Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: My Little Bride (2004)

My Little Bride (Review)
Kim Ho-jun/Moon Geun-young, Kim Rae-won/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...an uplifting and often uproarious comedy."

High school student Bo-eun (Moon Geun-young) after she's ordered to marry college student Sang-min (Kim Rae-won) by her grandfather.

My Little Bride follows adorable but sassy Bo-eun and her newlywed playboy husband Sang-min as they fulfill the dying wish of Bo-eun's grandfather. The pair have been close friends since childhood, despite their age difference, so they share a bond -- not exactly a romantic bond, more like a brother-sister bond. So, Bo-eun tries to live as a regular teenager, keeping her secret from her classmates and her baseball-playing crush. It's a great and creative spin on the typical romantic comedy. It does have some typical romantic comedy scenes during the final act, though, which was disappointing. The ending was heartwarming, though, which is also a plus.

If you're looking for a lighthearted and quirky romantic comedy, look no further than My Little Bride. The film is charming and heartwarming, and the humor is, well, humorous. It kind of reminds me of My Sassy Girl, but, for the most part, My Little Bride is a little less serious. Don't get me wrong: the romance elements work well in My Little Bride, but it doesn't really pull on your heartstrings. And it doesn't have to. My Little Bride features a great and creative story, aside from the last 15 minutes or so, and a wonderful blend of humor and romance. It's an uplifting and often uproarious comedy.

Kim Rae-won and Moon Geun-young are great. Geun-young, however, steals the show; her performance is the perfect blend of adorable and sassy. Both actors share genuine chemistry, which makes the romance more effective. Otherwise, the film is technically up to standard. It looks and sounds good. The English subtitles on the Amazon Prime Instant Video Stream are great, too, hardly any noticeable flaws. Director Kim Ho-jun does very well in balancing humor and romance, capturing the chemistry between leads, and especially pacing the film -- it was over before I knew it.

Overall, My Little Bride is a great romantic comedy. It's very funny and even adorable -- some might even call this "cute" comedy. Regardless, I liked the story, I liked the humor, I liked the leads... I liked the overall experience. I especially liked how it avoided most genre clichés, at least up to the end. If you love warmhearted comedies, you'll love My Little Bride.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: It has some sexual references and little blood, but it's generally appropriate for most audiences.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: My Dear Desperado (2010)

My Dear Desperado (Review)
Kim Kwang-sik/Jung Yoo-mi, Park Joong-hoon/2010
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"I laughed and smiled throughout the film..."

Unemployed but persistent Han Se-jin (Jung Yoo-mi) meets middle-aged gangster Oh Dong-chul (Park Joong-hoon) when she moves into a one-room basement apartment.

My Dear Desperado is a surprisingly original romantic comedy. Recently laid-off Han Se-jin moves into the basement flat as she searches for a new job. As she settles in, she meets small-time gangster Oh Dong-chul and they slowly but surely start their relationship. It's not the run-of-the-mill relationship, though, as the pair share a different kind of chemistry; it'd hard to put my finger on it, but it's very refreshing. The third act of the, however, opts for more of the genre clichés. I liked the ending, though.

My Dear Desperado is a lighthearted romantic comedy. The film has a little less quirk than the usual Korean rom com, but it still had undeniable charm. I didn't laugh out loud like it did with films like See You After School or My Sassy Girl, but I did have a smile across my face for most of the runtime, and a few chuckles, as well. Aside from the clichés the film piles on during the final act, I don't have many complaints for the bulk of the film. I had a great time. I guess I can put it this way: on its own, it's a great film with very few flaws; compared to other romantic comedies, there's room for improvement.

Jung Yoo-mi delivers a great performance; she's very genuine. Park Joong-hoon is also great; a textbook gangster with personality. The music is good; it doesn't play often, but it's distinct enough to notice every now and then. The English subtitles in the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream have some noticeable flaws ("are" instead of "our", etc.), but it's still easy enough to understand. Writer and director Kim Kwang-sik does well in sparking chemistry between the two leads and balancing the romance and humor; it only really fumbles when the film becomes a typical romantic comedy during the third act -- even then, it's still an effective drama.

Overall, My Dear Desperado is a great film. It's different from the typical romantic comedy, at least for the first hour or so. More importantly, its very entertaining; I laughed and smiled throughout the film and had a great time. If you're really into the genre, you may even shed some tears. There's room for improvement, but that doesn't make the film bad at all.

