Spy Girl

Wow. Not even Gong Yoo could save this movie. The story was sooo boring… and there wasn’t even one real conflict throughout the entire movie! Even the way it was narrated was disappointing: it begins from Go Bong's point of view, and not even half-way through the movie, suddenly switches to the spy’s perspective instead. (You’d think it would be more interesting that way… but surprisingly enough, it's not!)

Normally, I'd be okay with this type of shift, but these characters are both so dull that jumping between their narrations is unnecessary, distracting, and pointless.

And, really! How can a spy be so uninteresting? Even her mission lacks everything that makes a spy intriguing... there's no danger, no mystery, no suspense. This is a movie, isn't it? Even if spies aren’t that interesting in real life, writers and directors are allowed to ‘spice it up’ for entertainment’s sake, right? I mean, there’s only so much espionage that can go down at a Burger King...

For a majority of the movie, she’s so wrapped up in her boring undercover-role that we rarely get to see her being kick-ass and cool (something She's On Duty accomplishes continuously and without effort). I think she goes into spy-mode perhaps once or twice throughout the entire film… and even then, its not impressive. She’s a good actress (I’ve seen her in several other things—including the drama, Taste Sweet Love/ Snow White) but in this movie, she really doesn’t have much to work with.

(If spy movies were always depicted this way, I think the espionage profession would dry out.)

As for the romance… I’m truthfully at a loss… there was no chemistry whatsoever. This alone is very rare, since Gong Yoo is known for making his co-stars shine when it comes to romantic scenes (of course, this film didn’t really have any, so it’s not really his fault). We’re talking about a character whose entire idea of romance involves buying his girlfriend a tube of lipstick… and then telling her shyly that he wants her to put it on and then kiss him. I just found that weird and almost fetish-like: next thing you know, he’ll tell her he just wants to smell her feet…

Gong Yoo is SOOO much better when he’s playing a cool character, like in She’s on Duty. Here, Go Bong (his name being one of the only funny jokes in this movie) is so average and uninteresting that anyone could have played him. Don’t get me wrong, the acting here was still great… but the characters, the script, the directing… everything was so bland, it didn’t matter. Nothing could have saved it!

It’s a great concept… just horrible execution.

So in conclusion, don’t waste your time with this movie.

There are many more just like it that are better written, have interesting characters, and involve an actual plot. If you’re a fan of Gong Yoo and just want to watch this for him… go ahead, but don’t expect to be constantly swooning. The opening scene alone shows him on a toilet, taking a dump—and not many of his other scenes will make your heart race, if you know what I mean. Though he does look cute when he's dressed like a spy. ^_^

My Rating:

Crocodile (Ag-o)

((summary taken from IMDB))

Violent thug Crocodile lives under a bridge by the Han River in Seoul together with a peddling boy and a homeless old man. Crocodile saves a beautiful young woman Hyun-Jung from suicide by drowning, but only to use her for sex. Yet, for some reason the woman, betrayed by her lover, stays with Crocodile, and a peculiar family-like friendship forms between the four homeless people. Crocodile gets in ever deeper trouble because of his mindlessly violent temper, and eventually Hyun-Jung decides to attempt suicide again.

Bloody Beach

haha. Wow. hehe, I loved this.

Truthfully, there is absolutely nothing new in this movie: it's extremely typical as far as teen-slasher films go. So don't expect to watch a life-altering Korean version that sets out to revolutionize the psycho-killer movie franchise.

Like all films of its kind, it has all the necessary ingredients--sex, violent deaths, an isolated setting, and the ever popular "oh, no! The killer's among us!"--just think I Know What You Did Last Summer or the Scream movies, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

So, no. Bloody Beach is not anything new, or dare I say, creative.

Again, the only reason I loved it as much as I did was because of the Jae Hee fan in me. If you're not a huge, obsessed fan-girl, then you're better off skipping this movie altogether--unless you happen to be a horror-movie junkie--in which case, knock yourself out! Just be aware: this entire movie screams American influence, so you really won't see anything new.

