Monday, August 25, 2014

Top 25 Korean Films of All Time

By Pierce Conran

I've thought about doing a list like this for some time but frankly found the task quite daunting. Having seen so many Korean films and there being so many that I love, drawing up a list inevitably meant cutting out a large number of films that I wish could get more recognition. But for our 4th anniversary (it's hard to believe it's been that long) I wanted to do something a little special. It certain did prove to be a difficult task...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

MKC Turns 4 & New Plans on the Horizon!

Today marks the 4th anniversary of MKC! After 4 years, 312 reviews, almost 900 posts and 1.05 million views I'm thrilled to say that the site is doing better than ever.

It's a labor of love, but it wouldn't be possible if it weren't for all the passionate fans of Korean cinema out there. So thank you for all the support over the years!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: RED FAMILY's High Concept Suffers From Stilted Delivery

By Pierce Conran

Though as a theme it has spawned some of Korean cinema's biggest hits, including Shiri (1999), Joint Security Area (2000), Silmido (2003), Taegugki (2004) and Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005), the representation of North Korea on screen has always been a thorny one. It's a sensitive topic that is consistently affected by ebbing political tides. Though many different styles of narrative crop up relating to the Korean republic's Northern neighbor, those that have been most palatable to the public have featured themes of camaraderie across the demilitarized zone, films that stripped characters (mostly soldiers) of their ideologies and showed them for what they really were, which is of course people that are not all that dissimilar from one another.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review: PLAN MAN Takes A Few Wrong Turns

By Pierce Conran

The 2014 commercial Korean film calendar kicked off with Plan Man, a light and colorful romantic comedy that carries on in a straightforward manner with plenty of humor until a second half that squeezes in some subtle commentary on the regimented lifestyle of working Korean citizens.

Jung-seok is a librarian with a case of obsessive compulsive disorder. He gets up at the same time every day and plans the rest of his life down to the minute, to the point where he even catches the same street light just as it turns green on his way to work in the morning. He falls for a convenience store attendant who exhibits similar tendencies but when she professes a desire for someone who can challenge her nervous tendency to keep everything in its place, he decides to shake up the strict order in his life to steal her heart. He does so with the help of So-jung, a singer-songwriter who is his exact opposite. Though it's someone just like him who first caught his eye, perhaps he will discover that opposites do indeed attract.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

News: KOFA Uploads 15 More of Korea’s Best Films to YouTube for Free

By Pierce Conran

The Korean Film Archive (KOFA) has significantly expanded its YouTube channel, the Korean Classic Film Theater, after adding 15 new titles this summer. Among the new additions are rare titles from Korean cinema masters such as Im Kwon-taek, Yu Hyun-mok, Lee Man-hee, Lee Jang-ho, Kim Soo-yong and Ha Gil-dong.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Kim Yun-seok on Form in SOUTH BOUND

By Pierce Conran

Normally, when a Korean film's characters decamp to the countryside, we can expect terrible things to happen. But Yim Soon-rye's new film offers a refreshing take on this standard formula. While bad things also befall the characters in South Bound, there's a welcome levity to the proceedings.

A family man decides to move his family to an island when life under the finger of the government becomes too much for him. He smashes CCTV cameras in his neighborhood, refuses to have his fingers printed at the police station (during one of his many visits), and thumbs his nose at politicians. Along with his wife and his two youngest children, he moves to a small island off the southern coast to begin a new life in a dilapidated hut, free from the shackles of oppression.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

News: ROARING CURRENTS Becomes All-Time Most Successful Korean Film

By Pierce Conran

Just shy of midnight on Friday, August 15th, period blockbuster Roaring Currents surpassed Avatar (2009) to become the all time most successful film at the Korean box office. The film reached 13.31 million admissions in only 17 days and after adding 742,576 viewers on the 15th, Liberation Day in Korea, it seems poised to go much further before all is said and done.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Action Thriller THE TARGET Misses the Mark

By Pierce Conran

Normally we read about which new Korean thriller has had its remake rights snatched up by a Hollywood studio (news which invariably leads to a fervent chorus of opposition among Korean film fans) but these days we're starting to see an increasing amount of major Korean releases based on overseas properties. If we discount Japan, recent Korean films based upon foreign films include the 2012 romcom All About My Wife (based on the 2008 Argentine film Un novio para mi mujer) and last summer's surveillance thriller Cold Eyes (based on the Johnny To-producer HK feature Eye in the Sky from 2007). Following in their footsteps is the action-thriller The Target, this time based on 2010's Point Blank from France.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Borderline Life - DEAR DICTATOR Re-Frames the Gaze South

By David Bell

Renowned for his unflinching examinations of the socially, economically and culturally marginalised within South Korean society, Lee Sang-woo’s surefooted seventh feature Dear Dictator (2014) presents a wry meditation on the lives of several disadvantaged South Korean youths exposed to the propagandist gaze of a mysterious North Korean onlooker.

