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

 

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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: “Jang Ok Jung”

JangOkJungLiveInLove_SliderThe Famous Villainess is Given a New Personna

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

Jang Ok Jung is a famous concubine of King Suk Jong of the Joseon Dynasty. Infamous for her role in the deposition of Queen In Hyun, she has been villainized throughout history. An interesting take on a oft-told tale, this version of the history attempts to humanize Jang Hee Bin and tell her story in a new, much more empathetic way, beginning with her early (pre-palace) days and ending with her death by poison.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

jangWhile the story tended to bog down at times, for the most part it was entertaining and well-told. Jang Ok Jung (Kim Tae Hee) was an intriguingly thought-provoking character, ambitious but good-hearted at the beginning, becoming hurt and vindictive and finally building character to the point of self-sacrifice. Kim Tae Hee (My Princess, IRIS) brought all these characteristics to life in a convincing fashion giving us a new take to the old Jang Hee Bin character profile.

Jang-Ok-jeongkingYoo Ah In (Fashion King, Sungkyunkwan Scandal) was also provocative as Lee Soon, the skillful and powerful King Suk Jong whose only soft spots were for Ok Jung and his trusted uncle Dong Pyung. The King’s character was an interesting mix of intense, intelligent leadership and diplomatic skill and a heart-wrenching loneliness and vulnerability that comes with power and prominence. In a very early episode hs father warns the young Lee Soon that he can trust no one but himself, and the internal struggle that he feels as he resists this concept is evident throughout the drama.

Jang-Ok-jeong_46Another well-known historical character, Queen In Hyun, was played by Hong Soo Hyun (The Princess’ Man, Lie to Me). Her acting brought the needed dignity and empathy to the difficult role of the unwanted, un-loved Queen. Thankfully, the character was not a shrinking violet, hiding and weeping over the injustices done to her, but a strong, dignified woman bent on upholding the prestige of the palace. Hong Soo Hyun often plays rather unsavory characters, so it was nice to see her in a role that allowed her to stretch her abilities to include a woman of nobility and poise.

joj dong pyungTrusted friend to the king, Uncle Dong Pyung, also in love with Ok Jung (even before the king) was a great addition to the script. (Plus, a Korean drama just isn’t the same without a Ji Hoo-like character, right?) Not only was the character well played by Lee Sang Yeob (Innocent Man, Midas) but the character added a needed side-story to keep the story-line multidimensional.

JOJchoiOne of the few less-than-convincing characters in the drama was Han Seung Yeon of the K-Pop group Kara. She had the unhappy role of Choi Musuri, who became Choi Suk Bin. The role was one of a conniving, evil, self-serving vixen with no redeeming features whatsoever. A combination of unexecptional acting and a character whose scripting was not as well thought out as other characters is probably to blame for the mediocrity.

JOJjang hyunAnother less-than-likeable character, but one that was well scripted and well acted was that of Jang Ok Jung’s scheming uncle, Jang Hyun. Sung Dong Il (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Reply 1997) was credibly conniving, delightfully dasturdly and most definitely classified amongst the evil. Master manipulator and social climber, he provided one focus for audience hatred.

Even the actors and actresses in the smaller roles did execptional jobs bringing this story to life.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 6/10

The lush opulence of palace life was aptly portrayed in the beautiful costuming. Scenery was the same used in most historical dramas, as is to be expected. Nice touches were added such as the candle-lit welcome for Jang Hee Bin to her new home.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

“Song of Sorrow” Im Jae Bum  http://youtu.be/TRVNxZLtuQ0

“Even In My Dreams” Zia http://youtu.be/I6WX0U1G94E

“Season of Love” Rumblefish http://youtu.be/TG6MwVenF6Q

“Living In Love” Page http://youtu.be/P3chx4E1JOk

“Voiceless” Lee Jung  http://youtu.be/zPoFcP8NXn0

“Will It Reach You?” Lee Soo Young http://youtu.be/okBFsbl-5ss

“Far Away” Sin Cho Ah http://youtu.be/jq5MSz9o0jc

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

If I had to choose just one drama to watch about King Suk Jong’s reign, I’d probably choose Dong Yi over Jang Ok Jung. That said, the story was quite compelling and I give it extra points for so creatively telling a story that’s been told so many times before. The acting is also definitely worthwhile. While the script may be a tad slow in places, the overall storyline flows well. I truly enjoyed watching a famous villain come to life as a real human being with good points and human frailties as well, which, I would hazard to guess, might be closer to truth than the myth built over ages. But who knows?

