Screen Gab is your newsletter for all those who love Korean film and television. Start with “Squid Game.”
In this week’s edition, the history-making Emmy nominee, which took Netflix (and the world) by storm when it premiered last fall, inspires staff writer Michael Ordoña to recommend three pre-“Squid Game” movies from series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk; plus, TV critic Robert Lloyd recommends a newer addition to the platform’s enviable K-drama slate, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo.”
Plus, we catch up with “Amber Brown” creator / “Jumanji” icon Bonnie Hunt, celebrate the return of “Harley Quinn” and hear from a reader about their favorite sitcom to binge. If you’d like to be included in our next issue, Send your TV or streaming movie recommendations To email@example.comInclude your name and address. Submissions should not exceed 200 words.
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The late-night ‘recession’ is here. It will be especially hard on the voices of those who are least represented: The genre is currently undergoing its largest reshuffle since years after a Trump-fueled boom. Here’s what’s behind it — and who stands to lose out.
Prime Video’s new sci-fi adventure isn’t the next ‘Stranger Things.’ It’s better: A quartet of 12-year-olds becomes caught between warring time travelers in “Paper Girls,” one of the year’s best TV shows.
Recommendations by The Times’ TV and Film Experts
This week, one of the greatest shows set in DC’s larger universe is back. “Harley Quinn” (HBO Max). The animated series, which is very adult in nature, follows the villain as she causes havoc with her new crew after she split with Joker. It proves that she was meant to be more than just a sidekick. Season 3 picks up with Harlivy — best friends turned girlfriends Harley and Poison Ivy — luxuriating in their honeymoon phase after driving off into the sunset together in the Season 2 finale. However, the couple will have to return to Gotham and figure out their needs. They also have to navigate the challenges that come with being a villain. While the series is known for its cartoon violence and bizarre situations, it explores deeper themes about relationships, intimacy and trauma. It also plays with superhero tropes while laughing at them. —Tracy Brown
The internationally acclaimed “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” (Netflix), Park Eun-bin plays Woo Young-woo, South Korea’s first lawyer with autism spectrum disorder. (South Korea also provided the original for “The Good Doctor,” in which Freddie Highmore plays a surgeon with the disorder.) The series has a whimsical tone, with humor and sometimes comical moments, but it is never mocking. (Her behavioral quirks might be foregrounded, but it’s never in doubt who the heroine is.) It’s also romantic, and can turn serious as well, with some long-arc, soap-operatic threads. There’s office politics, and there’s love in the air. The cases, which are interesting in themselves, cover a range of subjects — like any good legal series, it’s a sort of cultural tour — and the show appropriately stands up for the individual against the group and modern thought against empty tradition. Young-woo’s autism is not a superpower— it is sometimes an obstacle — but it is dramatically inevitable that she sees things in a way her associates can’t. This will sometimes be related to whales, which she is just as passionate about as the law. Despite her social awkwardness and her lack of confidence, the series helps her build a support network. Jeon Baesoo plays her father, who is a lawyer but also runs a diner. Joo Hyun Young is her best friend. Kang Ki-young is her superior, initially skeptical, but soon adoring. Kang Taeoh is her colleague and potential suitor. —Robert Lloyd
Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about
If “Squid Game” fans were wondering what else creator Hwang Dong-hyuk can do, the answer, apparently, is “everything.”
Netflix now streams three of his four feature movies. What a remarkable display of versatility! Although they vary wildly in topic and genre, they’re bound by Hwang’s masterful visuals, unerring storytelling sense and social concerns.
2011’s “Silenced” (a.k.a. “The Crucible”) announced him as a consequential artist. It’s a bare-knuckled, fact-based exposé (based on a nonfiction book) of the horrendous abuse inflicted on young students at a school for deaf people. Although the unflinching portrayal of real-life horrors may provoke some and cause outrage, it doesn’t feel exploitative or preachy. The film’s depiction of a corrupt judicial system prompted legislation to address one problem.
“Miss Granny” (2014) may cause whiplash if you see it next: It’s a wacky, Hollywood-style, high-concept comedy that became a major box-office hit. It feels like a drama about someone who is unhappy and lives in grief for the first 10 minutes. Then the gag — one American audiences might find familiar — kicks in, and it’s suddenly hilarious. I suggest viewers ignore the synopsis. Shim Eun-kyung won a boatload of honors for a lead performance that’s utterly silly, yet still grounded; the satisfying emotional payoff couldn’t have landed had her work been less skillful. There’s so much pop singing in the film, it’s practically a musical, semi-romantic comedy, but it retains Hwang’s sharp criticism of materialism and shallow concerns.
