Review – Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Review – Sungkyunkwan Scandal

I recently rewatched Sungkyunkwan Scandal, for… what?  Maybe the sixth time?  It’s an adorable romantic comedy.  It is, in my opinion, the best historical romantic comedy.  Still standing strong since 2010.  It has it all.  The best of all the tropes.  All your favorite things.  All the things you hope to see in a romantic comedy.  All the tricks of the trade done just right.  And for some reason, it’s impossible for me to write a review about it.  Every time I try, I just end up wanting to watch it again.  Sometimes you just have a to watch it.  When everyone agrees that it’s awesome – how many reviews do you need to read, anyways?  Trust the crowd.  It’s true.  It’s really, really freaking good.

The cast is perfect.  The lead male is the most delightful stick in the mud nerd… and let’s face it, how often is the main character an uptight, mega nerd?  But it works!  It works because they paired him off with a equally smart lady disguised as a man, who has a sense of humor and a flair for drama.  It works because they balanced him off with polar opposite friends – a carefree, socialite who is interested in fashion and flirting (Yeorim!  Oh, how I love him!) and a misfit, rebel who is interested in fighting and social justice won through actions over words.  They’re all awesome.  I wanted to be bestie with all these besties.

Just watch it.  You won’t be sorry.  You’ll laugh and be entertained and smitten and charmed.  It’s unavoidable.  It’s so well written – the cast is large and memorable.

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Nerds in Love.

K-Drama Awards

It’s time for a little K-Drama Awards Show!

I’m currently watching Save Me as it airs and rewatching Goblin inbetween… so in my down time, decided to make a few lists to amuse myself.  And possibly you.

Funniest Drama – Winner:  GREATEST LOVE.  Other nominees:  Master’s Sun, Strong Woman Do Bong-Soon, Beautiful Gong Shim, & The Sound of Your Heart.

Scariest Psycho – Winner:  Namgung Min in REMEMBER.  Other nominees:  Song Yoon-A in The K2, Park Ki-Woong in Bridal Mask, Yeon Jeong-Hun in Mask, Shin Sung-Rok in Liar Game

  

Psychopaths You Love – Winner:  Kim Nam Gil in QUEEN SEON DUK.  Other nominees:  Choi Won-Young & Park Bo-Gum in I Remember You/Hello Monster, Park Hae-Jin in Bad Guys, Park Hae-Jin in Cheese in the Trap, & Sung Joon in White Christmas

Characters Who Need Meds – Winner:  Eric Moon in ANOTHER MISS OH.  Other nominees:  Kim Jae-Wook in Bad Guy, Lee Jong-Hyeok in Dr. Khang, Yoona in The K2, Yoon Eun-Hye in I Miss You, Everyone in Que Sera Sera.

Weirdest Lovable Character – Winner:  Jang Hyuk in FATED TO LOVE YOU.  Other nominees:  Kim Beom in Padam Padam, Yoon Si-Yoon in Flower Boy Next Door, Chun Jung-Myung in Heart to Heart, Hyun Bin in Secret Garden, Choi Si-Won in She Was Pretty, Kong Hyo-Jin in Master’s Sun

Best Cinematography – Winner:  SHARK.  Other nominees:  Lucifer,  Resurrection,  Goblin, Six Flying Dragons, & Mask

Characters That I Thought Were Hot Together & Should Have Hooked Up (even if it was a deleted scene where they got drunk and made out and neither remembered it the next day) – Winner:   Ji Chang-Wook & Yoon So-Yi in WARRIOR BAEK DONG SOO (to this day I still think they got it wrong by not putting these two together).  Other nominees: Moon Geun-Young &  Moon Chae-Won in Painter in the Wind (totally),  Lee Soo-Hyuk & Lee Joon-Gi in Scholar Who Walks the Night (some bloodsucking/hickies would have rocked), Hwang Jung-Eum & Choi Si-Won in She Was Pretty (at least once!), & Song Joong-Ki & Yoo Ah-In in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (gah, that would have been awesome!)

 

 

Review – (Suffering Through) The Bride of the Water God

Review – (Suffering Through) The Bride of the Water God

I am a sucker for supernatural stories, so of course I signed up for this show the minute it started.  Even though the first episode was lame.  Even though the second episode was lame.  Even though it never got better… it just… middled around towards the bottom.  But I kept watching it.  Every Tuesday.  Two new eps at a time.  Like an idiot.  Because I kept expecting something to happen… which is ridiculous, because after a certain point, you just know nothing is going to happen because if the writers knew how to make a good story, they would have been giving you one the entire time.