Score: 8/10 
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Hide and Seek (2013)

Hide and Seek (Review)
Huh Jung/Son Hyun-joo/2013
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...gives most thrillers nowadays a run for their money..."

When his estranged brother mysteriously disappears, Sung-soo (Son Hyun-joo) , a successful businessman with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, begins to investigate.

After its excellent introduction, Hide and Seek continues to follow Sung-soo as he investigates the disappearance, and Sung-soo's family as they are tormented by an unknown assailant wearing a motorcycle helmet. The story is very effective in crafting the paranoid idea of squatters living in people's homes without permission... and often while the owners are home. It's an eerie and suspenseful mystery with a great climax. The ending, and a few other scenes, leave you with questions, though, so it's somewhat unfulfilling.

Hide and Seek is a very suspenseful thriller-mystery film. The concept -- people living in other people's home -- is creepy on its own, and this story helps amplify it. The film begins with a chilling and suspenseful introduction -- one of the best intros to a film I've seen in a while -- it feels like something straight out of a classic slasher film. And, it surprisingly continues with this nail-biting tension for most of the film. Many of these scenes literally had me at the edge of my seat -- and I mean literally.

However, some of these scenes go from genuine suspense to fabricated suspense. They go from "hurry, get out there!!" to "why would you do that!?!" -- both are suspenseful, but the latter is contrived. Like a scene where someone slips for no apparent reason only to increase the suspense -- it's less effective when it takes the easy way. Fortunately, the film has more genuine suspense than any other type.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Son Hyun-joo does very well in his subtle performance -- not even a whiff of the melodramatics. The film is shot very well, I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematography. The music is also fantastic in building atmosphere; many of the suspenseful scenes opt out of music, though, which is impressive. The English subtitles on the Netflix Instant stream are perfect. Writer and director Huh Jung masterfully builds the suspense and thrills in Hide and Seek; it does lose some momentum towards the end, and some of the writing could use some fine-tuning, but it's otherwise a masterful thriller.

Overall, Hide and Seek is a great film. The concept is creepy, the story is engaging, and the suspense is mostly incredible. There are some holes and plot contrivances in the film, but it's mostly original, well-written, meticulously-directed, and thrilling. Although I think The Terror Live is the most suspenseful film of 2013, I think Hide and Seek gives most thrillers nowadays a run for their money -- with a fraction of their budget.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Love Fiction (2012)

Love Fiction (Review)
Jeon Kye-soo/Ha Jung-woo/2012
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...an original and charming romantic comedy, despite its long-winded presentation."

Novelist Goo Joo-wol (Ha Jung-woo), a hopeless romantic suffering from writer's block, finds a muse in Hee-jin (Gong Hyo-jin), a film distributor with an interesting past.

Love Fiction is unique in that it's mostly told in Joo-wol's perspective -- we rarely see any scenes with Hee-jin alone. So, the story follows Joo-wol as he develops a relationship with Hee-jin and overcomes his writer's block. Their relationship is a little different because of Joo-wol's wild imagination and Hee-jin's wild past, as well as her wild armpit hair. It's mostly an original romantic comedy until it reaches the all too familiar climax. Why do romantic comedies always end this way?

Love Fiction is a good romantic comedy, though. I liked it. It had at least a handful of very funny scenes, as well some charm and wit. It's not the funniest romantic comedy, but it has its moments. I like the originality in the storytelling, too, we usually don't see romantic comedy films that focus on a singular character, especially the male. It is obviously one-sided, though, so it doesn't give the relationship a full opportunity to grow. Also, the film tends to drag quite a bit. That coupled with the long runtime makes the film feel much longer than it's actual runtime.

Ha Jung-woo is good as the lead. Gong Hyo-jin compliments Jung-woo well. The pair share great chemistry on screen, despite a few issues in story. Otherwise, the film is about standard -- it's shot well and the music matches the mood. The English subtitles on the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream are great -- a few spelling errors, but nothing detrimental. I like director Jeon Kye-soo's ambition in storytelling, but feel like the story is held back by bad pacing and a bloated runtime.

