K-Drama Report: My Name

I’m three episodes into My Name and already desperate to continue. On paper, it’s tailor-made to my sensibilities, those which I’ve struggled to communicate on this blog. My only remotely successful With Eyes East YouTube video is a wild-eyed plea to Hollywood, or Indonesian Hollywood, or anyone with a camera and a gallon of fake blood, to cast Julie Estelle and contribute to her undoubtedly skyward journey. I hardly got this point across in the video, but Estelle represents, to me, a new kind of action star. Where the Hong Kong heroines from the ‘60s through the‘90s were simply working with a different sort of market — less bloodsoaked and crazy, with notable exceptions — and modern actresses dip from time to time into action with mixed results, say Kim Ok-vin or Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the image Julie Estelle has built for herself so far has the potential to stay gory at the intersection of Indonesia’s auteurs and the international market’s appetite. … More K-Drama Report: My Name

Three More the Korean Way: Wow, Cool Capitalist Critique!

One of the stranger experiences I have on Twitter is witnessing non-Koreans speak in defense of Korean pop culture against the clutches of Hollywood, as it’s both heartening to witness and not something I completely agree with. The assertion is that America doesn’t understand what made these originals so great, that X factor unique to the culture. Admittedly, we have a proven track record, from The Uninvited to Oldboy, to still easternmore scars like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. And yet, we say that a film like Parasite is distinctly Korean but universally understood. Train to Busan is better without a remake despite that remakes are a cornerstone of the zombie subgenre. And then there’s our Squid Game, and if you must take what little remains, hey, The Running Man is good! Believe me, I get the concern that American adaptations won’t capture what the originals are saying — but what are they saying? … More Three More the Korean Way: Wow, Cool Capitalist Critique!

The 20-Year Marketing Legacy of “Training Day”

Filmmakers can be sensitive sometimes. David Fincher still won’t talk about Alien 3, a 25-year-old wound by the time he produced Mindhunter, co-starring Holt McCallany (from Alien 3). Maybe on the promotional circuit, McCallany mentions that he first worked with David on Alien 3, and the director has to sit by silently — we apply the Eisenstein montage to his blank face and imagine the inner turmoil. Once a film has been made, it’s printed onto public record, and may follow its filmmaker through their career. I understand via pop culture osmosis that Stephen King wants to be known for The Dark Tower, but everybody talks about The Stand instead. You may not get to choose, as budgets inflate and stakes raise and the realities of showbiz bear down on creative passersby. … More The 20-Year Marketing Legacy of “Training Day”

My Wife is a Gangster 3

There’s a tropey thing in movies where the badass hero guy goes big-league, demonstrating killer skills outside his usual environment. Maybe it’s Ray Liotta pistol-whipping the guy in Goodfellas, or Jason Statham beating up the basketball court in The Expendables. We know they deal with bigger threats, so this one’s just for fun — applied badass. I went looking through the Goodfellas listing on TV Tropes and didn’t find anything, though the scene is considered, among others, an example of their trope “All Girls Want Bad Boys.” True enough, in both cases, the badass application makes audience of a woman (“I gotta admit, It turned me on,” says Karen Hill). … More My Wife is a Gangster 3

03/13/2021 – My Name is Nobody

Have you seen the trailer for this movie Nobody? You’d be excused for not remembering the title, it’s horrible. Looks like Bob Odenkirk is the latest dad action hero, and I appreciate his gradual rise in stardom. I mean, I think he’s a good actor, but more so the rise is visibly apparent. He goes from sketch comedy to memorable supporting character on buzzy TV show to lead role on buzzy TV show sequel to supporting roles on A-list Oscar movies. With an arc like this, we see how some roles and projects are more “legitimate” than others, whether or not our personal valuation of them is consistent with the objective assessment. Similarly, our previous understanding of Odenkirk slots into a different kind of spectrum. On Breaking Bad, he’s menaced by Jonathan Banks, an actor typecast as action movie heavies. Do we buy the funnyman as badass? … More 03/13/2021 – My Name is Nobody

