March 24, 2013

Going by the Book (2007)

Genre: Comedy, Crime














Going by the Book (Bareuge salja) is yet another lesser known quality product of South Korea. Directed by Hee-chan Ra, who despite being almost unheard of before managed to secure box office success locally for his first feature film.

I'll allow myself to quote a bit from Wiki:

Jung Do-man (Jae-yeong Jeong) is a low-ranking traffic cop whose tendency to do things "by the book" sometimes gets him in trouble, such as when he pulls over his new boss, newly instated police chief Lee Seung-man (Byung-ho Son), and issues him with a traffic ticket.


Though surprised and annoyed by the unexpected fine, the police chief has bigger problems; the town of Sampo has been hit by a string of bank robberies, and to reassure the public he decides to carry out a realistic drill which will demonstrate the police force's capability. Do-man is chosen to act out the part of the bank robber, but with his usual fastidious attention to detail he sets out to commit the perfect crime.

What police chief thought would make for an easy PR trick for hungry public eyes, turns out to be quite an opposite.


And what I though would be a generic comedy, turns out to be actually funny and really enjoyable movie. A remake as I recently learned of a Japanese movie Bang! (2001) that I personally haven't seen or heard before.

It managed to squeeze out of me a lot of good hearted laughs, while keeping the flow of story interesting and engaging. While it's a comedy, it's not a wacky one, and offers quite a number of serious scenes.

What can I say, I really enjoyed it. Good camera work, great performances and most important great humor. Not everyone will find it to their humor taste, but those who do, will definitely have a great time.

DVD Special Edition from Amazon

March 2, 2013

No Mercy For The Rude (2006)

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama














No Mercy for the Rude (Yeui-eomneun geotdeul) is movie written and directed by Cheol-hie Park, so far his only one, which is a shame, because judging from this work, he is really good at what he does.

A chef who dreams to become a matador. Embarrassed to talk, playing mute since childhood because of his tongue deformation, he decides to fix this, but a lot of money is required for corrective operation. Unable to provide it with usual means, he becomes a hitman for local crime organization. A hitman who vows to kill only ones whom he consider rude.

While sulking in bars, he meets a prostitute, who somehow forcibly pushes herself into his life. Then there's a homeless boy, whom he meets by chance and becomes his caretaker. With this makeshift family by his side, his quite miserable life slowly starts to unravel itself.

But good things usually don't last... bad fortune smiles upon him, just few jobs short to his goal, he makes a mistake during hit and gets into a huge mess with local crime figures.


It's hard for me to find words to properly describe this movie, it just leaves such a different impression after watching it, that no plot summary could explain. It's dramatic, violent, with some nudity, and grim humor. And all these things intersect freely between each other, which might surprise viewers used to western movies.


The cinematography is brilliant, soundtrack is absolutely amazing, featuring latin rhythms and mesmerizing use of Anita Lane cover of Bella Ciao.

But the strongest part it's the actors performance. Starring Ha-kyun Shin whom is fantastic actor, known for many famous Korean movies. His narration and portrayal of this difficult character, who imposes himself to be a real macho, wearing leather, and sunglasses, while overdoing it, even at night, while underneath being and dreaming something entirely different.

This movie carries that character archetype, seen in movies like A Bittersweet Life, The Man From Nowhere and Leon: The Professional which I absolutely adore.

I really hope to see more from this director in future. Highly recommended.

DVD from Amazon

February 14, 2013

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance














Who said that master of vengeance Chan-wook Park can't film romantic comedies? I don't know, but if someone did say that, I'd present to him I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (Ssaibogeujiman Gwaenchanha) and ask to check again.

Cha Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim), a young factory worker that is sent to mental institution, because she think's shes a cyborg. She refuses to eat food and constantly attempts to expose herself to electric shocks, believing that it will recharge her instead.


Park Il-sun (Rain), a young man, that's hospitalized for his antisocial behavior and schizophrenia induced kleptomania tendencies. He also believes that he can steal and posses other people souls, often mimicking their manners of behaving.

Park Il-sun takes interest in Cha Young-goon well being after her condition gets even worse after medical electroshock treatment. Both of them start spending their time together, living though their own weirdness and the ones of other patient that surround them in this asylum.


