Seen in Jeonju

Archive for August, 2011

Korean Box Office: August 12-14

14th August 2011


There was a lot of movement in the box office this past weekend as three new films pushed the long-time place holders downward and in some cases the drop turned into a plummet. Arrow, The Ultimate Weapon… which I think I will just call Arrow anytime I have to refer to it… took the first place position.  Blind came in second but, if you take into account that it had half the number of screens as Arrow, then the former managed to keep pace quite well.  I was a little surprised to see that Smurfs landed in third considering the horrible reviews I had read online and I was equally surprised to see how quickly Front Line has fallen, moving from third to eighth. Next week there are nine new films entering the fray, but The Rise of the Planet of the Apes will probably have the largest impact. The movies opening next week are, as always, listed below:


.hack//quantum (jp)– d. Masaki Tachibana, voiced by Masami Iwasaki

Exit Through the Gift Shop (us)– d. Banksy <documentary>

Helen the Baby Fox (jp)– d. Keita Kono <documentary>

Hong Gil-Dong 2084 (kr)– d. Lee Jeong-in, voiced by Dong-ho, Uhm Seong-hyeon

Jasper (de)– d. Eckart Finberg

Larry Crowne (us)– d. Tom Hanks, starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts <opening in Korea as Romantic Crowne>

One Life (uk)– Michael Gunton, Martha Holmes <documentary>–

Rise of the Planet of the  Apes (us) — d. Rupert Wyatt, starring James Franco, Freida Pinto

Three Idiots (in)– d. Raikumar Hirani, starring Aamir Kahn, Madhaven

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Mama (2011)

14th August 2011

MamaTwo weeks ago, when I posted my article for Officer of the Year published in Asiana Entertainment, I said that in September, my article for the film Mama could be read in that magazine and I would repost the article here. However, while that review will still be published, I decided to write a separate one for here. That is because the editor of the airline magazine asked me to focus on “Korean motherhood from the point of view of a foreigner.”  There are so many things that irk me about that sentence… First of all, I critique and review films. It is not my intention or desire to do the same with a culture. Secondly, I am not qualified to to make such observations and loath making that kind of generalization. And finally, I have lived here nearly 20 years now– I have been here nearly as long as my students at the university have been alive. I hate that people think of me or my ideas as ‘foreign’.  Well, I wrote their article, minimizing the focus to more of a universal definition of motherhood, but I will write a fresh opinion for here.

Mama is a film featuring Uhm Jeong-hwa, Kim Hae-sook and Jeon Soo-kyeong in roles of mothers. These charaters never interact and their stories could have been told separately in an omnibus. Instead however, director Choi In-hwan (Whispering Corridors 4: The Voice) chose to weave back and forth between the characters’ stories showing similar problems in different lights. One of the main differences between the charaters is finacial.  Jeon Soo-kyeong’s character Hee-kyeong is wealthy and famous and has just about everything money can buy. However, she does not have the respect of her own adult daughter who lives with her along with the latter’s husband and daughter. Kim Hae-sook plays Ok-joo, a sweet if not necessarily bright woman who is absolutely devoted to her son Seung-cheol who pretends to be an English teacher when he is actually a gangester.  There relationship is treated in a warm and loving manner by the film and it provides the most laughs due to its comedy and smiles due to its warmth.

Uhm Jeong-hwa plays Dong-sook, a single mother living on the edge of poverty but working hard at many jobs to support her sickly son. Her character is active and seems to be full of life as she has a smile for everyone. However, she faces the worst challenge of her life when she is diagnosed with a disease that will almost certainly prove fatal. While she is not worried about herself, she wonders who will take care of her son. The other two mothers face their challenges too. Ok-joo must have surgery that she feels will make her less of a woman and she decides that she would like to meet her highschool sweetheart before that happens. Hee-kyeong is coming to the end of her career and begins to feel frustration at her daughter who has never shown any sign of personal ambition.

At first, I was annoyed with the movie which seemed to try to be overly sentimental too early into the story. Without developing the characters, the script was trying to force tears by perhaps depending on the audience’s nostalgia for their own childhood. In my case at least, that did not work. However, once I have gotten to know the characters a little more, I did feel for them— although not as much as the film obviously meant me too. I was not weeping at the end of every little conflict.  I saved that for the conclusion of the film where I challenge anyone to have a dry eye. The penultimate scene is genuinely moving and I absolutely loved the way the director left the end which could go one way or the other–depending on the viewer. I don’t want to expand on that though until more people have had a chance to see the film.

