Korean Epic ‘The Swordsman’ Bows on Digital and Disc Feb. 16

The Korean action film The Swordsman will swing to digital, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 16 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

In the hybrid of mainstream historical drama and traditional martial arts action, after failing to protect and prevent the downfall of the King, the best swordsman in Joseon leaves and lives in seclusion with his daughter in the mountains. As his eyesight begins to fail due to an old injury, his daughter seeks to find a treatment for him. When she is captured and taken away by a slave trader, the swordsman is forced to raise his sword again in order to save her.

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The Swordsman was directed by Choi Jae-hoon and stars Jang Hyuk as the main character.

The film was released theatrically in South Korea in September. The Swordsman was invited to the 40th annual Hawaii International Film Festival and was picked as the opening film in the 2020 Korean Indonesian Film Festival.


‘Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula’ Due on Digital Oct. 27, Disc Nov. 24 From Well Go

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, the follow-up to the South Korean zombie thriller Train to Busan, will come out on digital Oct. 27, in time for Halloween, from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film will subsequently be released in a 4K Ultra Combo Pack and a Blu-ray Disc combo pack, as well as on standard DVD, on Nov. 24.

In director Yeon Sang-ho’s sequel, a former soldier, who previously escaped the diseased wasteland, relives the horror when assigned to a covert operation, returning to the Peninsula on a secret mission. When his team encounters survivors, their lives will depend on whether the best — or worst — of human nature prevails.

The film stars Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-je, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Re and Lee Ye-won.

Bonus content includes a making-of featurette, interviews with cast and crew, and an all-new English dub.

The film will debut on the subscription service Shudder in 2021.

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Futuresource: Premium VOD, SVOD Drive South Korean Market

Largely a non-starter in the United States, premium VOD has gained traction in South Korea with consumers renting new-release movies in the home four weeks after their theatrical debut.

New data from Futuresource Consulting finds that eight years of Premium VOD distribution has propelled South Korea (an early hotspot for the coronavirus) to become one of the top transactional VOD markets in the world.

With the majority of cinemas around the world closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, studios (including in the U.S.) are now testing the opportunities in straight-to-home early digital video delivery. The Korean market remains a relevant global case study for countries now looking to adopt similar learnings within the home entertainment space, according to Futuresource.

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“Super Premium VOD in South Korea has allowed for early monetization by capitalizing on existing hype and marketing spend around each film,” market analyst Tristan Veale said in a statement. “However, throughout 2019 we saw some studios pulling out of these early windows altogether, with others reducing the number of titles offered. In light of the current global situation, this practice will see renewed interest.”

Despite transactional VOD strength in South Korea, the SVOD market is also set to soar, with consumer spend increasing 61% since 2019, almost equal to transactional home video. Veale said that’s because South Koreans are comfortable with subscribing to access premium content, paired with the well-supported infrastructure that already exists.

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“When it comes to the key players, Netflix accounts for nearly half of SVOD consumer spend and service subscriptions in the country,” Veale said. “Its focus on acquiring local-language content to develop a strong library of Korean content to build and retain a local audience, has led to this success, providing a near-continuous release of new series, movies and additional seasons, with Korean content also appealing to international territories.”

To combat Netflix’s rapid growth, major IPTV players such as Korea Telecom, SK Broadband and LG U+ are taking a variety of strategic stepsto improve their SVOD offerings, either through partnerships with Netflix or local SVOD players and broadcasters.

“SK Telecom has combined its video streaming service Oksusu with mobile on-demand service Pooq, owned by three local broadcasters, to create Wavve,” Veale said. “Wavve has a significantly advanced SVOD offering as a result of the backing of four major players.”

The high demand for exclusive content means that the outlook for SVOD in South Korea remains promising, according to Veale. South Korea’s pay-TV operator-dominated market will continue to forge local partnerships in a bid to generate the best home-grown video service possible.

“In this current climate, where people are forced to spend more time indoors, we expect to see a further rise in Premium VOD, buoyed by international support, along with rapid uptake of the new and existing SVOD services,” Veale said.

