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

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Friday Drama Review: “I Hear Your Voice”

 

I_Hear_Your_Voice_Official_Poster

 

 

(Even the one in your head!)

 

I had to remind myself a number of times that this was, in fact, a fantasy drama (as a genre, I mean!) I think that as an audience we are so used to ‘reading the character’s mind’ that Soo-ha’s ability did not always appear very strange, until it was pointed out, that is.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

kidsThe story begins with a brutal murder witnessed by the son of the victim. As the murderer attempts to eliminate the young witness he realizes he is being watched by a young girl and gives chase. The girl risks her life, becoming the key witness needed to put the criminal behind bars. She also becomes a hero and life-long first love to the young boy, Park Soo-ha, now injured, orphaned and alone but mysteriously left with the ability to read other peoples thoughts.

The girl, Jang Hye-sung, disillusioned by adults she had trusted in her childhood, grows up to be a feisty, but jaded defense attorney. She and Cha Kwan-woo, an idealistic and dedicated young policeman-turned-lawyer join the public defender’s office together and in their own unique and entirely contradictory ways manage to defend suspects who have little chance of a positive outcome in the courtroom.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 9/10

I Hear Your Voice was a drama that captured attention from episode 1 and continued to keep the excitement building throughout. The series combined a great main storyline with well tied-in side stories that were expertly developed to build not only interest, but also enhance the content of the main story. The writer kept the intrigue factor cranked to the maximum setting. As one subplot wound down, another ramped up quickly to fill the gap. I liked the fact that the fantasy element, Soo-ha’s mind-reading ability, was not such an important aspect to the drama that it overshadowed everything else. In fact, even without the extrasensory perception element, the story would have been engaging.

i-hear-your-voice-ep-14-img-2Lee Bo-young (Equator Man, Athena: Goddess of Love) was a good choice for the somewhat cynical, yet morally upright and gutsy lawyer, Jang Hye-sung. The role was a studied contrast in world-weary resignation and angry indignation. Her emotional struggle with her feelings for Park Soo-ha parallel her worldly struggles: take the safe, easy, socially proscribed path represented by Lawyer Cha Kwan-soo, or succumb to the risky love – the younger man with a questionable past who tugs at her heart.

IHYV1Lee Jong-suk (School 2013, Secret Garden) is fast becoming Korea’s latest and greatest ‘noona-killer’. With his endearing pouty smile and adorable facial antics, the ladies are dropping like flies. As Park Soo-ha, Lee Jong-suk was ideal as the younger leading man. His understated acting style was well suited to this role as a man haunted by voices no one but he can hear, the studious, quiet fellow searching for the ‘noona’ who saved him. He does ‘angst’ well. He does ‘silly’ especially well since it seems to appear out of nowhere in the usually reserved Soo-ha. And oh man, can he do flippin’ out crazy.

IHYV JHA character that started off strong and faded as the drama progressed was the lawyer Cha Kwan-woo. The role was brought to life, quite appealingly, by Yoon Sang-hyun (Secret Garden, Take Care of the Young Lady). His part not only provided the secondary love interest (yes, the “Ji-hoo Role”), but his somewhat naïve personality was also a critical foil to the sardonic antics of lawyer Jang. As the drama progressed and the Park Soo-ha character began to take front seat in the romance category, lawyer Cha faded almost to oblivion. Indeed, it wasn’t until the final wrap-up episodes that he finally regained significant airtime.

IHYV 3Lee Da-hee (Birdie Buddy, Myung Wol the Spy) was Prosecutor Seo Do-yeon, the no-nonsense long-ago ‘frenemy’ of Jang Hye-sung. The sometimes antagonistic, sometimes empathetic relationship between the two women was an unusual and intriguing variation from the garden-variety friendships so common in dramas. The character of Seo Do-yeon could have easily been brushed off as an irritant, but instead, Lee Da-hee’s portrayal humanized the prickly woman.

i hear your voice bad guyThere were two interesting villains with wonderful parallels between them (delightfully illustrated in the final episode, I might add.) Min Joon-gook (Jung Woong-In) and Judge Seo Dae-seok (Jung Dong-hwan) were both men who could not admit fault in their actions. The judge, also Seo Do-yeon’s father, caused a man to be falsely imprisoned for a quarter century and felt no guilt. The other spent his life murdering those he held responsible for injustices in his life. Jung Dong-hwan, by the way, showed his acting prowess as an amazing crazed madman killer. His transformation into a charismatic gentle man that people trusted was chilling.

