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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Crazy Romance"

2019/10/12 | Permalink

The original Korean title of "Crazy Romance" actually literally translates as the most ordinary romance. The statement is one of dark irony, because "Crazy Romance" is an equally accurate title. Soon-yeong (played by Gong Hyo-jin) is a woman who has chosen a life of romantic cynicism. Jae-hoon (played by Kim Rae-won) has had romantic cynicism thrust upon him. Together, they get very drunk, not because they are looking for a romantic partner, but as a humorous coping mechanism for their real world problems...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Free My Soul, Free My Song"

2019/10/12 | Permalink

People in the media in general tend to be loud and outspoken, but we all know that introverted people do indeed exist. "Free My Soul, Free My Song" is an interesting documentary because it's about a very introverted, very shy young woman who would normally never be the topic of a feature length. On the face of it there's nothing all that remarkable about Ji-hee's quest to become a world class acoustic guitar player- save for the fact that she is mentally challenged...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Gingko Bed" + Full Movie

2019/10/12 | Permalink

Considered one of the first Korean films to implement special effects in a way that added to its value, "The Gingko Bed" is also story of eternal love that suffers, however, from a rather faulty narrative...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Villagers"

2019/10/05 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Villagers" we see Gi-cheol (played by Ma Dong-seok) forced into a change of careers for breaking the rules. In one of the movie's more interesting dramatic flourishes, Gi-cheol is not played from that point forward as a renegade. To the contrary, Gi-cheol is surprisingly passive. He does get provoked into investigating a missing persons case because high school student Yoo-jin (played by Kim Sae-ron) has been aggressively putting out flyers. But even then, Gi-cheol is subdued...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Behind the Dark Night"

2019/10/05 | Permalink

Some particularly nerdy and socially awkward college students will look at superhero flicks and think that such movies represent the full range of cinematic expression. "Behind the Dark Night" is a mockumentary that takes a look at some such students and their quest that goes on for years to bring their epic vision to life. This, even as some members of the project realize that their derivative fan film is a stupid idea and just leave...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "DMZ: Reload"

2019/10/05 | Permalink

Oh In-chun seems to experience an utterly creative phase during the latest years, since he turns up movies every few months. "The DMZ" despite its no-budget nature was one of the best, and now Oh returns with a kind of a sequel, in the same style but also quite different, both regarding the story and the narrative approach, which is more intricate...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos"

2019/09/28 | Permalink

The title of "The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos" is somewhat misleading. Without a doubt, the four principal characters are all extremely dangerous people who strike fear into the hearts of criminals everywhere. But in person, they're oddly aloof and charming. Woong-cheol (played by Ma Dong-seok) likes to sew. Goo-tak (played by Kim Sang-joong) exudes a fatherly air over the team. No-soon (played by Kim Ah-joong) has great social skills, which she mostly uses for scams. While Yoo-seong (played by Jang Ki-yong) likes to fight, even he can tell when he's outgunned...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Sea of Itami Jun"

2019/09/28 | Permalink

Itami Jun was a Japanese architect. Curiously enough, the place where his work is best known is South Korea, or at least, that's where you're most likely to find examples of his work. "The Sea of Itami Jun" is a documentary that goes over why that is. Even though Itami Jun was a bit of an eccentric, going so far as get a South Korean passport when he's not even fluent in the local language, director Jung Da-woon does not look at his life through a nationalist lens, but rather an architectural one...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Fearless and Vulnerable"

2019/09/28 | Permalink

It is always a bit strange to watch a film after you have met the director, and this is what happened to me in the case of Jeon Sungyeon and "The Fearless and Vulnerable". Fortunately, the documentary is quite interesting and so I did not have to slam a person I ended up liking. Let us see what the film is about though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Tazza: One Eyed Jack"

2019/09/21 | Permalink

Il-chool (played by Park Jung-min) is a young man who's obsessed with the game of poker. For good reason- he's pretty good at it and makes decent money there. At the very least, he can hustle a small table of other players. In the most striking scene of "Tazza: One Eyed Jack" we see Il-chool in a crowded study hall struggling to concentrate on the extremely boring lecture to help him ace an equally boring test because the poker chips of fantasy are just too alluring...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Life is a Dream We'll Wake up and Scream"

2019/09/21 | Permalink

Director Jeremy Joey first started filming "Life is a Dream We'll Wake up and Scream" back in 2012. He wanted a comprehensive look at the indie rock scene in the Hongdae district of Seoul by marking the journey of three bands trying to turn their passion into a profession. Though two of the three bands were successful, the documentary is bittersweet. In 2018 band members can be seen discussing an independent South Korean music scene that's not what it once was...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Wall"

2019/09/21 | Permalink

This film was a strange watch for me, since a few days before I had watched "Alpinist: Confession of a Cameraman", Lim Il-jin's last film, that recorded, among others, the expedition that ended with the death of the director in 2018. Thus, watching a man I knew was dead, recording the climbing of the rugged Canadian bigwall, 'Bugaboo', became part of the review, making me feel a ritualistic sentiment, as I was writing this text. Let us see what "The Wall" is about, though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The House of Us"

2019/09/14 | Permalink

Though it has a similar title to "The World of Us" writer/director Yoon Ga-eun did not develop "The House of Us" as a spirutal sequel. As filming continued the phrase "The House of Us" or literally just our home frequently recurs and has obvious symbolic power. Ha-na (played by Kim Na-yeon) feels adrift in her own family as her parents always fight and her brother's always aloof. What kind of home or family is that supposed to be?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My name is KIM Bok-dong"

2019/09/14 | Permalink

Director Song Won-geun-I opens "My name is KIM Bok-dong" up with just a black screen, and then the voice of the titular activist. Whatever visual flourishes "My name is KIM Bok-dong" may have to offer, the reason why the woman was important was because of her voice. There was mundanity in that voice, just describing everyday activities, be it in the present day as an old woman or in the past as a sex slave...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Closed School"

2019/09/07 | Permalink

I don't really get what the title "Closed School" is supposed to mean here. The titular institution isn't a school that services students, it's more a psychological manifestation of how the now adult Yoo-ra (played by Chun Yi-seul) continues to feel horrific guilt about her role in the apparent suicide of her high school classmate Mi-ok (played by Lee Yoon-soo). The plot picks up with Yoo-ra meeting the rest of her now adult classmates who remain too emotionally insincere to address their role in Mi-ok's death...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Gift of Love"

2019/09/07 | Permalink

So-jeong (played by Kim So-min) is the wife of Kang-ho (played by Moon Young-dong), who was once a rising star in the North Korean military before he lost his legs. Ever since then life has been fairly miserable. Their household can't make enough money to get by and Kang-ho is increasingly hostile to his own family, even yelling at their only adorable daughter Hyo-sim (played by Kim Ryeo-won). Though So-jeong has found a solution of sorts it's obviously not sustainable...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Alpinist: Confession of a Cameraman"

2019/09/07 | Permalink

The value of the documentary as a medium of recording lives and events, and subsequently, as a tool whose purpose is not to let people forget, finds one of its apogees in this particular documentary. "Alpinist: Confession of a Cameraman" is a true requiem for a number of Korean alpinists who lost their lives in the mountains, but most of all, a tribute to the late mountain film director Lim Il-jin, who died along  the entire expedition to Mt. Gurja, in 2018...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Goodbye My Girlhood"

2019/09/07 | Permalink

First part of the KBS 4-episode documentary titled "Journey on Foot", Kim Han-seok's (who also organized the project plan) "Goodbye My Girlhood" focuses on Wang-mo, a girl in Ladakh, India and her Pad Yatra, a harsh pilgrimage trip a number of people take walking 200 km in 17 days, in extremely harsh conditions at an altitude of 5,200m. The series won the 2018 Korean Broadcasting Awards for Best Television Documentary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Metamorphosis"

2019/08/31 | Permalink

Joong-soo (played by Bae Sung-woo) is a Catholic priest and exorcist. In the cold open to "Metamorphosis" we see an exorcism gone horribly wrong, less because of anything Joong-soo himself did incorrectly, and more because the demonic spirit managed to successfully imitate the person it was possessing at a critical moment. Further events create the disturbing impression that the demonic spirit's actual goal was just to get into Joong-soo's head, although cryptic warnings about a horrible fate to befall Joong-soo's family are, well, the actual plot of the movie...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Hello, My Cat"

2019/08/31 | Permalink

In the first story of the "Hello, My Cat" omnibus the cat talks. He talks a lot. It actually get to be really annoying very quickly since he never has much to say, he's just narrating stuff that we can already see is happening on-screen. The talking cat device is particularly obnoxious because in the second section of the omnibus, the cat only talks very briefly at the beginning. Then in parts three and four the cat is conspicuously silent, leaving the animal's motivation ambiguous...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Abyss: The Girl's Eyes"

2019/08/31 | Permalink

Using the supernatural to make social comments (through metaphor or not) is a tactic that has been used many times in world cinema, with films like "Get Out", "American Psycho" or even "The People Under the Stairs" implementing this approach in the most brilliant fashion. "Abyss: The Girl's Eyes" is Jang Hyeon-sang's effort in the category, with him, however, not managing to stay away from some local trends, like the crime thriller element and the concept of the "exorcism". On the other hand, his approach is unique, so no harm done, at least in that aspect...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Height of the Wave"

2019/08/24 | Permalink

Winner of the Special Jury Prize in Locarno, "Height of the Wave" is another impressive indie from Korea, in an industry that seems to experience one of its greatest seasons in years. Furthermore, Park Jung-bum establishes his position as one of the most important new Korean directors, as he continues in the footsteps of "The Journals of Musan". The film is actually a theatrical version of the 1-episode "Drama Stage - Waves of Change", which was released in the beginning of the year...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Welcome to the Guesthouse"

2019/08/24 | Permalink

Trying to speak about serious topics through comedy is a great way to communicate your messages through cinema, and that is exactly what Shim Yohan is trying to do in "Welcome to the Guesthouse", also adding to the entertainment the film offers by making surfing the base of the narrative. Let us see if he succeeded...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Job Who is near Us"

2019/08/24 | Permalink

The popular cancer narrative in most fiction is dynamic. It features characters who react decisively, be that positive or negative, in the face of a cancer diagnosis. "A Job Who Is near Us" takes a different approach. As a documentary, the film doesn't have much flexibility in regards to the available tropes. And as a religious film, there's a surprisingly deep spiritual element at play. If all life is according to God's plan, what does a married couple make of successive cancer diagnoses?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Garden, Zoological"

2019/08/24 | Permalink

If you've ever been to a zoo you've probably seen mentions in promotional material how beyond being just exhibition space zoos are also at the forefront of conservation issues. "Garden, Zoological" unpacks what exactly that means. The documentary was filmed over several years at the Cheongju Zoo and details the work employees go through when it comes to feeding wild animals, training them, and providing them with medical care...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Battle: Roar to Victory"

2019/08/17 | Permalink

Promotional information for "The Battle: Roar to Victory" has been somewhat misleading. The movie does indeed contain the Battle of Fengwudong. There's even a subtitle that helpfully pops up to tell us that this particular random mountainous area the characters have just wandered is the one the movie's named after. But up until that point, the characters just wander into a wide variety of other generally random mountainous places getting into shootouts as necessary, nothing being that well organized. Because that is, in fact, the central defining element of guerrilla warfare...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "To Kill Alice"

2019/08/17 | Permalink

Eun-mi is an American citizen of Korean descent. In 2011 the then-fifty year old Eun-mi took advantage of her American nationality to take tours of North Korea, an action which at the time was banned for South Koreans, and wrote about her experiences for the South Korean press outlet OhMyNews. Her articles were later published into a book. Eun-mi would do book tours in South Korea to coincide with further visits to North Korea. As relations between the Koreas deteriorated during 2014 so too did Eun-mi's experiences take a turn for the strange...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Uncle"

2019/08/17 | Permalink

In a time when Kim Ki-duk seems to be moving towards a direction that has made him a "persona non grata" in the movie world, it is always good to find directors that have been influenced by him and actually carry his artistic legacy. However, in this case, in a more contemporary/not so decadent fashion, and with a humor that seems to draw much from Park Chan-wook, while one could also find some elements of Takashi Miike's style, from "Visitor Q". What is even more impressive is that "The Uncle" is actually a debut...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Film Adventure"

2019/08/17 | Permalink

Since Korean indie cinema seems to struggle to get away from the "rules" set by Hong Sang-soo, it is always reinvigorating to discover productions that take an effort to distance themselves from the particular style. Lee Sang-deok's "Film Adventure" is one of those efforts, which actually succeeds, at least to a point, in a film that won Best Korean Fantastic Film and Fantastic Best Actor at BIFAN...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Exit - Movie"

2019/08/10 | Permalink

The main stand-out quality to "Exit - Movie" is, weirdly enough, how quintessentially Korean it is. The ethnic overtones aren't super obvious. I mean sure, Yong-nam (played by Jo Jung-suk) is introduced working out at a playground- a ridiculous endeavor, but South Korean playgrounds have high quality exercise equipment. His sister first appears bugging her mom late at night for kimchi. And a ridiculous amount of action takes place at a traditional ceremony party venue...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ghost Walk"

2019/08/10 | Permalink

Hye-jeong (played by Han Hae-in) has a depressingly meaningless existence. We see her lumbering about day by day, refusing any interest in any kind of normal conversation. Even a love confession ends on a surprisingly somber note, as we see Hye-jeong looking out the window, as if she was hopeful the guy might actually stick around. Hye-jeong has no money and no future. So it's oddly enough not much of a transition for her die and become a ghost...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Fanfare"

2019/08/10 | Permalink

Among the overwhelming plethora of crime films coming from S. Korea, it is always a pleasure to find works that manage to present the themes of the category in a different fashion. Lee Don-ku does exactly that and with style, by shooting a Tarantinoesque movie set as a stage play, that also features a female character, who, for once, is not a cliché. Let us take things from the beginning though...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The 12th Suspect"

2019/08/03 | Permalink

I have to admit I have a soft spot for films that unfold as stage plays, and this particular one, whose synopsis portrayed it as an Agatha Christie-style story, made me really eager to watch it. At half point, though, the narrative changed completely and the movie became something very different. Let us see if this change actually benefitted it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Goodbye Summer"

2019/08/03 | Permalink

Hyeon-jae (played by One) is helping his female friend Soo-min (played by Kim Bo-ra) make an interview video for prospective colleges. In the summer heat of Anyang, we can see that their friendship is one of remarkable steadiness, patience, and synchronization. So why aren't they actually a couple? Well, Hyeon-jae has a lot of not particularly convincing answers for that. Oddly enough none of them have much to do with Hyeon-jae being very sick...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs"

2019/08/03 | Permalink

For all its fairytale pastiche setting, "Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs" is a surprisingly earnest animated movie. There's no ironic commentary about fairy tale tropes or obnoxious pop culture references. The first twist is surprisingly straightforward. Our noble heroes follow up something heroic with something stupid, because they're idiots who put too much stock in appearance. The second twist barely even qualifies as a twist at all. What if Snow White was fat?...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Divine Fury" Screening at Fantasia 2019

2019/08/02 | Permalink

The relentless, but also somewhat hopeless effort of Korean genre films to create new stories that incorporate, though, the elements that have brought the country's cinema to the top of the continent (commercially and internationally at least), has resulted in a plethora of big-budget, commercially successful movies on the one hand, of dubious quality and rather repetitive on the other. "The Divine Fury" takes this concept a step even further, since it seems to incorporate all these elements into one, visually impressive package, of... well you are going to have to read ahead to get to the quality part...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Moon in the Hidden Woods" Screening at Fantasia 2019

2019/07/29 | Permalink

Having a Japanese director helm a Korean animation sounds a bit unusual, but considering Takahiro Umehara's CV, which includes animation for titles like "Dragonball Z", "Claymore" and "Iron Man", it sounded like a really good idea. The result is a film that looks much like a Japanese anime but still includes a distinct Korean flavor. Let us see what it is about...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The King's Letters"

2019/07/27 | Permalink

In the fairly morbid opening setpiece to "The King's Letters" King Sejong (played by Song Kang-ho) is very grumpily enduring an official ceremony that's being conducted in spoken Chinese, because at this time Korea is still using the Chinese script. Thunderclouds approach and then King Sejong goes home and destroys a bunch of books. In theory, such actions might be intended to make us appreciate King Sejong's passion toward the idea of a Korean script. But in practice? He just looks like a jerk...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Wrath" Screening in Fantasia 2019

2019/07/27 | Permalink

Remake of the 1986 horror film "Cry of a Woman", "The Wrath" places its story in the newly found favorite setting of Korean horror, the Joseon era, and attempts to include as many themes of the genre possible. Let us see how it fares...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Dogs in the House"

2019/07/27 | Permalink

Watching a film that combines thriller, crime, drama, comedy, violence, home-invasion and a stage-play basis is always a pleasure, particularly since Shin Hae-gang has managed to mold the aforementioned elements into something compact, headed by a great performance by Kim Young-ho, which netted him the Best Actor Award in BIFAN...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Guns and Talks"

2019/07/27 | Permalink

In the extremely cool opening setpiece to "Guns and Talks" a team of professional hitmen played by Shin Hyun-joon, Jung Jae-young, Shin Ha-kyun, and Won Bin meticulously set up a bunch of seemingly unrelated steps in a complex assassination plot. Their movements are perfectly set to some very hip electronic music. With every beat they step closer to the climax until finally everyone is dead and the asssassins themselves are mostly out of the way. Then they go home and we find out they're idiots...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Dude in Me" Screening at Fantasia 2019

2019/07/22 | Permalink

The body swap theme has been done a number of times in world cinema, with "Daddy You, Daughter Me" presenting Korea's latest (probably) take on the subject, two years ago. And while "the bullied who becomes the hero" concept is here once more, Kang-hyo-jin has managed to shoot a film that stands out, particularly because he included elements of a crime movie and a series of impressive action scenes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Homme Fatale"

2019/07/20 | Permalink

Saek (played by Lee Junho) was born into a gisaeng house. Now, a normal boy born into a gisaeng house would leave it and do something else upon passing into adulthood. But Saek? He actually really likes being there. Saek refuses to take obvious hints that he should leave, the result being silly slapstick sequences that eventually grow to encompass weird homeless guy Yook-gap (played by Choi Gwi-hwa) who acts as a generally unhelpful male influence as Saek tries to bring gender equality to the notion of courtesans...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue"

2019/07/20 | Permalink

One time Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki posted a basic educational video to YouTube. The video made offhand reference to comfort women and some American dude who calls himself Texas Daddy yelled at him about it in his own YouTube video. Why would an American be offended by a Japanese-American guy talking about comfort women? Miki Dezaki had no idea, since he didn't really know much about comfort women in the first place. So he started investigating...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Idol" Screening at Fantasia 2019

2019/07/17 | Permalink

Five years after the great "Han Gong-ju", Lee Su-jin returns with his second feature film, an intense crime thriller of 144 minutes. Let us see how he fared...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Two Person at the same town SE2"

2019/07/13 | Permalink

In the first segment of "Two person at the same town SE2" a man tries to sell a bicycle to a woman who answered his ad. The scene's interplay is weird. The two are strangers, engaged in a monetary transaction. But the story quickly degenerates into ambiguous flirting- because when dealing with the opposite sex, flattery is one of the surest ways to get a good deal. The single shot story is mundane yet nearly documentarian in its realist depiction of how people buy and sell secondhand bicycles...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Long Way Around"

2019/07/13 | Permalink

Though director Lee Seung-hyun is only thirty years old, he draws on a wealth of footage taken from his own lifetime to put together "A Long Way Around", a documentary depicting various comfort women as they emerge from obscurity in the early nineties. The reason why they pop up then is because that's when the experience of wartime prostitutes under the Japanese Empire became a nationalist issue in South Korea. And by that time, they were already starting to die of old age...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Daytime Picnic"

2019/07/06 | Permalink

In the first short film of the omnibus "A Daytime Picnic" director Kang Dong-wan plays with an interesting idea- about how little musical taste matters. When first we see the main family, they are recoiling in disgust about loud music on the way to their family picnic. But then they get to the campsite, and observe a younger couple dressed up in full punk rock costumes take out their baby and move into the neighboring site. This younger couple is actually quite nice and well-adjusted for their strange appearance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Someone Special"

2019/07/06 | Permalink

You know how in a lot of romances the guy seems like an indifferent jerk, but as we get to know him, we see that his inner thoughts are actually quite complex? "Someone Special" subverts this idea right away when its lead character Chi-seong (played by Jung Jae-young) gets some bad news, and while he looks stoic on the outside, on the inside, we can see that he wants to throw a temper tantrum. This character trait recurs as Chi-seong is thrown into increasingly frustrating and implausible contrivances. Even meeting I-yeon (played by Lee Na-young) is of little help...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "My Dear Keum-hong" + Full Movie

2019/07/06 | Permalink

People say that opposites attract and the phrase could not be mirrored more eloquently than in the relationship between the Fauvist painter Bon-woong and Lee  Sang, a poet and writer, which occurred during the period of Japanese Imperialism in Korea. "My Dear Keum-hong" is the story of this friendship that eventually became an unfulfilled love triangle...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Let Us Meet Now"

2019/06/29 | Permalink

In the third part of the "Let Us Meet Now" omnibus Jeong-eun (played by Lee Jung-eun of "Parasite" fame) is an older woman working two jobs to support her even older mother, who is suffering from dementia. The irony of such a story appearing in an omnibus that's ostensibly about North Koreans is dripping. It's little surprise that this story, 'Hello', came from director Boo Ji-young who made the union-driven film drama "Cart" a few years back...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Love As Much As Pain"

2019/06/29 | Permalink

I was reading an article recently about cost-effective philanthropy. The way it works is, that in some circumstances, making lots of money and then donating it is more efficient than trying to volunteer work yourself. I thought about this idea a lot during "Love As Much As Pain", a documentary about the missionary doctor Park Nu-ga, a man who offered free medical checkups and vitamins to obscure villages in the Phillipines. I thought about how ridiculous the base idea was- that the mere promise of money would be enough to get doctors out to these underserviced areas...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Move the Grave"

2019/06/29 | Permalink

In a cinema such as the Korean, where the masters (Park Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong, Bong Joon-ho) and the crime thrillers dominate the narrative, it is always a pleasure to discover films such as "Move the Grave", who justify the title "hidden gem" entirely. Let us see what this is about though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Black Summer"

2019/06/22 | Permalink

Ji-hyeon (played by Woo Ji-hyun) works at the film department of an unnamed university. It's mostly technical stuff, but he has creative aspirations. So it is that he meets Geon-woo (played by Lee Gun-woo-I), an actor with whom Ji-hyeon has many things in common. They're both adrift in life. They both have estranged relationships with their families. They like social drinking, but are quickly bored by conversational drinking. They're not particularly physically affectionate with their girlfriends. They're also mentally and sexually attracted to each other...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Citizen Roh"

2019/06/22 | Permalink

On February 25th South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun retired from the presidency and into private life. His administration had begun with high hopes but had ultimately been mired entirely in political gridlock. Consequently, Roh Moo-hyun was a lonely man who felt like he had failed his supporters. Weirdly enough, Roh Moo-hyun actually seems happier and more productive doing community development in his rural hometown village of Bonga than when he was in theory the most powerful man in the country, simply because he can actually see himself making tangible progress...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Confession of an Actress" + Full Movie

2019/06/22 | Permalink

Kim Soo-yong was one of the most prolific directors of the 60's, in an era when film production was rather fast and films were being released constantly, without much regard for quality, in an effort to meet the quota for the import of foreign films, which at the time was 3 (local productions) to 1 (foreign production). A number of directors managed to shoot 6-8 films per year, but Kim Soo-yong went a step further, by shooting 10 in 1967. "Confession of an Actress", which is based on a novel by Yoon Seok-joo, is one of them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Boy and Sungreen"

2019/06/15 | Permalink

Boy (played by Ahn Ji-ho) is the kind of sensitive young man who is deeply affected by emotional moments in strange independent films. Sungreen (played by Kim Joo-ah) is the kind of outspoken young woman who wants to create such moments herself in her own films, even as Sungreen sleeps through the ones she actually watches. Together, they get wrapped up in a mystery that begins to consume all their spare time...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "0.0MHz"

2019/06/15 | Permalink

So-hee (played by Jung Eun-ji) is a young woman working as a barista who's trying her best to avoid thinking about her shamanistic background. Alas, cute shy boy Sang-yeop (played by Lee Sung-yeol) manages to talk her into going on a location shoot at a rundown yet legendary location for malicious spiritual possession. Bad things can be safely predicted whenever the local frequency goes down to "0.0MHz" although it takes some time for our plucky band of five to figure this out...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Ticket" + Full Movie

2019/06/15 | Permalink

Stories about prostitutes have been the trademark of Kim Ki-duk but Korean cinema has been dealing with the concept of Tabang (coffee houses in Korea and many offer outcall services in which the girls deliver coffee to customers, and sometimes extra sexual services for a price termed a "Ticket") decades before the Korean auteur started his career. "Ticket" is one of the best samples...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Goodbye My Love, NK"

2019/06/08 | Permalink

Following the Korean War young ambitious North Korean communists who had managed to survive the war were on the prowl for educational opportunities abroad, which the North Korean government gladly facilitated. Eight such Koreans went to attend the Moscow Film School so that they could learn how to make proper revolutionary film. But their situation takes a turn for the strange after the August Faction Incident in 1956, when political purges back home mostly nullify any chance they have of going back to North Korea...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Road"

2019/06/08 | Permalink

Bae Chang-ho's penultimate film to date was one that he actually wanted to do, after a somewhat failed effort to return to mainstream cinema with "The Last Witness". With him in the protagonist role, and also as a writer-director, Bae Chang-ho had complete artistic command of the production, which ended up being a story that he wanted to tell, in the way he wanted to tell it, and in the distinct style of his second phase of filmmaking, which focused more on realism, through a genuine dramatic approach...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Long Live the King"

2019/06/08 | Permalink

Se-chool (played by Kim Rae-won) is a gangster who is obviously in the wrong movie. Rather than just do his job, and break up the labor strike in Mokpo port, Se-chool instead decides to try and impress labor organizer So-hyeon (played by Won Jin-ah) and Bo-yoon (played by Choi Moo-sung), a respected working class man who's running for the legislature. They are naturally perplexed by Se-chool's dogged efforts to prove that he is a very nice guy...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Parasite"

2019/06/01 | Permalink

The term "Parasite" is an inherently disgusting one. It calls to mind a lower organism that sucks off the life energy of a superior one. But biologically speaking parasites aren't so bad. In fact, they often have symbiotic relationships with their hosts, providing useful benefits in exchange for resources the host isn't even using. So it is with the lower class family in "Parasite" who worm themselves into the lives of a wealthy family so as to escape the drudgery that comes with having to fold pizza boxes for a living...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Fatal Intuition"

2019/06/01 | Permalink

Jang-woo (played by Joo Won) and his younger sister Eun-ji (played by Ryu Hye-young) are drifters who wander about the southeastern region of South Korea in search of work. Jang-woo tends to self-sabotage these efforts either by being overly protective of Eun-ji or overly paranoid of the locals and more typically a combination of both. Then they meet Si-eun (played by Lee Yoo-young), a woman who possesses supernatural predictive powers and the unfortunate destiny that implies...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Chihwaseon"

2019/06/01 | Permalink

Considered Im Kwon-taek's greatest work (at least outside of Korea), "Chihwaseon" is also a landmark for Korean cinema, since it signaled the first time a local director won the Best Director Award at Cannes.

The biopic presents the life of Jang Seung-up, one of the most significant painters in the history of the country, who is considered to have changed the direction of Korean art...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "KIM-GUN"

2019/05/25 | Permalink

In 2015 a South Korean right-wing group claims that some six hundred demonstrates in the Gwangju Uprising were actual North Korean special forces operatives. This conclusion was arrived at through digital facial analysis software. So begins the search for the titular "KIM-GUN", one distinctive young man from those pictures whose apparently unknown identity is used as proof of concept for the conspiracy theory...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Untouchable Lawmen"

2019/05/25 | Permalink

Seong-gi (played by Jang Gwang) is the charismatic leader of an extremely goofy cult that combines grandiloquent religious sermons with vaguely sexy Kpop inspired dances. South Korean police are at a loss as to the best way to deal with Seong-gi's awesome political powers. So they fight fire with fire, enlisting bombastic fighter cop Jeong-jin (played by Im Chang-jung) and horndog lover cop Yoo-min (played by Choi Daniel) to take Song-gi down. Conveniently, since both Jeong-jin and Yoo-min are loose cannons, their questionable methods can be easily disavowed...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Surrogate Woman" + Full Movie

2019/05/25 | Permalink

Winner of Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress at the 1987 Asia-Pacific Film Festival and for Best Actress (Kang Soo-yeon) at Venice, "The Surrogate Woman" is one of the most internationally acclaimed films of Im Kwon-taek and, in essence, one of his best...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil"

2019/05/18 | Permalink

In 2005, "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil" opens up on a dark stormy night. Kyeong-ho (played by Kim Sung-gyu) doesn't seem right in the head- an impression soon confirmed when he flips out randomly after an apparent automobile accident. Then, in turn, we are introduced to the impatient, hotheaded cop Tae-sook (played by Kim Moo-yul) and the exceptionally patient, eternally calm gang leader Dong-soo (played by Ma Dong-seok) and their own particularly violent solutions to generally minor problems...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Miss and Mrs. Cops"

2019/05/18 | Permalink

The opener to "Miss and Mrs. Cops" is filmed like a grainy old kung fu movie. The action befits the cinematographic style. Mi-yeong (played by Ra Mi-ran) is right away shown to be a tough middle-aged broad who wants to bring in crooks peacefully, but will use violence when she gets suitably cranky. By the time we get to the present day, and the more traditionally pretty woman cop Ji-hye (played by Lee Sung-kyung), there's an obvious personality clash between old and new...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Jagko" + Full Movie

2019/05/18 | Permalink

With a career spanning over 50 years in a country that censorship rules changed repeatedly but remained quite strict for decades, one can only marvel at Im Kwon-taek's abilities to adapt. After the very strict censorship of the 70's under President Park Chung-hee's authoritarian "Yusin System", the 80's brought a "lenience" in the censorship that allowed filmmakers to deal with the social issues of the then Korean society, with the consequences of the dichotomy and the civil war becoming dominant themes. Im Kwon-taek was one of the first to take advantage of the new rules, with "Jagko"...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Inseparable Bros"

2019/05/11 | Permalink

Se-ha (played by Shin Ha-kyun) is a surprisingly cynical, shifty guy considering that he's bound to a wheelchair. The opening backstory of "Inseparable Bros" quickly gets into why- Se-ha was dumped at a charity home for the mentally infirm. The chronically alcoholic Father Park (played by Kwon Hae-hyo) accepted Se-ha in exchange for a modest bribe, although oddly enough he's a pretty nice guy. All the same it's Dong-goo (played by Lee Kwang-soo) with whom Se-ha shares a special, brotherly bond...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Jo Pil-ho: The Dawning Rage"

2019/05/11 | Permalink

The previous decade (and a bit more actually) was the golden era of crime thrillers for Korean cinema, a genre that actually headed the triumphant march to the top of Asian cinema for the country. Lee Jeong-beom was one of the contributors to this achievement, with "Cruel Winter Blues", "The Man From Nowhere" and on a secondary level, "No Tears for the Dead". Thus, the interest for his first film after 5 years was quite high, particularly since the genre was once again, the crime thriller. Let us see if the "hype" was well worth it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Night Before Strike"

2019/05/11 | Permalink

From the beginning sequence of "The Night Before Strike" the movie wears politics on its sleeve. This is a film about the importance of labor unions, and how they're the only thing standing between the employees and oppressively miserable working conditions. The men and women who work at Dongdung Metal have a good sense of camaraderie. In one particularly adorable sequence we see two of them engaging in pillow talk, apparently totally naked beneath the covers. But the power of friendship is no cure for being forced to work into the wee hours of morning to meet production quotas...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "To My River"

2019/05/04 | Permalink

Jin-ah (played by Kang Jin-ah) is a poet. Her life is generally dull and academic, but peaceful. At least part of this is by design. It soon becomes clear that Jin-ah is in a state of suspended grief over an accident involving her long-term boyfriend Gil-woo (played by Kang Gil-woo) who is stuck in a coma following an accident that happened shortly after they had a big fight on the Han River. Incidentally, the Han River is where Jin-ah and her friends, in better days at least, spent most of their free time...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "LOGBOOK"

2019/05/04 | Permalink

Once the Sewol ferry started sinking, and the boat became submerged, it was inevitable that a certain class of trained professionals would get involved. I am referring do the deep sea divers, to whom director Bok Jin-oh has dedicated "LOGBOOK". Divers of this skill level are hired for a wide variety of tasks- and in this particular case that task was, unfortunately, to retrieve corpses for proper burial...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Oldest Son" + Full Movie

2019/05/04 | Permalink

Yasujiro Ozu's "Tokyo Story" is one of the most influential films of all time, and its impact could not be avoided in Korean cinema, with Lee Doo-yong using it as a basis for "The Oldest Son". However, Lee strayed far away from the classic, eventually creating a movie that is distinctively Korean...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Romang"

2019/04/27 | Permalink

At first glance "Romang" is just a look at the modern day lives of old people in South Korea. Nam-bong (played by Lee Soon-jae) is a gruff, grumpy old taxi driver. Mae-ja (played by Jung Young-sook) is his long-suffering wife. Their son Jin-soo (played by Jo Han-chul), his wife Jeong-hee (played by Bae Hae-sun) and their adorable daughter Eun-ji (played by Lee Ye-won-I) are a presence, but they have their own lives. Besides that, Nam-bong and Mae-ja soon discover they have problems which the younger generation can't solve...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Roh Moo-hyun and the Fools"

2019/04/27 | Permalink

Supporters of the late South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun are under no illusions that he was a particularly smart man, nor that they were particularly wise to follow him. "Roh Moo-hyun and the Fools" traces how this was his main appeal. In a South Korean political system that had since time immemorial championed realpolitik over basic human empathy and decency, Roh Moo-hyun was a nutcase who refused to sneer at those who were different than him...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Road to Sampo" + Full Movie

2019/04/27 | Permalink

"The Road to Sampo" is the final film of Lee Man-hee-I, who collapsed during the editing process and died soon after, with the film releasing in cinemas posthumously...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Watching"

2019/04/20 | Permalink

Yeong-woo (played by Kang Ye-won) is a put-upon woman in her late thirties who works in an office building. Even though it's almost Christmas, it's also crunch time, so she has to spend a lot of time at work after hours. This attracts the attention of younger security guard Joon-ho (played by Lee Hak-joo) who keeps engaging her in mildly creepy conversation. Then there's all those edited in shots we get of somebody paying very close attention to everything that happens in the building via CCTV...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memories of a Dead End"

2019/04/20 | Permalink

The backstory of "Memories of a Dead End" reads like a typical romance. Korean girl Yoo-mi (played by Choi Soo-young) goes to school in Japan, meets the man of her dreams, and they promise to get married when she comes back. But alas, a fairy tale ending is not forthcoming. Once Yoo-mi's dreams are shattered, she's left wandering Nagoya by herself, wondering what to do with a life that no longer has a plan, until finally settling in at a guest house appropriately named End Point...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "A Fine, Windy Day"

2019/04/20 | Permalink

The film marked Lee Chang-ho's return from a ban he had "acquired" from making films between 1976 and 1979. His success had not wavered though, and "A Fine, Windy Day" ranked third in the films released in 1980, while it also won a number of local awards, particularly for the direction (Bae Chang-ho was assistant in this film btw) and Ahn Sung-ki, who did his first steps as an adolescent actor in this movie...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Another Child"

2019/04/13 | Permalink

In the opening scene to "Another Child" we see teenage girl Joo-ri (played by Kim Hye-joon) sneakily peering in at a house party. The mother of the house, Mi-hee (played by Kim So-jin) asks her own teenage daughter Yoon-ah (played by Park Se-jin) what the deal is, and if she knows that other girl. Yoon-ah says not really, and they don't know each other that well, but we soon see that fate has forced these two increasingly crabby girls into a family situation neither one of them wants...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Haunting Hitchhike"

2019/04/13 | Permalink

At the beginning of "A Haunting Hitchhike" Jeong-ae (played by Roh Jeong-eui) and her best friend Hyo-jeong (played by Kim Bo-yoon) impulsively take a trip out to the countryside. They're out looking for parental validation, of a sorts. Their adventure starts girlishly enough, with one giggly scene on the bus being an obvious standout. But then the story takes a dark tur, as Jeong-ae and Hyo-jeong begin to grasp that being out on their own in the darkness in the middle of nowhere is not an ideal position...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Gilsotteum" + Full Movie

