The First Annual 2013 Soju DramaQueen Awards

sojuaward

The First Annual

2013 Soju DramaQueen Awards

 

I did not realize what a busy, amazing year 2013 has been until I consulted the all-knowing Excel Spreadsheet and compiled the Contender’s List. Of the 35 dramas that I viewed, am viewing, or in very few cases, abandoned mid-series, just this year, the list was finally narrowed down to the following Top Ten Must-See Dramas for 2013. (A difficult choice, but my editor insisted…)

 

 

Cheongdam-dong Alice

Dating Agency Cyrano

Good Doctor

Gu Family Book (Kang Chi: The Beginning)

I Hear Your Voice

Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love

Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire

Monstar

Sword and Flower

The Master’s Sun

 

The choices were difficult, but listed are the nominees in each category, with the winners highlighted:

 

park shi hooBest Actor (tie)

It was tough narrowing down this category to just 5 nominees, but the winners were pretty clear. Scandals aside, Park Shi-hoo was positively brilliant in Cheongdam-dong Alice. I sincerely hope he make a comeback soon! Park Shi-hoo화이팅!  Joo Won also put in an amazing performance as the autistic Doctor Park Shi-on (Good Doctor). It was a difficult role played with empathy and credibility.

 

 

Nominees:

good doc joo wonPark Shi-hoo “Cheongdam-dong Alice”

Joo Won “Good Doctor”

Lee Jong-Suk “I Hear Your Voice”

Park Yoochun “I Miss You”

Jo In-sung “That Winter, the Wind Blows”

 

 

jae hee

Best Supporting Actor

This is another category with more nominees in the original list than I could include. The choice was more difficult here, but I settled on Lee Jae-hee. His character in When a Man Loves was very well-developed and complex.

 

Nominees:

Choi Jin-hyuk “Gu Family Book”

Seo In-guk “Master’s Sun”

Jo Jae-Hyun “Scandal: A Shocking and Wrongful Incident”

Kim Bum “That Winter, the Wind Blows”

Lee Jae-hee “When A Man Loves”

 

Masters_Sun_taeBest Actress

There were many fine performances this year by Korea’s leading actresses, but Gong Hyo-jin stood out with her quirky performance in The Master’s Sun.

 

Nominees:

Lee Bo-young “I Hear Your Voice”

Kim Tae-Hee “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Moon Geun-young “Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire”

Gong Hyo-jin “Master’s Sun”

Jo Yoon-hee “Scandal: A Shocking and Wrongful Incident”

 

master funny face

Best Supporting Actress

Secondary actresses typically have pretty one-dimensional characters, but Kim Yu-ri was blessed with an extraordinary role that she made her own. The character was engaging in all it’s iterations and aspects. Bravo!

 

Nominees:

So Yi-hyun “Cheongdam-dong Alice”

Hong Soo-hyun “Jang Ok Jung: Live in Love”

Kim Yu-ri “Master’s Sun”

Park Ha-Sun “Two Weeks”

 

kang eui shikBest New Actor

It’s no surprise that Monstar garnered most of the new actor nominations as the drama sported a cast composed almost entirely of newcomers. The stand-out male was Kang Eui-shik who played “Radio”, an intriguing character. The performance was outstanding, especially the tear-filled solo sung in defiance of his bullies.

 

Nominees:

Kang Eui-shik “Monstar”

Park Kyu-sun “Monstar”

Yong Joon-hyun “Monstar”

Park Hyun-shik “Nine: Nine Time Travels”

 

Monstar-1

Best New Actress

There were fewer notables among the new actresses, but those on the list were stellar. Kim Min-young gave a stand-out performance in Monstar. With her incredible voice and acting talent, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this fine young woman.

 

Nominees:

Choi Soo-young “Dating Agency: Cyrano”

Ha Yun-soo “Monstar”

Kim Min-young “Monstar”

 

Monstar-Poster2Best Music

There were really nice OSTs this year and a few songs on my iPod that I admit to listening to repeatedly. While I had a difficult time not choosing I Hear Your Voice, in the end, Monstar had to win out with it’s outstanding mix of creative covers, fun mash-ups and and all-around great music.

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Good Doctor”

“Gu Family Book”

“I Hear Your Voice”

“Monstar”

 

 

gu moon

Best Cinematography

Creativity seemed to be the order of the day this year. With a plethora of fantasy-type dramas, special effects were necessary and were, in general, very well done. Gu Family Book stood out, however, for its sheer beauty.

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Flower Boy Next Door”

“Gu Family Book”

“I Hear Your Voice”

“Sword and Flower”

 

Cheongdamdong_Alice-p1Best Drama

Looking at the overall charisma of a drama, the acting, the script, the cinematography, the music and the ending (too many were really weak!), the list was slowly whittled down. The one drama that intrigued me from the start and held me to the end, keeping me entertained and captivated by brilliant performances and a great story was Cheongdam-dong Alice. I gave I Hear Your Voice a close second as it, too, was intriguing throughout and was a marvelous feel-good drama.

IHearYourVoice_Slider

 

Nominees:

“Cheongdam-dong Alice”

“Dating Agency Cyrano”

Close Second: “I Hear Your Voice”

“Gu Family Book”

“Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire”

 

2013 has been a good year for Korean dramas, and it’s not over yet. At the time awards were selected, the much-anticipated Heirs, with its all-star cast was still in progress, and Marry Him, If You Dare was shaping up well. Still others have just begun and will bleed into 2014.

Congratulations to this year’s Soju DramaQueen winners. I’m looking forward to another great year with these amazing actors and actresses!

 Happy Drama Watching!

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Friday Drama Review: “Jung-yi: Goddess of Fire”

jung yi 1

A beautiful historical drama filled with the majesty and drama we have come to expect from this genre, Jung-yi was an epic tale worth the re-telling.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 8/10

Set in the Joseon Dynasty, Jung-yi is based on the story of a real historical figure: Baek Pah-sun, the first woman to become a potter by trade. Although she was kidnapped during the war and taken to Japan, the drama deals with events leading up to the kidnapping. The story begins before Jung-yi’s birth and chronicles her struggles through young adulthood. She was much loved by the prince, Gwanghae. Palace politics abound as three brothers vie for the position of crown prince.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

The pace was a little slower than other dramas, but that is often the case with sageuk (historical) dramas. A multigenerational story was being told, and many intriguing characters came into play.

jung yiIn the title role (Yoo Jung-yi) was Moon Geun-young (Cheongdam-dong Alice, Cinderella’s Sister). Born of parents who were gifted in the art of pottery and raised by a man who was treasured by the realm for his artistic porcelain creations, she grew into a young woman with exemplary talent. She had a birth secret, though: her real father was none other than the man she despised most – the man who had the father who raised her killed and who despised her temerity for aspiring to be a potter in a man’s world. Requiring a multitude of emotional changes, the part was well represented by Moon Geun-young who gave a very credible performance.

jung yi gwangLee Sang-yoon (Life Is Beautiful; I Love You, Don’t Cry) was prince Gwanghae, a scholarly and upright young man, but second son to the king. His suitability for the throne made him a constant target of conspiracies by his brothers. He spent his life in service to the king, which seemed to include the constant covering for mistakes made by his power-crazed and irresponsible brother, Prince Imhae. He met Jung-yi as a youth and kept a torch burning for her throughout his life. Lee Sang-yoon displayed the noble bearing necessary for the role and convincingly played “fall-guy” for his brother.

