Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie Review - Going by the Book

Caper movies are a special type of good mainstream fun. They are a demanding type, as the plans devised and/or thwarted and the sequence of events leading to the ending need to be both exciting and pretty hole-free. When done right, it is magic. Characters and actors also play a very important part in them, since they carry the weight of one specific situation and a much tighter focus. 'Going by the Book' is an interesting take on a heist film, but its unique idea stills fits that description.

When a town's new police chief (Son Byeong-ho) is asked to do something about a string of bank robberies creating bad reputation for the force, he comes up with a plan to form a realistic police drill and gain the public's trust. Jeong Do-man (Jeong Jae-yeong) is a recently demoted officer who is a perfectionist about his work. He sticks to the rules religiously and has great work ethics. Knowing of this, the chief asks Do-man to act out the role of the robber for the drill and demands he does it as realistically as possible.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Film Review] "Going by the Book".

Movie Review - Arang

Asian horror is without a doubt one of the biggest genres known to international viewers. Korean horror specifically has its hits and misses, but very few movies really manage to go beyond the entertaining type of pop-corn horror. Those that manage something different usually have a strong human drama behind them, but that is still not a guarantee of quality and leaves no surprises by now. 'Arang' is an interesting and good enough thriller film and has a bit more to it than your average "light" pastime horror, but certain aspects of it keep it from being great.

Detective So-yeong (Song Yoon-ah) and her new rookie partner, Hyeon-gi (Lee Dong-wook) are handling a case where a victim was killed and then the house set on fire. As they dig in further and another murder happens, they realize the victims are all acquaintances and related to a case that happened ten years ago. What they do not know is that the victims are haunted by a ghost at their time of death. That is until So-yeong starts seeing the dead woman in her dreams.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Film Review] "Arang".

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ori's Mapo Tofu Stew

I'm not even sure if it qualifies as mapo tofu, but here it is anyway.


400gr minced meat (we use a mix of beef and pork)

250-300gr tofu (soft or firm, only the cooking time differs)

3-4 cloves of garlic

Water (about 1 liter), sesame oil, light soy sauce

Red pepper powder

2 spring onions (chopped in 1-2 cm pieces)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Drama First Look - Reset

Those familiar with OCN's series know that the channel is not one to break formula in any major ways. While its shows are very different to the usual Korean drama, they are still very much limited by a different type of mold that the channel has created for itself. Some of its series have changed things up, but usually in minor ways not related to the basic setup. This is where 'Reset' and its different structure come in.

OCN shows are usually a combination of procedurals and a main plot. Be it a vampire looking for his sister's killer or a medical examiner fighting his own brain, those parts of their main plot are spread thin throughout a season and show in its entirety. The cases in-between are unrelated to the main plot, which is mostly forgotten after the introductory episodes and until the season's final ones. 'Hero' tried connecting all its cases to the main one, but bad writing means those cases fell into the protagonist's lap in a contrived manner. 'Reset' follows that path, but makes the connection logical.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Reset".

Actor Spotlight - Uhm Jung Hwa

Juggling two careers is a common occurrence for actors in South Korea, but it is also one which comes under fire often. Those who have a career in singing or modeling have a lot more to prove in terms of dedications and skills when they make the jump to acting. Uhm Jung-hwa is one of the bright examples of simultaneously handling two careers and being active in many more ways with efficiency in each field. Both in choices and performances, she is a star.

Unlike many who jump from one career to include another in their efforts, Uhm debuted as a singer and actress with only one year between debuts. Uhm's first acting role was in 1993 film 'Marriage Story', but she only made her real breakthrough with 2001 movie 'Marriage Is a Crazy Thing'. After 'Singles' in 2003 and a series of other successes, her place in the movie world was secured. On the drama side, she has been in a few roles, her most recent ones being 'He Who Can't Marry' in 2009 and 'A Witch's Love' in 2014. However, cinema is definitely the main focus of her work so far.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Actor Spotlight] Uhm Jung-hwa.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Drama Review - Sign

While OCN might be the current king of the crime in Korean drama, crime as a topic, premise and even genre for shows is nothing new for the industry. Series with crime as their genre or an integral part of them might not appear often, but attempts have been made with various results. 'Sign' is a big attempt at pure crime and achieves some new things, but its problems and lack of a solid main plot ultimately fail it.

When a popular idol is murdered, coroners Yoon Ji-hoon (Park Shin-yang) and Lee Myeong-han (Jeon Kwang-ryeol) clash. Ji-hoon believes the truth is all that matters, but Myeong-han is hired to conceal the true culprit. With the help of rookie forensic scientist Ko Da-kyeong (Kim Ah-joong), Ji-hoon tries to reveal the truth. A year after their failed attempt, the two reunite as boss and employee, taking on a variety of new cases and hoping to solve the mystery of that murder they met through and expose the true culprit of it to the world.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Sign".

Actor Spotlight - Kim Seo Hyeong

When looking at the style of women that are popular in Korean drama and considering the types of roles women usually get, it is obvious that being pretty and sweet are qualities favored. However, it takes all kinds of characters to create a work and there are many types of women in stories aside from the often cookie-cutter stars that lead them. Kim Seo-hyeong might lack the innocent and juvenile quality appreciated in actresses, but her charisma and choices give her options those often lack.

Kim made her official debut as an actress in 1994, but did not get many opportunities in central roles until about ten years later. Her first big chance on the drama side came with 'Lovers in Paris' in 2004 and she is often remembered for her villainous role in 'Temptation of Wife'. On the movie side, she had a leading role in popular horror film 'Forbidden Floor - 4 Horror Tales'. Since then, she has been in a number of known and some very successful dramas and movies, both in supporting roles and also cameos.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Actor Spotlight] Kim Seo-hyeong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Drama Review - Fated to Love You

Romantic comedy has seen better days in Korean drama. The last couple of years have really been disappointing, with shows going overly dark for the genre and even going as low as to falsely advertise themselves as something with a lighter tone. That is not to say romantic comedy shows in the past have not had their issues, but they were also more realistic, as realistic as this type of work can be, and mostly light in tone, as the genre should be. 'Fated to Love You' brings some of those issues back, but it also brings back the sorely missed lightness.

Lee Gun (Jang Hyeok) is a chaebol son who is under pressure from his family to present an heir and who is planning to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Kang Se-ra (Wang Ji-won). Kim Mi-yeong (Jang Nara) is a woman who has trouble saying no to people, but she is a kind person who genuinely wants to help others. During a trip to Macau, Gun and Mi-yeong are accidentally both drugged and end up sleeping together. Making things even more complicated, Mi-yeong soon realizes she is pregnant.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Fated to Love You".

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Drama Review - The Joseon Shooter

If there is a type of work in Korean drama that has the potential to be ambitious and thrilling, that is sageuk. If there is a premise that has the potential to be an emotional rollercoaster and give audiences a riveting journey, that is a revenge plot. With both of those characteristics, 'The Joseon Shooter' had everything it needed to be one fun ride. While ultimately a pretty good series, some things sadly kept it from being quite the epic it could have been.

'The Joseon Shooter' takes place during a time of change in Joseon. With the kingdom caught between Qing and Japan, a group of reformists clash with the conservative noble class who are afraid of losing power. After Park Yoon-gang's (Lee Joon-Ki) father is killed by the conservatives and his family is branded as traitors, he is aided to Japan and then returns to have his revenge. Back in his homeland, his quest for justice puts his morality in danger, as well as his love with a noble woman and reformist called Jeong Soo-in (Nam Sang-mi).

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Joseon Shooter".

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