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7/10
A Russian-Chinese film, better than the first part, but just as weird in translation
9 July 2020
Viy was mainly a Russian movie, with a few English actors thrown in to get Western audiences. This film is the sequel and it is as much Russian as it is Chinese, if not less so. But the actors are still thrown in to trick audiences rather than provide value to the film. I mean, one of the best scenes is Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting Jackie Chan. Yes, you get that! Only it is a tiny little scene and then none of the two actors bring anything else to the film.

I have to say that this was much more fun and entertaining than the first. The budget is way bigger, too. Yet it still brought that lost in translation feeling when Chinese and Russian sensibilities are being poorly translated to an Anglo-saxon culture. The result is a fairy-tale like movie, with a lot of cinematic value and decent acting, with a lot of action scenes, but that feels disjointed, like someone tried to edit together three different films, then dubbed the result poorly.

Bottom line: a much better film and I want them to continue with this kind of production, but I wish they would finally turn from the business of making audience traps to creating entertaining movies.
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9/10
This movie is actually fresh and well done. A true gem in the mud.
9 July 2020
After watching it, I can't understand all the negative reviews. It's a modern fantasy film, with a noir vibe, where the main characters are demons. And these demons all have their own characteristics and are complex in many ways. If anything, it was the humans that felt cardboard and less than real. I liked the soundtrack, I liked the mood, the acting and, even if the story was a bit simplistic yet the plot a bit convoluted, I thought this was a really good movie. A lot of lore behind it, too.

It's like a combination between Constantine and Vampire the Masquerade. I would love to see more stories in this universe. It's not a perfect film, but it deserves praise.
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7/10
A decent period witch horror piece
4 July 2020
I was starting to lose faith in Arrowstorm with the latest stuff I've watched, but this one movie has restored it. Which is kind of funny, considering the subject of the film. As usual, the feudal/fantasy pieces somehow turn out better than their sci-fi stuff.

You have an abbey where a curious death had happened, an investigator that believes in reason, not magic, a bunch of secretos monks that fear they are cursed by a witch and an annoying girl that would have normally been killed immediately for her stupid faces and weird smiles alone. The acting is good, the setting is very well chosen, but in the end the story feels partially copied from other things and the rest abandoned in a bloody mess. It is still a decent film, which could have been a lot better with a more thought out story and a stronger ending. Screenwriter hint: the more complex and sympathetic the villain, the better the story. Come on, guys!
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Cyborg X (2016)
4/10
I usually like Arrowstorm movies, but this was just bad.
4 July 2020
Arrowstorm movies feel fun most of the time. People seem to enjoy doing them or at least care how they turn out. This one is not like that. They used Danny Trejo as cast-bait, with a character that does nothing and says random stuff, the story was written by a 5 year old with developmental problems, the acting was phoned in, even by cast members from Mythica and Outpost who I know can do better and the script... oh, the script. I can't imagine the person who would write that and feel they have a reason to live. It was so bad that it was almost funny, but took itself too seriously even for that. So no drunken fun material either.

For some reason, it seems that the sci-fi Arrowstorm productions are an order of magnitude worse than the fantasy ones. I have no idea why and it shouldn't be like this. And films like Cyborg X should never even see the light of day.
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Magellan (2017)
6/10
Low budget Space Odyssey 2001, with a different outcome
3 July 2020
My love affair with Arrowstorm Entertainment started with SAGA, which to this day has the best start of any fantasy movie I've seen yet. Danielle Chuchran was great! Then I've watched all of their films I could get my hands on and, even if they are low budget and sometimes bad, they have soul, they have freshness.

So I was happy to get to see Magellan, which starts with a very interesting premise: humanity's countries racing to get to three mysterious sources of artificial origin that transmit radio signals from Titan, Triton and Eris. Not unlike Space Odyssey, one might say. And just in that film, they send one guy in a big ship that has a very advanced AI system onboard.

