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Find the latest Seoul film releases, movie reviews and exclusive interviews

V.I.P.
Movies

V.I.P.

For his latest work, New World director Park Hoon-jung has combined the traits of two of Korea’s most popular genres: the brooding chill of the serial killer hunt and the adrenaline rush of the North Korean action-thriller. The result? V.I.P., a self-serious trudge through a convoluted collection of local and foreign influences that doesn’t offer so much as a twist on the sneers of its exclusively male cast. TV pretty boy Lee Jong-suk flashes his widest grin as a North Korean defector accused of a series of brutal deaths, but he is protected by his father’s high rank. Kim Myung-min’s crusty detective tries to take him down, Jang Dong-gun’s NIS agent sulkily gets in his way and Park Hee-soon’s salty North Korean officer turns rogue and heads south of the border. Miserable men from other agencies circle around as well. Park sticks to well-worn formulas as he combines genres together, but what he winds up with are three glum men with only slightly different jobs who end up doing the same thing as they all go against their superiors in pursuit of their moral code. A stronger brush is used to paint the killer’s sadism, but this is done so at the horrific expense of women, who in V.I.P.’s world exist solely to be desecrated. These turn-offs aside, the film is a serviceable if uninvolving thriller with a smattering of polished action. It may be called V.I.P., but it’s the least important local offering of the season.     Cornan Pierce

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
The Battleship Island
Movies

The Battleship Island

Korean cinema’s action maestro Ryoo Seung-wan has gone from strength to strength in recent years (The Berlin File, Veteran), with bigger budgets along the way. Unfortunately, The Battleship Island, his most audacious work yet, buries several strong elements in an overstuffed narrative, fueled by a tad too much nationalist sentiment. Set on Japanese mining island Hashima (you may recognize it as the villain’s lair from Bond outing Skyfall) during WWII, Korean characters from different backgrounds fight for their survival and eventually plot a daring escape. The setting is mostly drawn from history—though the climax is an invention—but parts are included purely to provoke a reaction, including a horrific flashback to the torture of comfort women. The film is notable for its superstar wattage (Song Joong-ki and So Ji-sub), yet it’s young actress Kim Su-an who steals the show as the daughter of the bandmaster played by a genial Hwang Jung-min; She’s the only person whose fate we become invested in during a story bogged down by too many characters. Sublimely shot and designed, and terrifically choreographed by long-time Ryoo collaborator Jung Doo-hong—especially in one tile-crunching bout of bath fisticuffs—The Battleship Island is a technical marvel. It all comes to a close in a rousing climax choke full of striking images, but the film’s narrative machinations scupper the fun, never delivering their intended emotional punch.   Written by Pierce Conran

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
A Taxi Driver
Movies

A Taxi Driver

Song Kang-ho takes a trip down memory lane in high summer offering A Taxi Driver, a stirring tale that revisits the atrocities committed during the Gwangju Democratization Movement of May, 1980. Under the steady hand of director Jang Hoon, the film mostly steers clear of histrionics while recent political happenings (which happened after production) have made this the must-see event of the season. What sets A Taxi Driver apart from other Gwangju dramas is the inclusion of foreign star Thomas Kretschmann, who features as a German reporter that hires Song’s cab to take him south and cover the protests. This outsider perspective allows us to experience the unique flavor of Korean protesting, which anyone who witnessed last year’s peaceful candlelight marches to remove former President Park Geun-hye will recognize. Throughout, the story is anchored by Song’s central performance, as he—with his inimitable mash of humor and pathos—once again masterfully conveys an average Korean man who finds himself in exceptional circumstances. Where other western actors have failed, Kretschmann triumphs in his Korean film debut, while Ryoo Jun-yeol and Yoo Hae-jin charm in key roles. Calculated though it may be, the latest from Secret Reunion director Jang Hoon succeeds due to its stellar screenplay by Um Yoo-na, which never wavers in its devotion to its characters. Paired with a top notch cast led by Song in his element, A Taxi Driver earns the melodrama that it eventually arrives at.   Wr

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Annabelle: Creation
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Annabelle: Creation