02/25/2021 – You Are the Product, You Feeling Discomfort

In the inarguable blog post for With Eyes East — a feature I’m hoping will equate to semiregular content on this, you know, blog site — I got some problems. Number one being the sexual confusion I experience while watching Steven Seagal movies, but that’ll be our last item because it’s horrifying. First, and only appropriately so, Irene’s movie Double Patty came out (at the domestic box office), and no, netizens are not over “the Irene thing.” Via email alert, I was greeted by this happy headline the other day: “K-pop idols, such as Red Velvet’s Irene, are bombing at the box office as they seek big film careers,” over on the South China Morning Post (or Korea Times?). The article cites a number of idols trying their hands at acting, apparently poorly, but I only recognize Irene here, and as previous posts on this site have well-established, on this I get a little touchy. … More 02/25/2021 – You Are the Product, You Feeling Discomfort

2009: Lost Memories

By the time 2009: Lost Memories exposes itself in the final third, forgoing language and subtlety for foaming rabid nationalism, there may be a sense of relief, as its interpretation of the police procedural was laborious: a mystery unfolding poorly. This is an alternate history action-thriller which posits that Germany, not Japan, was hit by the atomic bomb, and as a consequence, Korea was never liberated. In the present day of near-future 2009, the “Japanese Bureau of Intelligence,” or JBI, battles an underground Korean terrorist cell in what would’ve been Seoul, digging up old ghosts for ethnically Korean agent Masayuki Sakamoto. … More 2009: Lost Memories

So Close

I’m a talker. I talk to movies, I talk at the screen. It’s weird, but I do it. I was fully expecting to come into a review of So Close focused on how it’s the guiltiest guilty pleasure, how its predictability is disarming on purpose and that purpose is just north of lurid, but then it pulls a turn with 30 minutes on the clock that had me shouting. The climax plays out and I’m sitting there with “Here she comes.” “This is where she comes in.” “She’s coming back.” “Could they really…?” and then the credits roll and I am just “What the fuck?” “Are you fucking kidding me?” “What the fuck?” It’s the next morning as I write this [diary entry] and the sting resounds still. … More So Close

Veronica Ngô Alert!: “The Old Guard” on Netflix

Longtime readers of this illustrious website will know that we here at With Eyes East are big fans of Veronica Ngô, star of Vietnam’s Furie and best known to most in America as “Rose’s dead sister” in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This July, she’ll make another small appearance in an American film while waiting for scripts to come together for further butt-kicking adventures. The Old Guard is a familiar-looking movie for all the right reasons: Charlize Theron reprises her role as Aeon Flux for this Highlander sequel, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also surfaces, because this is exactly the kind of movie he’d be in (not really, actually, I’m just reminded of Salt). … More Veronica Ngô Alert!: “The Old Guard” on Netflix

Zeiram 2

With genre storytelling especially, there’s a useful distinction between episodes of a film series and those of a television show. The production gap is certainly greater in film, even over television seasons, but with it comes a broader sense of returning. When tuned right, this feeling can be profound, even melancholy or nostalgic: a reflection of life itself, ever churning forward in episodes of our own. So it is, too — profound — with Zeiram 2, a movie where sometimes characters teleport, and sometimes they don’t. This 1994 follow-up to our first Terminator-style alien mash captures the joy of sequels, being as excited in its presentation as I am watching it. It’s been three years since Iria, Teppei, Kamiya, and Bob escaped the Zone, and our reacclimation to their lives brings gentle revelations. Ever the aliens themselves, Teppei and Kamiya have not been ranting and raving about outer dimensions, discredited as quacks like Dr. Ian Malcolm between Jurassic Park and The Lost World. However, their friendship is feeling the slight strain of age, and this is first among the subtle departures Zeiram 2 takes from the original. I suppose what they have is indeed a friendship, and that also extends to Iria. With so much of their character left undefined as a result of their habitual strangeness, I never thought to apply a term like that. As soon as it materializes, it’s at stake. … More Zeiram 2