Everyone else, don't bother. ;)

This is actually the first Korean teen-slasher film I've ever seen... and I doubt I'll go out of my way to watch more (unless they're starring Jae Hee). Of course, going into this, I had absolutely no expectations-- I thought Jae Hee would be killed within the first 15 minutes! The fact that he wasn't is what kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time--just waiting to see how he'd die. And even though I guessed the ending half-way thru (I was so satisfied with the end, lol) it didn't bother me at all!

Overall: sure, there's nothing new here... but it still manages to be pretty entertaining. And any Jae Hee fan out there will be more than satisfied. ^_^

And I know I've said it once, but I feel the need to say it again: Holy crap, he's hot.

(Unfortunately, this really will be the final Jae Hee entry for awhile... the only other movie he's made that I haven't seen yet still hasn't been released in Korea. But the minute it is, and the subtitles are up, you can rest assured, I'll be there!)

My Rating:

The Evil Twin

I am beyond thrilled: I actually found one of Jae Hee’s newest movies on Bittorrent, so I got to watch him again after all!! And

it was a horror movie!! ^_^

First off, this is a movie comprised of Asian-horror clich├ęs—it has everything: the freaky long-haired ghost; same creepy music and sound effects; a vengeful ghost; the unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter; predictable twists. It reminded me a lot of the failed-horror movie, Cinderella.

However, where Cinderella failed, The Evil Twin succeeded.

I actually liked this movie! ^_^

For one thing, I think this may be the first time I ever saw a horror movie that ended happily. There are so many movies in the horror genre where I’ll think: “They should have done this” or I’ll end up rolling my eyes at the absurdity of the plot. In this movie, that rarely ever happened! I’ll admit: it was pretty obvious what the “twist” at the end was going to be… but even knowing how it was going to end, I wasn’t disappointed. It ended just the way I thought it should… without leaving any unexplained plot points in its wake. Evil Twin focused more on the story and used the ghost and the horror elements to reinforce the plot, not for just the sake of appearing creepy without substance.

There were a few parts where I jumped… but I can’t honestly say this movie was all that scary. I liked it more for the plot and how it combined the two elements. If you’re looking for a movie that will just make you scream from start to finish, then you’d be better off watching something else. But if you’re looking for an intelligent horror film that isn’t afraid to use the usual conventions, but in a fun and interesting way, then I really think you’ll enjoy this one. Plus, Park Shin Hye is always a terrific actress, so you can watch it without fear of terrible over-acting and hilarious over-the-top screams.

Oh, and did I mention Jae Hee is in it? ^_^

My Rating:

The Art of Fighting

Okay, so this wraps up my Jae Hee addiction--but only because this is the last movie of his I have access to. I need his two new movies to come out ASAP, or I may start suffering from withdrawal! :(

Luckily, I’ve always liked these kinds of movies: seeing the underdog overcoming the odds; watching as they learn to stand up for themselves, and become stronger. It makes it a lot more fun cheering for them, since you know that in the end they’re going to succeed. After all, in this kind of movie, a successful fight at the end is a given—so it’s the underdog’s journey and how they improve that keeps you watching. I’m always excited to see that pivotal moment—when they just snap, and finally fight back.

In this one… it took a lot longer than expected.

I really liked the main character, Byung-Tae, but I found myself growing frustrated with the slow progress of his training. I just wanted him to get tough, and start kicking butt already! Of course, he eventually does, but it isn’t until the very end of the movie. So for almost an hour, we’re treated to a constant flow of scenes, in which the main character is either hiding or getting his butt kicked repeatedly.

But then suddenly it all just clicks.

Byung-Tae manages to become both scary and cool the moment he starts fighting back—and you can tell the exact moment he changes. The way his expression suddenly becomes resolved; the new confidence in his step. And yet the character isn’t lost in the shuffle. When he actually does start to fight for real, you can still see his faulty movements; the way he pulls back ever-so-slightly when he kicks his opponent after he’s already down; the way he recoils and stumbles around after throwing the chair through the window; the angry, animalistic way he attacks the boy moments later in the elevator with the can. It’s like he’s snapped, and the more he fights, the more confident he grows… the fear is completely gone, and he no longer holds back.

