Seen in Jeonju

Fish men, serial killers, and second chances– Korean movies in theaters this weekend

20th October 2015

The following is the list of films opening for this coming weekend together with their trailers.

In THE EXCLUSIVE: BEAT THE DEVIL’S TATOO a reporter’s mistake while investigating a serial killer puts him over his head in trouble.

The first up is COLLECTIVE INVENTION which features popular model-turned-comedian Lee Gwang-soo as a merman…. sort of… (This trailer has English subtitles)

LOVE IS… has an amazing cast but the trailer does little to showcase their skills. I found a trailer with English subtitles, but they are less than perfect:

For those looking for a little more action, suspense can give THE PHONE a try.

Finally, SPEED follows a group of friends as they transition into adulthood. Despite the comic nature of the trailer– the film is listed as a romance/melodrama..

BLACK IDOLS is the only trailer without Enlish subtitles.

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Scary (2015)

11th October 2015

aka Scary House

aka Scary House

Ghosts in movies often haunt people under 40 years of age. If you are older than three decades old, you might experience a haunting, but not as the main character…and you probably wouldn’t survive your second scene. How refreshing it is then to find a movie where the focus of the paranormal activities in Scary was a somewhat older woman. However, just because she is older, does not mean she is an easy target for forces from beyond the grave. In fact, the pragmaticism that age brings combined with her naturally fiesty nature, makes this lady a formidable opponent.

The story is quite simple. Our unnamed character (played by Ku Yoon-hee) is the new owner of a three story building. While she and her husband will be moving into the top floor, the lower floors will be used for tenants and businesses. On the first floor, they are opening a photo studio. They have started setting it up with manikins of a bride, a groom, and …a ghost? The ghost is the ladies favorite and she takes several photos with it in which she pretends to be terrified of its faceless visage. But later, after her husband leaves on an extended trip, she ventures downstairs again and somehow awakens the ghost in the manikin and the terror she comes to feel is no longer pretend.

I had no idea what to expect when I turned on this movie and I was at first taken aback with how the movie embraces its non-existent budget. At first, I was not sure I liked it, but as time went on, it came across as rather charming. What better way to depict a manikin-ghost than by using an actual manikin. Sometimes it is attached to wires, sometimes animated by stop-motion technology, and sometimes an actor is put in a white dress, wig, and faceless mask for more action-oriented scenes. The simple special effects used for the phantom brought to mind the way ghosts were depicted in Korean movies during the 80s and this is clearly the intention of Director Yang Byeong-gan (who also plays the lead character’s husband). Even the poster is designed to resemble those of horror movies in the 80s. And at times, the sound track does not line up with the lip movements which really completes the illusion that this movie is from another time. None of this seems to be done to mock the movies of the past. Instead if feels like a loving homage.

Director Yang is no stranger to how films were made during the 80s. He started as an assistant director in 1980 to Choi Yeong-cheol with the film Goddess and debuted with his own film, An Ark Shell Lands on Earth in 1985. Never a prolific director, Yang’s last film prior to this year was back in 1994.

Scary is not simply a horror movie. There is a heavy dose of gentle comedy that come from the houseowner’s reaction to the ghost that leads up to a bloodless knife fight against in the basement thatis the is a must-see for its techniqual “ineptness.” Due to the style it is made in, this movie might not be for everyone, but I found myself truly enjoying it by the end.

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Korean films in theaters: Sept. 11th

10th September 2014

Chuseok is over and Thursday it is back to work– for just two days. Thursday is also the day that new movies open in Korea. What’s in store for this weekend?
First up is a sex-comedy starring Choi Seong-gook and Song Eun-chae brought to us by director Kim Ho-joon of Jeni, Juno and My Little Bride fame. The movie’s name via KOFIC is Love Match (although you will find it listed by its Korean name too–which happens to be an English word– Wrestling).

Not in the mood for a comedy? Than take a chance with a horror/thriller/drama called Wicked about what happens when a new employee in an office turns out to be more than a little odd…

KOFIC has not picked an English name for this next film, but Daum is calling it Enthralled.. people uploading the trailer on Youtube went for a direct translation of the Korean title: Toxic Desire: Addiction or a shorter version in some cases.. Toxic Desire. I don’t care what it’s called.. I am just happy to see Hong Kyeong-in (A Single Spark, Piano Man...) back in films.