The structure and narrative of the movie is quite bizarre and at times confusing, but so is minds of the characters portrayed in it. Even though these characters are complex and puzzling, the story told is quite simple.

Visually really colorful and robust movie deals about darker and familiar to Chan-wook Park themes, workings of human mind, but this time he is taking it a little bit lighter, tying to fix it instead of damaging.

Korean pop superstars Rain's first role in movies that many thought was only a marketing ploy to promote himself and film, not expecting young star to perform well, but they were wrong, he's not only a good (I suppose) singer, but a good actor as well.  Su-jeong Lim should too be complemented on her acting abilities. Being crazy is not that simple.

A little bit of comedy, drama and absolutely crazy fantasy sequences, directed by Chan-wook Park, whats there not to see? It's worth watching even if only to check out a different side of this famous director.

DVD from Amazon

January 14, 2013

Castaway on the Moon (2009)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance














Castaway on the Moon (Kimssi pyoryugi) was a positive surprise to me when I saw it, coming from quite unknown director Hey-jun Lee for whom this movies so far is the biggest and most recognized work that gathered some amount of awards in Asian region.

A man burdened by debts, failed relationships and job that drains him has had enough. He makes suicide attempt jumping from the bridge into river Han. But by accident he survives and wakes up being washed upon a shore of small uninhabited island in the midst of river. Finding himself in silly situation, where civilization is all around him, yet he cannot escape. He tries to find a way to leave the island and still is determined to end his life, but slowly as he adjusts to peaceful rhythm of the island, his resolve changes. He finds reasons to continue.

 A girl, that had some kind of traumatic experience earlier in her life, hiding behind her computer screen, pretending on the internet to be someone else, someone beautiful, successful and happy, wanting to be appreciated by people she's never seen. Living secluded in her crammed room, never going out. The only thing that brings genuine happiness to her is pictures of the moon, that she takes during the night, from her window. "You cannot be lonely in a place where there is no one around." is what moon represents to her. One time she points her camera at the island and sees a man, and large letters carved in sand spelling - HELP.

While obviously those of you who watch a lot of movies, will make a connection to famous movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks, title and even the plot outlines are very similar. You might even think it's a remake of said movie with added a bit of Korean twist, but I assure you it's not. It's genuinely good movie able to stand on it's own.


A touching story of two troubled people who by chance make a connection. Both are taking a break from the outside world. Both are damaged in their own ways. And while dealing with hard issues, it's essentially a positive movie that emphasizes importance of hope. To call it simply a love story would do no justice for it attempts to expand on many other matter.

Essentially this movie is two actor show (Jae-yeong Jeong & Ryeowon Jung) as we see only them for most part of the movie, but what a great job they did, believable and enjoyable performances, supported by excellent cinematography and enhanced by directors skillful ability to bring out raw emotions from the viewers.

Highly recommended. Black bean noodles.

Blu-ray from Amazon
DVD (R3) from YesAsia

September 1, 2012

The ShiPSYning

September 1st is here, and back to school is in full heat. So for some comic relief - collaboration of K-pop and one of the finest movie directors ever, Stanley Kubrick.

August 29, 2012

Attack the Gas Station (1999)

Genre: Comedy














Attack the Gas Station (Juyuso seubgyuksageun) is crime comedy from South Korea directed by Sang-Jin Kim. It is considered by many as one of the best comedies that have come out of Korea, not all will agree with this sentiment, yet undoubtedly this film has it's own charm.

For quite anarchistic youths are enjoying their evening meal, when suddenly an idea pops into their heads: "Lets rob a gas station!". So they just go and do that. However, stations manager, had been robbed before (coincidentally by the same group!) has taken precaution and stashed all the money away. When youngsters discover that cash register is almost empty, they decide to take over the station, disguise as workers, and keep it open, earning money the hard way. Of course to do so, they have to take stations workers as hostage.


When I watched this movie for the first time, at the beginning I was reluctant to keep on going, but thankfully I kept on watching and grew to love the setting and characters, and by the end I was rooting for characters like they were my friends.