jing yi kim bumKim Bum (Boys Over Flowers, That Winter the Wind Blows) finally scored a role in a sageuk drama, and long, flowing hair seemed to suit him well. His role was that of Tae-do, a young man who grew up alongside Jung-yi in a brotherly fashion but who harbored a deep love for her. His was the Ji-hoo* role of he drama, following, protecting and loving Jung-yi, who saw him only as a brother. With a talent for martial arts, Tae-do assisted and was trusted by two Princes, Gwanhae and the youngest prince, Shinsung.

jung yi hwa ryungSeo Hyun-jin (The Peach Tree, Magic) was cast as the evil villainess of the story, Shim Hwa-ryung. Growing up as a friend and classmate to Jung-yi, the friendship dissolved into jealousy as she failed to win Tae-do’s heart. Aspiring to become a powerful merchant, she went to great (and disturbing) lengths to secure her own wealth and influence at the expense of everyone around her. Ms. Shim was quite convincing as a covetous and resentful woman.

jung yi fathrHer business dealings brought her to the unscrupulous Lee Gang-chun, Jung-yi’s biological father and head of Bunwon, the home of the Royal ceramists. His rivalry with Yoo Eul-dam, Jung-yi’s adoptive father, set in motion a chain of events that gave meat to the drama in the story. He acquired great wealth by illegally selling off Bunwon pottery and in doing so secured the sponsorship of Lady Kim, In Bin consort and mother to Prince Shinsung. The role was portrayed by Jun Kwang-ryul (I Miss You, Warrior Baek Dong Soo), a man with a gift for looking innocent while delivering bald-faced lies.

jung yi yook doLee Gang-chul’s main motivation is the success of his son, Yook-do, portrayed by Park Gun-hyung (I Do, I Do; Syndrome). This poor, hapless young man was unfortunate to have a  father, whom he idolized, who was an unprincipled crook. He also fell for the wiles of Shim Hwa-rung, who seduced him in order to win favor with Bunwon. This character ended up being one of the more complex of the series: initially a talented and principled young man, he entrapped himself by falling into his father’s deceitful ways. Yet he was an innocent, and in many respects, a pawn used by many others for their own purposes.

jung yi kingThe king was another interesting character. King Seonjo, as played by Jeong Bo-seok (Arang and the Magistrate, Can You Hear My Heart), was a weak ruler whose sole interest appeared to be looking good to the populace – and he had little tolerance for the truth, a trait that often put Prince Gwanghae at odds with his father.

jung yi moon

 

The kindly grandfather of the series was Byun Hee-bong (Glory Jane, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho) as Moon Sa-seung. A gifted potter and former head of Bunwon, he protected Jung-yi for the talent he saw in her. As a former friend to Yoo Eul-dam, he took on the role of Jung-yi’s caretaker after her adoptive father was killed.

jung yi imhaeLee Kwang-soo (Dating Agency: Cyrano; Innocent Man) played a role far from his usual. The unprincipled Prince Imhae was the source of many conspiracies in the drama. Although it seemed a stretch for him, the role suited him as there was a comical component to Prince Imhae’s often inept maneuverings.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 7/10

Gorgeous scenery and costuming was evident throughout the series. It was obvious that the actors had spent some time learning the basics of spinning a pottery wheel and the scenes were credible.

 

Music: My Rating 7/10

“Tears Are Also Love” Baek Ah Yeon  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m44ysL6460c

Great ballad: “Tears Flow” Noel  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_mXuV45reo

“Forever You” Bobby Kim  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWzfVvCnRt4

“I Love You” Park Ji Min of 15&  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA9d5DoW5-c

“Though I Close My Eyes” Lush  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_nmIhM0S8k

“Monologue”  Kim Hyung Joong  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATuQCNBzAyY

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

The slower pace of Jung-yi in no way detracted from the appeal of the drama. Character and story development progressed naturally, allowing viewers to follow the complex plots and sub-plots. If there were a criticism, it would be that, as in many dramas these days, the wind-down and conclusion appeared a bit rushed. It was, however, a beautiful story, a beautiful drama, and definitely worth the viewing time.

  

 Happy Drama Watching!

jung yi young couple

*Yoon Ji-hoo: A character from the drama series “Boys Before Flowers” that has come to represent a wonderfully sweet, attentive man who has an unrequited love for a girl and who becomes her friend and/or protector. He never gets the girl.  :-p

 

Friday Drama Review: “Good Doctor”

Good-Doctor-04“A long time ago, my brother said, ‘No matter how scared you are, you have to accomplish what you want to. That the one who endures and gets past everything is the coolest person in the world.’ To me, people and the world are scary. I remember my brother’s words and I gain strength.”
— Park Si On | Good Doctor

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

A brilliant, but socially awkward autistic man, Park Shi-on is allowed to be an intern at a university hospital with the help his lifelong friend and mentor, Doctor Choi Woo-suk. Despite Dr. Park Shi-on’s obviously superior medical skills, staff and patients alike have difficulty dealing with the social stigma attached to someone ‘different’.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

Following the new paradigm in Korean drama formatting, early episodes had a stand-alone feel to them, with short stories told and guest actors inserted for an episode or two. The format evolved into a more standard drama style as the characters were developed and the main plot took over as the main component.

good doc joo wonFrom the very start the story seemed fresh and intriguing. Joo Won’s (Bridal Mask, 7th Grade Civil Servant) character, Dr. Park Shi-on, autistic savant, was compelling from episode one and his character became more appealing with each new installment.

The difficulty in playing an autistic person was accomplished with amazing perception and compassion. The character was quite convincing both in mannerisms and in the empathetic portrayal of the needs and dilemmas faced by people with handicaps of one sort or another. good doctor moonKudos to the scriptwriters for the educational and socially proactive components of this script!

Moon Chae-won (The Innocent Man, The Princess’ Man) also played an intriguing role. As one of the few empathetic doctors at the hospital, her character, Cha Yoon-seo, initially takes on the role of caretaker, or ‘big sister’ to Park Shi-on. The turbulent transition she makes as she begins to see Shi-on as a functioning adult (who is in love with her) is convincible and sweet.

good doc do hanThe head pediatric surgeon, Kim do-han, played by Joo Sang-wook (Feast of the Gods, Giant), was a much harder sell. Playing a hard-nosed surgeon with little patience for problems within his department, he initially insists that the Shi-on can never be a “good doctor”. A difficult love life, his passion for his job and his respect for Director Choi did much to soften the edges on what could have been a lifeless, plutocratic character.

good doctor kimKim Min-seo (7th Grade Civil Servant, Moon Embracing the Sun) as Yoo Chae-kyung was one of the weaker characters in the drama. Her conniving, backhanded manner of undermining those around her (even those she loved?) made her the ‘bad guy’, and the poor excuses offered for her behavior only made her appear petty and childish. The chemistry between her and Joo Sang-wook was unpersuasive. One saving grace for her character was the respectful way in which she interacted with Dr. Park.

good doctor banner1The university hospital officials sported a team of K-drama favorites: Chun Ho-jin as Director Choi Woo-suk, the man who rescued Park Shi-on as a boy and raised him to be a doctor in his own footsteps; Jo Hee-bong as Go Choong-Man, hapless manager of the pediatrics department, blown by the winds of politics, and who, with a great sense of comic timing, eventually falls under the spell of honest friendship offered by Dr. Park; Na Young-hee as Chief Director Lee Yeo-won; Jung Man-shik as Kim Jae-joon, control-hungry Chief of another department in the hospital.