Overall, Love Fiction is a good film. It's an original and charming romantic comedy, despite its long-winded presentation. Although there are a few laugh out loud moments, there aren't enough to cover the long runtime and some of the humor falls flat. I'd recommend renting for fans of the genre or cast; I streamed it and had a decent enough time not to regret it.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some sexual references, but generally appropriate for most audiences.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Lee Dae-ro Can't Die (aka Short Time) (2005)

Lee Dae-ro Can't Die (aka Short Time) (Review)
Lee Young-eun/Lee Beom-soo/2005
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a little black, a little lighthearted, a little bizarre, and all-around hilarious."

Police officer and conman Lee Dae-ro (Lee Beom-soo) rushes to secure his daughter's financial future when he finds out he has a brain tumor...

Lee Dae-ro Can't Die follows Lee Dae-ro as he tries to secure his feisty daughter's financial future. Dae-ro has a brain tumor and is given three to four months to live. So, he applies for insurance and is determined to die by anything but his brain tumor. The problem is: Lee Dae-ro can't die. Being attacked by notorious thugs, jumping off buildings, crashing cars... he's invulnerable. Aside from trying to die, Dae-ro has to find a parent-figure for his daughter, Hyun-ji, which is either going to be Hyun-ji's biological mother or his current gold digging girlfriend. The ending was great; it left a little to be desired and it isn't definitive, but at least it doesn't spoil the mood.

Lee Dae-ro Can't Die, also known as Short Time, is a great Korean comedy. It's a little black, a little lighthearted, a little bizarre, and all-around hilarious. And it does it all with the Korean comedies' signature charm and quirk. The story was creative and funny, as were the characters. Lee Dae-ro is a conman, but he comes off as funny. Hyun-ji is adorable and has plenty of hilarious scenes, too. It does lose some momentum with the cliché gold-digger subplot in the second half, but that's fortunately short-lived. Otherwise, it's a laugh-out-loud film from beginning to end, and it even has some genuinely emotional scenes.

Lee Beom-soo, who recently starred in Over My Dead Body, is great as the leading man; he's charismatic and quirky. Byeon Ju-yeon plays Hyun-ji, and she nails the performance; she's funny and genuine during her emotional scenes. It's a well-shot film, and the music was also good; a fairly standard comedy film. I did like the sound effects used in the film. The English subtitles in the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream are great -- a few spelling errors, but not at all detrimental. Director Lee Young-eun does well in creating a consistent and hilarious film; although it loses some momentum on occasion, it has great personality and charm thanks to Young-eun's direction.

Overall, Lee Dae-ro Can't Die, also known as Short Time, is a great comedy. I had a smirk on my face throughout most of the film, and I burst our laughing more than a handful of times. (which usually isn't the norm for me.) It does have a cliché and dull yet short subplot, and the ending may feel like a cop-out, though. It's a great time, and its balanced pacing make this the perfect time-killer. Oh, and stick around for the credits for some hilarious deleted scenes.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Goodbye Mom (aka Aeja) (2009)

Goodbye Mom (aka Aeja) (Review)
Jeong Ki-Hun/Choi Gang-Hee/2009
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"A magnificent performance from Kim Young-ae..."

The relationship between daughter, Aeja (Choi Gang-hee), and mother, Young-hee (Kim Young-ae), is tested when Young-hee's illness returns...

Goodbye Mom starts with Aeja in high school, which gives us a very brief look at her young character and her relationship with her mother. Fast forward ten years, Aeja is very much the same, but hasn't accomplished much. She returns home for her bother's marriage, and, eventually, her mother collapses. Now, Aeja and Young-hee have always had a tough relationship, but the illness will test it. They bicker and argue, but they bond. The film's introduction and first act don't build up much, but the film gets more emotional as it progresses. And, this is proven by the deep ending -- definitely an ending that will either make you call your mother or reminisce, or at least think about a significant loved one.

Like I said, Goodbye Mom doesn't have a very effective introduction. In fact, the high school segment as a whole doesn't really do much for me, in this case. Furthermore, the first act of the film has a strong focus on Aeja, who really isn't likable on her own -- I know it's her character, and I definitely don't hate it, but she comes off as too arrogant and obnoxious. Also, a lot of the humor surrounding Aeja seems forced -- it's just comes off as unnatural and bland. But, notice I said "on her own." Fortunately, as the film progresses, Aeja and her mother, Young-hee, spend more time together, and they're the perfect pair. Young-hee is feisty, witty, and charming and, most importantly, hilarious. Young-hee as a character can float on her own, where as Aeja seems to sink with the forced humor.

