Review – Bad Guys
This show asks the question… are we humans or are we beasts? Clearly we’re a little bit of both and it’s a delicate, fragile balance for a lot of people. Especially the people in this show. The plot is basically this: Three hardcore criminals are let out of prison to help track down hardcore criminals. They are lead by an ambitious young detective and a hardened old detective nicknamed “Mad Dog.” Much violence ensues.
It’s a short drama, at only 11 episodes, and keeps up a consistent pace of action throughout. The actual narrative of the story revolves around the death of Mad Dog’s daughter – and how these three criminals may be related to her demise. I admit, I kinda loved the whole bloody festival of butchery and tears.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10 – The Beasts of Seoul and How to Catch Them.
More about the beasts of Seoul… with no real spoilers this time…
Review – Bridal Mask
Bridal Mask is one of the most epic, emotional, action-packed, gut-wrenching shows I have ever watched. It takes place during the 1930’s, when Japan had colonized the country. The hatred between the local “Joseon” people and the Japanese is palatable. Though some have been striving to live and work in peace, overall it is a volatile time rife with government, military, and police corruption. The plot centers around a young Korean man who has betrayed his people by joining the Japanese military to help them end the rebellion, in particular catch the infamous masked crusader known only as “Bridal Mask.” He is despised by his own people and distrusted by the Japanese, with the exception of his best friend, a kind-hearted elementary school teacher. A series of tragic events lead both of these men into their terrible fates.
Overall Rating – 9/10. When Elementary School Teachers Embrace The Dark Side… (also known as: The Problem With Eye For An Eye Is There Are Always More Eyes)
It would be a 10/10 but I confess it could have probably cut about ten entire episodes and not suffered from plot loss. More discussion (and spoilers! sorry, I can’t help it) follow.
Review – Cheese in the Trap
What an awesome character study! Hong Seol and Yoo Jung may be one the most interesting couple I have watched fall in love in a K-Drama. I thought this was going to be a cheesy college romantic drama, but it turned out to be complex study on individuals coming to terms with their own personalities by observing the actions of the people closest to them.
Overall Rating – 9/10. Sociopaths Make The Best Boyfriends.
Let’s talk about the main characters! (spoilers follow)
Review – Secret Love Affair (a PG Rated Erotic Tale)
I avoided this show for a long time due to the “noona romance” but finally gave in when I saw it pop up on Netflix. I’ve read a ton of reviews on it, raving about how sexy it was, how divine, how romantic and beautiful and so on. And it is all of those things. But it’s also incredibly demure. This show is such a tease!
I enjoyed Secret Love Affair. But I didn’t love it. I loved the music. I loved the cinematography. I loved the writer’s for leaving a great deal of the performances “unspoken” and giving the actors a chance to emote with their facial expressions. The husband, in particular, became more interesting due to his actions and reactions of the affair. What a complicated man. And yet I found most of the characters very unlikable. And tedious. And boring. And though our lead couple shared a connection through music, I couldn’t really understand what either of them saw in each other… except for the obvious cliches associated with a relationship with such a vast age difference.
Plot: Unhappily married woman in crappy job finds solace and escape in the arms of a struggling young piano prodigy. Both their lives become more complicated because of it. Subplot and perhaps moral of the story: Rich people are mostly jerks, but since a lot of people will do unethical and crappy things to get money, can we really throw stones in our glass houses? And do you even like your glass houses or have you just bought the lie?
Overall Rating – 8/10. A Major Musical Seduction and a Minor Romance in B Flat.
Full titillating review follows (including spoilers and X-Rated commentary)
Review – Tunnel
There’s a lot to like about this show. The unusual plotline. The adorable cop shenanigans and bromances everywhere (all the main cops are dudes in this show and they’re all extremely lovable). The tangled web of time travel. The serial killer(s) and their damaged childhoods. I enjoyed the whole thing. A quality drama, highly recommended.
Overall Rating – 8/10. Grumpy Time Traveling Detective Solves An Old Case.
A little bit more about characters follows (very, very mild spoilers)
Review – Falling in Love with Soon Jung
I just didn’t get this show. I watched it. The whole freakin’ thing. Cause… I don’t know. Why did I keep watching it?
Soon Jung is boring… sooo, sooo boring. Why did all these people fall in love with her in the first place? It’s not Kim So Yeon’s fault – she can be wonderful in shows but apparently she forgot to read the script before she agreed to make this drama. The haircut did NOTHING for her. It made her look like an expressionless mannequin… and her face has always looked a little manufactured to me anyways, so that didn’t help. They should have made a little effort to give this character some depth or dimension, cause she was as flat and dry as cardboard.
Jung Kyung Ho played the asshole businessman who gets a heart transplant from a nice guy, magically transforming him into a decent human being. He was cute in this. Not amazing, not even necessarily memorable, but cute. At least he brought his character to life and had fun with it… and with his hair. Plus he had an adorable male secretary.
Yoon Hyun Min played the most interesting character – the dude who’d been in love with Soon Jung forever but had always stepped aside. But after her fiance died, he thought he finally had a chance. Wrong! Her fiance’s heart ended up in his business rival’s chest and the next thing you know, he’s playing the entire sad story out again. Except this time he’s not gonna bow out gracefully. Nope. This time he’s gonna go bat shit crazy and see if maybe scaring his crush to death might be a more successful romantic approach. While normally I would say “What were you thinking?” this method has actually worked in other dramas… so… you never know. He was a complicated mess of a man, though, and the most fun to watch.
