Tag Archives: Steven Yeun

Minari (2020) Review

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Minari

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse language
Cast:
Steven Yeun as Jacob Yi
Han Ye-ri as Monica Yi
Alan Kim as David
Noel Kate Cho as Anne
Youn Yuh-jung as Soon-ja
Will Patton as Paul
Director: Lee Isaac Chung

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

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I heard of Minari for some time, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in 2020 to some high praise. I knew of it as a drama that follows a Korean American family and starred Steven Yeun. A year later, it still remains one of the leading movies in awards season, and having seen it I can say that it’s for very good reason. Minari is one of the past year’s best films, and it deserves all the acclaim.

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Minari is an empathetic portrait of the immigrant experience from the perspective of a Korean-American family in the search of the American Dream, as well as giving an engaging and emotional insight on the hardships they go through. The story is compassionately told, and very much an intimate story filled with moments of innocence, joy and sadness. The key word is ‘moments’, there’s a lot of little moments that aren’t necessarily critical to the plot, but are nonetheless things that would happen in real life. The movie is not really plot driven, we are just following a period of these characters’ lives and their struggles. Tender and genuine are two words that can definitely be applied to this movie. It is also quite funny at times, as well as being heartwarming. At the same time, it never shies away from the trials that the characters face. It really does well at painting a picture of the family. By the time you’ve reached the end of the movie. you cared about what happened to them and wanted them to succeed. With regards to pacing, it’s a bit slow at times but picks up considerably halfway through. If you’re invested enough in the characters, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Something worth noting is that Minari is semi-autobiographical of the director’s early life, and so it’s a very personal story for him. Many of the scenes are memories he had compiled from his childhood growing up on a small farm in a double-wide trailer. That definitely makes sense because it always feels so genuine. He really translated his childhood into a movie that really allows the audience to experience it. It does feel like the film should’ve been a little longer, though I guess after following these characters, naturally you want to see what happens with them next. If there’s a flaw, the ending does feel a bit abrupt. It’s not just that I wanted to see more, it did actually feel like the ending could’ve been just a little bit longer. That’s it though.

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The acting from the ensemble cast are all great, pitch perfect in their roles. Everyone is a standout. Steven Yeun plays the father in the family, and while he’s great in every role he’s in, this might be his best performance yet. Ha Ye-ri also gives quite a solid emotional performance as the mother. The relationship between the son David played by Alan Kim, and the grandma played by Youn Yuh-jung is the most unique in the story, especially considering it starts off rocky as she’s not exactly what David expected from a grandmother. The relationship develops through the movie into one that’s heartwarming and tender to watch as they grow together and learn to love each other. Their chemistry is great, and I wish they had more screentime together.

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Minari is directed incredibly well by Lee Isaac Chung. It’s shot beautifully, and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography from movies released in 2020. Emile Mosseri’s score is great is also perfect here, his work on The Last Black Man in San Francisco was amazing and I’m glad to see him continuing to compose some more stunning scores for excellent movies.

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Minari is great and personal and family drama. Intimately and genuinely written and portrayed, with incredible performances, and some phenomenal direction, it is for sure one of the best movies of 2020, and is absolutely worth watching as soon as you get the chance to.

Burning (2018) Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, sex scenes, nudity & drug use
Cast:
Yoo Ah-in as Lee Jong-su
Steven Yeun as Ben
Jeon Jong-seo as Shin Hae-mi
Director: Lee Chang-dong

Jong-soo (Yoo Ah-in) runs into Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), a girl who once lived in his neighborhood, and she asks him to watch her cat while she’s out of town. When she returns, she introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun), a man she met on the trip. Ben proceeds to tell Jong-soo about his hobby.

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Burning is a foreign movie I’ve been hearing about for quite some time, with it receiving acclaim from those who have seen it. The only name involved that I recognised was that of Steven Yeun as part of the cast, otherwise I was just going in knowing only the hype and love that it’s been receiving. Having seen it, I don’t love it as much as others do, but it is really good and well made and I can see why so many people have been praising it highly.

Burning is a long movie, at around 2 hours and 30 minutes long and it is a very slow-paced movie. For a while I just didn’t really know where the movie was going, and not necessarily in a good way. It’s really the second half where it picks up, after the point where Steven Yeon’s character tells the protagonist about his ‘hobby’. After that point it introduces this real mystery which I became interested in. When I think back to the whole movie, I can’t think of many scenes that I would cut from it (though it would probably be in the first half). I get the feeling that there were a lot of ideas in play, but because of how subtle it was, I feel like I missed a lot of it. When I say that, I’m not necessarily saying that it being subtle is bad, if anything it’s great that it was. The way the whole story was presented seemed very real and grounded, especially the dialogue which was well written. It never felt over dramatized or anything like that and doesn’t get melodramatic or over the top at any point. Really thinking back to it all, I get the feeling that I’d probably get more out of Burning by looking at it a second time, after knowing certain things that are revealed later in the film.

The acting was all around great, the movie mainly revolves around 3 actors: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo and Steven Yeun. Yoo Ah-in worked quite well as the protagonist who is trying to figure out a mystery, the film basically follows him for the entire runtime. Steven Yeun was however the standout of the whole film and was really great. He’s just so mysterious and commands such a presence incredibly well, he seems completely effortless and natural. It’s a very subtle performance, it’s not showy at all but every time he’s on screen, he grabs your attention without having to do anything really.

