Bong Joon-ho

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Korean director Bong Joon-ho‘s latest film, Snowpiercer, is about a train-shaped metaphor hurtling around the planet’s surface at high speed. Inside a rebellion is unfolding as the train’s lower class citizens begin a fight towards the front of the train where they believe they’ll find answers, freedom and the life they feel they deserve. It’s an entertaining film filled with solidly crafted action, a strong visual sense and an international sensibility evident in its cast, crew and themes. The Blu-ray (pre-order it now from Amazon) features a commentary track that, much like the film itself, is a bit different from the norm. Instead of featuring a member of the cast or crew the track consists of a film critic hosting a series of five additional critics who join him one at a time to offer insight and thoughts on the film. Usually critics on commentary tracks act as moderator for the talent or are there to discuss an older film for which no cast/crew members remain alive, but neither of those are the case here. They are film critics — and friends to varying degree of myself and this site — but they’re understandably not here fully in that capacity. Instead, they’re here as fans of the movie, and they use their time to talk about the elements of the film they love as opposed to offering anything that could be perceived as negative criticism. Also worth noting, while we’re used to seeing the studio’s warning that the commentary track is […]

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Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

Warning: Spoilers for the ending of Snowpiercer Somewhere along the way, purchasing a ticket for Bong Joon-ho’s long-awaited Snowpiercer became a populist act that echoes the content of the film itself. Months of coverage followed Harvey Weinstein’s threat to cut the festival favorite. Knowing the kind of backlash that would ensue, Weinstein opted not to cut the film himself but instead asked Bong to shave 20 minutes off and add an explanatory voice-over to bookend the film. Bong refused, and the web backed him by reporting on the story, supporting the director’s vision and pushing for its unblemished release. While The Weinstein Company narrowed the rollout of Snowpiercer from a wide to a limited opening, no cuts were ever made, and it would seem that the voices of many overcame the far more powerful voice of one. It’s a strange case of life mimicking art, with movie fans and erstwhile supporters of artistic integrity using collective action against a major cultural gatekeeper. After traveling worldwide mostly without incident, film fans and prospective moviegoers pushed Snowpiercer to pry open the door and enter the American moviegoing scene on its own terms. But, as the film itself shows, the relations of power are never quite as simple as they seem.

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oh0iz9

While it’s still unclear when the U.S. will be able to see Bong Joon-Ho‘s Snowpiercer, which is still enjoying a record-breaking run in South Korea, we can all wait and twiddle our thumbs while the Weinstein Company trims and re-edits the movie and occupy ourselves with these new stills and gorgeous concept art. Many of the photos take us inside the grimy train where people huddle in the dark – but Tilda Swinton almost looks stately in her bug glasses and fur coat. In sharp contrast to the train, Alison Pill appears to rule over a bright, cheery classroom as the grooviest schoolteacher in an otherwise desolate landscape. I’d like to think that shot of the man in the suit looking puzzled is a direct reaction to watching her dance. The concept art shows beautifully inked images of the train and its insides, and perhaps glimpses of scenes that we haven’t been shown yet. And hopefully, that won’t get cut in the “new and improved” version of the film that we may get thrust upon us. Hopefully, these images will be enough to tide you over for awhile, because it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Snowpiercer until early next year, so take a look after the break.

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hSnowpiercer_14

To those who’d like to see Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer and don’t currently live in Korea, I’ve got some bad news. The film still has no release date for the Western world, but Harvey Weinstein, eager to add insult to injury, has just stepped in to make things much, much worse. According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns (via Australia’s Inside Film), Weinstein, who’s in control of the film’s international distribution, has instructed Bong (The Host) to shave 20 minutes off his 126-minute film, or it won’t see a release in North America, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia. That’s awful. But what’s even worse is Weinstein’s reasoning behind the cut.  Rayns tells why: “[The Weinstein Company] people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.’” Reportedly, the cuts would come from the film’s character work, leaving Snowpiercer as a bare bones action flick.

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Snowpiercer

There’s still no US release date for Bong Joon-Ho‘s Snowpiercer, but that hasn’t stopped the powers that be from dangling the film in front of our faces (those of us in the United States, that is) like a carrot, tied to a string yet just out of reach. And the latest carrot comes in the form of a new trailer for the film, showing off plenty of action, foreboding voice-over and some some seriously brutal axe-murdering. Check it out after the break.

