Friday, August 31, 2012

WKR: Neighbors, R2B and Ample KOFFIA Coverage

Lots of current films reviewed in this week's WKR and a wide selection of recent releases, largely stemming for the ample KOFFIA coverage.


(The Korea Times, August 30, 2012)

(Joong Ang Daily, August 24, 2012)

(Seongyong's Private Place, August 26, 2012)

8th Jecheon International Music & Film Festival Wrap-up

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

It took me a while to gather my thoughts on the eight films I saw during my brief weekend at the 8th Jecheon International Music & Film Festival but now that I've really had the time to think about it, I can say that it was well worth my time. I saw some very good films and a few bad ones but most of all the event reminded me that I'm actually a huge music enthusiast. These days as I try to keep up with everything going on in the film world, it's very easy to forget that. I often go weeks at time without ever opening iTunes. So for that, as well as the great films I did see, I am grateful for the Jecheon film festival and I will gladly be returning for its 9th edition next year.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

JIMFF 2012: Punk's Not Dead (Pankot ne e mrtov, Macedonia) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

Each of us loves different styles of music. Our tastes are informed by many factors: style, geography, language, instrumentation, tempo, etc. We fill our computers and smartphones with these (more ardent enthusiasts may still curate record collections). However, some people will go to extra lengths to associate themselves to a certain style. They may customize their appearance or ascribe to particular ideologies. Politics and social issues can come into it but other times the music might be a gateway to something else entirely: community. The need to belong is strong and for those of us that cannot or do not want to follow the status quo, there is always a danger of being marginalized. Luckily, in this day and age, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pick and choose from many different lifestyles. Non-conformity no longer comes with the same stigma as it once did.

As the title suggests, Punk’s Not Dead is a film about one of the most abrasive genres of music to emerge in the modern era. However, very luck little punk music is actually featured in the film and that’s because the focus thing here is on the sense of community that is created around the music. The protagonists are lost: wandering aimlessly in the decrepit landscape of modern Macedonia. Pushing 40, they are looking a little rough around the edges: leather jackets cover their wearied shoulders; piercings and tattoos adorn their wrinkled skin. They have lived life but time has passed them by and new circumstances have rendered them redundant and mute: their protests are now a whimper of what they once were. Rather than living the punk lifestyle and reveling in anarchy, they merely cling to the scene as a pretext for their existence. It is a social outlet in a world where few are available to them, the booze and drugs are a respite from the bleak landscape there are immersed in.

PiFan 2012: Young Gun in the Time (영건 탐정 사무소, Yeong-geon Tam-jeong Sa-moo-so) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Aside from technical proficiency, I’m always amazed at Korean filmmakers’ knack for thrift. Their films, compared to Hollywood's output, barely cost a dime. A $10 million dollar budget is enough to put out a film like The Host or The Thieves, whereas similar productions in the States will go for ten times more. The cost of living is cheaper and there are other mitigating factors but the level of these productions’ sophistication is nonetheless impressive.

A look down the ladder at the low-budget fare produced in the country inspires even more awe. The beautiful and languid Bedevilled cost a measly $70,000 and many other films around that budget range feature similarly accomplished production values. Oh Young-doo 2011’s feature Invasion of Alien Bikini made quite a splash on the festival circuit and part of it was because it reputedly cost only $5,000, all of it stretched to a remarkable degree. Though at the end of the day that was still identifiable as an ultra low-budget production. His new film cost $50,000 but from an aesthetic standpoint it puts many commercial features to shame.

Modern Korean Cinema Turns 2!

A year ago I took the time to thank you all and reflect on how much Modern Korean Cinema had grown in the preceding 12 months. I also expressed a hope that it could grow and improve in the future. Now, as we pass the two-year mark, things have truly kicked off. The readership is up 500% and the amount of content in our second year has trebled. So the time has come again to extend a big thank you to all of you who have helped to bring the site to where it is today. Without you this wouldn't be possible and there also wouldn't be much a point as this site is about sharing a passion for Korean cinema.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

JIMFF 2012: Abba (阿爸, Taiwan) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

Though not always convinced by the films, the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival was definitely a period of musical discovery for me. It reawakened my love for Tropicalia and Serge Gainsbourg, made me wish I had more time to play my guitar (Jason Becker: I’m Not Dead Yet) and introduced me to flamenco singing (Morente). On the flipside I also discovered that I am not too keen on Thai country music (The Moon). The Taiwanese documentary Abba (which features a number of flashback scenes) led me to more uncharted territory as it immersed me in Taiwan's pop music scene.

