Saturday, December 31, 2016

An update.

It's been a while, hasn't it? I started this site three years ago. I wanted to post three reviews a week—and, for a while, I did that. Over time, I lowered my goal to one review a week, then one review every two weeks, then... Nothing. This site has been dormant for months.

It's not because I've lost interest in Korean movies, my life has just become a lot busier. If you don't know, I'm writing books these days. I write extreme horror stories. I also dabble a bit in the science-fiction and fantasy genres. A lot of my work has been inspired by some of my favorite Korean movies, too, like I Saw The Devil or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Filmmakers like Kim Ki-duk continue to inspire me everyday.

I've also been posting movie reviews on CinematicAddiction.com. I post two to three reviews every week—and that takes time, too!

So, what's this all about? What's going on? Is KoreanMovieReviews.com closed for good? Unfortunately, I won't be able to post more reviews on this site. It takes too much time managing two websites with the same purpose and it splits my readership. Although this site is more focused, it might be better to have all of my reviews in one place. It will also help me reach a wider audience through Google and social media.

So, although I won't be updating this site, I will continue watching and reviewing Korean movies. The reviews will just be posted on CinematicAddiction.com. I plan on posting a Korean movie review every Friday during 2017 for the foreseeable future—I already have a few written and ready to go. This site will also stay live as an archive. I thought about letting the domain expire and just moving the reviews, but... It's special to me.

Thank you for reading for so long. I appreciate it more than you can imagine. I hope you will continue to read my reviews on CinematicAddiction.com.

See you around,
Jonathan
@Jonny_Athan

Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: Assassination (2015)

Assassination (Review)
Choi Dong-hoon/Jun Ji-hyun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a very interesting and entertaining action film."

During the 1930s, a Korean independence group plots the assassination of a Japanese general and a Korean businessman, but the plot is complicated when a spy reports their activities...

Assassination is a bit complicated. The film begins in 1911 where Yeom Seok-jin (Lee Jung-jae) tries to assassinate a Japanese general and a pro-Japanese businessman, Kang In-guk. He fails and he's captured. Fast forward to the 1930s: Yeom Seok-jin is now the captain of an independence group. He's once again recruited to kill the same Japanese general and Korean businessman. This time, he is asked to enlist the help of Chu, Hwang, and Ahn Ok-yun (Jun Ji-hyun). From there, the film tosses a few twists and turns your way. A few of these twists felt forced and unnecessary, some rolled smoothly with the rest of the film. I don't want to spoil anything else, but let's just say a Korean hitman named "Hawaii Pistols" (Ha Jung-woo) also gets caught in this complex plot. The film leads to a decent ending.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Fighter in the Wind (2004)

Fighter in the Wind (Review)
Yang Yun-ho/Yang Dong-geun/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"If you love stories of triumph and the philosophy of martial arts, I think you'll enjoy this one."

The story of Choi Bae-dal (Yang Dong-geun), who traveled to Japan during World War 2 to become a fighter pilot but found himself fighting for justice and honor instead.

Fighter in the Wind is a fictionalized account of karateka Masutatsu Oyama's life. The film begins with Bae-dal traveling to Japan to become a fighter pilot. To his dismay, not all was what it seemed and he finds himself imprisoned by the end of World War 2. While their base is being bombed, Bae-dal is freed by Kato (Masaya Kato), a high-ranking soldier of the Japanese army – not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he doesn't want to taint the Japanese blood with a Korean's blood. In a confrontation with Kato, Bae-dal is left injured and humiliated. Most of the film takes place in post-war Japan, though, where, according to the film, most Japanese men were part of the Yakuza or purely evil while all US soldiers were corrupt rapists. Anyway, Bae-dal continues to run into trouble, so he dedicates his life to becoming the greatest fighter in order to protect what he cares about. Toss in a training montage, a few fights, some conflict between fighting and love, then you've got yourself the rest of the movie. The last fight was great. The actual ending was... interesting, to say the least.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: Bad Guy (2001)

Bad Guy (Review)
Kim Ki-duk/Cho Jae-hyun/2001
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...a remarkably twisted tale of love that should not be missed by any fan of Kim Ki-duk."

After being publicly humiliated by a young woman, Han-gi (Cho Jae-hyun), a silent gangster, orchestras a plot to trap Sun-hwa (Seo Won) in a world of prostitution...

