Seen in Jeonju

Archive for July, 2011

Officer of the Year (2011)

31st July 2011

officer of the year

The following review was originally written for the August edition Asiana Entertainment, the in-flight magazine of Asiana Airlines. Now published, I am able to post it here as well. As it is an airplane magazine and not a film journal, the reviews must be kept positive. Sometimes, like when I wrote about Dragon Wars and Hearty Paws 2, it was quite difficult and definitely felt like selling out. But in this case, it was not difficult to give the film a good review.  Officer of the Year is a comedy..not my favorite genre.. however it is not a bad film and it turned out that I did not mind watching it. You can view the original article if you are flying on Asiana in August… In September, you can read my review of Mama.

Officer Hwang Jae-seong uses his experience and keen instincts to bring criminals to justice in style. He prides himself on his ability and his arrest record is second to none. However, he may have some unlikely competition in a young rookie from a nearby, rival precinct.  What Officer Jeong Ui-chan lacks in experience, he makes up for in luck and determination.  Trying to fulfill his own ambitions as well as trying to impress his future father-in-law, Jeong attempts to overcome his limitations and innate klutziness to earn the coveted title of ‘Officer of the Year.’

The laughs come thick and fast as the two cops compete to collar the most criminals. However, Jeong and his compatriots at their under-funded, overworked station are outmaneuvered at every turn by the elite forces of Hwang. But then the comedy comes to a halt as a crime, so heinous in nature, changes the atmosphere of the film and forces the two stations to cooperate. Hwang and Jeong reluctantly come to an understanding and form an uneasy alliance as they track a serial rapist who has been slowly amassing quite a list of victims. Although their very different styles of detecting seems like it could cover all angles, it may not be enough to bring a supremely confident criminal mastermind whose modus operandi may leave him immune to detection.

Veteran comedic actor Park Joong-hoon has proven over the decades that he is not merely a master gagman, but also able to handle scenes and scripts that require intense drama. This movie demanded that he call on both of his demonstrated skill sets as Officer of the Year alters its tone from light police comedy to a serious crime/thriller. Park’s co-star in this film is Lee Seon-gyun, who plays the earnest yet inexperienced Officer Jeong, is charged with performing more of the comedy of this film than Park, which is rare for him as he usually appears in dramas and romance flicks. Yet Lee handily shows that he is up to the task and naïve and fumbling portrayal of Jeong is one of the highlights of this film and is warmly endearing.

There is one supporting character that may actually outshine the main actors in his few scenes. It is the character of the harmless but undeniably insane Ko played to perfection by Lee Won-hee.  In any movie Lee Won-hee appears in, no matter how large or small the role, he brings with him an enthusiasm and passion that is a joy to watch as he chews up the scenery and steals the scene. In Officer of the Year, his role is a just a bit part but he shows up sporadically at the police station throughout the film confessing to crimes he did not commit.

Korea cinema has had the reputation over the last decade or so of producing quality, genre-blended films and Officer of the Year is another fine example of this phenomenon. It is a comedy that will bring a smile to your face while it simultaneously proves itself to be a satisfying thriller.  You will definitely find it worth your time!

Posted in 2010s, Review | 1 Comment »

New DVD Releases: July 31-August 6

30th July 2011

meet the inlaws

We have two new comedies for your collection being released onto DVD this coming week. The first is Meet the In-Laws. Directed by Kim Jin-yeong, it stars Son Sae-byeok, Lee Shi-yeong and Baek Yoon-shik.  Number of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean & English/ Rating: ages 12+/ Format: 2.36:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 118 min/ Second disc contains 2.5 hours of extras/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available from August 4.

The second film, Suicide Forecast,  stars Ryu Seung-beom as an insurance salesman attempting to keep his clients alive and co-stars Seong Dong-il. It was directed by Jo Jin-mo.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 124 min/ minimal special features but optiona commentary available featuring the director, producer and cinematographer/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: August 4

Posted in DVDs: New Releases | Comments Off

Index of the 1970s: Choi Dong-joon

29th July 2011

Choi Dong-joon was born on August 25, 1977 in Gimpo, Gyeongi Province.  He majored in art Inha University.  His four films of the 1970s were all co-productions with a Taiwanese film company and are listed as simply Taiwan films on sites such as the IMDb. At the start of 1980, Choi returned to Korea and continued making films. His works of the 80s will be indexed at a later date.

1977choidongjoon, 1978choidongjoon, 1978numberone, sahomartialarts

For other Korean films produced in the 1970s, simply click the tab at the top of the page marked ‘The 1970s’  where they are listed alphabetically by director.