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 

jojlove

Director: Boo Sung Chul

Writer: Choi Jung Mi

 

Friday Drama Review – “Dae Jang Geum”

A Jewel in the Korean Drama Scene

 

daejanggeum2Another drama from 2003, Dae Jang Geum is a historical classic that had been sitting on the “To Be Watched” list long enough. Tackling a 54-episode drama may sound daunting, but some dramas need to be seen for their historical significance. Although based on a true historical figure, not many details are really known about Jang Geum’s life and story. Under the direction of Lee Byung Hoon, a record-breaking drama was born. The fictionalization of her life was inspiring, and the story was captivating.

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Dae Jang Geum, also known as The Great Jang Geum or Jewel of the Palace, is the story of a girl, orphaned at a young age, who overcomes many difficulties to become the Royal Physician to King JungJong. Her parents were fugitives, hiding from the crazed palace political scene that sought their lives for one reason or another. An unfortunate remark by the young Jang Geum cost her parents their lives and brought her happy childhood to an abrupt end. Cheerful and resourceful, Jang Geum made her way into the Royal kitchens where she served as a Court Lady for years until political maneuvering triggered her exile. It was fortune itself that landed her in the pharmacy of a strong-willed female “Physician Lady” who trained her as a means of making her way back into the palace to seek revenge.

 

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

daejanggeum1The vast majority of the script (and there is a lot of it!) was well written. A major complaint would be the repetitiveness – either of scenes or audio lines. While it would make sense to use repeats to refresh the viewers’ memory of something that occurred much earlier in the series, (which did happen necessarily – the drama was, after 54 episodes!) all too often the repeating happened within 3-10 minutes of the original scene or sound bite. As the repetition increased it began to seem like a tool to fill time.

The acting, however, was enjoyable. Lee Young Ae was endearing as Jang Geum, even when scenes were a bit over-dramatized. The character she played was appealing and believable. The young Jang Geum was played by the delightful Jo Jung Eun. This little Little jang geumdarling’s acting was entirely captivating.

While historically it is unlikely that Min Jung Ho, a.k.a. Sir Min, had any love interest in Jang Geum, his character was the perfect archetype for her leading man. Ji Jin Hee is dashing leading man material indeed, and pulled off the character with sincerity and passion.

Enter the Dragons: Park Jung Soo as Head Lady Park Yong Shin, Hong Ri Na as Choi Geum Young (a dragon with soft teeth, but a dragon, nonetheless), Kyun Mi Ri as Court Lady Choi Sung Geum, Geum Young’s evil scheming aunt, and Lee Hee Do as Choi Pan Sool, Lady Choi’s wealthy, powerful merchant brother. The four, with help from powerful political allies, wrought havoc throughout the drama for their own gain, be it prestige, wealth, or secrecy.

dae_jang_geum_264985 dae queenThe Royal family were well-cast as well: Im Ho as King JungJong, good hearted but somewhat impotent during much of his career, a richly complex character by the end of the drama; Park Jung Sook as the powerful, yet empathetic Queen Munjeong; and Eom Yoo Shin as Dowager Queen Jasun.

There was a wide range of superb characters. Kim Yeo Jin as Jang Duk, physician lady from Jeju, paradisiacal land of exile, played an irascible character upon which (I’ll wager) her character in “Flower Boy Next Door” seemed to be based. Park Eun Hye was Lee Yeon Saeng, Jang Geum’s Dae jang 3best friend, loyal throughout, who become concubine to the king. Yang Mi Kyung was Court Lady Han Baek Young, best friend to Jang Geum’s mother, and Jang Geum’s mentor in the kitchen, whose genuineness and love become a driving force in Jang Geum’s life. Im Hyun Sik played Kang Duk Goo, Jang Geum’s comical adoptive father and the hilarious Geum Bo Ra played Na Joo Daek, Duk Goo’s wife. The two added much needed comic relief to the series with panache. The entire cast was outstanding, bringing to life characters that changed and grew as the drama progressed.

dae jang geum 2

 

Cinematography: My rating 8/10

Stunning. Simply stunning. Words can scarcely describe how the masterful use of the natural beauty of Korea’s landscape created a spectacular backdrop for scene after delightful scene. The costuming was lavish and detailed. The food was mouthwateringly tempting. The sets became so iconic that they have been recreated lock, stock and barrel, in a Dae Jang Geum theme park outside of Seoul that are used to film historical drama today.