This is the first film by Lee Chang-dong that I’ve seen but it’s pretty clear with Burning here that he has done some great work. Burning is a very well put together film and like the story and writing, the direction is very subdued and subtle. It’s not flashy but it’s not laid back by any means, Lee Chang-dong is clearly a fantastic filmmaker even just based off this one film of his. The cinematography also was great, with so many beautiful looking shots, highlights being during sunset sections. There’s even some brief moments of suspense that are really effective without being too overblown or overt.

Burning is a very slow burn of a movie and it really only had my complete attention in the second half. With that said, it’s incredibly directed and the performances are great, especially from Steven Yeun. Honestly, I don’t have a bunch of problems with it and thinking about it again, it is a great film. I just really didn’t know what to make of it on my first viewing. I have a feeling it’ll work better for me on a second viewing. If you’re fine with sitting through a long and slow moving movie with subtitles, then Burning might be worth checking out for you.

Sorry to Bother You (2018) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, drug use, sexual material, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green
David Cross as Cash’s “white voice”
Tessa Thompson as Detroit
Jermaine Fowler as Salvador
Omari Hardwick as Mr. _______
Patton Oswalt as Mr. _______’s white voice
Terry Crews as Sergio Green
Danny Glover as Langston
Steven Yeun as Squeeze
Armie Hammer as Steve Lift
Director: Boots Reilly

In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key that leads to material glory. As Green’s career begins to take off, his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. Cassius soon falls under the spell of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.

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I had been hearing some buzz for Sorry to Bother You for a while. A lot of people have been proclaiming it one of the best of the year, while it polarised a lot of other people. I didn’t watch any of the trailers, I just knew that basic plot and some of the cast involved and that was it, so going in I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original films of the year that will work for some and won’t work for others. Its full of ideas, entertaining, and is mostly well put together.

You have to watch Sorry to Bother You as an absurdist dark comedy, you can’t take lots of the movie as literal. So much of the movie is satirical, and a lot of the satire is blatant rather than subtle but it still somehow works. Thematically there’s a lot going on (which you’ll see for yourself), maybe a little too much, like writer/director Boots Reilly wanted to cover a lot and maybe he chose to do too much. Though I think it works well enough. I think it would be a disservice to reveal some of the things that happen in the movie (and plus it benefits not knowing much going in), so I’ll keep it as vague as possible. The whole thing about the lead character becoming successful as a telemarketer by putting on a ‘white voice’ is pretty much just covering the first act. Even when odd things were happening in the first and second acts, it wasn’t full out crazy yet. Where that changed was in the third act, from a suddenly dark moment/reveal that changes a lot from that point going forward. You just sort of have to go along with it, as absurd as it is. I was able to go along with it but I can easily see why it doesn’t work for others and was too much, because it is admittedly ridiculous both on paper and in practice. Sorry to Bother You is an hour and 50 minutes long and I found it entertaining from start to finish. Both the comedy and drama was balanced out well I thought, even though there’s generally more comedy here. There is a sort of ‘argument’ of sorts between Lakeith Stanfield and Jermaine Fowler that’s one of the funniest scenes of 2018. Aside from potentially tackling way too many themes, I guess the only other flaw I could think of was that the female characters are a little underwritten. Honestly there’s a lot to take in with the movie, so my opinion on the plot and the overall movie may change on a second viewing.

Lakeith Stanfield is great in the lead role as Cassius Green, balancing both drama and comedy really well, particularly shining in the later scenes of the movie. Tessa Thompson is really good as Cassius’s girlfriend, I mentioned how the female roles are underwritten a little bit, but Thompson does a lot with aherrole and is a real standout. Jermaine Fowler, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews and Danny Glover are also good as the supporting cast. The white voices, done by David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James were also pretty good. Although he’s not in the movie a lot, Armie Hammer gives by far his best performance yet here as a cocaine fuelled CEO. It’s a very different role for him, a much darker and hateable role but he actually seems at home playing it, more so than his other roles. He steals every scene that he’s in and I kinda wished that we got to see more of him. Aside from an interview clip in the first act, we really see him in a few scenes from the end of the second act.

For a directorial debut, Boots Reilly did a great job with the film overall. What particularly stood out is that he gets really creative with the way that he films a lot of the scenes. For example, earlier when Lakeith calls someone (because he’s a telemarketer), it actually shows him and his desk dropping right in front of the person before he talks to him. Other sequences like the transitions are also filmed fantastically, really unique from any other directors. The dubbing of the white voices can be pretty messy most of the time. You do eventually get used to it and it’s not a big flaw, but it does stand out.

Sorry to Bother You is definitely not for everyone, it’s weird, it’s not subtle, and maybe it covers a little too much thematically. However, it worked well for me, with the cast all doing a wonderful job, and Boots Reilly’s writing and direction being really something else. You just can’t compare Sorry to Bother You to any other film, and it’s one of my favourites of the year. Reilly has clearly proven his talent as a writer and behind the camera, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of his film work.