This doc’s subject is Hong Yi-feng, the late King of Taiwanese Pop. Much of the proceedings involve the staging of a tribute concert being put on by his three sons (themselves successful artists) following his death. It’s a tribute film that commemorates his achievements as a pioneering musician in Taiwan but it is also a portrait of a deeply flawed man who was a strict father, an adulterer and ultimately an absentee family man. Most of the film is told from the viewpoint of his sons, all of whom are grown up with their own families.

KCN: Oscar Shortlist, Festival News and Trailers (08/23-08/29, 2012)

Oscar news this week and a number of festival items, not to mention posters and trailers.


KOFIC Announces Shortlist for 2013 Oscars
A team is being assembled by the Korean Film Council to deliberate over the merits of five recent Korean features hoping to become to next selection to represent the nation in the Foreign-Language Oscar race. This year's contenders include Im Sang-soo's Taste of Money, Hong Sang-soo's In Another Country, Kim Ki-duk's Pieta (which is having its world premiere next month at Venice, the gangster pic Nameless Gangster and Lee Byung-hyun period drama Masquerade, which opens next month in Korea.

Over the past few years there has been some consternation regarding the eventual picks, which have included Crossing (2008), A Barefoot Dream (2010) and The Front Line (2011). Films that seemed to have far better potential have been passed over, such as Lee Chang-dong's Poetry or the popular hit Sunny. This year's crop does not inspire a great deal of confidence (though few have seen the latter two yet) and imagine that 2013 will be another year without a Korean Oscar nominee. To date not a single Korean film has ever been selected. (Modern Korean Cinema, August 29, 2012)

KOFFIA 2012: Disney, Nostalgia, and Politics in Sunny (써니, Sseo-ni) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

Delve into any well-balanced childhood and you’re sure to find a candy store: our ephemeral youth’s source of confectionary delights and perpetual euphoria. During my childhood I had a particularly aggressive sweet tooth and the easiest way to motivate my obedience or to inspire my eternal adoration was to drag me into a store full of sweets. I grew older and these gave way to popcorn as I found myself gazing up at the silver screen, the candy store of my adulthood. Between these two worlds lies a transition and at the forefront of it, an enduring symbol that came both before and will likely remain long after. I speak of Disney, the dream factory that is also the world’s most powerful media conglomerate. It is a kaleidoscopic candy store that titillates our senses beyond our sweet-craving taste buds. It is also calculating, cloying and devious but I seek not to denigrate its brilliant success, merely to point out what makes it so infectious: formula.

Just like the chemicals that bind together to delight our youthful, undeveloped palates in the candy store, the Walt Disney Company applies a rigid, time-tested formula to all of its products. The formula has many permutations and its application is effectuated, for film and animation, through themes, morals and standards, but also by way of a carefully constructed mise-en-scene. When done right, as it often is by Disney and even more frequently by its subsidiary Pixar, the result is clear: a good film that is guaranteed a solid ROI.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

JIMFF 2012 - Gainsbourg By Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait (Je suis venu vous dire..., France) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

When I noticed this documentary among the many titles on offer at this year’s JIMFF, I quickly saved a spot for it in my schedule. It was my first time hearing of it but as I count myself one of Serge Gainsbourg’s many fans it was out of the question that I should miss it. However, following the thrill of seeing it in the schedule and my rising excitement as I recalled this great artist’s legacy, my initial enthusiasm soon turned to trepidation. Gainsbourg, of course, is no mere pop star (not that I mean to denigrate anyone associated with that label). He is one of the most complicated mainstream artists of the 20th century. Following his death, the president of his native France declared him a national treasure, placing him in the same pantheon as Apollinaire and Baudelaire, two of the finest poets to ever put pen to paper.

My fear was that he is a towering figure, a versatile musician with an enigmatic persona: how does one adumbrate his life and work in a mere 100 minutes? There was no doubt in my mind that the music would be up to par (as it would be his) and that I could expect a number of interesting anecdotes coupled with footage and audio of the great man himself outside of his recorded oeuvre. What did nag at me was that I could scarcely imagine how the film could live up to the man.