 

Music: My rating 7/10

The theme song was reminded me of old TV series theme songs. It has a rather dated feeling to it, rather than a period feel: “Chang Ryong” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VGbs88kJtM

Theme used often and sung with a chorus. Lovely and appropriate. “Onara”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4H-Qrd1gTQ

Grand. Operatic. “Hamangyeon” Safina http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qclaqU7ua-o

Piano instumental. “Apna” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTmmFNbsrok

Haunting. “Yun Do” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vLTePSnLYU

 

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

Wow. How could such an epic drama receive such a score? To be brutally honest there were parts that were exasperating slow. And the repetition nearly drove me insane. If it weren’t for the great characters and wonderful cinematography it might have been difficult to watch the entire 54 episodes. But the story and characters were compelling. In the end it was more than worthwhile viewing and definitely a must-see for any Korean Drama Enthusiast. I know many who tell me they only watch the “short” dramas – 16-20 episodes are more than plenty. But some stories cannot be told in 20 episodes. Some tales are can only be done properly by thoroughly exploring the convoluted narrative and diligently developing the myriad of characters essential to the story – nay Epic Legend. Such a saga becomes necessary to do justice to the content. Belay your fears! Conquer the epic drama!

Happy Drama Watching!

JangGeum&Min

  

Created by Kim Yeong Hyeon

Chief Producer: Jo Joong Hyun

Director: Lee Byung Hoon

Writer: Kim Young Hyun

 

“Countdown to Lee Min Ho” Drama Review: “Faith – The Great Doctor”

Faith-the-great-doctor-aka-faith-32024424-1280-720Excitement builds. The countdown is concluding. Sunday, March 10th, I will meet Lee Min Ho, up close and in person. The car is gassed up. My wardrobe is selected. Cameras and phone are charged. Extra memory cards ready to go. Voice recorder in my purse. The final installment of the ‘Countdown’ will now commence.

Following the fine tradition of saving the best for last, we end this Lee Min Ho series with “Faith” also known as “The Great Doctor”, Lee Min Ho’s latest and greatest drama, and for him, yet another genre conquered. This time we have a historical drama, or perhaps we should call it historical fantasy drama? Here’s a trailer for the series:

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Set in both the Goreyo period and the present day, ‘Faith’ is primarily a historical drama with a fantasy twist. Lee Min Ho stars as Choi Young, general of the king’s personal elite Woodalchi army. He is sent forward in time 700 years to find a ‘divine doctor’ to save the dying Yuan Princess (Park Se Young). Thinking he’s been sent to ‘heaven’, he retrieves plastic surgeon Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Sun) bringing her back in time to save the princess and promising on his honor as a Warrior of Goreyo that he will return her to heaven.

Of course, things never go quite as planned.

A heavenly person is, of course, a far too valuable pawn to a newly crowned king. Securing his power in a country dominated by the Yuan dynasty in China, and threatened by other royalty in the family tree becomes the background plot upon which the drama is set. The story evolves as the king struggles to find (and keep) his place, the doctor struggles to return to her own time while falling for the charismatic Choi Young, and Choi Young struggles to not fall for the person he is honor bound to return.

Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

LMH dreamThe script is very well written, with few slow-moving moments, excellent characters (and character development), a nicely flowing plot line and a conclusion that made a satisfying, consistent and logical culmination to the story. Especially impressive was the continuity found throughout the drama. Many dramas begin storylines and metaphorical themes and then either lose track of them or drop them altogether. A perfect example is Choi Young’s figurative dream lake, used through the drama to steal a look into the man’s inner struggles and state of mind.

Faith-2I also found it refreshing that more than one major nemesis was introduced during the series. Threatening characters abound, so the source of menace shifts throughout as the drama while continuing to build on the dastardly devils already in play. Again, there was no loss of continuity, and the flow, to and fro, from one evil opponent to the next felt authentic and natural.

The mixture of fantasy elements was surprisingly well done, given the high level of supernatural elements added to the storyline: magical abilities, time-travel, etc.

The is one drama where I cannot really think of a single actor or actress that ‘dragged down’ the show. The acting was superb. Lee Min Ho gave a superior performance as the understated hero, Choi Young. Kim Hee Sun, as Doctor Yoo Eun Soo did a remarkable job of evolving from a hilariously irritating, Faith-5shallow, scared plastic surgeon to a brave(r), compassionate, and introspective woman. Her effusive personality was the perfect foil for Choi Young’s stoic character.  The chemistry between these two kept viewers drawn in throughout the drama.