The first act is tolerable, though -- it's disappointing, but not something you'll have to fight to get through. The rest of the film is a great blend of humor and drama. As long as Young-hee and Aeja share the screen, there will be genuine humor and chemistry as well as emotional drama. The characters have some depth, but the relationship is really what shines; the way Aeja and Young-hee interact seems natural -- like a real mother-daughter relationship. And that's what redeems the film, that's what makes the effective and even thought-provoking finale.

Choi Gang-hee is very good at playing the arrogant daughter as an adult. However, she's out of place during the high school introduction -- she looks and sounds much too old for that segment. A magnificent performance from Kim Young-ae, though. She's very charismatic and likable. Otherwise, the film is about standard on the technical side. The music is sentimental, the film is shot competently, and so on. The English subtitles on the Amazon Instant Video stream are great -- some small errors, but not detrimental. Director and writer Jeong Ki-hun does well in blending the drama and humor as the film progresses, but it's often heavy-handed; aside from the pacing and some character issues, Ki-hun does well as director.

Overall, Goodbye Mom has a rough introduction, but redeems itself as the film progresses. Although some of the humor feels forced and unnatural, the mother-daughter relationship feels genuine and the
drama is effective. Well worth watching for fans of coming-of-age dramas, or those looking for something emotional.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some blood.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Friend (2001)

Friend (Review)
Kwak Kyung-taek/Yu Oh-seong/2001
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a very powerful and engaging drama about friendship."

The story of four friends from childhood to young adults, and the obstacles that strain and challenge their relationship.

Friend follows Joon-seok (Yu Oh-seong), whose father is a mob boss, Dong-su (Jang Dong-gun), whose father is an undertaker, Sang-taek, the shy bookworm, and Jung-ho, the class clown. The story is narrated by Sang-taek, but we mostly see the perspective of Joon-seok and Dong-su. They grow up together as children and fight together as teens, but see their relationship strain as they grow older. The relationship is especially tested when Joon-seok and Dong-su become rival gang bosses. The film builds very well to a strong climax and emotional ending, albeit slightly cliché.

Friend is a great film. I really enjoyed the story. The group of friends feel like an actual group of friends. This makes the drama feel much more authentic. You can really see when their happy and when their tested. Its overall theme worked very well, too. I even questioned the definition of "Friend". However, I think the film was a bit stretched with four friends. With two taking the center stage and one narrating, that leaves a character as a simple afterthought. Similarly, there's also a love subplot that never fully develops -- it serves a purpose, but could've been much more. Otherwise, this is a very powerful and engaging drama about friendship.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Yu Oh-seong delivers a really strong performance, and so does Jang Dong-gun. The film is shot very well, I enjoyed the cinematography. The music blends very well with the film; it has a minor role during most of the film, but has great placement during certain sequences. The English subtitles on the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream are great, very few flaws. Director Kwak Kyung-taek delivers a very genuine drama; Kyung-taek does an exemplary job using the film's theme.

Overall, Friend is a great drama. It had me hooked from beginning to end, and I was genuinely interested to see how this relationship would develop. It has a great focus on character, or at least the two lead characters, which makes the drama very powerful. A must-watch for fans of the genre.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, sex and brief nudity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Evil Twin (2007)

Evil Twin (Review)
Kim Ji-hwan/Park Shin-hye/2007
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...spine-tingling and exciting."

When an accident ten years prior kills her twin sister and leaves her in a coma, So-yeon (Park Shin-hye) awakens and the village experiences strange events...

Evil Twin mainly follows So-yeon and her village as they experience these strange events. So-yeon's twin sister, Hyo-jin, is said to haunt the area. So-yeon doesn't remember the events that took her sister's life, so she tries to unravel the mystery while staying sane. Meanwhile, the rest of the villagers become victims to Hyo-jin's wrath. The ending of the film is a bit abrupt and underwhelming -- it's a decent ending, but it lacks buildup and effective closure.

One of the biggest flaws for Evil Twin is its failure to use its distinct setting to its advantage. There are not a lot of ghost films based on the era, so it had a great opportunity. Unfortunately, the film opts for the familiar "black-haired-white-nightgown" style ghost story. The setting offers enough to present a unique style, but the story is run-of-the-mill. The horror consists of some surprising jump-scares and spooky visuals. In this case, I really enjoyed the creepy visual scares; some were spine-tingling and exciting. (I'm a sucker for the traditional Asian ghost, sue me.)

