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Five Korean Movies (Post 2000) You May Not have Seen but Worth Watching

Updated on December 5, 2014

Disclaimer

I am not a professional reviewer or movie buff. I just watch a lot of movies and know a great movie when I see one.

Introduction to Korean Films

Since the turn of the millennium, South Korea has been emerging as superb film makers. If you are a fan of Korean films than you probably seen the essentials like Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Brotherhood of War, and My Sassy Girl. These are easily found on everyone's top five Korean films. They may or may not have been blockbusters but they are the most known for Korea's addition to the film culture. If you haven't seen these four films, go watch them. They will throw your emotions around like an Incredible Hulk Smash and leave you gasping for air. But I'm not going to review these movies. I will be reviewing five films that aren't as well known but just as good in direction, acting, and story telling.

1. Crying Fist (2005)

Plot

Tae Sik, a former Olympic boxer now a down-on-his-luck middle aged man, and Sang Hwan, a hopeless delinquent, will cross paths in the boxing ring.

Trailer (with English Subtitles)

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Review

Boxing movies are usually about rooting for the underdog and a story of triumph. Crying Fist is neither of these. Min-Sik Choi (most well-known for Old Boy) plays the downtrodden veteran boxer and Seung-Beom Ryu is the troubled youth. Choi never makes a bad movie. His acting is always superb and he always dedicates himself to the role. Think Daniel Day-Lewis of Korea if you want to make a comparison. Ryu is a great, successful Korean actor as well. Both men were extremely believable in their respective roles and the movie, with the guidance of the director, Seung-Wan Ryoo, made an impeccable deliverance of each man's storyline.

Seung-Wan Ryoo made it impossible to root for one over the other. You get to know both characters' background and by fight time, it is hard to decide who you want to win the fight. Whenever there is a HBO special on a Manny Pacquiao fight (or any fight for that matter), you get to see the lives of both fighters. Both fighters usually have a hardship story, a rags-to-riches chance of a lifetime or something along that line. You'll either pull for your favorite fighter or you will choose the underdog base on the storyline HBO gives you. If done right, it is difficult to pick a side. That's what Crying Fist is. A behind the scenes look at the lives of these bottom of the totem pole fighters.


Experience Vs. Youth
Experience Vs. Youth | Source

Online Streaming

Not advocating piracy, but if you want to watch the movie right now without subtitles, this is the link.

There is no definite good guy or bad guy. Both actors portrayed a person not just a boxer, a person with no advantages or fortune. The characters have their own circle of support and a reason to fight. Both have will and perseverance. A great movie takes you on a roller coaster of emotions and this movie is a Tornado Twister of Death (assuming this is a real name of real roller coaster) of emotions.


2. Hello Ghost (2010)

Plot

After a failed suicide attempt, Sang Man starts to see four obnoxious ghosts who will not leave him alone. When they won't go away, he finds out they will let him be if he completes their last tasks that they wanted to do before their untimely death..

Trailer (no English Subtitle)

Review

Hello Ghost is at times childish, at times poignant, but overall a great movie to watch alone or with family. Tae-Hyun Cha (from My Sassy Girl) portrays Sang-Man, a suicidal man who feels he has nothing to live for until he meets four annoying ghosts who won't leave his side.

This movie is a tearjerker but it also has its hilarious moments. Even I, who is a badass biker outlaw who kicks danger in the groin, found myself wiping away some tears (because I swear there was some dust that flew into my eyes). If you didn't feel any emotions from the beginning of Up or the end of Toy Story 3 then you are a bonafide hardass. But if you did tear up (probably because you were, for some reason, dicing some onions) at these two movies then you will enjoy Hello Ghost.

You'll be doing a lot of tearing up watching this movie.
You'll be doing a lot of tearing up watching this movie. | Source

Apparently, Adam Sandler is going to remake a Hollywood version of this movie. Watch it before he butchers your experience of this great movie much like what Spike Lee did to Old Boy.

3. The Yellow Sea (2010)

Plot

Cab driver, Gu-Nam, is deep in debt from his gambling problems. On top of that he has lost communication from his wife, who works abroad in South Korea. An opportunity rises where he can go to South Korea and maybe search for his wife if he is willing to murder a man for a hitman while there.

