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[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 "The Accidental Detective" these two managed to solve an exceptionally complicated and high profile case. But a lot of that was through dumb luck, and besides that, who can afford to hire private detectives in this economy?...More

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

2018/06/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/09 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Home"

2018/06/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/02 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Believer"

2018/06/02 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Papa Oranghutan"

2018/06/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/06/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/29 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/26 | Permalink

At first glance "The March for the Lost" appears to be an experimental film, as writer/director Park Ki-bok shows us a bunch of weird abstract imagery- mostly imagery related to the 1980 Gwangu Uprising interspered with Swan Lake. Then we're in the present day. Hee-soo (played by Kim Kkobbi) is getting married, yet somehow or other her senile mother Myeong-hee (played by Kim Boo-seon) 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] "Secret Mother" Episodes 7-8

2018/05/21 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/19 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Haewon"

2018/05/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/17 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/16 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/13 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/13 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/12 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "True Fiction"

2018/05/12 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Intention"

2018/05/12 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/12 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/05/02 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.20 - 2018.04.22

2018/04/30 | Permalink

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

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

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Prison Playbook"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Making Family"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bad Sister"

2018/04/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/25 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/23 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/23 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.20 - 2018.04.22

2018/04/23 | Permalink

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

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

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

2018/04/22 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/21 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Farming Boys"

2018/04/21 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/21 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/18 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/17 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/17 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/17 | Permalink

So the night stalker storyline appears to have been resolved almost entirely by accident. I can't decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one end this plot was undeveloped from the very beginning, so I'm glad it's out of the way. But on the other end, the remaining storylines aren't that much better. Eventually the issue with the murderous magic tea is 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 Box Office Review] 2018.04.13 - 2018.04.15

2018/04/16 | Permalink

The Rock's "Rampage" rules...

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

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

2018/04/14 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/14 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Duck Town"

2018/04/14 | Permalink

Suseong Lake is a location in Daegu. It's just a normal lake, and as is common in South Korea, there are swan boats that people can use to paddle around. It's the job of Hee-jeong (played by Lee Se-young) to manage those swan boats, although she has dreams of bigger and better things. Like transferring to a university in Seoul. Why does Hee-jeong want to go to Seoul so badly? Well 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] "Mystery Queen Season 2" Episode 13

2018/04/13 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/12 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/11 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/09 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.04.06 - 2018.04.08

2018/04/09 | Permalink

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

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Microhabitat"

2018/04/07 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/07 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/07 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/06 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/06 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/04 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/04/02 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.30 - 2018.04.01

2018/04/02 | Permalink

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

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

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

2018/03/31 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/31 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/31 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/31 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/30 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/30 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/29 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/27 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/27 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/27 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/26 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.23 - 2018.03.25

2018/03/26 | Permalink

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

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

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

2018/03/24 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bullies"

2018/03/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/23 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/22 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/21 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/19 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/18 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Vanished"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Parallel"

2018/03/17 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/17 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/16 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/16 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/14 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/14 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/13 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/13 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/12 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/12 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.09 - 2018.03.11

2018/03/12 | Permalink

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

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

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

2018/03/11 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/11 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/11 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Little Forest"

2018/03/10 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gate"

2018/03/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/10 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/09 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/07 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/07 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/06 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/06 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/06 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/05 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/05 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.03.02 - 2018.03.04

2018/03/05 | Permalink

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

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

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

2018/03/03 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Guest House"

2018/03/03 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Puzzle"

2018/03/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/03 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/02 | Permalink

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

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

2018/03/01 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/28 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/27 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/27 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/26 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/26 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.23 - 2018.02.25

2018/02/26 | Permalink

"Black Panther" still rules...

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

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

2018/02/25 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/24 | Permalink

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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Golden Slumber"

2018/02/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/24 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/23 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/21 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/21 | Permalink

I really like the way Soon-jin flirts with Moo-han. 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] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 16

2018/02/20 | Permalink

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

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

2018/02/20 | Permalink

So Yoon-ah ends up having a really good time at cooking class. So good in fact 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 Box Office Review] 2018.02.16 - 2018.02.18

2018/02/19 | Permalink

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

Marvel's much-anticipated superhero film "Black Panther" arrived in Korea on Valentine's Day and quickly rose to the top of the chart over the weekend. The film, the eighteenth in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), was produced for $200 million and has already grossed close to double that figure; in Korea, and from 1,620 screens around the peninsula, the King of Wakanda opened his account with $15.6 million from 1.9 million admissions (51.33%)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 15

2018/02/18 | Permalink

If episode fourteen of "A Korean Odyssey" was shaky, episode fifteen is floundering, as one baseless twist follows after another. With Ah Sa-nyeo in control of Seon-mi's body, the group have to find a way to the latter, while keeping the former busy. Meanwhile, General Winter is pushed to a corner due to his contract, forcing Summer Fairy to make a very important decision. The world is still ending, but I think even the creators have forgotten it by now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Children of a Lesser God"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Crime is what OCN does best, and its latest work continues along the lines of combining the natural and the supernatural. "Children of a Lesser God" is another crime series with a twist, as its heroine has special powers. Can this become something more than another action crime drama with a gimmick...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Be-Bop-A-Lula"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Yeong-hwan (played by Park In-hwan) is an old widower lives with his family in Andong. He is in the process of moving out to rural Yeongyang county with his elderly friends- the aggressive Hyeon-sik (played by Im Hyun-sik) and the more sentimental Soon-ho (played by Shin Goo). Together they...mostly just screw around and do nothing of importance, just enjoying their mere continued survival into old age through a series of vaguely related vignettes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Miraculous 2: The Secret of Miracle Stone"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

Marinette (voiced by Yeo Min-jeong-I) has discovered a mysterious old book that appears to catalog previous incarnations of Ladybug, Cat Noir, and other superpowered personas created through the use of magical sprites. As the current master of the Ladybug sprite, Marinette finds this history to be of considerable interest. So she seeks out an old acquaintance who can provide more context explaining what the backstory behind these magical sprites is...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Turning Mecard W: The Secret of Bandain, Special Edition"

2018/02/17 | Permalink

All of the action in "Turning Mecard W; The Secret of Bandain, Special Edition" is centered around four Mecard battles. What is Mecard? Well, there are these toy cars, and they have toy figurines inside, and through the use of Mecards these figurines grow to giant size and fight each other. I could never figure out the rules. Everybody just summons a bunch of robots at once. Sometimes one side vastly outnumbers the other, either in terms of humans or robots, although the humans don't really contribute much except bark out the occasional order...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 8

2018/02/16 | Permalink

Memory is often an unreliable narrator, especially when it comes to cases of trauma. While Soo-jin has every reason to resent her biological mother, the time has come for her to face the complexity of her past and the reasons behind her actions. While staying home and learning to heal is what our heroine needs the most, her crime and her joint past with Hye-na come rushing back, as the things and people the two have been running from catch up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 7

2018/02/16 | Permalink

There are truths that nobody wants to face, and for the first time in "Mother - Drama", we see how far some characters will go to deny or bury them. Following the meeting between Soo-jin's two mothers, our heroine finds herself balancing between the two segments of her life while at the same time trying to protect Hye-na. Hye-na herself draws a lot of attention, but the two women get a chance to process what is happening together. That is, until Hye-na's disappearance catches up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 20-22 Final

2018/02/16 | Permalink

So the antagonist in episode twenty is not that mean model with a crush on Ji-hoon, but rather someone else who just decides to make life miserable for him for no obvious reason. The mean model reappears for the last two episodes though, and her takedown is about the same as everyone else we've seen so far. There is one minor break in formula- Goo-hee loses access to the "Revenge Note" app, so the mean model ends up being taken down by other means...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 14

2018/02/14 | Permalink

With Ma-wang out for the count, General Winter snooping into his home freely and Ah Sa-nyeo putting on her best innocent demeanor, things are not looking good for our gods and monsters. More importantly, they are not looking good for Seon-mi, who begins exhibiting strange powers due to Ah Sa-nyeo's meddling. This combined with the fate predicted by the Saryeong bring about a cliffhanger that threatens the show's heroine greatly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 6

2018/02/14 | Permalink

So after we've had a reminder of how Jordan really, really hates his son, it's on to his ex-wife. Their conversation, while short, effectively explains both of their personalities. Neither of them hold grudges. They get along. But about the only keepsake they have between them is the aforementioned idiot son. Jordan's work always took him too far afield from home for his wife to ever be sure how much he really loved her. Their ongoing story, especially the climax, is sad and bittersweet...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 13

2018/02/13 | Permalink

Ah Sa-nyeo acts like a child in a candy store in episode thirteen of "A Korean Odyssey", and with good reason. With most of the group unaware of or underestimating her powers, the priestess gets to roam free and take advantage of everyone's already weak morality and personal wants. The one most in danger is Ma-wang, who thinks that she can help him without him or Seon-mi suffering major loses. If only things worked out as nicely with evil spirits...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 4

2018/02/13 | Permalink

So it would seem that Joon-ki isn't Yoon-ah's love interest at all, Dong-goo is. While this is not bad, by any means, I am mainly just annoyed that "Laughter in Waikiki" probably accidentally led me to believe otherwise through poor use of that subtitle in the first episode. Also there's the whole issue of Soo-ah being listed as a main cast member. Soo-ah doesn't appear this episode, and going forward, it's hard to imagine she's going to have much of a story presence...More

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

2018/02/13 | Permalink

Image Source

Hoon (played by Yoo Ha-bok) is Eun-ho's father. He's kind of a jerk, to the point that Eun-ho's flirtation with retirement comes off more as an excuse to lash out at Hoon than it does anything having to do with Ho-yeong. Eun-ho genuinely resents his father. But he mostly just dislikes Ho-yeong as being a mild annoyance. Seeing the difference spelled out like that really helps to emphasize their frenemy chemistry, since in the end, Eun-ho is motivated to succeed less by his dad's browbeating and more by his desire to stick it to Ho-yeong...More

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

2018/02/12 | Permalink

In 2017, Ho-yeong (played by Kang Tae-oh) is a normal young person who works as a cleaner at an ice rink that just so happens to be hosting a major competition that will be used to factor who South Korea's short track speed skating representatives will be at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Ho-yeong enters the competition, not because he wants to go to the Olympics, but solely for the cash prize. Ho-yeong doesn't have a sick mother or anything. He just likes money...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 3

2018/02/12 | Permalink

One element I liked about the first episode was how the main characters were always in a state of panic about the guest house's financial viability. The guest house is, in addition to being their home, also their only reliable source of income. So I was just a tad annoyed that right away, we have Dong-goo and Seo-jin stumbling in and doing the one thing guest house proprietors should never do- make the guests feel like they have chosen the wrong place to stay...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.09 - 2018.02.11

2018/02/12 | Permalink

Korea's favourite Joseon detective arrives and thrives while "Psychokinesis" free falls...

"Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead" by director Kim Seok-yoon, the third in the series, arrived last Thursday and ended its first weekend at the top of the chart. "Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead" (which starring Kim Myung-min, Oh Dal-soo and Kim Ji-won) dominated proceedings from 1,246 screens by claiming 48.13% of the sales, or 782,605 admissions ($5.9 million). Looking back, Kim's previous two films in this ongoing series, "Detective K" and "Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island", claimed 4.7 and 3.8 million admissions back in 2011 and 2014, respectively...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Psychokinesis"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Roo-mi (played by Shim Eun-kyung) is a young woman owns and manages a successful local independent fried chicken restaurant. Roo-mi has had a pretty rough time of life since her father Seok-heon (played by Ryu Seung-ryong) left the family. But it turns out that life can get even worse than that. A massive (and probably crooked) construction project is underway, and when Roo-mi refuses a payout for her property, the gangster capitalists resort to violence in an effort to intimidate Roo-mi as well as her many neighbors in the commercial district to compliance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Paper Planes"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Hye-won (played by Joo Ga-eul) is a high school student with a strong interest in K-Pop, and enough natural talent to be able to be able to take specialist classes so as to make a proper transition into a career as an artist. The sheer mundane nature of Hye-won's life is the main initial focus. "" goes to school, she goes to dance practice, then she goes to obscure dusty houses with older men who are talent managers. Hey...wait a minute...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gisaeng: A Flower's Confession"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Prior to the twentieth century, gisaengs were, to the vast majority of Koreans, a largely abstract concept. They performed for kings, they entertained nobles in private, and acted as prostitutes. One of the many useful bits of information in "Gisaeng: A Flower's Confession" is explaining how this is a misperception. These were actually three completely different classes of gisaeng, that were easily confused because they were referred to by the same title and received the same kind of artistic training...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 6

2018/02/09 | Permalink

Soo-jin has been juggling a lot of lies and deceit towards different people currently in her life, so it was only a matter of time before it all came crashing down. Different truths are revealed to different characters, and a meeting takes place which has been a long time coming. Jin-hong becomes the next shelter for our heroines, and I finally see the value of his role in Soo-jin and Hye-na's life at a time they need him the most...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 5

2018/02/08 | Permalink

The past hurts, but it never goes away, and the time has come for Soo-jin to face it head on. While Soo-jin is busy helping her adoptive mother with her treatments, Hye-na becomes close with our heroine's biological mother, who in turn finds herself becoming closer than she has intended to all these years. The past is never far behind for Seol-ak either, however. As the monster prepares his attack, a ray of hope for his capture appears...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 5

2018/02/07 | Permalink

Do-hee is ashamed of her current failures trying to break into the corporate job market, and so comes up with a mildly elaborate scheme to convince her mom that the situation is not as bleak as it looks. After a mildly amusing setpiece we then discover that apparently Do-hee's optimism was not a complete lie. Unfortunately the foundations for Do-hee's optimism were a lie, as Bong-tae has to break the bad news that she has been made victim to a scam...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 10 (Final)

2018/02/06 | Permalink

So the big breakthrough moment ends up coming through courtesy of Sin-woo's mom. The way "Longing Heart" brings us back to this plot point is very awkward, since it calls attention to the fact that Sin-woo's mom knew that Sin-woo had traveled back from the future, yet completely failed to heed his warning about the danger of taking that ferry that day. I'd like to think that if a future version of one of my trusted relatives came back and told me not to do something, I'd not do it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 2

2018/02/06 | Permalink

Yoon-ah (played by Jung In-sun) is the final member of the main cast - the mother of the abandoned baby. Although she's the same age as the male leads, Yoon-ah consistently and somewhat impressively manages to come off as even more dumb than they are. I approve of this, since Yoon-ah's life is defined by her decision to have a baby with absolutely no plan for how to take care of it. The preview appears to imply that Seo-jin didn't even tell her ex-boyfriend...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.02.02 - 2018.02.04

2018/02/06 | Permalink

"Psychokinesis" and "Keys to the Heart" score a one-two finished for the home team...

