Seen in Jeonju

Archive for September, 2011

New DVD Releases: Oct. 2-8

30th September 2011

no dvd

Well, there are no Korean movies being released on DVD this week.  But that’s ok. As compensation we have the Busan International Film Festival opening on the 6th!  BIFF (formerly PIFF– the festival finally caught up with the change made to the spelling of the city’s name, a change made more than a decade ago) runs for 9 days from the 6th of October to the 9th. It is one of the premiere film festivals in all of Asia.. and one of the best attended.  If you are in Korea you have no excuse not to head down there and check it out..and when not watching movies or movie stars, you can hang out on the beautiful Haeundae Beach not far from the screening venues.  But plan ahead and buy your tickets early! Movies have a tendency to sell out quickly there.

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Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild (2011)

28th September 2011

posterI wrote the following review for the October issue of Asiana Entertainment and, as the issue was recently published, I am able to upload it here. I will preface it by saying I did not exaggerate… Leafie was a very pleasant surprise and currently stands out in a year of some excellent films such as Sunny and Late Blossoms (I had not seen Silenced at the time of this writing and I am very much expecting the release of The Client this week. The following is a slightly modified version of what I had written for the magazine article:  When I was first asked to review director Oh Seong-gyun’s debut, the animated film Leafie: A Hen Into the Wild, it was with some trepidation that I accepted. As it was an animation, I felt certain that it was going to be childish and it was with some embarrassment that I bought tickets for myself and two friends. Even though I review many older animated films, I would rather watch them at home where I will not be embarrassed… Anyway, we went into the theater expecting to have to endure 93 minutes of nonsense. We left the theater stunned and almost speechless. When we could speak again, we unanimously agreed that this was not only the best animated film we had ever seen, but it was also the best movie we had seen so far this year!

 I hardly know where to begin describing this impressive film which was based on a best-selling children’s story by Hwang Seon-mi. I think the first thing that stood out for me was the backgrounds. There is such an amazing amount of detail in the scenery that each frame is a feast for the eyes. Such care was given to the art in the background that you can easily identify the types of flowers, trees and insects they are meant to be. You can almost feel the breeze or smell the outdoors as you are looking at parts of this film.

The characters too, are lifelike and memorable. The movie focuses on Leafie, a hen who has managed to escape the horrible conditions of an egg production line. After surviving a harrowing encounter with a one-eyed weasel and being rejected by the barnyard animals where she grew up, Leafie is free to wander where she will. Her cheerful nature, naïve character and eagerness to make friends quickly win her a place in the hearts of viewers. Among her friends are a helpful, outgoing but somewhat meddlesome otter and a brave, regal and handsome duck nicknamed ‘Wanderer.’  The enemies she made are the overly proud ornamental hens of the farmyard and the previously mentioned weasel who would gladly make a meal of the vulnerable hen in the wild.

Through a tragic series of events, Leafie becomes the guardian of a duck egg and, eventually, a duckling.  The lifestyle of a chicken is very different from that of a duck, but Leafie was willing to learn and make the sacrifices she needed in order to ensure the happiness of her son. The fact that a hen cannot swim or fly does not stop Leafie and her child although the local waterfowl definitely think the situation odd and in some cases are quite unkind to the pair. However, this film is not a rehash of the fable of The Ugly Duckling. This is a warm and surprisingly realistic tale where the themes of love and sacrifice frequently come into play.

The realism of the film manifests itself in the laws of nature and the rules of predator and prey. This film is not akin to Madagascar or Lion King where the big cats do not hunt and eat the other animals. Instead, it is more like the beloved animated classics like Bambi and Watership Downs where death is not sugarcoated. It is a real threat and plays an important role in the film. In this respect, it is perhaps best that younger viewers see this movie with a parent.

This truly impressive and beautiful movie is destined to be a classic. Plans are already in the works to open this film internationally so a much wider audience will be able to see and enjoy it. Do yourself a favor and watch this film the first chance you get. No matter what your age, you are sure to love it.

