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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 5

2018/01/19 | | Permalink

As the battle for the new HBC 9 o'clock news anchor becomes more and more ruthless, so do Yoo Myeong-ho's tricks. Yeon-hwa and Jong-tae go after yet another item while Geun-hwa prepares his exit. With everyone busy in the "Argon" team and a particularly nasty lawsuit targeting Kim Baek-jin, one team member is met with a very unfair and potentially career-ending decision outside of their control...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 27-28

2018/01/18 | | Permalink

Min-gyoo and Ji-ah just have a big romantic heart to heart explaining exactly everything that happened back when Ji-ah was pretending to be AZ3 and why. The sting of the drama's more illogical plot points is taken out a lot when we have Min-gyoo realizing just how stupid he was for not noticing the inconsistencies sooner. And it's just as sweet that Ji-ah is constantly moving to reassure Min-gyoo that no, he is not stupid, and she never thought of him as a mark...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 25-26

2018/01/17 | | Permalink

Min-gyoo's relapse proves to be inevitably depressing. Even after the initial shock subsides and Min-gyoo's physical condition stabilizes, further revelations about the sheer extent of Baek-gyoon's fraud only make Min-gyoo more and more cantankerous. However nice Baek-gyoon tries to be here it's hard to see him as anything but the villain here. Especially since the drama's actual villain, Yoo-cheol, is nowhere to be found...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 2

2018/01/17 | | Permalink

I-na (played by Oh Yoon-ah) is the recently arrived manager of a local chain fitness center. Soo-ri (played by Yang Jung-won) is her generally sexy subordinate yoga instructor. While the physical attractiveness of Soo-ri in the first episode was relatively subdued, the second episode turns it up so much as to be in poor taste. The production team is sending a mixed message by saying that uploading sexy pictures of Yang Jung-won on the Internet is wrong, and then giving us an entire setpiece where she moans lasciviously in response to a massage...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 6

2018/01/16 | | Permalink

Ask and you shall receive, and although "A Korean Odyssey" is still dawdling on and regurgitating a lot of its key concepts this time around, there is at least one major point of progress in the ever so shaky thing that is its main romance. Ma-wang is feeling the burn of his little tasting and we are slowly discovering some connections made by our self-centered group of supernatural misfits...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 12

2018/01/16 | | Permalink

At long last Kang-doo has come to the conclusion that he is in fact an idiot and badly underrating himself. Not only does he allow Moon-soo to start caring about him without needlessly pushing her away, Kang-doo goes even farther than that and admits that he cares about her, and wants their relationship to go back to the way it was. As in, they just make a point of seeing each other on a regular basis, sometimes with a specific goal, and other times just for fun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 4

2018/01/16 | | Permalink

I've been wondering, who was Sin-woo's teacher in the original timeline? What happened to that guy? Why didn't he show up this time to take his job? It's a question that has become increasingly relevant as Sin-woo's memories differ from events in the new timeline. Although the bigger surprise is how much events don't change, or how they change in ways just minor enough that Sin-woo still mostly correctly guesses what has happened, save for a few minor details...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 14

2018/01/16 | | Permalink

So Mr. Bong has returned to the story. Good thing I figured out Mr. Bong and Mr. Jo were two different characters already or I would have been really confused...anyway, Mr. Bong's main purpose here is to confuse me as to how the company's human resources policies are supposed to work. By what standard is a consensual romantic relationship cause for dismissal, but delegating a secretary to buy lacy underwear is not?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 5

2018/01/15 | | Permalink

Seon-mi's burdens keep multiplying, as something happens to put our previously detached Bull Demon King in a much more invested position. After the big revelation of our heroine's mission, "A Korean Odyssey" takes a step back to look at her unique connection to Oh-gong. While the nature of this fake bond has been there for us to see, it is starting to dawn on Seon-mi that her needs tend to feed a dangerous and painful delusion of closeness on her end...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 3

2018/01/15 | | Permalink

Na-hee (played by Jo Seung-hee) is Sin-woo's fellow teacher. Naturally, Sin-woo remembers Na-hee as a teacher from high school, and so has always been creeped out by the obvious romantic pretensions Na-hee has toward him now in adult form. I rather like this subplot, because it's the most explicit example we have of how Sin-woo's memories of people from high school are different from what these people were actually like. As Sin-woo's teacher, Na-hee had inherent dignity. As Sin-woo's colleague, she has almost none...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 13

2018/01/15 | | Permalink

Once again "Jugglers" is able to salvage the relationship between Yoon-i and Chi-won by having them act like professional adults in the face of a bad situation. Yes, naturally Yoon-i is horrified and freaked out by the way her relationship with Chi-won has been outed. All the same, Chi-won is right there to remind her that this is not the end of the world. More importantly Chi-won is plenty willing to give Yoon-i emotional and physical space to recover, which is especially essential since a company investigation is now necessary...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 11

2018/01/15 | | Permalink

Kang-doo has been forced to acknowledge the death of someone he genuinely, deeply cared about. Kang-doo does not take the news very well, and most of this episode is just an exercise in the other characters trying their best to calm him down. Which works, sort of. After an initial violent outburst Kang-doo is quite subdued, and seems willing to accept that which was always inevitable. But one way or another, Kang-doo always twists the situation around so as to maximize the self-hatred...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.12 - 2018.01.14

2018/01/15 | | Permalink

"1987" overthrows "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"...

"Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", Kim Yong-hwa's adaptation of the first half of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge", is now the fifth highest-grossing Korean film of all time. Last weekend Kim's fifth film surpassed 10 million admissions, and with the 742,417 admissions (23.69%) it claimed over this past weekend, the film has now overtaken "The Thieves"'s $87.9 million. Since its release five days before Christmas, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has accrued 12.8 million admissions or $96.9 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 14-16

2018/01/13 | | Permalink

So this time around the victim who Goo-hee attempts to help with the titular "Revenge Note" is an old friend with whom Goo-hee had a falling out, so we get a lot of flashbacks. In flashback, Goo-hee has shorter hair which makes her look older. This isn't a huge deal or anything, it's just counter-intuitive. Also it's the same haircut Kim Hyang-gi has in "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" which immediately made me realize, huh, I didn't notice that was her too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Not Played"

2018/01/13 | | Permalink

In-sook (played by Won Mi-kyung) is a grandmother with a real excellent knack for geometry. Sadly, this skill set has been unexplored for most of her life, as In-sook has lived as a normal housewife. Then she gets a job as a cleaning lady for a local billiards hall. Business is slow, so In-sook practices the game while no one else is around. Before long, she's lining up excellent shots, easily hitting as many as five sides at once...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "America Town"

2018/01/13 | | Permalink

In a small town near the demilitarized zone the economy is dictated almost entirely by the spending habits of American soldiers, an "America Town" if you will. The actual name of the town is not important because there were a lot of them back in the eighties. Some of them are still around even today. They're a bit of a wasteland really, which is unavoidable. Imagine you're a bored, lonely, depressed American soldier with a paycheck and nowhere better to go with your time off base. What would you buy?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds"

2018/01/13 | | Permalink

Ja-hong (played by Cha Tae-hyun) is a very special man. Most people who die, they just end up getting stuck in line. The unlucky ones get trapped in eternal torment. Somewhat luckier ones get clerical positions and cool magical powers. Ja-hong's guardians Kang-rim (played by Ha Jung-woo) and Seaman Mac (played by Joo Ji-hoon) get combat abilities. Deok-choon (played by Kim Hyang-gi), the newbie and the lone woman, is stuck with just information gathering abilities. They all dream of reincarnation, of once again knowing what it is like to be human. But Ja-hong? He's under consideration for a position of considerable power in the underworld. "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" concerns itself with the question as to why...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Christmas in August"

2018/01/13 | | Permalink

Jeong-won (played by Han Suk-kyu) is a photographer living a quiet life far from the bustle of the city. "Christmas in August" mostly just allows Jeong-won to be happy. He loves photography. Jeong-won takes genuine joy in the perfectionist pursuit of preserving the best possible image of a person for all eternity. Jeong-won too strives to live his own life in that way, maintaining an assuredly pleasant demeanor for people to remember him by...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "539 Yeonnam-dong" Episode 1

2018/01/11 | | Permalink

Bong-tae (played by Lee Jong-hyuk) is a cybercrimes investigator who is appearing on a cable news program to talk about his work. Bong-tae is a moderately awkward man who doesn't look or act like a cop at all, so the question is immediately begged- what could he have possibly done to warrant being put on television? Flash back to a couple of weeks earlier, when Bong-tae runs across Ryan (played by Brian Joo) busking in the park. These apparently random events are related, although it takes some time for "539 Yeonnam-dong" to explain how...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 23-24

2018/01/11 | | Permalink

The bulk of episode twenty-three is actually exactly what I was hoping for when it came to a reunion with Min-gyoo and Ji-ah. Sure, the whole situation is explicitly comically contrived, but it gets them talking. And the more Min-gyoo talks, the more obvious it is that he's a lonely socially isolated man who has no idea how ridiculous he sounds discussing AZ3 with excessive childish enthusiasm. Min-gyoo really needed this - a chance to talk about AZ3 with a stranger. That really was all he wanted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 21-22

2018/01/10 | | Permalink

So having appeared briefly in a few inconsequential scenes, Ri-el simply drops away from Min-gyoo's life disinterestedly, much like how she re-entered it. While I appreciate "I'm Not a Robot" simply abandoning a subplot it obviously had no interest in developing in the first place, the drama then makes the bad decision to focus on the two aspects of the story I liked even less than Ri-el. There's the attempt by malicious forces to steal AZ3, and everyone continuing to deceive Min-gyoo...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 10

2018/01/09 | | Permalink

So Na Moon-hee is in this drama. I've had trouble discussing her character mostly because she doesn't appear to have a name. But the character has always been instructive. Superficially Na Moon-hee is playing the role of wise mentor figure, and she's always dispensing unwanted yet generally correct grandmotherly advice. Yet the old woman is never talking from a position of strength. If anything, she gives off the feeling of constant regret, although it's never been clear why...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 12

2018/01/09 | | Permalink

Secret relationships have never been a trope I particularly liked, although "Jugglers" really does take them to the next level in terms of sheer annoyance. All of the conflict is entirely because Chi-won and Yoon-i have decided to have a secret relationship for no good reason. The reason the Mr. Bong thing blew up into a scandal was because he was married. Chi-won is not married, at least not anymore. So at worst this is sexual harassment, which would be a problem for him, not her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 2

2018/01/09 | | Permalink

While the first episode gave the clear impression that this was going to be the older Sin-woo's story, and that there was going to be more going on than just his attempts to drive the younger Sin-woo and Ji-soo together, so far that's pretty much the only storyline we have. We barely know anything about the other characters. So-ra (played by Dohee) is now Ji-soo's best friend, and has effectively brought her into the larger group, but the two have barely any screentime together...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 9

2018/01/08 | | Permalink

So Kang-doo and Moon-soo appears to have broken up, or are at least fighting in such a way that they seem headed for a break-up. The actual reason for the fight is not important. This was just one of those dumb petty fights that couples get into because they have an emotionally charged moment and separate on bad terms. Then, unwilling to imply in even the vaguest way that they might have been wrong, they stubbornly refuse to make up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Longing Heart" Episode 1

2018/01/08 | | Permalink

Sin-woo (played by Lee Jung-shin) is a high school teacher. We get a broad panorama of the town where he works, a look at his stroll to class, and finally an introduction to his students. Sin-woo's affectionate and oddly personal appraisals of the students come off as odd, even creepy, until he finally gets to Sin-woo (played by Seo Ji-hoon) who is literally just Sin-woo as a teenager. Yes, that's right, Sin-woo has time slipped back into 2007, and the first episode of "Longing Heart" explains how...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 11

2018/01/08 | | Permalink

So I appear to have confused Mr. Bong, who was Yoon-i's boss in the first episode, with Mr. Jo (played by In Gyo-jin), who has been the antagonist since then. On one end I want to apologize for being too stupid to realize that these are two completely different characters. On the other end I'm now struggling to remember how Yoon-i even knows Mr. Jo in the first place, or why he would have ever thought she would be on his team. Well, I guess it doesn't matter...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 4

2018/01/08 | | Permalink

Well, I asked for a main story and for Seon-mi's purpose in it, and episode four of "A Korean Odyssey" delivers. It turns out that our heroine has a much heavier burden to bear than expected and she needs her group of merry monsters to help her carry it. Seon-mi starts bonding with the group, but the reality of Oh-gong's forced connection to her leaves her feeling lonely as a challenging future approaches...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2018.01.05 - 2018.01.07

2018/01/08 | | Permalink

Local webcomic adaptation "Along With the Gods" surpasses 10-million admissions...

Kim Yong-hwa's fun fantasy flick "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" has sailed past the 10 million admissions mark after its third weekend out. From 1,256 screens, down from 1,666, "Along With the Gods" (which stars Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Joo Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi) claimed 1.3 million admissions or 36.44% of the weekend sales. The first part of Kim's adaptation of Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge" is now on the verge of overtaking "Train to Busan" (11.5 million admissions) as the tenth highest-grossing Korean film of all time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 3

2018/01/07 | | Permalink

"A Korean Odyssey" is back this week and although the messy production and the injury that was caused due to it should never be forgotten or treated lightly, it looks like enough measures have been taken to keep the related authorities pleased for now. Story-wise, we are starting to get hints about the why of it all and the role of Seon-mi's fate in it, but we also meet new characters and backstories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black"

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

OCN has been so big on crime dramas, that Death himself gets one this time around. Granted, the titular hero of "Black" is only one Reaper out of many, but the series is right up his alley anyway. The series mixes fantasy, crime and romance, although that sadly proves too much by the end of things. Where does "Black" succeed and where could things have gone better? It depends on what you are looking for, but here is my take on it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 4

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

"Argon" and the show within it of the same name have a surprise guest in this episode and they tackle some topics we do not often see in Korean drama, or rather often see painted in a very consistent and one-sided way. Sadly, the drama also throws a curve-ball at us with a certain character's health and this twists Baek-jin's arm into a decision that is necessary, but will only further infuriate his enemies...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Anthology"

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

So-i (played by Shin Eun-soo) is, in the modern day, an English teacher for private academies. The work is degrading and generally pointless, so it's with sincere joy that So-i comes homes to open a package from family in rural Nonsan. So-i wasn't actually raised out there. She just ended up stuck in the area for awhile because of issues with her mother. All the same, So-i's happy nostalgia flashbacks revolve around the Nonsan years, which is especially interesting when we look back to see what a brat So-i was...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 11-13

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

So Goo-joon's purpose has now been fully justifed to me. He is Goo-hee's terrible, evil older brother who constantly teases her yet is frustratingly difficult to get a rise out of. I liked how Goo-hee's revenge, though obviously satisfying to her, does not actually result in Goo-joon suffering on-screen. Because why would he give her the satisfaction? Goo-joon just does what terrible older brothers always do, and find more trifling ways to annoy Goo-hee that their parents will never believe because Goo-joon is oh-so-perfect...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "1987: When the Day Comes"

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

Investigator Park (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a state-sponsored Communist hunter. He doesn't play by the rules when it comes to dealing with pure evil. If Investigator Park needs to make the case, he will use whatever legal powers, violence, and intimidation necessary to force obstacles out of the way. At first glance Investigator Park may be mistaken as an agent of justice. But throughout "1987: When the Day Comes" we mostly see Investigator Park through the eyes of his victims- as a crazed psychopath who cannot be stopped and cannot be negotiated with. Which is a fitting metaphor for the South Korean dictatorship as a whole...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Return"

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

Far off in the rural outskirts of Ulsan, there's a simple country restaurant called "The Return" with a plaque that reads, if you drink rice wine here, your loved one will return for you. There is no magical property to the plaque or the restaurant. The proprietor Mister Byeon (played by Kim Yu-seok) just liked the sentiment in those words. But through time and tide, various lonely people have come to "The Return" inspired by its message into believing that they, too, may meet their loved ones again, given enough patience at the restaurant...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sermon on the Mount"

2018/01/06 | | Permalink

Director Daehae is a Buddhist nun. This may be seem counter-intuitive, given that "Sermon on the Mount" is, as the title implies, a movie about Christian theology. The runtime consists almost entirely of a bunch of seminary students sitting around in a cave casually discussing and debating various liturgy. There are frequent references to the more arcane aspects of religious belief, simplified into relatable analogies of great use to the believer and the non-believer alike...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 19-20

2018/01/04 | | Permalink

The resolution to the whole elaborate deception storyline wraps up a lot faster than I was expecting. Before even episode nineteen has finished Min-gyoo and Ji-ah have already said their goodbyes, and episode twenty largely consists of them vigorously making a new start of their lives. Deep down inside Min-gyoo and Ji-ah are still quite lonely though, having become more attached to the master robot relationship than they had ever expected...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 17-18

2018/01/03 | | Permalink

In very short order "I'm Not a Robot" has gone from cute and charming, if ethically ill-conceived, to straight-up depressing. At one point a minor character is murdered out of nowhere, and the other characters respond by shambling listlessly. There's no longer any joy in the interactions bewteen Min-gyoo and Ji-ah. Their reunion at the end has an amazingly dour tone- they're going through the motions to try and recreate happiness that no longer exists and never can...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 3

2018/01/02 | | Permalink

With the secret plan between Baek-jin and Yeon-hwa to uncover the truth behind the Midtown Mall collapse hitting a slow point, it is time to get familiar with some other members of the "Argon" group. The two leads take on a case from Baek-jin's past that he must solve, the "ugly" and "old" lovebirds have an awkward meeting and the "Argon" underdog above Yeon-hwa gets a hefty dose of reality...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 8

2018/01/02 | | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Just Between Lovers" reads as the space between lovers. It's a very instructive title, because most of what we see really is just Kang-doo and Moon-soo spending time together. They don't necessarily do anything. Interpreted in a purely narrative sense Kang-doo and Moon-soo mostly just run errands. Whether or not they succeed in these errands is sort of besides the point, because no individual errand is all that important...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 10

2018/01/02 | | Permalink

So apparently the sweet spot for Yoon-i and Chi-won is not quite actually in a relationship, since now that they're officially together, we have to endure a secret office romance storyline. That on its own would not be a problem, except that Yoon-i and Chi-won have now become mostly incompetent again. They are so bad at keeping secrets it begs the question of why they bother trying to keep secrets in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.29 - 2017.12.31

2018/01/02 | | Permalink

Local hits "Along With the Gods", "1987" and "Steel Rain" secure 90% of the sales during final weekend...

The last weekend of 2017 saw another massive win for Kim Yong-hwa's "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds", the first in a series of films adapted from Joo Ho-min's webcomic "Singwa Hamgge". Kim's fantasy drama entered the fray three days before Christmas and found massive support during its first weekend out. Its second weekend out was equally profitably: from 1,666 screens, down from 1,887, "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" added another 2.4 million admissions (53.73%) and has raced to become the second highest-grossing film of the year. Currently, Kim's much-anticipated film has grossed $64.2 million (8.5 million admissions)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 7

2018/01/01 | | Permalink

The person who manages Junho's makeup, as well as the person in charge of continuity, are very good at their jobs. That very specific praise is prompted by Kang-doo's facial wounds, which are always changing just slightly from scene-to-scene. They slowly heal over time, but then he gets another one. I'm surprised those specific members of the production team are able to keep the wounds so consistent. It's a thankless job that can be very easily screwed up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 9

2018/01/01 | | Permalink

In a surprising departure for a narrative that so far has not been taking its work seriously, "Jugglers" actually takes the ramifications of Yoon-i and Chi-won kissing and examines them in a professional context. The effect is rather ironic- Yoon-i and Chi-won are acting far more professionally now than they have been since the earliest episodes. The change is much welcomed, since it allows their romance to progress naturalistically rather than be clumsily forced by narrative turnabouts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Today I Grab the Tambourine Again"

2017/12/31 | | Permalink

Moon-sook (played by Park Hee-bon) is a bank teller. She doesn't have a full contract yet, but the time is fast approaching when the bank either has to offer Moon-sook a contract or just let her go. Incidentally, Moon-sook goes out with her team every month for a celebratory party at the karaoke bar. While this would be a great time to make a good impression, Moon-sook has no talent for singing. So instead, she takes tambourine classes...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Steel Rain"

2017/12/30 | | Permalink

Cheol-woo (played by Jung Woo-sung) is a North Korean tough guy with a secret mission. Cheol-woo quickly realizes, to his horror, that the mission is being witness to a massive terrorist attack that appears to have been coordinated by an American helicopter (!) working together with rogue North Korean military forces. Unsure of who to trust as he tries to salvage the disaster, Cheol-woo's mission takes him deep south, where he ends up meeting the South Korean Cheol-woo (played by Kwak Do-won), who also works in government...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Very Bad Moon Rising"

2017/12/30 | | Permalink

Don't be caught off guard by the opening title for "Very Bad Moon Rising"- this is indeed a Korean film, even if the starting point is a Japanese experiment. Also don't be fooled by hints that the creepy Japanese head knows what's going on. I didn't know what was going on for most of "Very Bad Moon Rising" and neither did any of the characters. Their job was just to find a random headstone located in the middle of nowhere, a task made very complicated for no good reason...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Heartbeat Operator"

2017/12/30 | | Permalink

Hye-eun (played by Lee Yoo-mi) is a teenager who loves Indian culture. It's not clear that Hye-eun actually understands anything about Indian culture, but she's pretty earnest about her daily morning meditation, even if it causes her to chronically be late to everything. Anyway! Hye-eun makes her way to Jeonju University, and quickly develops a huge crush on Seung-bin (played by Yoon Jeong-il), and struggles to win him over with various bad decisions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not A Robot" Episodes 15-16

2017/12/28 | | Permalink

Seon-hye (played by Lee Min-ji-I) is Min-gyoo's kissing coach. Also she's Ji-ah's best friend. I'd completely forgotten about that part because Seon-hye has been so prominent in the kissing coach role she hadn't been talking to Ji-ah very much lately. I bet Seon-hye's not even a real kissing coach, everyone is just pretending like she is because Baek-gyoon can't risk bringing someone they can't trust into the conspiracy, even if they have to take Ji-ah's word for it that Seon-hye is on the level...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 13-14

2017/12/27 | | Permalink

I had forgotten, until Min-gyoo decided to research the subject, that AZ3 "learns" how to mimic human behavior by watching movies, as well as the nerdy scientist team. This is an obviously ridiculous design feature to the point that it breaks the willing suspension of disbelief. And I'm not referring to myself. Min-gyoo is the one who starts to feel increasing doubt about the entire AZ3 project. That Baek-gyoon's team has decided to let their guard down now all of all times does not help matters...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.22 - 2017.12.24

2017/12/27 | | Permalink

Local webtoon adaptation steals Christmas...

Kim Yong-hwa's fantasy drama "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" triumphed over the Christmas weekend in Korea, and it is already the seventh highest-grossing film of the year. Kim's 5th feature claimed 61.84% of the box office pie (2.7 million admissions) from 1,884 screens, more than triple that of its closest competitor and last weekend's number one, "Steel Rain"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 2

2017/12/26 | | Permalink

The plot thickens and by that I mean the new ways in which every character here tries to backstab one another. This is the only story to speak of at the moment and while the romance is apparently getting started, we still do not know what role Seon-mi's existence as Sam Jang will play. "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi) is fun in a cheesy way, but we need more story and it has to come soon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 6

2017/12/26 | | Permalink

There's a common trope in a lot of romances where the male lead, in the name of defending the female lead's honor, will react violently or at least with implied violence to some form of verbal slight. "Just Between Lovers" is not satisfied with merely following genre conventions though. We get that scene here, and far from feeling at all chivalrous, the outburst is just emblematic of Kang-doo's rage issues. The moment is explicitly frightening, and it's surprising Moon-soo doesn't just ditch him right there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 8

2017/12/26 | | Permalink

After his humiliation at the Best Boss Awards, Chi-won is understandably upset and not in the mood to talk to Yoon-i about information she should never have known about in the first place. Unfortunately Chi-won is so understandably upset I had a very hard time empathizing with Yoon-i's position. Chi-won is Yoon-i's boss. If he doesn't want to talk to her, that's it. As a professional I would expect Yoon-i to know better...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "A Korean Odyssey" Episode 1

2017/12/25 | | Permalink

It has been a while since the Hong sisters were in any way exciting and while "A Korean Odyssey" (also known as "Hwayugi") is not exactly wowing with its first episode, the drama presents the workings of what could be a really fun story. We have a case of every man and beastie for themselves, as we meet a lot of characters, none of them anything but self-serving and with some pretty hefty behavioral and personality issues. I pity our heroine already...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 2

2017/12/25 | | Permalink

After a powerful start, "Argon" takes a little step back and an even more sombre look into how morality and principles are challenged in systems that rely on strict hierarchal rules, cronyism and a work culture of underhanded pleasantries. Yeon-hwa's own contract continues to be scrutinized, but it is our hero who has to make tough choices this time. The truth is important, but choosing strangers over loved ones is not easy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 5

2017/12/25 | | Permalink

Kang-doo's meltdown at the construction site, provoked by a random boot, of all things, is the first time we've ever seen Kang-doo get worked up over an emotion that's not righteous indignation. Kang-doo is legitimately scary in this scene. Additionally, as seen from the vantage point of Moon-soo, a fellow survivor with much better emotional control, Kang-doo's actions are much more difficult to justify. It turns out, guilt is the big factor...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 7

2017/12/25 | | Permalink

Other characters are curiously oblivious to Chi-won's motives, even when he's explaining them pretty explicitly. Chi-won doesn't like it when people harass his secretary. Chi-won probably doesn't like it when any of his subordinates are harassed, really, yet Mr. Bong and Chang-soo both get extended sequences where they are confused as to why Chi-won is singling them out for rough treatment when all they did was make Yoon-i severely uncomfortable...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Argon" Episode 1

2017/12/23 | | Permalink

"Argon" is here to destroy any faith in mainstream journalism that you may have been holding onto while exploring workplace and hierarchy dynamics as well as the personal consequences and triumphs of a very demanding job. The series is fast-paced and so far focuses more on its leading man, but there are characters around with solid potential. Step into the daily grind of reporting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day"

2017/12/23 | | Permalink

Don't be fooled by the innocuous title. "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day" is a surprisingly bleak drama wrapped up in pleasant sounding euphemisms. That much is obvious once we realize that the titular Picnic Day refers, not to actual picnics, but to a company that cleans up rooms where people have died- sometimes by natural causes, sometimes not. The main issue for most of the employees at Picnic Day is the rancid smell they have to deal with in the worst rooms...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Namesake"

2017/12/23 | | Permalink

Ryeon-hee (played by Lee Sang-hee-IV) is an older middle-aged woman who works the miserable night shift at a convenience store. Ryeon-hee is very cold emotionally, and her behavior hints at an unhappy backstory. But then, we can tell right away that Ryeon-hee is a North Korean defector because her name is written according to North Korean spelling conventions- it would be rendered in South Korean spelling conventions as Yeon-hee...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure"

2017/12/23 | | Permalink

So apparently in the world of the lovable little penguin Pororo (voiced by Lee Seon), there is a dinosaur island. On its face this isn't really surprising, since Pororo's best buddy Krong (voiced by Lee Mi-ja) is a dinosaur, whose origin has never been explained. Alas, those of you hoping that "Pororo, Dinosaur Island Adventure" would be Krong's origin story will be disappointed. Although Krong has (presumably) never seen other dinosaurs before, the existence of an entire dinosaur kingdom passes without commentary...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Chase"

2017/12/23 | | Permalink

The South Korean suicide rate is top-heavy to the older part of the population. Elderly people in South Korea frequently suffer depression due to middling contact with their families and financial issues relating to housing controls. I bring this cultural context up because "The Chase" starts out with elderly serial murder victims being misidentified as suicides, which is kind of counter-intuitive without said context...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 11-12

2017/12/21 | | Permalink

Obviously sincere though Min-gyoo's efforts may be toward trying to make up with Baek-gyoon's team so that he can hold on to the medical miracle that is AZ3, he still constantly fails basic social tasks. Note how Min-gyoo can't remember the names of any of Baek-gyoo's assistants. Which is fine, really, I can't remember them either. Actually I'm pretty sure we've only ever heard them referred to by ridiculous-sounding nicknames, further mitigating the severity of Min-gyoo's failure...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 9-10

2017/12/20 | | Permalink

So upon further consideration I really don't like Ri-el. Granted, Ri-iel doesn't have much more screentime here than she did last time, but I see now that this is more a factor of her personality than it is the screenwriting. Ri-el is just a very curt, unsentimental person by nature. After what happened last time she saw Min-gyoo, I'm a little dumbfounded that the first words out of her mouth here weren't hey, are you OK, because last time we met you looked like you were about to die...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 4

2017/12/19 | | Permalink

After a lot of false starts Moon-soo and Kang-doo are finally starting to spend a lot more time with each other. I like how, even though "Just Between Lovers" has an obviously contrived situation designed to reunite them, it still takes a lot of prodding to get them to willingly spend time together. Moon-soo and Kang-doo are fundamentally suspicious people and more than a desire for companionship, it's burning curiousity about that song which ultimately compels Moon-soo to search Kang-doo out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 6

2017/12/19 | | Permalink

Chang-soo (played by Min Jin-woong) is Yoon-i's ex-boyfriend. No, he's not the ex-boyfriend that abandoned her at the hotel in the first episode. That guy was a jerk, too, but his presence would at least have presented an interesting conflict about how Yoon-i's dedication to work has had deleterious effects on her social life. His presence would have been especially relevant in light of the fake news about Yoon-i being romantically involved with Mr. Bong, since that would have given him a valid reason to break up with Yoon-i...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 3

2017/12/18 | | Permalink

Joo-won (played by Lee Ki-woo) is the manager for operations on the big construction job that Moon-soo and Kang-doo are attached to. He's also the second male lead alternative love interest for Moon-soo. His role there is somewhat ambiguous. While Joo-won is painstakingly nice, and compassionate about any problems affecting Moon-soo directly, he never does anything especially constructive (hoho) about the foundational issues of the project. This has always been the case whether the issue has been shady financial backing or cutting corners on workplace safety...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 5

2017/12/18 | | Permalink

Bo-yool (played by Lee Won-geun) is the boss of the sports department of the big corporation where everyone works. As usual I'm not at all sure what Bo-yool's job actually is. All I know is that he acts in a constant childish jovial manner and even has child-sized arcade cabinets in his office. Also, Jeong-ae has become his secretary, despite the obvious mismatch in their personalities. Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say that they're too well-matched, on account of their both having frivolous personalities...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.15 - 2017.12.17

2017/12/18 | | Permalink

"The Last Jedi" no match for timely "Steel Rain"...

In December 2013, Yang Woo-seok's debut film "The Attorney" was released and went on to earn just over $88 million (12.1 million admissions). Now, almost exactly four years later, Yang's second feature, "Steel Rain" (starring Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won), has entered the fray in front, easily outplaying the much-anticipated "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "A Korean Odyssey"

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

An umbrella wielding Oh Yeon-seo is here to lead her group of merry deities to an adventure in the latest work by Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran. "A Korean Odyssey" promises supernatural shenanigans, clashing forces and romance this December. Are the Hongs back? Really back? I sure hope so...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright"

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

Mi-na (played by Kang Mina) is a normal high school student who skatesboards to school every day and has an unacknowledged crush on family friend slash local tennis star Jong-min (played by Byeon Woo-seok), who is her fellow student. Also Mi-na has the superpower to turn invisible twice a day. You would think that's the most important part of her characterization but no, "Drama Stage - The History of Walking Upright" is actually a pretty mundane high school romance with a pretty weird gimmick for no obvious reason...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 15-16

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

Bo-mi takes front and center as she tries to reclaim her life. She tries to do it alone, which is how she's been living, but finds that she has people who have her back...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Forgotten"

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

Back in 1997 Jin-seok (played by Kang Ha-neul) is a young man who leads a generally idyllic existence with his family. But lately, something seems off. It starts with the nightmares- these horrific, abstract images that feel familiar yet come out of nowhere. Then the new house itself starts to give Jin-seok the creeps, with its odd noises behind that one suspicious door. It's only a matter of time before Jin-seok's paranoia extends to consider direct human causes as well...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Journey to My Boy"

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

Bo-hyeon (played by Kim Eun-joo-II) is a deaf interpretative dancer. She's married to Seong-rak (played by Seo Sung-gwang), a deaf gardener. For the sake of their careers, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak entrusted their son Won-hyo (played by Lee Ro-woon) to Seong-rak's mother (played by Kim Kyeong-ae). Now that Won-hyo is old enough to be going to school, Bo-hyeon and Seong-rak feel like they can step in as parents again, but there's a pretty big problem. Won-hyo can hear, and he does not know sign language...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Romans 8:37"

2017/12/16 | | Permalink

While "Romans 8:37" concerns itself almost exclusively with misdeeds inside a fictional South Korean megachurch it is not a movie about how Christianity is bad. In an unusual approach for the sensational exposé genre of film, "Romans 8:37" centers its revelations around Gi-seop (played by Lee Hyun-ho), a devout member of the church involved in the political battle through which the revelations emerge. For all this, Gi-seop does not lose faith. But he does waver. Oh how he ever wavers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 7-8

2017/12/14 | | Permalink

Ri-el (played by Hwang Seung-eon) is Min-gyoo's childhood friend and presumed alternate love interest. She has very little screentime. Her only new scene is suspiciously cut short right before she's about to say something important. So Ri-el's main contribution to the story so far is that she provokes one of Min-gyoo's attacks, which leads him into flashback mode detailing his generally horrible backstory that explains, among other things, where Min-gyoo's psychomatic skin condition comes from...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 5-6

2017/12/13 | | Permalink

We still have so few characters that most of the jokes are just a variation on how Min-gyoo is too dumb to realize that Ji-ah is not a robot. Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't gotten completely sick of that yet. Maybe it's just the way Yoo Seung-ho plays Min-gyoo so sincerely, his stupidity is actually mostly pretty believable. The things Min-gyoo believes a robot can do are just so ridiculously inconsistent, yet we can see in his warped mind that there is a consistent logic to his assumptions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 8-10

2017/12/12 | | Permalink

So it turns out that Goo-joon does serve at least one important role in "Revenge Note"- he's the best friend of Cha Eun-woo. Who's Cha Eun-woo? Why, he's a singer in the boy band Astro, which happens to be the same boy band that Deok-hee and her mom (played by Park Kyung-rim) are totally obsessed with. So Deok-hee is naturally a little miffed to learn that apparently Goo-hee has pretty much always been on a first name basis with Cha Eun-woo, inspiring a fairly dramatic split...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 2

2017/12/12 | | Permalink

Director Kim Jin-won-I has this fantastic talent for creating dramatic tension in flashbacks where, logically, there should not be any dramatic tension. We know what happened in the accident and that appearances to the contrary, it did not kill either Kang-doo or Moon-soo. Of course, they know that too. They can probably tell when they're dreaming, too. That doesn't make the trauma of those memories any less real - especially not the feeling that they caused the tragedy, somehow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 4

2017/12/12 | | Permalink

Chi-won has this habit of quickly getting annoyed with people and promptly ending conversations before they've even really started. Narrative-wise this habit is frustrating, since it prevents Chi-won from getting involved with any kind of actual plot. But at the same time it's actually fairly refreshingly comical to watch a hero be completely immune to the villain's various schemes because the villain is such an obvious dork that listening to them at all is obviously a total waste of time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 18 Final

2017/12/11 | | Permalink

The much dreaded ending of another Choi Ran-I work has come and if I can give "Black" credit for something, that would be persistence in tackling whatever it does choose to tackle until the end. We get more answers than expected in the final episode and some are highly satisfying. Others are confusing and remain as plot holes. Sadly, the ending itself undoes a lot of the good in "Black"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Just Between Lovers" Episode 1

2017/12/11 | | Permalink

At first glance, "Just Between Lovers" is a typical romance. You've got the woman, Moon-soo (played by Won Jin-ah), who suffered through a horrible tragedy in her teen years, and now struggles to keep her family together economically and emotionally. Then you've got the man, Kang-doo (played by Junho), with a similar tragic backstory who is...wait, he's not rich? Kang-doo is just a working class construction worker who lives in constant rage about how the world is fundamentally unjust? And he hangs out in the foreigner districts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 3

2017/12/11 | | Permalink

Jeong-ae (played by Kang Hye-jung) is a married woman and Yoon-i's friend. Her husband recently disappeared without explanation, and it appears that he owed money to gangsters. So Jeong-ae ends up struggling to find a job. She fails at nearly every single task she attempts, mostly due to inappropriate soft-heartedness. Eventually Jeong-ae becomes a secretary. I know this because it is in her character description, which oddly enough does not mention anything about her family or gangster debts...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.08 - 2017.12.10

2017/12/11 | | Permalink

"The Swindlers", "Forgotten", and Korea's favourite little penguin take the podium...

