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William Schwartz's Articles, Reviews

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[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 was...um, 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'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'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 job...in 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'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] "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] "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] "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 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 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] "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] "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 Yun-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] "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] "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 Ja-won-I), and Seong-jin (played by Koo Seong-hwan) get wrapped up in the criminal underworld...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] "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 Joo 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] "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 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 disastrously 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 Jun 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 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 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 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" manages to take wacky 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 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 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 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 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 Joo 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] "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] "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] "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] "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] "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] "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 Jun 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] "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] "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 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 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 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] "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 explained...in 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 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 uh...it'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] "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 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] "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 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] "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 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] "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 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] "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 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] "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] "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 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] "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 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] "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. Although...is 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] "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 that...men 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 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] "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] "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] "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 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] "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 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] "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] "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] "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 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] "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] "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 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 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] "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] "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] "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 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 Joo Ji-hoon) get combat abilities. Deok-choon (played by Kim Hyang-gi), the newbie and 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 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] "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] "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 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 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] "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] "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 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 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 Kyung-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-lim) 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] "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 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] "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] "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 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 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 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] "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] "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] "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 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] "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 On Location] Press Conference for upcoming "Steel Rain" at Apgujeong CGV

2017/11/17 | Permalink

Park Kyung-lim, Jung Woo-sung, Kwak Do-won and director Yang Woo-seok

On November 15th at 11:00 AM at Apgujeong CGV the press conference for "Steel Rain" opened up. The movie's an action blockbuster primed for official release on December 20th- a bit far off to think about but just the right time for the advertising push to start, since "Steel Rain" will be competing with "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" for the always lucrative end-of-year market going into Christmas and New Years. Directed by Yang Woo-seok, the director of "The Attorney" from a few years back, "Steel Rain" is based on his own popular webcomic of the same title and stars Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won as intelligence officers in North Korea and South Korea respectively who must work together to avert a massive crisis in the wake of a North Korean coup d'état...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 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] "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] "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] "Drama Special - Buzzcut Love"

2017/11/05 | Permalink

Ji-yool (played by Kang Yeon-jung) is a young woman who is inevitably defined by illness, because why else would she have an orange dyed buzzcut? Yet aside from the practical issues involved in occasionally needing medicine, Ji-yool consistently ignores her health condition. Instead, her initial focus is about the personal insult dealt to her by ex-boyfriend Si-woo (played by Min Jin-woong), a pharmacist who insisted their break-up was nothing personal...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Bros"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

In the rural outskirts of Andong, an old man passes away from old age while writing calligraphy. Meanwhile, his sons "The Bros" are identified. Seok-bong (played by Ma Dong-seok) is an archeologist who tells obscure stories to bored empty classrooms while waiting for his next expedition. Joo-bong (played by Lee Dong-hwi) has to make a construction plan work for his company. Together, they...fight in the car and apparently run down a mysterious senile woman played by Lee Honey...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Man of Will"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

The real Kim Chang Soo, better known as Kim Koo, was a Korean resistance fighter against the Japanese Occupation. His history in the first half of the twentieth century in Korea is a long one that ends with his assassination in 1949 for being credible and well-liked in a time when popular leaders were murdered to insure the unpopular ones could maintain power. But none of that is relevant to "Man of Will", which focuses on the life of a twenty year old Chang-soo (played by Cho Jin-woong) surviving in a prison run by the evil wealthy collaborator Hyeong-sik (played by Song Seung-heon)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Speckles: The Tarbosaurus"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

The lead character of "Speckles: The Tarbosaurus" is a young tarbosaurus named Speckles. While Speckles has a voiceover (Lee Yeong-seok as a child, Shin Yong-woo as an adult), none of the other dinosaurs have human voices or even names. With this, "Speckles: The Tarbosaurus" is refreshingly free from anthropomorphization more obnoxious children's movies are more well known for. We watch Speckles from the dinosaur's point of view...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" Episodes 1-5 + Videos

2017/11/03 | Permalink

Four minor Greek goddesses have decided to chill out in South Korea for awhile. Though they are goddesses with almighty powers, they still need money in order to survive on a daily basis. Which is why the first episode of "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" takes place inside a pawn shop. It's up to the Goddess of Persuasion, Peitho (played by Cha Jung-won) to negotiate the best possible deal so that the goddess roommates can continue to live in their modest basement apartment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 23-24

2017/11/02 | Permalink

There's a strong emotional scene where the father of the soon-to-be-dead victim cries when his son is finally taken off life support. That scene immediately made me realize that, rather than the explicitly contrived binary choice between autopsy and organ donation, "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" could have instead done a more traditional, dad doesn't want to take his son off life support because of imaginary hope that he'll wake back up. While not terribly original, such a plotline would have at least been plausible...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 21-22

2017/11/01 | Permalink

Last storyline, a woman with a medical condition falls at home and hits her head on the table, prompting police, doctors, and the press to assume that the delivery boy murdered her. This storyline, a man with his arm in a sling publically accuses a professor of illegal acts, and shortly thereafter falls down an elevator shaft that had to have been physically pried open with two working hands. So naturally, police, doctors, and the press all assume it was an accident...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 8

2017/10/31 | Permalink

So it turns out that Bo-ram is evil. Well, technically we don't know that but those goofy evil musical cues that keep coming on every time he makes an appearance are difficult to interpret any other way. It's disappointing. Bo-ram's you only live once philosophy is a very interesting contrast to Se-hee's logical work ethic. I wouldn't have minded him turning out to be evil eventually, but the completion of his storyline abruptly kills the drama's most interesting ongoing conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 15-16

2017/10/31 | Permalink

There's a scene here where Ah-reum calls Woo-seong on the phone and they talk about...how Woo-seong seems to have too much free time. Increasingly it feels like the characters in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" are engaged in some kind of weird bet to see who can go through the most obvious situations to ask someone on a date or be asked on a date without actually doing it. Even when we are promised dates, circumstances contrive to prevent them from happening...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 7

2017/10/30 | Permalink

Bok-nam (played by Kim Min-kyu-II) is the second male lead alternate love interest for Ji-ho. His arrival is, all things considered, late, but definitely worth the late. He's Se-hee's opposite in every conceivable way. Bok-nam believes in the importance of fun and only living once. Whereas Se-hee is so obsessed with being supremely logical and sensible about everything most of his deadpan dialogue comes off as an unintentional joke. I liked the bit where Se-hee even explicitly says how long it will take him to pay off the debt, as if this is a somehow sane or normal answer...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 13-14

2017/10/30 | Permalink

Between the thirteenth and fourteenth episodes, Ah-reum and Woo-seong are mid-scene on an airplane. Even knowing the dividng of drama episodes into half-hour ones was done for technhical reasons the lack of a scene stopgap in that storyline really bugged me. That was a lazy design decision. Which incidentally turn is the main problem with "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" overall. The whole production is just really lazy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Slow"

2017/10/29 | Permalink

Ji-won (played by Kwak Dong-yeon) is a taciturn high school baseball player with hopes of continuing his career at a higher level. Taciturnity is the key word there. "Drama Special - Slow" is distinct among television dramas in that it has very little dialogue. This isn't because writer Kim Joo-man-I is employing a specific weird gimmick. It's just that Ji-won is a genuinely antisocial guy, who doesn't have any other friends on the team. An unexpected injury does not improve his popularity either...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "RV: Resurrected Victims"

2017/10/28 | Permalink

Seven years ago Myeong-sook (played by Kim Hae-sook) was murdered. From that day forward her son Jin-hong (played by Kim Rae-won) resolved to find justice, not only for his mother, but for everyone. Fortunately he was already a prosecutor by that time, so mostly he just became more determined to resolve criminal matters in the best interest of justice. Anyway, so Jin-hong is going about minding his own business when suddenly, he gets a phone call. Myeong-sook has come back to life- and then things take an unexpected turn for the violent...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Poet and The Boy"

2017/10/28 | Permalink

For the minor creative class of the bourgeoise, life can be tough. With excessive introspection comes an excessive desire on the part of a person to justify their own existence, when their life is so humdrum and ordinary there's barely even anything to gossip about. So it is with the Poet (played by Yang Ik-june) and the Wife (played by Jeon Hye-jin-II). They got married because they were getting old. They want to have a baby because they might not be able to soon. And the Wife wants the Poet to start seriously writing poetry so that they can feel special...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Lost to Shame"

2017/10/28 | Permalink

Song-joon (played by Nam Yeon-woo) is a stage actor. Or at least, he wants to be a stage actor. The last time Song-joon was in a stage play was several years ago when he was still going to school. But with every reason to be pessimistic concerning future prospects, Song-joon is steadfast in his determination to score the lead role in Dark Life, a major play about a young man coming out as a transwoman...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 12

2017/10/27 | Permalink

So "Single Wife" ends up concluding the logical direction it took with the previous episode that barely touched on the main conflict at all, and brings upon a final glorious comeuppance against In-hwa. I remain baffled just as much as I did last time as to what exactly happened to the premise. We had certainly received hints that In-hwa was a corporate vulture, but those barely even registered as a subplot. Now Hyo-rim and some bald guy I'm not even sure has a name have to work together to bring her dad back to stop her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 19-20

2017/10/26 | Permalink

Hyang-mi (played by Park Jin-joo) works in the prosecutor's office with Jae-chan. Her only real purpose in the story is to provide office gossip commentary on Jae-chan's career path. At least, that was her only purpose. Now, Hyang-mi has decided that Jae-chan is actually super cool and awesome. This leads to some funny scenes wherein we get to see Jae-chan express this newfound love of Jae-chan in very cute ways while Jae-chan, dork that he is, accidentally encourages her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 11

2017/10/26 | Permalink

So you might have noticed that I abruptly stopped writing reviews for "Single Wife" a month ago. This is because I had gone to the United States, and recent episodes of "Single Wife" could not be streamed there. Back in South Korea, I'm a bit surprised to find that the final stretch of plot feels rather abrupt. In-hwa, having mostly had a background role as the mean potential mother-in-law, is apparently responsible for all the malaise in Ra-hee and Jae-min's relationship...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 17-18

2017/10/25 | Permalink

Hak-yeong (played by Baek Sung-hyun) is Woo-tak's old friend, who may or may not have murdered a minor celebrity. That question remains ambiguous even if the three main leads have concluded he was not responsible. At least, that would be my interpretation if the drama was not from their point of view. I mean sure, Yoo-beom is a sneak abusing the situation for his own ends but from a non-supernatural perspective he does make perfectly legitimate points about Jae-chan's questionable judgment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 11-12

2017/10/24 | Permalink

There's a South Korean variety show wherein celebrities pretend to marry each other. I've never really understood the appeal of this particular format. I'm kind of surprised it's still around honestly. These are the thoughts that when through my head as I watched Jin-jin and So-ni play through their roles for that show in a show. The entire concept is obviously fake from the beginning, so nestling it inside an explicitly fictional drama just manages to make everything feel even more fake...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 6

2017/10/24 | Permalink

The wedding goes through without incident. Hilariously, Se-hee and Ji-ho even manage to skip out their own reception. This wasn't pre-planned or anything, it's just that neither one of them actually needs to be there because as has been discussed frequently, the entire concept of a marriage ceremony is largely for the benefit of social appearances. The main important event that happens there is that the forced social interactions get Ho-rang and Woo-seok to cool down from their fight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 5

2017/10/23 | Permalink

The extent to which Se-hee and Ji-ho are smart and organized continues to impress me. I mean sure, it's really sterile and weird that Se-hee has this whole check list of things they have to do to get married, but that's just how he thinks, in terms of narrow short-term objectives in service of broader long-term goals. This, in turn, explains how and why Se-hee and Ji-ho are able to expedite the process so effectively, if only because Ji-ho is very good at following his lead...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 9-10

2017/10/23 | Permalink

So-ni (played by Lee Sang-woo) is Ji-won's stepbrother. His main purpose is the story is to give Ji-won someone to talk to that is not Jin-jin or her wacky friends, which is helpful. I rather like the banter of their bro talk, and I especially like how Ji-won and So-ni are apparently incapable of getting on each other's nerves because they are such inherently nice and pleasant people. Although then again, maybe I shouldn't be praising a lack of conflict in this drama, what with its issues on pacing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - The Reason We Can't Sleep"

2017/10/22 | Permalink

Yeong-jae (played by Im Ji-kyu) is a comics illustrator who, due to the stress of being unable to find gainful employment in his preferred profession, has taken to exercising at night to deal with his insomnia. Yoo-jeong (played by Im Se-mi) is a writer who lives in a nearby building, who is also suffering from insomnia, for the same basic reason. But Yeong-jae's exercise is so loud she decides to blame him for her sleeping problems...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Fortress"

2017/10/21 | Permalink

The time is winter 1636. King Injo (played by Park Hae-il) has to choose between recognizing the Qing Dynasty with its Mongolian overlords as the new China, or sticking to tradition and trying to maintain Joseon's dignity as a sovereign state. The Qing Dynasty would probably crush Joseon in a decisive battle, but they'd rather not waste the resources. So they just stand their army outside of the titular fortress and wait for King Injo and his people to starve to death in the miserable cold...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The End of April"

2017/10/21 | Permalink

Hyeon-jin (played by Park Ji-soo) is having a miserable time of life. Her job stinks. She's trying to fix that with English classes, which are incredibly dull and unlikely to be much help with her career. But worst of all, Hyeon-jin has just moved into a new apartment, in a building that seems to be falling apart. There are strange, unaccounted for sounds. And then there's that creepy wallpaper, that Hyeon-jin gets lost in sometimes, with its oddly bewitching stained pattern...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "GOGURYEO"

2017/10/21 | Permalink

Kim Yong-ok is a professor at Hanshin University, although that rather understates the sheer power of his reputation as a historian. Kim Yong-ok did screenwriting work for "The General's Son" and "Strokes of fire" merely as a historical expert. In "GOGURYEO", Kim Yong-ok uses that expertise to narrate an extended study of the lands of the historical Goguryeo Kingdom, relating it as the true heart of the Korean people, before those hoity-toity southerners in Silla took over, and signed over most of Korean Manchuria to Chinese rule...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 15-16

2017/10/19 | Permalink

The perplexing creative decision to downplay dream prophecies in favor of flashbacks continues here. Honestly, my main takeaway so far is that the lead characters have rather shockingly bad memories, that they apparently went through all these traumatic events together as teenagers yet are incapable of recognizing one another in the modern day. It's not at all clear what these flashbacks are even building up to, given the generally vague connection to the current case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 13-14

2017/10/18 | Permalink

I had thought that entire stupid storyline about the fratricidal insurance fraud guy was over but for reasons unclear to me, "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" continues it. We get a better portrait of what the main characters were doing prior to the stabbing incident, and we also get to see Jae-chan take over the case from Hee-min. None of this is particularly interesting, since it's fairly impossible to imagine a person getting off from attempting to murder a police officer with witnesses...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 4

2017/10/17 | Permalink

Ho-rang (played by Kim Ga-eun) is Ji-ho's second best friend. Ho-rang lacks much in the way of ambition. She just wants to love her boyfriend Won-seok (played by Kim Min-suk) forever and ever. Unfortunately, their reverie is broken up by something very...technical. If you have ever had a significant other that gets angry when you try to do nice things in the wrong way or vice-versa, you'll understand the conflict in their relationship...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl from the 20th Century" Episodes 7-8

2017/10/17 | Permalink

The opening title of this episode is "Christmas in August", a fairly explicit reference to the classic nineties South Korean film. So instead of thinking about the plot this time, I decided to ask myself- what's the title supposed to mean? It obviously isn't just a random pop culture reference. Viewed by that rubric, as being sort of a mystery, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" ends up being quite a bit more watchable, as we're fed several snippets of backstory that eventually culminate in a satisfying explanation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 3

2017/10/16 | Permalink

In a fairly effective reversal, "This Life Is Our First Life" reminds us that just because montage and thematic framing make it obvious that Ji-ho and Se-hee are soulmates doesn't mean they're at that point. Mind, I am not using the term soulmates in a particularly romantic sense. Ji-ho and Se-hee are soulmates in that they have extremely similar life philosophies. They mainly want to go through their daily lives and unmolested and then come home to rest somewhere nice...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 5-6

2017/10/16 | Permalink

The main plot of "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" just seems to be about dating. Specifically, we're watching the kind of dating where it takes forever for anybody to make a decisive first move. At one point a character resorts to causing a fake car accident for the sole purpose of having an excuse to engage another character in conversation. I'm frequently left wondering- are these people really supposed to be in their thirties? Ji-won (played by Kim Ji-suk) should especially know better, since he's Jin-jin's love interest. These people act like teenagers...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Radio Star" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | Permalink

Back in 1988, Gon (played by Park Joong-hoon) was a singer at the top of his game, with national recognition. But eighteen years later, he's stuck playing songs to sparsely populated rooms. Only Gon's fans from better years remember who the guy is anymore. Them, and people who scour the tabloids for arrest reports of yesterday's old stars. Gon's long-suffering manager Min-soo (played by Ahn Sung-ki) falls into both categories, and so, it falls onto him to bring new light to Gon's life with a new, if unglamorous disc jockey job in rural Yeongwol...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Tube" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | Permalink

Gi-taek (played by Park Sung-min) is a terrorist who spends the opening sequence of "Tube" blowing a lot of stuff up with his team. I wasn't sure what he was doing or why he was doing it. Shoot, I wasn't actually sure who the leader of the group was even supposed to be since the whole scene was just constant gunfights and explosions and something about an important data file or whatever. Allegedly these events have something to do with the subway heist that makes up the bulk of "Tube", although even after having seen the full film I'm not so sure about that...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "To Catch a Virgin Ghost" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | Permalink

