Friday, March 26, 2010

By GI Korea on March 24th, 2010 at at 4:03 pm

No Gun Ri Movie “A Little Pond” Receives Poor Reception At Media Screening

I knew this movie would be crap because of the lies it is spreading in regards to the No Gun Ri tragedy, however I didn’t expect the media to also be turned off by this movie as well:

After nine years in the making, “A Little Pond” — the film that portrays the events around the No Gun Ri Massacre during the Korean War — is finally ready to roll out in theaters nationwide.

The film had its first official press screening at the CGV Wangsimni in Seoul on Thursday to a packed house of reporters, critics, and photographers.

It was a testament to the amount of interest shown toward the infamous No Gun Ri Massacre — the harrowing event that rocked the nation in 1999 when a trio of Associated Press reporters spearheaded by Choe Sang-hun first uncovered the Korean War atrocity.

Prior to its completion, the production had been widely publicized as a project that was described as a labor of love from everyone involved with most of the headlining actors forgoing pay to off-set the lack of funding it received.

The film stars some of Korea’s most acclaimed acting talent like film and theater veterans Moon Seung-keun, Kang Shin-il, Kim Roe-ha, Song Gang-ho, Moon So-ri, and Yu Hae-jin.

But for a film that took so much time, effort, and passion from its cast and crew, it got a lukewarm response from the local press and movie critics.

The post-screening Q&A session with the cast and director was an awkward affair. Reporters who were clearly unimpressed with the film were reluctant to ask critical questions out of respect for the subject matter. [The Korea Herald via Extra Korea!]

All I have to say is that the director Lee Sang-woo is lucky I wasn’t there to ask him questions.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Summer Preview of 2010 Movie Releases.

What I will give you is the top 10 films that you should see this summer and the 10 that you should avoid at all cost. I will also list the opening dates of the film in Korea. I will also be listing what will be playing at the IMAX cinema this summer also.

The Top 10 films to see this summer.

1. Toy Story 3 (Aug 3, 2010)(IMAX 3D)

I have no idea what will happen in this film but the preview looked awesome and in 3D IMAX, This has all of the hype of being a huge Summer hit.

2. Iron Man 2: The IMAX Experience (April 29, 2010)

As of the time of this writing, it is still unknown if this film will be shown here in Korea in IMAX. Now its time for part 2 of the Tony Stark story and the preview included the "Iron Man" song.

3. Inception- All that I really know about this film is that in involves, Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. Just on this fact alone, it deserves, at least, one viewing.

4. Shrek Forever After (July 1, 2010) (Imax and 3D)

In what is being called the last Shrek film, can our favorite Ogre once again save the day? once again, This may or may not be shown here in Korea at the Imax.

5. Robin Hood- When I first saw the preview at CGV, I was cheering for Crowes' return to a bad ass hero. I hope that the previews weren't wrong for this film.

6. Grown Ups- Adam Sandler is making a funny movie with his friends. The preview looked awesome but I am not sure if the film will be released in Korea.

7. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (June 30, 2010)-Unless the film really ventures too far away from the book, I really see no way that this film will fail. The preview has all ready had fans wanting the release date to be pushed up to early May.

8. The Expendables- If you look at the cast that this film has, you will never confuse it with a classic Hollywood film. if you want straight mindless action, then this film will be the one summer film for you.

9. Jonah Hex- I have no idea why I have always like the Jonah Hex comic book and I was happy that they decided to make a film about him. I just hope that they get him right.

10. Knight and Day (June 24,2010)- I saw the preview and it looked liked Tom Cruise was trying to be funny and it was working. The preview looked good and hopefully Tom can start a comeback with this role.

The Top 10 films NOT to see this summer.

1. The Karate Kid (2010)- When I heard that Will Smith wanted to remake this film and then have his son, Jaden, star in the film. It was too much to take and then to have Jackie Chan take over for Pat Morita. It just really made me never want to see this film.

