Review – The Moon Embracing the Sun

Review – The Moon Embracing the Sun

LAWD!  Save us all from historical dramas!  Why are they always so good?

I’ve heard about The Moon Embracing the Sun for many years but for some reason never watched it.  Scratch that – I did try, originally, but got bored around the third episode and turned it off (a mistake I almost made again the second round).  This time I firmly planted myself in front of the show and stuck with it – until the young cast went through their youthful turmoil and misfortunes and reached adulthood… only to be met with more turmoil and misfortunes.  In between all this they also found moments of happiness and true love.  It was wonderful.  I mean, it wasn’t The Princess’ Man, but it was still worth watching.

Plot in a nutshell – two young royals fall in love with the same young lady, but she only likes one of them, the one destined for the throne.  A series of unfortunate events occur and the young woman is presumed dead, the young royals both left heartbroken.  Young lady grows up with total memory loss, raised as a shaman.  Young royals grow up as well.  They all meet again.  The young lady doesn’t recognize her male admirers, but they are drawn to her like bears to honey.  The entire process of their youth repeats – with both men falling in love with her again… who will she fall in love with round two?  Will she remember her past?  What happened to her all those years ago?  Mystery and intrigue and romance abound in this historical drama.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  An Satisfying Appetizer to Prepare You For Better Historical Drama Meals.

Discussion and spoilers follow…

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Review – Man from the Equator

Review – Man from the Equator

There is a certain grandiose nature (also known as being waaaay overdramatic for no reason) to these older melodramas that can’t be replicated.  Maybe it’s the standard tv (box) formatting.  Maybe it’s the lack of fancy cinematography, most of the shots are head on and there are many long cuts.  Maybe it’s the emotional music, reminiscent of soap operas from the States in the late 20th century.  There’s a roughness to the characters, a grittiness and cruelty… as well as honest and instinctual love.  This is a story about two young men who become unlikely best friends, the smartest boy in the school and the street fighter.  They are two totally different people, and though they become best friends, their values, motivations, and personalities remain independent of one another, even over time.  In a way, those are some of the best friendships.  And like most good things, they require a lot of work.  So does this drama.  Perhaps more work than it deserves…

The first part of this drama is captivating and interesting – but unfortunately the second and third part just drag and drag and drag.  Part two involves a wandering story line of love and blindness, and part three is about revenge but manages to forget that half the time and just bore us with flashbacks, unnecessarily long sequences of staring, walking, staring, pondering, staring and more staring.  I don’t think I’ve seen a show that enjoyed focusing on a character just staring pensively into the distance more Man from the Equator.  Still, I didn’t hate it I just… wanted to speed it up.

Overall Rating – 4/10.  Not Recommended For Tourists.

More plot musings and spoilers and discussion follow…

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Review – Doctor Crush / Doctors & Good Doctor (Diagnosis please…?)

Review – Doctor Crush & Good Doctor

So… pushed myself to watch some medical dramas… some of my LEAST favorite shows of all time.  Ugh.  Is there any thing more tedious than watching people being rushed about on gurneys, those annoying machines that are always beep beep beep beeping cause something has gone wrong or dropped too low or too high or whatever?  A bunch of people continuously washing their hands and slicing up humans like it’s Top Chef.  Gross.  Clearly I am not cut out for the healing arts.  I’m grateful that others are… but it’s not my cup of tea.  And I am rarely interested in anything that occurs within the horror white washed walls of hospitals.  But still… I thought I’d try.

I didn’t make it through Doctor Crush, also known as Doctors.  Despite the somewhat promising first episode and unique premise (rough and tumble bad girl decides to mend her wicked ways and focus on turning her life around – to become a surgeon, of all things, motivated by the suspicious death of her grandmother… and the encouragement of a hunky doctor-turned-teacher-turned-romantic-interest who also becomes a surgeon again), it quickly did a belly flop into snoozeville.  After six episodes, I thought to myself… I’ll never get these hours of my life back.  I must abandon ship! I must run before the love I have for Park Shin Hye is diminished.  I really liked her and that older teacher dude, too… though their chemistry was off.  Way off.

Seriously, I am uncomfortable even LOOKING at this picture, that’s how bad the chemistry was…

Which dooms a romantic storyline, so the show lost its spine right there.  And everyone in the hospital was boring and/or confusing, so there wasn’t anything else to hold the drama upright.    Sorry, Doctors.

