Pieta

discs graceland

Welcome back to a slightly revamped version of This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Graceland Marlon Villar (Arnold Reyes) is chauffeur to Manuel Chango (Menggie Cobarrubias), a salaciously corrupt politician in the Philippines who expects obedience and loyalty regardless of his actions. The two men have daughters the same age, and one day while Marlon drives the girls to school they’re stopped in an attempt to kidnap the politician’s daughter. Things go terribly awry, and the confused kidnappers take Marlon’s daughter instead having mistaken her for Chango’s child. Now Marlon’s only hope is for the politician to pay the ransom in the belief that his daughter is in peril, but maintaining the lie may lead to an even bigger tragedy. Writer/director Ron Morales‘ fast-moving and vicious little film is a fantastically economical thriller that wastes no time diving into a sleazy world where children are little more than a commodity and money beats morals nearly every time. It’s a dark and nasty world indeed, but one of the joys of the film is seeing Marlon act as well as we can expect given the situation. He never frustrates or annoys even as his self dug grave gets deeper and deeper. Read my full review here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes, booklet]

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Pieta is an unnerving film. It makes you cringe with disgust, it disarms you with moments of tenderness, and it frequently veers into the unexpected. Directed by Kim Ki-Duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring, 3-Iron), the film takes place in the slum of Cheonggyecheon, an indigent part of Seoul that used to be a thriving factory town, but is now slowly being torn down in favor of erecting financial buildings. When the few surviving factory workers owe money, they fall victim to a vicious loan shark who himself finds his own challenges in the form of his long-lost mother. While Pieta might take some time to start engaging its audience, it succeeds in creating a palpable sense of unease throughout and running the emotional gamut with its two leads. The loan shark is Gang-do (Lee Jung-jin), a seemingly emotionless man who brutally goes from debtor to debtor and injures them so that he can get repaid through their insurance money. These injuries range from amputations to leg breaking and usually take place with the factory workers’ own equipment. He cripples the men in front of their wives and mothers, causing additional emotional duress. Given the fact that the factory workers earn their livelihood from being physically capable to use their machinery, Gang-do’s handiwork also forces the now-cripples to lose everything and not be able to provide for their families.

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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Lee Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin) is a collector for a loan shark. He cripples his non-paying clients in order to collect the insurance money. One day a woman, played by Cho Min-soo, appears claiming to be his mother who abandoned him as a child. This discovery leads Kang-do down a path which includes reconsidering his line of work and his viewpoint on life in general. Kim Ki-duk‘s Pieta plays wonderfully into an ever-growing subgenre of South-Korean revenge films (including I Saw the Devil, Oldboy and The Man From Nowhere). Here we’re able to enjoy a very slow burning plot as it’s broken into two separate sections. The first being where Kang-do is the collector who breaks limbs to reconcile debts, the next being where he’s a love drowned character, adoring his mother in an almost childlike state. As the film turns to that second half the reveal leads to interesting ideas of what one will do both for revenge and for love. We see characters endure in the face of despair as Kang-do’s mother goes missing and he goes hunting, believing this to be the work of one of his crippled former clients.

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TIFF 2012 Header

Editor’s Note: We’ve asked a Jamaican to go to Canada to cover the movies of TIFF 2012. Andrew Robinson, whose work you can check out over at his blog, has obliged and will be filling us all in on the antics in the Great White North. Here’s his first missive. Any day now I’ll be on a plane heading to Toronto for the very first time in order to attend a film festival for the very first time. I’ve been excited to attend the Toronto International Film Festival (affectionately known as TIFF) for the past three years, and now it’s finally happening. Before we dive into this list, which honestly cannot do the festival’s amazing looking lineup any justice, I will give a couple caveats. It’s based on my confirmed schedule, and therefore two films which I’m genuinely excited for but will not be able to see (Rian Johnson’s Looper and Michael Haneke’s Amour) are not on it; it’s also in no sort of ordered preference. So with that out of the way and with all the excitement being thrown around, let’s take a quick look at the films that I’m most excited for:

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