The Frozen Ground
Old-school thriller in which Nicolas Cage and John Cusack do their best work in years. The film itself, directed by Scott Walker, is unambitious, breaking no new ground, though it is good to see High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens putting in a solid performance. In Frozen Ground, Cage plays veteran cop Jack Holcombe, who is on the path of a serial killer (Cusack), but can find no real evidence until he meets up with Cyndy Paulsen (Hudgens), the one victim who managed to escape. But her trauma has turned her into a junkie with trust issues, and Cage must find a way of working with her. And all the time the killer is still on the loose. There is plenty of adrenaline, but never much of a spark to make this competent thriller anything more than adequate DVD fare.
Song for Marion
Also released under the title Unfinished Song, this is another UK production that draws its main appeal from its aging, though hugely talented, cast. The concept is unmistakably that which drove the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. In Song for Marion, grumpy pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) honors his recently deceased wife’s passion for performing by joining an unconventional local choir. He makes new friends and in the process builds bridges with his estranged son, James (Christopher Eccleston). Pacing is a little on the slow side, but Stamp offers a powerful and moving performance, putting the icing on the cake on this touching and often amusing geriatric dramedy.
Brian De Palma is a master of the sexually charged, violent thriller and with Passion he lets us revisit his heyday of films such as Carrie and Dressed to Kill. In Passion, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace play Christine Stanford and Isabelle James, a manipulative boss of an advertising agency and her talented protegee, respectively, whose rivalry escalates from the usual corporate one-upmanship to murder. McAdams and Rapace are beautiful pawns in De Palma’s own manipulative exercise in which he toys with the audience’s expectations, making uncertainty feel deliciously exciting. Complex, sometimes even a little confusing, De Palma always keeps things under control in this gorgeously orchestrated symphony of jealousy, betrayal and violence.
Black and white film that follows a young man through a disastrous day in his home city of Berlin. For Niko Fischer (Tom Schilling), even the most mundane events seem to go wrong, but the comedy of his mishaps links up with that central trope of modernist European literature: the existential distress of a young person living on the edge of society. There are hints of Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground and even Joyce’s Ulysses, but the film, by Jan Ole Gerster, manages to keep the tone light and does not get too literary on his audience. Fine acting, a subtle managing sensibility and a willingness to let the city of Berlin play a major role, echoing its own violent history in its streets and buildings. Long after the laughs at Niko’s misfortunes have fade away, there is still plenty to think about Oh Boy.
Almost Perfect (30拉緊抱)
The second feature film from director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan (潘貝思 ) focuses on dysfunction in an Asian-American home. Vanessa (Kelly Hu, 胡凱麗) is the able daughter who serves as the main emotional and often practical support for her family. They always expect her to be there for them. She hasn’t time for a relationship, but then up pops Dwayne (Ivan Shaw), who seems just too much of a Mr Right to be ignored. The movie starts out as a comedy, but as the demands of her family pile up, it gradually transitions into more serious drama, as the family’s refusal to allow Vanessa the chance to lead her own life becomes less and less amusing. Pan manages the tone well, never allowing it to get too heavy, and keeping a thoughtful and insightful vein that runs through the whole movie.
British-American John Oliver roasted Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in 2018 and slammed China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang last year. Now some want him to do a segment on Taiwan. More than 500 people have signed a petition launched last week asking Oliver to discuss Taiwan’s complex political situation and its international significance on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. Jenna Cody, an American teacher-trainer and prolific blogger who has lived in Taiwan for 15 years, says she created the petition during a night of insomnia. Cody’s blog is quick to dispel one-sided or misinformed Western reports of the country,
Returning to Ciliwa (唭哩瓦) a couple of weeks ago, it took me a few minutes to get my bearings. This time, I’d approached by a different route. It bypassed the village’s so-called “new community” (新社) and brought me direct to the “old community” (舊社). Outsiders won’t notice many differences between these two settlements in an inland and ruggedly hilly corner of Tainan. Both are a mix of traditional single-story homes and more recent reinforced concrete structures. In the “newer” part of the village as in the “older,” several houses are empty, and it’s obvious nobody is trying to maintain them. The “old
It’s a day ending in -y in Taiwan, so we all know what President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) satisfaction ratings must be doing: falling. Is that I Got You Babe playing on the radio? Another round of polls has triggered a furious outbreak of stenography in the local and international media. The Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation (TPOF) brought out a poll at the end of May which had Tsai’s satisfaction ratings hitting a 21-month low of 45.7 percent. This finding and its framing were widely reported in the media. Foundation Chairman Michael You (游盈隆) said that such a large change — an
Harboring an unrequited love for someone is one thing; following them, secretly taking pictures of them and visiting them at work every day is stalking. Chasing down and confronting their new boyfriend (even though he is a horrible person) in the name of justice, is stalking. There’s not really an excuse, no matter how well-intentioned one is. Such behavior features heavily in My Missing Valentine (消失的情人節), which is available on Netflix after bagging five trophies during last year’s Golden Horse awards, including best feature and best director. It’s a skillfully edited and philosophical tale with a sweet and endearing protagonist