Still Can’t Find a Good Movie to Read? Want to Read a Good Movie 3! – More Good Movies From Around the World With Subtitles

Yes I know many of you have been waiting for a while in anticipation for the third installment where you’ll learn about more great subtitled movies. Well quite a few good ones have arrived in the collection in the last couple of months from all over the world. You will also find some on SBS on demand.  If you’ve just stumbled upon this page randomly you can view the original Want to Read a Good Movie page at https://gcbooks.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/want-to-read-a-good-movie/ The sequel can be found at https://gcbooks.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/want-to-read-some-more-good-movies/ So I’ve divided this post up into continents.  There’s no Antarctica contributions yet, even though they have made some good films, there has yet to be anyone who has done subtitles so we can understand what the emperor penguins are saying on the screen.

Europe

Based on the book by Joseph Joffo, Un sac de billes or A Bag of Marbles when translated from French. This is a survival tale movie which follows two Jewish school aged brothers who have to deal with German soldier occupation of Paris, and the racism and danger that emerged against them at the time, such as being made to wear yellow stars telling everyone that sees them that they are Jewish. One day they return to school to be told by their parents they need to without them, journey immediately to Nice where it is safer, and hopefully their parents will join them there. They are given cash to pay to a smuggler to help them get into Nice, but must make it a fair way there on a train that has the German army pulling those they have plans for off, and executing those who run. The rest on foot. I haven’t read the book but imagine like The Book Thief movie adaptation this has been somewhat watered down so it appeals to and becomes a kid friendly film. So even though people are getting shot, and other hardcore things, you don’t really experience it other than hearing gunshots and the like. I thought this somewhat lessened the impact of the film and the achievements of the boys each time they survived something.

Up for Love is another quite enjoyable movie from France, more a romantic drama than a romantic comedy. There’s comedy but it’s more subtle than perhaps the sight gags you might be expecting if this was a Hollywood film or something like that. Basically a regular sized blonde woman is rung up on her home phone by a man who has her mobile phone which she left behind in a cafe after a heated argument that the caller witnessed. He wants to meet up with her for dinner in return for giving her back her phone. Even though she even points out you could have just yelled out to me or given back the phone when I was leaving the cafe, and he admits maybe, but then he wouldn’t have this opportunity, she still decides to have dinner with him. Of course when he turns up for their date, he’s the size of a ten year old (he’s not a guy with dwarfism). Not wanting to appear rude she denies being uncomfortable or that his size is an issue during dinner. He is a very aggressive smooth fast type talker and is a hard person to say no to, especially for someone who doesn’t want to offend him. So she ends up at his insistence, cancelling an appointment (assuming there was one and it wasn’t just an excuse) and going off on what he claims will be the biggest adventure of her life for that afternoon. He has of course put his number into her phone and she decides to talk to him again. As they meet up more and more she starts to realise he’s a really popular guy (he’s also rich but this isn’t mentioned) and has a lot of great qualities. But can she get over his size, and can she get over the way everyone looks at them to become more than friends.

The leads are played by Virginie Efira and Jean Dujardin (who is actually a regular sized person in real life). At times it’s a little obvious that there’s some camera work, props or special effects going on with a greenscreen to make her look so much taller than him. But it’s not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the film. To me I would have thought more the issue of people snickering or whatever would have been because of the age gap of the two. I realise the two actors in real life ages are within ten years of each other, but in the movie Diane (Efira) could pass for someone in her twenties, and Alexandre (Dujardin) has grey beard stubble, an old man hairstyle and when they’re together he looks old enough to be her dad.

The Distant Neighbourhood (Quartier lointain) is another French movie that is not a bad choice. Basically an old man who has a couple of young daughters back in Paris, was once a successful comic book artist, but his latest book signing in a library had no lines of people waiting for autographs and the only kid who talked to him told him he was a big fan but was unaware he hadn’t published a book in two years. He is catching a train and pretending to be asleep since he hasn’t punched his train’s ticket, being it’s a ticket to some other destination. The conductor is having none of it, tells him he’s on the wrong train to the destination, he asks if he should get off at the next station, the conductor agrees that’s exactly what he’s going to be doing. Coincidentally the next station happens to be the small town he was a young teen in and where his mother is buried and the train heading back to Paris isn’t until that night, a number of hours away. He decides to go visit his mother, a breeze picks up, he gets disoriented by a floating bit of plastic, and passes out. When he awakens he is a teen again, he steals a bike and rides into town where his mother is still alive, his sister is a young child and his dad hasn’t caught his own train to Paris, where he was never heard from again.

At first he assumes he’ll wake up in his adult body once again so just enjoys interacting with his parents again. He treats his sister like obviously he has learnt to do as a parent of girls, she loves the fact he’s suddenly not embarassed to hold her hand in the streets and will dance in their house with her, something obviously that wasn’t seen as masculine back in those days for boys. But he doesn’t wake up as an adult the next morning, he’s still in the past. With him not acting like his former immature teen self, he has attracted the attention of the hot girl in the school he had a crush on but never talked to. Being he’s got a wife and kids at home in the modern era, should he try and get anywhere with her. Especially being she is still a child, although technically she’s a year older than him in both eras. Perhaps he should concentrate on stopping his father from leaving, so his mother won’t ruin her life waiting for him to return. He doesn’t try and become rich from what he knows about sporting results, news events and other things that happen from the future like most time travel movie characters do. It’s just a simple tale, but it’s a nice one.

