Review – Six Flying Dragons

Review – Six Flying Dragons

This drama was outstanding.  It’s about the end of the Goryeo period and the beginning of the Joseon period – in particular, the revolution leading from one to another.  And it’s the best historical Korean Drama I have ever seen.  Ever.  After the second episode, I was pretty sure it was surpassing my favorites.  And after the epic 3-Prong Rescue Sequence from the Biguk Temple in Episode 6… I was hooked.  By the end of the loop to the opening scene in Ep 1 closing in Ep 10, I thought… wow… holy crap… that’s extremely good writing.  It’s by the same writing team that brought us Queen Seonduk and Tree with Deep Roots… this male/female team, Kim Young-Hyun and Park Sang-Yeon, know their stuff.  And they have been perfecting their craft.  Tightly woven plots in each episode, building on each other throughout yet changing enough to keep you enthralled, extremely complicated but fulfilling character development, action, historical significance, and even some romance.

Seriously.  BEST HISTORICAL DRAMA I HAVE EVER SEEN.  Just… mesmerizing.

Overall Rating – 10/10.  The View Is Only Better From the Moral High Ground If You Don’t Look Down.

More about characters – spoilers spoilers spoilers – thoughts and more…. please watch the show before treading into these waters, you don’t need to muddy up your experience by reading details first.

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Review – Which Star Are You From?

Review – Which Star Are You From?

I stumbled across this romantic comedy from 2006 by chance… and what a charmer!  It had everything you want from a romantic comedy – or at least, everything I want – nonstop focus on the main couple.

The plot is simple:  A successful filmmaker falls in love with an elegant, rich beauty – but doesn’t measure up to her family’s standards.  In a tragic accident, she dies – leaving him heartbroken.  Several years later, he stumbles across this backwoods hillbilly girl who looks just like his departed lost love – and follows her to her mountain home.  She’s crass, rude, wild, honest, and basically the exact opposite of everything his first love was… yet they find themselves having a blast together, fighting and bickering and playing and falling in love.  Can he open his heart his again to this unexpected girl?

Though it was a simple show, it had enough twists in the road to keep me highly entertained all sixteen episodes.  It was also incredibly romantic.  The two leads had great chemistry – Kim Rae-Won and Jung Ryeo-Won have no trouble convincing us they are star crossed – and the female lead, in particular, was fantastic at playing dual roles – of the mysterious, lovely first love and the plucky, gregarious hillbilly with her childish braids and hair barrettes.  Classic romantic K-Drama.  I loved it!

Overall Rating – 9/10.  Lolita of the Back Woods.

Review – Cinderella and the Four Knights

Review – Cinderella and the Four Knights

I love Korean fairy tale dramas.  Shining Inheritance, anyone?  They always follow the same rules – basically some good-hearted young lady is brought in to “save” rich people from their own miserable natures.  Unhappy rich people become happy rich people, and as a reward… the young lady gets married off to one of the rich boys and becomes rich too.  Happy Ever After.  This show didn’t even try to deny it… just look at the title!

Unlike most Korean drama fairy tales, however, this show differentiated itself by focusing on character development, almost exclusively as a plot device (through various missions our Cinderella is tasked to accomplish), so that our knights became real people instead of cliches.  Cute and romantic, it’s a feel-good drama that’s perfect when you’re in the mood for some cheesy charm.  Lots of laughs and heart.  Highly recommended.

Overall Rating – 8.5/10.  Prince Charming’s Castle Courtesy of Mass Studies Architecture.

Discussion of Characters and Spoilers Follow….

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Review – Suspicious Partner / Love in Trouble

Review – Suspicious Partner / Love in Trouble

What happens when you take a pretty good plot for a standard 16 episode drama and try to pull it apart like taffy into a drawn out short format series that goes on for 40 long (yet annoyingly short and empty) episodes?  You ruin a perfectly good show, that’s happens.  Can we just stop making these 35 minute format shows?  They’re so annoying!  This drama was just a big mess – and I blame the formatting for 90% of the problem.

The cast was stellar and had great chemistry – all of them – though it felt more like “playing” than “acting”… as if they were all enjoying a nice vacation from serious work for a while and just goofing off for an easy paycheck.  So it wasn’t an unpleasant waste of my time – I enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves, I guess.  I am a huge Ji Chang-Wook fan, but this role required very little of him.  He just had to show up, basically, and be adorable… which he can do in his sleep, I imagine.  Sigh.  I was all on board seeing him in a romantic comedy, but this drama just did nothing but frustrate me.

With the exception of the villain, played to absolute perfection by Dong Ha (someone just give him an award immediately, cause he brought his acting chops to the table while everyone else came empty handed).

I’m too annoyed to even review the plot.  It’s basically about lawyers and prosecutors and the challenge of trying to determine the guilt and innocence of people when all these external and internal factors are messing with the evidence  (watch Remember, if you want a damned fine drama on this subject).  The two main leads fall in love, so lots of cutesy flirting and kissing.  Everyone is charming and cute, but other than that… there’s not a lot going on with their characters.  As mentioned, the only character who really mesmerized me was the villain – and the cool plot twist at the end could not save this long, rambling story line or this show.  The biggest surprise was that I actually watched the whole show – in chunks, over the past few weeks.  If I had tried to watch it sequentially, I probably would have abandoned it in frustration long ago.

