Monday, July 18, 2016

My 5 Favorite Korean Films

 I often talk about Korean dramas here, urging you to go watch them all immediately, but let's face it: not everybody has the time. Often I don't even have the time to watch even one drama - my TBW list grows by the minute. Because of this, I'm going to give you my five favorite Korean films - usually they can be found on Amazon or Youtube for free, complete with English subtitles.

Haunters (alternately titled Psychic)

I've mentioned Haunters before as my all-time favorite Korean film. Starring Go Soo as Kyu-Nam and Kang Dong-Won as Cho-In, Haunters is the story of the kind, reliable Kyu-Nam and the powerful psychic, Cho-In. They are the antithesis of each other, drawn together by fate and perfectly complimentary in their abilities. Cho-In can kill people with his eyes, and Kyu-Nam is strangely impossible to kill. As the only person alive who can't be swayed by Cho-In's psychic abilities, Kyu-Nam takes it upon himself to stop Cho-In from his murderous rampage, no matter what the cost. This movie is brilliantly acted and well-written, giving you two very unusual main characters. This is also the movie that made me fall in love with Kang Dong-Won and his crazy-good acting abilities.

Genre: Psychological Thriller/Horror (Although as far as 'horror' goes, it's really extremely mild and had I rated it, I wouldn't have called it horror at all.)
Rating: PG-13

A Werewolf Boy

 A Werewolf Boy revolves around the beautiful but sickly Kim Sun-Yi (Park Bo-Young) and Chul-Soo (Song Joong-Ki), a teenaged girl and the feral boy she finds on the grounds of her new home. At first reluctant, the relationship between Sun-Yi and Chul-Soo grows until the two are inseparable - but Sun-Yi's landlord grows envious of Chul-Soo's closeness with Sun-Yi. Both beautiful and heartbreaking, this movie is slightly hard to describe, and I would urge you to find it and watch it instead. Feelings will be felt.

Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Rating: PG

Secret Reunion
When North Korean secret agent Ji-won (Kang Dong-Won) crosses the 38th Parallel on a mission, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) led by Han-gyu (Song Kang-Ho) intervenes, and a shooting rampage ensues in the heart of Seoul. For the incident, Han-gyu is fired and Ji-won is deserted by his agency. Six years later, the two meet by chance and start a business partnership, each with the intention of stealing information from the other. This movie beautifully balances the elements of a spy/action-thriller with themes of friendship and family. 

Genre: Action/Thriller
Rating: PG-13

Jeon Woo-Chi, the Taoist Wizard

Based on the folk tale of a famous Korean wizard, this movie focuses on Woo-Chi (Kang Dong-Won…see a pattern?), a pretentious, irresponsible wizard in the Joseon era. Sentenced to imprisonment for his misuse of magic, he's trapped in a scroll until he is released in the future and offered total freedom - if he can deal with the problem of evil goblins bent on wreaking havoc. Things get complicated when Woo-Chi falls for the doppelganger of his past crush (Im Soo-Young), and hysterical antics ensue as he tries to sightsee the modern world and defeat evil (when he's not busy flirting). This is the movie that proved Kang Dong-Won could not only act in thrillers and dramas, but comedies as well. His comedic timing is perfect, and the movie is a rollicking, hilarious experience.

Genre: Fantasy/Action
Rating: PG

You're My Pet 
It's not every day you come home to find a young man sitting in a box outside your front door, sopping wet with rain, injured and homeless. Stressed from recent events, Ji Eun-Yi (Kim Ha-Neul) tries to do the right thing and lets him stay - but under the condition that she keeps him as a pet, as she doesn't like the idea of living with another man in her apartment. To her surprise, the young man (Jang Kuen-Suk), now nicknamed 'Momo' after Eun-Yi's former dog, agrees. Little does Eun-Yi know that he's actually Kang In-Ho, a dance child prodigy whose life tanked after a terrible accident. I love this movie because it maintains its bizarre premise without becoming sleazy, and it makes the oddest situation become a sweet, hilarious romantic comedy. 

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: PG


 Maundy Thursday

This movie is an honorable mention because it wrecked me more than any movie has ever done. The film is about a convicted murderer awaiting execution (Kang Dong-Won) and the bond he forms with a suicidal young woman (Lee Na-Young) who starts visiting him in jail every Thursday. For months after I saw Maundy Thursday, all I had to do was think of it and I was sitting down in tears. It deals with heavy topics - murder, conviction, rape, suicide. It's a beautiful, intense, emotional film that gutted me more than any movie has ever done. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's well worth watching.

Genre: Drama
Rating: R

Do you have a favorite foreign film?


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