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

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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

 

Friday Drama Review – “Queen of Ambition”

QoAPoster1Monarch of Madness? Perhaps Not. 

 

Ambition. Passion. Revenge. The series “Queen of Ambition” wrapped up its final episode with much weeping and nose-blowing, but all plot-lines were neatly tied up and finished. It felt, when all was said and done, that all 24 episodes were needed to fully develop the nefarious tale and all its sordid details. Indeed, each emotionally charged episode left the viewer anxiously anticipating the next installment.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

“Queen of Ambition” is the beguiling story of a woman whose ambitions leave a trail of death in her wake. Joo Da Hae spent part of her formative years in an orphanage (where she met her best friend Ha Ryu Oppa); the other part of her childhood was spent fending off the attentions of her pedophilic stepfather. Ha Ryu and Joo Da Hae met again years later as adults and Ha Ryu dedicated his life to making Da Hae’s happy: he worked hard to support her while she studied to get into college. He worked even harder to send her to college. Their common law marriage seemed to be a match made in heaven, if somewhat impoverished, and was blessed with a beautiful daughter they both adored.

The tale turns when a wealthy young man, Baek Do Hoon, falls for her, unaware that she has a family. Stoking Da Hae’s craving for a better life, She dupes her husband into footing the bill for her to follow Do Hoon to the United States to attend graduate school.

The story continues with deceptions and schemes. Half of the cast of characters ran intricate cons, half was seeking brutal revenge. Some were doing both.

QoAcastScript/Acting: My rating 8/10

The strength of this drama was in the script and acting. The Ambitious Queen, Joo Da Hae, portrayed by Soo Ae, had just enough humanity to make her frighteningly real instead of psychopathic. At issue was the audience’s ability to empathize, however reluctantly, with the emotions that drove this woman to the lengths she went. She was almost never completely without empathy or remorse.

Sidebar: I found Da Hae’s character to be completely American in nature. She describes herself as having to “step on others” before she got stepped on herself; “hating others” before she, herself, was hated. She pursued her goal with a single-minded “me first” ambition, very much in keeping with the American ideal of “rugged individualism” and not in keeping with the Korean, Confucian concept of doing things for the greater good. Is that to say there are no social-climbers in Korea? Obviously not. But the clash between these two ideals is a major concept behind the drama.

QofA Back MusclesKwon San Woo not only put in an excellent performance as Ha Ryu (and his twin brother Cha Jae Woong), but the script afforded him the opportunity to show off his very well-toned body as he worked hard at a host bar as “Mr. Back Muscles”. Gratuitous eye-candy for the ladies? Partly, I’m sure, but the display had a serious function as well and was an important part of the plot. The characters of Ha Ryu and Cha Jae Wong were emotionally engaging in the extreme, albeit a little one-dimensional when compared to the character of Da Hae. The acting was consistent and stirring, leading one to empathize with Ha Ryu at the gut level throughout the series.

yunhoYunho (from TVXQ), who played Baek Do Hoon, was a little less consistent in his acting: sometimes excellent, moving, credible, at other times, a tad amateurish and a wee bit off. Do Hoon’s character was sweet, unsuspectingly gullible and naïve. The genuine way in which he portrayed the slow change from complete trust and belief in his wife, to desperately wanting to believe, to the final demoralized submission to the truth was nicely done.

Baek Do Kyung’s (Kim Sung Ryung) big reveal was pretty easy to guess. The character, however, was a delightfully complex woman: strong, female head of the household and key player in the family business, but emotionally cold and lonely. There was an understated vulnerability in the character that appealed for empathy despite the cool exterior.

Best couple award of the year: Sung Ji Roo as Uhm Sam Do and Lee Il Hwa as Hong Ahn Shim. Both turned in amazing performances.

Kwon-Hyun-Sang-02And a special “Always-The-Bridesmaid, Never-The-Bride” award to Won Hyun Sang as Yang Taek Bae. This young man is a fine actor who always seems to play the best friend, always seems to have secondary roles. His performances are consistently great and he has a charming way that should carry him much further than he seems to be getting.

DaddyKissMePark Min Ha was a complete darling. The scenes where Kwon San Woo playfully pretended to ‘eat her up’ mimicked what the audience longed to do to this little sweetheart. I do want to add that throwing dead children into the script is using incredibly unfair emotional tactics against sensitive women.

