Saturday, April 17

Tag: South Korea

Review: Space Sweepers (2021)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Space Sweepers (2021)

South Korea's film industry hits another new height with their first space opera, Space Sweepers, directed by blockbuster specialist, Jo Sung-hee (Phantom Detective). Assembling a band of cheeky space misfits, Guardians of the Galaxy style, this sci-fi bonanza puts together unprecedented ensemble of casts in a dystopian space adventure. The star-studded casts to thrive among the stars ranging from Song Joong-ki (the director's collaborator in A Werewolf Boy and star of popular drama, Descendants of the Sun), Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden), Jin Seon-kyu (Extreme Job), and Yoo Hae-jin (A Taxi Driver) with a special performance from Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy). (more…)
Review: The Call / 콜 (2020)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Call / 콜 (2020)

There's a mysterious phone that can connect people from different time and space. Will it do more good than harm? Or otherwise? That would become the underlying questions posed by writer-director, Lee Chung-hyun, in his thriller, The Call, adaptation of a 2011 Puerto Rican-British movie, The Caller. To provide hints for the answers, he pits Park Shin-hye (recently excels in #Alive) against Jeon Jong-seo (the breakthrough star of Lee Chang-dong's Burning) in a vengeful, almost sophisticated battle that intertwines two different timelines in the process. (more…)
Review: Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 / 82년생 김지영 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 / 82년생 김지영 (2019)

It’s a myopic world we live in. Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, adapted from a 2016 book of the same title by Cho Nam-ju, observes how the world has become one. The story unravels how deep-rooted patriarchal culture has somehow blurred our visions with its inherent threat. In South Korea, where the story takes place, the book has stirred up some controversies due to its direct portrayal of the explicit sexism in the country; but, that doesn't stop director Kim Do-young from adapting it into the screen and presenting the story as it is. Jung Yu-mi portrays the titular character, Kim Ji-young, a housewife struggling with her maternal routine. Her story is never a linear one; there's barely a plot that binds it all together. When she married her husband (Gong Yoo, Train to Busan) and eventually...
Review: The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos / 나쁜 녀석들: 더 무비 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos / 나쁜 녀석들: 더 무비 (2019)

From the exhilarating Extreme Jobs, the hard-boiled The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, to the buoyant Miss & Mrs. Cops, recent South Korean blockbusters love to see cops defying the procedure and delving into the grey area to get their job done. Son Yong-ho's The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos attempts to capture the zeitgeist and reuse the working formula to score another hit. With cartoonish characters and an over-the-top presentation, the end-product feels like a combination of many other hits. Adapted from the 2014 TV series, Bad Guys, you should not find it surprising that the premise is Suicide Squad-sy. Kim Sang-joong reprises his role in the series as Oh Gu-tak, an ambitious detective who will use any means necessary to catch criminals, even when it ambiguously blurs his moral lin...
BALINALE Review: Burning /  버닝 / Beoning (2018)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

BALINALE Review: Burning / 버닝 / Beoning (2018)

Lee Chang-dong's Burning challenges audiences with a mesmerizing narrative, which feels surreal and actual. At times, it might resemble a murky thriller or simply a baffling mystery; at some other times, it transcends the ordinary romance and documents the country's inherent poverty issues. The narrative never settles in one trajectory; but, that might possibly be the movie's luxurious vehicle to become one of the most absorbing movies in recent history. Loosely adapted from Haruki Murakami's short story, Barn Burning, Chang-dong surprisingly treats the movie like a visual breakdown of Murakami's style. The detail of it might be a story for another time. Burning depicts Murakamian lonely people adeptly in a story that feels dreary, sensual, and jazzy at the same time. The narrative tre...
Review: EXIT / 엑시트 / Eksiteu (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: EXIT / 엑시트 / Eksiteu (2019)

In his directorial debut, Lee Sang-geun builds a solid survival actioner on the foundations laid by classic action flicks like The Towering Inferno, Die Hard and versatility of MacGyver. It's a familiar story about ordinary people striving to stay alive in such a dire situation. Then, Sang-geun injects tongue-to-cheek comedy and some awkward romance elements to spice up things. The result is a tonal mess that offers endless adrenaline rush and deadpan laughs. The protagonist is Yong-nam (Cho Jung-seok), a rock-climbing prodigy whose luck runs out after graduation. Unemployed and estranged from the rest of his family, Yong-nam insists on celebrating his mother's 70th birthday in a venue where his old crush, Eui-ju (Yoona), works. Soon, he finds himself a fish out of water when his prese...
Review: The Divine Fury (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Divine Fury (2019)

Midnight Runners' director, Kim Joo-hwan returns with a new blockbuster that reunites him with the Runners' star, Park Seo-joon. Combining the corniest elements of exorcism horror and comical action-hero tropes, The Divine Fury is a gothic action fantasy which immediately reminds us of Constantine minus the angelic apparitions. From spiritual imagery of Catholicism, priests chanting prayers in Latin to expel demons, to fistfight against demon-possessed people, you are up for an action-packed ride full of blood, holy waters and... campiness, nevertheless. The Divine Fury seems to seam unlikely components into one helluva narrative drive. The story roots on an enticingly crafted mythos of the Dark Bishop, a worshipper of the evil Holy Serpent. Dark Bishop corrupts problematic people and ...
Review Parasite (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Parasite (2019)

Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s homecoming to Korean cinema following his respective international tenures, Snowpiercer and Okja, is a brilliantly crafted cinema experience, pushing forward the director’s renowned prowess in the art of narrative and his constant social justice rage to the border. It’s an uplifting yet bitter family tragicomedy blending a twist of home invasion trope with social commentary and stark thriller. Without any doubt, this is Joon-ho’s thick blood-and-flesh creation, switching genres effortlessly to bring awareness about the cause that the director cares about. (more…)
Review Miss & Mrs. Cops / Girl Cops, 걸캅스 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Miss & Mrs. Cops / Girl Cops, 걸캅스 (2019)

Jung Da-won's Miss & Mrs. Cops boldly points out the recent drug rape cartel scandal in South Korea. If you're following recent news about the country's entertainment industry, you might learn that there's been a dire, organized sex scandal involving the industry moguls and even fan-darlings abusing women for sexual services, with drug-rape and non-consented sex video distribution. A series of investigation is currently ongoing since March 2019; but, most of the results show how male power operates and how easily women’s calls for justice are silenced, said the coalition of women’s rights groups. In bringing awareness about this issue, Da-won writes and directs an exhilarating buddy-cop comedy about two policewomen attempting to bust down the crooked industry even when all odds are a...
Review The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil / 악인전 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil / 악인전 (2019)

South Korean crime thriller once again blurs the line between good and evil in a hardcore manner. The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil goes style over substances in this unorthodox cat-and-mouse game involving a band of typically merciless Korean gangsters, a regimen of typically offensive Korean cops and a single, typically sinister serial killer dubbed as the devil. Lee Won-tae blends South Korean most celebrated cliches of the recent years and crafts this purely enjoyable joyride. (more…)
Review Extreme Job (2019)
Movie Review

Review Extreme Job (2019)

Upon the return of a Korean drug kingpin, a team of narcs led by Captain Ko (Ryu Seung-ryong) needs to devise a new M.O. in order to catch the big fish. After a series of failed, silly attempts, the team finally finds their secret plan---a full stakeout mission by going undercover in an obsolete fried chicken joint. In an unexpected twist of fate, the revamped fried chicken joint ends up being a national phenomenon. With a risk of compromising the whole mission, Ko and his happy-go-lucky team goes into a comedic adventure full of deadpan moments. (more…)
A Day (2017) – Review
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

A Day (2017) – Review

Review: The idea of reliving the same day in a loop a la Groundhog Day gets a South Korean treatment in Cho Sun-ho’s (writer of Killer Toon) directorial debut, A Day (a.k.a. Ha-roo). When I said ‘South Korean treatment’, it means that this film has some touch of melodrama and another shade of revenge thriller wrapped in a moving, time-loop story about life, death and grudge that glues them together. (more…)
Bluebeard (2017) – BALINALE Review
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Bluebeard (2017) – BALINALE Review

Review: South Korean female director, Lee Soo-youn (The Untitled) showcases her admiration to Alfred Hitchcock as she borrows the auteur’s cinematic style to present her later thriller, Bluebeard. It’s a story about a divorced colonoscopist who recently moved to neighborhood dubbed as ‘the mecca of serial killing’ only to find himself tangled in a new chain of serial killings. Aside from the Hitchcockian aesthetic, there’s nothing apparently new to offer in this thriller. The story can be manipulative at some times as it relies heavily on its barely reliable narrator, dr. Seung-hoon (Jo Jin-woong), along with sudden blackouts, rough cuts, and repetitive dream sequences. Bluebeard’s visual can sometimes be deceitful, too, as it plays with perspective. However, tensions are pumped up effecti...
Midnight Runners (2017) – Review
Focus: Asia, Movie Review, Review Bahasa Indonesia

Midnight Runners (2017) – Review

Review: In Midnight Runners, writer-director Johan Kim recycles classic buddy cop tropes into a same-old-brand-new comedy-thriller, which benefits from chemistry of the leads, Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul. It’s indeed a heroic story of two South Korean cop trainees, but, it’s also simply funny, entertaining, action-packed and sweet at the same time. Gi-joon (Seo-joon) and Hee-yeol (Ha-neul) become unlikely best friends during their horrendous training, despite their completely different background and characters. One day, they witness an assault and kidnapping during their disastrous romance-seeking tenure in Gangnam. Despite the odds against them, they have to implement what they have learned in police academy in a real-life situation with real human life as the risk. (more…)...
Okja (2017) – Review
Movie Review

Okja (2017) – Review

Review: Whoever thought that Netflix and its streaming-giant comrades are not part of ‘future of the cinema’ should watch Bong Joon-ho’s (Memories of Murders, Snowpiercer) latest work, Okja—a feat endorsed by Netflix which sparked controversy in the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Joon-ho’s second international feature evidently demonstrates what would happen if an auteur is funded to make a blockbuster with full creative controls. Working with oddball-specialist Jon Ronson (gonzo journalist who wrote the embryo of Frank and The Men Who Stare at Goat), Joon-ho crafts a prolific blockbuster to wage war against animal cruelty and capitalism of food industry in the weirdest way. Delivered in the auteur’s most original framework—with shades of deadpan humor and bitter satire—in collaboration with H...

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