Jan 2016 – K-Film Preview

January 7th

Don't Forget Me (나를 잊지 말아요)

Remember You (나를 잊지 말아요)

Remember You (나를 잊지 말아요)

Director: Lee Yoon-jung

Cast: Jeong Woo-sung, Kim Ha-neul

Distributor: CJ Entertainment

Synopsis: When Seok-won loses the past 10 years of his memory due to an accident, he struggles to piece together his existence and discover the life he once had. However upon meeting Jin-young his memories start to return as love blossoms between them.

The Lowdown: Director Lee Yoon-jung developed Remember You from her celebrated short film Remember O Goddess, initially turning to kickstarter to generate funding before superstar Jeong Woo-sung – whom became friends with director Lee while she worked as a script supervisor on The Good, The Bad, The Weird – came on board as both producer and actor. After around two years of production, Remember You is finally being released alongside a significant advertising campaign from distributors CJ.

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Catch Him to Survive (잡아야 산다)

Director: Oh In-chun

Cast: Kim Seung-woo, Kim Jeong-tae

Distributor: OPUS Pictures

Synopsis: When two friends – one a CEO and the other a police officer – have their phone and gun taken by a group of high school delinquents, they must work together to track down the thieves and recover their stolen goods.

The lowdown: Action-comedy Catch Him to Survive seems quite a departure for director Oh In-chun, who previously impressed with horror-drama Mourning Grave. Judging from the trailer (see below) the film looks set to be a madcap caper with promising chemistry from veteran leads Kim Seung-woo and Kim Jeong-tae (who, ironically, was originally cast in Remember You [see above] before leaving the project due to scheduling conflicts). Catch Him to Survive also marks the big screen debut for four young actors, including Hyuk from Kpop band VIXX.

January 14th

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Mood of the Day (그날의 분위기)

Director: Jo Kyu-jang

Cast: Moon Chae-won, Yoo Yeon-seok

Distributor: Showbox

Synopsis: While on a business trip to Busan, Soo-jung meets lothario Jae-hyun and is instantly repulsed by his suggestion of spending the night together. However when the journey doesn’t go according to plan they are forced to travel together, and the duo find themselves becoming close.

The lowdown: Mood of the Day is another romantic outing for stars Moon Chae-won and Yoo Yeon-seok, who dabbled with the genre in last year’s Love Forecast and Beauty Inside, respectively. Their collaboration appears to be quite a comical take on modern relationships, and it will be interesting to see if director Jo Kyu-jang can avoid the cliches and offer something fresh for audiences.

January

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Robot, Sori (로봇, 소리)

Director: Lee Ho-jae

Cast: Lee Sung-min, Lee Hee-joon, Lee Honey, Chae Soo-bin

Distributor: Lotte Entertainment

Synopsis: Tragically, Hae-gwan lost his daughter 10 years ago although he refuses to give up on finding the youngster again. Unbeknownst to the distraught father is that an AI satellite with voice-recognition capabilities is circling the globe, and upon crash landing in Korea, helps Hae-gwan to be reunited with his daughter.

The lowdown: With a narrative that is particularly reminiscent of animated tale Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, Robot Sori looks set to be a heart-warming family sci-fi drama. Lee Sung-min has starred in a staggering number of films and TV drama series since his debut, though his star power increased dramatically following his turn in hit TV show Missing, resulting in his lead role in Robot Sori.

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

A Melody to Remember (오빠 생각)

Director: Lee Han

Cast: Siwan, Ko Ah-sung

Distributor: Next World Entertainment

Synopsis: As war ravages Korea during the early 1950s, Second Lieutenant Han Sang-Yeol discovers a village while leading his platoon. Moved by the children of the village who have lost everything, Sang-yeol vows to protect them.

The lowdown: Director Lee Han is back in cinemas after helming impressive family dramas Punch and Thread of Lies, though this outing sees the filmmaker tackling war as a major component. Featuring Siwan, whose star power is steadily rising following roles in The Attorney and TV drama Misaeng, A Melody to Remember – or more literally translated as Thinking of my Older Brother – looks to be a war-era tear-jerker.

