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9.25.2016

My Top 10 Must-See Korean Movies.

So you've seen the much talked about zombie apocalypse thriller Train to Busan, cried buckets over the hit melodrama Miracle in Cell No. 7, and perhaps ended up watching The Flu because this 2013 disaster film kept popping on your Facebook timeline.

Now, your interest in Korean cinema has gone beyond curiosity. You've actually stumbled upon a whole new world of theatrics, and you're ready to get hooked to this awesomeness that is Korean movies. Allow me to help you, and let this list - arranged in no particular order - of must-watch Korean movies be your guide.
The King and the Clown.
The King and the Clown (2005).
Set in the Joseon era, two struggling male actors, Jang-seng and Gong-gil, were arrested after staging a performance deemed to be a mockery of the king. The two actors were given a chance to spare themselves if they could make the king laugh, which they did - much to the court's chagrin. The charges of treason were dropped, and both actors were appointed as official court jesters. As the king showed particular interest in Gong-gil (portrayed by Lee Joon Gi), the king's mistress, the ministers, and even Jang-seng grew suspicious resulting into political unrest in the country.

Adapted from a popular stage play, 'The King and the Clown' is one of the highest grossing films in South Korea. This movie also earned Lee Joon Gi the title 'flower boy' and catapulted him to stardom. 

May 18.
May 18 (2007).
Based on real life events, this movie stars Kim Sang Kyung as Kang Min Woo and Lee Joon Gi as his brother Kang Jin Woo. A student of the Chonnam National University, Jin Woo and his classmates staged a protest against the extended martial law which closed universities and curtailed press freedom. Upon orders from General Chun Doo Hwan, government troops attacked the rallyists, which resulted into a bloodbath with more than 600 people dead. 

The movie is based on the Gwangju Uprising, which took place on May 18, 1980.

Old Boy.
Oldboy (2003).
A powerful movie of punishment and vengeance with a hauntingly twisted plot to boot, Oldboy is the dark and disturbing story of Oh Dae Su (portrayed by Choi Min Sik), who was abducted for reasons unbeknownst to him. A small television in his prison cell was Oh Dae Su's only means of contact with the outside world; his only source of sustenance, a daily supply fried dumplings. He lived this way for fifteen years, until the day he was finally released from his solitary confinement. With a wad of money and a mobile phone given to him by a beggar on the street, Oh Dae Su looks for his wife and daughter while trying to plot revenge against his captors.

Heralded as one of the best Asian films ever made, Oldboy also has around a dozen or so awards to its name - including the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. This neo-noir thriller has an American remake released in 2013, and was directed by Spike Lee.

My Sassy Girl.
My Sassy Girl (2001).
Anyone who has seen My Sassy Girl will most likely agree that this movie is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most beloved Korean rom-com of all time. I love this movie so much that I've watched it countless of times - to the point where my DVD has been scratched beyond readability. 

My Sassy Girl tells the story of Gyun-woo (Cha Tae Hyun) and the sassy, unnamed girl (Jun Ji Hyun), who was drunk and dazed when he first met her on the train. Gyun-woo was forced to take care of the girl after she passed out, as the other passengers were berating him for not taking care of his girlfriend. This was a misunderstanding of course, but he went ahead and took care of her anyway. From this point on, Gyun-woo began to develop a sense of responsibility for the girl. As his feelings grew, so did his ability to (hilariously) endure all the hardships in loving a girl who has been broken and scarred by a previous relationship. 

Silmido.
Silmido (2003).
One thing I love about the Korean movie industry is their knack for historical/period films and how they can make a blockbuster out of it. Case in point, Silmido, which attracted an audience of over 10 million - the first-ever film in South Korea ever to do so.

Based on the true story of Unit 684, a unit created in April 1968 to retaliate against North Korea following the North’s attempt to assassinate President Park Chung-hee. The men recruited for the special unit were outcasts, ex-convicts and prisoners on death row, chosen by the South Korean government to extract vengeance by murdering the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung. The main incentive for the thirty one ex-criminals was to wipe their criminals records clean and start a brand new life as promised by the government.

This promise failed to materialize, as an unfortunate incident led to the men's revolt against the president, Park Chung-hee. The government declared a state of emergency as the armed men seized buses and rampaged their way through police blockades, which claimed the lives of police officers and innocent bystanders.

