#41 – A Bittersweet Life (Director’s Cut) – by Nick Andersen

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A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng) is a 2005 South Korean R-rated action film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, starring Lee Byung-hun, Shin Min-a, Kim Yeong-cheol, Hwang Jung-min and Kim Roi-ha. After refusing to kill his boss’s cheating girlfriend and escaping his own death, a gangster goes on a violent revenge path.

NO SPOILERS (Don’t watch the trailer!)

It’s a refreshingly realistic action film with outstanding performances by the whole cast. Co-star Kim Roi-ha shows a great character development throughout the film and is fun to watch. I admire the respect and discipline of Asian cultures such as in Korea, Japan and China. Kim Sunwoo (Lee Byung-hun) is a straight-faced enforcer loyal to all his boss’s orders. We don’t need to know about his personal life nor his background. We only see him on the job and this makes him look like the ultimate asset. Almost robotic. The star’s fighting skills and agility brings more to his gangster role and the fight choreography is good.

The film is beautiful and elegant without having to show excessive blood for one that has an air of Kill Bill. The music is wonderfully composed to each scene both calm and action, which when combined with the actors’ facial expressions and limiting words, delivers an amazing result. Most of the shooting is still which I enjoy much more than handheld shooting as it gives a higher professional touch. I must say that the production’s lighting is very pleasant. The story, the characters, the interactions, the music, the decisions and the consequences deliver a tasteful work of art, and the ending… Well you’ll have to watch it to find out for yourself.

This is my first Kim Jee-woon film and I loved it. A film speaks more to you through facial expressions and music than words could ever, and A Bittersweet Life does exactly this. I highly recommend not watching the trailer as it gives away much of the points of the plot.

Thanks for reading my review!

– Nick Andersen

#32 – World War Z – by Nick Andersen

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World War Z is a 2013 action horror film directed by Marc Foster, written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. It stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a retired United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop the worldwide zombie epidemic. Before you discard this film because you’re not into zombies, hear me out. I am not into the whole zombie hype that has taken the world by storm these past couple of decades. Usually anything with zombies in it, I ignore. Heck, even when this came out in theatres back in 2013 I looked the other way. But I was wrong to do that, at least with this particular film.

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#31 – Meru – by Nick Andersen

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Meru is an R-rated 2015 documentary about three professional climbers and their journey as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most dangerous and never-before-reached summits of the Himalayas. Directed by one of the climbers, Jimmy Chin, with Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk as the other two. Meru is no ordinary climbing documentary; it isn’t a reenacted version of a climb that has already happened. Strapped with GoPro cameras, we get to see and experience firsthand the journey these three men take both physically and mentally, as they prepare and struggle on a mountain that has no conqueror. While most of the film is off of the mountain, it is nevertheless an exciting and impressive story, with glimpses into the obsession of these three famous climbers and their personal battles. Three years in the making, Meru delivers breathtaking visual proof of what we non-climbers can only dream of. Unless you’re a climber, you will never get this close to experiencing the thrill, pain and fears that these extreme athletes go through all for the love of the sport.

Thanks for reading my short review!

– Nick Andersen

#29 – The Last Stand – by Nick Andersen

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The Last Stand is an R-rated 2013 action film directed by South Korean Kim Jee-woon in his American directorial debut, and written by Andrew Knauer. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro and Eduardo Noriega. The film follows a small town tough sheriff and his inexperienced deputies who must stop a dangerous drug lord from escaping to Mexico. This was Arnold’s comeback after 10 years since Terminator 3 (2003) and it wouldn’t be an Arnie film without his one liners! This is a great example of a fun, feel-good, action-packed 90-minute film and I highly enjoyed it!

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#28 – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – by Nick Andersen

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a 2015 action comedy spy film directed by Guy Ritchie and co-written by Lionel Wilgram and Guy Ritchie, based on the 1964 TV series of the same name, which was created by Ian Fleming, Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe. The film stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Hugh Grant. In the 60s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB agent Illya Kuryakin unite for a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which works to create nuclear weapons. Thinking the entire time that it had a James Bond feel to it, I later discovered that Ian Fleming (creator of James bond) is one of the three who created the film’s original TV series. You know it’s going to be good if the director is well enough known for his selective and distinct films. Guy Ritchie is that kind of director, where you see his name and go, “Oh that guy! He’s made some interesting films!” Not so many, but the few that he did do, have all been successful and this film is no exception. A great cast, stunning cinematography and wardrobe, good action, excellent music and a subtle but brilliant sense of humor.