So, idiot me, watched this entire dumb show.  About the most boring, lifeless, and dreadfully uninspired divinities EVER.  Have there ever been more boring gods?  NO.  They have zero personality.  They don’t really do anything, apparently – they were as boring in the Realm of the Gods as they were in the Human World.  Just… dreadful.

As was our lead female.  What a low key bitch, right?  And her annoying habit of rambling out her self autobiography showed a sad lack of insight for a therapist.  I mean… didn’t she have a degree in psychology?  No wonder she didn’t have any clients.

Did the actors not read the script first?  I honestly can’t believe this show got the green light.  It’s so bad!  Plot holes, pointless characters, storylines that go no where, seemingly important things that turn out to be utterly meaningless, and bad fashion.  The romance was stupid, too.  Childish, annoying, insipid, awkward.  Eck.  I hated it.

Overall Rating – 2/10.  Drowning In A Plate of Water.

Review – Chicago Typewriter

Review – Chicago Typewriter

Stop the press!  This show gets the award for best use of books as decor.  Bookshelves galore – and all of them packed.  I’m talking… books, books, books!  Anyways, this was a fun and strange little drama about reincarnation and writers.  A group of independence fighters from the 1930’s end up reunited again in 2016… trying to solve the mystery of their past lives and their current situations.  Though I really liked this show, I thought it could have been better – so it’s not a perfect story.  But it’s such an unusual tale… with ghosts and shamans and snipers and book thieves and stalkers and quirky side characters… that it definitely stands out.

It’s no spoiler that all our characters had to die at some point to be reincarnated, and I’m not gonna lie… it was sentimental and gloriously patriotic and heartbreaking and awesome when it’s finally revealed at the end and I wept openly.  Before the tears, thankfully, there’s quite a bit of comedy and romance and screwball situations to amuse the viewing audience.  And did I mention mansions full of bookshelves?  It’s like the Beast’s castle, I swear.

For a drama about writers, I think they got a lot of things right.  Including the literary jokes (Stephen King references anyone?)!  Writing is tough.  My mother is a published author and it’s work, people… it’s not glamorous most of the time, it’s a lot of sitting in front of a computer typing until you’re fingers are numb.  And then doing the same thing the next day.  It’s deadlines and rewrites and editors and then, at some point, a finished product… followed by publicity tours which are also less glamorous than they seem.  Cause work is work.  And if writing is your profession, then it’s what you put 8 to 10 hours of you day into.  Just like other professions, 99% of the people in it aren’t amazingly successful and living in mansions filled with 40 foot bookshelves.

The three principal actors carried the show – drawing you into their past and present story lines with ease.  They all had a natural camaraderie that was believable.  Yoo Ah-In was perfectly cast as the neurotic, obsessive, serious author – he’s really quite a talent.  Ko Gyung-Pyo continues to shine by finding roles that are well suited for him – in other words, roles that don’t require too much besides a sensitive face and a calm demeanor.  Lim Soo-Jung, our wide eyed lady, was charming and a perfect balance between the two.  None of the side characters were interesting enough for me to bother writing about but all of them were fun enough that I was entertained by their presence.  Though it was great to see Yang Jin-sun playing the best friend/newly awakened shamen… I honestly think she’s leading lady material and hope she’ll get headline status again soon.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Ghostwriters and Ghosts.

P.S.  It should be mentioned there is a few quality smooches in this drama… one with the same preamble used in Grease 2 “Let’s do it for our country!” and the other, my favorite, off a crowded street… meow!

 

Review- The Best Hit

Review – The Best Hit

Where to even begin with this odd, nonsensical, messy yet… strangely… kinda fun show?  Here’s the premise:  In 1994, a pop duo J2 ruled the charts until its front man went missing, mysteriously… leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend.  In 1993, that same front man actually traveled through time, 20 plus years into the future, via a typhoon/staircase incident (don’t ask)… and apparently this split him into two people – the one who will stay behind and continue on route to disappearing in 1994… and the one who now roams around in the future.  Time traveling rock star hangs out with his own son (who is struggling to become a pop idol via some training program), and his two best friends – who all share a rooftop room together.  Meanwhile time traveler’s best friend and baby-mamma live downstairs, now middle aged.  From there it is a bizarre mix of flashbacks and strange relationships and strained relationships, as everyone deals with this time warp business.

It was honestly a disaster, but Yoon Si-Yoon is so good at playing these cheesy, over the top, lovable goofball rolls that he makes even the most preposterous convoluted story lines enjoyable.  I wasn’t overly impressed with anyone else – or their stories – but I stuck around.  I admit I did fast forward quite a bit.  This was another one of those annoying “short” episode shows where they’d literally just cut a normal episode in two for no conceivable reason – so the pacing always felt off.  It wasn’t quite about family.  It wasn’t quite about the entertainment industry.  It wasn’t quite a time travel mystery.  It wasn’t quite a romance or a bromance.  It was a little of everything and thus not quite much of anything.