Jang Chang-won's debut film "The Swindlers" enjoyed its third consecutive weekend at the top of the box office by claiming another 418,141 admissions, 23.84% of the sales. Since its release late last month, Jang's action drama has held off cinematic challenges both foreign and domestic to remain Korea's number one. The film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha in a story about a conman who schemes to outplay an even bigger swindler. With a total take now of $26.7 million (3.78 million admissions), "Swindlers" is the twelfth highest-grossing film of the year...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 17

2017/12/10 | | Permalink

Finding out the truth we have already known does not make it easier for our Reaper dearest, and 444 has a lot of deeply personal things to tackle in the penultimate episode of "Black". A lot happened on that fateful night when the children became involved with Wang Young-choon's search for the tape and coming to terms with it all, but also with some dire new information is not an easy feat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Bad Guys : Vile City"

2017/12/09 | | Permalink

Santa Claus is not the only one coming to town this December, as our bad guys are arriving to clean it of the filth even they are too good for. "Bad Guys : Vile City" is the spin-off-slash-sequel to OCN hit drama "Bad Guys" and as much as we may miss the old cast, perhaps the latest bad boys will have something good to show for.


Prosecutor Woo Je-moon (Park Joong-hoon) is a man who cares about results more than he does about the legality of the means. He and a team of criminals selected as a new form of law enforcers take on a powerful cartel...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter"

2017/12/09 | | Permalink

Ga-yeong (played by Song Ji-hyo) is a slowly aging career woman who spends her free time at a carnival style shooting gallery. Ga-yeong is not actually very good at gun based carnival games, yet keeps trying to win the big prizes anyway. So right away "Drama Stage - The B Manager and the Love Letter" has a pretty good metaphor for Ga-yeong's love life. She is very bad at finding romance, yet persists in trying to do so out of sheer desperation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Magic Hour"

2017/12/09 | | Permalink

Nam-woo (played by Park In-hwan) is an aging photographer. Time was a person could just set up shop in a nice scenic area with a camera and people would pay for the privilege of having their picture taken. But now? Kids these days with their smart phones take all the romance out of having a stranger take your picture only to be seen several weeks later in the mail. The world has changed. Nam-woo has changed. And, he's decided, it's time to end it all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "State-authorized Textbook"

2017/12/09 | | Permalink

You might expect "State-authorized Textbook" to just be about how Park Geun-hye's government attempted to mandate a conservatively aligned national history textbook curriculum. But before the documentary can get that far, there's a lot of background material that needs to be covered. The story ends up starting, in all places, Japan, because Park Geun-hye's system of nationalized textbooks was actually based on the existing Japanese model...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Where is your hometown?"

2017/12/09 | | Permalink

After the Japanese Occupation ended normal Koreans in difficult economic circumstances struggled to find work. With the collapse of the Japanese Empire the only stable country that was a viable location for economic migration was the Soviet Union. Then the Korean War happened, and all of a sudden, all the Koreans who had taken on temporary positions on the Kamchatka Peninsula were unable to return home. "Where is your hometown" is a documentarian explanation of their story...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 3-4

2017/12/07 | | Permalink

So it turns out that Ji-ah is really into worthless novelties. Now don't get me wrong her older brother Jin-bae (played by Seo Dong-won) is a complete jerk and his actions are nowhere near as well justified as he seems to think they are. But there's an obvious irony to this. Ji-ah's entire life revolves around obscure useless junk and now, Ji-ah herself has become an obscure useless piece of junk, both metaphorically and literally, as the original model for and now imitated version of AZ3...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "I'm Not a Robot" Episodes 1-2

2017/12/06 | | Permalink

So apparently Yoo Seung-ho has gotten really, really buff since we last saw him in "Ruler: Master of the Mask". Oddly enough that's actually fairly appropriate, since in "I'm Not a Robot" he plays reclusive corporate heir Min-gyoo, who has nothing better to do in his spare time except work out and obsess over mostly fictional robots, thanks to a medical condition that makes it dangerous for him to touch people. Little does Min-gyoo realize that eccentric scientist Baek-gyoon (played by Uhm Ki-joon) and his team have built AZ3 (played by Chae Soo-bin), a fully functional android...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 16

2017/12/05 | | Permalink

I need a few weeks and possibly a lot of ice cream to fully process what is the most jarring and packed episode of "Black" yet. While our titular Reaper continues to struggle with his emotions and obligations as a supernatural being lying to his crush, the time has come to tackle the villain and his connection to almost all of what has happened so far. I have a lot of questions and I am not even sure what some are...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 2

2017/12/05 | | Permalink

Chi-won (played by Choi Daniel) is an up and coming executive who is exceptionally cold to nearly everyone around him. Even the fleeting moments of kindness he has shown to an obviously distraught Yoon-i have always been performed under the attempted guise of anonymity. Chi-won is impatient for results and doesn't tolerate slacking off. So you'd think Yoon-i would be the perfect secretary for him except that "Jugglers" is still in the evading the premise stage of the story...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 13-14

2017/12/05 | | Permalink

Closing up review season for the year with "Lookout". We get to know Bo-mi a bit more, while Kyung-soo proves his mettle, and Soo-ji continues to be a brave, headstrong, and impetuous woman. Then there is Do-han, who once seemed to have everything under control, but events are quickly slipping from his capable fingertips...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jugglers" Episode 1

2017/12/04 | | Permalink

Yoon-i (played by Baek Jin-hee) is an exceptionally competent secretary. Unfortunately, she's just a little too competent. Her boss Mr. Bong (played by Choi Dae-chul) constantly has Yoon-i on-call, even when Yoon-i is is trying to have a cute romantic montage with her boyfriend Kyeong-joon (played by Sung Hoon). Worst of all, Yoon-i doesn't express any kind of discretion when it comes to the kinds of jobs Mr. Bong assigns her, which ends predictably poorly...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.12.01 - 2017.12.03

2017/12/04 | | Permalink

"Swindlers" holds the top spot and moves into the top twenty...

Writer/director Jang Chang-won's debut "Swindlers" retained the top spot and swiftly moved into the year's top twenty as its earnings swell to $21.5 million (3.05 million admissions). Over this past weekend, its second, the 117-minute action drama -- which stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana and Ahn Se-ha -- came away with 671,665 admissions (36.27%) from just over 1,000 screens nationwide (down from 1,314)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 15

2017/12/03 | | Permalink

You can never really prepare yourself for some surprises, but "Black" has at least been kind enough to set so much up for itself that anyone would see the inevitable cutting of corners happen. We confirm a lot of things in this episode and some are great to find out, but we also learn of possible truths that do not seem to fit quite as imagined. The same goes for the romance, which never stood a chance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life"

2017/12/02 | | Permalink

Jong-hyeok (played by Lee Joo-seung) works at a normal office job during the daytime, but in his private life, the man is a hit novelist. Jong-hyeok wants to keep these aspects of his life separate, for some reason. And right there is where "Drama Stage - Assistant Manager Park's Private Life" has its biggest problem. I don't have a clue why Jong-hyeok wants to have a secret identity. I especially don't know why he wants to work a normal office job. We learn surprisingly little about what kind of a person Jong-hyeok really is considering the sheer wackiness of the set-up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Am Hopeman"

2017/12/02 | | Permalink

The main audience for "I Am Hopeman" is just Korean Presbyterian laypeople. The documentary explains what their donation money to the Cambodia Mission has been doing. It's a progress report that's been quite a long time in the making. When director Na Hyun-tae started out, the Hope School was just an elementary school. The main struggle was getting students to attend at all. The documentary ends with a graduation ceremony of their first high school class...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Old Marine Boy"

2017/12/02 | | Permalink

Park Myeong-ho defected from North Korea to South Korea some ten years ago along with his family, a wife and two sons. The reasons for why they defected are surprisingly mundane. My favorite is when he states that his dad spent forever in the military, and he spent forever in the military, but now his sons don't have to. He says that while doing his daily intensive calisthenics workout for the sake of his job- diving and catching underwater fauna, namely octopi, off the east coast of Gangwon province...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 16 Final

2017/12/01 | | Permalink

All things must come to an end and the revenge of the "Mad Dog" team is finally complete. Hyeon-gi and Hong-joo do not give up easily, but we all know that the mad dogs never let go after they bite. The team fight the villains until the very last minute, but the resolution is sadly reached through the drama's bad habit of pulling its needed plot devices out of thin air...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 15

2017/12/01 | | Permalink

"Mad Dog" is coming to an end and this means that heroes and villains alike can stop twiddling their thumbs and being selectively obtuse. Everyone gets things done, but not done too well, because wiretapping your office when you know beforehand that a villain is visiting would just be too smart. The Dog Team are juggling battle fronts with several antagonists, but it is unsurprisingly Hyeon-gi who becomes the most dangerous...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Swindlers"

2017/12/01 | | Permalink

In an odd twist for the wacky charming con artist genre of films, the opening scene of "The Swindlers" features a disturbingly large assortment of people thrown into suicidal despair as a result of a massive fraud. Ji-seong (played by Hyun Bin) is obliquely related to the scam, but most of the movie is not from his perspective. That role falls to Prosecutor Hee-soo (played by Yoo Ji-tae) who operates his own gang of con artists, and also has a connection to the huge embezzlement case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 16 (Final)

2017/11/28 | | Permalink

The fuller context of Ji-ho's actions makes her look really dumb, at best, and actively sadistic at worst. How in the world was Se-hee supposed to interpret her behavior? The only justification I can come up with is that "This Life Is Our First Life" is satirizing what would actually happen in real life if one member of a couple just disappeared like that without communication. Except Ji-ho is never called out for the tangible and emotional damage her actions caused to Se-hee's life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 31-32 (Final)

2017/11/28 | | Permalink

So apparently Jin-jin's family didn't know that she was dating Ji-won? Once again I'm left scrambling trying to figure out whether the drama ever actually explicitly said that the family knew, or whether I just assumed that they knew because there was no other way for them to interpret the couple's surreptitious behavior. Why any of them would be upset at this revelation is equally unclear to me, since I was under the impression they were inviting Ji-won to dinner mainly because they saw him as good son-in-law material...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/27 | | Permalink

Credit given where it's due, the opening scene, with its epic kiss and then fade into the elevator scene where we last saw Jin-jin and Ji-won together was pretty good. I rather missed the young versions of those characters. Unfortunately the conclusion of the elevator scene is the last we see of them, and apparently their entire relationship. Jin-jin's parents inviting Ji-won to family dinners takes on a very different tone now that we know Chang-won and Ji-won's first encounter was a violent one...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 15

2017/11/27 | | Permalink

Ji-ho is so obsessively introspective here she effectively manages to talk herself out of a relationship with Se-hee. Her behavior is dumbounding, but at the same time, really weirdly logical. I can actually kind of see screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong inserting herself into the more philosophical contours of the conversation, openly wondering why the consumnation of romantic love has to be the only acceptable narrative happy ending. That Jeong-min is, herself, an example of a woman who achieved happiness without a man only further complicates this assumption...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.23 - 2017.11.25

2017/11/27 | | Permalink

"The Swindlers" puts local films back on top; "Justice League" falters...

"The Swindlers", Jang Chang-won first solo project as director, arrived on Wednesday and dominated its first weekend out by capturing 61.85% of the sales. The 117-minute action film stars Hyun Bin, Yoo Ji-tae, Bae Sung-woo, Park Sung-woong, Nana, and Ahn Se-ha and follows a charlatan who spins a complex scheme to catch a fellow con man. From 1,313 screens, Jang's debut claimed 1.2 million admissions ($9 million), which deny DC's "Justice League" a second weekend at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 14

2017/11/26 | | Permalink

There is so much grief on the horizon of "Black" and with our good characters closer to the main villain than ever, deaths are an expected outcome. Ha-ram's fate is no longer known or secure and our heroine's decisions over her relationship with the titular Reaper will be adding another layer of tragedy to an already sordid case. Many questions are answered, but I am greedy for more...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 13

2017/11/25 | | Permalink

The puzzle of the past is slowly coming together in "Black" and with Man-ho nearly cornered, the true villain behind it all should be making their grand entrance soon. Ha-ram's fate is unknown, but new clues hint at more powers than seeing the shadows of death. Many different characters and clues come together in what may not be as coincidental a twist of fate as we imagined after all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-Hole"

2017/11/25 | | Permalink

"Man-Hole" is not the kind of work one would expect a lot from. Having promoted itself as the wacky, comedic tale of a man who believes in the imaginary friendzone a bit too hard and seeks to undo it made it seem like a light story about a romantic man-baby. Surprisingly, the series is much more complex and it is as mixed as my feelings for it, touching upon greatness and failure alike...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Communication and Lies"

2017/11/25 | | Permalink

The extended opening scene of "Communication and Lies" is a highly inappropriate interaction between employees of different rank at an English cram school over a sordid and sexually charged rumor. At least, that's how it feels for awhile. Then the apparent victim nonchalantly acknowledges that all of the charges being lodged against her are true. It's an out-of-nowhere reaction, related with no sense of defiance, that the immediate mystery is what kind of person would engage in such actions then respond to accusations about them in such a blasé manner...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Heart Blackened"

2017/11/25 | | Permalink

The literal Korean title of "Heart Blackened" translates to just silence. It's a pretty accurate overall descriptor. "Heart Blackened" has several long stretches of time that pass in absolute unsettling quiet. Which of course, is also metaphorical. Mi-ra (played by Lee Soo-kyung-I) hates her new prospective stepmother Yoo-na (played by Lee Honey), and in the wake of a horrible accident, Hee-jeong (played by Park Shin-hye) is retained as an attorney to defend the last woman left standing...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Autumn Sonata"

2017/11/25 | | Permalink

Soo-ryeon (played by BoA) is a thirty-year-old postal service worker in rural Gyeonggi Province. The most effective moments of "Autumn Sonata" tend to focus on that backdrop. Director Lim Wang-tae's imagery is so vivid it frequently feels like we can taste the fresh air. This is Soo-ryeon's ancestral home, after all, and while the endless empty scenery is at times lonely, or at least mostly filled by old people, there is also a powerful serene sense of inner peace...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 14

2017/11/24 | | Permalink

It is a dog eat  dog world out there and the "Mad Dog" team is going for the kill. The villains are confused and cornered, which means that they make mistakes and provide ample opportunity for our good boys and girl to get everything they need in place. It will not be an easy fight, considering the Powerful Opponents, but we know that the good ones always win in such stories...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 5-7

2017/11/24 | | Permalink

One of the odder aspects of the "Revenge Note" application is that it doesn't seem to suffer from any meaningful restrictions. Well, all right, it does have a recharge rate, as Goo-hee discovers to her chagrin, but earlier on she straight up punches in "Zombie Club" rather than the name of any individual member and surprisingly, the application is able to accept this request. The next time Goo-hee uses the application, she uses a nickname rather than a real one, and that works too...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 13

2017/11/23 | | Permalink

It is a time for bonding and retaliation from the "Mad Dog" team as the group of villains become too greedy and hasty for their own good. Hyeon-gi experiences betrayal and rejection while Hong-joo is about to get a taste of her own medicine. Team Good is reunited, but they need to be extra smart and extra sneaky as they go in for one final blow to take everyone down...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/21 | | Permalink

Ho-seong (played by Kim Jung-hwa) is Jin-jin's estranged sister, and apparently the artist behind all those pictures for whom Jin-jin has been looking for a source. Ho-seong's character is another case where I've been left wondering, has there ever been any mention that Jin-jin had a sister until literally the moment she appears? Because I certainly can't remember any, which is odd considering that finding her sister is the closest thing Jin-jin has had to ongoing motivation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 14

2017/11/21 | | Permalink

Jeong-min (played by Lee Chung-ah) is Se-hee's ex-girlfriend. She's also Ji-ho's career savior, having taken it upon herself to resolve the unforunate circumstances of Ji-ho's last writing job personally. The sheer goofy elaborateness of this coincidence, along with the obvious feminist undertones, are reminiscent of screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong's previous drama "Hogu's Love"- although I may have been primed to notice this due to the appearance of a couple of easter eggs referencing that work...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 12

2017/11/20 | | Permalink

For all the teasing about consequences that "Black" has taken its sweet time to deliver, it sure is fast with getting to it after the latest warning. The reality of her meddling dawns on Ha-ram as she realizes the identity of the man she has saved while Black deals with his newfound sympathy. The past mysteries boil closer to the surface than ever, as Gwang-gyeon and Man-soo get on the case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 13

2017/11/20 | | Permalink

For now, Se-hee and Ji-ho's life is mostly pleasant and domestic. In more dramatic news, it turns out that Won-seok's suggestion of breaking up with Ho-rang was not, as had been previously implied, simply the natural result of their communication breakdown being revealed in full focus by their watching an obscure art house play. That was definitely a part of it, but Won-seok had also discovered Ho-rang's horrible secret...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/20 | | Permalink

Jeong-eun (played by Shin Dong-mi) is So-ni's manager who has something most of the other characters in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" do not- clearly defined motivation. Jeong-eun wants everything involving So-ni's career to run smoothly. She's constantly acting as a mediary between So-ni and producers. Jeong-eun is frequently stressed because of this, but trusts So-ni's good intentions, and So-ni, for his part, does his best to reassure her that nothing is going to go wrong...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.17 - 2017.11.19

2017/11/20 | | Permalink

"Justice League" ends "Ragnarok"'s reign as foreign films continue to flourish...

Zack Snyder's much-anticipated "Justice League" brings together five of DC's front-running superheroes - Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg - and it didn't come cheap: costing $300 million, "Justice League" is the most expensive superhero film ever produced, and, along with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", the second most expensive film overall. The film was released in Korea last Wednesday and quickly overthrew Marvel's latest, "Thor: Ragnarok", at the top of the chart. From 1,308 screens, Snyder's "Justice League" came away with 47.87% of the sales, or 818,401 admissions ($6.3 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 11

2017/11/19 | | Permalink

New chapters are opening in "Black", but none are leading to good places. Man-soo is no longer a CEO and he finds a use I welcome, but also fear. Ha-ram has to face Soo-wan's desperate advances at who she thinks is Moo-gang, but our heroine has much bigger things to worry about right around the corner. I have a lot of questions, but my anticipation is intact and the will to wait for possible answers strong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Prison Playbook"

2017/11/18 | | Permalink

It takes all kinds of communities to make our world and a prison one is not the kind we often imagine when hearing the word. "Prison Playbook" is brought to us by the creators of the "Answer Me/Reply" series and it is time we get acquainted to such a community through a baseball star turned criminal overnight.


Kim Je-hyeok (Park Hae-soo) is a baseball superstar who has it made. In a surprising twist, the celebrity becomes a convicted criminal and has to adjust to prison life. The series follows him as he experiences his new home and new network behind bars...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Revenge Note" Episodes 1-4

2017/11/18 | | Permalink

Goo-hee (played by Kim Hyang-gi) is a teenage girl just starting high school. That's pretty bad on its own, but a lot of factors are working against her. In the first place she has a horribly goofy name- because her surname is Ho, anytime anyone addresses Goo-hee by her full name, it sounds like they're calling her a loser (Hogu). Goo-hee's family is poor enough that she has to help at their fried chicken business to make ends meet. Then, just to make matters worse, Goo-hee's boyfriend breaks up with her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Room No.7"

2017/11/18 | | Permalink

Doo-sik (played by Shin Ha-kyun) owns a DVD room in a generic shopping district. Business is passable, but Doo-sik is in his forties and painfully aware that he has already wasted far too much of his life there and wants to sell. Doo-sik's employee Tae-jeong (played by Do Kyung-soo) also suffers from financial issues and is desperate for some kind of solution. Only the new guy, Chinese immigrant Han-wook (played by Kim Dong-young) is at all happy with life in South Korea...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Becoming Who I Was"

2017/11/18 | | Permalink

Most of you have probably at least heard stories about reincarnated Buddhist monks, and how their past lives can be identified quite early in childhood. What's never really discussed, though, is what being a child reincarnation of of a major spiritual leader is actually like. In "Becoming Who I Was", we see in documentary form the daily life of one such child in a small village in Northern India. Directly, we see the contradiction of this child being incredibly wise and yet obviously...still just a child...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Preparation"

2017/11/18 | | Permalink

Can mentally challenged adults survive on their own? Elderly mother Ae-soon (played by Go Doo-shim), rather understandably, is skeptical of the prospect. She has had to take care of In-gyoo (played by Kim Sung-kyun) her whole life, and he never appears to have advanced beyond the mentality of a spoiled child. In "The Preparation" Ae-soon is forced, through the plot device of her own mortality, to confront the possibility that she's wrong. Really it's more of a hope, considering how awful the alternatives are...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 12

2017/11/17 | | Permalink

Noo-ri's grave injury sparks another round of regret and guilt for the "Mad Dog" team's top dog and puppy, as they go into another fit of man-angst over the lives they may endanger due to their plans. There is no time to waste on self-pity, however, as their enemies close in and a new one is born to spice things up. Noo-ri's daddy dearest is more involved than we previously suspected, you see...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" Episodes 6-10 Final + Videos

2017/11/17 | | Permalink

By the time we've finally gotten a clear explanation of what the goddesses are doing in Korea in the first place, "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" is basically over. Put together all ten episodes feel more like a pilot for a situation comedy than they do a single coherent story. But then, from the very beginning "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" has been going for style over substance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 11

2017/11/16 | | Permalink

I had been wondering when things would get deadly in "Mad Dog" and it looks like we have reached that point. Episode eleven is an odd one, because certain things which I was sure were established by now get turned upside down. Kang-woo and his dog team share the same unwavering determination and closeness, but their disorganized enemies become increasingly less tolerant of being toyed with...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Final Episodes 31-32

2017/11/16 | | Permalink

Jae-chan doesn't really have much of case against Yoo-beom. Even if he can prove that Yoo-beom is lying about Joo-an having drugged him too, Joo-an is a serial killer with good reason to want Yoo-beom dead. So Yoo-beom could still claim self-defense, arguing that he was just trying to preserve his reputation with the lie. That Yoo-beom eventually ends up getting sent to life in prison for a completely different crime underscores this...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 29-30

2017/11/15 | | Permalink

Joo-an (played by Lee Eun-woo) is the true culprit behind a serial killing spree that Detective Choi and then-prosecutor Yoo-beom incorrectly pinned on an innocent man a long time ago in the backstory. The story behind these events is so incredibly potentially interesting that it was with a groan that I realized we were instead just going to get more flashbacks explaining what the deal was with that solider who went on a rampage, and how this created an unbreakable romantic bond between Jae-chan and Hong-joo somehow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 12

2017/11/14 | | Permalink

The big climactic kiss that closed off the last episode is inevitably interrupted. I mean that not in the narrative sense, but the literal. Sooner or later any couple that is kissing must stop for some reason. From there, we segue into Ji-ho's internal monologue about how real life is different than dramas. Normally such kind of meta-narration is eye roll inducing but Ji-ho does bring up a good point...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 23-24

2017/11/14 | | Permalink

So-ni is a very emotional guy. We can tell this because in nearly all of his scenes, whether its sick at home or flashbacks with his stepbrother or just casual conversation with Jin-jin, So-ni is always expressing very strong emotions. What is missing from So-ni's character is much in the way of explanation as to why he has these strong emotions in the first place. So-ni only really knows Jin-jin, after all, from the fake marriage show. Before that she was just an abstraction...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 11

2017/11/13 | | Permalink

I love how the big situation comedy induced plot twist changes almost nothing, even though all of the immediately involved characters assume that it will. While "This Life Is Our First Life" mainly concerns itself with relationships between men and women, its examination of friendships between members of the same gender are equally illuminating. For all the radical differences in personality, Se-hee/Song-goo and Ji-ho/Soo-ji have very strong friendships...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 21-22

2017/11/13 | | Permalink

Now that Jin-jin and Ji-won have finally gotten together romantically, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" shifts to the next stage of the storyline- hiding this relationship from Jin-jin's parents. And also the paparazzi. I rather wish we'd gotten more focus on the latter one. Jin-jin has good tangible reasons to want the paparazzi to not find out about a boyfriend. But the same attitude evinced toward her parents just makes Jin-jin come off as childish...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 10

2017/11/13 | | Permalink

"Black" feels like a fine day at the beach, right before the wind picks up and you feel your pretty hat flying away and the sand smacking you in the eyes. It is a wild ride and it sometimes feels exhausting, but it is fun. Everything fits when you dig deep enough. Gwang-gyeon comes closer to Moo-gang's secrets while Black is about to get a revelation of his own about the true identities of Reapers. Hopefully this will not break him...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.10 - 2017.11.12

2017/11/13 | | Permalink

"Ragnarok" rules again...

"Thor: Ragnarok" secured a third straight week at the top of the Korean box office this past weekend. Released late October, the third "Thor" film in Marvel's Cinematic Universe dislodged the local sleeper hit "The Outlaws" after Chuseok, and now, with the 465,780 admissions (25.89%) it claimed here, "Thor: Ragnarok" has banked $30.9 million (4.2 million admissions) in Korea alone. Worldwide, Taika Waititi's more comedic version of the popular Marvel franchise has grossed $650 million: currently the tenth highest-grossing film of 2017...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 9

2017/11/12 | | Permalink

Major story breakthroughs and a ruthlessly packed plot make episode nine of "Black" quite the exhausting, but also exhilarating ride. The big revelation we have been waiting for regarding the children's identities has dropped and as expected from this series, it complicates things further. Several identities are exposed, but sadly so is Ha-ram's impending doom to someone who can harm her. Our heroes have enemies everywhere, but romance waits for no one...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Love That's Left"

2017/11/11 | | Permalink

Bong-yong (played by Sung Ji-roo) is an oafish yet lovable construction site manager with a wife and three kids. He's pushing fifty, and initially chalks up his harsh stomach pains to old age. Alas, it turns out he is suffering from cancer. From there, Bong-yong chooses to spends most of "The Love That's Left" suffering alone. The only clue the people around Bong-yong have that something is wrong is that the normally placid man now occasionally has sudden unexplained psychotic breakdowns...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beautiful Tomorrow"

2017/11/11 | | Permalink

I hesitate to call "Beautiful Tomorrow" a film, or even a musical film, because that implies a degree of narrative cohesion rather beyond its contents. "Beautiful Tomorrow" is really more like an extended music video featuring all the songs from Park Hyo-shin's latest album, "I Am a Dreamer". The very loose framing device for these videos is Park Hyo-shin and his music director Jung Jae-il going to Cuba and befriending a street urchin by the name of Edgar Quintero...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dancesport Girls"

2017/11/11 | | Permalink

Geoje Girls' Commercial High School is located in the rural outskirts of Geoje Island. Its stated purpose is to prepare students to enter the workforce. But as it happens, through the guidance of a passionate coach, an entire extracurricular DanceSport squad has formed. DanceSport is a form of competitive exhibition dancing, and apparently South Korea has a dedicated official high school DanceSport competition. I had to look all this up. "Dancesport Girls" never actually explains it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 27-28

2017/11/09 | | Permalink

Detective Choi (played by Kim Won-hae) has up until now been a minor supporting character who I had been mentally classifying as the same tier of importance as Hyang-mi. Last episode's revelations that he, too, has apparently been receiving dream prophecies has greatly improved Detective Choi's relevance. Unfortunately, none of the actual main characters are clever enough to catch on to that essential dynamic of the case, so these revelations are mainly for our benefit...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 10

2017/11/09 | | Permalink

It is plot twist o'clock in episode ten of "Mad Dog" and boy, is it sudden. I suppose this is the way to go when Hyeon-gi has been brought out of his villain hibernation and Hong-joo has gone off the deep end, but I cannot help this nagging feeling of being taken for a ride. Min-joon's much expected change of heart happens in the same blink of an eye and our team cannot handle it all either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 25-26

2017/11/08 | | Permalink

The only dream premonition we get this time takes the form of an episode preview. At least, that's the only way I can think of to interpret it, since it seems designed entirely for our benefit rather than that of the main characters. It's a pretty specific premonition too, one that you'd think would be easy to avert. Jae-chan and Hong-joo just need to avoid going to suspicious places in the middle of the night alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 9

2017/11/08 | | Permalink

While our "Mad Dog" team are busy sulking over unsurprising betrayal and having romantic encounters, our villains finally get a bit of focus and something to do. The group is not as disorganized as they seem, but the black box they may be in possession of is the current major goal for our heroes. With Hyeon-gi's father now announced as dead, another formidable opponent will hopefully rise to the challenge that is keeping this plot afloat...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 19-20

2017/11/07 | | Permalink

So Ji-won and Jin-jin finally figure out the intrinsic flaw in their whole pretend not to be interested in each other for no reason plan. They end up explicitly saying this in front of a third person, who naturally concludes that Ji-won should be up for a blind date with his daughter. It does, admittedly, still take until the end of episode twenty for them to finally realize that neither Jin-jin nor Ji-won wants Ji-won to date another person, but hey! At least the story's finally getting started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 10

2017/11/07 | | Permalink

The extended flashback we start out with is more relevant than it initially looks. I mean sure, it's always fun to do those moments of "how did the lead characters first meet anyway", but the whole thing is building up to Ji-ho talking about her dreams as a teenager. In the present day, of course, Soo-ji and Ho-rang have no idea what Ji-ho is talking about. So it's quite instructive to reread last episode's climactic line about Ji-ho liking her husband from Ji-ho's point of view...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 17-18

2017/11/06 | | Permalink

Jin-jin's professional work hazards are consistently one of the more unimpressive means of generating conflict on "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century", which is saying a lot considering how challenged this drama is when it comes to developing conflict at all. I'm still wondering how exactly a can of soda can be poisoned in the first place. Does the anti-fan manufacture her own soft drinks? Or was there arsenic on the lid?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 9

2017/11/06 | | Permalink

The main thematic thrust of this episode is about how men are actually really nice and sweet and emotional. This is pretty counter-intuitive considering we start out with a big news story about the arrest of a crazy psycho stalker, but then a lot of what we see here is about demolishing the dramatic assumptions of the previous storyline. I was quite pleased to discover I was entirely wrong about a certain plot point- it would seem that I underestimated screenwriter Yoon Nan-joong.

But before we even get that far, the most of what we see is just Se-hee and Ji-ho talking to each other about the events on Dongdaemun Gate. I love how over the course of simple, comprehensive conversations they both immediately realize where the other was coming from. This leads to the odd irony of how Ji-ho understands that Se-hee's actions were motivated strictly by practicality, yet still sees the subtle touches which indicate the man really does have a kind heart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 8

2017/11/06 | | Permalink

The main story of "Black" is never far behind when it comes to the individual ones in what feels like a smörgåsbord of related characters. Man-soo's rude awakening in episode seven is the focus this time around and the victim born from whatever happened in the room has to relive that night through people's judgment. Black continues to fight his emotions, but their source is starting to become clearer as we learn new things about Reapers...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.11.03 - 2017.11.05

2017/11/06 | | Permalink

"Ragnarok" still rules despite stiff competition from "The Bros"...

"Thor: Ragnarok" stood its ground against local writer/director Chang You-jeong's new comedy-drama, "The Bros". From 1,047 screens, down from 1,640, the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe added 833,949 admissions (38.31%), bringing its total tally in Korea to 3.7 million, or $28.8 million. Worldwide, from a production budget of $180 million, "Thor: Ragnarok" (starring a more comedic Chris Hemsworth) has grossed nearly half a billion dollars. Taika Waititi's "Thor" now needs another 256,000 admissions to overtake "The Fortress" (3.8 million) and enter this year's top ten...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Buzzcut Love"

2017/11/05 | | Permalink

Ji-yool (played by Kang Yun-jung) is a young woman who is inevitably defined by illness, because why else would she have an orange dyed buzzcut? Yet aside from the practical issues involved in occasionally needing medicine, Ji-yool consistently ignores her health condition. Instead, her initial focus is about the personal insult dealt to her by ex-boyfriend Si-woo (played by Min Jin-woong), a pharmacist who insisted their break-up was nothing personal...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 7

2017/11/05 | | Permalink

I never thought a series like "Black" would give me too much to think about, but we are already at the half-way mark and I could easily write three times the length of episode reviews I usually do in order to convey all of my thoughts on the drama's packed plot. We have reached a turning point in Black's humanity and things are about to get even more complicated...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout"

2017/11/04 | | Permalink

Hell hath no fury like a grieving revenge drama lead and "Lookout" takes this fury very seriously. Revenge is a team effort this time around, as the series unites several characters into one group after one very evil man and his equally disturbing hellspawn. A mysterious hidden leader and a heroine with a goal fight against these forces while trying to maintain their own humanity...More

[HanCinema's BIFF Film Review] A relationship on stage becomes something much more in "Method"

2017/11/04 | | Permalink

Bang Eun-jin's "Method" is an exploration of the investment of emotion and self into art and a potent one at that. Screened at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival from October 12th to the 21st, the eighty-two minute film just released in theaters November 2nd. The intense emotional journey of seasoned method actor Jae-ha (Park Sung-woong) and reluctant idol actor Young-woo (Oh Seung-hoon) is riveting and unhinged. Yoon Seung-ah's Hee-won is what tethers the characters and the story to reality - but only just barely...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Bros"

2017/11/04 | | Permalink

In the rural outskirts of Andong, an old man passes away from old age while writing calligraphy. Meanwhile, his sons "The Bros" are identified. Seok-bong (played by Ma Dong-seok) is an archeologist who tells obscure stories to bored empty classrooms while waiting for his next expedition. Joo-bong (played by Lee Dong-whi) has to make a construction plan work for his company. Together, they...fight in the car and apparently run down a mysterious senile woman played by Lee Honey...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Man of Will"

2017/11/04 | | Permalink

The real Kim Chang-soo, better known as Kim Koo, was a Korean resistance fighter against the Japanese Occupation. His history in the first half of the twentieth century in Korea is a long one that ends with his assassination in 1949 for being credible and well-liked in a time when popular leaders were murdered to insure the unpopular ones could maintain power. But none of that is relevant to "Man of Will", which focuses on the life of a twenty year old Chang-soo (played by Cho Jin-woong) surviving in a prison run by the evil wealthy collaborator Hyeong-sik (played by Song Seung-heon)...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Tarbosaurus 3D"

2017/11/04 | | Permalink

The lead character of "Tarbosaurus 3D" is a young tarbosaurus named Speckles. While Speckles has a voiceover (Lee Yeong-seok as a child, Shin Yong-woo as an adult), none of the other dinosaurs have human voices or even names. With this, "Tarbosaurus 3D" is refreshingly free from anthropomorphization more obnoxious children's movies are more well known for. We watch Speckles from the dinosaur's point of view...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" Episodes 1-5 + Videos

2017/11/03 | | Permalink

Four minor Greek goddesses have decided to chill out in South Korea for awhile. Though they are goddesses with almighty powers, they still need money in order to survive on a daily basis. Which is why the first episode of "Oh! Goddesses of Doll-like Beauty" takes place inside a pawn shop. It's up to the Goddess of Persuasion, Peitho (played by Cha Jung-won) to negotiate the best possible deal so that the goddess roommates can continue to live in their modest basement apartment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 8

2017/11/02 | | Permalink

Desperate times call for desperate measures and like a puppy behind his "Mad Dog" mentor, Min-joon has his own ideas about what he can do to top Kang-woo's undercover adventures. The team close in on the secrets behind Tae-yang Insurance's policy and they paint a very well-organized and deliberate picture. Our two heroes finally form a bond and the timing is perfect, as old friendships are about to be torn apart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 23-24

2017/11/02 | | Permalink

There's a strong emotional scene where the father of the soon-to-be-dead victim cries when his son is finally taken off life support. That scene immediately made me realize that, rather than the explicitly contrived binary choice between autopsy and organ donation, "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" could have instead done a more traditional, dad doesn't want to take his son off life support because of imaginary hope that he'll wake back up. While not terribly original, such a plotline would have at least been plausible...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 7

2017/11/01 | | Permalink

The pilot of the tragic flight throws our leads quite the curve ball and the implications of his words come cascading down on them and the people they work with. The "Mad Dog" team has no time to lose and no intention of stopping, but neither does Min-joon. The young man attempts to go solo once more, but the game is now much bigger than his own regrets and his brother's life...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 21-22

2017/11/01 | | Permalink

Last storyline, a woman with a medical condition falls at home and hits her head on the table, prompting police, doctors, and the press to assume that the delivery boy murdered her. This storyline, a man with his arm in a sling publically accuses a professor of illegal acts, and shortly thereafter falls down an elevator shaft that had to have been physically pried open with two working hands. So naturally, police, doctors, and the press all assume it was an accident...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 8

2017/10/31 | | Permalink

So it turns out that Bo-ram is evil. Well, technically we don't know that but those goofy evil musical cues that keep coming on every time he makes an appearance are difficult to interpret any other way. It's disappointing. Bo-ram's you only live once philosophy is a very interesting contrast to Se-hee's logical work ethic. I wouldn't have minded him turning out to be evil eventually, but the completion of his storyline abruptly kills the drama's most interesting ongoing conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 15-16

2017/10/31 | | Permalink

There's a scene here where Ah-reum calls Woo-seong on the phone and they talk Woo-seong seems to have too much free time. Increasingly it feels like the characters in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" are engaged in some kind of weird bet to see who can go through the most obvious situations to ask someone on a date or be asked on a date without actually doing it. Even when we are promised dates, circumstances contrive to prevent them from happening...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 7

2017/10/30 | | Permalink

Bok-nam (played by Kim Min-kyu-II) is the second male lead alternate love interest for Ji-ho. His arrival is, all things considered, late, but definitely worth the late. He's Se-hee's opposite in every conceivable way. Bok-nam believes in the importance of fun and only living once. Whereas Se-hee is so obsessed with being supremely logical and sensible about everything most of his deadpan dialogue comes off as an unintentional joke. I liked the bit where Se-hee even explicitly says how long it will take him to pay off the debt, as if this is a somehow sane or normal answer...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 13-14

2017/10/30 | | Permalink

Between the thirteenth and fourteenth episodes, Ah-reum and Woo-seong are mid-scene on an airplane. Even knowing the dividng of drama episodes into half-hour ones was done for technhical reasons the lack of a scene stopgap in that storyline really bugged me. That was a lazy design decision. Which incidentally turn is the main problem with "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" overall. The whole production is just really lazy...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.10.27 - 2017.10.29

2017/10/30 | | Permalink

"Ragnarok" topples "The Outlaws" with over 60% of the sales...