2. The A Team (June 10, 2010) I have no idea why Hollywood wants to recast and remake old 80's Television shows into movies. I saw the preview, it looked liked a bad copy of a semi-classic TV show.

3. MacGruber- former SNL player Will Forte returns as MacGruber, a comedic spin on the '80s TV character MacGyver. I have no idea why they made this film but during the preview all I did was cringe and didn't laugh once. This is not good for a comedy movie.

4. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Jake Gyllenhaal as a Prince Of Persia, and I am supposed to believe this because why? The preview looked awful and I never bought into Jake being suited for this role.

5. The Last Airbender. A few years ago I might have really recommend this film. When I saw that it was M. Night Shyamalan directed, I begin to wonder how the film will be destroyed. Lately his films have been horrible and he will have to prove himself before I even give him a pass again.

6. Predators- Now lets remake the Predator films and lets try and give them a new spin. I really, once again, have no idea why they decided to remake this film. Robert Rodriguez, you should have known better.

7. The Sorcerer's Apprentice- So Disney is now making a live action film based on Mickey Mouses' cartoon from the 1940 film, Fantasia? Has Hollywood truly run out of new ideas?

8. Beastly- A new 'Beauty and the Beast" tale told to us by CBS Films. The trailer made me never want to see the film and it looked like a really expensive ABC after school special.

9. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore- I saw the title and then I watched the preview and just shook my head in disbelief. If this film bombs, the person who green lighted it, should be fired.

10. Step Up 3-D. If you are asking yourself why this film series keeps on going, its very simple. The films are cheap to make and they return a nice profit. I will pass on the 3-D and on this film.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Gun Ri Movie Finally Comes Out

by Robert Koehler on March 19, 2010

in Korean Culture, Korean History

A Little Pond,” the movie about No Gun Ri that I thought was finished like four years ago, will be released on April 15.

Just what you were looking for to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War.

And yes, your Uncle Marmot has the trailer — Canadian accents and all — for your viewing enjoyment:

Remember, children, as director Lee Sang-woo said in 2006, it’s not anti-American, it’s just anti-war!

The press release calls it a film that “conveys the cruel realities of war, as was seen through the perspective of the minjung, through an actual incident.” Great! I just hope the Yanks are wearing top hats, smoking cigars and clutching bags of money while they mow down little kids. Anything less would be a bitter disappointment.

PS: I guess it’s kind of fitting that “Kill Them All” features so prominently on the poster. After all, it was supposedly said by Edward Daily, who it turned out wasn’t even at No Gun Ri.

UPDATE: I suppose the poster could be referring to a quote by 7th Cav vet Joe Jackman in the BBC. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

UPDATE 2: In the comments, GI Korea writes:

What is so detestable about this movie is that we have known for years that it was coming out and this director intentionally picked the 60th anniversary of the war to release it. During the 50th anniversary of the war veterans from the Korean War were slimed by the lies of the originally AP No Gun Ri story and now 10 years later they are being slimed again by the lies of this No Gun Ri movie.

Well, if it’s any consolation, veterans can at least take comfort in the fact that in large part thanks to their blood and tears, South Korea became a nation wealthy and free enough to allow a film director to take a big cinematic dump on their sacrifices.

UPDATE 3: GI Korea posts on the subject — be absolutely sure to read it. Ironically, he also notes the Korean government is subsidizing travel to Korea this year — the 60th anniversary of the Korean War — for Korean War vets. Maybe they can catch Lee’s film while they’re in town.