Tae Guk Gi.

Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War (2004).
Drawing a record of more than 11 million admissions, Tae Guk Gi was the film that broke Silmido's box-office record.

A heart-breaking tale about two brothers forced to fight in the Korean War, the film stars Jang Dong Gun as Lee Jin Tae, the responsible older brother who shines shoes so he could send his younger brother Lee Jin Seok (portrayed by Won Bin) to the university.

When war between the North and the South broke out, the family escaped to a relative's house in the country, but along their journey, the brothers ended up being drafted. Jin Seok is forced to join the army to fight in the front, and Jin Tae enlists too to protect his young brother. The commander promised Jin-tae that he will release his brother if he could earn a medal of honor, which made Jin-tae the aggressive, fearless soldier in the company.

As the war progressed, the relationship between the two brothers deteriorated, and both of them ended up fighting on opposite sides of the war.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents.
The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014).
The last historical film on this list currently holds the title of being the most watched and highest grossing film of all time in South Korea. Released in 2014, the movie is based on the historical Battle of Myeongnang, led by Korea's most popular war hero, Admiral Yi Sun Sin. The battle is regarded as the Admiral's most impressing victory as he lead a fleet of 12 ships against the Japanese invaders with a fleet of more than 300 vessels.

Choi Min Sik, the same actor who played the lead in Oldboy, also played the role of the Korean naval commander in this film. 

The Man from Nowhere.
The Man from Nowhere (2010).
Won Bin may be staying out of the limelight a little too long, but he will always be remembered as Ahjussi, or The Man from Nowhere.

Released in 2010, The Man from Nowhere is a hard-hitting action thriller about Cha Tae Sik, a special agent turned pawnshop keeper whose only friend is a little girl named So Mi. Her mother, Hyo Jeong, smuggles drugs from a drug trafficking organization, hides it in a camera bag, and then pawns the entire bag to Tae Sik without letting him know of the actual contents.

The smuggling was soon found out, and the traffickers kidnap both Hyo Jeong and So-mi. The gang promises to release them if Tae Sik makes a delivery for them, however it is actually a ploy to eliminate a rival drug ring leader. When Hyo Jeon's disemboweled body is discovered, Tae Sik realizes that So-mi's life may also be in danger. Tae Sik, enraged at the thought that So Mi might end up dead, prepares for battle and risks his life to save his only friend.

Memories of Murder.
Memories of Murder (2003).
Set in 1986, Memories of Murder chronicles the Hwaseong Serial Murders - the first serial killer case in South Korean history. The victims are all beautiful young women whose bodies have been found raped and strangled in local fields and ditches. The initial agents who have been put on the case are two incompetent bunglers - one a dropout from college, the other a dropout from high school - who seem to have gleaned the majority of their investigative techniques from cheesy TV crime dramas. A detective from Seoul was sent to assist the duo, and together they try to piece together the clues with hopes of finding the suspect.

Memories of Murder was a huge box-office success in 2003, and even received screenings at international film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival, the London International Film Festival, and the Tokyo International Film Festival.

This true-to-life case of the Hwaseong Serial Murders has also been depicted in two Korean dramas - Gap Dong in 2014, and Signal in 2016.

A Werewolf Boy.
A Werewolf Boy (2012).
Concluding my list of top 10 must-watch Korean movies is A Werewolf Boy, the hit romance fantasy film from 2012 which stars Park Bo Young and the world's favorite captain, Song Joong Ki.

The story begins with an elderly woman reminiscing about the past as she visits an old house in the country. Forced to move to the countryside due to problems with her lungs, Soon Yi (Park Bo Young) discovers that there's a lot to adjust to in this new environment, including a feral boy whom she found in the barn. Soon Yi's kindhearted mother adopted the boy, despite his animalistic behavior and his inability to speak, read, or write.

Although Soon Yi was not happy at the thought of living with Chul Soo (the name given to him by Soon Yi's mom), she eventually warmed up to him and began teaching him social skills and other human behavior so that he could one day live like a normal man. As she opened her heart to the innocent boy, he began to develop feelings for Soon Yi, the only person to ever show him affection.

