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November 06, 2009

Despite flaws, first feature full of humor & wit


Kiss Me, Kill Me movie poster.

One of the most frequently made mistakes by first-time filmmakers is to “try too hard,” jamming all sorts of genres and fictional elements into one movie.

Director Yang Jong-hyun, 37, confesses he was no different in making his feature debut “Kiss Me, Kill Me.” But despite its complicated plot, his first feature seems to have a unique spark and sense of humor that allows audiences to overlook its flaws and just enjoy it.

Professional killer Hyeon-jun (Shin Hyun-jun) arrives at a house to kill a man in his sleep only to discover a young woman crying under the sheets. As the confused killer hesitates over his next move, the woman shouts, “What’s the matter with you! I paid you, so just kill me!”

Jin-yeong (Kang Hye-jung) decides to kill herself after a traumatic breakup with her boyfriend. But after failing in several suicide attempts, she hires a killer to do the job for her.


Jin-yeong decides to kill herself after a breakup with her

boyfriend, but changes her mind after meeting the killer

she hired to do the job for her. Provided by Sidus FNH

Furious at being used for the “wrong reasons” but helplessly attracted to her, Hyeon-jun abandons his mission and asks Jin-yeong out on a date. “Go out with me today and kill yourself tomorrow,” he says.

Full of humor and wit, “Kiss Me, Kill Me” observes these peculiar people and others - gangsters, an alcoholic - from a sympathetic and affectionate perspective.

In the film, these people are not just social outcasts, but lonely men and women who crave ordinary lives paying taxes, recycling rubbish, getting married and having children.

The movie is optimistic about love, showing how new romance gives Jin-yeong the courage to face her ex’s betrayal, and Hyeon-jun the hope to retire from his job and start over.

Throughout the movie, viewers will find themselves laughing, cringing and dabbing at their eyes, perhaps confused but never bored.

“I may have tried a little too hard, so I’m not completely confident people will understand or enjoy the movie,” director Yang said. “But I thought it’d be fun to mix contrasting images to create something humorous and emotional at the same time.” Yonhap

Source : JoongAng Daily

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Guess What! They've Been Dating for 2 Years


Jang Dong-gun, left, a top movie star, and Koh So-young, have been dating for two years and may get married as soon as next month. / Korea Times

Their children will be so impossibly cute we might puke.

According to their representatives, actor Jang Dong-gun, voted the most beautiful male celebrity in a KBS television survey earlier this year, has been dating starlet Ko So-young for the past two years and marriage is a possibility. The couple, however, dismissed the rumors that their wedding has been set for December.

Jang and Ko met while the 1998 melodrama, ``Love Wind, Love Song’’ and became friends, according to Jang’s management agency, and have been a couple since 2007.

The country has seen its share of celebrity couples in recent years, with movie stars Seol Kyung-gu and Song Yun-ah tying the knot in May, and actress Choi Ji-woo, who may have a larger following in Japan than her home country, surprising her fans by announcing her relationship with Lee Jin-wook, a lesser-known television actor.

Actor Hyun Bin has been dating Song Hye-ko, his co-star on the 2008 television series, ``The World They Live In.’’

Still, Jang and Ko may be the most powerful celebrity couple as of yet, as the media will undoubtedly treat them as the Korean equivalent of ``Brangelina.’’

The 37-year-old Jang, who launched his acting career with the 1993 television series, ``Our Heaven,’’ is best known for appearing in hit movies such as ``Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War,’’ a 2004 film that remains as one of the country’s most successful movies ever, selling nearly 12 million tickets.

Jang’s recent movie, ``Good Morning Mr. President,’’ recent opened at local theaters.

Ko, also 37, gained popularity for her roles in several television dramas in the 1990s and early 2000s, and still draws one of the highest paychecks among actresses in television commercials. However, her movie career has been inconsistent compared to that of Jang, although her acting in the 1997 movie, ``Beat,’’ drew positive reviews.

Credits : Kim Tong-hyung (thkim@koreatimes.co.kr)

Source : The Korea Times

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Photos of young Jung Woo-sung to be unveiled on cable


Korean actor Jung Woo-sung [Taurus Films]

Never-before-seen pictures of Korean actor Jung Woo-sung from his teen days will be shown on MBC's cable channel tonight.

MBC every1 said in a press release on Friday that its documentary program "Star: The Secret" will feature photographs of the hunky movie star from his childhood days.

The photos to be disclosed include an elementary school graduation picture of Jung as well as pictures from a middle school picnic. Producers also hinted at revealing an anecdote behind the star and his friend's graduation picture looking exactly the same.

Jung is now one of South Korea's most successful actors with more than a dozen films under his belt, including the1997 hit "Beat" and the critically acclaimed "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" which premiered at Cannes last year.

The actor is currently in Shanghai, filming a John Woo-directed movie with Chinese actress Michelle Yeoh. The film, tentatively titled "Rain of Swords in the Martial Arts World", is scheduled for release in late 2010.

The episode of "Star" featuring Jung will be aired at midnight on Friday.

Reporter : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr

<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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T.O.P.'s Acting in 'Iris' Stuns Even Lee Byung-hun

[TV Report] T.O.P. (real name Choi Seung-hyun) from the music group Big Bang has emerged as a talented actor. In the KBS TV drama "Iris," he plays a killer in a secret organization whose purpose is to hamper Korea's national reunification. Through his character, T.O.P. has shown off a charismatic and charming side of himself.


The drama's production crew as well as the lead cast were stunned by T.O.P's acting, because so far he was known as a polite and shy young man. As the youngest member of the cast, he has received great attention from his senior colleagues, including Lee Byung-hun and Kim Tae-hee. But as soon as the cameras start rolling, he turns into a charismatic and cold-blooded killer with a cold and intense look in his eyes.

