Seen in Jeonju

Archive for November, 2011

New DVD Releases: Nov. 20-26

20th November 2011

Last week was an excellent time to buy DVDs and this coming week sees the release of some films that may be well worth owning.  One of them was this year’s first surprise hit, Sunny.


More than 7 million people watched this movie nationally at the time of its release in theaters. This three disc set contains both the theatrical release and the Director’s Cut. I wonder if this accounts for a discrepancy in the rating listed on the promotional material for this DVD and the rating for the theatrical release. The movie was rated for ages 15+, but the promo material for this DVD set has it rated for 18+… I do not know if it is a misprint or if the Directors Cut contains material that makes it unsuitable for younger viewers..

SUNNY:  Director Kang Hyeong-cheol, starring Ko Soo-hee, Kim Min-yeong, Kim Seon-kyeong. Number of Discs: 3/ Subtitles: English & Korean/ Rating: 18+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Doby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 124 (theatrical), 135 (director’s cut)/ Suggested Retail Price: 26,500 KRW/ Available: November 24


Pictured above left is the animated omnibus If You Were Me: Anima Vision 2. Number of Discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean & English/ Rating: all ages/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 126 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: November 24

The other film listed above is Sagwa starring Moon So-ri, Lee Seon-gyun and Kim Tae-woo & directed by Kang Yi-kwan.  Number of Discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running TIme: 107 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: November 24

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The Story of My Life (2011)

17th November 2011

lifemovie_poster_webI just finished watching The Story of My Life which had opened in theaters this past June.  Missed it in theaters? Don’t worry, you were not alone. The movie opened on just 42 screens around the nation, twenty of which were in Seoul. In Seoul, it sold 189 tickets and its total ticket sales for the entire nation, including Seoul was.. 189 according to KOFIC box office records.  I guess that makes me a part of a very small group of people who have taken the time to take 100 minutes out of my life to watch this film. According to its listing on Daum, this movie is a drama/musical and this influenced my decision to watch it. Korean musical films are few and far between.. in the last decade, I can name only three offhand. But the word ‘musical’ is a little misleading in this case. While there is a partial song here and there, music is a very small part of this movie. Instead, it is a film about the ‘real’ making of a stage musical. I did not mind the idea of watching a semi-documentary about the making of a live musical– it sounds pretty good in fact. Musical theater in Korea is fairly active and I know very little about it. (I looked into going to one here in Jeonju just last month, but the cheap seats were 90,000 KRW each so I decided against it…) But this movie is not really a documentary either. In an early sentence, I opted to put the word real in quotes; the poster pictured here used parentheses justifiably bringing into the question the idea that “real” means “actual.”  I will explain…

The Story of My Life is the name of an actual stage musical and it really does star Lee Seok-joon and Lee Chang-yong who appear in the movie as well playing themselves. The musical is also directed by Shin Choon-soo who both directed the movie and appears in the film as well. I suspect this is where the true situation ends and fiction takes over. Actors Shin Sang-rok and Jeong Seong-hwa are cast in the movie as the alternates of the main characters. Although the two are more famous for television dramas, both are quite capable of singing and in the past few years have been doing a lot of live musicals. Jeong started in comedy and moved on to dramas and these days primarily does musical stage. Shin, probably the most recognizable face for viewers who exclusively watch tv and movies, also frequently does stage and proved that he has a singing voice when he released a single back in 2003. The pair starred in a production called Musical Hero back in 2009. I don’t really see either as understudies in real life– they would more than likely be cast as the stars.

The four actors and the director come together to start rehearals for the musical and it is quickly apparent to all that things are not working out. They are awkward around each other and, even though they are supposed to be playing best friends, there is no friendship between them. In fact, several of them don’t respect their colleagues and either complain about them or ignore them completely when off set. The two main characters have personal issues interfering with their work as well– a crumbling romance and the death of a teacher for starters– and it appears that this musical project will never get off the ground.

In some ways, the movie can be compared to a male version of the recent film Actresses in which a group of Korean actresses who can barely tolerate each other eventually find common ground and not only manage a photoshoot, but forge the bonds of friendship as well. However, while Actresses received substantial praise, The Story of My Life was ignored. I am sure that one of the reasons for this is that Actresses contained all well-known film talents playing themselves. The male cast of the The Story of My Life are relatively unknown. Another reason crossed my mind, but it seems so cynical that I almost want to dismiss it– but the making of this movie showing the making of a musical that is currently on stages made it seem like a marketing ploy. Was this movie made to simply raise interest in the musical.

Of course the cast does eventually come to understand one another and become friends. And the end of the movie is very touching that it did bring a ‘feel-good’ tear to my eye. However, I failed to react to most of the other times the films tries to get emotional as those scenes felt forced. They might have worked if I knew more about the characters/actors involved in them. The best scenes are the all-too infrequent moments when they are singing.