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Veil (2012)

6th September 2014

veil VEIL– Directed by Jeong Chang-hyeon. Starring Yoo Sang-jae, Kim Kyeong-mi, Lee Yang-hee, Kim Joo-hoo, Jeong Chan-seong and Kim Ma-ri. Running Time 73 minutes. General Release Date: December 5, 2013. (Screened in April 2013 at the Boston International Film Festival)

I stumbled across Veil while searching for something to watch and thought I would give this indie mystery a chance. I knew nothing about this film going into it so I had no expectations. After seeing it, I feel I should write about it fairly quickly–otherwise I may not remember much about it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement? Well, it is not the worst film I have ever watched by any means, and if you can see it on TV then give it a try. But I have some complaints about it which I will get to after giving a brief overview of the story. There will be spoilers below, so be warned.

The story begins by introducing us to the married couple Yeong-shik (Yoo Sang-jae) and Se-jin (Kim Kyeong-mi). However, while there life seems superficially perfect, we soon can see cracks in their wedded bliss. Yeong-shik wants children, but Se-jin placidly ignores his suggestions. She does not seem to have anything against children per se as she works in a day care center, but she appears to have no interest in having one of her own. More troubling for Yeong-shik is that his wife has been going out after work or simply not coming home until very late. Soon she is no longer sharing a bed with him and going out before he even wakes up in the morning. Yeong-shik seeks the help of a psychiatrist. He fears that his obsessive nature has taken over and causing him to be overly suspicious of his wife. He decides he needs proof before he accuse her unfairly and hires a private detective to follow her. The detective finds that Se-jin has been meeting a couple of people, a young artist named Min-soo (Jeong Chan-seong) and a woman with a hard expression called So-yeon (Kim Seung-yeon). Se-jin’s interactions with Min-soo have all the earmarks of the two being lovers, but there is no hard evidence.

Two weeks later, Se-jin is dead.

From this point, narrative moves away from Yeong-shik’s perspective that up to now was how we were primarily seeing the events on the screen. Instead it jumps between the police investigators looking into who stabbed Se-jin and dumped her body in a river, characters’ suspossitions about what may have happened, and the actual events. Therein lies one of my complaints about the film. After watching it I have doubts about the motive behind the killing because I am unsure if a key event actually happened or if it was all in one character’s mind. Maybe it is meant to be like that, hence the name of the film.

The other complaint I have is the heavy use of the sepia filter. I found it very distracting and I kept trying to figure out why it was being used. At first I thought it was for memories, but that turned out not to be the case. Then I thought it was used for scenes showing incorrect assumptions–which may be closer to the intended use, however I would have to watch the movie again to figure that out and I am not sure I want to do that right now.

I had started this review last night but slept before finishing it. I had to pick it up the next day to complete this post. However, that has proven to be a mistake. I am having trouble remembering many details. That may be the strongest complaint I have about Veil.. it is easily forgettable.

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Movies opening September 4, 2014

4th September 2014

Here are the films opening for the long holiday weekend.

My Brilliant Life

Tazza 2

Golden Chariot in the Sky

Splendid But Sad Days

Hill of Freedom

Based on these trailers, if I could only watch one movie this weekend, I think I would choose The Golden Chariot in the Sky. I am sure the first two will be popular and the Hong Sang-soo movie will be beautifully done, but the chariot movie seems more like my style.

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Movies and Music: Insooni

1st September 2014

I don’t usually do much with music unless it is part of an old television commercial. However, I promised a friend and former co-worker who recently left Korea after many years of living here that I would send K-Pop music videos. But there is much more to K-Pop than Psy (ugh) or Crayon Pop (double ugh…). When possible, I will connect to movies so I can make a post about the videos I am sending here. And I thought that I would start with someone I have deep respect for, the Grande Dame of Korean popular music, Insooni.