 

Music: My Rating 8/10

A nice collection of ballads, including two sung by Joo Won:

“Miracle” Lee Young-hyun  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BTavs7ufK4

“I Am in Love” 2BiC  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unftZ0HhG6Q

“I’m Crying” Baek Ji-young  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj6OzNpr9I8

“Looks Good” Ha Dong-kyun  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6Ox4LWLjxo

“How Come You Don’t Know?” Kim Jong-kook  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_8wiMEJZqs

“Love Medicine” Joo Won  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tdbo0__GGBU

“If I Were” Joo Won  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBDdVkrwig0

“Can You See?” Eye to Eye  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPcXTZr6Zpc

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

The recent spate of exemplary dramas that have weak endings is becoming a serious issue. For many of the recent dramas, Good Doctor included, the general feel is that the story progresses smoothly and then, suddenly, a wrap-up episode concludes everything. The natural story-telling progression is disrupted and fails with a poorly thought out climax and resolution.

The frustration for me, as a drama aficionado, is that while the bulk of the drama was immensely engaging and enjoyable, the lack of a suitable conclusion was a huge letdown. The ending was not wrong, or bad, but abrupt and weak.

Overall, the drama is a worthwhile watch. The characters are compelling and the stories intriguing. Wonderful child actors fill the screen with aegyo and appeal. Episode after episode held my attention and left me anxiously awaiting the next installment.

   

 Happy Drama Watching!

 good couple

 

Director: Ki Min-soo, Kim Jin-woo
Screenwriter: Park Jae-bum

 

 

Friday Drama Review: “The Master’s Sun”

master's sun2

The Hong Sisters strike again with a quirky fantasy-style romantic comedy.

 

 

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

master's touchThe Master’s Sun was one of the new ‘Ghost Dramas’ of the season. Tae Gong-sil suffers an accident and is left with the unwanted ability to see ghosts. Alone, and suffering from insomnia (those pesky specters just won’t leave her be!), she finds solace in an unlikely source: the loveless, money-grubbing Joo Joong-won, CEO of  a large company. For reasons unknown, his touch can dispel the ghosts that frighten the timid Tae Gong-sil. Once she discovers his unique gift, she doesn’t want to let him go. Joong-won, however, is not so happy about the company of a crazy-looking young woman, until he comes to believe in her gift, and finds that she might be useful.   Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10 Definitely less serious than Who Are You, the other ghost drama, The Master’s Sun was quirky and fun. Following the ‘new style’, early episodes stood out as mini stories, based on the problems caused by the ghosts following Tae Gong-sil around like stray cats. She reluctantly, but patiently solves the problems, and in doing so, helps develop the characters around her as well as the main plot line.  CEO Joo Joong-won has ghosts of his own: a heinous kidnapping incident when he was younger left his girlfriend dead, right before his eyes. Because of the torture he endured during the experience, he was left unable to read. But things were not all they seem… Masters_Sun_taeGong Hyo-jin (Flower Boy Ramen Shop, Pasta) was Tae Gong-shil. She was amusingly convincing as a sleep-deprived, gloomy young woman who was once considered to be someone with a bright future. In fact, her nickname “Big Sun”, came not only from her name, (태양 = sun in Korean), but her sunny personality. Her comical fixation and lack of modesty when it came to interactions with Joong-won was deliciously refreshing. masterSo_Ji_Sub_1Joo Joong-won was portrayed as an emotionally stunted, no-nonsense businessman by So Ji-sub (What Happened in Bali; I’m Sorry, I Love You). His fascinatingly deadpan presentation style was effective. His offhand “Get lost” (thematic throughout the series) combined with an arrogant hand-flip became iconic. The chemistry between the two was interesting, but not ideal. While the two actors played off each other well, romantically, they seemed mismatched.   master kang wooSeo In-guk (Love Rain, Reply 1997) returned to the screen as Kang Woo, security guard chief with a mysterious agenda. Easily one of the best characters of the drama, Kang Woo was complex character whose agenda kept the viewers guessing. His one-sided love for Tae Gong-sil was more credible than Joong-won – Tae Gong-sil pairing. His interactions with Kim Yoo-ri (Cheongdam-dong Alice, Coffee House) were one of the highlights of the drama. master funny faceKim Yoo-ri played “Little Sun” to Tae Gong-sil’s “Big Sun”. Portraying ‘top star’ Tae Yi-ryung, her character was comically jealous of the earlier version of Tae Gong-sil and reveled in Tae Gong-sil’s decline from glory. Her mission is life was to make Tae Gong-sil miserable for past percieved injustices, but she ended up falling in love with Kang Woo, instead. MAsters_Sun_Secretary_KimChoi Jung-woo put in an exemplary performance as Joong-won’s secretary Kim Gui-do. As an avid supporter of the relationship between Tae Gong-sil and Joong-won, he fills in as a father-figure to the cold man for whom he works.     master ghostCinematography: My Rating 7/10 Fun and interesting special effects were visually stimulating. The ghosts ‘morphed’ from frightening, evil characters to somewhat-less-frightening and sometimes pathetic ghouls, looking for assistance. Great use of lighting throughout added to the drama without being overwhelming.   Music: My Rating 8/10 A far more ambitious and extensive track list is available for “The Master’s Sun” than for most dramas (including instrumentals). A wonderful ballad: “Day and Night” Gummy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqnGBWAW7wQ master touchingTied for best song of the drama?: “You and I” Hong Dae-Kwang http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djTs2oIssUg “Driving Me Crazy” Hyo Rin (Sistar)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-WlBVRrkJU Best song of the drama?: “TouchLove” T Yoon Mi-rae http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5DiFqiOGJg The rock song of the drama: “Mystery” Jung Dong-Ha (Boohwal) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYLY7sgSXIQ Love this, too: “All About” Melody Day  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOwXuU949_8 “No Matter What” Seo In-guk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tDKyIn8LhA “Last One” Yoo Mi feat. Joo Suk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgvn9fW-kFM Masters_Sun_get lost(Instrumental) “Joogoon’s Song” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2yg-fQ_iQ (Instrumental) “Good Morning, Mrs. Sun” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pc38PCOEUkw (Instrumental) –excellent guitar riffs – “Who Are You?” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeG1ZPFJi3I (Instrumental) “Out of the Ghost” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FydUukYp2uA (Instrumental) “Ghost Eyes” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz0Xm8K1TCw master4-00169(Instrumental) “This Is Me” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-5nMCVZ2As

Fun, fun fun!!!: (Instrumental) “Enjoy the Party” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5rasv5yz8g

