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!)

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!

Always (오직 그대만)

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Jang Cheol Min/Jang Marcelino (So Ji Sub) is a man who makes a living off small jobs. When he takes the position of a security guard he meets Ha Jung Hwa (Han Hyo Joo), a beautiful blind woman. She used to watched TV soap operas with the previous security guard and keeps the same habit although he is not there anymore.

Slowly they get to know each other and Cheol Min can’t help falling for her although they have little in common. Despite being blind, Jung Hwa remains jovial and optimistic. Cheol Min on the other hand is quiet, reserved, and sometimes cold. His cold behavior hides a sad past.

Both start dating, but things get complicated when Cheol Min’s past catches up with him; he finds out that he is in part responsible for Jung Hwa’s blindness. His only option: find a way to give her back her sight even if that means going back to his old ways…

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I have watched this drama more than 5 times and it never gets boring. So Ji Sub portrays the reformed bad boy who finds a meaning in life thanks to love. The Cheol Min-Jung Hwa pairing is one of those unexpected one, and I think them falling for each other is possible because she is blind. Jung Hwa’s blindness pushes her to see things with her heart. If she was able to see, she might not have been attracted by Cheol Min. Appearances can be deceiving and in this case her handicap helps her meet true love.

The drama also made me think about the past we all wish to leave behind. I feel like everyone has something that they are not necessarily proud of. The thing is can we just leave those things in the past or will they catch up to us?

The one thing that got me sort of confused is the first date between Cheol Min and Jung Hwa. I didn’t quite understand why he got annoyed by her. He got angry out of the blue and no matter how many times I played that scene I couldn’t understand. Is it because she is a sloppy eater? I mean she is blind, it’s not like she was doing it on purpose… Was it because of her hair? Well that hair style sucked but that was a one time thing… Is it because he realizes that her handicap can be too much for him to handle? I hope that one day I will be able to fully understand the scene lol.

The ending is sad but in an unusual way. It’s not what I expected but it makes sense. A different ending would have been unrealistic or the fruit of bad writing.

~ maniac Ride

A Company Man: Making a Killing

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Another action flick! This is definitely a company you do not want to work for. From the outside, the company looks boring and ordinary. You have secretaries, managers, assistants, busy telephones, fax machines, all the gears of a Misaeng workplace. However, each staff member doubles as a assassin. They all know a variety of martial skills and perform contract killings to generate revenue. Like a regular company, you have promotions and you of course have demotions. With demotions or “resigning”, often you are completely obliterated from the face of the earth. The point of the company was to keep you in service until your retirement days. For our main character, Hyeong Do, he is rising and star employee looked upon very favorably by the company’s CEO. He asks no questions and follows all his orders to a T, no matter his own personal opinions or emotions. The company was his world and home. However, one day he decides to save a “temporary” worker from being disposed of because he had developed a close bond with the young teenager during work.

With this one action started a snowball effect of finding happiness outside the world of murder. He meets the teen’s mother, Mi Yeon, who was a faded pop-star and a single mom. They develop deep feelings for each other and hoped to start a new life together. As his happiness for the other world grew, he began to become more merciful and this lead to the company finding out about him not following his orders. Even though he was promoted to a high position for his extraordinary work ethic, he decides to resign in order to pursue love. Of course when Hyeong Do runs away, this is not taken lightly by the company. Meanwhile, an old retired employee tries to get back into the company and betrays Hyeong Do and his new found love/family. In a bloody fight, Mi Yeon unfortunately becomes a casualty. Heyong Do decides to get revenge by taking down the company. However as he arrived to the company, each staff member is armed to the teeth and ready to annihilate him. However, of course he manages to defeat them all and kill all the members, down to the CEO and slimy VP. He escaped with only a few bullet wounds and also took the brunt of the blame from the teen who had come along to help me. The movie ends with him walking out into the huge crowd gathered outside the company from when they had heard gunfire.