While Universal tries to launch its Dark Universe of monsters and Lionsgate prepares an eighth Saw movie, one horror franchise has mushroomed successfully under the radar. This prequel to 2014’s Annabelle—itself a spin-off from The Conjuring—somewhat explains the genesis of the series’ supremely creepy wooden doll. Anthony LaPaglia plays an improbably prosperous dollmaker in the 1940s, and Miranda Otto his wife—they are the soon-to-be bereaved parents of seven-year-old Bee (Samara Lee). More than a decade later, still devastated, the couple opens its home to a kindly nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman, playing the polar opposite of the scary nun in The Conjuring 2) and six orphaned girls in her care. Quicker than you can say, "Don’t go near that doll," things are going bump in the night and doors are opening and closing on their own: four different doors in the first 30 minutes. The fourth film in the Conjuring Universe, Annabelle: Creation is well performed, but the rhythm of the scares feels slightly off. Characters scream when they should be quiet and whimper when they should be hollering their heads off. Plus, it blatantly steals the rocking-chair gimmick from The Woman in Black. That said, it is still terrifying—a monster this grotesque will always be unsettling—but director David F. Sandberg sometimes fumbles the slow build. While it’s better than the first Annabelle, it’s nowhere near as good as the main Conjuring films. Better luck next spin-off: The Nun is on

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Paris Can Wait
Movies

Paris Can Wait

Anne (Diane Lane) is at a crossroads in her life. Married to a successful but inattentive movie producer (Alec Baldwin), she unexpectedly finds herself taking a car trip from Cannes to Paris with her husband's business associate (Arnaud Viard). What should be a seven-hour drive turns into a carefree two-day adventure replete with diversions involving picturesque sights, fine food and wine, humor, wisdom and romance, reawakening Anne's senses and giving her a new lust for life.

Upcoming movies

Baby Driver
Movies

Baby Driver

Music sounds better when you’re on the road—even us poor souls without wheels know this to be true. There’s something euphoric about being surrounded by speakers, immersed in your own private La La Land, moving forward to the beat (even when traffic says otherwise). As if discovering something obvious yet essential about making movies, writer-director Edgar Wright now takes the venerable car-chase action film—loaded with tire squeals and around-the-corner drifts—and weds it to a keenly discerning jukebox playlist. The result is a supercharged piece of fun unlike any motorized choreography since John Landis destroyed a fleet of cop cars in The Blues Brothers. Wright, as you’ll know if you’ve seen Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, loves a well-chosen Queen or Stone Roses tune. (This time it’s Golden Earring’s pedal-to-the-metal “Radar Love.”) But he’s never unleashed his stylish gift for musical-visual synchronicity like he does here. And as Baby Driver’s killer stunt work makes clear, the guy has an inner Steve McQueen that requires feeding. Wright’s main character, Baby (The Fault in Our Stars’ Ansel Elgort, doing well by the role’s boyish innocence), still has a hint of peach fuzz on his cheeks, yet he’s a genius with a stick shift. Protected by sunglasses and constantly immersed in a pair of earbuds, Baby needs music to drown out the buzz in his head (caused by tinnitus), so he can jam. He’s a getaway-car driver with dreams of going straight after the proverbial One L

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
The Last of the Mohicans
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The Last of the Mohicans

The last members of a dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans -- Uncas (Eric Schweig), his father Chingachgook (Russell Means), and his adopted half-white brother Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) -- live in peace alongside British colonists. But when the daughters (Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May) of a British colonel are kidnapped by a traitorous scout, Hawkeye and Uncas must rescue them in the crossfire of a gruesome military conflict of which they wanted no part: the French and Indian War.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Movies

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Spiraling through the same vertiginous terrain as such nutty, chockablock sci-fi epics as Avatar and David Lynch’s weird-on-weird Dune, the mega-expensive Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets flaunts a visual imagination on fire—and a pulse that’s at best sporadic. Let’s just say it doesn’t skimp on the planets. We’re only just beginning to take in a utopian “Space Oddity”-scored prologue in which generations of astronauts, human and otherwise, meet peacefully at an orbiting space station when the action shifts to a gorgeous beach where an alien princess cavorts with a pet that poops pearls. Then there’s a desert world that’s home to a giant mall which you can only see with special glasses. Don’t get exhausted. We’ve got two more hours to go. Based on a French comics series that dates back to 1967 and reportedly went into George Lucas’s food processor (along with many other ingredients) for Star Wars, Valerian bears the typical weakness of having a central pair of bland human heroes, tasked with rooting out cosmic corruption that’s not worth explaining. Valerian himself (Dane DeHaan, who, after his jerky turn in A Cure for Wellness, deserves sharper opportunities) is a space jock whose every line reading makes you appreciate lesser-day Han Solos like Chris Pine. Thankfully, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne does a spunkier job with sidekick Laureline, diversifying her arsenal of expressions beyond a frowny face. Her caterpillar eyebrows and hypnotic fly-away hair ten