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Korean Box Office: Sept. 23-25

28th September 2011


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New DVD releases: Sept. 25- Oct. 1

25th September 2011

meetinlaws dvdcat dvdOctober already?  That was fast… But if it is that time of year, you may be interested in the first of the two films being released onto DVD this week for your Halloween collection. The better- than-average horror film The Cat will be released mid-week.  The Cat is directed by Byeon Seung-wook and stars Park Min-yeong and Kim Dong-wook.  No. of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean & English/ Rating: for ages 15+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running time: 106 minutes + 43 minutes of extras on the second disc/ Suggested Retail Price: 23,100 KRW/ Available: September 28. 

Also possibly being released is the comedy Meet the In-Laws, directed by Kim Jin-yeong and starring Song Se-byeok and Lee Shi-yeong.  No. of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean & English/ Rating: for ages 12+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running time: 118 min./ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: September 29.  The reason I added that it may possibly be released this week is that it appears on the list of dvds for the week, but the image given is the poster, not the dvd. When this happens it often means that there is a slight delay.  I guess we will see later in the week…

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Index of the 70s: Ha Gil-jong

24th September 2011

Arguably the greatest director of the decade, Ha Gil-jong gave us the famous film March of Fools which managed to give a glimpse of how the youth of the era were struggling for a voice despite the extreme government censorship. However, his career was tragically short. He died at just 38 years old after suffering a massive stroke at the end of February 1979. He first feature length film was in 1972 and his last was released at the beginning of February 1979. Besides March of Fools and its sequel, he also directed the sequel to The Heavenly Homecoming of the Stars — the original was directed by Lee Jang-ho and the third in the series was directed by Lee Kyeong-tae.

I had earlier uploaded the first two of his films. These can be seen by clicking the tab marked ‘the 1970s’ and looking for Ha Gil-jong’s name– the directors are in alphabetical order and many films are uploaded there for your viewing.  The thumbnails below can also be clicked to enlarge and read.  Enjoy!

hagiljong 1975 marchoffools, hagiljong 1976 iamlookingforawife, hagiljong 1977 reincarnation, hagiljong 1978 heavenlyhomecoming2, hagiljong 1979 marchoffools2

Up next: Han Heon-myeong…

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Ghastly (2011)

23rd September 2011

ghastlyGhastly opens with a grisly death where a woman seems to have chopped her feet off with a butcher’s knife and bled to death in front of her young son.  The boy’s aunts and uncle come to stay with him at his enormous home.  The boy is understandably withdrawn and lashes out when people invade his personal space with their concern or, as in the case of his classmates, with their taunts. His strange behavior leads him to become suspect in the death of his mother, at least as far as one police investigator is concerned but it also leads to some friction with his younger aunt, a high school student, who is annoyed by his actions and resents the attention he is getting.  Opening an unbelivably large storage area on the premises where the boy’s grandmother kept the tools of her trade, the elder aunt stumbles upon a strange old book depicting scenes of a terrible rite that brings fertility to the couple participating in it.  Now the members of the very disfunctional household are suffering from terrifying dreams and preminitions of their own gruesome deaths. 

Whenever I sit down to watch a horror movie, I go into it with the idea that I am going to like it. I am also willing to put up with a little less quality in a horror movie than I might in another genre, so it has to be pretty bad for me to be negative about it.  Well, Ghastly just about fits the bill.  Although it has a handful of good points, the bad far outweigh any positive aspects.  The good are some of the scenes in the film, particularly the dream sequences where the ghost can be just glimpsed crouched menacingly at the edge of the shadows–just out of range of clear vision. Another intense dream involves a character sitting under a desk and pounding on its underside like he is trying to escape while apparently asleep while yet another dream involving a knife uncomfortably close to a sleeping person’s eye creates a lot of tension.

