Fatal Intuition: Psychometric

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I admit I watched this movie because Joo Won was the main actor and I love me some intense acting! Which I got for sure! Joo Won plays Jung Woo who lives with his sibling Eun Jin in a small seaside town. Jung Woo works menial jobs in order to support his sister going to college. His aim is to get both of them out of the rural countryside. Eun Ji is a playful and outgoing girl who is kind to everyone. She is also very pretty which makes Jung Woo very protective of her. One day, after an argument about there future, Jung Woo locks Eun Ji in the house so she won’t run away. Upset, he goes out drinking with his friends. Unfortunately, an intruder breaks into their home and ends up drowning Eun Ji in his own bleaching vat in the basement since she couldn’t escape the locked house. Jung Woo comes back and ends up filing a missing persons case when he couldn’t find where she went. Meanwhile, another girl in the town is bullied severely and cursed by everyone due to her unique ability to foresee the deaths of people she comes across. Before Eun Ji’s death, the two girls had come into contact with each other. Eun Ji was nice to her and the psychic girl Si-Eun had accidentally saw her death. Si-Eun had passed out from the force of her vision and wasn’t able to save Eun Ji. However, she did manage to let Jung Woo know where Eun Ji’s body was. Jung woo was heartbroken when he found out his sister died and swore vengeance to find who did it. He suspected the neighborhood pharmacist who had a upstanding reputation had done it. He beings chasing him down, but no one would believe that the pharmacist was the culprit. Si-Eun even tries to use her powers to help him. Little by little, we find out about the pharmacist’s sordid and bloody past. His own family had died by his hands. Even without the police helping him, Jung Woo swore he would kill the pharmacist with his own hands for what he had done.

The movie itself did not have much dialogue as it relied mostly on cinematography and the actor’s expressions. Joo Won puts on a rural dialect to play role and the chase is thrilling since the pharmacist is physically a strong fighter and able to elude Jung Woo. He is also manipulative enough to escape the police and turn the tables in his favor. Poor Si-Eun plays a sister substitute to Jung Woo’s real sister after she passed away. He becomes protective of her and they fight against society themselves to bring about vengeance and survive the ordeal. All in all, a decent movie to pass the time, but not anything to write home about.

 

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Coin Locker Girl: An Eye for an Eye

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In the lieu of Hwayi, Coin Locker Girl has the same dark feel which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Il-young, who is named Ten for short, was abandoned as a baby and stored in one of those 10cent coin lockers at the subway. As a result, she grew up with the homeless and was later kidnapped by a loan shark gang. Even as a young girl, she proved herself resilient and capable of handling her jobs. This grabbed the attention of the gang head, Woo-hee, who is known as Mother of the underground society. Ten grows up to become the right hand man of Mother, handling all sorts of dirty jobs with a dispassion and calculation that frightens many. One day, she is supposed to retrieve the debt from this father-son pair, but only encounters the son because the father had ran away. The son, Seok Hyun, shows her a kindness that she has never encountered before in her harsh upbringing. He cooks for, takes her to movies, and gives her the warmth that she craves for. At first, she tries to treat him harshly to get the money from him, but slowly becomes attached. However, their little world collapses when Mother issues the order to kill Seok Hyun because his father had completely abandoned the family and left the debt to be taken care of by the son. Ten is emotionally unable to kill Seok Hyun and instead betrays the only family she has even known. They try to run, but don’t get very far as the rest of the gang catch up. Seok Hyun is brutally murdered before her eyes aInd his organs used to make up for his debt. This completely breaks Ten apart as she is now hunted by those who she once called family. She decides to take fate and vengeance into her own hands.

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Train to Busan: Full Loaded

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For me, one of the most frightening apocalypse type events is bio warfare or a bio-accident. Disease that is hard to control coupled with it potentially having no cure or one that can’t be developed fast enough is just horrid to even think about. Train to Busan is not only an amazing horror/thriller zombie movie, but also one that portrays humanity in a time where it is survival of the fittest.

In the movie, Seok Woo is a fund manager who has a young daughter and is divorced from his wife due to him being a workaholic. In the beginning he is portrayed as a dad who is too busy with his job to spend quality time with his daughter. His daughter ends up guilt-tripping him into sending her back to her mother in Busan, a day earlier than she was supposed to go for her birthday. Fortunately, they catch the train to Busan where they just manage to avoid the imminent bio-apocalypse that is to befall the city of Seoul.

