Review – Nightmare High

Review – Nightmare High / Nightmare Teacher

What a fun little slice of a dark morality play!  This show reminds of me of an anime, in a way, as anime’s have always been more eager to jump into the horror genre.  It also reminded me of an anime in that it was fairly simplistic.  You won’t get the usual character development, home life, tropes and heightened emotions generally found in a Korean drama.  This show stays pretty even layered in its thin but satisfying story about a classroom of high school students who end up with a new teacher… who grants them their wishes and watches as they sabotage themselves with their desires.  The kids start out with good intentions, but greed and revenge and personal gain always get the best of them… and things go sour.  One after the other, they start to disappear, trapped in a nightmare of their own making.

Nightmare Teacher was exactly what it said it was going to be and delivered fun little examinations into the darker side of young adulthood.  Kids can be cruel.  Just like a prison system, a high school has its own rules and regulations and inmate behaviors that are common and often “overlooked” by adults and even other kids.  That’s just the way things are, they shrug.  And kids can also be kind, and watch each others backs and do the right thing and step up when needed.  This show examines the balance between good and evil, and how both sides of the coin are apart of us all.

Uhm Ki-Joon was delightful as the unassuming face of evil (or was he?).  And Kim So-Hyun was wonderful as his antagonist, the bright student who plays it safe.  It’s not deep, mind you.  Just a quick and simple little exploratory adventure into a dark fairy tale that’s a short and pleasant way to pass the time.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10.  What Happens To Nightmares When We Wake Up?

Review – Witch’s Court

Review – Witch’s Court

God, I hated this show.  I’m usually a big fan of characters that break that mold – and our leading female certainly did – but unfortunately all that emerged from the mold was a jerk.  I found the lead female to be annoying and groan inducing.  I’ve read a lot of praise for this show for having a strong female protagonist… and I feel like they were watching a different show than I was.  This is exactly the kind of person I can’t stand in real life, so it’s no wonder I didn’t care for this show.  Even with the handsome Yoon Hyun Min playing the altruistic shrink turned prosecutor.  Even with the much needed social commentary on sexual assault, misogyny, and personal responsibilities.  Even with the pretty compelling mini-plots, aka the cases that were being solved as we waited for the “big case” to be solved.  Even with all this going for it… I just couldn’t get past episode six.

Hey, not every show is for everyone.  That’s why there’s so many of them.  Something for everyone.  This one just wasn’t for me.

ugh…

You wanna see a show with a strong female protagonist?  They’re out there.  Remember.  City Hall.  Let’s Eat.  Queen Seon Duk.  Healer.  It’s Okay, That’s Love.  Sungkyunkwan Scandal.   Signal.  The K2 (the evil queen, not the princess).  There are plenty!  I usually don’t even bother writing “reviews” for shows I’ve abandoned, but this one compelled me to complain.

Witch’s Court final verdict:  Abandoned to the Graveyard.

Review – Young Pal

Review – Young Pal

What was this show, exactly?  A bit of a Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a bit of a medical mystery, a bit of a mystery thriller and a bit of a mess.  The concept was interesting: a struggling young doctor takes side gigs patching up the mob to help pay off the debts he’s accrued keeping his dying sister alive.  So, an honorable guy doing dishonorable things – everyone’s favorite gray scale hero.  We have the cops tracking him down and his constant struggle to stay out of reach of the law, which was fun while it lasted (the first couple of episodes were very exciting).  On the other end of this, we have Sleeping Beauty, a corporate heiress who was severely injured in an automobile accident/suicide attempt and has been kept in a medically induced coma for years by her family.  First by her father, who kept her asleep so he wouldn’t have to deal with her, basically.  And then by her brother, who kept her asleep so he could take over the corporation.

Gangster doctor wakes up Sleeping Beauty… and we have some sibling showdowns, some elaborate backstabbing, and some corporate evil maneuvers as secrets are revealed, sickly sisters are tossed about for ransom, and attractive people with very little chemistry fall in love.

sleeping beauty

It was a decent show.  It felt a bit disorganized, as if the writers couldn’t agree on certain points.  Characters would disappear for long chunks of time then reappear randomly.  I felt there were quite a few tangents in the plotline.  And the whole thing could have been chopped down to 12 episodes easily.   The last four or five episodes in particular were boring and convoluted.