However, everything else is something of a mess.  To begin with, their are plot holes you could drive a bus through.  I really have to wonder just how the aunt found the body of Bin’s classmate based on a watch and missing person posters.  She had no knowledge of the location and no clues leading her there. There is also the question of why Bin was allowed back in school after lashing out with a pencil at a classmate who had stolen the painting of his grandmother. He would certainly have been suspended. And why was a certain character not locked up at the end of the movie. Even though we know that he/she was possessed by a ghost at the time the killings took place, it would still seem that she/he was responsible. There is no way the police would allow this character freedom at the end of the movie. 

Again, plot holes I could overlook. However, the editing is probably the worst I have seen in a modern Korean film.  There is often no transition between one scene and another and one has no idea how a character got there.  Because of the editing, it was difficult to understand how much time had passed. For example, the grandmother is found in the hospital, barely coherent and with bandages over her ears, yet we meet her shortly thereafter, apparently fine which led me to believe at least several weeks had passed. But the disappearence of a policeman between these two events raises no eyebrows. One officer comments that he is ‘away from his desk’.  But I would have thought more time would have passed based on the grandmother’s recovery.

Speaking of the police, the actor playing the investigator on the case is much too young. His real age is around 25, and he looks it.  There is no way he could have the job he has.  I have nothing against actor No Min-woo who playes the young cop–in fact, I hope to see more of him in movies– but something should have been done to make him look older.  The casting mistakes continue beyond that with T-Ara singer Hyo-min playing a high school student. Although she is by no means old– in her early twenties– she does not look like she is in high school.  Her acting is not bad although a little bit lacking in nuance, but couldn’t the director find an actress that was actually a teenager.  It would have made Hyo-min’s character Yoo-rin seem far less childish while she is pouting over the lack of attention she was receiving if the actress had looked younger.

While I cannot recommend going to pay full price to watch this movie, I would say watch it if you can see it for a discounted price.  It is, frankly, not very good. I probably won’t remember anything about it except for the rather horrible fertility rite, which I liked and found original), and  the ultrasound scene which may very well be the  stupidest thing I have scene in a horror film in a long time.

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Korean Box Office: September 16-18

20th September 2011


Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon managed to reclaim it spot as the leader of the box office charts over Marrying the Mafia 4, but just barely.  In fact, here in North Jeolla Province, the situation was actually reversed and Marrying the Mafia beat out Arrow by 2 percentage points. It will be interesting to see which of those two films will come out on top next week, or if the new film Dogani –which landed in number 5 with just a test opening–will knock them back when it officially opens this coming Thursday.  As predicted, the only new film that opened last week that appeared in the top ten was Shark Night– and I think the only reason it appeared at all was because of the 3D gimmick. Of the new movies opening this week, besides Dogani, the one most likely to appear high in the box office charts is the medical thriller Contagion

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New DVD Releases: Sept. 18-24

18th September 2011

sea and sky

Sea & Sky– directed by Oh Dal-gyun, starring Jang Na-ra and Yoo Ah-in.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 12+/ Format: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0/ Running Time:  145 minutes (which includes 40 minutes of extras)/ Region Code:  All Region/ Suggested Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: September 20th.

Poongsangae– directed by Jeon Jae-hong, starring Yoon Gye-seong, Kim Gyu-ri. Number of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 19+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby digital 5.1/ Running time: 121 min (disc 1)/ Suggested Price: 23,100 KRW/Available: September 21st.

White– directed by Kim Gok and Kim Seon, starring Ham Eun-jeong, Hanwoo Seul-hae.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 19+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ / Running time: 106 min/ Suggested Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: September 22nd.

