Kim Ji-woon

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Kim Jee-woon is one of South Korea’s most exciting directors, but as is too often the case with foreign filmmakers his Hollywood debut was a bit of a let down critically and commercially. There were bigger things at stake with The Last Stand than just Kim’s American career though as it was also the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen in a leading role. The film still has plenty of fun moments, and while many of them are in the action department it’s both interesting and entertaining to see Schwarzenegger playing a role that doesn’t try to hide his obvious age. Sheriff Ray Owens is undeniably old making him far more human than the characters he’s used to playing. Check out this brief featurette below with Kim and others talking about what drew them towards working with the last action hero himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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As written, The Last Stand is not an interesting movie. It’s a simple modern-day western as action flick with dialogue that’s nearly 100% expositional and a plot that offers nothing in the way of surprise, suspense or subtlety. It could really have been made at any time and starred any major or minor actor and been roughly the same as what we’re looking at this weekend with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role. But The Last Stand is arriving now and indeed with Schwarzenegger’s name on the top of the marquee, his first starring vehicle in ten years. That makes the movie of note all by itself, in such a way that it might as well be actually titled “The Return of Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Or “Arnold is Back,” although this would imply that it’s an opportunity for winking bits of self-awareness. Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of silly references to the Arnie classics and signature lines. He thankfully got the obvious “I’m back” shtick out of his system in last year’s The Expendables 2.

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The Last Stand

When The Last Stand hits theaters in a few months it will finally put an answer to two congruent question marks. One, can Arnold Schwarzenegger still carry an action film? And B, can Kim Ji-woon manage the same level of quality with his American debut that he’s enjoyed with his Korean films? The first teaser for the film gave us little to judge (aside from too much of co-star Johnny Knoxville), but now a true trailer has debuted. It fleshes out the supporting cast to include Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman and Jaimie Alexander (who was kind enough to bring along the tiny town from Thor), but the story remains similarly simplistic. A high-profile prisoner escapes federal custody and makes for the Mexican border in a souped-up sports car and protected by a small army of thugs. The only thing standing between him and freedom? A small-town sheriff, his ill-equipped deputies and the guy who pretended to be mentally handicapped from The Ringer. Check out the full trailer below.

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The Last Stand trailer

Kim Jee-woon is currently six for six as a director, and that’s pretty goddamn unprecedented. He’s made six features, and none of them are any less than “very good.” He’s also shown considerable range moving from dramatic comedy (The Foul King, The Quiet Family) to horror (A Tale of Two Sisters) to awesome (A Bittersweet Life, The Good the Bad the Weird, I Saw the Devil), and now he’s coming to America. We’d be lying if we said the announcement of his intent to make a Hollywood film didn’t feel us with fear and trepidation because many brilliant foreign directors have crossed our borders only to see their talents sucked away by the studio system. The addition of Arnold Schwarzenegger as his new film’s lead helped a little, but the worry was still there. The Last Stand is about a small town sheriff on the Mexican border whose quiet day off is shattered when he gets word that a drug kingpin has escaped from an FBI convoy and is headed straight for the border… by way of Schwarzenegger’s sleepy little town. The villain has a cadre of heavily armed friends helping his run, and the former California governor is all that stands between him and freedom. Peter Stormare, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, and Jaime Alexander are all along for the ride. Check out the trailer below.

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There are very few great directors with a near perfect record of feature films because the more movies you make the greater the odds that you’ll eventually make a stinker. Steven Spielberg has Always and Hook, David Fincher made The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Francis Ford Coppola shat out Jack. [Editor's note: The labeling of these films as "stinkers" is solely my opinion, and definitely not condoned by Webster's Dictionary or Mr. DeFrank.] But there’s at least one fantastic director who has yet to release a disappointment…you just have to look outside Hollywood. South Korea’s Kim Ji-woon has six feature films to his name so far, and all of them are pretty damn stellar across a wide range of genres. The Quiet Family, The Foul King, A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good the Bad the Weird, and I Saw the Devil. He’s currently filming his English-language debut (The Last Stand) with Arnold Schwarzenegger so this statement may not hold past next year, but for now the man is a golden god. His latest project, Doomsday Book, is an omnibus film that sees him contributing one of the two (or three?) segments alongside Lim Pil-seong (Hansel & Gretel) and possibly Han Jae-rim. The film is apocalypse themed with Kim’s segment featuring a robot gaining sentience and Lim’s focusing on a virus that leads to zombie hijinks. Check out the trailer below for Doomsday Book.

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After finally turning enough heads in the U.S. and getting a little recognition from Hollywood by making things like The Good, The Bad, The Weird and I Saw the Devil, director Kim Ji-woon finally got the chance to direct an English-language film, one starring no less than Arnold Schwarzenegger, called Last Stand. Though the film has not come out yet, I’m really anticipating it, because I Saw the Devil was one of the only ultra-violent revenge type flicks that I’ve ever really liked and, you know…Schwarzenegger. But this begs the question, now that Kim has his foot in the Hollywood door, is it going to be studio-produced English-language films from here on out? Will we next hear his name attached to some sort of big budget remake or an adaptation of an old TV show? Not quite, at least not yet. Now that things have wrapped up on Last Stand, Kim is actually heading back to South Korea to make a movie called The Fall of Humanity, which will be a collaboration with Antarctic Journal and New Generation director Lim Pil-seong. Not much is known about this project yet, or what Kim’s plans will be after he finishes work on it. Was working in the States on Last Stand just a one-time deal and now it’s back to Korean cinema full-time, or will he be moving back-and-forth between the two countries from here on out?

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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It looks like former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is very close to signing on to be in another action film, and all is right with the world. The movie is called Last Stand, and it’s the next film from I Saw the Devil and The Good, The Bad, The Weird director Jee-Woon Kim. Last Stand will be Kim’s first English language film, and it’s being made from a script written by first time screenwriter Andrew Knauer. The news was first broke by Movie Web, who learned of it from a Polish distributor helping to finance the film, and it has now been confirmed by /Film, who say they have a source closer to the production. The film is about the leader of a drug cartel who violently flees captivity in the United States, steals a car, and is running for the border in hopes of getting down into old Mexico. Schwarzenegger would play an aging sheriff who is in charge of a staff too inexperienced to properly handle such a crazy, violent situation. When talking to Coming Soon, Kim said of the film, “My concept for The Last Stand is that it’s kind of a combination of Die Hard and High Noon where (the latter) was about protecting something very important that needs to be protected, while Die Hard is a very drawn-out, long process that almost kills someone in the process, so my film will be something that has to be very well protected and in the process, we […]

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Okay, maybe that ‘us’ should simply be ‘me.’ Because hot damn I’m excited for this movie!

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we invite Fat Guy Kevin Carr to give his opinion on a truly horrific weekend of bad releases. Also, we talk about the movies that came out.

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Is it ever a good thing when an incredibly talented foreign director gets lured into the clutches of Hollywood? Sure it is… just not very often. With that caveat in place, Hollywood welcomes one more naive soul into their clutches.

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