Changing the Game
Darrell Barnes (Sean Riggs), a young African-American, lives with his spiritual grandmother (Irma P. Hall) on the mean streets of North Philadelphia where he finds his life in danger every day. Ever since he was very young, though, he always loved to read--he's the rare street thug who can quote Machiavelli's The Prince to his friends, Dre (Dennis L.A. White) and Craig (Sticky Fingaz). Just when you think the plot will unfold like a standard crime drama, it takes a 180 degree turn as Darrell gets accepted into an Ivy League school and eventually gets a job at a firm on Wall Street. Life seems much easier and peaceful working in the financial industry---or so he thinks until he gets to experience how Wall Street mirrors the mean streets in more ways than one.
Writer/director Rel Dowdell should be commended for infusing his film with plenty of suspense, intrigue and surprising twists and turns. You get to see how Darrell evolves from a young, intelligent child into an adult who must make a lot of tough decisions in a dog-eat-dog world. By providing the audience with so much character development, Rel Dowdell allows you to care about Darrell as a human being and to be emotionally invested his story. It also helps that Sean Riggs delivers a solid, convincingly moving performance. His scenes with Irma P. Hall will tug at your heartstrings.
It's quite provocative to consider the similarities between Wall Street and the mean streets of Philly. In both cases, Darrell encounters morally corrupt, greedy, selfish, back-stabbing people who put his life in danger. He's, essentially, put to the test once he enters Wall Street because that's where he learns, a posteriori, the valuable lessons about how easy it is to be seduced by the love of money and power, and how easy it is to be deceived by seemingly trustworthy individuals. He should have listened to his grandmother's words of wisdom from the very beginning: trust God before trusting your fellow man.
God Bless America
Mun-ho (Lee Sun-kyun), a veterinarian, drives with his soon-to-be-wife Seon-yeong (Kim Min-hee) to visit his parents, but at a rest stop, she inexplicably vanishes. The more that he desperately searches for her with the help of an ex-detective (Cho Seong-ha), the more he realizes that the love of his life was not who he thought she was.
One of the best mystery thrillers since Tell No One, Helpless benefits from being equally poignant and riveting. It also helps that Sun-kyun and Min-hee deliver heartfelt performances, and that the very atmospheric directing by Byun Young-Joo. You'll find yourself at the edge of your seat from the tense beginning all the way until the end.
12-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) and his younger brother, Ryunosuke (Oshiro Maeda), lives live in separate towns because of their parents' divorce. Koichi lives with his mother, Nozomi (Nene Ohtsuka), and grandparents, Hideko (Kirin Kiki) and Shukichi (Isao Hashizume), in the region of Kyushu while Ryunosuke lives with his dad, Kenji (Joe Odagiri), a rock musician, in Hakata. When he learns that there will soon be a bullet train that links both regions, Koichi believes that when the northbound and southbound trains pass each other, a volcano will erupt which would help fulfill his wish by forcing his parents to reunite once and for all.
Writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose previous film, Still Walking, centered on the dynamics of a Japanese family, focuses on family life once again, but this time more on the children. He has a knack for creating a heightened sense of realism and for finding beauty and meaning during moments of quiet. I Wish is the kind of film that reward patient audience members because there are many slow-moving scenes that allow audiences to get fully absorbed in the atmosphere and surroundings. Kore-eda also includes many small details and nuance that make the experience of watching Koichi and Ryunosuke all the more enriching. Concurrently, real-life brothers Koki and Oshiro Maeda delivery such true-to-life performances that you'll find yourself easily immersed in their story.
To say that not much happens in terms of the plot would be unfair because that misses the point of the film. Kore-eda attempts to capture the wonder, excitement and naivety of being a child, and, for the most part, succeeds at that goal. He balances the many charming and pleasant scenes with a few slightly darker ones, but it never becomes melodramatic or heavy or sad. Words can't really do the film any justice; it's a film that should be experienced. I Wish often feels like life itself: indescribable, complex, wondrous and beautiful.
Nobody Else But You
Portrait of Wally
Small, Beautifully Moving Parts