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trailer snowpiercer

There are few directors with a track record as consistent as Bong Joon-ho, and while it could be argued that he hasn’t made all that many films yet I’ll always prefer quality over quantity. His debut feature remains his only truly average one with Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother all being near brilliant examples of genre filmmaking at its best. It’s been a long four-year wait since his last film, but Bong’s newest is finally ready to be shared with audiences. Snowpiercer is his biggest film yet with a globe-spanning storyline and an international cast. The story, based on a French graphic novel, is a post-apocalyptic tale about a train carrying the last human survivors across a landscape enduring a new ice age. A clear line exists between the classes, and as the train races along the tracks a violent uprising is brewing in the back cars. Take a ride with the Snowpiercer trailer below. (And note, this international trailer isn’t of the highest quality.)

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snowpiercer-characterposters-swinton-full

While Bong Joon-ho‘s upcoming Snowpiercer is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the only living survivors of a massive, ongoing Ice Age all live together on a trans-continental train that continually circles the globe, it looks like certain things haven’t changed – namely, that Tilda Swinton has still somehow managed to look insane, otherworldly, and completely engrossed in her character. Sure, there are some shades of Golden Girls here in this first set of character posters for the film, but this look at Swinton and the rest of the cast is eerily compelling. Just how bad are things on this train? (Yes, yes, pretty bad, as there is a revolution stirring.) After the break, check out the rest of the character posters, including Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Kang-ho Song, and Octavia Spencer.

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Snowpiercer

One of the year’s most intriguing new films, Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer,has just released its first official photo, and it looks just as gritty, bleak, and claustrophobic as we would expect from a film that is set on a post-apocalyptic, world-traversing super-train that is powered by “a sacred perpetual-motion engine” that’s creeping steadily closer to an inter-class revolution. The first look features Song Kang-ho, one of the filmmaker’s perpetual stars, who definitely seems to be stuck in the Snowpiercer’s poor class. Will he help lead a revolution? Or will that be left up to some of the film’s other talented stars, like  Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer? Who knows! (We kid, the film is based on a French graphic novel called “Le Transperceneige,” and anyone who has read it obviously has some insight into just what will happen aboard Snowpiercer). The Film Stage (via ComingSoon) first posted the official image, and both outlets have also posted some gorgeous concept art from the film for your visual enjoyment. Snowpiercer is expected to hit theaters sometime this summer.

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Snowpiercer Concept

In 2031, a massive train presses its way through the frozen wasteland of a planet with a desperate crowd of passengers unsure of whether they’ll survive or if surviving is worth it. Trapped and fearful, they begin to turn on each other. Based on the graphic novel “Le Transperceneige,” this is the plot of Bong Joon-ho‘s English-language debut, Snowpiercer. Now, thanks to Cahiers Du Cinema (via The Playlist), we can take a look at some concept art for the film that belongs on museum walls. The director behind The Host and Mother has got a lot of expectations to live up to with his next flick, but it seems clear that the imagery will have a solid chance of being stunning. Check it out for yourself:

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The Host

Bong Joon-ho‘s 2006 hit, The Host, was both a domestic success and an international one that accomplished two things in short order: it moved Bong to the list of top tier Korean directors, and it showed that the country was capable of large scale, effects-heavy productions. It’s also an incredibly entertaining flick. Box-office made a sequel inevitable, but without Bong’s involvement it floundered like a fish out of water for years with only a hint of a plot synopsis seeing the light of day. Finally though proof has arrived that someone somewhere has actually been working on this thing. (No, not the pic above. That’s from the original film.) But this clip isn’t! Consider it proof and check out the first clip from The Host 2 below.