Marvel's latest superhero outing, "Thor: Ragnarok", the third "Thor" film, arrived in Korea last Wednesday to topple the sleeper hit "The Outlaws". From 1,639 screens around the country, "Ragnarok" claimed 1.5 million admissions ($11.8 million), or 63.7% of the weekend sales. The film stars Chris Hemsworth (as the God of Thunder himself), Tom Hiddleston (Hulk), Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba and Jeff Goldblum and has already grossed over $100 million worldwide (the film was produced for $180 million). "Thor: Ragnarok" is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Slow"

2017/10/29 | | Permalink

Ji-won (played by Kwak Dong-yeon) is a taciturn high school baseball player with hopes of continuing his career at a higher level. Taciturnity is the key word there. "Drama Special - Slow" is distinct among television dramas in that it has very little dialogue. This isn't because writer Kim Joo-man-I is employing a specific weird gimmick. It's just that Ji-won is a genuinely antisocial guy, who doesn't have any other friends on the team. An unexpected injury does not improve his popularity either...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 6

2017/10/29 | | Permalink

"Black" puts on its Halloween costume and nothing is scarier than the people involved with Moo-gang and Ha-ram. We have several returning faces who finally step up to take their place in this story, as Black's actions bring his new enemies as well as his target closer to him. Ha-ram struggles between two pushy bosses and her own life problems, which are about to multiply for our unfortunate heroine...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 5

2017/10/29 | | Permalink

The sordid past built by the very human shadows of Moojin gets a grand reveal, but there are many things in need of explanation in both layers of reality. Ha-ram is determined to save lives, but her actions may cause great problems for Black and the entirety of the underworld. Meanwhile, Gwang-gyeon's past connections lead him directly to a person with a very important role in current happenings...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel"

2017/10/28 | | Permalink

The idea of cloning is a highly controversial one and for good reason. South Korea has had its own advancement in and moral debates over it, making the lack of the topic's presence in drama fiction a surprising one. "Duel" does not really focus on the existential and other implications of human cloning, but it aims to be an action thriller experience with a related twist...More

[HanCinema's BIFF Film Review] Violence and unhappiness define Lee Hwan's Indie film "Park Hwa-young"

2017/10/28 | | Permalink

The combination of human depravity and the inability to change are what define Lee Hwan's indie film, "Park Hwa-young". Each time a moment pivotal moment blooms with a chance for change, it is stymied by the purposefully one-dimensional characters. However, even as the titular character falls deeper into trouble -- of her own volition, might I add -- there is no true sense of catharsis as the ending scene cuts short what may have been. It is that ending that makes the movie a rounded character study that is rather indulgent with human foible...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "RV: Resurrected Victims"

2017/10/28 | | Permalink

Seven years ago Myeong-sook (played by Kim Hae-sook) was murdered. From that day forward her son Jin-hong (played by Kim Rae-won) resolved to find justice, not only for his mother, but for everyone. Fortunately he was already a prosecutor by that time, so mostly he just became more determined to resolve criminal matters in the best interest of justice. Anyway, so Jin-hong is going about minding his own business when suddenly, he gets a phone call. Myeong-sook has come back to life- and then things take an unexpected turn for the violent...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Poet and The Boy"

2017/10/28 | | Permalink

For the minor creative class of the bourgeoise, life can be tough. With excessive introspection comes an excessive desire on the part of a person to justify their own existence, when their life is so humdrum and ordinary there's barely even anything to gossip about. So it is with the Poet (played by Yang Ik-june) and the Wife (played by Jeon Hye-jin-II). They got married because they were getting old. They want to have a baby because they might not be able to soon. And the Wife wants the Poet to start seriously writing poetry so that they can feel special...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Lost to Shame"

2017/10/28 | | Permalink

Song-joon (played by Nam Yeon-woo) is a stage actor. Or at least, he wants to be a stage actor. The last time Song-joon was in a stage play was several years ago when he was still going to school. But with every reason to be pessimistic concerning future prospects, Song-joon is steadfast in his determination to score the lead role in Dark Life, a major play about a young man coming out as a transwoman...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 6

2017/10/27 | | Permalink

"Mad Dog" drops some big revelations in episode six and although their logic does not quite stand, they radically shift the focus of the dog team's investigations while at the same time spurring major doubts about the story we have seen so far. The team follows Min-joon as he once more goes solo, but a surprising contact brings them back together and adds a new spark to the mystery...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 12

2017/10/27 | | Permalink

So "Single Wife" ends up concluding the logical direction it took with the previous episode that barely touched on the main conflict at all, and brings upon a final glorious comeuppance against In-hwa. I remain baffled just as much as I did last time as to what exactly happened to the premise. We had certainly received hints that In-hwa was a corporate vulture, but those barely even registered as a subplot. Now Hyo-rim and some bald guy I'm not even sure has a name have to work together to bring her dad back to stop her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 19-20

2017/10/26 | | Permalink

Hyang-mi (played by Park Jin-joo) works in the prosecutor's office with Jae-chan. Her only real purpose in the story is to provide office gossip commentary on Jae-chan's career path. At least, that was her only purpose. Now, Hyang-mi has decided that Jae-chan is actually super cool and awesome. This leads to some funny scenes wherein we get to see Jae-chan express this newfound love of Jae-chan in very cute ways while Jae-chan, dork that he is, accidentally encourages her...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 5

2017/10/26 | | Permalink

"Mad Dog" continues to teeter between tedium and mediocrity as a chase begins to capture the unwilling shadows of the past. The chase itself may not be exciting, but episode five provides some development for supporting characters and their roles in the story, which balances the slower bits out. The friends and enemies of the "Mad Dog" team become clearer as our heroes rattle the cage...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 11

2017/10/26 | | Permalink

So you might have noticed that I abruptly stopped writing reviews for "Single Wife" a month ago. This is because I had gone to the United States, and recent episodes of "Single Wife" could not be streamed there. Back in South Korea, I'm a bit surprised to find that the final stretch of plot feels rather abrupt. In-hwa, having mostly had a background role as the mean potential mother-in-law, is apparently responsible for all the malaise in Ra-hee and Jae-min's relationship...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 17-18

2017/10/25 | | Permalink

Hak-yeong (played by Baek Sung-hyun) is Woo-tak's old friend, who may or may not have murdered a minor celebrity. That question remains ambiguous even if the three main leads have concluded he was not responsible. At least, that would be my interpretation if the drama was not from their point of view. I mean sure, Yoo-beom is a sneak abusing the situation for his own ends but from a non-supernatural perspective he does make perfectly legitimate points about Jae-chan's questionable judgment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 11-12

2017/10/24 | | Permalink

There's a South Korean variety show wherein celebrities pretend to marry each other. I've never really understood the appeal of this particular format. I'm kind of surprised it's still around honestly. These are the thoughts that when through my head as I watched Jin-jin and So-ni play through their roles for that show in a show. The entire concept is obviously fake from the beginning, so nestling it inside an explicitly fictional drama just manages to make everything feel even more fake...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 6

2017/10/24 | | Permalink

The wedding goes through without incident. Hilariously, Se-hee and Ji-ho even manage to skip out their own reception. This wasn't pre-planned or anything, it's just that neither one of them actually needs to be there because as has been discussed frequently, the entire concept of a marriage ceremony is largely for the benefit of social appearances. The main important event that happens there is that the forced social interactions get Ho-rang and Woo-seok to cool down from their fight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 4

2017/10/23 | | Permalink

For every question answered "Black" has five new ones, but episode four manages to clear some things up, at least enough to get me excited over the future of what is still a very chaotic, but nicely packed story. Following the threads of our characters' past reveals complicated and deep connections, while Black has flashbacks of a mysterious character who may play a key role...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 5

2017/10/23 | | Permalink

The extent to which Se-hee and Ji-ho are smart and organized continues to impress me. I mean sure, it's really sterile and weird that Se-hee has this whole check list of things they have to do to get married, but that's just how he thinks, in terms of narrow short-term objectives in service of broader long-term goals. This, in turn, explains how and why Se-hee and Ji-ho are able to expedite the process so effectively, if only because Ji-ho is very good at following his lead...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 9-10

2017/10/23 | | Permalink

So-ni (played by Lee Sang-woo) is Ji-won's stepbrother. His main purpose is the story is to give Ji-won someone to talk to that is not Jin-jin or her wacky friends, which is helpful. I rather like the banter of their bro talk, and I especially like how Ji-won and So-ni are apparently incapable of getting on each other's nerves because they are such inherently nice and pleasant people. Although then again, maybe I shouldn't be praising a lack of conflict in this drama, what with its issues on pacing...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.10.20 - 2017.10.22

2017/10/23 | | Permalink

"The Outlaws" fends off "Geostorm" and "Man of Will"...

Kang Yoon-Sung's "The Outlaws" retained the top spot by holding off some strong competition from the recently released American disaster film, "Geostorm". Kang's debut failed to trump "The Fortress" over Chuseok two weekends ago, but since then it has held strong as the country's film of choice. From 994 screens, down from 1,127, "The Outlaws" (Ma Dong-seok and Yoon Kye-sang) claimed another 786,049 admissions (40.56%), moving its total tally now to 4.9 million, or $36.2 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 3

2017/10/22 | | Permalink

The whimsical, yet harsh world of the dead comes to light in episode three of "Black", as we meet new Reapers and go through the events which lead our titular agent of demise into the body of Moo-gang. Ha-ram continues to work on her father's case and her ability draws in those who need to use it. The plot thickens and its rules become complicated. Will "Black" help us make sense of it all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - The Reason We Can't Sleep"

2017/10/22 | | Permalink

Yeong-jae (played by Im Ji-kyu) is a comics illustrator who, due to the stress of being unable to find gainful employment in his preferred profession, has taken to exercising at night to deal with his insomnia. Yoo-jeong (played by Im Se-mi) is a writer who lives in a nearby building, who is also suffering from insomnia, for the same basic reason. But Yeong-jae's exercise is so loud she decides to blame him for her sleeping problems...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle"

2017/10/21 | | Permalink

The painfully small selection of science fiction works in Korean drama and the often unsuccessful and dull efforts of the industry when tackling new things made the anticipation for "Circle" quite nerve-wracking. While "Joseon X-Files - Secret Book" is a bit of a cult classic among fans, it left a lot to be desired. "Circle" chooses a different approach and it surprises in the most pleasant, satisfying of ways...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Fortress"

2017/10/21 | | Permalink

The time is winter 1636. King Injo (played by Park Hae-il) has to choose between recognizing the Qing Dynasty with its Mongolian overlords as the new China, or sticking to tradition and trying to maintain Joseon's dignity as a sovereign state. The Qing Dynasty would probably crush Joseon in a decisive battle, but they'd rather not waste the resources. So they just stand their army outside of the titular fortress and wait for King Injo and his people to starve to death in the miserable cold...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The End of April"

2017/10/21 | | Permalink

Hyeon-jin (played by Park Ji-soo) is having a miserable time of life. Her job stinks. She's trying to fix that with English classes, which are incredibly dull and unlikely to be much help with her career. But worst of all, Hyeon-jin has just moved into a new apartment, in a building that seems to be falling apart. There are strange, unaccounted for sounds. And then there's that creepy wallpaper, that Hyeon-jin gets lost in sometimes, with its oddly bewitching stained pattern...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "GOGURYEO"

2017/10/21 | | Permalink

Kim Yong-ok is a professor at Hanshin University, although that rather understates the sheer power of his reputation as a historian. Kim Yong-ok did screenwriting work for "The General's Son" and "Strokes of fire" merely as a historical expert. In "GOGURYEO", Kim Yong-ok uses that expertise to narrate an extended study of the lands of the historical Goguryeo Kingdom, relating it as the true heart of the Korean people, before those hoity-toity southerners in Silla took over, and signed over most of Korean Manchuria to Chinese rule...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 4

2017/10/20 | | Permalink

The dog fight continues as Kang-woo and his team follow Min-joon's lead while at the same time investigating him and his potential motive. The case of Kang Eun-joo's husband clearly has foul play involved and the revelation of her past further fuels the need of the "Mad Dog" bunch for information. Meanwhile, romantic woes start to surface in the lives of leads and antagonists alike...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 15-16

2017/10/19 | | Permalink

The perplexing creative decision to downplay dream prophecies in favor of flashbacks continues here. Honestly, my main takeaway so far is that the lead characters have rather shockingly bad memories, that they apparently went through all these traumatic events together as teenagers yet are incapable of recognizing one another in the modern day. It's not at all clear what these flashbacks are even building up to, given the generally vague connection to the current case...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 3

2017/10/19 | | Permalink

A cat and mouse game is great, but a slow burning fight between two mad dogs is not too shabby when the progress is decent. Kang-woo and his "Mad Dog" team turn Min-joon into their investigation's target; a move which the young man welcomes, even if he is met with more challenge than he anticipated. Meanwhile, a new face has surprising ties to the protagonists' past...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 13-14

2017/10/18 | | Permalink

I had thought that entire stupid storyline about the fratricidal insurance fraud guy was over but for reasons unclear to me, "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" continues it. We get a better portrait of what the main characters were doing prior to the stabbing incident, and we also get to see Jae-chan take over the case from Hee-min. None of this is particularly interesting, since it's fairly impossible to imagine a person getting off from attempting to murder a police officer with witnesses...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 4

2017/10/17 | | Permalink

Ho-rang (played by Kim Ga-eun-I) is Ji-ho's second best friend. Ho-rang lacks much in the way of ambition. She just wants to love her boyfriend Won-seok (played by Kim Min-seok) forever and ever. Unfortunately, their reverie is broken up by something very...technical. If you have ever had a significant other that gets angry when you try to do nice things in the wrong way or vice-versa, you'll understand the conflict in their relationship...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl from the 20th Century" Episodes 7-8

2017/10/17 | | Permalink

The opening title of this episode is "Christmas in August", a fairly explicit reference to the classic nineties South Korean film. So instead of thinking about the plot this time, I decided to ask myself- what's the title supposed to mean? It obviously isn't just a random pop culture reference. Viewed by that rubric, as being sort of a mystery, "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" ends up being quite a bit more watchable, as we're fed several snippets of backstory that eventually culminate in a satisfying explanation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 2

2017/10/16 | | Permalink

When "Black" started releasing its promotional materials, I was almost positive that I knew what the show would be like. Weeks later I find myself faced with copious amounts of Song Seung-heon's pixelated crotch in a series which may not quite make sense yet, but which is definitely doing new things and having fun unleashing them on us. You are weird, "Black". I kind of like that...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 3

2017/10/16 | | Permalink

In a fairly effective reversal, "This Life Is Our First Life" reminds us that just because montage and thematic framing make it obvious that Ji-ho and Se-hee are soulmates doesn't mean they're at that point. Mind, I am not using the term soulmates in a particularly romantic sense. Ji-ho and Se-hee are soulmates in that they have extremely similar life philosophies. They mainly want to go through their daily lives and unmolested and then come home to rest somewhere nice...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 5-6

2017/10/16 | | Permalink

The main plot of "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" just seems to be about dating. Specifically, we're watching the kind of dating where it takes forever for anybody to make a decisive first move. At one point a character resorts to causing a fake car accident for the sole purpose of having an excuse to engage another character in conversation. I'm frequently left wondering- are these people really supposed to be in their thirties? Ji-won (played by Kim Ji-suk) should especially know better, since he's Jin-jin's love interest. These people act like teenagers...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.10.13 - 2017.10.15

2017/10/16 | | Permalink

"The Fortress" crumbles as "The Outlaws" seize control...

Despite being narrowly outplayed last weekend by Hwang Dong-hyuk's historical drama "The Fortress", Kang Yoon-Sung's debut film, "The Outlaws" (starring Ma Dong-seok and Yoon Kye-sang), moved decisively to the top of the chart during its second weekend out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Black" Episode 1

2017/10/15 | | Permalink

Dramaland is no stranger to romances starting through the ice breaker of "I see dead people", but "Black" may surprise folks who have been hoping or worrying that this would be another "Goblin". I am not sure what its story will be or if it will include romance at all, but so far it involves death, bonding and a lot of vomit. Welcome to the dark, gritty yet surprisingly humorous world of "Black"...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Radio Star" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | | Permalink

Back in 1988, Gon (played by Park Joong-hoon) was a singer at the top of his game, with national recognition. But eighteen years later, he's stuck playing songs to sparsely populated rooms. Only Gon's fans from better years remember who the guy is anymore. Them, and people who scour the tabloids for arrest reports of yesterday's old stars. Gon's long-suffering manager Min-soo (played by Ahn Sung-ki) falls into both categories, and so, it falls onto him to bring new light to Gon's life with a new, if unglamorous disc jockey job in rural Yeongwol...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Tube" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | | Permalink

Gi-taek (played by Park Sung-min) is a terrorist who spends the opening sequence of "Tube" blowing a lot of stuff up with his team. I wasn't sure what he was doing or why he was doing it. Shoot, I wasn't actually sure who the leader of the group was even supposed to be since the whole scene was just constant gunfights and explosions and something about an important data file or whatever. Allegedly these events have something to do with the subway heist that makes up the bulk of "Tube", although even after having seen the full film I'm not so sure about that...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "To Catch a Virgin Ghost" + DVD Giveaway

2017/10/14 | | Permalink

The set-up for "To Catch a Virgin Ghost" is pretty simple. We have three factions who are after some precious diamonds. Seok-tae (played by Kwon Oh-joong) stole them. The farmers Seok-tae randomly crashes in to are smarter than they look. Lastly, Yang-i (played by Im Chang-jung) is Seok-tae's fellow gangster, and his small team of enforcers aren't leaving until they get what they came for. That synopsis isn't quite as dire as the movie is in context. Seok-tae's ridiculous fashion choices make it clear fairly quickly that the tone is intended to be comedic...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 2

2017/10/13 | | Permalink

Nothing makes me feel more sadistic as a viewer than that sigh of relief upon seeing characters suffer. As cruel as the reaction would be in real life, fiction needs that raw humanity in order to be interesting and eventually cathartic for what is essentially a detached spectator. "Mad Dog" was off to a shaky start, but I really like what I see this time around...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 11-12

2017/10/12 | | Permalink

After the previous big lawyer storyline was resolved fairly realistically without having to go to trial, I was optimistic for writer Park Hye-ryeon's further legal plots. Unfortunately, the new case takes some massive steps backwards. First of all, the trial we see is obviously based on American jurisprudence. The notion of reasonable doubt, the 1% factor Yoo-beom keeps discussing, does not exist in South Korean law...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 9-10

2017/10/11 | | Permalink

Now that the last major crisis has passed, Hong-joo comes off as kind of creepy. In the absence of genuine threats, she just harasses the guy at the chicken restaurant and pre-stalks Jae-chan at work. While this behavior can sometimes be cute, what we're left with is the impression that Hong-joo really needs a hobby. Or even better, a job that makes relevant use of her inherent nosiness. Cue backstory, where it's finally explained what Hong-joo's previous profession was, and why she quit...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mad Dog" Episode 1

2017/10/11 | | Permalink

Mad dogs never let go and our pack's leader makes that obsessive and fierce nature of his clear as he leads a team of misfits into fraud-fueled adventures. If white-collar crime does not seem appealing, worry not. The drama is clearly going for very big crimes involving physical harm and death for the victims, so bring on the anger, tears and hopefully solid catharsis...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 3-4

2017/10/10 | | Permalink

It's surprisingly difficult to emphathize with Jin-jin. Yes, granted, a sex tape is threatening her career. This is an unsourced sex tape, that will (and is) immediately proven to be fraudulent upon being properly sourced. So in the meantime, Jin-jin suffers bad public relations mostly because her manager Gi-bong (played by Kim Kwang-sik) is indisposed. Not that it's his fault. A late flashback shows how Gi-bong has long worked tirelessly to personally promote Jin-jin's career...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 2

2017/10/10 | | Permalink

Faced with the tremendously awkward prospect of living with a member of the opposite sex which they are not especially attracted to, Se-hee and Ji-ho choose to address the situation in terms of fundamentals, rather than overthinking the whole gender issue. Ji-ho needs a quiet, clean place to focus on writing. Se-hee needs a functional roommate to help pay the bills and not destroy the apartment. They are so ideal it's obviously foolhardy for either of them to try to find an alternative elsewhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "This Life Is Our First Life" Episode 1

2017/10/09 | | Permalink

Ji-ho (played by Jung So-min) always hated feeling like she wasn't the priority back during childhood. While it's easy to blame her family, they're just not...malicious enough to really warrant hating. After all, her dad Jong-soo (played by Kim Byung-ok) is just a sloppy idiot. But when unexpected circumstances make Ji-ho realize that she's going to be even less appreciated than usual, that's when the woman pushing thirty realizes it's time to finally ditch the family home...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 1-2

2017/10/09 | | Permalink

The opening montage of "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" features the three protagonists growing up in the nineties with that ever present babysitter- television. The montage stops before we get to any twentieth century dramas that any of us might have heard of, but the moral lesson learned by minor celebrity Jin-jin (played by Han Ye-seul), common employee Ah-reum (played by Ryu Hyun-kyung) and aspiring lawyer Yeong-sim (played by Lee Sang-hee-II) is pretty clear. They definitely don't want to live a life of horrid married life clichés like what they saw in the dramas...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.10.06 - 2017.10.08

2017/10/09 | | Permalink

"The Fortress" narrowly outplays "The Outlaws" over Chuseok...

Director Hwang Dong-hyuk's Joseon-era drama "The Fortress" (based on Kim Hoon's novel) narrowly came out ahead of Kang Yoon-Sung's crime thriller "The Outlaws" during Korea's biggest national holiday, Chuseok. Both films were released on Oct. 3 and pooled from 1,226 and 1,314 screens respectively, and together they captured 60.74% of the sales...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Mad Dog"

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

There is that saying about death and taxes and while action comedy "38 Revenue Collection Unit" focused on the latter, this seems to be where its core similarities to "Mad Dog" end. The upcoming drama has a dark tone and some grim content as well as a good cast, which may bring a solid story of justice to life.


Choi Kang-woo (Yoo Ji-tae) is a former detective whose new mission is to weed out those who commit fraud through his work as an insurance fraud investigator. He teams up with different characters, including a scam artist, in order to bring victims justice by any means necessary...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Black"

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

Most human beings do not find the idea of death all that attractive, but if Korean drama is good at something, that would be persistent romanticizing of anything and everything. "Black" may be another handsome Reaper, but do not let that fool you. The series looks like a potentially solid mystery ride.


A detective possessed by a Reaper (Song Seung-heon) and a woman who can predict death (Go Ara) in the form of shadows team up and try to save lives through their unique skills. The two fight against the rules of life and death as well as the consequences of their actions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 13-16 Final

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

The final episode of "Magic School" is mostly just an extended epilogue. This would not normally be so remarkable, save for the lack of a climax to any of the storylines in the three episodes preceding it. The closest we get is when Na-ra finally puts on the big romantic magic show for Yoo-ri, the conclusion to which is not in doubt since by that point Yoo-ri had given us an exasperated "what do I have to do to get this guy to make a pass at me?" look...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Still and All"

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

During the Korean War, refugees from the North Korean invasion were pushed back as far as Busan. So, it became common for family members to promise to meet each other on Yeong Island, the main distinct landmark in that region. Years dragged on- some people left. Others stayed, and built up a sort of shantytown, even as the bridge to the mainland fell into disrepair. Business was eclectic. Some labored, some became fortunetellers, others became laborers. But slowly, everyone got old. "Still and All" is their story...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "No Preparation for Old Age"

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

Scumraid is a South Korean punk band that has had its music released in the American and Swedish markets. They have not, oddly enough, been released in the South Korean market, owing to the troubled relationship the South Korean public has with punk. Mostly that they act very angry and weird. Consider one scene where we see a musician at home, showing off his anime figurines to director Lee Dong-woo while his mother calls for him from the other room...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Candle in the Wave"

2017/10/07 | | Permalink

The Gwanghwamun protests of late 2016 and early 2017 were not just about Park Geun-hye's corruption scandal. While the revelation that Park Geun-hye was in thrall to a cult leader was what sunk her presidency, a large number of people from vastly different backgrounds were all infuriated by Park Geun-hye for wildly different reasons. The protests became a sort of open mic for these grievances. "Candle in the Wave" is a tapestry that mimics the structure of the protests...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 7-8

2017/10/05 | | Permalink

So Woo-tak really is a good guy after all. But how could we ever be in doubt? He has a disproportionate love of Batman. Also, Woo-tak has an adorable happy dog with an adorable happy name. And in general, as Jae-chan, Hong-joo, and the rest of us finally get to know the kind of guy Woo-tak is, he also comes off as the immature baby of the group. Even though all of them are, apparently, twenty-eight years old. I'm assuming the story takes place in early 2017, what with all the recurring snow...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 11

2017/10/05 | | Permalink

Looking back at all that has transpired in "Man to Man" thus far, it is really just a romantic comedy built on a farcical set of procedural drama elements. Not that this is a bad thing. It makes for a humorous ride and highlights the sweetness of the romance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 5-6

2017/10/04 | | Permalink

For a side story character, So-yoon is surprisingly compelling. Observe how, while being completely sympathetic herself, So-yoon embodies both of her parent's flaws. Like her father, So-yoon is inclined to fly into a rage at other people defying her, regardless of who's at fault. Likewise, So-yoon also shares her mother's unfortunate propensity toward magical thinking. Hence, Seong-won and every other central character gets dragged into So-yoon's story, to their detriment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 16 (final)

2017/10/04 | | Permalink

Despite the dip below 2.0% in ratings according the Nielsen Korea, the last two episodes were actually the strongest of "Man-Hole"'s run. Pacing was brisk, characters had direction, and a few answers were delivered. Sadly, a few interesting elements were only pulled in during the last episodes, but it is what it is...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 15

2017/10/03 | | Permalink

Insight is finally given into the inner workings of our villain, Jae-hyun, but also into Pil, who has too long just been a crazy many chasing a woman who is not quite sure she wants to be with him. It definitely feels as though the show is trying to wind up as people start mobilizing once they believe Pil is correct about Jae-hyun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 10

2017/10/03 | | Permalink

Now that misunderstandings and deceptions have been aired like dirty laundry on "Man to Man", it's time for the very slow making up period and adorable, petty revenge for Do-ha and Actor. A few graver moments slip in as Husband, Baek, and the other baddies scheme and plot, but those parts of the drama seem the most clunky. It is the romance and friendship Seol-woo, Do-ha, and Actor that really shines...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.29 - 2017.10.01

2017/10/02 | | Permalink

"Kingsman" sequel and local drama "I Can Speak" rule ahead of Chuseok...

Despite earning just 50,000 admissions less than its chart-topping take last weekend, Kim Hyun-seok's comedy-drama "I Can Speak" was swiftly overtaken by the foreign spy comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle". From a hefty 1,677 screens nationwide, Matthew Vaughn's sequel to the popular 2014 original - which he also directed and that grossed $414.4 million worldwide - has raced to 2.3 million admissions ($16.4 million), 1.5 million (64.48%) of which came from its first weekend out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 14

2017/09/30 | | Permalink

Jae-hyun may not yet be outed to the world, but Pil, Soo-jin and Goo-gil see him for the monster that he is. The problem is no longer about who believes Pil's claims that Jae-hyun is a nut job; it's how to stop the nut job who everyone in the neighborhood believes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 13

2017/09/30 | | Permalink

Jae-hyun's true nature cannot be contained by his kind facade and his world starts to crumble. While bad for him, it's good for Pil and the gang and the good citizens of the neighborhood because Jae-hyun is a violent sociopath. Now if only the rest of the drama was as exciting as catching Jae-hyun currently is...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Can Speak"

2017/09/30 | | Permalink

The year is 2007. Min-jae (played by Lee Je-hoon) is a very smart young man who, for reasons we only find out later on, takes a job as a public servant speaking directly to constituents when Min-jae is very much not a people person. And at this particular office, everyone has to talk to Ok-boon (played by Na Moon-hee)- an older woman and a busybody who has made it her mission to file official complaints when mere browbeating is not enough to foster community improvement. Together they...learn English?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Star Next Door"

2017/09/30 | | Permalink


So-eun (played by Jin Ji-hee) is a normal teenage girl who does normal teenage girl things like gossip with her friends about handsome celebrity Ji-hoon (played by Seulong). Lately, their main source of resentment is middle-aged celebrity Hye-mi (played by Han Chae-young) who has taken Ji-hoon off the market in spite of the fact that she's obviously too old for him. The twist? Apparently Hye-mi is So-eun's mother...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 9-12

2017/09/30 | | Permalink

By this point I had been expecting "Magic School" to build up to some sort of climax. Instead, we just get more exposition. There's not even any conflict, just exposition of potential conflicts. At least, that's how I'm inclined to interpret Na-ra's tension with Yoo-ri, a woman who is not his girlfriend, and with whom he has not shared any real romantic scenes. Even the fat bespectacled guy Na-ra knows has a more clearly defined relationship than Na-ra himself does...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bounty Hunters" + Video

2017/09/30 | | Permalink

As counter-intuitive as this idea might sound, it really is important for the main characters in big action movies to be kind of dumb, and clearly acknowledged as such by the script. Why? Because then their failures (or even successes) can be attributed to their stupidity, which is funny even if the overall situation has serious dramatic stakes. So it is in "Bounty Hunters", where our first introduction to San (played by Lee Min-ho) features him solving a problem with epic cool fighting moves- but ultimately failing due to his own ignorance of what the problem even was in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 20 (final)

2017/09/28 | | Permalink

Right away the finale for "Criminal Minds" tips its hand by accidentally pointing out the stupidity of its own premise. The suspect is in custody and there is...not actually any evidence linking him to the serial killings outside of the website, which he claims is a fan website. This is a completely plausible explanation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 3-4

2017/09/28 | | Permalink

One half of the story for these two episodes of "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" is about how a young Hong-joo first attempted to use her powers of prophecy to do good and predictably failed spectacularly. I state this explicitly because "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" itself is rather unnecessarily vague about the larger purpose of this subplot, and it's not clear to me why it was presented as a twist ending. Following early dialogue where Jae-chan suggests the possible existence of other soothsayers, I got the impression that story was contemporaneously about a new supporting character...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 19

2017/09/27 | | Permalink

The final showstopper for "Criminal Minds" is an appropriate one- it looks like the drama will be closing out on an adaptation of season four episode fifteen, which centers around a copycat killer. Even the Reaper manages to get worked into all of this in a fairly satisfying way, although yikes, I'm still reminded of how the death of Gi-hyeong's wife happened way too early. Which also sums up my overall feelings. My satisfaction is directly related to how much I enjoyed the original elements...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" Episodes 1-2

2017/09/27 | | Permalink

The big three dramatic beats in the first two episodes of "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" all involve car crashes. While at first glance this appears to throw "While You Were Sleeping - 2017" into the most laughable genre of South Korean drama clichés, there's surprising fatalistic depth here. In the first place, the drama sets itself up to answer the difficult question of how the generally sensible Hong-joo (played by Suzy) can fully choose to trust arrogant newbie lawyer Jae-chan (played by Lee Jong-suk)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 16 Final

2017/09/26 | | Permalink

The Boat to Salvation is a slippery devil and the time has come for a solid shake on its not-so-divine structure. All of our characters choose their alliances and enact their final wishes as our heroine marches to her salvation and our heroes steel themselves to help end this once and for all. There are no ideal endings in this world, but perhaps small victories are enough...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.22 - 2017.09.24

2017/09/25 | | Permalink

Local drama "I Can Speak" denies "Memoir of a Murderer" a third straight weekend at the top...

"I Can Speak", director Kim Hyun-seok's sixth film ("When Romance Meets Destiny", "Cyrano Agency", "C'est Si Bon"), arrived to 1,140 screens in Korea last Thursday and came out on top ahead of last weekend's number one, "Memoir of a Murderer". In "I Can Speak", Na Moon-hee plays Na Ok-boon, a hot-blooded female detective who forms an unlikely bond with a younger operative (Lee Je-hoon as Park Min-jae) who teaches her English. Kim's latest, his first feature film without a screenwriting credit, opened strong by claiming 604,139 admissions (45.98%) ahead of Korea's biggest national holiday, Chuseok...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone"

2017/09/24 | | Permalink

Don't let the cutesy opening romantic scenes of "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone" fool you. Yes, Min-seon (played by Moon Ga-young) and Geon-hee (played by Yeo Hoe-hyun) became a couple as a consequence of their shared interest in waltzing and yes, the abbreviated version of this story involves adorable genre standards like Geon-hee impulsively catching her in a romantic pose in the face of transportation danger. But most of the content in "Drama Special - Waltzing Alone" is about the couple, now in their mid to late twenties, attempting to get normal company jobs...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 15

2017/09/24 | | Permalink

There are not enough middle fingers in the world to express how I feel about Guseonwon and this marks a job well done by "Save Me". Every open end comes together and clashes into a smörgåsbord of final week thrills as things finally veer out of control for heroes and villains alike. Death, disillusionment, camaraderie and hope form the final battle for our heroes' future...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify"

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

At times it feels like Korean drama has an endless supply of Evil Rich Guy™ characters doing horrible things to brooding male heroes in the revenge genre. It would be unfair to dismiss a work like "Falsify" due to its premise and its proximity to such stories alone, however. Armed with a great cast and a quartet of interesting characters, the drama has a lot to say...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Mystery Queen"

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

If you feel burned out by the influx of brooding detectives and copious amounts of violence that Korean drama has been experiencing recently, "Mystery Queen" might just be the break you need. The series will not take you too far from that crime solving sweet-spot and a bickering, yet perfectly compatible duo of crime fighters handling neighborhood villains will give you the fun and variety the genre sometimes lacks...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 12

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

Things are a bit of a jumbled mess in the land of "Man-Hole". Pil is stuck in the future, in 2018, with a married Soo-jin, a violent offender in the neighborhood, broken up couples, and a Seok-tae who is on the brink of discovering Pil's truth about the manhole. And yet, despite all this excitement, the drama isn't all that exciting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 11

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

"Man-Hole" endeavors to break from its slump, but has a hard time doing so. The mechanism of action isn't quite as solid as it once was with traveling all throughout the time line, not just from past to present. Reasons behind changes in behavior are muddied and Pil still hasn't quite grown up as much as he should...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Running Actress"

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

The basic premise is the same for all three individual short films contained in "The Running Actress". Moon So-ri is a fairly well known actress. The people in her life frequently comment on this. As a result, Moon So-ri is often frustrated and annoyed with them. It does not help that Moon So-ri's professional acquaintances are not always the most charming people. So frequently, we are left wondering why Moon So-ri ever wanted to be an actress at all...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story"

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

Compared to the original "Spirits' Homecoming", the newly edited "Spirits' Homecoming, Unfinished Story" simplifies the epic story of several girls forced to become comfort women during the Japanese Occupation of Korea to just a single one. The complicated shamanistic ritual framing device of "Spirits' Homecoming" is demoted to a thematic flourish in the ending, and is replaced with black-and-white scenes of lead actress Park Ji-hee in modern times preparing for an international comfort women remembrance event. Interspersed between these scenes are interview segments with former comfort women, who are now quite old...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Oh! My God Returns"

2017/09/23 | | Permalink

The first scene of "Oh! My God Returns" is a documentarian clip establishing how in 1998, South Korea had to agree to austerity terms dictated by the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the East Asian Financial Crisis. Then, it's on to Ah-rong (played by Jung Yi-yun), a woman on the street desperately looking for a bathroom. She finds succor at home, where she barges in on Sang-hoon (played by Choi Sung-gook) who is still in the process of using it. That's all there is to the joke, really, and it gets repeated a lot...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 5-8

2017/09/22 | | Permalink

The various plots in "Magic School" are at radically different levels of development. We spend a lot of time in episode five just going over more of Na-ra's backstory, which involves his classmate / love interest Yoo-ri (played by Park Gyoo-yeong) trying to get together the necessary elements for a student film. What does any of this have to do with magic? Not very much, as far as I can tell, which is why it feels so very out of place in a drama that is called "Magic School"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 18

2017/09/21 | | Permalink

Well, this was a fairly distressing storyline, albeit mostly for the intended reason of the profiled crime of serial rape being so monstrous that doing research on it makes me feel a little physically ill. "Criminal Minds" even achieves this effect without having to resort to overly gory imagery. The cold open in the couple's house cuts off before getting too graphic, and the most painful scene in the episode is when we find out how and why one of the victims committed suicide...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 10

2017/09/21 | | Permalink

So Ra-hee and Min-hong are finally at court, and it looks like they can get the divorce finalized. It doesn't happen, obviously, and this scene is supposed to represent how Min-hong still has feelings for Ra-hee and won't give up on her so easily. This is likely to eventually contrast with how Jae-min will eventually give up on Ra-hee entirely because of her inability to come clean with him on the full situation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 17

2017/09/20 | | Permalink

The storyline starts out promisingly enough. The main points everyone initially emphasizes are just logistical ones, like how the serial killer has been sneaking into unoccupied rental properties in the first place. Where everything turns dumb is when we run into a survivor of his crimes. Cruel though it may be to write this, my first main impression of the woman was that...she was just really, really dumb. Who agrees to online sexual encounters in empty places in the middle of nowhere?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 9

2017/09/20 | | Permalink

Min-hong, having finally figured out what Ra-hee is up to, lapses into alcoholic depression. I mean it doesn't go on forever, just a single night as far we can tell. Then it's on to revenge. But even that is pretty light. Right at the moment I thought Min-hong was going to do something explicitly petty and mean instead he turns right around and confronts Ra-hee on how she's accepted Jae-min's marriage proposal without fully cluing him in to what's going on...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 10

2017/09/20 | | Permalink

Although Pil is still spazzy, it is in this episode that we see that he is learning to care for more than just his own love. He cares about Jin-sook even if that caring doesn't equate to the same kind of love that she feels for him. But these two aren't the only ones who suffer from love woes and we see that love lines are still as complicated as ever...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episode 39-40 Final

2017/09/19 | | Permalink

Right up until the last minute, "The King Loves" is as contrived as ever. Because of course Prince Won and Prince Lin are the only two guys who can show up to stop Song-in from finishing her off. Of course one of them gets wounded on the way, forcing the other to confront Song-in on his own. The way they're acting one would think that Song-in was a trained assassin, not a random dignitary whose entire empire collapsed overnight because the queen made an unexpected visit to the king's personal chambers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 37-38

2017/09/18 | | Permalink

Prince Lin's noble, if obviously stupid gesture at the last cliffhanger ultimately succeeds in getting Prince Won to calm down, so their plot arc ends in a fairly boring reconciliation. Once again I am annoyed at just how sheerly unnecessarily this entire dispute was. Prince Lin himself apparently had enough sense to explain to Prince Won what he was doing and why - in letter form. And so once again "The King Loves" has an excuse to tell us the story through flashbacks instead of as it happens...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.15 - 2017.09.17

2017/09/18 | | Permalink

"Memoir of a Murderer" retains pole position ahead of "Baby Driver"...