Unfortunately, the premise is wasted on the film. While the start and middle of the story were captivating and I couldn't wait to see what comes next, the ending is just plain disappointing. Stupid, one might say, since it brings no closure, no hope of a continuation and makes very little sense. So I can't recommend you watch Magellan, regretfully.

I am still waiting for the guys who would make the story justice: Somewhere in the Solar System, but not really close, an alien signal is detected. Maybe a probe sees a derelict ship or artefacts on a distance space body. All nations race to get to it, because it would give the finder a technological advantage at least. This has been touched upon in Magellan, but only fleetingly, instead the focus being put on the sole person on the mission who was frankly not very interesting. Too bad. There was really good quality stuff in the film and there was a lot of potential.
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9/10
The true story of Danny Trejo
30 June 2020
Danny Trejo is an extraordinary person coming from a very ordinary background and his story doesn't need embellishment, litle movie tricks to garner emotion or other crap like that. And that is why this little documentary is a decent one, not as in relatively good, but as in not disrespecting the viewer. It tells the story and that is it. It does have some people that kind of bring up their own opinions without actually having anything important to say, but they show their support for their friend, so it's OK.

In the film you learn how a Mexican gangbanger went to prison, got a break and never looked back. After more than 365 movies under his belt, Trejo keeps humble and helps other with drug addiction, going to prison to present his points and accepting almost every role thrown his way. I knew some of the story, but it is a great one to be told and I was happy to have seen this documentary. Trejo is 76 years old, still going strong and working as much as ever. Many people from Hollywood could learn from him.

Bottom line: See this old man, with an incredulous look on his face, talk about the life that should have ended him in his youth. He still can't get enough of life. A man to be admired and respected.
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The Half of It (I) (2020)
6/10
Predictable remake of Cyrano's story, but unnecessarily bland
16 June 2020
The classic story has been made for the screen again, with some modern sensibilities added in, but for some unknowable reason, it was less than the average one would expect. Opportunity after opportunity were lost in telling this classic story, for no reason I could think of other than the production crew was incompetent. One moment in particular comes to mind: Leah Lewis' character is laughing and then tears come out. As she is laughing, she is facing away from the camera. It's the first and last time when she laughs in the film and we don't see it! Little things like this, plus an obstinacy against doing anything remotely original with the script, made this something I cannot recommend.

And it's too bad, because I liked the lead actress and the two others had potential, but in a story that basically turns everybody into cardboard, they could not do anything that mattered.

Bottom line: one might superficially enjoy this, but it is not a good movie and there are a lot more films on the same subject that have been done better. But for the performance of the lead actress, it was basically soulless.
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6/10
Not as good as the others and ends too abruptly, missing huge opportunities
9 June 2020
I kind of enjoyed the other two movies in the series. These two actor friends are visiting a foreign country, eating the best foods, making fun of each other and competing with each other in trivia and acting impersonations and sometimes insulting each other with great gusto. Meanwhile, there is a very serious undercurrent of who they really are as people and how they handle real life situations.

I liked Trip to Greece, too, don't get me wrong, but it felt like it missed a lot of what could have been. There was the food, which was only seen in passing, they never really discuss it. Then there were the impersonations, much more than in the other movies, but also more obscure. Without knowing what they are referring to, they missed their mark with me. And then there was a really important personal thing at the end of the film, that not only cuts their trip short, but has the potential to show how the characters really feel about each other in times of trouble. I get that the actors are not great buddies in real life and they do play themselves, so probably it wouldn't have been very emotional in reality, either, and they are also British, so there, but it was a movie opportunity missed. And it was the director's choice: "Funnily enough, I did a version where I was very emotional. I wept as I would when I re-emulated some of those scenes. Then Michael wanted me to do it again and just hold it all back". And if you really want to ask, the movie is inspired by reality, but the event did not happen during filming.

