If somebody told me Kim Ki-Duk's The Isle was equal parts Takashi Miike (Audition) and Shohei Imamura (Warm Water Under a Red Bridge), I'd probably either drop dead from laughter (because it sounds so improbable), or immediately head down to the Dryden Theatre to be the first in line for the February 15 screening (because it sounds so cool).
Now that I've seen The Isle, the comparison makes sense, though I'd probably throw Secretary's kink, Suzhou River's affinity for water and silence, and Insomnia's isolated beauty into the mix. If you're unfamiliar with The Isle, your head is probably swimming now, since those movies share about as much in common as Trista and any of her finalists on The Bachelorette.
This Korean import is set in an anonymous fishing resort, where floating, pastel-colored cabins small enough to pass for dollhouses become temporary homes for people looking to get away from the craziness of their workaday lives. They're mostly men, and all of them seem to lack the slightest hint of grace and/or manners, as evidenced by their treatment of the whores that Hee-Jin (Suh Jung), the mute resort caretaker, shuttles to the cabins in her leaky motorboat.
Sometimes Hee-Jin just cuts out the middleman and sells herself to her guests (What a great vacation package: fishing and hookers!), and we soon learn she has a bit of a dark streak when, after one of her johns stiffs her, she stealthily offs him while he's taking a dump over the edge of his tiny pier. With a strange tone set (postcard-worthy images of the mist-kissed lake with a subversive subtext), we're introduced to Hyun-Shik (Kim Yoo-Suk), a cop on the run from a mysterious crime of passion. One night, Hee-Jin intervenes in Hyun-Shik's suicide attempt, and the two begin a very abnormal relationship, despite the fact that they talk even less than they emote (which is never).
You may have heard that The Isle inspired fainting and vomiting at a couple of film festivals. I came close to doing neither, though my lifetime moratorium on the consumption of sushi now seems like an even better idea (warning: There is a lot of animal abuse here). There's no way a description of the two truly grisly scenes would make it past my editors. I'll just say they both involve fishhooks going places they're not supposed to go.
The Isle is the kind of film that makes you wonder whether you should be angry, queasy, or stunned by its beauty, especially when Kim breaks up his long, mesmerizing, and meditative shots with such horrific images.
The latest in what has become a long, excruciating line of Disney sequels that should never have been pitched, let alone made, The Jungle Book 2 follows last year's Return To Neverland as another ill-conceived theatrical release that was probably intended to be a direct-to-video project. Who, exactly, was clamoring for sequels to The Lion King and Aladdin? In any format? Whoever you are, you certainly have a lot of explaining to do.
Book 2, the sequel to 1967's animated original, opens with protagonist Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) rehashing his tale from the first film, via shadow puppet, to a group of villagers. They include, in addition to his adoptive parents, the soon-to-be perky Shanti (Mae Whitman) and her kid brother, Ranjan (Connor Funk).
After watching him pull a prank on Shanti, we learn Mowgli pines for the jungle, especially his old pal, Baloo. It certainly must be frustrating that said jungle is just across an extremely narrow river, complete with conveniently placed rocks that would make crossing incredibly easy. Cut to Baloo (John Goodman), who is still singing "The Bare Necessities," even though his partner is long gone. Some chaos goes down, resulting in Mowgli heading back to the jungle and reuniting with Baloo, while Shanti and Ranjan follow in a helpless kind of We're Not Used To The Scary Jungle way.
The same characters and conflicts from the first film are all back this time, with tiger Shere Khan (Tony Jay) looking to get revenge against "man cub" Mowgli, while unlucky snake Kaa (Jim Cummings) catches about as many breaks as Tim Brown did receptions in the recent Super Bowl. When the dust settles, Mowgli has to decide whether to stay in the jungle or go back to civilization. It's Man's eternal conflict, really: A bachelor's life full of fun, zero accountability, and loutish pals; or one with a job and responsibilities out the wazoo, but the chance to nail a real honey (once his testicles descend, anyway).
There are about a half-dozen song-and-dance numbers in Book 2, though none of the new numbers are catchy enough to be memorable. Then again, maybe I was too busy imagining how freaky looking Osment must be by now --- you know how kids get at that age. We haven't seen him in a while, but we've heard him plenty of times, like in Disney direct-to-video sequels to The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast. He also provided voice work in The Country Bears, making this his second straight Disney affair involving big old bruins.
Interested in raw, unedited movie ramblings from Jon? Visit his site, Planet Sick-Boy, at www.sick-boy.com, or listen to him on WBER's Friday Morning Show.