Director Yeon Sang-ho's second live-action feature, the fantastical comedy "Psychokinesis", narrowly outplayed Choi Seong-hyeon's "Keys to the Heart" to top the Korean box office during its first weekend out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 12

2018/02/05 | Permalink

An unfamiliar evil takes a familiar face in episode twelve of "A Korean Odyssey". The soul trapped in the coffin is here to claim what they want, and it will manipulate everyone in its power to get there. With the tensions between Oh-gong and Seon-mi rising due to their understanding of how fatal their bond can be, the group starts drifting apart. This is the absolute worst time for that, as well as for Ma-wang to start plotting once more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 9

2018/02/05 | Permalink

So Sin-woo does indeed have a steady job. I was just kind of surprised by that, what with how he seemed to have all this free time to run around looking after his younger self and also go time-traveling. Well, all right, time traveling by definition means he can come back whenever. Apparently the younger Sin-woo also has this ability. I was very surprised when, after all the trouble the older Sin-woo had to go through to go back to where he came, the younger Sin-woo successfully accomplishes the task off-screen...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Laughter in Waikiki" Episode 1

2018/02/05 | Permalink

Dong-goo (played by Kim Jung-hyun) had a dream. It was a dream about Hawaii, a place where people go to have fun. People also come to Korea to have fun. So Dong-goo thought, he would live in a large apartment with his friends and brand it as a guest house in order to defray the costs of rent, since none of them have regular jobs. Alas, the plan has its pitfalls. The guest house isn't that profitable. Also weird stuff keeps finding its way into Dong-goo's mouth. Then the baby shows up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 11

2018/02/04 | Permalink

It may have taken "A Korean Odyssey" half a series to get the ball rolling on the doomsday part of the story, but episode eleven gives said ball a good kick. Death is never far away in the life of Sam Jang and our familiar monsters, be it death for show, death among lovers or a very old death about to resurface. If it were not clear enough from the moment we first saw him, Kang  Dae-seong's nature brings him closer to the supernatural and to bringing about the end of the world...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Woman Who Makes the Last Meal"

2018/02/04 | Permalink

Soo-ah (played by Jo Yeo-jung) is a senior prison chef. What this means is, that when condemned inmates request a last meal, she is the one who has to provide it. It's an aggressively pointless job that has been made even less purposeful by the political circumstances of the nineties, which have made the practical abolition of the death penalty virtually inevitable. But then, Soo-ah has never really understood the death penalty in the first place- as is noted here by the case of Min-joong (played by Ha Joon)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Discloser"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

The year is 1999. Jeong-sook (played by Kim Ok-bin) is a reporter waiting for a contact at the amusement park. Everything about the situation is suspicious and by the time aeronautic parts procurement officer Dae-ik (played by Kim Sang-kyung) makes an appearance, Jeong-sook is convinced powerful forces are trying to kill them both. Why would anyone be upset about an aeronautic parts procurement officer talking to the press? Well, that question is the main draw of "The Discloser", a movie about military industrial graft...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Father's E-mails"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

One day director Hong Jae-hee started receiving detailed e-mails from her father about his life. Hong Jae-hee didn't know what to think of this, nor did she particularly care. The relationship between the two was strained, much as it was with the mother, brother, and sister of the family. It was only after her father's death that Hong Jae-hee started to seriously wonder what kind of person her father was, where he had come from, why he was going on all these work trips, why he seemed to have a grudge against his own family. "My Father's Emails" details her discovery process...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Living Being"

2018/02/03 | Permalink

An early scene in "A Living Being" features nurse Yoon-jeong (played by Lee Il-hwa) doing some cooking in her underwear. She is then mildly sexualized for the rest of the movie, just never to that extent. This is the closest anyone in "A Living Being" comes to a particularly interesting character trait. Well, hm, Moon-ho (played by Hah Yeong-soo) has the kind of dementia where he masturbates in front of other people. That's almost interesting, although the whole senility issue makes Moon-ho a less than dynamic character...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 4

2018/02/02 | Permalink

Soo-jin and Hye-na continue their journey in "Mother - Drama", but their lack of funds for their flight calls for a stop. Our newfound mother and fugitive's visit back to her own adoptive mother is a hard decision that becomes even harder when Yeong-sin places a term on her financial help. Soo-jin has to meet with her exactly ten times before going away. With the police and Seol-ak closing in, Soo-jin has to rely on a new acquaintance when Hye-na falls ill...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 3

2018/02/01 | Permalink

"Mother - Drama" delivers its most emotional episode yet, as our heroines take a walk down the fading memories of Soo-jin's past and the reasons for her solitary lifestyle. Detective Chang-geun is convinced that Ja-yeong and Seol-ak were abusive of Hye-na, but the lack of evidence and the public opinion manipulated by Ja-yeong make his work harder. As Soo-jin's adoptive mother continues her search, another important figure crosses our heroine's path...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 4

2018/01/31 | Permalink

In lieu of doing a small number of focused plots, this episode of "539 Yeonnam-dong" just does a large number of very tangentially related plots that don't have much pay-off. Instead of getting a new cybercrimes case to investigate, Bong-tae just ends up victim to a random accident. Incidentally, this accident was a much bigger deal than the drama lets on. Tasers may not be lethal but cops should still use them responsibly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 16 (Final)

2018/01/30 | Permalink

It occurs to me that "Just Between Lovers" has ended without really ever having much of a plot, resting entirely on the strength of its central relationship. So initially it seems a bit unfair that I'm such a fan of "Just Between Lovers" while being very frankly critical of "I'm Not a Robot" when the latter had basically the same design. Observe how Kang-doo gained a terminal medical condition last episode, just so that problem could be solved here. Or not...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 8

2018/01/30 | Permalink

Ha, the younger Sin-woo is getting more likable all the time. Instead of just waiting for the older Sin-woo to give him relevant advice, the younger Sin-woo proactively comes up with his own goofy plans to get together with Ji-soo upon his return to the past. Like the older Sin-woo, the younger Sin-woo is simply assuming that he can easily do time travel again. Which is admittedly not that unreasonable, since his continued presence in the future is an obvious time paradox...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 10

2018/01/29 | Permalink

The big snag in everyone's plans is not as educating as I was hoping it would be, but at least some characters' true feelings for one another have been revealed. Seon-mi gets to experience life without her abilities and everyone else gets to experience life without Sam Jang, but this inconvenient for most and a potential death sentence for Boo-ja. Everyone is confused about the future, most of all Seon-mi...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 7

2018/01/29 | Permalink

Normally when people think about talking to their past self, it's in terms of the advice given to help the younger, stupider you avoid what were, in retrospect, obvious boneheaded mistakes. With the past tense version of the story, that's exactly what "Longing Heart" did. But the premise has been turned around. Now it is the younger Sin-woo who is asking questions about how and why his older self is living the life that he is in the present day...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 15

2018/01/29 | Permalink

The scene with Moon-soo finding the old cell phone is replayed from her perspective. Well, technically speaking, the original scene was also from Moon-soo's perspective- but without better context, it seemed like Moon-soo was leaving because she was angry at Kang-doo. Actually, it turns out Moon-soo was angry at herself. That cell phone brought back painful memories. Another flashback shows us that Moon-soo had an even more direct reason to think she was responsible for the death of her first love than we had been led to believe...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 17-19

2018/01/29 | Permalink

So the second plot about a teacher who may or may not be engaging in appropriate extracurricular activities with a female student is resolved. In contrast to the other "Revenge Note" stories we've seen so far, this particular plotline is just really depressing. When Goo-hee ultimately decides to use the app to punish the at fault party, there's no sense of righteous indignation. Goo-hee, and us, are just depressed at how she is forced to take responsibility for the situation...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.26 - 2018.01.28

2018/01/29 | Permalink

"Keys to the Heart" leads and "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" becomes the second-highest grossing Korean film of all time...

Choi Seong-hyeon's comedy-drama "Keys to the Heart" claimed just 20,000 admissions more than its second-place finish last weekend, but it was enough to secure first place. With 668,658 admissions (29.14%), Choi's debut about a down-and-out boxer (Lee Byung-hun) and his relationship with his estranged savant brother (Park Jung-min) outperformed the final "Maze Runner" and the Oscar-nominated "Coco" during its second week out. "Keys to the Heart" has now grossed $15.1 million from 1.9 million admissions, the fifth highest-grossing film of 2018 so far...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 9

2018/01/28 | Permalink

I have been begging for some forward movement in the plot of "A Korean Odyssey" and a guest character brings about an even bigger change than I anticipated. The one thing that has been keeping our group of supernatural misfits together suddenly vanishes, and we are left with an uncertain future for everyone's fate as well as their relationships. I wanted to know what everyone truly thinks and feels about this situation, so bring on the drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Misty"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

There is something about rich people being miserable that audiences love. Seeing how the mighty have fallen is cathartic, but seeing them rise more humble and appreciative of what they have in the aftermath is essentially the big draw of such stories. "Misty" is a mystery and a romantic melodrama about complicated adult relationships framed by a murder...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Fighter Choi Kang-soon"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

In the opening scene of "Drama Stage - Fighter Choi Kang-soon" normal company worker Kang-soon (played by Kang Ye-won) witnesses a man on the bus taking upskirt shots of another woman with his cell phone. The ensuing confrontation goes poorly, because none of the many bystanders are willing to back Kang-soon's position. An after work dinner further reveals disturbing sexist undercurrents in Kang-soon's male-dominated workplace. By the time the cute romantic montage hits I was already screaming no Kang-soon, it's a trap! Men aren't to be trusted!...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Keys to the Heart"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

Jo-ha (played by Lee Byung-hun) used to be a middleweight champion. Now he's getting old, and has to hand out flyers in the street to make even a meager income. He is even accidentally (and mutually) humiliated further by wealthy society woman Ga-yool (played by Han Ji-min). The sheer disgrace of it all so badly gets to Jo-ha that he reluctantly agrees to move back in with his mother In-sook (played by Youn Yuh-jung) and his autistic younger brother Jin-tae (played by Park Jung-min). While Jin-tae is the only character in "Keys to the Heart" without a story arc, he is by far the most colorful of the bunch, being a piano prodigy who is obsessed with Street Fighter V...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "SECHSKIES Eighteen"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

Back during the beginning of modern K-Pop, there was a boy band called Sechskies. I think it's supposed to be pronounced "sex kiss" but the English spelling is really weird so I'm not sure*. Anyway, they were pretty popular for a few years only to abruptly disband without explanation. Then, in 2016, they got back together, and at that point it feels kind of odd to call them a boy band still, since they're all pushing forty, but what can I say? They look pretty good for the age...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "For Vagina's Sake"

2018/01/27 | Permalink

As you are probably aware, women bleed for an extended period once a month through their feminine areas. While that may sound gross, director Kim Bo-ram is here to explain that actually menstruation is pretty normal. It's just not something people like to talk about much, because bleeding is seen as dirty. Well no, bleeding is dirty. Any kind of bleeding is inherently dirty. Which is why the premise of "For Vagina's Sake" as a documentary frequently confused me...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 2

2018/01/26 | Permalink

The world in "Mother - Drama" is most definitely not wonderful and our runaway heroines get to experience another dark side of it. Soo-jin's plan is rushed and sorely flawed, beginning with how the two will hide their identities together. They meet someone who can help, but it is not the person such stories usually go for. Meanwhile, the police becomes involved and the detective in charge is starting to get the idea of what Hye-na's life at home entailed...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mother - Drama" Episode 1

2018/01/25 | Permalink

I knew that "Mother - Drama" would be a tough watch, but the show's straightforward, honest and nuanced portrayal of its characters' actions and thoughts takes even me by surprise. The adventure of Soo-jin and Hye-na is about to begin, but it is not a journey of epic conquest. It is a journey of empathy, despair and disappointment in the people and systems which should be protecting us the most...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 31-32 (Final)

2018/01/25 | Permalink

The production team is clearly padding for time, as the final episodes of "I'm Not a Robot" bring up some very weak last-minute conflicts solely so that the characters can demonstrate more minimal effort to solve them. Min-gyoo abruptly turns around from permanenently hating Yoo-cheol to just sort of idly forgiving him, which Yoo-cheol gladly accepts. Once more it's hard to take Yoo-cheol credibly as a villain, when it never seemed like he wanted to be fighting Min-gyoo in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 29-30

2018/01/24 | Permalink

The villainous storyline ends up being even more anticlimactic than I was expecting. Rather than our main characters saying or doing anything to prevent AZ3 from being taken by the evil English-speaking tycoons, a random character pops up and simply tells Min-gyoo that these guys are actually international criminals, immediately giving Min-gyoo the necessary leverage to cancel the deal. Do-won's plan to take over the company never made that much sense and the revelation that his business partners are literal crooks only makes him look even more stupid in retrospect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 3

2018/01/24 | Permalink

While the premise of "539 Yeonnam-dong" is just unrelated people live in the same house for economic reasons, increasingly it seems like this was just a contrivance intended to give Bong-tae access to people who could personally report cybercrimes to him. I like that. Most police procedurals are too high concept to focus on minor crimes, when minor crimes are the ones normal people are most likely to report, so Bong-tae's investigations are genuinely interesting and new, if only for practical reasons...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 8

2018/01/23 | Permalink

An ominous fate teasing was bound to happen at some point in such a series by these writers and "A Korean Odyssey" delivers it in this episode. There is a fallout between Seon-mi and Oh-gong, partially caused by Ma-wang, but based on the problems our two not-exactly-lovebirds have been trying to sweep under the rug. We start to see some of Oh-gong's honesty and change towards others, but the fates are cruel...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 14

2018/01/23 | Permalink

Remember back in the early episodes of the drama, how the flashbacks to the building collapse always came off as completely terrifying no matter how many times we saw it and knew how they were going to end? The flashbacks we get now have a very different emotional effect, even though the scenes themselves are practically difficult. They now take place in the context of Kang-doo and Moon-soo talking to each other, rather than keeping the bad memories to themselves. As a result, the nightmares are far more bearable...More

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

2018/01/23 | Permalink

As expected very little effort is required to take down Mr. Jo. In fact that entire storyline is wrapped up within half an hour, after Mr. Jo engages in a petty act if spiteful revenge against Yoon-i. Why he would do this is unclear, since it's implied that Mr. Jo received a promotion once Mr. Bong was fired. And come to think of it, isn't that what Mr. Jo wanted all along, was just a promotion to be earned by getting Chi-won fired? So what does he care about Yoon-i and Chi-won now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 6

2018/01/23 | Permalink

So as expected Sin-woo did, somehow, manage to trigger the time travel again when he dived into the ocean in a hopeless effort to find his mother. There is one important twist to this though, that I'd rather not get into at the moment. The main fundamental information we learn right away is that apparently Sin-woo came back slightly ahead of where he first left, which means that he can still save Ji-soo...More

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

2018/01/22 | Permalink

The great team-up between Mr. Jo and Mr. Bong has never really gone that well, since instead of actually working collaboratively to come up with better evil schemes, Mr. Jo and Mr. Bong just end having gratuitous dinners together where they pretend to hold each other in mutual respect. The ending to this episode actually implies that Mr. Jo might have been expecting Yoon-i to sabotage Mr. Bong. Which would, by Mr. Jo's standards at least, be relatively smart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 5

2018/01/22 | Permalink

So apparently the reason Sin-woo never put any thought into the bigger problems of his having inadvertently traveled through time is because he thought the process could be easily repeated the exact same way. I do have to admit that Sin-woo's rude realization that the situation is more difficult than that fits well into his characterization of being pretty smart, but not that smart. The same goes for the warning to his mother. Sin-woo really should have emphasized that the reason why she shouldn't go was because of bad weather...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 13

2018/01/22 | Permalink

For all the critical subtext of how Kang-doo and Moon-soo are literally creating a new building on the ruins of the one that destroyed their lives, very little of interest actually happens at the construction site. Which makes sense. Nothing out of the ordinary happens at most construction sites. When something out of the ordinary happens, that's typically an indictment that the people who work there are not doing their jobs correctly, and whatever their individual flaws, the construction company in "Just Between Lovers" has been pretty competent...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.19 - 2018.01.21

2018/01/22 | Permalink

The final "Maze Runner" and local drama "Keys to the Heart" dislodge last weekend's hits...