Drama clichés: Orphans (yet again), Kpop star feature (Yunho of TVXQ), twin mixups. Most of the clichés, however, were cinematographic.

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

ridingQueen of Ambition” had many, many, many familiar sets and settings: the stables from “Boys Over Flowers”, the very recognizable walkways and streetlights from “Missing You” and others, the park from “Personal Taste”, apartments from – well – everything! Yes, many dramas use the same filming locations, the same sets, props and costumes. It sometimes gives me the feeling that Seoul is actually quite small geographically, that there are so few spots in which to film. And there is apparently only one police interrogation room and one prison in all of Korea, and everyone goes to the same bar and coffee shop. Or am I the only person distracted by these things?

Stunts shots ran the gamut. Some were extremely impressive, like the car accident scene where Yunho flew through the air (a stuntman, I would presume!) Other stunts were not so well presented. The twin scenes, however, were well executed.

There seemed to be an unusual number of places where the editing was choppy, or there were abrupt changes in scenes and/or music. There were also a few noticeable inconsistencies. I often overlook these, but one odd instance included Da Hae leaving Do Hoon’s car without briefcase she’d stolen but having it later. I find it worth mentioning only because I had believed Do Hoon to be in possession of it, but it appeared with Da Hae a few scenes later.

 Music: My rating 7/10

The soundtrack included a really nice instrumental electric guitar song, although tracking down the title was unattainable using the usual sources (and a few unorthodox ones, as well!). YouTube had a limited selection and nothing is available on iTunes yet. The music was quite complimentary to the drama. In general, and this is not a fault of this drama in particular, SBS, KBS and other Korean broadcasting stations, while aware of their international appeal, do not appear to be interested in marketing to that populace.

“Ice Flower” Ailee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3_FnVfVQR8

“Tears Rain” Fat Cat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVaWACCsM-o

“You Don’t Know” Kim Nam Gil  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SiLUacdgYI

“There Is No Love” Lim Jae Wook http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beoQPnzsBOk

“I Love You I Hate You” Lee Jin Sung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0dUE-WZfbw

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

The skillful development of Da Hae’s persona was the crowning achievement for this drama. When I found myself in tears when faced with her eminent demise I was honestly surprised (and a little aghast!) Yet I realized that Da Hae represented that seed of greed and envy that exists in all mankind, the small green monster kept  tethered and tamed as best we can so as to appear as civilized human beings. Da Hae cannot not be dismissed as a psychotic or an outlier in society, because it is far too easy to identify the many Da Haes around us. Ambition. Passion. Revenge. It’s not a new story, but “Queen of Ambition” packaged it nicely.

 Happy Drama Watching!

wedding photo

Friday Drama Review – “That Winter, the Wind Blows”

winter1Classic Melodrama – Prepare to Cry.

 

High-tension melodrama may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but add a few gangsters, throw in a spunky, in-your-face wanna-be girlfriend, exploit great cinematography and put it together with fabulous music and you might even entice the most hard-core melo-haters. Superb performances by Song Hye Kyo and Jo In Sung were icing on the cake.

Here is a remarkably well-done trailer for your viewing pleasure:

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 6/10

wintercoupleIt doesn’t get much more melodramatic than this: Oh Soo (Jo In Sung) grew up in an orphanage having been abandoned in the cold, hard winter by his mother. He leads the life of a playboy gambler with little self-esteem, but with great loyalty to his friends, Park Jin Sung (Kim Bum) and another friend coincidentally named Oh Soo (Lee Jae Woo). Oh Young (Song Hye Kyo) is an orphaned, wealthy heiress who was tragically left blind at an early age. Although Oh Soo (Lee Jae Woo) confides in in friends that he’s actually the only son of a chaebol (wealthy conglomerate) family, they don’t believe him until circumstances lead his sister, Oh Young to come find him. Brother Oh Soo is tragically killed just before meeting his long lost sister, but friend Oh Soo, hounded by death threats from debt collectors, steps in to try and fill his shoes, at least long enough to scam the blind sister. Tragically, he falls in love while attempting to implement his devious plan.

