With the start of the new year, the Korean film industry looks to its brightest prospects. KANG Byeong-jin profiles eight highly anticipated films of 2012.
In production. Directed by SHIN Jung-won. Starring KIM Su-ro, LEE Je-hoon, GANG Ye-won. Produced by Dasepo Club, Saram Entertainment. Distributed by N.E.W.Release planned for the first half of 2012.
Korean fortune-tellers not only tell the future, but they also chase away ghosts. The background of <Fortune-tellers> is Uljinri where a decades-old evil spirit rules. When mysterious accidents and events keep happening without avail, fortune-tellers from all over the country gather to hold a shaman ritual.
Master Park, who gets paid for performing exorcisms around the country; the monk Shim-in, who studied with him under the same master but is now telling sundry couple’s fortunes around old Tabgol Park; the boy Wol-gwang, who can’t tell what will happen from one moment to the next; Seung-hee who is skilled at taro cards and can see the memories stored in all objects; Suk-hyun who has a doctorate in engineering and makes all kinds of demon-chasing equipment. In addition to them, newspaper reporter Chan-young, who has come to Uljinri to cover it, joins them in facing off with the evil spirit.
Somewhat like the US TV series <Heroes>,<Fortune-tellers> is the story of a dream team of superheroes wielding different supernatural powers at the right times and right places.
Of course, it’s subject matter with potential for director Shin Jung-won’s idiosyncratic black comedy. Moreover, the film takes place mainly on a treasure ship and so Shin is planning thrills from adventures of the likes of <Goonies> and <Indiana Jones>.
The film also features Lee Je-hoon, who rose to stardom with his performance in <The Front Line>, and Gang Ye-won, who was in <Haeundae> and <Quick>.
The Taste of Money
In post-production. Directed by IM Sang-soo. Starring Kim Gang-woo, KIM Hyo-jin, BAEK Yun-shick,YOUN Yuh-jung. Produced by Film Pas Mal. Distributed by Cinergy. Release planned for May.
More characters, more love and hate, more sex, more cash. Director Im Sang-soo’s seventh film <The Taste of Money> is set to be a more powerful and shocking film than his previous one,<The Housemaid>.
The main character JU Young-jak is the secretary to BAEK Geum-ok, a rich conglomerate owner’s woman. Baek covets Ju’s young body, and he has already sold his pride for money a long time ago. What tangles up their relationship is the appearance of Baek’s daughter Na-mi. Na-mi shows an interest in Young-jak, and he is also attracted to this girl who is so differentfrom her money-is-everything parents.We could say it’s a sort of erotic drama that takes place in the household of a conglomerate-owning family.
If <The Housemaid>asserted through a self-immolating woman the impossibility of overturning the classes, <The Taste of Money> is a film that asks the question of whether a beautiful and happy life really might be impossible in a dark society.
Youn Yuh-jung, who is virtually Im Sang-soo’s muse, plays Baek Geum-ok while Kim Gang-woo from <Le GrandChef> and <The Railroad> plays Ju Young-jak and Kim Hyo-jin plays Nami. What heightens our anticipation is how the veteran actors’ experience and the young actors’ charms will emerge in this film.
The film wrapped principal photography Jan. 20 and is set for a release in late spring.
In post-production. Directed by CHOI Dong-hoon. Starring KIM Yun-seok, KIM Hye-su, LEE Jung-jae,Gianna JUN, Simon YAM. Produced by Caper Film. Distributed by Showbox / Mediaplex. Release planned for second half of the year.
<The Thieves> is a story about five thieves from Korea and four thieves from China. Legendary thief Macao Park suggests a caper to his old colleagues. With a lot to pay back to Macao Park, Popeye, Pepsi, Anycall, Jampano, and Chewed Gum - each with their respective specialties in thievery - go over to Macao together to partner with Chen’s gang.
The Chinese thieves have a lot of secret stories, too. One dreams of revenge, another is a cop, and one thief suddenly falls in love.
Director Choi Dong-hoon, who portrayed crime procedures with such liveliness in his previous works <The Big Swindle> and <Tazza: The High Rollers>,is set to make an strong action entertainment film out of the light-footed operation that penetrates the iron-tight security system of a casino, adding in the conflict between his characters.