The acting was good. The roles aren't very demanding, but at least Park Shin-hye has the charisma to hold the film together. The music is standard horror music; again, it fumbles in using the setting to create a more distinct horror film. The film is shot well; some scenes are too dark, but I think that may have been the print I watched. The Amazon Prime Instant Video stream I watched is poorly translated -- it's filled with spelling and grammatical errors, which in turn makes the film much more difficult to follow. The story is simple enough to understand, though. Director Kim Ji-hwan fails to use his setting in an effective way, but conjures some spooky visuals and effective jump-scares.

Overall, Evil Twin is a good horror film. There are a few jump-scares I liked, and I especially enjoyed the visual scares. As a fanboy, I haven't grown completely tired of the typical Asian ghost, though. I recommend watching this film if you haven't burned yourself out on the genre.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: The Cut (2007)

The Cut (aka Anonymous Blood or Cadaver) (Review)
Son Tae-woong/Han Ji-min/2007
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"...there is some surprising emotional depth."

A group of recently-initiated medical students begin their dissection class. Soon thereafter, the group begin suffering from nightmares and eerie experiences at school...

The Cut follows Seon-hwa (Han Ji-min), her complicated love interest Ki-bum, and the other members of their dissection group as they, well, begin dissecting a cadaver. They eventually start hearing and seeing things around the school, and they are soon picked off one by one -- the victims are found without their hearts and stitched back up. Eventually, they realize they all share similar dreams of a one-eyed surgeon and they start to unravel the mystery. The mystery treads familiar territory, as does the resolution, but I thought the ending was good.

The Cut, also known as Anonymous Blood or Cadaver, is a good horror-mystery film. The story treads some familiar territory, but it does offer some great horror elements and a very spooky atmosphere. The horror consists of some solid jump-scares, great suspense and tension, and some very chilling visuals. It does lose some steam during the second half where the investigation takes center-stage, though. As far as the story as a whole goes, it kind of reminded of films like The Wig -- the characters aren't too deep, but there is some surprising emotional depth. And this in turn makes the horror so much more effective. The main issues I had with the film were its pacing and the generic mystery; the pacing hurts more because of the bloated runtime, too, it could've been so much shorter.

The acting is all-around great. Han Ji-min is a great leading lady, very genuine and didn't overact a bit. The film is shot well; make sure you watch this in a dark room because it has many dark scenes and the light will make it hard to see. (and you should be watching horror movies in the dark, anyway.) The music was good, a standard horror score. I watched the Hong Kong DVD, which I recommend you avoid. The English subtitles on this DVD are delayed -- when a character speaks, you have to wait a few seconds for the translation to show up -- and this makes the film complicated to follow a simple conversation. Director Son Tae-woong loses some momentum during the second half, but masterfully crafts its creepy and goosebump-inducing atmosphere.

Overall, The Cut, also known as Anonymous Blood, is a good horror-mystery. The horror, although not consistent throughout the entire film, is hair-raising spooky and the atmosphere is dreadful -- in a good way. The mystery, however, is very familiar and cause the film to lose some of its horror momentum. If you speak the language or have a better translation, bump the film up to a 7. If you're watching the Hong Kong DVD, keep it at a 6 -- good, but you'll have to work for it.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, nudity. (the cadavers are nude.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Bestseller (2010)

Bestseller (Review)
Lee Jung-ho/Uhm Jung-hwa/2010
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a run-of-the-mill mystery-thriller."

After being suspected of plagiarism, writer Hee-soo (Uhm Jung-hwa) moves into a small house in a rural city in hopes of recovering her career.

Bestseller treads very familiar territory. The story follows Hee-soo as she moves into this house and attempts to write a new book. Of course, creepy things happen in the home and Hee-soo conjures an idea for a book. The new book is published, but it turns out Hee-soo has plagiarized again. So, Hee-soo returns to the home to unravel the mystery. Best seller has a few twists and turns, albeit predictable, and leads to a decent ending; much of the third act is contrived, but exciting.

Bestseller is a run-of-the-mill mystery-thriller. It really doesn't offer anything new to the genre. Should it have to? Well, that's debatable. I didn't mind much, though. The story is interesting enough to keep my attention, and it's dark enough to feel like a genuine thriller. The mystery is engaging, but very predictable. The suspense is light -- it's not heart-stopping, but it's there. The film packs a few thrills during its climax, which helped liven the film up a bit. All around, the film also has an ominous atmosphere; so, it is occasionally creepy. Not exactly a horror film by any means, but it has some chilling scenes. It does have a few pacing issues, though, and the runtime is bloated, so it can feel dull and uneventful and dull at times.