 

lipsCinematography: My Rating 7/10

The filming supported the story without distraction except for a minor irritant that caught my attention: whenever Soo-ha was reading Hye-sung’s mind, the cameras froze – all action stopped while the sound (and subtitles, in my case) rolled by. It felt unnatural and was disruptive to the flow. Aside from that issue, lighting and sound were well synced to the mood of the scene.

 

Music: My Rating 8/10

Theme song: “Echo” Every Single Day “Echo” Every Single Day

Love this song! “Why Did You Just Come Now?” Jung Yeop

“The Days We Were Happy” Na-rae

Nice!: “Words You Can’t Hear” Shin Seung-hun

“In My Eyes” Kim Yeon-ji”

Sweetly Lalala” Melody Day 

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

I learned many interesting tidbits about the legal system in Korea. Juries don’t have the final say-so – a judge’s opinion can outweigh what a jury decides. The rules regarding what prosecutors and defense attorneys share with one another seems not nearly as strict or tight as in the American judicial system. There are also many, many similarities with our own legal system.

Overall, the script was nicely paced and the action kept viewers interested. Originally scheduled to be 16 episodes, another 2 were added due to the popularity of the drama. The final episodes show some signs of stretching – more flashbacks than usual, extra time tying up loose ends that might normally have ended up on the cutting room floor, etc. That’s not to say those final episode are not worth viewing. They are. The endings seemed appropriate for most characters creating a sense of satisfaction and conclusion.

Happy Drama Watching!

IHYV4

Director: Park Chan-hong, Cha Young-hoon
Writer: Kim Ji-woo

Friday Drama Review – “I Need Romance”

I-Need-Romance poster

Filled with fun, penetratingly honest girlfriend-time conversations, “I Need Romance 2012” hits the spot for those looking for a drama with romance, humor, and yes, I’ll say it, a bit of steamy sexiness.

 

The scenarios strike pretty to close to home with the abrupt, honest portrayal of human romantic relationships. No perfect, sweet, innocent love relationships here. Twisted, real, gritty, and sometimes a bit too close to the mark to avoid personal comparisons. Ack.

Yet, the basic story concept is fun, if not entirely new: women in their early thirties looking for love – sometimes in the wrong places. Of course. How else would we find comedy in pathos? And is it not every woman’s secret fantasy to have two fabulously sexy men vying for your lasting affections? I‘ll admit it even if you don’t! Oooh la la!

OK. There’s no deep, transcendent plot–line here. But hey – it’s a romantic comedy! I thoroughly enjoyed “A Gentleman’s Dignity” for many of the same reasons.

Here’s a fun trailer tvN put out. It has little to do with the actual drama, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless, as it accurately portrays the spunk and fire of our lovely ladies in a tongue-in-cheek play on American comedic drama.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

couple 1Yoon Seok Hyun and Joo Yeol Mae are childhood sweethearts – and I do mean childhood. Their parent parents were friends and built a duplex with a shared kitchen and dining space when the two were 5 years old. When Yeol Mae’s parents passed away in her late teens and Seon Hyuk’s parents and his younger sister moved to the country, the two continued living together in the pretty little house with two golden retrievers playing in the yard. Their romance began in high school. Despite their stormy, on-again, off-again relationship over the years, they remain housemates and friends.

bestiesFortunately for Yeol Mae, she has two best friends since middle school in whom she can trust, rely on, confide in and commiserate with. The three, now in their early 30’s, all have love-life challenges that keep the story intriguing. Interestingly, Seok Hyun is included in the group as the go-to guy friend who can be relied upon to give good advice from the man’s point of view.