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

Now while my synopsis may sound tongue-in-cheek, the writing for the script and acting were actually quite good. Jo In Sung, back from an extended hiatus, has proven that his absence did not in any way dull the edginess in his acting style. Voice and gestures carried details that made each scene dramatic and memorable. He cries very convincingly, too. Song Hye Kyo is one of my favorite actresses, even if I do question the mental stability of any woman breaking up with Hyun Bin, but that is another story.  I loved her in Full House. I loved her in Worlds Within. I also really liked her in this drama. I read an article where she talked about the challenges of playing a blind person, not being able to look Jo In Sung in the eye, having to watch scenes after they were shot to gauge their effectiveness. She was amazingly convincing as a blind person and amazingly convincing as cute couplethe emotionally closed, psychologically complex Oh Young. Kim Bum also did a decent job. His character was rather one-dimensional, although rather sweet and sometimes comical. Jung Eun Ji, on the other hand, is really beginning to come into herself as an actress. Moon Hee Sun was an intriguing, character with a mind of her own. Jung Eun Ji expressed her personality well and fashioned what could have been an antagonistic persona into a strong-willed character with whom we could empathize.

The script did have issues: hopelessly twisted character plots that were not successfully resolved, a weak ending, and characters that ended out of character. While redeeming individual people is standard fodder in melodrama, redeeming nearly everyone is verging on the ridiculous, not to mention the fact that it negates much of which happened previously. I can agree that the main character develops in such a way that redemption is inevitable, but trying to create happy endings all around, while viscerally satisfying to some, is completely disconcerting to me.

Drama clichés: Siblings in love, orphans (again), rain scene. I’m sure I forgot some. Help me out and post them in the comments!

 Cinematography: My rating 8/10

cottoncandykissThere were some really epic scenes. Love the snowy mountaintop with the windchime sound of the icicles in the trees. Love the, now somewhat iconic, ‘cotton-candy-kiss. Love the repetition of the bell that Oh Young cherishes and the tinkling of the bracelet Oh Soo wears. Love the masterful use of close-ups. Loved the wardrobe, by the way, but then this main foursome would probably look good in most anything. Overall, the general impression was impressive. Great shots, dramatic filming. In tribute to Siskel and Ebert, “Two thumbs up!”

Music: My rating 7/10

The soundtrack and ballads were quite memorable.

“And One” Taeyeon (Girls’ Generation) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAi6wIilOWQ

So sweet… “Snowflake” by Gummy – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjfrsvOrhLo

“Tears Falling” Kim Boa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GULDAXrJX1s

An outstanding ballad: “Gray Paper” Yesung (Super Junior) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1l0o5Pl5tlA

One of the best ballads I’ve heard in a long time: “Winter Love” The One http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEhQKr6VCMU

 Overall Charisma: My rating 6/10

I give this drama high marks in acting, music and cinematography. I was pretty engrossed throughout the entire series, too, right up until the last episode. Unfortunately, last impressions are kind of important to me and if there is one area in which many Korean dramas fail, it is going to be the endings. Now a friend of mine and I will voice the same opinion with different reasons. She likes a happy ending, I need endings that make sense and are in keeping with the tenor of the drama in general. In “That Winter, the Wind Blows”, two things happened that didn’t work. (I’ll try hard to make my point without too many spoilers…) One – they tried too hard for a really dramatic twist at the end that would have been more in keeping with a dark drama, than the touching, sweet melodrama it had been until this point. Two – too many characters were wrested from the personas that had been developing throughout the drama and were taken in a totally different direction, purely for the sake a tidy ending. Ugh. So much potential…

Despite the poor ending the rest of the drama is definitely worth watching. Indulge in your fantasies and create your own ending if you, like me, find yourself dissatisfied after the final episode. Lets share notes later, shall we?

Happy Drama Watching!

tender

How to Avoid Being Bitten By a Korean Vampire

Korea Vampire

How to Avoid Being Bitten By a Korean Vampire: A pseudo-scientific survival guide

The other day I was asked by a Korean friend a very unusual question “What is your blood type?”. I stared blankly wondering if this person worked for the Red Cross, made a weird Twilight reference, or was just so uninterested talking with me that they would ask such a ludicrous question.

 

After searching the internet, I found out that in Korea , some people attribute your blood type to your personality. A very plausible and logical explanation. This KKonnect Writer suggests something sinister… Korean Vampires.

 

Before you turn the page on your objection of the existence of Korean Vampires, please consider the following points: Did you know there are no official government statistics on the amount of Vampires in Korea?  Ever wonder why Seoul sounds so similar to “Soul”? Or why PSY “Mr.Gangnam Style” wears sunglasses in daylight? Did you ever wonder why Koreans like RED colored Kimchi so much?  It’s time we get educated on this blood type theory before we lay victim to a Korean Vamp.