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Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

Blind (블라인드) – ★★★☆☆

Blind (블라인드)

Blind (블라인드)

The impairment of a leading protagonist in a film can often allow an actor or actress to stretch themselves into new territory and offer startling performances (and, more cynically, guarantee some silverware). Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn as an artist with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot (1989) is perhaps the most significant, but other actors including Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, 2001), Denzel Washington (The Bone Collector, 1999) John Hurt (The Elephant Man, 1980) and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, 2010) amongst many, many others have all conveyed the difficulties that impaired people face. With Blind (블라인드), Kim Ha-neul (김하늘) takes on the role of a visually impaired woman and in doing so has won the 2011 ‘Best Actress’ award at both The Daejong Awards and The Blue Dragon Awards. Quite how is something of a mystery, as Kim Ha-neul’s performance, as well the film itself, rarely rises above mediocre.

Blind tells the story of promising police cadet Min Soo-ah (Kim Ha-neul) who, through an accident partly of her own making, loses her sight. Life becomes a struggle for Soo-ah as the fast-paced world around her is seemingly intolerant of her impairment. Whilst attempting to find her way home one evening, Soo-ah becomes a witness in an abduction case and must use her training and heightened senses to help find the killer. Complicating matters further is the second witness, Kwon Gi-seob (Yoo Seung-ho (유승호), who gives a contradictory testimony of events. Joined by Detective Jo (Jo Hee-bong (조희봉), Soo-ah and Gi-seob must solve the mystery together, before the killer finds them first.

Min Soo-ah (민수아, Kim Ha-neul 김하늘) and her faithful guide dog

Min Soo-ah (Kim Ha-neul) and her faithful guide dog

Films representing impairment tend to focus on the adversity that is endured and finally, over the course of the narrative, overcome. With Blind, director Ahn Sang-hoon (안상훈) makes minimal effort to convey the hardships Soo-ah faces, representing rather obvious and fleeting problems such as crossing the road, which seem redundant as she walks with her guide dog. Ironically the colour is drained in the exterior sequences through utilising filters, in an attempt to emphasise the cold and harsh outside world. Such devices do little to create empathy however, due to not only the lack of innovation but also Soo-ah’s stubborn nature that places herself in precarious situations. That said, other sequences such as a subway chase where Soo-ah must use floor tiles to find an exit as quickly as possible, are filmed and edited in a thrilling fashion and offer a refreshing take on the genre. One of the fundamental issues of Blind is that Ahn Sang-hoon and screenwriter Choi Min-seok fail to make any of the protagonists compelling enough to forge empathy with, and thus when the 2-dimensional characters are in peril the lack of engagement equates to flat, rather than thrilling, scenes.

Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

The actors generally give competent performances despite this. Kim Ha-neul is certainly prominent in this regard as a visually impaired woman, with occasional sequences that are convincing as she struggles with daily activities. Yoo Seung-ho is adequate as rebellious teen Gi-seob, as is Jo Hee-bong as foolhardy Detective Jo, yet they are never given the opportunity to display more than their supporting statuses will allow. Unfortunately the worst offender is Yang Yeong-jo as gynecologist-turned-serial-killer Myeong-jin. Again, this is not entirely his fault as the role itself is so woefully underdeveloped that Yeong-jo is merely present to appear menacing and snarl and cackle occasionally.

as rebellious teen

Yoo Seung-ho as rebellious teen Kwon Gi-seob

Verdict:

Blind certainly had the potential to be an interesting and creative take on the thriller genre, but unfortunately due to the lack of character development and innovation it is a rather bland and mediocre offering. The actors involved all provide competent performances despite the limitations imposed on them, while Kim Ha-neul is somewhat convincing as a visually impaired witness. Blind does contain a select few sequences that provide enjoyable thrills, and while certainly no masterpiece, it offers enough entertainment to be an interesting viewing experience.

★★★☆☆

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