Movie the first!
Kang Hyun-Chul, famous for The Scandal Makers, which was apparently quite popular in Korea (haven't seen it yet), doesn't have a lot of films to his name, Sunny being his second attempt at direction. I must say, though, that if Scandal Makers is as good as Sunny then I got some watching to do. The film revolves around a woman, Lim Na-mi, who is reunited with an old high-school friend, Ha Chun-Hwa, by chance in a hospital. Turns out Chun-Hwa is dying of cancer and has a final wish -- to reunite their old group of seven high-school friends, which they named Sunny (that's the group's name). Na-mi goes on a quest to round up her old gal-pals for a grand reunion, and in so doing finds out what all of them have been doing all those years since high-school. Some have found affluence; others are pretty badly off. The film cuts back and forth quite cleverly between present-day Seoul, following Na-mi's quest and subsequent reuniting, and the 1980s, when the women were young high-school students, to show how they all got to know each other. For the most part Sunny is a comedy with plenty of laughs to be had. However, a Korean film is incomplete without tragedy and melodrama of which there is a fair bit here. Ultimately, though, Sunny is a character-driven, feel-good affair that is well written, charming, and might get a sniffle or two out of you. It's not entirely realistic, but then again, we don't watch movies like this for realism. Seriously, though, it's great and affecting and probably the best Korean movie I've seen in a while. If you're a Korean cinema fan and you somehow missed this, then you owe it to yourself to watch it. Everyone else? Watch it as well.
Movie the Second!
One of my buddies managed to grab tickets for Dante Lam's Unbeatable, which was showing at the Toronto International Film Festival. I actually saw it two weeks ago but I was so busy with homework that I couldn't blog about it. So Dante Lam has directed such wonderful gems as Twins Effect! . . . Okay, that was meant to be a joke. While not totally devoid of redeeming qualities, it's hard to think of Twins Effect as anything other than cinema fluff. But oh! he also directed Jiang Hu: Triad Zone, which was all right, and Sniper, which was fun. All right, so Lam's films have been pretty mediocre generally (though his latest efforts have supposedly been pretty good), so when I went to Unbeatable, I wasn't exactly expecting cinema gold. However, the film turned out to be pretty decent. I'm a huge fan of MMA, and this is basically a Hong Kong MMA film in the purest sense. This of course means that it shows an entirely unrealistic depiction of MMA and life in general, has numerous subplots that have nothing to do with MMA, has myriad funny bits, and is melodramatic out the wazoo! As a result of all these elements, it's a lot of fun! The story revolves around Cheng Fai, a down-and-out retired boxer who owes money to all the wrong people. He moves into a shared household with a little girl and her mentally ill mother. He eventually gets a job at his friend's boxing-turned-MMA gym and eventually meets a dopey handsome guy with dreams of becoming an MMA champion. Fai trains him up and he wins a few fights. Eventually he is injured and Fai has to step into the ring! Long story short, there's a happy ending! A ridiculously ripped Nick Cheng plays Fai, which is awesome, because Nick Cheng is awesome. The dopey guy is funny, the little girl is adorable, and the film is standard Hong Kong fare to a T, which means it has some truly engaging moments. Definitely worth a look if you like good ole HK goodness or ridiculously exaggerated MMA.