Pretty piano piece: (Instrumental) “In Memories” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B9JXYg20ck (Instrumental) “Tears in Rain” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPgMF2eJwEQ Instrumental version of “Touch Love”: (Instrumental) “Candy Love” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCzMcMJY25c (Instrumental) “Love Connection” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFu96TL6nYA master hand(Instrumental) “Ghost Tango” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YT1mXLV7iM (Instrumental) “Empty Garden” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9EjO6-GaVI (Instrumental) “Keep Out” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIKsgkhtT0k Halloween music??? (Instrumental) “Dangerous Zone” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjNF2gum1zI (Instrumental) “Painful Memory” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B9JXYg20ck master grab(Instrumental) “Ghost Presents” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB8PZGf39to (Instrumental) “Love is like a picture” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HODM9TvCbsA (Instrumental) “Feather Kiss” Oh Joon-sung Sweetest of sweet melodies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ_pCoW3f74&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU (Instrumental) “White Flower” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWA_QAKDvck&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU (Instrumental) “Ghost World” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEEsKQrdags (Instrumental) “Foolish Spy” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFtN9W1xv7c&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU master kang woo(Instrumental) “Sad Wave” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1noGDmwDiQ (Instrumental) “Water in the Sky” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_73uPq8iBQ&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU Silliness at it’s best: (Instrumental) “Like a Mosquito” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRR0ZbyYlwQ&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU (Instrumental) “Making Shadow” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0pE_Rg8Flk&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU (Instrumental) “High Jump” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RGcFsPk-Aw&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU “Lake Wave” Oh Joon-sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J147aeXPqeg&list=PLWtMrZbBUq2o8jKOhs_4AiOq4XJVwtyZU   Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10 The Master’s Sun was yet another drama that ended leaving me wondering ‘what the heck happened?’ The drama was progressing nicely and then, like a crash-landing, everything was rolled up, the lights were turned off, and everyone went home. Perhaps it was meant to be an enigmatic ending, but several loose ends were dropped leaving the viewer with a less than satisfactory conclusion to the series. Aside from the weak ending, The Master’s Sun was one of the dramas that held my interest throughout. I eagerly awaited new episodes and ran to my computer as soon as they became available. So Ji-sub and Seo In-guk? How could it not be pleasant viewing? 😉

Happy Drama Watching!

 master bed

Friday Drama Review: “Two Weeks”

 

Two-Weeks-Poster4Hold onto your hankies! Two Weeks is an action packed melodrama that tugs on all the major heartstrings: a (cute-as-a-button) dying child with just two weeks left to live unless a donor comes forward to save her; a father, who didn’t know he had a daughter, who has lived the wasted gangster life of an orphan with no family; a cop with a heart, who wants to marry the beautiful young mother and be a father to the (cute-as-a-button) child; a prosecutor willing to throw her life away to catch the villain who really killed her father.

Now take said villain, have him murder the friend of the prosecutor, frame the dad who’s willing and wanting to donate his bone marrow to save his newly found (cute-as-a-button) daughter, and for fun, let’s have the cop who wants to save the child chase after the framed man, not knowing he is the innocent savior of his daughter-to-be.

2_Weeks-0017

 

Two weeks.

 

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

Jang Tae-san has lived his life as an orphan thug. Forced by a gangster boss (Moon Il-suk) to do jail time in his place, Tae-san spends time in prison, rather than endangering the woman he loves. Years later he finds he has a daughter who is dying and needs his bone marrow. He two weeks daddydesperately wants to donate, but the mob boss has just framed him once again, never imagining that Tae-san might fight back this time.

The most adorable small child on planet earth (Lee Chae-mi) plays the eminently endearing Seo Soo-jin, Tae-san’s brave little daughter, fighting cancer, cheering her father on. Twisted turns of events keep Tae-san running from the law in hopes of preserving his precious body long enough to save his precious daughter.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

A well constructed, albeit twisted and complex plot, kept viewers guessing throughout the series. Plot-twists, revelations, melodramatic moments – all the classic devices were used to great effect to create a memorable drama.

The middle episodes of the drama, however, amount to a long drawn-out chase scene, with Tae-san narrowly escaping capture, over and over again. While the episodes were somewhat exciting, they were also a bit tiring, to some extent. High hopes for a dramatic ending in standard ‘melo’ fashion fizzled into a relatively satisfying, if soft, ending that tied up all loose ends without any of the angst expected from a drama that showed all the signs of being a major tearjerker.

Two-Weeks4Lee Joon-ki (Arang and the Magistrate, Iljimae) was a wonderfully complex in his portrayal of Jang Tae-san. Thug-with-a-conscience, unwilling participant in his own life, he fell into a way of life that he felt helpless to escape. The motivation of a dying daughter provided him with the bravado needed to confront the man controlling his life. The role of Jang Tae-san was an interesting one: humble, yet fierce in his loyalty; unwilling to believe he could be loved, yet loving unconditionally; unable to kill, but with a fierce desire to exact justice. His character was completely appealing and believable.

Two-Weeks13Kim So-yun (IRIS, Prosecutor Princess) was Park Jae-kyung, the prosecutor whose father was killed by Moon Il-suk, the mobster, and who vowed vengeance against him and his co-conspirator, the politically connected and seemingly upstanding Jo Seo-hee. Holding them accountable for their misdeeds became something of a life work for Prosecutor Park, and many personal sacrifices were made to capture them. She was one of the few who knew from the start than Jang Tae-san was jailed in place of Moon Il-suk for her father’s murder. Her character was required to walk a delicate line between upholding justice, assisting an innocent man on the run, and figuring who to trust in a corrupt world.

Two-Weeks10Jang Tae-san’s ex-girlfriend, mother of his daughter, was Seo In-hye, played by Park Ha-sun (Time Slip Dr. Jin, Dong Yi). Another interesting role, In-hye was atypical in her ability to see past Tae-san’s outer appearance and into his soul. She sacrificed her family to be with Tae-san and had his child despite his apparent abandonment. Raising her daughter alone, she showed strength, and eventually came to rely on Detective Im Seung-woo, a man who was drawn to her fortitude.

Two-Weeks9Ryu Soo-young (Rascal Sons, My Princess) was Im Seung-woo, fiancé to In-hye, the detective with a soft spot a mile wide for Soo-jin, In-hye’s daughter. Yet another complex character, Seung-woo was a man with integrity, determined to catch the criminal Jang Tae-sang by any means, and agonized when he comes to realize the truth of the convoluted circumstances. His integrity was stretched thin by the difficult events, and his faith in the people he loves severely tested by long-held secrets. The character was depicted with insight and a true feeling for the dramatic emotional nature of the situations.

Two-Weeks11

 

Kim Hye-ok (Time Slip Dr. Jin, Scent of a Woman), who played Jo Seo-hee, was the political powerhouse who, to all outward appearances was a humble and good woman. She often plays women with integrity, and sometimes women with difficult personalities. This, however, one of the first dramas where she is seen as a truly malevolent character and the portrayal was unsettlingly convincing.

Two-Weeks12

 

Her partner in crime, Moon Il-suk, was played by Jo Min-ki (Five Fingers, The Great Seer). Although the character was rather one-dimensional, he was quite convincing in his evil intentions.

 

two weeks kid

The adorable Lee Chae-mi (Cruel Palace, Still You) was Seo Soo-jin, daughter to Seo In-hye and Jang Tae-san. With refined acting skills that belie her young (7) years, she successfully won hearts from the first time she appeared on screen.

 

Music: My Rating 7/10

“Run” Nell  hhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeLxgn_Nhbw

“Love Leaves” Ahn Ye-seul  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3L_7hUd37s

“The Day You Come” Yoo Seung-woo  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi88F-y2agg

“Hitting My Heart” Kim Bo-kyung  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V83YbuX_WWg

“This Is the Person” Dick Punks  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9toD0cjVPvA

“Turning” Toxic  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LN3ZVZzDgA

“Don’t Cry My Love” The One  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWyoeWDwak0

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A heartwarming, yet gripping drama, Two Weeks is worth watching. While the eternal chase was somewhat tiresome at times, it was, in fact, the point of the drama, and episodes did not fail to  capture attention. Most characters were engaging and well developed. The weak, predictable ending was disappointing, but sensible in that the story progressed to logical conclusions. And Miss Cute-as-a-Button is worth every moment of viewing time!