The love triangle was more interesting than most, though, as it mirrored the infamous Pretty In Pink storyline… where you have two best friends who mean everything to each other, but one of them is secretly in love.  The key to this is making the person with the one sided love very charming and sympathetic… thus leading to “Duckie Syndrome,” where the majority of the audience likes that guy more than the lead guy and seem annoyed the girl doesn’t return his affections.  In this show, the son of the time traveling pop star has been in love with his best friend for years – and finally decides to confess once he notices her falling for his time traveling father.

So… there were pros and cons.  Probably more cons… and yet… and yet… it so freakin’ weird and unexpected that I did enjoy watching it.  The first 10 eps were incredibly hammy and nonsensical, but once it found it’s place, the story did improve drastically.

Overall Rating – 7/10.   Yoon Si-Yoon Is Fun In Every Decade.

Movie Review – Alice: Boy From Wonderland

Movie Review – Alice: Boy From Wonderland

What a surreal, moody, broody, twisted little movie.  I adored it, as I have always been a fan of ghost stories and haunted houses.  Especially with tragic tales (but aren’t they always?) as back stories.  This was a strange piece of work… definitely not a mainstream film.  It reminded me of Werewolf Boy (which is far, far superior in every way), in that it’s so odd, so touching, so horrible, that I know it will stick with me for a long time.  It’s basically about a young woman whose nightmares have become so thick they’re blurring into reality – and threaten to take her, and her family, to the grave.  With the help of her aunts, she goes to an inbetween-world, Wonderland, an estate that burnt to the ground but is, mystically, available to our Alice for a few precious days while she sorts out her past and the souls lost that are still pulling at her life.

Jung So-Min plays our lead female – and she was perfect as the surreal, beautiful, dreamy girl caught between worlds.  Hong Jong-Hyun was lovely as the tragic soul who clings to her side, helping her navigate the strange world she now inhabits.

Eerie.  Romantic.  Bloody.  Confusing.  A dream within a dream in a dream world.  Not a bad way to spend an evening.  If you liked movies such as… The Others, The Girl In A Swing, or Skeleton Key or even something like Virgin Suicides or The Dreamers, you’ll probably like this one.

Review – White Christmas (A Tribute to 90’s Angst)

Review – White Christmas (A Tribute to 90’s Angst)

In 2011, they gathered together all the young stars who could tear down a house with their acting abilities and threw them in a short, creepy drama together called White Christmas.  They set the entire thing to late 20th century indie music…  Primal Scream, Massive Attack, The Pixies, Alice in Chains, Velvet Underground… like a stolen mixed tape from my formative years.  The plot is simple – seven students receive a threatening, confusing anonymous letter saying they’re all cursed and someone will die over the Christmas break.  So they all stay behind, as the rest of their peers leave for the holidays.  These stragglers linger in a huge empty school building isolated on top of a snowy mountain… desperate to discover what role they have to play in this mystery.

And at its heart, the show is a mystery.  But it’s also an examination into a high pressure school system.  It’s social commentary.  It’s a therapy session.  It’s an exploration of natural violence.  It’s a story about people… and how they hurt and heal each other.  And it is DARK, people.

I’ve had it in my que for months… saving it.  Now that summer is coming to an end, I finally treated myself to dessert.  And it was exceptionally tasty.  Only eight episodes long but jam packed with mesmerizing performances, plot twists, and a startlingly original story.  It’s on Viki – go watch it now! (and please when you’re watching it take note of all the bizarre conceptual 90’s-style photoshop artwork all over the walls in every room… cause… wow… so eerie… remember the doll heads?)

Overall Rating – 10/10.  REDRUM!  REDRUM!!!

Discussion of characters and SPOILERS follow….

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Review – Thank You (…No Thank You)

Review – Thank You (…No Thank You)

This drama is all about understatement (the picture above is very misleading… basically the little girl and grandpa are the only happy souls in the show).  It’s almost entirely set on a small island, the slow pace of life mirrored in the slow pace of the story unfolding.

Plot:  A young girl is desperately in love with her childhood sweetheart, who thwarts her to go off in pursuit of bigger ambitions.  But not before knocking her up, unbeknownst to him.  She raises the child the best she can, along with her elderly grandfather who suffers from dementia.  When her daughter is about eight years old, she’s in a car accident – and due to a mix up at the hospital, given contaminated blood and ends up with HIV.  The doctor responsible dies, but not before sending her doctor boyfriend off on a mission to apologize to the child and mother for her.  A series of events bring the doctor and the long-lost father of the child back to the island at the same time – and basically… it’s a slow, atmospheric WWIII of the Heart, with the adorable little girl at the center.