 

The table below (Courtesy of visitkorea.or.kr), shows how compatible you are with a person depending on blood type. I believe this can also be abstracted to how likely you are to be bitten by a vampire by blood type.

Type A
female

+

Type A male

70%

Type B male

20%

Type O male

95%

Type AB male

65%

Type B
female

+

Type A male

25%

Type B male

65%

Type O male

89%

Type AB male

75%

Type O
female

+

Type A male

90%

Type B male

80%

Type O male

40%

Type AB male

30%

Type AB
female

+

Type A male

50%

Type B male

85%

Type O male

35%

Type AB male

90%

 

Make sure to also know your blood type and the blood type of the Vampire you are dealing with. With assistance from Seoulistic.com, the following are personality traits according to blood type.

 

Blood Type A  people are introverted, considerate, self-conscious, patient, unable to express emotions well and tend to be perfectionists.

 

Blood Type B  people are creative, individualistic, self-centered, inconsiderate and passionate.

 

Blood Type AB people are critical, indecisive, unpredictable, emotional and are most likely to be geniuses.

 

Blood Type O are leaders, easygoing, friendly, outgoing (Hmm, no negatives?  I think the person who made these stereotypes was a Type O)

 

I urge all of you to figure out the blood type of your friends and your susceptibility to be bitten.  Next time a Korean Guy or Girl tries to charm you, make sure to watch your neck, or perhaps wear a turtleneck shirt…

 

-Fateh K.

 

 

Friday Drama Review – “City Hall”

City-Hall-Poster2

Kim Sun Ah for Mayor! Hurrah!

 

Whenever your mood is in need of a pick-me-up, any drama casting Kim Sun Ah in the lead is sure to the remedy. In terms of comedic timing, few actresses today can touch her unique vocal style and physical comedy. “City Hall” is a great example of silliness at it finest. Certainly, no one will mistake this drama for serious political commentary.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

“City Hall” takes a humorous look at the political workings at the local and national levels. Jo Gook (Cha Sung Won) is a relentlessly driven political machine, the illegitimate son abandoned by his powerful, mysterious, politically connected and well-respected father BB (for Big Brother). His aspirations lead him to the small, rural town of Inju where he is sent to do some dirty work: remove the current Mayor and set in place a ‘puppet’ Mayor. Plans go awry when the ‘puppet’, Shin Mi Rae (Kim Sun Ah) not only begins to pull the strings, but grabs ahold of Jo Gook’s frayed ‘heartstrings’, as well.

Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

The script is witty. While I would definitely classify this firmly in the comedy genre, there was enough drama and suspense to prevent it from being classified as inane. The plot and the characters are not so memorable that this drama consistently floats to the top of the list when making recommendations, but I have to admit I forgot how much I enjoyed it, when I sat down to re-watch it recently. The dramatic tension and plot twists keep viewing pleasurable worthwhile, even the second time around!

Kim Sun Ah is comedic genius. How can anyone not appreciate using tactics straight out of a Greek comedy to bring her recalcitrant Directors back in line. One look at the pool scene with her shimmies and “Ooooh!”s and you’re hooked!

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Original gif thanks to http://dr-myri-blog.blogspot.com/2013/02/my-top-5-swimming-pool-scenes.html

Cha Seung Won was deliciously suave, charming and complex Jo Gook. His acting skill is apparent as he brings to life a driven but care-worn, strong but wounded, psychologically complex character. The transformations and changes in direction were credible and dramatic.

Min Joo& LeeAn interesting character in the drama was Director Lee (Lee Hyung Chul), who acts as her conscience, forcing her to look at the moral implications of what she does at every major step in the drama. The sometime dramatic, often comedic, relationship between him and him politically active wife Min Joo Hwa (Choo Sang Mi) was an interesting side story.

lee Joon HyukOur Jihoo character? (“Boys Over Flowers” – the nice guy who doesn’t get the girl.) That would be the intense, thoughtful, not-as-ambitious-as-his-boss Ha Soo In, played by Lee Joon Hyuk. A nice character, but one of the few that was underdeveloped in the drama, for the potential it held.

Throughout the drama, the slapstick-style comedy made the juxtaposed tender moments all the more heart-warming.