"1987: When the Day Comes" and "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" (now the third highest grossing Korean film of all time) have been grabbing the tiger's share of the sales so far this year. That changed over the weekend with the arrival of "Maze Runner: The Death Cure", the third and final instalment in the popular American dystopian sci-fi series based on the novels by James Dashner. Director Wes Ball's action-packed adaptation so became the first foreign film to top the Korean box office this year, but not by much...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 7

2018/01/21 | Permalink

Prepare for another round of "Does he or doesn't he", as "A Korean Odyssey" continues to struggle with its lack of a main plot or any significant progress in character and world development. Episode seven is slower than usual and the creators are unfortunately back to treating the main romance as a conventional one, this time dangling the carrot of a love triangle with someone we do not even know...More

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

2018/01/20 | Permalink

I have been wondering when the "Argon" team would experience a greater crisis involving the massive responsibility of reporters in life and death matters, and the series has delivered. Something very dire happens and everyone has to handle the cost. Hye-rin is trying to make do with the decision forced on her and Yeon-hwa still struggles to find her place and her own voice. Meanwhile, Baek-jin makes a very important decision...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Our Place's Tasty Soybean Paste"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

A-yi (played by Yoo Eun-mi) is a precocious middle school student still coping with the death of her grandmother. By chance, A-yi and her mother Jeong-hee (played by Myung Se-bin) go to a small soybean paste stew restaurant across the street from their apartment. Jeong-hee notes that the singular dish prepared by proprietor Gi-bok (played by Lee Chun-hee) is nearly identical to the one prepared by her departed mother. From there, A-yi is relentless in trying to discover Gi-bok's recipe...More

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

2018/01/20 | Permalink

You can love or hate the remakes of Korean drama, but they are here to stay and they have the potential to evolve into solid works of their own. Choosing a critically acclaimed Japanese drama to do an adaptation of is not an easy decision, but "Mother - Drama" has a lot going for it. Will this manage to meet the great potential it has built up so far...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Happy Bus Day"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

The family at the heart of "Happy Bus Day" is highly dysfunctional. I don't mean that they're quirky eccentrics, I mean that most of them simply are not fit to mingle with normal human society as we know it. Their emotions range on a spectrum from blithe apathy to psychotic overreaction. The sole sane character is Sun-young (played by Kim Sun-young-III) who tries her best to be a normal housewife but is stymied by the sheer antisocial weirdness that is the household she married into...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Jung Il Woo, My Friend"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

Originally Jung Il Woo went by the name of John Vincent Daly, for the entirely sensible reason that he was born and raised in rural Ohio. Most Americans of Jung Il Woo's generation only remembered Korea as a snapshot of the Korean War. Jung Il Woo was called there by religious vocation. A trained Jesuit, Jung Il Woo was just a young teacher at the then very small Sogang University. But driven to learn more about Korean culture, Jung Il woo kept embedding himself with the country's poor population, fighting alongside them against political repression...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Madman Ok Han-heum"

2018/01/20 | Permalink

Ok Han-heum has already been the subject of two other documentaries by director Kim Sang-cheol. So I went into "Madman Ok Han-heum" with a bit of resignation. Considering all the scandals South Korean megachurches have been embroiled in during recent years, it feels a bit crass to so heavily romanticize one of the men most instrumental to their rise. So I was very surprised to actually watch "Madman Ok Han-heum" and discover that apparently Ok Han-heum himself felt the same way. The final years of his life were filled with dire warnings to the next generation of pastors to focus on Jesus, not their own career success...More

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

2018/01/19 | Permalink

As the battle for the new HBC 9 o'clock news anchor becomes more and more ruthless, so do Yoo Myeong-ho's tricks. Yeon-hwa and Jong-tae go after yet another item while Geun-hwa prepares his exit. With everyone busy in the "Argon" team and a particularly nasty lawsuit targeting Kim Baek-jin, one team member is met with a very unfair and potentially career-ending decision outside of their control...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 27-28

2018/01/18 | Permalink

Min-gyoo and Ji-ah just have a big romantic heart to heart explaining exactly everything that happened back when Ji-ah was pretending to be AZ3 and why. The sting of the drama's more illogical plot points is taken out a lot when we have Min-gyoo realizing just how stupid he was for not noticing the inconsistencies sooner. And it's just as sweet that Ji-ah is constantly moving to reassure Min-gyoo that no, he is not stupid, and she never thought of him as a mark...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 25-26

2018/01/17 | Permalink

Min-gyoo's relapse proves to be inevitably depressing. Even after the initial shock subsides and Min-gyoo's physical condition stabilizes, further revelations about the sheer extent of Baek-gyoon's fraud only make Min-gyoo more and more cantankerous. However nice Baek-gyoon tries to be here it's hard to see him as anything but the villain here. Especially since the drama's actual villain, Yoo-cheol, is nowhere to be found...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 2

2018/01/17 | Permalink

I-na (played by Oh Yoon-ah) is the recently arrived manager of a local chain fitness center. Soo-ri (played by Yang Jung-won) is her generally sexy subordinate yoga instructor. While the physical attractiveness of Soo-ri in the first episode was relatively subdued, the second episode turns it up so much as to be in poor taste. The production team is sending a mixed message by saying that uploading sexy pictures of Yang Jung-won on the Internet is wrong, and then giving us an entire setpiece where she moans lasciviously in response to a massage...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 6

2018/01/16 | Permalink

Ask and you shall receive, and although "A Korean Odyssey" is still dawdling on and regurgitating a lot of its key concepts this time around, there is at least one major point of progress in the ever so shaky thing that is its main romance. Ma-wang is feeling the burn of his little tasting and we are slowly discovering some connections made by our self-centered group of supernatural misfits...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 12

2018/01/16 | Permalink

At long last Kang-doo has come to the conclusion that he is in fact an idiot and badly underrating himself. Not only does he allow Moon-soo to start caring about him without needlessly pushing her away, Kang-doo goes even farther than that and admits that he cares about her, and wants their relationship to go back to the way it was. As in, they just make a point of seeing each other on a regular basis, sometimes with a specific goal, and other times just for fun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 4

2018/01/16 | Permalink

I've been wondering, who was Sin-woo's teacher in the original timeline? What happened to that guy? Why didn't he show up this time to take his job? It's a question that has become increasingly relevant as Sin-woo's memories differ from events in the new timeline. Although the bigger surprise is how much events don't change, or how they change in ways just minor enough that Sin-woo still mostly correctly guesses what has happened, save for a few minor details...More

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

2018/01/16 | Permalink

So Mr. Bong has returned to the story. Good thing I figured out Mr. Bong and Mr. Jo were two different characters already or I would have been really confused...anyway, Mr. Bong's main purpose here is to confuse me as to how the company's human resources policies are supposed to work. By what standard is a consensual romantic relationship cause for dismissal, but delegating a secretary to buy lacy underwear is not?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 5

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Seon-mi's burdens keep multiplying, as something happens to put our previously detached Bull Demon King in a much more invested position. After the big revelation of our heroine's mission, "A Korean Odyssey" takes a step back to look at her unique connection to Oh-gong. While the nature of this fake bond has been there for us to see, it is starting to dawn on Seon-mi that her needs tend to feed a dangerous and painful delusion of closeness on her end...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 3

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Na-hee (played by Jo Seung-hee) is Sin-woo's fellow teacher. Naturally, Sin-woo remembers Na-hee as a teacher from high school, and so has always been creeped out by the obvious romantic pretensions Na-hee has toward him now in adult form. I rather like this subplot, because it's the most explicit example we have of how Sin-woo's memories of people from high school are different from what these people were actually like. As Sin-woo's teacher, Na-hee had inherent dignity. As Sin-woo's colleague, she has almost none...More

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

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Once again "Jugglers" is able to salvage the relationship between Yoon-i and Chi-won by having them act like professional adults in the face of a bad situation. Yes, naturally Yoon-i is horrified and freaked out by the way her relationship with Chi-won has been outed. All the same, Chi-won is right there to remind her that this is not the end of the world. More importantly Chi-won is plenty willing to give Yoon-i emotional and physical space to recover, which is especially essential since a company investigation is now necessary...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 11

2018/01/15 | Permalink

Kang-doo has been forced to acknowledge the death of someone he genuinely, deeply cared about. Kang-doo does not take the news very well, and most of this episode is just an exercise in the other characters trying their best to calm him down. Which works, sort of. After an initial violent outburst Kang-doo is quite subdued, and seems willing to accept that which was always inevitable. But one way or another, Kang-doo always twists the situation around so as to maximize the self-hatred...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.12 - 2018.01.14

2018/01/15 | Permalink

"1987" overthrows "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"...

"Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", Kim Yong-hwa's adaptation of the first half of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge", is now the fifth highest-grossing Korean film of all time. Last weekend Kim's fifth film surpassed 10 million admissions, and with the 742,417 admissions (23.69%) it claimed over this past weekend, the film has now overtaken "The Thieves"'s $87.9 million. Since its release five days before Christmas, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has accrued 12.8 million admissions or $96.9 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 14-16

2018/01/13 | Permalink

So this time around the victim who Goo-hee attempts to help with the titular "Revenge Note" is an old friend with whom Goo-hee had a falling out, so we get a lot of flashbacks. In flashback, Goo-hee has shorter hair which makes her look older. This isn't a huge deal or anything, it's just counter-intuitive. Also it's the same haircut Kim Hyang-gi has in "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" which immediately made me realize, huh, I didn't notice that was her too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Not Played"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

In-sook (played by Won Mi-kyung) is a grandmother with a real excellent knack for geometry. Sadly, this skill set has been unexplored for most of her life, as In-sook has lived as a normal housewife. Then she gets a job as a cleaning lady for a local billiards hall. Business is slow, so In-sook practices the game while no one else is around. Before long, she's lining up excellent shots, easily hitting as many as five sides at once...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "America Town"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

In a small town near the demilitarized zone the economy is dictated almost entirely by the spending habits of American soldiers, an "America Town" if you will. The actual name of the town is not important because there were a lot of them back in the eighties. Some of them are still around even today. They're a bit of a wasteland really, which is unavoidable. Imagine you're a bored, lonely, depressed American soldier with a paycheck and nowhere better to go with your time off base. What would you buy?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"

2018/01/13 | Permalink

Ja-hong (played by Cha Tae-hyun) is a very special man. Most people who die, they just end up getting stuck in line. The unlucky ones get trapped in eternal torment. Somewhat luckier ones get clerical positions and cool magical powers. Ja-hong's guardians Kang-rim (played by Ha Jung-woo) and Seaman Mac (played by 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] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 4

2018/01/08 | Permalink

Well, I asked for a main story and for Seon-mi's purpose in it, and episode four of "A Korean Odyssey" delivers. It turns out that our heroine has a much heavier burden to bear than expected and she needs her group of merry monsters to help her carry it. Seon-mi starts bonding with the group, but the reality of Oh-gong's forced connection to her leaves her feeling lonely as a challenging future approaches...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.05 - 2018.01.07

2018/01/08 | Permalink

Local webcomic adaptation "Along With the Gods" surpasses 10-million admissions...

Kim Yong-hwa's fun fantasy flick "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has sailed past the 10 million admissions mark after its third weekend out. From 1,256 screens, down from 1,666, "Along With the Gods" (which stars Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Joo Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi) claimed 1.3 million admissions or 36.44% of the weekend sales. The first part of Kim's adaptation of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge" is now on the verge of overtaking "Train to Busan" (11.5 million admissions) as the tenth highest-grossing Korean film of all time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 3

2018/01/07 | Permalink

"A Korean Odyssey" is back this week and although the messy production and the injury that was caused due to it should never be forgotten or treated lightly, it looks like enough measures have been taken to keep the related authorities pleased for now. Story-wise, we are starting to get hints about the why of it all and the role of Seon-mi's fate in it, but we also meet new characters and backstories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

OCN has been so big on crime dramas, that Death himself gets one this time around. Granted, the titular hero of "Black" is only one Reaper out of many, but the series is right up his alley anyway. The series mixes fantasy, crime and romance, although that sadly proves too much by the end of things. Where does "Black" succeed and where could things have gone better? It depends on what you are looking for, but here is my take on it...More

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

2018/01/06 | Permalink

"Argon" and the show within it of the same name have a surprise guest in this episode and they tackle some topics we do not often see in Korean drama, or rather often see painted in a very consistent and one-sided way. Sadly, the drama also throws a curve-ball at us with a certain character's health and this twists Baek-jin's arm into a decision that is necessary, but will only further infuriate his enemies...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Anthology"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

So-i (played by Shin Eun-soo) is, in the modern day, an English teacher for private academies. The work is degrading and generally pointless, so it's with sincere joy that So-i comes homes to open a package from family in rural Nonsan. So-i wasn't actually raised out there. She just ended up stuck in the area for awhile because of issues with her mother. All the same, So-i's happy nostalgia flashbacks revolve around the Nonsan years, which is especially interesting when we look back to see what a brat So-i was...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 11-13

2018/01/06 | Permalink

So Goo-joon's purpose has now been fully justifed to me. He is Goo-hee's terrible, evil older brother who constantly teases her yet is frustratingly difficult to get a rise out of. I liked how Goo-hee's revenge, though obviously satisfying to her, does not actually result in Goo-joon suffering on-screen. Because why would he give her the satisfaction? Goo-joon just does what terrible older brothers always do, and find more trifling ways to annoy Goo-hee that their parents will never believe because Goo-joon is oh-so-perfect...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "1987: When the Day Comes"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Investigator Park (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a state-sponsored Communist hunter. He doesn't play by the rules when it comes to dealing with pure evil. If Investigator Park needs to make the case, he will use whatever legal powers, violence, and intimidation necessary to force obstacles out of the way. At first glance Investigator Park may be mistaken as an agent of justice. But throughout "1987: When the Day Comes" we mostly see Investigator Park through the eyes of his victims- as a crazed psychopath who cannot be stopped and cannot be negotiated with. Which is a fitting metaphor for the South Korean dictatorship as a whole...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Return"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Far off in the rural outskirts of Ulsan, there's a simple country restaurant called "The Return" with a plaque that reads, if you drink rice wine here, your loved one will return for you. There is no magical property to the plaque or the restaurant. The proprietor Mister Byeon (played by Kim Yu-seok) just liked the sentiment in those words. But through time and tide, various lonely people have come to "The Return" inspired by its message into believing that they, too, may meet their loved ones again, given enough patience at the restaurant...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sermon on the Mount"

2018/01/06 | Permalink

Director Daehae is a Buddhist nun. This may be seem counter-intuitive, given that "Sermon on the Mount" is, as the title implies, a movie about Christian theology. The runtime consists almost entirely of a bunch of seminary students sitting around in a cave casually discussing and debating various liturgy. There are frequent references to the more arcane aspects of religious belief, simplified into relatable analogies of great use to the believer and the non-believer alike...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 19-20

2018/01/04 | Permalink

The resolution to the whole elaborate deception storyline wraps up a lot faster than I was expecting. Before even episode nineteen has finished Min-gyoo and Ji-ah have already said their goodbyes, and episode twenty largely consists of them vigorously making a new start of their lives. Deep down inside Min-gyoo and Ji-ah are still quite lonely though, having become more attached to the master robot relationship than they had ever expected...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 17-18

2018/01/03 | Permalink

In very short order "I'm Not a Robot" has gone from cute and charming, if ethically ill-conceived, to straight-up depressing. At one point a minor character is murdered out of nowhere, and the other characters respond by shambling listlessly. There's no longer any joy in the interactions bewteen Min-gyoo and Ji-ah. Their reunion at the end has an amazingly dour tone- they're going through the motions to try and recreate happiness that no longer exists and never can...More

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

2018/01/02 | Permalink

With the secret plan between Baek-jin and Yeon-hwa to uncover the truth behind the Midtown Mall collapse hitting a slow point, it is time to get familiar with some other members of the "Argon" group. The two leads take on a case from Baek-jin's past that he must solve, the "ugly" and "old" lovebirds have an awkward meeting and the "Argon" underdog above Yeon-hwa gets a hefty dose of reality...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 8

2018/01/02 | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Just Between Lovers" reads as the space between lovers. It's a very instructive title, because most of what we see really is just Kang-doo and Moon-soo spending time together. They don't necessarily do anything. Interpreted in a purely narrative sense Kang-doo and Moon-soo mostly just run errands. Whether or not they succeed in these errands is sort of besides the point, because no individual errand is all that important...More

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

2018/01/02 | Permalink

So apparently the sweet spot for Yoon-i and Chi-won is not quite actually in a relationship, since now that they're officially together, we have to endure a secret office romance storyline. That on its own would not be a problem, except that Yoon-i and Chi-won have now become mostly incompetent again. They are so bad at keeping secrets it begs the question of why they bother trying to keep secrets in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.29 - 2017.12.31

2018/01/02 | Permalink

Local hits "Along With the Gods", "1987" and "Steel Rain" secure 90% of the sales during final weekend...

