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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[Get Drama] Friday Drama Review – “What’s Up”

What'sUpAnd on to the genre of Musical Dramas.

 

An absolute sleeper of a drama, “What’s Up” definitely has some great vocals, given that Kang Daesung, main vocalist for Big Bang has a starring role. Due to an unusual number of setback and struggles, the drama was finally aired months after the final episode was produced, but with a notable lack of fanfare. To this day, the drama is relegated to the discount bin, forgotten and unseen by most. What a shame. Well worth viewing, “What’s Up” was robbed of the accolades it richly deserved.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

Unlike other musical dramas whose plot-lines are thinly constructed covers for the music they purvey, “What’s Up” features a real plot, real characters and a story worth following. And for good reason, too: well-known script writer Song Ji Na stretched her wings and wrote something for young people. A variety of misfits find camaraderie, love and purpose as they struggle together through their first year as students in the Musical Theatre department of a university.

What'sUpcastHa Do Sung (Daesung) is the shy, hidden child of a politically connected woman. Seething with natural talent, he yearns for the approval he knows he can win from appreciative audiences, much to the dismay of a family who want to hide him as a shameful secret. Jang Jae Hun (Im Ju Hwan) has a chip the size of Montana on his shoulders. He’s a bit older than the general student population, having spent a few years rough-housing on the streets before deciding to straighten out his path and pursue his newfound passion – the theatre. Oh Doo Ri (Im Joo Eun) is a big personality trapped in the conformist trappings set forth by her domineering stage mother. College is her opportunity to bust loose. Eun Chae Young (Jang Hee Jin) is well known actress whose career is faltering and, before she crashes and burns, decides to take a break and go to school. She’s definitely one of the ‘cool kids’, though. Park Tae Yi (Kim Ji Won) is a character. Goofy. Scattered. Sweet. Her father is killed in a tragic car accident and she is trying to fend for herself in a world for which she’s not entirely ready. Kim Byung Gun (Jo Jung Suk) desperately wants to be a musical theatre actor but suffers horrible stage fright.

The cool guys? Teacher Sun Woo Young, for one. Played by Oh Man Suk, he comes to epitomize what we want great teachers to be: creative and caring. He does, however, have issues of his own. On the cool student list: Lee Soo Hyuk as Lee Soo Bin, songwriter extraordinaire, with a cult following all his own, even though he’s only a sophomore in college.

 

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

daesungThe plot is on the dark side, with main character, Jang Jae Hun, trying to escape from, and eventually atone for the mistakes of his past. The story intertwines characters’ stories in an expert fashion, bringing them to a ‘coming-of-age’ culmination that heals and redeems. The teacher, Sun Woo, in need of redemption of his own, grows and changes along with the kids in the story.
It came as no surprise that Daesung used his epic voice to belt out glorious tunes. Kim Ji Won’s voice, however, was a pleasant surprise in it’s sweet, freshness, with a beautiful alto range as well as a clear, natural soprano. Jo Jung Suk also has an amazing voice. Note, however, that as the soundtrack is mysteriously unavailable, even though the drama was released in 2011, there is no way of verifying who, exactly, sang the musical numbers in the OST.

 

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

Fun dance numbers, including a few American vintage tunes are notable. Costuming was adequately done. While nothing stood out as overtly outstanding (in terms of cinematography, that is) the general impression was one of a well-balanced, well-timed drama with focus resting squarely on character development.

 

Music: My rating 8/10

For the most part, the music is Impossible to locate. Only the Daesung sung, “Lunatic” appears to have been released and is readily available.

Dub-steppy background music. I love the silly, funky music that plays whenever Park Tae Yee is Lost and/or confused.

A scene from episode 18 features a montage set to the music of “What’s Up”, The character of Doo Ri sings at the beginning and the end, but the original soundtrack (4 Non Blonde) is fused into the middle.

The OST tracklist the following music, but as I’ve stated, it appears never to have been released.

”Lunatic”  Daesung

“Look Upon Your Path”  Vois Sur Ton Chemin

“This is the Moment”  Daesung

“Those Magic Changes” Jo Jung Suk

“Stupid Cupid” Kim Ji Won

“You & I”

 

Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

Despite the fact that the drama was so highly anticipated, that it had a fabulous writer (Song Ji-nah of Sandglass, Story of a Man, and Legend), and an incredible cast, it had an incredibly rocky path on its way to airing. First SBS canceled its timeslot which delayed things for a few months as the producers scrambled to find another home view time, then Kang Daesung got into the car accident that caused a motorcyclist’s death, which despite Daesung’s resultant innocent verdict, caused inevitable delays and more than a little scandal.

Perhaps the bad luck surrounding the drama account for it’s low ratings and resultant descent into obscurity.

Regardless, the drama needs to be resurrected from the shadows and brought back out into the daylight where it belongs.

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 WhatsUp couple

 

Director: Song Ji-Won

Writer: Song Ji-Na