Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: DONGJU: THE PORTRAIT OF A POET Offers Sober and Compelling Look at Korean History


By Pierce Conran

During the last year, the floodgates have opened for the Japanese Occupation Period in mainstream Korean cinema, yet The King and the Clown (2005) helmer Lee Joon-ik, arguably Korea's top purveyor of commercial period fare, has opted to tackle the period with his first ever indie film, and shot in black and white no less. A sober account of a difficult time in modern Korean history, Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet combines a young cast with a literary script, delivering one of the most unique Korean period films of recent memory.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: PANDORA Melds Melodrama and Fukushima Fears


By Pierce Conran

Though not a new phenomenon in Korean cinema, the disaster drama has been particularly popular in 2016 and just as we wind down the year the local industry is preparing to launch one final assault on multiplexes with the release of Park Jung-woo's nuclear-themed extravaganza Pandora. From the same studio that brought us Train to Busan and featuring both the director and star of the 2012 disaster hit Deranged, the film has plenty of pandemonium pedigree behind it and already has the distinction of being the first Korean film to ever pre-sell to global online streaming giant Netflix.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: CONFIDENTIAL ASSIGNMENT, A Routine Action-Comedy for the Whole Family


By Pierce Conran

After taking a back seat to Joseon Era dramas and then Japanese Colonial Era films over the last few years, tales of North Korean spies are ramping up to make a big comeback on screens in 2017. The first of four big-budget Korean spy action-thrillers on the way, Confidential Assignment landed just in time for the busy Lunar New Year holiday and has proven to be another smash success for hit making production house JK Films. But like their previous efforts, the commercial calculation of this multi-genre gambit dilutes the effectiveness of its familiar moving pieces.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: THE KING, A Korean Scorsese Crime Saga


By Pierce Conran

Coming in the midst of an unprecedented political scandal and benefitting from a prime Lunar New Year holiday release date, prosecutor drama The King aims to be the first Korean hit of the year. A glossily entertaining saga with big stars, timely corruption themes and a boatload of Scorsese references, this fourth film from director Han Jae-rim aims for greatness until a finale that ultimately buckles under the weight of its own political ambitions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

31 Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2017


By Pierce Conran

After a stellar 2016, many are keen to see if Korean cinema can muster the same quality lineup in 2017. However, though I've highlighted a few more titles than last year, I'll say right now that this year is unlikely to rival the last, when we were treated to terrific new outings from Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-woo and Na Hong-jin, among many other outstanding new discoveries.

That said, many interesting films are on the way and a few incoming trends are noticeable. This list is very subjective and omits many films that I'm personally not excited about or may not have heard of. As always, many of the year's best films will surely be independent productions that will remain off my radar until they secure festival premieres.

Some of you may have heard that Lee Chang-dong is making a new film, but I'm sorry to inform you that due to a large production snag, that project that may never come to life, so has been omitted here.

Enjoy and please let me know if I've missed anything and what you're most looking forward to this year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 15 Korean Films of 2016


By Pierce Conran

While 2016 has a been a difficult year in many regards, one area where it has excelled has been Korean cinema. With big auteurs returning with some of their best work, younger filmmakers making their presence felt and another new batch of promising indies, the industry has put out its best crop of films in years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

27 Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2016



By Pierce Conran

More so than usual, it took a long time to compile this year's 'most anticipated Korean films' list for the simple reason that there's so much on the horizon. Some of Korea's master directors return, following their US debuts, and there are many tantalizing combinations of talent and concept waiting in the wings.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Korean Directors Take on STAR WARS!


By Kyu Hyun Kim

In the midst of global Star Wars mania, MKC contributor Kyu Hyun Kim imagines what a Star Wars Episode VIII might look like if the reins and total creative freedom were given to some of the biggest names in Korean cinema.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top 10 Korean Films of 2015


By Pierce Conran

Sales have been impressive as box office admissions reached a new peak and local films maintained a +50% market share, but looking at the quality of what was on offer, it must be said that 2015 was not the best year for Korean cinema. Big budgeted, maudlin affairs dominated the charts, though there were a few bright spots (such as Veteran), and the year's best commercial films were mostly not rewarded with healthy box office returns (The Exclusive: Beat the Devil's Tattoo comes to mind).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Busan 2015 Review: COIN LOCKER GIRL Offers New Perspectives on Standard Thrills


Part of MKC's coverage of the 20th Busan International Film Festival.

By Pierce Conran

Against a parking lot bursting with saturated colors, a person lies on the ground, at the mercy of another standing above them who wields a sashimi knife still dripping red from its last kill. Dark, bloody and stylish, this could be the beginning of just about any Korean noir. But Coin Locker Girl is trying something new, as these two characters are played by none other than Kim Hye-su, one of Korea's most glamorous leading ladies, and Kim Go-eun, its latest fresh-faced starlet.

Busan 2015 Review: RECORDING Chronicles Charming Cast In Forgettable Story


Part of MKC's coverage of the 20th Busan International Film Festival.

By Pierce Conran

It’s the small moments that work in Recording, a story that is low on ambition but infused with a winning charm even as it drags in the scripting department, particularly in the back half. Sweet and unaffected, Park Min-kook’s debut follows a woman in her early 20s who chronicles her losing battle to stomach cancer with an omnipresent home camera. Even with the end drawing near, she continues to wear a bright smile and tries to spend some of her last carefree moments with her partner and friends.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Busan 2015 Review: A COPY OF MY MIND Sells Itself On Romance And Intrigue


Part of MKC's coverage of the 20th Busan International Film Festival.

By Pierce Conran

Acclaimed Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar returns with his fifth feature, A Copy of My Mind, a tale of love, passion and how to get ahead in the back alleys of sprawling Jakarta. Made with the help of CJ Entertainment, as the Korean major continues to industriously wean its way into developing Southeast Asian film markets, this romantic thriller, which teeters back and forth between the worlds of DVD piracy and local politics, is suffused with ample wry commentary.