The last weekend of 2017 saw another massive win for Kim Yong-hwa's "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", the first in a series of films adapted from Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge". Kim's fantasy drama entered the fray three days before Christmas and found massive support during its first weekend out. Its second weekend out was equally profitably: from 1,666 screens, down from 1,887, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" added another 2.4 million admissions (53.73%) and has raced to become the second highest-grossing film of the year. Currently, Kim's much-anticipated film has grossed $64.2 million (8.5 million admissions)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 7

2018/01/01 | Permalink

The person who manages 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-I) is Min-gyoo's kissing coach. Also she's Ji-ah's best friend. I'd completely forgotten about that part because Seon-hye has been so prominent in the kissing coach role she hadn't been talking to Ji-ah very much lately. I bet Seon-hye's not even a real kissing coach, everyone is just pretending like she is because Baek-gyoon can't risk bringing someone they can't trust into the conspiracy, even if they have to take Ji-ah's word for it that Seon-hye is on the level...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 13-14

2017/12/27 | Permalink

I had forgotten, until Min-gyoo decided to research the subject, that AZ3 "learns" how to mimic human behavior by watching movies, as well as the nerdy scientist team. This is an obviously ridiculous design feature to the point that it breaks the willing suspension of disbelief. And I'm not referring to myself. Min-gyoo is the one who starts to feel increasing doubt about the entire AZ3 project. That Baek-gyoon's team has decided to let their guard down now all of all times does not help matters...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.22 - 2017.12.24

2017/12/27 | Permalink

Local webtoon adaptation steals Christmas...

Kim Yong-hwa's fantasy drama "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" triumphed over the Christmas weekend in Korea, and it is already the seventh highest-grossing film of the year. Kim's 5th feature claimed 61.84% of the box office pie (2.7 million admissions) from 1,884 screens, more than triple that of its closest competitor and last weekend's number one, "Steel Rain"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 2

2017/12/26 | Permalink

The plot thickens and by that I mean the new ways in which every character here tries to backstab one another. This is the only story to speak of at the moment and while the romance is apparently getting started, we still do not know what role Seon-mi's existence as Sam Jang will play. "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi) is fun in a cheesy way, but we need more story and it has to come soon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 6

2017/12/26 | Permalink

There's a common trope in a lot of romances where the male lead, in the name of defending the female lead's honor, will react violently or at least with implied violence to some form of verbal slight. "Just Between Lovers" is not satisfied with merely following genre conventions though. We get that scene here, and far from feeling at all chivalrous, the outburst is just emblematic of Kang-doo's rage issues. The moment is explicitly frightening, and it's surprising Moon-soo doesn't just ditch him right there...More

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

2017/12/26 | Permalink

After his humiliation at the Best Boss Awards, Chi-won is understandably upset and not in the mood to talk to Yoon-i about information she should never have known about in the first place. Unfortunately Chi-won is so understandably upset I had a very hard time empathizing with Yoon-i's position. Chi-won is Yoon-i's boss. If he doesn't want to talk to her, that's it. As a professional I would expect Yoon-i to know better...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 1

2017/12/25 | Permalink

It has been a while since the Hong sisters were in any way exciting and while "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi") is not exactly wowing with its first episode, the drama presents the workings of what could be a really fun story. We have a case of every man and beastie for themselves, as we meet a lot of characters, none of them anything but self-serving and with some pretty hefty behavioral and personality issues. I pity our heroine already...More

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

2017/12/25 | Permalink

After a powerful start, "Argon" takes a little step back and an even more sombre look into how morality and principles are challenged in systems that rely on strict hierarchal rules, cronyism and a work culture of underhanded pleasantries. Yeon-hwa's own contract continues to be scrutinized, but it is our hero who has to make tough choices this time. The truth is important, but choosing strangers over loved ones is not easy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 5

2017/12/25 | Permalink

Kang-doo's meltdown at the construction site, provoked by a random boot, of all things, is the first time we've ever seen Kang-doo get worked up over an emotion that's not righteous indignation. Kang-doo is legitimately scary in this scene. Additionally, as seen from the vantage point of Moon-soo, a fellow survivor with much better emotional control, Kang-doo's actions are much more difficult to justify. It turns out, guilt is the big factor...More

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

2017/12/25 | Permalink

Other characters are curiously oblivious to Chi-won's motives, even when he's explaining them pretty explicitly. Chi-won doesn't like it when people harass his secretary. Chi-won probably doesn't like it when any of his subordinates are harassed, really, yet Mr. Bong and Chang-soo both get extended sequences where they are confused as to why Chi-won is singling them out for rough treatment when all they did was make Yoon-i severely uncomfortable...More

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

2017/12/23 | Permalink

"Argon" is here to destroy any faith in mainstream journalism that you may have been holding onto while exploring workplace and hierarchy dynamics as well as the personal consequences and triumphs of a very demanding job. The series is fast-paced and so far focuses more on its leading man, but there are characters around with solid potential. Step into the daily grind of reporting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

Don't be fooled by the innocuous title. "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day" is a surprisingly bleak drama wrapped up in pleasant sounding euphemisms. That much is obvious once we realize that the titular Picnic Day refers, not to actual picnics, but to a company that cleans up rooms where people have died- sometimes by natural causes, sometimes not. The main issue for most of the employees at Picnic Day is the rancid smell they have to deal with in the worst rooms...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Namesake"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

Ryeon-hee (played by Lee Sang-hee-IV) is an older middle-aged woman who works the miserable night shift at a convenience store. Ryeon-hee is very cold emotionally, and her behavior hints at an unhappy backstory. But then, we can tell right away that Ryeon-hee is a North Korean defector because her name is written according to North Korean spelling conventions- it would be rendered in South Korean spelling conventions as Yeon-hee...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

So apparently in the world of the lovable little penguin Pororo (voiced by Lee Sun), there is a dinosaur island. On its face this isn't really surprising, since Pororo's best buddy Krong (voiced by Lee Mi-ja) is a dinosaur, whose origin has never been explained. Alas, those of you hoping that "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure" would be Krong's origin story will be disappointed. Although Krong has (presumably) never seen other dinosaurs before, the existence of an entire dinosaur kingdom passes without commentary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Chase"

2017/12/23 | Permalink

The South Korean suicide rate is top-heavy to the older part of the population. Elderly people in South Korea frequently suffer depression due to middling contact with their families and financial issues relating to housing controls. I bring this cultural context up because "The Chase" starts out with elderly serial murder victims being misidentified as suicides, which is kind of counter-intuitive without said context...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 11-12

2017/12/21 | Permalink

Obviously sincere though Min-gyoo's efforts may be toward trying to make up with Baek-gyoon's team so that he can hold on to the medical miracle that is AZ3, he still constantly fails basic social tasks. Note how Min-gyoo can't remember the names of any of Baek-gyoo's assistants. Which is fine, really, I can't remember them either. Actually I'm pretty sure we've only ever heard them referred to by ridiculous-sounding nicknames, further mitigating the severity of Min-gyoo's failure...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 9-10

2017/12/20 | Permalink

So upon further consideration I really don't like Ri-el. Granted, Ri-iel doesn't have much more screentime here than she did last time, but I see now that this is more a factor of her personality than it is the screenwriting. Ri-el is just a very curt, unsentimental person by nature. After what happened last time she saw Min-gyoo, I'm a little dumbfounded that the first words out of her mouth here weren't hey, are you OK, because last time we met you looked like you were about to die...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 4

2017/12/19 | Permalink

After a lot of false starts Moon-soo and Kang-doo are finally starting to spend a lot more time with each other. I like how, even though "Just Between Lovers" has an obviously contrived situation designed to reunite them, it still takes a lot of prodding to get them to willingly spend time together. Moon-soo and Kang-doo are fundamentally suspicious people and more than a desire for companionship, it's burning curiousity about that song which ultimately compels Moon-soo to search Kang-doo out...More

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

2017/12/19 | Permalink

Chang-soo (played by Min Jin-woong) is Yoon-i's ex-boyfriend. No, he's not the ex-boyfriend that abandoned her at the hotel in the first episode. That guy was a jerk, too, but his presence would at least have presented an interesting conflict about how Yoon-i's dedication to work has had deleterious effects on her social life. His presence would have been especially relevant in light of the fake news about Yoon-i being romantically involved with Mr. Bong, since that would have given him a valid reason to break up with Yoon-i...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 3

2017/12/18 | Permalink

Joo-won (played by Lee Ki-woo) is the manager for operations on the big construction job that Moon-soo and Kang-doo are attached to. He's also the second male lead alternative love interest for Moon-soo. His role there is somewhat ambiguous. While Joo-won is painstakingly nice, and compassionate about any problems affecting Moon-soo directly, he never does anything especially constructive (hoho) about the foundational issues of the project. This has always been the case whether the issue has been shady financial backing or cutting corners on workplace safety...More

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

2017/12/18 | Permalink

Bo-yool (played by Lee Won-geun) is the boss of the sports department of the big corporation where everyone works. As usual I'm not at all sure what Bo-yool's job actually is. All I know is that he acts in a constant childish jovial manner and even has child-sized arcade cabinets in his office. Also, Jeong-ae has become his secretary, despite the obvious mismatch in their personalities. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say that they're too well-matched, on account of their both having frivolous personalities...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.15 - 2017.12.17

2017/12/18 | Permalink

"The Last Jedi" no match for timely "Steel Rain"...

In December 2013, Yang Woo-seok's debut film "The Attorney" was released and went on to earn just over $88 million (12.1 million admissions). Now, almost exactly four years later, Yang's second feature, "Steel Rain" (starring Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won), has entered the fray in front, easily outplaying the much-anticipated "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"...More

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

2017/12/16 | Permalink

An umbrella wielding Oh Yeon-seo is here to lead her group of merry deities to an adventure in the latest work by Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran. "A Korean Odyssey" promises supernatural shenanigans, clashing forces and romance this December. Are the Hongs back? Really back? I sure hope so...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Mi-na (played by Kang Mina) is a normal high school student who skatesboards to school every day and has an unacknowledged crush on family friend slash local tennis star Jong-min (played by Byeon Woo-seok), who is her fellow student. Also Mi-na has the superpower to turn invisible twice a day. You would think that's the most important part of her characterization but no, "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" is actually a pretty mundane high school romance with a pretty weird gimmick for no obvious reason...More

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

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Bo-mi takes front and center as she tries to reclaim her life. She tries to do it alone, which is how she's been living, but finds that she has people who have her back...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Forgotten"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Back in 1997 Jin-seok (played by Kang Ha-neul) is a young man who leads a generally idyllic existence with his family. But lately, something seems off. It starts with the nightmares- these horrific, abstract images that feel familiar yet come out of nowhere. Then the new house itself starts to give Jin-seok the creeps, with its odd noises behind that one suspicious door. It's only a matter of time before Jin-seok's paranoia extends to consider direct human causes as well...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Journey to My Boy"

2017/12/16 | Permalink

Bo-hyeon (played by Kim Eun-joo-II) is a deaf interpretative dancer. She's married to Seong-rak (played by Seo Sung-gwang), a deaf gardener. For the sake of their careers, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak entrusted their son Won-hyo (played by Lee Ro-woon) to Seong-rak's mother (played by Kim Kyeong-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] "Black" Episode 18 Final

2017/12/11 | Permalink

The much dreaded ending of another Choi Ran-I work has come and if I can give "Black" credit for something, that would be persistence in tackling whatever it does choose to tackle until the end. We get more answers than expected in the final episode and some are highly satisfying. Others are confusing and remain as plot holes. Sadly, the ending itself undoes a lot of the good in "Black"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 1

2017/12/11 | Permalink

At first glance, "Just Between Lovers" is a typical romance. You've got the woman, Moon-soo (played by Won Jin-ah), who suffered through a horrible tragedy in her teen years, and now struggles to keep her family together economically and emotionally. Then you've got the man, Kang-doo (played by Junho), with a similar tragic backstory who is...wait, he's not rich? Kang-doo is just a working class construction worker who lives in constant rage about how the world is fundamentally unjust? And he hangs out in the foreigner districts...More

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

2017/12/11 | Permalink

Jeong-ae (played by Kang Hye-jung) is a married woman and Yoon-i's friend. Her husband recently disappeared without explanation, and it appears that he owed money to gangsters. So Jeong-ae ends up struggling to find a job. She fails at nearly every single task she attempts, mostly due to inappropriate soft-heartedness. Eventually Jeong-ae becomes a secretary. I know this because it is in her character description, which oddly enough does not mention anything about her family or gangster debts...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.08 - 2017.12.10

2017/12/11 | Permalink

"The Swindlers", "Forgotten", and Korea's favourite little penguin take the podium...

Jang Chang-won's debut film "The Swindlers" enjoyed its third consecutive weekend at the top of the box office by claiming another 418,141 admissions, 23.84% of the sales. Since its release late last month, Jang's action drama has held off cinematic challenges both foreign and domestic to remain Korea's number one. The film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha in a story about a conman who schemes to outplay an even bigger swindler. With a total take now of $26.7 million (3.78 million admissions), "Swindlers" is the twelfth highest-grossing film of the year...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 17

2017/12/10 | Permalink

Finding out the truth we have already known does not make it easier for our Reaper dearest, and 444 has a lot of deeply personal things to tackle in the penultimate episode of "Black". A lot happened on that fateful night when the children became involved with Wang Young-choon's search for the tape and coming to terms with it all, but also with some dire new information is not an easy feat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Bad Guys : Vile City"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Santa Claus is not the only one coming to town this December, as our bad guys are arriving to clean it of the filth even they are too good for. "Bad Guys : Vile City" is the spin-off-slash-sequel to OCN hit drama "Bad Guys" and as much as we may miss the old cast, perhaps the latest bad boys will have something good to show for.

Premise

Prosecutor Woo Je-moon (Park Joong-hoon) is a man who cares about results more than he does about the legality of the means. He and a team of criminals selected as a new form of law enforcers take on a powerful cartel...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Ga-yeong (played by Song Ji-hyo) is a slowly aging career woman who spends her free time at a carnival style shooting gallery. Ga-yeong is not actually very good at gun based carnival games, yet keeps trying to win the big prizes anyway. So right away "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter" has a pretty good metaphor for Ga-yeong's love life. She is very bad at finding romance, yet persists in trying to do so out of sheer desperation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Magic Hour"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

Nam-woo (played by Park In-hwan) is an aging photographer. Time was a person could just set up shop in a nice scenic area with a camera and people would pay for the privilege of having their picture taken. But now? Kids these days with their smart phones take all the romance out of having a stranger take your picture only to be seen several weeks later in the mail. The world has changed. Nam-woo has changed. And, he's decided, it's time to end it all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "State-authorized Textbook"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

You might expect "State-authorized Textbook" to just be about how Park Geun-hye's government attempted to mandate a conservatively aligned national history textbook curriculum. But before the documentary can get that far, there's a lot of background material that needs to be covered. The story ends up starting, in all places, Japan, because Park Geun-hye's system of nationalized textbooks was actually based on the existing Japanese model...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Where is your hometown?"

2017/12/09 | Permalink

After the Japanese Occupation ended normal Koreans in difficult economic circumstances struggled to find work. With the collapse of the Japanese Empire the only stable country that was a viable location for economic migration was the Soviet Union. Then the Korean War happened, and all of a sudden, all the Koreans who had taken on temporary positions on the Kamchatka Peninsula were unable to return home. "Where is your hometown" is a documentarian explanation of their story...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 3-4

2017/12/07 | Permalink

So it turns out that Ji-ah is really into worthless novelties. Now don't get me wrong her older brother Jin-bae (played by Seo Dong-won) is a complete jerk and his actions are nowhere near as well justified as he seems to think they are. But there's an obvious irony to this. Ji-ah's entire life revolves around obscure useless junk and now, Ji-ah herself has become an obscure useless piece of junk, both metaphorically and literally, as the original model for and now imitated version of AZ3...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 1-2

2017/12/06 | Permalink

So apparently Yoo Seung-ho has gotten really, really buff since we last saw him in "Ruler: Master of the Mask". Oddly enough that's actually fairly appropriate, since in "I'm Not a Robot" he plays reclusive corporate heir Min-gyoo, who has nothing better to do in his spare time except work out and obsess over mostly fictional robots, thanks to a medical condition that makes it dangerous for him to touch people. Little does Min-gyoo realize that eccentric scientist Baek-gyoon (played by Uhm Ki-joon) and his team have built AZ3 (played by Chae Soo-bin), a fully functional android...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 16

2017/12/05 | Permalink

I need a few weeks and possibly a lot of ice cream to fully process what is the most jarring and packed episode of "Black" yet. While our titular Reaper continues to struggle with his emotions and obligations as a supernatural being lying to his crush, the time has come to tackle the villain and his connection to almost all of what has happened so far. I have a lot of questions and I am not even sure what some are...More

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

2017/12/05 | Permalink

Chi-won (played by Choi Daniel) is an up and coming executive who is exceptionally cold to nearly everyone around him. Even the fleeting moments of kindness he has shown to an obviously distraught Yoon-i have always been performed under the attempted guise of anonymity. Chi-won is impatient for results and doesn't tolerate slacking off. So you'd think Yoon-i would be the perfect secretary for him except that "Jugglers" is still in the evading the premise stage of the story...More

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

2017/12/05 | Permalink

Closing up review season for the year with "Lookout". We get to know Bo-mi a bit more, while Kyung-soo proves his mettle, and Soo-ji continues to be a brave, headstrong, and impetuous woman. Then there is Do-han, who once seemed to have everything under control, but events are quickly slipping from his capable fingertips...More

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

2017/12/04 | Permalink

Yoon-i (played by Baek Jin-hee) is an exceptionally competent secretary. Unfortunately, she's just a little too competent. Her boss Mr. Bong (played by Choi Dae-chul) constantly has Yoon-i on-call, even when Yoon-i is is trying to have a cute romantic montage with her boyfriend Kyeong-joon (played by Sung Hoon). Worst of all, Yoon-i doesn't express any kind of discretion when it comes to the kinds of jobs Mr. Bong assigns her, which ends predictably poorly...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.01 - 2017.12.03

2017/12/04 | Permalink

"Swindlers" holds the top spot and moves into the top twenty...