Anything for Her (Pour Elle). It’s a nice French language what would you do if in his shoes movie. Basically an innocent mother is jailed for the murder of a work colleague since she moved the murder weapon that was blocking her car in the staff park and no one else saw a homeless woman running away from the scene. She’s not handling jail and the fact her appeals have been used up, so has tried to commit suicide. Her husband knows the only hope she has is if he breaks her out of jail. They also have a son to further complicate matters and be a further motive to get her out. But he’s just a school teacher, what does he know about successfully escaping jail and avoiding capture as a fugitive? So he’ll have to do some research talking to a guy who escaped numerous prisons and venture into the violent underworld to get what he needs.

It’s a nice story. you the viewer certainly might well have done some things differently but the flaws of the character and his desperation work well for the film.

A ton image (or as it is known in Australia – In Your Image) is a French movie about cloning. Basically a doctor has been saying no in no uncertain terms to clone research in his lab, that is until he meets a girl who has had a child die when it fell down a well, due to her neglect, they think she’s pregnant again but the baby doesn’t carry to term, she realises she’s now too old to have a kid, she’s devastated, so he of course stops saying no to that pesky clone research guy, and offers his wife without her knowledge up as a test subject. She thinks he’s some sort of great fatality doctor, little does she know the baby inside of her isn’t her daughter, it’s her.

 

Belle and Sebastian the Adventure Continues is a sequel to the great French kids’ movie based on books and an old TV series. This time round the war is over, and Sebastian is wagging school sledding with his giant white dog friend who saves his life moments later. Angelina from the first movie is flying home on a military transport which crashes on the Italian border. Caesar the old man looking after Sebastian isn’t taking the news that he’s now going to have to raise him by himself and ignoring everyone’s advice to just accept and mourn her, decides to pay Sebastian’s dad to fly them over the crash site where he expects to find her alive and bring her home. Problem is for reasons only known to himself, he doesn’t like Sebastian’s father, in fact he’s never even told him Sebastian exists, he hasn’t told Sebastian either, but eavesdropping the boy learns the truth and confronts Caesar. The two agree not to tell the pilot he is the father until Angelina is found. However the pilot doesn’t want Caesar on his plane, is afraid of Belle and insists on flying to the border himself. Sebastian and Belle of course sneak on board and somehow aren’t noticed until the plane is headed home from the crash site and Sebastian seizes control of the plane after Belle attacks the pilot. Trying to go back steer the plane where he saw some orange smoke of course Sebastian not knowing anything about flying a plane crashes it. Like all kids films, other than the arm from the dog attack, everyone is uninjured. The pilot is rightly not happy, but Belle and Sebastian decide to run off and find Angelina on their own. The pilot of course has no choice but to tag along. Of course there will be plenty of hazards along the way for Sebastian to tackle, and Belle to save him from. The predictable plot between a man who just sees the kid as a brat at first and his son who doesn’t like him based on Caesar’s bias opinion changes over the duration of the film too.

There’s a lot of soot obviously being rubbed on the canine and human actors and things like this. Mild spoilers without giving away what happens after Sebastian crashes the plane as that’s the adventure your waiting to discover, some things could have been filmed a bit better rather than having everything look good. At one stage the dog should be barking in a threatening I’m going to kill you way, but Belle is just barking like someone’s at the door. Another has a character who Sebastian is surprised is a girl, when she looks like a girl from the first moment we see her. Belle also is asked by Sebastian to sniff something Angelina left behind two years ago and find her and starts tracking her over ground she’s never been on. But still it’s an enjoyable kids film and if you’re a fan of the original, well worth
checking out.

 

If I ever read these Lucky Luke Belgian comic books as a kid I don’t remember them, but they’re still up there with Asterix comics being read by kids (and a lot of adults) today in the library. So I can’t compare the storyline or the characters to the graphic novels, but Luke in the movie, looks pretty close to the character on the covers of the graphic novels. I liked how they even put a long fringe stuck under the brim of his hat. I loved the first half of the movie, basically Luke saw his parents murdered at their homestead when he was a kid, only escaping due to the bravery of his horse rescuing him. He trained to become the best with a gun, and now is unbeatable whenever weapons are drawn or fired. He though doesn’t believe in taking lives so many an outlaw spent time behind bars due to him. Most get out pretty soon because the jails in this parody version of the American old west are very badly built (this is a French film shot in Argentina, language is French with English subtitles). The president riding in Railroad 1, wants to speed along the opening of the intercontinental railroad by having the two construction teams meet in Daisy Town. The closest town to where Luke grew up and watched the murder of his parents. Daisy Town is a town known for killing its law, and where outlaws do what they want. But the President personally asks Luke to clean it up. He does in a really fun unrealistic sure, but nice visual way, but has problems with a crime lord who dresses and does tricks like a magician. He can’t beat Luke, but Luke accidentally kills him in the process. Now Luke wants nothing to do with a gun. Now Luke is an easy target for those he has put behind bars, including Billy the Kid, Jesse James and others who want to go down in history as the one to have killed Lucky Luke. These characters are not historically accurate by any means and Billy especially is a funny bumbling fool. Then we have a totally different type of story dealing with this aftermath that has Calamity Jane. His horse will also reveal a secret it has kept hidden all these years.