Posted in K-Movie Index | Comments Off

Two of a kind

27th July 2011

spot the differences1

Can you spot the differences between the image on the left and the one on the right? A friend of mine couldn’t earlier this afternoon. He had come into my office, glanced at the promo material for Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild on my desk and asked, “Didn’t you already see Sympathy for Lady Vengeance?“  The colors and images on the poster of the latter film are so instantly recognizable that he had not even noticed that Lee Yeong-ae had been replaced by a chicken.  (Don’t be embarassed Jae-hong…no one reading this knows you ㅋㅋㅋ) .  The Leafie poster above is an alternate, not the main poster, and will probably not be seen very often. 

spot the differences2

Homages–or spoofs if done for comedic effect – are rare.  Oh–there are lots of Korean movies that contain scenes that are meant to spoof earlier movies. That was the whole concept behind 2002’s Fun Movie by director Jang Gyu-seong.  Dachimawa Lee 2007 payed homage to an entire decade of action films– but not one movie in particular. Scenes from Shiri, Nowhere to Hide, Oldboy and Whispering Corridors are reshot in comedies (as well as tv, music videos and commercials) but rarely do we see them depicted on posters of other films. One alternate poster of The Weird Missing Case of Mr. J (2009) references Oldboy, but shows no specific scene from that film.  The Mafia, the Salesman above spoofed 300 when it was released, but searching through alternate posters of films throughout the past decade did not reveal many others.

two of kind 3

Earlier decades had a few homages.  The above film is the animated David and Goliath (1978) whose poster was clearly inspired by Ben Hur. While not a particularly good movie, the poster art does a wonderful job in lovingly representing  and respecting the original work.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Korean Box Office: July 22-24

26th July 2011


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 remains at the top of the box office while the former number two film, Transformers 3 falls to fourth place as the number of screens it was on was greatly reduced to make way for the big budget Korean War film Front Line.  Lee Min-ki’s motorcycle action film Quick, surprisingly, landed in number three with nearly a fifth of the box office totals. This year’s surprise hit, Sunny, finally relinquished the number 3 slot after two months near the top of the box office charts.  The comparitively low budget film wound up attracting more than 7 million viewers sans explosions,  car chases, grandiose special effects or robots. However, it is likely to drop out  of the top-ten next weekend as no less than 11 new films open. Of course, not all of them will make an impact on the box office charts, but with vacation starting for elementary schools, the animations will likely take over the lower tiers. For what is opening this week, just see below.


1. Beast (kr)– Hwang Yoo-shik, starring Jeong Seok-won, Jeon Se-hong

2. Captain America (us)– d. Joe Johnston, starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones <opening as First Avenger>

3. Deep in the Valley (us)– d. Christian Forte, starring Chris Pratt, Brendan Hines

4. Doraemon (jp)– d. Yokiyo Teramoto, voiced by Tomokazu Seki, Yumi Kakazu

5. Gantz (jp)– d. Shinsuke Sato, voiced by Kazunari Ninomiya, Kenichi Matsuyama

6. Leafie: A Hen into the Wild (kr)– d. Oh Seong-yoon, voiced by Moon So-ri, Yoo Seung-ho

7. Link (kr)– d. Woody Han, starring Ryu Deok-hwan, Kwak Ji-min

8. Lost Paradise (jp)– d. Yohimitsu Morita, starring Koji Yakusho, Hitomi Kuroki

9. My Heart Beats (kr)– d. Heo Eun-hee, starring Yoo Dong-sook, Byeon Ji-yeon

10. Patisserie Coin de Rue (jp)– d. Yoshihiro Fukagawa, starring Yu Aoi, Yosuke Eguchi

11. Rio (us)– d. Carlos Saldanha, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway

Posted in Box Office | Comments Off

July 2011 DVD Releases

24th July 2011

Last month I wrote that I thought it was a good idea to post the list of DVDs at the end of each month. However, I think I have to change my mind.  It was much easier to post them weekly.  I’ll go back to doing it that way from next week. In the meantime, here is the list of movies released onto DVD this July.

jul1The first and, in my opinion, the best of the DVDs released in July was Landscape After the War.  It is a collection of four films made between 1955 and 1960.  They are Park Nam-ok’s The Widow (1955), Shin Sang-ok’s Flower in Hell (1958), Money (1958) directed by Kim So-dong and Drifting Story (1960) by Kwon Yeong-soon.  I think it should also be noted that Park Nam-ok was Korea’s first woman director and The Widow was her first film. Number of discs: 4/ Subtitles: English, Korean, Japanese/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 44,000 KRW/ Available from July 6.

july 3

Bleak Night– directed by Yoon Seong-hyeon and starring Lee Je-hoon, Seo Joon-yeong and Park Jeong-yeon featurs the story of disintergrating friendships. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available from July 7.

