Train to Busan and other movies

I saw the Korean zombie movie Train to Busan last night – SO good! This movie has been breaking records since it opened three weeks ago, and I can understand why – it’s unpretentious genre excitement, but exceptionally well done. At least twice as exciting as any American genre film I’ve seen this year.

Train to Busan isn’t very gory, as zombie films go – but there’s a lot of violence and death, as you’d expect. Mainly, there’s a lot of grip-the-armrest tension. Once the movie gets going, the pacing and tension are almost relentless.

I liked that the typical action movie hero – the big, strong guy, great in combat, effortlessly brave, and always does the right thing – is a secondary character in this movie. The main character, in contrast, is kind of a jerk, and certainly not as capable. But he does want to do right by his 7 year old daughter.

Not the right movie if you’re looking for a story of tough women characters kicking ass, alas – there are several female characters who get real screen time and character development, but their main purpose in the plot is to require rescue. The actress who played the main character’s daughter was really good.

If you’re in Portland, Train to Busan is playing tonight and tomorrow at Century Eastport, and as far as I can tell, that’s your only chance to see it in Portland. See it if you can. And buy tickets in advance – both evening shows last night sold out.

Other new-ish movies I’ve recently seen (I made a new years resolution to see more movies this year):

The Fits was wonderful, slow-paced and thoughtful and ambiguous, with an amazing performance by Royalty Hightower as the eleven-year-old protagonist. By far the most original and ambitious film I’ve seen lately, this isn’t one that made me leave the theater feeling full of joy and energy, but I kept returning to it in my thoughts after I’d seen it.

The Secret Life of Pets was exactly what I expected from the trailer – some city housepets go on an adventure, a certain amount of learning and growing takes place, everything is heteronormative, and it all ends happily. But it was a funnier and more entertaining version of exactly what I was expecting than I was expecting, so that was a nice surprise. Not as great as Zootopia, but definitely better than the average high-budget animated fare.

Ghostbusters was fluffy fun, but not memorable. I enjoyed it – and my nieces, who I saw it with, were thrilled. They made really obvious missteps with Leslie Jones’ character. On the other hand, those who say that this is one of the worse films ever, or a radical man-hating screed, are clearly coming from an alternate reality. (Maybe one in which “Batman Vs Superman” was good.)

Star Trek: Beyond was the Platonic ideal of mediocre. There were bits I enjoyed, but damn if I can even remember what they were a week later. Just a really bland action movie with Star Trek trappings. Still better than the previous two Star Trek movies. (Which brings up the question, why do I keep seeing these?)

I also saw, on video, Tiptoes and Batman V Superman, both of which were trainwrecks.

Peter Dinklege and Patricia Arquette in Tiptoes were lots of fun together – Dinklege seems to be able to make any material fun to watch. He should have been the lead actor. Instead, they cast Gary Oldman as a drawf, which would be weird in any case, but especially in a movie which wants so much to be all “yay little people rights!” And wow, wow, wow, was that trailer bad. Anyone who can hear “when the going gets tough, what matters is the size of your heart” and not cringe is made of sterner material than I.

There’s nothing further to be said the grim, tedious mess that was Batman v Superman. I’m still holding onto hope that the Wonder Woman spin-off movie will be fun, though.

Oh, and I saw the German heist thriller Victoria, which wasn’t deep but was extremely fun. The all-shot-in-one-long-take gimmic definitely added to the enjoyment, and the way they timed it – so that the end of the movie took place at dawn – was really neat.

So what have you all seen lately? Anything good? What are you looking forward to?

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8 Responses to Train to Busan and other movies

  1. I mostly do not watch recently released films (that’s not a political stance, just an objective assessment of my film-watching behavior); last movies saw were Tokyo Bordello (Hideo Gosha, 1987) a particularly cruel tale of prostitution (but with absolutely stunning cinematography and imagery) set in early 20th century Japan, and The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005), a much more accurate portrayal of the story of Pocahontas than, well, any other movie on the subject (with native american actors speaking reconstructed Powhatan language!), though you have to like the really slow, dream-like, simultaneously fluid and disjointed style of directing of Terrence Malick.

  2. 2
    Doug S. says:

    Was it the original or extended cut of Batman vs Superman that you saw?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Extended. I’m told that the plot makes less sense in the original cut, but I’m not determined enough to watch it myself. :-)

  4. 4
    nobody.really says:

    Jason Bourne. Eh.

    The most noteworthy fact about the new movie? It excluded or killing off the women from prior movies so that we could introduce a new, younger, female character to play the role of Good Cop against the corrupt Bad Cop. In fairness, the film also excluded all the prior male characters other than Bourne. But if I recall correctly, all the other noteworthy male characters were villains who had been killed/incarcerated by the time his movie starts. Ok, except for the star of the fourth Bourne movie.

    (For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed the fourth Bourne movie–that didn’t include Matt Damon–because, among other reasons, it provided a lot of exposition for understanding the rest of the Bourne movies.)

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    Speaking of movies, it’s been ten years since we’ve discussed Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity.

    But, at the risk of mixing my sources, recently there’s been a disturbance in the Force….

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    NR, I SO wish that preview was real… but he certainly did a great job capturing the characters’ looks.

  7. 7
    Chris says:

    That artist has also drawn for at least one Serenity comic, and has made adorable animated opening credits for Buffy and Doctor Who. He’s great.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    That Buffy opening credits is lost of fun – thanks for pointing it ou! I had to watch it twice, pausing it a lot on the second time to catch all the details.