I liked the first half of the movie much better than the second, the second especially the last parts of it seemed to be more about displaying what the creators could visually create, rather than on the fun simple story of a guy who is the best with his gun that the first part of the movie involved. Although based on children’s comic books there is occasional adult aspects, such as Jesse James says to Luke when Belle has a flesh wound “Pick up your gun or I’ll expand her hole.” Luke also punches his “pal” Calamity in the face a few times. It’s probably depicting he sees her as a pal and not a woman and is fighting like male friends often do in Westerns, but still it’s violence against a woman. If you like comedies, and you’re prepared for Westerns to be made fun of, and you don’t mind reading a good movie, then Lucky Luke is definitely the movie for you.

 

Childish Games is a nice little thriller from Spain (with English subtitles). Where Daniel, a teacher is paid a surprise visit by a man he was best friends with when a child, in fact the teacher’s father was going to marry the visitor’s mother. They along with the best friend’s seven year old little sister were going to be one big happy family. However as children, these two boys (I think they were about ten) didn’t like the little sister, they’d bully her and make fun of her, and she’d keep trailing them everywhere anyway as she didn’t want to be alone. The two decide to do something particularly nasty to her which ends in her death. Of course their parents never got married after that, went their separate ways and the two boys never saw each other again. Until now, the visitor begs Daniel to come and see his own seven year old daughter Julia, as there’s something about her that he needs to see for himself. Daniel pretty much just throws him out of the classroom. So his childhood best friend goes home and kills himself in the bath his daughter is having. The dead guy though was a famous author of “The Ogre” so his suicide makes the papers and other school teachers gossip at a teacher’s meeting about him being the weird guy that wanted to talk to Daniel. Laura one of the other teachers at the school is in a relationship with Daniel and insists they go to his funeral. There they see the little girl Julia has no one, and somehow although it’s never plausibly explained, the girlfriend convinces whoever looks after this sort of thing in Spain, to let them look after her until someone formally claims her. Daniel clearly isn’t thrilled about this, but without revealing to his partner what he did as a kid, which he has no intention of doing (being he’s a teacher and all) he tries to get through it. Julia and Laura bond, Laura is clearly the first person to actually care about this girl in a long time. But Julia doesn’t bond with Daniel, she tells him she knows what he is, but isn’t allowed to say. As more and more things occur he becomes convinced, that what his childhood accomplice was trying to tell him was that Julia is in fact Clara who somehow was reborn as Julia.

Another from Spain is The Orphanage.  A nice drama where a now adult former child orphan and her husband buy her old home (the orphanage). Like most movie orphanages this one is a huge mansion, with lots of rooms, basements, an attic, and is on extensive grounds that would be worth millions of dollars even without a building on them. This one is also on land that has spectacular views and looks over a nice beach. and that has access down to the beach, which also has caves and rock formations which would have made it ridiculously expensive. The husband is a doctor but other than that, there is no explanation as to how this couple with an adopted HIV positive young child named Simon got the money to buy this place. But this is nothing new with possibly haunted orphanage movies, American, British and other English speaking movies always do this, so you can’t really fault the Spanish for doing so either when they make them.

So having just moved in, the mother is preparing the mansion for a party and the arrival of more children she is adopting. Simon is always talking about imaginary friends, and she is a bit concerned by this, but her husband assures her once the other children arrive, he’ll forget all about them. On a day before the party she takes Simon down to the beach and lets him run off with a torch into a cave without going in with him to make sure there’s not a creature such as snake in there, or someone illegally camping there or anything like that. She eventually gets bored and goes into get him and discovers him in conversation with what she assumes is a new imaginary friend. Simon invites him to the house and leaves sea shells so he’ll know the way. An old woman turns up claiming to be from child services or something like that, she wants to know how Simon is coping with being adopted and his HIV. The mother throws her out because Simon doesn’t know any of this. But it soon become apparent that Simon does know about these things. The mother accuses him of going through her stuff, he says no his imaginary friends told him. When the party guests arrive Simon doesn’t want to participate and wants to show his mother his new friend’s house. She isn’t impressed, and is later attacked by who she thought was Simon in a costume. When she eventually gets out of her predicament Simon is nowhere to be found. Simon never turns up and that’s it for the adoption plans. But the mother isn’t giving up and refuses to leave her house, and is starting to wonder if maybe Simon’s imaginary friends, weren’t so imaginary.

Another good simple thriller from Spain (English subtitles) is Blind Alley (El callejón). Rosa, (Ana de Armas, Knock Knock, War Dogs), a young Cuban immigrant working an unfulfilled life in housekeeping in a hotel, tired after a long shift where she is being hassled by an ex boyfriend on the phone who still expects to sleep with her, as well as dealing with her boss who enjoys the power he has over her on the job, plays a voicemail on her phone from a call she missed as her phone isn’t working too well. She has gotten to the final round for I assume a James Bond opening credits dance role that we saw as this movie’s opening credits. She may finally be able to get out the depressive existence she’s in. However her sister has also left a message that the washing machine isn’t working, so since she only has one outfit she’s got to go to the 24 hour laundrymat down a long alleyway from her house. We the viewer know other women have been being killed in this alleyway.

The movie changes what it is for last ten minutes or so, I thought this wasn’t necessary as it was a great survival thriller on its own anyway, although the special effects at this point are brilliant. The last minute or so of the movie though didn’t really make sense. But that didn’t detract from the movie overall, which was really enjoyable.

