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It tells three unique stories of human self-destruction in the modern high-tech era.
For more about Doomsday Book and the Doomsday Book Blu-ray release, see Doomsday Book Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Yim Pil-sung, Kim Jee-woon
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Doomsday Book Blu-ray Review
Three for the price of one.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 9, 2012
Are there Mayans in South Korea? Have they infiltrated that country's burgeoning film industry? With many apocalyptically obsessed people fretting about the upcoming milestone of December 21, 2012, supposedly the day everything comes crashing to some kind of calamitous close, Doomsday Book, a science fiction trilogy positing different scenarios involving the end of some world (more or less), one might as well assume a Mayan influence as much as anything else. Of course, the fact that at least some of the stories in this trilogy are futuristic in spirit if not in overt setting, there may be hope for us after all—at least for a little while. All three of the short films included in this portmanteau have rather cheeky senses of humor, and they all indicate that the obsessive tendencies that have led some people to worry about why Mayans ended their calendar when they did aren't going away any time soon. (There was a great cartoon I saw this year that had the Mayans carving their calendars out of rock and one of them said, "Oh, we're out of stone—let's just stop here". That probably makes as much sense as anything else.) The film had its own kind of precarious bout with existence, initially being planned as a three parter featuring three different directors, but then encountering financing difficulties that put the film in limbo for quite some time. When funding was finally established, the original plan was shelved and the two directors who had already completed their segments worked together to create a third (though only director Yim Pil-sung received official credit on the third piece). The three different segments really have no real through line and even their relation to a supposed apocalyptic theme is somewhat tangential, but they do make for an often funny and even thought provoking triptych.
The three segments in Doomsday Book are:
Brave New World. Those of you who have worried about your kids seeing news reports of e coli and other contaminants entering the food stream and devastating (sometimes actually taking) lives may well have a visceral reaction to Brave New World, a sort of proto-zombie enterprise that uses tainted food as its subtext. Geeky kid Yoon (Ryu Seung-bum) isn't especially pleased when his parents and sister announce they're leaving on vacation without taking him along, since they assume his military duties (which are actually in a scientific wing) wouldn't allow him to leave. Instead Yoon's mother leaves him with a large "honey do" list to take care of while they're gone. It turns out the family seems to be precariously close to hoarding territory, and poor Yoon is left to sort through piles of garbage and some disgustingly moldy food. He manages to get some especially horrid looking food scraps out to a recycling bin surrounded by feral cats, dumping the stuff in and running away. We then are privy to a sort of molecular view of something nasty going on with a diseased apple which, in the following montage sequence, enters the food chain in some feed given to livestock, cattle which is then slaughtered and, irony of ironies, ends up on a plate at a barbecue joint where Yoon has talked a comely young lass named Kim (Go Joon-hee) into accompanying him. Yoon and Kim, along with several others eating the infected meat at the restaurant, then begin morphing into flesh eating zombies.
This segment has an almost surreal quality to it once the zombiefication starts taking hold of the general populace. We get a really frenetic, kind of drug fueled sequence with Yoon at a discotheque where he freaks out and, later, there is a truly bizarre sequence that is like something out of Luis Buñuel film where a news show reporting on the "virus" devolves into one woman screaming Russian while another man plays an ethnic flute. There's a passing reference to Adam and Eve and Genesis in the closing moments of this peculiar little piece that may not make a whole lot of sense, but which adds to the sort of religiosity that is of course at the core of most apocalyptic thinking.
Heavenly Creature. No, this is not some sort of singular reboot of Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, but is in a very real a rather thought provoking companion piece to Alex Proyas' film version of Philip K. Dick's I, Robot. A young, somewhat impetuous computer repairman named Park (Kim Kang-woo) is called out to look at a robot (looking very similar to the one in I, Robot) which is an attendant of sorts at a Buddhist monastery. The problem is that the robot has developed its own innate spirituality and has in fact achieved enlightenment. Neither the computer repairman nor higher ups in the computer firm know quite what to make of this startling development, but they are quite obviously threatened by it.
