A scene from “Professionals,” which is expected to wow movie fans this year with its A-list cast. / Courtesy of Showbox/Mediaplex
By Lee Hyo-won
While 2011 saw the release of some novel, genre-defying works, not many local films aside from “Sunny” and “War of the Arrows” (a.k.a. “Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon”) managed to draw crowds at the box office.
This year, a lineup of big-budget films featuring the return of big stars await moviegoers.
A diverse variety of works — ranging from melodramas and comedies to action flicks and thrillers — made on a budget of some 10 billion won will hit the big screen.
CJ E&M Pictures will present “Soar Into the Sun,” starring pop star Rain, and “Tower,” headed by actor Sul Kyoung-gu. “Soar” is a drama set in the air force that invited a top Hollywood crew for the aerial action while “Tower,” about fire fighters, is expected to present hot action and hot stars including actress Son Ye-jin and Kim Sang-kyung.
Showbox/Mediaplex will also offer flicks made on a hefty budge of some 10 billion won: fans can look forward to the return of “My Sassy Girl” heroine Jun Ji-hyun (a.k.a. Gianna Jun) acting opposite Kim Hye-soo, Oh Dal-soo and Kim Hae-sook in “The Professionals,” a crime drama shot in Hong Kong and Macau under the direction of “Tazza: The High Rollers” helmer Choi Dong-hoon.
Lotte Entertainment, which had a lucky 2011 with “Arrows,” the highest grossing homegrown film of the year, will release “Jeok” (Enemy). Directed by Kwak Kyung-taek, the action film is about a South Korean spy who sneaks into North Korean-occupied territory to search for his lover.
Stars challenge new roles
“Hallyu” (Korean wave) star Lee Byung-hun and actor Cha Tae-hyeon will star in period pieces set during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) for the first time. Lee will appear in “Joseuneui Wang” (King of Joseon), a “Prince and the Pauper”-esque story in which a commoner resembling the king takes the monarch’s place.
Cha will play the lead role in “Baramgwa Hamgge Sarajida” (Disappear With the Wind), which can be described as a Korean version of “Ocean’s Eleven” as top swindlers try to lay their hands on ice, a rare commodity at the time. The cast also includes Oh Ji-ho and Seong Dong-il, who co-starred in the period TV soap “The Slave Hunters” (Chuno).
Meanwhile, Koh Hyun-jung will take part in a mainstream movie for the first time in her 20-odd-year acting career. “Miss Go” is about a panic disorder patient who accidently becomes involved in a cat-and-mouse chase between the police and the country’s biggest crime ring.
Park Hae-il, who saw his “Moss” co-star Jung Jae-young disguised as an old man, will brave special costume and makeup to play a man in his 70s in “Eungyo.” The “Arrows” star made headlines recently for shaving off all his hair for the role. Kim Myung-min, who famously shed some 20 kilograms for “Closer to Heaven,” lost weight again to play a marathon runner in “Pacemaker,” which opens in theaters on Jan. 19.
Fans can also look forward to Han Ga-in’s return to the big screen. The actress ends a seven-year hiatus since “The Spirit of Jeet Keun Do — Once Upon a Time in High School” for “Geonchuk Gaeron” (An Introduction to Architecture). The romance is about an architect (Eom Tae-woong) who is commissioned to do a project by his unrequited love interest (Han).
Top movie stars that saw rather disappointing box office results in previous years will have the opportunity to “save face” in upcoming works.
Ha Ji-won, whose 3D monster film “Sector 7” yielded an embarrassing admission score last year, will return as an Olympic ping-pong champion in “Korea.” Song Kang-ho, whose melodrama “Hindsight” was largely ignored by viewers, will appear opposite Lee Na-young in “The Howling.” He will reprise his iconic role as a detective, for the first time in nine years since “Memories of Murder,” in the serial murder story.
Hwang Jung-min and Uhm Jeong-hwa, whose films “Moby Dick” and “Mama,” respectively, saw mediocre box office sales, will team up in “Dance Queen.” Uhm will get back in touch with her singing career as she plays the role of a politician’s wife who becomes torn between helping her husband run for mayor and pursuing her longtime dream to become a musician. The comedy opens in theaters on Jan. 19. Release dates for the other films are yet to be announced.
Credit: The Korea Times