Another nice Spanish language thriller (with English subtitles) is Julia’s Eyes.  Where a going blind twin, is concerned something has happened to her sister who hasn’t seen her for a while (not just because she’s also blind), so gets in a car with her husband and travels to her small town. We know what happened to the sister and that there is something to be suspicious about for the alive sister who believes there is an invisible boyfriend that no one else has noticed (not helped by the fact most people in her sister’s life are also blind) that has answers to what happened. But the police, her husband and everyone else think she’s being paranoid and that she should just go home. She’s not going to though, and creepy suspect after creepy suspect will be encountered. But are any of these her sister’s invisible boyfriend? The added hurdle of her own vision just about going too, and the need for an urgent eye transplant during the time of her unofficial inquiries adds to the burden, as well as enhances her paranoia. Is it even all just her paranoia?

 

Perfect Strangers (or Perfetti Sconosciuti under its original Italian title), is a nice simple movie, that starts off a bit slow, but when it’s over you end up thinking, gee that was really good. 99% of the movie is set in a small apartment mostly around a dining table, with pretty much just seven actors. There’s a teenage daughter character we see and voices of others on the phones from time to time but most of the movie we’re just watching seven people, consisting of three middle aged couples and a man who was supposed to bring his new girlfriend too for them to meet, but arrives without her, claiming she has a fever. They all plan on having a nice meal, which they have done countless times before over their long friendships and to watch a lunar eclipse. This isn’t an action film, comedy or anything like that.It’s more of a drama, occasionally the embarrassment of the character or the situation will be amusing or even make you laugh though. If you don’t like movies which are primarily people sitting or standing and talking, (in the case of an Italian spoken subtitled in English text on the screen movie that means for the viewer a lot of reading), then this isn’t the movie for you. But if you don’t mind reading a good film, you won’t be disappointed with Perfect Strangers.

The basic premise of Perfect Strangers is that after the topic of mobile phones and social media’s rudeness and other interruptions that now plague social interactions and society in general (remember these characters are old enough to have socialised before this technology was around), one of the group comes up with a joke of a suggestion for a game, that they should put all their mobile devices on the table during their dinner and if anyone rudely interrupts their meal through a phone call, text message, Facebook message, e-mail, or whatever the case may be, it will be shared with the group. Everyone reads it, or the caller is put on speaker phone. The caller can not be told they are on speaker. I don’t think it is a spoiler to tell you, obviously this doesn’t turn out to be a good idea, otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a movie. Everyone at the dinner has secrets, and they are not all what their partners or friends are happy to learn.

Also from Italy is Heaven, a nice Italian movie with two best known for American films/TV actors in the lead roles with Giovanni Ribisi and Cate Blanchett. Italian is spoken by both actors (with English subtitles) as well as English at times, since Blanchett plays Phillipa, an English teacher who confessed to the bombing inside a building and demands to do so in her native language. Ribisi translates for the record and other Italian police in the room. Phillipa intended to kill just one person with her bomb, and initially believes this is what she has confessed to, only to learn not only did she completely miss killing that person, but four innocent people, including two young girls were killed when her bomb exploded. The police aren’t interested in these lies as they either believe them to be, or don’t want them to be believed if they are corrupt, but Ribisi’s character Filllipo, does, and is also very attracted to the blonde haired bomber. He’s prepared to help her escape, if she’s willing. But perhaps she has ideas of her own.

It’s a fairly decent movie, you’ve got to remember the opening scenes to understand what happens at the very end. You’ve also got to be old enough to remember the old joke of heaps of kids looking like the milkman to appreciate a scene. The film doesn’t entirely gel smoothly, for example (spoilers obviously) on the floor she plants the bomb we see through the open door the father and his daughters walk behind her in the hallway, they then go up in a lift, yet the cleaning lady who has just emptied the bin with 40 seconds on the convenient digital clock (why you’d have this to prompt your victim noticing it in the bin to run is anyone’s guess) somehow later enters the lift on the same floor as them, when they should be higher up. Perhaps there’s a deleted scene where they forgot a wallet or something in the car and came back, but the way it is doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It is also unlikely you would be able to board a train in a major city when train stations you’d imagine would be on alert for you. Apparently medical training in Italy for people who faint is to slap hard their unconscious face. But the film is what it is, and is ultimately quite a satisfying watch. In real life of course someone who murders four people, especially two little girls, you’d feel no sympathy for at all, but it’s a movie.

I didn’t think Quo Vado? or Where Am I Going? was anything  special that justifies the fact that this is the highest grossing film in Italian box office history. The DVD cover tells us this, as well as the fact it took nearly the equivalent of sales for the first three weeks of The Force Awakens, in just it’s first weekend. It’s not a politically correct film, has a fair bit of crude humour, at times the main character makes racist comments and reminded me of Borat, but overall I didn’t quite think the film achieved the laughs with cultural clashes and so forth that Borat did. Although Borat was morally questionable, you still kind of liked him. If you don’t think you could watch a movie with a scene where a white boy and an African boy are fighting and the main character breaks it up saying no one is better than the other, “you might be white, but you are smaller, and you, although you are taller and older, you are also darker” to the other one, then this probably isn’t the film for you. I really didn’t find the main character to be that likable, as really his main goal is to manipulate the system to keep a cushy job where he does very little but gets paid a lot by the Italian tax payer in a country trying to avoid bankrupty and in severe debt to other countries and global companies, who themselves need to be repaid to avoid the same situation themselves.

