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The Handmaiden (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

Images courtesy of © 2016 CJ E&M  Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: The Handmaiden

FILM YEAR: 2015

DURATION: 145 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Amazon Studios/Sony Pictures Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

AVAILABLE ON: January 24, 2017


Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters

Directed by Chan-wook Park

Screenplay by Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park

Produced by Jose Ibanez, Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin

Executive Producer: Jon Kilik, Serge Lobo, Robert S. Wilson

Edited by Affonso Goncalves, Adam Kurnitz


Starring:

Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko

Tae-ri Kim as Sook-Hee

Jung-woo Ha as Count Funiwara

Jin-woong Jo as Uncle Kouzuki

Hae-suk Kim as Miss Sasaki

So-ri Moon as Aunt of Lady Hideko


From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.


In 2002, Sarah Waters wrote the historic crime novel “The Fingersmith”.

Over a decade later, a South Korean erotic psychological thriller inspired by “The Fingersmith” titled “The Handmaiden” and directed by Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy”, “Lady Vengeance”, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”) and co-written by Park and Seo-kyeong Jeong (“I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK”, “Thirst”, “Lady Vengeance”).

The film stars Min-hee Kim (“Right Now, Wrong Then”, “No Tears for the Dead”, “Helpless”), Tae-ri Kim (“Moon-young”, “Who Is It?”), Jung-woo Ha (“Chaser”, “The Berlin File”, “The Yellow Sea”), Jin-woong Jo (“The Admiral”, “Assassination”, “Nameless Gangster”), So-ri Moon (“Oasis”, “A Good Lawyer’s Wife”, “Peppermint Candy”) and Hae-suk Kim (“Thirst”, “The Throne”, The Thieves”).

The film would receive critical acclaim and  now will be released on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“The Handmaiden” is told in three parts and is set during the Japanese occupation in Korea.

We are introduced to Sook-Hee (portrayed by Tae-ri Kim), a thief who is from a family of con artists and Count Fujiwara (portrayed by Jung-woo Ha), also a thief.  Both plan to steal from Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (portrayed by Min-hee Kim), as Sook-Hee was hired to become Lady Hideko’s new maid.  Count Fujiwara’s plan is to marry Lady Hideko but needs Sook-Hee’s help to make it happen and also to find a way to have Lady Hideko committed to an asylum.

We also learn of how Lady Hideko is controlled by her authoritarian Uncle Kouzuki (portrayed by Jin-woong Jo), who is into erotica and uses fear and torture to have control of Lady Hideko, scaring her by reminding that she should not forget the basement.

At first, Sook-Hee was sticking to her plan of getting close and doing her job around Lady Hideko but the more they spend time with each other, both women become attracted towards each other and eventually, become passionate towards each other.

As Sook-Hee’s job is to push Lady Hideko to marry Count Fujiwara, she becomes more jealous and is more reluctant to follow through with the plan.

As Lady Hideko wants to know if she should go through with the marriage, Sook-Hee tells her that she should but it upsets Lady Hideko.

Meanwhile, both Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko are married and Count Fujiwara becomes wealthy.  But as the three travel to the asylum, to Sook-Hee’s shock, they committed her, not Lady Hideko to the asylum.

But everything is not as it seems…


VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Handmaiden” is presented in 2:38:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital. Picture quality is good (as good as it can get on DVD) and I was quite shocked that the film was not available on Blu-ray.  For the most part, cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is fantastic!  Audio is primarily dialogue-driven but surround channels capture the ambiance of the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Handmaiden” comes with no special features.


As I watched “The Handmaiden”, I felt that this sexually-charged erotic thriller gives every viewer the opportunity to see filmmaker Chan-wook Park work his magic in another fantastic film!

The film, which is broken into three parts, no doubt will surprise viewers but also entertain them by its wonderful screenplay but also the cinematography and directorial excellence of Chan-wook Park.

From storyline to cinematography, everything from how everything is orchestrated, planned and written made “The Handmaiden” one of the top films I have watched for 2017.

The acting by Min-hee Kim and Tae-ri Kim and having to perform sex scenes together and make it seem realistic and erotic, definitely will keep viewers on their toes.

