Saturday, November 22, 2014

Castaway On The Moon

tags: castaway, dramedy, love story, survivor

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

Synopsis from AsianWiki
Kim Seung-Keun stands on the ledge of an overpass bridge above the Han River. He’s in way over his head in debt and he’s ready to end his life right then and there. Mr. Kim then jumps off the bridge, but due to his own misfortune (or good fortune) he ends up washed ashore on a small nearby island. At first, Mr. Kim looks for every conceivable way to get off the island – which is in plain view of several nearby high rise buildings and apartment complexes. After a few days, Mr. Kim becomes acclimated to his solitary existence and he even starts to find comfort in his primitive surroundings.
Meanwhile, a young reclusive lady named Kim Jung-Yeon sits in her room, addicted to the online world of "Cyworld." She hasn’t left her apartment in three years and she doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon. In the evenings, when Jung-Yeon is finished updating her Cyworld home page, she dabbles in her other hobby which is photographing the moon. During one of those evenings, when Jung-Yeon is taking shots of the moon, she notices a "HELP" sign scrawled onto the sand of a nearby island. She then notices a strange man walking around the island and Jung-Yeon starts to view this man as her own personal alien.

Castaway On The Moon is one of my top favorite Korean movies of all time. I have seen it many many times while it was still streaming on Netflix. The movie is metaphorical and if you know or are familiar with Korea and its citizens, it's easier to understand its meaning. It is a mixture of drama with a bit of sometimes laugh-out-loud comedy, love story, and of all things, adventures in farming.

The male character tries to commit suicide but is unsuccessful and finds himself stranded on the small island in the middle of the Han River. He is very near yet so far from the city of Seoul. He tries to kill himself a second time by hanging himself with his tie but is interrupted by "call of nature". He decides suicide can wait and explores the island. He finds a discarded jjajangmyun (black soybean paste) noodle wrapper with its seasonings unused and intact. He is very hungry and the photo on the wrapper complete with carrots, green vegetables, and a boiled egg makes him even hungrier. He then with regret recalls the numerous times he refused to eat the noodles since he was a child. He vows to grow corn to make noodles from seeds dropped by birds. It's amazing that a simple noodle wrapper makes him forget his problems and the suicide attempts, and changes his overall outlook in life.

While these things are going on, he is being observed with a powerful camera by a girl from an apartment across the river. She lives with her parents but refuses to face them nor anyone else; they communicate by text messages. The girl is a hikikomori, a modern-day hermit similar to an agoraphobic.

In a sense both of them are castaways. The superb acting, directing, and script make these situations very very believable. I love this movie and cannot recommend it highly enough.

The movie is not available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon.


I am currently reading THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir and it reminds me of this movie. There are some similarities - castaway, farming (growing potatoes), the will to survive, being observed from afar...

I will rate the book in a few days.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Bone Clocks

 tags: family, fantasy, science fiction, supernatural

Star emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticonStar emoticon

Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.
For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.
A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

David Mitchell has yet to write a novel I couldn't love specially now that he has gone Haruki Murakami in Bone Clocks with elements of fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural themes. The supernatural good versus evil epic battle between super humans is worth the wait in Part 5 although these characters appear in parts 1 to 4. David Mitchell is a great story-teller and his prose is beautiful.

The 640-page genre-bending novel is divided into 6 parts, all bound to the main character Holly Sykes, and similar to Cloud Atlas, spans decades between 1984 and 2057. Although I have it in my Kindle, I borrowed the book from the library. I loved the feel of the book's smooth silky pages. It's a joy to read. Highly recommended

Books by David Mitchell I have read and also highly recommend:
Black Swan Green
Cloud Atlas
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Some characters in The Bone Clocks appeared in David Mitchell's previous books. My favorite is Dr. Marinus from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

Might contain spoilers

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Most Wanted Man

 tags: Hamburg Germany, Muslim terrorists, spy drama

Star emoticonStar emoticon

Plot summary from IMDB
  • When a half-Chechen, half-Russian, brutally tortured immigrant turns up in Hamburg's Islamic community, laying claim to his father's ill gotten fortune, both German and US security agencies take a close interest: as the clock ticks down and the stakes rise, the race is on to establish this most wanted man's true identity - oppressed victim or destruction-bent extremist? Based on John le Carré's novel, A MOST WANTED MAN is a contemporary, cerebral tale of intrigue, love, rivalry, and politics that prickles with tension right through to its last heart-stopping scene.
    Written by Roadside Attractions

Grigoriy Dobrygin is the only reason I borrowed the DVD. I wasn't disappointed and I liked his performance here and even with the ugly beard, he still looked good. Thankfully, the beard was shaved halfway through the movie.

I knew I probably won't like the movie all that much because of the non-German cast, particularly Rachel McAdams. I was not expecting a blow-em-up thriller, this being an adaptation of a John le Carré novel, and I knew the ending would be a downer. The story is okay although I don't agree with its message. It's the American actors playing German nationals that ruined the movie for me. The acting of Philip Seymour-Hoffman is nothing spectacular; he's just his same old same old wheezy self. I don't know what the professional reviewers were talking about saying this is one of his finest performances before he died. And Rachel, Rachel, Rachel. Gunther is pronounced GOON-tur by Germans, not GUN-tur. Yes, you and the rest of the American actors playing Germans, it's your job to convince the audience that you are all native German speakers. If the cast were German actors, there wouldn't be a problem. They speak perfect English anyway so an English script for English-speaking audience should have been fine. The producers and the director preferred to cast well-known American actors but in my honest opinion that's a mistake. 

The Netflix DVD, to my surprise, has Bonus Features. It's another disappointment though because the feature The Making Of is like watching a Mutual Admiration Society footage. Meh.

Not recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We Were Liars

  tags: mystery, suspense, young adult

Star emoticon

from Goodreads
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident.
A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth. 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Goodreads is asking its members which is the "IT" book of 2014 and at the top is We Were Liars. It has a high rating average of 4 stars but many rated it 1-star and wrote scathing reviews. I was intrigued by the huge difference in ratings/reviews and because it's very short at 227 pages, I borrowed the Kindle book from our library. I wasted half a day on this pretentious and unbelievably boring novel. The story-telling style is fine but there are too many annoying metaphors. I also cannot relate to any of the clichéd characters.

The story is about 3 affluent spoiled teenagers and 1 friend of Indian descent who describes himself as his friends' own Heathcliff (of Wuthering Heights). The main character, Cadence, falls head-over-heels in love with this very political Indian boy who I honestly believe influences all 3 in their eventual destructive behavior. The criminal act and their reason for doing it reminds me of Graham Greene's short story, The Destructors.

Read if you must; you might have a different opinion.