The plot is dull. Some people are trying to save some vague cosmetic business while other people want to sell it off to make money. You won’t care. You’re supposed to care, I think, but they forgot to tell us why. Cause, uh… people work there? Whatever. And then there’s the mystery of how Soon Jung’s fiance died – which is revealed to the viewer about halfway through the show so we have to sit around until everyone figures it out. The two dudes fighting over Soon Jung aren’t interesting as a dynamic because she only likes one of them and not the other – so there’s no real triangle at all, just this sad unrequited love from this sort of sad, pathetic dude whose lost his marbles.
I really should have dropped this drama. I’ve been watching it in chunks for weeks, just going back to it when I had a little time here and there. I don’t know why, honestly. It was not worth sixteen hours of my time. The “romance” sucked.
Overall Rating – 5/10. Why Does Anyone Fall In Love With Soon Jung?
Review – Liar Game
How incredibly awesome was this show? And it was the perfect length – at 12 episodes – not too long, not too short – just right. I had read a bad review of it and skipped watching it for a long time, but decided to check it out recently… and twelve hours later, this binge-inducing show had completely swept me off the planet and into an exciting world of intrigue and suspicion!
Plot in a nutshell – a new reality show tests people moral aptitudes and problem solving skills as they attempt to win money in increasingly difficult ways. This is a character driven show – and after a few games you are down to a small number of key players and you get a firm sense of their personalities, faults and strengths without the use of backstories or flashbacks (exception to the rule being the main three characters). What lines are they willing to cross for money? And is there a darker secret behind the show?
Overall Rating – 10/10. Manipulation Is A Group Sport!
More discussion and very mild spoilers follow (cause I don’t want to spoil the excitement!)….
Review – Can You Hear My Heart?
This is “old school” k-drama done right. A small but incredible cast in one fantastically complicated knot. We’re talking tropes, tropes, tropes – birth secrets, evil moms, love triangles, revenge plots, stolen children, all-people-with-disabilities-are-angels, family feuds, memory loss and more! It’s surprising how difficult it is to try to summarize this 30 episode trip to quality, emotional trauma/drama. It’s about family – the ones we are born with but more importantly about the ones we create for ourselves – through friends, through neighbors, through marriage, through fate.
A true gem and worth the watch, when you’re feeling patient and understand that a four course meal takes time. I liked it a lot. I didn’t love it, necessarily, but I enjoyed it.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10. Dumb People Are Happier In Life… So It Sucks To Be You, Smarty Pants.
Read More… in which I try to explain this ridiculously unique plotline about intelligence, the hierarchy of needs, and familial love (major spoilers ahead!)
Review – Love in the Moonlight
So, I finished Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, or Love in the Moonlight, not too long ago and have been wondering what, exactly, I had to say about it. It was nothing special, to be perfectly honest. This drama offered no new ground to the pantheon of K-Dramas, yet it still managed to be enjoyable, settling into well worn territory… like coming home and putting on your favorite t-shirt even though it’s faded and has holes in it and probably smells a little suspicious if you get too close. Love in the Moonlight is your usual tropes thrown together in a historical romance with a light melodrama. It’s the safe bet. The meal you’ve ordered before and know you like.
I liked the first half best, that was more focused on the romance, than the second half, that was more focused on the politics. The young actors were beautiful and charming, the seasoned actors were outstanding as always. Costumes, sets, writing, all well done. They added a lot of modern humor in, which made it fun and playful. The lead female looked like an alien, albeit a pretty alien. I’m not kidding. She was straight from a Steven Spielberg movie – and yet it was cool, like her Western alien friend Amanda Seyfried. The black-clad guard was clearly the poster child for perfected jaw sculpting… just startlingly handsome. That wig was working for him, too. Usually the wig doesn’t help improve the looks of our male historical characters, but Kwak Dong-Yeon lucked out. He has NEVER looked better, and probably never will. The rival to the Crown Prince was also handsome and generic and overall the entire production was very easy on the eyes.
But it was the Crown Prince that owned the show. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have stuck around for the entire drama if it weren’t for Park Bo-Gum. Is it the capped teeth that make his smirk so cute or what? Park Bo-Gum took a rather tired plotline of a clueless dude falling in love with a girl in drag and made it adorable all over again – by being impossibly adorable. Geesh, he was a cutie.
Overall Rating – 8/10 – Like A Fluffy Bunny, Pretty Worthless But Oh So Cute!
Review – Faith
There are few historical dramas with an interesting female lead… whose interest goes beyond “I want to rule” or something generic like that. But the lead female in Faith is by far the most interesting character in the show – and she’s interesting for lots of reasons. The girl wants TONS of things – cause the world is full of possibilities and she’s crafty and resourceful and full of life and energy. And she’s not the only one! No, no, no, my fine friends, there are a multitude of interesting ladies in this show. In fact, the ladies are JUST AS INTERESTING AS THE MEN! Gasp! Equal representation in a historical drama? Be still my feminist heart. This show has ladies with humor, personality, individuality, sexuality, and self interest. Heck, there are even female guards in this show. It’s awesome.
Faith is a show that knows its strengths and weaknesses and plays both correctly. It doesn’t have great action, but it will distract you with a handsome lead. Heck, they even let him get away with abandoning the top knot in favor of a fan favorite bangs. There isn’t too much political tension, but there’s fun characters. Loads of them. Faith is a fish out of water via time travel story… as well as your basic “kings trying to keep their thrones while their court plots against them” story. There are fantasy elements, people with special powers, magical portals to different times… but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a bit long, a bit cheesy, a bit under dramatic for something that should be more dramatic, and definitely light on the action (for my taste – I prefer much more sword play!). The romance is PG at best. Yet it was still extremely enjoyable just for having so many refreshing elements and unique characters! If only we could have such well written characters in other historical shows, eh? To dream!
Overall Rating 7.5/10. Lee Min Ho Looks Cool With A Sword Even If He Doesn’t Know How To Use It.
More Review and Spoilers and Discussion Follow…