Oldboy is probably THE most popular Korean movie in the world, and has proved itself as a great starting point for many movie fans who are discovering Korean cinema for the first time. And it's a starting point for this blog as well, being first post made here.
While browsing I accidentally stumbled upon this amazing video that was included with collectors edition of Oldboy and which some good soul uploaded has Youtube. A behind the scenes / Making Of documentary.
Cinematography, acting, story. Everything in this movie is on the highest level. And now we have chance, for more than three hours to be a part of it.
To see genius personality of director Chan-wook Park in person. To see famous actors like Byung-hun Lee and Kang-ho Song paying casual visits to set just to have a few laughs with friends. Interaction of crew and actors. Technical difficulties and filming techniques. And to see how many octopus were eaten during famous scene? Priceless.
It's amazing insight into Korean working culture and brilliant personalities who are behind this movie.
A treat to any movie fan. And with american remake of Oldboy soon hitting cinemas, it's about time to remember what made the original so great.
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
A seasoned detective Sang-Kill (Kang-ho Song) eager for a big case to hasten his promotion, gets assigned to investigate what appears to be a suicide by self-immolation. Unwillingly he is partnered with rookie female detective Eun-Young (Na-yeong Lee) who is disdained in this male dominant police unit. It is later found out that that the victim of fire had huge bite marks on his body, that resemble dog or a wolf, and when further investigation reveals more murders done in similar manner it becomes unclear who and how is committing these murders. Both cops are determined to solve this mystery.
Seasoned cop and a rookie, quite cliche in detective movies, don't you think? But as it happens with cliches, director made it work just fine, and the pair working together, enhanced by excellent acting of both lead actors, to solve this mystery is a pleasure to watch.
This movie also touches on women rights in South Korea, and point's out that there are still problems in this area even today, where man often based on prejudice refuse to accept women into their profession.
There are parts in this movie that I think are totally useless, serve no purpose and are just silly in their appearance (a hint for those who will watch it - motorcycle). But they are very few and not import to overall movie.
By no means it's a perfect movie, but it's fairly entertaining, has a solid plot, quality production and offers delight to see more Kang-ho Song amazing acting on your screens. Overall a fine flick for weary evening.
DVD from Amazon
Following some recent concept art releases (Read More) of brilliant Korean directors Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Mother, Memories of Murder) upcoming Hollywood debut Snowpiercer, we now have our first look at screen from actual movie featuring his long time collaborator and extremely talented Korean actor Kang-ho Song.
Snowpiercer is an upcoming sci-fi thriller based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Plot summary from wikipedia:
The film is set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snow Piercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews.To be seen in cinemas later this year.
Thirst (Bakjwi) is a vampire movie by one of the best South Korean directors - Chan-wook Park, famous abroad for his Oldboy. This horrific love story earned director prestigious Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) is a well liked and devoted catholic priest who is helping at local hospital, providing reconciliation to patients at their last hours. While appearing strong on outside, Sang-hyeon is internally hurting by the suffering in the world and his inability to help. Giving everything, he participates in risky medical experiment to find a cure for deadly virus. Things go wrong and he (nearly) dies, but is saved by blood transfer, and quickly recovers fully.
A days pass and he became aware of changes that happen in him, physically and psychologically. After these event, he is being viewed as messianic figure in his town. People flock to him for some kind of salvation. Among them is his childhood friend, and his wife that he fells in love with. Struggling with what little of humanity is left in him, being used by the wife and others, doing things he would never have imagined doing he tries to make it right.
Another great work from Chan-wook Park, having excellent cast at his disposal, he makes a different kind of vampire movie, trademarked by his use of excessive violence an beautiful cinematography. Some unseen and impressive displays of supernatural powers of creatures of the night.
Abusive and grotesque love story, full of (blood) lust, sex and violence. Where everything ends in a beautiful sunrise in a memorable finale.
Exceptional. Highly recommended.
Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon
Blu-ray (UK) | DVD from YesAsia
Shiri (Swiri) by director Je-kyu Kang is one of the most recognizable South Korean movies from past decade. It was one of the first big budgeted blockbusters produced in South Korea in late 90's and immediate hit in box office, domestic and abroad. Borrowing production values from Hollywood and action from popular Hong Kong movies, it's a vigilant mix of both. A movie that dethroned Cameron's mighty Titanic from it's position of most viewed movie in Korea.
As two of top agents Jong Won Yu (Suk-kyu Han) and Jang-gil Lee (Kang-ho Song) are investigating this matter, it appears that the enemy is always one step ahead, and suspicions arouse among them of possible mole inside the agency.
Director Je-kyu Kang like in his next, famous war movie Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War likes to hint at closeness of both Korean nations, even tho they are enemies, in short breaks between violent fighting, he adds a dramatic layer to it, showing that divide is artificial, and on human level, relationships are possible between the two. Moreover, the movie name itself, Shiri, strongly confirms directors opinions, in a monologue by one of the characters in the movie, it explains that Swiri is a fish, that lives in rivers that flow across the Korea, and the fish doesn't know of South or North, it just swims in a water.
If you judge the movies by cast, finest to this day actors Kang-ho Song and Min-sik Choi, beautiful Yunjin Kim, best known in west for her role in popular TV show Lost, will guarantee that you won't be dissapointed.
Splendid spy action thriller, that won't let you get bored. Good dose of action and drama. Recommended.
DVD from Amazon
Secret Sunshine (Milyang) is yet another masterpiece from director Chang-dong Lee, who had served as South Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism, and before had brought us such amazing drama as Oasis. This movie landed it's main star Do-yeon Jeon Best Actress Award a Cannes Film Festival in 2007, also it was South Korea's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008.