Even actor Lee Byung-hun, who told T.O.P. before the filming that he should look as charismatic as Lee's own character, was surprised. T.O.P.'s passion for acting shows in gun-firing scenes as well. His character is a perfect killer equipped with state-of-the-art weapons who never misses his target.

T.O.P., who had never held a gun in his hands before, received special training from experts who taught him actual weapon-handling skills. Thanks to his hard work, T.O.P. was able to perfectly portray his character.

Starting from episode 7 of "Iris," T.O.P. will appear often in breathtaking scenes where he tries to kill Lee Byung-hun's character. "Iris" airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays on KBS TV2 at 9:55PM.

Copyright ⓒ KBS & KBSi

Source : KBS Global

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Ko So-young speaks on relationship with Jang Dong-gun


Korean actress Ko So-young

Korean actress Ko So-young gave her first official statement since admitting yesterday that she has been dating top Hallyu star Jang Dong-gun.

The 37-year-old actress wrote on her fan club "Pretty Number One" website today: "My family members, you must have all been very surprised yesterday. It was a little surprising and very joyful day."

She went on to say, "I'm very happy and glad to be with Dong-gun, who is very supportive, but I'm a little cautious," and asked her fans to "please understand and bless us."

The news of two of the biggest stars in Korea's entertainment industry admitting to their romantic relationship made headlines across the country on Thursday.

Dating rumors first surfaced ten years ago when they appeared together in 1999 film "Love Wind, Love Song". It has recurred several times over the years, but both stars had denied such reports everytime.

Jang, one of Korea's top actors since his debut in 1993, has won several critical acclaims for his roles in hit films including "Friend" and "Taegukgi", the third most-watched Korean film in box office history.

Ko, who debuted in the same year as Jang, has not shot a film since 2007 but has appeared in over a dozen films including 1997 film "Beat" which gained her stardom after appearing alongside co-star Jung Woo-sung.

The two have yet to confirm their marriage plans, but sources closes to the star couple said that Ko has recently started planning the wedding.

Reporter : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr

Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@asiae.co.kr

<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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Korea's Two Biggest Stars May Walk down the Aisle


It was probably the biggest surprise since the secret wedding of actress Lee Young-ae this summer. Actor Jang Dong-gun and actress Ko So-young have confirmed that they're dating. There were rumors that linked the two celebrities in the past, but they have steadfastly maintained that they were just good friends, nothing more. The news has prompted such a flood of questions and congratulations that Jang's personal homepage went out of service late Thursday evening.

According to Jang's management agency, the two started off as good friends after starring in "Love Wind, Love Son" in 1998. The relationship grew serious two years ago when Ko comforted Jang through some rough times. Called the handsomest actor in Korea, Jang has mentioned that he's become lonelier as he grew older and is looking to settle down before he turns 40. That wish may come true as some people speculate that the two lovebirds will walk down the aisle early next year. It's also rumored that Ko is already shopping for her wedding dress and buying things for the couple's new home. Their agencies have denied the rumor, saying that it's too premature to say for certain whether they will get married. Nonetheless, their fans have already posted the projected images of their offspring and began calling them the Brangelina of Korea after the top American celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Currently Jang can be seen in a hit movie titled "Good Morning, President" in which he stars as a young widowed president. Ko is not working on any films or dramas right now, but is appearing on a number of TV ads.

Source : KBS WORLD

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Interview: Director Park Chan-wook of 'Thirst'

Director Park Chan-wook, who received the Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his movie "Thirst," says that Korean films can gain global recognition by improving their artistic expression and setting new trends.

In an interview with the Yonhap News ahead of the screening of "Thirst" at the London Barbican Centre as the opening film of the 4th London Korean Film Festival, Park said that Korean movies can be exported overseas not only by producing them in English but also by setting new trends.

The festival will run through November 18 at the London Barbican Centre and the British Film Institute. A total of 29 Korean films will be screened, including "Thirst" as well as "Mother" by Bong Jun-ho.


Interview with director Park Chan-wook.

-- Did the film face a lot of red tape because it deals with Christianity?

▲ We had a hard time designing its posters. In Korea, we had to take out the image of the lead actress's legs from the poster because they were said to look vulgar. In the U.S., we had problems with the actress's cleavage. And in the U.K., the Roman collar of the lead actor became an issue for its potential to spark religious problems.

-- Did any religous groups oppose your movie?

▲ To people who have never seen this movie, the Roman collar may look provocative, but those who have seen it don't find it problematic. The main character of the movie agonizes over his inability to abandon his religion. His life becomes tragic because he clings to his faith and moral values.

-- How can Korean movies expand their global presence?

▲ I think it's more difficult than exporting our televisions and phones. Even the best-quality productions face the language barrier. If we want to export our movies to Europe or the U.S., we should produce them in English. That's the only way to do it.

-- What other obstacles do Korean films face apart from the language barrier?

▲ If we don't produce our movies in English, then we should broaden the realms of artistic expression and set new trends. That way we can receive worldwide recognition and respect.

-- Some people say that your movies "Old Boy," "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" and "Thirst" are too gloomy and far from being commercial.

▲ These movies drew millions of viewers. Of course they are commercial films.

-- What was it like to see "Thirst" open in London?

▲ I was moved. It renewed my determination to produce good movies so that they are not kicked out of such good places.

-- Your movies must have been invited to many other Korean film festivals abroad.

▲ The Korean Film Festival in London is well organized and publicized. It is highly recognized among intelligent people and the mass media. I'm moved to see my movies being screened at the London Barbican Centre.

Source : KBS Global

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What to do when your wife is charged with murder?

Taken out of context, what Cha Seung-won said at a press conference on Tuesday about his new film would have lit the tabloid headlines ablaze.