Writer/director Jang Chang-won's debut "Swindlers" retained the top spot and swiftly moved into the year's top twenty as its earnings swell to $21.5 million (3.05 million admissions). Over this past weekend, its second, the 117-minute action drama -- which stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana and Ahn Se-ha -- came away with 671,665 admissions (36.27%) from just over 1,000 screens nationwide (down from 1,314)...More

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

2017/12/03 | Permalink

You can never really prepare yourself for some surprises, but "Black" has at least been kind enough to set so much up for itself that anyone would see the inevitable cutting of corners happen. We confirm a lot of things in this episode and some are great to find out, but we also learn of possible truths that do not seem to fit quite as imagined. The same goes for the romance, which never stood a chance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

Jong-hyeok (played by Lee Joo-seung) works at a normal office job during the daytime, but in his private life, the man is a hit novelist. Jong-hyeok wants to keep these aspects of his life separate, for some reason. And right there is where "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life" has its biggest problem. I don't have a clue why Jong-hyeok wants to have a secret identity. I especially don't know why he wants to work a normal office job. We learn surprisingly little about what kind of a person Jong-hyeok really is considering the sheer wackiness of the set-up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Am Hopeman"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

The main audience for "I Am Hopeman" is just Korean Presbyterian laypeople. The documentary explains what their donation money to the Cambodia Mission has been doing. It's a progress report that's been quite a long time in the making. When director Na Hyun-tae started out, the Hope School was just an elementary school. The main struggle was getting students to attend at all. The documentary ends with a graduation ceremony of their first high school class...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Old Marine Boy"

2017/12/02 | Permalink

Park Myeong-ho defected from North Korea to South Korea some ten years ago along with his family, a wife and two sons. The reasons for why they defected are surprisingly mundane. My favorite is when he states that his dad spent forever in the military, and he spent forever in the military, but now his sons don't have to. He says that while doing his daily intensive calisthenics workout for the sake of his job- diving and catching underwater fauna, namely octopi, off the east coast of Gangwon province...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 16 Final

2017/12/01 | Permalink

All things must come to an end and the revenge of the "Mad Dog" team is finally complete. Hyeon-gi and Hong-joo do not give up easily, but we all know that the mad dogs never let go after they bite. The team fight the villains until the very last minute, but the resolution is sadly reached through the drama's bad habit of pulling its needed plot devices out of thin air...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 15

2017/12/01 | Permalink

"Mad Dog" is coming to an end and this means that heroes and villains alike can stop twiddling their thumbs and being selectively obtuse. Everyone gets things done, but not done too well, because wiretapping your office when you know beforehand that a villain is visiting would just be too smart. The Dog Team are juggling battle fronts with several antagonists, but it is unsurprisingly Hyeon-gi who becomes the most dangerous...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Swindlers"

2017/12/01 | Permalink

In an odd twist for the wacky charming con artist genre of films, the opening scene of "The Swindlers" features a disturbingly large assortment of people thrown into suicidal despair as a result of a massive fraud. Ji-seong (played by Hyun Bin) is obliquely related to the scam, but most of the movie is not from his perspective. That role falls to Prosecutor Hee-soo (played by Yoo Ji-tae) who operates his own gang of con artists, and also has a connection to the huge embezzlement case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 16 (Final)

2017/11/28 | Permalink

The fuller context of Ji-ho's actions makes her look really dumb, at best, and actively sadistic at worst. How in the world was Se-hee supposed to interpret her behavior? The only justification I can come up with is that "This Life Is Our First Life" is satirizing what would actually happen in real life if one member of a couple just disappeared like that without communication. Except Ji-ho is never called out for the tangible and emotional damage her actions caused to Se-hee's life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 31-32 (Final)

2017/11/28 | Permalink

So apparently Jin-jin's family didn't know that she was dating Ji-won? Once again I'm left scrambling trying to figure out whether the drama ever actually explicitly said that the family knew, or whether I just assumed that they knew because there was no other way for them to interpret the couple's surreptitious behavior. Why any of them would be upset at this revelation is equally unclear to me, since I was under the impression they were inviting Ji-won to dinner mainly because they saw him as good son-in-law material...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/27 | Permalink

Credit given where it's due, the opening scene, with its epic kiss and then fade into the elevator scene where we last saw Jin-jin and Ji-won together was pretty good. I rather missed the young versions of those characters. Unfortunately the conclusion of the elevator scene is the last we see of them, and apparently their entire relationship. Jin-jin's parents inviting Ji-won to family dinners takes on a very different tone now that we know Chang-won and Ji-won's first encounter was a violent one...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 15

2017/11/27 | Permalink

Ji-ho is so obsessively introspective here she effectively manages to talk herself out of a relationship with Se-hee. Her behavior is dumbounding, but at the same time, really weirdly logical. I can actually kind of see screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong inserting herself into the more philosophical contours of the conversation, openly wondering why the consumnation of romantic love has to be the only acceptable narrative happy ending. That Jeong-min is, herself, an example of a woman who achieved happiness without a man only further complicates this assumption...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.23 - 2017.11.25

2017/11/27 | Permalink

"The Swindlers" puts local films back on top; "Justice League" falters...

"The Swindlers", Jang Chang-won first solo project as director, arrived on Wednesday and dominated its first weekend out by capturing 61.85% of the sales. The 117-minute action film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha and follows a charlatan who spins a complex scheme to catch a fellow con man. From 1,313 screens, Jang's debut claimed 1.2 million admissions ($9 million), which deny DC's "Justice League" a second weekend at the top...More

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

2017/11/26 | Permalink

There is so much grief on the horizon of "Black" and with our good characters closer to the main villain than ever, deaths are an expected outcome. Ha-ram's fate is no longer known or secure and our heroine's decisions over her relationship with the titular Reaper will be adding another layer of tragedy to an already sordid case. Many questions are answered, but I am greedy for more...More

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

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The puzzle of the past is slowly coming together in "Black" and with Man-ho nearly cornered, the true villain behind it all should be making their grand entrance soon. Ha-ram's fate is unknown, but new clues hint at more powers than seeing the shadows of death. Many different characters and clues come together in what may not be as coincidental a twist of fate as we imagined after all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-Hole"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

"Man-Hole" is not the kind of work one would expect a lot from. Having promoted itself as the wacky, comedic tale of a man who believes in the imaginary friendzone a bit too hard and seeks to undo it made it seem like a light story about a romantic man-baby. Surprisingly, the series is much more complex and it is as mixed as my feelings for it, touching upon greatness and failure alike...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Communication and Lies"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The extended opening scene of "Communication and Lies" is a highly inappropriate interaction between employees of different rank at an English cram school over a sordid and sexually charged rumor. At least, that's how it feels for awhile. Then the apparent victim nonchalantly acknowledges that all of the charges being lodged against her are true. It's an out-of-nowhere reaction, related with no sense of defiance, that the immediate mystery is what kind of person would engage in such actions then respond to accusations about them in such a blasé manner...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Heart Blackened"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Heart Blackened" translates to just silence. It's a pretty accurate overall descriptor. "Heart Blackened" has several long stretches of time that pass in absolute unsettling quiet. Which of course, is also metaphorical. Mi-ra (played by Lee Soo-kyung-I) hates her new prospective stepmother Yoo-na (played by Lee Honey), and in the wake of a horrible accident, Hee-jeong (played by Park Shin-hye) is retained as an attorney to defend the last woman left standing...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Autumn Sonata"

2017/11/25 | Permalink

Soo-ryeon (played by BoA) is a thirty-year-old postal service worker in rural Gyeonggi Province. The most effective moments of "Autumn Sonata" tend to focus on that backdrop. Director Lim Wang-tae's imagery is so vivid it frequently feels like we can taste the fresh air. This is Soo-ryeon's ancestral home, after all, and while the endless empty scenery is at times lonely, or at least mostly filled by old people, there is also a powerful serene sense of inner peace...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 14

2017/11/24 | Permalink

It is a dog eat  dog world out there and the "Mad Dog" team is going for the kill. The villains are confused and cornered, which means that they make mistakes and provide ample opportunity for our good boys and girl to get everything they need in place. It will not be an easy fight, considering the Powerful Opponents, but we know that the good ones always win in such stories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 5-7

2017/11/24 | Permalink

One of the odder aspects of the "Revenge Note" application is that it doesn't seem to suffer from any meaningful restrictions. Well, all right, it does have a recharge rate, as Goo-hee discovers to her chagrin, but earlier on she straight up punches in "Zombie Club" rather than the name of any individual member and surprisingly, the application is able to accept this request. The next time Goo-hee uses the application, she uses a nickname rather than a real one, and that works too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 13

2017/11/23 | Permalink

It is a time for bonding and retaliation from the "Mad Dog" team as the group of villains become too greedy and hasty for their own good. Hyeon-gi experiences betrayal and rejection while Hong-joo is about to get a taste of her own medicine. Team Good is reunited, but they need to be extra smart and extra sneaky as they go in for one final blow to take everyone down...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/21 | Permalink

Ho-seong (played by Kim Jung-hwa) is Jin-jin's estranged sister, and apparently the artist behind all those pictures for whom Jin-jin has been looking for a source. Ho-seong's character is another case where I've been left wondering, has there ever been any mention that Jin-jin had a sister until literally the moment she appears? Because I certainly can't remember any, which is odd considering that finding her sister is the closest thing Jin-jin has had to ongoing motivation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 14

2017/11/21 | Permalink

Jeong-min (played by Lee Chung-ah) is Se-hee's ex-girlfriend. She's also Ji-ho's career savior, having taken it upon herself to resolve the unforunate circumstances of Ji-ho's last writing job personally. The sheer goofy elaborateness of this coincidence, along with the obvious feminist undertones, are reminiscent of screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong's previous drama "Hogu's Love"- although I may have been primed to notice this due to the appearance of a couple of easter eggs referencing that work...More

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

2017/11/20 | Permalink

For all the teasing about consequences that "Black" has taken its sweet time to deliver, it sure is fast with getting to it after the latest warning. The reality of her meddling dawns on Ha-ram as she realizes the identity of the man she has saved while Black deals with his newfound sympathy. The past mysteries boil closer to the surface than ever, as Gwang-gyeon and Man-soo get on the case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 13

2017/11/20 | Permalink

For now, Se-hee and Ji-ho's life is mostly pleasant and domestic. In more dramatic news, it turns out that Won-seok's suggestion of breaking up with Ho-rang was not, as had been previously implied, simply the natural result of their communication breakdown being revealed in full focus by their watching an obscure art house play. That was definitely a part of it, but Won-seok had also discovered Ho-rang's horrible secret...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/20 | Permalink

Jeong-eun (played by Shin Dong-mi) is So-ni's manager who has something most of the other characters in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" do not- clearly defined motivation. Jeong-eun wants everything involving So-ni's career to run smoothly. She's constantly acting as a mediary between So-ni and producers. Jeong-eun is frequently stressed because of this, but trusts So-ni's good intentions, and So-ni, for his part, does his best to reassure her that nothing is going to go wrong...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.17 - 2017.11.19

2017/11/20 | Permalink

"Justice League" ends "Ragnarok"'s reign as foreign films continue to flourish...

Zack Snyder's much-anticipated "Justice League" brings together five of DC's front-running superheroes - Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg - and it didn't come cheap: costing $300 million, "Justice League" is the most expensive superhero film ever produced, and, along with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", the second most expensive film overall. The film was released in Korea last Wednesday and quickly overthrew Marvel's latest, "Thor: Ragnarok", at the top of the chart. From 1,308 screens, Snyder's "Justice League" came away with 47.87% of the sales, or 818,401 admissions ($6.3 million)...More

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

2017/11/19 | Permalink

New chapters are opening in "Black", but none are leading to good places. Man-soo is no longer a CEO and he finds a use I welcome, but also fear. Ha-ram has to face Soo-wan's desperate advances at who she thinks is Moo-gang, but our heroine has much bigger things to worry about right around the corner. I have a lot of questions, but my anticipation is intact and the will to wait for possible answers strong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Prison Playbook"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

It takes all kinds of communities to make our world and a prison one is not the kind we often imagine when hearing the word. "Prison Playbook" is brought to us by the creators of the "Answer Me/Reply" series and it is time we get acquainted to such a community through a baseball star turned criminal overnight.

Premise

Kim Je-hyeok (Park Hae-soo) is a baseball superstar who has it made. In a surprising twist, the celebrity becomes a convicted criminal and has to adjust to prison life. The series follows him as he experiences his new home and new network behind bars...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 1-4

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Goo-hee (played by Kim Hyang-gi) is a teenage girl just starting high school. That's pretty bad on its own, but a lot of factors are working against her. In the first place she has a horribly goofy name- because her surname is Ho, anytime anyone addresses Goo-hee by her full name, it sounds like they're calling her a loser (Hogu). Goo-hee's family is poor enough that she has to help at their fried chicken business to make ends meet. Then, just to make matters worse, Goo-hee's boyfriend breaks up with her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Room No.7"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Doo-sik (played by Shin Ha-kyun) owns a DVD room in a generic shopping district. Business is passable, but Doo-sik is in his forties and painfully aware that he has already wasted far too much of his life there and wants to sell. Doo-sik's employee Tae-jeong (played by Do Kyung-soo) also suffers from financial issues and is desperate for some kind of solution. Only the new guy, Chinese immigrant Han-wook (played by Kim Dong-young) is at all happy with life in South Korea...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Becoming Who I Was"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Most of you have probably at least heard stories about reincarnated Buddhist monks, and how their past lives can be identified quite early in childhood. What's never really discussed, though, is what being a child reincarnation of of a major spiritual leader is actually like. In "Becoming Who I Was", we see in documentary form the daily life of one such child in a small village in Northern India. Directly, we see the contradiction of this child being incredibly wise and yet obviously...still just a child...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Preparation"

2017/11/18 | Permalink

Can mentally challenged adults survive on their own? Elderly mother Ae-soon (played by Go Doo-shim), rather understandably, is skeptical of the prospect. She has had to take care of In-gyoo (played by Kim Sung-kyun) her whole life, and he never appears to have advanced beyond the mentality of a spoiled child. In "The Preparation" Ae-soon is forced, through the plot device of her own mortality, to confront the possibility that she's wrong. Really it's more of a hope, considering how awful the alternatives are...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 12

2017/11/17 | Permalink

Noo-ri's grave injury sparks another round of regret and guilt for the "Mad Dog" team's top dog and puppy, as they go into another fit of man-angst over the lives they may endanger due to their plans. There is no time to waste on self-pity, however, as their enemies close in and a new one is born to spice things up. Noo-ri's daddy dearest is more involved than we previously suspected, you see...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" Episodes 6-10 Final + Videos

2017/11/17 | Permalink

By the time we've finally gotten a clear explanation of what the goddesses are doing in Korea in the first place, "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" is basically over. Put together all ten episodes feel more like a pilot for a situation comedy than they do a single coherent story. But then, from the very beginning "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" has been going for style over substance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 11