Thoughts of Mine

Lets start with the plot and get that out of the way. Concerning that, you know you are not getting anything new other than powerful killer falls in love with innocent women and gets revenge because she died. Although that trope is very much overused, I enjoyed other aspects of the film. It was interesting how they juxtapositioned normal ordinary office worker life with the killing missions. These workers only went outside of their company if they were to go on a mission. They worked in teams like in a office, with a Manager, Assistant Manager, Director, etc. Instead of some files, we have weapons hidden in between them. Instead of supplies in their drawers, we have more weapons stuffed inside. They went on retreats just like normal companies. What the movie did well was show that these employees have been so jaded and brainwashed that murder has become part of their normal life. It is just their job and nothing personal.

Although the fighting choreography is on point and very intricately done, at times it is overly done. For example, it is not realistic, not even a smidgen, that Hyeong Do can walk out of that bloodfest at the end without any fatal wounds even if he had a bulletproof vest on. I had hoped for more character development for the main character played by So Ji Sub. I had also hoped for more bonds between him and the teen in the “fatherly” role instead of boss to employee.

I must say thought that So Ji Sub is wonderfully casted for this role. He definitely portrayed that cold, emotionless attitude of a professional assassin perfectly. It was those tiny and brief moments of emotions that appeared on his face which are memorable. A single tear when he knew happiness was out of his reach. That quick quirk of the mouth when he found something amusing and touching. That endearing awkwardness for social situations and puppy love. He definitely worked his character to the max which really carried the movie. Other than that, I would say this movie is just something quick to fill the time, and not something to write home about.

Hot Young Bloods / Blood Boiling Youth

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Surprisingly cute! So far, there has not been a Lee Jong Suk performance that has disappointed me yet! With Hot Young Bloods, the story admittedly starts off slow with a few laughs mixed in and then sends in the punches. While I had expected a slapstick sort of comedy, the movie was more like a growing pains type. Lee Jong Suk plays Joon-gil, a flirty playboy who chases all the girls and mostly gets them. He has a ritual of stealing the girls heart, treating her to some black bean noodles, and then taking her back to his place. However, there is one girl that he never touches, Young-sook (Park Bo Young), a female gang leader who can pretty much beat up his booty. Joon-gil loves acting the cool guy, but is a great big coward who shudders at the thought of mixing with Young-sook and her ally Gwang-sik, played by Kim Young Kwan (Pinocchio bros). Gwang-sik harbors a crush on Young-sook who has a unrequited crush on Joon-gil….who has a crush on the new transfer student So Hee. Young-sook tries her best to get Joon-gil’s attention and love, but it’s a bust. Gwang-sik of course takes every opportunity to beat up and one up Joon-gil. Meanwhile, Joon-gil is not having much luck with So Hee, who seems the nice and charming type, but is actually gangster-ish herself. In order for Gwang-sik to not touch Joon-gil, Young-sook sacrifices herself to be beaten by her ex-minions, re-establishing the pecking order. So Hee is also attacked by Gwang-sik and Joon-gil gets severely beat up trying to defend her. We also learn that Joon-gil’s playboy style is just a act from previous family wounds. His mother had left when he was young and he had blamed that on his father’s frequent absences. However, he finds out that it was because his mother cheated, but the father couldn’t forget the wife still even this many years in the future. His world is turned upside down. On the train ride to school, he discovers what is truly important to him and goes berserk when he finds out that Young-sook sacrificed so much for him. He attacks Gwang-sik and does his best actually landing lots of punches on the gangster leader. However, the culmination of the fight is when Joon-gil pulls Gwang-sik off the train and into the river. After resurfacing and stealing back the shoes that Young-sook had bought for him (but Gwang-sik had stole), he goes to Young-sook’s house, but she has already left for Seoul. She had decided to forget their past and try to find her future as she had dropped out of school. Joon-gil is devastated that he missed her, but her note encouraged him to continue his studies since he is actually smart. He takes this time to grow and self-improve. Of course, we have a lovely happy ending…which I won’t disclose too much of!

