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Past Korean movie reviews

Your taste, your movie.

Assassination

A group of Korean resistance fighters working in China have a plan to assassinate a highly ranked Japanese officer. Their plan involves breaking a sniper out of prison, but they also need to deal with a traitor in their midst.

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North Korea: The Parade

As evidenced by this tepid Polish doc, which purports to be an inside look at North Korea during the late '80s, it's possible for extremely rare footage to be uncommonly boring. Director Andrzej Fidyk gained access to that exceedingly insular society, but what he produced was largely sequences of spectacular public ceremonies in honor of ruthless dictators Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. Watching the repetitive scenes, you'd assume that every day in the totalitarian country is like halftime at the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, an English voiceover unwaveringly reads North Korean propaganda. There's no commentary, no context and no compelling reason to see this film—unless you really love a parade.

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Die Another Day

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is captured by North Korean agents and must serve a grueling prison sentence. He's finally released, and is convinced that someone in his own agency betrayed him. He escapes from custody and travels to Cuba, hot on the heels of Zao (Rick Yune), the agent who put Bond behind bars. Meanwhile, Bond begins romancing NSA agent Jinx (Halle Berry) as he uncovers a scheme concocted by Zao and British millionaire Graves (Toby Stephens), involving a highly destructive laser.

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Dragon Wars: D-War

Korean entertainment mogul Shim Hyung-rae’s family-friendly feature combines Star Wars–influenced fantasy, Asian folktales and military hardware into one giant monster mash. Korea, 1507: A holy warrior and his love, who can transform gargantuan serpents into powerful celestial dragons, kill themselves to keep her heavenly mojo from a very bad snake. Los Angeles, 2007: Reincarnated as a TV reporter (Behr) and a gym bunny (Brooks), the star-crossed lovers again match wits with the evil reptile. Cue the firefight between military choppers and flying lizards over downtown L.A.! It’s dumb, but no dumber than Transformers and loads more fun than the 1998 Godzilla.

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My Way

South Korea’s most expensive film ever, this war epic makes sure you see every dollar onscreen: large-scale battles, lavish CGI effects and the sort of big-budget flair you expect from Hollywood’s historical spectacles. Two marathon-runner rivals—Korean Jun-shik (Jang Dong-gun) and Japanese Tatsuo (Jô Odagiri)—continue their enmity on WWII’s battlefields, where the former is conscripted into the Imperial Army under the latter’s brutal command. They put aside their cultural animosity once they both become POWs, and later find themselves fighting together on the beach at Normandy (cue a Saving Private Ryan “homage”). The paeans about national pride and brotherhood may be regional, but constant slow-motion battle scenes and squishy sentimentality are strictly wanna-be Tinseltown. Follow Nick Schager on Twitter: @nschager

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The Long Way Home

Three days before the truce in 1953, South Korean soldier Nam-bok (Sol Kyung-gu), who is delivering topsecret military documents, meets North Korean soldier Young-Gwang (Yeo Jin-goo), who picks up these very documents by chance. Young-Gwang is alone and in agony trying to go back up north with a tank he doesn’t know how to drive. Losing confidential documents means that one will have to face dire consequences. Sol Kyung-gu and Yeo Jin-goo are more fascinating than the movie’s storyline.

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Men in War

At the start of the Korean War, Lt. Benson (Robert Ryan) and his platoon are ordered to rendezvous with American forces at Hill 465. Benson and his troops encounter a truck containing Sgt. Montana (Aldo Ray) and his passenger, a colonel (Robert Keith) experiencing psychological combat trauma. Benson, who believes the safe passage of his men takes precedence over the colonel's medical needs, seizes the truck to transport his platoon's equipment -- a decision that Montana fiercely opposes.

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Factory Complex

Things come and go, but it’s not just the buildings. The movie starts with a question: “Where did all the female workers at Guro Industrial Complex go?” The film compiles interviews of the female workers and of other industrial workers, from various countries and backgrounds over the span of three years. First to win Silver Lion at the 56th Venice Biennale as a Korean documentary.

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