However when threatened, he let loose his bestial instincts and became the subject of the villagers' fears. In order to save the life of the boy who risked his to be by her side, she left him with a promise: "Wait for me. I'll come back for you."


9.18.2016

Sneak Peek | Etude House x Disney Dumbo Collection.

My favorite skincare line from Etude House, the Moistfull Collagen, just went through a huge change. And by huge, I mean 'Dumbo' huge.
Etude House x Dumbo collection.
Dumbo, the young circus elephant with comically large ears, is the star of the most recent collaboration project between Etude House and Disney. Released earlier this month, the Etude House x Disney Dumbo Collection features four best-selling items from the Moistfull Collagen line in an all-new 'Dumbo-fied' packaging.
Photo credit: Etude House.
Even the size itself of the Moistfull Collagen Cream has been 'Dumbo-fied' as it now comes in a bigger, 110 mL tub. (Regular size comes in 75 mL jar.)
Moistfull Collagen Cream Jumbo, 15980 won.
The formulation and the price are still the same. You just get more creamy collagen goodness with a cute packaging to boot. :)
Photo credit: Etude House.
Also included in the collection are the following Moistfull Collagen favorites.
Moistfull Collage Essence, 15980 won.
Moistfull Collagen Stick, 9400 won.
Moistfull Collagen Mask Sheet, 1880 won.
This limited edition collection is now available at Etude House stores across South Korea and at the Etude House global website.


9.11.2016

Seoul Searching | Ewha Womans University.

Yes, you read it right. It's Ehwa 'Womans' University. And no, it's not a typo.
Normally, I would scoff at the very distinct grammatical error, but I'm turning a blind eye on this one because the word 'womans' seems to have been used on purpose. Also, the beautiful sprawling campus makes up for the school's grammatically incorrect name.
Ehwa WOMANS University.
From the landscaped garden, to the European style buildings, to a campus complex designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, Ehwa Womans University is encompassed with a refined and sophisticated vibe that makes me want to pursue a Master's Degree here.
The manicured lawn.
 A well-kept garden.
The Ewha Campus Complex (ECC) designed by Dominique Perrault.
A day in Edae! 
Full story after the jump!

9.08.2016

Sneak Peek | Tony Moly ❤ Pokemon Collection.

So it seems like everyone's crazy about Pokemons these days, thanks to Pokemon Go, a location-based augmented reality mobile game. Released in July 2016, the game quickly became a global phenomenon, and was heralded as one of the most used mobile apps this year. I am hooked to the game myself, along with my siblings, my cousins, and even some of my (mommy) friends at Yue's school.

Now the latest to join this Pokemon craze is Korean cosmetics brand Tony Moly, with the launch of their limited edition Tony Moly x Pokemon collection! Collaboration collections are nothing new in the Korean cosmetics industry, but I'm quite sure this particular line will be such a hit not only with Korean cosmetics lover but also with Pokemon fans across the globe.
Pokemon ❤ Tony Moly!
Catch them all after the jump!

9.04.2016

Spotlight | Etude House x Angry Birds Tint My Brows Gel.

