Among the slew of superhero movies that have been released in recent years, the first couple of X-Men movies were far from being the worst, and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was part of an action franchise that aspired to giving its characters some degree of depth. But then came X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a sloppy and poorly received prequel. Jackman has not been put off though, and is now back with yet another revamp at providing an alternative storyline, making up for a lack of any original plot ideas with an exotic setting (Japan), including ninjas, yakuza, rooftop motorbike action, and lots of snarling and shouting. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense, though that is not really the point of such a film. The Wolverine’s greatest fault is its total absence of humor. There is a whole menagerie of villains, led by Svetlana Khodchenkova, an evil mutant with a poisonous kiss. Even if the film is not sophisticated enough to laugh at itself, some of its wilder conceits are likely to cause audience laughter at inappropriate moments.
South Korean film based on a popular Web-toon about North Korean spies embedded in the south. Director Jang Cheol-soo mixes comedy with action in a story about Dong-gu, a retarded young man regarded as the “village idiot” by the people in his community, but who is in fact a highly trained North Korean sleeper agent and the leader of a formidable special ops unit. The film takes its time getting started, building up characters and creating some effective comedy as Dong-gu endures all kinds of humiliations to keep his cover, before embarking on the convoluted politics of North-South detente that creates a critical situation for Dong-gu, whose superiors suddenly want to deny his existence. The film is primarily about Northern agents in an alien culture, and is light on propaganda, happy to play variations on its central comedic device that anyone, anywhere could be an agent dedicated to the destruction of South Korea.
This French drama about the Impressionist painter and model Berthe Morisot was originally made for television, but sports solid credits led by Caroline Champetier, a veteran cinematographer who is making her debut as a director. Given the importance of vision in a film that revolves around the lives of Morisot and the Impressionist painters she mixed with, Champetier is equipped with the eye to skillfully cut between the action and the paintings created by Morisot and also the paintings she modeled for. This is a worthy project honoring one of Impressionism’s only female members, but is filled with cliches of a woman fighting against the odds in a man’s world, fighting for her own identity separate from that her male admirers impose on her.
Oslo, August 31st
This Norwegian film from director Joachim Trier has won rave reviews from critics for its sensitive observation of a day in the life of Anders, a young recovering drug addict, who takes a brief leave from his treatment center to interview for a job and catch up with old friends in Oslo. Anchored by a devastating performance by Anders Danielsen Lie, the film paints a picture of existential despair that is both intensely bleak and unbearably beautiful.
Based on a best-selling Japanese detective novel, Strawberry Night follows Reiko Himekawa (Yuko Takeuchi), a female detective working the seamy crime beat. Her intuition is unmatched by her male colleagues, but when she continues to investigate a murder that her superiors have put to one side, she puts her career on the line.