"I was attracted to the strong scent of male essence that exuded from my role in the film," Cha said of "Secret."

But that wasn't a public coming out from the male-model turned actor.

Sporting a Don Juan goatee and clad in an all-black getup with his best "blue-steel" expression, the tall, lanky tough guy was at the press briefing with actress Song Yun-ah.

In the new thriller, directed by Yoon Jae-gu ("Seven Days"), the two portray a husband and wife whose marriage is threatened by a bizarre murder case.

Cha plays a hardened homicide detective whose wife is accused of murdering a man tied to an organized crime ring.

The popular television actress Song is back from a short hiatus after recently tying the knot with actor Sul Kyoung-gu. Sul is the star of blockbusters such as the Public Enemy franchise and the tsunami disaster flick "Haeundae."

During the conference, Cha talked about acting opposite Song. They previously worked together in the 2002 comedy "Jail Breakers."

"I believe the most important element during a film shoot is the chemistry between the actors," Cha said. "Even before and even after her marriage, Yun-ah was still very kind and considerate towards all cast and crew members. She created a smooth working environment for everyone during the filming and is the type of selfless person who acts with her heart."

It was during the filming of "Secret" that Song's marriage to Sul was planned and announced. When Cha was asked if he noticed anything different about her during the shoot he said, "I had no idea she was getting ready for a wedding. When I heard she got married at the end of May, I was very surprised."

Throughout the press conference, Cha seemed especially proud of his new film.

"Of all of the recent films I've been in, this is the most thrilling and awesomely structured film," he said.

"It may be a police (movie), but it's also a film about a married couple coming to grips with reconciliation in the midst of a murder mystery."

The film is set for a nationwide release early next month.

Credits : Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldm.com)

Source : The Korea Herald

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Press conference for KBS TV series "Invincible Lee Pyung Kang"


The cast of "Invincible Lee Pyung Kang" [10Asia]

The princess in TV series "Princess Returns" lost to Princess Deok-man in "Queen Seon-deok." And now another princess has arrived. A press conference held at Seoul's CGV multiplex on November 4 announced the making of another princess story -- the new KBS TV series "Invincible Lee Pyung Kang". Unlike "Princess Returns", which was really about 40-something housewives, "Pyung Kang" is about the actual Princess Pyung Kang. The basic plot of the drama is that two people, who were together as Pyung Kang and Ondal 1400 years ago, are re-incarnated and meet again as lovers in modern times. Director Lee Jung-sub, who has already attempted fusing traditional drama with modern twist in 2008 TV series "Hong Gil-dong", shared his view on making the new show. "The story that we know about Ondal and Pyung Kang are just two pages on historical documents. I wanted to add more imagination to this story and create a new traditional drama. I thought about making a mix of modern and traditional drama like the movie 'The Gingko Bed'".

A trendy drama about Princess Pyung Kang and Ondal the Fool

Just as director Lee said, the story of "Pyung Kang" revealed at the press conference was one that went back and forth between the past and the present. Ondal and Pyung Kang, who fought like cats and dogs in their former life, meet as enemies in the modern era. Pyung Kang's wicked stepmother Empress Je (played by Choi Myung-gil) has re-incarnated as the second wife of Woo Ondal's father Woo Pyong-won (played by Gil Yong-woo). But we will need to see if "Invincible" is anything like the film "Gingko Bed". Most of what has been unveiled about "Invincible" is a comedy surrounding the lead actors Nam Sang-mi and Ji Hyun-woo, and the story of golf player Woo Ondal and Lee Pyung Kang, whose father designed the golf course at Woo Pyung-won's resort, teaming up to save the financially struggling resort. Another character in the drama is Edward (played by Seo Do-young), a good-hearted helper to Lee Pyung Kang. "Invincible" premieres on tonight at 9:55 p.m.


The tough Princess Pyung Kang --

Lee Pyung Kang (played by Nam Sang-mi)

A woman full of vitality and joy. Actress Nam Sang-mi has already shown that she is good at playing such characters in her previous works such as SBS dramas "Bad Family" and "Gourmet". Her character in "Invincible" is pretty much similar to her previous roles. Save for the unique setup as a reincarnation of Princess Pyung Kang, she is still a cheerful character who works hard to support the family. The comedy acting, such as in fighting scenes with Woo Ondal, is likely to appear more frequently than it did in "Family Ties". The actress said at the press conference, "I fight a lot with Ji Hyun-woo and I love that he doesn't shy away from taking all of my punches. The atmosphere is so great on set and I have high expectations for the drama." (laugh)


From Ondal the Fool to conglomerate heir --

Woo Ondal (played by Ji Hyun-woo)

1400 years and a reincarnation later, the tables have turned completely for Ondal and Princess Pyung Kang. While Lee Pyung Kang goes through all kinds of trouble to support her family, Woo Ondal lives as heir to an enormous resort owner and has a celebrity girlfriend. This could be a slightly different character for actor Ji Hyun-woo, who has usually played the part of a soft-hearted younger boyfriend in TV dramas. A series of accidents brings him together with Lee Pyung Kang. "When you first see it, you might think I've taken on a weird character. I met director Lee when he was the producer on [his previous TV drama] "My Precious Child" and I have wanted to work with him since."


The top star who will always love Ondal --

Kwan Ja Rak (played by Cha Ye-ryun)

In reality, the real Princess Pyung Kang may be Kwan Ja Rak, not Lee Pyung Kang. Kwan, one of the biggest stars in Korea, falls in love with Woo Ondal at a young age and continues to have feelings for him, even as he gets on the wrong track after his mother's death. This is quite different from a typical trendy drama, in terms of such female character's personality. "The atmosphere on set is so great that I feel like I'm going on a trip, not work. I can't give you the exact details yet, but I think she's a fantastic character."