The set-up for "To Catch a Virgin Ghost" is pretty simple. We have three factions who are after some precious diamonds. Seok-tae (played by Kwon Oh-jung) stole them. The farmers Seok-tae randomly crashes in to are smarter than they look. Lastly, Yang-i (played by Im Chang-jung) is Seok-tae's fellow gangster, and his small team of enforcers aren't leaving until they get what they came for. That synopsis isn't quite as dire as the movie is in context. Seok-tae's ridiculous fashion choices make it clear fairly quickly that the tone is intended to be comedic...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 11-12

2017/10/12 | Permalink

After the previous big lawyer storyline was resolved fairly realistically without having to go to trial, I was optimistic for writer Park Hye-ryeon's further legal plots. Unfortunately, the new case takes some massive steps backwards. First of all, the trial we see is obviously based on American jurisprudence. The notion of reasonable doubt, the 1% factor Yoo-beom keeps discussing, does not exist in South Korean law...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 9-10

2017/10/11 | Permalink

Now that the last major crisis has passed, Hong-joo comes off as kind of creepy. In the absence of genuine threats, she just harasses the guy at the chicken restaurant and pre-stalks Jae-chan at work. While this behavior can sometimes be cute, what we're left with is the impression that Hong-joo really needs a hobby. Or even better, a job that makes relevant use of her inherent nosiness. Cue backstory, where it's finally explained what Hong-joo's previous profession was, and why she quit...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 3-4

2017/10/10 | Permalink

It's surprisingly difficult to emphathize with Jin-jin. Yes, granted, a sex tape is threatening her career. This is an unsourced sex tape, that will (and is) immediately proven to be fraudulent upon being properly sourced. So in the meantime, Jin-jin suffers bad public relations mostly because her manager Gi-bong (played by Kim Kwang-sik) is indisposed. Not that it's his fault. A late flashback shows how Gi-bong has long worked tirelessly to personally promote Jin-jin's career...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 2

2017/10/10 | Permalink

Faced with the tremendously awkward prospect of living with a member of the opposite sex which they are not especially attracted to, Se-hee and Ji-ho choose to address the situation in terms of fundamentals, rather than overthinking the whole gender issue. Ji-ho needs a quiet, clean place to focus on writing. Se-hee needs a functional roommate to help pay the bills and not destroy the apartment. They are so ideal it's obviously foolhardy for either of them to try to find an alternative elsewhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 1

2017/10/09 | Permalink

Ji-ho (played by Jung So-min) always hated feeling like she wasn't the priority back during childhood. While it's easy to blame her family, they're just not...malicious enough to really warrant hating. After all, her dad Jong-soo (played by Kim Byung-ok) is just a sloppy idiot. But when unexpected circumstances make Ji-ho realize that she's going to be even less appreciated than usual, that's when the woman pushing thirty realizes it's time to finally ditch the family home...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 1-2

2017/10/09 | Permalink

The opening montage of "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" features the three protagonists growing up in the nineties with that ever present babysitter- television. The montage stops before we get to any twentieth century dramas that any of us might have heard of, but the moral lesson learned by minor celebrity Jin-jin (played by Han Ye-seul), common employee Ah-reum (played by Ryu Hyun-kyung) and aspiring lawyer Yeong-sim (played by Lee Sang-hee) is pretty clear. They definitely don't want to live a life of horrid married life clichés like what they saw in the dramas...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 13-16 Final

2017/10/07 | Permalink

The final episode of "Magic School" is mostly just an extended epilogue. This would not normally be so remarkable, save for the lack of a climax to any of the storylines in the three episodes preceding it. The closest we get is when Na-ra finally puts on the big romantic magic show for Yoo-ri, the conclusion to which is not in doubt since by that point Yoo-ri had given us an exasperated "what do I have to do to get this guy to make a pass at me?" look...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Still and All"

2017/10/07 | Permalink

During the Korean War, refugees from the North Korean invasion were pushed back as far as Busan. So, it became common for family members to promise to meet each other on Yeong Island, the main distinct landmark in that region. Years dragged on- some people left. Others stayed, and built up a sort of shantytown, even as the bridge to the mainland fell into disrepair. Business was eclectic. Some labored, some became fortunetellers, others became laborers. But slowly, everyone got old. "Still and All" is their story...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "No Preparation for Old Age"

2017/10/07 | Permalink

Scumraid is a South Korean punk band that has had its music released in the American and Swedish markets. They have not, oddly enough, been released in the South Korean market, owing to the troubled relationship the South Korean public has with punk. Mostly that they act very angry and weird. Consider one scene where we see a musician at home, showing off his anime figurines to director Lee Dong-woo while his mother calls for him from the other room...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Candle in the Wave"

2017/10/07 | Permalink

The Gwanghwamun protests of late 2016 and early 2017 were not just about Park Geun-hye's corruption scandal. While the revelation that Park Geun-hye was in thrall to a cult leader was what sunk her presidency, a large number of people from vastly different backgrounds were all infuriated by Park Geun-hye for wildly different reasons. The protests became a sort of open mic for these grievances. "Candle in the Wave" is a tapestry that mimics the structure of the protests...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 7-8

2017/10/05 | Permalink

So Woo-tak really is a good guy after all. But how could we ever be in doubt? He has a disproportionate love of Batman. Also, Woo-tak has an adorable happy dog with an adorable happy name. And in general, as Jae-chan, Hong-joo, and the rest of us finally get to know the kind of guy Woo-tak is, he also comes off as the immature baby of the group. Even though all of them are, apparently, twenty-eight years old. I'm assuming the story takes place in early 2017, what with all the recurring snow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 5-6

2017/10/04 | Permalink

For a side story character, So-yoon is surprisingly compelling. Observe how, while being completely sympathetic herself, So-yoon embodies both of her parent's flaws. Like her father, So-yoon is inclined to fly into a rage at other people defying her, regardless of who's at fault. Likewise, So-yoon also shares her mother's unfortunate propensity toward magical thinking. Hence, Seong-won and every other central character gets dragged into So-yoon's story, to their detriment...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Can Speak"

2017/09/30 | Permalink

The year is 2007. Min-jae (played by Lee Je-hoon) is a very smart young man who, for reasons we only find out later on, takes a job as a public servant speaking directly to constituents when Min-jae is very much not a people person. And at this particular office, everyone has to talk to Ok-boon (played by Na Moon-hee)- an older woman and a busybody who has made it her mission to file official complaints when mere browbeating is not enough to foster community improvement. Together they...learn English?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Star Next Door"

2017/09/30 | Permalink

 

So-eun (played by Jin Ji-hee) is a normal teenage girl who does normal teenage girl things like gossip with her friends about handsome celebrity Ji-hoon (played by Im Seulong). Lately, their main source of resentment is middle-aged celebrity Hye-mi (played by Han Chae-young) who has taken Ji-hoon off the market in spite of the fact that she's obviously too old for him. The twist? Apparently Hye-mi is So-eun's mother...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 9-12

2017/09/30 | Permalink

By this point I had been expecting "Magic School" to build up to some sort of climax. Instead, we just get more exposition. There's not even any conflict, just exposition of potential conflicts. At least, that's how I'm inclined to interpret Na-ra's tension with Yoo-ri, a woman who is not his girlfriend, and with whom he has not shared any real romantic scenes. Even the fat bespectacled guy Na-ra knows has a more clearly defined relationship than Na-ra himself does...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bounty Hunters" + Video

2017/09/30 | Permalink

As counter-intuitive as this idea might sound, it really is important for the main characters in big action movies to be kind of dumb, and clearly acknowledged as such by the script. Why? Because then their failures (or even successes) can be attributed to their stupidity, which is funny even if the overall situation has serious dramatic stakes. So it is in "Bounty Hunters", where our first introduction to San (played by Lee Min-ho) features him solving a problem with epic cool fighting moves- but ultimately failing due to his own ignorance of what the problem even was in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 20 (final)

2017/09/28 | Permalink

Right away the finale for "Criminal Minds" tips its hand by accidentally pointing out the stupidity of its own premise. The suspect is in custody and there is...not actually any evidence linking him to the serial killings outside of the website, which he claims is a fan website. This is a completely plausible explanation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 3-4

2017/09/28 | Permalink

One half of the story for these two episodes of "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" is about how a young Hong-joo first attempted to use her powers of prophecy to do good and predictably failed spectacularly. I state this explicitly because "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" itself is rather unnecessarily vague about the larger purpose of this subplot, and it's not clear to me why it was presented as a twist ending. Following early dialogue where Jae-chan suggests the possible existence of other soothsayers, I got the impression that story was contemporaneously about a new supporting character...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 19

2017/09/27 | Permalink

The final showstopper for "Criminal Minds" is an appropriate one- it looks like the drama will be closing out on an adaptation of season four episode fifteen, which centers around a copycat killer. Even the Reaper manages to get worked into all of this in a fairly satisfying way, although yikes, I'm still reminded of how the death of Gi-hyeong's wife happened way too early. Which also sums up my overall feelings. My satisfaction is directly related to how much I enjoyed the original elements...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 1-2

2017/09/27 | Permalink

The big three dramatic beats in the first two episodes of "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" all involve car crashes. While at first glance this appears to throw "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" into the most laughable genre of South Korean drama clichés, there's surprising fatalistic depth here. In the first place, the drama sets itself up to answer the difficult question of how the generally sensible Hong-joo (played by Suzy) can fully choose to trust arrogant newbie lawyer Jae-chan (played by Lee Jong-suk)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone"

2017/09/24 | Permalink

Don't let the cutesy opening romantic scenes of "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone" fool you. Yes, Min-seon (played by Moon Ga-young) and Geon-hee (played by Yeo Hoe-hyun) became a couple as a consequence of their shared interest in waltzing and yes, the abbreviated version of this story involves adorable genre standards like Geon-hee impulsively catching her in a romantic pose in the face of transportation danger. But most of the content in "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone" is about the couple, now in their mid to late twenties, attempting to get normal company jobs...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Running Actress"

2017/09/23 | Permalink

The basic premise is the same for all three individual short films contained in "The Running Actress". Moon So-ri is a fairly well known actress. The people in her life frequently comment on this. As a result, Moon So-ri is often frustrated and annoyed with them. It does not help that Moon So-ri's professional acquaintances are not always the most charming people. So frequently, we are left wondering why Moon So-ri ever wanted to be an actress at all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story"

2017/09/23 | Permalink

Compared to the original "Spirits' Homecoming", the newly edited "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story" simplifies the epic story of several girls forced to become comfort women during the Japanese Occupation of Korea to just a single one. The complicated shamanistic ritual framing device of "Spirits' Homecoming" is demoted to a thematic flourish in the ending, and is replaced with black-and-white scenes of lead actress Park Ji-hee in modern times preparing for an international comfort women remembrance event. Interspersed between these scenes are interview segments with former comfort women, who are now quite old...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Oh! My God Returns"

2017/09/23 | Permalink

The first scene of "Oh! My God Returns" is a documentarian clip establishing how in 1998, South Korea had to agree to austerity terms dictated by the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the East Asian Financial Crisis. Then, it's on to Ah-rong (played by Jung Yi-yun), a woman on the street desperately looking for a bathroom. She finds succor at home, where she barges in on Sang-hoon (played by Choi Sung-gook) who is still in the process of using it. That's all there is to the joke, really, and it gets repeated a lot...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 5-8

2017/09/22 | Permalink

The various plots in "Magic School" are at radically different levels of development. We spend a lot of time in episode five just going over more of Na-ra's backstory, which involves his classmate / love interest Yoo-ri (played by Park Gyu-young) trying to get together the necessary elements for a student film. What does any of this have to do with magic? Not very much, as far as I can tell, which is why it feels so very out of place in a drama that is called "Magic School"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 18

2017/09/21 | Permalink

Well, this was a fairly distressing storyline, albeit mostly for the intended reason of the profiled crime of serial rape being so monstrous that doing research on it makes me feel a little physically ill. "Criminal Minds" even achieves this effect without having to resort to overly gory imagery. The cold open in the couple's house cuts off before getting too graphic, and the most painful scene in the episode is when we find out how and why one of the victims committed suicide...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 10

2017/09/21 | Permalink

So Ra-hee and Min-hong are finally at court, and it looks like they can get the divorce finalized. It doesn't happen, obviously, and this scene is supposed to represent how Min-hong still has feelings for Ra-hee and won't give up on her so easily. This is likely to eventually contrast with how Jae-min will eventually give up on Ra-hee entirely because of her inability to come clean with him on the full situation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 17

2017/09/20 | Permalink

The storyline starts out promisingly enough. The main points everyone initially emphasizes are just logistical ones, like how the serial killer has been sneaking into unoccupied rental properties in the first place. Where everything turns dumb is when we run into a survivor of his crimes. Cruel though it may be to write this, my first main impression of the woman was that...she was just really, really dumb. Who agrees to online sexual encounters in empty places in the middle of nowhere?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 9

2017/09/20 | Permalink

Min-hong, having finally figured out what Ra-hee is up to, lapses into alcoholic depression. I mean it doesn't go on forever, just a single night as far we can tell. Then it's on to revenge. But even that is pretty light. Right at the moment I thought Min-hong was going to do something explicitly petty and mean instead he turns right around and confronts Ra-hee on how she's accepted Jae-min's marriage proposal without fully cluing him in to what's going on...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episode 39-40 Final

2017/09/19 | Permalink

Right up until the last minute, "The King Loves" is as contrived as ever. Because of course Prince Won and Prince Lin are the only two guys who can show up to stop Song-in from finishing her off. Of course one of them gets wounded on the way, forcing the other to confront Song-in on his own. The way they're acting one would think that Song-in was a trained assassin, not a random dignitary whose entire empire collapsed overnight because the queen made an unexpected visit to the king's personal chambers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 37-38

2017/09/18 | Permalink

Prince Lin's noble, if obviously stupid gesture at the last cliffhanger ultimately succeeds in getting Prince Won to calm down, so their plot arc ends in a fairly boring reconciliation. Once again I am annoyed at just how sheerly unnecessarily this entire dispute was. Prince Lin himself apparently had enough sense to explain to Prince Won what he was doing and why - in letter form. And so once again "The King Loves" has an excuse to tell us the story through flashbacks instead of as it happens...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - You're Closer Than I Think"

2017/09/17 | Permalink

The bookish Woo-jin (played by Lee Sang-yeob) is ditched on his wedding day by the more traditionally pretty Seo-yeon (played by Kim So-eun). The rest of the story is about Woo-jin trying to find out what happened to her. Bear in mind that since Woo-jin is not a private detective, and also has a day job, his efforts are mainly limited to making plaintive radio broadcasts for her return. Oh, and there's also that weird moment where he meets another woman (played by Im Hwa-young) who claims to be the real (?) Seo-yeon...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memoir of a Murderer"

2017/09/16 | Permalink

Byeong-soo (played by Sol Kyung-gu) is an unreliable narrator. Well, OK, literally in the context of "Memoir of a Murderer" he's an aging veterinarian who suffers from increasingly worsening symptoms of dementia. This has forced Byeong-soo to give up on his side gig of being a serial killer. That's where the unreliable narrator aspect becomes interesting. Is Byeong-soo actually a serial killer, or is the elaborate diary of his past murderous deeds just wish fulfillment about what he feels like he should have done to all those horrible people who clearly deserved to die?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Roman Holiday"

2017/09/16 | Permalink

Instead of seeming like a very serious enterprise between tough hardened criminals, the opening arms deal of "Roman Holiday" comes off as comically casual. The seller is a foreign huckster, and the buyers are a trio of general nitwits, although both sides do their best to pretend to be cool and unassuming. The ensuing heist made with these weapons goes on about as clumsily, as do all the following scenes until the main characters finally arrive at "Roman Holiday", a nightclub. Or is it more a state of mind?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Reservoir Game"

2017/09/16 | Permalink

Nonghyup Bank is a major bank in South Korea, and has had a large number of powerful political allies over the previous two conservative political administrations. It was from this reputation that they were able to spearhead a big investment deal in Canada. But then something went wrong. The deal imploded, taking all the local investor money with it. Nonghyup Bank lost all of its money too, and the man running the operation skipped town...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 1-4

2017/09/15 | Permalink

First, for the sake of clarity, the titular "Magic School" is not for literal magic, but rather magic tricks. These places do exist in South Korea- I've seen them. Well, from the outside. Anyway, right away we have the first prospective student. Na-ra (played by Jinyoung) wants to be somewhat more interesting than a reasonably intelligent civil servant. He goes through college life wondering when he's going to get some sort of gimmick or hobby when bam! Magic! Pops out of nowhere in a scene that is funny mainly because of the supporting cast...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 8-10 Final

2017/09/15 | Permalink

The final three episodes of "Somehow 18" were rather shorter than I expected, considering how all of the middle ones had made such a point of running in two parts. "Somehow 18" had even gone to the trouble of introducing an extraneous sub-plot in the form of a romance between Kyeong-hwi's older sister and his idiot friend. But here? The conclusion is just a big date and finally, the true circumstances behind Na-bi's suicide. These were predictable, obviously, although part of the story's point is that mere predictability isn't enough to effect meaningful change...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 16

2017/09/14 | Permalink

A very good mystery hook is set up almost immediately- though lacking in any apparently obvious clues, we do know that the murderer has wacky fingers. I like this because usually, random witnesses in crime procedurals have disproportionately photo accurate memory. That the big clue is an explicitly weird and not obviously noticeable tic is actually a pretty good clue, and not something a mentally ill murder suspect would necessarily even notice he was doing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 8