While it did start off a bit slow and with less humor than I expected, Lee Jong Suk provided a satisfactory performance. He has that natural and easy going charm that makes him very comfortable and pleasant to watch. However, he will surprise you with the depth of his acting that will literally pull at your heartstrings. He is that type of actor that does not hold back during angsty scenes and still brings me to tears with his acting of pain and despair. As for Park Bo Young, she is really adorable to watch and reminds me of her Wolf Boy days. She has great chemistry with Lee Jong Suk, and with other male actors as well. She, too, has a more natural way of acting that does not seem fake or stupid. As for our ex-broship of Kim Young Kwan, he has certainly improved a lot since the first drama I’ve watched him in, White Christmas (seems he likes the Woo Bin, Jong Suk, Young Kwan trio here). His acting is very earnest and he displays emotions very well. While the accents and fashion did get some used too, it was quite an enjoyable watch!

For the Emperor

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For the Mob Boss is what the title should actually be called. If you remember Lee Min Ki in Shut Up Flower Boy Band, where he tragically only appeared for two episodes, this is what might have become of him if he hadn’t had grown up with such a good group of bros. This movie is about Lee Hwan, who was a prominent baseball player, but was kicked out of the league after being in a game-fixing scandal. While trying to survive, he gets recruited by Emperor Capital. EC is a huge loaning company aka loan sharks aka mobsters. Lee Hwan adapts really fast to this new life and makes a name for himself after fearlessly taking down rougher and meaner enemies. Sang-ha, the ruthless mobster leader takes Lee Hwan under his wing and grooms him to rise quickly through the ranks. Between the two, they rule much of Busan through killing and controlling all the finances. Lee Hwan also tries his hand at dating a bar owner that he had his eye fixed on, but it was only sex for her. While it seemed the ties were getting tighter between Lee Hwan and Sangha, Lee Hwan is manipulated into betraying Sangha and landing him in jail. He also gets the CEO above Sangha as well in jal, becoming CEO himself. However, the ex-CEO has more power and influence to which he ordered a hit on Lee Hwan. Sangha, who was released from jail, rushes to help Lee Hwan who is overwhelmed with knife-wielding gangsters. They fight through the pack together, but suffer grievous wounds. Eventually, they were able to hop onto a yacht, and died peacefully at sea. Brotherhood in arms.

Violence. Sex. Money. That’s it, that is the whole movie. Not really much of a plot other than a skeleton to string the story together somewhat. While the fight scenes were nicely choreographed, and Lee Min Ki looks pretty damn good while fighting, it’s your run of the mill bro-fight movie. With graphic sex. What PD’s can’t show in a drama, it shows excessively in a movie. The whole experience is mehh for lack of a better word. If you are looking for a mindless fight movie with a spot of revenge and some brotherhood to pass the time, this is for you. This is not for me.

The Technicians / The Con Artists

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I’ve always loved a good heist movie…plus Kim Woo Bin as a con drew me in. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the movie at all. Did I set my expectations too high? The bar just wasn’t reached and I was left feeling mehh about the whole affair. The movie is about Ji Hyeok, a thief, who has a special talent of breaking into all kinds of safes. He and Goo-in, an engineer buddy make a life out of conning other people into buying their fake products and stealing the real deal. They also recruit hacker Jong-bae who may or may not have a history of betraying his colleagues. These three decide to perform a diamond heist, but hit up the wrong jewelry store. The executed their plan perfectly, but the diamonds they stole were from Chairman So, a gangster-like boss. However, the Chairman wants them to perform a bigger heist of stealing 150 million from Korean Customs. In order to this, they must break through several layers of security while not even having the guarantee of safety after they perform the job. Luckily, genius Ji Hyeok has already thought ahead multiple steps to plan out a con to con the original con….while also getting the girl. What you think are betrayals are just twists of plot, so don’t be fooled (but don’t worry, it’s predictable).

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