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’20 Once Again’ vs. ‘Miss Granny’: Which One Is Better?

miss granny vs 20 once again

Korean comedy film “Miss Granny” was released in 2014, and due to its massive popularity, a Chinese remake “20 Once Again” was produced in 2015. Both the movies received a lot of international attention, partially due to its engaging storyline but also because many famous stars were casted for the films. Remakes and adaptations are not new to both Korea and China; there have been many K-dramas based on Chinese source material and vice versa, but there is a constant debate about the quality of these remakes.

It is a common and unqualified generalization that “the original” is always better; K-dramas are often compared to the original dramas or webtoons and receive negative reviews purely because on this comparison. While unfair because each version of the story should be evaluated separately, I do admit that when a remake has exactly the same plot and characters as the original, it is very difficult to watch the remake without subconsciously comparing it to the first version.

Though both of these particular adaptations they were very alike, there were minor points about each show which defined and differentiated them. This raises the question: which one is better? Let’s examine them.

Plot

As mentioned above, the plot for both movies were identical and there were even scenes where the dialogue was exactly the same. Sure, “20 Once Again” is a remake of “Miss Granny,” but was it really impossible for the scriptwriter to inject even a little bit of creativity into the script?

The plot on its own though, while mildly fantastical, is a winning one. It empathizes the importance of filial piety and sends out a strong message to viewers to treasure their youth. This message is relatable in both Korea and China because both societies are currently facing the problem of an aging population; the struggles experienced by the various elderly folks in the show and the conflicts within a family with various generations living together are all familiar and realistic. By giving the main character Oh Mal-Soon (played by Shim Eun Kyung)/Shen Meng Jun (played by Yang Zishan), a 70-year-old grandma, a new lease of life by allowing her to become 20-years-old again she pretty much embodies the hopes of everyone who has ever wanted to return to a particular period of time. That’s probably why these movies felt so engaging; viewers were all drawn by this imaginative idea. In reality however, with a length of around two hours, the plot moved along very slowly in the movies and felt very long. There were many scenes that I found entertaining but highly useless to the overall development of the plot.

Moreover, there were also some supporting characters who were left underdeveloped. A good example would be music producer Han Seung Woo (played by Lee Jin Wook)/Tan Zhi Ming (Chen Bolin). He was supposed to be Mal Soon/Meng Jun’s love interest in the movies. However, in both movies, the ending left viewers not knowing anything more about him apart from the fact that he has a bad temper and has retro music tastes. It’s hard to root for the main couple (if you can even call it that) when you know nothing about the male and the couple barely had any romantic interactions before they were separated.

via omonatheydidn’t.livejournal.com

Even if the main point of the story was not about the romance, it was way too rushed and unsatisfying, especially in a show that delivered in almost every other aspect.

For all its flaws, however, the plot definitely had great humor, whether it was through the situations that the characters landed themselves in or through the often witty dialogue. A 70-year old grandma in the body of a 20-year old young lady? Cue hilarious scenes with a young lady standing in the midst of a crowd of elderly folk and doing slow morning exercises with them. To its credit, “20 Once Again” did change scenes like these to fit in with the local culture, for example the old folks in the movie watched a Chinese period drama rather than a Korean one which was used in the original movie.


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Cast

Perhaps the most defining difference between these two movies is the quality of their cast. While all the actors did a decent job in portraying their characters, all in all, “Miss Granny” had a better cast. This was especially evident for the main character Mal Soon/Meng Jun. Both Shim Eun Kyung and Yang Zishan did well and brought a lot of life to the character. They also succeeded in showing both the tough and vulnerable sides of this character’s personality, making Mal Soon/Meng Jun a very endearing protagonist whom viewers felt and rooted for. Both actresses really mastered the art of acting like old women and created amazing comedy even at the risk of ruining their personal images.

via joowons on tumblr

They enjoyed a good chemistry with the rest of the cast as well, in particular with the actors who played their sons, Sung Dong Il (for “Miss Granny”) and Zhao Lixin (for “20 Once Again”). This was especially important in the movies because the mother-son relationship was a very touching one, despite the lack of scenes together, this relationship worked very well in both movies.