I will not say ‘do not watch this film’ as I did like it for some of the performances, however I would have a hard time recommending it as well. Interest in this kind of movie is limited for a reason. Your reaction to it will depend how much interest you have in a fiction-passing-as-factual account of the making of an musical.

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Trailers for Korean films: November 17

15th November 2011

Now that I know how to post trailers, I can show the Korean films that are opening this week in one convenient place.  This week, five Korean movies will be opening in theaters.  First up is a documentary about cats called Dancing Cat.  The trailer I selected is the more upbeat of the two available as the film looks at the plight of stray cats in Korea. As a documentary, it will be receiving a limited opening.

Next is Secrets, Objects, a film directed by Son Gwang-ju and starring Jang Seo-hee, Jeong Seok-won and Lee Pil-mo

A third movie, called Characters, has no homepage or trailer and the fourth film, while it has a trailer, has no English name as of this writing. In Korean it is Wonbyeokhan Partner. It is about a forty-year old teacher who begins an affair with one of her students. Starring in this film are Kim Yeong-ho, Kim Hye-seon and Kim San-ho. It is directed by Park Heon-soo

I am probably looking forward to seeing the most out of the ones listed here. The film is called Ryangkang-do, Merry Christmas, North! Perhaps you know that there are some South Korean organizations that send balloons with messages and presents over the border into North Korea. This story is about what happens when a child includes a toy robot.

Finally, we close with another documentary– The Forgotten Bag.

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Korean Box Office: November 11-13

14th November 2011


The new movie Immortals proved itself by landing in number two, forcing Real Steal down a notch, but it was unable to displace the surprise powerhouse of the autumn, Punch which is well on its way to four million viewers. The new Korean films, You’re My Pet and Penny Pinchers, fared well on the list, but had rather lackluster percentages and will likely fall to the bottom of the top ten next week as many new films open this week.

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Index of the 1970s: Im Kwon-taek

13th November 2011

During the ten years comprising the 70s, the prolific director Im Kwon-taek directed 39 films! I have already posted the information for 20 of these. Listed here are nine more and the rest will follow.  Click the thumbnail and enlarge to see the full image. To see the rest of his films from this decade, and other directors’ as well, just click the tab at the top of the page marked ’The 1970s’ and choose a title.

imkwontaek  1974 paradeofwives, imkwontaek 1974 iwontcry, imkwontaek 1974 yeonhwa, imkwontaek 1975 whydididothat, imkwontaek 1975 yeonhwa2, imkwontaek 1975 yesterdaytodayandtomorrow, imkwontaek 1976 barefootinthesnow, imkwontaek 1976 longestsummer, imkwontaek 1976 wangshibri

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New DVD Releases: November 13-19

12th November 2011

I hope you’ve been saving your pennies because this coming week there are several DVDs being released that will be well worth owning.

front line

Winner of the Grand Bell awards, Jang Hoon’s FRONT LINE starring Shin Ha-gyun, Ko Soo and Lee Je-hoon is now available.  Number of discs: 3/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 133 min, second disc 78 min, third disc is the OST/ Suggested Retail Price: 23,100 KRW/ available: November 16

blindBLIND– Director: Ahn Sang-hoon, starring Kim Ha-neul, Yoo Seung-ho  Number of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 18+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 111 minutes plus 58 minutes of extras/ Suggested Retail Price: 23,100 KRW/ Available: November 16

leafieLEAFIE: A HEN INTO THE WILD– one of the best animated films I have seen in a long time.  Directed by Oh Seong-yoon and voiced by top stars Moon So-ri, Yoo Seung-ho and Choi Min-shik. Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: all ages/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 93 minutes plus 24 minutes of extras/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: November 16.

drifting awayThe first DVD in the image on the right is DRIFTING AWAY directed by Kim Dong-won and starring Lee Kyeon, Ko Joon-hee and Shin Dong-mi.  Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dobly Digital 2.0/ Running Time: 78 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: November 17. 

The second disc in the image is EIGHTEEN directed by Jang Geon-jae and starring Seo Joon-hyeong and Lee Min-ji. Number of discs: 2/ Subtitles: Korean and English/ Rating: ages 15+/ Format: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 96 minutes/ Suggested Retail Price: 25,300 KRW/ Available: November 17

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Just Testing…

10th November 2011

korean old CF064     I am just testing to see if I can upload movie trailers.  So far, I have learned that I can only upload 4MB of video. The trailer I tried was 8MB so now I am trying an old commercial– one of the earliest Korean animations from around 1960 or 61…and ad for Jinro Soju.   I have no idea if this is going to work….

Ok– well the video seems to have been uploaded, but the image does not show up. If you click the above though, it will open whatever media player you use and it should show the commercial.  It worked for me and it might be a useful feature to show short movie trailers of new release.