Faith-6The development of the characters of the king and queen was also extremely well done. The parts were played by Ryu Duk Hwan as King Gong Min and Park Se Young as Princess Nogook. Again, wonderful chemistry contributed to the beautiful love story between these two.

Faith-3Amongst the good guys, a special shout out to Lee Philip as Doctor Jang Bin, the royal Goreyo doctor, and friend to Eun Soo. Lee Philip always seems to do a great job, but this was a particularly good role for him and Doctor Jang was one of the best characters in the drama. Word has it the story was changed when he incurred an injury to his eyes demanding eye surgery and his withdrawal from show. Sadly, his character was withdrawn from the last few episodes. Kim Mi Kyung is one of my favorite veteran actresses and she once again shows her inimitable style as Court lady Choi. I can only imagine she must have enjoyed this role – the first I’ve seen her employing swordplay!

The super-villain, Yoo Oh Sung as Ki Cheol, also with magical abilities (what great villain pledged sibswouldn’t have them?) was flawlessly evil while creating retaining characteristics that humanized him. His magical cohorts put in excellent performances as well: Sung Hoon as Cheon Eum Ja, the mystical flute player (who looks pretty darn good with gray-white hair, by the way) and Shin Eun Jung as Hwa Soo In, sexy fire-lady supreme. I could go on, and on, but suffice to say, there were many, many excellent performances and many well-crafted multidimensional characters! If I waxed poetic about every character I loved, this review would go on forever.

Cinematography: My rating 9/10

Great stunt fighting. Cool, magical special effects. Gorgeous settings and stunning scenery. Fabulous costuming. Music meticulously cued in to the scene and action. A beautiful musical score was created for the drama. As stated above, the fantasy elements were incorporated seamlessly. Although I read there were budget cuts during the filming of this drama, they are not evident in the cinematography.

Music: My rating 7/10

Although I tend to focus on the vocal pieces featured in dramas, the instrumental pieces accompanying them are often excellent as well. The musical scoring for ‘Faith’ was really well done. The vocal pieces, while not in my all time “Top 40 Hit List” are also nice.

Probably my favorite ballad: ”Carry On” AlI  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=949mw-0VLoQ

”Because My Steps Are Slow” Shin Yong Jae (4MEN) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9Y4xw-F64A

”Bad Person” Jang Hye Jin, MC Sniper  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuT9-G-qOFg

”Teardrop” Younha  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiA5cvvQmz4

”Look At You” Seong Hoon (Brown Eyed Soul)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34ZBZ_CCeXA

”Wind’s Song” Young Joon (Brown Eyed Soul) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXqYwdAQnq4

”Love” Rumble Fish  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w-ttHQCp0g

”Because It’s You” One Piece  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qJw-5dXcSE

Overall Charisma: My rating 9/10

There are so many emotionally draining scenes. If you need cathartic release, you’ll definitely find it here. With so many good characters to follow and so many great storylines that mesh surprisingly well without getting messy or tangled, the overall charisma for this drama is very good. This is not a series that tires you out or is difficult to follow. The chemistry is so good between all of the actors that everything seemed to gel.

Overall, “Faith” is definitely my favorite of Lee Min Ho’s dramas to date and, I feel, his best effort in dramatic performance. It has action, fantasy, drama, romance, and mystery. It has me thinking like a kid again – what superhero powers do I wish I had? 😉

Happy Drama Watching!

Faith romance

Friday Drama Review – “Hong Gil Dong”: Nearly Caused My Demise

HongGilDong1 셰릴씨의 ‘드라마가좋다’ – ‘홍길동’

그녀가 최고로 꼽는 사극 중 하나인 ‘홍길동’의 평을 들어보자

Quite some time ago now, I had decided it was time to conquer a new genre of Korean drama and, never having seen a historical drama, I set about reading synopses. Hong Gil Dong looked to fit the bill — a Korean Robin Hood? Perfect. Our Robin Hood stories are fun and adventurous so this was sure to be great fun. Yeah. Continue reading

Friday Drama Review – “Hong Gil Dong”: Nearly Caused My Demise

HongGilDong 셰릴씨의 ‘드라마가좋다’ – ‘홍길동’