Personally, I kept thinking of The K2 while watching it – and how that show is superior.  They have a strangely similar vibe… with the fairy tale angle and the nasty family politics and the anti-hero thrown in the middle of it all.  They both also managed to make some fairly simplistic sets seem convincingly “futuristic” and high-tech.  But The K2 was thrilling, whereas this show just managed to be “okay.”  I recommend Super Wook instead (Review of The K2).

Overall Rating – 6.5/10.  Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

Best Korean Drama of 2017

The new year is approaching and with it, lots of lists are popping up everywhere… best dramas, best couples, best kisses, and so on.  It’s hard to get into a new drama right now when instinct propels you into “year in review” mode.  So I find myself rewatching some of my favorite dramas instead of investing in new ones.  The new year will pull me back into new dramas, but for now… let’s savor the last few minutes of 2017.

I’ve sat around and attempted to compile a few  “Best of 2017 Lists” of my own – my journal is a mess of notes about bromances and genres and kissing and whatnot.  I honestly put some time into it, but in the end it was all futile.  There’s only one show that completely won me over this year.

GOBLIN.

I have rewatched this show at least a dozen times.  It’s funny, it’s romantic, it’s supernatural and melodramatic and interesting and totally unique.  Though other shows may have had better elements – this is the show that stands above them all for combined effort.  Goblin got me back into the swing of watching K-Dramas after a long hiatus.  If I had to recommend one show this year… it would be this one.

So… thank you, Goblin, for being the bright light in a rather dim year.  There were other great shows (quite a few, honestly… lots of great dramas came out in 2017), but you reigned supreme.

Full Review of Goblin.

Review – Lookout

Review – Lookout

Sigh.  The first few episodes were promising.  Secret vigilante hackers with a secret boss directing them.  A heinous crime committed by a cold-blooded psychopathic teenager.  A badass detective leading female and swarmy, egocentric prosecutor leading male.  There were promising elements at work in Lookout.  And yet… I could tell there was a disconnect somewhere.  I actually finished this drama awhile ago and have been sitting on this review, wondering what it was exactly that caused me to shrug this mystery-thriller off.  Honestly, I’m still not sure.  Somewhere around episode six, I started to lose interest.  I stuck around… but I was never fully committed.  I caught a few eps here and there.  The ending came, with its dramatic finale, and I was underwhelmed.

If I had to guess what ingredient it was missing… I would say heart.  There was no love (not romantic, not bromantic, not friendsies, nothing) between these characters.  Their relationships were tenuous at best.  Even their relationships with their families and coworkers seemed lukewarm.  Hell, even the show Bad Guys managed to have more heart than this drama – and it threw together a bunch of ex cons in a violent stew.  I guess there was a bit of something between the hackers, but eh… not enough.  And other than the initial murder of the detective’s daughter, I never felt a sense of danger or actual threat in Lookout.  Which is probably why the ending was so confusing, cause it literally just fell over into it… almost as if on accident.  Oops!  We forgot to make this climax, uh… climatic.  Let’s just kill someone off.  That’s dramatic, right?  Wrong.

I do give snaps for the sexy priest (cause… let’s just have a sexy priest in every show… I would be fine with that) and the creepster factor of our young psychopath miming “I Killed Her!” to our grieving mother, just after she’s surrendered her gun… cops and witnesses everywhere and he’s just shamelessly dogging her!  That’s good stuff.

 

Anyways, you want to see “crazy-mom” done right, watch God’s Gift: 14 Days.  You want to see criminals working outside the system for justice, watch Bad Guys.  You want to see a multi-layered prosecutor(s) or a scarier psychopath, watch Remember.  You want to see a hacker at work (not teenage stereotypes, either), check out Healer or Phantom.  All of these are better dramas, in my opinion.  Not that Lookout was terrible, mind you.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t very good, either.