The American action thriller "Baby Driver", now director Edgar Wright's highest-grossing film, failed to overtake local thriller "Memoir of a Murderer" during its first weekend out. It was a close race, but "Baby Driver"'s 338,213 admissions (22.35%) was not enough to deny Won Shin-yun's new thriller a second straight weekend at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 14

2017/09/17 | | Permalink

It is a time of disillusionment for our heroes and villains alike and we know how the latter deal with it. While our infernal apostles fight for power, their instincts and observational skills are sadly impeccable. So-rin and Dong-cheol are in grave danger while Sang-mi does her best to keep up the act through thick and thin. Our saviors on the outside are ready to strike, but they are alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 13

2017/09/17 | | Permalink

The closer Sang-mi and her saviors get to the truth and to a semblance of victory the more alert out villains become and this creates some situations which may soon end lives. Sang-hwan finally gets somewhere with his pleas for some official support and Guseonwon's sordid past starts surfacing once more. There are things "Save Me" has not delivered, but ample suspense is not one of them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - You're Closer Than I Think"

2017/09/17 | | Permalink

The bookish Woo-jin (played by Lee Sang-yeob) is ditched on his wedding day by the more traditionally pretty Seo-yeon (played by Kim So-eun). The rest of the story is about Woo-jin trying to find out what happened to her. Bear in mind that since Woo-jin is not a private detective, and also has a day job, his efforts are mainly limited to making plaintive radio broadcasts for her return. Oh, and there's also that weird moment where he meets another woman (played by Im Hwa-young) who claims to be the real (?) Seo-yeon...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memoir of a Murderer"

2017/09/16 | | Permalink

Byeong-soo (played by Sul Kyung-gu) is an unreliable narrator. Well, OK, literally in the context of "Memoir of a Murderer" he's an aging veterinarian who suffers from increasingly worsening symptoms of dementia. This has forced Byeong-soo to give up on his side gig of being a serial killer. That's where the unreliable narrator aspect becomes interesting. Is Byeong-soo actually a serial killer, or is the elaborate diary of his past murderous deeds just wish fulfillment about what he feels like he should have done to all those horrible people who clearly deserved to die?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Roman Holiday"

2017/09/16 | | Permalink

Instead of seeming like a very serious enterprise between tough hardened criminals, the opening arms deal of "Roman Holiday" comes off as comically casual. The seller is a foreign huckster, and the buyers are a trio of general nitwits, although both sides do their best to pretend to be cool and unassuming. The ensuing heist made with these weapons goes on about as clumsily, as do all the following scenes until the main characters finally arrive at "Roman Holiday", a nightclub. Or is it more a state of mind?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Reservoir Game"

2017/09/16 | | Permalink

Nonghyup Bank is a major bank in South Korea, and has had a large number of powerful political allies over the previous two conservative political administrations. It was from this reputation that they were able to spearhead a big investment deal in Canada. But then something went wrong. The deal imploded, taking all the local investor money with it. Nonghyup Bank lost all of its money too, and the man running the operation skipped town...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Magic School" Episodes 1-4

2017/09/15 | | Permalink

First, for the sake of clarity, the titular "Magic School" is not for literal magic, but rather magic tricks. These places do exist in South Korea- I've seen them. Well, from the outside. Anyway, right away we have the first prospective student. Na-ra (played by Jinyoung) wants to be somewhat more interesting than a reasonably intelligent civil servant. He goes through college life wondering when he's going to get some sort of gimmick or hobby when bam! Magic! Pops out of nowhere in a scene that is funny mainly because of the supporting cast...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 8-10 Final

2017/09/15 | | Permalink

The final three episodes of "Somehow 18" were rather shorter than I expected, considering how all of the middle ones had made such a point of running in two parts. "Somehow 18" had even gone to the trouble of introducing an extraneous sub-plot in the form of a romance between Kyeong-hwi's older sister and his idiot friend. But here? The conclusion is just a big date and finally, the true circumstances behind Na-bi's suicide. These were predictable, obviously, although part of the story's point is that mere predictability isn't enough to effect meaningful change...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 16

2017/09/14 | | Permalink

A very good mystery hook is set up almost immediately- though lacking in any apparently obvious clues, we do know that the murderer has wacky fingers. I like this because usually, random witnesses in crime procedurals have disproportionately photo accurate memory. That the big clue is something explicitly weird and obviously noticeable tic is actually a pretty good clue, and not something a mentally ill murder suspect would necessarily even notice he was doing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 8

2017/09/14 | | Permalink

Once again Ra-hee tries my patience with more unnecessary antagonism. Min-hong straight up explicitly offers to finalize the divorce right away in exchange for a temporary, meaningless concession on Ra-hee's part and what does she do? Act all huffy and offended. Even bearing in mind that Min-hong has to finalize the divorce eventually, behavior like this is why he is in no hurry to do so. Who knows if Ra-hee will just be fickle and change her mind again...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 15

2017/09/13 | | Permalink

So the new case actually has quite a lot going on that's fairly narratively interesting. In the first place, this is really more of a three plot story than one. We've got the investigation team first, obviously. Then there's the terrified parents. And lastly, there are the three girls trapped in the cold room. So simple variety alone keeps the story interesting. Alternately, the episode is a procedural mystery, an emotional drama, and then a horror movie...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 7

2017/09/13 | | Permalink

So now Min-hong is working at Ra-hee's company. So, technically, all the main characters in "Single Wife" are now working at the same company. It's a good thing we get to see Min-hong's portfolio right away because in spite of this fact, no one at this company ever seems to do any actual work. Far from working, all we really see anyone doing is having concluding work dinners once work is finished...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 31-32 Final

2017/09/13 | | Permalink

It has been a long journey for our heroes and their friends, but this is the end of the path they have chosen and the time has come for punishments to reign supreme in "Falsify". Another secret ally is revealed and several lives end, but the series maintains its usual realistic approach when contemplating the troubles of the world. This means that our heroes will always have more work ahead...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 9

2017/09/13 | | Permalink

What "Man-Hole" lacks is depth. We are told that the characters are sincere in their feelings, but those feelings are conveyed well to the audience. Jae-hyun is the most effective character and that is only because he is a menacing figure...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 35-36

2017/09/12 | | Permalink

With his mother's death, Prince Won is sick and tired of everything. No more mister nice guy. Something even more messed up than usual has been going on with Prince Won's parents, and Prince Won is prepared to murder anyone stupid enough to stand in the way between him and answers. While Prince Won's change in attitude is clearly intended to be frightening, I kind of felt like fist-pumping. Finally, a character who takes the royal conspiracy seriously...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 29-30

2017/09/12 | | Permalink

All things come to an end and this thankfully includes bad things. It is time for our heroes of "Falsify" to get some justice on behalf of those wronged and the already shaky team of villains is starting to lose its members. With the name of an elder being discovered and important decisions being made by pivotal characters, everything is ready for the finale, be it grand or realistic...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 33-34

2017/09/11 | | Permalink

So Prince Won has finally done what he should have done at least a dozen episodes ago, and started talking about his feelings straightforwardly since San is too obtuse to pick up on hints. Well, no, that's not true. San knows exactly what Prince Won wants, she just chooses to react in a way that makes it difficult for Prince Won to tell if she's being coy, nobly idiotic, or sincerely rejecting him. Unfortunately that trend continues here...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 12

2017/09/11 | | Permalink

The efforts of our heroine, heroes and their allies are starting to bear fruit as they inch closer to Guseonwon's shady operations and more people are starting to hear about the cult. Detective Lee stumbles upon some very suspicious connections during a case, but will he take the matter seriously this time? A personal disappointment aside, I am ready for the final stretch...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.08 - 2017.09.10

2017/09/11 | | Permalink

Local thriller "Memoir of a Murderer" and "It" edge out "The Hitman's Bodyguard"...

Won Shin-yun's "Memoir of a Murderer" and the American horror "It" claimed first and second place respectively during their first weekend out. "Memoir of a Murderer", Won Shin-yun's fifth film, stars Sul Kyung-gu as a retired serial killer suffering from memory loss who has to execute the biggest kill of his career to save his daughter. From 1,064 screens, Won Shin-yun's 118-minute thriller claimed 43.07% of the sales (899,251 admissions), or $6.6 million, dislodging last weekend's number one, "The Hitman's Bodyguard"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 11

2017/09/10 | | Permalink

The more hopeful things get for our heroine the more twisted they get within Guseonwon. "Father" Baek's true nature and perhaps intentions are revealed along with some hidden, disturbing locations in the premises. Baek is not the only one with secrets, however. A certain Guseonwon birdie has a secret of their own. As Baek's grip tightens, our heroes need all the help they can get...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - Let's Meet, Joo-oh"

2017/09/10 | | Permalink

An opening disclaimer makes a point of assuring us that "Drama Special - Let's Meet, Joo-oh" is a work of fiction. At first I was confused about why this needed to be stated explicitly, but the reasons for that become clear quite quickly. The year is 1937. The Japanese Occupation of Korea is at full swing. Joo-oh (played by Son Ho-jun) runs a matchmaking service and Soo-ji (played by Jo Bo-ah) is a young woman from the country trying to get her a man...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Shower"

2017/09/09 | | Permalink

At a runtime of only fifty minutes, "The Shower" is better understood not as a film in its own right but more a continuation of "The Road Called Life", the previous project by the Meditation with a Pencil animation studio, which brought together three classic works of early twentieth century Korean short stories to life with vivid animation. "The Shower" also fits that mold. It's a classic, simple story of how a boy watches a girl wash her hands in the river until one day, they go into the nature together...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Suicide Made"

2017/09/09 | | Permalink

While famed nineties folk singer Kim Kwang-seok is indisputably famous enough to warrant a documentary just to provide an overview of his life and career, the focus in "Suicide Made" is much more streamlined. After some basic reminders of who Kim Kwang-seok is and why he's important, director Lee Sang-ho gets right into the salacious premise. The thesis is pretty simple. Kim Kwang-seok did not commit suicide, but rather, was most likely murdered by his wife...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Baek-gu"

2017/09/09 | | Permalink


Once upon a time, in an obscure part of Seoul, there was a dog called Baek-gu. He came to the area as a medium-sized white puppy. He would just run around and do whatever, sticking around because there was an old man who gave him food. Then the old man went away, and by then Baek-gu was old. He became haggard and scrawny. This neighborhood was no longer the kind of place where people noticed or cared about stray dogs, not that it ever really was in the first place. So one day, Baek-gu finally died...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 5-7

2017/09/08 | | Permalink

We get some badly needed insight into what is going on with Na-bi in this sampling of "Somehow 18", and right away her story comes off as far more compelling than Kyeong-hwi's. It is a tad melodramatic, granted, but Na-bi's early death had to have some sort of explanation that would inevitably be at odds with the cool girl persona she always presented around Kyeong-hwi...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 14

2017/09/07 | | Permalink

It's gratifying, if horribly annoying, that the extended conclusion to the Hyeon-joon under suspicion plot ends with that all too American aggressively pro-police ending, justifying my digression last review. There was a conspiracy against Hyeon-joon, and police were involved. Yet somehow, the motives all shake out in such a way that no police officers were actually at fault. They were either tricked, or bullied into the situation by unforeseen unfair circumstances. Also one of them punches the suspect for just being too evil...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 6

2017/09/07 | | Permalink

So dinner ends up going about as well as expected. We could already have guessed, after all, that In-hwa already hated Ra-hee without actually knowing anything about her. The whole previous marriage issue is just an excuse. It's kind of hard to blame her, considering that Jae-min was acting like he had something to be ashamed of simply by being with her in the first place and being very unnecessarily taciturn about it with his family...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 27-28

2017/09/06 | | Permalink

With only a few episodes to go, "Falsify" enters the final stretch in our heroes' quest for the truth behind their enemies. The villains' plans are still elusive, but their choice of terrorism is revealed. While So-ra and Seok-min brave through their lack of power, Moo-yeong targets Nam Kang-myeong. The not-so-resurrected man has a strong connection to Tae-won, however and the latter has his own plans...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 13

2017/09/06 | | Permalink

So the whole hanging plays out, just as disjointedly brutal looking as the last one. That part wasn't so surprising. More amusing was how it only occurred to Gi-hyeong at the last minute that maybe the adoptive parents of the child of serial killers would maybe not want to break that news to him on the night his biological mother is being murdered by the state. Anyway, once that's over with it's on to the next case where apparently Hyeon-joon is a suspect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 5

2017/09/06 | | Permalink

So Min-hong has gone missing and everyone has freaked out, going to look for him. It should come as little surprise that Min-hong himself is completely oblivious to everything that has happened. The guy just went to the mountains because he wanted some time to himself. That Min-hong should find this to be an unremarkable desire is of little surprise. Min-hong accepted Ra-hee's demand that he not go to Seoul pretty easily, so why would anyone freak out about him?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 31-32

2017/09/05 | | Permalink

Following their escape from various royalist forces, Prince Lin and San have a romantic walk along the riverbank. I found this scene was distinctive less for its intended purpose and more because the subject of San's father come up. I was hopeful that maybe San would describe some of his personality traits, so that would humanize him and make me care more about how he died. Instead, all San talks about is how her father owned huge tracts of land...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 29-30

2017/09/04 | | Permalink

San has a meeting with Chzhuan Muvan Khou here that has a rather curious emphasis. At one point some sort of small...thing is deliberately placed within San's eyesight. She notices the object, then continues the discussion. We later find out that the object in question was medicine, and apparently was instantly identified as such by San at the time although to our modern eyes the object didn't look like much of anything. It is only after a brief rampage that San suddenly asks herself- why is there random important medicine in Chzhuan Muvan Khou's chambers?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 25-26

2017/09/04 | | Permalink

There is no easy way out of the hole our heroes have dug themselves into, but they have no time for self-pity. Nam Kang-myeong is out there and Team Good needs to get him while handling the plethora of enemies actively and viciously working against them. It took a long time for all of our heroes to come together, but they are now stronger than ever...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 10

2017/09/04 | | Permalink

As Guseonwon's grip on everyone tightens, allied forces are starting to make their move. Dong-cheol takes some drastic and dangerous measures while our doubting cult follower gains an important position of power near Sang-mi. Our heroine tries to openly resist one last time, but the moment has come for her to try other methods as the outside world chooses sides...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 8

2017/09/04 | | Permalink

There is good and bad to every relationship and what is wrong between the couples and friends surfaces in episode 8 of "Man-Hole". Part of the reason for the reveal is that Pil has grown up throughout his time travels. He's a little less thoughtless in his actions and more considerate not only towards Soo-jin, but his friends. He still has a long way to go, but it's a start...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.09.01 - 2017.09.03

2017/09/04 | | Permalink

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" takes down "V.I.P" while "A Taxi Driver" backs away with millions...

Patrick Hughes' "The Hitman's Bodyguard" arrived last Thursday and despite receiving just 482 screens (the lowest of this weekend's top five), the action comedy took first place by capturing 30.82% of the sales (556,100 admissions). Interestingly, the film's script, written by Tom O'Connor, was on the 2011 'Black List', an annual survey that ranks the year's most liked films that have not been produced. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson and has already banked $76.2 million, more than double its production budget of $30 million; in Korea, its arrival marked the return of a foreign film to the top of the pile after a reel of successful local blockbusters reigned in the month of August...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Special - If We Are Seasons"

2017/09/03 | | Permalink

For the opener in this season's drama specials, KBS is playing it safe with "Drama Special - If We Are Seasons", a fairly standard no-frills nostalgic high school melodrama about Hae-rim (played by Chae Soo-bin) and the cute boys in her life- long-term friend Gi-seok (played by Jang Dong-yoon), and recent transfer student Dong-kyeong (played by Jin Young). The melodrama arrives in its own good time- but it is of little imminent concern with Drama Special - If We Are Seasons", which instead focuses on the love triangle until the melodrama finally pops up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 9

2017/09/03 | | Permalink

No grand rescue is easy and while physical freedom is not quite here for our heroine, her outside support grants her the strength to claim herself back within her confines. The group once again clash with corruption and the political wheels of Muji are turning, leaving us guessing about the eventual moral alignment of several characters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Argon"

2017/09/02 | | Permalink

How does one find the truth in a world plagued by corruption, bad reporting, flimsy journalistic ethics and the distortion brought on by the need for speedy news and social media hype? Getting to the bottom of events is harder than ever in this day and age. "Argon" is the story of a group which fights against this.


Kim Baek-jin (Kim Joo-hyuk) is an anchor who only accepts facts. Lee Yeon-hwa (Chun Woo-hee) is a contract worker who wants to be a reporter. The two are part of the investigative show "Argon". The show prevents the distortion of the truth like the element prevents oxidation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "V.I.P"

2017/09/02 | | Permalink

Sooner or later, in most serial killer stories, the serial killer needs to gain superpowers in order to remain a credible threat. With Gwang-il (played by Lee Jong-suk), that superpower is even dumber than usual. Gwang-il makes gratuitous messes everywhere he goes, and is easily identified as the culprit by the most trifling police work. It's only thanks to the inexplicable aid of high-ranking government officials, from North Korea to South Korea to the United States, that Gwang-il is a threat to anyone...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Criminal Conspiracy"

2017/09/02 | | Permalink

In terms of explicit content, "Criminal Conspiracy" does not differ that much from "Seven Years-Journalism without Journalist", another documentary released earlier this year that also dealt with actions by the past two conservative South Korean governments to manipulate the news wings of MBC and KBS. There's more emphasis on personal interviews, and a broader outline emphasizing the sheer scope of actions Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye tried to take. But really, the main difference is the seven months difference between when these movies were released...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Moo-hyun, the Story of Two Cities"

2017/09/02 | | Permalink

Two years before running for President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun ran for a legislative district office in Busan. Roh Moo-hyun's national profile at that time was strong - he had previously represented Seoul in the legislature, and eventually took a position in then-President Kim Dae-jung's cabinet. The Busan legislative race was exhausting and demographically hopeless. We can see that in the personal footage director Jeon In-hwan collected, showing Roh Moo-hyun with a chronically hoarse voice from all the heavy campaigning. So why go to the trouble...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Somehow 18" Episodes 1-4

2017/09/01 | | Permalink

Kyeong-hwi (played by Minho) is a doctor who's used to dealing with tough situations. Back when he was still in high school, Kyeong-hwi was always getting picked on, and even made a clumsy suicide attempt. Kyeong-hwi was only saved by the appearance of Na-bi (played by Lee Yoo-bi), a willful student the same age as him who encouraged Kyeong-hwi to think better of himself. Then she died, and her absence haunts Kyeong-hwi in the present even as he is now an unqualified success...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 7

2017/08/31 | | Permalink

The affection that I'd started to build for "Man-Hole" last week has waned this week. Watching Pil and Soo-jin hem and haw over confessing their feelings to each other is getting old. Adding Jin-sook's unrequited love compounded that sentiment. What the manhole had built in terms of anticipation last week it dissipated this week...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 12

2017/08/31 | | Permalink

It bugs me sometimes just how obviously "Criminal Minds" is an adaptation of an American drama. While the death penalty is still a possible legal sentence in South Korea, there's been a moratorium on it for the last twenty years. It's just not a thing that happens, certainly not to the extent that people would have political demonstrations about it. I liked how listless the extras were holding their signs. Even they had no idea how someone could have a strong opinion on the subject...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 4

2017/08/31 | | Permalink

Ra-hee makes a serious effort to embrace the inherently campy nature of "Single Wife" by coming up with a more elaborate scheme to get rid of Min-hong than anything yet tried. What Ra-hee does is, she makes a list of all the personal habits Min-hong despises the most, and does them intentionally to try and provoke him into initiating a final break-up. It's a pretty good extended montage, hitting all the beats from obvious nasty habits everyone hates to ones peculiar to Min-hong...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 23-24

2017/08/30 | | Permalink

The realization of their mistakes hits our Team Good like a ton of bricks and the situation gets out of control. Everyone's fingers are pointed at them, while the ghost they have been chasing takes on a very interesting form. The plans of the Elders are revealed as far more sinister than we could have imagined and Tae-won falters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 6

2017/08/30 | | Permalink

Episode 6 of "Man-Hole"wasn't as impactful as episode 5 was, perhaps because the change in tone had already been made. Or perhaps it was because it was more of Pil running around. What did happen was that another set of manhole rules came into play and Pil's friends witnessed the magic of the manhole...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 11

2017/08/30 | | Permalink

In one of the more interesting flourishes I've seen from "Criminal Minds" to date, the recap brings up previous cases which had psychological profile elements that are relevant to the main case here. I suppose that's one way to to create implied continuity. Even if "Criminal Minds" is not always the best at objective logic, if the internal logic is sound than we can at least get a good grasp on what's going on and correctly make assumptions about certain evidentiary implications and possible character reactions, while still knowing that there are lots of other unknowns out there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 3

2017/08/30 | | Permalink

It's odd Min-hong is continuously the most sympathetic character when he's so nosy, and annoying, and also literally the only reason "Single Wife" has any conflict at all. Mainly it's just that Min-hong is so darn cute and well-meaning. He's not even remotely jealous or suspicious. Shoot, Min-hong isn't even upset that Ra-hee freaks out about the prospect of him touching her. As far as Min-hong is concerned, everything should be done in such a way to maximize Ra-hee's comfort and happiness...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 5

2017/08/30 | | Permalink

Feelings are often realized when it's too late and when words and hearts can no longer be shared. This is what Pil, Soo-jin, and their friends realize in the latest reality that the manhole has wrought...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 27-28

2017/08/29 | | Permalink

Every time someone gets close to actually accomplishing something in "The King Loves", we can usually count on another character to swoop in and prevent anything from happening. Up until now this hasn't annoyed me so much, since the event that is prevented from happening is usually the murder of one or more important characters. But taking this episode in full summary, aside from murder, no one can come up with any particularly proactive goals....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/29 | | Permalink

Our trio of justice gets closer and closer to Nam Kang-myeong, but it is a dangerous approach suspiciously approved and even encouraged by our villains. Tae-won gains the upper hand in his arrangements once more and his plans target our Team Good in a swift and ruthless manner, which the plot sadly employs a problematic approach to achieve...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 25-26

2017/08/28 | | Permalink

So Prince Won, Prince Lin, and San are all hanging out at Seong-hyeo's place, biding time for their next move. As usual, when the focus is on characterization, "The King Loves" actually manages to be pretty decent. San's cooking is simultaneously basic comic relief, but also holds philosophical relevance in the context of Seong-hyeo's philosophy about emotional attachments. It's a nice expansion to San's character that explains, among other things, why she has been so demure about romance...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.08.25 - 2017.08.27

2017/08/28 | | Permalink

Local hits "V.I.P", "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners" secure 67% of the sales...

The highest grossing film of the year -- Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" (Song Kang-ho) -- was denied a fourth weekend as number one due to the arrival Park Hoon-jung's "V.I.P". Park's film (his fourth after "The Showdown", "The New World", and "The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale") stars Jang Dong-gun, Kim Myung-min, Park Hee-soon and Lee Jong-suk and tells the story of a North Korean killer on the run from both Koreas and Interpol. It was a close race, but Park's new crime thriller disrupted "A Taxi Driver"'s fine run by scoring 598,715 admissions (25.09%), or $4.5 million, during its opening weekend...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 8

2017/08/27 | | Permalink

After a long and arduous journey, the time has come for the heroine of "Save Me" to find some hope. Our heroes reunite and rediscover themselves as a group despite the lingering bitterness, but their actions make Father Baek more aggressive. Another part of the story has been brewing in Muji and I wonder when and how it will all connect...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 7

2017/08/27 | | Permalink

While our heroes figure out how to be heroic, Sang-mi picks herself back up and makes the decision to lead the rescue. The "Spiritual Father's" plans are revealed as more twisted and menacing than previously hinted, while Apostle Kang's past starts crawling back as she feels the pressure. You take the cake for messed up people, Muji...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The King's Case Note"

2017/08/26 | | Permalink

If you're searching for a run-of-the-mill, Joseon-era film, look elsewhere because "The King's Case Note" is far from the usual sageuk (historical) fare. In fact, the entire 114 minutes of Moon Hyeon-seong's ("As One") Joseon-era whodunnit boasts of its own flavor (mostly of the comical sort), which manifests itself as a double-edged sword. Some of it was brilliantly executed, like the comic moments between the king and his chronicler (in a very Sherlock and Watson-esque pairing) that were laugh-out-loud funny, but the undependable pace that catered to the humor detracted from the film's cohesion...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Midnight Runners"

2017/08/26 | | Permalink

Gi-joon (played by Park Seo-joon) is a well-meaning generally dopey kid who loves meat. Hee-yeol (played by Kang Ha-neul) is a bespectacled stiff young man who knows where the meat comes from. Together, they join the police academy...and train, is technically all they do for most of "Midnight Runners", since they're not real cops. We even get a training montage near the end, where we see them get all manly and swole for the sake of taking on the movie's final boss- crime, in the abstract...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Mimic"

2017/08/26 | | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Mimic", we see an obviously agitated couple driving to...somewhere. Once they arrive, hints of the supernatural imply the worst. The later appearance of their abandoned car outside of the place they were going appears to confirm said hints. It's from here that we meet Hee-yeon (played by Yum Jung-ah), a woman who moved with her family to the countryside for health, yet is still traumatized by the disappearance of her young son...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Write or Dance"

2017/08/26 | | Permalink

In the opening narration to "Write or Dance", Si-hyeong (played by Choi Si-hyung) explains that while he's always meeting up with women, they always end up breaking up with him because he's boring. But Si-hyeong thinks it's not that he's boring, but that the part of him they used to think was interesting has become boring to them. Why this distinction is supposed to be meaningful was not clear to me, and the ensuing five short stories of Si-hyeong meeting up with all these women one on one did not clarify matters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 2

2017/08/24 | | Permalink

Now that we know who Ra-hee and Min-hong are in a vacuum, it's time to piece together how exactly their relationship fell apart in such a specific way that her attempting to remarry is such a big problem. Min-hong doesn't just want to hold on to Ra-hee. He genuinely doesn't seem to understand that they broke up at all. And in all fairness, the flashbacks we get don't really come off as total dealbreakers. They do tend to make Ra-hee look selfish, which is why she's so uncomfortable having them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 10

2017/08/24 | | Permalink

As expected, with the red herring revealed it's up to the criminal profiling team to locate the true culprit, who has finally and truly gone off the deep end and is now involving herself in car chases. I remember how a few stories ago I thought there would be a gratuitous car chase and was mildly surprised that didn't happen. And I guess technically this wasn't really a car chase anyway, I just can't get past the ludicrous visual of screaming children handcuffed to their seats in daily traffic and no one noticing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 23-24 Final

2017/08/24 | | Permalink

For quite some time now, there has been a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode of "Man Who Dies to Live" apologizing for racist content that appeared in the first episode, assuring viewers that it has been retroactively effaced from MBC's video on demand services. I only recently realized that this disclaimer was also predictive. The rambling nature of the final episodes of "Man Who Dies to Live" leads me to believe that whatever the original final act was, it had to be scrapped...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Single Wife" Episode 1

2017/08/23 | | Permalink

Ra-hee (played by Uhm Hyun-kyung) has it all. She has a successful job in the furniture design industry, makes appearances on talk shows to promote herself as a hard-working woman, and a rich boyfriend  by the name of Jae-min (played by Kwak Hee-sung) who obviously likes her. Phrased that way, Ra-hee's life doesn't really sound all that impressive. But weirdly enough, that's the tone the production team has chosen for the first episode, as we wait for Ra-hee's vague happiness to be threatened by past failures...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 9

2017/08/23 | | Permalink

The group dynamic of the kidnapping case this time around is slightly more interesting than usual because the team members have an actual disagreement, and the question of who is correct is left ambiguous. Up until now it's just been, the problem is presented, Gi-kyeong says what they're going to do, and Hyeon-joon comes up with an immediately accepted alternative when Gi-kyeong's initial analysis is deficient. This time, it's an open question whether or not a certain witness should be taken seriously...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/23 | | Permalink

The kidnapping storyline resolved so abruptly there's not actually all that much for "Man Who Dies to Live" to do when it comes to producing a serious climax. Count Said Faid Ali spends a lot of time just hanging out at his daughter's house, being eccentric as always, his presence being tolerated mostly just so that Ji-yeong can get some work done. The comedy is just more of the usual. It's fortunate that "Man Who Dies to Live" is so short, since we're just about at the limit when it comes to twists on Count Said Faid Ali acting like a psycho...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 16 Final

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

Further exposition about So-ah's father closes out "Bride of the Water God 2017", and it's just so strange to take in. It's not that this storyline is particularly unusual or anything, it's that I can't quite recall ever having seen another drama that was so obsessed with exposition rather than payoff. The conflicts in "Bride of the Water God 2017" quite literally are solved the minute they are fully exposited, with only minimal effort being made by the actual characters to actually resolve these problems...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 23-24

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

The opening scene here is fairly funny. At first I was going to criticize Prince Won and Prince Lin for being dopey enough to run right past Song-in's obvious escape vehicle. Then Prince Won notices the vehicle, and then we discover that Song-in didn't even need it at all, since apparently he was acting with royal sanction. Cue yet another scene where Prince Won confronts his father, mostly wanting an explanation for why no one ever just tells him anything instead of forcing him to run around accidentally confronting official royal authorities...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

Plans change and allegiances crumble as Tae-won finds himself cornered by heroes and villains alike. The man begins a mysterious game as our Team Good tries to make sense of what is going on and find more allies after So-ra's attack. A major breakthrough happens when a helpful hand from the past points Seok-min to the right direction, but Moo-yeong's involvement and personal goals may become a problem...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 17-18

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

Heroes and villains alike are starting to get bolder with their decisions in "Falsify". Moo-yeong finally learns of a painful truth necessary for moving forward and So-ra has a close call when she pushes the villains' buttons a bit too hard. Tae-won is feeling the heat as well, reminding us that no pawn is above betrayal from their masters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] Man-hole Episode 4

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

Bong Pil has gone down the rabbit hole - er, manhole - once again. With a new set of time travel rules piled atop the old, we have even more factors at play, including Pil's growing determination to take care of and win his woman...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] Man-hole Episode 3

2017/08/22 | | Permalink

Bong Pil may be a lazy son-of-a-gun in his original life, but he's clever enough to quickly figure out how the manhole affects his life. It's not always for the better as episode 3 proves. Rather than a lazy neighborhood bum, time travel through the manhole has changed him into a dangerous thug, feared by his friends, disowned by his family, and estranged from the woman he loves...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 15

2017/08/21 | | Permalink

So Ha-baek and So-ah have finally gone off on their big car trip, and the purpose of it was to...have So-ah dish about her emotional problems relating to feelings of abandonment by her father. This much I can actually work with. It's a legitimately sad, emotional story, and I can easily see this being the final step of intimacy to be consumnated in a romantic drama, so it's all very appropriate for the penultimate episode. There's just one problem. So-ah's parental issues have never been a part of the conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 21-22

2017/08/21 | | Permalink

Seong-hyeo (played by Uhm Hyo-sup) is San's martial arts master and ally. He also dispenses advice to the princes every so often. Like most of the characters in "The King Loves", I struggle with understanding Seong-hyeo's relevance to the main plot because as far as I can tell he doesn't have any motivation. He's the kind of guy who gives enigmatic advice like, believe in yourself and your friends...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 6

2017/08/21 | | Permalink

The world of "Save Me" may be cruel, but our fighters for justice are starting to take form. The appearance of new characters and the continued development of established ones creates suspense over who will be an enemy of our heroes and who an ally. The bigger Guseonwon gets, the more people start wondering about it...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.08.18 - 2017.08.20

2017/08/21 | | Permalink

"A Taxi Driver" on cruise control after Liberation Day...

Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" (Song Kang-ho) -- his fourth film after "The Front Line" (2011), "Secret Reunion" (2010) and "Rough Cut" (2008) -- secured a third straight weekend at the top of the pile this past weekend by adding another 949,447 admissions (26.77%), moving its total tally now over the 10 million admissions mark. Since its release early August, "A Taxi Driver" has grossed $71.6 million, and while it is currently the most successful film of the year, it is also now the fifteenth highest-grossing film of all time in Korea behind "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (10.49 million) and "The King and the Clown" (10.5 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 5

2017/08/20 | | Permalink

"Save Me" continues to surpass my expectations and subvert tropes at every turn, as Sang-mi's world becomes more hopeless and more absurd with each passing day. The monsters of Guseonwon are starting to show their true faces as our heroine continues to push their limits, but our group of saviors is getting closer to her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Show Must Go On" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | | Permalink

In-goo (played by Song Kang-ho) is a slob of a middle-aged man who works late. This has created a lot of tension at home. In-goo's wife Mi-ryeong (played by Park Ji-young) wants In-goo to knock this off for his own health. In-goo's daughter Hee-soon (played by Kim So-eun) wants him to quit because it's humiliating to be the daughter of a gangster. Ah yes. And that's where the central irony of "The Show Must Go on" comes in. While In-goo may be a professional criminal, he is not what anyone would call cool...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | | Permalink

Junko (played by Lee Chung-ah) is a young Japanese woman of some Korean ancestry who lives in Hokkaido. She had a massive crush on Woo-seong (played by Yang Jin-woo) when he stayed at her home for awhile as an exchange student. So naturally, when it's time for Junko to go to college, she heads off to Seoul to try and find him. Junko boards at a traditional Korean guest house, where she meets Jong-man (played by Park Ki-woong) whose temperament is a tad cruder than Junko was expecting, considering everyone knows how cool and awesome Korean men are...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Marrying the Mafia III" + DVD Giveaway

2017/08/19 | | Permalink

So it's been a year since the end of "Marrying the Mafia II", which concluded with mafia heir In-jae (played by Shin Hyun-joon) and prosecutor Jin-kyeong (played by Kim Won-hee) getting married. During that time, the bad guy of "Marrying the Mafia II", prosecutor Myeong-pil (played by Gong Hyung-jin) has been stewing in jail as he prepares to take revenge on In-jae's family, who are technically no longer criminals as they have incorporated into a legitimate business enterprise...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 8

2017/08/17 | | Permalink

As murder storylines go, I must admit that insane office worker is among the more socially relevant that "Criminal Minds" could have adapted for a South Korean audience. Really, that particular psychosis is probably far more well-known in that culture than it was in the United States. This, naturally, proves to be the main overall thrust of the episode. It's less about the permanent cast and more about how Ki-tae (played by Jo Han-chul) slowly yet surely lost his marbles...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/17 | | Permalink

It's instructive how the other Ji-yeong sort of ruined things for the married Ji-yeong. Upon first meeting the other Ji-yeong, Count Said Faid Ali had assumed that his long lost daughter would be justifiedly resentful at having her father show up at such a late date. Instead, the other Ji-yeong was almost worshipful in his presence. So it is that the married Ji-yeong must now struggle with how Count Said Faid Ali is literally a jerk obsessed with money, but emotionally, can be a kind and caring older man...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/16 | | Permalink

There are oodles of justice and great conflict delivered in episodes fifteen and sixteen of "Falsify", as Seok-min and Moo-yeong's master plan falls into place for a killer showdown. Seong-sik makes his decision, Daehan takes its first major hit and So-ra finally gains Moo-yeong's trust as a fellow warrior in this battle, along with another chance to clear a young man's name...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 7

2017/08/16 | | Permalink

Once again, "Criminal Minds" finds a weird way to mess with the fairly transparent "murder happens right away, team investigates it" format of the American original. This time it's not one, not two, but three completely different storylines one after another without so much as a segue to cue the audience into the fact that gears have shifted. Incidentally, that name drop which started the second section really caught me off guard, because I was struggling trying to remember if we'd ever actually seen that guy before...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 17-18

2017/08/16 | | Permalink

In a radical twist, Count Said Faid Ali's monologue this time indicates that, apparently, he was the villain all along? It's hard to come up with any other explanation for his stating such explicitly selfish motives. Likewise, it's a bit alarming that Ji-yeong, who has only just now realized the full scope of the elaborate conspiracy, almost immediately comes to a horribly cynical conclusion that, absent Count Said Faid Ali's internal monologue, we might have thought was unfair...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/15 | | Permalink

Our hero never learns and his latest drastic measures are met with a swift and ruthless response from our villains. The series reveals a new side of Tae-won, the villain we know best, but I am worried about what this revelation entails. Seok-min and So-ra have a lot of work ahead, but someone's long awaited return may help...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 14

2017/08/15 | | Permalink

Now we finally have it- the story behind what horrible crime Hoo-ye committed that makes everyone hate him. Unfortunately we've been waiting so long for this moment that the revelation largely comes off as a dud, and the entire crisis mainly a result of the various supernatural nations refusing to communicate with each other for no good reason. Mostly I just continue to feel sorry for Hoo-ye, who at least has an excuse for being maladjusted, unlike most of the characters in this drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 19-20

2017/08/15 | | Permalink

So right away Prince Won and Prince Lin have a conversation wherein they try to parse what exactly just happened at the big selection party. It is only at that point that the lead characters realize that not only themselves, but also San have been acting in a very spitefully noble way, each of them trying to be the most self-sacrificing person. As it turns out, the thought isn't what counts, since by going along with San's plan they have all set into motion a gigantic crisis...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 13

2017/08/14 | | Permalink

Ha-baek completed his goal, so now he must come back with a new, arbitrary, and mostly made-up goal so he can hang out with So-ah some more. So it is that "Bride of the Water God 2017" has once again found an excuse to clog up almost all the runtime with yet more pointless exposition, and almost no commensurate action built upon said exposition...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 17-18

2017/08/14 | | Permalink

Princess Dan (played by Park Hwan-hee) is the final sibling of Prince Lin and Prince Yeong. She has known and loved Prince Won since he was a child, and he has invited her to the selection process for his consort for the sole purpose of saving her from being offered up as a tribute to the Mongols. I'm not sure Princess is actually her official title but whatever. The nuances of the Goryeo royal family appelations are not really relevant at this point...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.08.11 - 2017.08.13

2017/08/14 | | Permalink

Local films "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners" capture 70% of the sales...

Jang Hoon's "A Taxi Driver" added another 1.7 million admissions (40.47%) over the weekend, making it the highest grossing film of the year with just under 8 million admissions. The previous number one, Kim Seong-hoon-III's action outing "Confidential Assignment", scored 7.81 million admissions back in January, but Hoon's fourth feature (after "The Front Line", "Secret Reunion" and "Rough Cut") is still breaking new ground...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 4

2017/08/13 | | Permalink

When Sang-mi's family starts to rapidly fall apart, the cult of Guseonwon is right there to push them over the edge. "Save Me" continues to build the tragedy of the victims involved and things are about to reach a breaking point when we reunite with our characters three years later. A stronger, more determined and proactive Sang-mi will see to that...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 3

2017/08/12 | | Permalink

"Save Me" once more proves that it does not cower away from difficult subject matter and this means that our characters get no breaks from their plight. Things keep happening which create more victims and more perpetrators and which reveal the true faces of the people involved. I do not know where the time jump will lead us, but it will not be a happy place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/12 | | Permalink

Our crime fighting team was cool as a facade, but now as we delve further into their backstories, they become more relatable, and that gives "Lookout" the edge that it needed...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Antigone"

2017/08/12 | | Permalink

The trappings of Mythological Greece are traded for those of Baekje from the Three Kingdoms Period of Korea in "Antigone", which adapts the classic Greek play to a Korean environment while still keeping all of the essential themes intact. The main change is just that Baekje is more obviously doomed than Thebes. The Baekje royal family has fallen, and the survivors are stuck on a boat. Extra historical context in the opening titles doesn't make that picture any rosier...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "MUSUDAN"

2017/08/12 | | Permalink

A bunch of people keep dying in the Demilitarized Zone, so Captain Jin-ho (played by Kim Min-joon) puts together a crack team of South Korean special forces to figure out what the problem is. As for the members of his crack team, well, uh, Lieutenant Yoo-hwa (played by Lee Ji-ah) is a woman. We know that because she does womanly things like putting on makeup. As for the rest of those guys, I think Staff Sergent Yoon-gil (played by Park Yoo-hwan) ends up dying on base like a chump. That's as good as I can do for names...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Chasing"

2017/08/12 | | Permalink

Jeong-taek (played by Kim Jung-tae) is a disheveled cop who doesn't project authority. He's trying to collar corporate criminal Seung-joo (played by Kim Seung-woo), who is much cooler and much more obviously competent. Eventually they both get thrown through the ringer as Won-tae (played by Hyuk) and his gang of teenage hoodlums make fools of them both, prompting an epic chase throughout Seoul...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 2

2017/08/11 | | Permalink

The nervous energy that pervaded the first episode of "Man-Hole" was dialed back in the second. Although Pil ran around like a chicken with his head cut off in this episode's past, it is Soo-jin that we take a look at and her teenaged feelings for our spastic hero...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 8-10

2017/08/11 | | Permalink

Considering how the very first scenes of "Someone Noticeable" started us out with a shockingly sad and irreversible twist of fate, I can't much resent the drama on following through with that. As nice as it would be to believe that a single screenwriting breakthrough is all it takes to get closure...that's just not how it works. The way An clings to Jin-yeong's phone is symbolic of her unwillingness to let go of him in general. That, more than their separation, is the real conflict...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man-hole" Episode 1

2017/08/10 | | Permalink

The first episode of the time travel romcom "Man-Hole" came and went in a blur. Directors Park Man-yeong and Yoo Yeong-eun-I writer Lee Jae-gon deliver a fast-paced, frenetic opener that rushes by a little quickly to stick...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 6

2017/08/10 | | Permalink

In contrast to the weird and random gimmicks that have characterized "Criminal Minds" so far, the big case this episode is structured more-or-less the same way the original American program is. The team discovers an active serial killer, and pieces together the clues to try and find the serial killer, emphasis on the criminal profile. A lot of discussion is made about mothers, since the crime in question seems specifically designed to horrify mothers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/10 | | Permalink


Poor Ho-rim. He's only just gotten out of the ill-advised plan the other Ji-yeong had to get close to Count Said Faid Ali, and is promptly dragged into Count Said Faid Ali's own elaborate plot to confess to the truth to his actual daughter, in an even more convoluted and goofy fashion. I am relieved that Ho-rim has been shown to be so unsympathetic so far. It makes it easy to laugh at his well-deserved suffering by Count Said Faid Ali's hands...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 4-7

2017/08/09 | | Permalink

The other Jin-yeong (played by Lee Won-geun) is the newest employee under An's discretion. He also coincidentally has the exact same name as her departed ex-boyfriend, which frequently stirs up memories as, when in an altered state of mind, An can briefly forget that her boyfriend is dead. Through these trials and tribulations more memories pop up, as An remembers that awful thing she accidentally did to Jin-yeong while he had military service, that time she upset him by going on a blind date as a favor to a friend, when he helped her move in, and when she taught him to drive...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 5

2017/08/09 | | Permalink

For reasons that are unclear to me, "Criminal Minds" really wants to be an action cop series. We open up with Hyeon-joon assaulting and letting go of a possible perpetrator in a parking garage. Then there's a whole setpiece that goes through a park, a tunnel, and finally an ubran alley without any pedestrian or automotive presence unless the script specifically calls for it. Gi-hyeong really seems itching for a fight most of the time, even if he's not all that good at fighting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/09 | | Permalink

Once again, "Man Who Dies to Live" surprises me by...completing giving up on its current premise. Ho-rim is too terrified by his wife's entirely justified reaction to her husband being kissed by another woman to consider keeping the charade up any further. This sets off a chain reaction that destroys all existing subplots- although to be fair it was by mutual decision, since the other Ji-yeong had also gotten uncomfortable and Count Said Faid Ali himself was tired of pretending like he didn't know about the whole farce...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/08 | | Permalink

Team Good is finally on the same page and although they do not have group meetings yet, their joint investigation leads them back to familiar faces, some of which are too close for comfort. Seok-min continues his backstabbing tango with Tae-won and the latter is busy trying to turn the narrative against Aeguk with the help of his Noah lawyer accomplice...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 12

2017/08/08 | | Permalink

The extended opening is Moo-ra narrating to So-ah the story of how So-ah's ancestors came to be servants of the gods. So-ah's reaction to the story mirrored my own, which is to say, she has trouble understanding how any of this is relevant to the current situation. Mostly I'm kind of in awe about how So-ah's ancestor was able to negotiate his way out of the predicament so easily. Although then again, why the guy was in danger seems a bit underexplained, considering he didn't actually do anything to warrant dealmaking in the first place...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 15-16

2017/08/08 | | Permalink

So almost immediately Prince Won gives a pretty complete explanation of what Song-in's plan is and why he went to such pains to set this marriage up. The Eun family's wealth, combined with the royal pedigree of Prince Lin's side of the royal family, are enough to create a private army powerful enough to topple Goryeo. Which kind of begs the question of why King Chungnyeol approved the merger in the first place but then that explanation is quickly answered. Because he's kind of a dysfunctional idiot...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 9-10

2017/08/07 | | Permalink

For all their sense of righteousness our three heroes spent a long time in denial about their capabilities and past mistakes, but the good thing about being in a group is that you always have others keeping you in check. Moo-yeong, Seok-min and So-ra have some much needed reunions and sharing of information when Seon-woo's case takes a regretful turn for the worse...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Someone Noticeable" Episodes 1-3

2017/08/07 | | Permalink

An (played by Choi Soo-young) is a producer for the JTBC variety show Hidden Singer. Out of the blue, she gets a text from her ex-boyfriend Jin-yeong (played by Shim Hee-seop), that ends rather ominously right when he seems to be on the verge of telling her something important. An and Jin-yeong have been broken up for awhile, so it's not a calamitous emotional event for her. But still, An was close enough to Jin-yeong that his loss hurts, and she begins to obsess over discovering his cell phone password...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 11

2017/08/07 | | Permalink

In the opening scene Hoo-ye reacts poorly to being incidentally fondled by So-ah and Ha-baek reacts poorly to Hoo-ye reacting poorly to being incidentally fondled by So-ah. This ends up defining their characters arcs for the rest of the episode, which mostly to boils down to angst. Oh no, thinks Ha-baek, I was mean and now So-ah hates me. Oh no, thinks Hoo-ye, I murdered all those people a long time ago...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 13-14

2017/08/07 | | Permalink

Prince Jeon (played by Yoon Jong-hoon) is another prince in pursuit of Eun-san. Where Prince Won is cheerfully direct and Prince Lin is romantically aloof, Prince Jeon is just...kind of a jerk. Why he's a part of Song-in's plans at all is unclear to me. Then again, it's chronically unclear to me why Song-in is making plans at all. I also don't know how Song-in is in such a powerful position that he can broker royal marriages, or what obscure decorum he's abusing to make it impossible for anyone to have a straightforward conversation with King Chungnyeol...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.08.04 - 2017.08.06

2017/08/07 | | Permalink

Local historical heroes fly high during peak season...

Director Jang Hoon's fourth film, "A Taxi Driver" -- starring Song Kang-ho, one of Korea's most celebrated and prolific talents -- enjoyed the third highest opening of all time and came away from its opening weekend with just under 3 million admissions (63.64%). The film captures the heroic deeds of an unknown cab driver who helped a foreign journalist (Jürgen Hinzpeter played by Thomas Kretschmann) during the infamous Gwangju Uprising that destabilised the country early in 1980. From 1,906 screens, "A Taxi Driver" banked $21.3 million and has streaked into sixth in the list of the highest grossing films of the year. Kang's previous films include "The Front Line" (2011), "Secret Reunion" (2010), and his debut "Rough Cut" (2008)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 2

2017/08/06 | | Permalink

Heroes are rare and not all of them are powerful or successful. This reality is brought to the forefront through a grim incident in today's episode of "Save Me". Sang-mi's suspicions about the cult keep growing with every forced smile and every crack in the church crew's facade. The twins are under immense pressure and the group who can help them starts to drift apart...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Save Me" Episode 1

2017/08/06 | | Permalink

It takes a lot to make someone with my film experience feel uncomfortable and "Save Me" manages it. The premiere episode packs the kind of punch we rarely see in Korean drama. The atmosphere is oppressive, the production quality great and prepare a cold shower for how sullied you will feel after meeting some of these characters. Episode one is all about exposition and preparing us for the present...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Man-Hole"

2017/08/05 | | Permalink

Time is cruel and human insecurities crueler, as the hero of "Man-Hole" and his unique relationship with his best friend are about to show us. Time travel is everywhere in Korean drama, but what if it were not as convenient and built for fixing things as we are used to? "Man-Hole" is about to show those pitfalls.


Bong Pil (Kim Jae-joong) is an unemployed man who has been harboring a one-sided crush on his best friend, Soo-jin (UEE) for 28 years. When he discovers he can travel through time using a manhole, he tries to use its unpredictable powers to stop his crush's upcoming wedding...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dancing with Jikji"

2017/08/05 | | Permalink

A long time ago, director David Redman went to the National Library of France to inquire about Jikji, the first book in the world (that we know of) to be printed with movable metal type. Jikji predates the Gutenburg Bible by several decades, and yet nobody outside of Korea has ever heard of it. The obviously inherently interesting premise is no doubt how "Dancing with Jikji" was able to get funding, so it's a bit disappointing that writer/director Woo Kwanghoon's documentary is so...meandering...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Annoying Brother" + Video

2017/08/05 | | Permalink

Doo-yeong (played by Do Kyung-soo) is an up-and-coming judo athlete with hopes of competing in the Olympics. He suffers an awful turn of luck, as his coach Soo-hyeon (played by Park Shin-hye) watches, horrified and helpless. Then we cut to Doo-sik (played by Jo Jung-suk) who is pretty clearly putting on a show- one where the other side is unwilling to call his bluff. So it is that the two half-brothers are reunited...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Will You Be There"

2017/08/05 | | Permalink

Soo-hyeon (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a surgeon who at first glance has no obvious regrets in life. After all, this is a man who, dying as he is of lung cancer, makes a point of doing charity work in Cambodia. It is from there that memories start activating, and we get a glimpse of the past where the young doctor Soo-hyeon (played by Byun Yo-han) met and loved dolphin trainer Yeon-ah (played by Chae Seo-jin)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 4

2017/08/03 | | Permalink

In the latest bizarre misstep, "Criminal Minds" attempts of all things, serious emotional catharsis based on catastrophic fate. This isn't a brand of storytelling I dislike on general principle, it's just, that's the kind of thing you're supposed to do at the end of a series for a proper climax. Doing at the beginning is nonsensical. How in the world is Gi-hyeong's personal life supposed to be relevant to his work if we only have te vaguest idea of who Gi-hyeong is as a person right now?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/03 | | Permalink

Eun-bi (played by Ko Bi-joo) is the daughter of Ji-yeong and Ho-rim. This, by extension, makes her the granddaughter of Count Said Faid Ali, which makes her yet another useful reference point for Count Said Faid Ali's return to Korea. Count Said Faid Ali lacks family and with it, familiarity. So it's touching to see Eun-bi react with genuine kindness with the (as far as she knows) complete stranger Count Said Faid Ali, especially because it parallels Count Said Faid Ali's own eccentric brand of do-gooding...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 3

2017/08/02 | | Permalink

In a bizarre inversion of the previous story, the entire train incident only takes half an episode to resolve. Even stranger, while a big point was made of how Min-yeong (played by Lee Sun-bin) was on the train, she being the last team member, the train incident offers virtually no exposition of Min-yeong's personality or skills. Hyeon-joon actually gets more action than she does, quite literally solving the entire stand-off single-handedly...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 9-10

2017/08/02 | | Permalink

Right away a brief soliloquy makes it clear that yes, Count Said Faid Ali is suspicious about the other Ji-yeong although as is to be expected, his reasoning takes the form of an obscure fairy tale rather than real world standards. Which works, oddly enough. We already know that the other Ji-yeong isn't really motivated by money anyway, so it's not like trying to suss the situation out logically would be of much use...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 7-8

2017/08/01 | | Permalink

There are not enough closets for all the skeletons Noah Law Firm has been keeping and the latest case involves a living victim whose life is in the hands of Moo-yeong and Aeguk. Our heroes are about to get a proper taste of what fighting for others entails when those with significant power wield it against you. The question is, when will our heroes reach out to one another...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 11-12

2017/08/01 | | Permalink

It's a revolving door of favors as "The King Loves" continues to leave me somewhat confused about what the overall actual plot even is. I hadn't even noticed that Eun-san was operating under an assumed identity this whole time, which kind of begs the question of why she was so worried about being caught. After all, the whole point of acting anonymously is to keep from being found by enemies. The flip side being that you also can't be found by friends. Which does seem the stronger weakness, considering how Eun-san and the royal brothers are always bailing each other out of trouble...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 10

2017/08/01 | | Permalink

In a turnabout I can only describe as perplexing, not only does the amnesiac monk issue solve itself without Ha-baek's input, it also results in Ha-baek simply being given one of the artifacts. No effort appears to be required on Ha-baek's part for anything, which kind of begs the question of why he had to go the human world in the first place. The early episodes especially have the impression that Ha-baek was going to have to earn leadership by completing difficult tasks, possibly without being able to fall back on his godly abilities...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 9

2017/07/31 | | Permalink

So even though Hoo-ye has been built up as being this big sinister villain character because of his supernatural backstory, "Bride of the Water God 2017" promptly undercuts this by reminding us that Bi-ryeom is a genuinely malicious person (well, god, whatever) who's fine with threatening children. It really is a badly mixed message. If Moo-ra and Bi-ryeom are allowed to enrich themselves with supernatural connections, why is it so bad for Hoo-ye to do it too?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 9-10

2017/07/31 | | Permalink

The tonal dissonance between the goofy romantic main plot and the conspiratorial main plot is narrowed somewhat here, but only because Eun-san manages to get stuck in a bad situation that requires princely intervention in order to pull off an escape. This forces Prince Won to take on a fairly serious demeanor for some time. But focused as he is on negotiation rather than action,  Prince Won is predictably outshined by his more proactive brother...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/31 | | Permalink

Moo-yeong is proven right in his worry over Daehan's dedication to the truth and So-ra is furious, albeit no longer surprised about the prosecution's manipulation. Moo-yeong makes his move and stages a special trial for Park Eung-mo, but its grim ending shakes things up for our leads. This commotion sparks some reunions which not everyone is ready for, but which need to happen...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.07.28 - 2017.07.30

2017/07/31 | | Permalink

"The Battleship Island" already the fifth highest grossing film of the year...

Director Ryoo Seung-wan ("Veteran", the third highest grossing Korean film of all time) captures life inside Japan's notorious WWII labour camp on Hashima Island in his latest, record-breaking blockbuster, "The Battleship Island". Before World War II broke out in Europe, Japan was mining underwater coal on a 16-acre island southwest of the city of Nagasaki and conscripting hundreds of Koreans, among others prisons of war, to toil away in treacherous conditions. "The Battleship Island" tells the story of a few hundred gritty Koreans who risked it all to escape what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Save Me"

2017/07/29 | | Permalink

South Korea was shaken quite badly by last year's political scandal and the absurd nature of its cult element has been widely discussed. It is only a matter of time before Dramaland takes a bigger dive into the dark side of religion after occasionally dipping its toes in it and "Save Me" might take that plunge.


Four young men struggling to get by in their challenging lives reunite with an old acquaintance who asks for their help. The woman and her family are being held captive by a religious cult. The four young men band together in order to save her and expose the cult's true face...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Battleship Island"

2017/07/29 | | Permalink

The black and white opener of "The Battleship Island" focuses on a part of wartime economy rarely seen in film- the support staff. Specifically, the miners, who come up with the raw material that is later purposed into shiny toys for the military. The work is dangerous, especially under the stress of wartime quotas. But it's especially bad for the Korean characters of "The Battleship Island", who labor for the Japanese near the end of the doomed effort that was World War II in the Pacific...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Road to Utah"

2017/07/29 | | Permalink

A Korean man (played by Lee Jin-wook) and a Korean woman (played by Ryu Hye-young) meet up at an online suicide forum. Together they end up deciding, somewhat arbitrarily, that they want to die on an island in Utah, starting from Los Angeles and driving eastwards. They have not planned this trip very well, though they definitely want to kill themselves, so the journey is fraught with self-imposed obstacles as they keep getting stuck along the way...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "All Live, Olive"

2017/07/29 | | Permalink

You've probably heard that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, their originally having had a nation state there a few thousand years ago. What tends to get less press are the people who have been living there ever since the Jews left. And who are, somewhat awkwardly, still living in the area as the Israeli government slowly tries to take over their territory, while still paradoxically agreeing that, on the private level, much of this land has been owned for generations by Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 2

2017/07/27 | | Permalink

Unfortunately, Seon-woo ends up being saved by dumb luck. This ends up being a decent predictor for the remainder of "Criminal Minds", which is less about characterization and more about sticking closely to the crime procedural format of the original American drama. Any ambiguity Hyeon-joon previously expressed about criminal profiling is largely glossed over, since by the end he's just a normal uncritical team member...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 7-8

2017/07/27 | | Permalink

So you know that trope, that comes up in dramas where a character is searching for their lost parents/child, where they run into each other by accident and talk about family issues? Yet somehow, the conversation is always just vague enough that they don't make the obvious connections? "Man Who Dies to Live", to my great relief, does not fall into this bad writing trap. The other Ji-yeong quickly realizes she is not Count Said Faid Ali's daughter, and the conflict continues from there...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Criminal Minds" Episode 1

2017/07/26 | | Permalink

In the opener to "Criminal Minds", we meet Hyeon-joon (played by Lee Joon-gi), and his experience during a very unfortunate terrorist bomb threat. Flash forward a year later, and Hyeon-joon is a normal cop. Then, the special criminal profiling division in South Korean law enforcement takes an interest in Hyeon-joon's case, involving a serial killer. While Gi-hyeong (played by Son Hyun-joo) is the man in charge, Seon-woo (played by Moon Chae-won) is the team member who does the most talking with Hyeon-joon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/26 | | Permalink

We get some much needed "awww" here as the married Ji-yeong and Ho-rim get a cute moment together. Because I mean really, "Man Who Dies to Live" skirts dangerously close to having us straight up root for their divorce. It's comforting to know that Ho-rim does, indeed, have some positive qualities. It's just a shame that in his greedy quest for money and power Ho-rim must tell increasingly bizarre and elaborate lies in order to guarantee Count Said Faid Ali's continued interest in the bank...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/26 | | Permalink

A few disappointments, betrayals and downfalls later, the leads of "Falsify" find themselves down on their luck and right back where things started, as the case of Park Eung-mo brings them closer to the people behind him. Goo Tae-won is enjoying his position of power and our heroes are still naive in many ways, but the foundations under the powerful criminals are beginning to shake...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 7-8

2017/07/25 | | Permalink

Now that the lead characters have stumbled upon a genuine mystery, all of a sudden the confusion over what role the other characters are supposed to be playing in the story has gotten a lot more palatable. If Prince Won, Prince Lin, and Eun-san don't know what's going on in the conspiracy, why should we? We do know that Song-in is the one instigating this complex series of events. Oddly enough the main characters struggle to make this connection, on account of their being easily distracted...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 8

2017/07/25 | | Permalink

So it turns out that Ha-baek's assertion that Hoo-ye is more than he seems wasn't just random jealousy apropos of nothing. The entire opening section of episode eight goes into deep backstory, wherein Ha-baek recalls an old conversation that had several important clues now relevant to the current situation. Personally, though, the millenia old flashback kind of makes me wonder- when was the last time anyone went to the human world to collect the artifacts?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Falsify" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/25 | | Permalink

"Falsify" opens with several grim reminders that all are not, in fact, equal before the law and that what we know as the truth is only the most well-backed version of it. We are introduced to Han Moo-yeong, a rogue journalist who is trying to infiltrate the underworld in search of someone special. Rewind to five years ago, and we see how things got to this point...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 7

2017/07/24 | | Permalink

Even ignoring the issues with So-ah's personality, she's also an unspiring character on account of her sheer passivity. Time and again, rather than do anything constructive to assist in her goals or Ha-baek's, So-ah just gets unceremoniously tossed into life threatening danger and has to be rescued from her plight by another character with actual competence. Whether that competence is in the form of a gun, better driving skills, or literal magical powers, the effect is the same- So-ah just ends up feeling like dead weight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 5-6

2017/07/24 | | Permalink

So it's not just my imagination- the opening crawl explaining the background of "The King Loves", with the threat of Mongol invasion, coupled with the increasingly aggressive character descriptions, make it pretty clear that even the production team has realized the content of this drama is incredibly dense. Unfortunately background alone doesn't really help explain motivation. That much is a pretty strong stickler, considering the bizarre series of events that closes out episode six...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.07.21 - 2017.07.23

2017/07/24 | | Permalink

Nolan's "Dunkirk" arrives and conquers...

Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed "Dunkirk" was released in Korea last Thursday and comfortably came out on top over the weekend. Many are already heralding it as one of the best war films ever and arguably Nolan's best. The film was shot on IMAX 65mm and is the first feature film to use IMAX cameras as hand-held cameras. From 1,245 screens, Nolan's epic depiction of "The Miracle of Dunkirk" sold 1.1 million admissions (46.53%), or $8.75 million. Its successful arrival meant "Spider-Man: Homecoming" was unable to claim a third straight weekend at the top...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 16 Final

2017/07/23 | | Permalink

"Duel" lets go of its love for twists and what we get instead is a predictable, but frankly appropriate ending to a long and arduous journey for our characters. With Deuk-cheon down, Seong-joon takes the lead. He and Seong-hoon have an honest talk for the first time since their childhood and our broken antihero finds some solace in his game-ending choices regarding the miracle cure and Sanyeong's involvement...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 15

2017/07/23 | | Permalink

The penultimate episode of "Duel" is filled with suspense, regret and hopelessness as Mi-rae's and therefore the twins' and Soo-yeon's lives are in danger. Seong-hoon is having a breakdown and is therefore unpredictable whilePark San-yeong will stop at nothing to succeed. Sadly for him, his rivals are equally tenacious and the time has come for the most risky move from Deuk-cheon and Jo-hye yet...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Falsify"

2017/07/22 | | Permalink

The time has come to once again tap into our unlimited reserves of hate for the corrupt rich as "Falsify" brings more revenge on the Korean drama table. This time around the struggle involves the world of journalism; a welcome twist to the usual business- and law-related takes. Let me guide you through my current thoughts.


Han Moo-yeong (Namgoong Min) is a reporter who uses his own methods in order to reveal the truth about the death of a loved one. When the law no longer supports justice and the press hides the truth, the only measures that work exist outside of the norm...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ash Flower"

2017/07/22 | | Permalink

Ha-dam (played by Jeong Ha-dam) is a normal teenage girl who lives in an obscure township somewhere in Chungcheong. While a generally happy young woman, Ha-dam does frequently run into the problem of not having very much to do in her spare time, considering the only people she knows are the adults in her immediate family. That changes when the much younger Hae-byeol (played by Jang Hae-geum) comes into Ha-dam's life, claiming to be an obscure relative...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Another Night"

2017/07/22 | | Permalink

Seok-i (played by Kang Pil-suk) is a Chinese man who used to live in South Korea, where he married Eun-im (played by Kim Sae-byuk). He briefly returns to find out what happened to her after receiving a mysterious letter. Seok-i has to ask old friends to get any clue of what happened to Eun-im, and progress is limited. Much like Seok-i himself, Eun-im simply drifted away from the world she knew, since there wasn't anything to tie her down...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "No Name Stars"

2017/07/22 | | Permalink

Following Chun Doo-hwan's ascent to power, brutality by government forces was common in order to assure that no one challenged the new political order. In Gwangju, on May 18th, 1980, this brutality reached a tipping point. Attacks against people who weren't even related to ongoing political protests enraged enough common citizens that they took to the streets and defied the government with show of force. "No Name Stars" is the story of those people- what they were doing then, and what they are doing today...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/20 | | Permalink

The other Ji-yeong (played by Lee So-yeon) is, at present, the most likely suspect for Count Said Faid Ali's daughter, although this is based on limited information. Count Said Faid Ali's information is filtered through Abdullah Mohammad Waliwala (played by Jasper Cho), and we've been getting hints that he is not to be trusted. It's just that Count Said Faid Ali is too eccentric to notice. Observe his bizarrely complicated plan for eventually meeting his daughter that in the short term just involves spending a lot of time with Ho-rim...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/19 | | Permalink

Count Said Faid Ali (played by Choi Min-soo) is The Sheik- not literally, but that's the character type he aspires to. Such clichés about the Middle East are more than a little antiquated. It's hard to escape the sheer cartoonishness of Count Said Faid Ali's supervillain palace, complete with sexy women in blasphemous swimsuits that couple headscarves with cleavage. By the end of the sandstorm it's pretty thoroughly established that Count Said Faid Ali is from a pretty weird world...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 3-4

2017/07/18 | | Permalink

The editing in "The King Loves" is very quickly starting to confuse me. Here I was thinking that we were just going to watch the three main leads deal with the whole bridge situation chronologically then for some bizarre reason the production team keeps jerking us around between events from before the bridge incident and after the bridge incident and other far away stuff that has nothing to do with the bridge incident and it's just getting really hard to keep the story straight...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 6

2017/07/18 | | Permalink

Bi-ryeom (played by Gong Myung) is, like Moo-ra, a god living in the human world who is supposed to be doing divine stuff but instead seems to engage mainly in petty bickering. Thus "Bride of the Water God 2017" continues its fine tradition of making Ha-baek a sympathetic character, not by having him engage in character growth, but by making all the other characters he talks to even more obnoxious. I guess it's working. Ha-baek is swiftly becoming the only character in "Bride of the Water God 2017" I particularly care about...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 31-32 Final

2017/07/18 | | Permalink

The final clean-up takes place pretty quickly. Really, once it's established that the right people were digging in just a little deeper, and that most of last time's cliffhanger was just a matter of dramatic license, there really isn't any direction for Gi-joon to go except for straight down. There is, naturally, also the gratification of seeing all the other villains brought in one by one and punished for their transgressions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 5

2017/07/17 | | Permalink

The more I watch of "Bride of the Water God 2017" the more baffling the worldbuilding becomes. Observe how Ha-baek, for all his general ignorance about how most of the human world works, apparently easily understands concepts like skateboarding, motor vehicles, cooking Western style food, and closed circuit television. Elsewhere, Ha-baek does not understand concepts like how it is a dumb idea to knowingly put yourself and others in a dangerous situation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The King Loves" Episodes 1-2

2017/07/17 | | Permalink

Prince Won (played by Im Si-wan) and Prince Lin (played by Hong Jong-hyun) are royal brothers. Prince Won is small, impulsive, and reckless. Prince Lin is patient, thoughtful, and tall. For most of the first episode we get into a fairly complicated and beautifully choreographed backstory about how Prince Won and Prince Lin were witness to the tribulations of Eun-san (played by Yoona), a girl who was on the wrong end of a bunch of assassins...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 29-30

2017/07/17 | | Permalink

Now that enough of the conspiracy has been brought to light, the only real outstanding question is whether Ji-hoon will be brought to justice. Ji-hoon has always enjoyed the most protection because of all the people who have benefited from the allegations against the former Queen, Ji-hoon's boons have been the most subtle and obscured. All the same, Queen Jungjeon needed some sort of high level ally. And attempts at making Pil-yeong and Woo the fall guys run into some obvious logical problems...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.07.14 ~ 2017.07.16

2017/07/17 | | Permalink

"Spider-Man" soars unchallenged, slow start for "Cars 3"...

Marvel's "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (starring Tom Holland) retained the top spot in Korea for a second weekend by capturing 64.36% of the sales from 1781 screens. The 1.4 million admissions it claimed swelled the reboot's total tally to 5.9 million ($42.7 million), making it the second-highest grossing film of the year behind "Confidential Assignment" (7.8 million), as well as the highest grossing foreign film ahead of "Beauty and the Beast" (5.1 million). Worldwide, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" has already brought in $469 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 14

2017/07/16 | | Permalink

Tears and emotions are abundant in episode fourteen of "Duel" as our characters find themselves in relations that are confusing and hard to approach. Seong-joon's identity finally gets to him, but things are more dire for Seong-hoon, who is becoming increasingly unstable. Mi-rae's unique abilities surface, but time is not on anyone's side and some tough decisions may have to be taken...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 13

2017/07/16 | | Permalink

I have been feeling uncomfortable with the amount of twists thrown around in "Duel" lately, but even I could not have expected this dive into a sea of crazy that episode thirteen takes. Mi-rae's origins are revealed as far more complicated than expected and things are leading us to a showdown with Sanyeong. At the center lies Jo-hye, who makes a bold decision to end things...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper"

2017/07/15 | | Permalink

There is never a shortage of villainous rich people out to abuse the poor and powerless in Korean drama and "Whisper" breaks no molds. The drama by acclaimed writer and PD duo Park Kyeong-soo and Lee Myeong-woo has quite the big shoes to fill and its own place to find in a very saturated genre and premise...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Day After - 2017"

2017/07/15 | | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Day After - 2017" Hae-joo (played by Jo Joon-hee) has noticed a suspicious change in her husband Bong-wan (played by Kwon Hae-hyo). Today, he is unusually happy. So Hae-joo moves to the logical conclusion- Bong-hwan has found an attractive woman. Normally such an absurd supposition would be the grounds for a farce. Then Bong-wan scoffs, continues to awkwardly eat his breakfast, and rather ominously avoids directly refuting any of Hae-joo's comments...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Life Risking Romance"

2017/07/15 | | Permalink

Je-in (played by Ha Ji-won) is a murder mystery writer who has been on a long slump. The main reason behind said slump is that Je-in is for some neurotic reason completely obsessed with ferreting out largely imaginary murders in the real world, a task in which her beleaguered best friend policeman Rok-hwan (played by Chun Jung-myung) reluctantly assists, to his scorn in the department. The plot in "Life Risking Romance" kicks off when Je-in finally notices that there is, in fact, a real-life serial killer currently operating in Itaewon and maybe she should investigate that instead. For research material, of course...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Some Day"

2017/07/15 | | Permalink

First up in the "Some Day" omnibus is "Change of the Season", from director Choi Jin-hyeok-I. It's about Yeon-joo (played by Choi Soo-in), a late elementary school student who collects Pokemon stickers as a distraction from a lonely home life. Yeon-joo's parents are split up, and Yeon-joo doesn't like acknowledging this. She's at an age of keen weakness. So instead, Yeon-joo wanders Ulsan in constant ennui...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 39-40 Final

2017/07/13 | | Permalink

Because Prince Seon and his allies were completely incompetent at trying to solve the poison issue on their own, Hwa-goon's dad pops out of nowhere and just gives them the formula for the antidote on one condition. It should come as little surprise that even in his final dramatic victorious moment, Prince Seon manages to find a way to screw things up in this regard. No matter how simple the task, Prince Seon is just not up to the job...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" 37-38

2017/07/12 | | Permalink

I knew from the last cliffhanger that the final stretch "Ruler: Master of the Mask" was going to be irredeemably stupid. So when Prince Seon and the other Seon have to go into this really complicated stretch of rules lawyering to suss out who the real king is supposed to be I wasn't surprised. Nor was I particularly angry. Mostly I just felt sort of downtrodden, that a political culture complicated enough to require several dozen ministers has no legal culture to determine royal legitimacy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 4

2017/07/11 | | Permalink

It's really uncanny how the more I see of So-ah the less I like her. For a sense of perspective, the last cliffhanger featured her being thrown off the top of a building by a crazy person, and getting her life magically saved by Ha-baek. Yet rather than respond with gratitude for this heroic, if self-interested act, So-ah gets right back to the usual negotiations. How in the world can we root for a story of unconditional love when So-ah insists on attaching conditions to everything?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 31-32

2017/07/11 | | Permalink

The backstory revelations end up going down a lot better than I was expecting, because the emphasis is less on the danger child Woo's actions have on adult Woo's relationships, and more on the central character flaw both Woos possess- arrogance. I was somewhat surprised to see that even as a child Woo was considered an all-star at the royal court, but this is consistent with what we've seen from the very first episode. Woo may well have been thought of as a good potential match for Princess Hyemyeong even at that time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 3

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

So right away we get a hint both of why So-ah's ancestors would agree to be the human guides for the Water God and also how they're punished should they refuse. Magic powers. And there really is something demented about the way So-ah is tortured for most of this episode considering that she, herself, works in psychiatric care. Soo-ah's only hope is to ask for advice from her eccentric friend Yeom-mi (played by Choi Woo-ri) and hope for the best...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 25-26

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

Yoon Se-ah is very good as Queen Jungjeon. She's striking a very difficult balance- Yoon Se-ah is playing someone who is being a very fundamentally bad actor. Queen Jungjeon isn't using to anyone talking back to her, and is in constant panic mode, for all her bravado, that someone is going to find out that she is a fraud. Queen Jungjeon does manage to slow Princess Hyemyeong down a little bit with some key revelations, but we can tell just from the nervous way her haughty noblewoman laugh sounds that internally, Queen Jungjeon is freaking out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 12

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

Laughter turns to tears and pressure as Soo-yeon joins Seong-joon and his brother in a race against time. Deuk-cheon uses his regained position to track the vaccine down and it is not an easy job when its caretaker has passed away. Jo-hye sets her plans in motion while our villains feel the same pressure to find a working cure. At the same time, Mi-rae's past starts surfacing and I have a feeling it holds some surprises...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 13

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

Radiant Office 1Radiant Office 2

While episode 12 was about the rampant corruption in Hauline, this episode is about the hearts of the workers and their desire to have a job and take pride in it. It's a concept that has been at the core of Ho-won's character, but we see it manifesting in the other workers. Each person has a different way of chasing his or her dreams, but in the end, steady employment is a major end goal. Especially when the company decides to hire two of the temps instead of just one....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 12

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

Office politics and battles take the fore as managers cheat and lie their way to the top and fall accordingly. Woo-jin, the man who walks the straight and narrow, is also under pressure to earn his keep and potential promotions by catering to the whims of those above. But he is not a pushover and proves to be a light in the night for the trio of interns....More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.07.07 - 2017.07.09

2017/07/10 | | Permalink

Marvel's new "Spider-Man" reboot given screens and soars...