When our story begins, Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun are in “off-again” mode. Sun Jae Gyung and Woo Ji Hee, the besties are both in less-than-ideal relationships as well, although on the surface they look great. Their love lives all become complicated, especially Yeol Mae’s, who suddenly finds herself being pursued by a man (Shin Ji Hoon) who promises to fulfill the desired affection she’s been craving, but Seok Hyun refuses to satisfy.

 

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

leading manLee Jin Wook plays Yoon Seok Hyun, a somewhat more realistic man, in my opinion, than the sweet, empathetic, romantic heroes portrayed in most romantic comedies. Not one for over-the-top romantic gestures, Seok Hyun does not even want to get married. He has difficulty expressing emotions – especially love – but that does not stop him from being loving in his own, manly way.

Ji HoonIt was nice to see Kim Ji Suk play something other than a conniving, sleazy character. (At least, that’s all I have ever seen him cast as…) In his role as Shin Ji Hoon we were able to see him as a strong, sweet romantic (JiHoo*-like) guy worth swooning over. Somehow, this persona seemed to fit him quite well. (Hey – it’s a K-Drama – there had to be one guy that fit the standard ultra-romantic profile.)

funny faceJung Yu Mi, while very active in the movie industry, has only done a few dramas, so her character of Joo Yeol Mae was my introduction to this fine actress. Her incredibly versatile facial expressions paired with her ability to credibly create passionate love scenes were ideally suited to this role. As a self-described ‘woman with a bad personality’, she wore it as a badge of honor and carried herself with the humorous self-dignity that can only come with age and self-realization.

Kim Ji Woo as Sun Jae Gyung and Kang Ye Sol as Woo Ji Hee were also quite engaging as the best friends. Their ability to convincingly portray emotional issues associated with single women in their thirties was appealing and entertaining.

An interesting addition to the script was Kang Na Hyun (Kim Ye Won). As the young woman who works with Seok Hyun as a co-author and crushes madly on him, she eventually displays maturity beyond her years as she successfully manages her one-sided love and even counsels the emotionally stunted Seok Hyun. Although an irritant in the beginning, her character developed into one of the more intriguing and genuinely original characters of the series.

 

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

vlcsnap-14701Unlike most dramas I’ve viewed, this one made great use of stills throughout, especially during narratives. The house used for filming (at least the exterior) was adorable. Given the trendy music and interesting characters, I feel there was much more that could have been done to make the cinematography more exciting, but it was definitely adequate.

 

Music: My rating 7/10

A little trendier than most OSTs. Nice ballads and one really cool song: “I Could Give You Love”.

“Only U” 10cm http://youtu.be/cKSKWYboRgw

This is the opening song. I hated it the first time I heard it, but it grew on me fast and I realized it’s perfect for the drama. “Riding the Wind” Deli Spice http://youtu.be/TSFzPzCQCN4

Best song: “I Could Give You Love” Lasse Lindh

http://youtu.be/sCIftyzDX8g

Pretty ballad: “Have You Heard” LeeSA http://youtu.be/W0mWvEqo9Dw

Another pretty ballad: “” Page http://youtu.be/O6b-ln_rzeg

 

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

INR2showerThis is a drama that will definitely appeal more to older (30 years +) viewers than younger viewers. And the older the better. The more I watched, the more I realized that there’s a poignancy that only many years of screwed up relationships will really make you appreciate and identify with.

The characters were significantly more realistic than in many dramas. There was also a very pervasive lack of inhibition when it came to discussing the subject of sex. I think if this drama had been aired on SBS or MBC it would have been a very different drama, but because it was tvN, a cable channel, more liberties were taken with the script than would have been allowed in main-stream programming. Refreshing and exciting, really. 😉

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 dogslq

 

*Yoon JiHoo – Uber-romantic, uber-gorgeous, what-every-girl-wants character in “Boys Over Flowers” played by Kim Hyun Joong

 

Director: Lee Jung Hyo, Jang Young Woo

Screenwriter: Jung Hyun Jung