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

two weeks ting ting

 

 

Director: Son Hyung-suk, Choi Jung-kyu

Writer: So Hyun-kyung

 

Friday Drama Review: “Sword and Flower” 칼과 꽃

 

Beautifully scripted and delightfully enacted, Sword and Flower was a moving melodrama placed in a historical setting.

 

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

sf-genkingAlso known as “Blade and Petal”, this drama recounts a story of two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo* period in Korean history. The pacifistic King, Yeongnyu, believes that war with the Tang (Chinese Dynasty concurrent with Goguryo) will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The top military general, Yeon Gaesomun, believes that military strength is the only way to save the people, and that meeting the Tang head-on is key to the survival of the Goguryo Kingdom. He sees the King as weak and fears for the safety of the people. Each man firmly believes that what he desires is best for the people. Caught in the middle, in a Romeo and Juliette-like dilemma are the children of the two great men: Princess So-hee and Choong, the illegitimate son of the general. In a drama fraught with crossed-purposes and misunderstood objectives, the young people fight to protect the principles important to them, as well as the people they love.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10

While filled with action and drama, the pace moves a little slower in Sword and Flower, allowing time for plot development, character development and historical background. The tempo befits the drama, however, and as the episodes progress, the drama becomes engrossing. An intriguing aspect of this story is that it does not attempt to create “good guys” and “bad guys” in the typical fashion of many dramas, but instead focuses on the difficult questions decisions intrinsic to leadership.

s&w1Kim Ok-bin (Over My Dead Body, The Front Line) was Princess So-hee, also known as Moo-young when she infiltrates the enemy camp as a young male warrior. She’s the kind of heroine every young woman admires: faithful, filial, loyal, and can sword-fight with the best of them, as well. As the eldest daughter, she was more than strong enough to be a good ‘king’. After witnessing the assassinations and degradation of her father and brother, she became the leader of a cause. Kim Ok-bin combined intelligence, strength and femininity to create a character s&w2that was more than appealing enough to garner the attention of the men around her. Her charisma was necessary and credible.

Yeon Gaesomun’s illegitimate son, Yeon Choong craves recognition by his father. Unfortunately, his father’s agenda is at odds with the plans of the woman he loves and has pledged to protect: the Princess So-hee.  Uhm Tae-woong (7th Grade Civil Servant, Man From Equator), while quiet and subtle in his acting, was powerful as the talented warrior, fighting an inner battle with himself at every crossroads. The chemistry between the two central characters was palpable in its authenticity.

Sword-and-Flower-8

Choi Min-soo (Faith, Warrior Baek Dong-soo) was the dark, somber, powerful Yeon Gaesomun. For a character that was, by all intents and purposes, a stoic who showed no emotion for others to witness, Choi was remarkably talented at broodingg looks that conveyed more than words.

 

s$ w kingKim Yeong-cheol (Innocent Man, IRIS) brought King Yeongnyu to life. Believing that war would be the death of the Goguryo Kingdom he advocated for a peaceful, diplomatic relationship with the Tang. He had great affection and respect for his eldest daughter, and feared the powerful military hero, Yeon Gaesomun. The character was portrayed with great dignity and empathy.

joo wonOn Joo-wan (Natural Burials, Twelve Men in a Year) had the difficult task of playing Jang, nephew to King Yeongnyu, and a man without his own power base. Used and disparaged by the King, despite his intelligence and loyalty, he eventually betrays the King when he is passed over as the obvious choice of successor when the Crown Prince becomes injured and disabled. As in the historical records, Jang is placed on the throne (to become King Bojang) by Yeon Gaesomun, only to become a puppet king. The frustration at his position, the greed for power, and the lack of real support are all fleshed out well in the intriguing character created by On-Joo-wan.

nmwIf there was a truly evil character in the drama, it was Yeon Namseng, legitimate son to Yeon Gaesomun. The nefarious young man was brought to life in all his malevolent, bloodthirsty, maniacally power-hungry glory by No Min-woo (Full House Take 2, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho). Filled with jealousy over the attention his illegitimate brother receives and with a natural passion for physical violence, Yeon Namseng personifies the ‘bad gone badder’. No Min-woo’s soft, sweet face wreaks havoc with the viewer’s mind as he transforms from well-spoken young nobleman to rogue and scoundrel with the flash of a sword or the swing of a fist- or whip!

shinLee Jung-Shin (CN Blue band member) was the KPop cameo boy, playing Shi-woo, master swordsman and bodyguard/supporter of the princess. His acting abilities are as credible as his musical abilities. As Shi-woo, he played an engaging character, loyal and passionate for the cause. The role was not as well-developed as it might have been, and I look forward to seeing this young man in more challenging roles.

 

 

 

sf impossibleCinematography: My Rating 7/10

Creative camera angles did much to enhance and contribute to the storytelling. A few stunts, while silly (and impossible) – i.e. the flipped upside down gaze – were charming, nonetheless. The lighting and sound were also managed and directed in a manner that enriched the story, rather than detracted.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

Some of the instrumental background music was very interesting: 60’s-ish James Bond-style electric guitar background. Finger’s crossed that a full OST release with instrumental music included is coming soon. In the meantime, two vocal pieces are available:

A nice love song: Wax  “Dear Love”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgfV9Xm20jM

Another nice ballad: F.I.X. “Even When I Die” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M34sDARkiHs

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A wonderful story combined with an illustrious cast created a drama that was a pleasure to watch. While the pace was slower than many viewers might find ideal, the tale is absorbing and the characters are thought provoking. Add to that beautiful sets and scenery and nice musical scoring and you have all the makings of a good evening in front of the television.

 Happy Drama Watching!

swordflower3

Goguryo*: An interesting note: “Goguryo” is the name from which the modern name “Korea” is derived.

 

Written by Kwon Min-soo

Directed by Kim Yong-soo & Park Jin-seok

 

Friday Drama Review: “Who Are You?” (후아유)

Who-Are-You-Poster1

 

Crime, romance, fantasy and action combine to create an absorbing drama with appealing characters. So what if some of them are not quite alive?…

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

Detective Yang Shi-on awakens from a six-year coma to find her memory gone and the ability to see ghosts as an unusual replacement. Her coma was caused by an accident sustained in the line of duty but, upon awakening, Shi-on is unable to recall the events surrounding her injury. So she relegates herself to the Lost and Found Division – something of a no-man’s-land for career-oriented cops, but a welcome respite for haunted, memory-deprived young woman. Besides, the objects in the Lost and Found Division seem to draw her, and have interesting stories that her unique capabilities are able to unravel.

who are you funHer partner, Cha Gun-woo, recently demoted to the Lost and Found department, is less enthusiastic about being relegated to this dead-end job and is eager to find a way out. His new partner is an ‘odd bird’ who seems to have some secret source of information that helps solve crimes, but who would believe the truth?

He becomes intrigued with her unusual crime-solving sense and, eventually trusts her ability. Gun-woo begins to fall for her mystique and charms, but, unfortunately, his rival in love is none other than her dead lover.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

The mini-story does, indeed, seem to be the flavor of the season, and Who Are You? is a drama particularly well suited to the popular approach. Short stories, based on objects brought to the Police Department’s Lost and Found Division, are told over the course of a few episodes – with ghostly interference! These stories serve as the vehicle for character development as the main plot-line slowly evolves.