Drama clichés: crying in the rain, back hugs, covering people with blankets who are slumped over desks, hick (poor) girl & sophisticated (rich) guy, shower scene, over-the top romantic gestures, nice guy who doesn’t get the girl (or any girl for that matter). There were no Kpop star cameos, but a fun dance performance of Super Junior’s “Sorry, Sorry” by the City Hall Staffers.

 

 

Cinematography: My rating 7/10

Pretty scenery. Nice special effects when necessary, but not overused or overdone (like when Shin Mi Rae is imagining what she’s like to do for Inju’s future from the top of the hill.) Many of the locations filmed, both indoor and outdoor, are locations that have been used in many, many dramas. I can appreciate, however, the fun (the challenge?) of filming multiple actors and actresses amidst piles of herring on a fishing boat.

Music: My rating 6/10

There were a few songs that appealed to me in the OST, but I cannot classify this tracklist as earth-shattering.

The theme song is cute: Okay, I’ll Believe In Myself by Jung In (feat. Bizzy) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5bpLjADBDc

The best love ballad: Uncertain Love by Horan of Clazziquai http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyfJyFUUhnI

Smile by Chae Dong Ha of SG Wannabe (feat. Amen) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2da9fw5GVR4

This Love – Let Go of This Love by Position (Lim Jae Wook)

Night Falling on Street by Han Sul Hee, Kim Jung Bae

One Dream by Seo Moon Tak http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oHt0FwoICY

Overall Charisma: My rating 7.5/10

One of the most important considerations in making a comedy successful is timing and pacing. I think that “City Hall” is a classic example of how to do it right. Just when things start to get really silly – BAM – dramatic tension occurs. And just before the pace begins to bog down – WHAP – a burst of silly slaps you upside the head. Nothing earth-shattering in terms of dramatic accomplishments, but completely enjoyable. Delightful characters. Nice wrap-up at the finale with all loose ends neatly tied with a bow on top. What more is needed? Well – maybe some fried chicken and a beer….

Happy Drama Watching!

the dance

Friday Drama Review – “Flower Boy Next Door”

Flower-Boy-Next-Door-Poster-1Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

 

Park Shin Hye fans rejoiced! Another drama at last! And one in the “Flower Boy” series, to boot! What fun! And with Yoon Shi Yoon?  Bonus! I was right there with the rest of the crowd, fan-girling at the thought of another Flower Boy drama and excited to see Park Shin Hye in action again. The results were definitely entertaining and well worth the time spent watching, but I will admit to a few disappointments as well.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

The story revolves around Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) who, after a traumatic school experience, becomes agoraphobic (afraid to venture outside the home.) She has shut herself off from the world physically and emotionally. Her next door neighbor, Oh Jin Rok (Kim Ji Hoon), a webtoon artist is completely obsessed and in love with this mysterious woman next door. Go Dok Mi, however, has developed a voyeuristic attachment to the man in the building across from her – and ends up meeting his younger brother, Enrique Geum (Yoon Shi Yoon), who decides to draw her out of her shell – literally and figuratively.

 Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

First the bad news: While conceptually, the script idea is not bad, I found it problematic that Park Shin Hye’s character was able to overcome a long-standing, deeply-rooted mental illness with so little trouble. The transformation was so unrealistic that it became a distraction, and detracted from the dramatic confrontations in later episodes. It also seemed rather improbable that the two men, Oh Jin Rok and especially the vibrant Enrique Geum, would be so attracted to the dour, gloomy, agoraphobic Go Dok Mi. Yes, you argue, but Park Shin Hye is so pretty! I agree, but in the drama she dresses all frumpy, and her hair is unkempt, no makeup, no attempt to be attractive whatsoever. Far-fetched, I say!

flower-boysThe good news: If you can get past the implausibility of the mental-illness thing, and ignore resultant inconsistencies in the character of Go Dok Mi, the drama was well acted and entertaining. The character of Enrique Geum was especially appealing and was, in my humble opinion, the bright shiny spot that made the whole drama worth watching. His character was sweet, goofy, loveable, energetic, caring and completely charismatic. I mean, just check out the panda dance:

Kim Ji Hoon’s character was also well played – a webtoon artist with a mysterious past, sweet, awkward, shy. The rapport between the two men was an interesting study of contrasting styles and ideals. And every good drama needs a nemesis. Park Soo Jin played it up as the haughty, scheming Cha Do Hwi. This is an actress who plays so many different personas so well! She does hateful brat really well!

managerNewcomer Kim Seul Gi was hilarious as the webtoon company manager. Go Kyung Pyo also did a fine job as Oh Jin Rok’s roommate and fellow webtoon artist, Oh Dong Hoon.