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Snow Piercer artwork

Whether due to coincidence or collusion, 2013 is the year three of South Korea’s best film directors will premiere their English language debuts. Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand will hit screens first in January, while Park Chan-wook’s Stoker will follow suit a few months later. Both films look to exist firmly in their director’s respective wheelhouse leaving Bong Joon-ho‘s Snow Piercer as far more of an unknown entity. One of the biggest questions has now been answered though as The Weinstein Company has reportedly picked up distribution rights for the film in North America, the UK and a few other English-speaking regions. No official release date has been set, but Deadline seems to believe a Summer 2013 premiere is to be expected. Snow Piercer is based on a French graphic novel called Transperceneige and plays out almost exclusively aboard a futuristic locomotive. The world has become an iced-over post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the only real safety is on this train which is constantly in motion. The last vestiges of humanity live aboard distinctly divided along class lines, but rumors of a rebellion from the lower decks reach the one-percenters living above and threaten to derail mankind’s last hope.

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South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho‘s English-language debut was always going to be a hotly anticipated feature, but as the cast for Snow Piercer rounds out, it’s become obvious that The Host director is really going all out for this one. The next star to join the sci-fi indie film is Octavia Spencer, who just won a SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress and is viewed as the frontrunner for the Oscar in the same category for her work in The Help. She joins an already impressive (both in terms of talent and how wonderfully varied it is) cast that includes Chris Evans, The Host star Kang Ho Song, and veteran talents John Hurt and Tilda Swinton. The film, which has been adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige has been co-scripted by Bong (with the most recent draft coming from Kelly Masterson), and is set in a future world ruined by a failed attempt to finally stop the fallout from global warming. The experiment to end global warming has led to an Ice Age that has destroyed all living creatures, except for those who live on the Snow Piercer, ” a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine.” The film will center on a revolution that stirs up between the train’s inhabitants, who had previously settled into an uneasy class system. Spencer’s role will be that as a mother who takes up with the revolution ” in order to save her son” […]

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Headphones on. DVD player loaded. Blank page open. That’s right, folks. It’s another edition of Commentary Commentary, our weekly look at a film’s commentary track and all the amazing anecdotes and discernment that come with it. This week we’re going international for the first time here in Commentary Commentary. We’re headed all the way to South Korea and all the way back to 2006. Not exactly sure which of those two settings are further away, but we have them right here on this pressed, metal disc. This week we’re listening to Bong Joon-ho‘s commentary on his monster movie, The Host. Does he end up revealing in it how much he hates everything America stands for? Spoiler alert: he doesn’t, but I’m sure this article isn’t going to help matters. So take a look at what I learned. I suddenly have a craving for Kimchi and Soju.

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Note: As Rob Hunter has been busy covering SXSW and watching Love Exposure on repeat, Landon Palmer is trying his best to fill his globe-trotting cinematic shoes. Rob will be back next week with another object from a foreign land. To make the observation that some really great films have been coming from South Korea in the last few years is to say nothing new. To say that there have been a lot of violent revenge movies from that country is also to say nothing new. But between Lee Chang-dong’s wonderful Poetry and Bong Joon-ho’s equally great Mother from last year, another revisited theme has emerged in South Korean exports: maternal figures that must care for and live with children who may or may not have committed a heinous crime to a young woman.

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Mother

South Korea has had a fairly consistent output over recent years thanks in no small part to a handful of directors (like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, and Kim Ji-woon) who’ve yet to release a film that’s anything less than stellar. We’ll just have to pretend that I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK was directed by Smithee Alan-ho…

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I’ll be foregoing my usual snark in favor of presenting a simple community service message. If you live in NYC, or will be visiting next weekend, or live near enough to commute in to the city… then your plans are set for the last week of February.

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tokyo1

Paris, je t’aime and the upcoming New York, I Love You are two examples of anthology films, but nestled in between them is the new film, Tokyo! Two French directors and one Korean take turns telling stories that attempt to explain if the city defines it’s people or if the people define the city.

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tokyo-header

Anthology films are always a mixed bag. It’s impossible to find one where each and every story shines, and invariably you’re stuck with sections of the films that you just don’t care about. The new film Tokyo! is hoping to change that perception.

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The Host

Bong Joon-ho’s blockbuster 2006 film, The Host, has found a home for its inevitable US remake. Gore Verbinski has brought the film to Universal Pictures.

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The best monster movie of the decade is set to get the sequel treatment next year… And no, we aren’t talking Cloverfield.

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published: 12.18.2014
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