2019/04/13 | Permalink

The film is inspired by the KBS show in 1983 which aimed to reunite families separated during the Korean War. The early episodes of the show generated huge amounts of interest among the general public (88% of the population watched the early episodes), and the square in front of KBS was thronged with people advertising and looking for lost family members...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Birthday"

2019/04/06 | Permalink

As "Birthday" opens up, we see the middle-aged Jeong-il (played by Sol Kyung-gu) on an airplane, looking pensive as he comes back to South Korea. This sense of nervousness is soon justified by a strange setpiece wherein Jeong-il he tries to go home, but his wife Soon-nam (played by Jeon Do-yeon) simply stands silently behind the door. Jeong-il doesn't know for sure whether Soon-nam's rejecting him, or if she can even hear him. Yet somehow the tone of the scene indicates that the possibility of the former is oddly logical for him...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Visitors - 2019"

2019/04/06 | Permalink

Soo-hyeon (played by Jung Ho) is a North Korean defector who works in a sparsely populated public library. Life is pretty boring in there, although every so often his boss will pop and complain about some trivial problem. Life takes a turn for the weird when Soo-hyeon starts having serial abstract conversations with other defectors who coincidentally happen to be visiting the library. And then, of course, there's the framing device of Detective Kim (played by Park Gi-ryoong) who's trying to figure out where Soo-hyeon disappeared to, and also the recurring setpiece of the fish in the fishbowl with weird colors...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Red Carpet"

2019/04/06 | Permalink

Romantic comedies are not my favorite genre, to say the least. Occasionally, however, I do find films I enjoy, with "What A Man Wants' being the most recent sample. Furthermore, the concept of the romance between a director of adult films and a former child actress seemed rather interesting, with the fact that the script is based on the director's personal experiences adding even more to the whole idea. Let us see how the film fared though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Money"

2019/03/30 | Permalink

Il-hyeon (played by Ryu Jun-yeol) is a numbers nerd who already looks the part. Through voiceover and montage, we then see Il-hyeon's dorkiness even more thoroughly- he's an ambitious junior stockbroker who wants to make lots of money because he thinks bigger numbers are better than smaller numbers. Il-hyeon then predictably gets suckered into an obvious scam where in the short-term anyway his numbers do awesome...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The King of the Border"

2019/03/30 | Permalink

In the promising opening to "The King of the Border" Yoo-jin (played by Kim Sae-byuk) get off an airplane in Poland and then proceeds to ignore people. There's a lot of great dark travel comedy here. A person like Yoo-jin, when she goes to another country, does so because she specifically does not want to talk to people from her own country anymore. The escalating sequences that follow are amazing, as we see Yoo-jin forced to become more blunt about how she wants to be left alone...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "The Journals of Musan"

2019/03/30 | Permalink

For his feature debut, Lee Chang-dong's assistant Park Jung-bum decided to direct, write and star in a film that was inspired Jeon Seung-cheol, a North Korean refugee he met while attending Yonsei University; Jeon was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in 2008, less than 6 years after he defected to South Korea. His effort paid off with "The Journals of Musan" netting 17 awards from major film festivals around the world...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A History of Jealousy"

2019/03/23 | Permalink

For all the movie's dark, essentially melodramatic marketing, "A History of Jealousy" initially plays out as a mostly cute romance. Soo-min (played by Nam Gyu-ri) and Won-ho (played by Oh Ji-ho) meet again after a long time at a social event with three of their other friends. So of course, happy memories flow forth about how they first met ten years ago in happier times. Back then they had more mundane problems, like trying to evade police brutality...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Back from the Beat"

2019/03/23 | Permalink

Min-gyoo (played by Kwak Min-gyoo) is a delivery guy who's always practicing for his dream job of being a DJ. "Back from the Beat" explores Min-gyoo's overall mood. Min-gyoo has a passive personality and fairly modest dreams. His girlfriend, art instructor Si-eun (played by Kim Si-eun) is at times annoyed with him for not asserting himself better. But for the most part they have a happy understanding relationship with minor spats that are easily smoothed over...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Beautiful Days - 2017"

2019/03/23 | Permalink

After a number of documentaries dealing with North Korean defectors, with "Mrs. B. A North Korean Woman" being the most successful, Jero Yun decided to make his theme into a feature film, in the movie that opened last year's Busan Festival. Let us see how he fared...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "House of Hummingbird"

2019/03/23 | Permalink

Winner of the Grand Prix of the Generation 14plus International Jury and of the KNN and NETPAC award at Busan, Kim Bo-ra-I's feature debut is an excellent indie film, and an indication of the nominal path Korean (melo)dramas should follow...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "1919 Yu Gwan-sun"

2019/03/16 | Permalink

Designed with the centennial of the March 1st Movement in mind, "1919 Yu Gwan-sun" serves an obvious purpose as a documentary. We may know Yu Gwan-sun by name, but who was she? And who were the women she collaborated with in prison? They were not always so well known. The opening scene depicts the writing of a New York Times article in 2018 that helped bring Yu Gwan-sun to prominence. "1919 Yu Gwan-sun" goes further, giving context to the lives of the other women who were in the Seodaemun prison who also defied Japanese authority...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Clean Up"

2019/03/16 | Permalink

Maybe it is a bit too early to say this, but "Clean Up" seems to be among the best independent Korean films of the year, and one of the most interesting movies that have been released from the country during the latest years...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Scarlet Innocence"

2019/03/16 | Permalink

After adapting the traditional tale of Hansel and Gretel in a modern, Korean setting, Yim Pil-sung decided to do the same with the classic Korean folktale Simcheongga, by creating an atmospheric, erotic thriller. Let us see how he fared...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Slow Video"

2019/03/16 | Permalink

The heavily bespectacled Jang-boo (played by Cha Tae-hyun) initially looks like a blind guy. However, narration and flashback soon makes it clear that Jang-boo's problem is not that his vision is too weak, but rather, that it's too awesome, because he can process everything in slow motion. Alas, actually using this power, or even just trying to use his eyesight to do boring normal everyday stuff, is burdensome to Jang-boo. So instead he uses this power to stalk Soo-mi (played by Nam Sang-mi) via closed circuit television...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Resistance"

2019/03/09 | Permalink

Yu Gwan-sun (played by Go Ah-sung) was a real-life organizer in the March 1st Movement. Interestingly, writer/director Jo Min-ho does not depict Yu Gwan-sun's participation in that event so much. We do get a few full color scenes of Yu Gwan-sun with her family. But for the most part, "A Resistance" is the story of Yu Gwan-sun's life in prison following her arrest, set in bleak black-and-white as Yu Gwan-sun's patriotism is contrasted with her inevitably suffering for expressing it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Race to Freedom: Um Bok Dong"

2019/03/09 | Permalink

So apparently, back during the Japanese Occupation of Korea, bicycle racing was a pretty big event. Right away we see a huge Olympic-style Stadium where the greatest athletes of the day compete for glory on the track via these newfangled inventions called bicycles. Then we get to the post-race, where a dozen odd members of the Korean Resistance are discussing whether their goals are best achieved with terrorism or improving the quality of their bicycle athletes...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Gagman" + Full Movie

2019/03/09 | Permalink

Lee Myung-se started his career under Bae Chang-ho, for the films "Hwang Jin-ie" ",Our Joyful Young Days" and "Dream - 1990". Thus, and having repeatedly cooperated with him and his "permanent" protagonist, Ahn Sung-ki, it was almost inevitable that he would cast them both for his directorial debut, a rather unusual comedy titled "Gagman"...More

[HanCinema's News] "He Is Psychometric" Preview Airs

2019/03/06 | Permalink

On March 5th, tvN broadcasted a preview episode of "He Is Psychometric". The purpose of the preview episode was to make an overview of the plot and characters and stoke viewer interest...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Trade Your Love"

2019/03/02 | Permalink

In the cute animated opener for "Trade Your Love" we learn, among other things, that leading man Seong-seok (played by Kim Dong-wook) has a girlfriend. Hye-jin (played by Lee Chae-eun) is divorced, and thus unacceptable to Seong-seok's genteel family. This fact, coupled with how Seong-seok and leading lady Hae-joo (played by Ko Sung-hee) don't have much screentime together, quickly emphasizes how the contract marriage really is fake. Save for inertia, there's no real reason for Seong-seok and Hye-jin to actually go through with it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Second Half"

2019/03/02 | Permalink

We are introduced to Mr. Jo (played by Ryu Seung-soo) as he is driving and talking on the phone. From the beginning Mr. Jo is not a super likable character. This does not change when he arrives at South Korea's northeastern coast, and starts bitterly criticizing the promotional tactics at a local empty fish restaurant. By the time Mr. Jo arrives at his fancy hotel and meets the oddly familiar Min-ah (played by Esom) we still don't really know what the movie's about...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "My Heart"

2019/03/02 | Permalink

One of the most visually stunning films in Bae Chang-ho's filmography, "My Heart" was the product of his and his wife's (Kim Yu-mi, who is also the protagonist) combined writing effort, which resulted in a great story about the life of a woman from the 1920s until the 1960s...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Svaha: The Sixth Finger"

2019/02/23 | Permalink

Throughout a fairly disturbing opening sequence writer/director Jang Jae-hyeon show us the everyday life of Geum-hwa (played by Lee Jae-in-II), a teenage girl living in the centrally located rural county of Yeongwol. In Geum-hwa's life there are cults, suicide, sickness, shamans, that creepy thing that lives behind a door in the kennels. In one graphic moment we even see Geum-hwa's leg chomped at in utero. It's pretty freaky stuff...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "February"

2019/02/23 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "February" we see the twenty-something Min-kyeong (played by Jo Min-kyung) take abuse from her boss at the dumpling shop until finally, she can take no more and storms out. Min-kyeong's assertiveness in this scene is admirable. But as character study, "February" is soon in ominous territory. Sure, Min-kyeong's situation is sympathetic. We see her taking classes and engaging in light prostitution to make ends meet. Then we see how Min-kyeong treats her alleged friends and family...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Sub-zero Wind"

2019/02/23 | Permalink

For her debut, Kim Yu-ri put a lot on herself, by shooting a film that deals with a plethora of subjects, including Christianity, growing up, broken families and obsession, and unfolds in three different time axes. Let us see how she fared though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Innocent Witness"

2019/02/16 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "Innocent Witness" we see the alleged crime that autistic teenager Ji-woo (played by Kim Hyang-gi) saw. There are no frills- just a few seconds of struggle from far away. We can't really see what's happening, so how much Ji-woo saw is also left ambiguous. From there the movie switches gears to defense attorney Soon-ho (played by Jung Woo-sung), who tries to get access to Ji-woo because whatever she saw is the only eyewitness testimony...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale"

2019/02/16 | Permalink

While the titular Zombie (played by Jung Ga-ram) appears almost immediately in "The Odd Family: Zombie On Sale" his presence initially has little traction. A single zombie is mostly harmless, and easily avoided by rural locals who assume he must be some kind of drug addict or something. The titular family is rather more ominous- they're a bunch of loud grifters who hustle out-of-towners for all their hard currency. When Min-geol (played by Kim Nam-gil) returns home the implication is obvious. Whoever Min-geol was trying to scam in the city caught on to his schemes...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Hello God" + Full Movie

2019/02/16 | Permalink

After a Joseon film ("Hwang Jin-ie") and a romantic comedy ("Our Joyful Young Days"), it was time for Bae Chang-ho to return to the theme that resulted in his biggest commercial successes, the road movie, with "Hello God" sharing many similarities with "Whale Hunting"...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Extreme Job"

2019/02/09 | Permalink

It becomes very clear very quickly in "Extreme Job" that the five cop team the movie is centered around is really not very competent. After making excuses to the suspect as to why they didn't make a better entrance, they immediately tip him off to possible escape routes and bungle further capture attempts. When Chief Go (played by Ryu Seung-ryong) finally comes up with an obvious plan, that goes wrong too and the case is "saved" by an embarrassing plot contrivance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Harmony"

2019/02/09 | Permalink

Jeong-hye (played by Kim Yunjin) may be a killer, but she's also a loving mother who relishes every moment with her infant son in prison. The alarming contrast between those two tonal ideas is where most of the back-and-forth in "Harmony" comes from. This is a movie about the fundamental humanity of women in prison. Long before the whole prison women's choir hook of the plot comes up, the main hook here is about relationships between adult women...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Our Joyful Young Days" + Full Movie

2019/02/09 | Permalink

Continuing in his box office success of the 80's, Bae Chang-ho presented another commercially appealing film in 1987, with "Our Joyful Young Days" entailing all the elements the Korean audience cherished at the time (and still does, to a point)...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Maggie"

2019/02/02 | Permalink

Having a newcomer director and a newcomer protagonist in a movie is already a hard task, and Yi Okseop even took it a step further by implementing an episodic narrative that looks more like a collage of ideas than a compact movie. The result, however, is interesting...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Poem, My Old Mother"

2019/02/02 | Permalink

In the rural southwestern part of Korea some old women do household chores day in and day out. They clean up their modest homes, shovel out the snow, and manage their farming plots. It is admittedly preposterous how old women over the age of eighty insist on continuing to farm when they don't really have to. But then, the poets of "The Poem, My Old Mother" are creatures of habit, and that's what their poetry is about. Chores, mostly...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Attack the Gas Station!"

2019/02/02 | Permalink

The first images we see of "Attack the Gas Station!" are highly abstract. We see the gas station being attacked. But who would do such a thing, and why? Rather than tease out this mystery director Kim Sang-jin almost immediately gives a very blunt non-reflective answer. Everybody was bored and there was nothing better to do. The situation is further confused by the gas station attacking thugs deciding to stick around for awhile and terrorize the gas station's owners in the name of...justice?...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Winter's Night"

2019/02/02 | Permalink

As I have stated many times before, Hong Sang-soo's influence in the indie, art-house production of Korea is visible on all levels, and "Winter's Night" is not exactly an exception. A number of unique elements, here and there in the narrative, though, allow the film to be a work on itself, and a rather entertaining experience, at least for the art-house audience...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission"

2019/01/26 | Permalink

During the latter years of the Japanese Occupation the Korean language is not quite banned. Still, the Japanese who rule Korea would rather their subjects not speak it. The chief exception to this rule is for language scholars who are studying Korean academically. Or at least, that's what they want the Japanese to think. In reality Gap-yoon (played by Kim Hong-pa) is putting together a team of cunning linguists to publish and distribute a secret dictionary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Pandora"

2019/01/26 | Permalink

Jae-hyeok (played by Kim Nam-gil) works at a nuclear plant in southeast part of Korea and is constantly badgering his family about moving away for the sake of better opportunities. A lot of people have been leaving southeast Korea over the last few years for exactly this reason, so weighing ambition and opportunity against tradition and home is a relevant social conflict. Alas, "Pandora" chooses a very different villain- the sinister specter of nuclear power...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Whale Hunting" + Full Movie

2019/01/26 | Permalink

Based once more on a story by Choe In-ho, Bae Chang-ho's "Whale Hunting" cemented his position as one of the most commercially successful Korean directors of the 80's, topping the box office in 1984. The titular phrase, during the years of dictatorship, meant yearning for something more than the financial progress that was the government's main goal, and in essence represented dissatisfaction with the then (everyday) life...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Revenger"

2019/01/19 | Permalink

Korean martial arts films are not exactly a common tendency for the country's cinema. But when one someone deals with the genre, as Lee Seung-won-III does here in his debut, well, the result is extremely generic, to say the least. Let us take things from the beginning, though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "No Mercy - 2019"

2019/01/19 | Permalink

The opening scene, with its emphasis on a cool-looking Ford Mustang and Lee Si-young sporting a very attractive red dress, gives "No Mercy - 2019" a rather voyeuristic feel. But that only that lasts up until the point she finally engages someone in conversation. It doesn't end up going well for the guy under the car. And so the purpose of the film is quickly established. In-ae may look pretty, but she's not here to make friends...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Teacher, Mr. Kim"

2019/01/19 | Permalink

With "My Teacher, Mr. Kim" writer/director Jang Gyoo-seong sends a love letter to South Korea's dying rural communities. There's no creature comforts, and hardly any people. But then that's the main positive. Mr. Kim (played by Cha Seung-won) has an elementary school class in Seoul filled with a generic morass of indistinguishable children. Mr. Kim is a slacker at heart, and with so many teachers also floating around campus, who's going to notice a single guy not taking his job seriously?...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Deep Blue Night"

2019/01/19 | Permalink

Based on the homonymous novel by Choi In-ho, and shot in Lon Angeles, "Deep Blue Sea" was one of the first local movies to portray the eagerness of Koreans to immigrate to the US, which was considered the "Absolute" country to live in. Despite the radically different setting than his previous films, "Deep Blue Sea" was another huge commercial success, attracting more than 600,000 viewers, breaking box office records, and receiving many awards on both domestic and international stages, including the Grand Bell Film Award, the Paeksang Arts Award and an Asia Pacific Screen Award...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Grown Up"

2019/01/12 | Permalink

The last time writer/director Jang Hye-yeong saw her mentally challenged younger sister Hye-jeong, that detail's actually a bit unclear, come to think of it. We're explicitly told that that Hye-jeong was put in an assisted care facility at the age of thirteen, and that the subject of "Grown Up" is the decision made by writer/director Jang Hye-yeong to remove her sister from the facility and live together with her some seventeen years later. But an awful lot of the background is surprisingly vague...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Kick the Moon"

2019/01/12 | Permalink

The Korean title of "Kick the Moon" is Silla By Moonlight, a reference to the classic Occupation era song which romanticized the Silla Kingdom. The reference is intended to be ironic, as "Kick the Moon" depicts modern day Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla Kingdom, as being a hotbed of loudmouthed gangsters who speak in thick dialect. The film opens up with a legendary riot as Seoul high school students on a graduation trip decide to show off their toughness by challenging Gyeongju residents to a giant street fight...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Hwang Jin-ie" + Full Movie

2019/01/12 | Permalink

My exploration of Bae Chang-ho's cinema continues with a rather different film, since it takes place in the Joseon era, and focuses not on narrative, but on visuals, in a rather arthouse approach. Let us take things from the beginning though...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Righteous Ties"

2019/01/05 | Permalink

The perpetually frustrated mobster Chi-seong (played by Jung Jae-young) spends the first scene in "Righteous Ties" reluctantly having to take responsibility for a single violent criminal act in order to preserve the interests of his gang. From here the narrative gets kind of murky. Where we might expect a stoic appraisal of criminal honor or possibly a farcical comedy about wacky adventures in a prison, writer Jang Jin somehow manages to do both halfway...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Mr. Gam's Victory"

2019/01/05 | Permalink

In the early eighties, Mr. Gam (played by Lee Beom-soo) has a modest background. He works in a factory by day and helps with his mom's shop in the traditional market at night. The introduction of a color TV is a big deal for his family. Political agitation exists, but for Mr. Gam, it's the kind of thing he runs into by accident. But most importantly, the wealth of the eighties gives Mr. Gam a chance to fulfill his dream of being a baseball player...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Running Wild"

2019/01/05 | Permalink

Mixing an action thriller with a crime thriller is always a good idea, particularly when we are talking about Korean cinema, where the two genres are among the most popular and financially successful. Expectantly, the film was a commercial success in 2006. Let us take things from the beginning though...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 31-32 Final

2019/01/02 | Permalink

It's time to set things right for a better future, but "Feel Good To Die" saves one last twist for us. It's definitely an unexpected one I would usually not welcome at all, but this series has managed to get through everything else with dignity, and it does not disappoint this time either. Jin-sang, Roo-da, and their merry crew won't have an easy road ahead, but they will have good company on it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 29-30

2018/12/30 | Permalink

Even the most inspiring leaders can find it hard to convince a crowd when it comes to something they fear, and Jin-sang has not always been an inspiring leader in "Feel Good To Die". The man is trying his best to bring about change, and to help Roo-da remember, but some things can't be rushed, and some people can't be changed, as evident with In-han. Still, Jin-sang's efforts bear fruit, as Roo-da's fragmented flashbacks yield results...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Take Point"

2018/12/29 | Permalink

In a delightfully cynical opening montage writer/director Kim Byeong-woo shows us how even in its most magnaminous moments, the United States is a comically fickle country whose leaders will sabotage long term peace deals in the name of dubious short term objectives. By the time we get to mercenary captain Ahab (played by Ha Jung-woo) we find out that the glue holding his team together is economic poverty and an absence of proper paperwork to live in the land of opportunity. So it is that they took on a high profile the bunker...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Children Gone To Poland"

2018/12/29 | Permalink

North Korea sent a lot of war orphans to Poland during the Korean War. Allegedly, "Children Gone To Poland" is their story. In practice, the documentary has frustratingly little focus on those orphans. We barely hear anything about them before director Choo Sang-mi is already holding auditions for a young North Korean defector (Lee Song ends up being chosen) to go with her to Poland and find out more...More

[HanCinema Film Review] "The Flower at the Equator" + Full Movie

2018/12/29 | Permalink

Similarly with his debut, but also on a much higher level, Bae Chang-ho presents another multilayered drama about the human psyche, although this time the base is that of a thriller, instead of a social film, which seems to share some semblance with Hitchcock's style...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 27-28

2018/12/28 | Permalink

Jin-sang's joy over Roo-da's newfound not-deadness is understandably hard to contain, but this causes some issues in the workplace, especially when he has to find ways to reenact certain situations that he would rather not have to repeat. With a mission to bring Roo-da up to speed with what has happened being Jin-sang's latest project, can he spark that same change in people that Roo-da tried so hard to accomplish...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 25-26

2018/12/26 | Permalink

The empty space left by Roo-da in "Feel Good To Die" hits everyone hard, and everyone reacts to it differently. At the end of the day, however, it is Roo-da's life that affected these people the most, and changed how they treat themselves and others. Jin-sang takes a considerable blow, given the burden he has to try and change his savior's fate. We know where it all started, and where it can all end...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Swing Kids"

2018/12/22 | Permalink

At the Geoje Prison Camp during the Korean War Gi-soo (played by Do Kyung-soo) is a North Korean Communist who actively resists against the American invaders of his country. "Swing Kids" never actually explains that this is why Gi-soo is such a hardcore partisan, instead going into how he is moved by the inherently inspiring nature of swing dancing. If you think that's bad wait until you get to Pan-rae (played by Park Hye-soo), whose material concerns of providing food for her orphaned siblings are also sidelined by the inherently inspiring nature of swing dancing...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Drug King"

2018/12/22 | Permalink

Archival footage explains how the Japanese discovered meth, and decided to use it during World War II to make their soldiers sharp for the war effort. This predictably resulted in a lot of veterans becoming drug addicts in the decades after the war, and facing local crackdowns, Japanese crime lords turned to suppliers in South Korea to pick up the slack. So it is that in the seventies bumbling fishmonger dad Doo-sam (played by Song Kang-ho) tries to get in on the action...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "People in the Slum" + Full Movie

2018/12/22 | Permalink

Bae Chang-ho's debut feature was not an easy one to make. Although the source material, Lee Dong-chul's semi-autobiographical novel, was a best seller, Bae had to face government censors, which, at a time when Chun Doo Hwan's regime was at a fool bloom after a violent suppression of civil unrest, were at the pick of their power and of their strictness. Even before the start of production, the script was rejected five times and the censors listed 60 elements that they wanted changed. The requested changes included the film's title, the attitude of policemen towards the slum residents, and a husband pulling on his wife's hair during a fight...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Crossing Beyond"

2018/12/22 | Permalink

When one hears about a film that is the official one of the Winter Olympics (in this case of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,) and that the director is appointed to shoot it, one is, inevitably, led to think that the effort would be one of glorification, almost completely stripped of objectivity, a promotional work, in essence. And although these elements are still present, Yi Seung-Jun has managed to shoot a documentary that is much more than a promotional piece, by focusing on stories of actual people, not all of which are characterized by athletic triumphs...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 23-24

2018/12/16 | Permalink

The imminent disaster I was afraid of in "Feel Good To Die" comes a bit too soon for my heart, but in a series about a time loop, a lot is negotiable. The question is, what will we be left with at the end? MW Chicken's power games reach a culmination that has been a long time coming, and a rocky road leads Joon-ho to some correct decisions, but the damage against Jin-sang has been done, and something far more dire follows...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 21-22

2018/12/15 | Permalink

The harsh realities of Jin-sang's past behavior, and of his emotions for Roo-da start hitting him pretty hard, but company matters and a new enemy are getting in the way of these things developing more adequately. With only a few episodes left to go, it feels like a disaster is imminent, but the time loop's origins have to be tackled at some point, and Jin-sang has to face the person behind them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Door Lock"

2018/12/15 | Permalink

Sans context it's easy to mistake the villain of "Door Lock" as the spouse of Kyeong-min (played by Gong Hyo-jin). The more context we get, though, the clearer it is that Kyeong-min is a very harried woman who barely even has time to get up in the morning, let alone have a boyfriend- or more immediately relevantly, notice that anything suspicious is going on. It's only by random coincidence that Kyeong-min realizes something strange is afoot regarding her mechanical door lock...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Unstoppable"

2018/12/15 | Permalink

Don't let that ominous theatrical poster or the similarly imposing title fool you. "Unstoppable" is a surprisingly light-hearted movie. I mean sure, Dong-cheol (played by Ma Dong-seok) is built like a tank and his wife Ji-soo (played by Song Ji-hyo) does inevitably get kidnapped. But up until that point, "Unstoppable" is a very domestic film, where the leading man eschews violence for the sake of respectability, to the point that even Dong-cheol's partner gets annoyed at his excessive passivity. Adorably cute domestic squabbles follow...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "The General's Mustache" + Full Movie

2018/12/15 | Permalink

Based on the homonymous novel by Lee O-young, "The General's Mustache" presents a rather unusual approach to the crime drama, as it initially starts as a usual entry in the category, but eventually turns into an existential, social film filled with philosophical but also melodramatic elements...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 19-20

2018/12/09 | Permalink

I wasn't sure if it was even coming, but the romantic element is here to stay in "Feel Good To Die", and I can no longer enjoy Jin-sang's suffering as much. With the time loop gone, our heroes are in real danger from now on, and In-han's next sickening pet project keeps them busy at work as well. Roo-da's involvement is what moves her two merry men, but will they find their own motivation someday...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Respect"

2018/12/08 | Permalink

In a move that is awfully bold given the documentary's inherently esoteric subject matter, director Shin Jae-hee takes his twelve interviews with South Korea's most well-known rappers and has them talk about something a lot more abstract. Namely, what "Respect" means in the context of South Korea's rapping community. Now, when I call "Respect" esoteric, I don't just mean to foreigners. South Koreans in general also don't know that much about what the country's rapping subculture is like...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "roooom"

2018/12/08 | Permalink

In the opener to "roooom" apartment complex supervisor Sang-pil (played by Kim Jin-soo) negotiate reduced moving fare, set the bottom floor café in order, and finally walk up the stairs to deal with an errand for a tenant before being taken for a rude surprise. This single extended shot is highly mundane and even intriguing. I'd never really thought about what life was like for an apartment complex supervisor. Alas, Sang-pil is quickly abandoned as "roooom" instead becomes a more typical omnibus where each of the four short films deals with a different stage of love...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "The Last Witness"

2018/12/08 | Permalink

Based on the homonymous, and quite successful novel by Kim Seong-jong, including elements of crime thriller with a historic twist about North Korean POWs, and featuring a big budget and an impressive cast headed by Lee Jung-jae and Ahn Sung-ki, "The Last Witness" had all the elements to become a masterpiece. Let us see if it succeeded though...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 17-18

2018/12/07 | Permalink

The half-way mark of "Feel Good To Die" brings about dramatic changes, and it's time for Roo-da and Jin-sang to hit the next phase of their journey. The romantic, business and supernatural elements of the series all hit major turning points, and while we bid the Garibong franchise farewell for now, the challenges up ahead are more demanding, and more perilous. A change in the time loop creates new rules to work by, and new threats...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 15-16

2018/12/01 | Permalink

"Feel Good To Die" works fast, as we find out the identity of the shoving hands and, surprise surprise, it's someone we know well. The reasons behind their involvement are tragic, but perhaps they hold the key to this time loop. Meanwhile, In-han and Si-baek become worse by the second, and Roo-da now has two eager suitors and helpers in her fight to save tomorrow...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Young-ju"

2018/12/01 | Permalink

In the wake of her parents' sudden deaths, the still teenage but technically an adult Young-joo (played by Kim Hyang-gi) takes care of her teenage but still not technically an adult brother Young-in (played by Tang Joon-sang). "Young-ju" isn't quite as melodramatic as that description makes it sound. The first scene has quite a bit of levity, and subsequent scenes drag that tone down only because not teenage but technically adult characters persist in being unhelpful authority figures...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Default"

2018/12/01 | Permalink

The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis was a watershed moment in South Korean history. The exact causes of the crisis remain ambiguous. The middle steps, though, are well explained by Jeong-hak (played by Yoo Ah-in) in an ominous setpiece that makes the ambitious young businessman look like a con artist selling a pyramid scheme. In short, starting with the withdrawal of foreign investors, huge pillars of the South Korean economy start to crumble. Financial analyst Si-hyeon (played by Kim Hye-soo) also anticipates the crisis- and her attempts to mitigate the damage are predictably ignored...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "A Tale of Legendary Libido"

2018/12/01 | Permalink

I have to admit that comedies are not exactly my favorite genre. However, occasionally I do indulge in the category, and "A Tale of Legendary Libido", with its description of a sexually charged, filled with gags one seemed like a nice enough choice. Let us see if it lived up to its "hype", though...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 13-14

2018/11/30 | Permalink

Death wishes, time loops and very nasty corporate greed are bad enough, but Jin-sang and Roo-da's odd connection in "Feel Good To Die" is about to bring more trouble for the two, as the former's obtuseness strikes again. The project to corrent Jin-sang's perception issues and social skills is under way, but everything from business to romantic interests is flaring up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 11-12

2018/11/25 | Permalink

Jin-sang finally admitted that he's not really okay, and his small stickler heart grew three sizes that day. Fate™ in "Feel Good To Die" is a cruel mistress, and this chicken empire's Grinch gets a taste of his own medicine from a position built for humbling. With the Garibong store being a complete mess, and Roo-da away from the action, our death-prone boss finally understands how demanding this time loop conundrum is...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Village of Haze" + Full Movie

2018/11/24 | Permalink

Winner of the Baeksang award for Best Film and by the Korean Association of Film Critics for Best Actor, "Village of Haze" (aka "Village in the Mist") is a great sample of the legendary Im Kwon-taek's contemporary filmography...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Long Farewell"

2018/11/24 | Permalink

On the southeastern edge of Seoul, real-estate speculation spans out from the Gangnam district and slowly threatens to encompass all the region with the same hideous conformity of modern style apartment buildings. While "A Long Farewell" deals with one particular neighborhood affected by these market forces, the embellishment is mine. Director Raya has actually made a very abstract documentary- the kind you might expect to find at an art museum played on permanent loop...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Intimate Strangers"

2018/11/24 | Permalink

Seok-ho (played by Cho Jin-woong) and his wife Ye-jin (played by Kim Ji-soo) have dinner parties with their five friends every so often. This time around Ye-jin finally has the gumption to suggest a game that will, for one night only, destroy all their privacy. "Intimate Strangers" is as much about secrets between partners as it is secrets between friends. Observe how Se-kyeong (played by Song Ha-yoon) is always jokingly ribbing her older more experienced husband Joon-mo (played by Lee Seo-jin) about his past womanizing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 9-10

2018/11/23 | Permalink

The truth hurts, especially when it has created supernaturally fine-tuned mechanisms to confirm your own flaws to your face on a repeated, daily basis. "Feel Good To Die" gives tough love like that. Jin-sang meets an enemy from the past, but he also gets to confirm just how many he has in the present. What's surprising about this whole process is just how obtuse our leading menace has been about it all. Roo-da has a long way to go with this one...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 7-8

2018/11/17 | Permalink

There is always a flow to an ebb, and several of the "Feel Good To Die" characters get to experience new consequences to their actions, while more trouble is brewing. If you thought we had enough antagonists, think again, because our fourth lead is here, and she brings terrible intentions with her. What is more exciting, however, is that another person finally joins Roo-da in her journey through finicky time...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Rikidozan"

2018/11/17 | Permalink

Sin-rak (played by Sol Kyung-gu) was just a kid on a farm in Korea during the thirties, until circumstances conspire to send him to Japan during the forties and begin a career as a sumo wrestler. While Sin-rak had an excellent physique and a fair amount of talent, ultimately, he lacked discipline. Well, as an ethnically Korean man living in Japan Sin-rak also had to contend with racism. But in the end Sin-rak's personality, an odd mix of quick temper coupled with excessive theatricality, proved a better fit for a far more eccentric sort of athletic career...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ode to the Goose"

2018/11/17 | Permalink

Gunsan is a sad, lonely town on South Korea's western coast that is very pretty to look at but communicates almost nothing of substance. That dispiriting appraisal is also accurate when it comes to the named characters of "Ode to the Goose" as we consider leading man Yoon-yeong (played by Park Hae-il), who spends so much time thinking about what to say he barely ends up talking at all. Then Song-hyeon (played by Moon So-ri) talks just to fill the silence but avoids talking about what she actually wants. Their faux day trip date to Gunsan, consequently, goes about as well as might be expected...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "Possible Faces"

2018/11/17 | Permalink

Winner of the Citizen Critics' Award at Busan International Film Festival in 2017, "Possible Faces" is a genuine art-house portrait that focuses on presenting the lives of its ordinary characters with as much realism as possible...More

[Hancinema Film Review] "Hotel by the River"

2018/11/17 | Permalink

In his latest endeavors, festival-favorite Hong Sang-soo has transferred his virtues to the monochrome world, "taming" at the same time his auteur style, which has become much more approachable. "Hotel by the River" is a testament to the fact...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "Waikiki Brothers"

2018/11/17 | Permalink

Yim Soon-rye's "Little Forest" may be one of the (festival) hits of the season, but the director has a quite a filmic past, with "Waikiki Brothers" being one of the most interesting samples...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 5-6

2018/11/15 | Permalink

The smallest thing can feel like a world changing event when you want it badly enough, and we finally start to see change in Jin-sang's perception of his work, and role in the team. Roo-da is the one who experiences the biggest changes so far, however, and she discovers the lack of ideal solutions that life often brings us face to face with. She has a lot on her plate, but she also makes many mistakes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Courtesy to the Nation"

2018/11/10 | Permalink

Back in 1991 protest by self-immolation was a recurring form of expression by those who considered the country's new leaders to be indistinguishable from the old ones. In the truly bizarre case of Kim Ki-sul, one such suicidal protestor, the government attempted to deflect attention away from Kim Ki-sul's pro-democracy message by prosecuting Kang Ki-hoon, one of his colleagues, for helping Kim Ki-sul commit suicide by writing his suicide note. "Courtesy to the Nation" is a documentary that goes over the case from inception to long overdue appeal in 2014...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Myeoneuri - My Son's Crazy Wife"

2018/11/10 | Permalink

Director Shin Ho-bin is a married to a woman he did not necessarily plan to get married to, prior to her getting pregnant. Life between the three of them is actually pretty pleasant, albeit eccentric, given the goofy way she talks and the equally goofy outfits she wears around town on her bike. The main tension in the relationship comes from Shin Ho-bin's mom, who constantly finds fault with her daughter-in-law. If the English title "Myeoneuri - My Son's Crazy Wife" sounds bad, the original insult, B-Grade Daughter-in-Law, is even worse...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "Grain in Ear"

2018/11/10 | Permalink

The second feature of festival favorite Zhang Lu is one of his most acclaimed works, winning awards in Cannes, Busan and Vesoul, and presented in festivals all over the world. The film deals with the Korean Chinese (Zhang Lu's ethnicity) one of the recognized ethnic minorities in China, comprising about 2.7 million citizens. Korean Chinese are spread throughout the country, and their group situation is consequently invisible to other Chinese, though many have difficulties integrating into society...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "This Charming Girl"

2018/11/10 | Permalink

Winner of a number of awards, particularly for Lee Yoon-ki and the protagonist, Kim Ji-soo, "This Charming Girl" was an impressive debut for a director who still holds the interest of the public, with films like his latest, "One Day"...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "Jealousy Is My Middle Name"

