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🍿66: Return to Seoul
This week: The biggest film you've never heard of, along with dazzling debuts and dancing toasters.
“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
~ The Lion King, 1994
Not your ordinary household toaster…
I remember the first time I fell in love with movies. It was 1996 and I was 4 years old, loaded with the flu and attending a screening of Toy Story in the cinema. Ever since the credits rolled on that first (of many) viewings of that particular movie, I never looked back and my love for cinema has only grown stronger with time. So, it’s with a big popcorn-infused smile that I get the chance to write about movies for Salty Popcorn. Thank you to Tom for handing over the reins for this issue!
If you are a regular SP subscriber don’t worry, Tom will be back for the next issue after a refreshing holiday. Hopefully, some of you will join me over at my own newsletterwhere you can read stories of all shapes and sizes whether they be short stories, serialised novels or extracts from my mystery-thriller-sci-fi audio drama SEARCH.
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s dim the lights, play the trailers and get to this week’s feature film!
Now for the headlines:
The red carpet was rolled out at Cannes two days ago and Variety has listed 11 films with the biggest buzz. Read more.
Speaking of Cannes, two-time Palm d’Or winner Ruben Östlund presides over an optimistic jury, whose job it will be to pick this year’s winner, out of 21 nominees, including Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. Read more.
A teaser trailer has dropped for The Penguin, the spinoff series to Matt Reeves’s The Batman. Watch it here.
Melanie Lynskey and Karl Urban are set to star in Andrew Niccol’s new film I, Object. Read more.
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Twins sequel that was in the works has once again reached a block in the road. Read more.
Viggo Mortensen, Courtney Love, Al Pacino, Shia LeBeouf and John Travolta all join the cast for David Mamet’s JFK thriller, Assassination. Read more.
Salty Popcorn is 100% free but you can support this independent publication by paying just £5 per month. In return, you’ll be the first to access upcoming premium features.
UK: 21 July // USA: 21 July
The second trailer for Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated new movie, Oppenheimer, is here.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer is an epic thriller that thrusts audiences into the pulse-pounding paradox of the enigmatic man J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) who must risk destroying the world in order to save it; by creating the atomic bomb. The film boasts an all-star cast including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Kenneth Branagh and many, many more.
UK: 8 September // USA: 8 September
From filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos and producer Emma Stone comes the incredible tale and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe).
Hungry for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, Bella grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.
Fact of the week
Here’s a great fact for you. In 2020, one of the largest casts of Hollywood stars ever assembled came together (during lockdown!) to film a movie you’ve probably never heard of…
The star-studded cast featured Jennifer Garner, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Silverman, John Malkovich, Seth Rogen, Sam Rockwell, J.K. Simmons, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Jack Black, Rainn Wilson, Brian Cranston, Andy Serkis… and the list goes on.
So what’s the film? It’s The Princess Bride, or to be more accurate it’s Home Movie: The Princess Bride. A purposefully DIY production that the actors filmed on their phones.
Director Jason Reitman (Juno) came up with the idea at the very beginning of the pandemic and used the project to raise money for the World Central Kitchen charity. But the best part is, you can watch it for free!
Review: Return to Seoul
4 (out of 5)
Where to watch:
USA: Amazon Prime ($5.99)
UK: Select Cinemas
Twenty-five-year-old Frankie (Park Ji-Min) returns to Korea, the country she was born in before being adopted by a French couple, for the very first time. She decides to track down her biological parents, but her journey takes a surprising turn.
The review (NO spoilers):
When a film focuses solely on the stages of one character’s life, it will live and die on the strength of the actor’s performance. In Return To Seoul, that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of Park Ji-Min.
Everything hinges on Ji-Min; she needs to hold the entire film together, which she does with aplomb. She delivers a performance layered with nuance and brimming with confidence, in which she channels the chaotic energy and simmering rage of Freddie. What’s remarkable, however, is not just that Ji-Min delivers such a staggering performance with apparent ease, but that this is her silver screen debut. The fact that this is her first acting role is nothing short of mesmerising.
The entire film focuses on Freddie and her search for who she is and where she came from. A quest that leads to both heartbreak, as she unravels the answers she finds, and healing, as she begins to unpack what those answers mean to her.
The soundtrack, which is perfectly attuned to the energy and mood of Freddie, also deserves a special mention. I can’t recall the last time I watched a film where the score is so intertwined with the protagonist, to the extent that it feels as though they are in control of the music. Every time a needle drops, it speaks to Freddie’s inner monologue and perfectly captures how she feels at any given moment. The soundtrack is lively and energetic when the character is unravelling and serene when she is trying to put herself back together.
Return To Seoul is, at its core, a film about one woman’s search for identity, to find herself and possibly (hopefully) inner peace. It’s a story about someone who is lost, who loses themselves even further, before trying to find themself once again.
While the film gives no easy answers — neither to Freddie nor the audience — it does give you a beautifully crafted character study. Chou has made a film that is as touching as it is tragic with a captivating performance at its heart.
This film will stay with you for days after watching it.
Scroll down to see what’s in the next issue.
If you liked Return To Seoul
2016 | UK: Amazon (£3.49) // US: Amazon ($3.99)
Although I haven’t seen Wild myself, it is a similar tale of self-discovery and follows a strong female character played by Reese Witherspoon. Like Return To Seoul, this film, according to Empire Magazine, is “a quietly moving coming of age story that resists formula or easy redemption, driven by a strong, unvarnished performance.” Sounds like the perfect double bill to me.
In the next issue:
Beau Is Afraid
UK: 19 May // USA: 21 April | Watch the Trailer