Good Doctor, however, I did finish.  Even though I didn’t love it, at least it was interesting.  An autistic genius doctor struggling to overcome his ticks and social limitations to function properly enough to make it as a successful surgeon?  Okay, I’m intrigued.  The actor was brilliant, too.  He was brilliant in Bridal Mask and he was brilliant in this.  Moon Chae-Won was also lovely, as always, as the sorta doofy but genuinely sweet surgeon who took him under her wing and into her heart.  Though I liked her, she never felt fully believable as a surgeon.  Opposite this sensitive pair, we have just about everyone else… a well rounded cast of doctors and patients.  And of course, the head of pediatrics, the hunky young doctor who spends the majority of the show screaming at or belitting our autistic doctor.  It’s rough.  There’s a lot of abuse disguised as tough love, and a lot of flat out abuse.  And yet… I don’t know… I wasn’t entirely emotionally invested since the outcome seemed obvious from the first episode.  I would have stopped watching this show – but it had something unexpected….

The Good Doctor provided small moments of beauty.  Almost painful in their sincerity.  If it had been delivered in another show, it would have seemed too corny, too cheesy, too force-fed lesson-of-the-day… but because they snuck it in between bloody operations and screaming doctors, it worked.  These moments were largely delivered by the autistic doctor, but not entirely… sometimes they came from the children, or the staff, or the just through an expression or a moment of understanding between two characters.

The romance was sweet but also kinda… hm… well, it’s difficult.  The man has the emotional maturity of a 10 year old.  He’s incredibly smart and sensitive and kind… but it’s hard to imagine a night of passion with him in the bedroom.  Though I am no expert on the subject.  Perhaps that’s just another thing he would surprise everyone with and also be extremely good at… who can say.  It seemed unlikely.  But whatever, that’s not all there is to romance, after all, as this show clearly demonstrates.  Our lead male offers love in a strangely pure form and our leading lady is able to receive it with equal kindness of spirit.  They were, in a way, a wonderful couple and truly unique in the history of k-drama.

I’m not sure I’d recommend either… but if you’re gonna watch a medical drama – Good Doctor is your best bet.

 

Review – Empress Ki (Sageuks, Not Sanity!)

Review – Empress Ki (Sageuks, Not Sanity!)

I feel like the most important thing everyone should know before committing 51 hours of your life to a historical drama is this… you will never get so torn up over whether or not two people will be in the same room together as you will in these slow burn historical romances.  Just intensely looking at each other in silence turns into the most erotic of experiences.  Holding hands? Gasp!  Someone bring the fire extinguisher because you’re gonna be BURNING UP!

I know it sounds ridiculous.  It really defies reason, in this day and age, that we can revert back to grade school romance so quickly, no matter how old we are… but such is the power of the historical drama.  Such is the power of Empress Ki.  There is literally a scene where two grown men are fighting over who is going to covertly hold a woman’s hand in a dark room and the stakes have never been higher!  Who will win?  Which hand will she hold?!  I imagine a bookie is literally taking bets from an excited audience at this point (“$15 on the Emperor!” – “Put me down for $100 on Wang Yu!”) – cause it’s like… what… episode 17 and it’s hard to explain but by then you’re just INTO IT and you’re ready to scream “Chuna!” and “Kill Me!” and the spell has been cast.  You are committed to these characters and their stories and this love triangle is EVERYTHING – it’s not just about two men and a woman, it’s about two countries fighting for power and you know this woman is going to be key… but it’s also about love and you kinda want her to lean left, no right, no left, no right!  Curses!  They’re both so awesome!   And deep down you know you’ll probably sit through 51 hours of this show and never even get any tongue, cause if Queen Seondeok taught us anything, it’s that you’re going to have to take those chapters to the fan fiction forums.  Does that stop you from chewing your nails off as the intensity between these people increases?  Hell no!  Cause… we’ve got mega intense hand holding happening here!  And who knows what might be next… there could be a dramatic rescue scene or some heartbreaking sacrifice or… a hug… oh my god, they might hug!  THERE COULD BE HUGGING!!!  And that might as well be uncensored porn, because that’s how rewired your brain has become watching these shows.  I say this without irony.  This really happens.

And while watching something this long… you may be tempted to start skimming.  DO NOT DO THIS.  You can skim all you want the second time you watch it, but the first time it is vital that you watch it – every scene – just as it is.  The pacing is important.  The details are important.  The people are important.  And yeah… it’s freakin’ crazy long.  So take a break if you need to – watch another drama and come back to it.  You do not have to binge Empress Ki.  I watched about 32 episodes of this before I had to stop – and then I didn’t return for a while. When I did return, the last chunk of eps flew by with babies, deaths, madness and intrigue.  I’m glad I took a break, though – cause even with the break, that’s still a heck of a lot of time to spend with one show.  After a while, you kinda start to get wonky.  But hey… I don’t need sanity, I need Sageuks!