2018/11/10 | Permalink

The Korean art-house scene is influenced to a very high degree by Hong Sang-soo, through a number of mentorships and efforts to "copy" his style. Park Chan-ok debut feature, which falls under the first category, is one of the most successful efforts, as it netted her awards from a number of domestic and international festivals, including Tokyo, Rotterdam and Busan, with the success extending to the protagonist, Park Hae-il...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 3-4

2018/11/09 | Permalink

A new persistent day dawns on deputy Lee Roo-da, along with an opportunity to learn something new. Roo-da is tired, and now she has the very focused, very personal loathing of her terrible boss working against her. Escape seems like an appealing solution, but as her supernaturally governed feud with Baek Jin-sang grows, so does her understanding of the intricacies in keeping this magnet of death and ruin alive...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Feel Good To Die" Episodes 1-2

2018/11/08 | Permalink

Some feel that death is the end, others feel it is but a transition, but for the heroine of "Feel Good To Die" it is the most annoying pause button. The drama follows her otherwise normal office life and common woes experienced under a grating boss, but we are thrown into its supernatural twist right off the bat. Can heroine Lee Roo-da save her boss, and save the day from repeating...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 31-32 Final

2018/11/05 | Permalink

"The Ghost Detective" comes to a sad ending, but not in a conventionally sad way. After Da-il's decision, everyone begins to rebuild, but the trauma of what happened is conveniently left out. Along with a twist pretty much seen coming a mile away, it clearly reveals where the series faltered, but it sadly takes its original messages with it, making this an ending sadder than I could have expected...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 29-30

2018/11/04 | Permalink

It is nearly time to pull the plug on a story that has dragged past its heroes' own mental and emotional capacity, but also past its plot's capabilities. With very few solutions provided by the writing aside from more of the same, a devastating call is made. At the same time the return of some of our heroes' earlier traits feels almost like a homage to the original potential that "The Ghost Detective" once had...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Grass"

2018/11/03 | Permalink

Writers tend to be socially isolated weirdos. Or at least, that's the stereotype, so one point of clichéd advice frequently given to aspiring creative types is to go the a café and watch normal people interact. There's just one problem. The kind of people who hang around cafés aren't really any more normal than aspiring writers, and frequently tend to be aspiring writers themselves. This is the lesson which Ah-reum (played by Kim Min-hee) repeatedly fails to learn as "Grass" progresses from one random out-of-context conversation to another...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beautiful Vampire"

2018/11/03 | Permalink

Five hundred year old vampire Ran (played by Jung Yeon-joo) is mostly incompetent. While your typical modern vampire is a wealthy genius heading up a conspiracy...Ran is a bit of an idiot. Her only useful talent is makeup, which doesn't pay much on a low profile. But hey, it does let her look pretty sparkly and beautiful. And really, who needs power when you can confidently strut out of your small apartment every day, confident you won't be burned by the sun?...More

[Hancinema's Film Review] "The Land of Seonghye"

2018/11/03 | Permalink

Winner of the Grand Prize of the Korean Competition in the 2018 Jeonju International Film Festival, "The Land of Seonghye" is a very realistic portrait of the difficulties young Korean people face nowadays, professionally and personally...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 27-28

2018/10/29 | Permalink

Who knew that Da-il body slamming Hye with his ethereal manbeauty would prove to be such a great solution? I was too quick to put my faith in the plot and characters last time around, because "The Ghost Detective" has sadly reached the point where everyone has a serious case of the stupid. Some promising progress made in the previous episodes has gone back a 100 steps as a sacrifice to the altars of stalling, and romance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Rampant"

2018/10/27 | Permalink

The opening scenes of "Rampant" rather effectively set the mood- a late night raid on a Dutch merchant ship in Korean waters leaves one of the pirates badly spooked after he gets mauled by a crazy person. Then we see that in addition to carrying a crazy person, the Dutch ship was also carrying a lot of guns. All of this is relevant to the machinations of minister Ja-joon (played by Jang Dong-gun), but when Prince Cheong (played by Hyun Bin) gets back from a long sojourn in China, all he sees is an empty wrecked town and no royal guard to meet him...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Good Morning President"

2018/10/27 | Permalink

Presidents are just normal human beings like you and me. In "Good Morning President" writer/director Jang Jin takes this banal idea to its natural conclusion. What if presidents were so normal, that they were like characters in situation comedies? What if dignified elder statesman Jeong-ho (played by Lee Soon-jae) had a preternatural obsession with the lottery? What if young hot-shot Hi-wook (played by Jang Dong-gun) kept getting distracted by bodily functions? What if the efficient businesswoman Kyeong-ja (played by Go Doo-shim) had to deal with her bumbling idiot husband Chang-myeon (played by Im Ha-ryong) unintentionally fomenting disaster?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "M"

2018/10/27 | Permalink

As we saw recently in the article about "Nowhere To Hide", Lee Myung-se has a tendency of taking films that could be easily categorized as genre ones, and present them in a unique way, mostly through his visuals and narrative style. This tendency finds its apogee in "M", a film whose basic premise is that of the psychological thriller, but its presentation, completely different...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 25-26

2018/10/21 | Permalink

In another round of "The Ghost Detective" pulling a "Weekend at Bernie's" with Da-il's body, the biggest threat to his future remains the man himself. Team Good tries to catch up to Hye and their own friend in a race for his life, and an unlikely ally surfaces, along with a pretty great, even if rushed through twist. With his health running out, and no guarantees that his plan would even work, will Da-il listen to his team...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 23-24

2018/10/21 | Permalink

"The Ghost Detective" has not been doing well on the pacing since it turned into a treasure hunt for Da-il's body, but it is Da-il's soul that is harder to capture. The group is struggling, Da-il is not listening to their input, and Hye is preparing traps our Team Good is just aching to fall into. With death seemingly almost inevitable for someone, who will that someone be? Can we end this without grand sacrifices...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Butterfly"

2018/10/20 | Permalink

In the southeastern region of of Korea, an elderly man returns to his rural home. In truth he probably can't stay there long and family will come back for him in two weeks. The old house holds great nostalgic value for him. Over eight decades, the man lived there with his wife, taking care of her when he could barely take care of himself. "Butterfly" is a documentary chronicle of the end of their shared life, as we wait for the old woman to die on her own terms...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Public Enemy Returns"

2018/10/20 | Permalink

It's oddly appropriate that right away in "Public Enemy Returns" we see big screen South Korean cop icon Cheol-joong face off against a bunch of elementary school students. They no longer respect law enforcement because of what they see in the movies, and Cheol-joong himself is a prime example of how police in South Korean film at the time were depicted as petty corrupt buffoons. Gangsters, meanwhile, were seen as cool, which is how teenage knuckleheads Ha-yeon (played by Lee Min-ho), Hee-chan (played by Lee Jae-won-I), and Seong-jin (played by Koo Seong-hwan) get wrapped up in the criminal underworld...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Nowhere to Hide"

2018/10/20 | Permalink

I have repeatedly mention that the new "Golden Era" of Korean cinema was headed by the plethora of great crime thrillers that were released during the 00's and the 10's ("Mother - 2009", "The Chaser", "I Saw the Devil", Park Chan-wook, etc). However, the genre also had successes before that time, as "Nowhere To Hide", which won a number of awards both locally and internationally, eloquently proves. Furthermore, Lee Myung-se's film manages to stand out from the vast plethora of similar titles due to its presentation, which actually uses the crime thriller aspect as a base for artistic "experimentations"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 21-22

2018/10/14 | Permalink

The closer we get to Da-il's body, the further away it is, as what our titular hero feels may be a solution is almost at the hands of our villains. "The Ghost Detective" has reached a point where a lot feels like a delay to the inevitable, whatever said inevitable may be. There may be miraculous solutions yet, and we have plenty of time to discover them. I hope they bring answers on all of our players with them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Miss Baek"

2018/10/13 | Permalink

Sang-ah (played by Han Ji-min) is a cynical woman who focuses on survival, rather than thinking about a long-term future. Sang-ah's mean and bitter outlook is largely justified by the brutal and impoverished environment she lives in. Sang-ah's boyfriend, cop Jang-seop (played by Lee Hee-joon) is constantly witness to the senseless brutality committed by people who live on the margins. And Ji-eun (played by Kim Si-ah) is an elementary age student who is a living victim to that brutality...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Autumn, Autumn"

2018/10/13 | Permalink

While "Autumn, Autumn" premiered at the Berlin Film Festival back in 2017 and apparently even had a limited release in the United States shortly after, it was only last month that the film finally received a domestic release in South Korea. The success off "The First Lap" probably has something to do with it- writer/director Jang Woo-jin-II did a lot of production work for that generally well-regarded film. As for "Autumn, Autumn" though, I'm not actually sure what this movie is even about...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Water Mill" + Full Movie

2018/10/13 | Permalink

Lee Man-hee-I is one of the most significant Korean directors that worked in the 60 and the 70s', with films like the present one, "The Marines Who Never Returned", "Late Autumn" (a now lost film which has been remade a number of times in Korean cinema), "Break up the Chain" and many more. "A Water Mill" is among his greatest works...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 19-20

2018/10/11 | Permalink

With Hye somehow managing to find a nastier helper than Jeon Deok-joong, and Da-il's soul being in bigger danger than his body, Team Good of "The Ghost Detective" is starting to feel the strain of their responsibilities. At the same time, help arrives from new, surprising places, but at this dire point in time, the group would and should take anything they can get. Can sacrifices be avoided? Probably not, but everyone will try...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 17-18

2018/10/07 | Permalink

With Da-il's body possibly back in the race for survival, and Hye becoming more of a threat as we go along, a lot changes for our heroes. Between navigating the emotional maze of what this means for their relationships and future, and trying to keep Hye's manipulation at bay, Team Good is juggling a lot, and so is the plot. A very soapy twist is tossed into the mix, but I hope that we will avoid it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dark Figure of Crime"

2018/10/06 | Permalink

Detective Km Hyeong-min (played by Kim Yun-seok) investigates cold cases in Busan. This work leads him to cross paths with local thug Tae-oh (played by Ju Ji-hoon), a very unpleasant man who brags about violent things he probably never did. And that's where the conflict in "Dark Figure of Crime" comes from. Hyeong-min is willing to deal with the devil if it means bringing closure to the family members of missing persons, and Tae-oh is that devil...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Soul-Mate"

2018/10/06 | Permalink

Going by promotional materials one would probably be inclined to think of "The Soul-Mate" as being a typical supernatural odd couple buddy cop comedy. Jang-soo (played by Ma Dong-seok) is a beefy middled-aged judo instructor. Tae-jin (played by Kim Young-kwang) is the currently incorporeal young cop who only Jang-soo can see. Together, they fight crime. In actuality Jang-soo and Tae-jin spend a ridiculous amount of time engaging in petty bickering before the ghost thing comes up at all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Early Rain" + Full Movie

2018/10/06 | Permalink

The film that launched Moon Hee's career is a testament to its times (1966), particularly regarding the youths of the country and their search for an identity after the Korean war, when the whole country was experiencing a crisis on all fronts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 15-16

2018/10/05 | Permalink

In what is another two episodes of writer Han Ji-wan-I toying with our heart, "The Ghost Detective" smacks us right across the feels with a twist we may have seen coming a mile away, but which could have still never come. There is room for a fake-out yet, but a lot could possibly change about how the story moves forward regardless. With Hye's mayhem escalating, and new figures of interest popping up, we have a lot going on here...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Fengshui"

2018/09/29 | Permalink

In the final scene of "Fengshui" we see elderly feng shui expert Jae-sang (played by Cho Seung-woo) recounting to a couple of guys in suits about how he and his fellow geomancer Ha-eung (played by Ji Sung) witnessed the destruction of the Joseon government over a bizarre dispute concerning royal gravesites. This epilogue really should have been the framing device. "Fengshui" has a transparently ridiculous storyline that makes a lot more sense if you know ahead of time that the whole thing is a metaphor for the late Joseon government's absurdly skewed priorities...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Boing The Play Ranger: Super Secret Transformation"

2018/09/29 | Permalink

So apparently way back in 2013 a new children's cartoon appeared on South Korean television called Boing The Play Ranger. The setting is Playville, where all the residents are based off of playground toys. The titular Boing (voiced by Jeon Tae-yeol) is a spring-based riding lion. And apparently some five years after Boing The Play Ranger first premiered the cartoon is only just now getting an origin story depicting how Boing became a play ranger in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 13-14

2018/09/28 | Permalink

There is no bigger cautionary tale about the value of communication than a superpowered walking dead terrorist going loose as a result of its lack, and "The Ghost Detective" crew has just learned that. Episodes thirteen and fourteen start showing some internal logic issues, and I am worried about what the romantic angle might be doing to our leads, but the drama's emotional core and compelling mysteries hold everything together...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Great Battle"

2018/09/22 | Permalink

In the first epic war scene of "The Great Battle" high-ranking Goguryeo warrior Sa-mool (played by Nam Joo-hyuk) experiences a disastrous loss against Tang forces led by Emperor Taizong (played by Park Sung-woong), who boast superior numbers, tactics, and technology. In the aftermath Goguryeo command blames the loss on Ansi Fortress general Man-chun (played by Jo In-sung), who failed to reenforce them. So Sa-mool is sent to assassinate him. No on asks why Man-chun chose to disobey orders- although this question is at the heart of what "The Great Battle" has to say about the meaning of war and nationalism...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "After Spring"

2018/09/22 | Permalink

The three highlighted survivors in the "After Spring" omnibus embody haunted existences as they are trapped by memories of lost loved ones. Sin-ae (played by Jeon Mi-sun) lives in desperation for some means, any means, of seeing her daughter again to make right their strained final encounter. Sang-won (played by Yoo Jae-myung) lives in quiet terror of what he could not make right with his own daughter. Suk-ho (played by Jun Suk-ho) doesn't live at all- he barely even moves from the house, so paralyzed the man is by grief regarding his dead wife...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 11-12

2018/09/21 | Permalink

There is a lot to unpack in episodes eleven and twelve of "The Ghost Detective", as we have new characters and new revelations piling up on top of fast-paced developments. Da-il and Yeo-wool learn more about their abilities, but that knowledge comes with burdens they might not be ready to bear. How far can our heroes and their friends go to protect one another and everyone out there facing such a formidable enemy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 9-10

2018/09/19 | Permalink

I am fully invested in this whirlwind mystery that is "The Ghost Detective", as the series goes deeper into what now feels like a big web of connected lives and deaths. Da-il is discovering new abilities and dangers, Team Good is now complete, a new character seems to hold vital information, and with a hint of romance being created, our two heroes are about to meet new challenges...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Monstrum"

2018/09/15 | Permalink

The opening scene of "Monstrum" definitely gives the impression that it's not the titular monster we should be worrying about. Long before we hear its ominous growls the film is witness to the spectacle of a senseless massacre- royal soldiers against civilians. The lone survivor of this scene, Myeong, grows up into Hyeri, and has learned several fine investigative arts from her adoptive father and Yoon-gyeom (played by Kim Myung-min) and his comic relief sidekick Seong-han (played by Kim In-kwon), which are put to the test as they investigate the monster's path of destruction...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Omok Girl"

2018/09/15 | Permalink

Ba-dook (played by Park Se-wan) is a former Go prodigy turned early twenty-something ronin, who has to make a living via odd part time jobs of various dignity levels. A chance encounter with An-kyeong (played by An Woo-yeon) leads Ba-dook to become interested in Gomoku, a simplified variant of Go where the objective is to get five stones of your color in a row. Gomoku is a more complex game than Ba-dook gives it credit for, and must train for her ultimate goal- a surprisingly good payout for second place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 7-8

2018/09/14 | Permalink

The Woman in Red has finally met worthy challengers in "The Ghost Detective", and she is one mighty sore loser. With her psyche becoming more unstable, and our heroes a bigger thorn in her ghostly side, things are about to escalate. A new character appears, and the time has come for Sang-seob to learn of Da-il's current situation, which gives birth to a Subway product placement scene I never thought could make me cry...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 5-6

2018/09/13 | Permalink

Serial killers are scary, but serial killers with superpowers are terrifying. "The Ghost Detective" brings more twists, leaving our heroes with little time to process what is happening to them, and what has happened in their now shared past. The Woman in Red has a lot of secrets, and I am starting to wonder if several of the characters we have met so far are part of a common, supernaturally skilled group...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 16 Final

2018/09/13 | Permalink

To quote someone we all know and love, "Life" finds a way, and this is the best possible outcome we can hope for in regards to the future of Sangkook University Hospital, as well as our own world. The drama has been through a rough patch lately, but it bows out as gracefully as it can manage, leaving no magical solutions behind, but leaving us and its own characters some valuable food for thought...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 15

2018/09/11 | Permalink

We are approaching some form of closure for "Life", but the ship of what was a cohesive whole has sailed long ago. Character alliances and interpersonal, but also work relationships change in unexpected ways, and the drama is trying to stretch all of its resolutions to the very last minute. Perhaps this is the series that "Life" wanted to be all along, but it sadly did not get to it soon enough...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Butterfly Sleep"

2018/09/08 | Permalink

Ryoko (played by Miho Nakayama) is an aging Japanese novelist who has spent her career shying away from interaction with readers. But now? She's teaching a graduate class on creative writing. It's quite some time before we find out what, exactly, is the real reason for the change in her attitude. Until then, Ryoko gets acquainted with Chan-hae (played by Kim Jae-wook), a Korean transfer student who struggles to pay his tuition...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Into the Night"

2018/09/08 | Permalink

The Monotones are an independent rock band operating out of Seoul. Well, they were anyway. While much of the drama of "Into the Night" centers around whether the band will survive the filming of the documentary (which took place in 2015), the fact that they won top rock prize at the Korean Music Awards in 2016 and successfully produced albums renders the survival question a moot point. Then, right before "Into the Night" received an official domestic release in March, the band collapsed...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 3-4

2018/09/07 | Permalink

Take me out for detective trash day, because I did not see this twist coming, especially so early on. Sadly, neither did our poor Da-il. What happens in episodes three and four will likely change a lot about the story that "The Ghost Detective" and Yeo-wool will be in need of adjusting to, while somehow making it all work to their advantage. Can this lovely duo crack the case, and what future awaits them after this major shift...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Ghost Detective" Episodes 1-2

2018/09/06 | Permalink

"The Ghost Detective" is here to sink his figurative teeth into the case, and his physical ones into demons. In what is one of the most exciting premieres I've seen in a while, the resilient, highly intelligent, spirit-biting detective and his resourceful, stubborn sidekick are up against a terrible foe working with - or perhaps on - equally terrible living persons. Join me for good ol' horror and mysteries...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 14

2018/09/05 | Permalink

People have been keeping things to themselves for a long time at Sangkook University Hospital, but my guess about Seung-hyo's noble intentions might have picked up on a plan or backup plan devised even longer before the president's arrival. Jin-woo is finally facing things out in the open and head on, but we have a lot to get through in a small amount of time. Can "Life" wrap it all up, and does it even want to...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 13

2018/09/04 | Permalink

After dropping that confusing cliffhanger last week, "Life" opts for a little break from the power play kerfuffle in episode thirteen. What is obviously a move to stall plot progression leaves room for focus on matters outside of Sangkook University Hospital. While some of them are welcome, the series is increasingly scrambling for drama in all the disappointing places. Can "Life" find its way back before the end...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "On Your Wedding Day"

2018/09/01 | Permalink

In 2005, rowdy yet well-meaning South Korean teenager Woo-yeon (played by Kim Young-kwang) is living in Gangreung when he becomes smitten with Seung-hee (played by Park Bo-young), a spunky transfer student. "On Your Wedding Day" chronicles their love story through 2005 and 2007 and 2012, before finally ending on a twist in 2018- Seung-hee is getting married, just not to Woo-yeon...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "High Society - Movie"

2018/09/01 | Permalink

Tae-joon (played by Park Hae-il) is a well-liked college professor who does mild advocacy for labor-related causes. His wife Soo-yeon (played by Soo Ae) deals in art. They have a boring but functional marriage. That's not an intentional construction. "High Society - Movie" takes outrageous setpieces like one man setting himself on fire, another man dressing up like a Mexican wrestler to beat up on snitches, and an extended racist sex scene featuring excessive lube then somehow manages to make all that seem incredibly dull...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 12

2018/08/30 | Permalink

I am not sure where "Life" has run off to, but its place is now taken over by a suspense thriller about Evil Rich Dudes™. The series has gone through a major shift in tone and focus during the last two episodes, and the pivotal decisions that come with it feel rushed and forced. If this is what we can expect from the final four episodes, I wonder why it was not introduced sooner, and more smoothly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 11

2018/08/29 | Permalink

Crimes have been abundant in "Life", but its characters are faced with the most dangerous one yet, as political and company conspiracies start seeping into Sangkook University Hospital. Someone close to Jin-woo becomes involved, raising the tensions between him and Seung-hyo, as well as the sacrifices which may have to be made in order to fight this new, and very powerful set of foes. I just hope that this will not turn "Life" into the typical drama of its kind...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Soldier's Mementos"

2018/08/25 | Permalink

Young naïve farmhand Jang-goon (played by Maeng Se-chang) is sent to war. While Jang-goon and his fellow soldiers are decked out in gear reminiscent of the Korean War and frequently watch planes fly overheard, there's also the occasional moment where we see a giant blue beautiful planet hanging in the sky. This sort of begs the question- in a film environment where Korean War stories are considered relevant and cutting edge, why did director Kim Jae-han choose to make a deliberately generic war movie?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Witness"

2018/08/25 | Permalink

The first thing we see suspicious-looking cap-wearing Tae-ho (played by Kwak Si-yang), we learn that he failed to knock out his would-be murder victim. We then learn that Tae-ho does not know how to tie a proper knot. So right from the beginning, Tae-ho comes off looking rather incompetent. It was with great irritation that I realized that for the rest of the movie Tae-ho would demonstrate superhuman powers including, but not limited to, teleportation, omniscience, immunity to physical damage, and invisibility...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 10

2018/08/24 | Permalink

The never ending power play of "Life" hits a deciding moment, as the new Director steps into power, and new games of pull and push begin between the hospital's ethical integrity and Hwajeong Group's ambitions. Jin-woo and his allies are up against powerful  opponents with what feels like the battle equivalent of a butter knife, and the personal crises that they face make everything all the more challenging...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 9

2018/08/21 | Permalink

There is no helping those who will not help themselves, and the elite of Sangkook University Hospital are too busy fighting over the Director position to care about what it will mean for their organization. Jin-woo's newfound confidence pushes him a little further, which motivates Kyeong-moon to take a stand that is about to turn sour. Will our young doctor finally stop expecting others to make the sacrifices he should be partially shouldering himself...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Land of Happiness"

2018/08/18 | Permalink

The first scene in "Land of Happiness" depicts an unfortunate series of events on the subway, back in the days before walls were installed to separate commuters from the tracks. The silent grainy closed circuit television footage is hauntingly effective, and appears multiple times through the duration of the film. But equally haunting is the distant look on the face of Min-soo (played by Ji Yong-suk), a man so spiritually unnerved it's interfering with his job of washing cars- not exactly a profession that requires people skills...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Haunted House: The Secret of the Cave"

2018/08/18 | Permalink

One of the more popular cartoons on South Korea's Tooniverse channel is...apparently called Haunted House. That's a bad name. The main gimmick of the series is that it actually takes place in a relatively modern haunted apartment complex. The protagonists, spunky older sister Ha-ri (voiced by Kim Yeong-eun) and her chubby younger brother Doo-ri (played by Kim Chae-ha) work together with the small, big-eyed green goblin Sin-bi (voiced by Jo Hyeon-jeong) to catch ghosts. The meaning of Sin-bi's name doubles as mysterious or haunted in Korean, so the title is also a pun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 8

2018/08/15 | Permalink

Jin-woo is finally pushed to some necessary limits, as his brother's involvement drags him to the spotlight of this battle. At the same time, a worrying twist has surfaced regarding Seon-woo, and I am hoping that the creators will not do what I fear. Seung-hyo is starting to see the value of this hospital's work among the organizational filth and personal ambitions of its top brass, but will his master allow him to achieve something for all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 7

2018/08/14 | Permalink

The time has come for Seon-woo to enter the fight for Sangkook University Hospital, and the plans hidden behind his involvement strengthen the front forming against the hierarchy's worst. No-eul gets a little wake up call about Seung-hyo's methods, which nonetheless seem to have some genuine concern behind them, at least on a personal level. Our president dearest is slowly waking up to the realities of healthcare that need his consideration...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Goose Goes South"

2018/08/11 | Permalink

Woozoo (played by Kang Doo) is a company worker. I wasn't totally clear on what Woozoo's company actually does, but apparently they do a lot of business in Osaka, since that's where Woozoo hangs out for pretty much the whole movie. Almost all of the dialogue is in Japanese. Incidentally, Woozoo is a really weird way to transliterate that name. Usually it's just written in English as Woo-joo. That name has the same common meaning as universe, although the Chinese characters probably mean something more poetic than that...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Soseongri"

2018/08/11 | Permalink

In the outskirts of Daegu, roughly equidistant from Seongju, Gimcheon, and Gumi, "Soseongri" is a rural farming district that's not too different from most others in South Korea. The population consists almost entirely of old people. Director Park Bae-il asks the old women there about their life stories, and they tell it, in between long shots of their everyday life of wandering around from place to place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 6

2018/08/08 | Permalink

A surprising decision by Seung-hyo turns the tables and brings the planned strike to a halt, leaving everyone in "Life" wondering where to go from here, right before they find another obstacle in their way. What has begun as looking like an outrage-du-jour plot waiting for us gets a welcome injection of intrigue, as Seon-woo seems to have a lot more weighing on his shoulders than he lets on, opening a whole new can of works for the drama's mysteries...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 5

2018/08/07 | Permalink

As the hospital prepares for a strike to end what they see as upper management tyranny, Seung-hyo gets a taste of the differences between spotting problems, and understanding them. With the press and the public becoming aware of the ongoing situation, Jin-woo has an important meeting with a more impartial force that puts some things into perspective for him as well. Communication is what the characters of "Life" are in most dire need of...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 4

2018/08/06 | Permalink

Episode four of "Life" keeps pushing the envelope on how far Seung-hyo will go to have control, despite his obvious reservations. From stealing land built on blood and tears to using a human shield in order to control a rogue element within the hospital, the man is determined. As morally reprehensible as he is, he is up against equally sordid foes, which brings us to the theme of the day; cowardice in the face of responsibility...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 3

2018/08/05 | Permalink

What I thought was an expert at playing it safe is just a rebel without a plan, as Jin-woo lacks the necessary strategic thinking to handle the Pandora's box that he has single-handedly opened. More importantly, he lacks the conviction to do so. Once again, Seung-hyo does what he knows best, and brings Jin-woo face to face with these lackluster efforts. Seung-hyo is clearly winning, and Jin-woo needs to catch up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 2

2018/08/05 | Permalink

The fight for Sangkook University Hospital has begun, and the arrival of someone probably already being burned in effigy by the staff brings a lot of nastiness to the surface. While Jin-woo struggles to find information and allies for his plans, the aforementioned Seung-hyo is already reworking the hospital from the ground up, eager to cut away the parts that do not suit his needs and the greater ambitions hidden behind them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Life" Episode 1

2018/08/04 | Permalink

"Life" starts with a thud, rather than a bang, and the ripples caused by one's tragic fall that sparks everything already brewing under the surface begin showing immediately. The drama's sleek, dark and intense first episode introduces its characters and their basic connections, but it wastes no time in setting up the main mystery, the power play, as well as some more surprising elements, fueling my excitement for the story...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Spy Gone North"

2018/08/04 | Permalink

Director Yoon Jong-bin wastes no time in having National Intelligence Service administrator Hak-seong (played by Cho Jin-woong) bully former intelligence operative Black Venus (played by Hwang Jung-min) into infiltrating the North Korean nuclear weapons program. "The Spy Gone North" takes place some twenty years ago, so the veracity of Hak-seong's nuclear tip is questionable from the very beginning. But the bigger problem is that Black Venus's cover story of engaging the North Korean government in trade deals starts to take on greater importance than his actual mission...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Illang : The Wolf Brigade"

2018/08/04 | Permalink

In the far-off year of 2029, reunificiation between South Korea and North Korea is imminent. There are riots in the street. So the South Korean government makes use of "Illang : The Wolf Brigade", a paramilitary task force that attacks anti-reunification terrorists. Jin-tae (played by Jung Woo-sung) leads the brigade. Cheol-jin (played by Minho) gathers intelligence for them. Our main character Joong-kyeong (played by Gang Dong-won) agonizes over his past role in the death of a large number of innocent schoolgirls, taking solace upon meeting the mysterious Yoon-hee (played by Han Hyo-joo) at Seoul Tower...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days"

2018/07/28 | Permalink

While taking place immediately after the conclusion of "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" it soon becomes clear that "Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days" has surprisingly little to do with the first movie's premise. I mean sure, Kang-rim (played by Ha Jung-woo), Seaman Mac (played by Ju Ji-hoon), and Deok-choon (played by Kim Hyang-gi) are still heralds who negotiate lost souls into their proper berth in the afterlife. But their new charge Soo-hong (played by Kim Dong-wook) is a sharp cookie who quickly notices the ethical inconsistencies in Kang-rim's legal advocacy...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Zak Storm"

2018/07/28 | Permalink

With minimum prompting Zak (voiced by Um Sang-hyun) grabs a necklace to use as an accessory for his surf stream video only to discover that it has the power to activate a portal to another dimension. Note that Zak found the necklace in question being used as a wall ornament. Now that's some questionable judgment when it comes to interior decorating. Most people who hang up guns on their walls at least have the sense not to have them loaded...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sunset in My Hometown"

2018/07/21 | Permalink

Hak-soo (played by Park Jung-min) is an aspiring rapper living in Seoul. He's actually really good, and reliably gets past the initial stage of the popular South Korean rap competition variety show Show Me the Money. The problem is that Hak-soo has a lot of feelings of unresolved rage toward his country bumpkin hometown of Byeonsan in Jeolla province. While this is good material for rap, the lack of emotional closure frustrates Hak-soo's ambitions. Fortunately circumstances contrive to force him back home, however temporarily...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Whispering"

2018/07/21 | Permalink

A gaggle of idiot high school friends have been worrying about Eun-ha (played by So Joo-yeon) who has been on the emotional outs following the death of her best friend Ji-eun (played by Lee Yoo-mi). So they do what any good friends would do, and take her out to a creepy abandoned amusement park on the outskirts of Ulsan. This culminates in a trip to an old haunted cavern that rather ominously bolted shut at the worst possible moment in the movie's cold open...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Have a Date with Spring"

2018/07/14 | Permalink

Director Gwi-dong (played by Kang Ha-neul) is hanging out in the woods with a busted arm eating a birthday cake and checking out his own profile on South Korean film websites. He made "Members of the Funeral", a reference to actual director Baek Sung-bin's first movie. But anyway, Gwi-dong is sad, pathetic and lonely looking. Then there's an ominous explosion and some weird hikers pop up out of nowhere. One of them claims to be a big fan of Gwi-dong's work, and asks to see his next scenario...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Herstory"

2018/07/14 | Permalink

Joong-sook (played by Kim Hee-ae) is a bespectacled Korean woman who runs a travel agency in the early nineties. Joong-sook's success as a small businesswoman has greatly elevated her social standing. The beautiful opening shot of "Herstory" depicts Joong-sook and her equals sitting on elevated chairs opposite a mirror, making them seem like giants compared to the adoring aspirational women on the other side of the table. But Joong-sook is no mere capitalist. Her housekeeper Jeong-gil (played by Kim Hae-sook) was a comfort woman during the Japanese Occupation, and Joong-sook wants justice...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 31-32 Final

2018/07/08 | Permalink

Understanding what you need to hold on to and what to let go of is difficult, but that first step can make or break you. It is a step made by many characters in "Secret Mother", and one Jae-yeol could never take. There is little to be said and done about a past so tainted, but Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong have to build a future through its consequences. The ending is uplifting for some, tragic for others, and ultimately a result of their decisions and actions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 29-30

2018/07/07 | Permalink

Denial is a force to be reckoned with in the hearts of humans, and it is an ongoing theme in "Secret Mother", as Jae-yeol falls deeper and deeper into a losing battle with his past. Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong need to be smarter as they prepare one final push to discover what happened that night. With the source of the phonecall confirmed and holding vital information, the heroines must face their demons in whichever form they meet them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 16 (Final)

2018/07/07 | Permalink

For all the courtroom theatrics the final episode of "Lawless Lawyer" feels oddly anticlimactic. This is fairly unavoidable, though, considering we already know what Sang-pil's ace-in-the-hole is for proving Moon-sook's guilt. I really don't get why "Lawless Lawyer" felt the need to directly tell us that Hyeon-joo was saved right when it happened. I mean sure, her coming in to save the day would still have been fairly predictable, but at least it wouldn't have been one hundred percent obvious...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 15

2018/07/07 | Permalink

First the stand-off regarding Jae-i's kidnapping has to be resolved. I have to admit, I was rather disappointed to find that after all that scheming this was the best plan Oh-joo could come up with. His only back-up is this one guy who's not very competent and appears to be a named character but I can't remember him ever doing anything important prior to this episode. Oh-joo's actions in the closing scenes come off as even more perplexing...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Witch : Part 1. The Subversion"

2018/07/07 | Permalink

Highly presumptuous English title aside (the Korean one just uses the first two words), "The Witch : Part 1. The Subversion" isn't the blatant sequel bait you're likely expecting. The movie's storytelling tradition is actually surprisingly out of date. We've got Ja-yoon (played by Kim Da-mi), who is obviously a witch, but does not seem to realize that she's a witch. Then we have to spend ninety minutes watching Ja-yoon pretend like she's not a witch before someone finally pops up to explain her backstory...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cinema with You"

2018/07/07 | Permalink

The first episode of the three-part "Cinema with You" omnibus features Seon-mi (played by Kim Ye-eun), a woman who works at the guide desk in a large building somewhere in Daegu. Her existence is meaningless, and portrayed in black-and-white. Every morning she reaches a gangly arm out of a tiny hole in her door to grab her daily milk delivery. As opposed to just, you know, opening the door...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 27-28

2018/07/01 | Permalink

The mysterious phone call made by Hyeon-joo, or someone pretending to be her complicates what would have otherwise been a simple, albeit terrible indication of Jae-yeol's guilt. There are two possibilities for his crimes, and they are both equally tragic and horrifying. Jae-yeol has done something terrible, and we will soon find out who the main victim of it is. Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong have different goals, but the women know it is time for closure in "Secret Mother"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 25-26

2018/06/30 | Permalink

The sordid affairs of "Secret Mother" just keep getting nastier and nastier, but Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong are no longer in denial or running away. On the other hand, Jae-yeol is very much doing both things the more he is backed into a corner by the two women, and a voice of questionable origin on the phone is not enough to convince me that he has not directly harmed Hyeon-joo or even Min-ji. For the sake of his family, I hope he has done neither...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 14

2018/06/30 | Permalink

I like how even though we understand how Moon-sook's scam works, Soon-ja is still completely oblivious. As tempting as it is to write Soon-ja off as just being really dumb for failing to realize that Moon-sook set her up, it's worth noting that all of Moon-sook's cronies have been rationalizing Moon-sook's failure to act the same way. It's just that back then we (and they) were inclined to see Sang-pil as the real threat, such that Moon-sook's actions could be justified under the auspice of self-preservation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 13

2018/06/30 | Permalink

Now that Hyeon-joo is captured, Jae-i and Sang-pil have to race to save her. Well, not really. There's not as much urgency to Hyeon-joo's situation as we would expect because Moon-sook only wants Hyeon-joo liquidated under extremely specific circumstances. That's because Moon-sook actually doesn't really care about Hyeon-joo that much and never did. The Hyeon-joo situation is just an excuse to shake up Moon-sook's existing personnel...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ayla: The Daughter of War"

2018/06/30 | Permalink

Süleyman (played by Ismail Hacioglu) is a Turkish dandy hanging out with his buddies in Istanbul in late 1950. They decide to enlist to fight in the Korean War for nationalist pride. Why it would be patriotic for Turkish men to volunteer to fight in a random civil war on the opposite side of the planet is not discussed. Nor is it especially relevant. After some token scenes establishing that the North Koreans are indeed evil "Ayla: The Daughter of War" moves on to its core concept- the relationship between Süleyman and Ayla (played by Kim Seol), a young war orphan...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Student A"

2018/06/30 | Permalink

The original webcomic version of "Student A" is very soft and introspective. Keep that in mind while watching the film version, which has surprisingly low dramatic gravitas even in its most shocking moments. Sure, Mi-rae (played by Kim Hwan-hee) has an abusive home life. She also has little to no social life, and is completely absorbed in a dying MMORPG. Mi-rae ends up getting embroiled in a vicious plagiarism scandal, and the opening scene of "Student A" strongly implies that the movie will end with Mi-rae committing suicide. Yet for all that, Mi-rae is fine...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 23-24