It’s disturbing, and not pleasant to watch. That is the art of fighting. It isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always fair.

And through all of this, Jae Hee still manages to keep Byung-Tae in-character, while simultaneously making it seem like we’re watching a completely different person in action. And I’ve seen Jae Hee fight before… it’s completely different in this movie. It’s more sloppy, confused, desperate, and very very realistic.

I love how the final confrontation takes place in their classroom… in front of all the people he was constantly humiliated in front of. It made his victory all the sweeter. And that last punch… Whoa!

Another thing I liked was that it didn’t end the moment he kicked his tormentors butts. We actually got to see the aftermath, and their retaliation. Usually, in these kinds of movies, we get to see the final victorious battle, and that’s it. The fact that they went beyond that moment was really cool… even if, again, the result wasn’t pretty.

To be honest, it was a very hard movie for me to watch. I was cringing and covering my eyes through a lot of it… and it was a lot darker, and more depressing that I thought it was going to be. I was glad that they threw in that small twist at the end though… the tone suggested it would end much worse than it did. It was a good movie, but it’s not one I’d care to revisit. Once is enough, thank you very much. If Jae Hee hadn’t been in it, I think I would have been more indifferent in the end… but it was really good for the kind of movie it was.

My Rating:

Sassy Girl Choon Hyang (17 Episodes)

(EPISODE 01-17)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

"Sassy Girl, Choon-hyang" is the 2005 interpretation of the "Legend of Choon-hyang". The story begins when Lee Mong-ryong is transferred from Seoul to a high school in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. Chun-hyang does her best to help Mong-ryong, her first love and the son of the Namwon Police Station chief, to enter a prestigious university. However, after meeting with Mong-ryong’s first love, Chae-rin, Mong-ryong’s love toward Chun-hyang is shattered, although Chun-hyang’s love remains unwavering. One day, Byeon Hak-do, CEO of a famous entertainment company, appears in her life. He exudes confidence that he can make any woman fall for him. But as Chun-hyang shows no interest in him, his self-esteem is damaged profoundly. Byeon Hak-do is determined to make her love him. 

3 Iron (Bin Jip)

I've wanted to watch this movie forever, ever since I read its synopsis and several glowing reviews... then I realized Jae Hee was the main protagonist, and that was the final motivation I needed!

First, I must get this out of the way: holy crap, he's hot.

Okay, now on to the movie...

It was amazing. The only draw-back for me was the fact that Jae Hee doesn't speak. At all. For the entire 2:35 minutes, I don't get to hear his voice... I won't lie... that hurt. But I could look at him, so that more than made up for it. And surprisingly enough, I was so captivated by his actions--by the subtleties of his acting--that I didn't realize he wasn't speaking until the movie was already well under way.

Of course, since this is by the same writer/director of Time, I should have seen this coming! ^_^

The concept itself is very intriguing: it never even dawned on me that language can be so unnecessary. It's something we all use... and yet, here are two people who don't need language to communicate. They both have the capacity for speech, and yet it's a personal choice not to use it. Still, it doesn't feel like we're missing anything. The woman speaks one word towards the end--it's short, sweet, and the only words they need. I loved watching them bond and fall in love. In a way it was very innocent; very touching.

I found the scene where they first meet extremely interesting. Trespassing is a huge violation, no matter how you look at it… of personal space, safety, comfort, and of piece of mind. Nobody likes the idea of having their privacy and property rummaged by a stranger—of finding their lives laid bare without their consent; it’s humiliating and overly humbling. The battered woman has already been humbled and humiliated by her husband; she has nothing left to lose. This is probably a huge part of the reason why she’s able to watch his invasion with a sense of detached fascination and awe—she doesn’t call the police or immediately confront him, but instead, shadows him silently—turning the tables by observing him without his knowledge. It’s very fitting then, that when she finally does choose to confront him, it’s when he’s in the middle of a very private, humiliating, and humbling act himself: masturbation. How very apt... ;)

Now, for golf. I've never seen such a boring sport used in such a creative, through-provoking way. One of my favorite scenes was when Tae-Suk watched the husband attacking his wife, and very calmly started hitting golf-balls into the huge target-screen--then, when confronted, started aiming the golf-balls at her husband instead. The golf motif was something that was constant throughout the movie, and I liked how it could convey so many things. It was also a nice touch how later, every time Tae-Suk would try to practice golf with his little tethered ball, the woman would silently block his way; shadowing him, so he couldn't play.