PiFan 2012: Interview with Young Gun in the Time's Oh Young-doo

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Oh Young-doo has been working in the Korean film industry for 15 years and for the last couple of those he has transitioned to making his own low-budget features. He and some of his friends worked together to make the zombie omnibus feature The Neighbor Zombie in 2010 and following that Oh made his feature directorial debut with the ultra low-budget Invasion of Alien Bikini (2011) which had a very successful festival run.

Now he's back with a new feature called Young Gun in the Time, which will hit Korean screens later this month. I had the chance to catch up with him following its Korean premiere at this year's Pucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Monday, August 27, 2012

JIMFF 2012: The Moon (พุ่มพวง, Pumpuang, Thailand) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

Generally speaking I’m not a huge fan of music biopics. As the Jecheon film festival has proven (or not in some instances), musicians tend to make better documentary subjects. With the latter format you can improvise and approach their life and work from a variety of angles. By staging a full blown narrative feature, you’re assuming that the musician has a life that is worth the film treatment. Very often this is not the case. While musicians lead very interesting lives, these rarely amount to a good feature-length narrative.

The Moon is about Pumpuang Duangjang, the queen of Thai country (luktung) music. Born in poverty, Pumpuang worked hard to get herself taken in as an apprentice by an established musician in Bangkok and quickly made a name for herself with her powerful voice among a male-dominated scene. The film chronicles her steady rise and later her battle with illness, all the while exploring her marriage as she grows more famous and distant.

KOFFIA 2012: The Front Line (고지전, Gojijeon) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

Before getting into a discussion about Jang Hoon’s much-ballyhooed new feature The Front Line, I feel that I should mention that over the years I have had a troubled relationship with war films.  I have seen all kinds, from different eras, different countries, detailing different fights, and espousing all sorts of different points of view.  On a cold Sunday afternoon, there isn’t a whole lot that can beat a repeat viewing of seminal classics like David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai (1956), John Sturges’ The Great Escape (1963), or Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17 (1953).  Those are actually all POW (Prisoner of War) films but there is a great wealth of others that I can always return to, including: Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition trilogy (1959-1961), Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp (1956) and Fires on the Plain (1959), Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) or HBO’s 10-part mini-series Band of Brothers (2001).

When the elements fall into place, a good war film is one of the most engaging types of entertainment across any medium but that correct balance is a difficult thing to achieve.  War films differ from other genres as they are naturally rooted in spectacle, feature little to no romance or indeed female protagonists, and must frequently sacrifice characters on the battlefield.  What’s more, rather than following a personal trajectory, the main thrust of the narrative is often consumed by a story far greater than the leads that we are to bond with on screen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

KBO: Neighbors Tops Korea-Heavy Chart (08/24-08/26, 2012)

Neighbors Tops Korea-Heavy Chart

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 Neighbors 8/22/12 31.10% 780,556 1,094,081 600
2 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 20.10% 537,099 4,106,828 515
3 The Thieves 7/25/12 19.80% 513,409 12,094,680 544
4 R2B: Return to Base 8/15/12 6.80% 182,718 1,059,543 331
5 Total Recall (us) 8/15/12 6.60% 172,453 1,111,574 321
6 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 6.50% 164,872 672,959 269
7 Sammy's Adventures 2 (be) 8/1/12 2.60% 71,952 1,401,327 244
8 Animals United (ge) 8/8/12 1.10% 33,674 275,373 115
9 The Dark Knight Rises (us) 7/19/12 1.30% 29,475 6,359,420 81
10 Red Lights (us) 8/23/12 1.10% 29,341 38,204 197

KOFFIA 2012: The Client (의뢰인, Eui-roi-in) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

There are few things more satisfying than a well-performed and thoughtfully structured courtroom drama. I for one have pleasantly idled away many a Sunday afternoon whisked away into the heady wood-paneled halls of justice. The beauty of legal dramas or thrillers is that by way of their conceit they are already confined, for the most part, to one location and as viewers we accept this fact. More than most genres, with courtroom films we largely know what we’re getting ourselves into.