Uhm Jung-hwa, who is great in Dancing Queen, is a mixed bag -- she starts off well and finishes neatly, but everything in-between is overacted. I can tolerate most melodramatic performances, but Jung-hwa felt too over-the-top. The rest of the cast is good. The film looks good -- no complaints on my end. The music is a standard thriller soundtrack. The English subtitles on the Amazon Prime Instant Video are good; there are a few flaws, such as "hears" instead of "years", but you'll understand the story. Writer and director Lee Jung-ho is decent; the story is average, but the film does have some suspense, some thrills, and a great atmosphere.

Overall, I liked Bestseller. The suspense is decent, the climax is exciting, and the film has a creepy atmosphere. The story is familiar yet enjoyable. However, it's not without flaws, such as the predictable twists and turns, the inconsistent pacing, and the bloated runtime. Worth a rental or a purchase at a low price, at least.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: A Tale of Legendary Libido (2008)

A Tale of Legendary Libido (Review)
Shin Han-sol/Bong Tae-gyu/2008
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"It'll definitely be for you if you love Korean women..."

During the Joseon Dynasty, rice cake seller Byeon Gang-soe (Bong Tae-gyu) is ridiculed by the village women for his limp libido... until he turns the tables.

A Tale of Legendary Libido is a fairly simple story. Gang-soe is ridiculed by a sex-starved community of women for being impotent. Gang-soe seeks a potion buried in the woods that may aid him. The potion works with huge results and a ridiculous libido rise. And, that's about it. The most original aspect of the story is the setting, but the story itself is filled with a lot of clichés and predictable elements. The ending was decent; bizarre, especially if you're not accustomed with the humor, but decent.

In fact, most of the humor in the film is bizarre, ridiculous, and raunchy -- most of it being slapstick. Much of the humor was really on the stupid side. Before you call me pretentious, though, let me explain. Some of the humor is stupid in a funny way; you'll have a laugh at how stupid it is and move on. The other type of stupid humor this film has is borderline "Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer" stupid -- this is the type of humor that'll raise eyebrows and roll eyes. So, the humor is really hit-or-miss.

The story felt half-baked. It doesn't really go anywhere, it has no flow or consistency. And, it loses momentum during the second half, so it has a fair share of dull moments; this is more noticeable because of its long runtime. Fortunately, aside from some laugh out loud moments, the film is also filled with gorgeous Korean women -- and who doesn't love Korean women? The sex and nudity is very, very gratuitous. I'm not complaining, but it's worth noting. (i.e. Don't watch this with an insecure loved one.)

Bong Tae-gyu, who also stars in the excellent See You After School, is good; he doesn't have the same quirky charisma he had in See You After School, but he's still very humorous. The rest of the acting was decent; none of the roles are demanding, though. (It's a comedy, so I don't fault it too harshly.) The music didn't stand out most of the time. The set design and costume design were good; its not Masquerade quality, but it helps in creating a distinct comedy. Writer and director Shin Han-sol has a mixed bad of comedy; it's occasionally funny, and occasionally boring. Han-sol missed every opportunity to craft a unique comedy, though -- he has the setting and characters, but he still misses.

Overall, A Tale of Legendary Libido is a decent comedy. The concept and setting are creative, but the story is riddled with clichés. I laughed out loud a handful of times, but was equally bored, otherwise. Bong Tae-gyu is good, but has been better. If you liked raunchy and random comedies, this might be for you. It'll definitely be for you if you love Korean women, though.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, excessive sex and nudity.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: A Brand New Life (2009)

A Brand New Life (Review)
Ounie Lecomte/Kim Sae-ron/2009
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...it's perfect for those who love to feel during films."

Jin-hee (Kim Sae-ron), a 9-year-old girl, is left at an orphanage by her father and must face her sad reality.

A Brand New Life is simple yet effective. The story begins with Jin-hee spending some quality time with her father. Soon afterward, she's abandoned at an orphanage. From there on, Jin-hee struggles to accept reality and make friends. She sees some light, but an equal amount of setbacks -- setbacks for herself as well as the other residents of the orphanage. The ending of the film offers a glimmer of hope, though -- not a shining beacon or even an in-depth ending, but it's something.