As Mal Soon/Meng Jun was supposed to be a good singer, Yang Zishan really lost out on this aspect. Shim Eun Kyung’s singing voice was a pleasant surprise, she could not just carry a tune but she had a certain level of skill which made her singing scenes enjoyable to watch. Yang Zishan’s singing, while mildly decent, was quite unstable and emotionless, making Meng Jun’s instant popularity unbelievable and ultimately detracted from the film’s enjoyment.

“Faintly Sweet Memories” – Yang Zishan

“White Butterfly” – Shim Eun Kyung

For the role of Seung Woo/Zhi Ming however, the actors had to put in extra effort because the script barely helped them with their character development at all. Both the actors casted are relatively famous and have a nice resume of past projects but Lee Jin Wook added way more depth to Seung Woo as compared to Chen Bolin’s Zhi Ming, who basically remained boring and stagnant throughout the entire movie. Seung Woo’s relationship with Mal Soon also didn’t feel as forced as Zhi Ming’s and Meng Jun’s, which made it enjoyable to watch even though there wasn’t much romantic development.

Soundtrack

This seems like an odd and trivial criteria to compare the movies with, but it’s not weird when the movies are largely centered around music. After turning back to her 20-year-old self, Mal Soon/Meng Jun gets invited to join her own grandson’s band and subsequently encourages the band to start playing old hits because those are the only songs she likes to sing. The band thereafter goes through a transformation and starts to produce quality music. This transformation was definitely illustrated more clearly in “Miss Granny,” because the movie started out with the band playing really horribly — discordant chords, lousy lyrics and so on. When Mal Soon joined them however, they were soon playing lively and catchy oldies. They sounded really good as well.

via irrational-obsessions-gottcha78 on tumblr

For “20 Once Again” however, the band started off with a relatively good song, so it was hard to believe that they were doing badly. As a result, the transformation was not apparent, making the storyline unbelievable.

Both soundtracks had some outstanding songs though, but the main theme song from “20 Once Again,” which was sung by Luhan, was really amazing. Apart from having a beautiful melody, the lyrics captured the essence of the movie and was a perfect way to end the show.

“Our Tomorrow” – Luhan


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Final Result

Although both movies had its strengths, ultimately “Miss Granny” was a better version because the story was brought to life in a very moving and heartwarming fashion, aided by the wonderful performances of the cast members and a great soundtrack.

Premium subscribers at Dramafever can check “20 Once Again” out on the newly launched CJ E&M Movie Channel. “Miss Granny” is also available on Dramafever so you can check both movies out and compare them yourselves!

Have you watched these two movies? Which version do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

5 Korean Movies to Watch Over Spring Break

Are you one of the many who are about to enter their spring break? Or are you already in it? Regardless, if you’re bored and looking for some entertainment over your break without having to leave the comfort of your own room, check out one or all five of these Korean movies. Whether you’re into romance, comedy, action or looking for all three in one, I’ve got a movie for you!

1. A Millionaire’s First Love

Starring actor Hyun Bin, known for his roles in dramas such as Secret Garden and most recently Hyde, Jekyll and Me, and actress Lee Yeon-hee of East of Eden and Gu Family Book, A Millionaire’s First Love is built around a sorrowful love story. Kang Jae-kyung, played by Hyun Bin, lost both his parents in a terrible car accident when he was younger, which left a hefty scar in his heart and mentality. Jae-kyung’s wealthy grandfather took guardianship of him after the accident and with the typical rich kid syndrome; he grew up to be arrogant and snotty. Jae-kyung was set to inherit his grandfather’s fortune, under the condition that he transferred to a new school in Gangwon Province, to focus on his studies and graduate. Choi Eun-hwan, played by Yeon-hee, is a vivacious and spunky orphan, who attends the same high school that Jae-kyung is sent to.

No matter what Jae-kyung does and where he goes, he always runs into Eun-hwan; not only is she their class president at school but she’s also the cashier at a convenience store that he frequents and she also works at their local gas station and even delivered gas to his broken down car once. Little does Jae-kyung know though, that this isn’t all coincidence but they both actually share a deep past together, a past in which he’s tried extremely hard to block out. Eun-hwan clearly remembers and knows exactly who Jae-kyung is, but he on the other hand doesn’t have a clue as to who she is or as to why she keeps sticking to him like glue. I suppose hanging around him all the time must’ve worked out, because as time passed, they grew closer and they eventually grew to love one another; only for Jae-kyung to discover that Eun-hwan’s days are limited. But what’s a Korean movie without someone being diagnosed with a terminal illness?