So what makes these films so popular when they are so constrained by their design? Their narratives typically do not require the presence of too many characters and often eschew subplots which may otherwise seem contrived. This makes them quite lean and generally pretty easy to follow and be drawn in by. For the most part the stories will be determined by the answer to one question: will the case be won or lost? But the most engaging thing about courtroom dramas is the bitter contest of right vs. wrong. We are compelled to deliberate over the evidence and arguments presented by both sides (though we are often led by the filmmaker’s guiding hand) which in effect means that our viewing experience sees us living vicariously through the jury represented on screen. Some of the genre’s best examples are fully aware of this fact and use it to their advantage, such as the slippery and claustrophobic moralizing of Twelve Angry Men (1956).

KOFFIA 2012: The Day He Arrives (북촌 방향, Book-chon Bang-hyang) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

As far as the critical discourse of Korean cinema goes, few filmmakers have a more commanding presence than Hong Sang-soo, whose flowing narratives often feel like chapters in the same grand story.  In a sense, his body of work reminds me of some of the 19th century’s most prolific French writers, such as Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola whose main outputs consisted of The Human Comedy and the Rougon-Macquart cycles, which consisted of 91 and 20 volumes respectively.  In these exceedingly rich opuses, the French wordsmiths crafted dense worlds, which mirrored the societies they lived in and repeated the same themes and concerns through similar stories and with large casts of revolving characters.

Hong’s output is much less concerned with the high-flown dramatics of the far-reaching stories of these previously mentioned collections.  Indeed his films, especially for an uninitiated viewer, offer a vague semblance of banality and rarely fall into the trap of narrative twists or plot contrivances, choosing to focus on the everyday rather than the extremes of life.  What he shares with Balzac and Zola is a keen interest in realism.  For the French writers this style was labeled naturalism and often explored social injustice and the inescapable force of heredity in the shaping of human characters.  While Hong’s films do not share those specific traits, they do exhibit a similarly acute infatuation with repetition.  People make the same choices and mistakes over and over again.  It’s a funny thing about reviews of Hong’s work but more than most other filmmakers, his whole career tends to be put under the microscope, likely because his films so resemble one another. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

KOFFIA 2012: Bleak Night (파수꾼, Pa-soo-ggoon) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

It’s amazing to witness what can be done with little resources and in 2011, a year filled with high-falutin, hollow, and very disappointing blockbusters, there were many films that did just that. One in particular managed to do the most with the least. The Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) has been training some of the peninsula’s best talent since the 1980s, including Bong Joon-ho, Im Sang-soo, and Kim Tae-gyun, and these days, as it produces four feature-length projects per year, it looks set to develop an even larger pool of talent. Not long ago I discussed the importance of Korean film schools in a piece on the Korean National University of Arts (K’Arts) short Metamorpheses. The technical competence of Korean films is due in no small part to the high quality film academies in the country and this becomes only more evident now that the student-produced shorts and features from these institutions gain wider exposure.

Bleak Night is one of KAFA’s student features and going into the film it’s hard to say that knowing this didn’t completely change the way I looked at it. I’m generally not a fan of student films and not just because of low production values and a lack of experience.  Oftentimes they are pretentious, lazy, and/or cocky and rather than being diamonds in the rough, they are frequently vanity projects from people who either don’t have what it takes or have no intention of trying to make a career out of filmmaking. Let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, this is the purpose that film societies at college universities serve and the world is all the better for it, however I would rather not subject myself to these less than enticing offerings. I also speak from experience, as I too was one of these cocky student filmmakers in my Dublin salad days.

KOFFIA 2012: Late Blossom (그대를 사랑합니다, Geu-dae-leul Sa-rang-hab-ni-da) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

It’s easy to forget sometimes how rigid the rules can be concerning the technical aspects behind the making of a film.  When done right, everything you see on screen (or hear) is exactly so for a reason.  The rich tapestry of mise-en-scene (basically everything but the dialogue) captures our attention by cleverly drawing us to certain pieces of information.  Through cinematography, sound, production design, costumes, and editing it seeks to tell us a story.  It is the difference between a novel, in which we must imagine all these details, and a film, which seeks to show us a world conceived by its filmmakers.

