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Features

New Blockbusters Look to Heat Up Theaters During Winter Season

Nov 19, 2019
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
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Korean Film Lineup for 2019 End-of-Year Period


An eventful year for Korean cinema, which marked the industry’s centenary celebrations and produced the most successful and globally acclaimed Korean film of all time, is preparing to wind down but not before it unleashes its final wave of box office hopefuls during the busy end of year theatrical window.

From Extreme Job at the start of year to the late spring success of Palme d’Or winner PARASITE and the summer hit EXIT, Korean films have performed well throughout 2019. A slew of mid-sized titles such as KIM JI-YOUNG, BORN 1982, The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful and BLACK MONEY are currently dominating the charts in November and while Frozen 2 is expected to briefly shift the winds back in Hollywood’s favor for the rest of the month, Korean films are expected to perform well as we approach the new year. Even the mighty Disney is staying out of the way as they have pushed back the release of their tentpole Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to January, which opens in late December elsewhere.

Late November has one more Korean thriller up its sleeve and while early December will trot out a few smaller releases, the heavy hitters are expected closer to Christmas. Below is a brief rundown of the final Korean titles to look forward to in 2019.

Bring Me Home


Director
KIM Seung-woo
Cast LEE Young-ae, YU Jae-myeong, PARK Hae-joon
Release Date November 27
Distributor Warner Bros Korea
International Sales Finecut

The long-awaited return of star LEE Young-ae to the big screen, 14 years after her last feature film role in PARK Chan-wook’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), Bring Me Home has benefitted from a wave of publicity as the star’s long-awaited comeback and as an enticing thriller in a market that is growing increasingly hungry for strong female-fronted content. Bring Me Home debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year where it received positive reviews.

LEE stars as Jung-yeon, a mother whose son disappeared six years ago, yet she has never given up her search for him. In a small coastal village, a group of criminals con fishing tourists. Among their ranks are two young boys of unknown origin and before long a tip sends Jung-yeon to the seaside with her faint hope still alive.

A Little Princess


Director
HUH In-moo
Cast NA Moon-hee, KIM Su-an
Release Date December 4
Distributor Megabox Plus M
International Sales M-Line Distribution

Family crowd-pleaser A Little Princess brings together two of the most beloved senior and child stars in Korea, NA Moon-hee of Miss Granny (2014) and KIM Su-an of TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016). The family drama served as the opening film of the inaugural edition of the Gangneung International Film Festival this month.

NA plays Mal-soon, an elderly woman quietly living in Busan whose life is turned upside down when 12-year-old Gong-ju (KIM Su-an) appears before her with her baby sister Jin-ju on her back. Gong-ju claims to be the daughter of Mal-soon’s runaway daughter. Though her peaceful existence is quickly thrown into disarray, she happily accepts the young girls under her roof. In Korean, Gong-ju is the word for princess. Director HUH In-moo previously made the romcom Love, So Divine (2004), the drama Herb (2007) and the youth drama Little Black Dress (2011).

Killed My Wife


Director 
KIM Ha-la
Cast LEE Si-eon, AN Nae-sang, WANG Ji-hye
Release Date December 11
Distributor KTH

This feature debut from director KIM Ha-la is an action-thriller that had its world premiere in the Asian Future section of the Tokyo International Film Festival this fall and stars LEE Si-eon, AN Nae-sang and WANG Ji-hye

Based on a web comic by HEE Na-ri, Killed My Wife follows a man who wakes up massively hungover to discover that his wife is dead and that he has no memory of what happened the night before. When a detective who comes to question him finds blood on his person and effects, the man tries to piece together what happened during the previous night. Playing the widowed husband and possible murderer is LEE Si-eon, who was most recently seen in the film Race to Freedom : Um Bok Dong, but is better known for his TV roles.

START-UP


Director 
CHOI Jeong-yeol
Cast Don LEE, PARK Jung-min, JUNG Hae-in, YUM Jung-ah
Release Date December
Distributor Next Entertainment World
International Sales Contents Panda

The ever-busy Don LEE (aka MA Dong-seok) is currently shooting his Hollywood debut in Marvel’s The Eternals, yet back home he has not one but two new films coming out during the end of year season. Though neither has been officially dated, the first is likely to be the comedy-drama START-UP.

PARK Jung-min of Keys to the Heart (2018) plays Taek-il, a runaway youth who winds up in a neighborhood where he lands a job as a delivery boy for a Chinese restaurant, under the watchful eyes of the chef Geo-seok (LEE). Meanwhile, his friend gets caught up in a private loan business. START-UP is the latest film from Filmmakers R&K, the production company of director RYOO Seung-wan and producer KANG Hae-jung, also responsible for this summer’s EXIT.

Ashfall


Director
 LEE Hae-jun, KIM Byeong-seo
Cast LEE Byung-hun, HA Jung-woo, MA Dong-seok, BAE Suzy
Release Date December
Distributor/International Sales CJ Entertainment

One of the biggest Korean releases of the year, disaster blockbuster Ashfall features huge star wattage with a cast that assembles LEE Byung-hun (Inside Men, 2015), HA Jung-woo (Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, 2017), Don LEE (THE OUTLAWS, 2017) and BAE Suzy (Architecture 101, 2012) among many other recognizable faces.

Mount Baekdu suddenly erupts, which brings chaos to the Korean Peninsula. Under the guidance of team leader Jeon (JEON Hye-jin) and professor Kang (Don LEE), a special task force is jointly set up with a South Korean operative (HA Jung-woo) and a North Korean agent (LEE Byung-hun) to prevent any further catastrophes.

The film features Castaway on the Moon (2009) helmer LEE Hae-jun co-directing with KIM Byeong-seo, a cinematographer who also co-directed the action-thriller hit Cold Eyes (2013).

Forbidden Dream


Director
 HUR Jin-ho
Cast CHOI Min-shik, HAN Suk-kyu
Release Date December 
Distributor/International Sales Lotte Cultureworks

Melodrama specialist HUR Jin-ho, known for Christmas in August (1998) and One Fine Spring Day (2001) returns to the period drama after scoring his biggest ever success with 2016’s The Last Princess. Following on the heels of this summer’s The King’s Letters, Forbidden Dream also focuses on King Sejong, the famed fourth monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. 

Whereas The King’s Letters looked at the king’s development of the Hangeul writing system, exploring his work with a Buddhist monk, which drew some criticism for historical inaccuracy, Forbidden Dream examines his relationship with an astronomer, played by CHOI Min-shik (Old Boy, 2003), while HAN Suk-kyu, who worked with HUR before on Christmas in August, plays the monarch.
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