Overall Rating – 4/10.  Ji Chang-Wook’s Star Power Can Not Survive In Black Holes.

Review – Doctor Stranger

Review – Doctor Stranger

What an odd little show.  I have so many conflicting emotions about this drama – because there were so many things I really, really liked and quite a few things I wished I could have vetoed in the writer’s room.  But overall – it’s one of the few medical dramas I enjoyed.

Plot:  A brilliant surgeon and his young son are sent on a secret diplomatic mission to North Korea – only to be betrayed by their own country and kept by the North Koreans!  The young man grows up there, following the footsteps of his father to become a doctor, but due to the lack of equipment and technology, learns “old school.” His childhood sweetheart and fiance is taken by the secret police shortly after agreeing to marry him.  When he’s near graduation, he is taken by the government to a secret facility to perfect his craft of heart surgery, by devious and nefarious means.  He spends several years imprisoned in this nightmarish place – secretly searching for his fiance.  He finally finds her right when his opportunity to escape the country presents itself – and attempts to flee with his lady love only to lose her in the process.  Several years later, in South Korea, a series of events leads him to be hired as a new surgeon at a prestigious hospital.  There he meets a woman who looks identical to his fiance, but claims not to know him.  Who is this mysterious woman?  And will he ever find his lost love?  While all these burning questions linger, there is an awesome new woman in his life who vies for his heart… but can he ever escapes the secrets of his terrible past and get over his first love?

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Pyongyang Medical School is Not For The Faint of Heart.

More Discussion and Spoilers Follow….

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Why Visit K-World? – A Beginners Guide to Korean Dramas

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO KOREAN DRAMAS

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Korean Dramas from my friends, students and coworkers.  “What’s the deal?”  They ask.  “Korea?”  Sometimes it is difficult for me to remember there are people who have never watched a K-drama before.  I know, right?  (at this point I’ve convinced almost everyone I know to at least try at least one) So in order to help the newbies… here’s what you need to know.

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Review – Man to Man

Review – Man to Man

A good summer drama with a lot of exciting action sequences, exotic locations, and hammy comedy.  It wasn’t perfect – and kinda tried to pack too many layers on its club sandwich, if you ask me, but I still had fun trying to eat it.  It’s not quite one genre or another, which I think was the only failing of this show – as I kept wanting it to lean left, into more exciting action/suspense, or just stay firmly right in the romantic comedy zone.  The constant shuffling between the two made me feel a little jet lagged.

Plotline:  A secret agent (played to perfection by Park Hae-Jin) goes undercover as a bodyguard to a goofy, middle aged actor (another ideal casting decision to choose Park Sung-Woong) – who, by the way, was hysterical – and gets romantically entangled with his over the top possessive female manager (Kim Min-Jung).  Missions to recover stolen artifacts, corrupt politicians, the extremely sexy Yeon Jeong-Hun, showbusiness shenanigans and more will entertain you for hours.

Sure, there are better shows.  But this one was fun trip with a huge cast of stars, tons of cameos, and… well… a little something of everything, really.  Unfortunately, that also meant it wasn’t a lot of one thing, which was ultimately its downfall.

Overall Rating – 7/10 – Undercover Romantic Tactics Will Be Used.

 

Review – In Need of Romance 3

Review – In Need of Romance 3

The more I think about this show, the more I dislike it.  I will admit being biased, as I don’t care for Kim So-Yeon.  She’s one of my least favorite actresses in K-World.  She’s like Seth Rogan… krytonite to my viewing experience.  So, I should have known better going in… but I thought, Sung Joon might save it… or Namgung Min.  Nope.

The plot is basically about a young girl who was a nanny for a rich boy all through her childhood, watching this kid from infancy until he was about 10 or so.  For him it was all sunshine and roses, but for her it was hell.  Time jump about 17 years and she’s grown up to be a bitchy, successful producer of a home shopping network and he has grown up to be a naive, successful musician.  They have a ten second romance before his identity is revealed, and then they basically switch roles from their childhoods – with him acting as the caregiver and her as the busied dependent coming in and out without appreciating him.  And, you know, they slowly fall in love.  I guess.  You’ve also got all the coworkers at the home shopping network going through their own romances – none of which are very noteworthy.  They’re so cliche and one note, they’re basically wallpaper.

One of my pet peeves is tedious voice overs – especially when they’re trying to be poetic or introspective and it doesn’t seem to match the character at all.  This show was stock full of annoying voice overs of our two main character musing about life and love and blah, blah, blah.  Just, show NOT tell, please.  If you couldn’t get that message across in the drama, then it’s lazy writing to try to throw it on top as a voice over.  Yuck.  The voice overs were like those contrite memes with inspirational sayings.  Also, the dialogue was a mess.  There were too many instances of a character saying something that sounded way too measured and preachy for sporadic conversation.  What, did they memorize this speech before hand?  It felt so unnatural.  Our male lead calmly lecturing our female lead about her emotional state… “maybe you’re just a person who doesn’t recognize your own feelings” was ridiculous.  People don’t talk like that.  Even therapists don’t talk like that.  The whole show was like this.  Groan inducing.