A great dark humor comedy, with, I'd say, original plot. Strongest part of the movie, definitely are the characters of the bad guys. They are perfectly cast and each bring their own different elements to the table. Charismatic, energetic, always moving forward and most important funny all the way.

There is a sequel simply called Attack the Gas Station 2, directed by the same director, but I haven't seen it myself, so you might want to find it yourself if this one will be to your liking.

It's a long night at the gas station, for robbers, workers and the clients. Adventure worth seeing.

DVD from Amazon
DVD from YesAsia

August 24, 2012

Save The Green Planet (2003)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Sci-fi














Save The Green Planet (Jigureul jikyeora!) is a debut, and so far only feature movie by director and screenwriter Joon-Hwan Jang. It was nominated and won many awards across the globe, recognizing directors talent.

Lee Byeong-gu (Ha-kyun Shin) is ordinary white collar worker, but he has a secret, or rather he knows THE secret, the big conspiracy. Aliens are living among the humans and are to blame for all problems occurring in society and in his personal life. And what he knows for sure is that soon aliens are gonna make their final attack and destroy the earth. For Lee Byeong-gu it's understandable that he is the only one who can prevent it, to do so he has to get into contact with their leader, alien Prince. With help of his not so normal girlfriend, he kidnaps CEO of company he works for, whom he believes is high ranked alien disguised as human. He tortures him, trying to expose his alien nature and to force him to make a contact with Prince.


To call it really bizarre, is a light way of describing this work. Containing seemingly unbelievable mix of genres, such as comedy, drama, action, science fiction and even horror, or torture flick, this film makes all of it work together flawlessly in this one fine piece of cinema.

A movie that you probably haven't seen anything alike before. Highly recommended if you are in search of something... weird?

DVD from Amazon
DVD from YesAsia

August 10, 2012

Sex is Zero (2002)

Genre: Comedy, Romance














And now for something completely different, or perhaps just a tiny bit lighter in the mood. Sex is Zero (Saekjeuk shigong). One of the highest grossing Korean comedies ever by director Je-gyun Yun.

Story follows 28 year old college student Eun-shik Jang (Chang Jung Lim). He is skilled in martial arts, has just finished mandatory army service, but he is completely socially awkward around others. Fortunately (or unfortunately for his serious learning pledge) he encounters fellow army man who had served in his division, and is persuaded to join student club of bodily fitness, where they try to make their bodies invulnerable. Soon, however, he falls in love with charming freshman student Eun-hyo Lee (Ji-won Ha), but he is given cold shoulder, as she fancies someone else. Will Eun-shik will be able to win her over?


Obvious Korean nod to American comedies, notably of very popular at that time American Pie. And it contains everything you could expect from such sex comedy. Dirty jokes, seemingly dumb main character that gets into inappropriate situations all the time and so on. However it wouldn't be Korean movie without strong flavor of drama mixed into it, for a brief time this crazy comedy show slows down and becomes earnest.

If you liked comedies such as mentioned American Pie, you will enjoy it, if you didn't, it's still worth to give a shot, as it still contains many Korean specific elements that you won't find elsewhere.

Entertaining, a bit vulgar but nonetheless fun comedy, definitely not for everyone, but it's impossible to please everybody :)

There is sequel released in 2007 simply called Sex is Zero 2, so it might be a good idea to check it out too, if you will enjoy this one.

DVD from Amazon
DVD from YesAsia

July 23, 2012

My Sassy Girl (2001)

Genre: Comedy, Romance














Movie goes who are not even familiar with Asian cinema had probably heard of My Sassy Girl (Yeopgijeogin geunyeo), perhaps due to not so good Hollywood remake, but even if you don't watch romantic movies, it's catchy name is floating out there in the air. And time has come to get to know it better, this romantic comedy that shook the east with it's popularity becoming icon of Korean cinema of early 2000's . Work of director Jae-young Kwak.

Plot is based on a series of true stories posted by Kim Ho Sik about relationships with his girlfriend, which gained huge attention in Korean internet community.