On the train, they meet Sang-hwa and his pregnant wife Seong-kyeong, a high school baseball team, rich but selfish CEO Yon-suk, elderly sisters In-gil and Jon-gil, and a homeless man. Just before the train departs, another wounded woman jumps into the train as well. She seems to have a wound on her leg that is infecting the rest of her body fast.

Meanwhile, Seok Woo has fallen asleep on the train, while his daughter wanders the rest of the compartments out of curiosity and the need to use the bathroom. Soon, the wounded woman succumbs to the bite and starts to seize. A stewardess comes to check on her and in the process becomes the first victim to the now zombified woman. The bite and turning is fast and relentless as one person becomes affected after another. The compartments are small and there is no where to run.

Passengers start to panic, and soon only one compartment of the train is left with no zombies in it. Hope seemed to be in the near future as the passengers are asked to get off at another city that is fortified by military. However, by the time they get there, the military has already lost to the city of zombies and have turned themselves. Their numbers are halved even more as they must run back to the train as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in the chaos, not everyone boarded the safe compartment. Our main characters are hiding in different ones and must battle through the zombie infested compartments to save their loved ones and make it to the safe head compartment. It becomes a long arduous process that shows the different sides of humanity. Every action becomes a choice of saving yourself or help for the good of a group.

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Blind: Sees More

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An excellent movie that I heard many good things about and had set my expectations sky high (it was fortunately met!) Kim Ha-Neul plays a budding cop, Soo Ah, who gets into a tragic car accident that leaves her adopted brother dead and her permanently blind. Three years later, her hearing senses have adapted to her loss in vision, to the point where she is able to pick out minute details in her surroundings. She wises to stay independent with her seeing eye dog and get back into the police force, but things aren’t going well with her goals. One day, she gets into a “cab” to go home and the driver ends up hitting something while driving. Although she cannot see, she believes it was a person and that the driver had stored her in the trunk. She manages to escape from this cab and reports the incident to the police. At first they do not take her report seriously because of her blindness, but they soon realize her heightened sense are giving them serious clues to cracking the case. Enter in a rebellious young teenager who claims to have seen the vehicle and perpetrator himself, the search for the kidnapper becomes more intense. However, the kidnapper / serial killer has his eyes on the pair. He manages to bash the head of the young kid, Gi Sub, played by Yoo Seung Ho for being a witness and as a warning to back off. Fortunately, no permanent damage is done. However, his next victim is Soo Ah, who is majorly disadvantaged due to her blindness. She is almost caught by him, but her dog sacrifices his life to protect her. Unfortunately, when a break is finally made in the case, the lead detective pays with his life as he accidently discovers the culprit. The criminal then goes to find Soo Ah and Gi Sub to finish them off at the orphanage where they were hiding out. After intense battling in the dark where Soo Ah has the advantage and poor Gi-Sub gets injured several times by this killer, Soo Ah manages to gather her wits about her to beat him.

With excellent acting from both Kim Ha-Neul and Yoo Seung Ho, Blind was a very enjoyable movie. I also took a look at The Witness, which is the Chinese version starring Yang Mi and Luhan of EXO in their respective Noona- Dongsaeng roles. The Chinese version followed the Korean version almost to a tee with some minor changes due to the year difference with the production of the two movies. Blind portrayed the other heightened senses cinematically in an interesting way with shadow play. Kim Ha Neul played the blind woman very convincingly and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time with her near misses and escapes from the predator. I a definitely glad that I picked up this movie as it was a delight (in a dark way, of course!)

