Friday Drama Review: “Dating Agency: Cyrano” Another fabulous installment in the Flower Boy Series

DatingAgencyCyranoWill Cyrano, Playing Cupid in the Theatre, Overcome his Sense of Inadequacy or Will Roxanne Perish Rejected?

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 8/10

Based very loosely on the famous Cyrano de Bergerac, Dating Agency: Cyrano introduces a modern and uniquely Korean flavor to a classic tale.

Once a financially struggling theatre, The Theatre Cyrano has become a secretive agency that hires itself out for high-tech matchmaking services. The owner, still struggling under a debt burden left by his deceased friend and partner, is the stoic, intelligent, emotionally blunt Seo Byung-hoon. He is assisted by engineering whiz Moo-jin, a sweet, but romantically naïve young man, and Do Ah-rang, a high school kid who dreams of becoming an actor.

Their well-scripted world is turned askew when Gong Min-young walks in the door. Her highly romanticized view of the world is a source of scorn for Byung-hoon, curiosity for Moo-jin, and admiration for Ah-rang. Min-young is intrigued by the work done by Cyrano Dating Agency and is drawn towards the ascetic and impersonal Byung-hoon, despite his best efforts to dissuade her.

Cha Seung-pyo is the romantic, mysterious “Master” next door – a chef by current trade, who we soon realize has had a dark past. He is captivated by Min-young and perturbed by Byung-hoon. The early episodes point to a deeper story between the two men.

The drama features fun vignette-type stories spanning a few episodes each. The narratives follow the matchmaking shenanigans between two seemingly impossible-to-match people. Each vignette features cameo appearances of well-known Hallyu stars, upping the ante for viewership ratings.

 

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10

dating seoThe ‘Cyrano’ theme was an interesting and unique choice for a Korean drama adaptation. Lee Jong-hyuk (A Gentleman’s Dignity, Chuno) was a thought-provoking choice for the lead role of Seo Byung-hoon, our contemporary Korean Cyrano de Bergerac. Although attractive, his features are not the standard pretty-boy adorable, nor are they ruggedly handsome. While he does not sport Cyrano’s renowned beak, his personality, as portrayed in the drama, had both the panache and emotional shortcomings relevant to a Cyrano-esque character.

dating min youngBy far the best actress that I’ve seen amongst the women of SNSD, Choi Soo-young, (The 3rd Hospital, Unstoppable Marriage) was delightful as Gong Min-young, the charming Roxanne of the Cyrano story. The love interest of two rival males, Soo-young played the role with the wide-eyed romantic optimism critical to the role.  Her character was not, however, weak, but able to stand up to the strong men around her. Engaging and attractive enough to gain the loyalty of those around her, the Min-young character was like whipping cream on an espresso – a dollop of sweet joy floating atop the darkness.

Dating 2Rounding out the Cyrano Agency were two young men: Hong Jong-hyun (Jeon Woo-chi, Wild Romance) as Moo-jin, and Jo Yoon-woo (Strongest KPOP Survival, Flower Boy Ramen Shop) as Do Ah-rang. Both young men provided interesting characters integral to the plot but also appealing in their own datingCyrano04right. While the Do Ah-rang character was sweet, it was not as well developed or as intriguing as the pensive Moo-jin. Although identifiable by his economy of words and notoriously expressionless face, he was always understood, his meaning and his revelations clear despite their subtle presentation.

Dating-Agency-MasterThe character of Cha Seung-pyo, restaurateur, was a collection of contradictory actions and emotions mixed to create a well-thought-out, well-rounded character with complexity as rare as thundersnow. Lee Chun-hee (Take Care of Us, Captain, Road Number One) perfected the bad-boy glare, yet tugged at our emotions with his sincere attraction for Min-young. Along with his two comic henchmen, Min-shik and Young-dal, played by Bae Seong-woo and Kim Min-kyo, (two goons plucked straight out of Kiss Me Kate!), Seung-pyo provides mystery and intrigue throughout much of the drama.

dating taeminAs stated earlier, the cameo appearances of A-list stars was a fun treat: Lee Chung-ah as a ballerina and Choi Won-young as the sommelier she likes; Im Hyung-joon as veterinarian Jin Joon-hyuk, who is crushing on librarian Lee Yoon-ji; Lee Taemin (yep, from SHINee) as (what else) and idol singer; Lee Kwang-soo as a baker with a crush on Goo dating gong wooEun-ae, a chef; Jung Yoo-mi as a hilariously creepy girl with a crush on Gong Woo, a magician; and Ye Ji-won as a nurse in love with firefighter Im Won-hee.