BTW, if I might quote myself from a 2006 post on this film:

I’m not arguing that topics such as Nogeun-ri or U.S. misdeeds should not be explored by filmmakers. As artists in a democratic society, Korean filmmakers have a duty to explore all aspects of Korea’s past and present. But as Lee clearly points out and as anyone who watched “Dongmakgol” could tell, the films do more than just examine painful incidents pertaining to U.S. history in Korea—they seek to deny any positive role the United States may have played in post-Liberation Korea by constructing fantasy worlds of happy villagers playing in the fields until they were brutally interrupted by the evil Americans and their warlike ways and exploitive capitalism. Even relatively even-handed “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” does little more than depict North and South as moral equivalents (with U.S. and UN contributions ignored completely)—there was no “good side” or “bad side,” and the question is never addressed whether the men chewed up on screen died for anything at all. With “Dongmakgol” drawing over 8 million viewers (5 million in its first four weeks), its historical viewpoint obviously resonates with a large segment of the general population. And it goes without saying that it does not bode well for the future of the alliance when the peoples involved no longer share a common memory of even the “foundation myth” of the alliance itself.

By GI Korea on March 19th, 2010 at 9:52 am

No Gun Ri Movie Released In Time to Slime Returning Korean War Veterans

» by GI Korea in: Korean War

After a very long wait considering the No Gun Ri movie was filmed in 2006, it is finally being released and as expected the director Lee Sang-woo is doing everything he can to spread the anti-US mythology surrounding the tragedy that happened at No Gun Ri:

The Marmot has the movie trailer posted over at his site for everyone to check out, but here is what I have to wonder if Lee bothered to inform viewers watching the movie of these relevant facts surrounding the No Gun Ri issue:

  • Out of the original 12 American witnesses quoted in the Pulitzer Prize winning Associated Press article that the only 4 GI’s that fully confirmed the AP’s account of what happened were later proven to not be there, the 4 more were intentionally misquoted by the AP, 1 veteran’s testimony is inconsistent and suspect, and the other 3 said no massacre occurred at No Gun Ri.
  • The forensic evidence does not support the claims of a massacre of 400 people. What the forensic evidence does support is the presence of enemy weapons at the bridge.
  • The aerial imagery evidence does not support the claims of a massacre of 400 people.
  • The historical documents do not even support the claims of a massacre of 400 people at No Gun Ri.
  • Here is probably the most telling fact, that despite intensive searches of the No Gun Ri area not one bone was ever found despite supposedly 400 people being killed there. To further put this into perspective other areas where far less people were killed during the Korean War extensive skeletal remains were found, but not a No Gun Ri.

There are plenty of more facts that totally debunk the established mythology about what happened at No Gun Ri that I think judging by the movie poster I doubt director Lee Sang-woo informs viewers of any of this. Speaking of the movie poster Extra Korea! makes a very good observation of how the No Gun Ri movie poster is very similar to a North Korea propaganda poster.

Do you see the supposed 400 bodies?

What is most ironic about the No Gun Ri issue is that we already know what happened there that tragic day in July 1950 if people bothered to listen to veterans who were actually there instead of those who were not. What really happened at No Gun Ri is best summarized by the account given by Buddy Wenzel who the AP for some reason did not include in their article. This is what Wenzel had to say about what happened at No Gun Ri that day:

The civilians started coming down the railroad tracks, on paths on both sides of the tracks… The front ones, there were like maybe 15 or 20 of them, and they were getting thicker beyond that. Somebody said, “Fire over their heads for a warning.” … I got out of my hole with about 30 other guys; we all had M-1s. Now, we had one machine gun up on the railroad tracks and another air cooled machine gun on the right. Well when we fired over their heads they panicked. … That’s when some of them started to run towards us. We were firing over them all this time.

Then somebody yelled, “We’re being fired at,” then there was a bunch that started shooting into the refugees … This all happened in a minute, but it all came out when we panicked ‘cause we thought we were getting shot at.

There was a lieutenant that was running down to that group I was with. I saw this little girl that was sort of in front, she was maybe four or five years old and she was coming down the track I shot towards her and she fell. Well, this lieutenant ran out there and picked up this little girl. Why … I can’t tell you. That’s why the lieutenant was yelling, “Cease fire,” and he was running. She was out there in front, by herself, and flailing here arms and throwing her arms down.