Empress Ki is bound to live on for some time as one of the great historical dramas… and it is well deserved.  The character development alone is worth the price of admission.  The amazing acting, the incredible sets, the drool inducing costumes… it was a work of art.

Empress Ki is divided into two sections – PRE CONCUBINE Eps 1-24 and POST CONCUBINE eps 25-51.  Both sections are cool.  There are also “two houses” in this play… and two men, both the heads of each, vying for the same women.

I felt like my grandmother was in the room lecturing on me on the importance of finding a man who “needs me” over a man who “wants me.”  According to grandmother, a woman who is needed is never taken for granted and will always live a happier life.  I’m not sure if that’s true – but this show was definitely the perfect example of a man who Needs You and a man who Wants You.  The Emperor needed her.  And the King wanted her.  Let’s face it, though… it feels nice to have either type of love… and to have both, well… that’s kinda the plot.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  To Be Needed Is To Be Loved.

More musings… and SPOILERS

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Review – The K2

Review – The K2

The K2.  In which I die and go to heaven.

Summary:  Shady politician is almost caught having an affair, which would have ended his run for president, so he quickly sweeps the witnesses under the carpet – except for one random dude, who turns out to be Super Wook.  Super Wook says “I don’t like the look of that carpet.  When’s the last time you cleaned it?”  Since the Super Wook can’t be silenced or killed, the politician and his wife decide to hire him… going with the old “friends close, enemies closer” rule.  Super Wook becomes the bodyguard of the shady politician and ends up neck deep in their personal lives (which are about as comfortable as a barbed wire mattress – these people are NOT pleasant).

This is a high production value action packed political thriller with enough romance to melt butter.  I loooooooooooved it.  We’re talking explosions, breaking through glass windows, car chases, epic fight sequences, guns, bombs, hostages, espionage, military and black ops and more!  Think… James Bond or Jason Bourne.  This is Ji Chang Wook kickin’ butt and looking fantastic doing it (as always).  This is globe trotting, big political conspiracy, high stakes ACTION.

If you actually watched this as it was airing, then I pity you.  Cause action dramas are hard to enjoy when you have huge gaps of time in between episodes.  The K2 is best watched in chunks, if not binged.  So, dedicate a few days to it and soak in the sweaty awesome sauce.  Sit back… let it blow you away….

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Super Wook For Sixteen Hours.  YES, SWEET JESUS, YES!

MORE MORE MORE (including lots of spoilers and poking of bears and fun)

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Review – Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Review – Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Strong Woman Do Bong Soon reminds me a lot of iZombie.  It has a playful “comic book” style that knows how to have fun.  Zap, Boom, Shabang!  Those over the top, tongue-in-cheek comics where though good guys fought off villains, no one was injured beyond repair and good humor ruled over seriousness.   Think… the bright friendly, child-saving Superman of the 1900’s… not the monotone angsty Superman of the 2000’s.  Do Bong Soon is here to save the day, damn it!  And you’re going to feel great about it.

 <-This NOT That-> 

I adored this show!  It had so much going for it… which I will be discussing with massive spoilers below… but above all else, it was romantic.  So, so soooo romantic.  Cute romantic.  First love romantic.  Original Superman romantic.  You remember… the big-grin fly me over the city romance of a hunky guy smitten with a feisty girl.

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Saved The Day.

Spoilers and Fangirling with Much Discussion Ahead!

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Review – Marriage Not Dating

Review – Marriage Not Dating

Just a blissful spring day of skipping through a field, that’s what this drama is.  It’s not too heavy, not too light.  It’s juuuuuuuust right.  All your favorite cliches – pretend couples, love triangles, disapproving wealthy mothers.  Adorable romantic shenanigans.  Three interesting male and female characters that are fun to watch throughout the series, even when they are disappointing you.  Lots of laughs, lots of good times with friends, lots of love.  This is one feel good drama you don’t want to pass by… like a valentine you give yourself.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Korean Febreeze.

More Discussion including spoilers….

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Review – The Sound of Your Heart

Review – The Sound of Your Heart

I HAVE NEVER LAUGHED SO HARD OVER A K-DRAMA!  Ever.  This show is Archer funny.  Arrested Development funny.  Bojack Horseman and South Park funny.  I literally laughed so loud the cat jumped off the couch and hid under the bed.  I’ve never seen anything like this before – and I’m loving it!  All star cast, all star comedy.

