Tuesday, August 20, 2013

PiFan 2013 - Before Sundown: Sunshine Love (2013)

Arrested development has been a very prescient theme in Western media. The man-child, geek, otaku; no matter what you call it we are living in an age where the lines between childhood and adult responsibilities have blurred. For the character of Gil-ho (Oh Jeong-se) in Jo Eun-sung’s debut feature Sunshine Love (2013), his protracted immaturity is not because of some addiction to a fantasy world, though the film is interspersed with several fantasy kung-fu sequences. No, what cripples Gil-ho is what cripples most twenty-somethings, a sense of dread as our expectations for the life we are supposed to live clashe with the reality of our situation. In the case of Gil-ho, the moment we first meet him we learn two important things about him. First, he desperately wants a position as a government bureaucrat. And second, he has failed the government exam several times already. Though an obvious change in career should be the next step for Gil-ho he seems too stubborn for this epiphany and continues on with his quest to be a civil servant.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Korean Box Office: Hide and Seek is Lord of the Korean Thrillers

August continued to be redhot at the Korean box office as no less than four Korean thrillers duked it out for the top spot. In the end it wasn't as close a race as it seemed it was going to be but, nevertheless, a stunning 3.96 million tickets were sold over the frame, light years ahead of last year's 3.12 million. The story was even more impressive for local films as the four local thrillers that held court at the top of the chart combined for a commanding 89%, compared with 68% last year.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Korean Films: Impending Contagion in Theaters (2013 Week 33)

The Flu

A new disease occurs overnight and causes confusion in all hospitals. It spreads particularly fast because the virus is propagated through the respiratory system and only needs 36 hours of incubation to cause death. Physicians, researchers and ordinary civilians are fighting to eradicate the outbreak before it is too late.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Slick Epidemic Thriller The Flu Strays Off Course

It was only last summer that Korea released its first film featuring a deadly disease when Deranged became a big hit in June. Coming from the same studio (CJ Entertainment), the new epidemic thriller The Flu, the first work from director Kim Sung-su (Beat, 1997) in 10 years, seeks to strike gold again with the same blend of star power, family dynamics and chaos.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Korean Box Office: Another Huge Weekend for Snowpiercer and The Terror Live

Following last weekend's record breaking 4.5 million admissions bonanza, business quelled somewhat over the past frame. However, at 3.6 million, it is still on of the biggest weekends on record and significantly above last year's 3.1 million. The local market share was a mighty 78%, in line with last year. Just like last week, business was bolstered by a pair a giant productions.

New Korean Films: Indie Films Never Die (2013 Week 32)

Oldmen Never Die

Ji-hoon went to the countryside to live with his grandfather to discharge him of farm work, but also to make sure to make a good impression to get a large share of his inheritance, thinking that he may die very soon. But it's been three years since Ji-hoon gets exhausted every day, and his grandfather seems instead to rejuvenate with each passing day. After taking a long-awaited break for a day spent in Seoul, he returns to the village and comes upon a young woman standing in front of his place who claims to be his grandfather’s girlfriend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Edingburgh 2013: Final Thoughts

Part of Connor McMorran's coverage for MKC of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 19-30, 2013).

This year’s Edinburgh Film Festival presented a wide range of films, both mainstream and independent, from many different countries. It also featured a focus on Swedish and Korean national cinemas, providing a strong selection of current works from both countries. Yet, during my time at the festival, I noticed far more of an emphasis on the Swedish selection; either through leaflets or e-mails sent out to all press members. Other than the beautiful poster for Lee Hyun-Jung’s experimental work Virgin Forest, I saw no other promotional materials for the Korean films on show this year. Also, the lack of critics in early morning screenings for works like Shin Su-Won’s Pluto left me wondering how much coverage such films would get. Despite my opening piece praising the selection of The Berlin File, does it really help to present a full view of contemporary Korean cinema if the only film critics attend is the big-budget, mainstream work?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Edingburgh Review: Motorway (HK, 2012)

Part of Connor McMorran's coverage for MKC of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 19-30, 2013).

Films have the incredible ability to present the world to us in ways that are impossible in real life. They can, through the use of visual and audio techniques, create a heightened sense of awareness about particular aspects of life and allow us to experience the world in a completely new way. In other words, film morphs reality into a hyper-reality. Hong Kong filmmaker Soi Cheang has always had a very visceral quality to his works, placing emphasis on extreme violence and allowing visual style to really carry his over-the-top approach to cinema. Things changed somewhat when Cheang directed 2009’s Accident, produced by Johnnie To and made for To and fellow director Wai Ka-Fai’s studio Milkyway Image. Accident was one of the most interesting Hong Kong films of 2009, and it saw Cheang take a more reserved approach by placing an emphasis on atmosphere over intensity.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Korean Box Office: Snowpiercer on Track as It Leads Biggest Weekend in Korean Film History

This first weekend in August is always a busy time in Korea and though this one was poised to post massive figures, few could have foreseen just how big it would be. Roughly 4.5 million tickets were sold this weekend, the first time the Fri-Sun frame has ever crossed the 4 million mark in Korea. By comparison, last year's powerful The Thieves-led frame brought in 3.69 million viewers. Even better news was a strong 80% (versus 58% in 2012) local market share, driven by a pair of huge new domestic hits.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Korean Films: Snowpiercer Belongs to the Front (2013 Week 31)


In the near future, while an attempt to stem global warming results in a deadly new ice age. everyone is fighting for one of the few seats on a train destined to contain what’s left of humankind by traversing the world with an inexhaustible energy source. Seventeen years later, the population of passengers is split between the elite who occupy the luxurious first-class carriages at the head of the convoy, and the common people who live in the rear of the train. This is too much for Curtis and Gilliam who are fomenting a revolution whose aim is to take control of the engine, which became a sacred place with time and that only Wilford, the creator of the train, knows how to work.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

PiFan 2013: The Terror Live Can't Quite Go the Distance

In an era of oversaturation at the cineplex, with countless retreads and follow-ups dominating the marquees, sometimes a gimmick is just the trick to freshen things up. A clever and well-executed hook can seem fresh and original, but if poorly done, it can easily torpedo a film. In the case of new Korean action-thriller The Terror Live, a chamber piece that takes place entirely in a radio recording studio, the gimmick in the premise is both its saving grave and its downfall.