Lee Pyung Kang's helper Mr. Tall Guy --

Edward (played by Seo Do-young)

"I think everybody has fantasies about characters like Mr. Tall Guy," explained actor Seo Do-young about his character. Like he said, Edward is a custom-made character for the female lead part, the typical Mr. Tall Guy. He starts having feelings for Lee Pyung Kang after finding out that her father is the famous golf-course architect that he had long admired, and gradually falls more in love with her. But his love is highly likely to be one-sided, just like Kwan Ja Rak's love for Ondal. However, the viewers may fall in love with Mr. Tall Guy's character.

What to Watch

The host at the press conference asked the cast members how high a rating they were expecting for the first episode. The question on everyone's mind is, can "Invincible" fare well in the same time slot with the reigning "Queen Seon-deok"? How many viewers will a comedic, fusion traditional drama be able to attract? If the ratings for the premiere episode clocks in around 15 percent, as Nam Sang-mi hopes, then this drama will have lived up to its title "Invincible".

Senior Reporter : Kang Myoung-Seok two@10asia.co.kr

Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr, Jang Kyung-Jin three@10asia.co.kr

<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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Nov.6, 2009

Korea Takes Hollywood


Korean pop superstar Rain in character as Raizo in

Warner Brothers' 'Ninja Assassin' /

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In the late 1990s a Korean wave washed over Asia. From TV soap operas and movies to pop music, the region couldn't get enough of Korean culture and its good-looking stars. But the wave never quite reached the American entertainment industry. At most, Hollywood embraced the remake of several Korean films—including The Lake House and, more recently, The Uninvited.

Lately, however, ethnic Korean actors have started to gain traction in American film and TV. Kim Yunjin and Daniel Dae Kim broke through when they were cast in Lost in 2004, followed by Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy and James Kyson Lee in Heroes. This year Korean-American heartthrob Daniel Henney appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine as the villainous Agent Zero, and now stars on the new CBS medical drama Three Rivers. Lee Byung-hun took on the role of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And John Cho, who played Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, is currently starring as an FBI agent in ABC's drama FlashForward.

Next up: Jeong Ji Hoon, a.k.a. Rain, a pop superstar in much of Asia but still little-known on the global stage. On Nov. 25, Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers will release their latest big-budget martial-arts thriller, Ninja Assassin, starring Jeong as the title character, who seeks revenge on the secret society that raised and trained him and killed his best friend.

The casting of Korean stars in prominent Hollywood roles reflects the new business realities: Jeong and his peers have a huge following in Asia, one of the few regions where movie audiences are growing. Korea, in particular, has become a key foreign market for Hollywood films, in some cases surpassing the U.K. According to the Web site Box Office Mojo, G.I. Joe earned more this summer in Korea—$13.2 million—than anywhere else outside the U.S.

placeAd2(commercialNode,'bigbox',false,'')Hollywood producers are also courting Korean directors who have a proven track record delivering hits for Asian audiences. "Every studio executive here has seen Oldboy by Park Chan-wook, and you can't say that about a lot of foreign movies," says Korean-American film producer Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment. Though Korean directors may be in demand among Hollywood producers, they are reluctant to make the leap. "Top directors in Korea have the ability to make whatever films they want with total creative freedom," says Lee. "With the [u.S.] studios they do not have that control."

Korean actors face cultural challenges, too. For actors from Asia to make it big in Hollywood, they have to commit to mastering English and networking with executives. "In Asia, for the most part, there is no auditioning process," says Grace Chen, the former managing director of William Morris Asia, now an independent consultant in Hong Kong. "So for big Asian stars to go to Hollywood and have to audition, it can be quite a foreign process." Plus, she says, those playing the Hollywood game risks losing opportunities back home.

And Asian actors in the U.S. are still often typecast as martial-arts experts. "Stereotype does still exist when casting films," says Rain. "Asians have our own broad and unique culture; it's just that more people have been interested in the martial-arts side than others."

But things are definitely changing. While it may be a while before Korean actors are cast as romantic leads in Hollywood, references to Korean culture are seeping into American films and TV. "In the past, you'd see a lot of Japanese references, Caucasian characters eating sushi or speaking a few Japanese words. But recently I noticed [they] are being replaced by Korean ones," says Shinho Lee, a Korean scriptwriter who splits his time between Seoul and L.A. Vertigo's Lee cites the rising prominence of Korean-Americans at all levels of the film-production chain: "There are more people of Korean descent working in Hollywood than of any other Asian ethnicity." Especially in front of the camera.

© 2009

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | NEWSWEEK

Published Nov 6, 2009

From the magazine issue dated Nov 16, 2009

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(Movie Review)

Rain's charm goes missing in Hollywood ninja movie

SEOUL, Nov. 7 (Yonhap) -- If you are to enjoy "Ninja Assassin," you must either be a fan of the Wachowski brothers or a martial arts movie lover. Being a fan of South Korean heartthrob Rain won't do.

"Ninja Assassin," a Hollywood-produced Asian martial arts movie, has drawn high expectations from local movie fans since the news broke that the South Korean pop sensation and rising actor would play the lead character.


Produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, and directed by James McTeigue of "V for Vendetta (2005)," rumors said the film was shaping up as one of the largest Hollywood blockbuster smashes of the year.

The final product, however, falls far short of anticipation, especially for fans of Rain, who have seen the actor in some of his best performances in local films and TV dramas.

The movie features Raizo (Rain), one of the deadliest assassins in the world, who was taken from the streets as a child and transformed into a trained killer by the Ozunu Clan, a secret society whose very existence is considered a myth. Haunted by the merciless execution of his friend by the Clan, Raizo breaks free and vanishes, preparing to exact his revenge.