What’s going to happen to these two young lovers? And what exactly is their history? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!


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2. A Moment to Remember

A Moment to Remember is based on the Japanese television show, Pure Soul. It follows the unexpected love story of Su-jin, played by actress Son Ye-jin, known for her roles in The Classic and Summer Scent, and a man named Chul-soo, played by actor Jung Woo-sung, known for his roles in Athena: Goddess of War and Padam Padam…The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats. Su-jin and Chul-soo both come from two different worlds; you have Su-jin, this upbeat, bright, always perky and happy girl, who’s lived her entire life doing things her way, and who also happens to be the daughter of a CEO of a construction firm, and Chul-soo, a quiet and reserved guy, who’s an aspiring architect, that works at one of Su-jin’s father’s sites as the construction foreman.

Once she spotted him on her father’s work sight, she knew she had to have him. Due to her outgoing personality, Su-jin wasted no time in trying to court Chul-soo; and Chul-soo didn’t put up too much of a fight either, seeing how he was just as interested in her as she was in him.

Although Su-jin’s father disapproved of their relationship, that didn’t stop them from moving in with one another and eventually getting married. Their love for one another was undeniable and everything in the world seemed perfect, as if nothing could ever go wrong. That is, until Su-jin is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Su-jin is in denial; she is nervous and feels burdened that she’ll eventually forget her beloved husband one day, but with the help and unconditional love from Chul-soo, the two fight through the oncoming obstacles, together.

Did Su-jin end up forgetting Chul-soo? Did they stay together? Everything from their first meeting to the beginning of their relationship was unorthodox and completely unconventional, but if things were meant to be, if it’s true love, then they’ll always fall into their rightful place.

3. 200 Pounds Beauty

Are you tired of those typical sad love stories? If so, here’s a refreshing comedy for you! 200 Pounds Beauty is about an overweight girl, Kang Han-na, played by Kim Ah-joong, who undergoes a number of extreme plastic surgeries to become a pop sensation. Han-na doesn’t want to get the procedures done just so that she can be considered beautiful, but she wants them done so that they can help boost her self-esteem and confidence, so that she can finally live what she deems as a normal life.

In order to live up to her new look and to prevent anyone from finding out who she is, Han-na creates a new identity for herself, she is now a Korean-American from California named Jenny. In an attempt to make Han Sang-jun, played by Joo Jin-moo, fall in love with her, Jenny auditions to be a ghost vocalist for an old rival, Ammy, in order to get close to Sang-jun. To everyone’s surprise, Jenny’s voice resembled one of someone else that they used to know, Han-na, but without anyone detecting that it was in fact her, she was able to score her own record contract and now she would no longer have to live in anyone else’s shadow. With this new identity and body, not only is she a star on the rise and receiving love from the public, but she’s also finally gaining the interest and love of Sang-jun.

Ammy is certain that something fishy is going on with the disappearance of Han-na and with the new and sudden arrival of Jenny. In order for her revival in the industry, Ammy tries everything to seek Han-na out. Sang-jun had already turned his back on her, so she was desperate more than ever. Those around Jenny also begin to question the identity of this mysterious woman who appeared before them, with the eventual discovery that Jenny is Kang Han-na the entire time.

What was Sang-jun’s reaction to finding out that he’s been lied to by Han-na? And whom was he actually falling for, Han-na or Jenny?

4. Spellbound

I’m a big Son Ye-jin and Lee Min-ki fan, so when I found out they filmed a movie together, I knew it was a must watch. Spellbound is a horror romantic comedy, based around a street, turned big time, magician, Ma Jo-goo, played by Lee Min-ki, and Kang Yeo-ri, played by Son Ye-jin, who has the unfortunate ability of seeing ghosts. These ghosts continuously seek out Yeo-ri in order to receive closure, and until she helps resolve the issue for them, they’ll always hang around her. Due to this, she’s unable to have a social life and isolates herself from the outside world because she’s scared those around her will be harmed. This includes only having phone calls with her best friend in which she hasn’t seen in ten years.