2017/11/16 | Permalink

I had been wondering when things would get deadly in "Mad Dog" and it looks like we have reached that point. Episode eleven is an odd one, because certain things which I was sure were established by now get turned upside down. Kang-woo and his dog team share the same unwavering determination and closeness, but their disorganized enemies become increasingly less tolerant of being toyed with...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Final Episodes 31-32

2017/11/16 | Permalink

Jae-chan doesn't really have much of case against Yoo-beom. Even if he can prove that Yoo-beom is lying about Joo-an having drugged him too, Joo-an is a serial killer with good reason to want Yoo-beom dead. So Yoo-beom could still claim self-defense, arguing that he was just trying to preserve his reputation with the lie. That Yoo-beom eventually ends up getting sent to life in prison for a completely different crime underscores this...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/15 | Permalink

Joo-an (played by Lee Eun-woo) is the true culprit behind a serial killing spree that Detective Choi and then-prosecutor Yoo-beom incorrectly pinned on an innocent man a long time ago in the backstory. The story behind these events is so incredibly potentially interesting that it was with a groan that I realized we were instead just going to get more flashbacks explaining what the deal was with that solider who went on a rampage, and how this created an unbreakable romantic bond between Jae-chan and Hong-joo somehow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 12

2017/11/14 | Permalink

The big climactic kiss that closed off the last episode is inevitably interrupted. I mean that not in the narrative sense, but the literal. Sooner or later any couple that is kissing must stop for some reason. From there, we segue into Ji-ho's internal monologue about how real life is different than dramas. Normally such kind of meta-narration is eye roll inducing but Ji-ho does bring up a good point...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 23-24

2017/11/14 | Permalink

So-ni is a very emotional guy. We can tell this because in nearly all of his scenes, whether its sick at home or flashbacks with his stepbrother or just casual conversation with Jin-jin, So-ni is always expressing very strong emotions. What is missing from So-ni's character is much in the way of explanation as to why he has these strong emotions in the first place. So-ni only really knows Jin-jin, after all, from the fake marriage show. Before that she was just an abstraction...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 11

2017/11/13 | Permalink

I love how the big situation comedy induced plot twist changes almost nothing, even though all of the immediately involved characters assume that it will. While "This Life Is Our First Life" mainly concerns itself with relationships between men and women, its examination of friendships between members of the same gender are equally illuminating. For all the radical differences in personality, Se-hee/Song-goo and Ji-ho/Soo-ji have very strong friendships...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 21-22

2017/11/13 | Permalink

Now that Jin-jin and Ji-won have finally gotten together romantically, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" shifts to the next stage of the storyline- hiding this relationship from Jin-jin's parents. And also the paparazzi. I rather wish we'd gotten more focus on the latter one. Jin-jin has good tangible reasons to want the paparazzi to not find out about a boyfriend. But the same attitude evinced toward her parents just makes Jin-jin come off as childish...More

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

2017/11/13 | Permalink

"Black" feels like a fine day at the beach, right before the wind picks up and you feel your pretty hat flying away and the sand smacking you in the eyes. It is a wild ride and it sometimes feels exhausting, but it is fun. Everything fits when you dig deep enough. Gwang-gyeon comes closer to Moo-gang's secrets while Black is about to get a revelation of his own about the true identities of Reapers. Hopefully this will not break him...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.10 - 2017.11.12

2017/11/13 | Permalink

"Ragnarok" rules again...

"Thor: Ragnarok" secured a third straight week at the top of the Korean box office this past weekend. Released late October, the third "Thor" film in Marvel's Cinematic Universe dislodged the local sleeper hit "The Outlaws" after Chuseok, and now, with the 465,780 admissions (25.89%) it claimed here, "Thor: Ragnarok" has banked $30.9 million (4.2 million admissions) in Korea alone. Worldwide, Taika Waititi's more comedic version of the popular Marvel franchise has grossed $650 million: currently the tenth highest-grossing film of 2017...More

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

2017/11/12 | Permalink

Major story breakthroughs and a ruthlessly packed plot make episode nine of "Black" quite the exhausting, but also exhilarating ride. The big revelation we have been waiting for regarding the children's identities has dropped and as expected from this series, it complicates things further. Several identities are exposed, but sadly so is Ha-ram's impending doom to someone who can harm her. Our heroes have enemies everywhere, but romance waits for no one...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Love That's Left"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

Bong-yong (played by Sung Ji-roo) 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 "The Love That's Left" suffering alone. The only clue the people around Bong-yong have that something is wrong is that the normally placid man now occasionally has sudden unexplained psychotic breakdowns...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beautiful Tomorrow"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

I hesitate to call "Beautiful Tomorrow" a film, or even a musical film, because that implies a degree of narrative cohesion rather beyond its contents. "Beautiful Tomorrow" is really more like an extended music video featuring all the songs from Park Hyo-shin's latest album, "I Am a Dreamer". The very loose framing device for these videos is Park Hyo-shin and his music director Jung Jae-il going to Cuba and befriending a street urchin by the name of Edgar Quintero...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dancesport Girls"

2017/11/11 | Permalink

Geoje Girls' Commercial High School is located in the rural outskirts of Geoje Island. Its stated purpose is to prepare students to enter the workforce. But as it happens, through the guidance of a passionate coach, an entire extracurricular DanceSport squad has formed. DanceSport is a form of competitive exhibition dancing, and apparently South Korea has a dedicated official high school DanceSport competition. I had to look all this up. "Dancesport Girls" never actually explains it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/09 | Permalink

Detective Choi (played by Kim Won-hae) has up until now been a minor supporting character who I had been mentally classifying as the same tier of importance as Hyang-mi. Last episode's revelations that he, too, has apparently been receiving dream prophecies has greatly improved Detective Choi's relevance. Unfortunately, none of the actual main characters are clever enough to catch on to that essential dynamic of the case, so these revelations are mainly for our benefit...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 10

2017/11/09 | Permalink

It is plot twist o'clock in episode ten of "Mad Dog" and boy, is it sudden. I suppose this is the way to go when Hyeon-gi has been brought out of his villain hibernation and Hong-joo has gone off the deep end, but I cannot help this nagging feeling of being taken for a ride. Min-joon's much expected change of heart happens in the same blink of an eye and our team cannot handle it all either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/08 | Permalink

The only dream premonition we get this time takes the form of an episode preview. At least, that's the only way I can think of to interpret it, since it seems designed entirely for our benefit rather than that of the main characters. It's a pretty specific premonition too, one that you'd think would be easy to avert. Jae-chan and Hong-joo just need to avoid going to suspicious places in the middle of the night alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 9

2017/11/08 | Permalink

While our "Mad Dog" team are busy sulking over unsurprising betrayal and having romantic encounters, our villains finally get a bit of focus and something to do. The group is not as disorganized as they seem, but the black box they may be in possession of is the current major goal for our heroes. With Hyeon-gi's father now announced as dead, another formidable opponent will hopefully rise to the challenge that is keeping this plot afloat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 19-20

2017/11/07 | Permalink

So Ji-won and Jin-jin finally figure out the intrinsic flaw in their whole pretend not to be interested in each other for no reason plan. They end up explicitly saying this in front of a third person, who naturally concludes that Ji-won should be up for a blind date with his daughter. It does, admittedly, still take until the end of episode twenty for them to finally realize that neither Jin-jin nor Ji-won wants Ji-won to date another person, but hey! At least the story's finally getting started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 10

2017/11/07 | Permalink

The extended flashback we start out with is more relevant than it initially looks. I mean sure, it's always fun to do those moments of "how did the lead characters first meet anyway", but the whole thing is building up to Ji-ho talking about her dreams as a teenager. In the present day, of course, Soo-ji and Ho-rang have no idea what Ji-ho is talking about. So it's quite instructive to reread last episode's climactic line about Ji-ho liking her husband from Ji-ho's point of view...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 17-18

2017/11/06 | Permalink

Jin-jin's professional work hazards are consistently one of the more unimpressive means of generating conflict on "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century", which is saying a lot considering how challenged this drama is when it comes to developing conflict at all. I'm still wondering how exactly a can of soda can be poisoned in the first place. Does the anti-fan manufacture her own soft drinks? Or was there arsenic on the lid?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 9

2017/11/06 | Permalink

The main thematic thrust of this episode is about how men are actually really nice and sweet and emotional. This is pretty counter-intuitive considering we start out with a big news story about the arrest of a crazy psycho stalker, but then a lot of what we see here is about demolishing the dramatic assumptions of the previous storyline. I was quite pleased to discover I was entirely wrong about a certain plot point- it would seem that I underestimated screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong.

But before we even get that far, the most of what we see is just Se-hee and Ji-ho talking to each other about the events on Dongdaemun Gate. I love how over the course of simple, comprehensive conversations they both immediately realize where the other was coming from. This leads to the odd irony of how Ji-ho understands that Se-hee's actions were motivated strictly by practicality, yet still sees the subtle touches which indicate the man really does have a kind heart...More

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

2017/11/06 | Permalink

The main story of "Black" is never far behind when it comes to the individual ones in what feels like a smörgåsbord of related characters. Man-soo's rude awakening in episode seven is the focus this time around and the victim born from whatever happened in the room has to relive that night through people's judgment. Black continues to fight his emotions, but their source is starting to become clearer as we learn new things about Reapers...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.03 - 2017.11.05

2017/11/06 | Permalink

"Ragnarok" still rules despite stiff competition from "The Bros"...

"Thor: Ragnarok" stood its ground against local writer/director Chang You-jeong's new comedy-drama, "The Bros". From 1,047 screens, down from 1,640, the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe added 833,949 admissions (38.31%), bringing its total tally in Korea to 3.7 million, or $28.8 million. Worldwide, from a production budget of $180 million, "Thor: Ragnarok" (starring a more comedic Chris Hemsworth) has grossed nearly half a billion dollars. Taika Waititi's "Thor" now needs another 256,000 admissions to overtake "The Fortress" (3.8 million) and enter this year's top ten...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 Drama Review] "Black" Episode 7

2017/11/05 | Permalink

I never thought a series like "Black" would give me too much to think about, but we are already at the half-way mark and I could easily write three times the length of episode reviews I usually do in order to convey all of my thoughts on the drama's packed plot. We have reached a turning point in Black's humanity and things are about to get even more complicated...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

Hell hath no fury like a grieving revenge drama lead and "Lookout" takes this fury very seriously. Revenge is a team effort this time around, as the series unites several characters into one group after one very evil man and his equally disturbing hellspawn. A mysterious hidden leader and a heroine with a goal fight against these forces while trying to maintain their own humanity...More

[HanCinema's BIFF Film Review] A relationship on stage becomes something much more in "Method"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

Bang Eun-jin's "Method" is an exploration of the investment of emotion and self into art and a potent one at that. Screened at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival from October 12th to the 21st, the eighty-two minute film just released in theaters November 2nd. The intense emotional journey of seasoned method actor Jae-ha (Park Sung-woong) and reluctant idol actor Young-woo (Oh Seung-hoon) is riveting and unhinged. Yoon Seung-ah's Hee-won is what tethers the characters and the story to reality - but only just barely...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-whi) 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] "Tarbosaurus 3D"

2017/11/04 | Permalink

The lead character of "Tarbosaurus 3D" 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, "Tarbosaurus 3D" 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] "Mad Dog" Episode 8

2017/11/02 | Permalink

Desperate times call for desperate measures and like a puppy behind his "Mad Dog" mentor, Min-joon has his own ideas about what he can do to top Kang-woo's undercover adventures. The team close in on the secrets behind Tae-yang Insurance's policy and they paint a very well-organized and deliberate picture. Our two heroes finally form a bond and the timing is perfect, as old friendships are about to be torn apart...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 7

2017/11/01 | Permalink

The pilot of the tragic flight throws our leads quite the curve ball and the implications of his words come cascading down on them and the people they work with. The "Mad Dog" team has no time to lose and no intention of stopping, but neither does Min-joon. The young man attempts to go solo once more, but the game is now much bigger than his own regrets and his brother's life...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 Box Office Review] 2017.10.27 - 2017.10.29

2017/10/30 | Permalink

"Ragnarok" topples "The Outlaws" with over 60% of the sales...

Marvel's latest superhero outing, "Thor: Ragnarok", the third "Thor" film, arrived in Korea last Wednesday to topple the sleeper hit "The Outlaws". From 1,639 screens around the country, "Ragnarok" claimed 1.5 million admissions ($11.8 million), or 63.7% of the weekend sales. The film stars Chris Hemsworth (as the God of Thunder himself), Tom Hiddleston (Hulk), Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba and Jeff Goldblum and has already grossed over $100 million worldwide (the film was produced for $180 million). "Thor: Ragnarok" is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...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 Drama Review] "Black" Episode 6

2017/10/29 | Permalink

"Black" puts on its Halloween costume and nothing is scarier than the people involved with Moo-gang and Ha-ram. We have several returning faces who finally step up to take their place in this story, as Black's actions bring his new enemies as well as his target closer to him. Ha-ram struggles between two pushy bosses and her own life problems, which are about to multiply for our unfortunate heroine...More

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

2017/10/29 | Permalink

The sordid past built by the very human shadows of Moojin gets a grand reveal, but there are many things in need of explanation in both layers of reality. Ha-ram is determined to save lives, but her actions may cause great problems for Black and the entirety of the underworld. Meanwhile, Gwang-gyeon's past connections lead him directly to a person with a very important role in current happenings...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel"

2017/10/28 | Permalink

The idea of cloning is a highly controversial one and for good reason. South Korea has had its own advancement in and moral debates over it, making the lack of the topic's presence in drama fiction a surprising one. "Duel" does not really focus on the existential and other implications of human cloning, but it aims to be an action thriller experience with a related twist...More

[HanCinema's BIFF Film Review] Violence and unhappiness define Lee Hwan's Indie film "Park Hwa-young"

2017/10/28 | Permalink

The combination of human depravity and the inability to change are what define Lee Hwan's indie film, "Park Hwa-young". Each time a moment pivotal moment blooms with a chance for change, it is stymied by the purposefully one-dimensional characters. However, even as the titular character falls deeper into trouble -- of her own volition, might I add -- there is no true sense of catharsis as the ending scene cuts short what may have been. It is that ending that makes the movie a rounded character study that is rather indulgent with human foible...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 6

2017/10/27 | Permalink

"Mad Dog" drops some big revelations in episode six and although their logic does not quite stand, they radically shift the focus of the dog team's investigations while at the same time spurring major doubts about the story we have seen so far. The team follows Min-joon as he once more goes solo, but a surprising contact brings them back together and adds a new spark to the mystery...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 5

2017/10/26 | Permalink

"Mad Dog" continues to teeter between tedium and mediocrity as a chase begins to capture the unwilling shadows of the past. The chase itself may not be exciting, but episode five provides some development for supporting characters and their roles in the story, which balances the slower bits out. The friends and enemies of the "Mad Dog" team become clearer as our heroes rattle the cage...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] "Black" Episode 4

2017/10/23 | Permalink

For every question answered "Black" has five new ones, but episode four manages to clear some things up, at least enough to get me excited over the future of what is still a very chaotic, but nicely packed story. Following the threads of our characters' past reveals complicated and deep connections, while Black has flashbacks of a mysterious character who may play a key role...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 Box Office Review] 2017.10.20 - 2017.10.22

2017/10/23 | Permalink

"The Outlaws" fends off "Geostorm" and "Man of Will"...

