By: Henry J. Fromage –
And now for the trip back from Korea for a long overdue vacation, so you know what that means- the same damn plane movies.
153. The Whole Truth
This film was so aggressively courting that late-90s semi-prestige John Grisham adaptation image, right down to the poster and Keanu Reeves/Renee Zellweger/Jim Belushi cast, that I was originally taken in by it. Make no mistake, though- this came out last year, and despite a couple decent courtroom and otherwise twists and turns, it’s ultimately a pale imitation of that subgenre’s very particular charms.
154. Monster Hunt
China’s biggest domestically-produced grosser ever is a flatulent CGI-fest in which, I’ll attempt to describe the plot, monster hunters track gelatinous CGI creatures which sometimes wear human skin that they get from… somewhere, but these monsters are good folks after all, certainly undeserving of an ultimate fate of being served in a super-exclusive restaurant. Give it a chance, though, because despite the low-hanging comedy fruit, this is another genuinely weird and impressively progressive and pro-environmental/anti-rhino horn bullshit Chinese film along the lines of The Mermaid, in which it’s the ladies who are the competent ass-kickers and the doltish protagonist who ends up, well, pregnant with a monster egg. China…wood? is sneaking up on Hollywood in more ways than one, folks.
155. Saving Mr. Wu
Another Chinese film, based on the real-life kidnapping of a movie star and the thrilling police investigation to locate him and catch his kidnappers before the worst occurs. Boasting dual world-class performances by superstar Andy Lau and new face Wang Qianyuan as the devil-may-care kidnapper king, this is a fascinating film not just for the procedural elements and genuinely thrilling plot escalation, but also the context of crime in a country where death sentences seem like the default response to practically any category of crime. Talk about having nothing to lose.
156. In the Forests of Siberia
This contemplative French film, in which a marketing executive gives up his old life to move to a remote cabin in Siberia adjacent to Lake Baikal, plays like a (somewhat) less doomed Into the Wild, and highlights to me just how much quality cinema is being produced world-wide that even a dedicated film festival-follower, Oscar Foreign Language Film devotee, and cinema-nut of all persuasions hasn’t heard of. Buoyed by top-notch dual performances, the second of which is a Russian fugitive of the law who our protagonist finds a kinship in survival with, and gorgeous winter photography, if you happen across this one, give it a look.
157. Mother’s Day
Yep, scraping directly along the bottom of the barrel instead of doing something constructive like sleeping. Gary Marshall went out just as he lived the last couple of decades of his Hollywood professional life- engaged so whole-heartedly in corn production that Iowans are trying to figure out if they can market 100% corn-based ethanol. This film has a whiff of the deep, town-blanketing funk that such a factory would produce. Only a Gary Marshall holiday film could so impressively combine stereotype and produce placement in a scene like an Indian mother drinking a Goose Island IPA apropos of nothing during a Skype conversation or a proud black woman sassily declaring “I think your daddy used his veteran’s discount at Pro Flowers!”. It’s hard to get too angry at this, though, considering the whole post-mortem deal, and the fact that you can’t help but feeling that Marshall was 100% sincere in this “everybody just get along” creamed corn.