2018/06/24 | Permalink

I have rarely been so delightfully frustrated while watching a drama, as "Secret Mother" is hitting a lot of sweet spots with its relentlessly obscure truth. The things I thought I knew are looking much worse, but it only takes one ominous phone call to throw all those theories right back into the humble pile of speculation. Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong have a complicated truth to untangle, and it now includes yet another victim...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 21-22

2018/06/23 | Permalink

"Secret Mother" is finally back after a long absence, and the drama carries on taking its heroines' lives from bad to worse, but hopefully towards resolution. The contents of the warehouse are revealed, lies are crawling left and right, and there are now very few doubts left as to who has done what. Unfortunately for Yoon-jin, Eun-yeong, and everyone touched by the evil that is lurking, it looks like we have plenty of suffering left to go...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 12

2018/06/23 | Permalink

So Hyeon-joo is forcing Sang-pil not to tell Jae-i about the full situation. While Hyeon-joo's motherly concern is understandable, the woman could really use a comparable sense of self-preservation. For that matter, Sang-pil also should have shown more interest in Hyeon-joo's welfare for Jae-i's sake. Even if Hyeon-joo was going to continue to go undercover, imagine the drama that could have been avoided if Sang-pil had insisted on giving her a GPS device...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 11

2018/06/23 | Permalink

So Oh-joo's motivation for helping out Sang-pil is both a lot more complicated and a lot more simplistic than I was expecting. Like Moon-sook, Oh-joo is dismissing Sang-pil's potential as a threat. Which makes sense considering how easy it was to frame Sang-pil for murder. Why bother worrying about Sang-pil at all when Oh-joo has his own domestic problems to worry about? Not to mention, political problems in that people still tend to think of Oh-joo as being a thug?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Land of Sorrow"

2018/06/23 | Permalink

Fifty seven years ago South Korea's government created a forced labor camp in the coastal Seosan district to the southwest of Seoul. To populate this camp South Korea's government kidnapped people from the southeastern part of the country. Though some had expressed disagreeable political opinions in general these state-sanctioned kidnappings were random. "Land of Sorrow" tells the story of the people who worked the Seosan prison camp and through them, director Lee Jo-hoon tries to parse what exactly the purpose of camp was...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The End"

2018/06/23 | Permalink

The Korean title of "The End" directly translates as the couple that lives in the forest. By choosing this very generic English title writer/director Jeon Kyu-hwan has made "The End" nearly impossible to search for. Then again the couple that lives in the forest doesn't even show up for over half an hour. The extended cold open is just an unrelated short film about Joo-hee (played by Lee Joo-hee-I) a college student who must resort to increasingly sordid activities in order to make rent...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 10

2018/06/16 | Permalink

So now Sang-pil is stuck in the hospital. Everyone comes by to cheer him up, not that Sang-pil needs much cheering up. I'd like to think this is mainly just a matter of his being smug. That incomprehensible Sang-pil made to just stab himself in the middle of a fight is actually give a really good explanation here. And of course, there's more of those romantic conversations between Sang-pil and Jae-i, where they emphasize their renewed commitment to each other through the mutual goal of the investigation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 9

2018/06/16 | Permalink

It's very obvious to us that Sang-pil did not murder Dae-woong, since we saw that whole scam play out directly. So all the usual noble hero wrongly accused stuff "Lawless Lawyer" is getting into right now? That's pretty well-worn. What's a lot more interesting is how all the other characters react to the accusations, because they don't know what really happened. Well, except Oh-soo, but even his storyline here hits some surprisingly unsuspected snags...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "On the Road, Khaosan Tango"

2018/06/16 | Permalink

Ji-ha (played by Hong Wan-pyo) is an aspiring director who travels to Thailand in order to research a film project. His idea involves a story about a Korean husband and wife who travel to Thailand and get separated. We never actually get to hear the end of this story, because the first time Ji-ha starts to get into details, another character interrupts him, saying that Thailand expatriates know all about this story and they hate it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Accidental Detective 2: In Action"

2018/06/16 | Permalink

Right away "The Accidental Detective 2: In Action" gets on my good side by reminding us how working dad Dae-man (played by Kwon Sang-woo) and former cop Tae-soo (played by Sung Dong-il)...actually kind of suck at business management. Sure, in "Accidental Detective" these two managed to solve an exceptionally complicated and high profile case. But a lot of that was through dumb luck, and besides that, who can afford to hire private detectives in this economy?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 19-20

2018/06/10 | Permalink

It feels good to get some confirmation on the morality of key persons in "Secret Mother", and unfortunately for Yoon-jin, Jae-yeol is at the terrible end of the spectrum. His mother finally reveals her goals, but I am having an alarming suspicion about the motivation behind them, which could make Yoon-jin's marriage even more painful. Eun-yeong gets a second chance at life, and perhaps her sister shares her luck...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 17-18

2018/06/09 | Permalink

I am rarely mentally outdone by a drama's mystery, and the fact that "Secret Mother" manages to keep me so delightfully confused, but not bewildered is commendable. Just when I think we are being given a major clue, it just adds on to the uncertainty. We are only half way in, and Yoon-jin is faced with several terrible possibilities, while Eun-yeong is struggling to wake up and share what she has witnessed...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 8

2018/06/09 | Permalink

The romantic storyline between Sang-pil and Jae-i has become a serious problem, albeit not for the reasons I was expecting. Out of context the romance actually works pretty well. There's drunken walks on the beach, extended climbs up stairs in heels, and even the pointless obfuscation of their relationship around the office is pretty cute. The main issue is that Sang-pil and Jae-i aren't really paying much attention to the villains right now, which is a pretty dumb move considering they both taunted the villains directly last episode...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 7

2018/06/09 | Permalink

Hyeong-man (played by Lee Dae-yeon) is the hapless corrupt prosecutor who Sang-pil and Jae-i rescued last episode. The only problem is, Hyeong-man didn't really want to be saved in the first place. And his newfound sense of moral clarity is accompanied by an equally strong desire to avoid taking orders from anyone, including Sang-pil and Jae-i. So after he leaves them some critical clues, Hyeong-man is on his own doomed solo attempt to take down Oh-joo single-handedly...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Home"

2018/06/09 | Permalink

Joon-ho (played by Lee Hyo-je) is a middle school student with a lot of problems that aren't his fault. Joon-ho loves soccer, but is bullied mercilessly when he underperforms- and whenever another excuse is handy. Joon-ho's mom Seon-mi (played by Kang Yeon-jeong) is always home late from work, having had a bit too much to drink and their apartment is falling apart. The main bright spot in Joon-ho's life is his adorable younger brother Seong-ho (played by Im Tae-poong) who is indirectly the source of much of this misery...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Her Husband and His Wife"

2018/06/09 | Permalink

Joo-mok (played by Lee Sang-hyun) is a ballet instructor. As a man, this sometimes makes him idly wonder if he is sufficiently masculine. This is especially a problem since Joo-mok's wife Soon-jong (played by Go Ae-ri) is a tough-as-nails police detective- the kind that chases down suspects and knocks them to the ground personally. Interestingly, Joo-mok's agitation is mostly abstract. He has no apparent self-confidence issues except when it relates to his wife. The guy drinks soda while his buddies drink soju for pity's sake...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 15-16

2018/06/03 | Permalink

We have finally caught up to the night of Eun-yeong's fall, and the future is going to be mighty interesting. The past always comes back to bite you, and several people are now feeling its merciless jaws snapping at their back. Jae-yeol has a lot to hide, and if everything is as it appears to be, a lot of it is criminal as well. Yoon-jin has quite the work ahead of her, but will Eun-yeong be there for her or against her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 13-14

2018/06/02 | Permalink

"Secret Mother" definitely means business as it approaches its mid-point, because all hell breaks loose in episodes thirteen and fourteen. We have some major, gigantic revelations for ourselves, but also ones happening between characters. With so many secrets brought to the surface, even new ones form, and the drama masterfully makes pinpointing guilty parties and their crimes delightfully challenging...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lawless Lawyer" Episode 6

2018/06/02 | Permalink

Earlier this week I read criticism about the sudden romance that popped up in "Lawless Lawyer" and thought to myself, was it really bad? Then I watched the drama myself and yeah, it was pretty weird. The first scene we get is Jae-i (played by Seo Ye-ji) confronting Sang-pil (played by Lee Joon-gi) over why there are pictures of her mother (as well as Jae-i herself) on Sang-pil's investigation board. Even when Sang-pil provides a reasonable explanation, it's still fairly creepy how he didn't tell her this sooner...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Believer"

2018/06/02 | Permalink

Won-ho (played by Cho Jin-woong) is a prosecutor who works in narcotics. We're first introduced to him via his bratty niece Soo-jeong (played by Geum Sae-rok). Then out of nowhere "Believer" jumps into drugs and death. Yeon-ok (played by Kim Sung-ryung) decides to cooperate with police after a business meeting fails to go as planned, and it isn't long before Won-ho is running a sting on international crime lords Ha-rim (played by Kim Joo-hyuk) and Bo-ryeong (played by Jin Seo-yeon), who are also loony drug addicts...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Papa Oranghutan"

2018/06/02 | Permalink

The opening scene of "Papa Oranghutan" features Korean pastor Park Cheol-yeon and several of his congregants decked out in traditional Malaysian hunting gear (think blowguns and foliage) hunting monkeys. Eh, I never liked monkeys anyway. The purpose of this sequence is to show off the extent to which Park Cheol-yeon is embedded with his congregation. Park Cheol-yeon is a guy who lives, thinks, and breathes the Malaysian jungle. His mission? To bring them the loving words of our savior Jesus Christ...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "After Diving Bell"

2018/06/02 | Permalink

Four years ago director Lee Sang-ho made "The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol" or, as it is called in Korean, Diving Bell, after the titular object which could have been used to expedite rescue efforts during the Sewol tragedy yet was left unused. "The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol" was rushed to reach an audience while Sewol was still in the public mind. "After Diving Bell" chronicles Sewol's evolution from a national tragedy to a cultural movement, with "The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol" itself being used as a cultural touchstone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 11-12

2018/05/29 | Permalink

I never thought a fever would be a joyous event, but mine has jolted my memory, and possibly solved one of the big recent mysteries of "Secret Mother" so far. Episodes eleven and twelve of this suspenseful womance thriller start with a bang, end with a bang, and bring a lot of secrets, nastiness and important connections to the surface. It is time for our heroines to face the past and start unraveling it, even if it hurts them the most...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 9-10

2018/05/26 | Permalink

Skeletons in the closet are very last century, so we keep them in our back yards these days. "Secret Mother" episodes nine and ten take a turn for the grim, and the list of suspects for the greatest of crimes aside from all the terrible parenting is starting to become uncomfortably small. Meanwhile, Yoon-jin and Eun-yeong start bonding more deeply, but our undercover sister is struggling with new information...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Thorn Flower" Episodes 1-3

2018/05/26 | Permalink

Earlier this week we learned that Kang Kyung-joon and Jang Shin-young are getting married, having met on the set of "Thorn Flower" some five years ago. I was a little curious about how this romance started and uh, wow. The first thing we see is Se-mi (played by Jang Shin-young) getting chased around by Hyeok-min (played by Kang Kyung-joon), who is trying to rape her. I get that Kang Kyung-joon is crazy handsome, and has an amazing chest, but wow, what a way to meet a guy...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The March for the Lost"

2018/05/26 | Permalink

At first glance "The March for the Lost" appears to be an experimental film, as writer/director Park Ki-bok shows us a bunch of weird abstract imagery- mostly imagery related to the 1980 Gwangu Uprising interspered with Swan Lake. Then we're in the present day. Hee-soo (played by Kim Kkobbi) is getting married, yet somehow or other her senile mother Myeong-hee (played by Kim Boo-sun) has escaped from what appears to be a mental institution with very bad security...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Meeting: Coffee Shop Chat"

2018/05/26 | Permalink

In "Meeting: Coffee Shop Chat" seven thirty-something men talk and act like men while wearing suits and drinking coffee at a café. That really is the entire movie. From the beginning some questions are begged. Why are they wearing suits, when half of them have jobs that don't even require suits? Also, why are they drinking coffee when these are clearly guys who usually talk about life over rowdy beers? Worry not- by the end, a very good explanation is given for these questions...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Burning"

2018/05/26 | Permalink

Jong-soo (played by Yoo Ah-in) lives on a decrepit family farm in Paju and takes on lousy part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. Over the course of one such task, Jong-soo meets Hae-mi (played by Jeon Jong-seo), who is also apparently from Paju, in about as bad a financial situation as Jong-soo, yet is also planning a trip to Africa. Hae-mi asks Jong-soo to look after her cat while she's gone. And so begins the first of many irrelevant mysteries in "Burning"- does Hae-mi indeed own a cat?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 7-8

2018/05/21 | Permalink

Relationships continue to be strained, and the past comes back to the forefront in episodes seven and eight of "Secret Mother". Eun-yeong faces Yoon-jin's trauma head on, and Min-joon's repressed pain shakes his mother's resolve. The Daechi-dong trio are now fully on board the efforts to get rid of the admissions tutor, while Jae-yeol's own connections to key figures start being built...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 5-6

2018/05/20 | Permalink

Daechi-dong is drowning in secrets, and Eun-yeong is slowly dragging them out as "Secret Mother" develops. Yoon-jin is being shaken by the appearance of a witness, but her reluctance to involve those she cares about leave her with Jeong-wan as her only aid. What she does not know is that everyone is still very much involved. Meanwhile, we get to know the Daechi-dong families better, and boy are they one increasingly messed up bunch...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Yeah, That's How It Is" Episode 30

2018/05/19 | Permalink

So an old kiss scene from "Yeah, That's How It Is" has been in the news lately, so I thought I'd check it out. This being episode thirty of a weekend drama, there's obviously a lot of context that I'm missing. "Yeah, That's How It Is" is an ensemble piece, and we don't actually get to see Se-joon (played by Jung Hae-in) or Na-yeong (played by Nam Gyu-ri) until about the nineteen minute point. But from that point on they're a constant fixture. The production team definitely recognized their excellent chemistry...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "LOVE+SLING"

2018/05/19 | Permalink

Initially the narrative arc of "LOVE+SLING" seems obvious. Seong-woong (played by Kim Min-jae-I) is an aspiring Olympic wrestler. He's coached by his father, the ever cheerful single dad Gwi-bo (played by Yoo Hae-jin), and is in an as-yet still platonic relationship with obvious love interest Ga-yeong (played by Lee Sung-kyung). They're childhood friends, what with Ga-yeong being the middle daughter of Gwi-bo and Seong-woong's neighbors Seong-soo (played by Sung Dong-il) and Mi-ra (played by Jin Kyung)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Haewon"

2018/05/19 | Permalink

In "Haewon" director Gu Jahywan takes us on a road trip to a series of sites wherein civilians were massacred in between the end of the Japanese Occupation and the close of the Korean War. Really, the opening subtitles spell the situation out pretty well. Everyone thought it was great that the Japanese were gone, but that hope didn't last long. The more the citizenry tried to express themselves democratically, the more the South Korean government became determined to stomp out dissent by any means necessary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Gateless Gate"

2018/05/19 | Permalink

The opening scenes of "The Gateless Gate" dramatize the legendary historical event that led to the creation of the Zen Buddhist koans of the same name. After the dramatization, "The Gateless Gate" transitions into a documentary depicting eleven practitioners of Korean Buddhism who undergo a ritual inspired by the teachings of those koans. They isolate themselves into a small locked room with an adjoining yard for a thousand days, and spend that time meditating...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 31-32

2018/05/17 | Permalink

We open up with a scheme on Do-chan's part to trick Tae-woong into buying a fake diamond. What possible purpose this scam could serve was not made clear to me. Was the idea to deprive Tae-woong of funds so that he would be unable to mount an effective legal defense? Except that the big breakthrough in the case comes from Tae-woong's goons just arbitrarily deciding to turn state's evidence against their boss so...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 29-30

2018/05/16 | Permalink

Mr. Kim (played by Song Won-seok) is Tae-woong's right-hand man, and can usually be counted on to threaten people when Tae-woong himself is not available. Unfortunately Mr. Kim has never had much in the way of personality traits. Indeed, we know so little about Mr. Kim that attempts on the part of Joon-soo and Ha-ra to threaten him come off somewhat ambiguously. Before, when Tae-woong's associates were nabbed, their silence was assured by various extended implied blackmail...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 3-4

2018/05/13 | Permalink

The perfect facade of the Daechi-dong crowd is slowly starting to crumble, and past trauma puts those bearing it in a fight or flight mode in episodes three and four of "Secret Mother". Eun-yeong is getting closer to a truth different people seem to know different sides of, and she is starting to bond with Yoon-jin and Min-joon in the process. The gaping wound that this family has will need to grow bigger before it can close...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Exit" Episodes 3-4 (Final)

2018/05/13 | Permalink

Conceptually, "Exit" is a satire of the illogical means by which bad dramas attempt to brute force a happy ending since there's no way to resolve the conflict plausibly, especially when too little time remains to do so. At least, this is the most reasonable way to interpret how Kang-soo finally relocates the mother who abandoned him decades ago with an ambiguously abusive father. Every step of the way, said mother simply placidly reassures Kang-soo that everything will be all right...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Secret Mother" Episodes 1-2

2018/05/12 | Permalink

Grab a self-care kit of calories and water, because "Secret Mother" is here to put us through the wringer. The mystery womance thriller does not fool around with its themes, and if the suspense of a whodunnit and who will make it through unscathed is not enough, wait until you dive into the almost surreal world of academic and social pressure that the featured families are drowning in...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "True Fiction"

2018/05/12 | Permalink

Usually when movies do psychopaths they're either of the disarmingly charming variety or they act like crazed lunatics every waking moment. "True Fiction" takes the seldom-traveled middle road. Kyeong-seok (played by Oh Man-seok) is an aspiring politician who doesn't respect boundaries. His mistress Ji-yeong (played by Lee Na-ra) helps him be a jerk, without actually liking him all that much to begin with. Then they meet Soon-tae (played by Ji Hyun-woo), a bestselling novelist who tells elaborate implausible stories in such a way that implies he is actually being truthful...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Intention"

2018/05/12 | Permalink

Jung Woo-sung narrates a reversal of format as "Intention" starts off on the moment the tragic accident was first reported (8:52 AM April 16th 2014) and works backwards. Eyewitness testimony from Sewol survivors indicates that around twenty minutes prior to that, Sewol made a lurch so sudden that crew members watched in shock as a refrigerator flew halfway across a room. Every minute lost was a nail in the coffin to the people who died that day. So why the delay in calling for help?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Stand By Me"

2018/05/12 | Permalink

Deok-goo (played by Jung Ji-hoon) is an elementary school student who's still reeling from separation anxiety. His father's dead, and his mother's been chased out of the house. The latter is the fault of Deok-goo's grandfather (played by Lee Soon-jae), who loves Deok-goo dearly, but is old enough to realize that he isn't really a feasible sole long-term guardian for a child as young as Deok-goo, even if his birth mother is Indonesian...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 27-28

2018/05/10 | Permalink

As Tae-woong recuperates from his vigorous physical assault at Do-chan's hands, there's discussion of how alarming it is that this time, Do-chan was actually seriously going after Tae-woong. And yet Tae-woong recovers from his real injury about as quickly as he did from the fake one. And despite the implication being made that Tae-woong needs to take the situation more seriously, by and large the man just acts the same as he always did...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 25-26

2018/05/09 | Permalink

Tae-woong's status as a credible villain continues to plummet. The whole scheme involving his elaborate fake injury was bad enough. Tae-woong's schtick has been his ability to single-handedly run a room even when other people who technically outrank him are inside. Fake pity doesn't really work with that. Besides that issue Tae-woong's grudge with Do-chan has become increasingly petty and personal, such that Tae-woong no longer much acts like the leader of a criminal empire...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Exit" Episodes 1-2

2018/05/05 | Permalink

Kang-soo (played by Choi Tae-joon) has a sympathetic backstory. He's deep in debt, thanks to his father Jeong-man (played by Woo Hyun) and works this debt off by doing odd jobs for loan shark Tae-bok (played by Park Ho-san). Unfortunately Kang-soo is also not very smart, especially when it comes to money. We see Kang-soo make frivolous purchases large and small, effectively making his poverty cyclical. So it is that Kang-soo searches for an "Exit" to his dilemma, however exotic that solution may be...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Shadows in the Palace"

2018/05/05 | Permalink

The time is eighteen century Joseon. There's been a murder at the royal palace. Medical examiner Cheon-ryeong (played by Park Jin-hee) can tell that much from the condition the body is in, but is currently under pressure from Chief Maid Gam-cheol (played by Kim Sung-ryung) that the death is to be recorded as a suicide, owing to a delicate political situation between the Queen Dowager (played by Ye Soo-jung) and the royal concubine Bin (played by Yoon Se-ah). Predictably, Cheon-ryeong concludes that these are not mere coincidences...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Portrait of a Beauty"

2018/05/05 | Permalink

Yun-bok (played by Kim Gyu-ri) is a talented young painter in the Joseon era. Unfortunately, she is also a woman. The first plan Yun-bok's family comes up with is to just have her brother take credit for the art. That doesn't go well. So it's with a sense of resignation that we see Yun-bok going about her career, studying under master painter Hong-do (played by Kim Young-ho), and falling in love with Kang-moo (played by Kim Nam-gil), knowing that inevitably, Yun-bok's ambitions are doomed...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memories of the Sword"

2018/05/05 | Permalink

Hong-i (played by Kim Go-eun) is a talented young martial artist living in the Goryeo era. Hong-i is so jazzed about being able to achieve an obviously impossible acrobatic feat over a sunflower that she celebrates by running off into town and impulsively entering a martial arts tournament. But before we get to know Hong-i too well, her mother Wol-so (played by Jeon Do-yeon) and archenemy Yoo-baek (played by Lee Byung-hun) take over the movie, with Hong-i only making fleeting appearances...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 23-24

2018/05/03 | Permalink

Do-chan and his dad finally meet up for the first time in ages- and with that, the two conspire to become an impeccably effective con artist team. Unfortunately there's very little follow-up to this. It's never completely clear how Mister Ppeong is going to be able to assist Do-chan when Do-chan already seems to be doing well enough on his own. This ignoring that Tae-woong has finally gotten suspicious enough about the relationship between Joon-soo and Do-chan to run some tests...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 21-22

2018/05/02 | Permalink

So Joon-soo was working with Do-chan all along. That's unavoidable, since Joon-soo is trying to cover up the fact that he's violently ill- a fact of which we are quickly reminded. Now Do-chan has to take up the mantle again, and pretend to be Joon-soo. While I can kind of get everyone at the office being accepting of Joon-soo's abrupt personality changes, Tae-woong's tacit acceptance of Joon-soo is starting to make the drama's chief villain come off as a lot less threatening than he used to be...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.20 - 2018.04.22

2018/04/30 | Permalink

Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War" arrives and rules...

Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity War", one of the most anticipated films of the year, hit Korea last Wednesday across a massive 2,553 screens nationwide. The nineteenth film in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which began with "Iron Man" almost exactly a decade ago, captured an unprecedented 95.11% of the sales over the last weekend of April...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Prison Playbook"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

There are all manner of slice-of-life stories out there, but it is a genre not as loved by Korean drama as it is by other industries. The famous "Reply" series' creators take a bold step in creating "Prison Playbook", a slice-of-life story you never knew you absolutely needed in your life. From the most mundane luxury of a hot shower, to the bonding forming in a place where privacy and freedom are a concept of the past, the drama dives right into its themes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

There are few Korean drama writers more familiar to and loved by international audiences than Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran, but the sisters have been having a bit of a hit and miss career with dramas. "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi") is their first work for cable television, and an ambitious project full of potential for supernatural ensemble goodness during its conception. Delivery is a whole other matter, however...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gangnam Blues" Revisited

2018/04/28 | Permalink

I'm a bit embarrassed as to the flippant tone in my original review for "Gangnam Blues". Everything I wrote about the movie was accurate. Most people liked to discuss Lee Min-ho's status as a massive star and writer/director Yoo Ha's status as a noir film auteur, so the absurdity aspect seemed like a more unique and interesting angle. But three years and a couple of rewatches later, I've come around to seeing "Gangnam Blues" in a far more serious and relevant light- as a tacit, dark, and mostly true origin story as to where the glitz in Hallyu Wave really came from...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "So I Married An Anti-Fan"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

Fang Miao Miao (played by Yuan Shanshan) is an incompetent Chinese paparazzi. No, seriously, from the very first scene we see that Fang Miao Miao is very bad at taking salacious photographs in a subtle, non-suspicious manner, which is kind of an essential skill in the paparazzi business. She also resorts to violence at the slightest excuse. When Korean star Hou Zhun (played by Chanyeol) comments on how Fang Miao Miao should be in jail, that just ends up begging the question. Why isn't Fang Miao Miao in jail anyway?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Making Family"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

A pretty animated sequence opens up "Making Family" and explains the childish logic by which Tae-bong (played by Moon Mason) understands how he was created- via sperm donation. Tae-bong is not to be underestimated. The adorable ragamuffin has a highly adapatable scheme by which he plans to discover the identify of his birth father Julien (played by Aarif Rahman). Meanwhile, Tae-bong's mother Mi-yeon (played Kim Ha-neul), struggles to find her lost son...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bad Sister"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

Ershan (played by Ivy Chen) is a Chinese astrologer. No, no, "Bad Sister" takes place in the modern day, and oddly enough, I can believe that Ershan is paid serious money just to rig up astrology charts. Especially since as far as "Bad Sister" is concerned, Ershan's charts appear to be completely accurate. It's Ershan's personality that causes trouble, as the woman gets to know older amateur astronomer Joon-ho (played by Ji Jin-hee), who thinks little of Ershan's vocation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 19-20

2018/04/26 | Permalink

Joon-soo doesn't do anything all that helpful in regards to Do-chan's big egg heist. Do-chan's big egg heist doesn't really do much either, though. Do-chan just gets yet another opportunity to act really smug. There's a very episodic feel to the schemes lately. There aren't any long-term consequences, so it's difficult to feel very invested in the endings. Tae-woong's criminal enterprise still doesn't seem to be suffering very much in terms of structural consequences, considering how many of his underlings end up in jail...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 17-18

2018/04/25 | Permalink

The immediate question begged by Joon-soo's apparent betrayal is whether it's sincere. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth episodes, we are given every reason to believe that Joon-soo is indeed working against his prior motives of justice. Well, sort of. While Do-chan is fighting the good fight, he has no respect for the rules. Nominally this isn't a big deal. But remember that Joon-soo's entire authority for going after Tae-woong in the first place is that Tae-woong doesn't play by the rules...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 39-40

2018/04/24 | Permalink

There are no big dramatics for the final episode of "Shall We Kiss First", which instead focuses on the joyful monotony of daily life. Moo-han may have the occasional scary moment, but he is still able to persist normally, and in fact makes a continued point of doing so. The whole storyline with the cat is great because the old Moo-han would have just decided this wasn't worth the effort. But now? He sees inconvenience, too, as a part of life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 16 (Final)

2018/04/24 | Permalink

Explanations have never been a strong part of "That Man Oh Soo" and I never had any expectations otherwise for the final episode. I figured there would be some weird loophole used to explain how Oh Soo could save Yoo-ri without killing himself, when Oh Soo had already initiated the whole noble suicide process. But what exactly that loophole was, um...I'm still not sure. Somehow "That Man Oh Soo" manages to get to the end without explaining what happened even to Yoo-ri, so of course we get nothing either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 37-38

2018/04/23 | Permalink

I like how Soon-jin is treating Moo-han's stay in the hospital as a stay in the hospital while Moo-han is acting like this is hospice care. Of course Moo-han's outlook has not actually changed in any meaningful way. He's spent the entire drama in self-imposed hospice care, it's just a lot more obvious now because everything is out in the open. Which also adds a morbid sense of humor even to scenes as mundane as Soon-jin eating some fried chicken...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 15

2018/04/23 | Permalink

All right, so there appears to have been another angle to the night stalker subplot. Not that this is all that important. Oh Soo resolves it over a single disaffected scene, wherein he ominously implies that civil liberties don't matter when it comes to crooks. I would have thought it would make more sense to have Yoo-ri solving crimes, what with her being a cop and all. Although Yoo-ri is busy elsewhere here, what with all the moping around over her having lost another boyfriend...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.20 - 2018.04.22

2018/04/23 | Permalink

"Rampage" reigns while local documentary "Intention" rises...

The Rock's "Rampage" remained unmoved at the top of the pile over the second last weekend of April. The film, based on the classic video game by Midway Games, arrived in the Land of the Morning Calm two weeks ago. From 886 screens nationwide, "Rampage" claimed 34.17% of the sales (363,703 admissions, or $3 million) and moved its total tally to 1.2 million: $10.2 million. Worldwide, director Brad Peyton's action adventure film has earned just over a quarter of a billion US dollars (the film was produced for $120 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 16 Final

2018/04/22 | Permalink

After two whole seasons of "Mystery Queen", it is time for "Mystery Queen Season 2" to wrap everything up, or at least provide us enough answers to make the slow trudge through some confusing, often lacking in direction content to have been worth it. It may be the time for that, but the disappointing second season of this beloved show chooses to explain next to nothing, while creating more questions and pulling key episode plot points out of a magician's hat...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Blue Mouthed Face"

2018/04/21 | Permalink

Seo-yeong (played by Jang Liu) is being crushed under the weight of having to work miserable jobs in order to pay for her mother's medical expenses. Her physically handicapped older brother Yeong-joon (played by Jin Yong-wook) is capable of working, but business at the small sewing company where he works is not going well. The relationship between brother and sister is further strained by vile suggestions Seo-yeong pushes in order to deal with their poverty...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Farming Boys"

2018/04/21 | Permalink

The three young men spotlighted in "Farming Boys" are wwoofers. That is, they're participate in WWOOF (World-Wide Opportunites on Organic Farms), an organization of farms which take on foreigners as temporary workers. That "Farming Boys" never actually explains what a wwoofer is is the most obvious omission in the documentary's educational purpose. Although there's also all the traveling they apparently did in Southeast Asia, which is mentioned in the epilogue but doesn't appear anywhere else in the movie...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "All Day Candles"

2018/04/21 | Permalink

The Gwanghwamun Candlelight Rallies were mass protests every Saturday from late 2016 to early 2017 demanding the removal of President Park Geun-hye from office. The first short docuemntary of the "All Day Candles" omnibus, "Square@People" (directed by Kim Hwan-tae) is a dialog between two organizers of the Candlelight Rallies explaining the origins of the rallies, and relating the rise of the rallies to ongoing political events at the time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 15

2018/04/20 | Permalink

With Secretary Kim out in the open and probably mildly intimidated by the ones trying to force him out, the ever so hyped up figure starts making mistakes. Wan-seung also gets a rude wake up call in regards to his brother, however, when they meet on opposite sides of the latest murder case. Seol-ok moves past her grief for Min-joo, but Kim's efforts to create a scapegoat for the case might just cost him dearly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 15-16

2018/04/19 | Permalink

In episode fifteen, we see Do-chan swagger in with a nice suit, completely in his element as the guy who is always running a con, to the point he'll even say so directly. Then, in episode sixteen, we see Tae-woong walk down the stairs in a typically loud brightly colored outfit, knowing full well that everyone takes orders from him and that's what matters. Here are two very different, yet equally effective ways of running a room...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 13-14

2018/04/18 | Permalink

The investigation has stalled here, mostly as a result of mutual disinterest. Ha-ra already has enough high-level crooks that there's not really much impetus to go chasing after any more right this minute. Meanwhile, Tae-woong has been so spooked by recent reversals he's decided to hold back. Well, not really. It turns out that Tae-woong has been running a pretty long con on Jeong-pil, which somewhat awkwardly puts the more publicly powerful man in the position of technical victim...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 20 (final)

2018/04/17 | Permalink

The ending to "Laughter in Waikiki" goes a lot better than I was expecting mainly because recent episodes have surged in quality. The immature, obnoxious Dong-goo who was always picking fights with Joon is gone. The more restrained Dong-goo we have now isn't just funnier, he's also a lot more introspective. Sure, he's a bit of a jerk to Yoon-ah's ex-boyfriend (played by Kim Jin-woo), but then by his own admission, Yoon-ah's ex-boyfriend deserved it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episode 35-36

2018/04/17 | Permalink

For these episodes, if I just de-emphasize the content of the dialog, ignore the scenes at the candy company, and instead just focus on the ambience, there's that same beautifully bittersweet tone which characterized the first half of the drama's run. When the increasingly artificial conflict between Moo-han and Soon-jin is de-emphasized, we can see these two as lonely, older people who are filled with regrets. They fix that feeling by trying to act without regrets for whatever time they have left...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 14

2018/04/17 | Permalink

So the night stalker storyline appears to have been resolved almost entirely by accident. I can't decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one end this plot was undeveloped from the very beginning, so I'm glad it's out of the way. But on the other end, the remaining storylines aren't that much better. Eventually the issue with the murderous magic tea is the preview. I can't figure out why this basic worldbuilding has been held back for so long...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 13

2018/04/16 | Permalink

So right away we get an extended flashback wherein Oh Soo as a child learns about the terrible power of the magic tea. But because these scenes are taken from the vantage point of a child, the explanation for why the magic tea is so dangerous is completely dumbed down and censored. Consequently, Oh Soo's journey to find a cure is bereft of context. We can't even guess at loopholes because so far as the script is concerned this tea just kills people, end quote...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 19

2018/04/16 | Permalink

I like the storylines where Joon-ki is forced to do weird stuff for the sake of his acting career. Because actors do really weird things, compared to other jobs. The whole executive meeting where everyone has to brainstorm ideas for the first pitch is great, because we could tell they were going to come up with something weird. Just not that kind of weird. Although it's a letdown how after all that practice we never actually get to see Joon-ki do that very strange first pitch...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 33-34

2018/04/16 | Permalink

There's an interesting moment in the thirty-fourth episode where reference is made to the candlelight rallies. For most of the candy company plot in "Shall We Kiss First" I'd actually been thinking the same thing. The superpowered corporation that can obliterate obstacles by waving a magic public relations wand is a dinosaur of a trope at this point, and calls attention to just how corny the story in "Shall We Kiss First" really is. Especially since Moo-han himself was their public relations wand and knows all their secrets...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.13 - 2018.04.15

2018/04/16 | Permalink

The Rock's "Rampage" rules...