Insooni’s real name is Kim In-soon. She was born in April of 1957, but being nearly sixty years old has not slowed her down or diminished her popularity. Given her popularity, I probably heard her songs many times after I arrived in Korea in ‘95, but I did not become really aware of her until the song Higher in 2004 with Jo PD, got her a spot on a music program I was watching. Here it is below:

I initially thought that she was from a Western country but was soon informed that she was in fact Korean. Her mother was Korean and her father was an American. Her mother raised In-soon alone. As a young girl, Insooni faced a great deal of discrimination which caused her to quit school after graduating from middle school. She turned to music for comfort and hope. She joined the girl group The Hee Sisters which debuted in 1978 under her stage name Insooni. Here is an example of The Hee Sister’s early style–before they turned to disco. Insooni is the one in the middle:

If you look for Insooni in recent films, you will only find her in a cameo in The Beast and the Beauty (2005) as a jazz bar singer. However, what most people don’t know is that she had the leading role in a 1982 movie. The film was entitled The Black Woman (1982) and was directed by Kang Dae-seon. black woman poster black woman 1982 In this film, Insooni plays Nan, a woman of mixed birth. She falls in love with Hyeon-seok and the two promise to marry. However, he breaks up with her via letter with little explanation. Hating herself, Nan becomes a prostitute (it was the ’80s.. it happened in Korean films all the time. See Winter Wanderer below) and a very popular one at that. She earns a lot of money by focus her attention on ad executives and getting jobs from them. However, she still misses Hyeon-seok and sets out to find him. When she does, she learns that he has gone blind which was the reason he had left her. She forgives him and the two return to their old home together. But (it’s the 80s.. don’t expect a happy ending) when their friends go to meet them and congratuate them on their reunion, the find the ‘happy’ couple has committed suicide together.

Anyway, that was Insooni’s one and only important movie role. Below is one of her latest music videos, from September 2013, Beautiful Girl

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Winter Wanderer (1986)

30th August 2014

Winter Wanderer (aka Wanderer in Winter)– Directed by Kwak Ji-kyun. Starring Ahn Seong-ki, Lee Mi-sook, Kang Seok-woo, Lee Hye-yeong and Kim Yeong-ae. Release Date: April 12, 1986. 120 minutes

On the surface, medical student Min-woo (Kang Seok-woo) seems to have everything. He is from a good family, has many good friends, a bright future ahead of him and, on top of that, he just met the girl of his dreams in Dal-hae (Lee Mi-sook). But things are not always what they seem. For his entire life, Min-woo’s mother had hated him. His father is lying in the hospital at death’s door. And his brother, on his way to a new life in the USA, hands Min-woo a note that that starts the latter on a downward spiral. It seems that the woman who Min-woo believed to be his mother was actually his step-mother. Instead, he is the result of a tryst between his father and prostitute.

Min-woo sets out to learn more about his birth mother and in the process meets his ‘aunt’ Kim Yeong-sook (Kim Yeong-ae) now known as Laura. Laura runs a bar/brothel that caters to foreigners. There he learns that his mother committed suicide after his birth because she could not be with his father as he was already married. Unsettled, he goes to talk to his father about the situation but before he can get much information, he is interrupted by an elderly businessman who bursts into his father’s hospital room. Saving his father from an attack, Min-woo beats the stranger with the old man’s own cane.

This sends Min-woo on the run but he is soon found and arrested. After a short prison term, Min-woo is released to find that his father has passed away. Worse, when he goes home, he finds his house has been sold and his mother has moved away without leaving a forwarding address. Min-woo falls into a deep depression. Referring to himself as nothing more than trash, the young man turns to his closest friend, Hyeon-tae (Ahn Seong-ki).

Hyeon-tae had been introduced earlier in the film as being a couple of years older than Min-woo and is on the verge of graduating from their university with a degree in Business. However, he is a bit of a Bohemian. He spends his evenings drinking and womanizing in a small pub and performing the traditional mask dance as part of his university’s club. He refers to Min-woo as “Pipe Boy” because he would play tradional pipes for the same club and his very close to the younger man. In fact, Hyeon-tae was instrumental in a successful first date between Min-woo and Dal-hae. Hyeon-tae offers to take care of Min-woo, but thinking he is undeserving of such kindness, Min-woo goes to where he believes his destiny lies– the place of his origin– the brothel.