Who-Are-You16So Yi-hyun (Cheongdadong Alice, You’ve Fallen for Me) was well cast as Detective Yang Shi-on. Her demeanor is suited to the somewhat melancholy and self-reflective characteristics needed for Shi-on’s character. Her portrayal of the confusion and pain surrounding her memory loss, the eventual regain, and the odd love triangle was surprisingly credible, given the incredible (and somewhat humorous) circumstances. If her chemistry with Taecyeon was less than perfect, it seemed more of a personality difference in the scripting than the acting. The authenticity of her love for Kim Jae-wook’s character (Detective Lee Hyung-joon 어빠), was heart-wrenching.

Who-Are-You10Ok Taecyeon (2PM band member), is no newcomer to the small screen, with hits like Dream High and Cinderella’s Sister under his belt. His role as Detective Cha Gun-woo was another serious role role for him, although it also afforded him opportunities to show off his silly side. The character was appealing, but he felt a bit too young for the part. His boyish looks make him more suited to younger roles. Perhaps his youthful appearance contributed to slightly off mix between the two main stars.

Who-Are-You12On the other hand, Kim Jae-wook (Mary Stayed Out All Night, Bad Guy), most definitely seems mature enough to be the love interest of Detective Yang Shi-on. Walking a precarious line between the living and the dead, Kim Jae-wook was required to play multiple personalities: the affable, loving, Detective Lee Hyung-joon of Shi-on’s memory, her 어빠 (oppa), and the stoic, sad ghost, guarding Shi-on, and leading the detectives to the criminals responsible for the crime ring that caused everyone so much pain.

tvn_Who_Are_You_bc4Veteran Kim Chang-wan (Queen of Reversals, What’s Up) has been very active lately, with supporting roles in a couple of other current dramas as well: Good Doctor and The End of the World. As Detective Choi Moon-shik, he played the field, leaving the audience wondering if he was a good guy or a bad guy. Brilliantly scripted, the actor managed to straddle the fence quite convincingly.

no young-hakNo Young-hak (Shark, 7th Grade Civil Servant) was the comic relief of the drama. Playing Im Seung-chan, a love-struck young detective, undoubtedly doomed to be a  permanent fixture in the Lost and Found Division, he nonetheless wielded his small authority with gusto. A scheming, but well-meaning, young man, Sung-chan’s character was the one that made you laugh and slap your head in frustration at the same time.

tvn_Who_Are_You_bc6Kim Ye-Won (Innocent Man, I Need Romance) was Jang Hee-bin (yes, really), the object of Sung-chan’s affections and a woman of unusual talent: she, too, can see and communicate with ghosts. Putting her talent to materialistic use, she assists ghost and human alike, and ends up entangled with Hyung-joon and Shi-on.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 8/10

Special effects were nicely not overdone. The general lighting and cinematographic effects added to the character of the drama’s mysterious flavor without giving it an overtly fantasy or science fiction feel. The sets and lighting style is reminiscent of old 1940’s Bogart movies – and with Taecyeon’s sleeves rolled up in some scenes, all he was missing was a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. 😉

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A worthy watch, overall. If the pacing felt slow in a few places, it was for brief periods of necessary plot development that may not have been scripted as well as other scenes. Overall, the action was nicely interlaced with the drama, which was nicely mixed in with the romance, sprinkled here and there with a melodramatic moment.

My only question is, where is Ji-hoo*???

   

 Happy Drama Watching!

Who-Are-You3

 

*Yoon Ji-hoo: A character from the drama series “Boys Before Flowers” that has come to represent a wonderfully sweet, attentive man who has an unrequited love for a girl and who becomes her friend and/or protector. He never gets the girl.

 

Written by: Moon Ji-young (I Love Lee Tae-ri) and Ban Ki-ri

Directed by: Jo Hyun-tak (Beloved)

Fall Drama Watch: What’s New To View This Season

If the reviews have been coming on a less regular basis, it is not for lack of viewing. We are currently in the midst of a whole slew of great new dramas for the fall season. And with nothing ending, it seemed appropriate to report on what is going on in the Korean drama world.

 

Good-Doctor-04Good Doctor (굿 닥터)

The Good Doctor is the story of an autistic man pursuing his dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon. Socially awkward, but brilliant, Park Shi-on must overcome the social stigma of being different in a society that cherishes conformity. Filled with heartwarming episodes that focus on the medical challenges of children who come to the hospital for care, the drama also throws in a good measure of political maneuverings amongst the hospital higher-ups as well. The drama so far has been a brilliant mix of adorable youngsters, conniving business people and a cast of characters destined to be forever changed by the one man they resented from the day he stepped foot on the hospital campus.

Should you watch it? An enthusiastic yes! It’s one of your best bets for great entertainment at an enjoyable pace.

 

the-masters-sunThe Master’s Sun (주군의 태양)

Part melodrama, part romantic comedy and part fantasy, The Master’s Sun is one of the new Ghost Dramas presently airing. Tae Gong-sil suffers an accident and is left with the unwanted ability to see ghosts. Alone, and suffering from insomnia (those pesky specters just won’t leave her be!), she finds solice in an unlikely source: the loveless, money-grubbing Joo Joong-won, CEO of  a large company. For reasons unknown, his touch can dispel the ghosts that frighten the timid Tae Gong-sil. Once she discovers his unique gift, she doesn’t want to let him go. Joong-won, however, is not so happy about the company of a crazy-looking young woman, until he comes to believe in her gift, and finds that she might be useful.

Should you watch it? Yes – it’s fun. There are some great characters. So Ji-sub’s character has been a bit dimensionless so far, but things seem to be picking up…

 

Who-Are-You-01Who Are You? (후아유)

Who Are You? Is the other ghost-watcher drama. Yang Si-ohn awakes from a 6 year coma to find her memory gone and the ability to see ghosts as a replacement. As a police officer injured in the line of duty, but unable to recall the events surrounding her injury, she relegates herself to the Lost and Found Division, a welcome respite for Si-ohn. Besides, the objects in the Lost and Found  Division seem to have interesting stories that her unique capabilities are able to unravel. Her partner, Cha Gun-woo, sent to Lost and Found as punishment, becomes intrigued with her unusual crime-solving sense and he falls for her charms. Unfortunately, his rival in love is none other than her dead lover.

Should you watch it? Yes. It’s intriguing and fun, although at some points taking the love triangle seriously is difficult, although definitely amusing! If you enjoy Taecyeon and/or Kim Jae-wook, this is definitely for you. 😉

 

Ä®°ú ²É Åõ¼¦ ¾Æ¿ô¶óÀÎ ¿Ï¼ºSword and Flower (칼과 꽃)

This drama also goes by “Blade and Petal” which refers to the two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo Period in Korean history. The King, Yeong-nyu, is a pacifist who believes that war with the Tang will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The military general, Yeon Gae So-mun, believes that only by strengthening the military and meeting the Tang head-on, can the people survive. The stress of war is causing starvation in the kingdom. Each man firmly believes that what he desires is best for the people. Caught in the middle, in a Romeo and Juliette-like dilemma, are the children of the two great men: Princess So-hee and Choong, illegitimate son of the general. In a drama fraught with crossed-purposes and misunderstood objectives, the young people fight to protect the principles important to them, as well as the people important to them.

Should you watch this drama? Even if you are not a historical drama fan, I believe the characters are interesting and the fight scenes are a definite draw for the manly crowd. While the pace may slow down at times while political intrigues are fleshed out, they do serve a purpose.