On the surface, Bad Guy is a fairly simple film. The narrative follow Han-gi, a gangster who does not speak. One day, Han-gi finds himself attracted to Sun-hwa, a young college student. He awkwardly sits next to her, but she scoffs at his attempt. Before she can depart with her boyfriend, Han-gi steals a kiss, which leads to a public beating – but, that's not enough. Sun-hwa also demands an apology and, when she does doesn't get it, she insults him and spits in his face. So, Han-gi begins his plot for vengeance – in a sense. He baits Sun-hwa into stealing, which spirals her into a criminal underworld. Without spoiling much more, Sun-hwa becomes a prostitue to pay off her debt – and Han-gi secretly watches her from a two-way mirror. It's a chilling tale of love that leads to a thought-provoking ending.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: The Show Must Go On (2007)

The Show Must Go On (Review)
Han Jae-rim/Song Kang-ho/2007
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...the character-driven crime drama is dappled with some much-appreciated humor."

In-gu (Song Kang-ho) is a gangster with dreams of living peacefully with his family in a nice home. To his utter dismay, he finds escaping the gangster life is more difficult than he thought...

The Show Must Go On is a basic crime drama with a pinch of humor. The film is essentially a character study of In-gu. The story follows In-gu as he tries to break his criminal ties and live a legitimate life. He has a misbehaved daughter and a disappointed wife, both of which he tries to please. Unfortunately, he finds himself with no luck. His family issues begin to take a toll on his work, distorting his concentration and whatnot, and his boss' younger brother, Chairman Noh (Choi Il-hwa), actively plots against him over territory issues. The film leads to a poignant yet moderately humorous ending. I did feel the events leading up to said ending were a bit dragged out, though.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: Memories of the Sword (2015)

Memories of the Sword (Review)
Park Heung-shik/Lee Byung-hun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"The presentation is gorgeous, the action was exhilarating, and the narrative was effective."

During the Goryeo era in Korea, three swords are bound by vengeance, betrayal, and love...

Memories of the Sword is a wuxia-style Korean drama-action film. The story often jumps between past and present, but it's fortunately not confusing. (Some characters use two names in the film, but I'll stick to only one in order to avoid confusion during this review. It's not confusing in the film, though.) So, Hong-ee (Kim Go-eun) is a young orphan raised by master swordsman Seol-rang (Jeon Do-yeon). Seol-rang raises Hong-ee like one of her own, training the young woman to murder the people that killed her parents. Seol-rang trains her to defeat Deok-gi (Lee Byung-hung), a powerful general rising through the ranks in the Goryeo Dynasty. To Hong-ee's dismay, she'll also have to defeat Seol-rang, who was also responsible for her parents' deaths. There are a few cliche stops in this narrative, but there are also some interesting revelations. Ultimately, it leads to a tragically poignant ending — I liked it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Rough Play (2013)

Rough Play (Review)
Shin Yeon-shick/Lee Joon/2013
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...it just doesn't feel like it has much to offer."

Oh Young (Lee Joon), a nameless actor, begins to rise after being discovered for his gutsy performances, but he soon finds fame comes with a price...

Rough Play is a character-study. I say that before I get deeper into the plot because it really doesn't have much; it doesn't have this huge dilemma or antagonist, it only has a character arc. The film follows Oh Young, a young actor hoping to make it big. He often breaks away from the script as he becomes his character. His style catches the eye of a manager looking for a comeback. In turn, Oh Young begins to rise. He becomes an overnight sensation, mingling with other actors and occasionally dabbling in the darker side of fame. Of course, as is common in film, with every rise, there must be a tumble. That's really all I can say about the plot. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The ending was interesting, but it doesn't leave an impact.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Film Review: Voices (aka Someone Behind You) (2007)

Voices (aka Someone Behind You) (Review)
Oh Ki-hwan/Yoon Gi-seon/2007
Where To Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"Voices has something to say, it just tends to mumble throughout most of the film."

After a bizarre accident concerning her aunt at a wedding, student Kim Ga-in (Yoon Jin-seo) is inexplicably attacked by the people close to her...

Voices, also known as Someone Behind You, offers an interesting narrative – well, an interesting concept, at least. The film follows Kim Ga-in, a student. Ga-in's aunt falls off a balcony during her wedding; soon thereafter, her aunt is attacked again at a hospital. After this, Ga-in tries to proceed normally, but finds herself attacked by her family and close friends – classmates, teachers, and even her own mother. Hong Seok-min (Park Ki-woong), a quiet student suspected of killing his father at a young age, warns Ga-in: don’t trust anyone, including yourself. (She trusts everyone anyway.) So, Ga-in begins to search for the source of this curse that seems to be haunting her. The film leads to an incredibly unsatisfying conclusion; to be frank, the final act of this film offers no closure, leaving some gaping plot holes, and it feels like it belongs in a different film.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A Tale of Two Sisters (Review)
Kim Jee-woon/Im Soo-jung/2003
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a human horror that digs into your skin and scars itself into your psyche."