After the cease-fire I stayed where I was, maybe 10-15 yards from the track, and maybe six or eight guys went down the tracks from the group that I was with, and a few went down from on top of the tracks. One of the guys went down there and searched a few of the bodies, he … found a body with a burp gun, and he yelled, “Here’s the goddamned gun,” and he held it straight up and slammed it down on the tracks.

It is pretty clear that a tragedy did happen that day at No Gun Ri but it was not the “Korean My Lai” the AP journalists were so eager to create. The fact of the matter is that you had GI’s that were on the retreat and wary of North Korean infiltrators who fired warning shots over the top of the refugees in order to prevent them from advancing toward their frontline. This firing over the refugees was probably interpreted by the gunmen within the column as being directed towards them and they fired back which ended up causing US soldiers to fire directly into the refugee column.

Other veteran witness statements, Soviet shell casings found underneath the bridge, unit supply records showing Soviet weapons turned into the 7th Cavalry supply personnel, and prior documented instances of civilian clothed guerrilla fighters engaging US troops makes for a strong case that there were gunmen within the refugee column. These gunmen were likely South Korean communist guerrillas because before the Korean War began the Yongdong area of South Korea was a known communist guerrilla hide out. US veteran witnesses who were proven to be at No Gun Ri say the gun men they found dead underneath the bridge wore no uniforms. These veterans also say that the number of refugees killed underneath the bridge from the brief firing numbered to about 4-9 killed with more wounded. It is impossible to know, but some of those wounded could have died later on increasing the death toll. Determining the exact death toll is impossible but it is not the 400 or simply “hundreds” as the AP claims. Additionally the inability to find any remains at the site only further confirms the much lower death toll.

Yes it was a tragedy what happened but the circumstances, motivations, and the numbers dead are vastly different from the narrative that Lee Sang-woo wants people to believe with his movie. I mentioned this over at the Marmot’s Hole, but what I find most detestable about this movie was that Lee intentionally waited until the 60th anniversary of the Korean War to release it instead of releasing it 4 years ago when he completed the movie. He had to have known that ceremonies and other commemorative events would be held to honor returning Korean War veterans and he went out of his way to slime them with this movie filled with lies.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

From: [MG Kurt Stein]
Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 2:21 PM
Subject: Special Army Story: SGT Jeremiah Wittman - 4th ID
Importance: High

I'd like to share a good news Army story with you. I apologize up front that it is a bit lengthy but believe it is a worthwhile read.

While flying on United Airlines last week I overheard a telephone conversation from a gentleman seated directly behind me. His words went something like this "although today was an extremely sad day for me - it was absolutely the happiest day of my life and I am proud to be an American."

This gentleman went on to talk about a funeral he attended in South Carolina and specifically gave great kudos to the US Army for the professionalism displayed at this service. He went into great detail about the funeral service itself and how it was conducted. He went on to say that Jeremiah really enjoyed serving in the Army and now he (man on the phone) clearly understood why.

My ears immediately perked up when I overhead him talk about the Army in such a positive way. He boasted about the General who presented the flags to him and his family, the sharp looking Soldier's of the salute battery, the sounds of taps, how the Soldier's stood at attention for such a long period of time, how the military paid for his family to fly to South Carolina, the number of letters and calls he received from Jeremiah's command, how the Red Cross assisted, and so on. He could not say enough great things about our Army.

I quickly pulled a 2 star card from my brief case and wrote him a thank you note for his kind words about our Army. He had no clue I was in the Army since I was in civilian clothes. Within seconds he tapped me on the shoulder and with tears in his eyes proceeded to tell me the rest of the story.

The gentleman's name is Robert Wittman. He was flying with his entire family, wife, son, daughter, Mom, Dad, Grandparents and friends. They were carrying home the cremated remains of his son, SGT Jeremiah T. Wittman of the 4th Infantry Division who was killed in Afghanistan on 13 February.

