I was able to get in the viewing of three movies this past weekend, the last one of my summer. I watched Tae Guk Gi (The Brotherhood of War) at home on Friday, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the theater with my wife on Saturday afternoon, and Admissions on Saturday evening at home with my wife.
Tae Guk Gi is a Korean movie about the Korean War. I do not believe that I have ever watched a Korean movie before; I shall have to make it a habit. The movie is massively violent. The violence, however, often lacks real emotional force as a result of its very gratuitousness. At other times, the violence is deeply disturbing and once, heartrending. The movie utilizes a framing device much like Saving Private Ryan. The purpose of the framing in Ryan is to further the theme that the survivors of World War II and the beneficiaries of the victory (us) should endeavor to “earn” the unfathomable sacrifices made to gain the victory by living a good life (i.e. work hard, create a solid and loving family, live virtuously, and pause to occasionally remember the lost); the framing in Tae Guk Gi is much more complex. It reveals the persistent freshness of a fifty-year-old wound that cannot be healed until the nation is whole again. I feel that I have been shown a brief but intense glimpse into the grief of a people torn asunder by a brutal, civil war that has never really ended. I am not sure if it is fortunate or not that the director often lapses into action-movie style battle sequences and horror-movie style violence. A Ryan-type of battle realism might have made this movie impossible to watch. This movie left me more deeply moved than Ryan did (and that is saying a lot). Ryan left me with a sense of completion. Tae Guk Gi left me in prayer that one day, Korea shall be reunited, and that the specter of war, which has not left Korea for over one hundred years, will be replaced with a new era of peace.
Admissions was a random pickup at Blockbuster. I can never seem to rent just one. Amazingly, it is a Sundance movie that is rated PG. The six previews of other Sundance that came with the movie were for movies that were all rated “R”. From the box: “Evie, a rebellious 17-year-old, sabotages her interviews at prestigious colleges. To hide her deception, Evie lies about her savant sister’s poetry, setting off a chain of events which include an infamous TV appearance, a new love, and the revelation of a long buried family secret.” It would be a classic Lifetime movie if it were not so well done. The acting, dialogue, and writing were all solid. The movie itself was solid, but not great. Good, clean, thoughtful…a rare combination.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There is so much I could say about this movie. I love the book. I love the original movie. Gene Wilder is brilliant as Willie Wonka. I love the new movie. Johnny Depp is brilliant as Willie Wonka. Tim Burton has created a masterpiece that should stand the test of time. Only criticisms: I hated three of the four songs (but I loved the guy playing all of the Oompa Lumpas). The squirrel scene was a bit too intense for younger viewers. The back-story that Tim Burton created for Willie Wonka changed the focus of the story from Charlie to Willie. I found Charlie’s character un-compelling and flat. I didn’t feel the heartbreak and joy for him that I felt for the original Charlie. In addition, the need to get to the back-story led to Burton hurrying the characters through the chocolate factory, curtailing the sense of wonder for the factory. All of these are minor complaints. I found the movie well worth paying full-price at the theater (I don't say that very often). It was funny, beautiful, and very Burton.
Three movies and I liked all three. What I great weekend.