2017/09/14 | Permalink

Once again Ra-hee tries my patience with more unnecessary antagonism. Min-hong straight up explicitly offers to finalize the divorce right away in exchange for a temporary, meaningless concession on Ra-hee's part and what does she do? Act all huffy and offended. Even bearing in mind that Min-hong has to finalize the divorce eventually, behavior like this is why he is in no hurry to do so. Who knows if Ra-hee will just be fickle and change her mind again...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 15

2017/09/13 | Permalink

So the new case actually has quite a lot going on that's fairly narratively interesting. In the first place, this is really more of a three plot story than one. We've got the investigation team first, obviously. Then there's the terrified parents. And lastly, there are the three girls trapped in the cold room. So simple variety alone keeps the story interesting. Alternately, the episode is a procedural mystery, an emotional drama, and then a horror movie...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 7

2017/09/13 | Permalink

So now Min-hong is working at Ra-hee's company. So, technically, all the main characters in "Single Wife" are now working at the same company. It's a good thing we get to see Min-hong's portfolio right away because in spite of this fact, no one at this company ever seems to do any actual work. Far from working, all we really see anyone doing is having concluding work dinners once work is finished...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 35-36

2017/09/12 | Permalink

With his mother's death, Prince Won is sick and tired of everything. No more mister nice guy. Something even more messed up than usual has been going on with Prince Won's parents, and Prince Won is prepared to murder anyone stupid enough to stand in the way between him and answers. While Prince Won's change in attitude is clearly intended to be frightening, I kind of felt like fist-pumping. Finally, a character who takes the royal conspiracy seriously...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 33-34

2017/09/11 | Permalink

So Prince Won has finally done what he should have done at least a dozen episodes ago, and started talking about his feelings straightforwardly since San is too obtuse to pick up on hints. Well, no, that's not true. San knows exactly what Prince Won wants, she just chooses to react in a way that makes it difficult for Prince Won to tell if she's being coy, nobly idiotic, or sincerely rejecting him. Unfortunately that trend continues here...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Let's Meet, Joo-oh"

2017/09/10 | Permalink

An opening disclaimer makes a point of assuring us that "Drama Special - Let's Meet, Joo-oh" is a work of fiction. At first I was confused about why this needed to be stated explicitly, but the reasons for that become clear quite quickly. The year is 1937. The Japanese Occupation of Korea is at full swing. Joo-oh (played by Son Ho-jun) runs a matchmaking service and Soo-ji (played by Jo Bo-ah) is a young woman from the country trying to get her a man...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Shower"

2017/09/09 | Permalink

At a runtime of only fifty minutes, "The Shower" is better understood not as a film in its own right but more a continuation of "The Road Called Life", the previous project by the Meditation with a Pencil animation studio, which brought together three classic works of early twentieth century Korean short stories to life with vivid animation. "The Shower" also fits that mold. It's a classic, simple story of how a boy watches a girl wash her hands in the river until one day, they go into the nature together...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Suicide Made"

2017/09/09 | Permalink

While famed nineties folk singer Kim Kwang-seok is indisputably famous enough to warrant a documentary just to provide an overview of his life and career, the focus in "Suicide Made" is much more streamlined. After some basic reminders of who Kim Kwang-seok is and why he's important, director Lee Sang-ho gets right into the salacious premise. The thesis is pretty simple. Kim Kwang-seok did not commit suicide, but rather, was most likely murdered by his wife...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Baek-gu"

2017/09/09 | Permalink

 

Once upon a time, in an obscure part of Seoul, there was a dog called Baek-gu. He came to the area as a medium-sized white puppy. He would just run around and do whatever, sticking around because there was an old man who gave him food. Then the old man went away, and by then Baek-gu was old. He became haggard and scrawny. This neighborhood was no longer the kind of place where people noticed or cared about stray dogs, not that it ever really was in the first place. So one day, Baek-gu finally died...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 5-7

2017/09/08 | Permalink

We get some badly needed insight into what is going on with Na-bi in this sampling of "Somehow 18", and right away her story comes off as far more compelling than Kyeong-hwi's. It is a tad melodramatic, granted, but Na-bi's early death had to have some sort of explanation that would inevitably be at odds with the cool girl persona she always presented around Kyeong-hwi...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 14

2017/09/07 | Permalink

It's gratifying, if horribly annoying, that the extended conclusion to the Hyeon-joon under suspicion plot ends with that all too American aggressively pro-police ending, justifying my digression last review. There was a conspiracy against Hyeon-joon, and police were involved. Yet somehow, the motives all shake out in such a way that no police officers were actually at fault. They were either tricked, or bullied into the situation by unforeseen unfair circumstances. Also one of them punches the suspect for just being too evil...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 6

2017/09/07 | Permalink

So dinner ends up going about as well as expected. We could already have guessed, after all, that In-hwa already hated Ra-hee without actually knowing anything about her. The whole previous marriage issue is just an excuse. It's kind of hard to blame her, considering that Jae-min was acting like he had something to be ashamed of simply by being with her in the first place and being very unnecessarily taciturn about it with his family...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 13

2017/09/06 | Permalink

So the whole hanging plays out, just as disjointedly brutal looking as the last one. That part wasn't so surprising. More amusing was how it only occurred to Gi-hyeong at the last minute that maybe the adoptive parents of the child of serial killers would maybe not want to break that news to him on the night his biological mother is being murdered by the state. Anyway, once that's over with it's on to the next case where apparently Hyeon-joon is a suspect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 5

2017/09/06 | Permalink

So Min-hong has gone missing and everyone has freaked out, going to look for him. It should come as little surprise that Min-hong himself is completely oblivious to everything that has happened. The guy just went to the mountains because he wanted some time to himself. That Min-hong should find this to be an unremarkable desire is of little surprise. Min-hong accepted Ra-hee's demand that he not go to Seoul pretty easily, so why would anyone freak out about him?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 31-32

2017/09/05 | Permalink

Following their escape from various royalist forces, Prince Lin and San have a romantic walk along the riverbank. I found this scene was distinctive less for its intended purpose and more because the subject of San's father come up. I was hopeful that maybe San would describe some of his personality traits, so that would humanize him and make me care more about how he died. Instead, all San talks about is how her father owned huge tracts of land...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 29-30

2017/09/04 | Permalink

San has a meeting with Chzhuan Muvan Khou here that has a rather curious emphasis. At one point some sort of small...thing is deliberately placed within San's eyesight. She notices the object, then continues the discussion. We later find out that the object in question was medicine, and apparently was instantly identified as such by San at the time although to our modern eyes the object didn't look like much of anything. It is only after a brief rampage that San suddenly asks herself- why is there random important medicine in Chzhuan Muvan Khou's chambers?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - If We Are Seasons"

2017/09/03 | Permalink

For the opener in this season's drama specials, KBS is playing it safe with "Drama Special - If We Are Seasons", a fairly standard no-frills nostalgic high school melodrama about Hae-rim (played by Chae Soo-bin) and the cute boys in her life- long-term friend Gi-seok (played by Jang Dong-yoon), and recent transfer student Dong-kyeong (played by Jin Young). The melodrama arrives in its own good time- but it is of little imminent concern with Drama Special - If We Are Seasons", which instead focuses on the love triangle until the melodrama finally pops up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "V.I.P"

2017/09/02 | Permalink

Sooner or later, in most serial killer stories, the serial killer needs to gain superpowers in order to remain a credible threat. With Gwang-il (played by Lee Jong-suk), that superpower is even dumber than usual. Gwang-il makes gratuitous messes everywhere he goes, and is easily identified as the culprit by the most trifling police work. It's only thanks to the inexplicable aid of high-ranking government officials, from North Korea to South Korea to the United States, that Gwang-il is a threat to anyone...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Criminal Conspiracy"

2017/09/02 | Permalink

In terms of explicit content, "Criminal Conspiracy" does not differ that much from "Seven Years-Journalism without Journalist", another documentary released earlier this year that also dealt with actions by the past two conservative South Korean governments to manipulate the news wings of MBC and KBS. There's more emphasis on personal interviews, and a broader outline emphasizing the sheer scope of actions Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye tried to take. But really, the main difference is the seven months difference between when these movies were released...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Moo-hyun, the Story of Two Cities"

2017/09/02 | Permalink

Two years before running for President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun ran for a legislative district office in Busan. Roh Moo-hyun's national profile at that time was strong - he had previously represented Seoul in the legislature, and eventually took a position in then-President Kim Dae-jung's cabinet. The Busan legislative race was exhausting and demographically hopeless. We can see that in the personal footage director Jeon In-hwan collected, showing Roh Moo-hyun with a chronically hoarse voice from all the heavy campaigning. So why go to the trouble...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 1-4

2017/09/01 | Permalink

Kyeong-hwi (played by Minho) is a doctor who's used to dealing with tough situations. Back when he was still in high school, Kyeong-hwi was always getting picked on, and even made a clumsy suicide attempt. Kyeong-hwi was only saved by the appearance of Na-bi (played by Lee Yoo-bi), a willful student the same age as him who encouraged Kyeong-hwi to think better of himself. Then she died, and her absence haunts Kyeong-hwi in the present even as he is now an unqualified success...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 12

2017/08/31 | Permalink

It bugs me sometimes just how obviously "Criminal Minds" is an adaptation of an American drama. While the death penalty is still a possible legal sentence in South Korea, there's been a moratorium on it for the last twenty years. It's just not a thing that happens, certainly not to the extent that people would have political demonstrations about it. I liked how listless the extras were holding their signs. Even they had no idea how someone could have a strong opinion on the subject...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 4

2017/08/31 | Permalink

Ra-hee makes a serious effort to embrace the inherently campy nature of "Single Wife" by coming up with a more elaborate scheme to get rid of Min-hong than anything yet tried. What Ra-hee does is, she makes a list of all the personal habits Min-hong despises the most, and does them intentionally to try and provoke him into initiating a final break-up. It's a pretty good extended montage, hitting all the beats from obvious nasty habits everyone hates to ones peculiar to Min-hong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 11

2017/08/30 | Permalink

In one of the more interesting flourishes I've seen from "Criminal Minds" to date, the recap brings up previous cases which had psychological profile elements that are relevant to the main case here. I suppose that's one way to to create implied continuity. Even if "Criminal Minds" is not always the best at objective logic, if the internal logic is sound than we can at least get a good grasp on what's going on and correctly make assumptions about certain evidentiary implications and possible character reactions, while still knowing that there are lots of other unknowns out there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 3

2017/08/30 | Permalink

It's odd Min-hong is continuously the most sympathetic character when he's so nosy, and annoying, and also literally the only reason "Single Wife" has any conflict at all. Mainly it's just that Min-hong is so darn cute and well-meaning. He's not even remotely jealous or suspicious. Shoot, Min-hong isn't even upset that Ra-hee freaks out about the prospect of him touching her. As far as Min-hong is concerned, everything should be done in such a way to maximize Ra-hee's comfort and happiness...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 27-28

2017/08/29 | Permalink

Every time someone gets close to actually accomplishing something in "The King Loves", we can usually count on another character to swoop in and prevent anything from happening. Up until now this hasn't annoyed me so much, since the event that is prevented from happening is usually the murder of one or more important characters. But taking this episode in full summary, aside from murder, no one can come up with any particularly proactive goals....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 25-26

2017/08/28 | Permalink

So Prince Won, Prince Lin, and San are all hanging out at Seong-hyeo's place, biding time for their next move. As usual, when the focus is on characterization, "The King Loves" actually manages to be pretty decent. San's cooking is simultaneously basic comic relief, but also holds philosophical relevance in the context of Seong-hyeo's philosophy about emotional attachments. It's a nice expansion to San's character that explains, among other things, why she has been so demure about romance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Midnight Runners"

2017/08/26 | Permalink

Gi-joon (played by Park Seo-joon) is a well-meaning generally dopey kid who loves meat. Hee-yeol (played by Kang Ha-neul) is a bespectacled stiff young man who knows where the meat comes from. Together, they join the police academy...and train, is technically all they do for most of "Midnight Runners", since they're not real cops. We even get a training montage near the end, where we see them get all manly and swole for the sake of taking on the movie's final boss- crime, in the abstract...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Mimic"

2017/08/26 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Mimic", we see an obviously agitated couple driving to...somewhere. Once they arrive, hints of the supernatural imply the worst. The later appearance of their abandoned car outside of the place they were going appears to confirm said hints. It's from here that we meet Hee-yeon (played by Yum Jung-ah), a woman who moved with her family to the countryside for health, yet is still traumatized by the disappearance of her young son...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Write or Dance"

2017/08/26 | Permalink

In the opening narration to "Write or Dance", Si-hyeong (played by Choi Si-hyung) explains that while he's always meeting up with women, they always end up breaking up with him because he's boring. But Si-hyeong thinks it's not that he's boring, but that the part of him they used to think was interesting has become boring to them. Why this distinction is supposed to be meaningful was not clear to me, and the ensuing five short stories of Si-hyeong meeting up with all these women one on one did not clarify matters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 2

2017/08/24 | Permalink

Now that we know who Ra-hee and Min-hong are in a vacuum, it's time to piece together how exactly their relationship fell apart in such a specific way that her attempting to remarry is such a big problem. Min-hong doesn't just want to hold on to Ra-hee. He genuinely doesn't seem to understand that they broke up at all. And in all fairness, the flashbacks we get don't really come off as total dealbreakers. They do tend to make Ra-hee look selfish, which is why she's so uncomfortable having them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 10

2017/08/24 | Permalink

As expected, with the red herring revealed it's up to the criminal profiling team to locate the true culprit, who has finally and truly gone off the deep end and is now involving herself in car chases. I remember how a few stories ago I thought there would be a gratuitous car chase and was mildly surprised that didn't happen. And I guess technically this wasn't really a car chase anyway, I just can't get past the ludicrous visual of screaming children handcuffed to their seats in daily traffic and no one noticing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 23-24 Final

2017/08/24 | Permalink

For quite some time now, there has been a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode of "Man Who Dies to Live" apologizing for racist content that appeared in the first episode, assuring viewers that it has been retroactively effaced from MBC's video on demand services. I only recently realized that this disclaimer was also predictive. The rambling nature of the final episodes of "Man Who Dies to Live" leads me to believe that whatever the original final act was, it had to be scrapped...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 1

2017/08/23 | Permalink

Ra-hee (played by Uhm Hyun-kyung) has it all. She has a successful job in the furniture design industry, makes appearances on talk shows to promote herself as a hard-working woman, and a rich boyfriend  by the name of Jae-min (played by Kwak Hee-sung) who obviously likes her. Phrased that way, Ra-hee's life doesn't really sound all that impressive. But weirdly enough, that's the tone the production team has chosen for the first episode, as we wait for Ra-hee's vague happiness to be threatened by past failures...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 9

2017/08/23 | Permalink

The group dynamic of the kidnapping case this time around is slightly more interesting than usual because the team members have an actual disagreement, and the question of who is correct is left ambiguous. Up until now it's just been, the problem is presented, Gi-kyeong says what they're going to do, and Hyeon-joon comes up with an immediately accepted alternative when Gi-kyeong's initial analysis is deficient. This time, it's an open question whether or not a certain witness should be taken seriously...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/23 | Permalink

The kidnapping storyline resolved so abruptly there's not actually all that much for "Man Who Dies to Live" to do when it comes to producing a serious climax. Count Said Faid Ali spends a lot of time just hanging out at his daughter's house, being eccentric as always, his presence being tolerated mostly just so that Ji-yeong can get some work done. The comedy is just more of the usual. It's fortunate that "Man Who Dies to Live" is so short, since we're just about at the limit when it comes to twists on Count Said Faid Ali acting like a psycho...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 16 Final

2017/08/22 | Permalink

Further exposition about So-ah's father closes out "Bride of the Water God 2017", and it's just so strange to take in. It's not that this storyline is particularly unusual or anything, it's that I can't quite recall ever having seen another drama that was so obsessed with exposition rather than payoff. The conflicts in "Bride of the Water God 2017" quite literally are solved the minute they are fully exposited, with only minimal effort being made by the actual characters to actually resolve these problems...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 23-24

2017/08/22 | Permalink

The opening scene here is fairly funny. At first I was going to criticize Prince Won and Prince Lin for being dopey enough to run right past Song-in's obvious escape vehicle. Then Prince Won notices the vehicle, and then we discover that Song-in didn't even need it at all, since apparently he was acting with royal sanction. Cue yet another scene where Prince Won confronts his father, mostly wanting an explanation for why no one ever just tells him anything instead of forcing him to run around accidentally confronting official royal authorities...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 15

2017/08/21 | Permalink

So Ha-baek and So-ah have finally gone off on their big car trip, and the purpose of it was to...have So-ah dish about her emotional problems relating to feelings of abandonment by her father. This much I can actually work with. It's a legitimately sad, emotional story, and I can easily see this being the final step of intimacy to be consumnated in a romantic drama, so it's all very appropriate for the penultimate episode. There's just one problem. So-ah's parental issues have never been a part of the conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/21 | Permalink

Seong-hyeo (played by Uhm Hyo-sup) is San's martial arts master and ally. He also dispenses advice to the princes every so often. Like most of the characters in "The King Loves", I struggle with understanding Seong-hyeo's relevance to the main plot because as far as I can tell he doesn't have any motivation. He's the kind of guy who gives enigmatic advice like, believe in yourself and your friends...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Show Must Go On" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | Permalink