Multiple twists, a lot of backstabbing but the story was intelligently written and each scene was well-done.

The first part of the film sets you up for a shocking betrayal, but the next part will shock you because you are surprised about character motivations and how things were thoroughly planned.  Leading to a final part that will shock you but at the same time, after it’s all done, realizing you just watched an amazing film!

As for the DVD, it’s a barebones DVD release unfortunately.  But I hope that doesn’t sway people because it’s a wonderful film.

At times humorous, at times quite dark and many times erotic and sexually charged, Chan-wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” is a unique and intelligent film that I highly recommend!

No Tears for the Dead (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

notearsforthedead

“No Tears for the Dead” is a wonderful continuation of heavy hitting action films from director Jeong-beom Lee and no doubt one of the best action films coming from Asia within the last three years. If you love films with action and violence, “No Tears for the Dead” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Well Go USA Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: No Tears for the Dead

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 widescreen), Korean and English and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: CJ Entertainment

RATED: NR (Not Rated)

Release Date: February 17, 2015


Directed by Jeong-beom Lee

Written by Jeong-beom Lee

Edited by Na-young Nam

Music by Yong-roch Choi

Casting by Lisa Hamil


Starring:

Dong-gun Jang as Gon

Min-hee Kim as Mo-kyeong

Brian Tee as Chaoz

Dana Lee as Dai Ban

Rich Ting as Asing

Alex Wraith as Alvaro


Abandoned by his mother shortly after immigrating to America, Gon is raised by the mafia and grows up to become a cold-blooded hitman. While on a job, Gon makes the mistake of killing an innocent young girl. A flood of guilt takes over his life and the situation becomes worse when his boss assigns him the job of killing the young girl’s mother. The trouble is, he falls in love with her.


From Jeong-beom Lee, the director of the 2010 action film “The Man from Nowhere” comes a new, riveting action film on Blu-ray titled “No Tears for the Dead”.

The film stars Dong-gun Jang (“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War”, “The Promise”, “My Way”), Min-hee Kim (“Hellcats”, “Helpless”) and Brian Tee (“The Wolverine”, “We Were Soldiers”, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”).

“No Tears for the Dead” begins with skilled hitman Gong (portrayed by Dong-gun Jang) sent to eliminate people at a night club involved in a business deal and acquire a chip for their client.  Before he is to do that, he has fun making faces with a young girl and gives her an origami.

As Gong murders everyone involved in the deal, he hears a noise from the door and shoots several shots.  When he goes to check, he sees the origami and the face of the young girl he was playing with and realizes he just shot and killed her.

This would send Gong into a shock that he killed an innocent young girl but he is quickly reminded by his boss Dai Ban (portrayed by Dana Lee) that he failed acquiring the chip and failed his mission.

Knowing that he is upset for killing the young girl, Dai Ban gives him a new mission, to fly to Korea and murder the mother of the young girl named Mo-kyeong (portrayed by Min-hee Kim) and put her out of her misery.

At first, Gong is upset that Dai Ban would force him to do this but knows that going against his group can cause problems between him and his friend Chaoz (portrayed by Brian Tee) and the other members of the cold-blooded hitman circle.

We learn that Mo-kyeong has suffered tremendously since the death of her daughter and her husband.  Still with no answers as why anyone would kill them, she tries to do what she can in her job as a risk manager at an investment firm, while trying to take care of her senile mother.

As Gong spies on Mo-kyeong, to track her patterns and find entries to her apartment, each time he sees how much she is suffering because of her daughter’s death.

And as he gets the perfect opportunity to put Mo-kyeong out of her misery, he sees her have an emotional breakdown watching a video of her daughter which then makes Gong feel regret and guilty for killing her.

And because Gong refuses to kill her, his client and their assassins, along with his circle of hitmen, have targeted both Gon and Mo-gyeong.  Will Gon be able to protect her?