In Berlin, Europol agent Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) stumbles upon a money trail linking several political murders to an underground network of untraceable assassins from the Far East.

Defying the orders of her superiors, Mika digs into top secret agency files to learn the truth behind the murders. Her investigation makes her a target, and the Ozunu Clan sends a team of killers led by the lethal Takeshi (Rick Yune).

Saving Mika from her attackers, Raizo emerges from hiding and slowly makes his way toward the elusive camp of the Ozunu Clan.

Inspired by the ninja scenes featured in the Wachowskis' 2008 film "Speed Racer," in which the actor Rain had impressed the producers with his portrayal as a fighter, filming of the movie began in Berlin, Germany at the end of April 2008.

"The day Rain did his first scene in 'Speed Racer,' the Wachowski brothers called me and said 'This guy is unbelievable. He's a natural, our dream come true.' We began to plan 'Ninja Assassin' immediately afterward," producer Joel Silver said in an earlier interview.

Rain's six months of intense training to play the role of the deadly assassin is apparent. Rain flies about the screens wielding katanas and chained-daggers, creating breathtaking action scenes that take up most of the film's 98-minute running time.

What is missing, however, is a comprehensible plot to back the flashy action scenes and the lead actor's charisma to keep the audience amused.

Rain's expressionless face and emotionless voice seem strange to viewers used to his wide range of acting skills.

Rain, 27, is also widely known by his real name, Jung Ji-hoon, in South Korea, which he revealed with his 2003 acting debut to show people he takes acting as seriously as singing. Rain is Jung's stage name as a singer.

Rain's first film, "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK," directed by Park Chan-wook, garnered him the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2007, proving the young star's versatile potential.

In his newest film, however, Rain hardly says a few sentences throughout -- perhaps due to his lack of English-speaking ability -- and fails to show off his charm that managed to take the hearts of so many female fans in his homeland.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, "Ninja Assassin" will hit South Korean theaters Nov. 26, a day after its United States and Canada release.

Credits : Shin Hae-in (hayney@yna.co.kr)

Source : Yonhap News

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Grand Bell Film Fest Puzzles Movie Fans


Movie fans may have highly anticipated the 46th Grand Bell (Daejong) Film Festival, which took place Friday in southern Seoul, but the outcome of the event was unexpected.

The festival's award ceremony had many shaking their heads, as some of the most successful films took home fewer trophies than expected, while the lack of participating stars left the event feelfeel a bit empty.

This year's Best Picture award went to ``The Divine Weapon,'' pushing aside hit blockbusters ``Haeundae'' and ``Mother.''

``Mother,'' which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, managed only to win the Best Supporting Actor award, while ``Haeundae,'' which was nominated in nine categories and was one of the biggest films of the year, won only Best Producer.

``Take-Off'' was nominated in seven categories but only won Best Director, while ``Closer to Heaven'' took home Best Actor. ``Haeundae'' and ``Take-Off'' attracted a total of 12.93 million movies goers, alternating in first and second place in the box office for six consecutive weeks last August.

Another flaw in this year's event was the absence of top stars. Three out of the five nominees for the Best Actor award failed to appear for health or personal issues. Kim Myung-min, who eventually was named Best Actor for his role as a terminally ill man in ``Closer to Heaven'' was not able to receive the award as he was hospitalized, according to his agency.

Other stars, including Cheong Kyung-ho, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Kim Hae-suk and Uhm Jung-hwa who were nominated for Best Supporting Actress, also missed the event. Those awards were given to Jin Goo for his role in ``Mother'' and Kim Young-ae in ``Aeja.''

Meanwhile, the Best Actress award was given to Su Ae for her appearance in the film ``Sunny,'' leaving Jang Na-ra, who had been in the middle of a debate regarding the festival's nomination process, trophy-less.

The festival committee had to explain its decision to nominate Jang for a film that had not even been in theaters at the time, and also for excluding Ha Ji-won, who starred in two of the biggest films of the year, ``Haeundae'' and ``Closer to Heaven."

Credits : Han Sang-hee (sanghee@koreatimes.co.kr)

Source : The Korea Times

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"Good Morning President" still No. 1 after three weeks


Current No. 1 movie in Korea [CJ Entertainment]

"Good Morning President" starring Hallyu star Jang Dong-gun has topped the Korean box office for the third consecutive week.

For the weekend of November 6-8, "President" stayed atop the Korean box office with 335,190 viewers, according to estimates released by Korea Box Office Information System (KOBIS) on Monday. The film has attracted over a total 2.2 million viewers since its release on October 22.

Korean film "The Executioner", starring Jo Jae-hyun and Yoon Kye-s 5a0 ang, came in second place with 166,074 viewers over the weekend while "The Time Traveler's Wife" stepped down a spot from the previous week to take third place with 158,650 viewers over the same period.

Another Korean flick "Penthouse Elephant", starring Jang Hyuk, stood at No. 4 with 78,731 viewers on its first week of opening.

Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt vehicle "The Inglourious Bastards" rounded out the top five with 76,551 viewers for the weekend.

Three more Korean movies -- "My Love, Ugly Duckling", "Kill Me" and "Paju" --were included in the top ten.


South Korea's box office estimates for the weekend of November 6 to 8.

[Korean Box Office Information System (KOBIS)]

Reporter : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr

Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@asiae.co.kr

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Nov. 07, 2009

Choi Song-hyeon Has No Regrets Over Leaving KBS


Choi Song-hyeon

Presenter-turned-actress Choi Song-hyeon says she has never for a moment regretted quitting Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), one of Korea's three major broadcasters.

She was speaking in a press conference for a new drama on cable channel tvN in Seoul on Wednesday after being cast in the leading role for "Mrs. Town."