America's 'friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man' swiftly swung into pole position over the weekend by capturing 82.74% of the box office sales. "Spider-Man: Homecoming", the second movie reboot of Marvel's iconic web-slinger, scored 2.6 million admissions ($19.1 million) from a massive 1,965 screens around the country, dislodging Lee Joon-ik's "Anarchist from Colony" at the top and becoming the seventh highest grossing film of year...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 11

2017/07/09 | | Permalink

"Duel" goes straight for the emotions this week and it has been a long time coming and never arriving. We have a series of reunions and revelations, some of them happy, others bittersweet and some pretty sordid. The clone brothers get to talk honestly for the first time while Deuk-cheon makes a promise to Seong-joon after recalling his past mistakes. Meanwhile, Jo-hye has hit the mother lode...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama"

2017/07/08 | | Permalink

Time travel is by now a Korean drama staple which has been combined with many genres. Sadly for fans of this aspect, it mostly functions as a gimmick to spice up familiar stories. "Tunnel - Drama" does not break the mold in that regard, but the time bending crime series has a lot of good to offer...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Entourage"

2017/07/08 | | Permalink

Korean drama loves its escapism and light entertainment, so a series treating those as gospel is nothing new. This escapism, however, knows the audience it goes for. "Entourage" is an odd case of a series which feels inherently inappropriate for Korean drama and that is sadly the least of its problems. Let us take a look at this regretful mess in full...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Anarchist from Colony"

2017/07/08 | | Permalink

Park Yeol (played by Lee Je-hoon) is a Korean poet living in Tokyo in the early nineteen-twenties. Being a poet doesn't pay much, so he has to moonlight as a rickshaw driver and also makes appearances at the local Korean bar. Park Yeol is also a terrorist, albeit not a very successful one, on account of the fact that making working explosives is hard. But in the wake of an unexpected calamity, Park Yeol turns the situation to his advantage, proving to be a master of media manipulation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Okja"

2017/07/08 | | Permalink

There's two wildly different stories at play in "Okja". The first story, the American one, deals with the cartoonish world of corporate agribusiness. The plot in that story is minimal- it's mainly just an excuse for loud imagery and louder performances. The second plot, the Korean one, is quite a bit more down to earth. It's the story of Mi-ja (played by Ahn Seo-hyun) and her pet super-pig Okja...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Real"

2017/07/08 | | Permalink

Tae-yeong (played by Kim Soo-hyun) is a man in a suit who owns a casino and can always be found chewing gum. The first act of "Real" has him talking to psychiatrist Jin-gi (played by Lee Sung-min) about some sort of...thing that happened. This framing device ends up being dropped completely as Tae-yeong ends up embroiled in some sort of...thing involving his exact duplicate (also played by Kim Soo-hyun) who is differentiated from the original by a crystal mask, then padding, and finally glasses. Then they do lots of other...things that are highly sexy, violent, and colorful, but otherwise largely incomprehensible...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 35-36

2017/07/06 | | Permalink

As expected, Prince Seon's plan to stop Dae-mok is less than inspiring. First he has to spend a lot of time running around trying to convince other characters to help him, while Dae-mok has the much simpler plan of just having the other Seon take the mask off. Incidentally, Dae-mok is awfully satisfied with his own brilliance, considering how much of his infrastructure Hwa-goon destroyed simply by starting a fire...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 33-34

2017/07/05 | | Permalink

Prince Seon has finally achieved a goal in that he has destroyed Dae-mok's slave labor /  poison production / prison / mass grave facility. Well, technically Hwa-goon destroyed it, Prince Seon just released the slaves. Another task where he was failing before Hwa-goon showed up. Alas, by assisting Prince Seon in such an explicit manner, Hwa-goon has finally crossed the line from ambiguity to Dae-mok's clear enemy. And in a Prince Seon inspired moment of incompetence, she makes no effort to escape before Dae-mok shows up...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 2

2017/07/04 | | Permalink

For all the brisk exposition of the first episode "Bride of the Water God 2017" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get anywhere. We have to wait until the cliffhanger to even get a decent hint that Ha-baek and So-ah are going to start working together. Until that point it's just, Ha-baek wanders around the city like an arrogant idiot, and So-ah fails to solve her financial problems. What about Ha-baek's lost magic powers? Or the artifacts? When are we going to get to that?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 23-24

2017/07/04 | | Permalink

Even the romantic action in "My Sassy Girl - Drama" is light, as Woo makes a breakthrough in the investigation and proceeds to try and avoid telling Princess Hyemyeong about it. This predictably leads to a brief interruption in their giddy love affair, as she is mad at him. But don't worry- slowly and surely, bit by bit, they come to another understanding as Woo makes it clear that he is one hundred percent on Princess Hyeomyeong's side and isn't going anywhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 10

2017/07/03 | | Permalink

Things get too complicated for a series two thirds into its total duration, with some changes making me wonder whether the creators had been winging it by this point. We have a new pivotal character who turns everything we have known upside down, Deuk-cheon's connection to Seong-hoon is revealed and Seong Joon discovers some important information about his memories as he walks right into the lion's den to save Soo-yeon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bride of the Water God 2017" Episode 1

2017/07/03 | | Permalink

Right away "Bride of the Water God 2017" gets the essentials out of the way by clearly explaining its high concept fantasy plot. Every so often one of the natural god kings has to obtain the necessary artifacts in order to become emperor. This time, the aspiring god king is Ha-baek (played by Nam Joo-hyuk), who tends to spend a lot of time lying around and being sexy while not actually doing anything all that useful. Things do not go well when he has to go the human world to acquire the artifacts...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 21-22

2017/07/03 | | Permalink

The larger conflict is once again put on the back burner. Prince Darhan has gone home, leaving Woo and Princess Hyeomhyeong to swoon over each other privately. I like Woo's sense of diplomacy. He can ask for pretty much anything from royalty right now, and rather than getting greedy, Woo is sensible and basic in his desires. Woo, and Princess Hyeomhyeong for that matter, are quite patient and more than willing to live life a single day at a time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 39-40

2017/07/03 | | Permalink

The final two episodes of "Strong Family" are surprisingly anticlimactic. This is appropriate, considering the only problems the titular family has ever dealt with are fairly small in scale, and thus necessitate similarly small scale solutions. The closest we get to a real setpiece is the bit where Choon-seop is trapped in the wardrobe. And in that case, the unnecessary drama is entirely what everyone realizes that they should be trying to avoid...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.06.30 - 2017.07.02

2017/07/03 | | Permalink

"Anarchist from Colony", "Real", and Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" put local films back on top...

Lee Je-hoon plays colonial-era independence activist Park Yeol in Lee Joon-ik's new drama, "Anarchist from Colony". Lee's eleventh film opened at number one with 817,684 admissions (48.94%) from 1,176 screens around the country, dislodging Michael Bay's "Transformers: The Last Knight" and denying it a second weekend at the top. Park Yeol (1902-1974) was an anarchist who spent 22 years in prison for attempting to assassinate Japanese royalty, Emperor Hirohito...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 9

2017/07/02 | | Permalink

The crux of episode 9 was the mission that brought the main characters back together. Unfortunately, it was a little lame. Fortunately, the characters gel as well as they always have, which allows us (at least a little bit) to ignore the badly worked NIS mission....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 9

2017/07/01 | | Permalink

The cloned cat is out of the bag for several characters and with Seong-joon regaining important memories and information, the chase begins for Seong-hoon and the people behind him. The motive of our rich villainess is revealed and so is an unexpected secret of Lee Yong-seob which changes her plans and puts Soo-yeon back in harm's way. Meanwhile, Jo-hye's grip on the cloning case tightens...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Day - 2017"

2017/07/01 | | Permalink

Joon-yeong (played by Kim Myung-min) is a world-famous doctor who struggles to make time for his daughter Eun-jeong (played by Jo Eun-hyung). His day, as seen in "A Day - 2017" is a pretty good example of how and why- Joon-yeong is easily distracted by medical emergencies, is very patient, and underestimates how much time it takes him to do something. These failures are thrown into sharp relief when a bizarre incident forces Joon-yeong to chronically relive those failures...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sound of Nomad: Koryo Arirang"

2017/07/01 | | Permalink

In central Asia there resides an ethnic Korean minority large enough to support their own theater, the Koryo Theater. The high times of the Koryo Theater are long behind us- their main claim to fame is in grainy newsreel footage from the thirties. This footage, what little of it remains, celebrates traditional Korean music and performances fused with the musical and cultural style of Central Asia. This sound is utterly unique and, it would seem, particular to its place and time in history...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Mis-President"

2017/07/01 | | Permalink

To those unfamiliar with South Korean political culture, the explicit veneration a significant portion of the population holds toward former president Park Geun-hye may seem a bit odd. To this day there are still protests in Seoul against her impeachment. It's not something the South Korean media or anyone else especially likes to talk about, since the existence of this political cult of personality in a supposedly democratic country is a bit of an embarrassment. In "Mis-President", director Kim Jae-hwan allows these people to explain themselves on their own terms...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 31-32

2017/06/29 | | Permalink

The opening scene of episode thirty-one features characters musing about how Prince Seon was their one great hope, and how dare anyone besmirch the man's good name. How or why Prince Seon is supposed to be the platonic ideal of a good monarch has never been clear to me, considering how the man fails at nearly every task he attempts, no matter how basic. And as if to emphasize this point, we cut from that to Prince Seon lying not quite dead in the middle of nowhere...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 29-30

2017/06/28 | | Permalink

So apparently Hwa-goon's bodyguard Gon (played by Kim Seo-kyung) isn't actually dead. I assumed that he was, considering that the last time we saw him the man had collapsed in a bloody unmoving slump on the floor. But ah, this is "Ruler: Master of the Mask" with characters so tough they won't die even if you kill them..! Actually no, it's just that the only way the production team knows how to produce an emotional reaction is through cheap kills, which inevitably have to be reversed since characters have to be alive in order for the plot to move forward...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 12 Final

2017/06/28 | | Permalink

It is closure o'clock and our characters have to work for it. With Dong-geon and Human B in pursuit, the team must come up with a plan for exposing his wrongdoings while keeping everyone safe. There are hugs, there are tears, there is punishment and redemption as the system of control collapses before everyone's eyes. It has been a long journey for everyone and who knows what the future still holds...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 19-20

2017/06/27 | | Permalink

By the end of episode twenty we get to the big exciting climax where Woo has figured out a way to expose a conspiracy. It's satisfying as expected, because even if there's no direct evidence implicating Gi-joon, his participation in the broader scheme can definitely be used to put his credibility into question somewhere down the line. But why did we need four episodes to get to this point? The conspiracy only had minimal exposition, and the remaining screentime has mostly just been about the love triangle...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 11

2017/06/27 | | Permalink

The end is almost here and episode eleven of "Circle" takes steps I did not think Korean drama writers would be bold enough for. In 2017, Woo-jin finds himself with few options for saving his brother and his friends. In 2037, Joon-hyeok and Jeong-yeon struggle with the truth staring at them on that stairwell. The titular "Circle" pushes everyone over the unknown edge of what defines us as individuals and as ourselves...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 17-18

2017/06/26 | | Permalink

Prince Darhan (played by Chris) is the main dominant presence here, and the man's bad news. He's really nice. Really, I just can't get enough of the guy smiling good-naturedly and engaging Princess Hyeomhyeong with all these corny pick-up lines. Best of all, Prince Darhan tends to just ignore Gi-joon, and doesn't especially care about the pomp and circumstances of royalty. Prince Darhan is quite the charming guy, save for the problem of Woo being Princess Hyeomhyeong's actual love interest...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 37-38

2017/06/26 | | Permalink

We're nearly to the end of "Strong Family" and the main remaining conflict is office space arrangements. You know, that's one of those things corporate likes to do to try and affect change is to modify the office culture somehow. I got uncomfortable just looking at those new digs. I mean really, imagine being one of the people having to sit in the middle of those tables. It would feel like someone is always looking over your shoulder. Which I imagine is a feature, not a bug, in the system...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 8

2017/06/26 | | Permalink

It is a rare, slightly creepy, but also satisfying feeling when a show seems to be right behind you and your complaints and wishes. I asked for the villains' motivation and scientific explanation and "Duel" delivers. Deuk-cheon starts creating his own plans while Seong-joon and Mi-rae find some important answers. Things become tense as the past comes back to haunt several characters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 9-10

2017/06/26 | | Permalink

Do-han has a lot to take care of in this pair of episodes of "Lookout". Soo-ji's headstrong influence is powerful enough to convince even the skeptical Bo-mi that what's right needs to be done. This pits our justice fighters directly against Chief Prosecutor Yoon who is wily enough to be a worthy opponent....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 11

2017/06/26 | | Permalink

The gumption that Ho-won found when she thought she was terminally ill continues to show itself, protecting her from the twisted workings of selfish people at the work place. That quality earns her the respect of Woo-jin, her friends, and most of her co-workers. In Korean society her behavior is unusual and I'm proud of her despite the fact that she's a fictional character. We need women like her standing up for women's rights, company worker rights, and people's rights in general....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 8

2017/06/25 | | Permalink

Halfway through "Man to Man" the requisite separation begins. Seol-woo extricates himself from the woman he fell in love with and from his bromance with Woon-gwang in order to return to his ghost agent duties. While sad, he seems ready to deal with the separation until, of course, circumstances brings them all back together again....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 7-8

2017/06/25 | | Permalink

"Lookout" is barreling forward with Soo-jin at the lead. This grieving mother is brave, intelligent, and determined to bring her daughter's killer to justice. Her independence throws a wrench in the plans of Do-han and keeps everyone else on their toes. It's hard not to love such a driven heroine who keeps us guessing at how she will escape each new situation.

The focus of this pair of episodes is the search for Woo-sung, the man whose case incited cover ups and began Soo-jin's involvement with Chief Prosecutor Yoon and Chief Oh....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 7

2017/06/24 | | Permalink

You spin me right round, "Duel" and not in a good way. The drama manages to explain things while raising more questions and while that is good with some parts of the plot, it is starting to get tiring when it comes to our villains and their plans. At least Deuk-cheon finally has proof of Soo-yeon's well-being, even if the joy is short-lived...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream"

2017/06/24 | | Permalink

In a curious editing decision, director Lee Hyeok-jong-I starts "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream" off on the high point of the senior choir's career- when they went to the United Nations in New York to sing traditional Korean songs in the context of wishing for reunification. Overall "Grey Youth Choir - Another Dream" is more interested in what happened after this performance than it is in the build-up. Which does rather bolster the documentary's larger point, about how the elderly men and women in this choir sing because, well, it's not like they have anything better to do...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Dances with the Wind"

2017/06/24 | | Permalink

What is the purpose of artistic interpretive dance? That's kind of an unfairly open-ended question. You might as well ask what the purpose of art is. Nonetheless, director Choi Sang-jin attempts to answer this question by looking over the life of Lee Sam-heon, a man who once dreamed of ballet. Lee Sam-heon modified his ambitions in response to the Gwangju Uprising, having concluded that the power of artistic interpretive dance can and should be used to further the cause of social justice...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "I Am a Cat"

2017/06/24 | | Permalink

The story of "I Am a Cat", narrated rather winsomely by Kang Min-hyuk, is about how cats are adorable and our friends, and how we are lucky to live in a world where kind-hearted volunteers provide the services necessary for cats to live as our neighbors. There are interviews detailing what this care entails. There are also cat photographers, who dedicate their lives to catching cats in their most natural moments, recording them for posterity...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 27-28

2017/06/22 | | Permalink

A lot of my confusion with "Ruler: Master of the Mask" comes from how I keep assuming stuff is happening off-screen. I thought, maybe during one of those romantic backdrops, that Ga-eun learned of Prince Seon's true identity. Literally every other single character in the drama already knows by now. But apparently not. I also figured that the other Seon had already drank the antidote on account of how he's not visibly sick anymore. Again, apparently not...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 10

2017/06/21 | | Permalink

If you already feel bad for the twin leads of "Circle", get ready for more pain, as a glimpse of false happiness, bonding and doubts comes crawling into their lives in episode ten. Dong-geon pushes Woo-jin to his limits in 2017 while Joon-hyeok and Jeong-yeon take on a very dangerous and possibly final plan to find Woo-jin in 2037...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 25-26

2017/06/21 | | Permalink

In a peculiar plot twist, it turns out that Queen Mother Joongjeon is not, in fact, completely crazy, and there was an actual coherent plan behind last episode's mass poisoning. Although even after the specifics are explained the plan still doesn't make very much sense. Why, it's almost as if the mass poisoning was a screenwriting device specifically contrived to end episode twenty-four on a shocking cliffhanger...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 15-16

2017/06/20 | | Permalink

While Woo and Princess Hyemyeong have made great progress in terms of finally discovering that Gi-joon is behind the conspiracy, there remains one glaring problem. They can't do anything about it. All concrete evidence of Gi-joon's activities has been successfully destroyed. While Princess Hyemyeong is right that she has to do something, Woo is also right in pointing out that their position is far too weak to actually challenge Gi-joon on anything right now...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 13-14

2017/06/19 | | Permalink

Woo and Princess Hyemyeong are largely sidelined for these two episodes. Indeed, the big climax barely even features them at all. Instead, Choon-poong (played by Shim Hyung-tak) pops out of nowhere to helpfully identify what's going on at the butcher shop. It's pretty clear Choon-poong wants us to think that he's an idiot, when he is in fact one of the more competent characters in a drama where nearly everyone is at least of above average intelligence...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 35-36

2017/06/19 | | Permalink

The climax to episode thirty six is a school concert that I had mostly forgotten was even a plot point until it pops up, and which as usual just goes into the usual father-daughter bonding. More than the catharsis I actually somewhat perversely liked the general low quality of the performance. It's about the level of musical talent that would be expected from normal high school students, which is quite a contrast to the usual overly high production values that tend to accompany such storylines...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 9

2017/06/19 | | Permalink

Episode nine of "Circle" answers a lot of questions about the chip technology's origins and it raises a few very dark ones about its current condition and Woo-jin's existence in 2037. In 2017, Beom-gyoon has been found only to be lost again as his memories are wiped by the bug and Dong-geon takes over Yong-woo's research on behalf of someone who has been running it in the shadows all along...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.06.16 - 2017.06.18

2017/06/19 | | Permalink

"The Mummy" narrowly outplays new local drama "A Day - 2017"...

Jo Seon-ho's "A Day - 2017" (Kim Myung-min and Byun Yo-han) arrived last Wednesday and came close to toppling the latest "The Mummy" reboot at the top of the pile. Jo was the assistant director for four previous films (including "Killer Toon" and "Once Upon a Time in Seoul") but "A Day - 2017" is his first in the driving seat. Like the 1993 American drama "Groundhog Day", the film's protagonist finds himself caught in a loop as he frustratingly relives the same day over and over again. This day, however, is tragic because the lead's daughter is killed in an accident and he has to rush around to try and prevent that from happening, again. From 781 screens around the country, Jo's debut captured 28.36% of the sales (480,790 admissions), just 18,000 less than this week's reigning feature...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 6

2017/06/18 | | Permalink

It is about time our characters start getting a clue about the fact that this case involves human cloning and I am not surprised to see who the ones making this discovery are. Seong-joon's hinted poor health takes a turn for the worse, leaving Deuk-cheon and Mi-rae hoping for his recovery. Meanwhile, Jo-hye tightens her grip on the situation...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 5

2017/06/18 | | Permalink

It is a dog eat dog world out there, but when you have several dogs with unclear motivations and stories, it is as confusing a sight as it is a violent one. "Duel" manages to clear some things up while not really revealing much and I feel it is about time the clones start providing story when they meet, rather than just a lot of physical abuse for Seong-joon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon"

2017/06/17 | | Permalink

People have different definitions about what constitutes a strong female character, but the creators of "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" take on a literal spin in this romantic comedy setting. The series is packed with characters and different subplots as well as a murder mystery. At the end of the day, however, its problems are too big for its virtues to balance...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Villainess"

2017/06/17 | | Permalink

The opening scene of "The Villainess" has the deeply unsettling look of a video game. Specifically, first-person shooters, which require the perfect mix of head shots and anticipation of predictable AI behavior necessary to get through the few dozen mooks that stand between you and the next level. The sense of discomfort is further heightened by how obviously human all the various stuntpeople in this movie are. So for this, and all subsequent action scenes, horrified as I was by the unbroken chain of grotesque violence, my eyes were glued wide open in sheer overwhelming shock...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Yongsoon"

2017/06/17 | | Permalink

Yongsoon (played by Lee Soo-kyung-I) is a generally crabby teenager. She lives in the middle of nowhere, resents the childhood loss of her mother (played by Lee Wun-woo), is mad about the apparent indifference of her father (played by Choi Deok-moon), and has ultimately decided the best way to spend her time right now is away from home. It is from this backdrop that Yongsoon decides to join the summer running squad, and it is in this capacity that she becomes close to her coach (played by Park Keun-rok). That doesn't end well, as it gives Yongsoon a weapon with which to further badger people...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Delta Boys"

2017/06/17 | | Permalink

Il-rok (played by Baek Seung-hwan-I) is a soft-spoken machinist who eats ramen three times a day and somehow still has washboard abs. Anyway, at the beginning of "Delta Boys" he's hanging out with his old friend Ye-geon (played by Lee Woong-bin) who has just come back from a long stint in the United States. We can tell because Ye-geon is constantly inserting gangsta style English into his Korean sentences. This is intended to impress the people around him, but mostly all Ye-geon does is annoy them...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 23-24

2017/06/15 | | Permalink

When Queen Mother Joongjeon's true role in the overall plot was revealed last episode, I was hoping that we would see some guiding principles toward a long term goal. Instead, Queen Mother Joongjeon's schemes become increasingly bizarre. Even Dae-mok is standing off at the sidelines, a little bewildered but ultimately fairly indifferent as to her actions. There's no obvious way anything Queen Mother Joongjeon is doing could hurt Dae-mok, after all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 21-22

2017/06/14 | | Permalink

The entirity of episode twenty-one consists of a stupid plan that once again manages to throw Prince Seon into mortal danger while his allies are none the wiser. This storyline does, sort of, achieve its purpose of making Ga-eun do something helpful for once. Although really, I'd have been a lot more impressed if she had sniffed out the plot and taken action before the absolute last minute. Aside from the general incomprehensibility of the scheme, Ga-eun was in a perfect position to see what was going on...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 8

2017/06/14 | | Permalink

It is time to meet our much teased Human B Chairman in episode eight of "Circle" and their identity is one I did not expect. In 2017, Woo-jin is being blackmailed with Beom-gyoon's life and sets out to find his father's data. In 2037, a formidable foe steps into the light and closes in on Jeong-yeon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 11-12

2017/06/13 | | Permalink

It was only with these episodes that I noticed that the parents of the lead characters are also the principles in the related royal conspiracy plotline, and the parallels are noteworthy. King Huizong, like Princess Hyemyeong, is oblivious to the real threat facing the royal family, only seeing the surface level. Gi-joon, like Da-yeon, is very good at seeming nice and helpful when in fact his every action is mean-spirited and destructive. Pil-yeong (played by Jo Hee-bong), like Woo, is a smart guy with a good reputation who is struggling to figure out how deep this rabbit hole goes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 7

2017/06/13 | | Permalink

What was once a secret in "Circle" becomes common knowledge and what was once a fear comes closer to reality. In 2017, Woo-jin finds himself right in the center of Professor Han's operation and closer to danger the more he knows. In 2037, Joon-hyeok falters as he struggles with a dreadful possibility and Ho-soo's memories show him a different perspective...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 4

2017/06/13 | | Permalink

"Duel" has a knack for providing answers only to raise more questions. Episode four is all about tracking down Choi Joo-sik, the subject of the 1993 experiments before Seong-hoon can get to him. Deuk-cheon's friends and the prosecution team keep dancing around each other as our two heroes get ready to infiltrate enemy lines. Mi-rae joins the game as shocking truths come to light...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 9-10

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

So I appear to have misread Joon-yeong's character. Apparently he's not Princess Hyemyeong's love interest at all, but rather the protagonist in the parallel storyline about trying to figure out who kidnapped Princess Hyemyeong and why. Joon-yeong has his work cut out for him. Not only is he dealing with an elaborate conspiracy far beyond his pay grade, but Princess Hyemyeong, the person who Joon-yeong is supposed to be protecting, isn't aware of the danger because as far as she knows the pawnbroker was acting alone...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 33-34

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

Contrary to my previous expectations, it doesn't look like "Strong Family" is building up to any particularly strong climaxes at the workplace or anywhere else. Cheon-il is obsessed with telekinesis in episode thirty three and basketball comic books in episode thirty four. While I do admit the simple visuals of these scenes are pretty good (Park Hyuk-kwon always has great facial expressions really), without the proper build-up of tension, "Strong Family" currently looks to end about as anticlimactically as it began...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 10

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

Episode ten of "Radiant Office" focuses on things unseen or kept secret. Ho-won's mysterious illness marches front and center, Ji-na's relationship with Gi-taek is illuminated, and the mysterious Dr. Seo Hyeon reveals his Machiavellian nature....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 3

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

"Duel" wastes no time in getting to the juicy bits and bringing the cloning element to the forefront along with Deuk-cheon's family drama. Two new characters with important information surface and one of them is our new second female lead. The other is a mysterious figure who leads my mind to confusing places and the two combined reveal a sinister past...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 5-6

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

The band of freedom fighters of "Lookout" starts their work together with Soo-ji, Kyeong-soo, and Bo-mi under the orders of the mysterious leader, who turns out to be none other than smarmy Do-han. With his willingness to seek revenge without limit and Soo-ji's thirst to catch Yoon Si-wan and his crooked father, we have quite the pair of episodes on our hands....More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.06.09 - 2017.06.11

2017/06/12 | | Permalink

"Wonder Woman" steps aside for "The Mummy" and "The Villainess"...

DC's cinematic reimagining of "Wonder Woman" (starring Gal Gadot) failed to secure a second week at the top of the Korean box office. The film entered in first last weekend with 831,226 thousand admissions (36.5%), but was outplayed by two new releases, foreign and domestic: Alex Kurtzman's "The Mummy" and Jung Byung-gil's "The Villainess". "Wonder Woman" added 240,552 (10.64%) across 611 screens (down from 1,034) and moved its total tally now to 1.8 million, or $12.2 million. Worldwide, Warner Bros. Pictures' superhero film has grossed over $435.2 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 9

2017/06/11 | | Permalink

"Radiant Offices" tackles some key social issues such as divorce, women in the workplace, and how temporary workers are treated and valued. Delicately approached, these issues are explored without detracting from the overall pace of the plot. Well done, production team....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 8

2017/06/11 | | Permalink

"Radiant Office" if full of the typical office hierarchical dog poop, but more than that it is a show full of heart. At the core of all the office politics is a group of people who are complex and worth getting to know.

The person who continually surprises me is Ji-na....More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Warriors of the Dawn"

2017/06/10 | | Permalink

In 1592, the Japanese invaded Korea. King Seonjo (played by Park Ho-san) decides that he needs to stick close to China in anticipation of reenforcements. Meanwhile, his son, the Crown Prince and later King Hwanghae (played by Yeo Jin-goo) is sent to the front lines to carry the royal banner in King Seonjo's stead. The effect of this is...not good on morale. Still, Hwanghae's personal guard Yang-sa (played Bae Soo-bin) tries to put on a good face even as he's forced to rely on help from the lower-class To-woo (played by Lee Jung-jae) and his band of professional hunters...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Power Battle Watchcar: The Counterattack of Watch Mask"

2017/06/10 | | Permalink

The opening scene of "Power Battle Watchcar: The Counterattack of Watch Mask" takes place in a dark alley with identical armed men hunting down some old guy in a business suit. So I had to wonder, are they clones, or was the production company just being cheap? Actually I was wrong. They are robots. So of course when the good guys respond by destroying them with excessive violence, that's OK, because robots, however humanlike, deserve all the violence that's coming to them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Family in the Bubble"

2017/06/10 | | Permalink

Director Ma Min-ji decided, as film students often do, to make a documentary about her own family. The first topic to come to mind was why Ma Min-ji moved out of their crumbling apartment. That begged the question of why they were living in a crumbling apartment in the first place. Through a fair amount of historical exposition coupled with real-life docuemntary experiences, "Family in the Bubble" explains how Ma Min-ji's family was caught up in the South Korean real estate boom that took place in the eighties and nineties, an experience which defines all of their financial decisions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 19-20

2017/06/08 | | Permalink

This time around the genre roulette falls on palace intrigue. Unfortunately this is a bad genre to focus on temporarily, because palace intrigues are only interesting as a slow burn, watching various characters come up with complicated plots to humiliate each other. Here, no character has a clearly enough defined goal for their role in the palace intrigue to be terribly interesting. At one point derisive laughter substitutes for the far more satisfying subtle humiliation that really makes a palace intrigue stand out...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 17-18

2017/06/07 | | Permalink

So apparently Hwa-goon has been on the outs with Dae-mok for the past five years. But to save Prince Seon, Hwa-goon is willing to make the sneaky sacrifice of joining Dae-mok's cult. This is why I like Hwa-goon. She's smart. The real reason Hwa-goon wants back into the organization is to protect Prince Seon from the inside, but phrased this way, Dae-mok is led to believe that this is actually a compromise on her part, and remains unaware of Hwa-goon's bigger plan...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 6

2017/06/07 | | Permalink

Jeong-yeon struggles with her identity as Byeol and the time has come for her to make a brave decision. Something happened in her past which was probably instigated by a key figure making a return to the story. In 2037, Joon-hyeok and Ho-soo dance around each other due to their opposing goals, a new suspicious ally for our hero surfaces and so does a worrying possibility...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 7

2017/06/06 | | Permalink

The ghost agent who has always done his job as he was told has now decided to go rogue in the name of love. We knew it would come to this point, but watching Seol-woo make a decision for the good of someone else sits well within me. I also love to see that Do-ha isn't just a doe-eyed damsel in distress, but a woman who will fight back....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 3-4

2017/06/06 | | Permalink

After a fast-paced introduction, "Lookout" jumps into the catalyst that turns cop and mother Soo-ji into a grief-stricken woman thirsting for revenge. She storms down a path that is quite terrifying, especially when those surrounding the circumstances of her daughter's death are driven by selfish ambition and revenge. Please do remember that hour episodes are split into two so four half-hour episodes will air each week!

Chief Prosecutor Yoon (Choi Moo-sung) is sketched as the man who wields all the power and the man who Do-han ultimately wishes to bring down....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 7-8

2017/06/06 | | Permalink

One of the better clarifications "My Sassy Girl - Drama" has been making lately is that there are in fact two Princess Hyemyeongs. The first one, the one that exists in the real world, quickly gets vindictive about perceived personal slights. But once the conflict is resolved, she is mostly willing to forgive and forget. By contrast the second Princess Hyemyeong, the one that exists in Gyeon-woo's imagination, continues her personal grudges forever, driving Gyeon-woo completely mad...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 6

2017/06/06 | | Permalink

Emotions become tied to work for ghost agent Seol-woo and it's a first. It is a dangerous time to marry work and feelings with ruthless, ambition-driven politicians snapping at his organization's heels. But I wouldn't have it any other way....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 31-32

2017/06/05 | | Permalink

The plot is very fractured over these two episodes. We get a lot of brief jokes that seem like they're going to lead to broader themes, although they stop almost as soon as they start. The closest we get is the bookend of episode thirty-two, which I admittedly thought was pretty funny because of course Cheon-il's dream world looks like a high school theater stage set. If you haven't had dreams like that, I don't know what to tell you...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 5-6

2017/06/05 | | Permalink

The opening of the fifth episode is an extended replay of the last scene of the fourth episode- and it really is a perfect example of how good editing can turn a borderline unwatchable sequence into a genuinely entertaining one. We get a lot more exposition about why the pawnbroker is a bad dude who got what was coming to him. More importantly, Princess Hyemyeong gets some badly needed positive personality traits. She made the mess here, not as a consequence of her being a fickle psychotic, but out of a genuine concern for justice...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 5

2017/06/05 | | Permalink

The ghosts of the past roam the future as it is time for many identities to be revealed. In 2017, Jeong-yeon and Woo-jin have a fallout over the past she is afraid to face. The old asylum gets many visitors in search of clues, including Detective Hong. In 2037, Joon-hyeok meets his Bluebird and discovers that he is being watched. The big question now is whether Woo-jin is still alive and whether that is a good thing...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 2

2017/06/04 | | Permalink

Deuk-cheon discovers that a distraught father's testimony holds little value in the face of conclusive evidence as he tries to convince everyone of the impossible. Our suspect is traumatized and knows little about the situation himself, as good ol' dramamnesia keeps the mystery going. Meanwhile Jo-hye continues to exist as a mysterious force to be reckoned with when it comes to making progress...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Duel" Episode 1

2017/06/04 | | Permalink

The premiere episode of clone-themed suspense drama "Duel" wastes no time in getting the action going. Our lead drops large amounts of cash on a table as ransom for his kidnapped daughter, a mysterious woman arrives to offer more and the chase is on. "Duel" then takes a step back and shows us how we got to this point. Shady scientific practices, two men with the same appearance and bad decisions follow...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Biting Fly"

2017/06/03 | | Permalink

Hae-wook (played by Kim Jin-woo) is a government employee who stumbles upon an interesting financial venture. Apparently, for the small price of putting up all your real property as collateral, an investment will return a healthy amount of money into your bank account on a regular basis. Hae-wook tells his family about the project and...well, it doesn't go well. As the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Our President"

2017/06/03 | | Permalink

You might know Roh Moo-hyun as the pre Park Geun-hye president that got impeached. Or as the guy who gave North Korea nuclear weapons. Or as the leftist human rights lawyer whose incompetency prompted two conservative administrations. Or as the ex-president who killed himself over bribery allegations. But South Koreans, and particularly the South Korean left, venerate him as a hero. Although "Our President" contains almost no detail about Roh Moo-hyun's actual presidency, having watched this documentary, now I know why...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "3xFTM"

2017/06/03 | | Permalink

The title of "3xFTM" at first probably looks like random gibberish. But director Kim Il-rhan explains in short order what they stand for- 3 examples of Female to Male. That is, "3xFTM" is the story of three transgender individuals living in South Korea in the mid two thousands. Technology is just on the cusp of being able to make gender transition a reality for everyone. Until that time comes, though, they just muddle about their daily lives as men...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 15-16

2017/06/01 | | Permalink

Through a complicated bit of sleight of hand, Prince Seon and friends manage to achieve an important victory over Dae-mok. Because they got his...stuff, that Dae-mok was going to use to do...things. Normally I try not to overthink inherently meaningless MacGuffin devices, but the stakes in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" are so poorly defined I can only even figure out that Prince Seon's team won because of their smug victory expressions...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 13-14

2017/05/31 | | Permalink

It took me a minute to remember why, exactly, Prince Seon and Hwa-goon were skulking about in the middle of the night trying to steal something. That's because this whole subplot is nestled inside another subplot, the one about the merchant expedition, and even that quickly manages to turn into another subplot as Cheong-eun runs into Moo-ha (played by Bae Yoo-ram), an old ally with an exceptionally good memory. A pity that's about his only useful skill...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 4

2017/05/31 | | Permalink

Episode four of "Circle" packs quite a punch and brings about twists upon twists and delectable fake-outs. In 2017, Bluebird makes their appearance and the mystery of the blue bug and the alien become clearer. In 2037, the dreaded, but not surprising truth about Joon-hyeok's identity is revealed, new familiar faces from 2017 become visible and Ho-soo receives an offer from the care chip overlords...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 3-4

2017/05/30 | | Permalink

Oh Yeon-seo's central expression as Princess Hyemyeong is very appropriate. Even in pictographic form, she looks horrifically sinister. So all the time Gyeon-woo is talking about his efforts to try and meet her again, I'm just thinking to myself, do you really think that's a good idea? And predictably enough, upon finally actually finding Princess Hyemyeong, Gyeon-woo once again faces peril and disaster for no apparent cause...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 13 Final

2017/05/30 | | Permalink

As expected, the sweet flashbacks continue as "My Secret Romance" slowly but surely moves toward its happy ending. There is a bump in there as Yoo-mi decides to briefly abandon Jin-wook for reasons that aren't all that clear, but not to worry. Nothing beats the power of flashbacks. I expect excessive use of flashbacks also makes it easier on the production company, which doesn't have to spend as much money filming actual new scenes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 7

2017/05/30 | | Permalink

This episode focuses on what lies beneath. The company projects an image of propriety while accepting bribes and treating employees poorly. Kang-ho seems put together on the outside, but whose and unfortunate situation sets him front and center in "Radiant Office".