Uhm Jeong-hwa does a good job but her early scenes suffer because of the script which clearly intends for her life to be a tragic soap opera. Ok-joo and her son (played by the excellent Yoo Hae-jin) were my favorite pair to watch together but I think the best acting actually goes to Jeon Soo-kyeong. I was unfamilar with the actress but later learned that she has a lot of experience on the musical stage. Her voice is amazing when we finally here what she can do in the auditorium.

All in all, I would recommend this film. It is a nice movie that tries a little too hard to a tearjerker. For the most part it is not, but you still might want to have a box of tissues ready for that final scene.

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New DVDs: August 14-20

13th August 2011

sinof thefamilySin of a Family– Only one new Korean DVD is being released in this coming week.  It is Min Byeong-jin’s independent film Sin of the Family which originally screened at the 2010 Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. It had received a general theatrical release this past spring, but it was seen by less than 5000 people nationwide. The movie stars Shin Heon-joon, Jeon o-min and Wang Hui-ji.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 98 min./ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: August 18

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K-film Index: 1970s- various directors

8th August 2011

Here are some more films produced in Korea in the 1970s.  This is a mixed set of different years and directors.  To see more films from this decade, just click the tab marked ‘the 1970s’ at the top of where the movies are listed by director. Other decades will be indexed eventually…

choiinho rundontwalk1976, choiwooyeong entergameofdeath1978, hanharim iron0071976, i have to live yoon jeong soo, janghyeonsoo barefooteoksoon1976, jeonseongbae spiritinthefog, season of blooming love, songjeonghoon treasureisland, too young to yoo gi chang kang daejin

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Korean Box Office: August 5-7

8th August 2011


Depsite the horrible reviews the movie has been getting, including my own, Sector 7 wound up in the first ranked tier this past weekend as predicted. The vastly superior Front Line was knocked back to third. Surprisingly, Quick was able to maintain its position during the shuffle and the animated film Leafie: a Hen into the Wild rose one level from the previous week. I am not surprised to see the new ghost film Gisaeng Ryeong opening near the bottom of the chart.  The film has a rating for viewers over 18 which effectively cut out most of its potential audience and the trailer made the film seem somewhat stale– it could have been any number of horror films we’ve seen before. I’ll give it a chance when it comes to tv, but I won’t pay the theater prices for it.  Below are the movies opening this coming week.


Blind (kr)– d. Ahn Sang-hoon, starring Kim Ha-neul, Yoo Seung-ho,kr

ChoiJongByeongGi Hwal (kr)– d. Kim Han-min, starring Park Hae-il, Ryu Seung-ryong

Clash (vietnam)– d. Le Thanh Son, starring Johnny Nguyen

Cowboys and Aliens (us)– d. Jon Favreau, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford

E.T. (us)– Yes, that ET from 1982–it is getting a re-release for the summer

Gantz: Perfect Answer (jp)– d. Shinsuke Sato, starring Kazunari Ninomiya, Kenichi Matsuyama

 Sarah’s Key (fr)– d. Gilles Paquet-Brenner, starring Kristin Thomas, Melusine Mayance

 Smurfs (us)– d. Raja Gosnell, starring Neil Harris, Jayma May

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New DVDs: August 7-13

7th August 2011

hwechoriThere is only one film being released this week in DVD format, but I know very little about the story. It did not get a wide release in theaters.  The box of the dvd compares it to the likes of The Way Home and Scandal Makers most likely because it features a child vs guardian theme.. in this case a young daughter trying to straighten out her father.  The movie’s title is Hwechori..according to KOFIC, no international English title has been assigned… and it was directed by Park Gwang-woo and stars Jin Ji-hee & Ahn Nae-sang. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean only (according to the promo material, no English subs are listed)/ Rating: for ages 12+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: dolby digital 5.1/ Running Time: 104 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000KRW/ Available from August 10.

