Thursday, 26 May 2016

Sake Bomb Review 2013 Japan

 Sake Bomb is an American Japanese film which falls somewhere between a low budget American comedy and an indie Japanese drama while retaining most of the good points and a few of the bad from both.

A comedic road movie about a sarcastic Asian American and his Japanese cousin. Sebastian is a bitter, self-deprecating wannabe Internet star from Los Angeles. He is recently dumped by his girlfriend and on the look out for someone new. When his cousin Naoto, a naive sake maker from Japan, shows up to find his own ex-girlfriend, Sebastian takes him to northern California to find her. They are a clash of cultures waiting to happen. Someone has to break first. Together they meet a colourful group of characters as they come to grips with who they are and the true nature of the girlfriends they're pursuing. 

Never take your shoes off when entering an American house...

A Sake Bomb is a shot of Sake dropped in to beer and then downed, this accurately describes the film as a Japanese man is dropped in to American culture head first. Co-starring Gaku Hamada and Eugene Kim as the Japanese and American cousins respectively, who both deliver great performances while also representing the different cultures of the East and West.

Gaku Hamada(Fish Story/See You Tomorrow, Everyone) is easily one of the most likeable actors working today. While delivering a subtle role he still always manage to convey a vulnerability which makes you rally behind him. His character of Naoto is very much Japanese, from his mannerisms to his shyness, he is used perfectly in this fish out of water role which often leads to extremely comical moments.

Eugene Kim plays the role of Sebastian who is the opposite of Naoto is nearly every way. Loud, opinionated, obnoxious and bordering on racist, he isn't the most likeable character. Although, as you get to know the character and understand the root of his problems, you do feel more sympathetic towards him and he will even be relatable to some.

Every time you hear a racist joke, do a Sake Bomb!

Tackling the issues of Eastern stereotypes by Westerners is handled extremely well for a low budget comedy, some of these scenes can actually be pretty emotional and recieve a good reaction. Other racial views are used for shock, which can also generate proper laughs, but it's not done in a cheap way.

The issues with Sake Bomb are it's let down by the familiarity. The story is pretty straight forward and there are no real twists or anything unexpected along this way. That could have elevated the film from good to great. However, there is a great emotional payoff with Sebastian's character which is worth it.

Sake Bomb is a fun buddy road movie, which isn't essential viewing but still an entertaining watch, it's similar to other American indie comedies in story but tackles subjects which are very different.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Phone Review 2002 South Korea 폰

Phone is a solid slice of Asian horror which was released during the wave of popular horror exports from The Ring to The Grudge to Dark Water to A Tale of Two Sisters. But does Phone live up to the hype of it's counterparts?

Stylish Korean horror starring Ji-Won Ha as an investigative reporter who, having recently published a controversial article about sex scandals, has begun receiving a series of menacing phone calls. In an effort to escape the calls, she changes her number and moves house. But the calls keep coming - and when her friend's young daughter innocently answers the ringing phone, she starts to scream in terror and goes on to exhibit increasingly crazed behaviour. As she tries to unravel the mystery behind the phone calls, Ji-Won uncovers the terrible secrets that lie behind her new phone.

Something that is always striking yet refreshing about Asian horror films is that the vast majority of them play out like a mystery thriller. The frights are there. The tone is creepy. But your interest is usually kept until the very end because you are waiting for the unveil. And Phone is no exception.

The real strong point of Phone is the story which is actually clever and complex. Full of twists and turns, it takes you till the end to figure out exactly what is happening and why. And just when you have pieced it all together... They throw another twist at you!

Don't know if cute... Or creepy...

Ha Ji-won is a great lead who is likable and convincing with her desperation of trying to help her friends daughter and solve this mystery. But the little girl Young-ju played by Eun Seo-woo delivers the best performance of the film. For a child, her acting and delivery is brilliant. She can change it from cute to creepy half way through a sentence., which is remarkable.

Going in to Phone, as a horror, you are going to want to be scared. In all honesty the film doesn't fully scare you. The tone and setting is definitely creepy. But there are no real moments that will leave you feeling terrified. There is also no real "jump scares" so don't go in expecting any of those modern Hollywood scares. Phone isn't as scary as Ju-On, but it is a completely different breed of Asian horror.

All in all, South Korea did deliver another good horror film with Phone. Some of the plot and story feels similar to other Asian horrors, and maybe it wasn't as scary as it could have been. But it's a fun film with a compelling story and a stand out performance from the young girl that's definitely worth checking out.