Archive for October, 2010

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Bloodsport Revisited

October 20, 2010

It had been a long time since I last watched the late 80s martial arts classic Bloodsport, the film that launched the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme. My Korean cable channels very often throw out brilliant 80s action flicks like Predator, Commando, First Blood and 70s martial arts masterpieces like Enter the Dragon and Drunken Master but unfortunately, they don’t have a great deal of variety and tend to repeat the same half dozen over and over again. Recently, it occurred to me that Bloodsport seemed like perhaps the most fitting film that my Korean cable hadn’t yet broadcast (to my knowledge). This in turn triggered a nostalgic longing in me and, lo, I got my hands on the fight flick forthwith. I suggested to my wife that she watch it with me but she firmly declined and politely informed me to watch it alone. At least, that is how she euphemistically remembers the moment that she rebuked my suggestion with a swift “fuck off”.

Released in 1988 and directed by one Newt Arnold, Bloodsport was made for a mere $1.5 million and became a surprise box-office success, grossing $12 million in the domestic U.S. market alone. Van Damme had been in Hollywood for a few years by then, eking out a living doing stunt work and extra work, but Bloodsport marked his first starring vehicle. The film was written by martial arts practitioner and fight choreographer, Frank Dux, and purports to be based on the true events of his life participating in underground fight tournaments. Twenty-two years later, and on account of the inexhaustible capacity for nostalgia amongst our shameless generation, it remains a cult classic much beloved by fans of the cheesy action films of yore.

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Korean Movies You Should Watch Before You Die #10

October 8, 2010

This is a guest post by Nick Mann

Scandal Makers

In a previous post I discussed Happiness as an introduction to Korean melodramatic film.  Now for comedy…

Hyeon-soo (Cha Tae-hyun of My Sassy Girl) is the host of a popular afternoon radio show and minor celebrity in Seoul.  He leads the life of a playboy, with an immaculate condo, strict routine and busy dating schedule.  This all changes when a teenage girl shows up at his door claiming to be his daughter.  To make matters worse, his daughter has brought her young son.  All at once Hyeon-soo discovers he is a grandfather.  That’s the basic premise of Speedy Scandal (2008)

With this scenario the scene is set for an inexhaustible number of comedic situations as Hyeon-soo tries to balance the lifestyle he is accustomed to with the responsibilities of a parent.  The film doesn’t disappoint.  Cha’s portrayal of Hyeon-soo is mischievous and self-centered to the point of humorous audacity, but he still has a certain guileless charm that wins over audiences.  Park Bo-yeong is well cast as his average-looking teenage daughter and Hwang Seo-hyeon steals scenes as the irresistibly cute grandson.

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K-Pop Korner: 2NE1 – Can’t Nobody

October 7, 2010

In which the author attempts to recant.

As promised/threatened, this is the last piece of my 2NE1 triptych and it comes after I have had time to reflect on the overall response to my first two entries below. After careful consideration, it seems the ineluctable truth of the matter is that these songs are pretty indefensible. I’ll stand by ‘Follow Me’ as a catchy tune that has been kicking about in my head since I first heard it in a phone commercial earlier this year, and not unpleasantly so, but ‘Clap Your Hands’ and this song here, ‘Can’t Nobody’ don’t contain much of note, even as mindless pop songs. Truth be told, I think I was dazzled by the well made, unapologetically over-the-top music videos. I enjoyed the way the girls of the group seem to have developed into these hyperactive, Day-Glo, cyberpunk pixies as it appeared genuinely more interesting than the typical image of their peers; that of faux sultriness blended with a contrived adolescence. However, the songs themselves are fairly wank. Read the rest of this entry ?

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K-Pop Korner: 2NE1 – Clap Your Hands (박수쳐)

October 1, 2010

So, I said yesterday that 2NE1 were kind of awesome. This has unexpectedly proven a tad controversial. My wife and closest friends think I’ve lost my mind or, at least, that my mind has degenerated to a state of being highly susceptible and indulgent of thorough inanity. Nevertheless, I have opted to carry on ahead, plunge further into the cheesy depths and attempt to make my case.

This is a pop product that has won me over primarily with its presentation and execution. Arguably, there isn’t even the pretence of substance here to criticize or otherwise denigrate. 2NE1‘s songs seem quite obvious and deliberate in where they take their inspiration from and where they blatantly appropriate the sounds and styles of popular American performers. That said, neither the four girls performing these songs, nor the team of producers, choreographers, video directors and entertainment company execs behind this product seem to be intending for it to be taken all that seriously. That’s not to say the end result is parody but, rather, an unrestrained exercise in manufacturing and selling pure fun for its own sake and not the overly-earnest attempt to make the pop group seem important, empowering or vapidly sexual. Even the ubiquitous adoption of hip-hop in both the music and clothing they wear in their videos comes across as being intended merely as a celebration of the joy of dressing up, throwing on a costume and dicking around in merry abandonment, as opposed to some sincere expression of a lifestyle or subculture. They’re just in it for a laugh and they communicate as much with an honest charm.

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