Watch it now! – Lucky, Gook, A Taxi Driver
Logline: Harry Dean Stanton outlived and outsmoked his contemporaries. Now it’s time to find enlightenment.
Verdict: You’d be hard pressed to think of a more fitting goodbye to an actor like Harry Dean Stanton than Lucky. A lackadaisical film embracing the enduring charm of Stanton’s casual approach to acting, John Carroll Lynch’s feature might not reach the heights of Stanton classics like Repo Man and Paris, Texas, but it successfully reflects why audiences loved this actor so much – no surprise, since the film’s screenwriters Logan Sparks & Drago Sumonja wrote the titular Lucky role expressly for Stanton. The veteran rises to the occasion, playing Lucky not as a survivor per se, but as someone who knows his time will soon be up and keeps on keeping on anyway, enchanting everyone who encounters him.
Logline: Dreams, future, power, love, and race explode in the eyes of Korean-American brothers and a young African-American girl at a time of crisis.
Verdict: The strain between the Korean and black communities in LA towards the end of the 20th century tends to get overlooked within the larger stories of police brutality and gang violence, but Gook is a well crafted and sensitive attempt to rectify that. In some ways, Justin Chon’s film is a West Coast spin on Do the Right Thing – but rather than focusing on overarching neighborhood conflict, Gook differentiates itself by homing in on the ways youth get sucked into the conflicts of their parents, and how powerless they feel to influence them.
Logline: Odd couple draws together during the 1980 Gwangju uprising.
Verdict: Jang Hoon is a South Korean director most famous for The Front Line, his 2011 war film. His newest offering, A Taxi Driver, is a political-drama take on Collateral, with Tom Cruise’s ridiculously committed hit man subbed with a ridiculously committed embedded journalist. As in Collateral, the early, easygoing vibe of the film gives way to a series of chase-sequence nail-biters in tight streets. A Taxi Driver has more at stake than simple thrills; it also seeks to turn a key moment in South Korean history into an intimate, human story, and in the process educate the uninformed. It’s no wonder A Taxi Driver was selected to represent South Korea at the Oscars; it’s the exact kind of film to which American audiences ought to be exposed more often.