Quite the all-star parade.

 

 

Cinematography: My Rating 7/10

Due to the surveillance work necessary to the Cyrano Agency agenda, interesting and fun camera shots/angles were often seen. The majority of the drama took place inside the Cyrano Theatre or the restaurant next door, limiting the need for extensive sets. The theatre set, however, was a fun construction consisting of multiple rooms, glass enclosures and enough silly eye-candy details to please a Willy Wonka fan. The creative lighting used inside the theatre evoked a sense of make-believe – perfect for the ‘creative’ scenarios dreamt up by the Cyrano team for their clients.

 

Music: My Rating 7/10

Jessica Jung (Girls’ Generation) “That One Person” http://youtu.be/w0nDNuEzYHw

The theme song: Peppertones “Chance” http://youtu.be/S2sEMs5j8WU

An excellent ballad!: Ra.D  “Something Flutters” http://youtu.be/RDc7JP5-0QA

Big Baby Driver “Take My Hands Tonight” http://youtu.be/3xO0VpQlkzQ

A fun 60’s-ish folksy ballad: Big Baby Driver “In The Same Storm” http://youtu.be/Q72DOWGwYl8

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 8/10

All of the “Flower Boy” dramas, save Ramen Shop, have a certain flavor that sets them far apart from the standard table fare served up by the drama industry today. While Ramen Shop was sweet and fun, it followed the standard formats and had the same general romantic comedy feel of its contemporaries. The others in the series have all been just a bit edgier, a little off-center, slightly off the beaten path in a direction that makes them fresh and fun.

Dating Agency: Cyrano did not disappoint in that respect: a little bit of quirky, a lot of fun. In some respects it solidly nailed what Nail Shop Paris tried and failed to accomplish: a vanguard drama with fun sketches to capture the feel of the short story or single-episode series.

All in all, it is a wonderful addition to the Flower Boy Garden.

 

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

 dating couple

Director: Kang Kyung Hoon

Writer:  Shin Jae Won

 

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All Things Korean For International Fans – Global Concerts

As the Hallyu Wave has grown, so has the number of International fans. Luckily for us foreign fans, many K-pop idol groups are expanding to world tours to be able to meet the dedicated fans outside South Korea.

TVXQ World TourTVXQ began their world tour TVXQ! Live World Tour “Catch Me” in late 2012, holding concerts in Seoul, and then venturing off to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Malaysia in early 2013. Now, the duo is making its way over to the United States for a concert in Los Angeles, at the Nokia Theatre on July 5th. After that South American fans are in for a treat as TVXQ will make its way down to Santiago, Chile on July 7th and Lima, Peru on July 9th.

In early June, seven-member boy group Infinite released a group teaser video for their first ever world tour. Infinite has only performed in South Korea and Japan, so Infinite is making sure to visit as many places as they can. 2013 Infinite World Tour “One Great Step” will start off in August with concert venues in South Korea and Hong Kong. In September, the boys will visit Japan and Thailand. In October, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and China will get to see the boys. And finally in November the boys will make their way over to U.S.A (L.A, New York), Peru, U.K and France.

infinite-world-tour

 

SNSD World TourFanboys are in for a treat as one of the most popular K-pop Girl Groups, Girls’ Generation, has just embarked on a World Tour. 2013 Girls’ Generation World Tour – Girls & Peace is the first world tour for these nine beautiful ladies and they already began their journey by holding several concerts in Seoul and are moving onto Taiwan in late July. They have reassured their international fans through a press conference on June 8th that they plan on continuing their tour to several cities in United States and make their first appearance in South America. Although the concert dates have not been released, Girl Generation is expected to make their way to American fans in the Fall.

 

2013 KPOP Recap!

An overview of top songs from this year so far and at April’s upcoming releases.

 

Unbelievable, it’s already 4 months into the New Year! At the start of each year, I always anticipate what kind of music will be released and after last year’s success for Kpop I am even more thrilled to hear what’s to come. So far this year, we’ve already seen many great music releases that I am eager to update my iPod with.

igot-a-boy

The year started right with SNSD’s ‘I Got a Boy’, their first Korean single in over a year. They broke free from their usual girly and innocent concept and instead showed a mature, hip-hop style. While the song may not appeal to everyone’s tastes with its dynamic sounds and verses which reminded me quite like a musical, it was very visually appealing and the choreography was more complex.