Korean Animated Adventure ‘A Dog’s Courage’ Due on Digital April 14

The South Korean animated family film A Dog’s Courage will debut on digital  April 14 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film follows Jacob, a feisty and playful dog abandoned by his owners. He joins a pack of strays that embarks on a journey filled with adventures and life lessons in their pursuit to find a new and loving home, finding the perfect place of safety and peace, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

The film is available in both the original Korean and an all-new English dub.

Directed by Chun-Baek Lee and Oh Sung-Yoon (Leafie, a Hen Into the Wild), A Dog’s Courage was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2019 Asia Pacific Screen Awards. 

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‘Parasite’ Surges to Four Oscar Wins

The South Korean film Parasite was a surprise winner at the 92nd Academy Awards Feb. 9, taking four Oscars, including Best Picture, the first non-English film to win the top prize.

The dark satirical look at class struggles in South Korea also was the surprising winner of Best Director for Bong Joon Ho, who also won for Best Original Screenplay. As expected, the film won for Best International Film.

Bong Joon Ho was widely touted in the media for tying Walt Disney’s 1953 record of winning four Oscars in one night, though officially he goes in the books with three, as International Film is awarded to a country (South Korea in this case) and not an individual, although Bong accepted the trophy on behalf of the film.

The film is available now through digital retailers, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

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The favorite before the night, Universal’s World War I film 1917, won three Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing.

Warner’s Joker, readily available on disc and digital, won Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix and Best Original Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood won Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt and Best Production Design. The film is available for home viewing from Sony Pictures.

Ford v Ferrari, which arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD on Tuesday, Feb. 11, also won two awards, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing.

Rocketman, available now for home viewing from Paramount, won Best Original Song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Best Actress went to Renée Zellweger for playing Judy Garland in Judy, which is available now on home video from Lionsgate.

Toy Story 4, available for home video viewing from Disney, won Best Animated Feature.

Bombshell won for Makeup and Hair Styling. The film will arrive digitally Feb. 25, and on Blu-ray and DVD March 10.

Jojo Rabbit, available now digitally, and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 18, won Best Adapted Screenplay for Taika Waititi.

Columbia’s Little Women won Best Costume Design.

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Two Netflix movies ended up winning one Oscar apiece. Marriage Story won Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, and American Factory, from the Obamas’ production company, won Best Documentary.

Netflix’s lauded The Irishman, from director Martin Scorsese, had earned 10 nominations but walked away empty-handed.

Both Marriage Story and The Irishman are heading for Blu-ray and DVD later this year from the Criterion Collection.


Well Go Releasing Thriller ‘The Witch: Subversion’ March 10

Well Go USA Entertainment will release the South Korean thriller The Witch: Subversion on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and through digital retailers March 10.

Ja-yoon escaped from a secret government facility 10 years ago in the midst of an inexplicable incident. An old couple finds her alone near death in the woods and takes her in even though she has no memory of who she is or how she got there.

She grows up to be a bright high school student and enters a nationally televised audition program to win the top prize and help her struggling family. But as soon as she appears on TV, strange people start appearing in her life and Ja-yoon falls into turmoil as her seemingly ordinary life turns upside down in a blink of an eye.

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Box Office $35.47 million;
$22.98 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language, some violence and sexual content.
In Korean with English subtitles.
Stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin.

Writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite became something of a media darling for its clever satire of economic class disparities.

The story follows the impoverished Kim family, barely earning a living doing odd jobs in a slum in South Korea. When the eldest son gets an opportunity to take on a tutoring job for the daughter of the wealthy Park family, he quickly devises a plan for the rest of his family to be hired for household positions, though without the Parks knowing they are all related.

In some cases, this involves forging documents to support false backstories, not to mention setting up the current servants into getting fired without raising a fuss.

The Kims begin enjoying their newfound income stream when the former housekeeper returns and introduces a new twist to the story that the Kims couldn’t have anticipated in their scheming. The sudden subversion of expectations brings a much darker tone to the film.