But this isn’t a film meant just for a cool caper like <Ocean’s Eleven> or <The Italian Job>. According to the director, “It’s just a thieves’ scene where love and conspiracy and betrayal run rampant, and they have to get together to do a job and split up, and the story is about whether they can split up well or split up badly.”
Kim Yun-seok from <The Chaser> and <The Yellow Sea>, Lee Jung-jae from <The Housemaid>, Gianna Jun (a.k.a. Jun Ji-hyeon) from <My Sassy Girl> feature in the film and Hong Kong’s Simon Yam adds his acting power.
Currently in post-production, <The Thieves> is the most anticipated Korean film for the summer season of 2012.
In post-production. Directed by MOON Hyun-seong. Starring HA Ji-won, BAE Doo-na, HAN Ye-ri. Produced by The Tower Pictures. Distributed by CJ E&M. Release set for first half of 2012.
True stories, and true sports stories are trend these days.<Korea>, which is about the single North and South Korean team that competed at the 1991 World Table Tennis Tournament in Japan, looks like it will amplify that trend.
Table tennis player HYUN Jeong-hwa, who became a star when she won the ’88 Seoul Olympics doubles competition, is perplexed at the news they are putting together a single team. The press is going on about how it is the first single North and South Korean team in 46 years of division. But, to the South Korean players and coaching staff, the North Koreans are simply strangers.
They only have 40 days to train together in order to get over the wall of the Chinese team, the world’s strongest players. Having been put together as a single team in a flash, without any trust as colleagues or affection as human beings, the North and South Korean players clash at every turn.
Hyun Jeong-hwa also has trouble with her rival LEE Boon-hee, who is also the “eldest sister” of the North Korean team. Even if they bear in mind they are of the same people, will Hyun Jeong-hwa and Lee Boon-hee, conditioned by two different systems, be able to make a miracle happen?
It’s said Hyun Jeong-hwa was a body double in some of the game scenes. Fierce smashing from Ha Ji-won, already known to give it her all as an master hand in action from films like <The Duellist> and <Sector 7>, and Bae Doo-na, who used to be a table tennis player in her youth, will be factors to anticipate. As with <Forever the Moment>, the fighting spirit of women sports players will no doubt heat up tear ducts again, too.
Waiting for release. Directed by YOO Ha. Starring SONG Kang-ho, LEE Na-young. Produced by Opus Pictures. Distributed by CJ E&M. Set for February release.
Four years after <A Frozen Flower>, director Yoo Ha has returned with <Howling>, an investigative thriller dealing with a series of wolfhound-related killings.
A self-immolation suicide happens in a city. Violent crimes detective Sang-gil, who is always getting passed up for promotion, and Eun-young start to investigate. Sang-gil deems the case to be a murder by ignition device, but Eun-young focuses on the animal teeth marks found on the corpse. Then one day, a murder occurs involving an unidentifiable beast. The two detectives discover clues that the teeth marks in common are from a wolf hound, and that the victims knew each other in the past.
<Howling> is based on the Naoki Award-winning Japanese novel “Frozen Cuspids” by Nonami Asa. The problem of how an adaptation of a Japanese novel could embody Korean appeal is solved by the actor Song Kang-ho. A rather unsophisticated detective dependent on instincts, his character could be reminiscent of PARK Doo-man in <Memories of Murder>. Lee Na-young plays a female detective who tries to get to the bottom of the case with her characteristic cool-headedness. What kind of synergy the two might have together is something to look forward to seeing as well. It’s rumored that as the clues multiply, the emerging identity of the wolf hound is also full of suspense.
In post-production. Directed by KIM Ji-hoon. Starring SUL Kyung-gu, SON Ye-jin, KIM Sang-kyung. Produced by CJ E&M, The Tower Pictures. Distributed by CJ E&M.Release due in second half.
Kim Ji-hoon, who directed <May 18> and <Sector 7> thought up <The Tower> after seeing a documentary on the dangers of high-rise buildings.
“They said the highest point a fire engine ladder could reach is 19 stories. I wanted to see the level of isolation there and human beings and their will to survive, aggressive fire, and the passion of the firemen,” he says.