One of my favorite soloists currently is the young and great Lee Hi with her song ‘It’s Over’. This jazz-style song is completely addicting and unlike typical pop songs today. I definitely predict that this 16 year old talent will have a long successful career and contribute great music to Kpop. If great vocals from a solo singer and a soulful sound aren’t your taste, then you just can’t deny the video of this song is entertaining with the adorable dancing bear.

Boy group Infinite finally returns with their recently released song ‘Man in Love’. Trying something new from their usual cool and edgy style, they finally cave into the cute concept. Infinite from the get-go has always had such charismatic looks and a unique quality which I think this song delivers. What I enjoy most about them is that even if this is a different concept from their previous songs such as ‘The Chaser’, it doesn’t seem out of place and maintains their distinctive style. Occasionally when a group modifies their style to maintain
the appeal of fans, they seem to lose the quality which we love about them and appear as just a product being rebranded and sold. This on the other hand just has that “Infinite” feel to it.

Amongst all the songs from these past couple months, I’d have to say my personal favorite so far is from hip-hop trio MFBTY (My Fans Better Than Yours) and their song ‘Sweet Dream’. I’ve always been in love with collaborations, trios and duos such as Infinite H or TaeTiSeo because they have the opportunity to experiment and delve into other styles. This collaboration features hip hop masters Yoon Mi Rae, Tiger JK, and Bizzy in this upbeat song which is certainly not to be defined as Kpop.  As someone who enjoys listening to a variety of genres, I recommend this song to anyone interested in broadening their Korean musical tastes, and especially looking into each of these artists’s solo work. ‘Sweet Dream’ is definitely a song I’d like to blast while cruising around with friends over the summer!

Expected to make a comeback to the music scene within this month is Psy, who has diligently been working on his next song to prove he isn’t a one hit wonder in the American market. People all around the world are anticipating his next song with the hopes that it will be on par with the success he garnered from ‘Gangnam Style’. Other artists who are reported to be returning this month are 2pm, with their long-awaited comeback since nearly two years ago, EXO, SECRET, 4Minute, and Shinhwa, who will be releasing a new album for their 15th anniversary.

Friday Drama Review: “Romance Town”

Bad Title for a Good Drama

330px-Romance_TownThis drama had been on my “To Be Watched” list for quite some time as I had seen it on a few ‘Must See’ lists, but I’d been postponing because the synopses I had read did not seem that intriguing and the title gave it more of an American soap-opera feeling than I was comfortable with. I definitely needed more to entice me.

www.KoreanDrama.org – is an excellent source of information for dramas, actors and actresses, etc. Their synopses, however, vary from extremely detailed to terse. For Romance Town, the drama was described as ‘The story of domestic help who work for rich households.’ The rest of the description said little more to lead me to believe this was anything more than a gossipy group of maids, one of which become involved with the son of the household.

This drama sat at the bottom of the pile for a while.

However, at some point I was in the mood for something light and entertaining, so I pulled this from the ‘Watch List’ and began; and learned once again that another person’s synopsis can be very deceiving.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

‘Romance Town’ is the wrong title for this drama. While romance was part of the picture, it was not the main theme as the title would suggest. Interestingly, I thought perhaps the English title might be off the mark, but the actual title in Korean is the English words “Romance Town” spelled in Hangul! No help there!

romancetownep14previewphotoThe drama revolves around the lives and social issues of five housekeepers and one lottery ticket. A big one. A huge one, in fact. If you have ever wondered how your life might change, or how you might change if you were to suddenly become rich (or suddenly become poor), this is a drama that explores that very subject. All in all, a somewhat unique theme!

Script/Acting: My rating 6/10

The five housekeepers Sung Yu Ri, Min Hyo Rin, Park Ji Young, Lee Kyung Shil, and Kim Ye Won carried the show. The intense interactions between these characters and between the housekeepers and their employers are what made the drama come to life. Sung Yu Ri was No romance-town-33Soon Geum, the heroine of the story, was a believable and appealing character. She played the part of a kind, loyal and upright person faced with difficult moral dilemmas authentically. There were scenes where Lee Kyung Shil could be accused of over-acting the scene, but her character is written as being very high-strung. The interesting story of their friendship and how it evolves under the influences of peers, bosses and, ultimately, wealth is what makes the drama a success.

