Fri, Feb 27, 2009 - Page 16 News List

OTHER RELEASES

▲▲ COMPILED BY MARTIN WILLIAMS

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Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this drama about a crusty, racist, epithet-spewing Korean War vet who is less than impressed with having Asians as neighbors. But Clint the director has a surprise in store. They are Hmong, a people who backed the US during the Vietnam War. Eventually he comes to know the family, and gets involved when violence comes knocking. The title refers to the main character’s prized car that he must care for and defend — and perhaps what it represents in a wider sense. Glowing reviews — and some debate — accompanied this latest effort from a legendary American actor-director.

Departures

This is the Japanese entry that beat Waltz With Bashir to the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. A cellist returns to his old home in the country with his wife and finds a job as a handler of corpses in preparation for their display at funerals. His challenge is not so much the sometimes-gruesome work, which he becomes captivated by, as reconciling his inner demons with the demands of family and face. It’s an offbeat, humorous and carefully detailed film that will delight those who want to see something unusual. Japanese title: Okuribito.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Released in the wake of the economic disaster, this film suffers from an immediate loss of orientation in the same way that Collateral Damage did in depicting pre-Sept. 11 terrorism. Isla Fisher (the dynamic Aussie star of Wedding Crashers) is the confessor of the title, a New York columnist who simply can’t afford to shop like there’s no tomorrow — but does anyway. Directed by fellow Australian P.J. Hogan of Muriel’s Wedding fame, though fans of that benchmark Aussie comedy-drama might struggle to find similar sophistication here.

Defiance

Daniel Craig stars as one of four Belarusian brothers who set up a forest-based Jewish community that resists the Nazis in this recreation of a remarkable true story. Narrowly escaping from the Germans, the brothers head to the woods, only to be joined by a growing number of refugees. Eventually their numbers reach well over 1,000, and a mini-society forms as the threat lurks around them. Craig’s fans will have a good time, and there’s just enough action for it to be called a war movie. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond), who can’t seem to resist worthy subjects.

K-20: Legend of the Mask

A superhero film of sorts, K-20 rises above the pool of Japanese manga-based movies. Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武) is a circus performer who is fingered for the crimes of a supervillain, but he escapes detention and sets out to clear his name by snaring “K-20,” his newfound nemesis. A strange retro urban setting (World War II never took place in the Japan of this film) is the canvas for a spectacular fight between whimsical good and eccentric evil.

Mapado 2

In the first Mapado (2005), a couple of lowlifes (gangster and crooked cop) arrived on a strange island in search of a woman with the key to a fortune but ended up getting comically nasty treatment from a group of elderly women. In this sequel from 2007, the ex-cop is back on an assignment and ends up again on the island by accident, again suffering at the hands of the five aggressive grannies, one of whom may carry a lucrative secret. Both films were surprise box office hits in South Korea. Also known as Mapado 2: Back to the Island, this is showing at Ximending’s Baixue theater.

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