When the only country in the world that has had atomic bombs dropped on it puts a mushroom cloud in a movies, it tends to have more resonance than when, say, the Italians do it. When the Italians set off an atomic bomb, it heralds the arrival of post-apocalyptic, dune buggy-driving leather aficionados. When Japan does it, however, it is something heavier.
This movie has a lot of charm. There are the wondrous conventions of Sixties scifi: bold colors and sleek design, underwater cities built in miniature, torpedo battles, a safety-striped submarine, and even a Nehru-suited mad man. But Sonny Chiba is the most charming thing in Terror Beneath The Sea.
My unintentional focus this year was on the films of Korean action star and self-avowed nightclubber Ryoo Seung Beom. I picked my films this year largely on the mood I happen to be in that day, and that day I happened to be in the mood for a lot of slick, big-budget crime and espionage films.
At first glance, Last Tycoon is a movie that seems custom-made for me and based entirely on some of my favorite obsessions: Shanghai during the 20s and 30s, old-time fashion, Jazz Age decadence, shidaiqu, a title stolen from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and Chow Yun-fat in a cool suit blowing suckers away. Pretty perfect set of ingredients, right?
Bloody Tie sports all the polish and big budget precision typical of Korean action films but combines it with a frenetic, almost anarchic approach that makes the entire thing feel like it’s totally bonkers. The closest comparison is Nowhere to Hide, but you’d have to mix it up with Goodfellas and Battles Without and Humanity.
The script should be giving us something more to root for in Sang-hwan other than “he’s the Chosen One,” but he never really gets much character redemption. He’s a lunkheaded, inconsiderate buffoon when we meet him, and he remains as such throughout the movie. I was wishing he would just get shuffled to the background.
The movie hits the ground running with ice-cold North Korean spy Pyo involved in an arms deal in Berlin that rapidly goes south. The South Koreans, led by disillusioned veteran Jeong, were looking to make a bust they hoped might lead them to a secret bank account that was kept by recently departed Kim Jong-il.
The snow devils appear when the Gamma One team stumbles across some space yetis in a cave. Rod and his crew are taken prisoner by the yetis, who seem primitive despite their cave being decorated nicely. It turns out the decor is courtesy of the head space yeti, who dresses like a terrible superhero and politely explains the entire nefarious plan.
According to director Alex Cox, who’s devoted quite a lot of attention to The Great Silence, the decision to film Silence in Spain’s snowy Pyrenees Mountain region was the result of Corbucci wanting to take a skiing trip. Whatever the case, it’s a decision responsible for giving the film a unique and visually striking character.
The world’s first manned expedition to Mars has vanished, and men in sparsely appointed offices are concerned by swirling newspaper headlines. When the rocket reappears, the world breathes a collective sigh of relief — until it’s discovered that only two of the four members of the crew are alive.