Archive for korean

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Train to Busan’: Grab your baseball bat!

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by aliciamovie



Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Studio: Next Entertainment World

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A South Korean train ride takes a deadly turn when a zombie apocalypse breaks out!

Yes, it’s Korean and therefore subtitled and, yes, it’s another zombie movie. Those things being said, Train to Busan is a terrific throwback to the original Romero-style zombie movies, where it’s half about the scary zombies and half about the potentially worse stuff we humans do to each-other during the zombie apocalypse. I can never remember the actual character names in many of these Korean flicks, so they get designations and you’ll just have to live with it – onward we go!

So Big Daddy (Gong Yoo) is a businessman, your typical Korean male who has little time and patience for his ex-wife’s shenanigans or his Daughter’s need to be with him, while he negotiates business deals on his cellphone all day long. It’s finally Big Daddy’s chore to take his sad little Daughter on the early-morning train to go see her mother, especially after missing what was meant to be her live singing performance at school and all. And this ill-fated train ride is where it all begins.

On the train itself, Big Daddy is still on his phone and mostly ignoring Daughter (Kim Su-An), while she attempts to familiarize herself with the other passengers. Here we meet Boxer (Ma Dong-Seok), the strapping muscle-bound train-goer with his very-pregnant wife, whom I’ve aptly dubbed MomtoBe (Jung Yu-Mi), and other everyday passengers as we go along – the Elderly Sisters (Ye Soo-Jung and Park Myung-Sin), two aged women taking a train ride together; the Baseball Team and their Cheerleader squad; the older gentleman who is anything but, that I designated NastyMan (Kim Eui-Sung); and of course, the Homeless Guy (Choi Gwi-hwa), who knew about everything going on before anyone else did.

Technically this first train Big Daddy and Daughter are on isn’t going to Busan, they just kind of end up getting thrust in that direction. The first train is where the outbreak begins, at least as far as train rides go, and these are virus-class zombies – get bit, you turn in just a few minutes; black veins on the face and white-blue death eyes are the main indicators; running and shrieking and attacking anything that moves, as the survivors eventually figure out, is the SOP here. Homeless Guy hopped onto this first train and as he sits muttering to himself about how they’re all dead, one thing leads to another and suddenly, everywhere, zombies!

Big Daddy thinks he can just call in favors to get himself and Daughter rescued, even as they try to switch trains in a station after several near-misses, and it just doesn’t work out in the end, so they have to board yet another train, this one being the one officially (eventually) heading for Busan. Here we meet NastyMan, the asshole who will not be denied, who incites everyone panicking into barricading themselves against the rescue attempt Big Daddy and Boxer have to go and make. Daughter and MomtoBe mistakenly end up stuffed in a bathroom and to get to them, Boxer and Big Daddy and the one remaining Baseball Boy (Choi Woo-shik) who wasn’t turned have to guard their arms and arm themselves with baseball bats and go through like 4 cars full of zombies, twice. (As in, go through 4 cars to get there, rescue everyone, and come all the way back.) Even after watching one of the Elderly Sisters sacrifice herself, NastyMan is doing everything he can to insist people not let the rescuers back in this one uninfected car, and that means he doesn’t see the other Elderly Sister go to open the other door to the zombies until its almost too late!

We’re whittling down the survivors on the way to Busan, and even the Conductor is starting to have his doubts about safety once there. A blocked train at a pull-in station forces our survivors to try and switch trains, but the trains are still running and crashing into each-other without Conductors and hordes of mad zombies are exploding out of broken windows to come get you! Will any of our survivors make it to Busan?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, it is heart-wrenching. Enough story snippets have been tossed in among the zombie carnage to make Train To Busan much more than just a brain-eating fest of a movie, and I thought it was excellent. Right down to NastyMan finally getting a well-deserved comeuppance, damn it.

Grab your baseball bat to watch Train To Busan right now on Netflix!


SDAFF 2013 presents How To Use Guys With Secret Tips

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2013 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Lee Won-Suk

Review Rating: 7.5

Downtrodden Choi Bo-Na is stuck in the mans world of advertising, until a chance encounter with a manic salesman and a series of instructional videos turns her world upside-down!

