Tag Archives: Korean Cinema

Office (Film) Review

May-hem month seems to be leaning towards Asia Extreme movies so far and I for one am here for it. While this week’s pick is nowhere near as bat shit crazy as the last, it’s still pretty out there in terms of premise and delivery. There’s a strong moral to the movie too which I’ll address but for now, my thoughts.

*Spoilers*

Office (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

The investigation following a sales manager brutally killing his entire family leads to a track of mystery and tragedy in an overwhelmed work team at Seul.

My Review

Lee Mi-Rye (Ko Asung) is a hard-working intern hoping to be made permanent in a big sales firm in Seoul, South Korea. As with so many big companies, she’s treated like a pack-horse and given very little recognition in return, which I’ll go into in just a moment. First I should mention that the film begins with Mr Kim, an employee at the same firm. As the movie opens we witness Kim return home from work, eat a nice meal and then slaughter his entire family, child and all, with a hammer. What’s wrong with After Eight Mints is what I want to know?

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Stop. Hamm… no I can’t. Too much.

Back at the office, the police are going through the staff one by one trying to work out a) why this happened and b) where Kim is now he’s at large. It soon becomes apparent to Detective Jong-Hoon (Sung-woong Park) that the staff are all hiding something.

Back to Mi-Rye. As soon as the police turn up, Mi-Rye is briefed by her colleagues to pretend that she didn’t know Kim very well. She plays along at first because she’s eager to please. However, Jong-Hoon soon sees through her and learns that actually she was quite close to him. Mi-Rye explains that he was the only person nice to her when she started.

The rest of her colleagues are absolute bastards to her actually and this only gets worse when their big boss Kim Sang-Gyu (Eui-sung Kim) hires a second intern. This pits the girls against each other and has Mi-Rye’s colleagues comparing her unfavourably to the new girl.

Meanwhile, the cops work out via CCTV that after the murders, Kim returned to the office and was not seen leaving. This suggests he’s still in the building! EEEK. This theory is further reinforced by the fact that Kim (and Mi-Rye’s) colleagues start to turn up dead in wonderfully gruesome ways.

All this is set against the backdrop of an overworked and under-valued work force who are being worked to the bone by their overbearing and demanding boss. Who reams them out in front of everyone else in the department which is probably the scariest thing about this thriller/horror – and my worst nightmare.

Office

Will we find out what pushed Kim over the edge? What are the others hiding? And is Mi-Rye okay, hun?

While I want to do a decent job of reviewing this I don’t want to give away every nuance of the plot. It is quite hard to keep a track of and the end is quite ambiguous, although AWESOME.

My Thoughts

Office was actually really compelling. I was all in from the get go, even though it does have a habit of flipping you backwards into a flashback without much fanfare. A couple of times, even though I was concentrating I had to rewind to understand a scene. I’m not afraid to admit that I also found a Reddit forum discussing the film and read that cover to cover to help me understand a couple of points.

The performances were good, the set up is great and there’s something so relateable about the setting of an office, since I personally spend so much time in one. As Mi-Rye learns what her colleagues really think of her, via the old-school medium of hiding behind pillars and eavesdropping, I could feel her distress and paranoia bubbling over.

Korean cinema is my favourite and although this doesn’t have the impact of Old Boy or Memories of Murder (to name but a few shit hot examples), it’s not bad at all. I like its creepy tone and enjoyed unraveling the plot. I also really found myself rooting for Mi-Rye who has the look of a rabbit caught in headlights for most of the film.

And the aforementioned moral of the story – and potential *Spoiler* – be nicer to your interns, fuckers.

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My Rating

3.5/5.

What did Jill think of this one? Would stay late to work on it or fire it? Find out here.

Okja (Film) Review

Searching for that one friend in a million
There will be no film review next Monday because my beloved is on holiday and deserves a lovely break.

I have lots of post ideas under my belt though so have no fear about missing out on my fascinating updates, they will be coming in thick and fast. Or they’ll be coming, I suppose I shouldn’t promise the world with no idea if I can deliver.

Anyway, I wanted to review (in the loosest sense of the word) a film that’s just appeared on Netflix, one I’ve been looking forward to since I saw the first trailer. I’ll steer clear of spoilers as much as possible since it is brand new and I want you to watch it.