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Sector 7 (2011)

5th August 2011

sector 7

Sector 7 opened yesterday. A 3D-optional, action/adventure film featuring Ahn Seong-gi, Ha Ji-won and Oh Ji-ho battling a monster-from-the-deep aboard an offshore oil rig, this movie seems to have the recipe for success. What could go wrong?  Apparently, quite a bit…

water bearPerhaps I should start with the good.  The special effects were very well done.  Now, I did not see the movie in 3D, so I cannot comment on that aspect of the film, but the CGI monster was very appearance anyway. In fact, it reminded me a lot of a water bear (pictured right).  Water bears are extremely hardy, primitive animals found in the deepest oceans and in the highest mountains. Nasa sent some into the airless vacuum of space and not only did they survive, but they reproduced. The hardiness of a water bear is pretty much the only way to describe the durability of the monster in this film. You can shoot it, chop it, burn it and crush it, but it just keeps coming. The only difference is that water bears are less than a millimeter long while the monster in the movie seems to be about 4 meters. (and it is a little sad that I would rather write about water bears than this film…)

While the look of the monster was good, we had to look at it far too much during the movie. Once it makes its official screen debut in all its slimy glory, we can’t get rid of it. It would have been nice to have some time with it offscreen to give a chance for the script to develop some of the characters. Nor did we need to see each killing as it occured. It would have been just as effective to view the aftermath of the monster’s attacks once in awhile.  In fact, the only place we do not see the creature is on any of the posters advertising the movie.  I can fix that with the aid of the photo of my friend the water bear above. 

sector 7 b

There we go.. that’s a more accurate depiction of the film…

The actors do what they can with this movie, but the script does nothing to help them. Hae-joon (Ha Ji-won) is inconsistantly written. At times she is a tough, no nonsense laborer who is ready to fight at the drop of a hat and chase down a suspected murderer. But other times she seems screams like she’s in a slasher flick.  I also found her reason for staying on the oil rig unrealistic and detracted from my opinion of her. But at least her character had a personality. Did Oh Ji-ho’s character Dong-soo have any lines that strung more than 10 words together? I can’t remember. I do remember Ahn Seong-gi’s mid-movie revelation. It comes out of left field and marks the point I would identify as the downward turn of the film.  Oh–now that I’m thinking about it, that point might have been where we are given a montage of things that I am sure you are not supposed to do on an oil rig. I won’t say too much about it except, if you don’t want to shell out cash for the motorcycle-action film Quick now doing fairly well in theaters, this sequence is probably the next ‘best’ thing. The worst part of all comes when the film tries to force sentimentality on us at the very end. At no point did I have an emotional response to the characters or identify with their feelings.

Actually, I have no doubt that Sector 7 will be number one at the end of this weekend… and I would have seen it myself even if  after reading a review like this–but it is hard for me to recommend this movie unless you are just looking to watch a film where you can turn off your brain and just watch events unfold. Heavy on action, light on plot..att the very least, you won’t be bored.

Pick one!   One link is a short Youtube video about Water Bears!  The other is the website of Sector 7.  Choose wisely.

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Korean Box Office: July 29-31

2nd August 2011


Front Line and Quick both moved up in the ranks this week and were nearly neck-in-neck, taking the numbers one and two spots with just a mere .4 percent separating them.  As a month of summer vacation is now starting for elementary school students, lots of animated films are now in the box office- and four of them made it into the top ten. Leafie, a Hen Into the Wild took the lead among the cartoons and landed in 5th. (Last week it was in tenth place when it had a limited opening, but its official opening date was this past weekend which is why it is listed as ‘new’).  I always know when vacations starts because either a Doraemon or a Detective Conan movie opens.  Doraemon is here already, bringing up the bottom of the box office and Conan is opening this coming weekend. But far more important as far as the box office is concerned is the opening of Sector 7.  I have heard that it is very ‘Hollywood-ish”– heavy on special effects, light on plot– but I have a feeling that it will be ranked first next weekend.


Detective Conan (jp)– d. Yasuichiro Yamamoto, voiced by Minami takayama, Wakana Yamazaki

Gisaeng Ryeong (kr)– d. Yang Yoon-ho, Ko Seok-jin, starring Han Eun-jeong, Hyo Min

Sector 7 (kr)– d. Kim Ji-hoon, starring Ha Ji-won, Ahn Seong-gi

Super Hybrid (us)– d. Eric Valette, starring Shannon Beckner, Oded Fehr

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