In-goo (played by Song Kang-ho) is a slob of a middle-aged man who works late. This has created a lot of tension at home. In-goo's wife Mi-ryeong (played by Park Ji-young) wants In-goo to knock this off for his own health. In-goo's daughter Hee-soon (played by Kim So-eun) wants him to quit because it's humiliating to be the daughter of a gangster. Ah yes. And that's where the central irony of "The Show Must Go on" comes in. While In-goo may be a professional criminal, he is not what anyone would call cool...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | Permalink

Junko (played by Lee Chung-ah) is a young Japanese woman of some Korean ancestry who lives in Hokkaido. She had a massive crush on Woo-seong (played by Yang Jin-woo) when he stayed at her home for awhile as an exchange student. So naturally, when it's time for Junko to go to college, she heads off to Seoul to try and find him. Junko boards at a traditional Korean guest house, where she meets Jong-man (played by Park Ki-woong) whose temperament is a tad cruder than Junko was expecting, considering everyone knows how cool and awesome Korean men are...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Marrying the Mafia III" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | Permalink

So it's been a year since the end of "Marrying the Mafia II", which concluded with mafia heir In-jae (played by Shin Hyun-joon) and prosecutor Jin-kyeong (played by Kim Won-hee) getting married. During that time, the bad guy of "Marrying the Mafia II", prosecutor Myeong-pil (played by Gong Hyung-jin) has been stewing in jail as he prepares to take revenge on In-jae's family, who are technically no longer criminals as they have incorporated into a legitimate business enterprise...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 8

2017/08/17 | Permalink

As murder storylines go, I must admit that insane office worker is among the more socially relevant that "Criminal Minds" could have adapted for a South Korean audience. Really, that particular psychosis is probably far more well-known in that culture than it was in the United States. This, naturally, proves to be the main overall thrust of the episode. It's less about the permanent cast and more about how Ki-tae (played by Jo Han-chul) slowly yet surely lost his marbles...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/17 | Permalink

It's instructive how the other Ji-yeong sort of ruined things for the married Ji-yeong. Upon first meeting the other Ji-yeong, Count Said Faid Ali had assumed that his long lost daughter would be justifiedly resentful at having her father show up at such a late date. Instead, the other Ji-yeong was almost worshipful in his presence. So it is that the married Ji-yeong must now struggle with how Count Said Faid Ali is literally a jerk obsessed with money, but emotionally, can be a kind and caring older man...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 7

2017/08/16 | Permalink

Once again, "Criminal Minds" finds a weird way to mess with the fairly transparent "murder happens right away, team investigates it" format of the American original. This time it's not one, not two, but three completely different storylines one after another without so much as a segue to cue the audience into the fact that gears have shifted. Incidentally, that name drop which started the second section really caught me off guard, because I was struggling trying to remember if we'd ever actually seen that guy before...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 17-18

2017/08/16 | Permalink

In a radical twist, Count Said Faid Ali's monologue this time indicates that, apparently, he was the villain all along? It's hard to come up with any other explanation for his stating such explicitly selfish motives. Likewise, it's a bit alarming that Ji-yeong, who has only just now realized the full scope of the elaborate conspiracy, almost immediately comes to a horribly cynical conclusion that, absent Count Said Faid Ali's internal monologue, we might have thought was unfair...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 14

2017/08/15 | Permalink

Now we finally have it- the story behind what horrible crime Hoo-ye committed that makes everyone hate him. Unfortunately we've been waiting so long for this moment that the revelation largely comes off as a dud, and the entire crisis mainly a result of the various supernatural nations refusing to communicate with each other for no good reason. Mostly I just continue to feel sorry for Hoo-ye, who at least has an excuse for being maladjusted, unlike most of the characters in this drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/15 | Permalink

So right away Prince Won and Prince Lin have a conversation wherein they try to parse what exactly just happened at the big selection party. It is only at that point that the lead characters realize that not only themselves, but also San have been acting in a very spitefully noble way, each of them trying to be the most self-sacrificing person. As it turns out, the thought isn't what counts, since by going along with San's plan they have all set into motion a gigantic crisis...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 13

2017/08/14 | Permalink

Ha-baek completed his goal, so now he must come back with a new, arbitrary, and mostly made-up goal so he can hang out with So-ah some more. So it is that "Bride of the Water God 2017" has once again found an excuse to clog up almost all the runtime with yet more pointless exposition, and almost no commensurate action built upon said exposition...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 17-18

2017/08/14 | Permalink

Princess Dan (played by Park Hwan-hee) is the final sibling of Prince Lin and Prince Yeong. She has known and loved Prince Won since he was a child, and he has invited her to the selection process for his consort for the sole purpose of saving her from being offered up as a tribute to the Mongols. I'm not sure Princess is actually her official title but whatever. The nuances of the Goryeo royal family appelations are not really relevant at this point...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Antigone"

2017/08/12 | Permalink

The trappings of Mythological Greece are traded for those of Baekje from the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea in "Antigone", which adapts the classic Greek play to a Korean environment while still keeping all of the essential themes intact. The main change is just that Baekje is more obviously doomed than Thebes. The Baekje royal family has fallen, and the survivors are stuck on a boat. Extra historical context in the opening titles doesn't make that picture any rosier...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "MUSUDAN"

2017/08/12 | Permalink

A bunch of people keep dying in the Demilitarized Zone, so Captain Jin-ho (played by Kim Min-joon) puts together a crack team of South Korean special forces to figure out what the problem is. As for the members of his crack team, well, uh, Lieutenant Yoo-hwa (played by Lee Ji-ah) is a woman. We know that because she does womanly things like putting on makeup. As for the rest of those guys, I think Staff Sergent Yoon-gil (played by Park Yoo-hwan) ends up dying on base like a chump. That's as good as I can do for names...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Chasing"

2017/08/12 | Permalink

Jeong-taek (played by Kim Jung-tae) is a disheveled cop who doesn't project authority. He's trying to collar corporate criminal Seung-joo (played by Kim Seung-woo), who is much cooler and much more obviously competent. Eventually they both get thrown through the ringer as Won-tae (played by Hyuk) and his gang of teenage hoodlums make fools of them both, prompting an epic chase throughout Seoul...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 8-10

2017/08/11 | Permalink

Considering how the very first scenes of "Someone Noticeable" started us out with a shockingly sad and irreversible twist of fate, I can't much resent the drama on following through with that. As nice as it would be to believe that a single screenwriting breakthrough is all it takes to get closure...that's just not how it works. The way An clings to Jin-yeong's phone is symbolic of her unwillingness to let go of him in general. That, more than their separation, is the real conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 6

2017/08/10 | Permalink

In contrast to the weird and random gimmicks that have characterized "Criminal Minds" so far, the big case this episode is structured more-or-less the same way the original American program is. The team discovers an active serial killer, and pieces together the clues to try and find the serial killer, emphasis on the criminal profile. A lot of discussion is made about mothers, since the crime in question seems specifically designed to horrify mothers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/10 | Permalink

 

Poor Ho-rim. He's only just gotten out of the ill-advised plan the other Ji-yeong had to get close to Count Said Faid Ali, and is promptly dragged into Count Said Faid Ali's own elaborate plot to confess to the truth to his actual daughter, in an even more convoluted and goofy fashion. I am relieved that Ho-rim has been shown to be so unsympathetic so far. It makes it easy to laugh at his well-deserved suffering by Count Said Faid Ali's hands...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 4-7

2017/08/09 | Permalink

The other Jin-yeong (played by Lee Won-geun) is the newest employee under An's discretion. He also coincidentally has the exact same name as her departed ex-boyfriend, which frequently stirs up memories as, when in an altered state of mind, An can briefly forget that her boyfriend is dead. Through these trials and tribulations more memories pop up, as An remembers that awful thing she accidentally did to Jin-yeong while he had military service, that time she upset him by going on a blind date as a favor to a friend, when he helped her move in, and when she taught him to drive...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 5

2017/08/09 | Permalink

For reasons that are unclear to me, "Criminal Minds" really wants to be an action cop series. We open up with Hyeon-joon assaulting and letting go of a possible perpetrator in a parking garage. Then there's a whole setpiece that goes through a park, a tunnel, and finally an ubran alley without any pedestrian or automotive presence unless the script specifically calls for it. Gi-hyeong really seems itching for a fight most of the time, even if he's not all that good at fighting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/09 | Permalink

Once again, "Man Who Dies to Live" surprises me by...completing giving up on its current premise. Ho-rim is too terrified by his wife's entirely justified reaction to her husband being kissed by another woman to consider keeping the charade up any further. This sets off a chain reaction that destroys all existing subplots- although to be fair it was by mutual decision, since the other Ji-yeong had also gotten uncomfortable and Count Said Faid Ali himself was tired of pretending like he didn't know about the whole farce...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 12

2017/08/08 | Permalink

The extended opening is Moo-ra narrating to So-ah the story of how So-ah's ancestors came to be servants of the gods. So-ah's reaction to the story mirrored my own, which is to say, she has trouble understanding how any of this is relevant to the current situation. Mostly I'm kind of in awe about how So-ah's ancestor was able to negotiate his way out of the predicament so easily. Although then again, why the guy was in danger seems a bit underexplained, considering he didn't actually do anything to warrant dealmaking in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/08 | Permalink

So almost immediately Prince Won gives a pretty complete explanation of what Song-in's plan is and why he went to such pains to set this marriage up. The Eun family's wealth, combined with the royal pedigree of Prince Lin's side of the royal family, are enough to create a private army powerful enough to topple Goryeo. Which kind of begs the question of why King Chungnyeol approved the merger in the first place but then that explanation is quickly answered. Because he's kind of a dysfunctional idiot...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 1-3

2017/08/07 | Permalink

An (played by Choi Soo-young) is a producer for the JTBC variety show Hidden Singer. Out of the blue, she gets a text from her ex-boyfriend Jin-yeong (played by Shim Hee-seop), that ends rather ominously right when he seems to be on the verge of telling her something important. An and Jin-yeong have been broken up for awhile, so it's not a calamitous emotional event for her. But still, An was close enough to Jin-yeong that his loss hurts, and she begins to obsess over discovering his cell phone password...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 11

2017/08/07 | Permalink

In the opening scene Hoo-ye reacts poorly to being incidentally fondled by So-ah and Ha-baek reacts poorly to Hoo-ye reacting poorly to being incidentally fondled by So-ah. This ends up defining their characters arcs for the rest of the episode, which mostly to boils down to angst. Oh no, thinks Ha-baek, I was mean and now So-ah hates me. Oh no, thinks Hoo-ye, I murdered all those people a long time ago...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/07 | Permalink

Prince Jeon (played by Yoon Jong-hoon) is another prince in pursuit of Eun-san. Where Prince Won is cheerfully direct and Prince Lin is romantically aloof, Prince Jeon is just...kind of a jerk. Why he's a part of Song-in's plans at all is unclear to me. Then again, it's chronically unclear to me why Song-in is making plans at all. I also don't know how Song-in is in such a powerful position that he can broker royal marriages, or what obscure decorum he's abusing to make it impossible for anyone to have a straightforward conversation with King Chungnyeol...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dancing with Jikji"

2017/08/05 | Permalink

A long time ago, director David Redman went to the National Library of France to inquire about Jikji, the first book in the world (that we know of) to be printed with movable metal type. Jikji predates the Gutenburg Bible by several decades, and yet nobody outside of Korea has ever heard of it. The obviously inherently interesting premise is no doubt how "Dancing with Jikji" was able to get funding, so it's a bit disappointing that writer/director Woo Kwanghoon's documentary is so...meandering...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Annoying Brother" + Video

2017/08/05 | Permalink

Doo-yeong (played by Do Kyung-soo) is an up-and-coming judo athlete with hopes of competing in the Olympics. He suffers an awful turn of luck, as his coach Soo-hyeon (played by Park Shin-hye) watches, horrified and helpless. Then we cut to Doo-sik (played by Jo Jung-suk) who is pretty clearly putting on a show- one where the other side is unwilling to call his bluff. So it is that the two half-brothers are reunited...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Will You Be There"

2017/08/05 | Permalink

Soo-hyeon (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a surgeon who at first glance has no obvious regrets in life. After all, this is a man who, dying as he is of lung cancer, makes a point of doing charity work in Cambodia. It is from there that memories start activating, and we get a glimpse of the past where the young doctor Soo-hyeon (played by Byun Yo-han) met and loved dolphin trainer Yeon-ah (played by Chae Seo-jin)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 4

2017/08/03 | Permalink

In the latest bizarre misstep, "Criminal Minds" attempts of all things, serious emotional catharsis based on catastrophic fate. This isn't a brand of storytelling I dislike on general principle, it's just, that's the kind of thing you're supposed to do at the end of a series for a proper climax. Doing at the beginning is nonsensical. How in the world is Gi-hyeong's personal life supposed to be relevant to his work if we only have the vaguest idea of who Gi-hyeong is as a person right now?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/03 | Permalink

Eun-bi (played by Ko Bi-joo) is the daughter of Ji-yeong and Ho-rim. This, by extension, makes her the granddaughter of Count Said Faid Ali, which makes her yet another useful reference point for Count Said Faid Ali's return to Korea. Count Said Faid Ali lacks family and with it, familiarity. So it's touching to see Eun-bi react with genuine kindness with the (as far as she knows) complete stranger Count Said Faid Ali, especially because it parallels Count Said Faid Ali's own eccentric brand of do-gooding...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 3

2017/08/02 | Permalink

In a bizarre inversion of the previous story, the entire train incident only takes half an episode to resolve. Even stranger, while a big point was made of how Min-yeong (played by Lee Sun-bin) was on the train, she being the last team member, the train incident offers virtually no exposition of Min-yeong's personality or skills. Hyeon-joon actually gets more action than she does, quite literally solving the entire stand-off single-handedly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 9-10

2017/08/02 | Permalink

Right away a brief soliloquy makes it clear that yes, Count Said Faid Ali is suspicious about the other Ji-yeong although as is to be expected, his reasoning takes the form of an obscure fairy tale rather than real world standards. Which works, oddly enough. We already know that the other Ji-yeong isn't really motivated by money anyway, so it's not like trying to suss the situation out logically would be of much use...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/01 | Permalink

It's a revolving door of favors as "The King Loves" continues to leave me somewhat confused about what the overall actual plot even is. I hadn't even noticed that Eun-san was operating under an assumed identity this whole time, which kind of begs the question of why she was so worried about being caught. After all, the whole point of acting anonymously is to keep from being found by enemies. The flip side being that you also can't be found by friends. Which does seem the stronger weakness, considering how Eun-san and the royal brothers are always bailing each other out of trouble...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 10

2017/08/01 | Permalink

In a turnabout I can only describe as perplexing, not only does the amnesiac monk issue solve itself without Ha-baek's input, it also results in Ha-baek simply being given one of the artifacts. No effort appears to be required on Ha-baek's part for anything, which kind of begs the question of why he had to go the human world in the first place. The early episodes especially have the impression that Ha-baek was going to have to earn leadership by completing difficult tasks, possibly without being able to fall back on his godly abilities...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 9

2017/07/31 | Permalink

So even though Hoo-ye has been built up as being this big sinister villain character because of his supernatural backstory, "Bride of the Water God 2017" promptly undercuts this by reminding us that Bi-ryeom is a genuinely malicious person (well, god, whatever) who's fine with threatening children. It really is a badly mixed message. If Moo-ra and Bi-ryeom are allowed to enrich themselves with supernatural connections, why is it so bad for Hoo-ye to do it too?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 9-10

2017/07/31 | Permalink

The tonal dissonance between the goofy romantic main plot and the conspiratorial main plot is narrowed somewhat here, but only because Eun-san manages to get stuck in a bad situation that requires princely intervention in order to pull off an escape. This forces Prince Won to take on a fairly serious demeanor for some time. But focused as he is on negotiation rather than action,  Prince Won is predictably outshined by his more proactive brother...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Battleship Island"

2017/07/29 | Permalink

The black and white opener of "The Battleship Island" focuses on a part of wartime economy rarely seen in film- the support staff. Specifically, the miners, who come up with the raw material that is later purposed into shiny toys for the military. The work is dangerous, especially under the stress of wartime quotas. But it's especially bad for the Korean characters of "The Battleship Island", who labor for the Japanese near the end of the doomed effort that was World War II in the Pacific...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Road to Utah"

2017/07/29 | Permalink

A Korean man (played by Lee Jin-wook) and a Korean woman (played by Ryu Hye-young) meet up at an online suicide forum. Together they end up deciding, somewhat arbitrarily, that they want to die on an island in Utah, starting from Los Angeles and driving eastwards. They have not planned this trip very well, though they definitely want to kill themselves, so the journey is fraught with self-imposed obstacles as they keep getting stuck along the way...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "All Live, Olive"

2017/07/29 | Permalink

You've probably heard that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, their originally having had a nation state there a few thousand years ago. What tends to get less press are the people who have been living there ever since the Jews left. And who are, somewhat awkwardly, still living in the area as the Israeli government slowly tries to take over their territory, while still paradoxically agreeing that, on the private level, much of this land has been owned for generations by Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 2

2017/07/27 | Permalink

Unfortunately, Seon-woo ends up being saved by dumb luck. This ends up being a decent predictor for the remainder of "Criminal Minds", which is less about characterization and more about sticking closely to the crime procedural format of the original American drama. Any ambiguity Hyeon-joon previously expressed about criminal profiling is largely glossed over, since by the end he's just a normal uncritical team member...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 7-8

