Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: A SINGLE RIDER Subtly Ponders the Small Regrets of Life


By Pierce Conran

A few months after the explosive period spy thriller The Age of Shadows from genre maestro Kim Jee-woon, Warner Bros is back with its second Korean production A Single Rider. Though both films share star Lee Byung-hun, who appears as an extended cameo in Kim’s work, A Single Rider, from debut filmmaker Lee Zoo-yong, is a far smaller work with only a handful of characters and which is largely concerned the theme of regret.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: FABRICATED CITY, Mediocrity Hidden Behind Big-Budget Thrills


By Pierce Conran

Twelve years after the success of Korean War comedy-drama Welcome to Dongmakgol, director Park Kwang-hyun is finally back in theaters with the action-thriller Fabricated City. A tale of gamers and conspiracies in modern Seoul, Park's latest presents itself as a high concept twist on a familiar story but quickly abandons its ambitions and proceeds as a gratingly by-the-numbers effort.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Berlinale 2017 Review: ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE, Hong Sang-soo's Most Personal and Cruel Film to Date


By Pierce Conran

A new year has arrived and with it the challenge of reviewing a new work from Korea's arthouse darling Hong Sang-soo. On the Beach at Night Alone, which borrows its name from the title of a Walt Whitman poem and premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival, his third time there in competition after Night and Day and Nobody's Daughter Haewon, certainly does not depart in any significant way from the stylings and themes of his body of work to date.

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!