Overall Rating – 6/10.  The Hackers Stole The Show… But Not My Heart.

Review – Black

Review – Black

Black was a giant twisted MESS of a show.  Honestly, it’s like the writers were suffering from schizophrenia.  It’s a show about… rape?  Corruption?  Lost souls?  Grim Reapers?  Death?  First loves?  Child murder?  Familial problems?  Romance? Revenge?  Cop stuff?  Who knows!  It just stuck its hand in a big bag of ideas, grabbed as many as it could get its fingers around, then scattered them across the table and said, “Perfect!  That’s our show!”  And everyone else looked down and said, “Wait, what?” I am hard pressed to think of a more chaotic show than Black.  Despite the great actors and the cool fantasy aspects of the afterlife, it failed in coherence and theme.  For 20 freakin’ episodes… it was like untangling Christmas lights, except when the whole thing unraveled you discover half the bulbs are dead.

And Black, Grim Reaper 444… or is it 420?,  was a disastrous character.  What exactly happens to you when you die that makes your personality turn into a cartoon character?  His behavior was so hammy, so on the nose, so “Ha, Ha, Ha, I Don’t Like Humans Thus I Must Act Like A Childish Moron.”  It was groan inducing.

I have nothing else to say about this show.  If you want to throw away 20 hours of your life one day, like I did this Saturday, then feel free to watch this mess.

THE REAL MYSTERY OF THIS SHOW (besides trying to figure out why I watched the entire thing) is the conundrum of Kim Dong Jun… and how he’s the male mirror image of Han Ga In.  Seriously.  I thought, “they must be twins…  It’s uncanny!”  But nope.  They’re not related.  Maybe they have the same plastic surgeon, I don’t know, but geepers… it’s unnerving!

Overall Rating – 4/10.  The Afterlife Is Full Of Plot Holes.

Review – Because This Is My First Life

Review – Because This Is My First Life

Loved it.  Even loved the voice overs… which is rare for me.  And there were a lot of voice overs.  But they were perfect.  I loved the characters and their personalities and how they all hooked up.  It was a simple yet slightly different love story, just enough to make it feel fresh but not enough to inspire some philosophical debate or severe attachment.  This was a show you can watch, be engrossed in, and then happily let go… like birthday balloons after the party is over.  I really loved it, but somehow I don’t think I’ll be obsessively re-watching this one.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10.  Demisexuals in Love.

Discussions of my Ace Relationship with This Show… and spoilers follow

Continue reading

Review – Go Ho’s Starry Night

Review – Go Ho’s Starry Night

Okay, so… I watched this show last weekend.  All 20 episodes.  And then I completely forgot that I watched it… until a week later, when I was checking to see if new episodes of I Am Not A Robot are available.  Yeah.  So, I guess we can safely say it didn’t make an impression on me.  The leading lady was okay.  I wasn’t charmed by her, but I did like her enough to hope she hooked up with her hunky boss.  I didn’t much care for the eight hundred dudes who were all smitten with her angle… seriously… there’s a point where four guys are all fighting over her and there’s only about six dudes who work in her office, so basically everyone had a hard on for Go Ho.  Why? 

I was on a Kim Young Kwang kick, so I checked it out.  It’s nothing new.  It’s a predictable, reasonably entertaining piece of fluff with lots of cute moments but not a lot more.  This might be a good drama to watch after you’ve just finished something intense and amazing… like Liar Game or Remember or Bad Guys… when you just want a fluffy bunny to cuddle with, even though you know rabbits are terrible pets, cause for a few hours they’re kinda awesome and that’s all you need – a little time with a soft, fluffy diversion.

Overall Rating – 6/10.   Cute And Forgettable.

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Welcome to backflash city.  The heavy handed, overuse of backflashes in this show reminded me of K-dramas of old… when you’d have a backflash to something that literally happened in the same episode.  It’s K-dramas for goldfish.