If you take the time to consider what shots are used in a film, you can see (most of the time) a reason behind their selection.  These little parcels of visual information tell part of the narrative.  There are many choices a director or cinematographer can make when framing a shot and each of these decisions will affect how the story is told.  An example of this is from what angle to frame a character: you can shoot from above, from below, or straight on.  In Late Blossom, which features some exceptional photography, this choice is an important one.  It says a lot about how the film views its characters, the majority of which are senior citizens. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

The 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival (CinDi) Preview

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

This weekend I will have the opportunity to attend the Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival for the first time. It may not be one of the biggest Korean film festivals but it has a stellar reputation and is very well-attended. Many industry folk make the trip as it takes place in their backyard, in Apgujeong, Seoul.

The festival focuses on the new era of digital filmmaking and while its scope is international, the premiere lineup is the Asian Competition section. Young filmmakers, who are trailblazers in the new digital arts, are favored at this particular event.

WKR: The Thieves, R2B and KOFFIA 2012 (08/18-08/24, 2012)

A number of reviews for new Korean films The Thieves and R2B: Return to Base and lots of coverage for the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia, which is currently taking place.


R2B: Return to Base

The Thieves

KOFFIA 2012: King of Pigs (돼지의 왕, Dwaejiui Wang) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

(by Peter Gutiérrez)

I’m not sure what the current cultural status of bullying in is South Korea these days – are public policy steps being taken to curtail it, as is the case here in the U.S.? – but certainly anyone who has followed Korean cinema knows that it has provided the thematic backbone to films which cut across several genres. I’m a bit partial to A Bloody Aria (Won Shin-yeon, 2006), and Yeun Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs shares something of its beyond-bleak tone and emotionally raw approach. Just don’t look for any of the former’s dark humor: Yuen has crafted that rare film that effectively plunges head-first into the abyss and never really allows the audience to come up for air, let alone laughs.

So don’t expect a slow and “tasteful” build to the film’s often unforgettable moments of psychological and physical violence. Right away we see our point-of-view character Kyung-Min experience a form of workplace bullying… and then immediately turn around and take out his feelings of shame and powerlessness on his wife in a dynamic that strongly recalls that of James Joyce’s classic Dubliners short story “Counterparts.” But can all of his present-tense troubles really account for the way that Kyung-Min seems to be so haunted? This question is soon answered as he meets up with middle school classmate Jong-Suk for the first time in years, and it becomes clear to us that something happened back in their early adolescence that shaped both men… something that neither seems eager to discuss directly.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

JIMFF 2012: Morente (Morente, flamenco y Picasso, Spain) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

I’m very glad I saw the Spanish documentary Morente, as it introduced me to a wonderful style of music that I was not very familiar beforehand but particularly because it brought the formidable artist Enrique Morente to my attention: a man with a beautiful voice who sings with heartrending passion. However, aside from its resplendent, larger-than-life protagonist, I have to chalk this documentary up as a failure. It is poorly made and worse it comes off as indulgent.

Enrique Morente was a flamenco singer who had reached the pinnacle of his art. At the time of the making of this film, which incidentally were his last days (he passed away shortly after the project wrapped), he is attempting to breathe his art into the words of Picasso, Spain’s most revered artist.

KOFFIA 2012: Metamorpheses (변신이야기, 2011) and the Impact of Film Schools on Korean Cinema

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

One of the aspects of Korean cinema which strikes people the most once they become acquainted with it, is the highly sophisticated level of the production values.  From a technical standpoint, Korean films are often on par or even above their Hollywood counterparts:  cinematography, sound, production design, editing, and even special effects are deftly handled with skill and care.  Wondering how this is the case for a national industry that had been until relatively recently a marginal one is a worthwhile question.  The answer therein lies in examining how a cultural and economic climate fostered this type of change.

During the intense state-driven globalization of a newly democratized Korea in the 1990s, which was known as seghewha, the cultural sector was heavily promoted.  With the creation of a few different motion picture laws that, among other things, provided tax breaks for investment in the film industry, the chaebol, which were large corporations such as Daewoo and Samsung, got involved in film production.  Just as you would modernize any other industry, the film industry’s production standards had to be quickly brought up to speed due in large part to the chaebol’s injection of significant amounts of capital.  However, it wasn’t just money that led to today’s technical proficiency.  I would argue that perhaps more than anything, it was the education of a skilled below-the-line workforce that contributed to the phenomenon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

KOFFIA 2012: In Another Country (다른 나라에서, Dareun Naraeseo) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

Quick disclaimer before barreling on with my discussion of Hong Sang-soo’s latest: This is the first film I’ve seen in a theater since my move to Korea and I saw it without subtitles and it must be said that my knowledge of Korean is fairly limited.  That said, over two thirds of In Another Country is in English and I was able to more or less follow the rest as well.  Undoubtedly there were some things I didn’t pick up on, so in the interest of full disclosure I thought I’d mention it.