Kang Yoon-Sung's "The Outlaws" retained the top spot by holding off some strong competition from the recently released American disaster film, "Geostorm". Kang's debut failed to trump "The Fortress" over Chuseok two weekends ago, but since then it has held strong as the country's film of choice. From 994 screens, down from 1,127, "The Outlaws" (Ma Dong-seok and Yoon Kye-sang) claimed another 786,049 admissions (40.56%), moving its total tally now to 4.9 million, or $36.2 million...More

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

2017/10/22 | Permalink

The whimsical, yet harsh world of the dead comes to light in episode three of "Black", as we meet new Reapers and go through the events which lead our titular agent of demise into the body of Moo-gang. Ha-ram continues to work on her father's case and her ability draws in those who need to use it. The plot thickens and its rules become complicated. Will "Black" help us make sense of it all...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 Drama Review] "Circle"

2017/10/21 | Permalink

The painfully small selection of science fiction works in Korean drama and the often unsuccessful and dull efforts of the industry when tackling new things made the anticipation for "Circle" quite nerve-wracking. While "Joseon X-Files - Secret Book" is a bit of a cult classic among fans, it left a lot to be desired. "Circle" chooses a different approach and it surprises in the most pleasant, satisfying of ways...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 4

2017/10/20 | Permalink

The dog fight continues as Kang-woo and his team follow Min-joon's lead while at the same time investigating him and his potential motive. The case of Kang Eun-joo's husband clearly has foul play involved and the revelation of her past further fuels the need of the "Mad Dog" bunch for information. Meanwhile, romantic woes start to surface in the lives of leads and antagonists alike...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 3

2017/10/19 | Permalink

A cat and mouse game is great, but a slow burning fight between two mad dogs is not too shabby when the progress is decent. Kang-woo and his "Mad Dog" team turn Min-joon into their investigation's target; a move which the young man welcomes, even if he is met with more challenge than he anticipated. Meanwhile, a new face has surprising ties to the protagonists' past...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-I) 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] "Black" Episode 2

2017/10/16 | Permalink

When "Black" started releasing its promotional materials, I was almost positive that I knew what the show would be like. Weeks later I find myself faced with copious amounts of Song Seung-heon's pixelated crotch in a series which may not quite make sense yet, but which is definitely doing new things and having fun unleashing them on us. You are weird, "Black". I kind of like that...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 Box Office Review] 2017.10.13 - 2017.10.15

2017/10/16 | Permalink

"The Fortress" crumbles as "The Outlaws" seize control...

Despite being narrowly outplayed last weekend by Hwang Dong-hyuk's historical drama "The Fortress", Kang Yoon-Sung's debut film, "The Outlaws" (starring Ma Dong-seok and Yoon Kye-sang), moved decisively to the top of the chart during its second weekend out...More

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

2017/10/15 | Permalink

Dramaland is no stranger to romances starting through the ice breaker of "I see dead people", but "Black" may surprise folks who have been hoping or worrying that this would be another "Goblin". I am not sure what its story will be or if it will include romance at all, but so far it involves death, bonding and a lot of vomit. Welcome to the dark, gritty yet surprisingly humorous world of "Black"...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-joong) 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] "Mad Dog" Episode 2

2017/10/13 | Permalink

Nothing makes me feel more sadistic as a viewer than that sigh of relief upon seeing characters suffer. As cruel as the reaction would be in real life, fiction needs that raw humanity in order to be interesting and eventually cathartic for what is essentially a detached spectator. "Mad Dog" was off to a shaky start, but I really like what I see this time around...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] "Mad Dog" Episode 1

2017/10/11 | Permalink

Mad dogs never let go and our pack's leader makes that obsessive and fierce nature of his clear as he leads a team of misfits into fraud-fueled adventures. If white-collar crime does not seem appealing, worry not. The drama is clearly going for very big crimes involving physical harm and death for the victims, so bring on the anger, tears and hopefully solid catharsis...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 Box Office Review] 2017.10.06 - 2017.10.08

2017/10/09 | Permalink

"The Fortress" narrowly outplays "The Outlaws" over Chuseok...

Director Hwang Dong-hyuk's Joseon-era drama "The Fortress" (based on Kim Hoon's novel) narrowly came out ahead of Kang Yoon-Sung's crime thriller "The Outlaws" during Korea's biggest national holiday, Chuseok. Both films were released on Oct. 3 and pooled from 1,226 and 1,314 screens respectively, and together they captured 60.74% of the sales...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Mad Dog"

2017/10/07 | Permalink

There is that saying about death and taxes and while action comedy "38 Revenue Collection Unit" focused on the latter, this seems to be where its core similarities to "Mad Dog" end. The upcoming drama has a dark tone and some grim content as well as a good cast, which may bring a solid story of justice to life.

Premise

Choi Kang-woo (Yoo Ji-tae) is a former detective whose new mission is to weed out those who commit fraud through his work as an insurance fraud investigator. He teams up with different characters, including a scam artist, in order to bring victims justice by any means necessary...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Black"

2017/10/07 | Permalink

Most human beings do not find the idea of death all that attractive, but if Korean drama is good at something, that would be persistent romanticizing of anything and everything. "Black" may be another handsome Reaper, but do not let that fool you. The series looks like a potentially solid mystery ride.

Premise

A detective possessed by a Reaper (Song Seung-heon) and a woman who can predict death (Go Ara) in the form of shadows team up and try to save lives through their unique skills. The two fight against the rules of life and death as well as the consequences of their actions...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] "Man to Man" Episode 11

2017/10/05 | Permalink

Looking back at all that has transpired in "Man to Man" thus far, it is really just a romantic comedy built on a farcical set of procedural drama elements. Not that this is a bad thing. It makes for a humorous ride and highlights the sweetness of the romance...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 Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 16 (final)

2017/10/04 | Permalink

Despite the dip below 2.0% in ratings according the Nielsen Korea, the last two episodes were actually the strongest of "Man-Hole"'s run. Pacing was brisk, characters had direction, and a few answers were delivered. Sadly, a few interesting elements were only pulled in during the last episodes, but it is what it is...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 15

2017/10/03 | Permalink

Insight is finally given into the inner workings of our villain, Jae-hyun, but also into Pil, who has too long just been a crazy many chasing a woman who is not quite sure she wants to be with him. It definitely feels as though the show is trying to wind up as people start mobilizing once they believe Pil is correct about Jae-hyun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 10

2017/10/03 | Permalink

Now that misunderstandings and deceptions have been aired like dirty laundry on "Man to Man", it's time for the very slow making up period and adorable, petty revenge for Do-ha and Actor. A few graver moments slip in as Husband, Baek, and the other baddies scheme and plot, but those parts of the drama seem the most clunky. It is the romance and friendship Seol-woo, Do-ha, and Actor that really shines...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.29 - 2017.10.01

2017/10/02 | Permalink

"Kingsman" sequel and local drama "I Can Speak" rule ahead of Chuseok...

Despite earning just 50,000 admissions less than its chart-topping take last weekend, Kim Hyun-seok's comedy-drama "I Can Speak" was swiftly overtaken by the foreign spy comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle". From a hefty 1,677 screens nationwide, Matthew Vaughn's sequel to the popular 2014 original - which he also directed and that grossed $414.4 million worldwide - has raced to 2.3 million admissions ($16.4 million), 1.5 million (64.48%) of which came from its first weekend out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 14

2017/09/30 | Permalink

Jae-hyun may not yet be outed to the world, but Pil, Soo-jin and Goo-gil see him for the monster that he is. The problem is no longer about who believes Pil's claims that Jae-hyun is a nut job; it's how to stop the nut job who everyone in the neighborhood believes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 13

2017/09/30 | Permalink

Jae-hyun's true nature cannot be contained by his kind facade and his world starts to crumble. While bad for him, it's good for Pil and the gang and the good citizens of the neighborhood because Jae-hyun is a violent sociopath. Now if only the rest of the drama was as exciting as catching Jae-hyun currently is...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] "Save Me" Episode 16 Final

2017/09/26 | Permalink

The Boat to Salvation is a slippery devil and the time has come for a solid shake on its not-so-divine structure. All of our characters choose their alliances and enact their final wishes as our heroine marches to her salvation and our heroes steel themselves to help end this once and for all. There are no ideal endings in this world, but perhaps small victories are enough...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.22 - 2017.09.24

2017/09/25 | Permalink

Local drama "I Can Speak" denies "Memoir of a Murderer" a third straight weekend at the top...

"I Can Speak", director Kim Hyun-seok's sixth film ("When Romance Meets Destiny", "Cyrano Agency", "C'est Si Bon"), arrived to 1,140 screens in Korea last Thursday and came out on top ahead of last weekend's number one, "Memoir of a Murderer". In "I Can Speak", Na Moon-hee plays Na Ok-boon, a hot-blooded female detective who forms an unlikely bond with a younger operative (Lee Je-hoon as Park Min-jae) who teaches her English. Kim's latest, his first feature film without a screenwriting credit, opened strong by claiming 604,139 admissions (45.98%) ahead of Korea's biggest national holiday, Chuseok...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 Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 15

2017/09/24 | Permalink

There are not enough middle fingers in the world to express how I feel about Guseonwon and this marks a job well done by "Save Me". Every open end comes together and clashes into a smörgåsbord of final week thrills as things finally veer out of control for heroes and villains alike. Death, disillusionment, camaraderie and hope form the final battle for our heroes' future...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify"

2017/09/23 | Permalink

At times it feels like Korean drama has an endless supply of Evil Rich Guy™ characters doing horrible things to brooding male heroes in the revenge genre. It would be unfair to dismiss a work like "Falsify" due to its premise and its proximity to such stories alone, however. Armed with a great cast and a quartet of interesting characters, the drama has a lot to say...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen"

2017/09/23 | Permalink

If you feel burned out by the influx of brooding detectives and copious amounts of violence that Korean drama has been experiencing recently, "Mystery Queen" might just be the break you need. The series will not take you too far from that crime solving sweet-spot and a bickering, yet perfectly compatible duo of crime fighters handling neighborhood villains will give you the fun and variety the genre sometimes lacks...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 12

2017/09/23 | Permalink

Things are a bit of a jumbled mess in the land of "Man-Hole". Pil is stuck in the future, in 2018, with a married Soo-jin, a violent offender in the neighborhood, broken up couples, and a Seok-tae who is on the brink of discovering Pil's truth about the manhole. And yet, despite all this excitement, the drama isn't all that exciting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 11

2017/09/23 | Permalink

"Man-Hole" endeavors to break from its slump, but has a hard time doing so. The mechanism of action isn't quite as solid as it once was with traveling all throughout the time line, not just from past to present. Reasons behind changes in behavior are muddied and Pil still hasn't quite grown up as much as he should...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 Gyoo-yeong) 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] "Man-hole" Episode 10

2017/09/20 | Permalink

Although Pil is still spazzy, it is in this episode that we see that he is learning to care for more than just his own love. He cares about Jin-sook even if that caring doesn't equate to the same kind of love that she feels for him. But these two aren't the only ones who suffer from love woes and we see that love lines are still as complicated as ever...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 Box Office Review] 2017.09.15 - 2017.09.17

2017/09/18 | Permalink

"Memoir of a Murderer" retains pole position ahead of "Baby Driver"...

The American action thriller "Baby Driver", now director Edgar Wright's highest-grossing film, failed to overtake local thriller "Memoir of a Murderer" during its first weekend out. It was a close race, but "Baby Driver"'s 338,213 admissions (22.35%) was not enough to deny Won Shin-yun's new thriller a second straight weekend at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 14

2017/09/17 | Permalink

It is a time of disillusionment for our heroes and villains alike and we know how the latter deal with it. While our infernal apostles fight for power, their instincts and observational skills are sadly impeccable. So-rin and Dong-cheol are in grave danger while Sang-mi does her best to keep up the act through thick and thin. Our saviors on the outside are ready to strike, but they are alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 13

2017/09/17 | Permalink

The closer Sang-mi and her saviors get to the truth and to a semblance of victory the more alert out villains become and this creates some situations which may soon end lives. Sang-hwan finally gets somewhere with his pleas for some official support and Guseonwon's sordid past starts surfacing once more. There are things "Save Me" has not delivered, but ample suspense is not one of them...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] "Falsify" Episodes 31-32 Final

2017/09/13 | Permalink

It has been a long journey for our heroes and their friends, but this is the end of the path they have chosen and the time has come for punishments to reign supreme in "Falsify". Another secret ally is revealed and several lives end, but the series maintains its usual realistic approach when contemplating the troubles of the world. This means that our heroes will always have more work ahead...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 9

2017/09/13 | Permalink

What "Man-Hole" lacks is depth. We are told that the characters are sincere in their feelings, but those feelings are conveyed well to the audience. Jae-hyun is the most effective character and that is only because he is a menacing figure...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] "Falsify" Episodes 29-30

2017/09/12 | Permalink

All things come to an end and this thankfully includes bad things. It is time for our heroes of "Falsify" to get some justice on behalf of those wronged and the already shaky team of villains is starting to lose its members. With the name of an elder being discovered and important decisions being made by pivotal characters, everything is ready for the finale, be it grand or realistic...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] "Save Me" Episode 12

2017/09/11 | Permalink

The efforts of our heroine, heroes and their allies are starting to bear fruit as they inch closer to Guseonwon's shady operations and more people are starting to hear about the cult. Detective Lee stumbles upon some very suspicious connections during a case, but will he take the matter seriously this time? A personal disappointment aside, I am ready for the final stretch...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.08 - 2017.09.10

2017/09/11 | Permalink

Local thriller "Memoir of a Murderer" and "It" edge out "The Hitman's Bodyguard"...

Won Shin-yun's "Memoir of a Murderer" and the American horror "It" claimed first and second place respectively during their first weekend out. "Memoir of a Murderer", Won Shin-yun's fifth film, stars Sol Kyung-gu as a retired serial killer suffering from memory loss who has to execute the biggest kill of his career to save his daughter. From 1,064 screens, Won Shin-yun's 118-minute thriller claimed 43.07% of the sales (899,251 admissions), or $6.6 million, dislodging last weekend's number one, "The Hitman's Bodyguard"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 11

2017/09/10 | Permalink

The more hopeful things get for our heroine the more twisted they get within Guseonwon. "Father" Baek's true nature and perhaps intentions are revealed along with some hidden, disturbing locations in the premises. Baek is not the only one with secrets, however. A certain Guseonwon birdie has a secret of their own. As Baek's grip tightens, our heroes need all the help they can get...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] "Falsify" Episodes 27-28

2017/09/06 | Permalink

With only a few episodes to go, "Falsify" enters the final stretch in our heroes' quest for the truth behind their enemies. The villains' plans are still elusive, but their choice of terrorism is revealed. While So-ra and Seok-min brave through their lack of power, Moo-yeong targets Nam Kang-myeong. The not-so-resurrected man has a strong connection to Tae-won, however and the latter has his own plans...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] "Falsify" Episodes 25-26

2017/09/04 | Permalink

There is no easy way out of the hole our heroes have dug themselves into, but they have no time for self-pity. Nam Kang-myeong is out there and Team Good needs to get him while handling the plethora of enemies actively and viciously working against them. It took a long time for all of our heroes to come together, but they are now stronger than ever...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 10

2017/09/04 | Permalink

As Guseonwon's grip on everyone tightens, allied forces are starting to make their move. Dong-cheol takes some drastic and dangerous measures while our doubting cult follower gains an important position of power near Sang-mi. Our heroine tries to openly resist one last time, but the moment has come for her to try other methods as the outside world chooses sides...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 8

2017/09/04 | Permalink

There is good and bad to every relationship and what is wrong between the couples and friends surfaces in episode 8 of "Man-Hole". Part of the reason for the reveal is that Pil has grown up throughout his time travels. He's a little less thoughtless in his actions and more considerate not only towards Soo-jin, but his friends. He still has a long way to go, but it's a start...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.01 - 2017.09.03

2017/09/04 | Permalink

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" takes down "V.I.P" while "A Taxi Driver" backs away with millions...

Patrick Hughes' "The Hitman's Bodyguard" arrived last Thursday and despite receiving just 482 screens (the lowest of this weekend's top five), the action comedy took first place by capturing 30.82% of the sales (556,100 admissions). Interestingly, the film's script, written by Tom O'Connor, was on the 2011 'Black List', an annual survey that ranks the year's most liked films that have not been produced. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and has already banked $76.2 million, more than double its production budget of $30 million; in Korea, its arrival marked the return of a foreign film to the top of the pile after a reel of successful local blockbusters reigned in the month of August...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 Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 9

2017/09/03 | Permalink

No grand rescue is easy and while physical freedom is not quite here for our heroine, her outside support grants her the strength to claim herself back within her confines. The group once again clash with corruption and the political wheels of Muji are turning, leaving us guessing about the eventual moral alignment of several characters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Argon"

2017/09/02 | Permalink

How does one find the truth in a world plagued by corruption, bad reporting, flimsy journalistic ethics and the distortion brought on by the need for speedy news and social media hype? Getting to the bottom of events is harder than ever in this day and age. "Argon" is the story of a group which fights against this.