With that said, I still enjoyed this light drama.  The side characters were particularly enjoyable.  It’s one of those rare dramas that fully develops its side characters, so that they’re not just around as a plot device to add conflict as the two leads find love.  Oh no, these side characters get their own stories and you’ll be rooting for them to find happiness too.  In fact, I liked the side characters more than the lead characters.  A lot more.  The two second leads, the stalker sister, the goofy side-chef, the young gangster guy… I found them all to be more interesting and complicated than our reformed gangster turned chef and the grumpy stewardess.  My biggest qualm with this entire series is that it didn’t firmly wrap up the endings to these people – after laying all that foundation for them, giving them walls and windows and doors… why leave us hanging?  Give those people a roof, damn it, and complete their stories.

The simple version of the plot:  A young woman comes home to rest shortly after her mother dies and she catches her fiance cheating on her.  Once home, she discovers her mother secretly married a young man and this handsome guy is now her stepfather and owner of her family house, business, and property.  Her family turns out to be full of secrets, including tons of massive debt.  An extremely handsome and feisty local “Robot Museum” owner wants to buy the land to develop it into a resort… and he’s not only interested in the property, but also our leading lady.  On top of all this, the girl her fiance had an affair with keeps hanging around, bringing all her drama and shenanigans with her.

It was cute.  You have to suffer through the flashbacks for it, but it’s still a nice romantic show.  With two very handsome leading men.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Kneading Dough… Better Than Crossfit For Upper Body Strength.

More on Characters, Spoilers, Complaints and Musings follow….

Continue reading

Review – Revolutionary Love

Review – Revolutionary Love

This show was a fine mix of screwball comedy and drama.  The screwball was played by Choi Se-Won, who seems almost type-cast to play these lovable dufus characters.  He’s the male lead in this show, though I wasn’t entirely sure he was the male lead until the last episode because the second male lead, played by Gong Myung, had an equally compelling story and, in my opinion, more chemistry with the lead female.

This is a story of a bumbling third generation rich guy who’s spent the first thirty years of his life playing with his family’s money.  He has no job, no responsibilities, no worries and no sense of the world.  His small, extravagant world IS the world, as far as he’s concerned.  He’s happily let his older brother play the heir to the company, content to just ride on the coat tails of other people’s success.  He even has a personal secretary, the second male lead, whose sole job is to follow him around and clean up his messes.  These two men grew up together, one the prince, the other the pauper.  Gong Myung’s character is the son of the family chauffeur, a part of the wealthy world of his employers but only as an accessory.  He’s a brooding, miserable mess – a stark contrast to the ever-joyously oblivious prince heir.  Their friendship is real, but strained under the weight of their different roles and social positions.  It isn’t until our prince gets kicked out of the castle that the two finally get to grow as individuals.

Between these two men is our lead female.  A plucky young lady who refuses to get a full time job, already jaded by the insecurities of the working world after watching her father lose his job just short of retirement.  She’s had a crush on the brooding chauffeur’s son for years, but their relationship never progressed past awkward friendship.  When circumstance causes her to mistake our prince for a pauper, she bonds with the goofy rich boy in disguise and he, in turn, falls head over heels for our female lead.  Our prince sets out to woo this lady with everything he’s got – unfortunately, she doesn’t think anything he has is worth much, so he’s forced to re-evaluate his perceptions of reality.  His dogged pursuit of our female lead causes him to do things he’s never done before… like… get a job.

It’s a light, cute, goofy story.  There are lots of enjoyable characters – the other employees, the families of our three leads, the friends, even the neighbors – and everyone gets fleshed out enough that no one feels like a prop.  Choi Se-Won has perfected the art of being overtly hammy and still endearing, though his characters always seem to fall short of being romantic leads.  He’s better suited to being the one-sided crush guy, in my opinion, though maybe this is a failing on the writer’s part and not the actor.  There’s not a lot of romance in this romantic comedy.  For this particular plot, it worked fine.  This story was more about having the three leads grow as people and not as lovers.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Rich Goofball Learns To Use A Toilet Plunger.