Clearly, the most remarkable thing about Hong’s 13th feature is the presence of French screen legend Isabelle Huppert in the lead role.  This fact was picked up on by many global news outlets and gave the film some more recognition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, versus last year when Hong’s previous feature The Day He Arrives was screened.  It may also have been what landed it in the main competition.  However, while it was well received, it was left out during the closing night’s awards ceremony.

KOFFIA 2012: War of the Arrows (최종병기 활, Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal) 2011

Part of MKC's coverage of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (previously published).

It’s about time I threw my hat into the ring and chimed in on War of the Arrows, the top-grossing Korean film of 2011, which has met with positive reactions from all over the globe.  Early in 2011, if you were familiar with the big films that were scheduled to come out throughout the year, you could be forgiven for expecting Sector 7 and The Front Line to dominate the charts during the summer months.  In the end the former was a cataclysmic failure, likely because it was a terrible film, and the latter fell below expectations, it was a decent film but perhaps a little thin to play well given its subject matter.  One film you may not have noticed, I know I didn’t, was War of the Arrows, a straightforward period action film with mid-level stars and no pretense about it.

R2B: Return to Base (R2B: 리턴투베이스) 2012

Following the disastrous performance of CJ’s high profile releases last year, such as Sector 7 and My Way, the assumption was that the company was going to rethink it’s approach to blockbusters by focussing more on mid-level projects. Perhaps this is the case but I suppose R2B: Return to Base was already in production at this stage so they just grit their teeth and got on with it. It certainly feels that way as this new late summer action film feels like it was thrown together. What was initially a remake of the classic Shin Sang-ok feature Red Muffler (1964) starring Rain, the king of K-pop, wound up as a half-assed attempt at emulating an enormously popular and kitschy 80s American classic.

Earlier this week we were all shocked to hear of Tony Scott’s suicide, one of Hollywood’s most dependable directors. He made many great action films over the last 20 years but he will most likely be remembered for Top Gun (1986), the film, which among other things, made Tom Cruise a superstar. Rain may have been voted Time’s Most Influential Person of the Year three years running by his adoring fans, but his screen presence pales in comparison. Love him or hate him (I consider myself among the former) there’s no denying Cruise’s charm. This is what made Top Gun such a hit and is part of the reason why R2B is D.O.A.

KCN: The Thieves Cracks 10 Million and JIFF Gets a New Director (08/16-08/22, 2012)

The Thieves made history this week by becoming only the 6th Korean film to cross the 10 million admissions mark and is now bearing down on the all-time record. In other news, some important castings and appointments, not to mention some festival news, posters and box office.


Samuel L. Jackson Steps Aboard Spike Lee's Oldboy
Veteran actor Samuel L. Jackson is the latest star to join the remake of Park Chan-wook's classic Oldboy (2003), which is being helmed by Spike Lee with Josh Brolin in the lead. Bruce Horsnby has also recently joined the cast. (Modern Korean Cinema, August 22, 2012)

The Thieves to Screen in Hong Kong from September
The summer blockbuster The Thieves will begin screening across Asia from next month. On Sept. 6, the movie will premiere in Hong Kong and Indonesia before opening in Singapore on the 13th, and Malaysia and Thailand in October and November. (Joong Ang Daily, August 22, 2012)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JIMFF 2012: Tropicalia (Brazil) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

Ah nostalgia, what a curious beast it is. This documentary whisked me back to my college days when I was an avid music collector with a rather eclectic set of tastes. One of my favorite discoveries was Brazilian music from the late 1960s and early 70s, particularly the genre known as Tropicalia. All my favorite artists of that period, including Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes and Tom Ze, feature prominently in this new documentary, which explores their revolutionary music and the impact it had on contemporaneous Brazilian society.

