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Many choices at theaters for Chuseok holiday: ‘The Fortress’ is a period piece, ‘I Can Speak’ a comic-drama

Sept 29,2017
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Moviegoers will be presented with a choice of films at theaters during the Chuseok holiday starting Saturday. From left to clockwise right are “The Fortress,” “I Can Speak,” “The Outlaws,” “Deep” and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” [CJ E&M, LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT, MEGABOX PLUS M, 20TH CENTURY FOX KOREA, ISU C&E]
Over the past few years, period movies have become must-see films during Chuseok, Korea’s harvest festival. Period action thriller “The Age of Shadows” (2016) and historical drama “The Throne” (2015), both of which were selected as Korea’s contender for the foreign-language Academy Award in the year of their releases, sold 7.5 million and 6.25 million tickets respectively. In 2013, the period epic “The Face Reader” dominated the box office during Chuseok and sold a total of 9.14 million tickets.

“The Fortress,” set against the backdrop of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and based on Jang Hoon’s best-selling novel, will be the movie of choice for many during the upcoming Chuseok holiday, which for some starts Saturday.

Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, known for 2014’s “Miss Granny,” the CJ E&M’s release is set in 1636, when China’s Qing Dynasty invaded Korea with 150,000 troops to sever Korea’s ties to the Ming Dynasty. The Korean court flees the capital to take shelter in the Namhan Fortress, in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, which quickly gets surrounded by the Qing army, eventually forcing King Injo to surrender.

Starring high profile actors like Lee Byung-hun, Kim Yun-seok and Park Hae-il, “The Fortress” sheds light on the internal conflicts among Joseon officials who desperately debate whether to surrender to protect the country and its people or to fight to the death to prove the country’s loyalty to the Ming Dynasty.

“When I first read the novel, I thought there isn’t much difference between [Korea] 380 years ago and the country now,” said the director at a press preview held earlier this week. “I think it might even be the destiny of the Korean Peninsula. I hope people get a new look at the present after seeing what occurred 380 years ago.”

The movie is scheduled to hit theaters on Tuesday.

The comic-drama “I Can Speak,” released Sept. 21, is a heartwarming tale about one of the victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, who are euphemistically referred to as comfort women. The movie is set in the present day and revolves around a public official named Park Min-jae (Lee Je-hoon) and a grumbling grandmother named Na Ok-bun (Na Muni), who bothers district office officials every day with complaints on even trivial matters. Though the two do not get off to a good start, they develop a close relationship when Min-jae begins teaching English to Ok-bun, and learns of her painful past as a comfort woman and the motivation that drives her to study so hard.

Already having topped Korea’s weekend box office in its debut weekend, the film is expected to be popular over the Chuseok holiday, when many people seek a funny, feel-good flick to enjoy with their families.

But if you prefer male-centered action, “The Outlaws,” helmed by Kang Yun-seong, will be a more satisfying choice. Opening on Tuesday, the film stars actors Ma Dong-seok and Yoon Kye-sang.

As anyone who has seen muscular Ma’s previous roles in “Train to Busan” (2016) and “Derailed” (2016) can guess, the actor leads the movie’s thrilling action sequences.

Based on a true story, the film revolves around a merciless boss (Yoon) from a Korean-Chinese crime organization headquartered in Harbin, northeast China, who is willing to commit any crime for money, and a police detective (Ma) who tries to catch the ruthless criminal and his henchmen.

Some foreign movies are also expected to seize local moviegoers’ interests.

The second installment in the R-rated “Kingsman” spy comedy franchise has already stirred up fans with a visit by its stars - Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Mark Strong - to Korea last week. Though it seems heavier on comedy than action, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” already successfully debuted at the top of the Korean box office on Wednesday, taking the crown from “I Can Speak.”

For parents who want to enjoy a movie with their kids, animations like “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” and “Deep” will be good choices. Both will hit theaters on Tuesday.

While “The Nut Job 2” is an action-packed animated adventure filled with animal hijinks, “Deep” is a musical that combines a coming-of-age story with ecological themes in the deep abyss of the ocean.

Those who wish to laze at home will also be able to enjoy movies from the past few years on television.

KBS will air the period epic “The Map Against the World,” about Korean geographer and cartographer Kim Jeong-ho, on the small screen on Saturday at 9:20 p.m. JTBC will air “The Attorney” (2013) at 8:50 p.m. on Wednesday and “The Age of Shadows” (2016) at the same time on Thursday. Also, MBC is slated to air the zombie thriller “Train to Busan” on Oct. 6 at 8:30 p.m. and the Oscar-winning romantic musical “La La Land” on Oct. 7 at 10 p.m.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]