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The film is dazzlingly directed and visually enticing thanks to some excellent set designs, particularly the spacious Park household and the filthy basement apartment of the Kims. The details of each location become vitally important to the story and serve almost as secondary characters unto themselves.

A lot of the praise and awards heaped upon the film, however, seem to be a reaction to the economic motifs at the heart of the story, the effectiveness of which depend largely on the preconceptions of the viewer. The characters are largely defined by their social status, and the film does little to provide much context as to why they are in the position they are to begin with. This might otherwise be an issue when the film wants us to sympathize with a family of criminals simply because it expects us to feel sorry for them for not being rich.

The only genuine moments of character development don’t occur until after the plot contrivance of the third act is introduced, leading to a string of events that might not always ring true beyond the film’s superficial messaging.

The Blu-ray includes a 20-minute bonus Q&A with Bong who, speaking through a translator, discusses the crafting of the film and the subtexts of his story, though a lot of his motivations come across more as platitudes than a fundamental understanding of the issues he’s trying to explore.

The lessons presented by the film are rather obvious ones, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a bit more scrutiny.


Golden-Globe Winning ‘Parasite’ Due Digitally Jan. 14, on Disc Jan. 28

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release the South Korean black comedy Parasite through digital retailers Jan. 14, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Jan. 28.

Parasite tells the story of a poor Korean family who manipulate a wealthier family into hiring them into indispensable jobs, and then must protect their newfound position from an interloper.

The film earned $23.9 million at the domestic box office and won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film. It was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who previously directed The Host and Snowpiercer.

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The Blu-ray and DVD will include a Q&A with director Bong Joon-ho.

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Netflix Surging Atop South Korean SVOD Market

Netflix is projected to become the top subscription streaming video service in South Korea less than four years after launching in the country.

SNL Kagan and other research firms contend Netflix South Korea is expected to reach 4 million subscribers in 2020, up from less than 2.4 million subs in 2018.

“Netflix is trying to become a channel to introduce Korean content to people around the world,” Kim Min-Young, director for original Korean content at Netflix, said in a statement.

While Netflix has licensed local content such episodic series, “Man x Man,” “Chef and My Fridge,” and “Abnormal Summit,” among others, it has made strides in producing localized original content.

Netflix South Korean original fare includes zombie series, “Kingdom,” variety show “Busted,” and adult comic strip “Love Alarm.” Netflix is reportedly spending $1.78 million per episode on “Kingdom.”

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To thwart a Netflix takeover, major telecoms SK Telecom and CJ E&M pledged to partner their SVOD services — Pooq and Oksusu — a strategical move that would combined 13 million subs — but has yet to materialize.

Oksusu, which reportedly spent $10 million on orignal content in 2018, and Pooq are expected to increase original content spending upwards of $180 million once their merger is realized.

Regardless, Kagan contends Netflix remains a better economic deal based on a monthly subscription price of 12 won, which is 25% cheaper than Pooq.

The research firm said Netflix would be wise not replicating its move in India with a cheaper mobile-only subscription offering. Kagan said such an offering in South Korea would cannibalize subs from its traditional platform.

Korean Crime Thriller ‘The Gangster, the Cop and the Devil’ Due on Blu-ray Oct. 1 From Well Go

The Korean action crime thriller The Gangster, the Cop and the Devil will come out on Blu-ray Disc Oct. 1 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The film follows fierce gang boss Jang Dong-su (Don Lee) who is violently attacked after a fender bender on a rainy night. After fighting back, he barely escapes, however his reputation as a feared leader is damaged beyond repair. The only way to restore his image is to find his attacker and exact revenge. Jang teams up with Detective Jung Tae-seok (Kim Moo Yul) to find the assailant, but soon discovers the attacker is actually a serial killer. With no support from the police department, detective Jung is forced to use gang boss Jang’s resources in order to track down the killer. The two men must work together to find a man simply known as “K.”

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Sylvester Stallone’s Balboa Productions has confirmed plans for a remake of the film, according to Well Go.