Trailer (in English)

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Review

Like an NWA album, The Yellow Sea is completely explicit in all its nature. It is extremely violent and the language is foul. It's as if Quinton Tarantino made the movie. The director, Hong-Jin Na, is no slouch himself. This is his follow up to his highly lauded film, The Chaser. which also stars Jung-Woo Ha. The actor and director reunited to make a visual definition of suspense thriller.

Jung-Woo Ha's portrayal of a not so likable cab driver who is reluctantly at the wrong place at the wrong time was so realistic that you felt every agonizing dilemma he was forced into. The Yellow Sea is a slow burner, only to set the tone and introduce plot devices, but once it starts heating up, you cannot take your eyes off the screen.

If you like Taken, you'll enjoy The Yellow Sea.
If you like Taken, you'll enjoy The Yellow Sea. | Source

No Online Streaming

Could not find an online full video of this movie.

Eazy E rapped, "Jockin' the b******, slappin' the hoes." Hong-Jin Na slapped the hell out of Hoe-llywood's formulaic storytelling because he knows nothing in life but to be legit. The Yellow Sea is as legit as it gets.

4. Castaway on the Moon (2009)

Plot

In a failed attempt to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge, Kim Seong-geun becomes stranded on an island in the middle of the river. Kim Jung-yeon, a recluse who gazes at the stars through a telescope, stumbles upon the stranded man and views him as her own alien on the moon.

Trailer (with English Subtitles)

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Review

The Koreans made a version of Cast Away and it was much more endearing and humorous. In Castaway on the Moon, Jae-yeong Jeong is the castaway, Kim Seung-Geun, who becomes stranded on a deserted island in the middle of Seoul. Much like Tom Hanks' Chuck Noland in Cast Away, he learns to start from scratch. To learn how to find food, build a shelter, make clothing, and all other bare necessities of life. Unlike Chuck, unbeknownst to Seung-Geun, a voyeur, Kim Jung-Yeon (played by Ryeowon Jung), who is also a castaway from society spies on Seung-Geun as he evolves.

This premise adds a whole new element and different perspective of survival and perseverance. Both leads in the movie are captivating in their own right. Jae-Yeong Jeong, a veteran actor, made you feel all of Seung-Geun pain, sorrow and triumph of survival in an organic way. Because the movie also has the perspective of the reclused voyeur, you also felt the loneliness and curiosity of Jung-Yeon.

An original movie full of charm and quirkiness.
An original movie full of charm and quirkiness. | Source

Castaway on the Moon is like a charming reality show that tackles loneliness and voyeurism with none of the backstabbing and mind games. It is full of heart and wisdom. It tells a story of the bare necessities in life: food, water, shelter, clothing, and love.

5. Lifting King Kong (2009)

Plot

Lee Ji-Bong, a former Olympic Bronze Medalist in weightlifting, suffered a career ending injury where he finds himself coaching weight lifting a rag tag group of high school girls .

Trailer (with English Subtitles)

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Review

Yes, this movie is full of underdog sport movie cliches. Hardass for a coach. Check. Group of unwanted, good-for-nothing, hopeless players. Check. Based on a true story. Check. Sappy sentimental music. Check. Overcoming against all odds. Check and double check. What I do like about this movie are the characters and the premise.

The movie is about a group of girls who have nothing to claim. They have no support from family, no friends to lean on, no prospects, and no guidance. Usually sports movies are about boys in the same situation so it was sort of refreshing to see the female perspective. Also, this movie was about weight lifting, a somewhat obscure sport that deserves a movie on its own merit. Might as well make a movie about curling, badminton, or bobsledding (Cool Runnings anyone?).

Don't let the outfits fool you. This movie is a tearjerker.
Don't let the outfits fool you. This movie is a tearjerker. | Source

No Online Streaming

No online streaming could be found.

I have to admit, this movie made me feel like there was some pepper spray that popped open in the room. I couldn't help but feel for the girls and the coach. The funny scenes were funny and the sad scenes were sad. What else can I say? It's a feel good movie with a Korean flavor.

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