Jeong Beom-sik's sleeper hit "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum" was denied a third-straight week at the top of the pile with the arrival of "Rampage" and John Krasinski's "A Quiet Place". Based on the video game series by Midway, "Rampage" follows a primatologist (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and an albino gorilla who, due to rogue experiments by a greedy genetics company, grows to King Kong proportions. The film arrived in Korea last Thursday and claimed pole position over the weekend with 608,122 admissions ($4.9 million, or 35.19%) from 909 screens...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 14

2018/04/14 | Permalink

There are enough secrets in "Mystery Queen Season 2" to make one's head spin, but it looks like we might be solving them all in what now feels like a series ending. Any developments happening here will still leave a lot to be desired, but there is one specific twist which is at the very least unpredictable and genuinely sad at the same time. Wan-seung is about to discover some more terrible things about his life and his past. Let us hope he can handle it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

"Mother - Drama" is the kind of work that one enters with a suspicious mind and a hardened heart, as adaptations and remakes carry an unfortunate stigma. What one leaves this series with, however, is much more valuable and fulfilling than I could have imagined going into it. "Mother - Drama" gathers a great cast to tell a simple, human, personal story of a bond that can do terrible damage when bad, and hold someone up for life when good...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

Why take revenge alone when you can do it in a group with unlimited funds and technology? "Mad Dog" takes the basic premise of a revenge story, it adds a ragtag group of heroic stereotypes, and some equally standardized villains to produce its take on a Korean drama classic. This should have been entertaining, at the very least, but when my only take away is how much I love properly used ties, I would say something went wrong...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Duck Town"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

Suseong Lake is a location in Daegu. It's just a normal lake, and as is common in South Korea, there are swan boats that people can use to paddle around. It's the job of Hee-jeong (played by Lee Se-young) to manage those swan boats, although she has dreams of bigger and better things. Like transferring to a university in Seoul. Why does Hee-jeong want to go to Seoul so badly? Well's a goal in search of a motivation. But at least it keeps her from going suicidal...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Someone Behind You"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

Ga-in (played by Yoon Jin-seo) is a likable high school student from a good family who's a crackerjack fencer. These combat skills prove helpful against the major supernatural threat in "Someone Behind You" although it's not quite what she's expecting. Sure, there are plenty of freaky hallucinations, but the reason why the movie is called "Someone Behind You" is because the real threat always ends up being one and only one person who's in the same room as Ga-in at any given time...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Wife is a Gangster 3"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

Ah-ryeong (played by Shu Qi) is the heir to a Cantonese criminal empire. In the opening setpiece of "My Wife is a Gangster 3" she and her father Lim (played by Ti Lung) are attempting to make nice with a rival gang but it doesn't go so well, since apparently some people find the idea of a woman mafia heir to be an object of amusement. So Ah-ryeong gets sent off to Korea under the protection of Gi-cheol (played by Lee Beom-soo) and his crew. They're really more incompetent chaperones though, since Lim can take care of herself...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 13

2018/04/13 | Permalink

The time has come to pull back the curtain on the woman we know as Hee-yeon in "Mystery Queen Season 2", and the stage set behind it is not surprising. Some long-held suspicions are proven true about other characters as well. Our leads remember that Hyun-soo's case exists again, after wrapping up the latest disappearance case, which also comes to an unsurprising ending. It looks like this season will be the final one, so prepare for a lacking ending...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 11-12

2018/04/12 | Permalink

Do-chan's motivation is a mystery not just to Ha-ra, but also to his team of con artists. While there's no major conflict about this yet, I mostly just liked the moment where they're eating cheap pizza and talking about all the money they're going to get, while apparently unable to tell the difference between different kinds of premium cheap pizza. The con artists in "Switch - Change The World" are not a particularly discriminating lot when it comes to the finer things in life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 9-10

2018/04/11 | Permalink

Right away there's a snag to Do-chan's brilliant deduction. He can't really explain where the idea came from. More importantly it's a bad idea for him to explain where the idea came from, because the main factor inhibiting the villains right now is that they're not sure how their criminal enterprise has been compromised. It was a nice touch, watching Ha-ra drag Do-chan away from the cameras since nearly anything he could say for a multitude of reasons could put them at a future disadvantage...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 18

2018/04/10 | Permalink

There's a very good establishing scene starting out this episode wherein we see what it's like for Joon-ki, having co-workers with loads of fangirls. It's only natural for Joon-ki to feel deficient in this environment. And so begins a very weird storyline wherein Joon-ki is extremely slow to catch on to obvious hints that the current guest star is very creepy. This then naturally leads into Joon-ki's own behavior taking a turn for the bizarre...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 12

2018/04/10 | Permalink

Right when I thought "That Man Oh Soo" was done with hospital scenes we end up right back there again. Thankfully the trip to the hospital is not a long one, although the main thing that happens there is a mildly amusing gag involving one character being confused by how Yoo-ri appears to have multiple identical boyfriends. He doesn't say anything about Oh Soo and Ji-won being identical. That's just what I was thinking during that scene...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 31-32

2018/04/10 | Permalink

It's hard to imagine there was once a time when I was genuinely enthralled with the brisk pacing in this drama. Time was we were always getting new, meaningful revelations about Moo-han and Soon-jin's backstory. Now they just keep having moments over whether or not they should be breaking up or moving out or whatever. There's only so many times a couple can have that argument before their entire relationship starts to come off as incredibly fickle...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 17

2018/04/09 | Permalink

In a nice change of pace, the storylines in this installment of "Laughter in Waikiki" are structured like mysteries, where we as viewers are invited to guess at possible resolutions to apparently inexplicable situations. Take the first and most prominent storyline. By all accounts Yoon-ah's confession to Dong-goo was completely sincere. So what to make of her attitude? We are given the clear impression that Joon-ki and Doo-sik's assumptions are wrong, because they are idiots. But clearly an explanation of some sort is forthcoming- and it's a good one...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 11

2018/04/09 | Permalink

The affected voice Oh Soo talks with now is starting to drive me crazy. It makes him sound weirdly effeminate. Although that's really just part and parcel for Oh Soo's whole personality change, wherein he is just too unconditionally nice and lovey-dovey all the time. That's not romantic, it's just corny. Romances are effective because we see characters get together in spite of their flaws, and even loving each other all the more because of them. Now? Oh Soo has no flaws, and is even explicitly described as virginal. Now there's an odd trait for a leading man...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 29-30

2018/04/09 | Permalink

Heartless though it may be for me to write this, I really don't care about Soon-jin's dead daughter. In narrative terms, the daughter is only relevant to the extent that she caused Soon-jin's trauma, creating the Soon-jin that exists in the present. The daughter has never been a character in her own right for us to care about. Indeed, by centering so much of the action around the lawsuit, "Shall We Kiss First" actually makes it more difficult for Soon-jin to let go of the past...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.06 - 2018.04.08

2018/04/09 | Permalink

Local horror narrowly retains pole position amid stiff competition...

The low-budget horror "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum" by director Jeong Beom-sik managed to hold off serious challenges from both "Ready Player One" and the recently released local comedy-drama "What a Man Wants" to retain the top stop. Jeong's surprise hit outplayed Steven Spielberg's adaption last weekend with 40% of the sales (983,018 admissions), and with the 513,673 (27%) admissions the film scored here, its total tally now stands at 2.2 million ($16.7 million)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Microhabitat"

2018/04/07 | Permalink

Once upon a time, Mi-so (played by 'Esom') had friends. There was no specific falling out that splintered their social circle. They all just moved on. But not Mi-so. She's happy cleaning apartments, scoring some smokes, sipping whiskey at a favorite bar and maybe playing an aggressive game of pattycake with her boyfriend Han-sol (played by Ahn Jae-hong). Sadly, an increase in living expenses has made this lifestyle increasingly untenable. So Mi-so seeks out her old friends, in hopes of finding a solution...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I'll Just Live in Bando"

2018/04/07 | Permalink

Joon-goo (voiced by Lee Seung-haeng) is an acting professor. Well no, actually, he's an adjunct acting professor. Which means he's basically a normal professor except that he's paid less and doesn't have job security. Though popular with his students, their sincere praise of Joon-goo's acting abilities tends to stoke Joon-goo's dreams. Sure, the guy's in his forties and supporting a family. But don't television dramas need short, homely, middle-aged balding characters too?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Like a French Film"

2018/04/07 | Permalink

The four short movies in the "Like a French Film" omnibus all deal with obstructed love. The nature of that obstruction changes from piece to piece. For an aging mother (played by Lee Young-ran), it's entirely her decision. For the bartender (played by Lee Yoo-mi), it's sincere disinterest. For the internationally inclined couple of So-yeon (played by Kim Soy) and Steve (played by Steven Youn), it's fate. For Soo-min (played by Shin Min-chul) it's...circumstance?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 12

2018/04/06 | Permalink

"Mystery Queen Season 2" manages to get more confusing the more it reveals, but an actually challenging standalone case has appeared to bring back some of the sorely lacking mystery challenge of the series. The fact that it does this in a satisfying manner is a pleasant change from the season-long mystery's nature delivering very little pay-off. As for said mystery, Inspector Woo and Wan-seung go deeper, but we still do not know where...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 11

2018/04/06 | Permalink

The wave of guest stars continues, but at least the latest one has been teased before, and he brings a case as a present. At the same time, standalone cases are now a distraction from a main story aching to happen, which thankfully gets a good chunk of plot dedicated in episode eleven of "Mystery Queen Season 2". While Wan-seung and Seol-ok are still largely in the dark, we finally take a peek behind the curtain...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 7-8

2018/04/05 | Permalink

The first five minutes of episode seven are a recap of "Switch - Change The World" so far along with the full cliffhanger from last time, now with an explanation. I can't decide whether the production team is trying to cut costs or if they really are that self-indulgent about how clever the turnabout was. It was a decent turnabout. Do-chan may not be a real prosecutor but he's definitely observant. But personally I'm more concerned about the ongoing effort to murder Joon-soo...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 5-6

2018/04/04 | Permalink

Seong-doo (played by Kwon Hwa-woon) is Tae-woong's ruthless enforcer. The original plan was just to kill Joon-soo outright, but the apparent failure of the first assassination attempt coupled with Joon-soo's confusing behavioral changes afterwards have left the villains of "Switch - Change The World" struggling to figure out the best course of action. Obviously there is some sort of hustle going on here...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 16

2018/04/03 | Permalink

Right away we start out with a reckoning. Dong-goo rather sensibly demands an explanation for the elaborate web of lies Joon-ki and Seo-jin have devised to ineffectively avoid publicly acknowledging that they have a relationship. Even granting that the characters in question are all adults, and owe each other no explanations, what Joon-ki and Seo-jin did was very hurtful. But then Dong-goo chooses to have a temper tantrum and any ambiguity in that situation is lost...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 27-28

2018/04/03 | Permalink

There's a lot more of Soon-jin pretending like she doesn't know what Moo-han is up to here. Couple that with Moo-han agonizing in general about leaving Soon-jin alone and not telling her everything and well, "Shall We Kiss First" is pretty hopelessly depressing. The drama is also fairly pointlessly depressing. Since the main chararacters are not communicating honestly with each other, the plot has slowed to a crawl. Only the legal case takes on much prominence...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 10

2018/04/03 | Permalink

Oh Soo's intonation is now so chipper I barely recognize him as being the same character. It's not just the weird way he talks. I remember Oh Soo as being a generally crabby young man who doesn't especially care what other people think, yet has a kind heart in spite of that. Oh Soo in full-on lovey-dovey mode is a substantially less interesting character, since he just does that aggressive romantic comedy pursuit thing that's supposed to be cute but frequently comes off as stalking behavior...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 15

2018/04/02 | Permalink

Dong-goo's latest devious scheme to insure that Yoon-ah and Joon don't spend any time together involves organizing a workshop for the guest house. Which involves them going to...another guest house, where they act as guests on vacation. At times like this I can't help but think about how badly "Laughter in Waikiki" has been wasting its own premise. How does one successfully manage a guest house anyway? Surely there are better ways to find guests than to just drag them in from off the street...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 25-26

2018/04/02 | Permalink

There's several minutes of happiness as "Shall We Kiss First" focuses on events immediately preceding the cliffhanger before getting back to where the story left off- with Soon-jin discovering the pen and all of its horrible implications. Not that this has any apparent effect on her relationship with Moo-han. Soon-ji appears to be making a deliberate point of not destroying her relationship with Moo-han, when you'd think some form of revenge would be on her mind...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 9

2018/04/02 | Permalink

More of a big deal is made out of how Yoo-ri is having a hard time because of her mother's illness, yet is so fortunate to have not one but two men eager to offer emotional support at the slightest notice. That melodrama doesn't last very long, though, since the surgery ends up going well. I never especially liked the sick mother storyline, but the sheer anticlimax of its ending was a little much for me. The pacing was just not as good as it coud have been...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.30 - 2018.04.01

2018/04/02 | Permalink

"Gonjiam" rises and outplays "Ready Player One" over Easter weekend...

Jeong Beom-sik's "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum" enjoyed a successful limited release last weekend (fifth with 54,780 admissions) and has risen to the top of the chart following its official released last Wednesday. From 1,124 screens around the country, "Gonjiam", Jeong's second feature-length film as the sole director after "Casa Amor, Exclusive for Ladies" (2015), earned 39.62% of the sales, or 983,045 admissions ($7.6 million). The local horror/mystery managed to outplay Steven Spielberg's action-packed adaptation "Ready Player One"...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Seven Years of Night"

2018/03/31 | Permalink

It is time to take a look at the depths human darkness and pain can reach in "Seven Years of Night"; the story of a broken man spiraling down his own abyss, and a predator out for revenge. Boasting great performances by Ryu Seung-ryong and Jang Dong-gun, what might seem as a standard revenge piece at first, reveals itself as the fierce battle of the characters against their own demons, whether they are open to facing them or not...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum"

2018/03/31 | Permalink

The Gonjiam Mental Hospital has a suitably horrific backstory regarding the abuse of mental patients, and there are plenty of eerie pictures floating around the Internet of the abandoned building's creepy interior. The disappearance of a couple of teenagers whose last known activity was investigating the site for kicks and giggles has further improved the Gonjiam Mental Hospital's mystique. So it is that Ha-joon (played by Wi Ha-joon) puts together a team to investigate the facility and posts their findings via a live online stream...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Be With You"

2018/03/31 | Permalink

The opening to "Be with You" is a cute animated story about a penguin mother who has gone away to the cloud country, but returns home for one last stretch before finally leaving again forever. The book's author, Soo-ah (played by Son Ye-jin) gave the book to her elementary school aged son Ji-ho (played by Kim Ji-hwan-I) shortly before her death. Ji-ho religiously anticipates the circumstances under which Soo-ah will return while his now single father Woo-jin (played by So Ji-sub) tries to hold the household together...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Field Day"

2018/03/31 | Permalink

The Korean title of "A Field Day" literally means "exercise meeting" and has multiple contextual interpretations. It can refer to a sports festival at a school. It can also refer to labor action. It can also refer to political protests. The point is, "A Field Day" is a day when you exert yourself to win. That's the moment the movie is building up to, when for various convoluted reasons, husband Cheol-goo (played by Yang Ji-woong), wife Mi-soon (played by Lee Jung-bi), brother-in-law Min-seok (played by Choi Hyuk-I), and father Soon-dol (played by Park Chan-young) find themselves aligned with different factions in a labor strike...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 10

2018/03/30 | Permalink

While Seol-ok and Wan-seung are busy being confused about the ring, I am busy being confused about everything in "Mystery Queen Season 2". Hee-yeon's identity is still a mystery, as she can be anyone from a random person, to Hyun-soo, to someone involved with Kim. We still have no reasoning behind her plans, but perhaps Wan-seung's brother dearest has plans of his own. As confusing as it is, at least the main plot is finally moving...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 9

2018/03/30 | Permalink

We enter the second part of "Mystery Queen Season 2" with a shocking revelation about Ji-seung, but definitely not the kind I was expecting. The main story is being given by the drop, but at least our probably-antagonists are making more major moves. Meanwhile, Seol-ok and Wan-seung solve another case before focusing on the mystery of the missing ring, while Kyeong-mi makes her return, and Inspector Woo gets ready to dive into Hyun-soo's mystery...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change the World" Episodes 3-4

2018/03/29 | Permalink

While Do-chan and his team may have initially felt ever so smart for having outwitted the cops, the victory proves pointless almost immediately. In addition to there being yet further interference from still another faction, it turns out that Ha-ra had a back-up plan in case Do-chan turned rogue. Naturally, she still feels the need to swear profusely that the con artist who her colleagues warned her against trusting in the first place ever so predictably tried to double cross the investigation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Switch - Change The World" Episodes 1-2

2018/03/28 | Permalink

Joon-soo (played by Jang Geun-suk) is a high profile prosecutor in the thick of a huge investigation. Joon-soo is so in the thick of the investigation that "Switch - Change The World" doesn't even bother to explain what exactly it is that he's been doing. So we're mostly on the same page as prosecutor Ha-ra (played by Han Ye-ri), who understands what Joon-soo was trying to do in broad strokes, but is in a bit of a fix when a mysterious car crash incapacitates Joon-soo indefinitely...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 12 (Final)

2018/03/28 | Permalink

So it turns out that Tae-yeong had correctly sussed out the fitness center scam pretty much the exact same way I did. Which makes the opening summation of the previous episode's events fairly anticlimactic. "539 Yeonnam-dong" has been very bad when it comes to properly utilizing cliffhangers. Stories should always be self-contained when possible. Putting the summation and only the summation off until next week just gives viewers more time to figure it our on their own, and that's no fun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 8

2018/03/27 | Permalink

So apparently Jin-woo also owns a car. Why does everyone own a car except Yoo-ri anyway? Maybe she has to spend all her money on medical bills, or possibly looking after her teenage sister who spends all her time coming up with complicated bullying schemes instead of studying. Soo-jeong is less proportionately important to the story than you'd think. Although then again, there's so little story in "That Man Oh Soo" there's not much for her to do anyway...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 23-24

2018/03/27 | Permalink

One nice aspect to "Shall We Kiss First" is that the drama doesn't waste a lot of time stringing us along with important revelations while insisting on maintaining the ignorance of the main characters. Simply being confronted by people who want to talk about his horrible secrets is enough to force Moo-han into letting his guard down. We actually see Moo-han legitimately frightened by the threat of Soon-jin leaving. Note the quivering in his voice, and the highly abstract nature of the movie he watches, which is only identified by film company...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 14

2018/03/27 | Permalink

I was inititally fairly excited about the return of Joon-ki's terrible car. That was one of the better gags of the earlier episodes, with near perfect set-up and delivery. Unfortunately, the follow-up leaves a lot to be desired. The car literally just starts going around in circles. There's frustratingly little physical humor to speak of. I'm not asking for elaborate stunts or anything, I was just hoping that Soo-ah and Doo-sik were going to have to work together to reclaim the cell phone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 13

2018/03/26 | Permalink

Dong-goo's character is substantially improved here because he's actually trying to avoid being a completely petty jerk for once. I liked the conversations with Yoon-ah, where Dong-goo clearly wants to abuse his power as landlord, but gives up when suitable excuses for trying to keep Yoon-ah away from Joon are not forthcoming. The excuse Dong-goo comes up with in the second storyline is so on-the-spot it's hard to hate him for premeditation. And besides, Dong-goo ends up getting what's coming to him...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 21-22

2018/03/26 | Permalink

So the honeymoon's over. Granted, the honeymoon was pretty sad, so that phrase doesn't quite mean what it usually implies here. Instead what we get is Moo-han and Soon-jin transitioning to basic domesticity. Or at least, that's what Soon-jin thinks is happening. Normally domesticity is for the long term. Instead, Soon-jin is making a life for herself that will predictably get wrenched away and leave her right back where she started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 7

2018/03/26 | Permalink

I finally figured out what critical advantage Oh Soo has that has been allowing him to eclipse Jin-woo as a romantic rival. Oh Soo owns a car. That's really about it. Yoo-ri is frequently forced into having to get help from Oh Soo entirely thanks to the fact that he owns a car and apparently taxis are hard to come by in this neighborhood. Transparently absurd as this fact may be in the romantic comedy context, a funny joke is still a funny joke however unintentionally...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.23 - 2018.03.25

2018/03/26 | Permalink

"Pacific Rim" sequel narrowly outplays local drama "Be with You"...

Director Steven S. DeKnight's "Pacific Rim: Uprising", the sequel to Guillermo del Toro's 2013 kaiju blockbuster, entered the fray last Wednesday and came out ahead of last week's number one, "Be with You". From 1,143 screens, "Uprising" topped the chart with $5.2 million from 655,193 admissions (39.76%). The fantasy melodrama "Be with You" (starring So Ji-sub and Son Ye-jin), director Lee Jang-hoon-I's debut, had 57 more screens to pool from, but the 577,032 admissions (33.88%) it walked away with at the end of the weekend were not enough to secure a second straight week at the top...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Notebook from My Mother"

2018/03/24 | Permalink

Ae-ran (played by Lee Joo-sil) is a grandmother who runs a small shop selling side dishes. Ae-ran is an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to how her livelihood is organized, to the point it seems unlikely that her apprentice Yoon-ja (played by Kim Sun-hwa) will ever be able to manage the shop herself. Of course, since Ae-ran owns the shop, possession if it would pass down to her adult son Gyu-hyeon (played by Lee Jong-hyuk). Well, also to her daughter Hye-won (played by Lee Young-ah), but Gyu-hyeon is the main perspective character here as Ae-ran's family comes to terms with her dementia...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bullies"

2018/03/24 | Permalink

Yeong-ho (played by Lee Seung-yong who looks way too old for the part) is a transfer student. There are bullies at his new high school who hustle money from weaker students via intimidation. There's a surprisingly complicated hierarchy at play here, such that I initially thought "Bullies" was going to be about the hierarchy. Alas, these dynamics are ultimately left unexplored as Yeong-ho instead runs up against mid-level enforcerer Gi-tae (played by Go Jin-soo). Long ago, these two were friends...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cheese in the Trap - Movie"

2018/03/24 | Permalink

Having seen the "Cheese in the Trap" drama I already knew what to expect from the film version. Seol (played by Oh Yeon-seo) is a college student who is convinced that popular man on campus Jeong (played by Park Hae-jin) is secretly evil. Oddly enough this does not prevent her from entering into a relationship with him. The key difference between the two versions is that the world of the film version is quite a bit more dangerous. Several characters are straight up psychotic, to the point that Seol's concerns of being caught in a trap come off as well warranted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 8

2018/03/23 | Permalink

Disaster keeps following Seol-ok, and as regretful as it is to have guest reigning supreme over the rest of the main and supporting cast half way into the season, this is the hand we have been dealt and we must roll with it. The Noryang-dong crew sans Park Ki-beom are unlucky enough to be participating in our heroine's boarding school, which is seeing a sudden increase in murdered bodies. Wan-seung and Seol-ok are on the case, but without backup...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 7

2018/03/22 | Permalink

The ever so elusive Kim has made a move, at least as far as I can tell. Ji-seung is arrested, and perhaps we will be finding out why the seemingly oblivious older brother or the company itself poses a threat to the mysterious figure. Meanwhile, Seol-ok and Wan-seung solve the Noryang-dong case, but our heroine is about to foolishly stumble onto another one, against what should have been her better judgment. Hello, remote crimes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 11

2018/03/21 | Permalink

The storyline here is dominated entirely by the appearance of a rival fitness center next to the one that I-na manages. I spent most of the runtime wondering how a neighborhood that can barely support one fitness center could possibly support two, especially when the new one is offering extremely good incentive packages to customers and inflated salaries to staff. So yeah, the ending is kind of predictable...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 12

2018/03/20 | Permalink

In what has to be the weirdest gimmick yet, "Laughter in Waikiki" presents us with the character of Chang-ho (played by Kim Byung-se) whose main trait is that he gives endlessly complicated and pointless rambling answers to mundane questions. Does that really count as a joke? Boring the audience to death with nonsense? That sounds like the exact opposite of a joke. Which I'll admit, on a conceptual level, is an interesting if obviously stupid idea...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 19-20

2018/03/20 | Permalink

I can actually mostly empathize with Moo-han's unwillingness to tell Soon-jin how sick he is. I kind of wish I didn't know either. Knowing the full extent of Moo-han's illness creates a fantastically depressing undercurrent to everything Moo-han and Soon-jin do regardless of how outwardly cheerful they are. Their whole trip to the countryside is actually pretty fun outside of that one factor. And then there's the ending. I mean yikes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 6

2018/03/20 | Permalink

There's a scene early on where Yoo-ri and Jin-woo go to Oh Soo's tea shop. Or is it a café? Oh Soo serves them coffee and claims that he doesn't have anything else, but it's possible Oh Soo is just lying because he doesn't want them there in the first place. Yoo-ri and Jin-woo then leave without drinking their coffee. That ninety second scene was, as far as I can tell, completely pointless, even if it was frequently on the edge of being almost interesting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 11

2018/03/19 | Permalink

Yoon-ah has some pretty sensible reasons for rejecting Dong-goo's love confession. I'd be impressed, except that Yoon-ah's newfound sense of maturity is somewhat at odds with the generally naive way her character has been portrayed up until now. Also there's the tonal issue of Dong-goo's personality. Soo-ah also provided very good reasons for breaking up with Dong-goo, yet Dong-goo has completely failed to take those criticisms to heart, much as he fails to really listen to Yoon-ah's criticisms...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 17-18

2018/03/19 | Permalink

Considering how the final scene ends up being a wedding the sheer scale of the depression in "Shall We Kiss First" here is pretty harsh. Moo-han just mopes around listlessly, refusing to accept Soon-jin's attempts to cheer him up because, mostly because Moo-han knows that he is behaving selfishly. Which is the main irony. Soon-jin by far stands to gain the most from marrying a rich man who is soon to die, yet Moo-han feels the need to shield her from that...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 5

2018/03/19 | Permalink

The "This Is Not Real" wall from "Oh Hae-Young Again" makes a special appearance here. I love that wall. That whole area is a great shooting location. Like most small neighborhoods in Seoul, it's filled with hills- yet the scenery is quite a bit mroe picturesque than the average neighborhood. The architecture is very nice. And the layout makes it plausible that Oh Soo and Yoo-ri are always running into each other by accident, because shortcuts will do that...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 16 Final

2018/03/18 | Permalink

Life has brought Soo-jin and Hye-na a long way in a very short amount of time in "Mother - Drama", but nothing feels longer than the time spent apart. After Yeong-sin's peaceful passing, a considerable amount of time goes by, and many things change. What does not change is the love between our heroines, and the fact that they need each other. With Hye-na facing great difficulty, and Soo-jin unable to let go, the brave mother makes another bold decision...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

In a rare, yet beautiful moment of inspiration to tackle a different type of criminal activity, OCN brings us "Save Me"; a drama about a terrible cult meeting its match in a woman whose sheer strength and resilience will set her free. Taking a breaking from the procedural, "Save Me" portrays the slow and silent crime of this cult's manipulation, and the human decency it takes to brings that crime to light...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Vanished"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

The first character we see in "The Vanished" is a security guard at the morgue. He's only vaguely paying attention to the closed circuit television when a sudden blackout turns everything just a little spooky. By the time the police arrive discrete facts are at a minimum. The corpse of recently departed rich corporate bigshot Seol-hee (played by Kim Hee-ae) has mysteriously disappeared. Also her husband professor Jin-han (played by Kim Kang-woo) was applying fake tears at the memorial service...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Parallel"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

Sledge hockey is a Paralympic sport that's pretty much the same as regular hockey except that the players (who typically do not have functioning legs) move around on sledges propelled by sticks in their hands. It's an exceptionally aggressive sport, even compared to regular hockey, since the athletes are constantly swinging their arms around and moving a lot faster than you'd think would be possible without legs. "Parallel" is the story of the South Korean sledge hockey team and their experience at the 2012 Ice Sledge Hockey World Championship in Norway...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Singing with Angry Bird"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

When orchestra conductor Kim Jae-chang first arrived in Mumbai in India, his hair was still black. Several years later, it has shades of white. The children in Kim Jae-chang's choir have nicknamed him Angry Bird, on account of his round head and also because he gives them loud loving instructions in broken English spoken via an Italian accent. Once "Singing with Angry Bird" gets Kim Jae-chang's background out of the way, it's on to the children's choir itself...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 6

2018/03/16 | Permalink

"Mystery Queen Season 2" is finally settling into its investigative roots, and this time around we have minimal distractions. Those minimal distractions also come in the form of a certain wavy-haired weirdo haunting the police department's forensics lab, which adds a lovely new touch to the proceedings. Seol-ok and Wan-seung are carefully sorting through an increasingly confusing list of suspects, with Yoon Mi-joo's freedom on the line...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 15

2018/03/16 | Permalink

The time has come for Yeong-sin to exit the stage in "Mother - Drama", but there are matters that need closure, and secrets that she needs to address with her family. While Soo-jin, I-jin and Hyeon-jin face the new information, and the idea of a future without their parent, Hye-na is determined to make another daring trip to her mother. Soo-jin is faced with the terrifying feat of providing Hye-na with strength for a future she may not be in for a while...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 5

2018/03/14 | Permalink

Seol-ok is determined to study diligently, but cram school is a ruthless place. Things become more challenging when a temptation in the form of a crime happens nearby, sparking our heroine's usual hound-like fixation for crime solving. Episode five takes a step back from the main plot and a lot of the main characters, but we have new and guest stars popping up left and right. Can "Mystery Queen Season 2" fit all of this and its main story in...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 10

2018/03/14 | Permalink

The follow through on Bong-tae's asexuality is disappointing. Asexuality just means that Bong-tae has a minimal sex drive. It doesn't preclude the prospect of Bong-tae entering into a relationship with romantic feelings, it just means that Bong-tae can't get aroused very easily. Then again the main evidence we've been given regarding Bong-tae's condition was a test administered while he was watching pornography. Maybe Bong-tae just doesn't like pornography...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 15-16

2018/03/13 | Permalink

One aspect of Soon-jin's characterization that's been kind of glazed over is how she was initially interested in Moo-han solely for his money. Well, that's not true, Soon-jin's weirdly self-conscious seductress pep talk monologues have been a fairly constant staple of the drama's comic relief. It's just easy to forget that because whenever Soon-jin is talking to Moo-han directly, she's being perfectly sincere. Soon-jin has started to rely on Moo-han as a crutch in her weaker moments...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 4

2018/03/13 | Permalink

Of the many random chance meetings Oh Soo and Yoo-ri get into, one of them actually results in their relationship progressing beyond mild mutual annoyance. Oh Soo discovers that Yoo-ri likes cats. Apparently Oh Soo likes cats too. How cute! I also like cats! Unfortunately Ga-na then manages to sabotage that moment and we're right back where we started, with Oh Soo and Yoo-ri always being in the same place at the same time and resenting each other for it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 3

2018/03/12 | Permalink

So apparently the whole thing with the magic tree suddenly dying because of...uh...I assume because Yoo-ri drank Oh Soo's magic tea doesn't become an ongoing crisis. Oh Soo's grandfather Man-soo (played by Park Geun-hyung) simply solves the problem with his own magic powers, warning Oh Soo that next time the younger man will have to do it himself. So what we have is a possible future conflict, not something that's happening right now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 13-14

2018/03/12 | Permalink

So the dog dies. That was, of course, inevitable. What was less inevitable is that something serious happens while Soon-jin was doing silly stuff with Moo-han. Naturally, she apologizes, even though this wasn't her fault. But how does Moo-han respond? He doesn't actually. Moo-han just looks on in his usual defeatist stone-faced silence. There's no anger, no guilt, nothing. Moo-han has long since decided that this was just the way things have to be. If Soon-jin wants to apologize, that's her business...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.09 - 2018.03.11

2018/03/12 | Permalink

Local thriller "The Vanished" and the new "Tomb Raider" reboot take the top spots...

Lee Chang-hee's "The Vanished", his debut, arrived last Wednesday and topped the Korean box office during its first weekend out. "The Vanished" follows a detective (Kim Sang-kyung) and a married couple (Kim Kang-woo and Kim Hee-ae) as they probe the mysterious disappearance of cadavers from the National Institute of Science Research. From 919 screens nationwide, Lee's thriller claimed 519,991 admissions (32.84%), or $4 million, to supplant Hong Chang-pyo's "The Princess and the Matchmaker" at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 4

2018/03/11 | Permalink

Wan-seung and Seol-ok are faced with the difficult case of an underage arsonist, made worse by his selfish and negligent parents. The trauma of the little girl and her mother greatly affects Seol-ok, and memories of her own parents make her determined to get justice. Meanwhile, Wan-seung's father is released from prison, and the mysterious Mr. Kim keeps a close eye on him and his elder son. As we learn more about our new characters, a sinister possibility surfaces...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 3

2018/03/11 | Permalink

The case of the cheesy arsonist becomes much more complicated when a copycat is discovered, sending Wan-seung and Seol-ok into a chase without any support from the precinct eager to keep them out of their way. The duo use their existing allies, and they rope in a new one with some promising skills. Meanwhile, Inspector Woo has come across the trail of the mysterious Hyun-soo...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 14

2018/03/11 | Permalink

Never have victories felt so disappointing, as a lot of things are set right in episode fourteen of "Mother - Drama", but with "right" not being closer to the reality our heroines wanted. A lot of pain, regret and relief come to the surface, and a lot of scores are settled. Yet the reality of things remains, and that reality will not tolerate the reunion of a victim and a kidnapper. However, Hye-na and Soo-jin go through their respective, separate journeys with only each other in mind...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Little Forest"

2018/03/10 | Permalink

Hye-won (played by Kim Tae-ri) was raised on a small farm out in the countryside. As a teenager, Hye-won had ambitions to do something greater with her life, but after going to college and getting various jobs in the city...well, nothing Hye-won did seemed to have much point. So Hye-won moved back into her old home, all alone. Well, she does have a couple of friends her own age. Eun-sook (played by Jin Ki-joo) is the woman. Jae-ha (played by Ryu Jun-yeol) is the man. There's also a dog. And there's also the most important friend of all- delicious fresh food...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gate"

2018/03/10 | Permalink

So-eun (played by Jung Ryeo-won) has a problem. Everyone in her apartment building has been getting ensnared in bad contracts from loan shark Min-wook (played by Jung Sang-hoon) and his gang of obvious crooks, so So-eun decides to take a stand against them. Neighborhood ex-cop Gyoo-cheol (played by Im Chang-jung) also insists on helping, though that ridiculous yellow track suit and subservient attitude makes him rather non-threatening...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Princess and the Matchmaker"

2018/03/10 | Permalink

Deep into his reign, King Yeongjo (played by Kim Sang-kyung) faces a serious crisis. There's no rain, which means a bad harvest, which mean food shortages, which means bad times for everyone in Joseon. There's only one possible solution- marry off the homely Princess Song-hwa (played by Shim Eun-kyung) to someone with a particularly well correlated marital horoscape. It falls to Do-yoon (played by Lee Seung-gi), a prodigy horoscope technician, to find a match that will maximize the approval of the heavens and bring about the much needed rain...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 13

2018/03/09 | Permalink

Separation and the choices we make when faced with it is the theme in episode thirteen of "Mother - Drama", as our mother and daughter duo feel the law closing in on them, and the possibility of them being torn apart becoming more and more of a reality. Soo-jin and Hye-na do their best to tackle that possibility, and they meet a father and son duo who have a similar experience. Meanwhile, detective Chang-geun presses on, despite being visibly conflicted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 20 Final

2018/03/07 | Permalink

There is no way but down in terms of dramatic escalation after a near-apocalypse, and the final episode of "A Korean Odyssey" tries to wrap up whatever loose ends it can without trying to top it. Worthy effort aside, the creators spend time reminiscing about events and characters which were, for the most part, kept as mere decoration to a story that could have been, but never really quite was...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 9

2018/03/07 | Permalink

Soo-ri is back again, providing us with more reminders of why I-na doesn't especially like her mother. Overall the portrayal is a bit more nuanced this time. Soo-ri starts out with a fairly serious problem and petitions Bong-tae for help. While Soo-ri naturally has an ulterior motive in mind, and the original motive isn't quite what it looks like, fundamentally, her situation remains sympathetic. So for all I-na's frustrations when it comes to her mother, we can see how a lot of this is tied up in just bog standard worry...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 10

2018/03/06 | Permalink

Soo-ah gets a really good storyline this episode, and it looks to be a continuing one- she's now on a stake out at the convenience store, and is shocked to discover what Doo-sik has to deal with there. I was too. I refuse to believe that people act like that at convenience stores. But then, I've never worked at one. And neither has Soo-ah. Luckily, it turns out that Soo-ah can use her powers of being a mean girl for good instead of evil, even if the closing tagline was kind of ambiguous...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 11-12

2018/03/06 | Permalink

At long last something happens to Kyeong-soo that leaves me feeling somewhat sympathetic to his situation. He ends up getting confronted by Soon-jin's sister Hee-jin (played by Shin So-yul) and their mother Geum-soon (played by Sung Byung-sook). Remember all that toxic clingy behavior Kyeong-soo has been engaging with in regards to his ex-wife? Apparently Hee-jin and Geum-soon are of the opinion that Kyeong-soo is actually not being clingy enough...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 2

2018/03/06 | Permalink

I like how Yoo-ri is short. I mean, women are short in general, but it's rare to see a drama actually take advantage of this thematically. Since Yoo-ri broke her heels as part of that horrible, horrible day, Yoo-ri has to be aggressive with Oh Soo to get what she wants. it's an accurate metaphor for Yoo-ri's character as a whole. The first we see saw of her Yoo-ri was going after the weights really are and now we know why she compensates so much. It turns out Yoo-ri is a police officer...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 19

2018/03/05 | Permalink

The ground is shaking with the sounds of a waking dragon, but the plot in "A Korean Odyssey" shakes with it. The time has come for the epic battle, but there is so much to wrap up around it, that the episode feels like a mad dash to a finale the creators were not quite prepared for. With Oh-gong and Seon-mi each having self-sacrificial thoughts, a lot goes wrong within the story as well...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 9

2018/03/05 | Permalink

So Soo-ah is now my favorite character, solely because she points out the sheer stupidity of Dong-goo trying to keep his feelings for Soo-ah a secret for no good reason. Actually a lot of this episode is better than usual because there's a lot more shame. Observe how Joon-ki eventually realizes he was being a jerk to Seo-jin for no good reason. I mean come on, the stove wasn't working. That's not the fault of the first person to notice it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 9-10

2018/03/05 | Permalink

Considering their story for most of episode nine is just an extended bed scene it's surprising just how mundane and boring Moo-han and Soon-jin are together. Their relationship is not terribly romantic but in a nutty way it's actually kind of the platonic ideal of married life. They have trouble sleeping. They embarrass themselves. Yet oddly enough none of that really matters. They both just kind of shrug their shoulders and go, whatever, life could be worse...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "That Man Oh Soo" Episode 1

2018/03/05 | Permalink

It takes quite some time for "That Man Oh Soo" to actually get to its own premise. Yes, obviously, Oh Soo (played by Lee Jong-hyun) is supposed to get romantically entangled with Yoo-ri (played by Kim So-eun), some way or another. The drama is a romance after all. But these characters are far more reactive than proactive. The first major thing we see Oh Soo do is break up with a woman by proxy as a stand in for his brother Ga-na (played by Heo Jung-min), who's just a tad immature...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.02 - 2018.03.04

2018/03/05 | Permalink

Homegrown dramas dethrone Marvel's "Black Panther"...