Making a music documentary is no simple task. In one sense as a music documentarian you are very fortunate to have an array of stellar songs at your fingertips. However, the danger is that the strength of your soundtrack can overwhelm the film. Tropicalia features a stunning soundtrack and though knowledgeable of this music scene I discovered many new gems as I watched it, this was a plus. Director Marcelo Marchedo does two things with his approach to his documentary. He tries to create a modern, flowing historical document and also attempts to match the liveliness and passion of the Tropicalia scene through the pace of his feature and his panache in the editing suite. His bag of montage tricks seems bottomless.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Thieves (도둑들, Dodookdeul) 2012

The most anticipated Korean film of the year, with its dazzling cast and international locations, opened late last month and has since become the biggest domestic box office behemoth in years. The Thieves, Choi Dong-hoon’s fourth feature, following The Big Swindle (2004), Tazza: The High Rollers (2006), and Woochi: The Taoist Wizard (2009), is his most ambitious yet. It is a vibrant and complex heist movie with one of the most high profile casts ever assembled for a local production.

Popeye and his crew leave Korea to get in on some action in Macao. He brings Pepsi, who has just been paroled, along for the ride. The mastermind behind the big scheme is Macao Park, Popeye’s former partner and Pepsi’s old lover. The plan is to steal the Tear of the Sun, a valuable diamond in transit in one of the city’s casinos. With Popeye’s crew, a Hong Kong team, Park and a few more vested interests, can the plan go off without a hitch?

KBO: The Thieves Takes 4th Victory Lap (08/17-08/19, 2012)

The Thieves Takes 4th Victory Lap

TitleRelease DateMarket ShareWeekendTotalScreens
1The Thieves7/25/1226.80%835,29911,127,705621
2The Grand Heist8/8/1225.80%823,7963,178,770582
3Total Recall (us)8/15/1214.10%432,185782,718448
4R2B: Return to Base8/14/1212.60%394,774726,844540
5Step Up 4 (us)8/15/126.80%201,256371,553281
6Sammy's Adventures 2 (be)8/1/124.60%146,0021,290,233296
7I Am a King8/8/122.50%82,214723,960222
8The Dark Knight Rises (us)7/19/122.50%72,0946,293,588182
9Ice Age 4 (us)7/25/121.70%57,5161,591,314167
10Animals United (gr)8/8/121.30%43,965225,967131

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) Preview

MKC is a proud Media Partner of the 3rd Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA).

The premiere showcase for Korean cinema down under is returning for its third edition next week with what promises to be an even bigger event following last year's already very impressive gains. The 3rd KOFFIA will showcase 20 features and 13 shorts in three different cities. It begins on August 22-28 in Sydney before moving on to Melbourne (September 8-12) and will finish up in Brisbane (September 27-30).

Opening the festival will the hugely popular and critically-acclaimed period blockbuster War of the Arrows. In the same vein, the heartwarming runaway hit Sunny will close out the proceedings with director Kang Hyeong-cheol in attendance.

Both of those are featured in the 'Panorama' section which also includes recents commercial and critical hits such as the wonderful geriatric romance Late Blossom, Im Sang-soo's blistering The Taste of Money, Jang Hoon's Korean War epic The Front Line, Hong Sang-soo's Isabelle Huppert vehicle In Another Country and Hong's The Day He Arrives. Besides 'Panorama', there are another 5 sections to choose from this year: 'Modern Classics', 'Animation', 'Documentary', 'K'Mystery' and 'K-Comedy'.

August 2012 Korean Releases

This monthly features previews the coming month's attractions in Korean cinema. All of these monthly posts are available in an archive on the Upcoming Releases page.

August 2

Plump Revolution

August 8

I Am a King
Tears in the Antarctic
The Grand Heist

August 15

R2B: Return to Base

August 23

90 Minutes

August 30

577 Project
The Traffickers
The Ugly Duckling
Wedding Scandal
Young Gun in the Time

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

KCN: Korean Films to TIFF, Thieves Still King (08/09-08/15, 2012)

Not an enormous amount of news this week. Toronto has announced some Korean films in its lineup, The Thieves continues its extraordinary box office run and a number of trailers and posters this week.