Dad told me that Jeremiah already had 2 tours in Iraq and ultimately gave his life in Afghanistan. While in Iraq the 1st time - Jeremiah's vehicle was hit by an IED and several of his buddies were severely injured. He went on to say that his son truly loved the Army and did what he did from the heart. His Dad was a proud man. He did say that he often wondered why his son stayed in the Army after his initial attack in Iraq. Now that he saw the US Army in action at the funeral - he now understands why.

Dad proudly held up the urn and boasted about how beautiful it was and continued to brag about the Army for all to hear. The folks around him listened with big ears and inspiration. I must admit, although it was really a beautiful urn and a wonderful Army story - it brought a slight tear to my eye as I too have a son (CPT in the 82D Airborne) serving in Afghanistan and this moment hit home.

Bottom line - although the family was saddened by the loss of their son - they were all proud to be associated with the US Army. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice. Why? Simply because of the way they were treated by our Army family at the funeral. The 4th ID leadership and others involved did it up right and made a positive lifetime lasting impact with this family. Great job!

To top off a memorable flight - when the aircraft came to a halt - the pilot announced "ladies and gentlemen may I have your attention please. Among us today is a great American Soldier named SGT Jermiah Wittman killed in action on 13 February. Our deepest sympathy, respect and sorrow go out to the Wittman family. We ask that you honor SGT Wittman - our fallen hero, the entire Wittman family and our Armed Forces by remaining seated and allowing the family to depart the aircraft first.

At that moment you could have heard a pin drop in the aircraft but within seconds - everyone on the aircraft was clapping as the family departed on their way. The family departed feeling special and honored - I sat there proud to be an American Soldier.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

REVIEW: ‘Stoning of Soraya M.’ Deserved Some Academy Attention

by Joe Bendel

A film that won the NAACP’s Image Award for Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture and was the toast of the right-leaning blogosphere (including your very own Big Hollywood) would sound like it must have reached the broadest-based audience a film could hope for. Yet, it was essentially shut-out during the rest of the recent award season and was sadly neglected by the critical community. That is because Cyrus Nowrasteh’s The Stoning of Soraya M. boldly addresses a controversial topic: the appalling lack of rights granted to women in the Islamist world.


The United Nations estimates as many as 5,000 Islamic women fall victim to so-called “honor killings” every year. Whether reported or not, each instance is an appalling crime, utterly incompatible with any concept of honor. It is the true nature of such honor killings Nowrasteh and his co-screenwriter (and wife) Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh graphically dramatize in the viscerally intense The Stoning of Soraya M., which richly deserves to be revisited now that it has been released on DVD.

Freidoune Sahebjam was a French-Iranian journalist who exposed many of the Islamic Revolutionary regime’s human rights abuses. When passing through a provincial town, a chance encounter with Zahra, a sophisticated older woman of the Shah’s secular era, leads to the biggest story of his career. Just the day before, her niece Soraya was gruesomely executed for the crime of inconveniencing her husband. As Sahebjam interviews Zahra, she bears witness to the terrible injustice that befell Soraya.

Zahra explains the abusive Ali wanted a divorce, so he could marry the fourteen year old girl he lusted after. However, he did not want to financially support Soraya or their two daughters. Of course, none of this violates Islamic notions of honor according to the local mullah. Rather than live up to his obligations, Ali conspired with the mullah to falsely accuse Soraya of adultery. In post-Revolutionary Iran, this was clearly the easiest (and cheapest) course of action for him. After all, as the town’s mayor explicitly explains, if a husband accuses his wife of adultery, she must prove her innocence, but if a wife accuses her husband, she must prove his guilt.

Given the film’s title and the framing device, it is no secret where Stoning will end. It is not called the Narrow Escape of Soraya M., after all. However, Nowrasteh (the Iranian-American writer and producer of The Path to 9/11) creates such a sense of mounting horror, it seems like the actual stoning will come as a relief. And then it happens.