Bleak Night: Broken

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Because I am not done with my Lee Je Hoon spree, I watched his darker piece, Bleak Night. Bleak Night tells the story of a broken friendship between three young boys. Ki-Tae, Hee-Joon (Becky), and Dong Yoon were three best friends who literally did everything together and ruled the school together. However, a break in their friendship started after Becky witnessed a private talk between a girl he liked and Ki-Tae. He became jealous and slowly isolated himself from Ki-Tae. Meanwhile, Ki-Tae who had chosen his friendship over this girl, was confused at Becky’s coldness. He tried apologizing a couple of times to Becky and to clear up the misunderstanding, to which all were coldly rebuffed. This provoked Ki-Tae into bullying Becky instead in his way of trying to make Becky react to him. This further alienated Becky to the point where Becky decided to transfer schools to get away. This depressed Ki-Tae a lot since he had really liked being friends with Becky. Meanwhile, Dong Yoon who had been friends with Ki-Tae since childhood was caught in between this stalemate. Ki-Tae in an effort to revive his pride, blustered and bullied others everyday. He wanted to keep up a strong front to hide the fact that he was extremely lonely as his family was never home. He only had his friends and pride to keep him going. After another incident where Ki-Tae went to far and broke up a romantic liaison between Dong-Yoon and a girl he liked, it was the last straw. With the girl ending up in the hospital and Dong-Yoon pissed at the situation, Dong-Yoon said the unforgivable words. Ki-Tae who had come to apologize for the situation, was rebuffed harshly by Dong Yoon as well. Dong Yoon said Ki-Tae was the source of all the misfortunes and should not have existed in the first place. Unfortunately, these were the words that broke Ki-Tae, who then committed suicide.

What is unique about this movie was that it was told almost backwards since it starts out with the funeral of Ki-Tae and a father who was trying to piece together what had happened for his child to commit suicide. As he visits the two friends, he can only get a watered down picture of their friendship and the events that had happened between them. The story is told in fragments and flashbacks. Becky’s perspective came first as we learn how he was bullied. Then Dong-Yoon, who had dropped out of school due to the suicide, told the second half which had broken Ki-Tae. Much of the story was up to your interpretation as to who was in the right or wrong, and the grey spaces in between. Ki-Tae is portrayed very sympathetically as a lonely boy who only knew how to bluster and bully, but ultimately treasured his friendships above his own life. What was tragic was that Ki-Tae did attempt to make amends and apologize, but it was the cold rebuffs from both his friends that pushed him over the ledge, literally. However, it is also true that his bullying tactics made him seem like a monster in his friend’s eyes. Although we already knew the ending, I still yearned that the misunderstandings could be resolved. Let’s just say I wished it was the School 2013 bromance route.

PS. Lee Je Hoon’s fierce portrayal of Ki-Tae was fantastic. His killer glares were intimidating, and when we saw those rare vulnerable parts where he tried to open up to his friends, it was heartbreaking. You both hated and loved him.

My Paparotti – A TENor

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After watching Lee Je-Hoon’s fantastic role in Signal, I became interested in his other projects. Thus, I watched, My Paparotti, which is based on the true story of Kim Ho Joong, an opera singer who moved his audience to tears through his voice and troubled upbringing. Adapted into a film, Lee Je Hoon plays Jang Ho, a teen who is part of/head of a large gang, but dreams of becoming a tenor. Every since his grandmother died, he had wanted to fulfill her wishes of him singing on stage. However with his troubled lifestyle, he had been kicked out of four schools already. Finally, a fifth school decided to accept him into their music program. He meets Teacher Sang Jin, a past tenor who had a promising opera career before a vocal cord tumor shoved him out of performance forever. Both Sang Jin and Jang Ho have prickly personalities and of course they butt heads. Sang Jin thinks of Jang Ho as the trash of society because of his gangster lifestyle. Jang Ho doesn’t respect Sang Jin as a role model or teacher. However, slowly they begin to understand each other and compromise. Sang Jin becomes like a father to Jang Ho to the point where Jang Ho is almost integrated in his family. Jang Ho’s beautiful voice is molded carefully into performance standards by his new teacher. Sang Jin even tries to make Jang Ho’s Boss let him out of the gang by offering his own foot for exchange. Jang Ho is very moved by his teacher’s efforts and feelings. Thus, he decides to give up this lifestyle and not fight any longer. We see a real change in his attitude when rather than fight his attackers who trapped him before his concours, he only defended himself and focused on rushing to the competition as soon as he could escape. Although the competition itself was finished, his teacher fought for a chance for him to sing on stage.

I am very impressed with Lee Je Hoon’s acting. He is able to convey conflicting emotions very well. Furthermore, he does a great job lip syncing the opera parts which are sung by another artist. This is the second time seeing him play a “gangster” or “rough and ready” type role, with the other being Signal. I also enjoyed the touching dynamic he had with his mentor. The way they sang the non-opera duet was quiet moving and really conveyed their dreams and hopes for one another. Overall it is a great feel good movie with comedy and warmth.

