dialogue delivery was convincing. And even though he was a manipulative sociopath, Sandler made me still care about this character and worry about him. The side characters did a pretty good job as well but this movie was definitely carried pretty hard by Adam Sandler. (Kevin Garnett also didn’t do a bad job surprisingly)

Score

I mentioned before how the tone is one of my favorite things about this movie and the score heavily plays a huge part in that. This movie could have easily used a stereotypical action movie score where everything is just loud with the big inception type bass thing going on but once again this movie takes it one step further. It has this synth like score that keeps the movie flowing perfectly. There are moments when it even reminds me of “Hotline Miami”, a very fast paced game that is well complimented by a great synth score. With synth scores being over saturated in almost every new “hip” show/movie, it is nice to see it being used properly in this film and not just shoe horned in to please the nostalgic 80’s audience.

Themes: Addiction, Greed, and Delusions

I’ve only watched this movie a couple times so I might miss a few themes or skim over them. The most obvious one being addiction. Every character in this movie has an unhealthy addiction. I’ll start with our main character Howard and his awful gambling addiction. Of course this isn’t his only addiction. Howard is constantly attracted to riches and the adrenaline that he receives to acquiring them. This is why no matter how many outs to his situation he finds, he will continue to be lured to try to chase the money. Along with Howard being addicted to riches, other characters seem to be addicted to him as well. In a way the opal represents Howard and the movie even goes as far as to start off with a shot of the inside of Howard which looks strangely familiar to how the close up of the opal looks. The inside of the opal lures people in and gives a certain hypnotic effect to people, similar to how many characters seem to be hypnotized by Howard’s charm. His wife, who realistically has no reason to be with him and can’t even stand him, is tricked into giving him another opportunity and given the relationship that these two have with each other it doesn’t seem to be the first time this has happened. His mistress, who is also this very attractive woman, has so much going for her to the point where she doesn’t need Howard but is also hooked into Howard’s words. Even his employees seem to have an unhealthy connection to him regardless of the way he treats them. He manipulates everyone into thinking that they aren’t enough. Notice how throughout the movie the people that he treats like garbage have to insist that they can do so much more. His salesmen are always telling him that they could do better business at other locations, his wife goes all out to show him that she’s still very gorgeous for her age, his mistress also insists that she has more to offer and that she can get work with famous people. However, they always go back. He manipulates people into making them feel like they need to be acknowledged by him. Going back to Howard’s addiction, it seems like he also has a need to constantly have people. In a way the people are also part of his collection. There are parts of the movie where he feels like he’s actually about to lose someone and he finds a way to get them back. I’m not sure if this is also considered an addiction but it goes along with his greedy personality. Not only does he need an attractive wife, he has to keep the mistress as well even though he had an opportunity to fix his marriage by dropping her. He could have fixed his debts and been a lot more relaxed with his work and even made a good sum of money from the opal but he thirst for more money took over him. It is also stated that he had used his previous earnings on a lot of personal purchases which adds on to the fact that he would rather ignore his problems and keep bettering his life. A lot of the things stated above could even be seen in Kevin Garnett. The opal has a grasp over Kevin and it causes him to act irrationally. He lets himself get talked down to by Howard, who ended up manipulating just like the others. He went out of his way to pay tons of money just for the delusion that the rock could somehow make him play better. In a way he was also trying to escape his problems by only adding on to them and in the end he ended up losing more than he gained. So what drives all of these people to continue their addictive and problematic tendencies? Their delusions. When people gamble they do it with the delusion that maybe one day they’ll hit it big. When people try to work out a broken marriage, it’s usually their delusions that are driving them to continue and not logic. When people think that the reason they are doing better in life is because of a certain object, they creating this delusion that they need this object to do better. It can be a rock or a person or even a fortune cookie. Anyways, you guys can see what I mean.

Themes: A Release

Throughout the film you notice that Howard actually finds multiple ways out of his problems. A lot of them I have already listed below and if you’ve watched the movie you would realize that he didn’t take a single one of those ways out. At the end of the movie we finally get to see Howard get his release from all his problems but not in the way you might think. Howard loses his life and as he lays on the floor dead, he smiles. Could it be because he had just finished winning all of that money and will finally be free of debt? Or was it really because he finally gets to rest from this greed and addiction taking over his life? In a way the viewer also finally gets to rest from watching him make bad decision after bad decision making it also a release for the audience. We will never know if Howard was truly going to learn his lesson after getting the money but we can assume that he would have found another way to continue to dig the hole. Which makes this a perfect and unexpected ending.