I'm also convinced that this writer could take any item and make it look much deeper and cooler than it actually is. Next, he should base an entire movie around an umbrella! I think he could pull it off...

As cool as the rest of the movie was, the ending, I'll admit, confused me. But really, that's nothing new... I guess I'm just not smart enough to decipher all these deeper, hidden meanings the writers and directors want me to take away from their films. Up until the end, even with the emphasis on silence, I thought everything I'd been seeing was pretty believable... and yet, once he's released from jail, everything I thought I knew about Jae Hee's character went out the window!
It's hard to tell that the world we live in is either a reality or a dream.
As beautiful and cool as everything leading up to that moral was (the focus on the scale reading "0" was a nice touch) it came out of nowhere. I loved watching him shadowing the husband; being ghost-like in all the houses they stayed at; hiding on the guard in his cell. But none of it made sense.

The moment he was released, I wasn't sure what I was expected to believe. The first half of the movie (strange as it was) could easily be based on reality. I could honestly see people doing this, even if the odds of them escaping the police (or the tenants notice) seemed unlikely. The fact that they actually were caught several times, only reinforced that sense of realism. Yet, during the second half of the film, this concept of reality we've become familiar with, is stretched to its limit.

It peaks the moment he's released from prison.

The ghost-like shadowing; the sinking into the wall; the impossible scale. All of this I could've bought... if it weren't for the woman's husband. It's through him that we're informed Jae Hee's character was released from jail--not that he's dead or missing. If this had been hinted/alluded to instead, then I would have had an easier time buying everything that followed. By having an outside character (who's one of the most reality-grounded people in this whole movie) tell us outright that this person is out there somewhere, planning to return. Why wouldn't we believe it...? Especially since the woman can see him, and we can too. Why then, are we suddenly shown a series of blurred, impossible scenarios, that seem impossible?

Whether it is reality or a dream, I don't really care... what I want to know is why the sudden change? Is it just to give the movie a deeper meaning? A cool way to throw in a twist? At the end, what are we supposed to believe? Is he a ghost? A really good hider? Did he suddenly develop the ability to move through time, space, other dimensions...? I know what the writer/director is going for at the end: we're told what he wants us to take away from this film. I just have trouble buying it.

I guess it's the down-to-earth, non-professional critic in me that bulks at something that isn't explicitly spelled out, or hinted at from the get-go. How anyone can expect mainstream movie-goers to understand something so complex--something that only people with film degrees are likely to understand--is beyond me. So consider this the layman's review, and click the title link above, to find out what's really going on. ;)

Oddly enough, I still enjoyed this movie.

And no, not just because of Jae Hee, lol.

Even though the ending had me scratching my head, overall, the film works. It was definitely thought-provoking, and the idea was unique and interesting. I didn't even realize I enjoyed this movie as much as I did until I sat down to write the review! I can appreciate a movie that makes me think, wonder, and isn't afraid to push the boundaries of its limitations. Even if I don't always understand it. ^_^

Oddly enough, I didn't realize this was another Kim Ki-Duk film when I started watching it-- hence the confusion and head-scratching that followed immediately afterwards. If I'd known ahead of time, I would've been much more open-minded to the ending. But since I had no idea at the time (this only being the second movie of his I've seen--at present, I've seen 4 or 5) I had no idea what to make of it. Now, however, considering the source, it makes perfect sense: Almost all of Kim's films mix the real with the unreal--with impossible scenarios that appear almost dream-like in their execution. Knowing these things ahead of time has a huge impact on how you interpret or react to a film. By watching this unaware, I really missed out on something.

Just be aware of this fact before watching it yourself, and try to keep an open mind: it really is the kind of movie that wants you to think outside the box. So as long as you throw the box away, you should be fine. ^_^

My Rating: