Korean Movies

Here’s a list of 10 Korean movies of the past several years that I enjoyed. These range from the comic to the tragic, and involve both action movies and historical dramas. Three of them are taken from events in Korea over the past 40 years or so.

My Sassy Girl – Based on a real life story that a man posted on the Internet, My Sassy Girl became all the rage in East Asia back in 2001, when it was popular in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. This led to a forgettable direct-to-disc American remake in 2008, starring Elisha Cuthbert (who’s unforgettable). My Sassy Girl is about a college guy who meets a drunk girl – known only as the “Girl” – on the subway, and all the odd adventures they get into while falling in love. You’ll never believe where the plot goes in this one.

Joint Security Area (JSA) – The Joint Security Area is the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea, and this movie tells the story of a double-shooting in the JSA. This results in increasing tensions on both sides of the borders, an investigation by a Swiss-Korean woman and nearly two hours of great, if implausible, entertainment.

Oldboy – Oldboy is one of the more famous Korean movies with American audiences, famous enough that it hit CNN during the Virginia school shooting a few years ago. Oldboy is about a man abducted and imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years, and what happens when he escapes. Get ready for the twist, as well as seeing Oldboy go crazy with his hammer. If they ever actually get the U.S. remake of Oldboy made, it’s going to suck so bad. There’s just way too many essential parts they would have to change for American audiences. Oldboy was great, though.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance – Like Oldboy, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance was directed by Park Chan-wook, and this is considered part of his “vengeance trilogy” (along with Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance). When a woman leaves prison, after serving a sentence for a crime she didn’t commit, it’s time to mete out revenge against the real culprits.

Arahan – Arahan is a 2004 action-comedy that was panned by critics, but found an audience. When the 6 Masters of Tao decide that an inept cop has the Chi to become an “Arahan” and rule the world, you know that all kinds of wackiness is going to ensue. You’ll either love this one or hate it.

Silmido – Silmido is a South Korean island where, in 1968, a special team of assassins were trained to assassinate former North Korean dictator, Kim Il-Sung, in retaliation for North Korea’s attempt to assassinate the South Korean president. Based on true events involving a 31-man team of either criminals or special forces soldiers, depending on who you talk to, Silmido takes a look a Korea’s sordid past. When it was finished with its run, Silmido was the first South Korean movie to be viewed by 10 million Koreans in the theater.

The President’s Last Bang – Another movie portraying events from South Korea’s sordid past, The President’s Last Bang is about the 1979 assassination of the South Korean President by his friend and Intelligence Director. This would be a controversial movie anyway, but the story is told as a black comedy, which led to lawsuits and court rulings. For those interested in Korean history and Korean film history, you have to see this one.

Chunhyang – If you like period pieces, Chunhyang is the story of a hidden love and marriage between a nobleman and the daughter of a courtesan in 18th century Korea. Chunhyang reveals the harsh realities of pre-modern Korean society. When the noble husband goes away for a time, an official takes interest in the bride, which you know is going to lead to trouble.

Guns & Talk – After a tearjerker, you might want to watch a comedy. Guns & Talk is a comedy about four guys who decide to become a team of assassins. When a couple of detectives get on their case, things get a little crazy. While Guns & Talk has a number of implausible situations, if you go into the movie with the right attitude, you should like it. Guns & Talk has a slick visuals, though if you don’t like occasional split-screens, you might take a pass.

Memories of Murder – Yet another Korean movie based on real events is Memories of Murder, about the serial killer who terrorized South Korea from 1986 to 1991. Memories of Murder was a hit with both critics and the audience, so expect an artistic film that holds your attention.

Great South Korean Films

The Korean film industry has begun to make a big impact with East Asian movie audiences in the past 10 years or so, and Korea’s movies are beginning to reach a wider audience in North America. If you like these 10 South Korean films, keep searching for good Asian movies and expand your viewing experience.

All Time Favorite Movie Makers

Movie making is a work of art or a cultural show piece that reflects the cultural nuances of a certain generation and society. Compared to other forms of media, the film is a relatively new medium though it has already scaled great heights over the years. Films are a very powerful and influential means of educating people. A popular Chinese proverb says that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. We can say that films are very effective in instructing and educating people.

The popularity of films easily spreads to their makers too. People identify certain films and the way they are made or the message they carry with that of the makers. Some all time favorite moviemakers are Alfred Hitchcock, D.W. Griffith, Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Sergei Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman, and Akira Kurosawa.

The British born moviemaker cum producer, Alfred Hitchcock, is considered as the pioneer of suspense and thriller movies. He directed nearly sixty films whose time span ranged from the silent to the talkies era. Hitchcock is one of the best known and most popular of moviemakers of all time. The major elements of his movies are fear and fantasy where the protagonists are innocent people. They are shown as caught up in various circumstances that are mostly beyond their control and understanding.

In 1925 Alfred Hitchcock directed his first movie The pleasure Garden that was a major commercial success. Some of his other popular movies are Rebecca, Psycho, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, etc.

D.W. Griffith, often considered as the father of modern movie making, made over 450 short films. His movies consist of two parts. He was good at both story-telling as well as technical know how. He is best known for his controversial 1915 film The birth of a Nation. Through his mastery in editing, he invented and popularized the concept of cross cutting. In layman’s terms, this means alternating between different events with the aim of building suspense. His cinematographer, Billy Bitzer, shares a lot of the credit for cinematic innovations. Some of his commercially successful movies are Broken Blossom, Way down East, and Orphans of the Storm.

Sergei Eisenstein was a revolutionary Soviet Russian film director known for his ground breaking use of montage. He believed that editing could be used for more than just clarifying a scene or a moment, or for establishing a linkage of a related scene. Though his films were silent they are still noted for their innovations. Some of his masterpieces are Strike, Battleship Potemkin, and Oktober.

The silent movies of Charlie Chaplin have the strange ability of talking to the audience. Hence, he is counted as one of the all time favorite moviemakers. He was one of the first Hollywood superstars who drew a record number of audiences to the theatres. We can say that his movies stood between entertainment for children and the seriousness of adults. His movies talked about social, political, and economic injustice, all in such an appealing way that it seemed less didactic and more entertaining.

In the movies of Jean Renoir, one glimpses the world of art and film mingled into each other. He engaged masterful visuals with the help of lighting, location, focus and camera angle that added a new and exciting dimension to the film. The well-known films of Renoir are The River, Diary of Chambermaid, and The Woman on the Beach.

The above lists tell us that these moviemakers have dared to break all the rules and take risks. They are therefore remembered and respected for what they did without bowing down to established notions, and traditional norms of filmmaking. Their work is a blend of creativity and a daring attitude that transforms them into all time favorite moviemakers.

Movie Talker – To Talk Or Not to Talk

The other day, I was watching a movie in a theater with some friends. It was supposed to be a comedy, but I couldn’t stomach a laugh. If I hadn’t gone with a couple of friends, I would have already been in another theater by this point. Especially a movie like this, one that would have been better to rent than pay a million dollars to see. It’s getting down right expensive to see a movie nowadays. After you factor in the pop, candy, and the price of your ticket, you almost need to take out a second mortgage. Anyway, I’m not really into the movie, and I can’t leave. I start biting my lip because I have a bad habit which drives my friends crazy. All of a sudden, I hear a familiar sound; a guy two rows down has the same condition as myself. My dimples take form for the first time this evening. The guy two rows down is a movie talker.

For those of you who are not familiar with my condition, let me showcase some of our best characteristics. They’re three kinds of movie talkers. Sometimes it is possible for a person to have all three of these traits but usually a movie talker is one of the three.

The first kind of movie talker is what I will call the Good Buddy. Don’t be deceived, this kind of movie talker is definitely not. The Good Buddy likes to talk to the characters on the screen like they are friends. They may say things like, “Don’t go into that room! Someone is waiting on the other side of the door–they’re going to kill you!!” This individual will inadvertently unfold the plot of the movie. It is important to remember that the Good Buddy does not always realize what they are doing. Whether or not the Good Buddy has previously seen the movie, is not necessarily a prerequisite for their movie talking. Unfortunately, whether they are right or wrong regarding the films outcome, does not change the fact that they are still talking during the movie.

The next kind of movie talker might think they have a sixth sense for unravelling a great mystery, but really they are nothing more than someone who points out the already known. I call this movie talker…Captain Obvious. Captain Obvious’ special power only appears in predictable movies. Captain Obvious might say things like, “Did you see that jump?” Which movie do you think we’re watching here captain? Or, “That’s the guy from earlier, remember he was in the background when so and so died.” Although Captain Obvious may seem like a pretty annoying movie talker, there is one more movie talker who is far worse.

The award for the most annoying movie talker goes to…Speechless. Ironically, they are anything but. This movie talker goes on and on, and on, and on like an old warped record. They talk about unrelated subjects during the movie regardless of whether they have seen the movie or not. Speechless may not know why they came to the movie with you in the first place. If you ask them, Speechless will probably say, “I don’t know because you were going.” They may just want to spend time with you and talk out their day, what they saw earlier, or something about the show–that reminded them of something they saw earlier. Speechless will continue to talk oblivious to the fact that you are trying to watch a movie. If you try and ignore them hoping it will send a message for silence, Speechless will continue to talk and even ask if you are paying attention. Speechless is not a bad person which makes them the worst kind of movie talker. They just have an innocence that makes them oblivious to what’s going on around them. If you tell them to shut up because you are watching a movie, then they will almost always get a doughy eyed expression like you just kicked their puppy.

Nowadays, the average movie talker is silenced at home by the technology designed to make our lives easier. We have the aging v.c.r, the everyday d.v.d player, and the newcomer d.v.r. These three devices are prepackaged with a pause, stop, rewind, and fast forward button. Unfortunately, movie theaters do not have such a luxury. Aside from creating a movie theater specifically designed for each of these movie talkers, the only real thing anyone can do is keep suspected movie talkers at home.

Or, is there?

In May of 2007 Regal Entertainment Group unleashed a new device aimed at silencing the movie talker. The hand-held device is issued to select moviegoers with a direct link to management. The four button remote control can alert management of a problem with the picture, poor sound quality, movie talking, or an act of piracy. Although this device was controversial when it was first released, it has paid for itself many times over through the satisfied customers who get a chance to see and hear the movie they’ve paid for.