That’s the premise of the film, Checco is a middle aged slacker, whose dad arranged for him to get a cushy job in the public service when he was younger. The film jokingly portrays anyone lucky enough to have a public service job as akin to a rock star, women will date you in the hopes of marrying you and things like this. It also of course plays up the negative stereotype that most countries not just Italian public servants have, of sitting or standing around all day doing very little, and getting bribes, free food and other perks. So when Italy’s creditors tell Italy it needs to cut the financial waste and start operating efficiently, public servants who thought they’d have a job for life start to get laid off. Those who don’t have kids, aren’t married, disabled, care for someone with a disability and other criteria Checco doesn’t meet, are being offered a redundancy package or transferred somewhere they don’t want to go, to do something that is no longer the easy work life they’ve had so far. But Checco isn’t prepared to give up his cushy job and is prepared to temporarily go wherever they send him, such as Africa or the North Pole (although why an Italian public servant would be based in these places who knows). While his father gives him advice like take a sickie, go see the psychiatrist and get them to say you can’t cope with this new environment and other scams that are sort of the urban legends of most workplaces. But an attractive Norwegian co-worker may change his stance and behaviour, which won’t please his father.

Having spent time in both Norway and Italy, the stereotypes are of course exaggerated but there is some truth in the differences between the two cultures. Such as Checco when in Bergen asks “how long do Norwegians wait to honk their horns?” when the car in front doesn’t start driving when the light turns green, after he honked straight away and was chastised. When he is told, “we don’t honk the driver will go eventually,” he is shocked. I think if you’re not familiar with either culture you might not get much out of this film at all.  English language with both Norwegian and Italian spoken.

 

Black Lightning (Chernaya Molniya) is a fun Russian language (with English subtitles) family aimed action movie with a financially poor university student who is given a car for his birthday, but all his family can afford is an embarrassing old cold war era thing, that his father bought off someone who stole it from a mine when they were working underground and came across it. Unbeknownst to the father or his son, this car is powered by a top secret power source invention, and the car has hidden wings and other features that enable it to fly. Of course the film has a billionaire bad guy, who for some reason bothers to take the time to teach at, you guessed it our poor student’s university. He has been looking for this car for decades to power a drill to get deep under Moscow so he can mine diamonds. He couldn’t care less that this will destroy the rock foundations Moscow sits on and likely kill everyone living there. So when he finds out that one of his employees stole the car and sold it, he starts a Moscow wide search for the vehicle. The vehicle is being used by our embarrassed by it, poor student to deliver flowers to earn enough cash to buy a BMW so he has a shot with the class’ hot girl. His friend the school rich kid, also wants to bed the girl.

I’m not really into superhero films but Black Lightning wasn’t a bad one. It’s more the car that is the superhero anyway. I originally thought it was somewhat alive with the first time it flies it seemingly does so to avoid an accident with those out to kill the driver. So I thought this car is going to be like Herbie, Christine or something, but it’s just operated by the driver. Which kind of makes that former scene not make a lot of sense but you can live with it. I quite liked the cast, the poor student Dima is a very likable character who does have faults, which show at first, but he learns from them and becomes a better person.

 

Vanvittig Forelsket or Love and Rage is a nice little Denmark made film that has you wondering if everything happening is really happening or is it all in the main character’s head. That main character being Daniel (played by Cyron Melville, an actor who reminded me of Ryan Kwanten with a similar but more narrow face, the same mannerisms and head tilt). Daniel is a piano playing prodigy who dreams of being accepted by Juilliard and moving from Denmark to New York. He attends a music based curriculum high school where a hot blonde student Sofie (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) catches his eye in the lift. Oddly she gets out of the lift with her heavy instrument attached to her back and then climbs a spiral staircase to the floor she could have just got out of the lift on. Not caring that, that was a little odd, Daniel decides to stalk her, he overhears her on the phone telling someone she’s going to a nightclub so decides he’ll run into her there. He does and tails along to a night of drinking back at her place with a group where he throws up and passes out. No one can wake him the next day so he gets to know Sofie when he awakes just before midday. They hook up. But his obsession starts to become possession. He wants to know where she was, who she talks to and starts becoming paranoid she’s cheating on him. Especially with her teacher, who is also tutoring him and sleeping with his mother.

 

The age old question of why is life unfair is what A Second Chance (En chance til) is all about. Those who do the wrong thing aren’t punished and those that do seemingly are. A couple of junkies who neglect their baby, letting it cry constantly and live  covered in its own filth, even though the police are called due to violence of the father who is a career criminal the baby doesn’t get taken off them. Verse one of those police officer’s who loves his baby and never lays a hand on his wife, finds his baby son has died. What if you were pretty confident you could just switch the corpse of your baby with the alive one as you know the parents will be passed out when you enter their flat? Might this help your falling apart and grieving wife. Isn’t this a win, win situation for everyone that matters? That’s pretty much the premise of this movie.

Of course everything doesn’t go as smoothly as envisioned by the child abducting cop. For one the junkies don’t report the death of their child, but come up with a plan to get themselves public sympathy. A Second Chance is a movie from Denmark, the language is obviously Danish but it has English subtitles. The acting in this is pretty good, you’ll probably recognise Nikolaj Coster-Waldau if you’re a Game of Thrones fan.

