In the film Columbus, the city where Jin (John Cho) travels to is actually located in Indiana and not Ohio as most would surmise. Leaving his home in Seoul, the Korean American arrives in town after his father collapses while giving a lecture.
Not particularly happy about being summoned from his translator job, Jin rents a room in a lavish but prim Victorian-style B&B in order to be near his hospitalized dad, an architecture scholar.
Bored and perturbed at having to play the role of the filial son, he wanders aimlessly until he meets an effervescent library assistant, Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), over a cigarette and architecture. Casey has a crush on a co-worker played by Rory Culkin, a distracting bit of casting because he looks so eerily like his brother, Macaulay.
While Jin is a 40-something professional, Casey is a recent high school grad caring for her recovering meth-addicted mother. The opposite of uptight Jin, Casey is generally carefree except when it comes to safeguarding her mother. Hovering, she agonizes over every phone call to her mom that goes unanswered while Jin hardly even visits his comatose dad. Jin even wishes his father would die sooner than later to spare him a trip back to Korea only to have to return to Columbus for funeral arrangements when he does finally pass away.
The waiting takes its toll on him, but Casey proves to be a good diversion. Her obsession with architecture begins to overtake Jin as he accompanies her on treks to view the town’s many wondrous structures. Who knew buildings could be so sexy? But while the two bond over their shared grief, each mourning their parent in their own way, they don’t quite connect.
Known for his video essays, Korean American director Kogonada genuinely portrays these two families in crises. He also puts John Cho’s nude buttocks on display, although that’s not as shocking as the sheer volume of cigarettes the two protagonists inhale in their pursuit of architectural delights.
Columbus opened August 11 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.
* * *
Living up to its title, The Adventurers features Hong Kong “Cantopop” singer-actor Andy Lau as Zhang, a smooth criminal zigzagging his way across Europe in pursuit of a treasured necklace.
Newly released after serving five years in prison, Zhang should be steering clear of any trouble brewing on the horizon. But even with the French cop who put him away, tailing him; in fact, meeting him at the penitentiary gate with a ride offer, Zhang can’t wait to attempt his next heist.
Vaguely he wonders who ratted him out to the police, but otherwise he’s too busy planning an exploit with his partner-in-crime, Po, played by hot Taiwanese actor Tony Yo-ning Yang. With his pouty lips and boyish good looks, Po is unbelievably clueless about women. So when Red Ye (Shu Qi) shows up slurping a lollipop and offering her help, he naturally stumbles in an effort to seduce her. Po’s real talent, it turns out, is in operating gadgetry and hacking complex security systems. He even has a little device called Spidey that behaves like a robotic spider.
The prerequisite action scenes with car chases and car crashes are all there as is the violence, although it’s pretty subdued considering an early scene where someone’s unfortunate severed tongue is displayed in a jar.
From Prague to Kiev to Cannes, the thieving trio is inexplicably never at a loss for expensive props like helicopters that appear out of nowhere. While they have no visible benefactor, they never lack for arms or accoutrements, beautiful ball gowns or even a live prop dog for Red Ye.
Directed by Stephen Fung (real-life husband of Shu Qi) the film is definitely adventurous. Oddly, Fung has the actors often speaking English which they do awkwardly. It’s especially noticeable with Zhang’s ex-fiancee, Amber (Jingchu Zhang), as she’s tasked with some of the most dramatic dialogue, often hesitating between words that should meld faster yet rushing where words should be isolated. Interestingly, it’s the French actors who are most inept at expressing themselves in a foreign language.
The Adventurers screens August 18 at Regal Cinemas Meridian 16.
* * *
Last November, a review of In This Corner of the World appeared in the International Examiner at goo.gl/Vsdizf.
At the time, there was no general release date. However, this incredible film will now screen in Seattle.
A beautifully hand-drawn animation, it showcases the brutal reality of war. Only 18 years old, Suzu is offered for marriage to the Hojo family who are in need of a bride for their son. There’s lots of work to be done on their farm near Hiroshima and Suzu would be suitable to assist with crop production as well as housekeeping. Even though she possesses incredible artistic abilities, and sketches in any spare moment she steals, Suzu is expected to cook, sew and clean like all women at the time.
Then, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and Suzu’s life is changed forever. Her husband dons a uniform for the Imperial Navy and American bombs are dropped on their town. But nothing prepares them for the final destruction of nearby Hiroshima.
Director Katabuchi Sunao painstakingly recreated the exact streets of that era from maps and the memories of some remaining elderly survivors. He was also careful to only include dishes that were eaten at that time in history. But beyond the authenticity and brilliant illustrations, the film is firmly focused on innocent civilians—those who are powerless in determining whether war is waged or not, suffering through the casualties of their friends and families, their own injuries, the daily rationing of basic foods, and just the weariness from never knowing when it’s going to be over, if ever.
In This Corner of the World screens August 18 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, Cinemark Lincoln Square, Regal Thornton Place.