 

 

 

Commitment: Sleeper Spy

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Commitment is a pretty good spy-betrayed-revenge movie that stars T.O.P as Myung-hoon, a North Korean sleeper spy in South Korea. Under the guise of a high school student, Myunghoon’s mission is to eliminate political competition through assassination of a different faction’s spies. After his father died for the same mission, Myung Hoon takes up this spy role to save his sister from further punishment in the labor camps. Even though Myung Hoon is very young, his skill set is very developed to the point where he eliminates older and more seasoned spies with ease. However, after political turmoil in the north tips the power scale to a different faction, his own handler betrays him. He becomes a wanted man in the South and the whole national security force is on his tail and the bag of diamond funds he stole from another faction.  Angered and confused by this turn of events as well as the impossibility of seeing his younger sister again, he decides to lay low at a friend’s house. Although he was told not to make friends, he develops a crush on a girl with the same name as his younger sister. The girl protects and helps him even though she realizes that he is a wanted North Korean spy. His sister was then brought to S Korea as bait to hand over the diamonds, but the hand off did not go as planned. Even the sister made it to safety, his friend gets captured. Myung Hoon goes on suicidal mission to rescue his dear friend, even knowing that he is outnumbered and that it would be hard to get the police force on his side.

Coming from watching TOP in IRIS, also playing a spy role, I believe he made a marked improvement. As a movie with not much dialogue, he did use his face expressively enough for me to feel his sincerity. I very much enjoyed the slick fight choreography though. Because Yoo Jung is a very capable actress, I do wish she had gotten a bigger role in the movie other than just being the little sister used as bait. A waste of talent that could have been used to a greater advantage! Otherwise a enjoyable action flick!

Pluto: Rabbit Hunting

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Pluto is a movie about the academic pressure of getting into a SKY university in Korea. At this particular school, such cutthroat competition is created that it begins to turn young adults into budding psychopaths. It is a deeply dark and disturbing movie to which young adults who watched it ended up connecting with it on a basic level. The drama tells the story through the eyes of June, who is a recent transfer and genius in science. He is particularly interested in astronomy and has written a thesis on why Pluto, an outlier, should be a planet in the solar system.Even though he was in the top 1% of his last school, he is in the lower end of the class in his new school. Often he is envious of the top 10 students in his grade and how they have special privileges and classes. They pass around a notebook that seems to help improve their grades. June wants to be in this special club and Yujin, the leader of the club says he has to perform special missions in order to be one of them. They call this process Rabbit Hunting. Rabbit Hunting, at first, seems like your general high school bullying, but it has a more sinister aura to it. The missions become more dangerous, bordering on assault and sexual harassment. While Yujin tries to regulate the missions to his best ability due to his past guilt, it is the second in command who enjoys such pleasures. Unfortunately, June participates in these missions just so he can improve his grades and ranking. However, as he is engrossed in such activities, he develops characteristics of a psychopath himself. The turning point comes when Yujin becomes the victim of one of their plots and is murdered by the club. The club members try to blame it on June. June is jolted back into moral reality and ends up trying to bring justice to the group members. As the group members have rich and powerful parents, he thinks that the law force will be of no use. Thus he is taking this into his own hands and forcing the members to perform the missions that he did before. He blackmails them and threatens their life with homemade bombs (that they had originally made him concoct for a mission). On the day of the solar eclipse is when everything comes to a head and June will smite the club with his hand of justice.

I definitely enjoy psychological thrillers and this movie had a White Christmas aura about it. Are monsters born or molded by society? Clearly, the intense academic pressure has twisted these young adults so much that they are willing to do anything to beat out the other person. Yujin played by Sung Joon is the ultimate broody leader who develops somewhat of a conscious after a previous tragedy caused by the club. Sung Joon does dark and brood very well, taking his White Christmas character to the next level. Meanwhile June’s transformation is definitely interesting and frightening to watch as he goes from the timid meek boy to bringing of justice. Pluto is definitely a movie that tries to bring into focus the tribulations of young adults.