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Don’t Look Back (2006)

8th November 2011

74920This past weekend, my friend suggested that we watch one of my DVDs. He mentioned that he hates horror films but anything else was ok except that he was not in the mood for anything depressing. After browsing through the movies I have, he pulled out this film. I was a little surprised and asked why he wanted to see this.. It contains no action, has no famous performers and is basically an unknown, arthouse film which I thought he would have no interest in as, in the past, he has raved about such movies as Avatar and the Transformer series. “Why” I asked, “did you pick this?” “Because everyone looks so happy on the cover,” came the answer.  Ah, Gi-wook…haven’t you learned to read the back of the DVD box?  Tweaking the old adage a little, ‘never judge a DVD by its cover.’  True, the people on the cover look happy and every poster made to advertise the film at the time of its release shows the three main characters smiling brightly. However, that is only the cover. The movie, an omnibus made up of three short stories, contains a suicide, a character considering suicide, a stagnant life, a failed romance, a crushed dream, a dead marriage and the lead up to a probable double murder.  

The first story is about twenty-one year old Jeong-hee who lives with her older sister.   They were abandoned by their father fifteen years earlier and the sacrifices that the pair have had to make in order to survive left them with very different characters. The sister is a little on the mousy side and has turned to religion to find her strength. In contrast, Jeong-hee has developed a very tough exterior and could be considered rather selfish. When her sister wants to move to a better apartment, Jeong-hee whines, drags her feet and ultimately forces her sister to take the one and only place they look at with disasterous results. She also lashes out at her father when he reappears at her sister’s request with tragic results.

In the second story, we spend time with poor, likable Geun-woo who is having trouble at work. His place of employment is caught up in a labor dispute, but that is a little beyond his ability to comprehend. In fact, that barely holds his interest. He is far more interested in the girl in the pink dress whom he has been eavesdropping on with telephone testing equipment. He has been listening and watching her romance with another man as if it were a televised soap opera and he can barely stand it when when she is told by her lover that he wants to break up. After beating up the other man in a singing room, he summons up the nerve to introduce himself to the girl in pink. It is the most awkward intro ever and becomes even more uncomfortable as we realize the woman of his dreams is nothing like he imagines her to be.

The final story is about In-ho, a man who has joined the army later than most. After two years doing his mandatory military service, In-ho is now on the verge of re-entering society. However, it seems society did not wait for him. People have grown and changed while he was gone. His wife is now a professor as is another acquaintance he new in grad school. One friend jokingly states that it seems everyone is a professor now except In-ho which leaves a bitter taste in In-ho’s mouth.  Worse, his suspicions about his wife meeting another man are confirmed when she confesses to him. She strongly implies that she will not be there when he is finally discharged. In-ho’s sullen expression and underdog demeanor hid a growing frustration and resentment that seems about to explode.

When watching this movie it is extremely important to listen to the radio announcer. She often is filling in events that we did not see in other stories such as the fire Jeong-hee sets, a certain person’s suicide and a strange incident that police are uncertain was an accident or a double suicide. We know better..but it is helpful to realize that Naejeong Mountain is in Jeongeub. 

In the last story, I pointed out to Gi-wook about the radio news and how it was linking the story and he made me pause the DVD as he excitedly processed the information and was able to guess how the characters’ stories conclude, particularly In-ho’s story,  even though we never see it on film. It turns out that he loved a film that made him think to find the answers rather than just being able to turn off his brain and watching the action unfold on the screen. “Now I know why you like indie films,” he said and wanted a list of other movies I could recommend.

Don’t Look Back is that kind of eye-opening film and is a great way to spend two hours. Just don’t be fooled by the happy posters or DVD slip-cover. I don’t think there was a happy character in the entire film…

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Korean Box Office: November 4-6

7th November 2011


Last week I wrote that with all the new movies opening, there was sure to be a major shake-up in the box office. Well, that turned out to be partly true. Six of the top ten films in this week’s box office rankings are new, but they were unable to dislodge the top two films, Punch and Real Steel which spend their third week in the numbers one and two positions. In fact, Punch has once again increased the percentage of the box office it earned. It went from taking 29% of the total viewers when it first opened, to 39% last weekend and now it has moved up to taking 45%.

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DVD Releases: October 30-November 5

2nd November 2011

linkUsually I do this at the beginning of the week, but preparing a daily post leading up to Halloween made it difficult– I really have learned to respect people who can do multiple or daily posts on a regular basis…  Anyway, there was only one DVD of a Korean movie to be released this week, LINK starring Ryu Deok-hwan and Kwak Ji-min. However, like the majority of DVDs put out last week, this film has not been given English subtitles! Is this a new trend where the smaller, indie films or those that did not do well in the box office tallies will not be subbed? I guess time will tell.  Here are the details of the DVD: Number of discs: 1/ Subtitles: Korean/ Rating: Ages 18+/ Format: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen/ Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1/ Running Time: 105 minutes/ Recommended Price: 22,000 KRW/ Available: November 2nd.

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