Although not poor, Kang-ho is under such intense pressure from his mother he tried to kill himself in episode 1, and he is willing to suck up to anyone and do anything in order to not be perceived as a failure by his mother....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 6

2017/05/30 | | Permalink

"Radiant Office" has a way of sucking you in. Admittedly, I wasn't very thrilled about diving into this drama except for the fact that that it was well-cast. But each subsequent episode proves me wrong. It's a delicate drama machine that explores the office place more than the medical, and it does it beautifully. Go Ah-sung, as always, leads the cast with her sensitive performance.

As for the plot, the office politics are not in the least interesting, which is usually the case....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Lookout" Episodes 1-2

2017/05/30 | | Permalink

MBC's latest Monday/Tuesday drama "Lookout" is a 32 episode run, but don't let that number fool you. It is a part of a new test split that both MBC and SBS are trying. A single hour-long episode is chopped into two half-hour episodes and aired the same night. In terms of your time, you'll be spending 16 episodes with the characters and stories of "Lookout". It's just all in a different package. Despite the awkward cut that the split has thrown into the middle of this first episode, Director Son Hyeong-seok ("Two Weeks", "Personal Taste") and Writer Kim Soo-eun have delivered quite the riveting first two episodes....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Sassy Girl - Drama" Episodes 1-2

2017/05/29 | | Permalink

The first half of the first episode of "My Sassy Girl - Drama" consists entirely of an elaborate royal conspiracy. It involves nighttime, massive swordfights, escapes, a perilous childbirth scene, and is generally completely indistinguishable from a serious historical drama prologue. Then we flash forward ten years later and scholar Gyeon-woo (played by Joo Won) is trying to maintain balance on a boat while narrating about how cool and beloved he was back in China...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 29-30

2017/05/29 | | Permalink

The romantic subplots in "Strong Family" are really good in how they relate to each other. We have Ik-hee going through the adolescent awkwardness of a teen romance where no one knows what they're doing, Jeong-min being generally giddy about a relationship that will most likely end in marriage (because of her age), and then Miss Jo contemplating a late lifetime romance. Incidentally, Choon-seop (played by Nam Kyung-eup) is my favorite love interest of the bunch. The man really rocks his late fifties facial hair...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 12

2017/05/29 | | Permalink

Yoo-mi heads back to the beachhead where this all began, and Ji-wook follows her, as the penultimate episode mostly focuses on nostalgia. And it really is nostalgia- I remember the first episode, and I also remember that it had a radically different tone than what the flashbacks here are pretending. Yoo-mi and Ji-wook were perpetually grumpy, and only bond at all because they were both extremely drunk...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 3

2017/05/29 | | Permalink

"Circle" is a rollercoaster ride that never stops and if this is a result of its short duration, thank goodness Dramaland decided to try it. In 2017, Woo-jin and Jeong-yeon clear up some misunderstandings and unearth a disturbing secret about the suicide victims. In 2037, Joon-hyeok's suspicions are proven right, leaving him and Ho-soo struggling with their past and identities...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.05.26 ~ 2017.05.28

2017/05/29 | | Permalink

Disney's Pirates and "Our President" rule the roost...

The fifth instalment of Walt Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean"-"Dead Men Tell No Tales", by directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg-arrived in Korea last Wednesday. From 1,328 screens around the country, producer Jerry Bruckheimer's latest spectacle captured 48.41% of the sales during its opening weekend. The 1.1 million admissions ($8.9 million) the film scored is the highest weekend take for the month of May, and the film is also the fourth consecutive foreign feature to enter in first in as many weeks...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Duel"

2017/05/27 | | Permalink

Clones are the latest trend in Dramaland and like any trend in this industry, this horse will be beaten long past its expiration. For now, the still fresh topic gets its first drama with "Duel". Whether the clones in what looks like any other crime and suspense drama will be more than a gimmick remains to be seen.


Jang Deuk-cheon (Jung Jae-young) is a detective with an ill daughter. One day he becomes entagled with two clones, one innocent and one evil, and his little girl is kidnapped. The detective begins a chase against great odds to solve the mystery of his situation and find his child before it is too late...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Merciless"

2017/05/27 | | Permalink

In the opening scene of "The Merciless", a couple of obvious criminals are having a dish of seafood, and discussing the unfortunate implications of of eating cuisine that appears to be looking at you. The end to their conversation is abrupt, and when the dust has settled, Jae-ho (played by Sul Kyung-gu) gets one last ominous look at the fish, clearly the real villain. Then we see Hyeon-soo (played by Im Si-wan) exit jail and walk onto the set of a music video...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Blue Busking"

2017/05/27 | | Permalink

Ho-bin (played by Jo Han-seon) is a mildly famous person who is the drummer in an even more mildly famous band- the kind that gets booked for weddings. The other members want to try and improve their prospects with a road trip and Ho-bin, facing personal problems of his own, agrees. The gimmick is, they're going to take South Korea by donkey. While being followed by a car and camera, which kind of defeats the purpose of traveling around slowly with a donkey cart but whatever, I don't get social media marketing anyway...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Way - 2017"

2017/05/27 | | Permalink

Soon-ae (played by Kim Hye-ja), Sang-beom (played by Song Jae-ho), and Soo-mi (played by Her Jin) are old people who knew each other a very long time ago as students. They don't anymore- nor do they ever meet as adults, and we don't find out what happened to the fourth character in the flashbacks either. Going by the generally dark overall tone of "The Way - 2017", he's probably dead. Still, memories of those idyllic times pop up in their individual stories, a stark reminder of a the radically different world they now live in...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 11-12

2017/05/25 | | Permalink

The opening swordfight gives the impression that "Ruler: Master of the Mask" has decided to be an action swashbuckler about Prince Seon fighting for justice against a corrupt regime. Instead, we get a story arc about international trade with Japan. When I saw that Prince Seon had a whole gang of confederates I was sure he was going to, I don't know, steal the tax money or something. But no, he just approaches Hwa-goon to ask for a loan...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 5

2017/05/25 | | Permalink

"Man to Man" may have a dark side, but it's really just a story about three people who are growing up. In between all of that are corrupt officials doing dirty deeds to acquire lofty positions, burgeoning love triangles, and bouts of situational humor. It is the last that surprises me most, especially with the dark subject matter that surrounds Seol-woo's life as a ghost agent.

The events that tied the episode together were the romantic happenings between Seol-woo and Do-ha...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 9-10

2017/05/24 | | Permalink

I used to think that Dae-mok was smart, but his plan for maintaining power after murdering the royal family is...disappointing. And also accidentally hilarious. The other Seon does not look, sound, or act like the real Prince Seon. He couldn't fool Dae-mok for a single scene even when the unexpected help of a false witness. Yet apparently, the other Seon is now the lynchpin upon which all of Dae-mok's evil schemes rest...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 2

2017/05/24 | | Permalink

"Circle" once again proves that there is merit to a shorter series with an episode so packed that keeping up and grabbing onto every little tidbit of information is challenging. In 2017, Woo-jin gets a new study partner who challenges his hard-earned normalcy. In 2037, Joon-hyeok dives deeper into the stabilization chip and its true function. It looks like our seasoned hero holds the key to all mysteries...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 17 Final

2017/05/24 | | Permalink

The callousness never ends for our villains, who fight until the very end to turn things around for themselves and take one another down. Yeong-joo and Dong-joon's work is not done after his arrest, because there is always the trial. The time has come for everyone to pay for their sins and merits and we all know which ones owe the most. Meanwhile, Tae-gon makes a new friend in prison...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Circle" Episode 1

2017/05/23 | | Permalink

"Circle" enters the drama game today and expectations are high for a genre so rarely loved by Korean film and television. The episode introduces both timelines, their characters and the two mysteries which will unfold through their adventures. These mysteries are instantly engaging, the characters easy to feel attachment to and the pop culture references and homages abundant. There is a lot to talk about, so here we go...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 11

2017/05/23 | | Permalink

As expected, Jin-wook and Yoo-mi continue to be generally sad as they try very hard to pretend like they don't miss each other. Jin-wook, being the man, is of course the first to snap and realize that of course he loves Yoo-mi and needs her very much. But various contrivances pop up to insure that Jin-wook misunderstands what Yoo-mi is doing, until finally, a disaster comes up that's big enough to force Jin-wook to do something...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 16

2017/05/22 | | Permalink

One of the governing elements of standard villains is their refusal or even inability for remorse and redemption. "Whisper" makes this inescapably clear as Jeong-il and Soo-yeon try to one-up each other in being horrible until the very bitter end. Dong-joon and Yeong-joo can taste victory, but this victory comes at a price. As Dong-joon comes collecting dues, his own cannot be overlooked...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 10

2017/05/22 | | Permalink

I was expecting the big dramatic event that would force the rift between Jin-wook and Yoo-mi to be related to Dae-bok's meddling. But surprisingly, that all gets resolved in a single scene. An exceptionally long scene where Dae-bok and Mi-hee somehow manage to have a big fight without either of them clearly explaining what exactly it is they're fighting about. So yeah, that was pretty funny, although once the miscommunications are over with, Jin-wook and Yoo-mi proceed to spend the rest of the episode in dramatic angst...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 27-28

2017/05/22 | | Permalink

Cheon-il is having one of those days, as what first seems like a sneaky ploy by an adorable child to get spending money soon morphs into an elaborate conspiracy that leads to police involvement. And then disengagement, because Ra-yeon somewhat sensibly decides that this is not the kind of problem that the government should be involved in unless absolutely necessary. That's the main joke in episode twenty-seven, is just the brief glimpses we get of the temporarily altered family dynamic...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.05.19 - 2017.05.21

2017/05/22 | | Permalink

"Get Out", "The Merciless" and "King Arthur" take the podium...

Jordan Peele's "Get Out" (starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams and Lil Rel Howery) arrived last Wednesday to 945 screens around the country. The American horror, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival back in January, claimed pole position with 802,981 admissions (39.01%), dislodging last weekend's top film, "Alien: Covenant". The critically acclaimed "Get Out" is also the American actor and comedian's directorial debut...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 16 Final

2017/05/21 | | Permalink

All good things come to an end and new things begin, even if "Tunnel - Drama" likes to mix the "when" part of it up. Jin-woo is arrested and our characters get closure in the present. It is a time of regret, relief and redemption, but also a time of goodbyes as Gwang-ho decides to take one last run through the titular tunnel in hopes of reuniting with his family in his own time...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Lookout"

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

Revenge stemming from the sense of injustice is not a new concept in Korean drama, but where there is usually one hero fighting for their personal cause, "Lookout" inserts a cast of characters working together for the justice they have all been denied. The cast off characters offers variety and the potential for a gripping story.


"Lookout" tells the story of people whose lives have been touched by crime and the lack of justice. Detective Jo Soo-ji (Lee Si-young), who tragically loses her daughter leads the team of vigilantes as they attempt to make justice in a world where corruption and dirty interests dictate who matters in the eyes of the law...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Circle"

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

Aliens that do not come to Earth ready for romance with their reincarnated love from the Joseon dynasty have just not been a thing in Korean drama. Science fiction as a genre is a very rare one even in Korean cinema. Yet perhaps Dramaland is ready to tackle it as more than romance garnish for a change. Enter "Circle".


A mysterious disappearance and the arrival of extraterrestrial life in 2017, a mysterious murder in 2037. The story of "Circle" takes place in two timelines and it deals with a world experiencing its first alien contact and evolving through it. The citizens of the future attempt to end violence by controlling human emotion with its technology...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 15

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

The clock is ticking as Mok Jin-woo keeps Jae-i alive while he tries to get the location of his fountain pen out of her. The police team mobilizes every person they can get without making the investigation open. Unfortunately, a closed investigation does not help when the killer has a direct line to their office. The team must understand Jin-woo's past to find his location and time is running out...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Tooth and the Nail"

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

Tae-seok (played by Park Sung-woong) is a prosecutor working in South Korea in the late nineteen-forties. He is prosecuting a case where someone killed someone at the Seokjo Estate. "The Tooth and the Nail" gets off on the wrong foot almost immediately with possibly the most unnecessary framing device I've ever seen. Why not just start the story off chronologically, with traveling magician Seok-jin (played by Go Soo) getting sucked into an elaborate conspiracy with classy international man Do-jin (played by Kim Joo-hyuk) at the center?...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Daddy You, Daughter Me"

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

Sang-tae (played by Yoon Je-moon) and Do-yeon (played by Jung So-min) are daddy and daughter, respectively. Oh sure, it was fun back in the old days, when Do-yeon loved her daddy ever so much and wanted to marry him. But now Do-yeon is a teenager with her own problems and they never even have time to so much as talk to each other. Circumstance soon forces them to communicate, though, as they must spend a week in each other's bodies, avoiding detection by Sang-tae's co-workers and Do-yeon's classmates...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Koala"

2017/05/20 | | Permalink

For the first several scenes of "Koala" the general unpleasantness of being a young person in South Korea these days is played out. Dong-bin (played by Park Young-seo) had a dream of being an actor, and now he's just a salaryman. Jong-ik (played by Song Yoo-ha) is still attempting to be an actor, and it's not fun. Mutually, Dong-bin and Jong-ik decide to take a shot at deciding their own destiny for a change. Henceforth, they open a Burger Boy franchise location...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 7-8

2017/05/18 | | Permalink

If the previous set of episodes was meant to establish the hopelessness of the general universe in "Ruler: Master of the Mask" this set seems determined to prove that King Yoon was right all along. Every new plan Prince Seon comes up with ends increasingly catastrophically. Negotiation only makes people angrier. This escalates until we hit a cliffhanger that can't possibly be topped...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 5-6

2017/05/17 | | Permalink

Cheong-eun (played by Shin Hyun-soo) is, to date, the only ally Prince Seon has with any appreciable combat skills. This is put to use immediately, as Cheong-eun has to help Prince Seon fight his way out of last episode's cliffhanger. The ensuing chase, while not making the best logistical sense is very tense and action-packed. The real shocker, though, is how a confrontation between the King's men and an organized crime gang ends with King Yoon telling his own people to back off...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 15

2017/05/17 | | Permalink

The fight on all sides continues in episode fithteen of "Whisper" as alliances keep changing and new tools for manipulation keep appearing. Soo-yeon gets a taste of her own medicine as everything she has helped inflict upon others now appears at her doorstep. Things cannot end quite yet, so secrets start to surface which give different players leverage against their enemies. What will happen when all of it explodes is the question...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 30 Final

2017/05/16 | | Permalink

In a peculiar twist, it turns out that Gil-dong and friends did not, in fact, achieve even cursory reforms as a part of a a settlement when they beat King Yeonsangun's army in direct combat. All they got was...I guess some sort of license to continue wandering around the countryside beating up corrupt nobles without anyone interfering. Beyond that, the final episode mainly goes into the various fates of the characters aligned with King Yeonsangun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 9

2017/05/16 | | Permalink

I was so caught up with how Dae-bok would interpret the existence of Dong-goo (played by Joo Sang-hyeok) it never even occurred to me that Jin-wook would also be inclined to the same interpretation. And honestly, Yoo-mi is so comically mum on the whole mum issue there were moments this episode where even I was wondering- have Mi-hee and Yoo-mi ever actually explicitly stated who Dong-goo is relative to them, or have we just been assuming? These characters are so bad at communicating it's hard to tell...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 14

2017/05/16 | | Permalink

Things are getting complicated and tiresome for everyone involved as Il-hwan's arrest makes Jeong-il the next target for our heroes. Our villain fights tooth and nail for his safety and that means trying to out-bid Dong-joon for Soo-yeon's good will. Soo-yeon on the other hand is after the safety of Taebaek for the sake of her father and her choices are limited...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 5

2017/05/16 | | Permalink

It's a week of humor as the underlings watch their managers bicker and act more than a little immature. It is also a week of weighty responsibility and repercussions that may or may not be fair for those receiving them. This hefty cast of characters goes through a lot, and we with them.

Ha-won is a heroine to be admired. Her tenacity ebbs and flows along with her confidence, but she always finds her feet....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 4

2017/05/16 | | Permalink

Although danger lurks in the background, episode 4 of "Man to Man" is all about the humor and growing interpersonal relationships between the characters. It is really Seol-woo who (rather unwillingly) progresses leaps and bounds all while doing a very fine Bond impression with his super secret team of spy friends...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 25-26

2017/05/15 | | Permalink

Romantic appearances are the main element at play in these two episodes of "Strong Family". First in the twenty-fifth episode we Ra-yeon ponder that all-important question- are you living with the person that you love? Then in the twenty-sixth episode we get the somewhat ominous implications of what happens when the answer to that question is no. And with that, another implication that these questions are constantly asked on a regular basis and never really go away...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 29

2017/05/15 | | Permalink

So apparently the last episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" wasn't just climactic. It was, in fact, the climax of the entire drama. King Yeonsangun is in full on retreat. At first I thought he was just going to regroup and try again but nope, King Yeongsangun quickly regresses into a complete mental breakdown, terrifying his staff. In the end it's actually kind of refreshing that King yeonsangun just starts obsessing about art again, since there's no good way to whitewash the failure of the authority figures here to put down a rebellion...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 8

2017/05/15 | | Permalink

Everything Jin-wook does in the pool with Yoo-mi was taking things a bit too far. It's hard to hate him too much, though, since everyone knows full well that Jin-wook is taking things too far, yet they just can't bring themselves to hate him. It would be nice if we had more people's word to take for it than just Yoo-mi's. Recall that Woo-jin's softened demeanor toward Jin-wook is entirely a result of Jin-wook's actions during the timeskip...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.05.12 - 2017.05.14

2017/05/15 | | Permalink

Ridley Scott's new "Alien" bursts into first...

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demián Bichir, "Alien: Covenant"-Ridley Scott's sequel to the 2012 sci-fi horror "Prometheus"-arrived in Korea on Tuesday to 832 screens around the country. The film, the sixth in the "Alien" series, claimed 520,635 admissions (25.79%) during its first weekend out to secure the top spot, outplaying last weekend's top two films, "The Sheriff In Town" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 14

2017/05/14 | | Permalink

It is not easy discovering that your rugged resilience and athletic running can bend time, but that is exactly the unwanted ego trip our Gwang-ho receives in episode fourteen of "Tunnel - Drama". We have tearful reunions, awkward shifts in relationship dynamics and a killer who knows a bit too much for comfort. The team has to find evidence against him and guess where that evidence can be found...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 13

2017/05/14 | | Permalink

Gwang-ho has returned to his life, but there is a lot of work to be done in the past and present of "Tunnel - Drama". As our time traveling hero struggles to create a case against Mok Jin-woo at a time where technology is still underdeveloped, our team in the present start a search for their partner and look into the reason for his disappearance. Despite Gwang-ho's return, the present is not changing and we soon find out the why...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Sheriff In Town"

2017/05/13 | | Permalink

Dae-ho (played by Lee Sung-min) last had a chance to play hero was when he accidentally managed to nab Jong-jin (played by Cho Jin-woong), an idiot who got left holding the bag by some actual professionals. Now, when fate dictates that Dae-ho meets Jong-jin again, the latter man now a well respected businessman, Dae-ho concludes, logically, that Jong-jin was in fact the true evil genius all along. Throughout "The Sheriff In Town", Dae-ho works tirelessly to prove this fact, even as everyone around Dae-ho concludes, just as logically, that Dae-ho has lost his marbles...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Seeds of Violence"

2017/05/13 | | Permalink

Joo-yong (played by Lee Ga-sub) is doing his military service and like most of his countrymen, not particularly enjoying the project. But Joo-yong's predicament is particularly bad- he and most of the other members of his platoon suffer from chronic bullying. An official complaint prompting investigation of the matter only serves to intensify the cold environment of harassment. It is from this vantage point that Joo-yong learns from whence "The Seeds of Violence" come...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Blue Butterfly Effect"

2017/05/13 | | Permalink

The THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system is, we are assured, necessary to defend against the North Koreans. There's just one problem- THAAD has to be physically placed somewhere in South Korea. And former President Park Geun-hye's administration chose poorly when they decided to place THAAD near Seongju, a location with enough of a local population to push back against the prospect of an advanced electromagnetic weapons system being deployed near their children...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Super Bernard: Spy Adventures"

2017/05/13 | | Permalink

Bernard (voiced by Kim Tae-gyoon-II) is a polar bear who you might or might recognize from short cartoons (as in, three minutes long) wherein he attempts to solve some sort of simple goal. He would, say, exercise at the gym or ride an airplane or get a bird off the TV antenna, and proceed to fail in increasingly comical slapstick ways while communicating only in goofy grunts. "Super Bernard: Spy Adventures" takes this character, and puts him in the action spy format for feature length...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 3-4

2017/05/11 | | Permalink

Ga-eun (played by Kim So-hyun) is the young woman who kept getting all those dramatic camera shots in the second episode, even though at the time we had no idea who she was. Here, we quickly discover that Ga-eun is a kind woman, who assumes on general principle that anybody being chased after by armed men is probably innocent. This turns out to be a pretty reasonable assumption considering that by the end of the fourth episode...alas, the other Seon (played by L) is not so lucky as the handsome prince who shares his moniker...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Ruler: Master of the Mask" Episodes 1-2

2017/05/10 | | Permalink

Dae-mok (played by Heo Joon-ho) is the grand wizard of a massive conspiracy. Dae-mok is not literally a wizard, he just seems like one because of his mastery of spooky hallucinogens and a massive spy network capable of making these creepy physical effects pop up out of nowhere. So when Yoon (played by Kim Myung-soo) makes a deal with Dae-mok to become King, out of sheer paranoia, Yoon ends up forcing his son Seon (played by Yoo Seung-ho) to wear a mask, murdering anyone who sees Seon's face. Then Dae-mok's granddaughter Hwa-goon (played by Yoon So-hee) enters the picture and-...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 13

2017/05/09 | | Permalink

With our heroes closing in on Il-hwan, things get heated as the two villain sides try to help or stop them. Tae-gon makes his choice on which side to place his life on while Jeong-il is backed into a corner as plans Il-hwan's downfall from the sidelines. Meanwhile, Soo-yeon is running the show for her father and our villainess becomes crueler by the minute as things before more dire...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 23-24

2017/05/08 | | Permalink

The South Korean Presidential Election is today, you might have heard. I bring this up because the twenty-third episode of "Strong Family" is an obvious nod to this fact, as the lead characters engage in the kind of political campaign that people who don't know anything about politics come up with. Which is to say, that rather than talk about why they want power, Cheon-il and Ra-yeon simply come up with elaborate tactics that fail to convince anyone that they even understand what the position they're campaigning for even does...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 28

2017/05/08 | | Permalink

The twenty-eighth episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" consists entirely of a gigantic pitched battle. Well OK, technically King Yeonsangun harasses Gil-dong psychologically by dangling Ga-ryeong right in front of him, takes a break, then the battle starts when we discover Gil-dong's implausible victory strategy. But by and large it all feels like the same sequence, with King Yeonsangun on one end taking liquor shots while Gil-dong and friends are at the top of the embankment...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 7

2017/05/08 | | Permalink

One of Yoo-mi's more comforting qualities is her sincere desire to be helpful. At least, that's the sense I got from the odd scene where Jin-wook contrives a work-related reason for him to cook dinner for Yoo-mi, and Yoo-mi simply looks at the entire situation like it was an actual job and not merely a thinly veiled excuse for Jin-wook to spend time with her. Although I suppose it helps that Jin-wook himself probably believes his own ridiculous excuses...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.05.05 - 2017.05.07

2017/05/08 | | Permalink

Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" narrowly outplays "The Sheriff In Town" and "The Boss Baby" for the top spot...

The second volume of Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise arrived in Korea last Wednesday and rose to the top of the chart with 883,846 admissions (28.98%). Back in 2014, the first film grossed $773.3 million worldwide, and the sequel is expected to cross the billion dollar mark; currently, having been produced for $200 million, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (starring Chris Pratt) has already grossed over $427 million. In Korea, the film was allocated 1,218 screens around the country for its first weekend and is fast approaching 2 million admissions (currently 1.7 million, or $13.1 million)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 3

2017/05/07 | | Permalink

"Man to Man" wastes no time jumping into the action of its tale. Seol-woo and Woon-gwang's bromance quickly steams up while the search for the wooden tablets become more urgent. In the midst of it all Seol-woo slowly, and unwillingly, becomes integrated into Woon-gwang's loving gang of misfits. Against his better judgement and desires, I do believe Woon-gwang and Do-ha are getting under his skin...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Mayor"

2017/05/06 | | Permalink

Jong-goo (played by Choi Min-sik) is the mayor of Seoul, who is in the midst of running for his third term in office. Why exactly Jong-goo is so determined to hold on to power is...unclear. At this point Jong-goo seems to be working by inertia alone. The notion that he could ever not possibly be the most powerful man in the room is abhorrent to Jong-goo. To the man's credit, he does tend to only utilize his awesome political powers in the case of an emergency. There's a lot of those in an election year, as young campaign staffperson Kyeong (played by Shim Eun-kyung) learns to her slow dismay...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Suh-Suh Pyoung, Slowly and Peacefully"

2017/05/06 | | Permalink

Elizabeth Johanna Shepping's mother came to the United States in search of opportunity. That did not end well. After a disaffected childhood where she was used to having no friends, Shepping eventually moved back in with her mother and stepfather, only to have a falling out over religious differences. In her quest for salvation, Shepping eventually settles upon colonial Korea as the outlet for her work, adopting the Korean name Suh Pyoung in order to better fit in...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 28 Final

2017/05/04 | | Permalink

The ending to "Saimdang: Light's Diary" is more anticlimactic than anything else. The bad guys are almost immediately brought to justice because one essential character changes sides, and CCTV footage which should have been exposed, I don't know, a dozen episodes ago suddenly pops up out of nowhere and decisively proves that Jeong-hak was a fink all along. Meanwhile, in the past, King Jungjong is sad because it has suddenly occurred to him that persecuting artists is bad...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 6

2017/05/02 | | Permalink

It turns out Yoo-mi has one impressive quality that Jin-wook is unlikely to find anywhere else. She's good at apologizing. The irony, of course, is that Yoo-mi hasn't done anything wrong in regards to Jin-wook or his relationships. All the same, at the slightest indication that she has made either Jin-wook or Hye-ri uncomfortable, Yoo-mi demurs. And of course, Jin-wook is left in an even worse mood than usual as a result...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 12

2017/05/02 | | Permalink

Chang-ho's death means that we now have no good fathers left to speak and it seems like it is about to spark a wave of abandonment, starting in episode twelve of "Whisper". Dong-joon and Yeong-joo use everything and everyone they need to in order to get ahead of Taebaek and Bogook's masters. The time has come for our cowardly key figure,Tae-gon to face the reality of his importance...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 21-22

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

Cheon-il has just about completely disappeared from his formerly prominent position as main character. Yes, the center of the twenty-first episode does revolve around a questionable decision on his part. Overall, though, Cheon-il doesn't even really get any particularly noteworthy scenes. The main standout involves his own boss Seok-moon panicking over the prospect of spending a disproportionate amount of time waiting in sheer boredom...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 5

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

Increasingly "My Secret Romance" is getting into a holding pattern, where Jin-wook just acts generally inexplicably grumpy and is unsatisfied that his bad mood results in bad experiences. It's definite regression from the cool version of his character that we saw immediately post timeskip. Jin-wook does seem kind of cool, though, when he's rebuffing Hye-ri in about the most explicit possible terms and Hye-ri proves herself completely incapable of understanding his iciness...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 27

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

Even though they have explicitly engaged King Yeonsangun's military forces several times at this point, Gil-dong and his comrades continue to be oddly reticent when it comes to any actual clearly defined goals. Multiple public meetings are held here where various townspeople discuss the crimes committed against them by King Yeonsangun. I'm always left wondering how "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is able to feature so much talking and so little action...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 11

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

There is no friendship or loyalty between monsters and our villains are met with some tough decisions on which carrot to drop in favor of their survival. Jeong-il has to free his pursuer to trap Il-hwan and Il-hwan's enemies just keep piling up outside and inside of his doors. Yeong-joo and Dong-joon take some bold measures, but a very tough choice has to eventually be made for Yeong-joo's future...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 12

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

Our two killers finally meet and Jeong Ho-yeong starts a new game upon his departure in episode twelve of "Tunnel - Drama". The police close in on Mok Jin-woo's identity as he also closes in on who Gwang-ho really is. Just as things are about to become solved, another impossible occurrence surfaces, leaving our hero with new obstacles for the next episode...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.04.28 - 2017.04.30

2017/05/01 | | Permalink

"The Mayor" and "The King's Case Note" arrive and thrive ahead of the holidays...

Seven new films (five of which were local) entered the fray this past week as the country heads towards one of its most competitive times of the year. A string of national holidays-which includes Buddha's Birthday, Children's Day, and the upcoming presidential elections-will draw the crowds as many zero in on their nearest big screen to catch some of the season's cinematic hopefuls...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 11

2017/04/30 | | Permalink

Gwang-ho's realization of Jae-i's identity hits him like a ton of bricks, but time is of the essence even for time travelers, as Jeong Ho-yeong's arrest means that evidence needs to be found. As Jae-i assumed, the criminal's mother seems to be a key figure and so the importance of guardian and society influence is a concept which is present throughout the episode. Meanwhile, Mok Jin-woo is eying a new chess buddy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 4

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

A new episode heralds in a new company problem, and this time on "Radiant Office" the drama takes a look at nepotistic tendencies of higher management. Ho-won continues to show more spunk than ever before, fighting for her rights despite her low rank. Around her others continue to suffer due to the hierarchy, giving in or fighting in their own way....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Voice"

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

The crime genre has had its ups and downs in Dramaland, but it seems that more and more creators re starting to get where the appeal lies. Crime needs either a good investigative element to pique curiosity or a solid emotional core to appeal to feelings. When one does both, we have a truly good series. "Voice" is not perfect, but it is another step in the right direction...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 3

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

The plight of the newbie worker continues as Ho-won, Gi-taek, and Kang-ho struggle through office life, illness, ex-girlfriends, and mountainous societal and family expectations. Not only are the newbs suffering, but those at the top claw and scrape to keep their positions and one up each other. As represented in the first couple of episodes, the work place is a battlefield and people fight to survive, only in suits rather than fatigues....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 2

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

Although "Man to Man" doesn't have too much substance yet, I can genuinely say that I'm having a blast watching it. Park Hae-jin is winning; Park Seong-woong has wry comedy down pat; and Kim Min-jung, despite her annoying character, has impeccable delivery. Of course, the quality of the production is high and the writing is witty. I'm looking forward to how this show rolls out....More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Marianne and Margaret"

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

Back in 1962, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek came to the obscure island of Sorok, way on the southern tip of Korea from their home country of Austria. As nuns, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek were driven by their desire to do good works for the less fortunate, and came to Sorok Island to care for the sick. That's pretty much all they did for forty four years. Then they went back to Austria, spending the rest of their days in a nursing home...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Plan - Documentary"

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

South Korea's 2012 Presidential Election has become rather notorious of late mostly because it put such an astonishingly incompetent and corrupt leader into power. What you may not know (and what I didn't know either prior to watching "The Plan - Documentary") is that there is a not insignificant chance that Park Geun-hye's victory was the result of vote rigging. Oh don't go salivating. Director Choi Jin-seong does not name names or insinuate a conspiracy. "The Plan - Documentary" is largely a technical exercise in explaining the relative ease with which elections can be rigged, and how a lot of numbers from the 2012 South Korean Presidential Election don't add up...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Little Baby, Jaya"

2017/04/29 | | Permalink

The exploitation film is lurid for the sake of being lurid, enticing viewers with the promise that twisted depraved people will meet twisted depraved ends in the name of morose justice. The social awareness film, by contrast, seeks to make some sort of serious commentary about horrible unseen problems in daily life. "My Little Baby, Jaya" tries to be both of these things, with mixed success...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 27

2017/04/27 | | Permalink

It's more than a little late for me to be figuring this out, but apparently Lee Gyum wasn't a real person either. It's hard to tell whether this makes "Saimdang: Light's Diary" better or worse. On one end, only Saimdang's name has been sullied by the exceptionally goofy plotting of this drama. On the other end, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has spent a preposterous amount of time and effort dedicated to the romantic anguish of a fictional character whose only reason for existence is to have a tragic extramarital love affair with Saimdang...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 10

2017/04/26 | | Permalink

Being seen close to a body in Dramaland is never a promising event for one's future and in a series like "Whisper", the outcome is always predictable. Yeong-joo and Dong-joon now have two enemy sides to fight against, but those two sides are also fighting each other, complicating things for everyone. Tae-gon becomes the most important pawn for all sides while Soo-yeon finds herself in a familiar situation highlighting a theme of the drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 26

2017/04/26 | | Permalink

So it turns out Jeong-hak's thievery of Saimdang's Kumgang Mountain painting is easily detectable by anyone with proper training in classical art. This isn't exactly a surprise, considering that Sang-hyeon identified the errors in Jeong-hak's fake way back in the first episode and it was mainly hubris that prevented Jeong-hak from realizing the error himself. At the time, I was expecting the central conflict would be over Jeong-hak stubbornly refusing to acknowledge Sang-hyeon's argument even as Ji-yoon discovered the genuine painting...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 4

2017/04/25 | | Permalink

In a mildly intriguing plot twist, we discover that Jin-wook's constant pestering of Yoo-mi is less schoolboy crush and more his acting out feelings of harsh resentment for the terrible lie Yoo-mi told him three years ago. You may be wondering what possible offensive lie Yoo-mi could have told Jin-wook in the context of a one night stand and, well, it's actually a pretty convincing one in terms of offending Jin-wook. Although Jin-wook does come off as rather petty for caring about it...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 26

2017/04/25 | | Permalink

Now that Eorini has finally been identified, it's up to attempted memory triggers by her brothers and various flashbacks to explain how exactly Eorini has not been able to recognize anything of her own life. It's not clear to me that Eorini was really young enough for such brainwashing to plausibly work, and the motives for anyone to even try it in the first place were comically pointlessly evil for the sake of being evil. Haven't we had enough of that by now?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 9

2017/04/25 | | Permalink

The status quo comes crashing down in episode nine of "Whisper" as Il-hwan makes a daring move that changes the game for everyone permanently. Baek Sang-goo becomes a key witness and he is taking bids from everyone, including Dong-joon and Yeong-joo. Meanwhile the "justice pair" start planting the seeds of distrust among Jeong-il and Soo-yeon's supporters...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 19-20

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

Cheon-il is a good guy. One of the big riddles of "Strong Family" is that most of the time, Cheon-il has no idea how or why he is being a good guy. Sometimes the expectation game is not his fault- as is seen with the opening conflict, sometimes the more obviously beloved behavior of other people is what makes Ra-yeon start to overthink things. Elsewhere, Cheon-il's determination to see the worst of life is his biggest weakness. Poor Cheon-il. He just doesn't know how to read a room...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 25

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

Increasingly I find myself thinking that the most logical interpretation of Gil-dong's character in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" is that he's just a figment of King Yeonsangun's imagination, blown completely out of proportion. It's hard to think of any other reason why Gil-dong inexplicably leaves King Yeonsangun unharmed instead of just killing the guy outright. A figment of imagination, that I can understand going into long-winded speeches. But a guy who's actually going to war against the state?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 3

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

So even though we saw Yoo-mi fantasizing about meeting Jin-wook by chance again last episode, this time, Yoo-mi is doing everything she can to avoid the reality of the situation. Which makes sense. Let's recall that, three years ago, Jin-wook was kind of a jerk, and that they were both just a tad drunk. So it's easy to empathize with Yoo-mi viewing Jin-wook's dictatorial demands here as being part and parcel of a mean personality rather than an overbearing effort on his part to be cute...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man to Man" Episode 1

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

"Man to Man" hits the ground running with beautiful cinematography, a charismatic lead, and enough humor to take the edge off the many action scenes. From directors Kim Sang-ho-I ("Arang and the Magistrate") and Lee Chang-min-I ("Birth of a Beauty", "Midas"), and writer, Kim Won-seok-II ("Descendants of the Sun", "The Queen's Classroom"), this newest jTBC drama definitely pulled out all the stops to grab our attention. It makes it worthy of the first Korean drama for which Nextflix has acquired exclusive rights....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 10

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

Our killers get increasingly frustrated in episode ten of "Tunnel - Drama", as the only person on the side of the law who can understand their signatures is Jae-i. Aside from delivering a timeline and recap of the murders, the episode also presents our killers with some surprises. After a conflict with Gwang-ho, Jae-i makes a bold and very dangerous decision about her involvement in the case...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.04.21 - 2017.04.23

2017/04/24 | | Permalink

"The Fate of the Furious" retains pole position...