2017/07/27 | Permalink

So you know that trope, that comes up in dramas where a character is searching for their lost parents/child, where they run into each other by accident and talk about family issues? Yet somehow, the conversation is always just vague enough that they don't make the obvious connections? "Man Who Dies to Live", to my great relief, does not fall into this bad writing trap. The other Ji-yeong quickly realizes she is not Count Said Faid Ali's daughter, and the conflict continues from there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 1

2017/07/26 | Permalink

In the opener to "Criminal Minds", we meet Hyeon-joon (played by Lee Joon-gi), and his experience during a very unfortunate terrorist bomb threat. Flash forward a year later, and Hyeon-joon is a normal cop. Then, the special criminal profiling division in South Korean law enforcement takes an interest in Hyeon-joon's case, involving a serial killer. While Gi-hyeong (played by Son Hyun-joo) is the man in charge, Seon-woo (played by Moon Chae-won) is the team member who does the most talking with Hyeon-joon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/26 | Permalink

We get some much needed "awww" here as the married Ji-yeong and Ho-rim get a cute moment together. Because I mean really, "Man Who Dies to Live" skirts dangerously close to having us straight up root for their divorce. It's comforting to know that Ho-rim does, indeed, have some positive qualities. It's just a shame that in his greedy quest for money and power Ho-rim must tell increasingly bizarre and elaborate lies in order to guarantee Count Said Faid Ali's continued interest in the bank...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 7-8

2017/07/25 | Permalink

Now that the lead characters have stumbled upon a genuine mystery, all of a sudden the confusion over what role the other characters are supposed to be playing in the story has gotten a lot more palatable. If Prince Won, Prince Lin, and Eun-san don't know what's going on in the conspiracy, why should we? We do know that Song-in is the one instigating this complex series of events. Oddly enough the main characters struggle to make this connection, on account of their being easily distracted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 8

2017/07/25 | Permalink

So it turns out that Ha-baek's assertion that Hoo-ye is more than he seems wasn't just random jealousy apropos of nothing. The entire opening section of episode eight goes into deep backstory, wherein Ha-baek recalls an old conversation that had several important clues now relevant to the current situation. Personally, though, the millenia old flashback kind of makes me wonder- when was the last time anyone went to the human world to collect the artifacts?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 7

2017/07/24 | Permalink

Even ignoring the issues with So-ah's personality, she's also an unspiring character on account of her sheer passivity. Time and again, rather than do anything constructive to assist in her goals or Ha-baek's, So-ah just gets unceremoniously tossed into life threatening danger and has to be rescued from her plight by another character with actual competence. Whether that competence is in the form of a gun, better driving skills, or literal magical powers, the effect is the same- So-ah just ends up feeling like dead weight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/24 | Permalink

So it's not just my imagination- the opening crawl explaining the background of "The King Loves", with the threat of Mongol invasion, coupled with the increasingly aggressive character descriptions, make it pretty clear that even the production team has realized the content of this drama is incredibly dense. Unfortunately background alone doesn't really help explain motivation. That much is a pretty strong stickler, considering the bizarre series of events that closes out episode six...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ash Flower"

2017/07/22 | Permalink

Ha-dam (played by Jeong Ha-dam) is a normal teenage girl who lives in an obscure township somewhere in Chungcheong. While a generally happy young woman, Ha-dam does frequently run into the problem of not having very much to do in her spare time, considering the only people she knows are the adults in her immediate family. That changes when the much younger Hae-byeol (played by Jang Hae-geum) comes into Ha-dam's life, claiming to be an obscure relative...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Another Night"

2017/07/22 | Permalink

Seok-i (played by Kang Pil-suk) is a Chinese man who used to live in South Korea, where he married Eun-im (played by Kim Sae-byuk). He briefly returns to find out what happened to her after receiving a mysterious letter. Seok-i has to ask old friends to get any clue of what happened to Eun-im, and progress is limited. Much like Seok-i himself, Eun-im simply drifted away from the world she knew, since there wasn't anything to tie her down...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "No Name Stars"

2017/07/22 | Permalink

Following Chun Doo-hwan's ascent to power, brutality by government forces was common in order to assure that no one challenged the new political order. In Gwangju, on May 18th, 1980, this brutality reached a tipping point. Attacks against people who weren't even related to ongoing political protests enraged enough common citizens that they took to the streets and defied the government with show of force. "No Name Stars" is the story of those people- what they were doing then, and what they are doing today...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/20 | Permalink

The other Ji-yeong (played by Lee So-yeon) is, at present, the most likely suspect for Count Said Faid Ali's daughter, although this is based on limited information. Count Said Faid Ali's information is filtered through Abdullah Mohammad Waliwala (played by Jasper Cho), and we've been getting hints that he is not to be trusted. It's just that Count Said Faid Ali is too eccentric to notice. Observe his bizarrely complicated plan for eventually meeting his daughter that in the short term just involves spending a lot of time with Ho-rim...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/19 | Permalink

Count Said Faid Ali (played by Choi Min-soo) is The Sheik- not literally, but that's the character type he aspires to. Such clichés about the Middle East are more than a little antiquated. It's hard to escape the sheer cartoonishness of Count Said Faid Ali's supervillain palace, complete with sexy women in blasphemous swimsuits that couple headscarves with cleavage. By the end of the sandstorm it's pretty thoroughly established that Count Said Faid Ali is from a pretty weird world...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/18 | Permalink

The editing in "The King Loves" is very quickly starting to confuse me. Here I was thinking that we were just going to watch the three main leads deal with the whole bridge situation chronologically then for some bizarre reason the production team keeps jerking us around between events from before the bridge incident and after the bridge incident and other far away stuff that has nothing to do with the bridge incident and it's just getting really hard to keep the story straight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 6

2017/07/18 | Permalink

Bi-ryeom (played by Gong Myung) is, like Moo-ra, a god living in the human world who is supposed to be doing divine stuff but instead seems to engage mainly in petty bickering. Thus "Bride of the Water God 2017" continues its fine tradition of making Ha-baek a sympathetic character, not by having him engage in character growth, but by making all the other characters he talks to even more obnoxious. I guess it's working. Ha-baek is swiftly becoming the only character in "Bride of the Water God 2017" I particularly care about...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 31-32 Final

2017/07/18 | Permalink

The final clean-up takes place pretty quickly. Really, once it's established that the right people were digging in just a little deeper, and that most of last time's cliffhanger was just a matter of dramatic license, there really isn't any direction for Gi-joon to go except for straight down. There is, naturally, also the gratification of seeing all the other villains brought in one by one and punished for their transgressions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 5

2017/07/17 | Permalink

The more I watch of "Bride of the Water God 2017" the more baffling the worldbuilding becomes. Observe how Ha-baek, for all his general ignorance about how most of the human world works, apparently easily understands concepts like skateboarding, motor vehicles, cooking Western style food, and closed circuit television. Elsewhere, Ha-baek does not understand concepts like how it is a dumb idea to knowingly put yourself and others in a dangerous situation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/17 | Permalink

Prince Won (played by Im Si-wan) and Prince Lin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) are royal brothers. Prince Won is small, impulsive, and reckless. Prince Lin is patient, thoughtful, and tall. For most of the first episode we get into a fairly complicated and beautifully choreographed backstory about how Prince Won and Prince Lin were witness to the tribulations of Eun-san (played by Yoona), a girl who was on the wrong end of a bunch of assassins...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 29-30

2017/07/17 | Permalink

Now that enough of the conspiracy has been brought to light, the only real outstanding question is whether Ji-hoon will be brought to justice. Ji-hoon has always enjoyed the most protection because of all the people who have benefited from the allegations against the former Queen, Ji-hoon's boons have been the most subtle and obscured. All the same, Queen Jungjeon needed some sort of high level ally. And attempts at making Pil-yeong and Woo the fall guys run into some obvious logical problems...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Day After - 2017"

2017/07/15 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Day After - 2017" Hae-joo (played by Jo Joon-hee) has noticed a suspicious change in her husband Bong-wan (played by Kwon Hae-hyo). Today, he is unusually happy. So Hae-joo moves to the logical conclusion- Bong-hwan has found an attractive woman. Normally such an absurd supposition would be the grounds for a farce. Then Bong-wan scoffs, continues to awkwardly eat his breakfast, and rather ominously avoids directly refuting any of Hae-joo's comments...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Life Risking Romance"

2017/07/15 | Permalink

Je-in (played by Ha Ji-won) is a murder mystery writer who has been on a long slump. The main reason behind said slump is that Je-in is for some neurotic reason completely obsessed with ferreting out largely imaginary murders in the real world, a task in which her beleaguered best friend policeman Rok-hwan (played by Chun Jung-myung) reluctantly assists, to his scorn in the department. The plot in "Life Risking Romance" kicks off when Je-in finally notices that there is, in fact, a real-life serial killer currently operating in Itaewon and maybe she should investigate that instead. For research material, of course...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Some Day"

2017/07/15 | Permalink

First up in the "Some Day" omnibus is "Change of the Season", from director Choi Jin-hyeok-I. It's about Yeon-joo (played by Choi Soo-in), a late elementary school student who collects Pokemon stickers as a distraction from a lonely home life. Yeon-joo's parents are split up, and Yeon-joo doesn't like acknowledging this. She's at an age of keen weakness. So instead, Yeon-joo wanders Ulsan in constant ennui...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 39-40 Final

2017/07/13 | Permalink

Because Prince Seon and his allies were completely incompetent at trying to solve the poison issue on their own, Hwa-goon's dad pops out of nowhere and just gives them the formula for the antidote on one condition. It should come as little surprise that even in his final dramatic victorious moment, Prince Seon manages to find a way to screw things up in this regard. No matter how simple the task, Prince Seon is just not up to the job...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" 37-38

2017/07/12 | Permalink

I knew from the last cliffhanger that the final stretch "Ruler: Master of the Mask" was going to be irredeemably stupid. So when Prince Seon and the other Seon have to go into this really complicated stretch of rules lawyering to suss out who the real king is supposed to be I wasn't surprised. Nor was I particularly angry. Mostly I just felt sort of downtrodden, that a political culture complicated enough to require several dozen ministers has no legal culture to determine royal legitimacy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 4

2017/07/11 | Permalink

It's really uncanny how the more I see of So-ah the less I like her. For a sense of perspective, the last cliffhanger featured her being thrown off the top of a building by a crazy person, and getting her life magically saved by Ha-baek. Yet rather than respond with gratitude for this heroic, if self-interested act, So-ah gets right back to the usual negotiations. How in the world can we root for a story of unconditional love when So-ah insists on attaching conditions to everything?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 31-32

2017/07/11 | Permalink

The backstory revelations end up going down a lot better than I was expecting, because the emphasis is less on the danger child Woo's actions have on adult Woo's relationships, and more on the central character flaw both Woos possess- arrogance. I was somewhat surprised to see that even as a child Woo was considered an all-star at the royal court, but this is consistent with what we've seen from the very first episode. Woo may well have been thought of as a good potential match for Princess Hyemyeong even at that time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 3

2017/07/10 | Permalink

So right away we get a hint both of why So-ah's ancestors would agree to be the human guides for the Water God and also how they're punished should they refuse. Magic powers. And there really is something demented about the way So-ah is tortured for most of this episode considering that she, herself, works in psychiatric care. Soo-ah's only hope is to ask for advice from her eccentric friend Yeom-mi (played by Choi Woo-ri) and hope for the best...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 25-26

2017/07/10 | Permalink

Yoon Se-ah is very good as Queen Jungjeon. She's striking a very difficult balance- Yoon Se-ah is playing someone who is being a very fundamentally bad actor. Queen Jungjeon isn't using to anyone talking back to her, and is in constant panic mode, for all her bravado, that someone is going to find out that she is a fraud. Queen Jungjeon does manage to slow Princess Hyemyeong down a little bit with some key revelations, but we can tell just from the nervous way her haughty noblewoman laugh sounds that internally, Queen Jungjeon is freaking out...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Anarchist from Colony"

2017/07/08 | Permalink

Park Yeol (played by Lee Je-hoon) is a Korean poet living in Tokyo in the early nineteen-twenties. Being a poet doesn't pay much, so he has to moonlight as a rickshaw driver and also makes appearances at the local Korean bar. Park Yeol is also a terrorist, albeit not a very successful one, on account of the fact that making working explosives is hard. But in the wake of an unexpected calamity, Park Yeol turns the situation to his advantage, proving to be a master of media manipulation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Okja"

2017/07/08 | Permalink

There's two wildly different stories at play in "Okja". The first story, the American one, deals with the cartoonish world of corporate agribusiness. The plot in that story is minimal- it's mainly just an excuse for loud imagery and louder performances. The second plot, the Korean one, is quite a bit more down to earth. It's the story of Mi-ja (played by Ahn Seo-hyun) and her pet super-pig Okja...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Real"

2017/07/08 | Permalink

Tae-yeong (played by Kim Soo-hyun) is a man in a suit who owns a casino and can always be found chewing gum. The first act of "Real" has him talking to psychiatrist Jin-gi (played by Lee Sung-min) about some sort of...thing that happened. This framing device ends up being dropped completely as Tae-yeong ends up embroiled in some sort of...thing involving his exact duplicate (also played by Kim Soo-hyun) who is differentiated from the original by a crystal mask, then padding, and finally glasses. Then they do lots of other...things that are highly sexy, violent, and colorful, but otherwise largely incomprehensible...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 35-36

2017/07/06 | Permalink

As expected, Prince Seon's plan to stop Dae-mok is less than inspiring. First he has to spend a lot of time running around trying to convince other characters to help him, while Dae-mok has the much simpler plan of just having the other Seon take the mask off. Incidentally, Dae-mok is awfully satisfied with his own brilliance, considering how much of his infrastructure Hwa-goon destroyed simply by starting a fire...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 33-34

2017/07/05 | Permalink

Prince Seon has finally achieved a goal in that he has destroyed Dae-mok's slave labor /  poison production / prison / mass grave facility. Well, technically Hwa-goon destroyed it, Prince Seon just released the slaves. Another task where he was failing before Hwa-goon showed up. Alas, by assisting Prince Seon in such an explicit manner, Hwa-goon has finally crossed the line from ambiguity to Dae-mok's clear enemy. And in a Prince Seon inspired moment of incompetence, she makes no effort to escape before Dae-mok shows up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 2

2017/07/04 | Permalink

For all the brisk exposition of the first episode "Bride of the Water God 2017" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get anywhere. We have to wait until the cliffhanger to even get a decent hint that Ha-baek and So-ah are going to start working together. Until that point it's just, Ha-baek wanders around the city like an arrogant idiot, and So-ah fails to solve her financial problems. What about Ha-baek's lost magic powers? Or the artifacts? When are we going to get to that?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 23-24

2017/07/04 | Permalink

Even the romantic action in "My Sassy Girl - Drama" is light, as Woo makes a breakthrough in the investigation and proceeds to try and avoid telling Princess Hyemyeong about it. This predictably leads to a brief interruption in their giddy love affair, as she is mad at him. But don't worry- slowly and surely, bit by bit, they come to another understanding as Woo makes it clear that he is one hundred percent on Princess Hyeomyeong's side and isn't going anywhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 1

2017/07/03 | Permalink

Right away "Bride of the Water God 2017" gets the essentials out of the way by clearly explaining its high concept fantasy plot. Every so often one of the natural god kings has to obtain the necessary artifacts in order to become emperor. This time, the aspiring god king is Ha-baek (played by Nam Joo-hyuk), who tends to spend a lot of time lying around and being sexy while not actually doing anything all that useful. Things do not go well when he has to go the human world to acquire the artifacts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 21-22

2017/07/03 | Permalink

The larger conflict is once again put on the back burner. Prince Darhan has gone home, leaving Woo and Princess Hyeomhyeong to swoon over each other privately. I like Woo's sense of diplomacy. He can ask for pretty much anything from royalty right now, and rather than getting greedy, Woo is sensible and basic in his desires. Woo, and Princess Hyeomhyeong for that matter, are quite patient and more than willing to live life a single day at a time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 39-40

2017/07/03 | Permalink

The final two episodes of "Strong Family" are surprisingly anticlimactic. This is appropriate, considering the only problems the titular family has ever dealt with are fairly small in scale, and thus necessitate similarly small scale solutions. The closest we get to a real setpiece is the bit where Choon-seop is trapped in the wardrobe. And in that case, the unnecessary drama is entirely what everyone realizes that they should be trying to avoid...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Day - 2017"

2017/07/01 | Permalink

Joon-yeong (played by Kim Myung-min) is a world-famous doctor who struggles to make time for his daughter Eun-jeong (played by Jo Eun-hyung). His day, as seen in "A Day - 2017" is a pretty good example of how and why- Joon-yeong is easily distracted by medical emergencies, is very patient, and underestimates how much time it takes him to do something. These failures are thrown into sharp relief when a bizarre incident forces Joon-yeong to chronically relive those failures...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sound of Nomad: Koryo Arirang"

2017/07/01 | Permalink

In central Asia there resides an ethnic Korean minority large enough to support their own theater, the Koryo Theater. The high times of the Koryo Theater are long behind us- their main claim to fame is in grainy newsreel footage from the thirties. This footage, what little of it remains, celebrates traditional Korean music and performances fused with the musical and cultural style of Central Asia. This sound is utterly unique and, it would seem, particular to its place and time in history...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Mis-President"

2017/07/01 | Permalink

To those unfamiliar with South Korean political culture, the explicit veneration a significant portion of the population holds toward former president Park Geun-hye may seem a bit odd. To this day there are still protests in Seoul against her impeachment. It's not something the South Korean media or anyone else especially likes to talk about, since the existence of this political cult of personality in a supposedly democratic country is a bit of an embarrassment. In "Mis-President", director Kim Jae-hwan allows these people to explain themselves on their own terms...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 31-32