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Unlocked
Movies

Unlocked

This low-rent ‘Bourne’ clone has been sitting on the shelf for two years now, which explains why there’s a photo of Barack Obama still hanging above the CIA director’s desk. It might also explain why ‘Unlocked’ feels so choppy and uneven, like it needed a lot of knocking about in the editing room. Noomi Rapace continues her leading lady losing streak as Alice Racine, a CIA agent working undercover in a Hackney community centre and keeping her eyes peeled for terrorists. When she’s contacted by the local CIA branch and asked to interrogate a suspect, Alice is thrown into the black ops quagmire. For the first half hour this is a serviceable thriller, studded with pleasing cameos – Michael Douglas, Toni Colette, John Malkovich – and anchored by Rapace’s muscular performance. But then Orlando Bloom shows up as a mysterious ex-military bruiser with a Cockney accent and ‘Unlocked’ goes sideways, fast. 

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
The Hitman's Bodyguard
Movies

The Hitman's Bodyguard

The world's top protection agent is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world's most notorious hit men. The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their journey from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless Eastern European dictator who is out for blood.

Movie features and interviews

‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot: ‘Feminism is about freedom’
Movies

‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot: ‘Feminism is about freedom’

Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times/Redux/Eyevine ‘Where are you calling from? Are you English? Is it raining? I miss London so much.’ I’m on the phone to the Israeli actress Gal Gadot (pronounced Gah-dote), who’s at home in LA, technically still on maternity leave after giving birth to her second daughter in March – in true superheroine style she filmed reshoots for ‘Wonder Woman’ while five months pregnant. It turns out that Gadot spent nearly two years living in London to play the thigh-baring goddess, first in ‘Batman v Superman’ then ‘Wonder Woman’ – the first superhero movie in a decade with a woman headlining. She grew up near Tel Aviv, and dreamt of becoming a lawyer, before entering Miss Israel. A career in modelling followed, interrupted to serve her mandatory two years in the Israeli army, which means she knows her way around a fight scene. What are you missing most about London?‘Everything! I miss the parks, the people, the restaurants, the accent. Everything other than the weather.’ You nearly quit acting a couple of years ago. Why?‘Being an actress is tough. The amount of rejection you get can be exhausting. It was literally right before I auditioned for “Wonder Woman”.’ Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman’ ‘There is a misconception about what feminism is’ That turned out well. Is it right that you didn’t know what film you were going up for?‘Exactly. It was all very secretive. But without ever knowing it, I think Wonder Woman was my dream role. I grew up w

Anne Hathaway: ‘No one thought “Colossal” was a brilliant career move!’
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Anne Hathaway: ‘No one thought “Colossal” was a brilliant career move!’

Rex Features In her bizarre new comedy ‘Colossal’ Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an alcoholic writer who develops a psychic bond with a Godzilla-like monster on the other side of the world. The stage is set for a smart social satire tackling everything from toxic masculinity to consequence-free online culture. So what drove this successful movie star to take a gamble on such an oddball project? What was it about ‘Colossal’ that spoke to you?‘I liked the alchemy of grounded and absurd, dark and silly. It reminded me of some of my favourite aspects of life! And my character Gloria, I felt like I knew her, I felt like I’d been her at certain moments.’ She’s more nuanced than your average Hollywood heroine…‘I liked that her thoughtlessness, her self-destruction and self-absorption didn’t necessarily make her a bad person. Lately I’ve been interested in getting out of the binary of good and bad, letting things be a little harder to pin down, a little more uncomfortable. Since starting to explore that, many parts of my life have become much more interesting!’ Did people advise you against making a film so wilfully strange?‘No one looked at this and said “oh, what a brilliant career move”! But everyone understood that I was doing it for me. When you put forward ideas that don’t fit the mould, that lean away from the formula, there’s a tendency to assume audiences won’t understand them. But people are willing to go with it if you have a good entry point.’ Anne Hathaway in ‘Co

Pearl Mackie talks fame, diversity and ‘Doctor Who’
Movies

Pearl Mackie talks fame, diversity and ‘Doctor Who’