Jung-Yi,_The_Goddess_of_Fire-p1Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire (불의 여신 정이)

Set in the Joseon Dynasty, Jung-yi is based on the story of a real historical figure: Baek Pah-sun, the first woman to become a potter by trade. She was kidnapped during the war. The drama begins before Jung-yi’s birth and chronicles her struggles through young adulthood. She was beloved by the prince, Gwang-hae. Palace politics abound. Filled with interesting characters, the pace can, nonetheless, be a bit slow at times.

Should you watch it? If you like historical dramas, yes. The cinematography is lovely and the story-line is good. The acting is also credible and enjoyable. The pace is slower than a standard rom-com, but this is meant to be an epic saga.

 

Two-Weeks-03Two Weeks (투윅스) 

Jang Tae-san has lived his life as an orphan thug. Forced by a gangster boss to do jail time in his place, Tae-san spends time in prison, rather than endangering the woman he loves. Years later he finds he has a daughter who is dying and needs his bone marrow. He’ll gladly donate, but the mob boss has just framed him once again, never imagining that Tae-san might fight back this time.

The most adorable small child on planet earth, Lee Chae-mi, plays the eminently endearing Seo Soo-jin, Tae-san’s brave little daughter, fighting cancer, cheering her father on. Twisted turns of events keep Tae-san running from the law in hopes of preserving his precious body long enough to save his precious daughter.

Should you watch it? Keep the Kleenex handy. In fact, have a back-up box ready as this one really tugs at the heartstrings. The only complaint I have is that the drama is literally one long chase scene, which, after a number of episodes, is getting a little old. I, however, need to see how this one ends…

Stay tuned for final reviews in the upcoming weeks.

Friday Drama Review: “Shark”

shark01

Hae-woo: What do you like most in the world?

Yi-soo: Sharks. Sharks don’t have swim bladders.

Hae-woo: Then how do they live?

Yi-soo: To live, they must swim endlessly since if they stop swimming, they die. Even when they sleep, they must keep moving.

Hae-woo: They lead very tiresome lives.

Yi-soo: Still, sharks are the the strongest in the ocean.

Hae-woo: So is that why you like sharks? Because they are strong?

Yi-soo: No, I pity them. No one likes them.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 6/10

A darkish melodrama focused on revenge, Shark is the story of Han Yi-soo, a boy whose father is murdered by a powerful, wealthy man with secrets to keep.

Despite old ties with the family, Jo Sang-deuk turns against his longtime confidant and retainer, Han Young-man, and has him killed when Young-man, ridden with past guilt, decides to turn himself in and tell all. The young Yi-soo, who shares a mutual attraction and affection with Sang-deuk’s granddaughter, is an unfortunate witness to his father’s murder and becomes a target as well.

The plot, however, is secretly foiled with the assistance of an equally powerful man set on his own revenge against the murdering magnate. Yi-soo is rescued and brought up in Japan as the adoptive son of Junichuro Yoshimira. Eventually, he returns to Korea as a powerful businessman with a need for revenge against the family that destroyed his own.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

There are places where the story bogs down a bit, but overall, the general flow is pretty good. The story itself is not particularly unique, but the execution is authentic and engaging.

The story begins with the main characters in their youth. While the young actors are good, the back story, in retrospect, is not entirely necessary and probably could have been accomplished in less time with retrospective scenes. The time spent in the past is not entirely wasted, but does add length to a drama that already feels a bit longer than necessary.

shark1Kim Nam-gil (Bad Guy, Queen Seondeok) is well suited to the dark, tragic nature of this drama. The character of Yi-soo, however, lacks a certain credibility with respect to his feelings for Hae-woo. The dark side of his nature is believable to the extreme, but the tender side feels implausible.

shark2However, the difficulties in Nam-gil’s character made the role of Hae-woo all the more plausible in her empathy and unquestioning compassion for the broken Yi-soo. Son Ye-jin (Personal Taste, Summer Scent) is ideally cast opposite the stoic Nam-gil. Her anguished tug-of-war between loyalty to her husband and her need to ‘save’ Yi-soo is one of the major emotional elements in the drama. The other is her struggle to choose between family and justice. Both are interesting difficulties that the actress handles with passion and depth.

shark3And yes, here again there was a “Ji-Hoo” character, but with a twist: Ha Seok-jin (Standby, If Tomorrow Comes) was Oh Joon-young, childhood friend of Yi-soo and Hae-woo, the ‘oppa’ who stands by, protects, and loves Hae-woo through the difficult years when Yi-soo is presumed dead, and who finally marries the woman he so loves. And Hae-woo loves him too. But it gets very complicated when Han Yi-soo returns as if from the dead. How is a best friend supposed to react? Especially when it is also his wife’s first love? Ha Seok-jin is brilliantly spot-on emotionally throughout the drama. The script is well-written as well, credibly reflecting how a man of integrity might react in such a situation. His character is, by far, the most emotionally engaging of the entire cast.

grandpaUnlike most dramas, especially darker ones, there is no outrageously despicably evil villain. There is a main villain, to be sure, but he is disguised behind the benign, benevolent mask of the family patriarch, Jo Sang-deuk, embodied by Lee Jung-gil (IRIS II, The Chaser). His character morphs amazingly from gentle grandpa to scheming villain in moments. The transformations are remarkably and frighteningly real.

Many of the other ‘villains’ are either characters for whom we can easily empathize (or come to empathize at some point) or minor thugs and greedy political schemers.

There is a nice selection of side characters that drew my attention as well:

  • shark5Park Won-sang (Nine Times Time Travel, Warrior Baek Dong Soo) is Detective Byun Bang-jin, one of the few men of integrity in the early days when Jo Sang-deuk’s large wallet controlled the justice department. When the father is murdered and Yisoo is presumed dead, he also adopts Yi-soo’s little sister. His performance iss perfect.
  • Nam Bo-ra (Moon Embracing the Sun, Glory Jane) is Yi-Soo’s little sister Han Yu-ri. She is a sweet, innocent and rather dimensionless character, but lovable nonetheless. I would love to see this actress in a more challenging role.
  • Lee Ha-nui (Miss Universe 2007, Pasta, To the Beautiful You) is Jang Young-hee, Yi-soo’s personal secretary and ‘undercover’ spy for Yi-soo’s adoptive father who trusts no one, not even his son. The role calls for a sweet, soft-spoken woman suffering a one-sided love for her boss, but with a family debt owed to the father of the boss. The role is, at best, a sweet distraction, but engaging nonetheless.
  • shark4Lee Soo-hyuk (Vampire Idol, What’s Up) is the prosecutor’s investigator Kim Soo-hyun. He grew up very close to Yi-soo as a little brother, rescued from the streets. His family is also intricately tied into the murder plots, and as such, has a revenge agenda of his own. His love interest lies in the sweet-natured Han Yu-ri.
  • junichiroLee Jae-gu (War of the Arrows, I Am the King) plays Junichiro Yoshimura. A veteran of the big screen but new to the small screen, Lee Jae-gu portrays the adoptive father of Han Yi-soo. As an ex-Japanese mobster, he displays a refined tough-guy persona that fits him well.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 7/10

The cinematography does a lot to set the mood of the drama. The general feeling of darkness in many of the images imbues a feel of misery and hopelessness. Retrospectively, the feel of the drama is well served by great lighting and imagery.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

“Between Heaven and Hell” BoA  http://youtu.be/mhrNZsfrFhQ

Excellent, sad ballad: “Sad Story” Chung Dong-ah of Boohwal  http://youtu.be/LyCopOH5c04

Another really nice ballad: “Countless Days” Na Yoon-kwan  http://youtu.be/dhADnT5Tqj4

“Poison Love” Lim Jeong-hee  http://youtu.be/KL2jaBldfMw

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 6/10

“Shark” is a drama that I had no difficulty watching from beginning to end. While there does not seem to be anything truly outstanding about the series, it is nonetheless engaging, and some of the characters are truly interesting. If the pace lagged a bit a times, it still piqued my curiosity enough to keep me coming back for the next episode.