Wrapped as it is in its melodrama tropes, I was actually surprised how dark this film is. There is no redemption for Min-woo once his sinks to a certain level nor can other characters, such as the prostitute Jenny/Eun-young who falls in love with him. Both try to escape from their situations and improve their lives, but success is brief and only partial at best. One could argue that Hyeon-tae turns his life around, but that would not be a vaild arguement as Hyeon-tae was not doing anything that could be deemed illegal. In fact, the film goes out of its way to provide clues of Hyeon-tae’s ‘goodness’ by strongly linking him with the traditional arts and having him inform the audience that he is actually from the countryside and came to Seoul for the education.

Hyeon-tae’s links with traditional Korea and a simpler life are part of a strong undercurrent in the film that the Western world corrupts. This is a common theme in many Korean films from the ’80s. However, that is an incidental. The main theme in this film is the changes that occur throughout life. It is about how dreams, personalities, lifestyles, lovers and even family relationships change over time. The movie is very successful in depicting this especially in later scenes between Hyeon-tae and Min-woo.

Ahn Seongki is good as Hyeon-tae. Kang Seok-woo was a surprise in this film. I have to admit to never noticing him before. He debuted in movies in 1978 in a Kim Soo-yong film Yeosu. He acted fairly regularly in movies up until 1995. Earlier, in 1982, he was cast in a KBS drama called Ordinary People. He liked the small screen and after 1995, he worked exclusively on television. He is currently in the SBS drama A Good Day. Lee Mi-sook was good with what she had to work with, but her character was overshadowed by the other women in the film. Kim Yeong-ae was excellent as Laura and Lee Hye-yeong gave depth to Eun-yeong, making her more than a just a victim of circumstance.

Winter Wanderer is available on DVD with English subtitles.

Ah– and just a short personal note. This is the first time I have posted on this blog since November last year. The reason was partially because I was certified by the Korean gov’t to write national exams last October and I have been doing that work frequently. That often takes a bit of preparation. I also wrote two TOEIC books, one that will be published next month and the other will be available in December. In any case, I plan to write regularly again. I have already updated the ‘filming and awaiting release’ section and listed all the films that were released during my eight month hiatus under the tab marked 2010s at the top of the page.

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50th Daejong Movie Awards

3rd November 2013

daejong festivalThe 50th Daejong Movie Award ceremony was held on November 1st. Here are the results…

Best New Actor: Kim Soo-hyeon (Secretly, Greatly)

Best New Actress: Seo Eun-ah (Jit)

Best New Director: Jeong Byeong-gil (Confession of Murder)

Best Music: New World

Best Special Effects: Tower

Best Costumes: Face Reader

Best Art Direction: Snow Piercer

Most Popular Actor: Lee Jeong-jae (Face Reader)

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Hwang Jeong-soon (actress)/ Jeong Il-seong (director)

Best Supporting Actor: Jo Jeong-seok (Face Reader)

Best Supporting Actress: Jang Yeong-nam (Werewolf Boy)

Best Lighting: Berlin File

Best Editing: Snow Piercer

Best Cinematography: Berlin File

Best Planning: Miracle in Cell 7

Best Screenplay: Miracle in Cell 7

Judge’s Choice Special Award: Kal So-won (Miracle in Cell 7)

Best Director: Han Jae-rim (Face Reader)

Best Actor: Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell 7)/ Song Gang-ho (Face Reader)

Best Actress: Uhm Jeong-hwa (Montage)

Best Film: Face Reader

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Index of the 1970s: Director Lee Shi-myeong

3rd November 2013

Lee Shin-myeong was born in Cheolwon as Lee Il-seong on August 7, 1929. He graduated from Gukmin University with a graduate degree in Political Science. In the early sixties, he started working in the film industry and debuted in 1965 with three films that year. In the decade we are dealing with here, Lee only made 7 films. Information for the first 4 of those had been uploaded earlier and can be seen, along with films from most other directors of that decade, by visiting the tab at the top of the page marked The 1970s. As I ran out of links there, his additional films will be linked under the tab The 1970sB

leeshinmyeong1974 first guest, leeshinmyeong1976 pleasure of life, leeshinmyeong1976 unfortunate woman

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Korean Films in Theaters: Week 45

2nd November 2013


Door to the Night

My Dear Girl, Jin-yeong

Steel Cold Winter

The Weight

Red Family will also open, however it does not appear to have a trailer available as of this posting…

20131106 commitment, 20131106 door to the night, 20131106 my dear girl jinyoung, 20131106 red family, 20131106 steel cold winter, 20131106 the weight

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