Bottom line: the series was both refreshing and easy to watch and this is the last one they are going to make. I personally feel that they should do another movie, just to end the series right. As it stands, one could watch the films in any order, with perhaps the exception of the first which explains the setup. I enjoyed this the least of the four, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
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Walkaway Joe (2020)
6/10
Much potential but more hit and miss
8 June 2020
I have enormous respect for both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and David Strathairn and this is a movie about the relationship between boys and their fathers. How could this go wrong in any way? Well, unexplainably, it did.

While the story in the film is charming, it is also completely predictable and barren of any subtlety. A big minus was the lead actor, Julian Feder, who had the emotional range of a two by four, while at the same time having no other positive attributes. I mean, his character was not a meathead muscleman who didn't need to show emotion, only punch people, he was a goofy fourteen year old who was trying to get his asshold father to come back to his family. The actor should have gone from crying his eyes out to smashing things and through cold hearted mean spirited and thoughtless words. He only managed the latter.

And this film had so much potential. Strathairn also went with a subdued, more cerebral take, while Jeff Morgan was awesome in how well he portrayed the worthless pool hustler. I mean, even his posture was completely different from his usual roles. Unfortunately he had only a few scenes and that was all. His mother should have had a bigger role, too. I actually like Julie Ann Emery a lot, too, but she had like four scenes in the whole thing. I mean, this could have been another Over the Top. I know that wasn't the greatest movie of all times, but it stayed with me. Unfortunately Walkaway Joe rises very little over day TV film quality and I will not remember it. Too bad.
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93 Days (2016)
6/10
Not a good film, but half decent
10 May 2020
The movie has that feel Christian movies have: lots of people praying, religious music in the soundtrack, cloying speeches, focusing on the goodness of people rather than on their job or the technical aspects of a viral infection and a famous but has-been actor, in this case Danny Glover, who really has just a few scenes in the film. And it is two hours long! So I can't recommend it.

However, considering it is a Nigerian movie and the acting was decent and the story based on real events and so relevant these days, It is not a bad film. It is worth understanding the large difference between Covid and Ebola. Where one is spreading like wildfire in people and in the media, the other was so deadly that medical personnel, ambulance and taxi drivers would not go near a sick person. Where one is taken by just breathing, the other requires physical contact. The commonality is indeed in how people react to the virus, doctors, regular people, politicians.

Bottom line: at least with better editing, this could have been a better and much shorter film. It teaches little and if you want a non-American film about a viral inspection I recommend the Indian one from 2019: Virus, rather than this.
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7/10
Predictably, no one can stand before Tony Todd
6 May 2020
I am still waiting for the SyFy series where Tony Todd gets upset with the current state of events and conquers/destroys/makes fun the Earth, leaving acting behind. Barring that, this is the next best thing. However it went too far and so made me not care. It is a nice animation, but too many characters and everything going way over the top.

I mean, Darkseid is so strong that his conceit is his only weakness. Whatever evil he does, and he does quite a lot, you know in the end it's gonna get fixed because it is just too much. And the ultimate overused cliche for solving a big problem makes for a poor ending. It would have been a much stronger story for Darkseid to have a less obvious victory, one that could have been thwarted by making different choices, and then make it remain a victory. As such, it is kind of fun to watch, but leave you with an empty feeling that nothing really matters.
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Bloodshot (2020)
6/10
Universal Diesel
4 May 2020
The film is basically Universal Soldier done in a very very Vin Diesel way. The infrasonic growling voice, the walking through bombs and bullets like he's invincible. The best scene of the entire film was the starting one, where they show him off as this really badass soldier with lightning fast reflexes and a sense of where the enemy might be. From then on it was all just running through walls, punching concrete, etc. Oh, and the woman was a femme fatale and all the devs were smart but pathetic.