2017/06/29 | Permalink

The opening scene of episode thirty-one features characters musing about how Prince Seon was their one great hope, and how dare anyone besmirch the man's good name. How or why Prince Seon is supposed to be the platonic ideal of a good monarch has never been clear to me, considering how the man fails at nearly every task he attempts, no matter how basic. And as if to emphasize this point, we cut from that to Prince Seon lying not quite dead in the middle of nowhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 29-30

2017/06/28 | Permalink

So apparently Hwa-goon's bodyguard Gon (played by Kim Seo-kyung) isn't actually dead. I assumed that he was, considering that the last time we saw him the man had collapsed in a bloody unmoving slump on the floor. But ah, this is "Ruler: Master of the Mask" with characters so tough they won't die even if you kill them..! Actually no, it's just that the only way the production team knows how to produce an emotional reaction is through cheap kills, which inevitably have to be reversed since characters have to be alive in order for the plot to move forward...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 19-20

2017/06/27 | Permalink

By the end of episode twenty we get to the big exciting climax where Woo has figured out a way to expose a conspiracy. It's satisfying as expected, because even if there's no direct evidence implicating Gi-joon, his participation in the broader scheme can definitely be used to put his credibility into question somewhere down the line. But why did we need four episodes to get to this point? The conspiracy only had minimal exposition, and the remaining screentime has mostly just been about the love triangle...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 17-18

2017/06/26 | Permalink

Prince Darhan (played by Chris) is the main dominant presence here, and the man's bad news. He's really nice. Really, I just can't get enough of the guy smiling good-naturedly and engaging Princess Hyeomhyeong with all these corny pick-up lines. Best of all, Prince Darhan tends to just ignore Gi-joon, and doesn't especially care about the pomp and circumstances of royalty. Prince Darhan is quite the charming guy, save for the problem of Woo being Princess Hyeomhyeong's actual love interest...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 37-38

2017/06/26 | Permalink

We're nearly to the end of "Strong Family" and the main remaining conflict is over...open office space arrangements. You know, that's one of those things corporate likes to do to try and affect change is to modify the office culture somehow. I got uncomfortable just looking at those new digs. I mean really, imagine being one of the people having to sit in the middle of those tables. It would feel like someone is always looking over your shoulder. Which I imagine is a feature, not a bug, in the system...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream"

2017/06/24 | Permalink

In a curious editing decision, director Lee Hyeok-jong-I starts "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream" off on the high point of the senior choir's career- when they went to the United Nations in New York to sing traditional Korean songs in the context of wishing for reunification. Overall "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream" is more interested in what happened after this performance than it is in the build-up. Which does rather bolster the documentary's larger point, about how the elderly men and women in this choir sing because, well, it's not like they have anything better to do...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dances with the Wind"

2017/06/24 | Permalink

What is the purpose of artistic interpretive dance? That's kind of an unfairly open-ended question. You might as well ask what the purpose of art is. Nonetheless, director Choi Sang-jin attempts to answer this question by looking over the life of Lee Sam-heon, a man who once dreamed of ballet. Lee Sam-heon modified his ambitions in response to the Gwangju Uprising, having concluded that the power of artistic interpretive dance can and should be used to further the cause of social justice...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Am a Cat"

2017/06/24 | Permalink

The story of "I Am a Cat", narrated rather winsomely by Kang Min-hyuk, is about how cats are adorable and our friends, and how we are lucky to live in a world where kind-hearted volunteers provide the services necessary for cats to live as our neighbors. There are interviews detailing what this care entails. There are also cat photographers, who dedicate their lives to catching cats in their most natural moments, recording them for posterity...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 27-28

2017/06/22 | Permalink

A lot of my confusion with "Ruler: Master of the Mask" comes from how I keep assuming stuff is happening off-screen. I thought, maybe during one of those romantic backdrops, that Ga-eun learned of Prince Seon's true identity. Literally every other single character in the drama already knows by now. But apparently not. I also figured that the other Seon had already drank the antidote on account of how he's not visibly sick anymore. Again, apparently not...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 25-26

2017/06/21 | Permalink

In a peculiar plot twist, it turns out that Queen Mother Joongjeon is not, in fact, completely crazy, and there was an actual coherent plan behind last episode's mass poisoning. Although even after the specifics are explained the plan still doesn't make very much sense. Why, it's almost as if the mass poisoning was a screenwriting device specifically contrived to end episode twenty-four on a shocking cliffhanger...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 15-16

2017/06/20 | Permalink

While Woo and Princess Hyemyeong have made great progress in terms of finally discovering that Gi-joon is behind the conspiracy, there remains one glaring problem. They can't do anything about it. All concrete evidence of Gi-joon's activities has been successfully destroyed. While Princess Hyemyeong is right that she has to do something, Woo is also right in pointing out that their position is far too weak to actually challenge Gi-joon on anything right now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 13-14

2017/06/19 | Permalink

Woo and Princess Hyemyeong are largely sidelined for these two episodes. Indeed, the big climax barely even features them at all. Instead, Choon-poong (played by Shim Hyung-tak) pops out of nowhere to helpfully identify what's going on at the butcher shop. It's pretty clear Choon-poong wants us to think that he's an idiot, when he is in fact one of the more competent characters in a drama where nearly everyone is at least of above average intelligence...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 35-36

2017/06/19 | Permalink

The climax to episode thirty six is a school concert that I had mostly forgotten was even a plot point until it pops up, and which as usual just goes into the usual father-daughter bonding. More than the catharsis I actually somewhat perversely liked the general low quality of the performance. It's about the level of musical talent that would be expected from normal high school students, which is quite a contrast to the usual overly high production values that tend to accompany such storylines...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Villainess"

2017/06/17 | Permalink

The opening scene of "The Villainess" has the deeply unsettling look of a video game. Specifically, first-person shooters, which require the perfect mix of head shots and anticipation of predictable AI behavior necessary to get through the few dozen mooks that stand between you and the next level. The sense of discomfort is further heightened by how obviously human all the various stuntpeople in this movie are. So for this, and all subsequent action scenes, horrified as I was by the unbroken chain of grotesque violence, my eyes were glued wide open in sheer overwhelming shock...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Yongsoon"

2017/06/17 | Permalink

Yongsoon (played by Lee Soo-kyung-I) is a generally crabby teenager. She lives in the middle of nowhere, resents the childhood loss of her mother (played by Lee Wun-woo), is mad about the apparent indifference of her father (played by Choi Deok-moon), and has ultimately decided the best way to spend her time right now is away from home. It is from this backdrop that Yongsoon decides to join the summer running squad, and it is in this capacity that she becomes close to her coach (played by Park Keun-rok). That doesn't end well, as it gives Yongsoon a weapon with which to further badger people...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Delta Boys"

2017/06/17 | Permalink

Il-rok (played by Baek Seung-hwan-I) is a soft-spoken machinist who eats ramen three times a day and somehow still has washboard abs. Anyway, at the beginning of "Delta Boys" he's hanging out with his old friend Ye-geon (played by Lee Woong-bin) who has just come back from a long stint in the United States. We can tell because Ye-geon is constantly inserting gangsta style English into his Korean sentences. This is intended to impress the people around him, but mostly all Ye-geon does is annoy them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 23-24

2017/06/15 | Permalink

When Queen Mother Joongjeon's true role in the overall plot was revealed last episode, I was hoping that we would see some guiding principles toward a long term goal. Instead, Queen Mother Joongjeon's schemes become increasingly bizarre. Even Dae-mok is standing off at the sidelines, a little bewildered but ultimately fairly indifferent as to her actions. There's no obvious way anything Queen Mother Joongjeon is doing could hurt Dae-mok, after all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 21-22

2017/06/14 | Permalink

The entirity of episode twenty-one consists of a stupid plan that once again manages to throw Prince Seon into mortal danger while his allies are none the wiser. This storyline does, sort of, achieve its purpose of making Ga-eun do something helpful for once. Although really, I'd have been a lot more impressed if she had sniffed out the plot and taken action before the absolute last minute. Aside from the general incomprehensibility of the scheme, Ga-eun was in a perfect position to see what was going on...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 11-12

2017/06/13 | Permalink

It was only with these episodes that I noticed that the parents of the lead characters are also the principles in the related royal conspiracy plotline, and the parallels are noteworthy. King Huizong, like Princess Hyemyeong, is oblivious to the real threat facing the royal family, only seeing the surface level. Gi-joon, like Da-yeon, is very good at seeming nice and helpful when in fact his every action is mean-spirited and destructive. Pil-yeong (played by Jo Hee-bong), like Woo, is a smart guy with a good reputation who is struggling to figure out how deep this rabbit hole goes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 9-10

2017/06/12 | Permalink

So I appear to have misread Joon-yeong's character. Apparently he's not Princess Hyemyeong's love interest at all, but rather the protagonist in the parallel storyline about trying to figure out who kidnapped Princess Hyemyeong and why. Joon-yeong has his work cut out for him. Not only is he dealing with an elaborate conspiracy far beyond his pay grade, but Princess Hyemyeong, the person who Joon-yeong is supposed to be protecting, isn't aware of the danger because as far as she knows the pawnbroker was acting alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 33-34

2017/06/12 | Permalink

Contrary to my previous expectations, it doesn't look like "Strong Family" is building up to any particularly strong climaxes at the workplace or anywhere else. Cheon-il is obsessed with telekinesis in episode thirty three and basketball comic books in episode thirty four. While I do admit the simple visuals of these scenes are pretty good (Park Hyuk-kwon always has great facial expressions really), without the proper build-up of tension, "Strong Family" currently looks to end about as anticlimactically as it began...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Warriors of the Dawn"

2017/06/10 | Permalink

In 1592, the Japanese invaded Korea. King Seonjo (played by Park Ho-san) decides that he needs to stick close to China in anticipation of reenforcements. Meanwhile, his son, the Crown Prince and later King Hwanghae (played by Yeo Jin-goo) is sent to the front lines to carry the royal banner in King Seonjo's stead. The effect of this is...not good on morale. Still, Hwanghae's personal guard Yang-sa (played Bae Soo-bin) tries to put on a good face even as he's forced to rely on help from the lower-class To-woo (played by Lee Jung-jae) and his band of professional hunters...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Power Battle Watchcar: The Counterattack of Watch Mask"

2017/06/10 | Permalink

The opening scene of "Power Battle Watchcar: The Counterattack of Watch Mask" takes place in a dark alley with identical armed men hunting down some old guy in a business suit. So I had to wonder, are they clones, or was the production company just being cheap? Actually I was wrong. They are robots. So of course when the good guys respond by destroying them with excessive violence, that's OK, because robots, however humanlike, deserve all the violence that's coming to them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Family in the Bubble"

2017/06/10 | Permalink

Director Ma Min-ji decided, as film students often do, to make a documentary about her own family. The first topic to come to mind was why Ma Min-ji moved out of their crumbling apartment. That begged the question of why they were living in a crumbling apartment in the first place. Through a fair amount of historical exposition coupled with real-life documentary experiences, "Family in the Bubble" explains how Ma Min-ji's family was caught up in the South Korean real estate boom that took place in the eighties and nineties, an experience which defines all of their financial decisions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 19-20

2017/06/08 | Permalink

This time around the genre roulette falls on palace intrigue. Unfortunately this is a bad genre to focus on temporarily, because palace intrigues are only interesting as a slow burn, watching various characters come up with complicated plots to humiliate each other. Here, no character has a clearly enough defined goal for their role in the palace intrigue to be terribly interesting. At one point derisive laughter substitutes for the far more satisfying subtle humiliation that really makes a palace intrigue stand out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 17-18

2017/06/07 | Permalink

So apparently Hwa-goon has been on the outs with Dae-mok for the past five years. But to save Prince Seon, Hwa-goon is willing to make the sneaky sacrifice of joining Dae-mok's cult. This is why I like Hwa-goon. She's smart. The real reason Hwa-goon wants back into the organization is to protect Prince Seon from the inside, but phrased this way, Dae-mok is led to believe that this is actually a compromise on her part, and remains unaware of Hwa-goon's bigger plan...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 7-8

2017/06/06 | Permalink

One of the better clarifications "My Sassy Girl - Drama" has been making lately is that there are in fact two Princess Hyemyeongs. The first one, the one that exists in the real world, quickly gets vindictive about perceived personal slights. But once the conflict is resolved, she is mostly willing to forgive and forget. By contrast the second Princess Hyemyeong, the one that exists in Gyeon-woo's imagination, continues her personal grudges forever, driving Gyeon-woo completely mad...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 31-32

2017/06/05 | Permalink

The plot is very fractured over these two episodes. We get a lot of brief jokes that seem like they're going to lead to broader themes, although they stop almost as soon as they start. The closest we get is the bookend of episode thirty-two, which I admittedly thought was pretty funny because of course Cheon-il's dream world looks like a high school theater stage set. If you haven't had dreams like that, I don't know what to tell you...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 5-6

2017/06/05 | Permalink

The opening of the fifth episode is an extended replay of the last scene of the fourth episode- and it really is a perfect example of how good editing can turn a borderline unwatchable sequence into a genuinely entertaining one. We get a lot more exposition about why the pawnbroker is a bad dude who got what was coming to him. More importantly, Princess Hyemyeong gets some badly needed positive personality traits. She made the mess here, not as a consequence of her being a fickle psychotic, but out of a genuine concern for justice...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Biting Fly"

2017/06/03 | Permalink

Hae-wook (played by Kim Jin-woo) is a government employee who stumbles upon an interesting financial venture. Apparently, for the small price of putting up all your real property as collateral, an investment will return a healthy amount of money into your bank account on a regular basis. Hae-wook tells his family about the project and...well, it doesn't go well. As the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Our President"

2017/06/03 | Permalink

You might know Roh Moo-hyun as the pre Park Geun-hye president that got impeached. Or as the guy who gave North Korea nuclear weapons. Or as the leftist human rights lawyer whose incompetency prompted two conservative administrations. Or as the ex-president who killed himself over bribery allegations. But South Koreans, and particularly the South Korean left, venerate him as a hero. Although "Our President" contains almost no detail about Roh Moo-hyun's actual presidency, having watched this documentary, now I know why...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "3xFTM"

2017/06/03 | Permalink

The title of "3xFTM" at first probably looks like random gibberish. But director Kim Il-rhan explains in short order what they stand for- 3 examples of Female to Male. That is, "3xFTM" is the story of three transgender individuals living in South Korea in the mid two thousands. Technology is just on the cusp of being able to make gender transition a reality for everyone. Until that time comes, though, they just muddle about their daily lives as men...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 15-16

2017/06/01 | Permalink

Through a complicated bit of sleight of hand, Prince Seon and friends manage to achieve an important victory over Dae-mok. Because they got his...stuff, that Dae-mok was going to use to do...things. Normally I try not to overthink inherently meaningless MacGuffin devices, but the stakes in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" are so poorly defined I can only even figure out that Prince Seon's team won because of their smug victory expressions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 13-14

2017/05/31 | Permalink

It took me a minute to remember why, exactly, Prince Seon and Hwa-goon were skulking about in the middle of the night trying to steal something. That's because this whole subplot is nestled inside another subplot, the one about the merchant expedition, and even that quickly manages to turn into another subplot as Cheong-eun runs into Moo-ha (played by Bae Yoo-ram), an old ally with an exceptionally good memory. A pity that's about his only useful skill...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 3-4

2017/05/30 | Permalink

Oh Yeon-seo's central expression as Princess Hyemyeong is very appropriate. Even in pictographic form, she looks horrifically sinister. So all the time Gyeon-woo is talking about his efforts to try and meet her again, I'm just thinking to myself, do you really think that's a good idea? And predictably enough, upon finally actually finding Princess Hyemyeong, Gyeon-woo once again faces peril and disaster for no apparent cause...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 13 Final

2017/05/30 | Permalink

As expected, the sweet flashbacks continue as "My Secret Romance" slowly but surely moves toward its happy ending. There is a bump in there as Yoo-mi decides to briefly abandon Jin-wook for reasons that aren't all that clear, but not to worry. Nothing beats the power of flashbacks. I expect excessive use of flashbacks also makes it easier on the production company, which doesn't have to spend as much money filming actual new scenes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 1-2

2017/05/29 | Permalink

The first half of the first episode of "My Sassy Girl - Drama" consists entirely of an elaborate royal conspiracy. It involves nighttime, massive swordfights, escapes, a perilous childbirth scene, and is generally completely indistinguishable from a serious historical drama prologue. Then we flash forward ten years later and scholar Gyeon-woo (played by Joo Won) is trying to maintain balance on a boat while narrating about how cool and beloved he was back in China...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 29-30

2017/05/29 | Permalink

The romantic subplots in "Strong Family" are really good in how they relate to each other. We have Ik-hee going through the adolescent awkwardness of a teen romance where no one knows what they're doing, Jeong-min being generally giddy about a relationship that will most likely end in marriage (because of her age), and then Miss Jo contemplating a late lifetime romance. Incidentally, Choon-seop (played by Nam Kyung-eup) is my favorite love interest of the bunch. The man really rocks his late fifties facial hair...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 12

2017/05/29 | Permalink

Yoo-mi heads back to the beachhead where this all began, and Ji-wook follows her, as the penultimate episode mostly focuses on nostalgia. And it really is nostalgia- I remember the first episode, and I also remember that it had a radically different tone than what the flashbacks here are pretending. Yoo-mi and Ji-wook were perpetually grumpy, and only bond at all because they were both extremely drunk...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Merciless"