Three Korean Films Set for Toronto
The Toronto International Film Festival, arguably the world's biggest film event (if not quite as glitzy as Cannes), returns next month and this year a trio of Korean films have been invited. The sophomore effort from Jo Sung-hee (End of Animal; 2010), A Werewolf Boy will screen in the Contemporary World Cinema section along with Juvenile Offender by Kang Ji-kwan and current blockbuster The Thieves from Choi Dong-hun. (Modern Korean Cinema, August 15, 2012)

R2B Presells to 30 Markets
The Rain-starring aviation blockbuster R2B: Return to Base, has presold to 30 territories, including: England, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Canada, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Monaco, India, Turkey & Mongolia. The film is a remake of the Korean classic Red Scarf (1964) but by all accounts it seems to fall far more in line with Top Gun (1986). (Modern Korean Cinema, August 15, 2012)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

PiFan 2012: The Crucible (시련, Silyeon) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Among the Korean independent fare at this year’s PiFan there were some wonderful works that will likely enjoy healthy festival runs and should find wider audiences but along with the good there is inevitably going to be some bad. One film that will quickly be forgotten is a low-budget take on Arthur Miller’s famed play ‘The Crucible’. However, please don’t confuse this film with last year’s much-ballyhooed and far more worthwhile Silenced, which was originally known as The Crucible In English.

Though not particularly familiar with Miller’s play, it’s easy to see that the filmmakers behind this work got themselves a little too caught up in the mechanics of putting on a theater piece as well as their attempt at forging a meta-narrative around the staging of a play which begins to take on the story and themes of the work in question. The story is as follows: a student theater troupe preparing to perform their rendition of Miller’s play following the mysterious death of one of their cast members. One night during rehearsals things take a turn for the worse and the events that begin to unfold mirror those of the play.

Monday, August 13, 2012

JIMFF 2012: The Last Elvis (El Ultimo Elvis, Argentina) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

Whether it be gods, sovereigns, athletes or rock stars, idolatry is something that has pervaded human society at the very least since our civilization’s records began. What leads to the fanatical worship that we are almost all guilty of? Among other things, jealousy could be to blame. Be we lacking in riches or power, we often look to others who have acquired them. We may hate these people but just as easily our ire could turn to love, perhaps even devotion. However, this love is akin to self-love as we begin to live vicariously through other people’s achievements.

So where does this jealousy come from? We could throw out a few reasons but I think the main culprits are dissatisfaction and disillusionment. The sad fact is that the majority of us may never feel that we have accomplished what we set out to do in our lives. Even those that have achieved what we desire seem to be dissatisfied with their lot. This is an eternal human predicament: we’re never happy with what we have. The grass is always greener so to speak. A bold generalization to be sure and while I won’t say that it affects us all (though it may very well), the majority of us feel this to some extent.

KBO: The Thieves Overcomes The Grand Heist's Grand Opening (08/10-08/12, 2012)

The Thieves Overcomes The Grand Heist's Grand Opening

Title Release Date Market Share Weekend Total Screens
1 The Thieves 7/25/12 36.60% 1,138,579 9,237,509 801
2 The Grand Heist 8/8/12 30.10% 961,805 1,343,501 694
3 I Am a King 8/8/12 8.30% 271,095 490,594 471
4 The Dark Knight Rises (us) 7/19/12 8.20% 240,450 6,073,570 367
5 Sammy's Adventures 2 (be) 8/1/12 7.10% 218,639 967,254 370
6 Ice Age 5 (us) 7/25/12 3.80% 118,629 1,453,213 271
7 Animals United (ge) 8/8/12 2.50% 86,564 123,247 241
8 Step Up 4 (us) 8/15/12 0.70% 21,029 22,245 90
9 Detective Conan (jp) 7/19/12 0.50% 18,044 499,974 82
10 Horror Stories 7/25/12 0.50% 13,955 315,775 65

Sunday, August 12, 2012

JIMFF 2012 - Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet (USA, 2012)

Part of MKC's coverage of the Jecheon Intl. Music & Film Festival.

When director Jesse Vile presented his film ahead of its screening he asked how many people were already familiar with legendary guitarist Jason Becker. I was part of the majority that was not and as a longtime axeman myself I am little ashamed of this fact. However, I’m very glad that I now know who he is.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet follows the life of a young guitarist, a progeny who took the guitar world by storm in the early 1990s but only for the briefest of times. Following his huge break, when he landed the vacant lead guitar spot on the David Lee Roth band following Steve Vai’s exit, which was the most coveted guitar gig in the world at that time, he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was forced to pull out of the outfit just before his first tour and moved back in with his parents in Richmond, California as he rapidly lost the use of most of his muscles.