Finally, “The Fortress” (2017) is a period war epic set during the Joseon Dynasty’s last-ditch effort to fend off the Qing dynasty’s 1636 invasion. The Korean Assn won best director and film of the year among many other awards. Film Critics. Lee Byung-hun and Kim Yoon-seok are compelling as two of the king’s top advisors, principled men who deeply disagree. While it does contain genre hallmarks — frenzied combat, gorgeous cinematography, lush score by Ryuichi Sakamoto — the movie’s true identity is a blistering critique of the unfeeling foolishness and hypocrisy of the ruling class. “The Fortress” occupies a cinematic nexus among the likes of “Gallipoli,” “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Troy.” Yeah, I said it.
Special bonus joy for “Squid” fans can be found in spotting faces from the series in these three films. There are many. —Michael Ordoña
A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching
Bonnie Hunt is a household name for family-friendly comedy. My siblings and I wore out our VHS tapes of “Beethoven” (1992) and “Jumanji” (1995) through incessant rewatching, and I often caught her ABC sitcom “Life With Bonnie” (2002-04) while channel surfing with my mom. (As a budding cinephile, I even remember being fascinated by her 2002 film “Stolen Summer,” the first produced as part of HBO’s “Project Greenlight.”) So it’s comforting to know that a new generation will be able to experience Hunt’s talents — in this case as creator, writer and director — with “Amber Brown,” premiering Friday on Apple TV+. Screen Gab asked Hunt how she discovered Paula Danziger’s beloved children’s book series, what she’s watching and more. —Matt Brennan
What shows have you seen recently that you recommend to others?
I really enjoyed “The Bear” on Hulu. It’s character-driven, with a profound emotional event at the core; the writing, directing, acting, music are all excellent. It was so happy that it was renewed for a second series.
What’s your go-to “comfort watch,” the movie or TV show you go back to again and again?
“The Andy Griffith Show” (multiple platforms; in syndication on TV Land).
How were you first introduced to the much-beloved “Amber Brown” book series? Was it your first impression?
I was working on a series about an eccentric aunt at the time and met up with them. [production company] Boat Rocker Media, who had the rights to the “Amber Brown” book series. We agreed to merge the two worlds, and we set up a time to speak with Paula Danziger’s family. I shared my thoughts about setting it in the present and creating Amber’s older version. This would allow Amber and her family to be very different from the ones in the book series. They were so open to me thinking of Amber as an artist who could express her subtext through her drawings. That’s what I did as a child. These drawings would include scenarios of Amber’s hopes, humor, worries, and would come to life in her imagination, revealed to the viewer in full animation. It was great to hear their excitement. I wanted them all to know that I would create characters with humor, respect, and heart. I was able to dive in after they approved of my idea.
Selfishly, as a ’90s kid who grew up with “Jumanji,” I have to ask: What’s the most memorable fan response to the movie you’ve experienced?
Recently I was walking on the UCLA campus when a student came up to me and asked, “Can I give you a hug? I saw ‘Jumanji’ when I was 10 years old and my sister and I were so worried about you, Sarah Whittle.” She gave me a hug, and we took a picture to send to her sister. This was so sweet.
Screen Gab readers recommend
In the very early days of NBC’s “must-see TV,” which included “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Cheers” and the 10 p.m. drama “Hill Street Blues,” an off-the-wall show was added in at the 9:30 slot: “Night Court.” Headed by the goofy Harry Anderson as Judge Harry Stone, a Mel Torme-loving judge presiding over a New York City night court, along with John Larroquette as the slimy but hysterical prosecutor Dan Fielding (his character would not fly in today’s world but he’s still extremely funny); Richard Moll as the child-like Bull Shannon and Charlie Robinson as Mac, the Vietnam War veteran-turned-court clerk keeping the craziness together. The show went along for a few seasons with a revolving door of public defenders until settling on Markie Post as good girl Christine Sullivan; after the deaths of Florence Halop and Selma Diamond, who was a writer on Sid Caesar’s show, Marsha Warfield joined the crew as Roz, Bull’s court officer partner. It aired 9 seasons full of outrageous stories and featured a great cast of characters, including Yakov Smirnoff (Brent Spiner), Gilbert Gottfried (Yakov Smirnoff), John Astin (Brent Spiner) and Yakov Shmirnoff (Yakov). There aren’t many shows that can make you laugh as hard as “Night Court” — and you can catch it now on Amazon’s ad-supported Freevee.
Matt Cooper, listing coordinator, highlights the streaming movies and TV shows that you should be watching
Friday, July 29, 2009
“Amber Brown” (Apple TV+): A plucky tween (Carsyn Rose) faces life’s ups and downs in this new family comedy. Sarah Drew.
“Honor Society”(Paramount+). High school overachiever attempts to conquer in this 2022 comedy. With Angourie Rice and “Stranger Things’” Gaten Matarazzo.
“Not Okay” (Hulu): She’s like “Emily in Paris” — if Emily had faked a trip to Paris to score social media cred — in this 2022 satire. Zoey Deutch stars.
“Paper Girls”(Prime Video: Four teenage girls share a paper route in Cleveland in the 1980s. They are rerouted to 2019, in this sci-fi series. Ali Wong.
