Where Have All the Flowers Gone (Na shi hua kai) [2002] • China

This is a wonderfully surreal 90 minutes spent with interesting characters involved in interesting situations, not so much story wise but in each of the set-pieces on display. It's an experimental film using it's own internal logic telling its story in non-linear fashion but it's easy to follow because it's engaging. One of the reasons Chinese independent films can be so good is that the directors of many of them, like this one, are able to employ top tier actors. Zhou Xun is one of mainland China's best contemporary actresses and Xia Yu is no slouch. He's the captain of goofy suave. The film hops around space and time, sometimes during a single conversation and one of the most remarkable features of this production is the sound design. It remains a constant through all the jumping around making it easy to hang on to the roller-coastering ride. Very well done film.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Moon [2009] • UK

I don't know if the science fiction elements of this reach any highfalutin heights (an Alien-esque greedy galaxy corporation blah blah, cloning blah blah) but the way it all plays out on the surface is a lot of fun. The film looks good in all its sparseness, no complaints there, but the real treasure of this movie is Sam Rockwell. It takes him a while to get going while the film is creating its context but as soon as his place in the world is established and he's split in two, he soars, so convincing in his random deterioration he doesn't seem like he's acting a part as much as simply putting up with the things that happen to him. The ending is a little abrupt and if you want this to be some big statement about something you may be disappointed, maybe not, but for a film with one guy in it, it's a great performance piece.


Thirst (Bakjwi) [2009] • South Korea • Park Chan-wook

We had a Thirst party and we're all sitting there silently in shock and awe for the first thirty minutes or so and then someone asks "Why is this film so annoying?" Someone else responded: "For one thing, the sound design is childish at best." What's with all the slurping sounds? Someone else offered: "If they don't kill that one guy pretty soon they better at least teach him to wipe his nose or I'm gonna puke." Well, one of those things happened but I won't spoil it by saying which one, suffice to say it had no impact.

This film has low-budget written all over it. Sure, Park spent a few bucks on a couple scenes but overall it feels cheap. And don't go suggesting that someone drive in here with the metaphor assistance team to give it some depth and all will be well because it is still unpleasant to endure. The only good part is Kim Ok-bin's lust towards her newfound lifestyle but then even that comes too late and plays itself out way too long to the point of indifference. What a let down from the director who's given us Oldboy, JSA, and I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK, not to mention Song Kang-ho in the lead who is one of the best actors working in the world today.

Hurt Locker [2008] • USA

I don't understand all the love for this film. Kathryn Bigelow is a fine director and all, but the script for this is terrible. It's cliché from top to bottom. There's nothing here that isn't predictable macho nonsense. Given that it is purported to be written by someone embedded with real access to these army guys, I couldn't believe how unbelievable it all is. Team players don't turn off radio contact and do things the other players don't know about unless they're dumb movie characters. Generals don't then praise them for doing it, either. Of course butch boy befriends Iraqi boy for cheap shot at character depth and I call bullshit. This film is insufferably boring unless you get a rush from fantasy testosterone games. The narrative barely rises above the limits of a Powerpoint presentation.

★ ★