2017/05/27 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Merciless", a couple of obvious criminals are having a dish of seafood, and discussing the unfortunate implications of of eating cuisine that appears to be looking at you. The end to their conversation is abrupt, and when the dust has settled, Jae-ho (played by Sol Kyung-gu) gets one last ominous look at the fish, clearly the real villain. Then we see Hyeon-soo (played by Im Si-wan) exit jail and walk onto the set of a music video...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Blue Busking"

2017/05/27 | Permalink

Ho-bin (played by Jo Han-seon) is a mildly famous person who is the drummer in an even more mildly famous band- the kind that gets booked for weddings. The other members want to try and improve their prospects with a road trip and Ho-bin, facing personal problems of his own, agrees. The gimmick is, they're going to take South Korea by donkey. While being followed by a car and camera, which kind of defeats the purpose of traveling around slowly with a donkey cart but whatever, I don't get social media marketing anyway...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Way - 2017"

2017/05/27 | Permalink

Soon-ae (played by Kim Hye-ja), Sang-beom (played by Song Jae-ho), and Soo-mi (played by Heo Jin) are old people who knew each other a very long time ago as students. They don't anymore- nor do they ever meet as adults, and we don't find out what happened to the fourth character in the flashbacks either. Going by the generally dark overall tone of "The Way - 2017", he's probably dead. Still, memories of those idyllic times pop up in their individual stories, a stark reminder of a the radically different world they now live in...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 11-12

2017/05/25 | Permalink

The opening swordfight gives the impression that "Ruler: Master of the Mask" has decided to be an action swashbuckler about Prince Seon fighting for justice against a corrupt regime. Instead, we get a story arc about international trade with Japan. When I saw that Prince Seon had a whole gang of confederates I was sure he was going to, I don't know, steal the tax money or something. But no, he just approaches Hwa-goon to ask for a loan...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 9-10

2017/05/24 | Permalink

I used to think that Dae-mok was smart, but his plan for maintaining power after murdering the royal family is...disappointing. And also accidentally hilarious. The other Seon does not look, sound, or act like the real Prince Seon. He couldn't fool Dae-mok for a single scene even when the unexpected help of a false witness. Yet apparently, the other Seon is now the lynchpin upon which all of Dae-mok's evil schemes rest...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 11

2017/05/23 | Permalink

As expected, Jin-wook and Yoo-mi continue to be generally sad as they try very hard to pretend like they don't miss each other. Jin-wook, being the man, is of course the first to snap and realize that of course he loves Yoo-mi and needs her very much. But various contrivances pop up to insure that Jin-wook misunderstands what Yoo-mi is doing, until finally, a disaster comes up that's big enough to force Jin-wook to do something...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 10

2017/05/22 | Permalink

I was expecting the big dramatic event that would force the rift between Jin-wook and Yoo-mi to be related to Dae-bok's meddling. But surprisingly, that all gets resolved in a single scene. An exceptionally long scene where Dae-bok and Mi-hee somehow manage to have a big fight without either of them clearly explaining what exactly it is they're fighting about. So yeah, that was pretty funny, although once the miscommunications are over with, Jin-wook and Yoo-mi proceed to spend the rest of the episode in dramatic angst...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 27-28

2017/05/22 | Permalink

Cheon-il is having one of those days, as what first seems like a sneaky ploy by an adorable child to get spending money soon morphs into an elaborate conspiracy that leads to police involvement. And then disengagement, because Ra-yeon somewhat sensibly decides that this is not the kind of problem that the government should be involved in unless absolutely necessary. That's the main joke in episode twenty-seven, is just the brief glimpses we get of the temporarily altered family dynamic...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Tooth and the Nail"

2017/05/20 | Permalink

Tae-seok (played by Park Sung-woong) is a prosecutor working in South Korea in the late nineteen-forties. He is prosecuting a case where someone killed someone at the Seokjo Estate. "The Tooth and the Nail" gets off on the wrong foot almost immediately with possibly the most unnecessary framing device I've ever seen. Why not just start the story off chronologically, with traveling magician Seok-jin (played by Go Soo) getting sucked into an elaborate conspiracy with classy international man Do-jin (played by Kim Joo-hyuk) at the center?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Daddy You, Daughter Me"

2017/05/20 | Permalink

Sang-tae (played by Yoon Je-moon) and Do-yeon (played by Jung So-min) are daddy and daughter, respectively. Oh sure, it was fun back in the old days, when Do-yeon loved her daddy ever so much and wanted to marry him. But now Do-yeon is a teenager with her own problems and they never even have time to so much as talk to each other. Circumstance soon forces them to communicate, though, as they must spend a week in each other's bodies, avoiding detection by Sang-tae's co-workers and Do-yeon's classmates...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Koala"

2017/05/20 | Permalink

For the first several scenes of "Koala" the general unpleasantness of being a young person in South Korea these days is played out. Dong-bin (played by Park Young-seo) had a dream of being an actor, and now he's just a salaryman. Jong-ik (played by Song Yoo-ha) is still attempting to be an actor, and it's not fun. Mutually, Dong-bin and Jong-ik decide to take a shot at deciding their own destiny for a change. Henceforth, they open a Burger Boy franchise location...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 7-8

2017/05/18 | Permalink

If the previous set of episodes was meant to establish the hopelessness of the general universe in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" this set seems determined to prove that King Yoon was right all along. Every new plan Prince Seon comes up with ends increasingly catastrophically. Negotiation only makes people angrier. This escalates until we hit a cliffhanger that can't possibly be topped...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 5-6

2017/05/17 | Permalink

Cheong-eun (played by Shin Hyun-soo) is, to date, the only ally Prince Seon has with any appreciable combat skills. This is put to use immediately, as Cheong-eun has to help Prince Seon fight his way out of last episode's cliffhanger. The ensuing chase, while not making the best logistical sense is very tense and action-packed. The real shocker, though, is how a confrontation between the King's men and an organized crime gang ends with King Yoon telling his own people to back off...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 30 Final

2017/05/16 | Permalink

In a peculiar twist, it turns out that Gil-dong and friends did not, in fact, achieve even cursory reforms as a part of a a settlement when they beat King Yeonsangun's army in direct combat. All they got was...I guess some sort of license to continue wandering around the countryside beating up corrupt nobles without anyone interfering. Beyond that, the final episode mainly goes into the various fates of the characters aligned with King Yeonsangun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 9

2017/05/16 | Permalink

I was so caught up with how Dae-bok would interpret the existence of Dong-goo (played by Joo Sang-hyeok) it never even occurred to me that Jin-wook would also be inclined to the same interpretation. And honestly, Yoo-mi is so comically mum on the whole mum issue there were moments this episode where even I was wondering- have Mi-hee and Yoo-mi ever actually explicitly stated who Dong-goo is relative to them, or have we just been assuming? These characters are so bad at communicating it's hard to tell...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 25-26

2017/05/15 | Permalink

Romantic appearances are the main element at play in these two episodes of "Strong Family". First in the twenty-fifth episode we Ra-yeon ponder that all-important question- are you living with the person that you love? Then in the twenty-sixth episode we get the somewhat ominous implications of what happens when the answer to that question is no. And with that, another implication that these questions are constantly asked on a regular basis and never really go away...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 29

2017/05/15 | Permalink

So apparently the last episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" wasn't just climactic. It was, in fact, the climax of the entire drama. King Yeonsangun is in full on retreat. At first I thought he was just going to regroup and try again but nope, King Yeongsangun quickly regresses into a complete mental breakdown, terrifying his staff. In the end it's actually kind of refreshing that King yeonsangun just starts obsessing about art again, since there's no good way to whitewash the failure of the authority figures here to put down a rebellion...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 8

2017/05/15 | Permalink

Everything Jin-wook does in the pool with Yoo-mi was taking things a bit too far. It's hard to hate him too much, though, since everyone knows full well that Jin-wook is taking things too far, yet they just can't bring themselves to hate him. It would be nice if we had more people's word to take for it than just Yoo-mi's. Recall that Woo-jin's softened demeanor toward Jin-wook is entirely a result of Jin-wook's actions during the timeskip...More

[HanCinema's Event Coverage] Jeonju International Film Festival 2017 Ambience (with Kim Soy)

2017/05/13 | Permalink

In the course of my interview with Kim Soy she made a very instructive comment about Jeonju that I feels sums up the festival's overall atmosphere quite well. Kim Soy mentioned that in all of the years she has been here (which include work as Closing Ceremony host in 2015), you can always just see actors and directors and what-not hanging out in random nearby cafes. And if you want, you can always just drop in to chat with them. Not sure how many people would have the gumption to try but yes, you could do that...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Sheriff In Town"

2017/05/13 | Permalink

Dae-ho (played by Lee Sung-min) last had a chance to play hero was when he accidentally managed to nab Jong-jin (played by Cho Jin-woong), an idiot who got left holding the bag by some actual professionals. Now, when fate dictates that Dae-ho meets Jong-jin again, the latter man now a well respected businessman, Dae-ho concludes, logically, that Jong-jin was in fact the true evil genius all along. Throughout "The Sheriff In Town", Dae-ho works tirelessly to prove this fact, even as everyone around Dae-ho concludes, just as logically, that Dae-ho has lost his marbles...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Seeds of Violence"

2017/05/13 | Permalink

Joo-yong (played by Lee Ga-sub) is doing his military service and like most of his countrymen, not particularly enjoying the project. But Joo-yong's predicament is particularly bad- he and most of the other members of his platoon suffer from chronic bullying. An official complaint prompting investigation of the matter only serves to intensify the cold environment of harassment. It is from this vantage point that Joo-yong learns from whence "The Seeds of Violence" come...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Blue Butterfly Effect"

2017/05/13 | Permalink

The THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system is, we are assured, necessary to defend against the North Koreans. There's just one problem- THAAD has to be physically placed somewhere in South Korea. And former President Park Geun-hye's administration chose poorly when they decided to place THAAD near Seongju, a location with enough of a local population to push back against the prospect of an advanced electromagnetic weapons system being deployed near their children...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Super Bernard: Spy Adventures"

2017/05/13 | Permalink

Bernard (voiced by Kim Tae-gyoon-II) is a polar bear who you might or might recognize from short cartoons (as in, three minutes long) wherein he attempts to solve some sort of simple goal. He would, say, exercise at the gym or ride an airplane or get a bird off the TV antenna, and proceed to fail in increasingly comical slapstick ways while communicating only in goofy grunts. "Super Bernard: Spy Adventures" takes this character, and puts him in the action spy format for feature length...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 3-4

2017/05/11 | Permalink

Ga-eun (played by Kim So-hyun) is the young woman who kept getting all those dramatic camera shots in the second episode, even though at the time we had no idea who she was. Here, we quickly discover that Ga-eun is a kind woman, who assumes on general principle that anybody being chased after by armed men is probably innocent. This turns out to be a pretty reasonable assumption considering that by the end of the fourth episode...alas, the other Seon (played by L) is not so lucky as the handsome prince who shares his moniker...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 1-2

2017/05/10 | Permalink

Dae-mok (played by Heo Joon-ho) is the grand wizard of a massive conspiracy. Dae-mok is not literally a wizard, he just seems like one because of his mastery of spooky hallucinogens and a massive spy network capable of making these creepy physical effects pop up out of nowhere. So when Yoon (Kim Myung-soo) makes a deal with Dae-mok to become King, out of sheer paranoia, Yoon ends up forcing his son Seon (played by Yoo Seung-ho) to wear a mask, murdering anyone who sees Seon's face. Then Dae-mok's granddaughter Hwa-goon (played by Yoon So-hee) enters the picture and-...More

[HanCinema's Event Coverage] Jeonju International Film Festival 2017 Politics (with Emmanuel Moonchil Park)

2017/05/10 | Permalink

Happening right before the Presidential Election on May 9th, the Jeju International Film Festival fielded a lot of questions at press conferences this year about politics. The answers always fall into the same general pattern- movies depicts life, and life depicts politics, ergo, movies inevitably have to depict politics...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 23-24

2017/05/08 | Permalink

The South Korean Presidential Election is today, you might have heard. I bring this up because the twenty-third episode of "Strong Family" is an obvious nod to this fact, as the lead characters engage in the kind of political campaign that people who don't know anything about politics come up with. Which is to say, that rather than talk about why they want power, Cheon-il and Ra-yeon simply come up with elaborate tactics that fail to convince anyone that they even understand what the position they're campaigning for even does...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 28

2017/05/08 | Permalink

The twenty-eighth episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" consists entirely of a gigantic pitched battle. Well OK, technically King Yeonsangun harasses Gil-dong psychologically by dangling Ga-ryeong right in front of him, takes a break, then the battle starts when we discover Gil-dong's implausible victory strategy. But by and large it all feels like the same sequence, with King Yeonsangun on one end taking liquor shots while Gil-dong and friends are at the top of the embankment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 7

2017/05/08 | Permalink

One of Yoo-mi's more comforting qualities is her sincere desire to be helpful. At least, that's the sense I got from the odd scene where Jin-wook contrives a work-related reason for him to cook dinner for Yoo-mi, and Yoo-mi simply looks at the entire situation like it was an actual job and not merely a thinly veiled excuse for Jin-wook to spend time with her. Although I suppose it helps that Jin-wook himself probably believes his own ridiculous excuses...More

[HanCinema's Event Coverage] Jeonju International Film Festival 2017 Introduction

2017/05/06 | Permalink

With the coming of spring comes another iteration of the Jeonju International Film Festival. While the scope of the Jeonju International Film Festival is quite large, on a year by year basis there's surprisingly little change between the essentials. This is because unlike other major South Korean film festivals, there's no sense of expansion being a priority in and of itself on a yearly basis. I spoke at length on the subject with Lee Jieun, the head of the media outreach team, and she made a point of emphasizing the fresh new feeling that's supposed to come to the festival every year...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Mayor"

2017/05/06 | Permalink

Jong-goo (played by Choi Min-sik) is the mayor of Seoul, who is in the midst of running for his third term in office. Why exactly Jong-goo is so determined to hold on to power is...unclear. At this point Jong-goo seems to be working by inertia alone. The notion that he could ever not possibly be the most powerful man in the room is abhorrent to Jong-goo. To the man's credit, he does tend to only utilize his awesome political powers in the case of an emergency. There's a lot of those in an election year, as young campaign staffperson Kyeong (played by Shim Eun-kyung) learns to her slow dismay...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Suh-Suh Pyoung, Slowly and Peacefully"

2017/05/06 | Permalink

Elizabeth Johanna Shepping's mother came to the United States in search of opportunity. That did not end well. After a disaffected childhood where she was used to having no friends, Shepping eventually moved back in with her mother and stepfather, only to have a falling out over religious differences. In her quest for salvation, Shepping eventually settles upon colonial Korea as the outlet for her work, adopting the Korean name Suh Pyoung in order to better fit in...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 28 Final

2017/05/04 | Permalink

The ending to "Saimdang: Light's Diary" is more anticlimactic than anything else. The bad guys are almost immediately brought to justice because one essential character changes sides, and CCTV footage which should have been exposed, I don't know, a dozen episodes ago suddenly pops up out of nowhere and decisively proves that Jeong-hak was a fink all along. Meanwhile, in the past, King Jungjong is sad because it has suddenly occurred to him that persecuting artists is bad...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 6

2017/05/02 | Permalink

It turns out Yoo-mi has one impressive quality that Jin-wook is unlikely to find anywhere else. She's good at apologizing. The irony, of course, is that Yoo-mi hasn't done anything wrong in regards to Jin-wook or his relationships. All the same, at the slightest indication that she has made either Jin-wook or Hye-ri uncomfortable, Yoo-mi demurs. And of course, Jin-wook is left in an even worse mood than usual as a result...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 21-22

2017/05/01 | Permalink

Cheon-il has just about completely disappeared from his formerly prominent position as main character. Yes, the center of the twenty-first episode does revolve around a questionable decision on his part. Overall, though, Cheon-il doesn't even really get any particularly noteworthy scenes. The main standout involves his own boss Seok-moon panicking over the prospect of spending a disproportionate amount of time waiting in sheer boredom...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 5

2017/05/01 | Permalink

Increasingly "My Secret Romance" is getting into a holding pattern, where Jin-wook just acts generally inexplicably grumpy and is unsatisfied that his bad mood results in bad experiences. It's definite regression from the cool version of his character that we saw immediately post timeskip. Jin-wook does seem kind of cool, though, when he's rebuffing Hye-ri in about the most explicit possible terms and Hye-ri proves herself completely incapable of understanding his iciness...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 27

2017/05/01 | Permalink

Even though they have explicitly engaged King Yeonsangun's military forces several times at this point, Gil-dong and his comrades continue to be oddly reticent when it comes to any actual clearly defined goals. Multiple public meetings are held here where various townspeople discuss the crimes committed against them by King Yeonsangun. I'm always left wondering how "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is able to feature so much talking and so little action...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Marianne and Margaret"

2017/04/29 | Permalink

Back in 1962, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek came to the obscure island of Sorok, way on the southern tip of Korea from their home country of Austria. As nuns, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek were driven by their desire to do good works for the less fortunate, and came to Sorok Island to care for the sick. That's pretty much all they did for forty four years. Then they went back to Austria, spending the rest of their days in a nursing home...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Plan - Documentary"