Bottom line: probably the Van Damme one is still better. Just consider what all the effects in this film could have done with a good director and scene writer.
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Vivarium (2019)
7/10
A weird little play-like movie that makes you think of much more things than the creators did
30 April 2020
There is a style of movie that involves very few characters in a very simple story, but that is explored in more detail because of its simplicity. It makes you think of possibilities and of hidden meaning. This is such a movie and while the writers and directors thought of some things when creating the story, like the cuckoo and the parasitic nature of capitalism, people watching it will undoubtedly find other interpretations. This is either a sign of a brilliant film or of one so stupid that people don't believe it was just that.

To me, it was a fast forward through the story of a couple that want a child and a simple life, then realize what a horrible mistake they've made when that child sucks the life out of them and moves on without a care. But that's just me. The creators admit this is an extended version of an idea they had when they were making a short, so if you feel it takes to long to get anywhere it's also because of that and not only because you are an information junkie trapped in your own little tasteless world.

Bottom line: it kind of pulls you in and keeps the tension going, mainly through the actors doing a very good job expressing the emotions of the trapped couple. However, it felt longer than it had to be and less than it might have been.
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8/10
ET meets Independence Day
24 April 2020
It is a pre-teen oriented movie about an alien invasion and a group of children. It is far from plausible and childish, as one would expect, but it kept me captivated for its entirety, despite it being predictable. The children were good, the effects few but well done and the film was way better than the average kid movie.
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6/10
Argo for Ethiopian Jews
20 April 2020
This is the story of a group of heroic Mossad agents who pretend to lease a beach resort from the Sudanese government in order to use it as a hotel, but in fact use it as a seaside base for smuggling Ethiopian Jews from Africa. Both Ethiopia and Sudan were (and still are) volatile zones and Sudan is a Muslim country. It's basically the plot of Argo, but for another group of people, and it is also based on real events.

Now, the film is mediocre. The dramatic scenes are copy pasted from other films, the heroes are all ridiculously good looking, the evil antagonist is just evil for no good reason and all those tired 70's cliches rear out their ugly heads: every hero is reckless, the boss knows it, the idea is risky, the boss of the boss knows it, and somehow they smilingly admit going against every instinct and making it happen anyway. There is an especially cringe worthy scene where the bad guys inspect some trucks and, finding no bullet holes, conclude that those were not the trucks that smashed through a roadblock. Because smashing through other cars leaves no trace, unlike bullets.

There was a funny scene in the film when one of the characters says "It had to be Germans. It's always Germans!". It wasn't funny for the reasons the writers wanted, but because the entire film reeked of WWII hero movies where all the Nazis are bad and really stupid.

Bottom line: really by the numbers film that probably has very little to do with the actual events.
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The Decline (2020)
6/10
Good premise, bad implementation
19 April 2020
Always be prepared! In this case, we have to prepare to an entire movie spoken in quebecoise, which made me feel like for some unknown reason English people were trying to speak French. Then there is the acting, which varies from bad to mediocre. Finally, there is the story, which makes sense, but interpreted in a way that conflicts with all the character building until then. The tension is there, the violence is there, but it makes little sense in the way it is presented.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I will stop with saying that it's like a Lord of the Flies with dumb adults and horrid writing.
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Code 8 (2019)
7/10
The Mutant-X version of Bright
18 April 2020
This is a cliche movie from beginning to end, but that's exactly what it attempts to be. It's a platform for TV superhero veterans Robbie and Steve Amell to do what they do. The plot is something you've seen a lot outside the sci-fi genre as well, but it's all well acted and acts like a promising pilot for a series, if anyone takes it. Predictable, but sound, it's the dark version of Mutant-X, where powered people are treated like parias and need to work in the shadows, even against their will. Decent average film.
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8/10
Better than expected, but the same old storyline
13 April 2020
There is a fine line between respecting the intellectual property and expanding it. Do too little of the latter and you get an army of fans complaining you've destroyed their childhood. But do too much of the former and you get something that lacks any mystery. Unfortunately this is the case of Scorpion's Revenge. Nice animation, decent voice acting and a lot of violence. But in the end it's the same old story of Scorpion getting his family killed and seeking revenge against the same people. The characters are a subset of those in Mortal Kombat II plus Quan-Chi, with cameos for some of them, like short Kitana and Jax sequences, a Motaro for a few seconds, no other ninjas or robots except Scorpion and Sub-Zero (and too little of that one), no Kung Lao and no Jade or Mileena. It promises a sequel where we can see more of Shao-Khan, who only appears at the end, Thanos style.