Her quiet life takes a surprising turn when she encounters Jo-goo. He is completely unaware of the crazy occurrences that go on in her life, but insists on making her be a part of his big magic show. Although she’s a part of the staff and is constantly around other people, she wants nothing to do with them once her shift is over. After declining to go out for many company dinners, Jo-goo finally drags her out for a drinking session and discovers her (drunken) and unique personality. The more he see’s her, the more he’s intrigued by her; he wants to know everything about her but Yeo-ri is terrified of letting anyone get close to her, since it might put them in danger. As their feelings blossom for one another, Jo-goo discovers the difficult and lonely world that Yeo-ri’s been living in, and wants to be there to protect her, although the thought of being followed by these ghosts terrifies him out of his wits.

Do you think Jo-goo will stick around long enough to help Yeo-ri chase these bad guys out of her life, or will he be chased out before he gets the chance to even come close enough?


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5. Secretly, Greatly

Over the last couple of years, there’s been a number of films based around North Korean spies, but Secretly, Greatly is probably the most light hearted out of all of them. The film is an action packed comedy and drama, starring Kim Soo-hyun who plays Lieutenant Won Ryu-hwan, which is his North Korean alias but his new identity in South Korea is Bang Dong-gu. He’s dubbed as the top agent in North Korea with a full set of skills; he’s fluent in 5 different languages and has a remarkable ability of reading people. He’s disguised as a village idiot while in South Korea. Park Ki-woong plays Rhee Hae-rang/Kim Min-su, son of a high ranking North Korean official, who’s in the south as a singer wannabe and Lee Hyun-woo plays the role of Rhee Hae-jin, the youngest North Korean secret agent in history, who is disguised as a south Korean high school student.

The three are sent to South Korea in hopes of unifying Korea. They’re set to acculturate the small town, quiet lifestyle in South Korea, while awaiting their orders from the North. One of them waited months, while another has been waiting years to receive any orders. Due to the extensive wait period, these spies gradually start to get used to their life as ordinary neighbors in their small towns. Dong-gu grew very fond of the grandmother that he works for; he even had a crush on a neighboring girl. Dong-gu and the other agents are aware that there are others like them in South Korea, but there hasn’t been a reason for them to meet or bump heads.

One day, Dong-gu, Min-su and Hae-jin are assigned the secret and great mission that they’ve been eagerly awaiting. This is it, this is what they’ve been waiting for, it was right in front of them; until a sudden change in events, the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong, put a halt on the long awaited mission. The North is promised financial aid from the South, under the condition that they’re given the names, location and rank of the North Korean spies that are active in the South; the North must turn in their spies in order to reap the benefits. To prevent their spies from falling into enemy hands, the North orders that Dong-gu, Min-su and Hae-jin abort their mission and take their own lives before the government gets to them. Coming from the North, it’s instilled in these spies to forever be loyal to their one and only leader and country, therefore, they must do whatever it takes to protect their beloved country.

Will these agents heed their new orders or will they turn their backs on those who have turned their backs on them?

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m usually drawn to the love orientated and sappy it took us so long to finally be together but unfortunately one of us is going to die Korean movies (and dramas). Although I’m fully aware that I’ll get emotional and probably cry in all the scenes, I still watch them anyway! I’m not crazy with gruesome scenes so I tend to stay away from the intense action movies. Most of the time, the ones I watch have very predictable synopses and I’m usually able to uncover the ending a fourth of the way into the film, and if I like it, I’ll continue watching it and if it becomes too much then I’ll stop. Is this the same for you?

Have you already seen these movies? If not, what are you waiting for?! Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Introduction to the Korean New Wave of Cinema

Since it’s the new year, those of us at KultScene will be branching out into other areas of contemporary Korean culture other than, but not forgetting about, K-pop. To start, this I am beginning a new series on modern Korean cinema. Despite being the second wave of Korean film, we will style it the New Wave of modern Korean cinema. Over the coming weeks, I am going to look at different areas of Korean cinema, which will include spotlights on a few prominent directors, exploring the themes of Korean cinema, and Korean cinema’s experiences in Hollywood. We will start off nice and slow, with a short introduction as to what I would term the Korean New Wave. So, I will outline how the wave started and its main players.

This new wave is generally considered to have started in 1997 and ended in 2005 when the films became more mainstream but the quality and influence has remained to this day.