 

Cinematography: My rating 8/10

The sound and visuals were well-done throughout. There were fun special effects scattered throughout the drama, especially related to the webtooning. It was also nice to see filming done in a location that hasn’t been used over and over again in other dramas! The main buildings (apartments) were unfamiliar to me. Wow!

Music: My rating 8/10

There are some really nice ballads here – definitely iPod worthy! (At least, they’re going on mine, to be sure.

“Wish It Was You” Lee Jung  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLlQS5zJZFU

Sweet!:  “I Want to Date You” Yoon Shi Yoon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yza-0dn1u8

Love this one, too: “Talkin’ Bout Love” J Rabbit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOJRAdJASiE

“Pitch Black” Park Shin Hye

“You Wake Me Up” Kim Seul Ki http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG7HM0BNUlQ

 Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

There were so many good character in this drama that it is definitely worth seeing. I am disappointed that writer decided to deal with the mental health issue in such an off-hand manner, and feel they would have been so much better off not trying to create those implications with the character at all. Ah well. I still enjoyed it. It was still fun. It’s worth it just to see the quirky people and the fun antics. I’ll probably watch it again.

Happy Drama Watching! two men

Friday Drama Review: “World Within”

UThe-World-That-They-Live-In-Poster1aka “The World They Live In” – Hidden Jewel Among Dramas

[Soju Drama Queen] Review of “The World that They Live in 그들이사는세상”

Falling under the heading of “How in the heck did I miss this one?”, ‘World Within’, also known as ‘The World That They Live In’, is a hidden gem, to be sure. It wasn’t on anyone’s ‘Must See’ lists. It wasn’t on KoreanDrama.org’s ‘Most Shared’ list either. Yet it stars Hyun Bin (Mr. Gorgeous, himself) and Song Hye Kyo of ‘Full House’ fame and now starring in the new drama ‘That Winter, The Wind Blows’.

 Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

Ok, so it’s a drama about making dramas, which in and of itself can be somewhat tiring as a theme. The writer, however, took off in a nice direction: “Live Your Life Like a Drama.” Focusing episodically on different characters in the drama production company, the writer (and actors) were able to make truly interesting characters real. Had it just been a story of how dramas are made and the stresses involved, the drama probably would have been a flop. This however, was about character development.

 Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

Those now familiar with my peculiar tastes, may know that I have a particular fondness for Castgreat characters and good character development. This drama sported some unusually complex characters. Painstaking attention to detail was used in creating realism in the characteristics of the players. Our heroine learns to love and respect countless personalities that she (and the audience, to be sure) despises at first blush, by coming to understand the human side of their nature rather than just the surface characteristics. Take Bae Jung Ok as actress Yoon Young: at first glance a promiscuous, shallow and completely unlikable persona develops into a rich, complex, intelligent, strong woman who knows herself well, including her weaknesses.

hyun binThere are frustratingly realistic relationship woes – people so wrapped up in their own twisted feeling that they can’t express what they really feel. Frustrating in the sense that we can empathize with the feelings, not that it creates dissatisfaction in the viewing. Even the people we see as total jerks or idiots in the beginning (sorry, Uhm Ki Ju and Daniel Choi) become real human beings by the end of the drama without sacrificing their personality traits one iota in doing so.

The relationship between Jung Ji Oh (Hyun Bin) and Joo Joon Young (Song Hye Kyo) was also convincing and captivating. Real love, real fights (about real issues), real break-ups and make-ups. Nothing seemed forced or inauthentic.

The cast, by the way was stellar: Along with those mentioned above – Seo Hyo Rim (Sungkyunkwn Scandal, Scent of A Woman, Me, Too, Flower), Kim Yeo Jin (Can You Hear My Heart, Road Number One), Lee Joon Hyuk (City Hunter, Secret Garden, City Hall, Equator Man) and veteran actors like Kim Gab Soo (Sungkyunkwn Scandal, Cinderella’s Sister, Chuno), Kim Chang Wan (Coffee Prince, Iljimae, Queen of Reversals), Kim Ja Ok (Coffee Prince, High Kick Through the Roof), Lee Ho Jae (Goong, Flames of Ambition), Na Young Hee (Rooftop Prince, Baby-Faced Beauty, Style), and the inimitable Yoon Yeo Jung (King 2 Hearts, Unexpected You, Can Your Hear My Heart, What’s Up Fox).