 

Haven’t read the book of the same name by Fredrik Backman but still found the movie A Man Called Ove to be pretty enjoyable. It’s a grumpy old man film, much of the plot you have seen before with similar movies such as Up, but that doesn’t mean this Swedish and Persian language (English subtitles) film doesn’t have its own fun. The fact Ove is trying to end it all on a number of occasions to join Sonja his deceased wife, and keeps getting interrupted by neighbours acting like in his words “idiots” was interesting viewing. Ove’s personality can be summed up by the fact that he returns the rope that broke to the retail outlet and tells off the retail assistant for selling him a low quality product. He also likes to hiss at a cat that is trespassing on his unit’s land.

Overall the plot is pretty predictable because we’ve seen it so many times before. I did wonder why we never saw Sonja as her character any older than when Ove himself was a young man. The grave death date means it wasn’t that long ago she died. But if you like grumpy old man becoming a better person type movies, A Man Called Ove is a good choice.

 

Vengeance a film where a mysterious French restaurant owner’s daughter and her family are gunned down in their own house. He promises his daughter he will get vengeance. This is a nice mixture of Cantonese and French (with English subtitles) that becomes an English language film for the most part after the French guy finds some Cantonese hit men, and obviously English is the common second language spoken. It was a little confusing at times, I wasn’t exactly sure for a while what country the French guy’s daughter were murdered and resided in, was it France or were we in China (Macau or Hong Kong like other events take place in)? But that doesn’t matter. The story is different to your usual hit man film, or revenge film for that matter. The French guy also has a bullet lodged in his brain from before events in the movie so is losing his memory. At times it’s not realistic, but I don’t know that it was trying to be. I’m pretty sure the hit men would have killed the French guy before he hired them. The hit men and the restaurant owner can keep a bicycle both upright and moving by shooting it, but seem to have trouble shooting rival hit men out in the open for example. But none of this matters when you’re having fun.

 

Asia

Train to Busan is basically summed up by the words, zombies on a train. This is a really fun Zombie film, different to the normal storylines of a group of survivors on foot trying to get somewhere during a zombie outbreak. This time they’re on a train! Of course the train had that one infected selfish passenger who doesn’t care about anyone else and gets onto the train to die. Basically a rich South Korean businessman who doesn’t have much time for his daughter, is guilt tripped by her and his own mother to grant her, her birthday wish of wanting to spend it with her mother (his ex) who lives a couple of hours away by bullet train in Busan. We don’t know much about the mother but she’s referred to by the grandmother as the female dog word during a phone call so we’re left to assume she’s even more of a deadbeat parent than the dad. Anyway the father gets his daughter up before sunlight and accompanies her on the train, he’s putting off a business meeting which he tells his assistant he’ll definitely be back by midday to deal with the problems arising in his company after dropping his daughter off with his ex. Unbeknownst to everyone on the train, Seoul, their city of departure is already falling to a virus that makes anyone bitten turn into a violent attacker, who wants to sink their mouth into those unaffected. The plague is heading south, some of the wave of zombies already further south than the train. The father is the jerk in a horror film you hope and expect to get his comeuppance quickly, however he’s important to the innocent child character so you’re sort of hoping he survives too. This is a very good zombie movie.

 

10-eok (A Million) basically has eight Koreans win a place on a Survivor type Korean reality show taking place in remote Western Australia, where they hope to win one billion dollars (oddly the film 10-eok is released under the title A Million in English speaking markets, perhaps because that’s what contestants win on Survivor). After the first trial they vote one of their competitors out by writing down their name. In the second trial a couple of the contestants discover his corpse. It is soon becomes obvious those eliminated are actually being eliminated from life. The contestants don’t want to play anymore, and flee on foot trying to find help, but since cameras are everywhere it is impossible to escape the game. The host/producer tells them he guarantees the final person will get to live and keep the billion dollars inside a metal suitcase.

It’s obviously not really that realistic in the fact that it would be I imagine pretty much impossible to have that many cameras around the place to capture everything they did. Predicting where they would go would mean you’d need hundreds of thousands more as well. The Survivor type show within the movie did look very low budget itself compared to the real one. You did notice obvious differences with Korean contestants to the real American/Australian versions of Survivor such as they all had life jackets on to paddle out to a flag about 100 metres from shore on a calm no waves beach. I’m guessing most Koreans can’t swim. There’s also a challenge so to speak in a canoe and kayak where they also seem a lot more afraid of the water then would be the case with contestants from countries who can swim.

It is obviously is shot in Australia at times, although travelling distances have a lot artistic liberties taken, it would take days to drive let alone walk these distances in reality. But there’s also scenes set in Australia that were obviously shot in Korea, such as an airport with light planes that is supposed to be Perth International Airport. You could’t likely get on a light plane’s fuel tank to another country from Perth, let alone want to make a journey from South Korea in one. There’s a log cabin they stay in at the start that looks like something from an American National Park film set. We don’t have log cabins like this in Australia. Granted contestants comment it is a weird house and the director said he lives there and built it himself, but it just looked out of place. There was also a leopard spotted outside when one of the contestants went outside at night likely to indicate it’s dangerous if you wander off, but we don’t have large feline predators in Australia.  But if you’re a fan of Survivor you might want to check this Korean film out.

