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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Critic’s Notebook

Moviegoers line up for a screening at the Ritz East Theater (Photo by Rose Weldon ’19).

Three of the best films at the Philadelphia Film Festival.


Over the weekend, I went to the Philadelphia Film Festival, and watched five features and an order of live-action shorts. Here I’ll discuss three of the best features so far and why people should see them.

“The Villainess,” (“Ak-Nyeo”) South Korea

Directed by Jung Byung-gil

Starring: Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Sung Joon

Synopsis: Assassin-for-hire Sook-hee (Kim) is caught in the act and sent to a government facility to reform and train her for spy work. She gives birth while in the facility, and must keep herself and her newborn daughter safe as her current and past lives begin to clash.

I’ll start with this: “The Villainess” has one of the best opening scenes of any action film. Shot from a first person point of view, it sees Sook-hee eliminate dozens of bodyguards in a scene that looks like “Oldboy” crossed with “Kill Bill.” In technical terms, the movie is a marvel, seamlessly blending computer-generated images with practical stunts and action in a way that avoids over-stylization, which is the film’s best attribute. Every time there is a cut, stab, slice or shot, the audience feels it, and as such I felt a tangible connection to the characters, mostly Sook-hee and her daughter. While some of the action scenes tend to go on a bit too long, the spectacle and story are so mind-bending that one does not care.  All things considered, “The Villainess” is an action thriller that I’d highly recommend and the most likely of this bunch to become a classic.

“Oh Lucy!”, Japan/United States

Directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi

Starring: Shinobu Terajima, Kaho Minami, Shiori Kutsuna, Josh Hartnett

Synopsis: Lonely office clerk Setsuko (Terajima) begins taking English lessons based on advice from her niece Mika (Kutsuna) and develops a crush on her teacher John (Hartnett), who gives her the American name “Lucy.” When Mika and John run off to Los Angeles together, Setsuko sets off with her sister (Minami), ostensibly to find her niece, but determined to find and reunite with John.

The keyword for “Oh Lucy!” is charming. I continually found myself captivated by Setsuko’s dry humor and jadedness. Additionally, it’s such a pleasure to see Josh Hartnett in a good role, as it is John and Setsuko’s chemistry that makes the film work. What could have been a retread of “Hello, My Name is Doris” instead becomes a piece full of humor, feelings and heartbreak. The emotional beats are the highlights, and all of them strike a chord. As such, those who tend to prefer grittier fare are advised to stay away. All that said, though, this is one  I’ll be showing my mother when it eventually arrives on Netflix.

“Gilbert,” United States

Directed by Neil Berkeley

Starring: Gilbert Gottfried, Dara Gottfried, Jim Gaffigan

Synopsis: This documentary follows foul-mouthed comedian Gottfried (best known as the voice of Iago in “Aladdin”), providing a rare look into his personal life and reputation as “the comedian’s comedian.” Additionally, it explores some of the scandals of his career, such as his infamous “Aristocrats” joke in 2001 and 2011 tweets about the Japanese earthquakes that made him lose a position as the voice of the Aflac duck.

Rarely do I get to say this, but this documentary might be the funniest ever made. When there are established comedians like Gaffigan, Bill Burr, Penn Jillette and Whoopi Goldberg providing commentary for why Gottfried is the way he is, there’s no wonder why the humor always hits the mark. In an era where most fans of comedy assume that their favorite performers have a “dark side” or do it to “fill a need,” it’s encouraging to see someone like Gottfried tour around the country doing stand up and return home to a loving wife and two children in a New York apartment. I’ve never been a fan of Gottfried per se, but this made me want to check out more of his work. If you enjoy laughing and don’t object to language or feelings, then “Gilbert” is the documentary for you.

Check back next week for another Critic’s Notebook to commemorate the festival’s conclusion.

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