For the past two weekends, the latest dimension in the Marvel Cinematic Universe ("Black Panther") has ruled proceedings, but Hong Chang-pyo's debut feature, "The Princess and the Matchmaker", and Yim Soon-rye's "Little Forest" both arrived last Wednesday and denied "Black Panther" a third straight weekend at the top of the Korean box office...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 12

2018/03/03 | Permalink

There are no easy or happy solutions for Hye-na and Soo-jin's situation, as the system favoring biological parents would surely turn a blind eye to what Ja-yeong has done. With the situation Seol-ak has set up escalating and the police being but a breath away, Soo-jin has to make quick and desperate choices. The police want results, but Detective Chang-geun is starting to get a clearer picture of the loyalty the pair inspires in people...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Guest House"

2018/03/03 | Permalink

Jung-woo (played by Kim Sungje) is an actor. Since acting work is not generally reliable, Jung-woo works at his family guest house out on South Korea's northeastern coast. One day, Jung-woo's older sister Seon-woo (played by Baek Seon-woo) instructs Jung-woo to show Japanese tourist Hiroko (played by Chisun) around Gangreung, since Seon-woo is busy doing work related to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Jung-woo is not the best tour guide, since he does not speak Japanese, and Hiroko does not speak Korean...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Puzzle"

2018/03/03 | Permalink

Do-joon (played by Ji Seung-hyun) is a respected, successful corporate type. He even wrote a book! Everyone wants to hang out with Do-joon, especially women. He has a good relationship with his staff. And yet there's something missing from Do-joon's life. His wife and daughter are gone, because Do-joon is paying for them to live overseas, so night after night, Do-joon is bored out of his mind, eating instant noodles and watching old family videos. Then, in short order, life for Do-joon suddenly becomes very violent. A clown suit is involved...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Live Again, Love Again"

2018/03/03 | Permalink

In "Live Again, "Love Again" two storylines take alternate turns in focus. The first is about Vietnamese barista Mi (played by Chi Pu), a piano player living in Ho Chi Minh City who composes music and posts it on YouTube. She's suffering from strange nightmares (or memories? It's never really all that clear) about a run-in with a South Korean soldier during the Vietnamese War. Then there's Pil (played by San E), a popular South Korean recording artist who's in a slump because he keeps thinking about his ex-girlfriend Yoon-hee (played by Jung Chae-yeon)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 11

2018/03/02 | Permalink

Motherhood is a wonderful and terrible thing in "Mother - Drama" and in life, and the time has come to witness some of its most damaging aspects in the lives of those who need it to grow. With the police hot on her track, Soo-jin tries to get herself together and save Hye-na, while the little girl tries to hold on. The deciding factor here is Ja-yeong, who makes a decision I never thought she would even consider...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 18

2018/03/02 | Permalink

Ma-wang is having one of those good days again, and the silly old bull gets sentimental over Oh-gong's possible demise, which leads him to an experiment that ends with an important discovery. The time has come to solve the Geumganggo issue once and for all, but Seon-mi is closer to the truth of her mission and she chooses to bravely face it. Enter a round of who gets to be a better noble idiot...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 2

2018/03/01 | Permalink

It is time for us to meet the cheesy arsonist seen in the highlight reel, as he is the first culprit Seol-ok gets to practice her newfound authority through. Life is not easy or glamorous for her and Wan-seung, and there are more enemies and rivals around than there are currently allies. Friends from the past are cold, while new faces enter the game, some friendly and some overly so. Then again, you do not get proposed to by drunk strangers every day...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 17

2018/02/28 | Permalink

It may have taken an entire series for "A Korean Odyssey" to get the ball on the doomsday rolling, and it is a very confusing, haphazardly done final act, but it is exciting nonetheless. While Seon-mi is still figuring out her powers and why she has such a bad feeling around Kang Dae-seong, Oh-gong starts an unorthodox plan to get closer to his enemy. Meanwhile, another trap has been set for Ma-wang, who needs a lot of help to think clearly once more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 1

2018/02/28 | Permalink

The time for crime solving with a hefty dose of chaos and cutesy romantic antics has come, as "Mystery Queen Season 2" brings back all the things we love, and adds a fresh and thrilling wrapping. The episode wastes no time in getting us all caught up with where everything and everyone stands, and there are a lot of things currently happening in our heroes' lives, including the most awkward and sweet romance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 8

2018/02/28 | Permalink

The normally broad storylines of "539 Yeonnam-dong" are condensed into just two this time. Bong-tae's confrontation with the mysterious masked villain is comically anticlimactic, as we end up lingering on Bong-tae still tied up for a moment and feeling a little ridiculous at the lack of drama. Going forward Bong-tae makes no progress in any kind of relevant investigation, instead running across a small child who happens to be I-na's daughter Chae-won...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 7-8

2018/02/27 | Permalink

What with all the sexual propositions and the preview where Soon-jin is blurred out and naked, you'd think "Shall We Kiss First" was taking a turn for the raunchy. Actually the intimacy is more subdued and weird than that. To start out with, Moo-han and Soon-jin end up going to a themed love hotel and make fun of the generally peculiar devices other people apparently use to arouse themselves...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 8

2018/02/27 | Permalink

There's one really funny gag this episode - the climax of Joon-ki's mukbang storyline ends with the guest house earning a lot of money. How Joon-ki was able to get success out of such a fundamentally stupid idea, well, that's where the humor comes from. There's also really good synthesis to the joke, because other characters and plotlines are also involved, and one accidental revelation from the broadcast sets up another storyline...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 7

2018/02/26 | Permalink

So apparently Soo-ah's new boyfriend was a con artist, and Soo-ah is forced to endure even further humiliation before being able to show enough humility to move into guest house. Was I supposed to feel like Soo-ah deserved this? Now, if Dong-goo's roomates expressed consternation about Soo-ah moving because they always disliked her, that would be one thing. But "Laughter in Waikiki" is acting like Soo-ah is an unsympathetic character simply for breaking up with Dong-goo in the first place, when all of her reasons for doing so have since been vindicated...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 5-6

2018/02/26 | Permalink

So Moo-han has finally figured out that Soon-jin is the woman who lives in the apartment underneath his, with whom he has been fighting over the whole leak issue. That's one coincidence on top of the blind date. A second one pops up in episode six in the form of Moo-han's estranged daughter, the now teenaged I-deun (played by Jung Da-bin), who's riding in first class. As Soon-jin notes, the main mystery behind I-deun is how she could have been raised in such a way as to become such a little monster...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.23 - 2018.02.25

2018/02/26 | Permalink

"Black Panther" still rules...

The King of Wakanda, "Black Panther", continued its reign atop Korea's box office this past weekend by securing 43.34% of the sales. From 1,242 screens (down from 1,620), the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe added 708,800 admissions ($5.7 million) to bring its total gross in Korea now to $35.8 million (4.4 million admissions). Director Ryan Coogler's recording-breaking blockbuster is now the highest-grossing foreign film of the year in Korea and the third overall; worldwide, since its release in America just after Valentine's Day, "Black Panther" has amassed an impressive $548.9 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 10

2018/02/25 | Permalink

Our heroines have been through a long and arduous journey, but the nature of their bond, and the beast stalking them would not remain at bay forever. Hye-na's guilt-ridden escape and the law's discovery of Soo-jin's actions pushes everyone to reveal their honesty enough for the bonds between them to show themselves for how strong and irreplaceable they really are. With Soo-jin and Hye-na officially on the run and in danger, is a happy ending possible...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Mystery Queen Season 2"

2018/02/24 | Permalink

Bring me all the terrible crimes and cheese villains, because "Mystery Queen Season 2" is here, and it brings familiar and new faces into new and exciting adventures. Our beloved crime solving duo has evolved, and so have the cases they tackle. Ready for another round...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Golden Slumber"

2018/02/24 | Permalink

Life has never been more exciting, or more terrifying for Kim Geon-woo (Gang Dong-won). This deliveryman's routine as an ordinary, and even model citizen is upturned by a conspiracy using him as its puppet, fueling a journey of survival, nostalgia and strengthening bonds. Noh Dong-seok's "Golden Slumber" is a chase thriller, but there is a surprising amount of heart in it...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead"

2018/02/24 | Permalink

So apparently in the universe of "Detective K" vampires are real. I was a little surprised that the cold open makes this so explicit, since one obvious solution to the movie's central mystery is that all this stuff about vampires was just an elaborate scam. But then, from the beginning Yeoju Wol-yeong (played by Kim Ji-won) is portrayed explicitly as an amnesiac with super strength and other vampire-like powers...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Heung-boo: The Revolutionist"

2018/02/24 | Permalink

The story of Heung-boo and Nol-boo is a traditional Korean folk tale about a couple of brothers, one rich and mean, the other poor and well-meaning. One day the poor brother gains his good fortune through a bird that rewards his kindheartedness with a magic seed. Obviously the magical parts of the Heungboochun were made up. But the class conflict elements behind the story were no doubt influenced by real life. "Heung-boo: The Revolutionist" posits Heung-boo (played by Jung Woo) as being a popular nineteenth century author. The film then depicts where the idea came from, and how the story was received by the public...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Accidental Detective" with Video

2018/02/24 | Permalink

Dae-man (played by Kwon Sang-woo) loves mysteries, and blogs about them. Unfortunately, Dae-man has struggled to turn his passion into something that actually pays money, and runs a rental shop in order to make ends meet. The situation is even worse than it sounds, because Dae-man also has a wife Mi-ok (played by Seo Young-hee) and two children, one of whom is still a baby. Meanwhile, detective Tae-soo (played by Sung Dong-il) has been shut out of his own department for wanting to pursue alternate theories to a high profile murder case. Together, they fight crime...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 9

2018/02/23 | Permalink

After a long run and the shedding of their own share of emotional baggage, Soo-jin and Hye-na must face their greatest obstacle in "Mother - Drama" yet, the judgment and decision of their mothers. Ja-yeong's past and her issues are laid bare for us and others to see, leaving the little girl with more decisions she should be too young to make. Meanwhile, Yeong-sin must find quick solutions for the entirety of her family, which will be deeply affected by this...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 7

2018/02/21 | Permalink

So apparently that whole hospital scene that I thought was a cliffhanger was actually just the framing device for this episode. It did not, as has been implied, have any relation with the events of the previous episode. I really don't like these kinds of editing gimmicks. You can't just do a dramatic cliffhanger like that out of nowhere, there has to be some level of build-up first or the whole thing just comes off like a cheap trick...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 3-4

2018/02/21 | Permalink

I really like the way Soon-jin flirts with Moo-han. flirt really the right word? Mostly Soon-jin just keeps trying to pick fights with him, and any time it looks like he's about to give up for good, Soon-jin simply switches her attitude entirely and acts over-interested. We can see the genuine confusion in Moo-han's eyes. He's not at all sure how to interpret Soon-jin's behavior. Really, Moo-han isn't sure he's curious enough to try either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 16

2018/02/20 | Permalink

"A Korean Odyssey" is trying to cover up holes with even bigger holes, but any effort to somehow make the story work is better than none, when we still have the final four episodes to go. Seon-mi discovers leftovers of Ah Sa-nyeo's powers in her, while a mysterious figure leaves a child with Oh-gong, urging him to visit them with Seon-mi and learn of her true past, as well as their possible future. Meanwhile, Ma-wang has insidious plans once more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 6

2018/02/20 | Permalink

So Yoon-ah ends up having a really good time at cooking class. So good in fact hit on her? I mean sure Yoon-ah is cute and all, but she's also totally open about being a single mother. You'd think that would be a bit of an alarm bell. Which is not to say that single mothers are inherently unattractive or anything, but what kind of guy charges ahead in a situation like that while knowing so little else about her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 1-2

2018/02/20 | Permalink

The opening to "Shall We Kiss First" is spoken poetry against the lonely backdrop of a beach, discussing the concept of solitude as it relates to the road of life. Then we see Soon-jin (played by Kim Sun-ah) sarcastically talking to a plant about how lucky it is to have a short lifespan, free of worries. Then we realize that her upstairs neighbor Moo-han (played by Kam Woo-sung) has a sick dog. These are fundamentally sad characters, then Soon-jin gets caught up in a jazzy chase sequence...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Short" Episode 4

2018/02/20 | Permalink

As expected, the remainder of what little plot "Short" has wraps up fairly predictably. Ho-yeong and Eun-ho realize that, even if they sort of hate each other, almost all of their friends are mutual, so they really need to keep their squabbling limited to just trying to outdo each other on the ice. Everyone agrees to just help each other out, in whatever goals they have. The happy ending is not one of accomplishment so much as it is of promise...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 5

2018/02/19 | Permalink

Right away there's some badly needed continuity - Seo-jin is still really depressed that her job interview was actually just a pretext for the guy in charge of hiring to creepily hit on young women who want jobs. So in turn, the other residents of the Waikiki Guest House try to cheer her up. All they do is repeat the same proverb at her with different examples in freezing weather. Which is funny enough on its own, but then they keep suffering from bizarre elaborate failure...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Short" Episode 3

2018/02/19 | Permalink

As we know, Ho-yeong and Eun-ho are motivated to win largely through spite, or in their more sympathetic moments, as a kind of ploy to maybe impress Ji-na. While those do not seem like very good reasons to be on the national short track team, Hoon manages to come up with an even worse one. He wants Eun-ho to win for the sole sake of family honor. Which in addition to being arrogant, is also strategically questionable. You can't just assume that Korean short track athletes are the best...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.16 - 2018.02.18

2018/02/19 | Permalink

"Black Panther" takes the Land of the Morning Calm by storm...

Marvel's much-anticipated superhero film "Black Panther" arrived in Korea on Valentine's Day and quickly rose to the top of the chart over the weekend. The film, the eighteenth in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), was produced for $200 million and has already grossed close to double that figure; in Korea, and from 1,620 screens around the peninsula, the King of Wakanda opened his account with $15.6 million from 1.9 million admissions (51.33%)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 15

2018/02/18 | Permalink

If episode fourteen of "A Korean Odyssey" was shaky, episode fifteen is floundering, as one baseless twist follows after another. With Ah Sa-nyeo in control of Seon-mi's body, the group have to find a way to the latter, while keeping the former busy. Meanwhile, General Winter is pushed to a corner due to his contract, forcing Summer Fairy to make a very important decision. The world is still ending, but I think even the creators have forgotten it by now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Children of a Lesser God"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Crime is what OCN does best, and its latest work continues along the lines of combining the natural and the supernatural. "Children of a Lesser God" is another crime series with a twist, as its heroine has special powers. Can this become something more than another action crime drama with a gimmick...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Be-Bop-A-Lula"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Yeong-hwan (played by Park In-hwan) is an old widower lives with his family in Andong. He is in the process of moving out to rural Yeongyang county with his elderly friends- the aggressive Hyeon-sik (played by Im Hyun-sik) and the more sentimental Soon-ho (played by Shin Goo). Together they...mostly just screw around and do nothing of importance, just enjoying their mere continued survival into old age through a series of vaguely related vignettes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Miraculous 2: The Secret of Miracle Stone"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Marinette (voiced by Yeo Min-jeong-I) has discovered a mysterious old book that appears to catalog previous incarnations of Ladybug, Cat Noir, and other superpowered personas created through the use of magical sprites. As the current master of the Ladybug sprite, Marinette finds this history to be of considerable interest. So she seeks out an old acquaintance who can provide more context explaining what the backstory behind these magical sprites is...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Turning Mecard W: The Secret of Bandain, Special Edition"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

All of the action in "Turning Mecard W; The Secret of Bandain, Special Edition" is centered around four Mecard battles. What is Mecard? Well, there are these toy cars, and they have toy figurines inside, and through the use of Mecards these figurines grow to giant size and fight each other. I could never figure out the rules. Everybody just summons a bunch of robots at once. Sometimes one side vastly outnumbers the other, either in terms of humans or robots, although the humans don't really contribute much except bark out the occasional order...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 8

2018/02/16 | Permalink

Memory is often an unreliable narrator, especially when it comes to cases of trauma. While Soo-jin has every reason to resent her biological mother, the time has come for her to face the complexity of her past and the reasons behind her actions. While staying home and learning to heal is what our heroine needs the most, her crime and her joint past with Hye-na come rushing back, as the things and people the two have been running from catch up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 7

2018/02/16 | Permalink

There are truths that nobody wants to face, and for the first time in "Mother - Drama", we see how far some characters will go to deny or bury them. Following the meeting between Soo-jin's two mothers, our heroine finds herself balancing between the two segments of her life while at the same time trying to protect Hye-na. Hye-na herself draws a lot of attention, but the two women get a chance to process what is happening together. That is, until Hye-na's disappearance catches up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 20-22 Final

2018/02/16 | Permalink

So the antagonist in episode twenty is not that mean model with a crush on Ji-hoon, but rather someone else who just decides to make life miserable for him for no obvious reason. The mean model reappears for the last two episodes though, and her takedown is about the same as everyone else we've seen so far. There is one minor break in formula- Goo-hee loses access to the "Revenge Note" app, so the mean model ends up being taken down by other means...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 14

2018/02/14 | Permalink

With Ma-wang out for the count, General Winter snooping into his home freely and Ah Sa-nyeo putting on her best innocent demeanor, things are not looking good for our gods and monsters. More importantly, they are not looking good for Seon-mi, who begins exhibiting strange powers due to Ah Sa-nyeo's meddling. This combined with the fate predicted by the Saryeong bring about a cliffhanger that threatens the show's heroine greatly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 6

2018/02/14 | Permalink

So after we've had a reminder of how Jordan really, really hates his son, it's on to his ex-wife. Their conversation, while short, effectively explains both of their personalities. Neither of them hold grudges. They get along. But about the only keepsake they have between them is the aforementioned idiot son. Jordan's work always took him too far afield from home for his wife to ever be sure how much he really loved her. Their ongoing story, especially the climax, is sad and bittersweet...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 13

2018/02/13 | Permalink

Ah Sa-nyeo acts like a child in a candy store in episode thirteen of "A Korean Odyssey", and with good reason. With most of the group unaware of or underestimating her powers, the priestess gets to roam free and take advantage of everyone's already weak morality and personal wants. The one most in danger is Ma-wang, who thinks that she can help him without him or Seon-mi suffering major loses. If only things worked out as nicely with evil spirits...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 4

2018/02/13 | Permalink

So it would seem that Joon-ki isn't Yoon-ah's love interest at all, Dong-goo is. While this is not bad, by any means, I am mainly just annoyed that "Laughter in Waikiki" probably accidentally led me to believe otherwise through poor use of that subtitle in the first episode. Also there's the whole issue of Soo-ah being listed as a main cast member. Soo-ah doesn't appear this episode, and going forward, it's hard to imagine she's going to have much of a story presence...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Short" Episode 2

2018/02/13 | Permalink

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Hoon (played by Yoo Ha-bok) is Eun-ho's father. He's kind of a jerk, to the point that Eun-ho's flirtation with retirement comes off more as an excuse to lash out at Hoon than it does anything having to do with Ho-yeong. Eun-ho genuinely resents his father. But he mostly just dislikes Ho-yeong as being a mild annoyance. Seeing the difference spelled out like that really helps to emphasize their frenemy chemistry, since in the end, Eun-ho is motivated to succeed less by his dad's browbeating and more by his desire to stick it to Ho-yeong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Short" Episode 1

2018/02/12 | Permalink

In 2017, Ho-yeong (played by Kang Tae-oh) is a normal young person who works as a cleaner at an ice rink that just so happens to be hosting a major competition that will be used to factor who South Korea's short track speed skating representatives will be at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Ho-yeong enters the competition, not because he wants to go to the Olympics, but solely for the cash prize. Ho-yeong doesn't have a sick mother or anything. He just likes money...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 3

2018/02/12 | Permalink

One element I liked about the first episode was how the main characters were always in a state of panic about the guest house's financial viability. The guest house is, in addition to being their home, also their only reliable source of income. So I was just a tad annoyed that right away, we have Dong-goo and Seo-jin stumbling in and doing the one thing guest house proprietors should never do- make the guests feel like they have chosen the wrong place to stay...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.09 - 2018.02.11

2018/02/12 | Permalink

Korea's favourite Joseon detective arrives and thrives while "Psychokinesis" free falls...

"Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead" by director Kim Seok-yoon, the third in the series, arrived last Thursday and ended its first weekend at the top of the chart. "Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead" (which starring Kim Myung-min, Oh Dal-soo and Kim Ji-won) dominated proceedings from 1,246 screens by claiming 48.13% of the sales, or 782,605 admissions ($5.9 million). Looking back, Kim's previous two films in this ongoing series, "Detective K" and "Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island", claimed 4.7 and 3.8 million admissions back in 2011 and 2014, respectively...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Psychokinesis"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Roo-mi (played by Shim Eun-kyung) is a young woman owns and manages a successful local independent fried chicken restaurant. Roo-mi has had a pretty rough time of life since her father Seok-heon (played by Ryu Seung-ryong) left the family. But it turns out that life can get even worse than that. A massive (and probably crooked) construction project is underway, and when Roo-mi refuses a payout for her property, the gangster capitalists resort to violence in an effort to intimidate Roo-mi as well as her many neighbors in the commercial district to compliance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Paper Planes"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Hye-won (played by Joo Ga-eul) is a high school student with a strong interest in K-Pop, and enough natural talent to be able to be able to take specialist classes so as to make a proper transition into a career as an artist. The sheer mundane nature of Hye-won's life is the main initial focus. "" goes to school, she goes to dance practice, then she goes to obscure dusty houses with older men who are talent managers. Hey...wait a minute...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gisaeng: A Flower's Confession"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Prior to the twentieth century, gisaengs were, to the vast majority of Koreans, a largely abstract concept. They performed for kings, they entertained nobles in private, and acted as prostitutes. One of the many useful bits of information in "Gisaeng: A Flower's Confession" is explaining how this is a misperception. These were actually three completely different classes of gisaeng, that were easily confused because they were referred to by the same title and received the same kind of artistic training...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 6

2018/02/09 | Permalink

Soo-jin has been juggling a lot of lies and deceit towards different people currently in her life, so it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down. Different truths are revealed to different characters, and a meeting takes place which has been a long time coming. Jin-hong becomes the next shelter for our heroines, and I finally see the value of his role in Soo-jin and Hye-na's life at a time they need him the most...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 5

2018/02/08 | Permalink

The past hurts, but it never goes away, and the time has come for Soo-jin to face it head on. While Soo-jin is busy helping her adoptive mother with her treatments, Hye-na becomes close with our heroine's biological mother, who in turn finds herself becoming closer than she has intended to all these years. The past is never far behind for Seol-ak either, however. As the monster prepares his attack, a ray of hope for his capture appears...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 5

2018/02/07 | Permalink

Do-hee is ashamed of her current failures trying to break into the corporate job market, and so comes up with a mildly elaborate scheme to convince her mom that the situation is not as bleak as it looks. After a mildly amusing setpiece we then discover that apparently Do-hee's optimism was not a complete lie. Unfortunately the foundations for Do-hee's optimism were a lie, as Bong-tae has to break the bad news that she has been made victim to a scam...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 10 (Final)

2018/02/06 | Permalink

So the big breakthrough moment ends up coming through courtesy of Sin-woo's mom. The way "Longing Heart" brings us back to this plot point is very awkward, since it calls attention to the fact that Sin-woo's mom knew that Sin-woo had traveled back from the future, yet completely failed to heed his warning about the danger of taking that ferry that day. I'd like to think that if a future version of one of my trusted relatives came back and told me not to do something, I'd not do it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 2

2018/02/06 | Permalink

Yoon-ah (played by Jung In-sun) is the final member of the main cast - the mother of the abandoned baby. Although she's the same age as the male leads, Yoon-ah consistently and somewhat impressively manages to come off as even more dumb than they are. I approve of this, since Yoon-ah's life is defined by her decision to have a baby with absolutely no plan for how to take care of it. The preview appears to imply that Seo-jin didn't even tell her ex-boyfriend...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.02 - 2018.02.04

2018/02/06 | Permalink

"Psychokinesis" and "Keys to the Heart" score a one-two finished for the home team...

Director Yeon Sang-ho's second live-action feature, the fantastical comedy "Psychokinesis", narrowly outplayed Choi Seong-hyeon's "Keys to the Heart" to top the Korean box office during its first weekend out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 12

2018/02/05 | Permalink

An unfamiliar evil takes a familiar face in episode twelve of "A Korean Odyssey". The soul trapped in the coffin is here to claim what they want, and it will manipulate everyone in its power to get there. With the tensions between Oh-gong and Seon-mi rising due to their understanding of how fatal their bond can be, the group starts drifting apart. This is the absolute worst time for that, as well as for Ma-wang to start plotting once more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 9

2018/02/05 | Permalink

So Sin-woo does indeed have a steady job. I was just kind of surprised by that, what with how he seemed to have all this free time to run around looking after his younger self and also go time-traveling. Well, all right, time traveling by definition means he can come back whenever. Apparently the younger Sin-woo also has this ability. I was very surprised when, after all the trouble the older Sin-woo had to go through to go back to where he came, the younger Sin-woo successfully accomplishes the task off-screen...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 1

2018/02/05 | Permalink

Dong-goo (played by Kim Jung-hyun) had a dream. It was a dream about Hawaii, a place where people go to have fun. People also come to Korea to have fun. So Dong-goo thought, he would live in a large apartment with his friends and brand it as a guest house in order to defray the costs of rent, since none of them have regular jobs. Alas, the plan has its pitfalls. The guest house isn't that profitable. Also weird stuff keeps finding its way into Dong-goo's mouth. Then the baby shows up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 11

2018/02/04 | Permalink

It may have taken "A Korean Odyssey" half a series to get the ball rolling on the doomsday part of the story, but episode eleven gives said ball a good kick. Death is never far away in the life of Sam Jang and our familiar monsters, be it death for show, death among lovers or a very old death about to resurface. If it were not clear enough from the moment we first saw him, Kang  Dae-seong's nature brings him closer to the supernatural and to bringing about the end of the world...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Woman Who Makes the Last Meal"

2018/02/04 | Permalink

Soo-ah (played by Jo Yeo-jung) is a senior prison chef. What this means is, that when condemned inmates request a last meal, she is the one who has to provide it. It's an aggressively pointless job that has been made even less purposeful by the political circumstances of the nineties, which have made the practical abolition of the death penalty virtually inevitable. But then, Soo-ah has never really understood the death penalty in the first place- as is noted here by the case of Min-joong (played by Ha Joon)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Discloser"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

The year is 1999. Jeong-sook (played by Kim Ok-bin) is a reporter waiting for a contact at the amusement park. Everything about the situation is suspicious and by the time aeronautic parts procurement officer Dae-ik (played by Kim Sang-kyung) makes an appearance, Jeong-sook is convinced powerful forces are trying to kill them both. Why would anyone be upset about an aeronautic parts procurement officer talking to the press? Well, that question is the main draw of "The Discloser", a movie about military industrial graft...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Father's E-mails"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

One day director Hong Jae-hee started receiving detailed e-mails from her father about his life. Hong Jae-hee didn't know what to think of this, nor did she particularly care. The relationship between the two was strained, much as it was with the mother, brother, and sister of the family. It was only after her father's death that Hong Jae-hee started to seriously wonder what kind of person her father was, where he had come from, why he was going on all these work trips, why he seemed to have a grudge against his own family. "My Father's Emails" details her discovery process...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Living Being"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

An early scene in "A Living Being" features nurse Yoon-jeong (played by Lee Il-hwa) doing some cooking in her underwear. She is then mildly sexualized for the rest of the movie, just never to that extent. This is the closest anyone in "A Living Being" comes to a particularly interesting character trait. Well, hm, Moon-ho (played by Hah Yeong-soo) has the kind of dementia where he masturbates in front of other people. That's almost interesting, although the whole senility issue makes Moon-ho a less than dynamic character...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 4

2018/02/02 | Permalink

Soo-jin and Hye-na continue their journey in "Mother - Drama", but their lack of funds for their flight calls for a stop. Our newfound mother and fugitive's visit back to her own adoptive mother is a hard decision that becomes even harder when Yeong-sin places a term on her financial help. Soo-jin has to meet with her exactly ten times before going away. With the police and Seol-ak closing in, Soo-jin has to rely on a new acquaintance when Hye-na falls ill...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 3

2018/02/01 | Permalink

"Mother - Drama" delivers its most emotional episode yet, as our heroines take a walk down the fading memories of Soo-jin's past and the reasons for her solitary lifestyle. Detective Chang-geun is convinced that Ja-yeong and Seol-ak were abusive of Hye-na, but the lack of evidence and the public opinion manipulated by Ja-yeong make his work harder. As Soo-jin's adoptive mother continues her search, another important figure crosses our heroine's path...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 4

2018/01/31 | Permalink

In lieu of doing a small number of focused plots, this episode of "539 Yeonnam-dong" just does a large number of very tangentially related plots that don't have much pay-off. Instead of getting a new cybercrimes case to investigate, Bong-tae just ends up victim to a random accident. Incidentally, this accident was a much bigger deal than the drama lets on. Tasers may not be lethal but cops should still use them responsibly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 16 (Final)

2018/01/30 | Permalink

It occurs to me that "Just Between Lovers" has ended without really ever having much of a plot, resting entirely on the strength of its central relationship. So initially it seems a bit unfair that I'm such a fan of "Just Between Lovers" while being very frankly critical of "I'm Not a Robot" when the latter had basically the same design. Observe how Kang-doo gained a terminal medical condition last episode, just so that problem could be solved here. Or not...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 8

2018/01/30 | Permalink

Ha, the younger Sin-woo is getting more likable all the time. Instead of just waiting for the older Sin-woo to give him relevant advice, the younger Sin-woo proactively comes up with his own goofy plans to get together with Ji-soo upon his return to the past. Like the older Sin-woo, the younger Sin-woo is simply assuming that he can easily do time travel again. Which is admittedly not that unreasonable, since his continued presence in the future is an obvious time paradox...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 10

2018/01/29 | Permalink

The big snag in everyone's plans is not as educating as I was hoping it would be, but at least some characters' true feelings for one another have been revealed. Seon-mi gets to experience life without her abilities and everyone else gets to experience life without Sam Jang, but this inconvenient for most and a potential death sentence for Boo-ja. Everyone is confused about the future, most of all Seon-mi...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 7

2018/01/29 | Permalink

Normally when people think about talking to their past self, it's in terms of the advice given to help the younger, stupider you avoid what were, in retrospect, obvious boneheaded mistakes. With the past tense version of the story, that's exactly what "Longing Heart" did. But the premise has been turned around. Now it is the younger Sin-woo who is asking questions about how and why his older self is living the life that he is in the present day...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 15

2018/01/29 | Permalink

The scene with Moon-soo finding the old cell phone is replayed from her perspective. Well, technically speaking, the original scene was also from Moon-soo's perspective- but without better context, it seemed like Moon-soo was leaving because she was angry at Kang-doo. Actually, it turns out Moon-soo was angry at herself. That cell phone brought back painful memories. Another flashback shows us that Moon-soo had an even more direct reason to think she was responsible for the death of her first love than we had been led to believe...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 17-19

2018/01/29 | Permalink

So the second plot about a teacher who may or may not be engaging in appropriate extracurricular activities with a female student is resolved. In contrast to the other "Revenge Note" stories we've seen so far, this particular plotline is just really depressing. When Goo-hee ultimately decides to use the app to punish the at fault party, there's no sense of righteous indignation. Goo-hee, and us, are just depressed at how she is forced to take responsibility for the situation...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.26 - 2018.01.28

2018/01/29 | Permalink

"Keys to the Heart" leads and "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" becomes the second-highest grossing Korean film of all time...