It’s a decent story about responsibilities and insecurities and families and communities.  You’ll come to know the small town and all the people in it as if you moved in, too.  I didn’t love it.  I’m not sure I even liked it.  The whole thing was a dreary mess, honestly… sort of washed out and pitiful instead of intense and heartbreaking.  I prefer my melodramas to be the latter.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Small Town Life is Highly Contagious, Take Precautions.

Just a little bit more… but not much…. light spoilers follow…

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Movie Reviews – Pure Love & My Annoying Brother

Movie Reviews – Pure Love & My Annoying Brother

I was on a Do Kyung-Soo kick… or maybe just a crying kick, I’m not sure… but I ended up watching two Do Kyung-Soo tearjerkers back to back yesterday.  They were both lovely films – full of outstanding performances from all the actors involved.  Pure Love was a story about a group of teenage friends who are home for the summer in 1991, enjoying their beautiful coastal village and the pains and joys of growing up.  One of the girl’s has a genetic problem with her legs and struggles to walk – while secretly hoping for an operation that will cure her.  The boys in the group all love her, in their own ways, but in particular one sensitive young man who follows her around like a lost puppy.  It’s a gorgeous film… a thoughtful, nostalgic piece about youth and also about the betrayal of coming of age.  I ain’t gonna lie… I cried.  A lot.  They really did not intend for anyone to leave this movie with dry eyes and I’m sure succeeded…. cause a lot of it tore my heart out.

My Annoying Brother was, in my opinion, even better.  I’m a total sucker for redemption stories.  The youngest brother is a Judo champion who looses his sight during an accident.  The eldest brother is a petty criminal who uses his brother’s misfortune to get out of prison on parole early.  The two have been estranged for years – ever since the older brother ran away from home as a teenager.  And yet, slowly, wonderfully, these two are able to come back together… and restore hope and meaning to one another’s lives.  Cho Jung-Seok was genuine and hysterical as the unruly brother (seriously, I laughed a lot over this guy and his ridiculous behavior… I have an older brother, and let’s face it… they’re kind of jerks most of the time but also your heroes)… and Do Kyung-Soo was outstanding as the young man struggling to find the will to live with his new disability.  This is also a melodrama… and it’s pretty freakin’ sad, too.  But I also felt good at the end, hopeful even… my faith in humanity restored a little bit.

Anyways, check ’em out if you’re in the mood.  Quality stuff.

 

Review – Queen for Seven Days

Review – Queen for Seven Days

Did you order some tears with your romantic salad?  This was a good show… that I’ve been watching unfold over the summer.  Not quite great, but definitely on par with most quality sageuks.  As you can tell from the name, it will not have a happy ending.  But until then, it does manage to be shockingly romantic – more so than any other sageuk I can think of.  Or least, more overtly romantic, in a modern contemporary way, as opposed to the subtle, slow burn romances we generally get in these historical shows.  Our lead couple was charming – in particular, her overt nature compared to his reserve.  Especially when they were older, her understanding of his introverted tendencies showed a level of maturity rarely seen in dramas – with her always knowing when she needed to go back to him first after an argument, or infer all the things he left unsaid.  And like Romeo & Juliet, their romance was all the more delicious as everyone was actively trying to tear it apart or come between them.  Nothing like opposition to make things exciting, eh?

I’ve seen a real shift lately in understanding the power of a strong psychotic character to make any drama more interesting.  The crazed king motif never gets old, frankly, and Lee Dong Gun’s performance as the seriously unstable, yet strangely sympathetic/pathetic ruler was outstanding.  Plus he had the best wardrobe of any royalty I have seen in a saguek to date – the man encouraged color and variety in his kingly robes, thank you.  Scheming adults, lovable sidekicks, secret identities, and a variety of palace drama and violence kept the pace in each episode.  This is a good drama to watch when you’re in the mood for a flagrantly emotional rollercoaster, as the emotional aspect of show is definitely its strength.  The plot is not overly complicated, nor are the characters, really.  At it’s heart, it’s an uber-romantic-romance (it’s not all tears, either, there are some very fluffy care-free episodes and cheeky romance moments before the melodrama sinks in).

There’s also a surprisingly modern soundtrack, yet it worked well with the show, which was sort of a hybrid anyway (there was definitely a lot of modern elements covertly woven in).

Overall Rating – 8.5/10 – If There Is A Prophesy Dooming Your Relationship… You Might Wanna Reconsider Your Choices.