Without further fucking about.

Okja (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.

*All the feels*

My Review

Before we start I feel like a disclaimer should be applied. Not to patronise anyone but this film near killed me emotionally and I thought it was worth a mention. Sure, I watched it under a blanket with a stuffed Hello Kitty (dressed as Wonder Woman) under one arm and a bar of chocolate under the other – my lower sadness level – but still. Prepare to be traumatised.

It also takes some dark turns that I hadn’t expected (but should of, given the director) so there’s that too. My BFF David said he took one look at the preview and knew he couldn’t do it. Which I respect.

Mija is a young girl living in the mountains in Korea. She lives a simple and lovely life with her grandfather and their giant Superpig, Okja. Oh, you want a little background about Okja, do you? Fine.

Okja isn’t just any old family pet. She belongs to the Mirando Corporation, a huge global giant with a controversial past. New CEO, Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) is determined to change the image of the company with a socially conscious rebrand and the answer is obvious – SUPERPIGS. (Isn’t it always?).

As part of this massive project, Mirando have been breeding pigs (bigger, better GM-super food Superpigs for the consumption of the masses) and have dispatched twenty-six of their best piglets to twenty-six locations across the globe. These little beauties will be reared naturally and lovingly by expert farmers for the next ten years – until the ultimate Superpig can be crowned the winner (and their meat can go on sale to the public).

Don’t be mean to the piggies, Tilda
Our heroines therefore have been inseparable since they were babes in the wood and now they literally are just two BFF babes in the wood, frolicking in streams and napping under fruit trees. Until one day, a decade later, Mirando comes knocking again.

The threat comes in the form of TV zoologist Dr Johnny (Jake Gyllenhaal), the face of The Mirando Corp who has, along with the rest of his team, been keeping close tabs on all the pigs across the world. When he claps eyes on Okja though he’s blown away, declares her the hands-down winner and thus begins Okja’s Big Adventure.

While grandpa is resigned to Okja’s future, Mija is not prepared to let it slide. Girl’s gonna fight for her best friend, innit? So she sets off to Seoul (Okja’s first stop) where she falls in with Paul Dano and the Animal Liberation Front and inadvertently becomes part of a much bigger plan to take on Mirando and reveal the sinister truth behind the piggies.

*Boo hiss* Motherfucker!
Mirando (but of course) are not all they appear to be and public relations take a knocking when the ALF gets involved. Lucy’s place at the top becomes precarious while her team pander to every childlike wobble. With her sister, former CEO Nancy (also Swinton) secretly sniffing around, it doesn’t look like she’ll be ruling for long.

Meanwhile, ALF uncover all manner of horrible goings on behind the public face of the company. When Lucy decides to send Mija to NYC to be reunited with Okja, Dano and friends follow and it becomes a mad dash to save the best damn pig I’ve ever seen in my life.

Can they get there before Okja is lost forever – and will true love out?

Leave Okja ALONE!

My Thoughts

This is an odd little movie that I love a lot. It made me feel everything and some of the scenes are so beautiful I can’t get them out of my head. If this is your sort of thing then you’ll be as invested as I in the relationship between little girl and beast.

Ultimately, all that matters here is the friendship between two living creatures and honestly, all I wanted was a peaceful resolution. Whether than happens is for you to find out.

Meanwhile, most performances are spot on. Swinton nails both Mirando sisters with ease. If you’ve seen 2013’s Snowpiercer then you’ve had a flavour of what you get here.

Other standouts are Seo-Hyuan Ahn as Mija, who’s all kinds of amazing in her pursuit of what’s right. I also had time for the ALF, especially K (Steven Yeun). I was worried this film would be very white washed and perhaps it is but I thought its blend of Eastern and Western culture wasn’t too bad.

There are lots of comments here about the state of the world and our mass consumption. At times I felt it was asking me to consider where my fulfilment comes from and at what cost. It’s hard to watch this film when you’re invested in an animal with a rounded personality that loves and is loved, you know?

Okja gives you food for thought, is beautiful, touching and stressful as heck. I recommend it. And honestly, from the start your only concern will be the pig. 🐷 

Have you seen Okja? If so, what are your thoughts?