Choi Seong-hyeon's comedy-drama "Keys to the Heart" claimed just 20,000 admissions more than its second-place finish last weekend, but it was enough to secure first place. With 668,658 admissions (29.14%), Choi's debut about a down-and-out boxer (Lee Byung-hun) and his relationship with his estranged savant brother (Park Jung-min) outperformed the final "Maze Runner" and the Oscar-nominated "Coco" during its second week out. "Keys to the Heart" has now grossed $15.1 million from 1.9 million admissions, the fifth highest-grossing film of 2018 so far...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 9

2018/01/28 | Permalink

I have been begging for some forward movement in the plot of "A Korean Odyssey" and a guest character brings about an even bigger change than I anticipated. The one thing that has been keeping our group of supernatural misfits together suddenly vanishes, and we are left with an uncertain future for everyone's fate as well as their relationships. I wanted to know what everyone truly thinks and feels about this situation, so bring on the drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Misty"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

There is something about rich people being miserable that audiences love. Seeing how the mighty have fallen is cathartic, but seeing them rise more humble and appreciative of what they have in the aftermath is essentially the big draw of such stories. "Misty" is a mystery and a romantic melodrama about complicated adult relationships framed by a murder...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Fighter Choi Kang-soon"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "Drama Stage - Fighter Choi Kang-soon" normal company worker Kang-soon (played by Kang Ye-won) witnesses a man on the bus taking upskirt shots of another woman with his cell phone. The ensuing confrontation goes poorly, because none of the many bystanders are willing to back Kang-soon's position. An after work dinner further reveals disturbing sexist undercurrents in Kang-soon's male-dominated workplace. By the time the cute romantic montage hits I was already screaming no Kang-soon, it's a trap! Men aren't to be trusted!...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Keys to the Heart"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

Jo-ha (played by Lee Byung-hun) used to be a middleweight champion. Now he's getting old, and has to hand out flyers in the street to make even a meager income. He is even accidentally (and mutually) humiliated further by wealthy society woman Ga-yool (played by Han Ji-min). The sheer disgrace of it all so badly gets to Jo-ha that he reluctantly agrees to move back in with his mother In-sook (played by Youn Yuh-jung) and his autistic younger brother Jin-tae (played by Park Jung-min). While Jin-tae is the only character in "Keys to the Heart" without a story arc, he is by far the most colorful of the bunch, being a piano prodigy who is obsessed with Street Fighter V...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "SECHSKIES Eighteen"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

Back during the beginning of modern K-Pop, there was a boy band called Sechskies. I think it's supposed to be pronounced "sex kiss" but the English spelling is really weird so I'm not sure*. Anyway, they were pretty popular for a few years only to abruptly disband without explanation. Then, in 2016, they got back together, and at that point it feels kind of odd to call them a boy band still, since they're all pushing forty, but what can I say? They look pretty good for the age...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "For Vagina's Sake"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

As you are probably aware, women bleed for an extended period once a month through their feminine areas. While that may sound gross, director Kim Bo-ram is here to explain that actually menstruation is pretty normal. It's just not something people like to talk about much, because bleeding is seen as dirty. Well no, bleeding is dirty. Any kind of bleeding is inherently dirty. Which is why the premise of "For Vagina's Sake" as a documentary frequently confused me...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 2

2018/01/26 | Permalink

The world in "Mother - Drama" is most definitely not wonderful and our runaway heroines get to experience another dark side of it. Soo-jin's plan is rushed and sorely flawed, beginning with how the two will hide their identities together. They meet someone who can help, but it is not the person such stories usually go for. Meanwhile, the police becomes involved and the detective in charge is starting to get the idea of what Hye-na's life at home entailed...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 1

2018/01/25 | Permalink

I knew that "Mother - Drama" would be a tough watch, but the show's straightforward, honest and nuanced portrayal of its characters' actions and thoughts takes even me by surprise. The adventure of Soo-jin and Hye-na is about to begin, but it is not a journey of epic conquest. It is a journey of empathy, despair and disappointment in the people and systems which should be protecting us the most...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 31-32 (Final)

2018/01/25 | Permalink

The production team is clearly padding for time, as the final episodes of "I'm Not a Robot" bring up some very weak last-minute conflicts solely so that the characters can demonstrate more minimal effort to solve them. Min-gyoo abruptly turns around from permanenently hating Yoo-cheol to just sort of idly forgiving him, which Yoo-cheol gladly accepts. Once more it's hard to take Yoo-cheol credibly as a villain, when it never seemed like he wanted to be fighting Min-gyoo in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 29-30

2018/01/24 | Permalink

The villainous storyline ends up being even more anticlimactic than I was expecting. Rather than our main characters saying or doing anything to prevent AZ3 from being taken by the evil English-speaking tycoons, a random character pops up and simply tells Min-gyoo that these guys are actually international criminals, immediately giving Min-gyoo the necessary leverage to cancel the deal. Do-won's plan to take over the company never made that much sense and the revelation that his business partners are literal crooks only makes him look even more stupid in retrospect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 3

2018/01/24 | Permalink

While the premise of "539 Yeonnam-dong" is just unrelated people live in the same house for economic reasons, increasingly it seems like this was just a contrivance intended to give Bong-tae access to people who could personally report cybercrimes to him. I like that. Most police procedurals are too high concept to focus on minor crimes, when minor crimes are the ones normal people are most likely to report, so Bong-tae's investigations are genuinely interesting and new, if only for practical reasons...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 8

2018/01/23 | Permalink

An ominous fate teasing was bound to happen at some point in such a series by these writers and "A Korean Odyssey" delivers it in this episode. There is a fallout between Seon-mi and Oh-gong, partially caused by Ma-wang, but based on the problems our two not-exactly-lovebirds have been trying to sweep under the rug. We start to see some of Oh-gong's honesty and change towards others, but the fates are cruel...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 14

2018/01/23 | Permalink

Remember back in the early episodes of the drama, how the flashbacks to the building collapse always came off as completely terrifying no matter how many times we saw it and knew how they were going to end? The flashbacks we get now have a very different emotional effect, even though the scenes themselves are practically difficult. They now take place in the context of Kang-doo and Moon-soo talking to each other, rather than keeping the bad memories to themselves. As a result, the nightmares are far more bearable...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 16 (Final)

2018/01/23 | Permalink

As expected very little effort is required to take down Mr. Jo. In fact that entire storyline is wrapped up within half an hour, after Mr. Jo engages in a petty act if spiteful revenge against Yoon-i. Why he would do this is unclear, since it's implied that Mr. Jo received a promotion once Mr. Bong was fired. And come to think of it, isn't that what Mr. Jo wanted all along, was just a promotion to be earned by getting Chi-won fired? So what does he care about Yoon-i and Chi-won now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 6

2018/01/23 | Permalink

So as expected Sin-woo did, somehow, manage to trigger the time travel again when he dived into the ocean in a hopeless effort to find his mother. There is one important twist to this though, that I'd rather not get into at the moment. The main fundamental information we learn right away is that apparently Sin-woo came back slightly ahead of where he first left, which means that he can still save Ji-soo...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 15

2018/01/22 | Permalink

The great team-up between Mr. Jo and Mr. Bong has never really gone that well, since instead of actually working collaboratively to come up with better evil schemes, Mr. Jo and Mr. Bong just end having gratuitous dinners together where they pretend to hold each other in mutual respect. The ending to this episode actually implies that Mr. Jo might have been expecting Yoon-i to sabotage Mr. Bong. Which would, by Mr. Jo's standards at least, be relatively smart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 5

2018/01/22 | Permalink

So apparently the reason Sin-woo never put any thought into the bigger problems of his having inadvertently traveled through time is because he thought the process could be easily repeated the exact same way. I do have to admit that Sin-woo's rude realization that the situation is more difficult than that fits well into his characterization of being pretty smart, but not that smart. The same goes for the warning to his mother. Sin-woo really should have emphasized that the reason why she shouldn't go was because of bad weather...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 13

2018/01/22 | Permalink

For all the critical subtext of how Kang-doo and Moon-soo are literally creating a new building on the ruins of the one that destroyed their lives, very little of interest actually happens at the construction site. Which makes sense. Nothing out of the ordinary happens at most construction sites. When something out of the ordinary happens, that's typically an indictment that the people who work there are not doing their jobs correctly, and whatever their individual flaws, the construction company in "Just Between Lovers" has been pretty competent...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.19 - 2018.01.21

2018/01/22 | Permalink

The final "Maze Runner" and local drama "Keys to the Heart" dislodge last weekend's hits...

"1987: When the Day Comes" and "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" (now the third highest grossing Korean film of all time) have been grabbing the tiger's share of the sales so far this year. That changed over the weekend with the arrival of "Maze Runner: The Death Cure", the third and final instalment in the popular American dystopian sci-fi series based on the novels by James Dashner. Director Wes Ball's action-packed adaptation so became the first foreign film to top the Korean box office this year, but not by much...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 7

2018/01/21 | Permalink

Prepare for another round of "Does he or doesn't he", as "A Korean Odyssey" continues to struggle with its lack of a main plot or any significant progress in character and world development. Episode seven is slower than usual and the creators are unfortunately back to treating the main romance as a conventional one, this time dangling the carrot of a love triangle with someone we do not even know...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 6

2018/01/20 | Permalink

I have been wondering when the "Argon" team would experience a greater crisis involving the massive responsibility of reporters in life and death matters, and the series has delivered. Something very dire happens and everyone has to handle the cost. Hye-rin is trying to make do with the decision forced on her and Yeon-hwa still struggles to find her place and her own voice. Meanwhile, Baek-jin makes a very important decision...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Our Place's Tasty Soybean Paste"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

A-yi (played by Yoo Eun-mi) is a precocious middle school student still coping with the death of her grandmother. By chance, A-yi and her mother Jeong-hee (played by Myung Se-bin) go to a small soybean paste stew restaurant across the street from their apartment. Jeong-hee notes that the singular dish prepared by proprietor Gi-bok (played by Lee Chun-hee) is nearly identical to the one prepared by her departed mother. From there, A-yi is relentless in trying to discover Gi-bok's recipe...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Mother - Drama"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

You can love or hate the remakes of Korean drama, but they are here to stay and they have the potential to evolve into solid works of their own. Choosing a critically acclaimed Japanese drama to do an adaptation of is not an easy decision, but "Mother - Drama" has a lot going for it. Will this manage to meet the great potential it has built up so far...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Happy Bus Day"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

The family at the heart of "Happy Bus Day" is highly dysfunctional. I don't mean that they're quirky eccentrics, I mean that most of them simply are not fit to mingle with normal human society as we know it. Their emotions range on a spectrum from blithe apathy to psychotic overreaction. The sole sane character is Sun-young (played by Kim Sun-young-III) who tries her best to be a normal housewife but is stymied by the sheer antisocial weirdness that is the household she married into...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Jung Il Woo, My Friend"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

Originally Jung Il Woo went by the name of John Vincent Daly, for the entirely sensible reason that he was born and raised in rural Ohio. Most Americans of Jung Il Woo's generation only remembered Korea as a snapshot of the Korean War. Jung Il Woo was called there by religious vocation. A trained Jesuit, Jung Il Woo was just a young teacher at the then very small Sogang University. But driven to learn more about Korean culture, Jung Il woo kept embedding himself with the country's poor population, fighting alongside them against political repression...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Madman Ok Han-heum"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

Ok Han-heum has already been the subject of two other documentaries by director Kim Sang-cheol. So I went into "Madman Ok Han-heum" with a bit of resignation. Considering all the scandals South Korean megachurches have been embroiled in during recent years, it feels a bit crass to so heavily romanticize one of the men most instrumental to their rise. So I was very surprised to actually watch "Madman Ok Han-heum" and discover that apparently Ok Han-heum himself felt the same way. The final years of his life were filled with dire warnings to the next generation of pastors to focus on Jesus, not their own career success...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 5

2018/01/19 | Permalink

As the battle for the new HBC 9 o'clock news anchor becomes more and more ruthless, so do Yoo Myeong-ho's tricks. Yeon-hwa and Jong-tae go after yet another item while Geun-hwa prepares his exit. With everyone busy in the "Argon" team and a particularly nasty lawsuit targeting Kim Baek-jin, one team member is met with a very unfair and potentially career-ending decision outside of their control...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 27-28

2018/01/18 | Permalink

Min-gyoo and Ji-ah just have a big romantic heart to heart explaining exactly everything that happened back when Ji-ah was pretending to be AZ3 and why. The sting of the drama's more illogical plot points is taken out a lot when we have Min-gyoo realizing just how stupid he was for not noticing the inconsistencies sooner. And it's just as sweet that Ji-ah is constantly moving to reassure Min-gyoo that no, he is not stupid, and she never thought of him as a mark...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 25-26

2018/01/17 | Permalink

Min-gyoo's relapse proves to be inevitably depressing. Even after the initial shock subsides and Min-gyoo's physical condition stabilizes, further revelations about the sheer extent of Baek-gyoon's fraud only make Min-gyoo more and more cantankerous. However nice Baek-gyoon tries to be here it's hard to see him as anything but the villain here. Especially since the drama's actual villain, Yoo-cheol, is nowhere to be found...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 2

2018/01/17 | Permalink

I-na (played by Oh Yoon-ah) is the recently arrived manager of a local chain fitness center. Soo-ri (played by Yang Jung-won) is her generally sexy subordinate yoga instructor. While the physical attractiveness of Soo-ri in the first episode was relatively subdued, the second episode turns it up so much as to be in poor taste. The production team is sending a mixed message by saying that uploading sexy pictures of Yang Jung-won on the Internet is wrong, and then giving us an entire setpiece where she moans lasciviously in response to a massage...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 6

2018/01/16 | Permalink

Ask and you shall receive, and although "A Korean Odyssey" is still dawdling on and regurgitating a lot of its key concepts this time around, there is at least one major point of progress in the ever so shaky thing that is its main romance. Ma-wang is feeling the burn of his little tasting and we are slowly discovering some connections made by our self-centered group of supernatural misfits...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 12

2018/01/16 | Permalink

At long last Kang-doo has come to the conclusion that he is in fact an idiot and badly underrating himself. Not only does he allow Moon-soo to start caring about him without needlessly pushing her away, Kang-doo goes even farther than that and admits that he cares about her, and wants their relationship to go back to the way it was. As in, they just make a point of seeing each other on a regular basis, sometimes with a specific goal, and other times just for fun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 4

2018/01/16 | Permalink

I've been wondering, who was Sin-woo's teacher in the original timeline? What happened to that guy? Why didn't he show up this time to take his job? It's a question that has become increasingly relevant as Sin-woo's memories differ from events in the new timeline. Although the bigger surprise is how much events don't change, or how they change in ways just minor enough that Sin-woo still mostly correctly guesses what has happened, save for a few minor details...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 14

2018/01/16 | Permalink

So Mr. Bong has returned to the story. Good thing I figured out Mr. Bong and Mr. Jo were two different characters already or I would have been really confused...anyway, Mr. Bong's main purpose here is to confuse me as to how the company's human resources policies are supposed to work. By what standard is a consensual romantic relationship cause for dismissal, but delegating a secretary to buy lacy underwear is not?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 5

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Seon-mi's burdens keep multiplying, as something happens to put our previously detached Bull Demon King in a much more invested position. After the big revelation of our heroine's mission, "A Korean Odyssey" takes a step back to look at her unique connection to Oh-gong. While the nature of this fake bond has been there for us to see, it is starting to dawn on Seon-mi that her needs tend to feed a dangerous and painful delusion of closeness on her end...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 3

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Na-hee (played by Jo Seung-hee) is Sin-woo's fellow teacher. Naturally, Sin-woo remembers Na-hee as a teacher from high school, and so has always been creeped out by the obvious romantic pretensions Na-hee has toward him now in adult form. I rather like this subplot, because it's the most explicit example we have of how Sin-woo's memories of people from high school are different from what these people were actually like. As Sin-woo's teacher, Na-hee had inherent dignity. As Sin-woo's colleague, she has almost none...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 13

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Once again "Jugglers" is able to salvage the relationship between Yoon-i and Chi-won by having them act like professional adults in the face of a bad situation. Yes, naturally Yoon-i is horrified and freaked out by the way her relationship with Chi-won has been outed. All the same, Chi-won is right there to remind her that this is not the end of the world. More importantly Chi-won is plenty willing to give Yoon-i emotional and physical space to recover, which is especially essential since a company investigation is now necessary...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 11

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Kang-doo has been forced to acknowledge the death of someone he genuinely, deeply cared about. Kang-doo does not take the news very well, and most of this episode is just an exercise in the other characters trying their best to calm him down. Which works, sort of. After an initial violent outburst Kang-doo is quite subdued, and seems willing to accept that which was always inevitable. But one way or another, Kang-doo always twists the situation around so as to maximize the self-hatred...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.12 - 2018.01.14

2018/01/15 | Permalink

"1987" overthrows "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"...

"Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", Kim Yong-hwa's adaptation of the first half of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge", is now the fifth highest-grossing Korean film of all time. Last weekend Kim's fifth film surpassed 10 million admissions, and with the 742,417 admissions (23.69%) it claimed over this past weekend, the film has now overtaken "The Thieves"'s $87.9 million. Since its release five days before Christmas, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has accrued 12.8 million admissions or $96.9 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 14-16

2018/01/13 | Permalink

So this time around the victim who Goo-hee attempts to help with the titular "Revenge Note" is an old friend with whom Goo-hee had a falling out, so we get a lot of flashbacks. In flashback, Goo-hee has shorter hair which makes her look older. This isn't a huge deal or anything, it's just counter-intuitive. Also it's the same haircut Kim Hyang-gi has in "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" which immediately made me realize, huh, I didn't notice that was her too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Not Played"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

In-sook (played by Won Mi-kyung) is a grandmother with a real excellent knack for geometry. Sadly, this skill set has been unexplored for most of her life, as In-sook has lived as a normal housewife. Then she gets a job as a cleaning lady for a local billiards hall. Business is slow, so In-sook practices the game while no one else is around. Before long, she's lining up excellent shots, easily hitting as many as five sides at once...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "America Town"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

In a small town near the demilitarized zone the economy is dictated almost entirely by the spending habits of American soldiers, an "America Town" if you will. The actual name of the town is not important because there were a lot of them back in the eighties. Some of them are still around even today. They're a bit of a wasteland really, which is unavoidable. Imagine you're a bored, lonely, depressed American soldier with a paycheck and nowhere better to go with your time off base. What would you buy?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

Ja-hong (played by Cha Tae-hyun) is a very special man. Most people who die, they just end up getting stuck in line. The unlucky ones get trapped in eternal torment. Somewhat luckier ones get clerical positions and cool magical powers. Ja-hong's guardians Kang-rim (played by Ha Jung-woo) and Seaman Mac (played by Ju Ji-hoon) get combat abilities. Deok-choon (played by Kim Hyang-gi), the lone woman, is stuck with just information gathering abilities. They all dream of reincarnation, of once again knowing what it is like to be human. But Ja-hong? He's under consideration for a position of considerable power in the underworld. "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" concerns itself with the question as to why...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Christmas in August"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

Jeong-won (played by Han Suk-kyu) is a photographer living a quiet life far from the bustle of the city. "Christmas in August" mostly just allows Jeong-won to be happy. He loves photography. Jeong-won takes genuine joy in the perfectionist pursuit of preserving the best possible image of a person for all eternity. Jeong-won too strives to live his own life in that way, maintaining an assuredly pleasant demeanor for people to remember him by...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 1

2018/01/11 | Permalink

Bong-tae (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) is a cybercrimes investigator who is appearing on a cable news program to talk about his work. Bong-tae is a moderately awkward man who doesn't look or act like a cop at all, so the question is immediately begged- what could he have possibly done to warrant being put on television? Flash back to a couple of weeks earlier, when Bong-tae runs across Ryan (played by Brian Joo) busking in the park. These apparently random events are related, although it takes some time for "539 Yeonnam-dong" to explain how...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 23-24

2018/01/11 | Permalink

The bulk of episode twenty-three is actually exactly what I was hoping for when it came to a reunion with Min-gyoo and Ji-ah. Sure, the whole situation is explicitly comically contrived, but it gets them talking. And the more Min-gyoo talks, the more obvious it is that he's a lonely socially isolated man who has no idea how ridiculous he sounds discussing AZ3 with excessive childish enthusiasm. Min-gyoo really needed this - a chance to talk about AZ3 with a stranger. That really was all he wanted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 21-22

2018/01/10 | Permalink

So having appeared briefly in a few inconsequential scenes, Ri-el simply drops away from Min-gyoo's life disinterestedly, much like how she re-entered it. While I appreciate "I'm Not a Robot" simply abandoning a subplot it obviously had no interest in developing in the first place, the drama then makes the bad decision to focus on the two aspects of the story I liked even less than Ri-el. There's the attempt by malicious forces to steal AZ3, and everyone continuing to deceive Min-gyoo...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 10

2018/01/09 | Permalink

So Na Moon-hee is in this drama. I've had trouble discussing her character mostly because she doesn't appear to have a name. But the character has always been instructive. Superficially Na Moon-hee is playing the role of wise mentor figure, and she's always dispensing unwanted yet generally correct grandmotherly advice. Yet the old woman is never talking from a position of strength. If anything, she gives off the feeling of constant regret, although it's never been clear why...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 12

2018/01/09 | Permalink

Secret relationships have never been a trope I particularly liked, although "Jugglers" really does take them to the next level in terms of sheer annoyance. All of the conflict is entirely because Chi-won and Yoon-i have decided to have a secret relationship for no good reason. The reason the Mr. Bong thing blew up into a scandal was because he was married. Chi-won is not married, at least not anymore. So at worst this is sexual harassment, which would be a problem for him, not her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 2

2018/01/09 | Permalink

While the first episode gave the clear impression that this was going to be the older Sin-woo's story, and that there was going to be more going on than just his attempts to drive the younger Sin-woo and Ji-soo together, so far that's pretty much the only storyline we have. We barely know anything about the other characters. So-ra (played by Min Dohee) is now Ji-soo's best friend, and has effectively brought her into the larger group, but the two have barely any screentime together...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 9

2018/01/08 | Permalink

So Kang-doo and Moon-soo appears to have broken up, or are at least fighting in such a way that they seem headed for a break-up. The actual reason for the fight is not important. This was just one of those dumb petty fights that couples get into because they have an emotionally charged moment and separate on bad terms. Then, unwilling to imply in even the vaguest way that they might have been wrong, they stubbornly refuse to make up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 1

2018/01/08 | Permalink

Sin-woo (played by Lee Jung-shin) is a high school teacher. We get a broad panorama of the town where he works, a look at his stroll to class, and finally an introduction to his students. Sin-woo's affectionate and oddly personal appraisals of the students come off as odd, even creepy, until he finally gets to Sin-woo (played by Seo Ji-hoon) who is literally just Sin-woo as a teenager. Yes, that's right, Sin-woo has time slipped back into 2007, and the first episode of "Longing Heart" explains how...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 11

2018/01/08 | Permalink

So I appear to have confused Mr. Bong, who was Yoon-i's boss in the first episode, with Mr. Jo (played by In Gyo-jin), who has been the antagonist since then. On one end I want to apologize for being too stupid to realize that these are two completely different characters. On the other end I'm now struggling to remember how Yoon-i even knows Mr. Jo in the first place, or why he would have ever thought she would be on his team. Well, I guess it doesn't matter...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 4

2018/01/08 | Permalink

Well, I asked for a main story and for Seon-mi's purpose in it, and episode four of "A Korean Odyssey" delivers. It turns out that our heroine has a much heavier burden to bear than expected and she needs her group of merry monsters to help her carry it. Seon-mi starts bonding with the group, but the reality of Oh-gong's forced connection to her leaves her feeling lonely as a challenging future approaches...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.05 - 2018.01.07

2018/01/08 | Permalink

Local webcomic adaptation "Along With the Gods" surpasses 10-million admissions...

Kim Yong-hwa's fun fantasy flick "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has sailed past the 10 million admissions mark after its third weekend out. From 1,256 screens, down from 1,666, "Along With the Gods" (which stars Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi) claimed 1.3 million admissions or 36.44% of the weekend sales. The first part of Kim's adaptation of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge" is now on the verge of overtaking "Train to Busan" (11.5 million admissions) as the tenth highest-grossing Korean film of all time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 3

2018/01/07 | Permalink

"A Korean Odyssey" is back this week and although the messy production and the injury that was caused due to it should never be forgotten or treated lightly, it looks like enough measures have been taken to keep the related authorities pleased for now. Story-wise, we are starting to get hints about the why of it all and the role of Seon-mi's fate in it, but we also meet new characters and backstories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

OCN has been so big on crime dramas, that Death himself gets one this time around. Granted, the titular hero of "Black" is only one Reaper out of many, but the series is right up his alley anyway. The series mixes fantasy, crime and romance, although that sadly proves too much by the end of things. Where does "Black" succeed and where could things have gone better? It depends on what you are looking for, but here is my take on it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 4

2018/01/06 | Permalink

"Argon" and the show within it of the same name have a surprise guest in this episode and they tackle some topics we do not often see in Korean drama, or rather often see painted in a very consistent and one-sided way. Sadly, the drama also throws a curve-ball at us with a certain character's health and this twists Baek-jin's arm into a decision that is necessary, but will only further infuriate his enemies...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Anthology"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

So-i (played by Shin Eun-soo) is, in the modern day, an English teacher for private academies. The work is degrading and generally pointless, so it's with sincere joy that So-i comes homes to open a package from family in rural Nonsan. So-i wasn't actually raised out there. She just ended up stuck in the area for awhile because of issues with her mother. All the same, So-i's happy nostalgia flashbacks revolve around the Nonsan years, which is especially interesting when we look back to see what a brat So-i was...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 11-13

2018/01/06 | Permalink

So Goo-joon's purpose has now been fully justifed to me. He is Goo-hee's terrible, evil older brother who constantly teases her yet is frustratingly difficult to get a rise out of. I liked how Goo-hee's revenge, though obviously satisfying to her, does not actually result in Goo-joon suffering on-screen. Because why would he give her the satisfaction? Goo-joon just does what terrible older brothers always do, and find more trifling ways to annoy Goo-hee that their parents will never believe because Goo-joon is oh-so-perfect...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "1987: When the Day Comes"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Investigator Park (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a state-sponsored Communist hunter. He doesn't play by the rules when it comes to dealing with pure evil. If Investigator Park needs to make the case, he will use whatever legal powers, violence, and intimidation necessary to force obstacles out of the way. At first glance Investigator Park may be mistaken as an agent of justice. But throughout "1987: When the Day Comes" we mostly see Investigator Park through the eyes of his victims- as a crazed psychopath who cannot be stopped and cannot be negotiated with. Which is a fitting metaphor for the South Korean dictatorship as a whole...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Return"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Far off in the rural outskirts of Ulsan, there's a simple country restaurant called "The Return" with a plaque that reads, if you drink rice wine here, your loved one will return for you. There is no magical property to the plaque or the restaurant. The proprietor Mister Byeon (played by Kim Yu-seok) just liked the sentiment in those words. But through time and tide, various lonely people have come to "The Return" inspired by its message into believing that they, too, may meet their loved ones again, given enough patience at the restaurant...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sermon on the Mount"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Director Daehae is a Buddhist nun. This may be seem counter-intuitive, given that "Sermon on the Mount" is, as the title implies, a movie about Christian theology. The runtime consists almost entirely of a bunch of seminary students sitting around in a cave casually discussing and debating various liturgy. There are frequent references to the more arcane aspects of religious belief, simplified into relatable analogies of great use to the believer and the non-believer alike...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 19-20

2018/01/04 | Permalink

The resolution to the whole elaborate deception storyline wraps up a lot faster than I was expecting. Before even episode nineteen has finished Min-gyoo and Ji-ah have already said their goodbyes, and episode twenty largely consists of them vigorously making a new start of their lives. Deep down inside Min-gyoo and Ji-ah are still quite lonely though, having become more attached to the master robot relationship than they had ever expected...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 17-18

2018/01/03 | Permalink

In very short order "I'm Not a Robot" has gone from cute and charming, if ethically ill-conceived, to straight-up depressing. At one point a minor character is murdered out of nowhere, and the other characters respond by shambling listlessly. There's no longer any joy in the interactions bewteen Min-gyoo and Ji-ah. Their reunion at the end has an amazingly dour tone- they're going through the motions to try and recreate happiness that no longer exists and never can...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 3

2018/01/02 | Permalink

With the secret plan between Baek-jin and Yeon-hwa to uncover the truth behind the Midtown Mall collapse hitting a slow point, it is time to get familiar with some other members of the "Argon" group. The two leads take on a case from Baek-jin's past that he must solve, the "ugly" and "old" lovebirds have an awkward meeting and the "Argon" underdog above Yeon-hwa gets a hefty dose of reality...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 8

2018/01/02 | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Just Between Lovers" reads as the space between lovers. It's a very instructive title, because most of what we see really is just Kang-doo and Moon-soo spending time together. They don't necessarily do anything. Interpreted in a purely narrative sense Kang-doo and Moon-soo mostly just run errands. Whether or not they succeed in these errands is sort of besides the point, because no individual errand is all that important...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 10

2018/01/02 | Permalink

So apparently the sweet spot for Yoon-i and Chi-won is not quite actually in a relationship, since now that they're officially together, we have to endure a secret office romance storyline. That on its own would not be a problem, except that Yoon-i and Chi-won have now become mostly incompetent again. They are so bad at keeping secrets it begs the question of why they bother trying to keep secrets in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.29 - 2017.12.31

2018/01/02 | Permalink

Local hits "Along With the Gods", "1987" and "Steel Rain" secure 90% of the sales during final weekend...

The last weekend of 2017 saw another massive win for Kim Yong-hwa's "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", the first in a series of films adapted from Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge". Kim's fantasy drama entered the fray three days before Christmas and found massive support during its first weekend out. Its second weekend out was equally profitably: from 1,666 screens, down from 1,887, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" added another 2.4 million admissions (53.73%) and has raced to become the second highest-grossing film of the year. Currently, Kim's much-anticipated film has grossed $64.2 million (8.5 million admissions)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 7

2018/01/01 | Permalink

The person who manages Lee Junho's makeup, as well as the person in charge of continuity, are very good at their jobs. That very specific praise is prompted by Kang-doo's facial wounds, which are always changing just slightly from scene-to-scene. They slowly heal over time, but then he gets another one. I'm surprised those specific members of the production team are able to keep the wounds so consistent. It's a thankless job that can be very easily screwed up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 9

2018/01/01 | Permalink

In a surprising departure for a narrative that so far has not been taking its work seriously, "Jugglers" actually takes the ramifications of Yoon-i and Chi-won kissing and examines them in a professional context. The effect is rather ironic- Yoon-i and Chi-won are acting far more professionally now than they have been since the earliest episodes. The change is much welcomed, since it allows their romance to progress naturalistically rather than be clumsily forced by narrative turnabouts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Today I Grab the Tambourine Again"

2017/12/31 | Permalink

Moon-sook (played by Park Hee-bon) is a bank teller. She doesn't have a full contract yet, but the time is fast approaching when the bank either has to offer Moon-sook a contract or just let her go. Incidentally, Moon-sook goes out with her team every month for a celebratory party at the karaoke bar. While this would be a great time to make a good impression, Moon-sook has no talent for singing. So instead, she takes tambourine classes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Steel Rain"

2017/12/30 | Permalink

Cheol-woo (played by Jung Woo-sung) is a North Korean tough guy with a secret mission. Cheol-woo quickly realizes, to his horror, that the mission is being witness to a massive terrorist attack that appears to have been coordinated by an American helicopter (!) working together with rogue North Korean military forces. Unsure of who to trust as he tries to salvage the disaster, Cheol-woo's mission takes him deep south, where he ends up meeting the South Korean Cheol-woo (played by Kwak Do-won), who also works in government...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Very Bad Moon Rising"

2017/12/30 | Permalink

Don't be caught off guard by the opening title for "Very Bad Moon Rising"- this is indeed a Korean film, even if the starting point is a Japanese experiment. Also don't be fooled by hints that the creepy Japanese head knows what's going on. I didn't know what was going on for most of "Very Bad Moon Rising" and neither did any of the characters. Their job was just to find a random headstone located in the middle of nowhere, a task made very complicated for no good reason...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Heartbeat Operator"

2017/12/30 | Permalink

Hye-eun (played by Lee Yoo-mi) is a teenager who loves Indian culture. It's not clear that Hye-eun actually understands anything about Indian culture, but she's pretty earnest about her daily morning meditation, even if it causes her to chronically be late to everything. Anyway! Hye-eun makes her way to Jeonju University, and quickly develops a huge crush on Seung-bin (played by Yoon Jung-il), and struggles to win him over with various bad decisions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not A Robot" Episodes 15-16

2017/12/28 | Permalink

Seon-hye (played by Lee Min-ji) is Min-gyoo's kissing coach. Also she's Ji-ah's best friend. I'd completely forgotten about that part because Seon-hye has been so prominent in the kissing coach role she hadn't been talking to Ji-ah very much lately. I bet Seon-hye's not even a real kissing coach, everyone is just pretending like she is because Baek-gyoon can't risk bringing someone they can't trust into the conspiracy, even if they have to take Ji-ah's word for it that Seon-hye is on the level...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 13-14

2017/12/27 | Permalink

I had forgotten, until Min-gyoo decided to research the subject, that AZ3 "learns" how to mimic human behavior by watching movies, as well as the nerdy scientist team. This is an obviously ridiculous design feature to the point that it breaks the willing suspension of disbelief. And I'm not referring to myself. Min-gyoo is the one who starts to feel increasing doubt about the entire AZ3 project. That Baek-gyoon's team has decided to let their guard down now all of all times does not help matters...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.22 - 2017.12.24

2017/12/27 | Permalink

Local webtoon adaptation steals Christmas...

Kim Yong-hwa's fantasy drama "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" triumphed over the Christmas weekend in Korea, and it is already the seventh highest-grossing film of the year. Kim's 5th feature claimed 61.84% of the box office pie (2.7 million admissions) from 1,884 screens, more than triple that of its closest competitor and last weekend's number one, "Steel Rain"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 2

2017/12/26 | Permalink

The plot thickens and by that I mean the new ways in which every character here tries to backstab one another. This is the only story to speak of at the moment and while the romance is apparently getting started, we still do not know what role Seon-mi's existence as Sam Jang will play. "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi) is fun in a cheesy way, but we need more story and it has to come soon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 6

2017/12/26 | Permalink

There's a common trope in a lot of romances where the male lead, in the name of defending the female lead's honor, will react violently or at least with implied violence to some form of verbal slight. "Just Between Lovers" is not satisfied with merely following genre conventions though. We get that scene here, and far from feeling at all chivalrous, the outburst is just emblematic of Kang-doo's rage issues. The moment is explicitly frightening, and it's surprising Moon-soo doesn't just ditch him right there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 8

2017/12/26 | Permalink

After his humiliation at the Best Boss Awards, Chi-won is understandably upset and not in the mood to talk to Yoon-i about information she should never have known about in the first place. Unfortunately Chi-won is so understandably upset I had a very hard time empathizing with Yoon-i's position. Chi-won is Yoon-i's boss. If he doesn't want to talk to her, that's it. As a professional I would expect Yoon-i to know better...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 1

2017/12/25 | Permalink

It has been a while since the Hong sisters were in any way exciting and while "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi") is not exactly wowing with its first episode, the drama presents the workings of what could be a really fun story. We have a case of every man and beastie for themselves, as we meet a lot of characters, none of them anything but self-serving and with some pretty hefty behavioral and personality issues. I pity our heroine already...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 2

2017/12/25 | Permalink

After a powerful start, "Argon" takes a little step back and an even more sombre look into how morality and principles are challenged in systems that rely on strict hierarchal rules, cronyism and a work culture of underhanded pleasantries. Yeon-hwa's own contract continues to be scrutinized, but it is our hero who has to make tough choices this time. The truth is important, but choosing strangers over loved ones is not easy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 5

2017/12/25 | Permalink

Kang-doo's meltdown at the construction site, provoked by a random boot, of all things, is the first time we've ever seen Kang-doo get worked up over an emotion that's not righteous indignation. Kang-doo is legitimately scary in this scene. Additionally, as seen from the vantage point of Moon-soo, a fellow survivor with much better emotional control, Kang-doo's actions are much more difficult to justify. It turns out, guilt is the big factor...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 7

2017/12/25 | Permalink

Other characters are curiously oblivious to Chi-won's motives, even when he's explaining them pretty explicitly. Chi-won doesn't like it when people harass his secretary. Chi-won probably doesn't like it when any of his subordinates are harassed, really, yet Mr. Bong and Chang-soo both get extended sequences where they are confused as to why Chi-won is singling them out for rough treatment when all they did was make Yoon-i severely uncomfortable...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 1

2017/12/23 | Permalink

"Argon" is here to destroy any faith in mainstream journalism that you may have been holding onto while exploring workplace and hierarchy dynamics as well as the personal consequences and triumphs of a very demanding job. The series is fast-paced and so far focuses more on its leading man, but there are characters around with solid potential. Step into the daily grind of reporting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

Don't be fooled by the innocuous title. "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day" is a surprisingly bleak drama wrapped up in pleasant sounding euphemisms. That much is obvious once we realize that the titular Picnic Day refers, not to actual picnics, but to a company that cleans up rooms where people have died- sometimes by natural causes, sometimes not. The main issue for most of the employees at Picnic Day is the rancid smell they have to deal with in the worst rooms...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Namesake"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

Ryeon-hee (played by Lee Sang-hee-IV) is an older middle-aged woman who works the miserable night shift at a convenience store. Ryeon-hee is very cold emotionally, and her behavior hints at an unhappy backstory. But then, we can tell right away that Ryeon-hee is a North Korean defector because her name is written according to North Korean spelling conventions- it would be rendered in South Korean spelling conventions as Yeon-hee...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

So apparently in the world of the lovable little penguin Pororo (voiced by Lee Sun), there is a dinosaur island. On its face this isn't really surprising, since Pororo's best buddy Krong (voiced by Lee Mi-ja) is a dinosaur, whose origin has never been explained. Alas, those of you hoping that "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure" would be Krong's origin story will be disappointed. Although Krong has (presumably) never seen other dinosaurs before, the existence of an entire dinosaur kingdom passes without commentary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Chase"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

The South Korean suicide rate is top-heavy to the older part of the population. Elderly people in South Korea frequently suffer depression due to middling contact with their families and financial issues relating to housing controls. I bring this cultural context up because "The Chase" starts out with elderly serial murder victims being misidentified as suicides, which is kind of counter-intuitive without said context...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 11-12

2017/12/21 | Permalink

Obviously sincere though Min-gyoo's efforts may be toward trying to make up with Baek-gyoon's team so that he can hold on to the medical miracle that is AZ3, he still constantly fails basic social tasks. Note how Min-gyoo can't remember the names of any of Baek-gyoo's assistants. Which is fine, really, I can't remember them either. Actually I'm pretty sure we've only ever heard them referred to by ridiculous-sounding nicknames, further mitigating the severity of Min-gyoo's failure...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 9-10

2017/12/20 | Permalink

So upon further consideration I really don't like Ri-el. Granted, Ri-iel doesn't have much more screentime here than she did last time, but I see now that this is more a factor of her personality than it is the screenwriting. Ri-el is just a very curt, unsentimental person by nature. After what happened last time she saw Min-gyoo, I'm a little dumbfounded that the first words out of her mouth here weren't hey, are you OK, because last time we met you looked like you were about to die...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 4

2017/12/19 | Permalink

After a lot of false starts Moon-soo and Kang-doo are finally starting to spend a lot more time with each other. I like how, even though "Just Between Lovers" has an obviously contrived situation designed to reunite them, it still takes a lot of prodding to get them to willingly spend time together. Moon-soo and Kang-doo are fundamentally suspicious people and more than a desire for companionship, it's burning curiousity about that song which ultimately compels Moon-soo to search Kang-doo out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 6

2017/12/19 | Permalink

Chang-soo (played by Min Jin-woong) is Yoon-i's ex-boyfriend. No, he's not the ex-boyfriend that abandoned her at the hotel in the first episode. That guy was a jerk, too, but his presence would at least have presented an interesting conflict about how Yoon-i's dedication to work has had deleterious effects on her social life. His presence would have been especially relevant in light of the fake news about Yoon-i being romantically involved with Mr. Bong, since that would have given him a valid reason to break up with Yoon-i...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 3

2017/12/18 | Permalink

Joo-won (played by Lee Ki-woo) is the manager for operations on the big construction job that Moon-soo and Kang-doo are attached to. He's also the second male lead alternative love interest for Moon-soo. His role there is somewhat ambiguous. While Joo-won is painstakingly nice, and compassionate about any problems affecting Moon-soo directly, he never does anything especially constructive (hoho) about the foundational issues of the project. This has always been the case whether the issue has been shady financial backing or cutting corners on workplace safety...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 5

2017/12/18 | Permalink

Bo-yool (played by Lee Won-geun) is the boss of the sports department of the big corporation where everyone works. As usual I'm not at all sure what Bo-yool's job actually is. All I know is that he acts in a constant childish jovial manner and even has child-sized arcade cabinets in his office. Also, Jeong-ae has become his secretary, despite the obvious mismatch in their personalities. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say that they're too well-matched, on account of their both having frivolous personalities...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.15 - 2017.12.17

2017/12/18 | Permalink

"The Last Jedi" no match for timely "Steel Rain"...

