Tag Archives: Byun Hee-bong

The Host (2006) Review

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The Host (2006)

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Gang-du
Byun Hee-bong as Park Hee-bong
Park Hae-il as Park Nam-il
Bae Doo-na as Park Nam-joo
Go Ah-sung as Park Hyun-seo
Director: Bong Joon-ho

An unidentified monster appears from the Han River in Seoul, kills hundreds and also carries off Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung). When her family learns that she is being held captive, they resolve to save her.

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After watching Parasite, I wanted to watch more of Bong Joon ho’s movies. The Host (not to be confused with the 2013 movie based on Stephanie Meyer’s book of the same name) had been on my long list of movies to watch for a while, I just knew of it as a monster movie, and it certainly was that, but having seen it I can say that it turned out to be a little more than just that. A greatly well made and original movie, The Host was quite an enjoyable monster flick, and had quite a lot of surprises in store that I wasn’t expecting.

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There’s plenty of monster movies, and if you’ve watched many of them, they can feel rather samey, and ultimately follow the same beats as other movies in the genre. However, Bong’s take on this worn out genre manages to be fresh and original. There’s also some deeper subtext and thematic elements at play, it’s actually more politically charged than you’d think it would be. The opening scene indicates that there’s much more to the movie, with scientists pushing chemicals into the pipe, which would eventually cause the monster to be created. While the plot beats aren’t exactly unpredictable, the story felt fresh enough that it didn’t matter too much. On top of that, the plot is quite captivating, and you’re invested from beginning to end. It’s tense and surprisingly emotionally involving, especially with the characters. At the same time, The Host is surprisingly darkly comedic and entertaining throughout, having some funny moments while not sacrificing the overall tone, it’s all balanced quite well.

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The cast are all good with Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, and Go Ah-sung playing the family at the centre of the story. The dynamic between all of them is great, which is good because it’s sort of a family drama on top of being a monster movie. The standout was long time Bong collaborator Song Kang-Ho, he’s great in everything and his performance as the father of the girl who was taken by the monster is no exception. Most monster movies have characters that are just there to be the main characters because every movie in that genre needs to have then, while the destruction and/or the monster is really the focus. The Host however is actually driven by these characters, and they are all acted and handled in the movie quite well.

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Bong Joon ho’s direction is great as expected, it’s so incredibly well shot and filmed. If you’ve seen any of his movies Memories of Murder onwards, you know how great he is, and that extends to the monster movie genre too. There are many thrilling sequences that ranks among the best of the genre. Now the only overt flaw is some of the dated visual effects on the monster and… it definitely hasn’t held up well. But it’s a testament to its design and the direction of the whole movie that this monster manages to be so effective, memorable and threatening whenever it’s on screen.

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The Host is a great monster movie, and it’s a great movie in itself. The acting is really good, Bong Joon-ho’s direction was top notch, and I liked everything that Bong brought to the movie with his writing. All of these elements come together to form a mixture of styles that work effectively. Even if you might think the monster movies are a little samey, The Host is definitely one to seek out.

Memories of Murder (2003) Review

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Memories of Murder

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Doo-man
Kim Sang-kyung as Seo Tae-yoon
Kim Roi-ha as Cho Yong-koo
Song Jae-ho as Sergeant Shin Dong-chul
Byun Hee-bong as Sergeant Koo Hee-bong
Director: Bong Joon-ho

In a small Korean province in 1986, two detectives struggle with the case of multiple young women being found raped and murdered by an unknown culprit.

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While watching Bong Joon ho’s filmography, there was one movie I was particularly looking forward to seeing, that being Memories of Murder. It had often been compared to Zodiac (even though Memories of Murder came out 4 years earlier), and seeing as I loved that movie, I had a feeling that it would be right up my alley, given that I generally like crime thrillers That turned out to be that case. All of the acclaim was very well deserved, Memories of Murder is a truly excellent film that everyone really should see.

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We’ve seen many detective stories about hunting serial killers, but not many are as well put together as Memories of Murder. At around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it keeps you engaged from beginning to end. You really feel as locked in as much as the main characters as they desperately try to find the killer, discovering leads, reaching dead ends, and the like. The movie more character driven than you might think, as it shows the stress, disappointment, and overall impact that this seemingly endless hunt has on the detectives. This movie also has some surprisingly effective dark comedy throughout, making it somewhat entertaining to watch and not just a grimy gruel to sit through. At the same time, the murders are fittingly disturbing (while not being overly exploitive), and you constantly feel this growing sense of seemingly hopelessness, especially as it builds towards the latter portion of the movie. The climax of the movie takes quite the turn, culminating in quite the haunting ending, especially the final shot of the film. I won’t say too much for those who know nothing about the movie or the events it’s based on, but like Zodiac, Memories of Murder based on a true story, giving much of the movie even more weight.