What happened in 1997 to spark such a wave of creativity? Well, lots of things. Of course, it wasn’t just 1997, but South Korean film had been experiencing a lot of changes in the 80s as well, it just wasn’t as momentous. For instance, a revision was made in the Motion Pictures Act in 1987, which allowed foreign film companies to work in Korea. The benefits of these new possible deals were not felt straight away due to Korea’s conservative nature. Ever since the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee introduced strict censorship policies, and the Korean film industry had to abide by them. So, an anti-American movement essentially prevented Korean cinema from expanding its horizons to include foreign films.

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As Korea transition from dictatorships to true democracy, Korean filmmakers began to fight back. 1990 to 1996 is generally considered the first new wave of Korean cinema. The directors of this age made it possible for the directors we are going to look at, to make what they wanted without restriction. Park Kwang-su, Jang Sun-woo, Chung Ji-young, Lee Myung-se, and many others looked at historical events and ideas that were taboo under the dictatorship and reinterpreted these issues in a modern context. This allowed Korean audiences the chance to rethink what they knew about their country.

To the starry island

As the film industry grew in the 1990’s, so did democracy. In Korea this meant that more liberal values were introduced into Korean society. The good times did not last too long, as the first wave came to an end at the same time as the Asian financial crisis in 1997. These changes were a big influence on the next wave, which properly began in 1999.

The Korean government and chaebols (conglomerates) were greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis and the Korean people suffered for it too. In these seemingly constant difficult times for Korea, a stirring of the creative people in the country was inevitable. Times of confusion and strive tend to create melting pots of disillusioned young people who are waiting to strike back in interesting and biting ways. Through film, the people of Korea created something truly original and specific.

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With the increased liberalization of Korea, trips overseas for students were also now more common. Students could now move more freely to study abroad, and the average person had had more opportunities to travel. Young students were particularly drawn to America with its diverse culture. Filmmakers went to study in America and learned new ways of not only approaching cinema but life as well. For an example Lee Soo Man travelled to America and when he came back he created SM Entertainment. These budding filmmakers saw violence and sex in America and returned to strict family values in Korea. This meeting of cultures between the East and the West would go on to become a big part of the new wave’s cinema. Wild tonal shifts are now known as a distinct feature of Korean cinema because of it. It can also explain the moral pushing work of directors like Kim Ki Duk.

Shiri

Our wave begins, strangely enough, with a blockbuster from 1999 called Shiri written and directed by Kang Je Gyu. Shiri was the first of its kind in Korea and, despite the turbulent financial times, it got a huge budget. It was no mere blockbuster though, but was the first major release to address the North/South divide of Korea in a way outside of traditional propaganda. It attempted to show North Koreans in a more realistic way rather than just negative which was very progressive at the time. Not only did it challenge contemporary Korean issues, the blockbuster effects led to Shiri becoming the most lucrative film in Korean history, beating even Titanic. This economic and critical success paved the way for more daring and diverse Korean cinema, and more blockbuster-style films.

Although his film was a major part of the wave, another Kang Je Gyu went on to make only two more films between then and now and both were commercially but not culturally successful. Those who benefited from his success however, benefitted greatly. Hot off the heels of Kang’s film about North Korea, Park Chan Wook released his third feature Joint Security Area (J.S.A) about the same subject in 2000. His take was much less conventional and focused more on the inherent strangeness of soldiers standing on a physical line that borders two countries every minute of every day. It was a strong debut, and marked Park as a director to watch. And he certainly was, as he became one of the leading voices of the Korean new wave of cinema. His film Oldboy was the first Korean film to really crossover to the West and gain acclaim, even winning an award at the Cannes Film Festival. The film two films also introduced actors Lee Byung Hun and Song Kang Ho as leading men.

JSA

Alongside Park, two directors in particular led the wave, Kim Ji Woon and Bong Joon Ho. They both released films before Park, Kim in 1998 and Bong in earlier 2000, but didn’t find their hit until after the critical landscape changed due to J.S.A. Between the three of them, they released a staggering amount of incredible films and their influence goes further than just Korea. They have all also recently released their first English language films based in America. Our look at the new wave will feature primarily, but won’t be confined to, these three directors and will continue in the coming weeks with a more in depth look at each of their careers.

Do you like the Korean New Wave? Is there anything you would like to see covered in this series? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.