Kyun-woo (Tae-hyun Cha) is lonely college student, still unsure with what to do about his future. One day while on subway train he meets really drunk, wildly behaving girl (Gianna Jun), and due to circumstances commuters think he's her boyfriend. With no choice left but to help her, unsure what to, he decided to take her to local hotel to sleep off alcohol. Next day she calls her "savior" angry demanding to explain what happened previous night. They decide to meet and new friendship begins. With time Kyun-woo sees how crazy and silly his new friend can be, one moment hitting him like a punching bag, and next one crying upon his shoulder. Despite everything Kyun-woo is determined to help her overcome her problems and make her life happy.


Really sweet romance comedy. As movie is longer than 2 hours, with most of the screen time dedicated to these two, you could think that it will be boring rid, but the chemistry between them is striking, and with well thought plot, with lots of fun, romance, drama and even a bit of action, it's over before you even know it or want it to be.

Beside Hollywood, My Sassy Girl has been remade in Japan, India and China, which says lot about it's popularity.

Excellent lighthearted romance from Korean to watch with your other half, or alone :)

DVD from Amazon.

July 18, 2012

The Host (2006)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror














The Host (Gwoemul) is one of the biggest Korean movie projects of recent times, directed by talented director Joon-ho Bong, featuring great cast, it went on and made a lot of money locally, becoming one of the highest grossing movies, gained international following, and was successful in many festivals abroad.

It's Seoul, a fine sunny day in a park on banks of Han river, when suddenly someone spots some kind of creature hanging under the bridge... moment later it disappears only to emerge on the shore and wreck panic among vacationers, amid them dawdle father Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song) whose daughter gets kidnapped by the monster.


With budget of only 10 million dollars, working with Asian designers and New Zealand  CGI professionals director managed to create something that in it's quality rivals and surpasses most monster and disaster films coming from Hollywood, where such sum of money is pocket change and barely enough to cover some actor fees.

As a disaster movie it touches many themes, including environment protection, politics. Displayed in satirical way is how Koreans feel about presence of US bases on their territory, which in movie are origin of the creature. Movie being critical of US in many ways even earned it fame among North Korea officials, which is a rare occasion for South Korean movie.

Despite it's many political commentaries about US, it's still an entertaining monster flick. Many western critics put it on their list of best movies of that year. Quentin Tarantino listed it as one of his favorites. Hollywood signed remake rights, but not much of it has been heard since.

A highly recommended, must-see.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.
Blu-ray (UK) from YesAsia.

July 17, 2012

Guns and Talks (2001)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama














Guns and Talks (Killerdeului suda) is action comedy from 2001, directed and written by Jin Jang, who also produced and wrote Welcome to Dongmakgol.

Story about freshly formed group of contract killers in Seoul, who are just starting to make their own name in the business. They complete the task of killing in any way client requests to. This group consists of two brothers, Sang-yeon (Hyeon-jun Shin) and Ha-yeon (Bin Won), and two of their friends Jae-yeong (Jae-yeong Jeong)  and Jung-woo (Ha-kyun Shin).

Business is going well, until one day they have to do a high risk job, while discovering that someones onto them.

While it's a movie about killers, it's more of a light comedy about inner relationships in the group with action parts, and some drama mixed in. Whats great is that you can observe still young actors who few years later would become some of the top stars in Korea, like Bin Won, known for The Man from Nowhere and Mother for whom Guns and Talks was debut movie.

Entertaining flick thats worth a watch. 

DVD from Amazon

July 12, 2012

Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

Genre: War, Drama, Comedy














Welcome to Dongmakgol (Welkkeom tu Dongmakgol ) is another great debut from new generation of Korean directors. It went to be 4th highest grossing South Korean movie of all time, and was official entry for best foreign language movie of 2005 Academy Awards. So far it's directors Kwang-Hyun Park only movie, currently his new project is in casting stage, and is something to keep an eye for.


Movies is set during Korean War of 1950. Soldiers from both sides of once united country and American plane pilot find themselves in a strange village among the mountains, whose inhabitants live hermit lifestyle unaware of what is happening in world around them. They get involved in villages life with help of a really odd girl who lives there. Soon however leisure time ends, and dangers of war are approaching this haven of peace.

It's comical and tragic story, showing how senseless the war is. How easy it is for friends to become enemies, and enemies become friends.

Great cast, beautiful cinematography and touching story. A must see.

DVD from Amazon.
OST from YesAsia.