VIDEO:

“Brotherhood of Blades” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality is fantastic as skin tones look natural and closeups featured great detail, including dripping blood and skin pores on the character’s faces. The film offers a cooler look throughout the film but the detail is amazing. And if anything, while the film looks fantastic in HD. I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“No Tears for the Dead” is presented in Mandarin and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For a film that utilizes plenty of action, “Brotherhood of Blades” features a strong lossless soundtrack with great use of the surround channels and LFE. The scene where the three are locked inside the courtyard and are ambushed is one of the more impressive moments in the film that really takes advantage of your surround channels and subwoofer. You can hear the arrows flying towards their target, swords clanging and for the most part, one of the better action scenes during the film.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“No Tears for the Dead” comes with the following special features:

  • Making of No Tears for the Dead – (27:12) A Making of featurette for “No Tears for the Dead” with interviews with cast and crew.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:51) Featuring deleted scenes from “No Tears for the Dead”.
  • Director’s Commentary – (3:19) A short commentary from director Jeong-beom Lee which an excerpt of things he said in the making of.
  • Brian Tee Interview – (2:05) Promo for the DVD and interview with Brian Tee.
  • Character Spot – Mogyeong – (:59) Short character spot for the character Mogyeong.
  • Character Spot – Gon – (:51) Short character spot for the character Gong.
  • Behind the Scenes – (3:59) A short behind-the-scenes making of “No Tears for the Dead”
  • Action Highlights – (2:01) A brief short featurette on the action sequences from “No Tears for the Dead”
  • Trailers – CJ Entertainment trailers

EXTRAS

“No Tears for the Dead” comes with a slipcover.


For those who have watched Jeong-beom Lee’s “The Man from Nowhere” will immediately expect nothing but action and violence for his next film and sure enough, “No Tears for the Dead” does not disappoint!

While the storyline of a “bad guy gone good” is nothing new for action films, “No Tears for the Dead” incorporates fight choreography, typically a lot of weapons and in Jeong-beom Lee fashion, knife-fights galore.

But it’s the storyline that I find that is riveting, you have the dramatic side as a cold-blooded hitman, Gong, feels regret for killing a young girl, but now has a mission to kill her mother and all he sees is her emotional turmoil of having lost a daughter.

This triggers the emotions within him as he and his mother left Korea to go to the United States but because they were broke, his mother had tried many times to abandon him.

As the true title of the film in Korean is “Uneun Namja” (Crying Man), this refers to Gong’s mother, who often tells him to stop crying.  But deep inside, he was always in pain, always crying.  And despite being a no-nonsense cold blooded killer, having killed a young girl and seeing the traumatic loss that he is responsible for, hurts him deeply.  So, instead of killing Mo-gyeong, he wants to help her.

But part of the problem is that evidence of wide spread corruption is kept in a small toy that her daughter has (the last place anyone would suspect) and because Mo-gyeong has it, she has become a target.  And because of Gong’s failure to kill her, Mo-gyeong’s boss and his band of assassins, along with Gong’s circle of hitmen, have put a target on him and Mo-gyeong.

Suffice to say, this leads to an incredible amount of action sequences and definitely a 180 compared to director Jeong-beom Lee’s “The Man from Nowhere” in which the man must protect the girl from child trafficking (for children’s organs), this time, the protagonist is the killer of the child who must protect her mother.  So, there is a lot of tension as Gong wants some type of closure from the girl’s mother by telling her the truth that he is the one responsible for murdering her husband and daughter, but ruining her life.

The Blu-ray release of “No Tears for the Dead” features amazing detail in HD as closeups look amazing and I saw no banding or artifacts.  The lossless soundtrack is also fantastic as there is heavy gunfire, explosions, automobile accidents and of course, the sounds of groans and moans and the sound of knives galore!  The Blu-ray release features a good number of special features including a making of, deleted scenes and more.

Overall, “No Tears for the Dead” is a wonderful continuation of heavy hitting action films from director Jeong-beom Lee and no doubt one of the best action films coming from Asia within the last three years. Definitely not a film for the squeamish as there is a lot of blood in this film.  So, considered yourself warned, if you do not like bloody films.

If you love films with action and violence, “No Tears for the Dead” is highly recommended!

 

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