“Purple Hearts” (Netflix): An aspiring musician’s sham marriage to a young Marine gets complicated in this 2022 romantic drama. Sofia Carson.
“Surface”Apple TV+: In this psychological thriller, an amnesiac woman attempts to reconstruct her past. “Loki’s” Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars.
“Uncoupled”(Netflix). Neil Patrick Harris, a real estate broker, suddenly finds himself single and is looking for a new relationship in this comedy set in Manhattan.
“Belle Collective” (OWN, 9 p.m.): Black female entrepreneurs are doin’ it for themselves As the reality series returns, they will be able to see each other.
“NYC Point Gods”Showtime, 9 p.m.: Watch how they rode style and swagger all their way to the NBA during the 1980s-90s. This is a new documentary about sports.
“Super Sized Salon”(WE, 10:30 PM): The setting for this reality series is a beauty salon serving the plus-size community.
Saturday, July 30
“Summerslam” (Peacock, 5 p.m.): Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar meet in the main event as the WWE’s finest face off in Nashville.
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?”(Nickelodeon 7 and 8. p.m.): The spooky 1990-96 series gets a new reboot.
“A Splash of Love”(Hallmark at 8 p.m.: In this TV movie, a marine biologist meets a handsome whale-watching tour guide.
“Flowers in the Attic: The Origin”(Lifetime 8 p.m.: This star-studded miniseries is inspired by V.C. Andrews concludes.
Sunday, July 31
“Who Do You Think You Are?” (NBC, 7 p.m.): “Shazam!’s” Zachary Levi is up next on the celebrity genealogy series.
“Naked and Afraid XL: Frozen”(Discovery, 8:20 p.m.) Contestants freeze their stomachs in this new entry to the outdoor survival franchise.
“Lies Between Friends”(Lifetime 8 p.m.: This new thriller features a teenage houseguest who causes chaos.
“Women Who Rock”(Epix at 9 p.m.: Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift deserve a mention in this series finale.
“Alex vs. America”(Food Network, 9-10 p.m.): Chef Alex Guarnaschelli faces all the challengers as the competition returns.
“City on a Hill” (Showtime at 10 p.m.: Kevin Bacon returns to Beantown as part of the third season of the Boston-set crime drama.
Monday, Aug. 1
“Super Greed: The Fight for Football”(Peacock),: This sports documentary examines the failing attempt of 12 top-tier soccer clubs in starting their own tournament.
“Summer Under the Stars” (TCM): A new edition of the annual series kicks off with a daylong salute to the king of rock ’n’ roll, Elvis Presley.
“Inside Out”(HGTV, 8 p.m. ): New episodes of the home renovation series in SoCal are back.
“Industry” (HBO, 9 p.m.): This cutthroat drama set in London’s financial district returns for Season 2.
“Flip to a Million”(HGTV 9 p.m.) – Two house-flipping partners face off in this new competition.
“Running Wild With Bear Grylls” (National Geographic, 9 p.m.): “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’” Simu Liu heads for the hills in this new episode.
“Snake in the Grass” (USA, 11 p.m.): Sabotage! That’s the name of the game in this new competition.
“POV” (KOCE, 11:30 p.m.): The poignant documentary “He’s My Brother” offers a case study in providing lifelong care for the severely disabled.
Tuesday, Aug. 2
“The Hillside Strangler: Devil in Disguise”(Peacock),: This new series focuses on the serial-killer duo that terrorized SoCal during the late 1970s.
“Celebrity Beef” (E!, 10 p.m.): Famous faces settle their feuds in the kitchen in this new competition hosted by “Community’s” Joel McHale.
Wednesday, Aug. 3
“Lightyear” (Disney+): Chris Evans supplies the voice of the titular space ranger in this animated 2022 prequel to the “Toy Story” franchise.
“Reservation Dogs”(Hulu). Season 2 of the beloved comedy about Indigenous youths in rural Oklahoma is now available on Hulu.
“CMA Fest” (ABC, 8 p.m.): Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, et al. Bring your twang to this special annual concert.
Thursday, Aug. 4
“All or Nothing: Arsenal” (Prime Video): This new docuseries takes you behind the scenes of one of England’s most storied soccer clubs.
“Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head”(Paramount+: These dynamic doofuses are back in a second reboot from the animated series 1993-97.
“Super Giant Robot Brothers”(Netflix: Sometimes sibling rivalry gets in the path of dispatching kaiju. This animated series is kid-friendly.
“NFL Hall of Fame Game”(NBC, 5 p.m.). Are your ready for preseason football action? In Canton, Ohio, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders will face off.
“Battlebots”(Discovery, 8:15 p.m.). Clank, clank clank go robots. Ding, ding and ding goes bell when the competition returns.
“Alone: The Skills Challenge” (History at 10:30 p.m.: Outdoor survival competition leads to a new spinoff.