This is probably the best, or at the least the most thoughtful, segment of the three in Doomsday Book, though it tends to get a little hyperbolic at times, with various proponents and antagonists screaming at each other about the idea of whether or not the robot could have this level of intelligence. As with anything revolving around philosophy and religion, this is an awfully talky enterprise, especially toward its endgame, when the needlessly villainous head of the computer company shows up to "terminate" the enlightened Buddha robot. But there is something very interesting about Heavenly Creature as it explores the dialectic between humans depending on technology and humans being dominated or even threatened by that selfsame technology. There is a rather peculiar little twist at the very end of this segment that I'm not quite sure is trying to say, other than that the tethers between men and technology are tighter and more interwoven than probably any of us care to admit.
Happy Birthday is a decidedly whimsical entry, and one that contrasts with the worry some parents may have when watching Brave New World, as this piece revolves around a child who is worried about how her parents will react when they find out she's destroyed her father's prized 8 ball in the billiards set to which he is seemingly addicted. The young girl, named Min-seo (played for the bulk of this segment by Jin Ji-hee), sneaks into her uncle's room and finds a website to order a replacement, which turns out to be run by aliens who send a meteor sized 8 ball hurtling toward Earth. The segment segues forward two years after the order is placed, to the time when the 8 ball is threatening the planet within just a few hours and Min-seo's family is moving into a bomb shelter they've built.
This is a frankly sort of weird little piece, but it has some laugh out loud moments, especially when it focuses on both some news reporters as well as a sort of QVC Home Shopping Network that is hawking "survival pods" that hilariously malfunction during the sales pitch. By contrast, one of the news anchors goes completely berserk on air, revealing her co-anchor, a married man, has dumped her for a younger reporter at the station. This sort of silliness doesn't play particularly well into the apocalyptic motif Doomsday Book wants to exploit, but it makes for some extremely amusing interplay between the characters. The denouement of this segment isn't particularly satisfying, though it does include some great looking VFX.
Doomsday Book Blu-ray, Video Quality
Doomsday Book is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.34:1. This is a fantastically sharp and precise looking high definition presentation, one marked by an appealing combination of natural film source elements with some expressive tweaking in the DI stage which subtly alters the image at various times. Colors are generally fairly accurate looking, with Brave New World having undergone the most drastic color grading once the zombie hordes start devouring everything in sight. All three segments have some inventive visual effects, and Happy Birthday has some very effective CGI in its closing moments, though some may find it too soft looking for their own particular taste. Contrast, black levels and shadow detail all remain strong and consistent through all three segments. There's one peculiar moment with a background projection toward the end of Heavenly Creature that looks like moiré, but I'm frankly not certain if it's not actually supposed to look like that.
Doomsday Book Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Doomsday Book features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in Korean that has a lot of well done surround activity in all three segments, though Heavenly Creature is by far the least immersive due to it being such a talky enterprise. Brave New World features a couple of standout moments, including the overwhelming disco sequence, where both the bass heavy music as well as Yoon's interior thoughts, careen through the sound field like aural hallucinations. Happy Birthday also manages to recreate the claustrophobic confines of the bomb shelter where the family is staying extremely effectively, with a closed in sound and lack of any real ambient reverb. Fidelity is very strong throughout all three sequences and there's some appealing dynamic range as well.
Doomsday Book Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Doomsday Book Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Doomsday Book may remind some of older anthology series like Rod Serling's Night Gallery, which would frequently have two or three segments filling out its hour. There's really not a whole whale of a lot linking these three stories together, despite the filmmakers' intent, but that's not to say each isn't enjoyable on its own merits. Brave New World is probably the most formulaic, despite its interesting association of tainted food with incipient zombiefication. Heavenly Creature is the most intellectually challenging, but suffers from being too didactic and talky. Happy Birthday is often very funny, but the humor has little to do with the putative apocalyptic focus of this trio of short films. Taken on their own merits and with appropriate expectations, however, there's a kind of goofy enjoyment that each of these offers. Recommended.
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Doomsday Book Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Well Go USA Prize Package - November 28, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Well Go USA are offering three members a chance to win copies of Wu Dang, Kill 'Em All and Doomsday Book. Wu Dang streets on December 4, and Kill 'Em All and Doomsday Book street on December 11.
• Doomsday Book Gets U.S. Release Date - September 10, 2012
Independent distributors Well Go USA Entertainment have revealed that they are planning to release on Blu-ray Korean directors Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung's Doomsday Book. Last month, the film won the Cheval Noir Award for Best Film at the Fantasia International ...
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