2017/04/29 | Permalink

South Korea's 2012 Presidential Election has become rather notorious of late mostly because it put such an astonishingly incompetent and corrupt leader into power. What you may not know (and what I didn't know either prior to watching "The Plan - Documentary") is that there is a not insignificant chance that Park Geun-hye's victory was the result of vote rigging. Oh don't go salivating. Director Choi Jin-seong does not name names or insinuate a conspiracy. "The Plan - Documentary" is largely a technical exercise in explaining the relative ease with which elections can be rigged, and how a lot of numbers from the 2012 South Korean Presidential Election don't add up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Little Baby, Jaya"

2017/04/29 | Permalink

The exploitation film is lurid for the sake of being lurid, enticing viewers with the promise that twisted depraved people will meet twisted depraved ends in the name of morose justice. The social awareness film, by contrast, seeks to make some sort of serious commentary about horrible unseen problems in daily life. "My Little Baby, Jaya" tries to be both of these things, with mixed success...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 27

2017/04/27 | Permalink

It's more than a little late for me to be figuring this out, but apparently Lee Gyum wasn't a real person either. It's hard to tell whether this makes "Saimdang: Light's Diary" better or worse. On one end, only Saimdang's name has been sullied by the exceptionally goofy plotting of this drama. On the other end, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has spent a preposterous amount of time and effort dedicated to the romantic anguish of a fictional character whose only reason for existence is to have a tragic extramarital love affair with Saimdang...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 26

2017/04/26 | Permalink

So it turns out Jeong-hak's thievery of Saimdang's Kumgang Mountain painting is easily detectable by anyone with proper training in classical art. This isn't exactly a surprise, considering that Sang-hyeon identified the errors in Jeong-hak's fake way back in the first episode and it was mainly hubris that prevented Jeong-hak from realizing the error himself. At the time, I was expecting the central conflict would be over Jeong-hak stubbornly refusing to acknowledge Sang-hyeon's argument even as Ji-yoon discovered the genuine painting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 4

2017/04/25 | Permalink

In a mildly intriguing plot twist, we discover that Jin-wook's constant pestering of Yoo-mi is less schoolboy crush and more his acting out feelings of harsh resentment for the terrible lie Yoo-mi told him three years ago. You may be wondering what possible offensive lie Yoo-mi could have told Jin-wook in the context of a one night stand and, well, it's actually a pretty convincing one in terms of offending Jin-wook. Although Jin-wook does come off as rather petty for caring about it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 26

2017/04/25 | Permalink

Now that Eorini has finally been identified, it's up to attempted memory triggers by her brothers and various flashbacks to explain how exactly Eorini has not been able to recognize anything of her own life. It's not clear to me that Eorini was really young enough for such brainwashing to plausibly work, and the motives for anyone to even try it in the first place were comically pointlessly evil for the sake of being evil. Haven't we had enough of that by now?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 19-20

2017/04/24 | Permalink

Cheon-il is a good guy. One of the big riddles of "Strong Family" is that most of the time, Cheon-il has no idea how or why he is being a good guy. Sometimes the expectation game is not his fault- as is seen with the opening conflict, sometimes the more obviously beloved behavior of other people is what makes Ra-yeon start to overthink things. Elsewhere, Cheon-il's determination to see the worst of life is his biggest weakness. Poor Cheon-il. He just doesn't know how to read a room...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 25

2017/04/24 | Permalink

Increasingly I find myself thinking that the most logical interpretation of Gil-dong's character in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is that he's just a figment of King Yeonsangun's imagination, blown completely out of proportion. It's hard to think of any other reason why Gil-dong inexplicably leaves King Yeonsangun unharmed instead of just killing the guy outright. A figment of imagination, that I can understand going into long-winded speeches. But a guy who's actually going to war against the state?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 3

2017/04/24 | Permalink

So even though we saw Yoo-mi fantasizing about meeting Jin-wook by chance again last episode, this time, Yoo-mi is doing everything she can to avoid the reality of the situation. Which makes sense. Let's recall that, three years ago, Jin-wook was kind of a jerk, and that they were both just a tad drunk. So it's easy to empathize with Yoo-mi viewing Jin-wook's dictatorial demands here as being part and parcel of a mean personality rather than an overbearing effort on his part to be cute...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "House of the Disappeared"

2017/04/22 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "House of the Disappeared", Mi-hee (played by Kim Yoon-jin) comes upon horror. Her husband has been stabbed, and her son is only briefly visible before unseen forces drag him off into the unknown. The authorities conclude that, somehow, Mi-hee was responsible for these crimes, and she comes out of prison twenty five years later an old woman, still muttering about the monstrous forces at work in her house. Father Choi (played by Ok Taecyeon), an old family friend, hears Mi-hee out as she delves into her own memories, trying to find an answer...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gag Powerful Man"

2017/04/22 | Permalink

While cartooning is generally thought of as a medium for children, as long as there have been cartoons, there have been crude distorted versions. The twenty-first century has been very kind to crude cartoons, as technology advances have made it easy for anyone to make static, repetitive animations which shock via overt graphic violence and explicit sexual titillation. "Gag Powerful Man" is a traditionally Korean themed version of such a cartoon, in feature length form...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cherry Blossoms, Again"

2017/04/22 | Permalink

Jang Beom-june was the leading singer/songwriter for Busker Busker, an independent rock band from Cheonan. Today he...still writes and performs music, just as a solo artist. Jang Beom-june owes his presence in South Korean musical culture largely to one song- "Cherry Blossom Ending" which appears every spring in the South Korean music charts. But aside from that, Jang Beom-june also writes and performs other songs. Sometimes he even does covers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 25

2017/04/20 | Permalink

It's back to the framing device as Ji-yoon...pretty much gives up on any hope of recovering the painting and just goes on a road trip with her son. This road trip is rather geographically challenged. Ji-yoon's father lives in Pyeongtaek, yet the first place they end up going is Chuncheon, which is practically on the opposite side of the country. All while Ji-yoon is holding down a teaching job apparently...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 24

2017/04/19 | Permalink

Try as I might it's surprisingly difficult to parse the motives of any of the antagonists in "Saimdang: Light's Diary". This is especially awkward since the drama is now at the climax and everyone's getting their comeuppance/unjust victory. Headmistress Choi is jealous. It's dumb but it makes sense. Everyone else? Chi-hyeon is evil for the sake of being evil. Won-soo hates his wife and apparently his children too. King Jungjong is...I don't know, suddenly not appreciative of art any more?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 2

2017/04/18 | Permalink

In a somewhat perplexing plot twist, right after the recap of the one night stand, there's a three year time skip and all of a sudden Jin-wook and Yoo-mi seem like completely different characters. Far from being the playboy we last saw, Jin-wook is now taking his corporate responsibilities very seriously. Yoo-mi has picked herself up emotionally and shows remarkable dexterity as a cafeteria chef. About the only commonality they have is their shared wistfulness about meeting that one special person three years ago...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 24

2017/04/18 | Permalink

While the last episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" was noticeably laggard when it came to obvious action or plot movement, I was still caught rather off guard by just how little happens this episode. Yes, at the end we get the smoke bombs and Gil-dong's full team decked out in masks prepared to do something obviously really cool. But until we get to that point, everyone just keeps talking in circles and endlessly rearranging pieces on the board...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 17-18

2017/04/17 | Permalink

For the first time, Cheon-il uses his tracksuit for its intended purpose- as workout clothes, in anticipation of the big company athletic competition which he ends up taking far, far too aggressively. I was a little disappointed that Cheon-il's training montage is just general athletics. It would have made for a much funnier overall joke if Cheon-il had been taking mixed martial arts lessons and his performance on the field was a result of his mis-applying those skills in the wrong context...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 23

2017/04/17 | Permalink

King Yeonsangun starts us off by declaring a war on babies. I...wish I was exaggerating but King Yeonsangun really does jump from typical jerk evil to cartoonish supervillain evil so fast that I barely had time to process what was happening before babies started getting smothered to death. My initial concerns about this being mere egregious scriptwriting are mostly alleviated by mid-episode recitations of what I presume are actual royal orders that are consistently in line with King Yeonsangun's actions in the drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 1

2017/04/17 | Permalink

Jin-wook (played by Sung Hoon) is a playboy and a bit of a jerk. The first we see of the guy, he takes over a party and then walks back his sexiness with a rather ridiculous sounding excuse. As mean and selfish as Jin-wook seems at first glance, we do find out by the end that the excuse is actually evidence of Jin-wook's secret good side. Which is fortunate, since up until that point, we frequently see Jin-wook get in trouble for stuff that's not actually his fault, yet never does he seem all that sympathetic...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Day"

2017/04/15 | Permalink

Kang-soo (played by Kim Nam-gil) is an insurance adjuster who has had a very, very rough time as of late. His wife Seon-hwa (played by Im Hwa-young) is dead, and all Kang-soo can do to distract himself from the misery is focus on his work and get drunk at night in a feeble effort to alleviate the pain. So it's little surprise that when Mi-so (played by Chun Woo-hee) asks Kang-soo the rather peculiar question "can you see me?", Kang-soo is evasive and fails to catch on to the strange evolving situation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Line"

2017/04/15 | Permalink

The year is 2005. That's...kind of recent in nostalgia terms. Yes, those were the days back when everyone had fliptop phones and computers monitors were still the size of TVs- these being the days before flatscreen TVs. Anyway, Min-jae (played by Im Si-wan) is a college student who teams up with big time swindler Seok-goo (played by Jin Goo) to fight corporate greed by helping low-income people qualify for loans by manipulating bank systems in such a way that people are granted loans when they don't actually have proper credit for them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Step"

2017/04/15 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "One Step", Si-hyeon (played by Sandara Park) is hit with tragedy, and wakes up an amnesiac with a bad physical reaction to music. So now she lives with aerobics instructor Ji-won (played by Hong Ah-reum). Together, they get the idea to piece together Si-hyeon's memories using her vague memory of a simple tune. That's when they enlist the help of writer's block hobbled songwriter turned name that tune radio guy Jee-yeol (played by Han Jae-suk)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 23

2017/04/12 | Permalink

While "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has always suffered from direct comparison to the also currently airing "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People", the timing this week is especially unfortunate. The latter drama just explicitly made a point about how proper representation of women in the arts is a completely meaningless victory in the context of a political situation so bad that people are actively being murdered. As a result, the plot in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" about Saimdang heroically striking a blow for women everywhere by painting the king's portrait just comes off as really awkward...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 22

2017/04/11 | Permalink

Gil-dong is still going through the wringer as "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" makes the most of its runtime to show that our noble hero is suffering with little to no apparent hope and sight. What's worse, the people suffer with him. King Yeonsangun shows off a nasty sadistic streak, not just by bullying Gil-dong in person, but also by showing off to Gil-dong all the people he can't protect. Which of course includes more gratutitous crying infants...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 15-16

2017/04/10 | Permalink

The two main conflicts this time are, for episode fifteen, the question of how to best spend vacation time, and for episode sixteen, the question of how to deal with incrementally chaotic financial situations. As is usually the case for "Strong Family", the conflicts are defined by their relatively minor scope. These are the sorts of issues normal families have to deal with on a regular basis, so the problems are quite easy to discuss...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 21

2017/04/10 | Permalink

Gil-dong's big plan for trying get out of prison is just to try and have faith in King Yeonsangun's better nature. This seems logical enough from our perspective, since the scope of King Yeonsangun's involvement in all the bad stuff that's been happening has been murky at best. It's a bit more difficult to justify why Gil-dong thinks this is a good idea, since he has no reason to believe King Yeonsangun has any moral scruples...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Prison"

2017/04/08 | Permalink

The year is 1995. Yoo-geon (played by Kim Rae-won) is a bad dude- so bad, he even gets a special color nametag on his prison jumpsuit. Soon after arrival Yoo-geon manages to get into a fight with top dog Chang-gil (played by Shin Sung-rok), who is also a bad dude that does not know the meaning of surrender. Once the baddest dude in the room has been established, it's then on to the baddest dude in the whole prison, Ik-ho (played by Han Suk-kyu) who takes the meaning of the term "bad dude" to a whole another level...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "On the Beach at Night Alone" + Poster Giveaway

2017/04/08 | Permalink

Yeong-hee (played by Kim Min-hee)  is a film actress with surprisingly little to do in her copious free time. Allegedly, Yeong-hee does have friends, but Yeong-hee's conversations with them frequently descend into self-deprecating melancholy. I mean really, what else do you call nonchalant references to extramarital affairs, coupled with the suspicious insistence that nah, I don't really care even though it's apparently the only thing I can think of to talk about? Yeong-hee lives in her own sad little world, and through "On the Beach at Night Alone", we feel sorry for her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Collision"

2017/04/08 | Permalink

Normally I like to start these reviews out with a basic description of the movie's action. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Why should we care? "Collision" is rather challenging in this regard, because as much as I try, it's hard to even so much as generalize their motives. I mean, all right, yeah, they don't want to be violently murdered in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Does anyone really?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 22

2017/04/06 | Permalink

The central conflict this time around deals with sexism against women in Joseon. On its face this entire idea is a little odd, considering that Saimdang herself was a famous artist who was appreciated in her time. What's more, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has consistently had unnamed characters react to Saimdang's gender with a sense of novelty, rather than revulsion. So for people to suddenly have a hissy fit about Saimdang going beyond her station marks a rather serious break with continuity...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 21

2017/04/05 | Permalink

Princess Jeong-soon (played by Lee Joo-yeon) is, at present, my most disliked character in "Saimdang: Light's Diary". This isn't because there's anything wrong with Princess Jeong-soon or the actress playing her. In fact, Princess Jeong-soon is one of the few people we see demonstrating a consistent interest in painting. That's why I hate her- time and again "Saimdang: Light's Diary" treats Princess Jeong-soon's interest in painting as if it were some form of naïve idiocy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 20

2017/04/04 | Permalink

So it turns out the whole run-in with the foreign invaders really was just a one-off plot point intended to establish how Gil-dong and his team are the unambiguous good guys. In context that's not quite as cheesy as it sounds, since some serious discussion is given to the idea of how Gil-dong's popularity is a risk to the ruling class mostly because people like him. They don't especially like King Yeonsangun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 19

2017/04/03 | Permalink

Early on, there's a nice parallel philosophical discussion between King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong where they ponder over what the true relationship and distinction is between the ruler and the ruled. The scenes are amusing less because King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong bring up interesting ideas as they are because of the radically different context. King Yeonsangun just ponders generically because he's the king and has nothing better to do. Whereas Gil-dong is in jail...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 13-14

2017/04/03 | Permalink

A lot of the story in "Strong Family" is very low key. I know that the central plot of the thirteenth episode was Ra-yeon trying and inevitably becoming frustrated with her attempts to fit in to a more high class mom clique. I also know that the central plot of the fourteenth episode was Cheon-il's rather creepy fixation with the person who lives upstairs and generally irritates Ra-yeon with constant cigarette smoke. Beyond that, though, what we have are a lot of very small plots with frustratingly little development...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bluebeard"

2017/04/01 | Permalink

Seung-hoon (played by Cho Jin-woong) is a gastroenterologist of limited social skills. Hence why he's split up from his obviously gorgeous wife Soo-jeong (played by Yoon Se-ah) and completely oblivious to the attentions of attending nurse Mi-yeon (played by Lee Chung-ah). What does interest Seung-hoon is the obsessive world of detective mysteries where every minor detail is an important clue to unraveling the identity of the true criminal. Finding such a clue to a real life crime during an apparently routine colonoscopy, well, that's where Seung-hoon's troubles begin...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Part-Time Spy"

2017/04/01 | Permalink

Yeong-sil (played by Kang Ye-won) is a loser. She's in her mid-thirties yet has spent almost her entire adult life working weird part-time jobs in the desperate hope of being called up for a real interview for a full-time position one of these days. And once Yeong-sil finally manages to get oh-so-perilously close to success...she's forced to work overtime to take down a voice phishing scam, when this is obviously not in her job description. On the flip side, Jeong-an (played by Han Chae-ah) is a cop- and taking down voice phishing scams is in her job description...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ordinary Person"

2017/04/01 | Permalink

The time is 1987. Seong-jin (played by Son Hyun-joo) is an ordinary police officer who gets tapped by Gyoo-nam (played by Jang Hyuk), a high-ranking member of South Korea's police state hierarchy, to investigate a serial murder case. Well, "investigate" is kind of a strong word. Gyoo-nam already knows who he wants to blame for the killings, and Seong-jin is involved mainly to avoid raising suspicion that the whole thing is frame-up job intended for political purposes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 20

2017/03/30 | Permalink

It occurred to me near the episode that, in addition to her reputation as an artist, Saimdang is also well-known for embodying Confucian standards of feminity. Which is to say, she was a dutiful wife and an attentive mother. In their increasingly bizarre effort to make Saimdang seem heroic for doings things the real Saimdang almost certainly did not do, the production team behind "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has managed to achieve negative knowledge. A person who doesn't know any better will come away from this drama knowing less about Saimdang than when they started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 19

2017/03/29 | Permalink

Apparently the production team has realized that they've made Won-soo too sympathetic, ruining what little chemistry Saimdang and Lee Gyum have. So naturally, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" fixes this by...having Won-soo start an affair with a daft idiot. You know, the real-life Won-soo knew he was marrying an unusually intelligent and well-educated woman. Given the standards of the time this could potentially make Won-soo an interesting character in his own right. Instead he's just a sitcom buffoon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 18

2017/03/28 | Permalink

So apparently...Moley was Gil-dong's true rival this entire time? That's the main revelation which surprised me here. It does admittedly explain things like why Moley's outfit is just a black version of what Gil-dong is always wearing, and Gil-dong does need someone to stand up to him the feats of strength department. All the same, Moley was just a random side character who really didn't seem all that important. Until this episode I don't think I noticed he even had a backstory...<