Grieving widow Shin-ae (Do-yeon Jeon) with her son June moves to the hometown of her late husband in hopes of starting their life's anew with a clean sheet. In this small town, she opens up a Piano school and tries her best to fit in with others, but local residents are quite reluctant to her attempts. Local car mechanic Jong Chan (Kang-ho Song) that she first met on her way to the town when her car broke down, shows interest in her and helps to settle in. As the time goes on, and everything seems quietly to take turn for the best, another event that shakes her life occurs. Her son is kidnapped.
As Chang-dong Lee has previously shown, he masterfully plays with human emotions, in this work he portrays stricken and worn by grief woman, who seeks means and answers to deal with the tragedy that pursues and devastates her.
This movie strongly touches and explores impact of religion and church on people in their most vulnerable states, how and if faith can heal and provide shelter for the ones that suffer. Amazing performance by Do-yeon Jeon as she excels in providing insight into most dismal corners of the mind.
A must see, extraordinary drama.
Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon.
Criterion Collection Blu-ray | DVD from YesAsia.
Following his debut satire film Barking Dogs Never Bite and prior to gaining international fame after blockbuster The Host, director Joon-ho Bong shook Korean with his masterpiece revolving around serial killer Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok).
In rural province area, two bodies of women are found, ditched in country side outskirts, in fields of grain. Both brutally raped and killed in similar ways. Two incompetent and inexperienced with such big case cops are assigned the case, detective Park Doo-Man (Kang-ho Song) and his belligerent partner Cho Yong-koo (Roe-ha Kim). Thinking it's just domestic murders they try to work the case using methods that are popular at that time in Korean police, guess work and violence against suspects, but nothing comes out of it. Soon, detective Seo Tae-Yoon (Sang-kyung Kim) is sent from Seoul to assist local police. They are not fond of each other and their approach to investigation differs much, but eventually they start to work together and make some progress. But will it be enough to catch the killer?
Absolutely fantastic work, that is one of my favorites of all the movies I've ever seen. Stunningly beautiful cinematography, each scene is masterfully crafted, every character and dialogue appears to be so genuine. It's brutal and violent, but not on the screen (well, sometimes). It posses that grim undertones that curl through it, not stopping until characters and viewer himself feel powerlessness and despair.
When credits rolled I was left in that bad kind of mood that only good movies about dark side of humanity leave behind, a sign how involved you become with the world that is portrayed for you by director.
Notably this movie, like many others, is based on real events, first serial killer case that had happened in Korean history. Movies ending paralleled with these real life events make it so much more powerful.
It gets huge recommendation from me, definitely a must see.
DVD from Amazon
Blu-ray | DVD from YesAsia
You would not really expect a western movie from South Korea, especially a remake of one of the most famous Spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone, but here it is. The Good, The Bad, and The Weird (Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom) directed by talented Jee-woon Kim.
Set in Manchurian desert during 1930's, story as title suggests involves three central figures and a valuable map. The Good (Woo-sung Jung) bounty hunter is after The Bad (Byung-hun Lee), cold-hearted bandit and hitman, who is hired for a mission to steal a treasure map from Japaneses officials traveling by train, but after derailing the train, before he can get his hands on it, The Weird (Kang-ho Song) manages to snatch it and run off. Japanese Imperial Army is not happy and is on a mission to recover the map.
A good humored movie with plenty of epic shootouts and crazy chases across the desert, featuring motorcycles, horses, army vehicles and cannons. Everything can be found in this movie, almost non stop action full of explosions, knife fights, machineguns and brawl fights and the iconic Mexican standoff saved for the end.
Director Jee-woon Kim has once again picked two his long time collaborators for lead roles, sharp and charismatic Byung-hun Lee as anti hero, Kang-ho Song who with his humorous facial expressions and behavior is perfectly matched to play the weird one. Woo-sung Jung chosen for the role of the bounty hunter manages to bring that sincere lawfulness and determination in his rendition of classic good guy, a good face among the bunch of thieves and murderers.
Big budgeted, exciting and stylish adventure that is highly entertaining and definitely a must see film from Korea.
Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.
Blu-ray (UK) | DVD (R2 Collector's Box) from YesAsia.
Before Vengeance trilogy for director Chan-wook Park, there was Joint Security Area (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA), a movie that skyrocketed his career, and since then he has become one of the most accomplished and critically acclaimed directors in South Korea. Not to forget the cast of the movie, lead actors Byung-hun Lee and Kang-ho Song, while both had rich previous experience in acting, but nothing come close to success of Joint Security Area, which gained huge recognition and immediate status of superstars for them, guaranteeing successful career for next decade.
A masterpiece thriller from Chan-wook Park that touches sensitive relationships between both, once united, countries. Forbidden friendship, political plots and secrets from the past come into play. Suspenseful story of separation by senseless ideology, ideology that hides actual human beings so deep underneath.
One of the best movies that had come out of Korea in my opinion. Recommended to everyone.
DVD from Amazon.
DVD from YesAsia.
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.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Boksuneun naui geot) is first movie of directors Chan-wook Park's Vengeance trilogy (movies are not connected by plot, only by theme, so viewing order is not important!), following his previous commercially successful and well received title Joint Security Area.
Story about Ryo (Ha-kyun Shin), a deaf worker with sister who needs a kidney transplant. Unable to help her by conventional means, he meets illegal organ dealers, and the criminals propose that he gives them his kidney and ten million Won to obtain a kidney suitable for his sister. Ryu accepts the trade, but he does not have money to pay for the surgery. His radical girlfriend convinces him to kidnap the daughter of his former employer, Park (Kang-ho Song) and extort money from him. However when least expected, a tragedy happens, which sets this story on path of vengeance.