What the show DID have going for it was open mouth kissing.  And quite a bit of it.  And bed scenes (mainly “after” where there’s a dude without a shirt and the girl mysteriously sleeps in pajamas).  It was quite frank with its sexual tone.  If only I cared about whether any of them ever got laid, ever again in their lives.  But I didn’t.  I basically just enjoyed the eye candy and fast-forwarded through massive chunks of the eps towards the end.  Honestly, I should have just watched some kiss compilation videos on youtube… saved myself from the constant eye rolling.

Overall Rating – 4/10.  French Kissing Does Not Make Up For Bad Writing.

Review – Fight My Way

Review – Fight My Way

There’s nothing spectacular about this drama – it’s middling at best – the plot isn’t intricate and the characters aren’t necessarily as developed as they could be – but it still manages to be charming.  Simple and charming.  A straight forward love story with light obstacles and people overcoming their hardships rather easily.  Not that I didn’t still enjoy it – cause I did.  Park Seo-Jun is a great actor and really killed it as a mixed martial arts badass with a tender heart.  And Kim Ji-Won was lovable as the country girl with big ambitions to be an announcer that just needed to find her place.  They had great chemistry and it was delightful to watch them come together, moving from long time platonic best friends into lovers.  Also, the second romance of the second leads was equally engaging – the long time couple who were struggling with their relationship and status as they moved through life.  It felt very real and believable and my heart was genuinely moved by both of their stories.

But this show is popcorn.  A tasty snack.  It didn’t try too hard.  And I didn’t try too hard either.  I just enjoyed it, as a delicious treat but not a real meal.  I think after viewing a lot of K-Dramas you get spoiled on the potential of what 16 hours of storytelling can actually provide a viewer.  I mean… that’s a lot of time.  A LOT can happen.  Or a little can happen, and it can still be fun, if it’s done right.  I had fun watching this show, but it didn’t challenge me or make me think or offer me any new insights into humanity or relationships.  So in a way, I’m a little disappointed in it.  Cause the story line could have been so much more than it was.  But as it was… I still wouldn’t skip it.  Check it out.  It’s pretty freakin’ adorable.  And it was cool to explore a little more of the professional fighting world, even though honestly I feel even that could have been done better, too.  There were a lot of funny moments and a lot of cutesy “rescue” scenes that I loved.  The little vignette stories at the end of each episode were particularly fun to watch.  The coach, in particular, was my favorite side character… gah, what a cutie!

Plot:  Four teenagers with big dreams become young adults who have settled for lower expectations due to varying circumstances.  They each try to find their way back to their passions as their relationships further develop.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Mixed Martial Arts Means More Shirtless Men.

Review – Beautiful Gong Shim / Dear Fair Lady Kong Shim

Review – Beautiful Gong Shim / Dear Fair Lady Kong Shim

So, apparently it’s just been a really good year for dramas.  Especially romantic comedies.  I have fallen in love over and over and over this year.  And here we go again, with Beautiful Gong Shim… which is not only romantic, but hysterical!  I don’t even know where to begin to explain how awesome the main two characters are.  Gong Shim and Ahn Dan-Tae are such a bizarre, adorably weird, memorable couple.

Gong Shim wears a plain cut wig because her hair’s been falling out in chunks due to stress.  She has a beautiful, successful older sister, her mother is a former Miss Korea, and she is the black sheep of the family – the less attractive, invisible, oddball artist who can’t get a job.  She’s also hysterical, over dramatic, feisty and fearless.   On a personal note, I absolutely loved her style… everything she wore was so perfect on her.

Ahn Dan-Tae is the bum who lives in the upstairs roof room, wandering the streets in flip flops and capri pants, eating all his meals from the convenient store.  Though he’s a lawyer, he rarely charges his clients so he works as a driver at night to pay his rent.  He’s incredibly goofy, carefree, good natured, and honestly… totally adorable.  This is the same actor, Namgung Min, that just scared the pants off me in Remember with his mesmerizing performance as a psychopath, so it was awesome to see him turn his acting skills to this offbeat lovable performance.

The plot is about Gong Shim finding her footing in the world and falling in love, but it’s also got a great birth secret mystery with rich family shenanigans going on in the background.  There are so many great characters and never a dull moment… but I’m too charmed by the lead couple right now to properly review the actual storyline.  You can trust me, the story is great.  Everything about this drama is great.  It’s a winner.

The romance is… atypical, to say the least.  These two run around like crazed teenagers half the time and it’s really fun to watch.  There’s a lot of physicality in their performances – and you could tell they had a blast making this show.  They also both have extremely expressive faces and it’s a nonstop play of growls and frowns and pouts and smirks and smiles with them.  Gah, they were so ridiculously wild and cute!

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Maturity is Highly Over Rated.

A new all-time favorite.