It reminds one of John Guillermin’s<The Towering Inferno>, but it has more action, and compared to <Sector7> has more human stories, explains the director. The setting for the fire is a skyscraper on Christmas Eve. As the worst fire in history starts, a hellish Christmas develops. KANG Young-gi, a fireman determined to save lives; restaurant managerSEO Yoon-hee, the building’s maintenance head LEE Dae-ho and others fight with the deadly fire from inside and outside the building.
<The Tower> might be better suited to Kim Ji-hoon’s leanings and character than <Sector 7>, which highlighted the shape of a monster more than human stories. The CGI and green screen work he experienced with <Sector 7> this time look to fire up audience members’ tear ducts. Sul Kyung-gu, Kim Sang-kyung, Son Ye-jin and other idiosyncratic actors feature as interesting characters as well..
The Masquerade King (Working Title)
In pre-production. Directed by CHOO Chang-min. Starring LEE Byung-hun, RYU Seung-ryong, HAN Hyo-joo, SHIM Eun-kyung. Produced by REALies Pictures. Distributed by CJ E&M. Release set for second half.
In the history of the Joseon Dynasty, Prince Gwang-hae was like a Shakespearean hero. This is why numerous historical films in Korea have taken him as a model. The film <The Masquerade King> tells the story of what happens when Ha-sun, a person of low birth who looks just like Prince Gwang-hae, takes on the role of substitute king.
Lee Byung-hun, who recently finished shooting <G.I. Joe 2>, plays both Gwang-hae and Ha-sun in his first time acting in a historical piece. RYU Seung-ryong from <War of the Arrows> plays HUH Gyoon, the royal official who leads the plot to seat Ha-sun in the king’s empty place. Han Hyo-joo from <Always> plays the queen who is conflicted between the real king and the fake king’s secret. Shim Eun-kyung, a lead from <Sunny>, plays Gwang-hae’s lady attendant Sa-wol.
Kim Myung-gon from <Seopyonje>returns to the screen after a long time, playing PARK Chung-seo,a court official who has an antagonistic relationship with Gwang-hae and eventually begins to suspect Ha-sun in his role as the fake king.
With a script byHWANG Jo-yun, who wrote <Old Boy>, <The Masquerade King> was a hot commodity from the script stage. Choo Chang-min, who previously did <Mapado> and <LateBlossom>, is directing.
Hoogoong: Jaewang-eui chub (English title TBA)
In production. Directed by KIM Dai-seung. Starring JO Yeo-jung, KIM Min-jun, KIM Dong-wook. Produced by HwangKiSung Films. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment. Release due in first half of the year.
Kim Dai-seung, who previously directed <Blood Rain> and <Traces of Love>, is now in production for a story about a girl who ends up in the palace as a royal concubine against her will.
It is set approximately during the early Joseon Dynasty.The daughter of a non-mainstream military official, SHIN Hwa-yeon(Jo Yeo-jung) one day becomes a royal concubine. It is her parents’ desire for power that has sent her to the palace. But she has someone she has grown up with and been in love with - a man called Kwon Yoo (Kim Min-jun). Having entered the palace, Hwa-yeon is torn between her relationship with Prince Seo-won (Kim Dong-wook) who is about to be crowned king, and her love for Kwon Yoo.
The problem is the fact that the palace where she lives is a place where one must have power in order to survive. Before she knows it, Hwa-yeon is thrown into the middle of a struggle to survive.
Since <Blood Rain>, director Kim Dai-seung has been dealing with the blind spots of people who throw themselves into hell. With <Hoogoong: Jaewang-eui chub> - which roughly translates to “Royal concubine: concubine to the king”, he is set to expand the world of greed and desire. The sexual relationship between king and royal concubine is also part of the nature of power that the film talks about and expands to human relationships.
The sets and costumes, as well as the music, are planned to be unlike those in Kim’s previous works in that they are endeavoring towards breaking the rules to maximize the greed and desire expressed in the film. Jo Yeo-jung, the heroine of <Bangja> will play the royal concubine Shin Hwa-yeon.