Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Korean Films: Lotte and N.E.W. Join the Party (2013 Week 20)

Happiness for Sale


Kang Mi-na is making ​​many envious with her position as a public servant in a municipal district office. But overnight, her father becomes injured after falling in his stationery store, and she is asked to take over the management of the shop. She has Ever since her childhood she has hated the store named after her and hopes to sell it as soon as possible to get to her dream job, but she doesn't count on its loyal customers, some elementary school students, who insist that the shop keeps its doors open

After the rather successful release of Boomerang Family by CJ, Lotte is in absolute need of striking back in the niche market of comedy fiction, so they send their own candidate this week to directly confront Iron Man 3 at the top of the box office: Choi Gang-hee. You're excused if the name does not tell you much, because the few films in which she held an important role are not very memorable: My Scary Girl (2006), Aeja (2009), and, perhaps the most known of them, Petty Romance (2010). But she is rather very well known in the field of televised dramas as she made ​​her debut in 1995 and has been almost continuously a presence on the small screen. She conveys an image of a liberated and eccentric woman, and she has tried her hand in a variety of media formats, including pop songs, like many "idols", but also writing, with the publication of a collection of poems which quickly became a bestseller. It was therefore only a matter of time before she finds herself in a film that would rely almost solely on her shoulders. Well, it is of course if we make exception of the whole gaggle of kids who should not miss to bring their share of necessary emotion to the film. The potential for public and economic success is real, especially since it's been a long time since there had been a Korean film rated for all audiences. This will make the film accessible in almost all cities in multiplexes theaters. But early reviews from Cine21 report a movie that just manages to give the bare minimum and suffers a lack of personality, which could be partially explained by the fact that director Jeong Ik-hwan signs his very first film.

Watch the Korean trailer here.


A flower is deposited on the side of a coastal road. This seemingly innocuous act wakes some heavy memories in Ha-gyeong, a mother whose daughter was kidnapped and killed before her eyes in that particular location. It is now almost 15 years later, on the eve of the end of the crime's statute of limitations. The perpetrator has never been found, and no one knows who could have put this flower there. But a few days later, another kidnapping takes place, with exactly the same method. The grandfather of the victim, along with Ha-gyeong and a detective, try to solve this puzzle before it ends the same way it did 15 years ago.

New Entertainment World (N.E.W.) would also like to play its cards right, so it's a real clash of the titans that we will witness this week. No one can predict which one will overcome the others (still behind Iron Man 3, of course), but this one seems to gather already more reservations than the two comedies. Like Happiness for Sale, this film will put children at the center of the plot, but with a much more serious matter that unfortunately makes the headlines too often in the local press. The population has been made highly sensitive to acts of violence against children, and the clause of limitation in this type of crime is often recalled during political discussions. If you're a fan of Korean thrillers, you may probably have already heard about it in other recent films, such as Confession of Murder (2012), Voice of a Murderer (2006) and Memories of Murder (2003). The various trailers of this one seem to make much (or even too much) public identification with the victims' families, but struggle to give a personality that would distinguish this story from others already seen. The big star of this film is with no contestation Uhm Jung-hwa. The idol par excellence has already played in some thrillers like Princess Aurora (2005) and Bestseller (2010). Song Yeong-chang too is an actor very well regarded, appearing regularly as a second role like a friendly father or grandfather (as is the case here). But what is quite disturbing is that Kim Sang-Gyeong is found by coincidence in the role of the inspector, a role he had already held in the impressive and aforementioned Memories of Murder (2003). If you have seen this film, you will inevitably remember him. The distribution of this film will be optimal, as could be expected from NEW, and it is not the mixed reviews or the fact that the director Jeong Geun-Seob has made nothing before, that should prevent the public to go en masse to watch it.

Watch the international trailer here.

Dear Dolphin
(환상속의 그대)


One year after the car accident that claimed the life of Cha-kyung, Hyuk-geun, her boyfriend, still hopes to see her come back to him. Still not accepting the harsh reality, he took refuge in his fantasy world in which he shares happy days with Cha-kyung. The best friend of Cha-kyung, Gi-ok, never dared to confess her love for Hyuk-geun out of loyalty to her deceased friend, but given the state in which he is now located, she is determined to act.

This film may well be an independent film distributed by KT&G Sangsang Madang ("The Garden of Imagination", the Mecca of independent art in the heart of Hongdae, consisting of cinema theaters, and concert and exhibition halls on several floors) and have been presented at the recent Festival of Jeonju, the fact remains that this film inspires little interest in me. Perhaps especially because this synopsis strongly resembles that of another independent feature film that I showed you a few weeks ago, In My End is My Beginning, by Min Kyu-dong, the only difference being the sexual identity of the protagonists. The tagline, "can one love a second time?" does not really inspire more trust, but let’s not immediately condemn this film, since it is the new Korean movie of this week that receives the most favors from Cine21 reviewers. The director, Kang Ji-na, signs with Dear Dolphin her first feature film after several short ones, one of which was included in the compilation Nice Shorts! in 2011. All three main actors are accustomed to short films and independent productions, but Han Ye-ri stands out a bit from the lot since she occupied a very important role in the recent Southbound (2013). The film will have an honorable distribution, since it will be available in a little less than 20 theaters across the country. Also note that the Korean title, "You in the fantasy", takes the name of a song by the fathers of Kpop, Seo Taiji & Boys.

Watch the Korean trailer here.

Where Are To Go?
(어디로 갈까요?)

Where should I go? This is the question that arises when Hee-Young gets into the first taxi she sees right after arriving in Busan. She fled from home as she cannot stand her husband who no longer pays attention to her and who probably has an affair. She remember about the first love she left to marry a richer man and would like to meet him again. Joon-ho had to abandon his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player and instead runs a difficult and boring life of a taxi driver.

This is the second feature film by director Jin Seung-hyeon, who began timidly in 2007 with July 32nd. I personally have a soft spot for this kind of movie that go around with very few characters over a period of reduced time, a day in the case of this film, but that tell radical life changes. It will include Kim Gyu-ri, famous drama actress, who has made ​​a name in a few films including Whispering Corridors (1998), her first film, and Once Upon A Time In High School (2005). This is the first time she plays in an intimate romantic movie after several horror movies and comedies. The other actor, Yu Geon, was almost inevitable in film and dramas between 2006 and 2008 before disappearing, and it is only this year that he came back in a drama on KBS. Not sure that's enough to get the interest of the general public on this film, but it is extremely pleasing to see actors from the world of television taking risks appearing in independent films, which certainly pay less than their regular contracts. Unfortunately, the film will be less accessible for all the regular public of Seoulite independent theaters, since it will be available only in Busan, Cheongju and Incheon.

Watch the Korean trailer.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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