그녀가 최고로 꼽는 사극 중 하나인 ‘홍길동’의 평을 들어보자

Quite some time ago now, I had decided it was time to conquer a new genre of Korean drama and, never having seen a historical drama, I set about reading synopses. Hong Gil Dong looked to fit the bill — a Korean Robin Hood? Perfect. Our Robin Hood stories are fun and adventurous so this was sure to be great fun. Yeah. :-/

I will begin by telling you that this is, to date, one of my favorite historical dramas. However, I also experienced at least three days post—drama trauma, being reduced to a sobbing, blubbering mess. OK, I may be a little emotional.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Hong Gil Dong is a mythical figure is Korea as well known as Robin Hood or King Arthur is to English speaking people. Understanding his story and myth was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this drama as references are made to this character as colloquially as we do with our mythical figures.

The story in set in Joseon times and revolves around a man born illegitimately to a high-ranking official with mad skills in the martial arts. Although initially a happy—go—lucky drifter, he is inspired to fight for justice for the common people. While the Hong Gil Dong is indeed a Robin Hood sort of figure, the character quickly evolves, and the story becomes something more along the lines of “Braveheart”, than the lighthearted Robin Hood adventure tale the synopses led me to believe.

Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

Kang Ji Hwan stars as Hong Gil Dong and Jang Geun Suk as Prince Lee Chang Hui, a young man with the best of ambitions, wanting to protect his people well and seeing the value of Hong Gil Dong. Sung Yu Ri is Heo Yi Nok, a sweet, innocent, but not terribly bright young woman loved by both men. The trio creates a dynamic connection with each other Hisand with the viewers. Jang Geun Suk’s performance was stellar and, in my opinion, one of his finest performances. Kang Ji Hwan also shone, but I have yet to see anything of his I have not liked (yet?) There were a fleet of fabulous, extremely well-written and well-acted characters aside from the main three as well: a mad king played by Jo Hee Bong, Choi Ran as Lady Noh, the ever-present guardian to the prince, as well as the many wonderful oddballs in Hong Gil Dong’s tribe of misfits.

The script itself is a delightful mix of fantasy, comedy and ultimately heartrending, gut—wrenching drama. The characters are built and developed thoughtfully throughout. Although set in the Joseon period, period language is not used, but modern day language, including modern slang.

Cinematography: My rating 8/10

Fun special effects, silly props and great sets made for seriously good viewing. Hilarious costuming that literally looks like badly patched bathrobes alongside spectacular period costumes constantly tweaked the viewers’ sense of propriety. Somewhat distracting are the odd sounds not filtered in many quiet indoor scenes. The following scene is Yi Nok and Hong Gil Dong’s first comical encounter:

Music: My rating 8/10

I think it must be mentioned that only now, over a year later, can I finally listen to Park Wan Kyu’s “Fate” without weeping. Lovely sad songs abound, and the vast majority of the music is more than worthy of listening to more than once. Track lists are available online although not as popular on American music venues.  ”Yun“ is a haunting tune, ”Alone“, heartbreaking, ”Back To You My Tears“ evokes a sense of yearning, ”What If“ beautifully romantic (and sung by Tae Yeon of SNSD).

The real fun, however is the wild mix-ups thrown in here and there. For example, the opening scenes feature a Lord’s extravagant party complete with entertainment that suddenly becomes break-dancing to a thoroughly modern R & B track. One would have thought Shinee and the Wonder Girls dropped in. Moments later it’s a fast-paced fantasy martial arts extravaganza. The music throughout is a wild mixture of modern and period.

Overall Charisma: My rating 9/10

Again, for a drama where to American sensibilities, everything’s is just totally messed up at the end, it was in fact, refreshingly honest, humorous, dreadful, and real. The fact that it evoked such strong emotions is evidence in and of itself that it was drama at its’ finest.

I was intrigued that despite the fact that everything went horribly wrong in the end and my mind was screaming that it was just NOT HOW THINGS SHOULD GO, surprisingly, it all made perfect sense. The final decisions, while sad, we’re inevitable and correct. In an American drama, something ridiculous probably would have happened to make everything turn out all right, but not so in a Korean drama. The fact that it all ended horribly was — well — OK. In fact, it was really the perfect ending for the story. A happy ending would have nullified everything that happened before.

So much more like real life, don’t you think? Dang. That’s kind of depressing. Better go watch something happy now.

Happy Drama Watching!

jang geunsuk