Halfway through my 29 days in Seoul, I made an accidental discovery while passing by the Etude House store at COEX Mall. Well, it was actually my son who discovered it by chance; he saw Angry Birds posters plastered on the store windows and he practically dragged me inside the store, thinking that they had Angry Birds toys for sale.
The poster that piqued my little man's curiosity.
There were no toys (of course), much to my son's chagrin. I, on the other hand, found an eyebrow product that may very well be the ultimate solution to my sparse eyebrows. I'm not considering eyebrow embroidery as an option (at least for now) because it's a tad expensive, and I don't want to deal with the pain that comes with the procedure.
Etude House x Angry Birds Tint My Brows Gel.
For now, this Tint My Brows Gel from Etude House is my best bet. Its packaging is designed after Red (as in the red bird), and the box bears the signature Angry Birds logo. This makeup collaboration between Etude House and Angry Birds was released mid-May, about the same time the Angry Birds Movie hit the cinemas in Korea.
Product description and directions for use on the side panel.
The Tint My Brows Gel functions like an eyebrow tattoo, sans the pain and perpetuity.
Here's how to use it:
1. After trimming the eyebrows without applying skincare product or makeup, apply a liberal amount according to the desired shape of the eyebrow. (The thicker you apply, the easier it would be to peel off the product afterwards.)
2. Dry for at least 2 hours. For stronger coloration, apply before going to bed at night and remove the next morning. (Believe me, the results are much better when you let the gel sit on your brows overnight.)
The other side contains the same, only in Hangul.
3. After drying completely, peel it off slowly starting from the tail of the eyebrow. (Do not tug at the dried tint forcibly since it may pull out the eyebrow, or what little strands that's left of it.)
4. Do not use a cleansing product (product with detergency) or apply force on the eyebrow area within 24 hours of using the product.
The tube.
The tint is housed in a 5-gram tube that comes with a brush applicator. Nothing special about the applicator. I found it quite tricky to use at first, since the brush isn't exactly angled or tapered.
Wand applicator, up close.
The tint has a relatively thick, gooey consistency and has a very faint chemical scent. Nothing to worry about as the scent fades away as soon as the tint comes in contact with your skin.
Swatches: Right-most, one coating; middle, two coatings; left-most, three coatings.
The Tint my Brows Gel comes in three different colors. Mine is 01 Brown, while the other shades are 02 Light Brown and 03 Gray Brown. Here's a photo to give you an idea how the other two shades look like.
Color reference, Etude House x Angry Birds Tint My Brows Gel.
Now let me show you how this product works.
As you can see, my eyebrows are extremely sparse - which is why I am always on the look-out for good eyebrow products. All the more if they're easy to use and can reduce my usual morning prep time (as in the time I spend 'drawing' my brows) by half.
Almost non-existent brows, lol!
Enter the Etude House x Angry Birds Tint My Brows Gel. which I applied about two or three hours before I hit the sack. Although it dries in as little as two hours (which I have proven from the first time I used this product), I want the color to be a bit stronger so that it would also last longer - and you can only achieve this if you wear the product overnight.
It looks like this when applied.
You sort of end up looking like an Angry Bird with the gel tint on.
Great marketing strategy, Etude House. Haha! :)
Yes, you can sleep with these funny-looking brows on. No need to worry about getting stains on your pillowcase. They won't rub off as you sleep.
I literally woke up like this.
The gel tint dries into a rubbery texture, which allows for easy removal. You peel it off gently, starting from the outer corner/tail of your eyebrows. No eyebrow hair was harmed during the peel-off process. Haha!
And you peel it off like this.
This is how my brows looked like right after 'peeling'. It looks crazy pigmented, but the color softens and looks more natural after I have washed my face.
Look, I've got eyebrows!!!
As per instructions, you should not apply force on the eyebrow area within 24 hours of using the product. Hence, I cleanse, tone, and moisturize my face with extreme care, careful not to come in contact with my precious eyebrows.
Tinted eyebrows, Day 2.
The sales attendant told me that the color will stay on for a few days. In my case, the color lightens a bit by the second day and starts to fade on the third day. By the fourth day, my eyebrows will look like its usual, non-existent state - but with a hint of brown to it.
Tinted Eyebrows, Day 4.
I may have mentioned before that I hardly leave the house without makeup on - or more specifically, without drawing my brows. Now I can dare go outside bare-faced, provided that my brows have been tinted the night before. I actually went Pokemon hunting with my siblings last weekend with no makeup on! Just my tinted brows, and the Alice in Glow Oil Tint on my lips!
Tinted eyebrows, outlined with my favorite Shiseido eyebrow pencil.
Weekdays, of course, are a totally different story. Wearing makeup is imperative, but at least I spend less time working on my brows. I simply outline the arch and edges, brush the color a bit, and I'm done! Back then, it would take me about ten minutes or so to get my eyebrows on fleek since I'm practically starting with a blank canvas. Haha!
Limited edition sets of Angry Birds makeup.
Some of you may find the two-hour drying period a bit taxing, especially for those who are always on the go and don't have much time to do their makeup. But for some of us who can spare a bit more time for their eyebrows' sake, this product is worth the investment.
Angry brows? :)
And it's not even costly, as I spent only 7500 won (around Php 320 or US$8) for this.  No regrets buying this product on a whim. :)

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