"It's been over a year since I quit my presenter job at KBS, and now I don't even think about the reputation I had as a presenter," she said. "I just love being part of an ensemble and acting."

When filming her debut movie "Insadong Scandal," she was thrilled to be able to act but wasn't good at analyzing and understanding the character, let alone knowing much about the craft. "I think I've gained better understanding and knowledge about acting, so I'm enjoying shooting even more," she said.

Choi, who is playing the lead for the first time in the new show, faces some steamy love scenes. The drama will be aired every Friday midnight, with the first episode scheduled on Nov. 13.

Source : Chosun Ilbo

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Kim Tae-hee on Controversy over Her Acting Skills


▲Actress Kim Tae-hee, who plays an intelligence agency profiler in the KBS TV2 drama "Iris"

Actress Kim Tae-hee, 29, is frank and simple. But despite her modest personality, she easily speaks her heart. She was upfront and honest in her interview and didn't try to avoid "uncomfortable" subjects.

We met with Kim on the filming set of "Iris" in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Her enchanting beauty shined even when she was wearing black attire. In "Iris," Kim plays top profiler Choi Seung-hee, who is in love with her coworker, Kim Hyung-joon, who is played by Lee Byung-hun. In the November 5 episode, Kim received praise for her excellent portrayal of her character accepting Hyun-joon's death. "I'm not sure if I am brave enough to go through hardships that love can present, but I would want to be in the relationship that we filmed in Japan. During the shoot, I envied Seung-hee a lot," said Kim, smiling.


--The viewer ratings for "Iris" have surpassed 30 percent...

▲I'm very glad about that. When I watch this drama, I can say for sure that its scale and filming techniques are profoundly different from other dramas. It's like a movie. In the beginning, I didn't realize the magnificence of its action scenes because I appeared in very few of them. I just tried my best not to damage its reputation. But now I can see how impressive it is (laughs).

--Your acting opposite Lee Byung-hun made headlines, especially for the bedroom scene...

▲I'm glad to hear that viewers liked it. Lee Byung-hun contributed many ideas on how to make our love scenes more romantic. It was his idea to shoot the kissing scene where he passes a candy from his mouth into mine, as well as the scene where Seung-hee caresses Hyun-joon's leg under the table during a meeting. But it was my idea that Hyun-joon "handcuffs" my leg during that scene (laughs). I thought there would be something different in the way our characters date, because they are both spies. We filmed the bedroom scene in a comfortable mood. I was wearing a sleeveless top and all we did was just kissing. So it wasn't a lot of pressure. The scene where we stand on a terrace wrapped in a blanket also looked beautiful, but in fact we wearing layers of clothes underneath because it was too cold (laughs). To me, it was a bigger challenge to act in the scene where I slap Hyun-joon after he kisses me.

--Though Seung-hee is an elite spy, she appears mostly in romantic scenes...

▲It was my choice. Other actors look good as spies, but my looks are relatively too soft for a spy. I thought it would be strange if I appeared as a cool-headed agent all the time. I thought that melodrama was my calling (laughs). People think of me as a smart and staunch person, but in reality I am very clumsy and vulnerable. It all shows in acting. So I couldn't just portray an intelligent and shrewd spy all the time.

--How was it acting in action scenes?

▲I wish I could do better. In the beginning, I wanted to look strong, but as we were shooting action scenes, I got injured often. In the scene where I fight with Seon-hwa (played by Kim So-yeon), I wish I could portray it more fiercely. But I like the action scene that will be shown in episode 10. In that scene, I have a standoff with a terrorist who is played by a very tall guy. So I beat him with all my might. After the shoot, he complained of pain. I was so sorry that I bought him dinner. My whole body was bruised because of action scenes but once the shoot is over, it feels very fulfilling. Maybe I'm a pervert... (laughs) Firing a gun is more difficult, because I'm scared even by the sound of a bursting balloon. Shooting gun-firing scenes was difficult for me, as was portraying a cool gal as well. I should've played with toy guns when I was little (laughs). Lee Byung-hun's acting is perfect.

--What is Seung-hee going through at this point?

▲She accepts Hyun-joon's death but she refuses to forget him easily. She has become more mature after everything she has been through but she is still Hyun-joon's girl. She is just trying to rise back on her feet. She know what Sa-woo (played by Chung Jun-ho) feels for her but she is not ready yet to open up her heart to someone else. But nobody knows how these three will end up later.

--Seung-hee is torn by love, but she is a very confident person. What about you?

▲I am not that confident. People say that I look like I can have anything in the world and that I have nothing to worry about. But that's nonsense. I also have my shortcomings and worries. Since I started acting, I found myself worried about my future many times. I felt frustrated and lost. Acting is still a big challenge to me, and I'm very worried about that. I must continue to try and work hard. Malicious rumors about me don't upset me that much, because they are groundless. But I'm hurt most when people speak negatively about my acting skills. I also admit that. But I want to escape from frustration and anxiety through "Iris" and I earnestly hope that it will be a turning point in my acting career.

--You seem to be too fragile for a top star...

▲Star? I don't know about that. I don't think that one can receive recognition for their image or looks. To me, negative things look larger than positive ones. I am very sensitive to criticism. Plus, being good-looking is not an advantage in acting. Even small moves that I make look bigger, making people think that I got carried away. My mouth is also my shortcoming because it's protruding and always stays open. I tried to correct it through surgery but it didn't help. My doctor did his best to push my mouth back but he said that was the most he could do (laughs). In "Iris" Seung-hee is a woman who captivates the hearts of Hyun-joon and Sa-woo at first sight, so I was worried that I might not look pretty enough. Even if I look pretty in TV commercials, because they made me look pretty, I might look less beautiful in TV dramas.

--Your future plans...

