Reviews

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Namgeuk-ilgi (2005)
4/10
an extremely tedious movie, watch at your own peril
9 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Here we have Namgeuk-ilgi or "Artic journal" as it may be better known over here. A movie about an exploration team of 6 Koreans to the depths of the Antarctic, who come across the journals of a British expedition team some 80 years earlier. Fate has it that the mysterious misfortunes of the British are to be befall the Korean team in this forsaken barren wasteland as they struggle to reach their destination "the pole of inaccessibility" (the farthest point from the Arctic coastline).

The movie does sound like it could be worth a look, it has a decent cast, we got Ji-tae Yu whose always a solid actor, the movie also starts off promising enough, lending familiar elements from other horror/thriller of similar genres, such as "The Thing". Unfortunately the potential shortly outlives the expectations one would get from this kind of movie. Firstly, one cannot help but feel frustrated by the many "creepy" build ups which lead to nowhere (ie. a tense build up to what the audience perceives should obviously be a "scary" moment, but then that final "scare" part doesn't happen, only the build up). Secondly, the characters are spineless. Personally I find it very irritating in horror movies (unless they are of the humorous kind) when the characters act overly stupid. This movie certainly pushes the boundaries having seemingly brainless idiots in the narrative who cannot think for themselves and simply follow the orders of the so called team "captain" who has quite obviously gone nuts. Even more irritating is that the others agree not to use the "emergency" distress signal even after 2 members have died, because according to the captain it should only be kept for "real emergencies". There are also some discrepancies in regards to realism of this Antarctic trek, though the scenery is shot in a beautiful location, my guess is that real Antarctic is less forgiving and piloting helicopters, in Arctic blizzards to my knowledge among several other things, do not work.

In summary this is a very long and extremely frustrating movie which in the end, strays into many confusing paths, none of which lead to a satisfactory ending. If the brainless characters, the narrative suffering from an identity crisis or the slow pace do not put you off, then the 2 hour build-up to a very disappointing ending is sure to finish you off ^-^.
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4/10
Save yourself 87 minutes of your life and watch something else
26 May 2007
Tai fong lo chin (wise guys never die), follows the story of our protagonist Nick who is imprisoned for embezzling 10 million hk$, though he protests that he was set up. All pretty straight forward, he meets Teddy, a gambling con man, who teaches him the tricks of the trade (though not much of this is shown) in return for becoming partners once Nick is released. Up to this point its straight forward, Teddy has some scores to settle, among other with a guy called "Dragon" who runs gambling joints. He teams up with Nick to accomplish this, but this is where the movie turns into sub plots and basically many twists in the story line which I will not divulge for those who are interested.

On paper this sounds like it could be a decent enough movie, good enough for anyone who enjoys movies about gambling. However, a proper gambling movie this is not, the plot is somewhat idiomatic (especially concerning Nick's rather attractive girlfriend) and given one or two twists, most outcomes can be spotted from a mile away. Personally i thought it was a very un-gratifying movie, if you are a person who does not enjoy protagonists acting like an idiot, then don't watch this movie. From the many Asian movies I have seen, this one scrapes the bottom of the barrel.

Better "gambling themed" alternatives would be "Gong Fu Mahjong" (also hk) or "The High Rollers" (korean).
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