‘I’m not allowed to give that much away, actually,’ says Pearl Mackie, grinning. ‘There are still so many things I can’t say. But it’s such a relief to be allowed to talk about it at all.’ Last year, the 29-year-old Londoner was plucked from the West End stage, where she was starring in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, and given free run of the Tardis in ‘Doctor Who’. We meet just a week before her debut appearance as Bill Potts – the first gay ‘Doctor Who’ companion – airs on BBC One. Mackie is fairly new to the TV business: her only other credit is daytime soap ‘Doctors’. But she’s clearly having the time of her life. She gushes about the Soho hotel room we’re in – the wallpaper is ‘incredible’, the chairs ‘amazing’, our hour together ‘really fun’. We’re running late and somewhere upstairs her lunch is getting cold, but she’s in no rush. Mackie was born and bred in Brixton, and still lives there near her mum. ‘She sometimes reads lines with me,’ she tells me. ‘I’ve wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember, from when I could talk, really. But I never thought I’d get a role as big as this.’ How was your first day on the new job?‘The sheer scale of “Doctor Who” is immense. After we’d rehearsed all the crew came in and they just kept coming through the door. I was like, “How am I going to remember all these people’s names?” It was very nerve-wracking.’ There’s a lot you can’t talk about. Are you good at keeping secrets?‘No! I’m absolutely dr

Scarlett Johansson: ‘Trump is a megalomaniac’
Movies

Scarlett Johansson: ‘Trump is a megalomaniac’

Scarlett Johansson has been sharing her beliefs loudly and proudly this year. She put the boot into Ivanka Trump on ‘Saturday Night Live’ earlier this month with that spoof TV commercial for Complicit perfume. It was no different when I met Johansson back in January to talk about her new movie, the futuristic sci-fi epic ‘Ghost in the Shell’. We spoke just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and the conversation headed away from the movie, a remake of the 1990s Japanese manga and towards politics: she was furious and didn’t care who knew it. A week after we spoke, the actress took to the podium in Washington during the Women’s March, in defence of abortion and reproductive rights. Some actors worry about straying beyond the day job – not this one. You play a cyborg in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Where do you even start playing a character that’s not human in any normal way?‘It felt restrictive. There’s nothing extra to her. She’s efficient. There’s no fumbling for the right thing to say. She doesn’t nervously fidget. She’s not exactly mechanical, but she’s driven, and as an actor you rely on physical nuances, vocal nuances, things that connect with an audience. You don’t want to give a performance that’s monotonous. But it has to stay true to what her experience is. It was challenging.’ Are you interested in how technology affects us more generally?‘I’m wary of it. I’m probably more wary than someone who isn’t in the public eye. I see the value of anonymity in a way tha

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Movie features

The 10 best Irish movies
Movies

The 10 best Irish movies

Ireland might be small, but the impact of its cinema is proudly outsized. Here're the Time Out picks for the 10 best Irish movies. 

One way to Gyeongseong
Movies

One way to Gyeongseong

Diverse feminist films
Movies

Diverse feminist films

Get Yodalicious
Movies

Get Yodalicious

Has a cultural phenomenon ever inspired such devotion, such passion, such—for want of a better term—extreme nerdiness than the Star Wars saga? From the films to the figures, the tie-in novels to the TIE-fighter  coffee mugs, the blogs to the chat rooms to the international fan conventions, it’s the closest thing cinema has to a unifying faith. Exactly why this should be is unclear, even to those of us who worship at the shrine of Skywalker—but we reckon a lot of it has to do with the characters of Star Wars. They can be intensely heroic or irretrievably evil. They can be alluringly human or repulsively alien. Remote and robotic or cuddly and cute. But the characters in Star Wars are endlessly fascinating. A note to the nerds: with one notable exception, these characters are all drawn  from the official six-film canon, rather than the novels and console games of the “expanded universe.”

Becoming a Hong sang-soo fan
Movies

Becoming a Hong sang-soo fan

Already one of the most fêted Korean filmmakers of the modern era, Hong Sang-soo last month picked up his biggest prize to date, the Golden Leopard from the Locarno International Film Festival. With dialogue-based films that can repeat the same situation and echo the same themes over and over again, his work is a far cry from the stylistic offerings of Bong Joon-ho or Park Chan-wook. So what is it that people find in his work? It’s a hard question to answer, as viewers’ reactions to his work come from a personal place, but when delving into his catalogue, here are a few things to keep in mind.   Being a Hong Sang-soo fan, like I am, requires a lot of patience. Though he has now made 17 films (with an 18th already underway), Hong isn't the kind of filmmaker you can binge on, so going through his filmography takes time. The reason is not because they’re dense or because they bear so many similarities to each other, but rather because each of his films is an experience—a measured rumination on our desires and egos. It takes time to unpack them and, if you let them in, they stay with you, simmering over time.   Watching his work also requires that you pay careful attention to details. Despite the seemingly casual and sometimes stuttering nature of the endless conversations that link each chapter of his oeuvre that make his work appear to have an attitude of indifference permeating it, the reality is, nothing is ever left to chance. Hong has a reputation for fiddling with scen