 

If you like the idea of a lethal eviction version of a reality TV show you might also want to check out Incite Mill: 7 Days Death Game which is a Big Brother style reality show, where again contestants aren’t expecting that their lives can come to an end. A Japanese movie with English subtitles.

 

Ichi is a fun film from Japan, about a blind girl, who is an expert with the sword in combat, albeit there’s a bit of overacting and cheesiness to it. It also obviously doesn’t have a high budget, with the main villain, supposedly so disfigured that if prostitutes or whoever see his face, they must die. Then when we see him with a Phantom of the Opera mask he looks quite stupid, then at one stage without it, it looks like a pretty minor facial injury. Basically the plot revolves around a blind traveler (walking) who likes to play her guitar and rest up against the outside of dwellings. She doesn’t need any of that pointless stuff like a room. She of course is seen as an easy victim by rapists and criminals, but is anything but. She saves the lives of idiotic locals and other travelers who get themselves into trouble with thugs who carry swords and are happy to murder. One of which is a so called samurai who is too cowardly to draw his sword, that trails her like a bad smell and takes praise and money from those who stumble upon the aftermath and assume he wielded the sword. Set in an era where Japanese guys in their twenties shave part of their head to look like they have a severe receding hairline.

 

Air Doll (Kûki ningyô) is another great movie from Japan. There’s been a few movies where dolls come to life and are baffled by the human world, but this is the first movie I’ve ever come across where that doll has been of the blow up bedroom companion variety. Basically this movie can be compared to an alien arriving on earth movie, or a robot developing awareness film who learns about humans, our faults and our pluses. Well mainly faults. The plot of this one is that a blow up doll who it’s lonely human owner has not just made love to each night, but also loved it, bathing it and washing its hair with expensive shampoo, buying it a number of outfits, sitting it at the table while he eats, greeting it when getting home from work and having one sided conversations with it. So the doll has developed a heart and slowly becomes alive. It has some sort of awareness enough to not move and keep up it’s stiff limbed persona while its owner is home and also to put back on the same clothing and position itself where it was when he left. But as it becomes more aware and fascinated by things like rain drops it decides to venture outside of the apartment it lives in. Being that it’s purpose as a doll was to be useful it strives to do so in a number of endevours. While trying to learn information and coming across a variety of people, it wrongfully assumes some are also blow up dolls and offers advice such as this conceals lines which isn’t always appreciated by the recipient. It gets a job at a DVD rental store where it learns about movies and has this new feeling for one of the coworkers that it has never experienced before.

It’s more of a drama coming of age story for the doll rather than a comedy, although there are a few fun moments in it. But it’s mostly drama, if you were looking for a funny movie this isn’t it. It’s also not a bedroom activity movie if you thought a film with a blow up doll would be that.

 

Aftershock is quite a good film about the aftermath of both an earthquake that killed over 240 000 people and devastated a Chinese city, as well as the aftermath of a decision by a mother to choose which of her two children will survive, since rescuers believe lifting one end of a slab will crush the other one who need to move on to other victims. We see that aftermath through both the mother and the son who she chose, as well as the daughter who actually didn’t die after hearing her mother’s choice of yet again favouring her brother over her (before putting them to bed and sneaking out to have sex in a truck she had given the last tomato to her son even though her daughter had said she wanted it). The girl wakes up in the back of a dump truck full of other corpses including her father’s beside her. She’s happy to play along as a mute who can’t remember her past and be adopted by a couple in the army who helped with the rescue but who live in a different part of China. Her mother chose for her to die so her mother is dead to her.

Life in China is not easy for either family. We see both kids grow up over the decades. As they get older and have more life experience they will reflect on their own or their mother’s decisions from the past. It’s a pretty moving movie and a great drama.

Sophie’s Revenge is a fun vengeance flick, where a girl is dumped and decides to get revenge on her ex, that ex who is a surgeon left her for a movie star he treated, that was undergoing the exact same operation where he met her years before. It’s a movie that isn’t trying to take itself seriously at all, Sophie’s Revenge is just a lot of fun, with the unique energetic, physical bizarre pop culture humour style you only get from China, Korea and Japanese youth female characters. Language is Mandarin with English subtitles.

Moh Waan Chue Fong, or Magic Kitchen is a Chinese movie (Cantonese spoken) set mostly in Hong Kong but also twice in Tokyo when the characters go over there to support one of them competing on Iron Chef. For me the main enjoyment was the curse part of the storyline, where her mother when she was a child told Yau (Sammi Cheng) that females of their genetic line were cursed to never find love, but will be really good in the kitchen. Not really the type of thing you’d tell a child but that’s what I love about foreign films, they’re not bothered with trying to be politically correct all the time, they acknowledge that people in real life aren’t so let those characters be so as well. For example Yau as a child always wonders about her father until her mother shows her a picture of him and she tells us “I can’t believe that old guy is my father, I never asked about him again.” Anyway the daughter grows up with a mother who cooks elaborate meals at home all the time because job opportunities to do so in the kitchen, aren’t fair towards Chinese women in those days. The mother eventually decides to open her own restaurant but dies shortly after, luckily she wrote down all her recipes in a diary and taught her daughter how to cook all of them. The recipes are so good that the daughter has been invited onto Iron Chef, over in Japan (this is an actual Japanese cooking show). She takes her assistant with her for the auditions where she hopes to run into her ex fiance, who used to tutor her as a child, technically they never broke up. While there we learn how the curse has played its hand, every time the two tried to have sex, the building would catch on fire or something like that. She tries to get her assistant to visit a brothel, but he only came there to be with one woman, her.