That being said, the film was solid from start to end, with entertaining fight scenes. I dare say, though, that the beginning of the film was way better than the rest. If they would have continued in the same style, first of all it would have been a Japanese anime, second of all it would have been awesome!

Bottom line: only in this crazy world you can see a WB logo where Daffy Duck is being grabbed by Scorpion's "Get over here!". What I want is an R rated MK movie with Mileena as the antihero. Make it happen , WB!
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Booksmart (2019)
4/10
Couldn't watch more than 10 minutes
9 April 2020
The characters were either caricatures or mentally challenged. Their attempts to look fresh, woke , cool or whatever they were thinking they were trying felt fake and awkward and I couldn't see one single character that I didn't want to snuff out from existence, so I stopped watching.
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Jojo Rabbit (2019)
8/10
Full of irony and humor, but a bit too predictable
8 April 2020
The film is very well acted. I liked even the little kid. I didn't read anything about the movie and I kind of expected to be a contemporary film about a child with Hitler as an imaginary friend, but no, it's a WWII movie, seen from the perspective of a child. I would put it in the same category as La vita è bella, but not as good. Sam Rockwell's character was great.

The only problem with the film, I believe, is that it quickly became predictable. The imaginary Hitler had no real impact on the story, while the characters quickly fell into familiar cliches: the innocent child, the beautiful Jew, the happy, beautiful, artistic and intelligent parent who makes said child's life wonderful even in the midst of war, the tragic hero, the cardboard evil Nazis. I would have loved a movie about a contemporary American child with Hitler as his imaginary friend, getting him in trouble, but you need balls to do that.

As for people who felt "offended", it's a classic Nazis are bad story. I am still waiting for a true dramatic story of actual Nazis who are also human, without the need for saving Jews. That would be even less offensive, mind you, but you wouldn't get it.
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Underwater (2020)
6/10
It could have been good, but it had no flesh
27 March 2020
Semi naked Kristen Stewart, weird French violent Vincent Cassel and some relatively known meat for the secondary character in an underwater adventure. It could have been, if not a classic, something decent. Unfortunately they used zero effort to flesh out the characters, so in the end they seemed just numbers. The entire setup... flashback news reports in papers. The aftermath? More papers. The story, just some people trying to survive and doing it by luck alone. It could have been more like The Abyss, but instead it was a bad remake of Deepstar Six. Too bad.

Also, pressure and water don't work that way.
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The Report (I) (2019)
8/10
Americans tortured people for nothing then tried to cover it up from their own people
20 March 2020
...and they did it with such gusto and in such a fluid manner that it is obvious these things happen all the time. The made the movie of the one reveal that actually got public, but it must be just the tip of the iceberg. After the unintentional hilarity of the first minute of the film, where Driver's voice over fits a little bit too closely to the plot of the latest Star Wars trilogy in which he is also starring, the movie just relentlessly throws fact after fact, proof after proof, tense moment after tense moment, torture after torture until all you can feel is outrage. And Burns and Soderbergh have this way of making you feel strong feelings in a rather cold way. They are not pointing fingers as much as remove curtains. They don't over dramatize things as much as they reveal simple, bland events. And yet, in the end, the picture they oh so slowly portray is evoking strong feelings while keeping the viewer informed. They did the same with Contagion in 2011, a movie very apropos at this time and also very good.