So Choi Bo-Na (Lee Si-Young) is a 2nd string DA (that’s Directors Assistant) for a firm that makes television commercials, which means despite actually being talented enough for the job, Choi gets all the crap parts that come with the job piled on her daily, along with the standard sexist remarks. Choi does a ton of work, gets pretty much none of the credit, and honestly doesn’t have the time to bother with things like makeup and feminine clothes. It all culminates in a grindingly dull and frustrating experience trying to shoot a commercial on the beach, when Choi is left behind and finds a street merchant (Park Yeong-gyu) selling the entire series of How To Use Guys on tape. Next thing you know, a female face emerges from that concealing hoodie, a girl trying to use whatever tricks will work on the male-controlled advertising world. And it’s working, even on the impossible star of the commercial who led her to the tapes in the first place, Lee Seung-Jae (Oh Jung-Se), who finds himself in love with her to the point of riotously adorable madness. The self-styled guru narrator from the tapes Dr. Swarski acts like a game show host a good deal of the time, when he’s not freezing scenes like teenaged Saved By The Bell, or cleverly dispensing advice from a windowbox scene to Choi simultaneously. Most of the film is kept at an enjoyable manic pace, except for the beginning of the third act, where an incredibly weird love scene between Lee and Choi comes about from a damned dog, jealousy, and the set of a Bollywood-style Korean romance movie!

The film is an adorable adventure down the inequalities between men and woman in, well, just about everything – from business to love, and all the awkward stuff in between. We get to see Choi find herself and her worth, which is I think, the actual main purpose of the video series How To Use Guys. Then again, some of us might rather enjoy using the video series in our own real lives – see the film and decide for yourself!

Spotlight on Asian Horror presents I Saw the Devil

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2013 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Softbank Ventures

Director: Jee-Woon Kim

Review Rating: 8

A Korean secret agent finds out just how far over the line he’ll go for revenge after his pregnant fiancé is murdered by an evil serial killer.

As one can imagine from the plot synopsis, this film is barely about the bad guy at all. Rather, it brings back that age-old admonition, he who hunts monsters should take care that in doing so, he does not become a monster himself.

Our secret agent, Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee of G.I. Joe and Three Extremes fame) is the Man. The film starts right in with his fiancé getting kidnapped and slaughtered in the most unmerciful manner one can imagine, though the movie does make it seem as though she isn’t raped. Kim, being the Man he is, ignores the pleading of his boss and coworkers and immediately launches into an investigation of the four men possible who could’ve done this dastardly deed. Upon the discovery of the totally psychotic bad guy who did it, Kyung-chul (Min-Sik Choi of Oldboy status), one would think Kim would hunt him down and murder him terribly and that would be the end of it. Oh my no. Kim gets ahold of a micro-tracker from another secret agent, does indeed hunt down Kyung while he’s in the midst of yet another attack on some young schoolgirl, beats the ever-loving snot out of the guy and stops the rape, rams the tracker down his gullet, and then, lets him go. Thus begins the most badass game of cat and rat I’ve seen in some time. Kim delights in following Kyung all over, stopping instances of where the psycho would harm some woman, giving him some terrible wound (hamstring anyone?), and letting him go all over again, to rinse and repeat. The people that Kyung goes to and the things he does, marks him in my eyes as considerably worse than the righteously raging secret agent gone really rogue. Unfortunately the bad guy figures out about the tracker and has this reputation for going after a victims entire family and friends for the final showdown, before turning himself in to the police as the final F-youuuu to Kim. None of this, not the deaths of his beloved woman, friends, coworkers, and even his own sanity, will stop the Man from getting his final revenge. And the manner in which he does it is deliciously rife with irony, to the last blood drop.

Many criticized this movie for, once again, the purported Hero going way too far in his pursuit of the bad guy and righteous vengeance. I fail to understand how they can say that. But then again, Korean Horror is still almost always very tragic and mind-rending at the end, even if you survive the slaughter. I Saw the Devil is thought-provoking, astounding, and makes us all wonder, if we were in that situation, would the Devil be in a mirror?

San Diego Asian Film Festival 2012 — Doomsday Book

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, Movies, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by aliciamovie

Doomsday Book_Poster copy

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Gio Entertainment

Director: Pil-Sung Yim, Jee-Woon Kim

Review Rating: 7

A collection of three anthologies from Korea cinema give us very different takes on the potential end of the world!