Premise

Kim Baek-jin (Kim Joo-hyuk) is an anchor who only accepts facts. Lee Yeon-hwa (Chun Woo-hee) is a contract worker who wants to be a reporter. The two are part of the investigative show "Argon". The show prevents the distortion of the truth like the element prevents oxidation...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] "Man-hole" Episode 7

2017/08/31 | Permalink

The affection that I'd started to build for "Man-Hole" last week has waned this week. Watching Pil and Soo-jin hem and haw over confessing their feelings to each other is getting old. Adding Jin-sook's unrequited love compounded that sentiment. What the manhole had built in terms of anticipation last week it dissipated this week...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] "Falsify" Episodes 23-24

2017/08/30 | Permalink

The realization of their mistakes hits our Team Good like a ton of bricks and the situation gets out of control. Everyone's fingers are pointed at them, while the ghost they have been chasing takes on a very interesting form. The plans of the Elders are revealed as far more sinister than we could have imagined and Tae-won falters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 6

2017/08/30 | Permalink

Episode 6 of "Man-Hole"wasn't as impactful as episode 5 was, perhaps because the change in tone had already been made. Or perhaps it was because it was more of Pil running around. What did happen was that another set of manhole rules came into play and Pil's friends witnessed the magic of the manhole...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] "Man-hole" Episode 5

2017/08/30 | Permalink

Feelings are often realized when it's too late and when words and hearts can no longer be shared. This is what Pil, Soo-jin, and their friends realize in the latest reality that the manhole has wrought...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] "Falsify" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/29 | Permalink

Our trio of justice gets closer and closer to Nam Kang-myeong, but it is a dangerous approach suspiciously approved and even encouraged by our villains. Tae-won gains the upper hand in his arrangements once more and his plans target our Team Good in a swift and ruthless manner, which the plot sadly employs a problematic approach to achieve...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 Box Office Review] 2017.08.25 - 2017.08.27

2017/08/28 | Permalink

Local hits "V.I.P", "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners" secure 67% of the sales...

The highest grossing film of the year -- Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" (Song Kang-ho) -- was denied a fourth weekend as number one due to the arrival Park Hoon-jung's "V.I.P". Park's film (his fourth after "The Showdown", "The New World", and "The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale") stars Jang Dong-gun, Kim Myung-min, Park Hee-soon and Lee Jong-suk and tells the story of a North Korean killer on the run from both Koreas and Interpol. It was a close race, but Park's new crime thriller disrupted "A Taxi Driver"'s fine run by scoring 598,715 admissions (25.09%), or $4.5 million, during its opening weekend...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 8

2017/08/27 | Permalink

After a long and arduous journey, the time has come for the heroine of "Save Me" to find some hope. Our heroes reunite and rediscover themselves as a group despite the lingering bitterness, but their actions make Father Baek more aggressive. Another part of the story has been brewing in Muji and I wonder when and how it will all connect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 7

2017/08/27 | Permalink

While our heroes figure out how to be heroic, Sang-mi picks herself back up and makes the decision to lead the rescue. The "Spiritual Father's" plans are revealed as more twisted and menacing than previously hinted, while Apostle Kang's past starts crawling back as she feels the pressure. You take the cake for messed up people, Muji...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The King's Case Note"

2017/08/26 | Permalink

If you're searching for a run-of-the-mill, Joseon-era film, look elsewhere because "The King's Case Note" is far from the usual sageuk (historical) fare. In fact, the entire 114 minutes of Moon Hyeon-seong's ("As One") Joseon-era whodunnit boasts of its own flavor (mostly of the comical sort), which manifests itself as a double-edged sword. Some of it was brilliantly executed, like the comic moments between the king and his chronicler (in a very Sherlock and Watson-esque pairing) that were laugh-out-loud funny, but the undependable pace that catered to the humor detracted from the film's cohesion...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] "Falsify" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/22 | Permalink

Plans change and allegiances crumble as Tae-won finds himself cornered by heroes and villains alike. The man begins a mysterious game as our Team Good tries to make sense of what is going on and find more allies after So-ra's attack. A major breakthrough happens when a helpful hand from the past points Seok-min to the right direction, but Moo-yeong's involvement and personal goals may become a problem...More

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

2017/08/22 | Permalink

Heroes and villains alike are starting to get bolder with their decisions in "Falsify". Moo-yeong finally learns of a painful truth necessary for moving forward and So-ra has a close call when she pushes the villains' buttons a bit too hard. Tae-won is feeling the heat as well, reminding us that no pawn is above betrayal from their masters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] Man-hole Episode 4

2017/08/22 | Permalink

Bong Pil has gone down the rabbit hole - er, manhole - once again. With a new set of time travel rules piled atop the old, we have even more factors at play, including Pil's growing determination to take care of and win his woman...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] Man-hole Episode 3

2017/08/22 | Permalink

Bong Pil may be a lazy son-of-a-gun in his original life, but he's clever enough to quickly figure out how the manhole affects his life. It's not always for the better as episode 3 proves. Rather than a lazy neighborhood bum, time travel through the manhole has changed him into a dangerous thug, feared by his friends, disowned by his family, and estranged from the woman he loves...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 Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 6

2017/08/21 | Permalink

The world of "Save Me" may be cruel, but our fighters for justice are starting to take form. The appearance of new characters and the continued development of established ones creates suspense over who will be an enemy of our heroes and who an ally. The bigger Guseonwon gets, the more people start wondering about it...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.08.18 - 2017.08.20

2017/08/21 | Permalink

"A Taxi Driver" on cruise control after Liberation Day...

Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" (Song Kang-ho) -- his fourth film after "The Front Line" (2011), "Secret Reunion" (2010) and "Rough Cut" (2008) -- secured a third straight weekend at the top of the pile this past weekend by adding another 949,447 admissions (26.77%), moving its total tally now over the 10 million admissions mark. Since its release early August, "A Taxi Driver" has grossed $71.6 million, and while it is currently the most successful film of the year, it is also now the fifteenth highest-grossing film of all time in Korea behind "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (10.49 million) and "The King and the Clown" (10.5 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 5

2017/08/20 | Permalink

"Save Me" continues to surpass my expectations and subvert tropes at every turn, as Sang-mi's world becomes more hopeless and more absurd with each passing day. The monsters of Guseonwon are starting to show their true faces as our heroine continues to push their limits, but our group of saviors is getting closer to her...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] "Falsify" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/16 | Permalink

There are oodles of justice and great conflict delivered in episodes fifteen and sixteen of "Falsify", as Seok-min and Moo-yeong's master plan falls into place for a killer showdown. Seong-sik makes his decision, Daehan takes its first major hit and So-ra finally gains Moo-yeong's trust as a fellow warrior in this battle, along with another chance to clear a young man's name...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] "Falsify" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/15 | Permalink

Our hero never learns and his latest drastic measures are met with a swift and ruthless response from our villains. The series reveals a new side of Tae-won, the villain we know best, but I am worried about what this revelation entails. Seok-min and So-ra have a lot of work ahead, but someone's long awaited return may help...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 Box Office Review] 2017.08.11 - 2017.08.13

2017/08/14 | Permalink

Local films "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners" capture 70% of the sales...

Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" added another 1.7 million admissions (40.47%) over the weekend, making it the highest grossing film of the year with just under 8 million admissions. The previous number one, Kim Seong-hoon-III's action outing "Confidential Assignment", scored 7.81 million admissions back in January, but Hoon's fourth feature (after "The Front Line", "Secret Reunion" and "Rough Cut") is still breaking new ground...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 4

2017/08/13 | Permalink

When Sang-mi's family starts to rapidly fall apart, the cult of Guseonwon is right there to push them over the edge. "Save Me" continues to build the tragedy of the victims involved and things are about to reach a breaking point when we reunite with our characters three years later. A stronger, more determined and proactive Sang-mi will see to that...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 3

2017/08/12 | Permalink

"Save Me" once more proves that it does not cower away from difficult subject matter and this means that our characters get no breaks from their plight. Things keep happening which create more victims and more perpetrators and which reveal the true faces of the people involved. I do not know where the time jump will lead us, but it will not be a happy place...More

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

2017/08/12 | Permalink

Our crime fighting team was cool as a facade, but now as we delve further into their backstories, they become more relatable, and that gives "Lookout" the edge that it needed...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] "Man-hole" Episode 2

2017/08/11 | Permalink

The nervous energy that pervaded the first episode of "Man-Hole" was dialed back in the second. Although Pil ran around like a chicken with his head cut off in this episode's past, it is Soo-jin that we take a look at and her teenaged feelings for our spastic hero...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] "Man-hole" Episode 1

2017/08/10 | Permalink

The first episode of the time travel romcom "Man-Hole" came and went in a blur. Directors Park Man-yeong and Yoo Yeong-eun-I writer Lee Jae-gon deliver a fast-paced, frenetic opener that rushes by a little quickly to stick...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] "Falsify" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/08 | Permalink

Team Good is finally on the same page and although they do not have group meetings yet, their joint investigation leads them back to familiar faces, some of which are too close for comfort. Seok-min continues his backstabbing tango with Tae-won and the latter is busy trying to turn the narrative against Aeguk with the help of his Noah lawyer accomplice...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] "Falsify" Episodes 9-10

2017/08/07 | Permalink

For all their sense of righteousness our three heroes spent a long time in denial about their capabilities and past mistakes, but the good thing about being in a group is that you always have others keeping you in check. Moo-yeong, Seok-min and So-ra have some much needed reunions and sharing of information when Seon-woo's case takes a regretful turn for the worse...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 Box Office Review] 2017.08.04 - 2017.08.06

2017/08/07 | Permalink

Local historical heroes fly high during peak season...

Director Jang Hoon's fourth film, "A Taxi Driver" -- starring Song Kang-ho, one of Korea's most celebrated and prolific talents -- enjoyed the third highest opening of all time and came away from its opening weekend with just under 3 million admissions (63.64%). The film captures the heroic deeds of an unknown cab driver who helped a foreign journalist (Jürgen Hinzpeter played by Thomas Kretschmann) during the infamous Gwangju Uprising that destabilised the country early in 1980. From 1,906 screens, "A Taxi Driver" banked $21.3 million and has streaked into sixth in the list of the highest grossing films of the year. Kang's previous films include "The Front Line" (2011), "Secret Reunion" (2010), and his debut "Rough Cut" (2008)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 2

2017/08/06 | Permalink

Heroes are rare and not all of them are powerful or successful. This reality is brought to the forefront through a grim incident in today's episode of "Save Me". Sang-mi's suspicions about the cult keep growing with every forced smile and every crack in the church crew's facade. The twins are under immense pressure and the group who can help them starts to drift apart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 1

2017/08/06 | Permalink

It takes a lot to make someone with my film experience feel uncomfortable and "Save Me" manages it. The premiere episode packs the kind of punch we rarely see in Korean drama. The atmosphere is oppressive, the production quality great and prepare a cold shower for how sullied you will feel after meeting some of these characters. Episode one is all about exposition and preparing us for the present...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Man-Hole"

2017/08/05 | Permalink

Time is cruel and human insecurities crueler, as the hero of "Man-Hole" and his unique relationship with his best friend are about to show us. Time travel is everywhere in Korean drama, but what if it were not as convenient and built for fixing things as we are used to? "Man-Hole" is about to show those pitfalls.

Premise

Bong Pil (Kim Jae-joong) is an unemployed man who has been harboring a one-sided crush on his best friend, Soo-jin (UEE) for 28 years. When he discovers he can travel through time using a manhole, he tries to use its unpredictable powers to stop his crush's upcoming wedding...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] "Falsify" Episodes 7-8

2017/08/01 | Permalink

There are not enough closets for all the skeletons Noah Law Firm has been keeping and the latest case involves a living victim whose life is in the hands of Moo-yeong and Aeguk. Our heroes are about to get a proper taste of what fighting for others entails when those with significant power wield it against you. The question is, when will our heroes reach out to one another...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 Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/31 | Permalink

Moo-yeong is proven right in his worry over Daehan's dedication to the truth and So-ra is furious, albeit no longer surprised about the prosecution's manipulation. Moo-yeong makes his move and stages a special trial for Park Eung-mo, but its grim ending shakes things up for our leads. This commotion sparks some reunions which not everyone is ready for, but which need to happen...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.07.28 - 2017.07.30

2017/07/31 | Permalink

"The Battleship Island" already the fifth highest grossing film of the year...

Director Ryoo Seung-wan ("Veteran", the third highest grossing Korean film of all time) captures life inside Japan's notorious WWII labour camp on Hashima Island in his latest, record-breaking blockbuster, "The Battleship Island". Before World War II broke out in Europe, Japan was mining underwater coal on a 16-acre island southwest of the city of Nagasaki and conscripting hundreds of Koreans, among others prisons of war, to toil away in treacherous conditions. "The Battleship Island" tells the story of a few hundred gritty Koreans who risked it all to escape what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Save Me"

2017/07/29 | Permalink

South Korea was shaken quite badly by last year's political scandal and the absurd nature of its cult element has been widely discussed. It is only a matter of time before Dramaland takes a bigger dive into the dark side of religion after occasionally dipping its toes in it and "Save Me" might take that plunge.

Premise

Four young men struggling to get by in their challenging lives reunite with an old acquaintance who asks for their help. The woman and her family are being held captive by a religious cult. The four young men band together in order to save her and expose the cult's true face...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] "Falsify" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/26 | Permalink

A few disappointments, betrayals and downfalls later, the leads of "Falsify" find themselves down on their luck and right back where things started, as the case of Park Eung-mo brings them closer to the people behind him. Goo Tae-won is enjoying his position of power and our heroes are still naive in many ways, but the foundations under the powerful criminals are beginning to shake...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] "Falsify" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/25 | Permalink

"Falsify" opens with several grim reminders that all are not, in fact, equal before the law and that what we know as the truth is only the most well-backed version of it. We are introduced to Han Moo-yeong, a rogue journalist who is trying to infiltrate the underworld in search of someone special. Rewind to five years ago, and we see how things got to this point...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 Box Office Review] 2017.07.21 - 2017.07.23

2017/07/24 | Permalink

Nolan's "Dunkirk" arrives and conquers...

Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed "Dunkirk" was released in Korea last Thursday and comfortably came out on top over the weekend. Many are already heralding it as one of the best war films ever and arguably Nolan's best. The film was shot on IMAX 65mm and is the first feature film to use IMAX cameras as hand-held cameras. From 1,245 screens, Nolan's epic depiction of "the Miracle of Dunkirk" sold 1.1 million admissions (46.53%), or $8.75 million. Its successful arrival meant "Spider-Man: Homecoming" was unable to claim a third straight weekend at the top...More

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

2017/07/23 | Permalink

"Duel" lets go of its love for twists and what we get instead is a predictable, but frankly appropriate ending to a long and arduous journey for our characters. With Deuk-cheon down, Seong-joon takes the lead. He and Seong-hoon have an honest talk for the first time since their childhood and our broken antihero finds some solace in his game-ending choices regarding the miracle cure and Sanyeong's involvement...More

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

2017/07/23 | Permalink

The penultimate episode of "Duel" is filled with suspense, regret and hopelessness as Mi-rae's and therefore the twins' and Soo-yeon's lives are in danger. Seong-hoon is having a breakdown and is therefore unpredictable whilePark San-yeong will stop at nothing to succeed. Sadly for him, his rivals are equally tenacious and the time has come for the most risky move from Deuk-cheon and Jo-hye yet...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Falsify"

2017/07/22 | Permalink

The time has come to once again tap into our unlimited reserves of hate for the corrupt rich as "Falsify" brings more revenge on the Korean drama table. This time around the struggle involves the world of journalism; a welcome twist to the usual business- and law-related takes. Let me guide you through my current thoughts.

Premise

Han Moo-yeong (Namgoong Min) is a reporter who uses his own methods in order to reveal the truth about the death of a loved one. When the law no longer supports justice and the press hides the truth, the only measures that work exist outside of the norm...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 brid