Upon arriving home from a psychiatric hospital, sisters Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) and Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), along with their stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ha), witness disturbing events throughout the house...

A Tale of Two Sisters follows the titular sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon – although it mostly follows the former. The pair arrive at their secluded estate and the tension immediately rises when they bump into their wicked stepmother. Su-mi and Su-yeon generally don't want anything to do with her, so they go about their day. However, as time slowly progresses, the pair begin to experience strange and terrifying events; Eun-joo is not excused from the horror, either. It would seem a malevolent spirit is lingering in the home and a disturbing family secret is yearning to escape. Of course, this is a film where the less you know, the better. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, I must say: the ending was a bit disappointing and even a little convoluted. It ultimately paints an effectively poignant portrait, but it feels a bit cheap — for lack of a better term.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Film Review: The Chronicles of Evil (2015)

The Chronicles of Evil (Review)
Beak Woon-hak/Son Hyun-joo/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...I was fully engaged during the latter half and astonished by the climax."

Days before his prestigious promotion, homicide detective Choi Chang-sik (Son Hyun-joo) spirals into a tailspin when he accidentally murders someone and covers up the death...

The Chronicles of Evil follows Choi Chang-sik – a highly decorate homicide detective in line for a promotion. After a night of celebratory drinking, he is attacked by his taxi driver. He kills said taxi driver, then covers up his crime. The next day, he finds his victim dangling from a crane for the world to see. So, as his peers race to find the truth, Chang-sik races to cover his tracks and find the person who saw him. Of course, there's also a bit of suspicion from a rookie peer, detective Cha Dong-jae (Park Seo-joon). Any of this sound familiar? Well, the premise is nearly identical to 2014's A Hard Day, which made the first half of this narrative feel a bit slow and dull. It's not bad, but it doesn't start off very strong, especially when compared to A Hard Day. Fortunately, the film starts sprinting and differentiating itself during the latter half. It really comes full circle for a very strong finale – much stronger than A Hard Day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Film Review: For The Emperor (2014)

For The Emperor (Review)
Park Sang-jun/Lee Min-ki/2014
Where To Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"The sheer lack of originality in this film leaves so much to be desired."

Lee Hwan (Lee Min-ki), a man with a promising baseball career, loses it all when he's caught in a match-fixing scandal. As he hits rock bottom, Hwan is recruited by Jeong Sang-ha (Park Sung-woong), a loan shark with his own criminal organization...

For The Emperor is your basic rise-to-power crime film. The film follows Lee Hwan – the always grave and ultra-cool young gangster looking for riches. (He's so cool, he doesn't crack a single smile throughout the film! That's dedication!) Hwan is recruited by Sang-ha, who basically seeks to groom Hwan into his right-hand man; Sang-ha is like a boss, a mentor, and a big brother rolled into one to Hwan. Together, their crime syndicate begins to rise using brutal force and typical strategy – knife fights and legitimizing business. Of course, with copious money and large egos involved, people were bound to clash. So, a power struggle ensues with Hwan and Sang-ha caught in the middle. There are some turns, there are some twists, but it ultimately leads exactly where you expect. The finale is very predictable and forgettable.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Film Review: Joint Security Area (2000)

Joint Security Area (JSA) (Review)
Park Chan-wook/Lee Young-ae/2000
Where To Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"The excellent direction, great writing, and splendid performances tower over the few minor issues I found."


Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae) of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission begins investigating an incident in the DMZ that left two North Korean soldiers dead...

Joint Security Area follows Sophie as she delves into the mystery. You have two murdered North Korean soldiers, one wounded South Korean soldier, Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun) and one wounded North Korean soldier, Sergeant Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho). From the beginning, we are told Soo-hyeok was abducted, forcing him to kill the two North Korean soldiers in order to escape; from the other side, we're told Soo-hyeok voluntarily entered North Korea and attacked. Sophie, however, finds another piece to the puzzle. When too many bullets are discovered at the scene of the crime, Sophie suspects another party was involved in the shooting. The mystery unravels, revealing an unexpectedly simple but effective revelation – which I'd rather not spoil. The film leads to a great ending, too.