Hanji– the 101st film directed by Im Kwon-taek.  Starring Park Joong-hoon and Kang Soo-yeon. Although a drama, the movie has the feeling of a documentary as it traces the origins of Korean rice paper (hanji).  Number of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 27,500 KRW/ Available from July 8.

july 4

Last Blossom– Directed by Min Gyu-dong, starring Kim Gab-soo, Ryu Joon-sang, Bae Jong-ok. Number of discs: 3 (the third disc being the OST)/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: Ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 23,100 KRW/Available from July 13.

Shotgun Love– Directed by Jeong Woo-cheol, starring Im Chang-jeong, Kim Gyu-ri. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,000 KRW/ Available: July 13th.

july 5

Here we have two collections of short films. The first is Choncheol Sarlin with various directors and titles such as Line and Richard: the London Exchange Student. However, there are no English subtitles on this set.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available from July 14.

Fantasy Theater, the second collection of shorts is one that I have seen.  The most memorable film was Do You Like Beef?, but I honestly don’t remember much about the others. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available July 14.

july 6

Little Black Dress– directed by Heo In-moo, starring Yoon Eun-hye, Park Han-byeol. A movie of friendship among women as they attempt to find their own place in the world. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available July 14.

Rolling Stars– A new animation featuring an intergalactic baseball team and the main character is voiced by Ryu Deok-hwan.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Ratings: all ages/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available July 13

july 7

Beautiful Legacy– director Kim Chang-man, starring Lee Yeong-jae, Kim Min-soo. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: all ages/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available July 27.

I Am Father– director Jeon Man-bae, starring Kim Seung-woo, Im Ha-ryong, Son Byeong-ho. Number of discs: 1 / Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 18+/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available July 28

Posted in DVDs: New Releases | Comments Off

Supernatural Cats in Korean Cinema

13th July 2011

catRecently, Korean audiences have been treated to the release of a horror film called The Cat. You might not notice it sandwiched as it is between the releases of the overblown Transformers 3 and the much-hyped Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2, however it did manage to squeak by and land at number two in this past weekend’s box office. I mentioned in the post below how cat’s used to be more important in Korean horror films in the earlier decades, but had pretty much faded from view until this year.  I am not talking about a living cat being used as a false scare to make the audience jump, I am talking about honest to goodness ghost cats who come back from beyond the grave to seek revenge.  The Japanese film Juon (and its American remake, The Grudge) was a good example of this where the souls of  Toshio and the black cat seemed intertwined. Few western films deal with cats-as-ghosts, although they often appear in horror film and fiction as familiars to witches.  Pet Semetery (1989) comes close with the zombie cat ressurected from a pet cemetary, but that is not really a spirit and I don’t remember it doing much of anything besides looking menacing. The classic film Cat People from 1944 (and its far less classic 1985 remake) does not really fit the bill either as the cats are not really ghosts, rather a sub-race of humans.  One Canadian film from 1977, The Uncanny starring Peter Cushing talks about the supernatural nature of cats and a French film, Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye (1973) also seems to have a ghost cat, but other than these, western ghost-cats are few and far between. One of the reasons for this may be that cats, frankly are not very scary. If you were a Hollywood director and given the choice of making a horror movie about a ghost cat or a Zuni fetish doll, the doll would win everytime (Trilogy of Terror -1975 Zuni Fetish Doll!!)

bloodthirsty killerHowever, ghostly cats seeking revenge have been haunting Korean cinemas on and off for several decades. I will be giving you a short list of some examples I am aware of.  The earliest of these vengeful cats from beyond the graves seems to be from the 1965 movie A Bloodthirsty Killer (sometimes listed as a A Devilish Homicide) directed by Lee Yong-min.  This movie is not only the first cat/ghost, but it is also the most easily available to see as it was released on DVD with English subtitles. In this movie, we witness as a kind, beautiful and faithful young wife is brutally disfigured and killed by a tag-team comprised of her mother-in-law and her housemaid. The lovely young woman is finally bricked behind a wall with her cat and, later it is determined that the cat fed on its mistress’ flesh to keep alive as long as it could. Their souls appear linked in their quest for revenge against the family that wronged them and the cat ghost possesses the body of the recently slain grandmother for one of the most bizarre and disturbing scenes in any Korean film of that decade– The grandmother with a cat soul giving her sleeping grandchildren a tongue bath as she prepares to devour them…  I really love the poster pictured left with the cat reclining in a robe.