Stoning is Soraya’s story, but it is Shohreh Aghdashloo’s film. The Oscar-nominated Iranian-American actress gives a powerful, fearless performance as Zahra. Not simply the film’s noble conscience, she is a nuanced, fully realized character—an intelligent, assertive, but ultimately vulnerable woman in a society which grants her no legal standing. As Soraya, Mozhan Marnò avoids simply playing the innocent victim, investing her with surprising inner strength and resolution. While only briefly seen during the wrap-around segments, Jim Caviezel is nearly unrecognizable but surprisingly effective as the intrepid Sahebjam.

Re-watching Stoning on DVD, one is also struck by the work of David Diaan as Ebrahim, the town’s mayor, who reluctantly allows the stoning to proceed. It is a quiet, perfectly pitched performance that conveys the all too human failings of cowardice, guilt, and resentment in a time of moral crisis.

Filmed on location at an undisclosed Middle East locale, Stoning completely immerses the audience in its forbidding world. It was not an easy shoot either, according to the more interesting than usual behind-the-scenes DVD extra featurette. It is an uncompromising film, fueled by outrage, but also a truly moving human drama. Aghdashloo deserved to be in Hollywood last weekend as an Oscar nominee (again), but alas . . . At least Stoning now has a chance to reach on DVD. Highly recommended, Stoning is a rare example of both genuinely bold film making and compelling storytelling.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I knew that this could be a good film, I had no idea that it would be a great one that I would want to get on Blu-Ray as soon as possible.

Invictus is a 2009 biographical drama film based on Nelson Mandela's life during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film stars Morgan Freeman as South African President Mandela, and Matt Damon as François Pienaar, the South African Rugby team captain.

My favorite part of the film was the opening when Mandela attempts to tackle the country’s largest problems—including crime and unemployment—he attends a game of the Springboks, the country’s rugby union team. Blacks in the stadium were cheering against their home squad, as the Springboks (their history, players and even their colors) represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year’s time, Mandela convinces the South African rugby board to keep the Springbok team, name and colors the same.

He then meets with Springboks captain François Pienaar. Though Mandela never verbalizes his true meaning during their meeting, Pienaar understands the message below the surface: if the Springboks can gain the support of black South Africans and succeed in the upcoming World Cup, the country will be unified and inspired. Mandela also shares with Pienaar that a poem, Invictus, had been inspiring to him during his time in prison, helping him to “stand when all he wanted to do was lie down”.

In my live, I have seen nations unify over sports. I saw the USA cheer an Olympic Ice Hockey team to a gold Medal in 1980. I have also seen a divided Germany win the World Cup back in 1974, and people wishing that their country could be unified. I saw that same spirit in this film. Sports can not solve all of one countries problems but it can unify them, if only for a brief moment.

Grade: A+

Brenda Mazibuko: You're risking your political capital, you're risking your future as our leader.
Nelson Mandela: The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead.

The next film this week, I saw in 3-D and its title is Alice in Wonderland (2010).

The idea of this film is rather simple, What if a 19 year old Alice returns to Wonderland? As for me it was worth the price of seeing it in 3D at the Say CGV. It was not worth me traveling to Yongsan CGV, to see the film in Imax. So where doe the film go wrong?

As I kept watching this film, I kept waiting for Pink Floyd or Iron Butterfly's music to appear. The film is a great visual but I kept thinking that this film could be so much better if the audience was taking a very strong peyote sample. The visuals, instead of helping this film, really hurt the film. I saw a lot of pretty pictures but they all felt very empty and, to me. the film really suffered for it.

Now they're a few things to really love about this film. The voices of Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit and Christopher Lee as the voice of the Jabberwocky. Every time that their characters were on the film, the film seemed to come alive and fully encompassed the 3D goal of this film.

In the end the film is worth one viewing and that is all.

Grade: B-

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
[Alice checks Hatter's temperature]
Alice Kingsley: I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are