My Nitpicks

Normally I would just make this into a cons section but I didn’t really have too much to complain about this movie besides just minor things. Even though Adam Sandler did an excellent job, I can’t help but think that he might have requested models to be the women that are all over him. It takes me out of the movie a bit when this aged Adam Sandler is somehow getting these very attractive woman to go back to him. As I mentioned before, it does align with the themes of the movie and the way his character is but it still looks silly at times. Come on, a young model looking girl choosing Adam Sandler over the Weekend… sure man. I would also say that during my first watching, the movie seemed to drag on quite a bit. I would say that was more because I didn’t know where it was going at first because watching it a second time seemed to go by a lot faster. So not really a gripe with the movie. I think that’s about it? The wife actor could have been a lot more convincing but she still played her role.

Final Thoughts

My original rating for this movie was a 7, but after re-watching it I can easily say it’s at least an 8. Maybe a 9? Adam Sandler did a great job, the movie has a lot of rewatchability, the music was great, the themes were very on point, and the writing and plot were amazing. The Safdie brothers have once again brought out another great movie and I can’t wait to see their next project. Also watch “Good Time” it’s great!

My Rating: 8/10

Psychokinesis (2018)

“Psychokinesis” is a Korean action movie centered around Seok-heon, a security guard who acquires psychokinetic abilities through drinking fountain water and tries to use his abilities to help out his daughter, Roo-mi, who has been constantly attacked by an annoying mob.

Just from that description the viewer can probably assume that this movie isn’t taking itself too seriously. And it isn’t. I could probably go on to list a huge number of flaws and plot holes in this movie but I can tell that that’s not where the movies focus was. This movie wants to be a cheesy, superhero movie and it does just that. The acting was pretty spot on, the characters were likable (even the antagonists), the humor was pretty great. It was ridiculous and hilarious and that’s all I wanted out of this movie. Aside from that, there’s really not much else I can say about this movie. If you’ve watched stuff like “Super Lopez” or “Kung Fu Hustle”, both movies I also really enjoyed, then I would highly recommend this movie. I would say this movie was above “Super Lopez” but below “Kung Fu Hustle” in terms of how hilarious and goofy it was. And it’s foreign, so yeah support foreign movies nerds.

My Rating: 6/10

Outer Banks (2020)

Outer Banks is a teen drama/mystery show about a young John B, a boy who lost his father and is trying to figure out his whereabouts. Typically, this isn’t the type of show that I would be interested in but it was on the Netflix top 10 most viewed and my friend also forced me to watch it. So now I guess I’m reviewing this teenager’s wet dream.

So I’ll start off with the positives. The story was pretty interesting, the characters were actually bearable, and I can’t really say I was bored watching it. Which is weird cause teen dramas are usually the most unbearable things in existence. Although I am mentioning these things as positives, it doesn’t mean that they were done amazingly. Which leads me to my negatives.

Although the story is done well, it would have been a lot better if these teens were actually… teens? It is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to teen shows that 15 year old kids are being played by people like my age or in their 30’s. Yes, the characters are all extremely attractive but hasn’t that cliche been over played at this point? There has been a lot of success recently with teen actors in movies and shows such as the “It” remake, “Stranger Things”, and “I Am Not Ok With This” and there’s a reason why. The kids actually look their age and because of it, their actions are a lot more believable. When you have a model that looks like he’s in his mid 20’s getting threatened to have CPS called on him and taken to a foster home, it makes it a bit unrealistic. Also the script seemed to be written for actual young people so when I also see young teen drama happen among all these grown up models, it comes off more comedic and creepy more than anything. I won’t go into too much spoiler territory but there are a lot of really dumb decisions being made throughout the show that just don’t make sense when you think about the characters for their actual age. If you got the cast of “Stranger Things” to do this show it would have made a lot more sense because young people do stupid things sometimes, they act out of impulse a lot more, etc etc.

Anyways, I didn’t hate this show as much as I thought I would. It was entertaining and still pretty fun to watch. If you’re into these very corny teen drama type shows then I would recommend. I probably won’t be reviewing anymore shows made for hormonal teenage audiences though so back to other stuff.

My Rating: 4/10