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#27 – American Ultra – by Nick Andersen

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American Ultra is an R-rated 2015 action comedy film directed by Nima Nourizadeh and written by Max Landis. This is the director’s second film, his first being Project X. American Ultra stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace and Connie Britton. It tells the story of a pathetic stoner who is in fact a CIA agent but had his memories of one, erased. When marked as a liability and targeted for extermination, Mike Howell gets “activated” and unleashes his deadly skills on those who try to end him. This idea has been played with before like the Jason Bourne trilogy (not that garbage The Bourne Legacy), except the concept of a comedic twist to it sounds interesting and the trailer itself looked good. Unfortunately, that was it; the whole film felt like it could have been much better.

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#19 – Parallels – by Nick Andersen

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Parallels is a 2015 sci-fi movie directed and written by Christopher Leone, released only to Netflix. It stars Mark Hapka, Jessica Rothe, Eric Jungmann and Constance Wu. They are actors we have never seen before nor the director. This is a project put on Netflix so that someone would hopefully soon turn it into a TV series continuing from the ending. I really hope they make a TV series and you will too if you have watched the movie.

The synopsis is this: a group enters an abandon downtown building which transports them to random parallel versions of Earth. Some slightly different and others a total wasteland.

The story is an intriguing one and mysterious enough. It definitely keeps you watching and waiting for answers. At times it felt like it was lingering a bit too much but during the moment I didn’t know the full picture. Without revealing, I think those times were about character development for us to know for the future of this production.

I can’t say anymore as this isn’t a normal movie but a pilot for a possible TV show. If you like sci-fi films and/or playing with the idea of parallel realities then go watch it! It definitely keeps you entertained. If you don’t have Netflix you can probably find it somewhere else online.

Thanks for reading my short review!

– Nick Andersen

#18 – Defiance – by Nick Andersen

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Defiance is an R-rated 2008 action drama history film directed by Edward Zwick and written by him and Clayton Frohman. Some of Mr. Zwick’s popular films include The Last Samurai (my review here), Blood Diamond, Legends of The Fall, Glory and Traffic along with many others. The film tells the true story of the Bielski partisans, a group led by Polish Jewish brothers who saved Jews in Belarus during the Second World War. It is an adaptation of Nechama Tec’s book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. It’s an incredible story of how these brothers rescued and protected so many Jews in the forest from the Germans. I strongly believe that this is Daniel Craig’s best performance of his career. His Bond character vanishes as he completely becomes Polish Jew, Tuvia Bielski, fighting for the survival of his people.

!!! SPOILERS AHEAD !!!

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#10 – Kingsman: The Secret Service – by Nick Andersen

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Kingsman: The Secret Service is a 2014 R-rated comedy film directed and written — alongside Jane Goldman — by Matthew Vaughn based on the comic books The Secret Service. It stars a wide known cast, but the main actors in this story are Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson and Taron Egerton. To get an idea of Vaughn’s directing, think of films Layer Cake (2004), Kick-Ass (2010) and X-men: First Class (2011). If you haven’t seen Layer Cake or Kick-Ass you cannot appreciate this movie for what it is. Kingsman is its own film genre. It’s satirical, bloody, ridiculously funny, foul mouthed and action filled. It’s almost like watching a Tarantino film. I mean, Samuel L. Jackson is even in it!

!!! SPOILERS AHEAD !!!

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#9 – Deja Vu – by Nick Andersen

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Deja Vu is a 2006 film directed by the late Tony Scott (1944-2012) starring Denzel Washington, Paula Patton and Jim Caviezel. It is based on a story by writers Bill Marsilii and Terri Rossio. You can never go wrong with a movie if Denzel is in it. You are almost always guaranteed an entertaining one or two hours with his performance and he always delivers the best he can be to the particular role of each film. This was Tony Scott’s second Denzel Washington movie (first being Man On Fire – 2004) and went on to direct two more with him (Taking of Pelham 123 and Unstopabble). For a movie before 2010, and from the many others we’ve seen after, Deja Vu stands out with great action and edge-of-the-seat suspense. Throw in a little Sci-Fi and you’ve got a box office hit.

!!! SPOILERS AHEAD !!!

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