The eighth instalment in the "Fast and the Furious" series of action films, "The Fate of the Furious", claimed pole position during its second weekend out, moving its bottom line to over $18.9 million (2.5 million admissions). From 1,282 screens (down from 1,468), F. Gary Gray's high-octane action outing captured 57.29% of the sales (678,179 admissions; worldwide, "F8" has now grossed more than $772.4 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 9

2017/04/23 | | Permalink

A frightening, yet not unanticipated twist is finally delivered in episode nine of "Tunnel - Drama" and it is about to cause many new concerns for our leads and new questions for us. The time has also come to learn more about Jeong Ho-yeong's past and the focus starts to shift toward finding out what drives him and what has caused the particular preferences that seem to govern his M.O...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 15

2017/04/23 | | Permalink

The events of "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" climax in the penultimate episode, sticking the sadistic Jang-hyeon behind bars where he belongs and showing off that Bong-soon is made of greater stuffs than she first believed. Along with the positives, there were a few negatives, mainly in how the show arrived at this point. Those negatives are offset by the ridiculous cute chemistry between Bong-soon and Min-hyeok....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 16 (Final)

2017/04/23 | | Permalink

We've made it to the final episode of "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" and what an eventful journey it has been. From silly gangsters, to doppelgangers, to evil kidnappers, to the strong woman herself, this drama has fit in a little of just about everything. Let's talk about the finale and send off this drama with happy hearts....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Fantastic"

2017/04/22 | | Permalink

If there is one thing to say about "Fantastic" is that the drama has bold ideas. Combining the promise of a happy, light series with the premise of its lead dying of cancer is a very daring move, although one Dramaland has not succeeded very well in yet. Still, this drama tries to juggle the illness, romance and a hefty dose of family drama to go with...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "House of the Disappeared"

2017/04/22 | | Permalink

In the opening scene of "House of the Disappeared", Mi-hee (played by Kim Yoon-jin) comes upon horror. Her husband has been stabbed, and her son is only briefly visible before unseen forces drag him off into the unknown. The authorities conclude that, somehow, Mi-hee was responsible for these crimes, and she comes out of prison twenty five years later an old woman, still muttering about the monstrous forces at work in her house. Father Choi (played by Ok Taecyeon), an old family friend, hears Mi-hee out as she delves into her own memories, trying to find an answer...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Gag Powerful Man"

2017/04/22 | | Permalink

While cartooning is generally thought of as a medium for children, as long as there have been cartoons, there have been crude distorted versions. The twenty-first century has been very kind to crude cartoons, as technology advances have made it easy for anyone to make static, repetitive animations which shock via overt graphic violence and explicit sexual titillation. "Gag Powerful Man" is a traditionally Korean themed version of such a cartoon, in feature length form...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cherry Blossoms, Again"

2017/04/22 | | Permalink

Jang Beom-june was the leading singer/songwriter for Busker Busker, an independent rock band from Cheonan. Today he...still writes and performs music, just as a solo artist. Jang Beom-june owes his presence in South Korean musical culture largely to one song- "Cherry Blossom Ending" which appears every spring in the South Korean music charts. But aside from that, Jang Beom-june also writes and performs other songs. Sometimes he even does covers...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 25

2017/04/20 | | Permalink

It's back to the framing device as Ji-yoon...pretty much gives up on any hope of recovering the painting and just goes on a road trip with her son. This road trip is rather geographically challenged. Ji-yoon's father lives in Pyeongtaek, yet the first place they end up going is Chuncheon, which is practically on the opposite side of the country. All while Ji-yoon is holding down a teaching job apparently...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 14

2017/04/20 | | Permalink

Bong-soon must get used to life without her strength, but it is more difficult than she thought. More than anything she needs the support of her loved ones, and luckily she gets exactly that. But she can't rest easy, not with an egomanical kidnapper on the lose and intent on revenge. Although this episode has deceptively adorable scenes, its heart lies with Bong-soon and her ability to become a hero....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 13

2017/04/20 | | Permalink

The events of this episode of "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" aren't surprising, but are surprisingly well-played. Determination born from despair drives Bong-soon to save her kidnapped friend, a situation common to heroes. Along the way she makes some difficult decisions, faces off with her nemesis, and struggles to reconcile all the disparate parts of her very complicated life....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 24

2017/04/19 | | Permalink

Try as I might it's surprisingly difficult to parse the motives of any of the antagonists in "Saimdang: Light's Diary". This is especially awkward since the drama is now at the climax and everyone's getting their comeuppance/unjust victory. Headmistress Choi is jealous. It's dumb but it makes sense. Everyone else? Chi-hyeon is evil for the sake of being evil. Won-soo hates his wife and apparently his children too. King Jungjong is...I don't know, suddenly not appreciative of art any more?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 2

2017/04/18 | | Permalink

In a somewhat perplexing plot twist, right after the recap of the one night stand, there's a three year time skip and all of a sudden Jin-wook and Yoo-mi seem like completely different characters. Far from being the playboy we last saw, Jin-wook is now taking his corporate responsibilities very seriously. Yoo-mi has picked herself up emotionally and shows remarkable dexterity as a cafeteria chef. About the only commonality they have is their shared wistfulness about meeting that one special person three years ago...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 24

2017/04/18 | | Permalink

While the last episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" was noticeably laggard when it came to obvious action or plot movement, I was still caught rather off guard by just how little happens this episode. Yes, at the end we get the smoke bombs and Gil-dong's full team decked out in masks prepared to do something obviously really cool. But until we get to that point, everyone just keeps talking in circles and endlessly rearranging pieces on the board...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 8

2017/04/18 | | Permalink

The hinted rift between our lovebird antagonists cannot stop expanding and it is aided by Yeong-joo and Dong-joon's actions, but also by the two elders who want to win over their rival. The desperate villains are starting to change their mind on their loyalties and this yields importance evidence for our heroes' case. At the same time, the shift of alliances creates new dangers and the suggestion for an unwelcome compromise...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 17-18

2017/04/17 | | Permalink

For the first time, Cheon-il uses his tracksuit for its intended purpose- as workout clothes, in anticipation of the big company athletic competition which he ends up taking far, far too aggressively. I was a little disappointed that Cheon-il's training montage is just general athletics. It would have made for a much funnier overall joke if Cheon-il had been taking mixed martial arts lessons and his performance on the field was a result of his mis-applying those skills in the wrong context...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 23

2017/04/17 | | Permalink

King Yeonsangun starts us off by declaring a war on babies. I...wish I was exaggerating but King Yeonsangun really does jump from typical jerk evil to cartoonish supervillain evil so fast that I barely had time to process what was happening before babies started getting smothered to death. My initial concerns about this being mere egregious scriptwriting are mostly alleviated by mid-episode recitations of what I presume are actual royal orders that are consistently in line with King Yeonsangun's actions in the drama...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "My Secret Romance" Episode 1

2017/04/17 | | Permalink

Jin-wook (played by Sung Hoon) is a playboy and a bit of a jerk. The first we see of the guy, he takes over a party and then walks back his sexiness with a rather ridiculous sounding excuse. As mean and selfish as Jin-wook seems at first glance, we do find out by the end that the excuse is actually evidence of Jin-wook's secret good side. Which is fortunate, since up until that point, we frequently see Jin-wook get in trouble for stuff that's not actually his fault, yet never does he seem all that sympathetic...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 7

2017/04/17 | | Permalink

Dong-joon's newfound confidence and rediscovered sense of justice make him determined to take down Jeong-il and set things right for Yeong-joo and her family. The several antagonists of "Whisper" are starting to feel the pressure of their power games and cracks have begun to form in their mighty facade. Everyone has reasons to fight which are important to them and this means that backing down indefinitely is not something they are willing to do...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.04.14 - 2017.04.16

2017/04/17 | | Permalink

"The Fate of the Furious" overtakes "Beauty and the Beast" for pole position...

Bill Condon's "Beauty and the Beast" was unable to secure a fifth-straight run at the top because of the arrival of a high-octane action film from director F. Gary Gray. "The Fate of the Furious" (also known as Fast & Furious 8), the eighth film in the franchise, arrived last Wednesday and scooped up the lion's share of the stubs (63.82%); from 1,467 screens around the country, "The Fate of the Furious" claimed 1.05 million admissions ($10.5 million). The film, which cost $250 million to produce, boasts an ensemble cast including Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, and others. Worldwide, the 'F8' has already grossed over half a billion dollars...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 8

2017/04/16 | | Permalink

Grab a hanky and brace for a very personal, very emotional episode of "Tunnel - Drama". Seon-jae can no longer doubt Gwang-ho's identity and so our in-the-know duo becomes a trio. In the process of wrapping up a new case, Gwang-ho picks up on Yeon-sook's trail and finally gets to know her fate. Meanwhile, Jae-i notices the change of M.O in the serial killings just as Jeong Ho-yeong begins again, a decision which seems to be related to Seon-jae's contact with him...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 7

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

It is revelations galore in episode seven of "Tunnel - Drama" as the modern Gwang-ho's connection to our leads becomes clearer. Gwang-ho's identity is compromised as Seon-jae refuses to let go. Meanwhile, hidden parts of Jae-i's past are about to make their entrance, and it looks like Gwang-ho's protective behavior towards her is exactly what surely many of us will have guessed it to be by now...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Day"

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

Kang-soo (played by Kim Nam-gil) is an insurance adjuster who has had a very, very rough time as of late. His wife Seon-hwa (played by Im Hwa-young) is dead, and all Kang-soo can do to distract himself from the misery is focus on his work and get drunk at night in a feeble effort to alleviate the pain. So it's little surprise that when Mi-so (played by Chun Woo-hee) asks Kang-soo the rather peculiar question "can you see me?", Kang-soo is evasive and fails to catch on to the strange evolving situation...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Line"

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

The year is 2005. That's...kind of recent in nostalgia terms. Yes, those were the days back when everyone had fliptop phones and computers monitors were still the size of TVs- these being the days before flatscreen TVs. Anyway, Min-jae (played by Im Si-wan) is a college student who teams up with big time swindler Seok-goo (played by Jin Goo) to fight corporate greed by helping low-income people qualify for loans by manipulating bank systems in such a way that people are granted loans when they don't actually have proper credit for them...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Step"

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

In the opening scene of "One Step", Si-hyeon (played by Sandara Park) is hit with tragedy, and wakes up an amnesiac with a bad physical reaction to music. So now she lives with aerobics instructor Ji-won (played by Hong Ah-reum). Together, they get the idea to piece together Si-hyeon's memories using her vague memory of a simple tune. That's when they enlist the help of writer's block hobbled songwriter turned name that tune radio guy Jee-yeol (played by Han Jae-suk)...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 12

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

"Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" has finally found its stride. With major foreshadowing of things to come, an actively creepy villain, and a romance in full bloom, this cast of characters charges full steam ahead towards its last episodes....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 11

2017/04/15 | | Permalink

The love triangle blooms and dies rather quickly in this episode, but its demise is quite possibly one of my favorite shifts in a second lead that I've seen on Korean television. Accompanying the demise of Gook-doo's hope in starting a relationship with Bong-soon is the utter delight that is Min-hyeok courting Bong-soon. Around the dynamics of romantic relationships looms the ever present Jang-hyun, crafty kidnapper and man bereft of a moral compass...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 23

2017/04/12 | | Permalink

While "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has always suffered from direct comparison to the also currently airing "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People", the timing this week is especially unfortunate. The latter drama just explicitly made a point about how proper representation of women in the arts is a completely meaningless victory in the context of a political situation so bad that people are actively being murdered. As a result, the plot in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" about Saimdang heroically striking a blow for women everywhere by painting the king's portrait just comes off as really awkward...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 22

2017/04/11 | | Permalink

Gil-dong is still going through the wringer as "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" makes the most of its runtime to show that our noble hero is suffering with little to no apparent hope and sight. What's worse, the people suffer with him. King Yeonsangun shows off a nasty sadistic streak, not just by bullying Gil-dong in person, but also by showing off to Gil-dong all the people he can't protect. Which of course includes more gratutitous crying infants...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 6

2017/04/11 | | Permalink

With the addition of time to the list of everything going against Yeong-joo's efforts in "Whisper", our heroine is stuck in limbo as our antagonists play their little games. Il-hwan wants to cut Yoo-taek off from Taebaek, but his frenemy has quite the hefty request in return. Meanwhile Jeong-il and Soo-yeon are trapped between their families and rely on a very important document, which becomes an item currently desired by all...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 15-16

2017/04/10 | | Permalink

The two main conflicts this time are, for episode fifteen, the question of how to best spend vacation time, and for episode sixteen, the question of how to deal with incrementally chaotic financial situations. As is usually the case for "Strong Family", the conflicts are defined by their relatively minor scope. These are the sorts of issues normal families have to deal with on a regular basis, so the problems are quite easy to discuss...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 21

2017/04/10 | | Permalink

Gil-dong's big plan for trying get out of prison is just to try and have faith in King Yeonsangun's better nature. This seems logical enough from our perspective, since the scope of King Yeonsangun's involvement in all the bad stuff that's been happening has been murky at best. It's a bit more difficult to justify why Gil-dong thinks this is a good idea, since he has no reason to believe King Yeonsangun has any moral scruples...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 5

2017/04/10 | | Permalink

The cat is out of the bag and now four leads get to engage in backstabbing pleasantries for episode five of "Whisper". Dong-joon is looking for allies in an effort to keep himself safe and conquer Taebaek. Il-hwan tries to help for his own revenge, but his pull is limited by his daughter's affiliations. Yeong-joo is pushed into a corner and makes some desperate decisions upon receiving bad news regarding her father's health...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 6

2017/04/10 | | Permalink

My wish to be given time for processing all of our information is granted, because episode six of "Tunnel - Drama" takes a break from exploring the persons involved in the standalone cases and instead uses its new crime to progress the main plot and tease at more possible killers. I see suspects everywhere, some of which are faces we know from the past and some of which might still be hidden...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.04.07 ~ 2017.04.09

2017/04/10 | | Permalink

"Beauty and the Beast" holds off "The Prison" to secure its fourth weekend at the top...

For the fourth straight weekend, Bill Condon's update on Disney's 1991 classic "Beauty and the Beast" (starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens) has remained Korea's film of choice. The 347,085 admissions (26.96%) it claimed over the weekend pushes its total tally in Korea now 4.6 million ($33.2 million), making it the highest-grossing foreign film of the year, as well as the third highest overall ("Confidential Assignment" and "The King" are one and two respectively). Worldwide, "Beauty and the Beast" has grossed nearly a billion dollars...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 5

2017/04/09 | | Permalink

Isolation is the prominent theme in episode five of "Tunnel - Drama" and the series uses it to reveal its cards about some topics which have been teased. Seon-jae's identity is provided and we now see his issues clearly. While investigating a case cut off from the world, our characters have to deal with some of their own demons and approach the hidden culprit not only with evidence, but their own humanity in mind...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 10

2017/04/09 | | Permalink

"Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" is clipping right along, growing its romance in a most satisfying way. The case is stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the cleverness of the villain, Kim Jang-hyeon (Jang Mi-kwan), but that does not prevent the headstrong Gook-doo from doggedly pursuing justice....More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Prison"

2017/04/08 | | Permalink

The year is 1995. Yoo-geon (played by Kim Rae-won) is a bad dude- so bad, he even gets a special color nametag on his prison jumpsuit. Soon after arrival Yoo-geon manages to get into a fight with top dog Chang-gil (played by Shin Sung-rok), who is also a bad dude that does not know the meaning of surrender. Once the baddest dude in the room has been established, it's then on to the baddest dude in the whole prison, Ik-ho (played by Han Suk-kyu) who takes the meaning of the term "bad dude" to a whole another level...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "On the Beach at Night Alone" + Poster Giveaway

2017/04/08 | | Permalink

Yeong-hee (played by Kim Min-hee)  is a film actress with surprisingly little to do in her copious free time. Allegedly, Yeong-hee does have friends, but Yeong-hee's conversations with them frequently descend into self-deprecating melancholy. I mean really, what else do you call nonchalant references to extramarital affairs, coupled with the suspicious insistence that nah, I don't really care even though it's apparently the only thing I can think of to talk about? Yeong-hee lives in her own sad little world, and through "On the Beach at Night Alone", we feel sorry for her...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Collision"

2017/04/08 | | Permalink

Normally I like to start these reviews out with a basic description of the movie's action. Who are the characters? What are they doing? Why should we care? "Collision" is rather challenging in this regard, because as much as I try, it's hard to even so much as generalize their motives. I mean, all right, yeah, they don't want to be violently murdered in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Does anyone really?...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 22

2017/04/06 | | Permalink

The central conflict this time around deals with sexism against women in Joseon. On its face this entire idea is a little odd, considering that Saimdang herself was a famous artist who was appreciated in her time. What's more, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has consistently had unnamed characters react to Saimdang's gender with a sense of novelty, rather than revulsion. So for people to suddenly have a hissy fit about Saimdang going beyond her station marks a rather serious break with continuity...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 21

2017/04/05 | | Permalink

Princess Jeong-soon (played by Lee Joo-yeon-I) is, at present, my most disliked character in "Saimdang: Light's Diary". This isn't because there's anything wrong with Princess Jeong-soon or the actress playing her. In fact, Princess Jeong-soon is one of the few people we see demonstrating a consistent interest in painting. That's why I hate her- time and again "Saimdang: Light's Diary" treats Princess Jeong-soon's interest in painting as if it were some form of naïve idiocy...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 4

2017/04/04 | | Permalink

There is justice in the world after all, or at least the world of Park Kyeong-soo. Dong-joon gets a rude awakening about his importance in Taebaek which changes the terms of his collaboration with Yeong-joo. The newly discovered deadly lover duo gets serious with its scheming and spares no one in order to protect their better half. With Yeong-joo's identity compromised, the time has come for alliances to be reassessed...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 4

2017/04/04 | | Permalink

We take a small break from the serial killings in "Tunnel - Drama" as Gwang-ho and the station group try to solve a series of break ins and a related murder. Seong-sik confronts Gwang-ho with his confession and that brings about a bigger need for caution on their part. Episode four also provides us with some much needed backstory for Jae-i and Seon-jae. The identity of the Gwang-ho born in 1988 is revealed and the serial killer resurfaces...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 20

2017/04/04 | | Permalink

So it turns out the whole run-in with the foreign invaders really was just a one-off plot point intended to establish how Gil-dong and his team are the unambiguous good guys. In context that's not quite as cheesy as it sounds, since some serious discussion is given to the idea of how Gil-dong's popularity is a risk to the ruling class mostly because people like him. They don't especially like King Yeonsangun...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 9

2017/04/04 | | Permalink

Bong-soon the heroine is starting to emerge from her shell with determination that bubbles from within and finessed training given by Min-hyeok. As she grows, those around her are starting to realize just what she's made of, whether for better or for worse.

One of the most important realizations comes when Gook-doo witnesses Bong-soon's incredible strength first hand...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 3

2017/04/03 | | Permalink

Yeong-joo continues to dig deeper and Dong-joo continues to become more and more disgusting in episode three of "Whisper". Soo-yeon has picked up on the fact that Dong-joon is being blackmailed and she tries to weasel the culprit's name out of him. Meanwhile Jeong-il has his own revelations and things become clearer regarding the different alliances and conflicting interests within Taebaek...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 19

2017/04/03 | | Permalink

Early on, there's a nice parallel philosophical discussion between King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong where they ponder over what the true relationship and distinction is between the ruler and the ruled. The scenes are amusing less because King Yeonsangun and Gil-dong bring up interesting ideas as they are because of the radically different context. King Yeonsangun just ponders generically because he's the king and has nothing better to do. Whereas Gil-dong is in jail...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 13-14

2017/04/03 | | Permalink

A lot of the story in "Strong Family" is very low key. I know that the central plot of the thirteenth episode was Ra-yeon trying and inevitably becoming frustrated with her attempts to fit in to a more high class mom clique. I also know that the central plot of the fourteenth episode was Cheon-il's rather creepy fixation with the person who lives upstairs and generally irritates Ra-yeon with constant cigarette smoke. Beyond that, though, what we have are a lot of very small plots with frustratingly little development...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.03.31 ~ 2017.04.02

2017/04/03 | | Permalink

Foreign fairytale narrowly outplays "The Prison" for the top spot...

"Beauty and the Beast", Bill Condon's re-imagining of Disney's classic fairytale, fended off a flood of new entries last weekend to secure a second week at the top. Now in its third weekend, the film once again narrowly retained pole position by capturing 32.51% of the sales (650,185 admissions). That sum moves its bottom line in Korea now to over 4 million admissions ($30.1 million) and is currently the third highest-grossing film of the year behind "The King" (5.3 million) and "Confidential Assignment" (7.8 million). Worldwide, "Beauty and the Beast" is closing in on a billion dollars in sales: $876.3 million...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Mystery Queen"

2017/04/02 | | Permalink

The concept of the "ajumma", the older married woman has had a rough times. While often a stereotype to be ridiculed and kept within traditional confines, it has begun taking more progressive forms as Korean drama evolves. In this case, our "Mystery Queen" will cook dinner, then arrest your sorry hide.


Yoo Seol-ok (Choi Kang-hee) is a woman who married early and had to give up on her dream of becoming a detective. Ha Won-seung (Kwon Sang-woo) is a detective who thinks with his fists. When Seol-ok becomes involved in a case, she gets another chance at her dream. The two characters do not get along, but they have to work together...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Voice" Episode 16 (final)

2017/04/02 | | Permalink

It's time to say goodbye to "Voice". I've had some time to think about this and I have to say, the entire series, while somewhat exciting, was a bit lackluster. What caused that was poor editing and character development. It was in no way a fault of Jang Hyuk or Kim Jae-wook, two of the strongest actors in the cast. It's unfortunate because this show could've been so much more....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 8

2017/04/02 | | Permalink

Although Bong-soon has often repeated her desire to do right by the people of her neighborhood with her strength, that strength is often warped into a tool for needless violence. While she indeed grows, it's not enough to counter the discrepancies in what she and those around her do and what they say they will do. Added to this is the strange development of multiple characters. Despite all this, "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" does retain an element of cuteness, mostly due to Park Bo-young and the cutesy editing....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 3

2017/04/01 | | Permalink

It is starting to dawn on our protagonist that perhaps there is a reason behind his impossible situation. Episode three of "Tunnel - Drama" is all about ghosts from the past and Gwang-ho thinks that catching them will be his ticket back home. Seon-jae and Jae-i form a rapport as they try to find the killer while our hero is left to fend for himself. As he starts making the connection between the past murders and the current one, Seong-sik becomes suspicious...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Missing 9"

2017/04/01 | | Permalink

"Survival " reality shows have been done in every way imaginable. Most look scripted and thankfully have limits their concepts cannot cross. So what if we take their core concept over to fiction, spice up the conflict, add a murderous participant and remove the outside world entirely? Welcome to "Missing 9"; an interesting idea which creates good entertainment, until it sadly becomes too derailed to enjoy...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bluebeard"

2017/04/01 | | Permalink

Seung-hoon (played by Cho Jin-woong) is a gastroenterologist of limited social skills. Hence why he's split up from his obviously gorgeous wife Soo-jeong (played by Yoon Se-ah) and completely oblivious to the attentions of attending nurse Mi-yeon (played by Lee Chung-ah). What does interest Seung-hoon is the obsessive world of detective mysteries where every minor detail is an important clue to unraveling the identity of the true criminal. Finding such a clue to a real life crime during an apparently routine colonoscopy, well, that's where Seung-hoon's troubles begin...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Part-Time Spy"

2017/04/01 | | Permalink

Yeong-sil (played by Kang Ye-won) is a loser. She's in her mid-thirties yet has spent almost her entire adult life working weird part-time jobs in the desperate hope of being called up for a real interview for a full-time position one of these days. And once Yeong-sil finally manages to get oh-so-perilously close to success...she's forced to work overtime to take down a voice phishing scam, when this is obviously not in her job description. On the flip side, Jeong-an (played by Han Chae-ah) is a cop- and taking down voice phishing scams is in her job description...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Ordinary Person"

2017/04/01 | | Permalink

The time is 1987. Seong-jin (played by Son Hyun-joo) is an ordinary police officer who gets tapped by Gyoo-nam (played by Jang Hyuk), a high-ranking member of South Korea's police state hierarchy, to investigate a serial murder case. Well, "investigate" is kind of a strong word. Gyoo-nam already knows who he wants to blame for the killings, and Seong-jin is involved mainly to avoid raising suspicion that the whole thing is frame-up job intended for political purposes...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 20

2017/03/30 | | Permalink

It occurred to me near the episode that, in addition to her reputation as an artist, Saimdang is also well-known for embodying Confucian standards of feminity. Which is to say, she was a dutiful wife and an attentive mother. In their increasingly bizarre effort to make Saimdang seem heroic for doings things the real Saimdang almost certainly did not do, the production team behind "Saimdang: Light's Diary" has managed to achieve negative knowledge. A person who doesn't know any better will come away from this drama knowing less about Saimdang than when they started...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 19

2017/03/29 | | Permalink

Apparently the production team has realized that they've made Won-soo too sympathetic, ruining what little chemistry Saimdang and Lee Gyum have. So naturally, "Saimdang: Light's Diary" fixes this by...having Won-soo start an affair with a daft idiot. You know, the real-life Won-soo knew he was marrying an unusually intelligent and well-educated woman. Given the standards of the time this could potentially make Won-soo an interesting character in his own right. Instead he's just a sitcom buffoon...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Woman Do Bong-soon" Episode 7

2017/03/29 | | Permalink

Romance and mystery develop more fully this episode, but the development is disjointed. Characters grow in awkward spurts while revelations are made jarringly. The highlight of this choppy episode was Park Hyung-sik as a heartbroken Min-hyeok.

We see the strength of his acting when he realizes he has been betrayed by his favorite brother...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 18

2017/03/28 | | Permalink

So apparently...Moley was Gil-dong's true rival this entire time? That's the main revelation which surprised me here. It does admittedly explain things like why Moley's outfit is just a black version of what Gil-dong is always wearing, and Gil-dong does need someone to stand up to him the feats of strength department. All the same, Moley was just a random side character who really didn't seem all that important. Until this episode I don't think I noticed he even had a backstory...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 2

2017/03/28 | | Permalink

Our heroine has no time to lose in involving the man who doomed her father. Dong-joon finds himself forced to help her look for the killer through his new masters. Episode two of "Whisper" throws us right into the dirty world of Taebaek and its top lawyers, who all seem knee deep in its criminal activities. With Yeong-joo's father feeling ill and time running short, our protagonist takes desperate measures...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 11-12

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

After a couple of fairly strong episodes last week about lost dreams and obsessing over the teenage daughter's boyfriend, "Strong Family" is on weaker footing here with a storyline about annoying relatives refusing to leave the house because they're too busy gambling and annoying interns not knowing when to be quiet and stop pestering the regular employees. Or I don't know, maybe it's just me that thinks this is weaker ground, since I've never had to deal with those specific problems personally...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 17

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

For a brief moment Ga-ryeong shows herself to be smarter than she looks when it comes to questions of imminent personal danger. Alas, right when Ga-ryeong is starting to seem important and interesting "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" decides not to give her any screen time, instead focusing on various points of back story that we know which the actual characters are as of yet still mostly ignorant. Also Gil-dong appears to be trying to gaslight King Yeonsangun...More

[HanCinema's Concert Review] SHINee World V in Dallas

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

After two tantalizing fanmeets in 2016 and a few short appearances at North American KCons and festivals, SHINee has finally brought full-length concerts to North America! The U.S. saw two concerts this past weekend, one in Grand Prairie, Texas on Friday May 24, and the other in L.A. on Sunday May 26.

HanCinema attended the Dallas concert where fans queued up late morning to collect merchandise, many dressed in their SHINee best. ...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Whisper" Episode 1

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

Episode one throws us ruthlessly into the dark world of "Whisper" and shoves all the things to be expected from such stories right into our collective faces. There are victims, evil perpetrators and corrupt officials who create more victims, including their own conscience. At the same time, the drama's eagerness to cut right to the chase leaves me with little to no time for connecting to the characters at the moment...More

[HanCinema's Box Office Review] 2017.03.24 - 2017.03.26

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

A flood of new entries fail to subdue "Beauty and the Beast"...

Despite the flood of new entries, foreign and domestic, Disney's musical fantasy "Beauty and the Beast" narrowly retained pole position by capturing 40.98% of the sales. With the million admissions the film scored over the weekend, Bill Condon's remake now moves its total tally in Korea to 3.1 million, or $23.1 million; "Beauty and the Beast" is only 500,000 short of becoming the third highest-grossing film in Korea this year...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 2

2017/03/27 | | Permalink

The time travel element is introduced in episode two of "Tunnel - Drama" and it comes with some unnerving albeit helpful manifestations for our stranded detective. Gwang-ho deals with the shock of his current situation while at the same time trying to fit in and keep up. We get a new main character who is shrouded in mystery, but familiar people and faces from the past are also complicating the mystery and Gwang-ho's confusion...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Tunnel - Drama" Episode 1

2017/03/26 | | Permalink

"Tunnel - Drama" wastes no time and throws our kind detective, Park Gwang-ho, right into the deep end. A series of murders take place in the otherwise peaceful area of Hwayang and while no one in the force can even fathom the possibility of a serial killer, our hero starts to pick up on the similarities as more and more women die at the hands of the elusive murderer no one can close in on...More

[HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Whisper"

2017/03/25 | | Permalink

The critically acclaimed and much beloved PD and writer duo of "Punch - Drama" is back for more twisted goodness in the legal thriller "Whisper". A straightforward story of revenge and justice on paper, "Whisper" sounds much more interesting when we look at the names attached.


Detective Sin Yeong-joo (Lee Bo-young) wants revenge against the people who wronged her father. She enters a troubled partnership with judge Lee  Dong-joon (Lee Sang-yoon), the man who convicted her father for murder. The pair seeks out the truth and becomes romantically involved in the process...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Solomon's Perjury"

2017/03/25 | | Permalink

"Solomon's Perjury" is an odd work. Deviating from the more popular crime genre, the series is essentially a mock-courtroom drama. It also features a main cast of characters who are predominantly in their teens, bringing their stories out of cutesy youth dramas or adult characters' flashbacks and into a more contemplative one about growth, challenges, morality and personal responsibility on the cusp of adulthood...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Artist: Reborn"

2017/03/25 | | Permalink

In-sook (played by Ryu Hyun-kyung) is an artist in her thirties who has returned to South Korea after a long stint in Denmark as "Gisele", a personality enamored with abstract compositions and also acting generally antisocial and unpleasant. No really, Gisele has this fantastic talent for sabotaging herself at every turn. First it's getting drunk and antagonizing the renowned art critic Joong-sik (played by Lee Soon-jae). Then it's getting drunk and belittling art dealer Jae-beom (played by Park Jung-min). You can perhaps see the pattern behind Gisele's failures in life...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Behead the King"

2017/03/25 | | Permalink

Normally when I write that a movie or drama makes a mockery of history I mean that it does so by portraying events in an exceptionally stupid and implausible way. "Behead the King" mocks history rather differently- most of the story is quite plausible, it's just shockingly crude. Say, a teenage king laughing at farts. Or common people engaging in a professional wrestling style farce. Or nobles passing morality laws while they themselves engage in lewd and indecent sexual acts...More

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Trumpet On The Cliff"

2017/03/25 | | Permalink

Aoi (played by Nanami Sakuraba) is a young Japanese student suffering from a heart condition. Even so, Aoi's mother Michuko (played by Otsuka Nene) encourages the girl to just make a point of enjoying herself on beautiful Okinawa. It isn't long before Aoi meets Ji-oh (played by L.Joe) a mysterious local boy who makes a point of coming out every once in awhile to play beautiful trumpet music to the ocean. Together, they enjoy themselves...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 18

2017/03/23 | | Permalink

Initially I was wondering whether I had somehow missed an episode of "Saimdang: Light's Diary". The last thing we saw was the grand art heist, and the recap reminds us about the big fire so...why are we starting out with Internet searches, familial awkwardness and comic relief about clothes? Then we get back to the art heist and it really doesn't help the drama's credibility when even the police officer in-story thinks it sounds improbable...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Three Color Fantasy - Queen of the Ring" Episodes 5-6

2017/03/23 | | Permalink

Now that the magical powers of the ring have been exposed, Nan-hee can not in good conscience use it anymore. Even so, she rather inevitably has to give it a final go if only to give Se-geon the special present she ordered, and then just do her best to drop out of Se-geon's life for good. Predictably this does not go as planned, and the fifth episode closes out rather ominously with a major confrontation between the four main characters over what, in truth, attractiveness really is...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Saimdang: Light's Diary" Episode 17

2017/03/22 | | Permalink

Director Yoon Sang-ho can throw all the pretty lighting and musical cues at Lee Gyum and Saimdang as he wants. But at the end of the day, a single look of genuine meaningful concern from Won-soo about Saimdang's safety has a lot more impact than anything Lee Gyum has done over the entire course of the drama. I really like Yoon Da-hoon. He's pretty much the only actor in "Saimdang: Light's Diary" who consistently comes off as believable and sympathetic, although it does help that his character is written somewhat realistically...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Voice" Episode 15

2017/03/21 | | Permalink

The final showdown is upon us. Tae-goo's thirst for sadism wins over reason and his father's begging. Unleashed, Tae-goo is terrifying in the fact that he is unhinged and uncontrollable. Kwon-joo and Jin-hyeok endeavor to shut him down for good, but his network is powerful.

Tae-goo, however, often works outside his network, giving Jin-hyeok and Kwon-joo a huge mess to clean up....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 16

2017/03/21 | | Permalink

I realized this episode, with some trepidation, that far from having a clear goal in mind Gil-dong's entire operation is little more than an organized crime outfit. Granted, they tend to go after people who probably deserve it. Even so, beating up people on the street who are rude little jerks seems a bit beneath the lofty visions of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" and indeed, if we take the position that might makes right that uh, kind of validates the entire unjust system Gil-dong is supposed to be fighting against...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Voice" Episode 14

2017/03/21 | | Permalink

It is a game of cat and mouse. Kwon-joo and Jin-hyeok have cottoned onto Tae-goo's identity and the source of his power and insanity. Kim Jae-wook carries the episode on his very capable shoulders as he shoes that Tae-goo is a very terrifyingly unhinged man. Unfortunately, he has the power, money, and intelligence to mask his evil deeds from society....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Radiant Office" Episode 2

2017/03/21 | | Permalink

"Radiant Office" is shaping up to be an office drama with a touch of chaebol, medical, and fantasy thrown into the mix. While the tone was peculiar, it wasn't unpleasant. The chemistry of the three contract workers, Ho-won, Gi-taek, and Kang-ho, is absolutely delightful. They start to navigate the murky waters of the hierarchical Korean workplace and find many similarities to the real world....More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People" Episode 15

2017/03/20 | | Permalink

Ja-won (played by Park Soo-young) is a sinister minister who for mysterious reasons gave Gil-dong a massive burn mark while the younger man was staying at Nok-soo's place. There are clear implications that Ja-won knows Gil-dong is far smarter and more dangerous than he lets on. Yet for all his apparent importance, I have not discussed Ja-won up until now because like so many characters in "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People", Ja-won never seems to do anything with his superior story knowledge...More

[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Strong Family" Episodes 9-10