 Cinematography: My rating 8/10

The cinematography for a drama about dramas would be expected to be exemplary. I will admit that I was not disappointed. Fun and interesting tidbits enticed my sense throughout the series. The retelling of an old story was acted out ‘Broadway-stage-style’ by the main characters with spot lighting and stage set-up. The directors’ imaginings were dramatized using pencil/pastels for one director, photo-shop style for another. Great special effects abounded – fun (or sad, as the case may be) dissolves as fantasies faded, etc.

The locations were limited but put to good use. Great lighting and sound.

Music: My rating 6/10

While the music was appropriate to the drama, there was nothing that I’m going to go running after to put on my iPod.

The ballad is really nice, though: ‘Care’ sung by Sung Si Kyung http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NaVjjnMrPE

“It Was You All Along” Kim Jo Han (Spanish subs was all I could find!) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBR9a21jlNQ

Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

There was an ineffable quality to this drama that made everything work. I loved the characters. I loved the tensions. I loved the theme. I loved the realism. The writer did a remarkable job creating memorable people that I wanted to empathize with. Not something I can say about every drama.

Put this one on your ‘To Be Watched” list!

Happy Drama Watching! huggy

 

[MangezAvecFateh] Loving HUE Na Eotteokhae What Should I Do?

Cafe Hue Gelato

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[MangezAvecFateh] Loving HUE Na Eotteokhae What Should I Do?

Good Golly Miss Molly, this is not an Asian Market article! *hyperventilates a little*. Surely I have nothing more to contribute, Na Eotteokhae? But wait…

My trips to Asian Markets seldom are just to the markets alone, often times I will visit the peripheral stores around a market complex to examine, ethnic music stores, stationary stores, restaurants, and other interesting places to part ways with the remaining money you had after grocery shopping (plus finding parking in a lot of these complexes typically takes 15 minutes so why not stay a bit longer?).

On my pseudo-sojourn to Japan via Nijiya Market I made quick stop- over to examine a restaurant called Café HUE. Titillating images of Belgian Waffles, Japanese Crepes, Home-Made Gelato guided me to the store while the melody of Korean Pop Music (not sure if it was Kara, T-ara or other some other “-ara” variant playing) emanating through the speakers kept me inside.

Walking inside the ambiance was hip and trendy with the option of customers being able to watch sports, and culinary shows, playing games while relaxing on stools, chairs and even a sofa cushion. American and Korean Pop Music entertain the customers inside the store as well as in the restrooms where the party apparently doesn’t stop.

I examined the menu and elected to try a Nutella with Mixed Nuts Crepe with Taro Gelato (~$8). While watching the very charming employee skillfully make the crepe with excellent batter moving wrist technique, I played devil’s advocate and tried to distract her by keeping my head eye-level with the pan as she carefully flipped the crepe.

A few flips later and a drizzling of caramel and mixed nuts, I was presented with an artistically crafted, beautifully decorated, sexy crepe which clearly passed the vision test. Taking my first bite, time slowed and the only noise I could here was the noise of my lips resonating “Mmm” and an exhale of pure joy. The crepe was simple, elegant, and wonderfully decorated with fruit syrups and filled with whipped creamy goodness. The home-made taro ice cream provided a nice temperature contrast to the warm crepe. The home-made whipped cream inside the crepe added a layer of luxury to the crepe’s flavor profile and a nice compliment to the melted chocolate hazelnut spread. I can honestly say without blatant hyperbole, this was the best crepe I have ever had.

The food, ambiance, and service were all on point when I visited and I have seen this as a consistent theme throughout my subsequent visits and sampling of the other permutations of crepes that exist. It is also worth noting that Café Hue also serves, Coffee, Boba Tee in addition to the aforementioned Belgian Waffles and Home-Made Gelato.

Café Hue is in my opinion the premier creperie south of Montreal, and it is located on 3860 Convoy Street, San Diego, CA 92111 This KKonnect writer highly recommends and is highly satisfied with this side quest.

And yes, this place is not a “Korean Restaurant” per se, but sometimes Dduk just doesn’t cut it.

And SISTAR, if you’re not keen on me using your lyrics on my article, let’s discuss over four scoops of gelato. I put dibs on three scoops.

-Fateh K.

Waffle

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