A Brave New World graces us with the story of blossoming love in the midst of a zombie outbreak in downtown Seoul. Our hero, all he wants is to go out with the pretty girl he has a thing for, not clean up the disgusting his family left behind while they all went on a second honeymoon without him. Yet, like Adam and Eve, all it takes is one rotten apple to ruin your entire existence.

The Heavenly Creature poses the audience the question, what do you do in a world where robots are commonplace, when you think one has attained enlightenment? This particular robot works in a Buddhist monastery, and when the monks think he’s managed just that, they give him a name and encourage him to pray within the monk ranks, but also they call in a company repair man. The repair guy isn’t a philosopher, and since he can’t find anything technically wrong with the robot, this leads to an invasion of the temple by the company echelon and a lot of ranting about how robots should never be allowed to obtain this state of consciousness. I didn’t understand half of the deep thoughts they were spouting, but when the robot chose to end the argument by removing himself from the equation entirely, it was very saddening. Would you want a robot who can reach Nirvana?

Happy Birthday gives us the story of a young girl who orders a new 8-ball to replace the one she broke for her billiards-obsessed father, on her UFO-obsessed Uncle’s computer, from what turns out to be an alien website. This causes an 8-ball the size of a small moon to be delivered, and everyone has to evacuate to underground shelters. Ten years later, our heroine now a young woman, has to rise from the ashes to acknowledge delivery from the alien beyond the stars.

Spotlight on Asian Horror presents Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by aliciamovie

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: CJ Entertainment

Director: Tae-kyeong Kim

Review Rating: 7.5

A Korean writer with a troubled past travels to Vietnam to research the local legend of Muoi, a vengeful spirit, for her second novel.

Asian Horror cinema has come a long way from almost nonexistence, and Muoi is apparently considered the first Vietnamese stab at Horror. And I personally loved this film, even including the clash of Korean and Vietnamese cultures. The traditional Vietnamese dress, called the Ao Dai, features prominently in the ghost story and the haunting of the modern would-be sleuths, and I thought that was a fine thing too. The scenery, shot mostly in Vietnam apparently, is breathtakingly beautiful and just adds to the atmosphere in this chiller of a Horror flick.

So Yun-Hee, the writer, is being pressured to come up with something fresh for her next book. Her first book, Secrets & Lies, it turns out was based on rumors and hearsay concerning friends of hers back in Korea, and she makes the mistake of portraying Seo-Yeon as the horrible antagonist. You’d think she’d know better, when Seo-Yeon offers to let Yun-Hee come stay with her in Vietnam to research the local legend of Muoi, the ghost girl and her portrait. From here, we immediately delve into the mystery of Muoi herself, and I can’t help but once again deplore the plight of a lot of Asian women and their travails in love. Muoi is a lovely Vietnamese woman who, innocently enough, has an affair with a man painting her portrait, knowing full well he’s engaged to a rich fiancé, and sure enough lets him leave when he has to. Not too long after that, the rich fiancé finds Muoi and extracts terrible vengeance on her, with a shattered ankle and a hearty dose of acid in the face. Muoi takes her own life and begins her existence as a terrible vengeful spirit, whose curse can be invoked when death calls for it.

Poor Muoi. More to the point, poor Seo-Yeon, who it turns out did not a single thing to deserve all the invective Yun-Hee heaped upon her in her book. In an almost impossible to watch scene, Seo-Yeon reveals in a flashback a rape and torture scene perpetrated by her “friends” back in Korea, the result of the too-popular guy who already had an apparently insanely jealous girlfriend. Seo-Yeon has learned her lessons, and learned them well, teaching Yun-Hee all there is to know about Muoi in godawful stages, up to the climactic scene where she demands to be killed to stop Muoi’s curse from killing them both. Far too late, does Yun-Hee remember, the curse begins with death. And that isn’t even the end of the film, or Seo-Yeon and Muoi’s own vengeance. It seems a shame that the bit-too-upright Vietnamese Bureau of Cinema vetoed a lot of what could have been very fine Horror moments, but the film nevertheless comes across as a stunning bit to watch with a very fine ghost story embroidered throughout.

Spotlight on Asian Horror presents White: The Melody of the Curse

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by aliciamovie


Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Studio: Doo Entertainment

Director: Gok Kim, Sun Kim

Review Rating: 7

Korean pop band Pink Dolls just can’t catch a break, until they discover the mysterious song “White” in their new studio and re-cover it, unknowingly taking the curse that comes with it.