Shoot Me in the Heart: I Feel It!

 

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Lee Min-Ki and Yeo Jin Goo, power actors, in my humble opinion. I knew it was going to be good just by looking at the actors, let alone the story. The movie, Shoot Me in the Heart, ripped all my heartstrings to threads. These two boys play Seungmin and Soomyung, patients of a psychiatric hospital (more like jail). Seungmin, who doesn’t have any psychiatric issues, is dragged to this asylum due to family inheritance conflicts. They try to put him away, out of sight, but he doesn’t go down with a fight! Every day, he tries to claw his way out of the asylum and back to his one and only passion, paragliding. However, he is slowly losing his sight without an escape in sight. Meanwhile, Soomyung is in the hospital due to PTSD when he found his mother dead in a bathtub due to suicide by a pair of scissors in her neck. He even develops a phobia of scissors and cutting his hair! These two end up rooming together and develop the most unlikely of friendships. They began to depend on each other and ground each other in this unfamiliar place. They realize what living life is about and even endure brutal treatments by the staff members. However, this does not break their spirits, and they live life even more fully than before. The main theme of the movie is the unlikely friendships and relations these two develop with others in the institute.

While it was fun watching each of their escape attempts, it is also gratingly raw how harshly they are punished each time they are caught. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but you do know that your heart is hurting for these pour souls. For me, this movie unfortunately paints a bad picture of how psychiatric institutes should be operated. From the unruly and uncaring nurses to the misuse of ECST (electric convlusive shock therapy). I for one, am for the use of ECST, but only in the proper way of treating consenting patients suffering from depression or schizophrenia. It is definitely not a tool to be used as punishment or to lobotomize “unruly” patients. Fortunately, the overarching theme of friendship in the movie makes up somewhat for this disturbing part. It shows the genuine bond these patients share with each other even in their most difficult of times. I especially enjoyed the open ending where we do get to see improvement and growth in our characters (even if it must be a heartbreaking one).

As for the actors, Lee Min Ki has a special knack for playing the wild rebellious type from Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Quick, and For the Emperor. He captures that on the brink of insanity feeling while also displaying the most genuine insights. Even with this wild nature and flights of fancy, he seems more grounded any of the other individuals. Yeo Jin Goo, this developing actor, plays his angsty broody roles really well. We see him tormented by his past and the sacrifices he makes in the future. Lucky for him and us, his bromance with Lee Min Ki really brings in the feels and lets your heart soar!

Psychometry: Hands That Save

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It’s not often that I am completely satisfied with a Korean movie, but this one hits the mark! With action and a dash of supernatural, Psychometry or Gifted Hands is the perfect flick for me. Yang Choo-Dong is your mediocre detective who doesn’t get much results in the force. However, he has a special affinity for missing children cases due to his past. One day, he by chance meets a graffiti artist who sprays him in the eye to escape. Later on, he finds that the mural that the artist painted depicted a crime scene that was found weeks later. Curious and suspicious how this artist, Kim Jun, would know what the crime scene of the missing girl looked like before police did, he begins searching for the young man. After he finds him, they get off to a rocky start as the detective thinks he is the perpetrator. However, Choo-Dong realizes that Kim Jun can perform pscyhometry which is a supernatural talent where a person can gain memories form touching an inanimate object. For Kim Jun, he can see memories of what happened in the past by using his hands. However, through a freak accident, his mom died after he touched her hand and he never forgave himself for the incident. Furthermore, each “viewing” puts strain on Kim Jun’s body to where he gets nosebleeds and even vomits up blood. However, after reconciling, Choo-Dong gets Kim Jun to help him find another little girl who went missing. Unfortunately, the police didn’t believe in this supernatural power and arrested Kim Jun as the kidnapper and murderer. Choo-Dong of course rescues Kim Jun from this predicament and together they try to find the real suspect.

Not a very complicated plot, but it gets you in the feels for its suspense and bromance feels. Kim Kang-Woo who also played in Missing Noir M, is perfect as the rambunctious detective who has a good heart. Kim Bun plays the broody Kim Jun who isolated himself from society because he thought his hands brought death. However, they develop a brotherly bond together through these investigations. I very much enjoyed these bromance moments and had wished the movie was longer or had a sequel. It would have been fun to see more crimes solved this way!