Ps. We’ll be reviewing Okja on All Out of Bubblegum in the next few weeks, so watch out for that. 

The Silenced (Film) Review

fullsizephoto590239It’s finally October and that means we get to hunker down to horror movies for the entire month!

So expect many spooky goings on round these parts, starting with a little something gruesome from Korea. Is it horror, is it a ghost story or is it something altogether different to both those things?

Read on, friends. *BEWARE SPOILERS*

The Silenced (2015)

Director: Hae-young Lee
Stars: Won-Hee Go, Ryun Jo, Bo-Bi Joo

IMDB Synopsis: A girl is transferred to a mysterious boarding school, where she is forced to discover its secrets to survive.

My Review:

Sad and sickly Shizuko is unceremoniously dumped by her step mother (who’s rocking GREAT head wear) at a sanitarium/boarding school for girls, before she joins Shizuko’s father in Tokyo.

Shizuko suffers from an unnamed illness that leaves her coughing up blood. She does not look long for this world and the other girls fear she’ll infect them. They’re also extra mean to her for another reason which is soon revealed by the only decent girl, Yeon Duk (So-dam Park).

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“I’m too weak to walk up these steps in this hat, sorry.”

Turns out Shizuko has replaced another girl who disappeared without saying goodbye not long before her arrival. Her name was also Shizuko, so she reminds the others of her. They’re all mad at the original for not saying anything before she left.

Yeon Duk and Shizuko #2 form a bond, which the other girls assure her makes no difference. They play mean-spirited tricks on her and laugh at her pathetic-ness behind her back (but not really that subtly).

Meanwhile, we learn that there’s a sort of competition going on, the two winners of which will be sent to Tokyo. The school certainly pushes the philosophy that physical strength is the number one priority and this is a little bit of a bummer for S#2 because she is not getting any better.

This looks set to change when beautiful Headmistress (Ji-won Uhm) calls S#2 into her office and waxes lyrical that it would be great if an underdog like her made it to Tokyo. S#2 also starts having daily injections to fight the sickness.

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“People say I’m buttoned up…”

The girls aren’t any nicer to S#2, especially when she brings up the sore subject of Shizuko #1 but it seems like there are bigger fish to fry as one by one, the girls have weird fits and then get whisked away in the night without a buy or leave. Something is rotten in Denmark and only S#2 seems to notice it. Maybe because she starts seeing what appear to be ghosts under beds – damn all that long black hair, spooky as fuck!

Our two friends hit a rocky patch when S#2 comes on a bit strong and Yeon Duk tries to push her away. S#2 is gaining much strength as the days pass and learns to defend herself against her bullies quite remarkably. In her heart however, she knows something isn’t right and reaches out to her new bestie.

She says a few things that trigger some bad memories in Yon Duk and she goes mad. Later she reveals to S#2 what really happened with the original Shizuko, who was her best friend and the BFFs are on again.

I don’t really want to spoilt everything here but the change in S#2 gets better/worse and then the girls finally work out what the shit is going on. Then things turn all X-Men.

restmb_jhidxmake
“So that’s what happens to Dobby the House Elf…”

Questions:

What the fuckity fuck is going on? What’s happening to the girls? What really is the school all about, and what lies beyond its surrounding forest?

What happened to the original Shizuko and what’ll happen the Shizuko: Reloaded? Only one way to find out, yo.

My Thoughts:

This was interesting and genuinely creepy in places but something about it was a little soulless. Maybe it was the clinical setting, who knows.

I liked ‘the twist’ though you do see it coming, and it’s a bit annoying that nobody else does or says anything sooner. I was sort of disappointed that it wasn’t ghosts in the end if I’m honest and while this wasn’t the most original story ever, it was done well enough to feel fresh and a little bit different.

Let me tell you that all the blood – which must have been Ginger Snaps-style symbolic of female adolescence and burgeoning womanhood (the experimentation in the film FYI is best received by adolescent girls) – left me feeling sick. It’s everywhere; dead birds, in the food, coughed into crisp handkerchiefs. Nicely done.

Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

My Rating: 3.5/5. Pretty good, not what I was expecting, which is both a good and a bad thing.

What did my beloved wifey think? Was she SUPER into this whole concept or would she rather hide under the bed until it’s over? Find out here, if you dare!