This is actually a very good movie about two things in particular that are very hard to portray in American cinema, much less a good Korean horror flick – the stress that comes from being a singing performer, and the issues of trying to make a good ghost story. Most Asian horror films have to do with ghosts or vengeful spirits that can’t be reasoned with or stopped in any way, and White is no exception, though the extremely smart storytelling tells a whole slew of ghost stories inside the overarcing storyline. It was a little odd for the film to not subtitle most of the songs the girls sang or covered when in concert, but yet have the parts of the songs being clues to the ghosts vengeances and translated later when the sound-engineer is extremely frightened. There is some blood and gore, sure, and of course the iconic original Grudge-like spirit does the contortionist nightmare as she comes for you, but she does it with shockingly white hair and yes that does rather change the look of it.

So the Pink Dolls all want very badly to become huge stars, enough to take an abusive manager, what looks to be potentially a haunted new studio, and even the terrible meanness of eachother to get there. They all want to be the “main”, that is main singer, especially when Eun-Joo discovers the tape with “White” and suddenly everyone wants them to sing that. But then it all starts going horribly wrong, and one by one the Pink Dolls begin suffering terrible attacks, all except for Eun-Joo. Soon she and her friend Soon-Ye, who helped with a sound technique known as “doubling” on the remake of the song, are investigating just what did happen with the original writers of “White” and everyone who’s tried to sing the song since! The rest of the Pink Dolls have survived the original attacks and while Eun-Joo is going solo with “White”, the three of them make a grotesquely splashy protest on live television by swallowing bleach. After much checking and re-checking and scaring the living daylights out of the sound engineer helping her, Soon-Ye discovers the true story behind the real ghost of “White”, and hurries to Eun-Joo’s first live solo performance, striving to win a big big contest against her old rivals the band Pure. What follows is a performance unlike any other, somewhat akin to poor Carrie and her bloody Prom Night, except in this case it’s the vengeful spirit of “White”, finally come to take back her song from anyone who dared sing it. And after all that, you’d think the curse was finally over – Soon-Ye learns different when she’s reminiscing at the karaoke bar and a request for the “White” song comes on without her choice.

Only a few hurdles here and there, easily jumped, and the movie is quite enjoyable. It helps to appreciate real Asian Horror, like The Grudge and Audition, but it’s not necessarily a requirement to enjoy this film. Leave it to Korean cinema to, once again, come out with some very smart Horror that really should be advertised more!

And the song “White” with English Subs!

Movie Moxie loves SDAFF 2011 — Hello Ghost

Posted in comedy, drama, horror, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by aliciamovie

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Young-Tak Kim

Another failed suicide attempt leaves Sang-Man plagued by four hilarious ghosts.

It must be pointed out first and foremost, this is a Korean movie. And normally, while I do rather enjoy the emerging Korean film entertainment, especially the horror stories, I had my doubts for this one. It’s a Korean film about ghosts of course, but a comedy. So with reservations, we plow on.

The film opens with Sang-Man’s latest suicide attempt, how he apparently botches it and ends up in the hospital being plagued by these ghosts. One smokes like a chimney that’s forever on, one is a demanding little boy who just wants to have fun, one is a quite lecherous old grandfather type, and of course the female ghost just won’t stop crying. They move right in with Sang-Man and proceed to make his life boisterous, with hilarious and unexpected consequences. It isn’t until like halfway through the movie we begin to get an inkling why Sang-Man wants to kill himself in the first place, aside from the usual no-job-no-spouse-no-life lament. And of course, Sang-Man thinks after consulting a Korean Shaman, that he has to perform some sort of placatory act to each ghost and they’ll finally go away. When they don’t, Sang-Man blows up at them and ends up taking refuge in the friend with a small son he made recently, Jung Yun-Soo. Which, as it seems to turn out, is the actual mostly main reason for the ghosts being there. Mostly. I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, I didn’t see it coming and I don’t think you will either.

Even having no idea who these Korean actors are, I enjoyed their performances. The lead as Sang-Man brings across a very funny easily understood and sympathized with straight man act. Each ghost, their roles clearly defined, brings across an element of almost exasperated love that needs no translation. And besides, this is the first movie in a very long time that had me laughing, and crying, in the same sitting. See Hello Ghost, it is so worth it!