The men in the drama were somewhat weaker. This may have been partly due to the script, but the character of Kang Gung Woo played by Jung Gyu Woon seemed more pathetic than empathetic and his mood swings did not seem to make much sense. The character of Kim Young Hee (Kim Min Joon) was more consistent, but not terribly intriguing. The best written, best played male character was Hwang Yong played by Jo Sung Ha. Great part, great actor.

The romantic side stories between characters were really just that: side stories that gave the drama a little depth and breadth to fill in the edges around the main theme. But note there were interpersonal side stories that did not involve romance as well, adding extra dimension to the drama.

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

While there was nothing spectacular about the cinematography, there was nothing distracting, either. The sets were nice, but virtually everything was filmed in a very limited number of locations. The island scenes were nice – not exotic, but a refreshing change of scenery. The editing was good. There was not a lot of boring fluff added, no endless flashbacks to kill time.

Music: My rating 8/10

M favorite song from the drama is “Smile Goodbye” by Alex. (Note that it goes by a number of similarly translated names…)  It is a  fabulous song and is played in a number of versions throughout the drama. This is my ‘go-to’ happy song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-PU0NqxhUQ

“Because Tears are Overflowing” is an beautiful ballad sung by Jessica of SNSD:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feg3yqvnHFc

“It’s Only You” by Tei is the theme song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-4PXPTim5U&list=PL117F07ECBA769C8E

“Only You Look” by HowL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69lVSStn47g

The soundtrack/OST is difficult to find, but 4 songs above are currently available on iTunes.

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

The tension between the maids, the families and the ‘couples’ all served to keep this drama lively and interesting. It’s unfortunate that the chemistry between the main couple was not as believable as it should have been. I believe the problem was that pinning down the actual character qualities for Gun Woo seemed to be an impossible task.  Because his demeanor shifted and changed so frequently, he always seemed ‘out of character’. Other than that, the drama was unexpected enjoyable and I watched it straight through, forgoing my other dramas!

On a side note, before I end: One of the households on the block was a man with his wife and mistress all living together as man, wife and second wife. Now, this is something I haven’t seen before, except, of course, in historical dramas. To an American viewer it seemed extremely odd that while the maids resented dealing with two bossy women, it didn’t seem that weird to anyone – at least, no one seemed be bothered much. Passing this kind of situation off as conventional in an American movie or drama would seem absurd, at best. Am I missing something? Comments, please!

 Happy Drama Watching!

RomanceTownred shoe

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

Flashback Friday – S.E.S. – I’m Your Girl

Oh yeah.  S.E.S.  Waaay before Girls’ Generation, SM Entertainment had a 3-girl pop group.  Consisting of Sea(Bada), Eugene, and Shoo, S.E.S. proved to be a solid act, in addition to being one of the first successful female k-pop groups, staying together for a quite a long time.  This is one of their most famous songs.  Some time later….

GOOD SIWON GO FOR YOONA STAY AWAY FROM FANY!!!!

*ahem*

You know how you can tell that this is a 90’s K-pop song?  RAP INTROS AND INTERLUDES!

SBS K-Pop Super Concert in LA on August 10th!

 

 

 

SBS 케이팝 콘서트 – 로스앤젤레스에서- 8월 10일. 홈디포 센터.

Ahh..summer is finally kicking into full gear, how do I know? Well, because San Diego Comic Con is happening, but sadly, I couldn’t go to it. Ahh….Depression.

But!!! If any like-minded individuals who are also suffering are out there reading this, fear not!

It was just announced that SBS will be holding a K-pop concert on Friday, August 10th at the Home Depot Center in LA!

The concert, which is named “K-Pop Super Concert” rightly so, will feature groups such as SNSD (Girls’ Generation), 2PM, 2AM, KARA, SISTAR, SECRET, CN Blue, Mblaq, SHINee, and maybe more as the details continue to roll out!

Tickets are on sale July 18th through Home Depot Center Box Office or http://www.axs.com. So keep on eye out for them!!!

http://www.axs.com/los-angeles-ca/music-events/k-pop-super-concert-in-america-2012august10-3680.html