If you have Netflix – start watching this now.  If you don’t… well… call up your friends and borrow their passwords, cause this show is golden!

Okay… so this is a situational comedy.  And in general, I loathe situational comedies.  They are the reason I love Korean dramas so much – they have plotlines that run a course, have narrative, wrap up at the end.  This show may or may not EVER wrap up.  Just like South Park or The Simpsons, this show may never end.  It has it’s set up – which is a struggling webtoon artist trying to break into the industry (played by Lee Kwang-Soo) and his family… which consist of his father (Kim Byung-Ok) who runs a chicken restaurant that rarely sees customers, thus he seeks additional part time employment often and hilarity ensues – his mother (Kim Mi-Kyung) and her stern, but genuine affection – and his adorably awkward older brother (Kim Dae-Myung), who is low on the ladder in the Korean business world and a ridiculous playboy who targets the most unattractive women he can find, seduces them, and quickly throws them aside for the next conquest.  He is your quintessential manchild… a selfish, heartless ass… who thankfully is funny, or we would all hate him.  And of course we have the extremely attractive woman (Jung So-Min) who has a personality so quirky it has chased away all the extremely attractive men who would pursue her (apparently?), who is the love interest of our sweet, dorky webtoon artist.

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Who Doesn’t Love Stupid, Low Brow, Fart Joke Humor?

Mild spoilers & Discussion Follow….

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Review – Hwarang

Review – Hwarang

So, I knew going into this it was going to be cute guys and silliness and romance and hopefully a pretty decent plot.  I expected to be won over with non-stop light amusement, an occasional tear, some excellent bromance, and cool costumes.  I was not disappointed.

The writers of this show, thankfully, paid attention to the success & failures of other ensemble shows featuring a heavy cast of men and managed to not make the same mistakes.  Instead, they repeated the tropes we love (estranged brothers coming together, best friends with loyalties tested, sons having to stand up to the tyrannies of their fathers, the injustices of the caste system, and so on) and made them shine.  We got our favorite stereotypes (the flirty guy, the stern guy, the sincere guy, the girlish guy) and of course our main love triangle where the two dudes invariably end up besties.  Honestly, there isn’t much to review.  It was a good with just the right amount of drama to keep you interested but not enough to make you lose sleep.  20 hours flew by.  It had synchronized dancing and “nightclubs” and political scheming and secret identities.  The female characters were enjoyable and interesting, even the bitchy ones, and I actually can’t find anything major to complain about.

Everyone pretty much loved this show and I pretty much loved this show too.  If you haven’t seen it yet – go ahead and pop it in your que.  It’s not my favorite historical drama, but it’s definitely up there in the top ten.

Though all the men in this show were charming and you’ll end up adoring them all, I looooooved Go Ara.  She was the best thing about You Are All Surrounded and she saved this show as well, if you ask me.  The two male leads were excellent (and handsome), but it was her hysterical facial expressions, her playfulness, and her natural stage presence and comedy that brought the love triangle together and kept my interest.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Lots & Lots Of Handsome Young Men… In A Good Historical Drama (need we say more?).

Review – Tomorrow With You

Review – Tomorrow With You

This is a show about a guy who can jump back and forth between his current time line and the future (until his own death, which isn’t too long in the future so he’s got a limited jump frame).  Anyways, using his ability to pop forward and backward in time via the subway, he’s able to make some great investment decisions and manages a successful real estate company… doing little to no work, showing up in ripped jeans, treating the majority of his employees like douchebags, and being generally an ass to everyone.  Normal CEO behavior, I guess, according to K-World.  It isn’t until he decides to use his amazing time traveling ability to actually prevent a death that his own life changes – and his life gets further tangled with a beautiful photographer’s whom he decides to marry in an attempt to prevent his own future demise.

Since this drama was so insular – so focused on just two characters – it would have been a LOT BETTER if the two characters had been more interesting and/or more likable.  They were just… eh.  Both of them.  They recently played very cool characters in other shows I loved (Shin Min-A in Oh My Venus… adorable! and Lee Je-Hoon was cool as cucumbers as the newbie cop in Signal), which only made it worse.

For a show about time travel, I felt like I was stuck in a time hole watching this.  My God, it just dragged on and on for hours… and for what?

Overall Rating – TBA… not sure yet… still stewing… still watching it, honestly… it’s not great.

More Musings with Spoilers…

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