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Index of the 1970s: Choi Yeong-cheol

18th September 2011

Choi Yeong-cheol began his directing career in 1963 and he continued directing unti as recently as 1991.  During the 1970s, Choi directed 19 films…8 of which I had previously uploaded information about.  These are his remaining films.  Of note is the early 3D film, Ape which is listed on many western websites as among the 100 worst films ever made.  To see the rest of the films directed by Choi or another director in this decade, go to the top of the page and click the tab marked ‘the 1970s’.  There you will see all the films from that era listed by director’s last name.

choiyeongcheol 1974 brand, choiyeongcheol 1974 heukbaekdaegwon, choiyeongcheol 1974 successor, choiyeongcheol 1975 gold madam, choiyeongcheol 1976 ape,choiyeongcheol 1976 bigplot, choiyeongcheol 1976 successorwithablackbelt, choiyeongcheol 1976 thousandfaces, choiyeongcheol 1977 guestinroomseven, choiyeongcheol 1978 specialcommandno8, choiyeongcheol 1979 herecomesdaegeun 

Click the thumbnails to see the full sized image.  Up next..  Director Ha Gil-jong

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One Million B.C., Ttoli (1981)

12th September 2011

ttoli 1 millionTtoli was a character that most Korean children growing up in the late 70s and early 80s would have been familiar with. In  the three 1970s’ films Ddoli was a child who grew up in the wild with his animal friends in the forests of North Korea where he battled against communist plots in no less than three films. However, by the 80s, he was turning up in different time eras such as the Joseon Period in Korean history, the future and one million years in the past in this movie.  Young Ttoli did not begin the film in the past.  He was clearly living in the modern age as his parents are piloting an airplane on the way to visit his grandparents.  They experience a Bermuda Triangle-like situation and are sucked through a vortex to the far past where humans, dinosaurs and pre-human, loincloth-wearing ape-men..oh and advanced aliens, all exist simultaneously. Ttoli’s father survives the crash but is so far from the wreckage of the plane, that he has no idea where his wife and son are. Ttoli’s mother is indeed never seen again, but the infant Ttoli is taken in by a tribe of cavemen. 

The child’s presence causes the already existing friction between the tribe’s chief whose wife want to raise Ttoli and the second strongest hunter who wants to lead the tribe to become worse. When Ttoli kills a baby tyrannosaurus that wandered into his cave, the cavemen all rightly fear reprisal from the adult.  It comes swiftly during the night as the gigantic white dinosaur nicknamed Tyranno attacks the village and kills nearly all the cavepeople including Ttoli’s adopted mother. His father was not present at the time having taken a hunting party out, but when he returns, he takes the surviving cavemen on a mission of revenge from which he does not return.

Orphaned for a second time, Ttoli is taken in by the dimmest of the cavemen who moves away from the village. For several years he raises the child who becomes an adept hunter and inexplicably has bonded with a pterodactyl. He also has made friends with a young cave girl from the village, but when her father recognizes Ttoli, she is ordered to stay away. On that same day, Ttoli is re-introduced to both of his father’s although he does not recognize them at first. His foster father has been wandering around like Captain Ahab hunting the white dinosaur who maimed him. Meanwhile, his real father had been found by a dying race of aliens who bequeathed to him their time-travelling flying saucer which he has been working on while holed up in a cave.

There is a lot more with the ape-men capturing Ttoli’s father and wanting to sacrifice him Fay Wray style to the white dinosaur and an active volcano. However, it has to be kept in mind that this is decidedly a children’s movie. I found it very noisy and the there were plot holes you could drive a flying saucer through.  Just who were those aliens?  They had less than 10 seconds of screen time! Literally, if you blink, you will miss them.  Where did Ptera, Ttoli’s pterodactyl friend, come from and why are they friends at all considering that every other pterodactyl wants to kill the humans? I will not, however, question why the cavemen and the modern humans all spoke the same language… I was grateful not having to sit through another Quest For Fire

I own four or five Ttoli movies on DVD and this is the first one I have watched.  For a Kim Cheong-gi film, the creater of Robot Taekwon V and Ulimae, it was rather poorly animated, but at only 85 minutes, it was tolarable and since Ttoli is a classic character and a major character in Korean animation history, I do not regret watching it and learning more about him. .

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