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The cast are all great in their roles, with the trio of Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung and Kim Roi-ha as the detectives particularly working very effective. Their characters are all shown to be quite different from each other (both in personalities and the way they perform their investigations), flawed and really believable. As usual, it’s Song Kang-ho who stands out the most, who delivers another great performance. Both him and Kim Sang-kyung particularly shine in some of the latter scenes of the film.

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Bong Joon-ho’s direction was fantastic, this is his second movie and he’s done some absolutely fantastic work here, certainly a huge step up from his debut movie Barking Dogs Never Bite released 3 years earlier. The cinematography was also great, really placing you in the setting effectively. Some of the most stand out shots come in the last 10 minutes, and on the whole that last section is so wonderfully directed and put together. The score by Taro Iwashiro is also really effective, beautiful but melancholic and sad.

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Memories of Murder is an absolute masterclass in filmmaking, an engaging and haunting crime thriller, incredibly written and directed by Bong Joon ho, and greatly performed by its cast. While I consider Parasite (another Bong film) to be slightly better, they are very close in terms of quality, and both deserve all the attention. Definitely see it as soon as possible, especially if you’re a fan of investigative crime thriller films like Zodiac.

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) Review

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Barking Dogs Never Bite

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Lee Sung-jae as Ko Yun-ju
Bae Doona as Park Hyun-nam
Kim Ho-jung as Eun-sil
Byun Hee-bong as apartment maintenance man
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Frustrated with loud barking, an academic (Sung-jae Lee) wages war against dogs in his apartment building.

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Barking Dogs Never Bite was one of the movies from writer/director Bong Joon-ho I had left to catch up on. Out of those few movies however, this one didn’t look that interesting to me. One was a monster movie (The Host), another was about a hunt of a real life serial killer (Memories of Murder), another was a murder mystery (Mother), but this one seemed to be something involving dogs, I just didn’t really know what it was supposed to be. I wasn’t really expecting much, and having seen it I can confirm that Barking Dogs Don’t Bite is by far Bong’s weakest movie, not necessarily bad, just okay.

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To put things bluntly, if you don’t like seeing bad things happening to dogs in movies, don’t bother watching Barking Dogs Never Bite. Now the violence towards them is quite clearly fictionalised but nonetheless if that sort of thing bothers you in movies, it’s not going to work for you, and you’re not going to last long with this one. The writing is a bit of a mixed bag. There are aspects that are good, and it was good enough to have me willing to watch from beginning to end. It just didn’t interest me all that much, and it’s quite a while before you figure out what this movie is really all about. I also wasn’t invested with any of the characters, least of all the protagonists. The fact that they’re not particularly likable wasn’t necessarily a problem, but they just weren’t very interesting people to follow. Even some of the supporting characters outshone them, though they weren’t great either. With that said, Barking Dogs Never Bite does have its moments, you can see glimpses of elements that would later appear in later Bong movies, mainly with the themes, the dark humour and the dialogue.

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As I said previously, the characters aren’t all that interesting, especially the leads played by Lee Sung-jae and Bae Doona, however both actors do what they can in their roles and give good enough performances. The supporting cast with the likes of Kim Ho-jung, Byun Hee-bong and others also do fine enough on their parts.

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The biggest strength of the movie is of Bong Joon-ho’s direction. Even for a debut film, his work is pretty strong here. Now it’s not on the level of all of his other movies, and it’s a little rough around the edges, especially when it comes to the editing. However, on the whole it’s quite well made, with some unique creative choices that really stood out. Barking Dogs Never Bite is very clearly an independent and smaller movie, and while you definitely feel the lower budget, some of the filmmaking techniques still managed to shine through at points, and there are a few sequences that are quite good.

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Barking Dogs Never Bite is one of those debut films from critically acclaimed directors that you might check out if you’re a big fan of their movies. Outside of people interested in Bong Joon ho’s movies though, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other people. The cast are decent, and it’s directed quite well (with that being the one aspect that was carrying this movie), but I just couldn’t get into the story or characters, and it was mostly a drag to watch. Overall, not a bad movie, but just okay enough.