So, this young guy is tasked with writing a report, alone with a small team, inside a basement, isolated from the world, sleep deprived, debased and humiliated... about how the CIA tortured prisoners by hiding them in basements, isolated, sleep deprived, debased and humiliated in order to teach them "learned helplessness". The parallel is not subtle at all. To be able to survive in the political world while compiling a report damning US politicians and security institutions is akin to resisting torture. A reporter tells the guy: "They had you build a boat that they never intended to sail" or something to that effect. There is a small moment when he almost went Snowden, but then reconsidered because he wanted to do the thing "the right way"... and he almost failed.

Bottom line: this is not an anti-American movie, it's a little partizan, though. It shows the evil corrupt side of the political system most than all. Prepare to see how incompetent people are paid millions to make others miserable, then are protected by any ill effects. If you just want the ending, no, there were no prosecutions for any of the things in the report: not the torture, not the cover up, not the lying to legislators.
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8/10
Aah, the 1980's when you needed government for anything bad to happen and viruses were dots on the wall from slide projectors
16 March 2020
As we now know, there is no need for a state to create a virus and use it as a weapon. Nature can do it quite well by itself. But in this type of movies there are always good guys and bad guys and a whole lot of monkeying around, while the medical information used in the script is nonexistent. But it's fun. It's a Japanese movie with American and European actors. And the infection starts in Italy, of all places. Fun fun fun! Shudder.
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Virus (I) (2019)
8/10
The story of science and passion defeating a deadly virus outbreak
16 March 2020
Nipah is a horrible thing, it kills 70% of infected yet sometimes it shows no symptoms, a fearsome combination. This film is an investigative drama based on real events from 2018 in Kerala, where this bat virus started to infect and spread in the human population. I believe this is the first Indian film I've seen in decades and I was pleasantly surprised. The actors are doing a good job, the story is scientifically interesting. However, I have to say that most of the characters were not fleshed out well, making it difficult to remember who is who and what is their role in the story.

One of the reasons for tension is the meddling of the Ministry of Defence who wants at all costs to portray the outbreak as a terrorist attack. Medics and investigators must hurry not only to determine the course of the outbreak and identify the carriers in time, but also bring evidence that it wasn't a malevolent act so that the investigation remains in the hands of medical personnel. Another is the way scientists and government people need to approach poor and sometimes violent communities of people who do not trust them.

For a non-Indian, their way of shaking the head when they want to make a point seems a bit silly and it takes out some of the tension in a story that should be by all accounts terrifying. Also funny to hear them go into English, then back again to Malayalam in the same sentence, like it's the most normal thing in the world. And that while discussing between ministry people.

All in all a nice movie, feeling modern, showing both an interesting outbreak story and providing glimpses into the Indian culture.
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Flu (2013)
7/10
More a disaster rather than a contagion movie, a little bit overdramatic at the end, but entertaining
14 March 2020
"We're from the government, we're here to help you!" has become a popular ironic meme. For the Koreans, though, it hits twice as hard, as they have not only the ordinary corrupt cops and military personnel, not only the politicians covering their own asses, but also asshole Americans who think they can control the situation by, you guessed it, killing everything. It helps that they are Koreans and not American citizens. And there are, of course, the Koreans: mother fighting to save her 4 year old no matter what, courageous hero who wants to help everybody, especially the cute single mom, all kinds of emotive characters who just have to make funny faces and do dramatic things.

This is about the gist of the film. The rest is the virus, which is a non descript avian flu which causes rash, coughing blood and death soon after. I wish this could have focused more on the actual impact of the virus on people and society. Instead it keeps the camera on the hero and the single mom, with occasional lapses to other characters. As such, it is more a disaster movie than a contagion one. It is also educational, when you see how easy it can get from a civilized society to soldiers burning bodies and killing people who want to get away from the quarantine zones dead in the streets.

Bottom line: entertaining and fun most of the time, a good Korean movie, but it came very close to being much much better.
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