ghost story of joseon dynastyFive years later, in 1970 the master director Shin Sang-ok gave us what may be the greatest cat-horror film ever, A Ghost Story of the Joseon Dynasty. The rather uninspired English title masks a wonderfully engrossing story. I have been lucky enough to see this on tv three or four times over the years, but it is not yet on DVD. In the movie, Yoon Pil-woo is killed by the prince who has falsly filed treason charges against him. The prince framed Yoon for the simple reason that he is lusting after Yoon’s beautiful wife, Ya-hwa. However, before she can be violated by the mad monarch, Ya-hwa kills herself with a knife. As she lies bleeding on the floor, she begs her beloved pet cat to drink her pooling blood and seek revenge for her and her husband. Their souls now joined, the ghost appears as either a monstrous black cat (in one scene a gigantic, almost human sized forearm lashes out at a palace guard–we do not see the whole cat) or as a more traditional long-haired ghost. This film is interesting for another reason. There is a scene in it which called to mind the Japanese film Ring (1998) as it is revealed that the bloodthirsty ghost is living in a well just outside of town.

remodeled beautyFive more years pass and we have another cat-based horror, Remodeled Beauty (1975) directed by Jang Il-ho. Jang is more likely to be known for his melodramatic  films such as  The One Love reviewed here. However, he also gave us one of the strangest of the cat horror films. The KMDb opens its summary of the film in this way: “(O)bstetrician Jeon Dong-kuk’s wife gives birth to a cat baby. Taking a pessimistic view of this, he replaces the baby with a newborn baby in the hospital.”  I love the matter of fact way it is written! I would think that if someone gave birth to a ‘cat baby’ (kitten?) they probably would be a little more than pessimistic.  19 years later, Dr. Jeon encounters the cat woman again as she is going in for plastic surgery to make her look normal. It is here that the film takes a turn towards the supernatural for, as the cat-woman’s face is restored, the young woman Dr. Jeon has raised since infancy as his own, develops cat-like features.  The girls are linked and curing his daughter means disfiguring his biological daughter who is seeking a ghastly revenge for being abandoned.

public cemetary of grudgesThen in 1983, we are given a film entitled The Public Cemetery of Grudges directed by Kim In-soo. While the English and Korean titles of this film seems to associate the movie with the more-famous but mostly catless horror film, The Public Cemetery of Wolha (1967), Kim’s movie is actually a remake of Shin Sang-ok’s A Ghost Story of the Joseon Dynasty listed above. Modernized and with different character names, the basic plot is the same. Wealthy Jo wants So-ya, but she is already married. Jo kills her husband and So-ya kills herself. She instructs her cat to drink her blood and seek revenge. As before, the cat gains supernatural powers. After this film, cats as a source of horror disappeared..until this year. The Cat is now in theaters and if you are in Korea, you have the chance to watch it.  Or, if you are not in Korea, wait a few months and take the chance on the DVD.

Recently, I had been thinking about getting a cat–not a ghost-cat, just a regular old cat.  I visited the Animal Rescue League Korea ( for several months while I made a decision.  Since 2008, I have owned my own house, so I am not at the whim of landlords as to whether or not I can have a pet..and I have lived in Korea since 1995, so I think I am stable enough to offer a good life to one.  Well– I finally came to a decision and adopted an animal from a shelter– a dog though, not a cat. (I decided that my fish would be too tempting for a cat).  I wanted to mention the Animal Rescue League Korea here because, if you are in Korea, they do have lots of adoption possibilities for dogs, cats and rabbits or, if you are in Korea just for a year or two, they offer fostering possibilities.  It is something to look into.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Korean Box Office: July 7-10

11th July 2011


Well, I am back from New Zealand and had a very good time visiting Auckland,  Wellington and points in between.  I also had the chance to view a couple of Korean films on the plane– Detective K and Little Black Dress.  I also learned that at the end of July, the New Zealand International Film Festival will be held. 3 Korean films will be screened: The Man From Nowhere, I Saw the Devil and Yellow Sea. I was a little disappointed with the selection– not because they are bad films, but because they did not choose movies outside of the action genre. 

While I was gone, Transformers 3 opened on well over a thousand screens and took over the box office. Sunny proved itself to be incredibly durable and remained at number two last week and slipped to number 3 with the opening of the Korean horror film The Cat.  Despite not getting very good reviews, I am looking forward to seeing  Cat.  Our feline friends were such a big part of Korean horror films in the 60s and 70s but we rarely see them anymore. I will admit though that the trailer for this film makes it look more like the Juon cat/ghostboy than the earlier depictions of a cat/ghost story.

Opening this coming week is the final installment of the Harry Potter films which I have no doubt will take over the top tier of the box office. That and the ‘also-rans’ opening with it are listed below.


Posted in Box Office | 1 Comment »