In December 2013, Yang Woo-seok's debut film "The Attorney" was released and went on to earn just over $88 million (12.1 million admissions). Now, almost exactly four years later, Yang's second feature, "Steel Rain" (starring Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won), has entered the fray in front, easily outplaying the much-anticipated "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "A Korean Odyssey"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

An umbrella wielding Oh Yeon-seo is here to lead her group of merry deities to an adventure in the latest work by Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran. "A Korean Odyssey" promises supernatural shenanigans, clashing forces and romance this December. Are the Hongs back? Really back? I sure hope so...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Mi-na (played by Kang Mina) is a normal high school student who skatesboards to school every day and has an unacknowledged crush on family friend slash local tennis star Jong-min (played by Byeon Woo-seok), who is her fellow student. Also Mi-na has the superpower to turn invisible twice a day. You would think that's the most important part of her characterization but no, "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" is actually a pretty mundane high school romance with a pretty weird gimmick for no obvious reason...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 15-16

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Bo-mi takes front and center as she tries to reclaim her life. She tries to do it alone, which is how she's been living, but finds that she has people who have her back...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Forgotten"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Back in 1997 Jin-seok (played by Kang Ha-neul) is a young man who leads a generally idyllic existence with his family. But lately, something seems off. It starts with the nightmares- these horrific, abstract images that feel familiar yet come out of nowhere. Then the new house itself starts to give Jin-seok the creeps, with its odd noises behind that one suspicious door. It's only a matter of time before Jin-seok's paranoia extends to consider direct human causes as well...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Journey to My Boy"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Bo-hyeon (played by Kim Eun-joo-II) is a deaf interpretative dancer. She's married to Seong-rak (played by Seo Sung-gwang), a deaf gardener. For the sake of their careers, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak entrusted their son Won-hyo (played by Lee Ro-woon) to Seong-rak's mother (played by Kim Gyung-ae). Now that Won-hyo is old enough to be going to school, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak feel like they can step in as parents again, but there's a pretty big problem. Won-hyo can hear, and he does not know sign language...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Romans 8:37"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

While "Romans 8:37" concerns itself almost exclusively with misdeeds inside a fictional South Korean megachurch it is not a movie about how Christianity is bad. In an unusual approach for the sensational exposé genre of film, "Romans 8:37" centers its revelations around Gi-seop (played by Lee Hyun-ho), a devout member of the church involved in the political battle through which the revelations emerge. For all this, Gi-seop does not lose faith. But he does waver. Oh how he ever wavers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 7-8

2017/12/14 | Permalink

Ri-el (played by Hwang Seung-eon) is Min-gyoo's childhood friend and presumed alternate love interest. She has very little screentime. Her only new scene is suspiciously cut short right before she's about to say something important. So Ri-el's main contribution to the story so far is that she provokes one of Min-gyoo's attacks, which leads him into flashback mode detailing his generally horrible backstory that explains, among other things, where Min-gyoo's psychomatic skin condition comes from...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 5-6

2017/12/13 | Permalink

We still have so few characters that most of the jokes are just a variation on how Min-gyoo is too dumb to realize that Ji-ah is not a robot. Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't gotten completely sick of that yet. Maybe it's just the way Yoo Seung-ho plays Min-gyoo so sincerely, his stupidity is actually mostly pretty believable. The things Min-gyoo believes a robot can do are just so ridiculously inconsistent, yet we can see in his warped mind that there is a consistent logic to his assumptions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 8-10

2017/12/12 | Permalink

So it turns out that Goo-joon does serve at least one important role in "Revenge Note"- he's the best friend of Cha Eun-woo. Who's Cha Eun-woo? Why, he's a singer in the boy band Astro, which happens to be the same boy band that Deok-hee and her mom (played by Park Kyung-rim) are totally obsessed with. So Deok-hee is naturally a little miffed to learn that apparently Goo-hee has pretty much always been on a first name basis with Cha Eun-woo, inspiring a fairly dramatic split...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 2

2017/12/12 | Permalink

Director Kim Jin-won-I has this fantastic talent for creating dramatic tension in flashbacks where, logically, there should not be any dramatic tension. We know what happened in the accident and that appearances to the contrary, it did not kill either Kang-doo or Moon-soo. Of course, they know that too. They can probably tell when they're dreaming, too. That doesn't make the trauma of those memories any less real - especially not the feeling that they caused the tragedy, somehow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 4

2017/12/12 | Permalink

Chi-won has this habit of quickly getting annoyed with people and promptly ending conversations before they've even really started. Narrative-wise this habit is frustrating, since it prevents Chi-won from getting involved with any kind of actual plot. But at the same time it's actually fairly refreshingly comical to watch a hero be completely immune to the villain's various schemes because the villain is such an obvious dork that listening to them at all is obviously a total waste of time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 18 Final

2017/12/11 | Permalink

The much dreaded ending of another Choi Ran-I work has come and if I can give "Black" credit for something, that would be persistence in tackling whatever it does choose to tackle until the end. We get more answers than expected in the final episode and some are highly satisfying. Others are confusing and remain as plot holes. Sadly, the ending itself undoes a lot of the good in "Black"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 1

2017/12/11 | Permalink

At first glance, "Just Between Lovers" is a typical romance. You've got the woman, Moon-soo (played by Won Jin-ah), who suffered through a horrible tragedy in her teen years, and now struggles to keep her family together economically and emotionally. Then you've got the man, Kang-doo (played by Lee Junho), with a similar tragic backstory who is...wait, he's not rich? Kang-doo is just a working class construction worker who lives in constant rage about how the world is fundamentally unjust? And he hangs out in the foreigner districts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 3

2017/12/11 | Permalink

Jeong-ae (played by Kang Hye-jung) is a married woman and Yoon-i's friend. Her husband recently disappeared without explanation, and it appears that he owed money to gangsters. So Jeong-ae ends up struggling to find a job. She fails at nearly every single task she attempts, mostly due to inappropriate soft-heartedness. Eventually Jeong-ae becomes a secretary. I know this because it is in her character description, which oddly enough does not mention anything about her family or gangster debts...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.08 - 2017.12.10

2017/12/11 | Permalink

"The Swindlers", "Forgotten", and Korea's favourite little penguin take the podium...

Jang Chang-won's debut film "The Swindlers" enjoyed its third consecutive weekend at the top of the box office by claiming another 418,141 admissions, 23.84% of the sales. Since its release late last month, Jang's action drama has held off cinematic challenges both foreign and domestic to remain Korea's number one. The film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha in a story about a conman who schemes to outplay an even bigger swindler. With a total take now of $26.7 million (3.78 million admissions), "Swindlers" is the twelfth highest-grossing film of the year...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 17

2017/12/10 | Permalink

Finding out the truth we have already known does not make it easier for our Reaper dearest, and 444 has a lot of deeply personal things to tackle in the penultimate episode of "Black". A lot happened on that fateful night when the children became involved with Wang Young-choon's search for the tape and coming to terms with it all, but also with some dire new information is not an easy feat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Bad Guys : Vile City"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Santa Claus is not the only one coming to town this December, as our bad guys are arriving to clean it of the filth even they are too good for. "Bad Guys : Vile City" is the spin-off-slash-sequel to OCN hit drama "Bad Guys" and as much as we may miss the old cast, perhaps the latest bad boys will have something good to show for.


Prosecutor Woo Je-moon (Park Joong-hoon) is a man who cares about results more than he does about the legality of the means. He and a team of criminals selected as a new form of law enforcers take on a powerful cartel...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Ga-yeong (played by Song Ji-hyo) is a slowly aging career woman who spends her free time at a carnival style shooting gallery. Ga-yeong is not actually very good at gun based carnival games, yet keeps trying to win the big prizes anyway. So right away "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter" has a pretty good metaphor for Ga-yeong's love life. She is very bad at finding romance, yet persists in trying to do so out of sheer desperation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Magic Hour"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Nam-woo (played by Park In-hwan) is an aging photographer. Time was a person could just set up shop in a nice scenic area with a camera and people would pay for the privilege of having their picture taken. But now? Kids these days with their smart phones take all the romance out of having a stranger take your picture only to be seen several weeks later in the mail. The world has changed. Nam-woo has changed. And, he's decided, it's time to end it all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "State-authorized Textbook"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

You might expect "State-authorized Textbook" to just be about how Park Geun-hye's government attempted to mandate a conservatively aligned national history textbook curriculum. But before the documentary can get that far, there's a lot of background material that needs to be covered. The story ends up starting, in all places, Japan, because Park Geun-hye's system of nationalized textbooks was actually based on the existing Japanese model...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Where is your hometown?"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

After the Japanese Occupation ended normal Koreans in difficult economic circumstances struggled to find work. With the collapse of the Japanese Empire the only stable country that was a viable location for economic migration was the Soviet Union. Then the Korean War happened, and all of a sudden, all the Koreans who had taken on temporary positions on the Kamchatka Peninsula were unable to return home. "Where is your hometown" is a documentarian explanation of their story...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 3-4

2017/12/07 | Permalink

So it turns out that Ji-ah is really into worthless novelties. Now don't get me wrong her older brother Jin-bae (played by Seo Dong-won) is a complete jerk and his actions are nowhere near as well justified as he seems to think they are. But there's an obvious irony to this. Ji-ah's entire life revolves around obscure useless junk and now, Ji-ah herself has become an obscure useless piece of junk, both metaphorically and literally, as the original model for and now imitated version of AZ3...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 1-2

2017/12/06 | Permalink

So apparently Yoo Seung-ho has gotten really, really buff since we last saw him in "Ruler: Master of the Mask". Oddly enough that's actually fairly appropriate, since in "I'm Not a Robot" he plays reclusive corporate heir Min-gyoo, who has nothing better to do in his spare time except work out and obsess over mostly fictional robots, thanks to a medical condition that makes it dangerous for him to touch people. Little does Min-gyoo realize that eccentric scientist Baek-gyoon (played by Uhm Ki-joon) and his team have built AZ3 (played by Chae Soo-bin), a fully functional android...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 16

2017/12/05 | Permalink

I need a few weeks and possibly a lot of ice cream to fully process what is the most jarring and packed episode of "Black" yet. While our titular Reaper continues to struggle with his emotions and obligations as a supernatural being lying to his crush, the time has come to tackle the villain and his connection to almost all of what has happened so far. I have a lot of questions and I am not even sure what some are...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 2

2017/12/05 | Permalink

Chi-won (played by Choi Daniel) is an up and coming executive who is exceptionally cold to nearly everyone around him. Even the fleeting moments of kindness he has shown to an obviously distraught Yoon-i have always been performed under the attempted guise of anonymity. Chi-won is impatient for results and doesn't tolerate slacking off. So you'd think Yoon-i would be the perfect secretary for him except that "Jugglers" is still in the evading the premise stage of the story...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 13-14

2017/12/05 | Permalink

Closing up review season for the year with "Lookout". We get to know Bo-mi a bit more, while Kyung-soo proves his mettle, and Soo-ji continues to be a brave, headstrong, and impetuous woman. Then there is Do-han, who once seemed to have everything under control, but events are quickly slipping from his capable fingertips...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 1

2017/12/04 | Permalink

Yoon-i (played by Baek Jin-hee) is an exceptionally competent secretary. Unfortunately, she's just a little too competent. Her boss Mr. Bong (played by Choi Dae-chul) constantly has Yoon-i on-call, even when Yoon-i is is trying to have a cute romantic montage with her boyfriend Kyeong-joon (played by Sung Hoon). Worst of all, Yoon-i doesn't express any kind of discretion when it comes to the kinds of jobs Mr. Bong assigns her, which ends predictably poorly...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.01 - 2017.12.03

2017/12/04 | Permalink

"Swindlers" holds the top spot and moves into the top twenty...

Writer/director Jang Chang-won's debut "Swindlers" retained the top spot and swiftly moved into the year's top twenty as its earnings swell to $21.5 million (3.05 million admissions). Over this past weekend, its second, the 117-minute action drama -- which stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana and Ahn Se-ha -- came away with 671,665 admissions (36.27%) from just over 1,000 screens nationwide (down from 1,314)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 15

2017/12/03 | Permalink

You can never really prepare yourself for some surprises, but "Black" has at least been kind enough to set so much up for itself that anyone would see the inevitable cutting of corners happen. We confirm a lot of things in this episode and some are great to find out, but we also learn of possible truths that do not seem to fit quite as imagined. The same goes for the romance, which never stood a chance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

Jong-hyeok (played by Lee Joo-seung) works at a normal office job during the daytime, but in his private life, the man is a hit novelist. Jong-hyeok wants to keep these aspects of his life separate, for some reason. And right there is where "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life" has its biggest problem. I don't have a clue why Jong-hyeok wants to have a secret identity. I especially don't know why he wants to work a normal office job. We learn surprisingly little about what kind of a person Jong-hyeok really is considering the sheer wackiness of the set-up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Am Hopeman"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

The main audience for "I Am Hopeman" is just Korean Presbyterian laypeople. The documentary explains what their donation money to the Cambodia Mission has been doing. It's a progress report that's been quite a long time in the making. When director Na Hyun-tae started out, the Hope School was just an elementary school. The main struggle was getting students to attend at all. The documentary ends with a graduation ceremony of their first high school class...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Old Marine Boy"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

Park Myeong-ho defected from North Korea to South Korea some ten years ago along with his family, a wife and two sons. The reasons for why they defected are surprisingly mundane. My favorite is when he states that his dad spent forever in the military, and he spent forever in the military, but now his sons don't have to. He says that while doing his daily intensive calisthenics workout for the sake of his job- diving and catching underwater fauna, namely octopi, off the east coast of Gangwon province...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 16 Final

2017/12/01 | Permalink

All things must come to an end and the revenge of the "Mad Dog" team is finally complete. Hyeon-gi and Hong-joo do not give up easily, but we all know that the mad dogs never let go after they bite. The team fight the villains until the very last minute, but the resolution is sadly reached through the drama's bad habit of pulling its needed plot devices out of thin air...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 15

2017/12/01 | Permalink

"Mad Dog" is coming to an end and this means that heroes and villains alike can stop twiddling their thumbs and being selectively obtuse. Everyone gets things done, but not done too well, because wiretapping your office when you know beforehand that a villain is visiting would just be too smart. The Dog Team are juggling battle fronts with several antagonists, but it is unsurprisingly Hyeon-gi who becomes the most dangerous...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Swindlers"

2017/12/01 | Permalink

In an odd twist for the wacky charming con artist genre of films, the opening scene of "The Swindlers" features a disturbingly large assortment of people thrown into suicidal despair as a result of a massive fraud. Ji-seong (played by Hyun Bin) is obliquely related to the scam, but most of the movie is not from his perspective. That role falls to Prosecutor Hee-soo (played by Yoo Ji-tae) who operates his own gang of con artists, and also has a connection to the huge embezzlement case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 16 (Final)

2017/11/28 | Permalink

The fuller context of Ji-ho's actions makes her look really dumb, at best, and actively sadistic at worst. How in the world was Se-hee supposed to interpret her behavior? The only justification I can come up with is that "This Life Is Our First Life" is satirizing what would actually happen in real life if one member of a couple just disappeared like that without communication. Except Ji-ho is never called out for the tangible and emotional damage her actions caused to Se-hee's life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 31-32 (Final)

2017/11/28 | Permalink

So apparently Jin-jin's family didn't know that she was dating Ji-won? Once again I'm left scrambling trying to figure out whether the drama ever actually explicitly said that the family knew, or whether I just assumed that they knew because there was no other way for them to interpret the couple's surreptitious behavior. Why any of them would be upset at this revelation is equally unclear to me, since I was under the impression they were inviting Ji-won to dinner mainly because they saw him as good son-in-law material...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/27 | Permalink

Credit given where it's due, the opening scene, with its epic kiss and then fade into the elevator scene where we last saw Jin-jin and Ji-won together was pretty good. I rather missed the young versions of those characters. Unfortunately the conclusion of the elevator scene is the last we see of them, and apparently their entire relationship. Jin-jin's parents inviting Ji-won to family dinners takes on a very different tone now that we know Chang-won and Ji-won's first encounter was a violent one...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 15

2017/11/27 | Permalink

Ji-ho is so obsessively introspective here she effectively manages to talk herself out of a relationship with Se-hee. Her behavior is dumbounding, but at the same time, really weirdly logical. I can actually kind of see screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong inserting herself into the more philosophical contours of the conversation, openly wondering why the consumnation of romantic love has to be the only acceptable narrative happy ending. That Jeong-min is, herself, an example of a woman who achieved happiness without a man only further complicates this assumption...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.23 - 2017.11.25

2017/11/27 | Permalink

"The Swindlers" puts local films back on top; "Justice League" falters...

"The Swindlers", Jang Chang-won first solo project as director, arrived on Wednesday and dominated its first weekend out by capturing 61.85% of the sales. The 117-minute action film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha and follows a charlatan who spins a complex scheme to catch a fellow con man. From 1,313 screens, Jang's debut claimed 1.2 million admissions ($9 million), which deny DC's "Justice League" a second weekend at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 14

2017/11/26 | Permalink

There is so much grief on the horizon of "Black" and with our good characters closer to the main villain than ever, deaths are an expected outcome. Ha-ram's fate is no longer known or secure and our heroine's decisions over her relationship with the titular Reaper will be adding another layer of tragedy to an already sordid case. Many questions are answered, but I am greedy for more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 13

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The puzzle of the past is slowly coming together in "Black" and with Man-ho nearly cornered, the true villain behind it all should be making their grand entrance soon. Ha-ram's fate is unknown, but new clues hint at more powers than seeing the shadows of death. Many different characters and clues come together in what may not be as coincidental a twist of fate as we imagined after all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-Hole"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

"Man-Hole" is not the kind of work one would expect a lot from. Having promoted itself as the wacky, comedic tale of a man who believes in the imaginary friendzone a bit too hard and seeks to undo it made it seem like a light story about a romantic man-baby. Surprisingly, the series is much more complex and it is as mixed as my feelings for it, touching upon greatness and failure alike...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Communication and Lies"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The extended opening scene of "Communication and Lies" is a highly inappropriate interaction between employees of different rank at an English cram school over a sordid and sexually charged rumor. At least, that's how it feels for awhile. Then the apparent victim nonchalantly acknowledges that all of the charges being lodged against her are true. It's an out-of-nowhere reaction, related with no sense of defiance, that the immediate mystery is what kind of person would engage in such actions then respond to accusations about them in such a blasé manner...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Heart Blackened"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Heart Blackened" translates to just silence. It's a pretty accurate overall descriptor. "Heart Blackened" has several long stretches of time that pass in absolute unsettling quiet. Which of course, is also metaphorical. Mi-ra (played by Lee Soo-kyung-I) hates her new prospective stepmother Yoo-na (played by Lee Honey), and in the wake of a horrible accident, Hee-jeong (played by Park Shin-hye) is retained as an attorney to defend the last woman left standing...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Autumn Sonata"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

Soo-ryeon (played by BoA) is a thirty-year-old postal service worker in rural Gyeonggi Province. The most effective moments of "Autumn Sonata" tend to focus on that backdrop. Director Lim Wang-tae's imagery is so vivid it frequently feels like we can taste the fresh air. This is Soo-ryeon's ancestral home, after all, and while the endless empty scenery is at times lonely, or at least mostly filled by old people, there is also a powerful serene sense of inner peace...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 14

2017/11/24 | Permalink

It is a dog eat  dog world out there and the "Mad Dog" team is going for the kill. The villains are confused and cornered, which means that they make mistakes and provide ample opportunity for our good boys and girl to get everything they need in place. It will not be an easy fight, considering the Powerful Opponents, but we know that the good ones always win in such stories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 5-7

2017/11/24 | Permalink

One of the odder aspects of the "Revenge Note" application is that it doesn't seem to suffer from any meaningful restrictions. Well, all right, it does have a recharge rate, as Goo-hee discovers to her chagrin, but earlier on she straight up punches in "Zombie Club" rather than the name of any individual member and surprisingly, the application is able to accept this request. The next time Goo-hee uses the application, she uses a nickname rather than a real one, and that works too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 13

2017/11/23 | Permalink

It is a time for bonding and retaliation from the "Mad Dog" team as the group of villains become too greedy and hasty for their own good. Hyeon-gi experiences betrayal and rejection while Hong-joo is about to get a taste of her own medicine. Team Good is reunited, but they need to be extra smart and extra sneaky as they go in for one final blow to take everyone down...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/21 | Permalink

Ho-seong (played by Kim Jung-hwa) is Jin-jin's estranged sister, and apparently the artist behind all those pictures for whom Jin-jin has been looking for a source. Ho-seong's character is another case where I've been left wondering, has there ever been any mention that Jin-jin had a sister until literally the moment she appears? Because I certainly can't remember any, which is odd considering that finding her sister is the closest thing Jin-jin has had to ongoing motivation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 14

2017/11/21 | Permalink

Jeong-min (played by Lee Chung-ah) is Se-hee's ex-girlfriend. She's also Ji-ho's career savior, having taken it upon herself to resolve the unforunate circumstances of Ji-ho's last writing job personally. The sheer goofy elaborateness of this coincidence, along with the obvious feminist undertones, are reminiscent of screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong's previous drama "Hogu's Love"- although I may have been primed to notice this due to the appearance of a couple of easter eggs referencing that work...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 12

2017/11/20 | Permalink

For all the teasing about consequences that "Black" has taken its sweet time to deliver, it sure is fast with getting to it after the latest warning. The reality of her meddling dawns on Ha-ram as she realizes the identity of the man she has saved while Black deals with his newfound sympathy. The past mysteries boil closer to the surface than ever, as Gwang-gyeon and Man-soo get on the case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 13

2017/11/20 | Permalink

For now, Se-hee and Ji-ho's life is mostly pleasant and domestic. In more dramatic news, it turns out that Won-seok's suggestion of breaking up with Ho-rang was not, as had been previously implied, simply the natural result of their communication breakdown being revealed in full focus by their watching an obscure art house play. That was definitely a part of it, but Won-seok had also discovered Ho-rang's horrible secret...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/20 | Permalink

Jeong-eun (played by Shin Dong-mi) is So-ni's manager who has something most of the other characters in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" do not- clearly defined motivation. Jeong-eun wants everything involving So-ni's career to run smoothly. She's constantly acting as a mediary between So-ni and producers. Jeong-eun is frequently stressed because of this, but trusts So-ni's good intentions, and So-ni, for his part, does his best to reassure her that nothing is going to go wrong...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.17 - 2017.11.19

2017/11/20 | Permalink

"Justice League" ends "Ragnarok"'s reign as foreign films continue to flourish...

Zack Snyder's much-anticipated "Justice League" brings together five of DC's front-running superheroes - Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg - and it didn't come cheap: costing $300 million, "Justice League" is the most expensive superhero film ever produced, and, along with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", the second most expensive film overall. The film was released in Korea last Wednesday and quickly overthrew Marvel's latest, "Thor: Ragnarok", at the top of the chart. From 1,308 screens, Snyder's "Justice League" came away with 47.87% of the sales, or 818,401 admissions ($6.3 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 11

2017/11/19 | Permalink

New chapters are opening in "Black", but none are leading to good places. Man-soo is no longer a CEO and he finds a use I welcome, but also fear. Ha-ram has to face Soo-wan's desperate advances at who she thinks is Moo-gang, but our heroine has much bigger things to worry about right around the corner. I have a lot of questions, but my anticipation is intact and the will to wait for possible answers strong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Prison Playbook"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

It takes all kinds of communities to make our world and a prison one is not the kind we often imagine when hearing the word. "Prison Playbook" is brought to us by the creators of the "Answer Me/Reply" series and it is time we get acquainted to such a community through a baseball star turned criminal overnight.


Kim Je-hyeok (Park Hae-soo) is a baseball superstar who has it made. In a surprising twist, the celebrity becomes a convicted criminal and has to adjust to prison life. The series follows him as he experiences his new home and new network behind bars...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 1-4

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Goo-hee (played by Kim Hyang-gi) is a teenage girl just starting high school. That's pretty bad on its own, but a lot of factors are working against her. In the first place she has a horribly goofy name- because her surname is Ho, anytime anyone addresses Goo-hee by her full name, it sounds like they're calling her a loser (Hogu). Goo-hee's family is poor enough that she has to help at their fried chicken business to make ends meet. Then, just to make matters worse, Goo-hee's boyfriend breaks up with her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Room No.7"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Doo-sik (played by Shin Ha-kyun) owns a DVD room in a generic shopping district. Business is passable, but Doo-sik is in his forties and painfully aware that he has already wasted far too much of his life there and wants to sell. Doo-sik's employee Tae-jeong (played by Do Kyung-soo) also suffers from financial issues and is desperate for some kind of solution. Only the new guy, Chinese immigrant Han-wook (played by Kim Dong-young) is at all happy with life in South Korea...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Becoming Who I Was"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Most of you have probably at least heard stories about reincarnated Buddhist monks, and how their past lives can be identified quite early in childhood. What's never really discussed, though, is what being a child reincarnation of of a major spiritual leader is actually like. In "Becoming Who I Was", we see in documentary form the daily life of one such child in a small village in Northern India. Directly, we see the contradiction of this child being incredibly wise and yet obviously...still just a child...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Preparation"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Can mentally challenged adults survive on their own? Elderly mother Ae-soon (played by Go Doo-shim), rather understandably, is skeptical of the prospect. She has had to take care of In-gyoo (played by Kim Sung-kyun) her whole life, and he never appears to have advanced beyond the mentality of a spoiled child. In "The Preparation" Ae-soon is forced, through the plot device of her own mortality, to confront the possibility that she's wrong. Really it's more of a hope, considering how awful the alternatives are...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 12

2017/11/17 | Permalink

Noo-ri's grave injury sparks another round of regret and guilt for the "Mad Dog" team's top dog and puppy, as they go into another fit of man-angst over the lives they may endanger due to their plans. There is no time to waste on self-pity, however, as their enemies close in and a new one is born to spice things up. Noo-ri's daddy dearest is more involved than we previously suspected, you see...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" Episodes 6-10 Final + Videos

2017/11/17 | Permalink

By the time we've finally gotten a clear explanation of what the goddesses are doing in Korea in the first place, "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" is basically over. Put together all ten episodes feel more like a pilot for a situation comedy than they do a single coherent story. But then, from the very beginning "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" has been going for style over substance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 11

2017/11/16 | Permalink

I had been wondering when things would get deadly in "Mad Dog" and it looks like we have reached that point. Episode eleven is an odd one, because certain things which I was sure were established by now get turned upside down. Kang-woo and his dog team share the same unwavering determination and closeness, but their disorganized enemies become increasingly less tolerant of being toyed with...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Final Episodes 31-32

2017/11/16 | Permalink

Jae-chan doesn't really have much of case against Yoo-beom. Even if he can prove that Yoo-beom is lying about Joo-an having drugged him too, Joo-an is a serial killer with good reason to want Yoo-beom dead. So Yoo-beom could still claim self-defense, arguing that he was just trying to preserve his reputation with the lie. That Yoo-beom eventually ends up getting sent to life in prison for a completely different crime underscores this...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/15 | Permalink

Joo-an (played by Lee Na-ra) is the true culprit behind a serial killing spree that Detective Choi and then-prosecutor Yoo-beom incorrectly pinned on an innocent man a long time ago in the backstory. The story behind these events is so incredibly potentially interesting that it was with a groan that I realized we were instead just going to get more flashbacks explaining what the deal was with that solider who went on a rampage, and how this created an unbreakable romantic bond between Jae-chan and Hong-joo somehow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 12

2017/11/14 | Permalink

The big climactic kiss that closed off the last episode is inevitably interrupted. I mean that not in the narrative sense, but the literal. Sooner or later any couple that is kissing must stop for some reason. From there, we segue into Ji-ho's internal monologue about how real life is different than dramas. Normally such kind of meta-narration is eye roll inducing but Ji-ho does bring up a good point...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 23-24

2017/11/14 | Permalink

So-ni is a very emotional guy. We can tell this because in nearly all of his scenes, whether its sick at home or flashbacks with his stepbrother or just casual conversation with Jin-jin, So-ni is always expressing very strong emotions. What is missing from So-ni's character is much in the way of explanation as to why he has these strong emotions in the first place. So-ni only really knows Jin-jin, after all, from the fake marriage show. Before that she was just an abstraction...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 11

2017/11/13 | Permalink

I love how the big situation comedy induced plot twist changes almost nothing, even though all of the immediately involved characters assume that it will. While "This Life Is Our First Life" mainly concerns itself with relationships between men and women, its examination of friendships between members of the same gender are equally illuminating. For all the radical differences in personality, Se-hee/Song-goo and Ji-ho/Soo-ji have very strong friendships...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 21-22

2017/11/13 | Permalink

Now that Jin-jin and Ji-won have finally gotten together romantically, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" shifts to the next stage of the storyline- hiding this relationship from Jin-jin's parents. And also the paparazzi. I rather wish we'd gotten more focus on the latter one. Jin-jin has good tangible reasons to want the paparazzi to not find out about a boyfriend. But the same attitude evinced toward her parents just makes Jin-jin come off as childish...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 10

2017/11/13 | Permalink

"Black" feels like a fine day at the beach, right before the wind picks up and you feel your pretty hat flying away and the sand smacking you in the eyes. It is a wild ride and it sometimes feels exhausting, but it is fun. Everything fits when you dig deep enough. Gwang-gyeon comes closer to Moo-gang's secrets while Black is about to get a revelation of his own about the true identities of Reapers. Hopefully this will not break him...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.10 - 2017.11.12

2017/11/13 | Permalink

"Ragnarok" rules again...

"Thor: Ragnarok" secured a third straight week at the top of the Korean box office this past weekend. Released late October, the third "Thor" film in Marvel's Cinematic Universe dislodged the local sleeper hit "The Outlaws" after Chuseok, and now, with the 465,780 admissions (25.89%) it claimed here, "Thor: Ragnarok" has banked $30.9 million (4.2 million admissions) in Korea alone. Worldwide, Taika Waititi's more comedic version of the popular Marvel franchise has grossed $650 million: currently the tenth highest-grossing film of 2017...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 9

2017/11/12 | Permalink

Major story breakthroughs and a ruthlessly packed plot make episode nine of "Black" quite the exhausting, but also exhilarating ride. The big revelation we have been waiting for regarding the children's identities has dropped and as expected from this series, it complicates things further. Several identities are exposed, but sadly so is Ha-ram's impending doom to someone who can harm her. Our heroes have enemies everywhere, but romance waits for no one...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Last Love"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

Bong-yong (played by Sung Ji-ru) is an oafish yet lovable construction site manager with a wife and three kids. He's pushing fifty, and initially chalks up his harsh stomach pains to old age. Alas, it turns out he is suffering from cancer. From there, Bong-yong chooses to spends most of "My Last Love" suffering alone. The only clue the people around Bong-yong have that something is wrong is that the normally placid man now occasionally has sudden unexplained psychotic breakdowns...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beautiful Tomorrow"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

I hesitate to call "Beautiful Tomorrow" a film, or even a musical film, because that implies a degree of narrative cohesion rather beyond its contents. "Beautiful Tomorrow" is really more like an extended music video featuring all the songs from Park Hyo-shin's latest album, "I Am a Dreamer". The very loose framing device for these videos is Park Hyo-shin and his music director Jung Jae-il going to Cuba and befriending a street urchin by the name of Edgar Quintero...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dancesport Girls"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

Geoje Girls' Commercial High School is located in the rural outskirts of Geoje Island. Its stated purpose is to prepare students to enter the workforce. But as it happens, through the guidance of a passionate coach, an entire extracurricular DanceSport squad has formed. DanceSport is a form of competitive exhibition dancing, and apparently South Korea has a dedicated official high school DanceSport competition. I had to look all this up. "Dancesport Girls" never actually explains it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/09 | Permalink

Detective Choi (played by Kim Won-hae) has up until now been a minor supporting character who I had been mentally classifying as the same tier of importance as Hyang-mi. Last episode's revelations that he, too, has apparently been receiving dream prophecies has greatly improved Detective Choi's relevance. Unfortunately, none of the actual main characters are clever enough to catch on to that essential dynamic of the case, so these revelations are mainly for our benefit...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 10

2017/11/09 | Permalink

It is plot twist o'clock in episode ten of "Mad Dog" and boy, is it sudden. I suppose this is the way to go when Hyeon-gi has been brought out of his villain hibernation and Hong-joo has gone off the deep end, but I cannot help this nagging feeling of being taken for a ride. Min-joon's much expected change of heart happens in the same blink of an eye and our team cannot handle it all either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/08 | Permalink

The only dream premonition we get this time takes the form of an episode preview. At least, that's the only way I can think of to interpret it, since it seems designed entirely for our benefit rather than that of the main characters. It's a pretty specific premonition too, one that you'd think would be easy to avert. Jae-chan and Hong-joo just need to avoid going to suspicious places in the middle of the night alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 9

2017/11/08 | Permalink

While our "Mad Dog" team are busy sulking over unsurprising betrayal and having romantic encounters, our villains finally get a bit of focus and something to do. The group is not as disorganized as they seem, but the black box they may be in possession of is the current major goal for our heroes. With Hyeon-gi's father now announced as dead, another formidable opponent will hopefully rise to the challenge that is keeping this plot afloat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 19-20

2017/11/07 | Permalink

So Ji-won and Jin-jin finally figure out the intrinsic flaw in their whole pretend not to be interested in each other for no reason plan. They end up explicitly saying this in front of a third person, who naturally concludes that Ji-won should be up for a blind date with his daughter. It does, admittedly, still take until the end of episode twenty for them to finally realize that neither Jin-jin nor Ji-won wants Ji-won to date another person, but hey! At least the story's finally getting started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 10

2017/11/07 | Permalink

The extended flashback we start out with is more relevant than it initially looks. I mean sure, it's always fun to do those moments of "how did the lead characters first meet anyway", but the whole thing is building up to Ji-ho talking about her dreams as a teenager. In the present day, of course, Soo-ji and Ho-rang have no idea what Ji-ho is talking about. So it's quite instructive to reread last episode's climactic line about Ji-ho liking her husband from Ji-ho's point of view...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 17-18

2017/11/06 | Permalink

Jin-jin's professional work hazards are consistently one of the more unimpressive means of generating conflict on "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century", which is saying a lot considering how challenged this drama is when it comes to developing conflict at all. I'm still wondering how exactly a can of soda can be poisoned in the first place. Does the anti-fan manufacture her own soft drinks? Or was there arsenic on the lid?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 9

2017/11/06 | Permalink

The main thematic thrust of this episode is about how men are actually really nice and sweet and emotional. This is pretty counter-intuitive considering we start out with a big news story about the arrest of a crazy psycho stalker, but then a lot of what we see here is about demolishing the dramatic assumptions of the previous storyline. I was quite pleased to discover I was entirely wrong about a certain plot point- it would seem that I underestimated screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong.

But before we even get that far, the most of what we see is just Se-hee and Ji-ho talking to each other about the events on Dongdaemun Gate. I love how over the course of simple, comprehensive conversations they both immediately realize where the other was coming from. This leads to the odd irony of how Ji-ho understands that Se-hee's actions were motivated strictly by practicality, yet still sees the subtle touches which indicate the man really does have a kind heart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 8

2017/11/06 | Permalink

The main story of "Black" is never far behind when it comes to the individual ones in what feels like a smörgåsbord of related characters. Man-soo's rude awakening in episode seven is the focus this time around and the victim born from whatever happened in the room has to relive that night through people's judgment. Black continues to fight his emotions, but their source is starting to become clearer as we learn new things about Reapers...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.03 - 2017.11.05

2017/11/06 | Permalink