Review: Lame Leads Sink THE PIRATES

By Pierce Conran

Fast on the heels of Kundo: Age of the Rampant and Roaring Currents, the summer’s latest period blockbuster enters a crowded field in a market that has of late become oversaturated with similar fare. With lowbrow, poorly executed humor tucked into an uninspired medley of rote genre mechanics, The Pirates fares the worst among this year’s large-scale Korean productions.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Tone-deaf MONSTER Exhibits Unusual Cruelty Towards Women

Ingenue Kim Go-eun gets her first top billing in director Hwang In-ho’s uneven and sadistic revenge thriller Monster. Exhibiting the same irreverence towards genre as in his previous film Spellbound (2011) but with none of the panache, Hwang fails to keep things on track with a slow to start narrative, a young star out of her depth and a disturbing streak of misogyny.

Monday, August 11, 2014

PiFan 2014 Review: Horror Comedy MOURNING GRAVE Aims Low But Hits Its Mark

By Pierce Conran

Korean horror has been in the midst of a rough streak for the past half decade. Relying on worn out themes, new works been have trotted out regularly every summer but even with lowered expectations, each year has put forth an increasingly lackluster and listless lineup of new films. Trying his best to buck the trend is the experienced short filmmaker Oh In-chun, who steps up to the feature-length plate with his horror-comedy debut Mourning Grave.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Strong Effects Play Second Fiddle to Patriotism in ROARING CURRENTS

By Pierce Conran

When making films based on significant milestones in a country’s history, nationalism can be a great asset in a filmmaker’s arsenal but it’s also a tool that must be handled carefully, as too much patriotic bombast can mar an otherwise captivating story. Alas, the new period epic Roaring Currents, which chronicles one of Korea’s most famed victorious, falls into that category. Formidable effects and a fascinating historical event, akin to a Korean version of 300 on boats, plays second fiddle to sensationalized heroism in this epic war reenactment.

Monday, August 4, 2014

PiFan 2014 Review: MY ORDINARY LOVE STORY Is Not Your Ordinary Rom-Com

By Pierce Conran

Expectations play a large role in how we consume and react to cinema, particularly in the commercial realm. Genre formulas are so clearcut than any deviation is immediately noticeable. Some variation is required to prevent things from getting stale but anything too jarring and you run the risk of alienating your audience. The new Korean romcom (or is it?) My Ordinary Love Story takes such a risk as it veers way off course, but this is one gamble that pays off in spades.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

News: ROARING CURRENTS Lays Waste to Korean Box Office Records

By Pierce Conran

Roaring Currents has turned the Korean opening weekend record to rubble with 3.34 million admissions ($25.65 million) during its first weekend, which accounted for 65.7% of the marketplace. That represents a 41% increase over the former record, set by Transformers 3 in 2011 (2.37 million). The film has already banked 4.75 million viewers and $35.4 million since its debut five days ago.

News: Korean Film Festival in Australia 2014 Lineup Announced!

By Hieu Chau

The Korean Film Festival in Australia returns for its fifth year, bringing with it a slate of the country’s must-see films from the past year. KOFFIA will be touring across six cities this year, and the festival will kick off in Sydney on August 31st and finish up in Adelaide in late September.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Review - Cool KUNDO: AGE OF THE RAMPANT Has Some Swagger In Its Step

By Pierce Conran

With big stars and a hefty budget, Kundo: Age Of The Rampant marches into theaters with confidence and tongue planted firmly in cheek. This hybrid period film owes more to spaghetti westerns than the history of its Joseon Era setting and some may take umbrage at the film's excessive running time, but with a raucous charm and an array of well-mined genre tropes, it's sure to keep most spectators satisfied.