That’s the second main theme of the movie, him obviously wanting a chance with her while she is trying to get with her ex, or someone like him. The ex ends up turning up in her restaurant back in Hong Kong with her friend May (Maggie Q, an American actress with the rare ability to play different races familiar to those who don’t even watch subtitled movies such as Divergent – Tori, Nikita -Nikita, Stalker – Beth Davis to name but a few). The two want her to cater a party they are having. She’s a bit oblivious to the fact these so called friends are using her to cook for them most of the time, even when her assistant points it out.

For me I would have liked to have seen more of the movie concentrate on the curse rather than the trying to hook up with the ex or other men while the guy she should be with remains her assistant.

South America

Sin Retorno or No Return, is a Spanish language (with English subtitles) great movie from Argentina. Basically early in the morning a bike rider is riding his bike with no lights, he’s not wearing a helmet or wearing anything to make him visible, nor has he secured the baggage on his bike, so inevitably it spills onto the road and he stops in the right hand lane to pick it up. Up the road two vehicles are driving towards him. One being driven by a student who has been pulled from a party while he was hitting on a girl by his friend, who wants his blender from home, naturally the teen driver isn’t thrilled about it. He is driving his mother’s car. The other vehicle is a van being driven by a middle aged ventriloquist who is struggling to pay the bills and isn’t having a great night after a gig. Both cars are beside each other at one point where neither stop and give way to a pedestrian on a pedestrian crossing. The teens likely too distracted didn’t even notice him, the ventriloquist does and gives the poor guy a gob full of abuse as he jumps for his life back to the curb. The teens stop momentarily after one of them drops a lit cigarette on the floor. The ventriloquist distracted by his phone looks up at the last minute to see a road maintenance barrier directly in front of him, he swerves the van around it and knocks over the bicycle in the next lane. He then starts to abuse the bike rider and drives off. Perhaps in shock or for whatever reason the bike rider fails to notice the teens’ car which doesn’t really hit his bike, but certainly collects him. The teens shaken get out, check on the rider, he seems to be in a bad way, one goes to a phone booth and rings whatever their equivalent of 911 is. They then also flee the scene.

The teen driver has blood from the victim on his clothes so has a shower when he gets home where he is accosted by his father for getting water all over the floor, being drunk and other beefs. The boy puts a stop to it when he mentions he was car jacked after dropping the other teen off at home, but for some reason didn’t count on his father insisting they go to the police so is forced in his mind to lie to them too. The next day the cyclist in hospital is a major news story. Guilt starts to play its hand. The teen also realises he’s probably left his mobile phone at the scene. As the days go on after a particular grilling interview by the insurance investigator who clearly doesn’t believe the teen’s story the boy breaks down when reports air on TV of the cyclist dying in hospital, not counting on his angry father returning to the flat and finding him sobbing uncontrollably, the boy confesses he killed him. But it’s too late, the family has now filed a false police report and the public is angry and want the blood of the hit and run coward. They consult a lawyer and decide not to let their son tell the truth since he will no doubt go to jail. They think this matter will likely fade away. But the pedestrian crosser remembered the van and the guy who nearly killed him, he’s told the grieving father, who has gone to the media, who are demanding the police act. The day after the accident the ventriloquist dropped his car off to be repaired, was happy for it not to be worked on for a while since he was going on holidays to Brazil with his family. When he returns he is of course arrested, but he knows the bicyclist was alive when he drove off!

It’s a good movie since you really don’t know what’s going to happen. Even though it’s the teens who committed the fatal crime and cowardly didn’t face the consequences. You really don’t like the ventriloquist and sort of want him, even though you shouldn’t, to face the consequences due to his own unpunished behaviour. So one one hand even though you should be hoping the teen gets caught, but on the other hoping he doesn’t.

A Wolf at the Door is a nice dark themed Brazilian movie (with English subtitles) that starts off with a mother going to pick up her daughter from preschool or something like that, and the bimbo receptionist going “oh you must have just missed them, why are you here anyway you are supposed to be sick.” The bimbo had given the child to a woman who turned up claiming to be the mother’s neighbour after earlier receiving a phone call saying the mother was sick. The name she gave the bimbo was not the name of the neighbour. The mother understandably isn’t happy and the viewer ends up at the police station, where we eventually meet the girl’s father, who immediately suspects his mistress who he is supposed to be meeting up with at the train station at 7pm. Of course she isn’t there, so the police go to her house where she initially claims not to know about the child abduction but after threats admits she took the child, but says she was intimidated by another woman who has the child now, whose husband is sleeping with the mother and who wanted the mother to feel fear for a little while. How much of this is true, how much is an embellishment and who really is the villain of those who are in this story so far? The movie is flashbacks of the story, where lies of what we’ve (or the policeman) has been told so far are unraveled.

This certainly isn’t a light tale. You’re not going to like some and you’ll even hate one of the characters. So I guess that means the acting is pretty good. Although the mother I initially thought, wouldn’t you be a lot more freaking out if your kid went missing. I liked the cop at the start too, he’s not shackled by political correctness. I loved how he just told the teacher/receptionist, find another profession because you’re (insert swear word here) at this one.