A Brand New Life is a very effective story. It's a very sad film loosely inspired by true events, which adds a bit to the overall effectiveness of the story. Most of the time Jin-hee struggles to cope with abandonment, and if that's not enough, so do some of the other orphans. In other words, it's drenched in sorrow for most of its runtime. Although it's effective, it is also somewhat repetitive and even a little hollow. We get to see how Jin-hee feels, but we get very little back story. However, the short runtime is very forgiving and the pacing is very consistent -- it doesn't slow down or speed up, it just keeps moving.

Kim Sae-ron, of The Man From Nowhere, delivers a magnificent performance -- she's so sweet and adorable during the introduction, it really hurts to see her in pain for the rest of the film. In fact, the bulk of the cast, which consists of children, are fantastic. There isn't much music in the film, but I enjoyed its somber tones whenever it played, particularly during the credits. The English subtitles in the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream are great -- didn't notice any issues. Writer and director Ounie Lecomte pulls a wonderful performance from Kim Sae-ron and crafts a very emotional tale; it leaves some character depth to be desired, but it ultimately works in breaking your heart.

Overall, A Brand New Life is a great film. It's a terrific film to get your emotions moving. It's the type of film that makes it difficult to swallow that lump in your throat or hold back your tears. It may be too sad for some audiences, but it's perfect for those who love to feel during films.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: It's a sad and even depressing subject, but it's generally an appropriate film for most audiences.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Time (2006)

Time (Review)
Kim Ki-duk/Ha Jung-woo/2006
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...perfect balance between contemplative and meaningful and entertaining and thrilling."

Insecure about her appearance and fearing her boyfriend may leave her, Seh-hee (Park Ji-yeon) undergoes plastic surgery and disappears for six months...

Time continues by following Ji-woo (Ha Jung-Woo), Seh-hee's boyfriend, as he copes with the loneliness caused by Seh-hee's sudden abandonment. Every time he's about to move on, or at least attempt to, something causes it to stop. After the six months pass, Seh-hee (now played by Sung Hyun-ah) reemerges with her new and "improved" face. Now, she begins a "new" relationship with Ji-woo, but finds herself competing with Ji-woo's memories of Seh-hee. Of course, she doesn't tell Ji-woo that she is his ex-girlfriend, Seh-hee -- the girlfriend he still loves and hopes will return. (I'll stop there to avoid spoilers.) A mind-bending, deeply meaningful, and contemplative thriller, Time leads to a wonderful ending -- it's a bit overwhelming and ambiguous if you think of it in a literal sense, but it's more symbolic meaning makes a very moving statement.

Time is one of those films where the less you know, the better the experience. To better explain the story: the first half is really a tormenting mind-game Seh-hee plays on Ji-woo, while the second half reveals the revelation and flips the script. I guess, in layman's terms, it's the story of a psycho girlfriend who goes to extremes to test her relationship. I mean, regardless of her intentions, it's surprisingly effective to see how far Seh-hee will go to manipulate Ji-woo. The drama in this film is masterfully crafted -- it's so exciting, it feels like a thriller. Furthermore, this is probably Kim Ki-duk's most accessible film, without sacrificing his signature symbolism and contemplative value.

Although it can be enjoyed as a dramatic thriller, Time does have deep contemplative value. Also, although much of the film's symbolism and meaning may be open to interpretations, I came upon the following conclusion: Time is statement on contemporary identity issues, crippling insecurities, loneliness, and physical attractiveness in contrast to genuine love. You may get less or more out of it, results may vary. (Let me know your interpretation of the film in the comments section below.)

Park Ji-yeon was great during her short-lived performance -- she's only featured during the introduction. Ha Jung-Woo is great with plenty of charisma. I think Sung Hyun-ah steals the show, though -- definitely a stellar and accurate performance. The casting is all-in-all fantastic. The music matches the haunting mood without interfering. The film is shot very well, it's a beautiful to look at. Writer and director Kim Ki-duk captures the perfect balance between contemplative and meaningful and entertaining and thrilling; you can enjoy it on any level thanks to the perfect direction and storytelling.

Overall, Time is a masterful film. It's a film that has enormous entertainment value on the surface, and great contemplative value when you look beyond -- and it can be enjoyed by either audience thanks to the amazing balance Kim Ki-duk achieves. There are very few minor flaws that hold this film back from perfection, but don't miss it.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, scenes of surgery, brief nudity and sex.