 

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 

young couple

Director: Park Chan Hong, Cha Young-hoon
Screenwriter: Kim Ji-woo

Friday Drama Review: “Monstar”

Monstar-Poster2

 A little music… A little drama… A lotta fun!

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 6/10

Min Se-yi is a transfer student from New Zealand, of all places. There she herded sheep and recuperated from the trauma of losing her father. Back in Korea once again, she cheerfully attends school and quickly makes a name for herself as a soft-spoken but strong young gal who won’t put up with the intimidation and harassment meted out by the local bullies: members of a popular and elite musical group called “All For One”. One member, Jung Sun-woo, recognizes Se-yi instantly as his first love, whom he has not forgotten since childhood, and for whom he never had the opportunity to confess his feelings. And because no self-respecting Korean drama is complete without at least a triangle, where love is concerned, the outwardly self-assured Yoon Sul-chan, local KPop celebrity, recently disgraced (through no real fault of his own, if truth be told) is added to the cast. To complicate things, Sul-chan and Sun-woo were childhood friends that are no longer friendly. That antipathy is exacerbated by their mutual admiration for Se-yi.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

A musical drama akin to Dream High or What’s Up, Monstar sports both entertaining music and a real, if somewhat simplistic, plot line. The plot may have been a little thin, but the characters were round, proving that the depth and breath of the character is not necessarily proportional to the number of episodes. With only 12 episodes in which to full develop a dramatic storyline and the people to support it, Monstar came through with shining colors. And rich sound. At least at the beginning.

The drama, which aired but once a week, left viewers hungry for more after each episode. Interestingly, however, the writers did not feel compelled to leave every hour-long session with a dangling cliffhanger. Not that neat episodic conclusions detracted from the anticipation – indeed, viewers seemed equally thirsty for more whether they were left on the edge of their seats or not.

The serendipity that brings Sul-chan, Sun-Woo and the misfits of the classroom together to form a band, “Colorbars”, is the hook that grabs attention at the beginning of the drama. As the emotional hardships and handicaps of the members are explored, the intensity builds with each episode.

Monstar-3Yong Joon-hyung (Member of KPop group Beast) is a relative newcomer to acting. He had cameos in the High Kick series and Salamander Guru and the Gang, but his role as Yoon Sul-chan is by far his largest yet. The character was an interesting mixture of haughty self-confidence and a charming lack of self-awareness, especially with respect to his own romantic intentions. To appear outwardly street-wise, yet inwardly unsophisticated was an appealing combination that Yong Joon-hyung achieved with credibility. The first kiss scene with Min Se-yi was honest and delightful.

Monstar-1Ha Yeon-soo is a rank newcomer to the industry. Landing a leading role in the drama was a well-deserved coup. This fresh, new, young actress confidently and convincingly pulled off the role of Min Se-yi with her wide-eyed innocence. The doe-eyed look could have been annoying, but paired with the uber-calm, zen-like exterior, yet belligerent attitude against idiot bullies, she created a likeable character with whom the viewers would empathize.

Monstar-2Youngster Kang Ha-neul (To the Beautiful You, Hometown Over the Hill) appears to be a regular veteran amongst the newcomers with 4 dramas and 2 movies under his belt. The Ji-hoo* of this drama, Jung Sun-woo was a soft-spoken, talented, intelligent young man with honest intentions. These characters often tend to be somewhat one-dimensional, but despite that, Sun-woo was an engaging persona.

One of my personal favorite character actors, Ahn Nae-sang (Level 7 Civil Servant, May Queen) is a true veteran actor. Well-suited for the role of the melancholy Han Ji-woong, this is a man that knows how to deliver a line with dry wit.

Monstar_colorbarRounding out a cast of newbies to the drama world: Kim Min-young as Sim Eun-ha, the spunky, chubby fellow “Colobar” member and best friend to Se-yi; Park Kyu-sun as Cha Do-nam, “Colobar” member and gangster-enforcer of “All for One”; Kang Ui-sik as Park Kyu-dong, “Colobar” member and bully magnet, called “Radio” by those wanting to torment him by forcing him to perform at their bidding; Da-hee (from KPop group GLAM) as Kim Na-na,  “Colobar” member and sullen, outcast, mob-boss’s daughter; Moon Yong-suk as Ma Joon-hee, “All for One” member and Head Bully; Yoon Jong-hoon as Sin Jae-rok, “All for One” member and Bully Underling. With a few credits to her name, Kim Yoo-hyun (Jeon Woo-chi, The Return of Iljimae) was Ma Hyo-rin, member of “All for One” and bratty, snobbish kid sister to Ma Joon-hee.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 8/10

Fun cinematography affects throughout created visual interest: musical notes flowing from the piano and coloring the landscape, flashbacks with childhood characters intermixed with present-day characters, anime sketches. Eye-candy, to be sure, but the visual flourishes fit in well with this particular genre. The thematic continuity of the flower garden coming to life as the kids continued to invade the home of Han Ji-woong was appreciated.

There was a wonderful musical number that involves two musicians from a video stepping out into Se-yi’s reality and stalking her around campus as her thoughts dwelt on Sul-chan. The theme continued in an entertaining manner throughout the remainder of the episode.

 

Music: My Rating 10/10

The music included outstanding covers of wonderful songs, in a huge range of genres: classical, jazz, folk, KPOP, dub step. The following are those released in the OST:

“Past Days” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST, BTOB, & Ha Yun Soo    http://youtu.be/aQumrJmSUeo

“After Time Passes” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST & BTOB  http://youtu.be/FItsgPOTWCk

“Atlantis Princess” Ha Yun-soo, Kang Ha-neul, Kim Cho-eun http://youtu.be/BSmQsq-gSbs

“Snooze (I Will Be Your Love)” J Rabbit  http://youtu.be/yGZ1cCtullg

“Don’t Make Me Cry” Yong Joon-hyung, Ha Yun-soo, Kang Ha-neul, Kang Eui-shik, Da-hee, Kim Min-young, Park Kyu-sun  http://youtu.be/HUZ9K2kgmTM

“First Love” Yong Joon-hyung of BEAST & BTOB  http://youtu.be/99evMyK435Y

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

The major disappointment in this drama was the anticlimactic ending. There were no overt inconsistencies, but given the fabulous beginning, the way the dramatic tension foundered as the episodes progressed was sad to witness. Despite the weak ending, the drama is fun and the characters worth watching if, for no other reason, than to see a few rising stars in the Korean entertainment industry.

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

almost kiss

*Yoon Ji-hoo: A character from the drama series “Boys Before Flowers” that has come to represent a wonderfully sweet, attentive man who has an unrequited love for a girl and who becomes her friend and/or protector. He never gets the girl.  😦

 

Director: Kim Won-seok

Writer: Jung Yoon-jung