▲I debuted as a TV commercial actress at age 21 and a TV actress at 23. It's amazing how time flies. I wanted to keep myself busy but it feels that I haven't achieved much so far. I want to focus on acting and discover my hidden talents. So far, I felt frustrated many times because I was unprepared when I started acting, but now I just want to look ahead.

Source : KBS Global

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S. Korean heartthrob says becoming 'ninja' hard but worth it

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- After nearly eight months of a "near hell experience" to become the deadly "Ninja Assassin," 27-year-old South Korean heartthrob Rain said his performance in the Hollywood blockbuster would not only affect his own future in tinseltown, but that of fellow Asian and Korean actors as well.

"I thought of returning home every day and constantly asked myself if I really had to go through with this," the South Korean actor said during a Seoul press conference Monday. "But it was a promise I made to myself and my fans. I knew my success would open new opportunities in the U.S. not only for me, but also for my Asian and Korean colleagues."


"Ninja Assassin," a Hollywood-produced Asian martial arts movie, has drawn high expectations from local movie fans since the news broke that Rain, the South Korean pop sensation and rising actor, would play the lead character.

Produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers, and directed by James McTeigue of "V for Vendetta (2005)," rumors said the film was shaping up as one of the largest Hollywood blockbuster smashes of the year. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, the movie will hit South Korean theaters Nov. 26, a day after its United States and Canada release.

Playing Raizo, who seeks revenge against the merciless Ozunu Clan, a secrete society of ninjas that raised him to become one of the world's deadliest assassins, Rain trained six hours a day, seven days a week for eight months in the United States.

The actor said his American training team pushed him further each day by attempting to "hurt his pride."

"They would compare me to top stars like Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, calling me the worst student among them. This made me try harder," he said.

Rain's efforts are borne out in his performance as Raizo, flying across the screen wielding katanas and chained-daggers to create breathtaking action scenes that take up most of the film's 98-minute running time.

The Wachowskis, who directed the global hit "Matrix" series, cast Rain in the lead role, impressed by his performance in their 2008 film "Speed Racer."

Despite that film's mediocre box office showing, Rain says his Hollywood debut helped "paved his way" into the U.S. movie industry.

"It is rare to succeed on the first try. My appearance in the film led me to some of the best staff and filmmakers in the United States," he said. "With imagination and the ability to realize their ideas on-screen, the Wachowskis are the best filmmakers I have ever worked with."

Rain, the singer's stage name, revealed his real name, Jung Ji-hoon, to South Korean fans with his 2003 acting debut to show that he takes acting as seriously as singing.

His first film, "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK," directed by Park Chan-wook, won him the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival in 2007, proving the young star's versatile potential.

The actor said the release of "Ninja Assassin" felt like the "beginning of a new stage" in his life.

"After filming the movie, I thought to myself: 'this is only the beginning,'" he said. "I cannot afford to be lazy as I've been presented with a new and critical opportunity. I will continue doing my best."

Credits : Shin Hae-in (hayney@yna.co.kr)

Source : Yonhap News

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Actor Kim Joon-sung signs with Hollywood agency


Korean actor Kim Joon Sung [Forestar Entertainment]

Korean actor Kim Joon-sung has signed with a Hollywood agency that manages Halle Berry, according to his agency on Monday.

The actor signed a management deal with agency Vincent Cirrincione Associates for his acting career in the United States, Forestar Entertainment said in a press release.

"We expect Kim's career to take off in Hollywood now that he has signed with a major management agency in the U.S.," an official at Forestar was quoted as saying. He also went on to say that Kim has been receiving offers from major U.S. networks to appear in television dramas.

He recently wrapped up filming a low-budget film "Forgotten", in which he plays FBI agent Henry Cho, and a short film titled "The Grey Coat", which was directed by famous commercial and music video director Bob Giraldi. "Forgotten" is currently showing at the Playhouse West Film Festival.

The 34-year-old actor, who was born in Hong Kong and went to college in the U.S., is fluent in four languages including English, Cantonese and Mandarin. He debuted in 2001 in a Korean version of the popular musical "The Rocky Horror Show" and starred in the movie "The Scam" earlier this year.

Credits : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr

<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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TVXQ Hero to make public appearance


A scene from telecinema "Postman to Heaven" starring TVXQ member Hero and actress Han Hyo-joo. [samhwa Networks]

Boy band TVXQ member Hero Jaejoong is set to make a public appearance for his movie today amidst an ongoing legal feud with his agency to have the validity of his contract nullified.

It is inevitable that Hero, who will attend a press screening for his telecinema "Postman to Heaven" on Monday, will be asked what lies in the fate of one of the most successful bands in Korea.

Hero, along with two other members Micky Yoochun and Xiah Junsu, asked a court in late July to nullify their exclusive contract with their agency SM Entertainment citing unfair terms and the court granted the three freedom to carry out their individual activities until a final verdict was made.

However, SM argued they cannot exercise their individual rights while acting as members of TVXQ and gave them a 10-day deadline, asking them to decide by Thursday on whether they will be part of the team to resume their activities in Korea next year.

U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin, members of the boy band who had not engaged in legal action against SM, also asked for a decision by the remaining members of their group for a decision saying that they are siding with the agency on the issue.

The five-member boy band, who debuted in 2004 with album "Hug", are stars throughout Asia, reportedly having the largest fanbase in the world, and have seen great success in the Japanese music industry in particular.

"Postman" is the second of a total of eight telelcinemas which have started opening every week with "My Love, Ugly Duckling" from November 5. The telecinemas will first be aired in Korea, then in Japan staring next January and air on Asahi TV program “Famous Movie Theater” in May.

Jessica Kim jesskim@asiae.co.kr

<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>

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Rain talks about starring in 'Ninja Assassin'


photo from 10Asia

Hundreds of reporters from all over Asia converged in Seoul to get a chance to speak to rising international star Rain about starring in his new film -- the hotly anticipated "Ninja Assassin" -- yesterday.

"The (Wachowski) brothers told me to 'forget about Rain the pop-star because from now on, you're a killer and a fighter,'" the popular singer-cum-actor said during a press conference at the Lotte Hotel in downtown central Seoul.

"And for eight months (during the production), I lived day to day thinking I was exactly that ... I think through this film I'll gain a lot of male fans in the future," he joked.

Known as an object of desire for women from all over Asia, the film is ultraviolent, full of killing and mayhem that may not be for the eyes and ears of his female fans.

"This isn't a film that should be seen by young girls ... even though some might find ways to see it," he said.

"When I saw the finished film, I was very satisfied that I could not recognize myself on screen -- the guy on screen was very different from the real life Jung Ji-hoon."

Seemingly aware of the legions of fans he has amassed throughout his career as a clean-cut pop idol, the 28-year-old Korean heartthrob showed up clad in a smart double-breasted suit sans the long flowing locks looking less like the cold blooded killer in the film.

In order to make the transformation into a deadly, Katana-brandishing assassin, Rain underwent a six month training regimen concocted by the stunt and fight team that whipped the actors in 2007's blockbuster, "300" into shape.

"I trained as if my life was hanging by a thread," Rain said.

"Over 90 percent of the stunts in the film I did myself. It was intimidating at first but after I got the hang of it, it all became very easy for me."

As for struggles with having to overcome a language barrier, he said, "The brothers told me not to think too much about speaking the dialogue."

"They requested that I focus entirely on communicating through expressions, mannerisms, and even the movement of my eyes. I also had a speech coach with me at all times so that helped as well."

After appearing in the Wachowski Brother's 2008 box office dud "Speed Racer," Rain had impressed them so much they created the film specifically for the pop-star.

"The Wachowski Brothers are full of imagination and ideas and they are the type of brilliant people who can take what they imagine and transport it onto the movie screen. I have immense respect for them," he said.

"I hope the film does well and I hope a lot of people go watch it because it would be a lie if I said I didn't have expectations for this film. This film has to succeed in order for other Asian actors to get chances in Hollywood in the future and regardless of how well it does, this has been a challenge that's also been an educational experience."

So are there any similarities between Raizo -- the name of Rain's title character -- and Rain, the pop-star?

"There shouldn't be any similarities," he joked noting the high body count that piles up in the film.

"I'm not an introvert like Raizo and I'm very social unlike him. I wouldn't be able to live in solitude."

The film hits Korean cinemas nationwide on Nov. 26.

Credits : Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldm.com)

Source : The Korea Herald

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'Ninja Assassin' misses the target


Humorless, preposterous, and soaked in blood, "Ninja Assassin" turns out to be thinly-plotted schlock from a team of pedigree filmmakers who should have known better.

"The day Rain did his first scene in 'Speed Racer,' the Wachowski brothers called me and said 'This guy is unbelievable. He's a natural, our dream come true.' We began to plan 'Ninja Assassin' immediately afterward," producer Joel Silver said in an earlier interview.

Unfortunately for "world star" Rain, what was to be his breakout film falls way short of what "Enter the Dragon" was for Bruce Lee. No doubt, that was what the Wachowski Brothers were aiming to do by gambling on someone who was a relative unknown in the Western world.

Rain plays Raizo, one of the world's deadliest assassins trained by the Ozunu Clan -- an underground band of killers that has remained hidden for generations by posing as a mythical organization.

Robbed of his childhood, Raizo is transformed into a merciless Katana-wielding killing machine. Breaking free from their mountain lair, he plans to exact revenge on the clan for killing his first love.

In his quest for revenge, he gets help from a Europol agent Mika Coretti -- played by Naomi Harris -- who stumbles upon a money trail connecting a slew of high profile political assassinations around the world committed by the Ozunu.

As she begins to uncover the truth behind the murders, she too, becomes their target and is saved by Raizo when assassins emerge to kill her in Berlin.

By now, plots like these have become the silver screen version of painting-by-numbers in the same manner as Tom Clancy inspired techno-thriller novels.

But the plot does have all of the makings of a straightforward pulp action thriller, as its opening set-piece suggests it would be. In it Raizo ambushes a gang of Yakuza members, with heads and limbs severed and buckets of blood everywhere.

The level of over-the-top ultra-violence established through this opener is unfortunately juxtaposed with a serious tone devoid of much irony.

The film is not a nod to pulpy B-grade kung-fu genre of the 70s, nor is it a polished action flick geared towards a mainstream audience. Instead it's stuck in the middle ground, in an area unlikely to appeal to fans of either genre.

When production on the film was announced, anticipation was high, as it was written and being produced by the makers of The Matrix trilogy, with directing duties falling on James McTiegue, the veteran director who scored both a critical hit and modest box office success with 2005's V for Vendetta.

But it seems somewhere down the line the creative vision of the producers and the director clashed, without either camp realizing.

Perhaps they realized during post-production they had a potential turkey on their hands -- the film's marketing has focused on Rain and the physical transformation he underwent during six months of grueling training with the stunt and fight team that trained the actors in the film, "300."

And the result is there on the screen. The 28-year-old actor is shown sans shirt as if he's allergic to fabric except for a leather jacket.

He's ripped. His female fans will love him -- as long as they don't get too squeamish from seeing all the blood.

He does a decent job with the few lines he has throughout the 98-minute running time.

The verdict is still out on whether this will be his breakthrough role and it will be interesting to see if his star power alone will be able to generate enough revenue in Asia to warrant future high-profile roles.

Credits : Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldm.com)

Source : The Korea Herald

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