In all of Tong Hua‘s historical novels, she chooses to write about characters who often have epic identities, but in doing so each is bound by responsibilities and ties that cannot be easily forsaken. What makes Lost You Forever interesting is that we get to sneak a peek at how these awesome characters like Xiao Yao, Jing, Xiang Liu, and Zhuan Xu would be like if they didn’t have their burdens to shoulder. Their alter egos of Xiao Liu, Shi Qi, Fang Feng Bei, and Xuan tease us with how wonderful their lives could be if they could love and live with abandon. Xiao Yao desperately wants that but she comes up against her own true identity in a devastating way in the last chapter. Everyone’s beloved Xiao Yao died, she really did die, and the only hope for her resurrection lays in the hands of Xiang Liu. Even if he manages to bring her back to life, going forward there is no longer any certainty that being a Princess with all the major backing of two Emperors can keep her safe. When Xiang Liu and Xiao Yao planted that pair of bugs in them, neither expected it would actually be so critical down the road. I love this chapter because it feels like a stolen time for Xiang Liu and Xiao Yao, a time they may never have together again. I’m a sucker for the Xiang Liu-Xiang Yao unspoken romance even if I think Jing is by and large the more stable choice for her. But it’s nice to have a demon warrior who tucks you away in his own private safe haven to save your life, yes? Continue reading
Empress Ki has officially gone cray cray with just 8-episodes left in its airing. That it managed to be good initially was quite a feat considering the insane amounts of historical distortion. Then the titular future Empress Ki played by Ha Ji Won managed to have a believable first love with Joo Jin Mo‘s King Wang Yoo of Goryeo, followed by an understandable shift of her life path to align with Ji Chang Wook‘s Yuan Emperor Ta Hwan and grew to care for him as well. There was scary nemesis Prime Minister Yeon Chul, fun to hate Empress Tanasiri, Tal Tal being smexy and stealing any scene he was in, and lots of great supporting characters that all served a narrative purpose and was nicely acted. Ha Ji Won’s Seung Nyang even bore a son for each of her husbands and there was this great anticipation for her to learn that her firstborn baby Star (Byul) was in fact not dead but had been swiped by Tanasiri and was now growing up under her nose as the Yuan Crown Prince Maha.
The big bads were dispatched about ten episodes ago and this drama promptly look a precipitous decline in sense and entertainment. I’m only writing about it now because I feel soooooo bad for Joo Jin Mo for playing such a marginalized leading man role and I really want him to die an epic death now. Flaming arrows, anyone? The biggest clunker for this drama was creating a second round of the same palace and political conflicts and having neither end of the romance stand up. Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo have been apart for ten years and pretty much is just a past memory of love, while Seung Nyang never fell madly in love with Ta Hwan and merely grew to care for him and support him. The worst part is the mixed up baby plot line has remained under wraps from the three main leads for the last 20-episodes and now Prince Maha grew up to be an angry jackass and blames his real daddy Wang Yoo for the death of his fake mommy Tanasiri. It’s so painful to watch with no payoff and more manufactured angst. Sigh, just enjoy the latest round of pretty. Continue reading
Things are not looking promising for the KBS Mon-Tues drama Big Man, which can either mean expectations are dialed down so low it only has one way to go which is up, or the worst cast scenario is that it’s DOA on arrival. The currently airing drama in that time slot is Full Sun with Yoon Kye Sang and Han Ji Hye, a drama which I checked on and then promptly checked out of. It’s not terrible but for a melodrama it’s just overly scripted with the coincidences of bad happenstances plus I didn’t like the two lead characters. The acting was alright though and I might have stuck with it if there was nothing else around. Sadly its ratings are so bad even I’m shocked, lower than anything I’ve seen from a prime time major network offering. It even out-lows recent super lowed rated KBS dramas like Pretty Boy and Playful Kiss, neither of which were all that bad either and didn’t deserved such a spanking.
That only means Big Man has a heavy burden on its shoulders to rescue that time slot for KBS and it’s actually coming in with a decent chance to be an unexpected white knight. MBC‘s long running sageuk Empress Ki is finishing in three weeks while SBS isn’t doing gangbusters right now with God’s Gift: 14 Days and the followup Dr. Stranger arrives its two leads in Lee Jong Seok and Jin Se Yeon battling personal bad press. With that said, KBS is doing a reall shitty job of promoting Big Man – the first teaser looked dull as beans, the drama stills are nothing to write home about, and now Big Man is getting raked over in the media for releasing two drama posters that are exact knock-offs of Hollywood products. The close-up main cast poster above is identical to the poster for the movie Closer, while the other poster (below) is lifted directly from the television show House. I can’t say the production didn’t try because it has the good taste to copy Hollywood projects that are qualitatively good, but the blatant identical copying is so obvious that it’s awkward to look at and a painful reminder of the sheer lack of creativity in that production team. Continue reading
I’ve heard the unconfirmed murmuring from KBS insiders since early March about Lee Jun Ki taking the titular role in Joseon Gunman, then the media picked it up around middle of March when both the network and the agency released the news. I’ve also heard about the rumored leading lady pairing up with Jun Ki on this project since the middle of March but it was such a major juicy costar I didn’t write about it since I was still trying to figure out whether I liked the pairing or not. Lee Jun Ki’s confirmation for Joseon Gunman came out this past weekend and the next day production members working on the drama posted on their personal SNS accounts that the drama is starting filming Monday. Excuse me but what? Without a leading lady confirmation yet? That usually means KBS has locked down its leading lady and the news out to be coming out shortly.
When a drama starts filming, it might not involve the leads right away and could have child actor portions (common for sageuks) or location shoots and other early stage filming needs so. I’m not surprised it’s starting this early since it follows Golden Cross on KBS Wed-Thurs and that drama premieres this week. That means Joseon Gunman premieres in June so a two month early head start is quite normal for sageuk productions. So I guess I’ve beaten around the bush enough since the title of this post already gives away the big shocker – the leading lady for Joseon Gunman is rumored to be Park Shin Hye. Along with second leads Jeon Hye Bin and Han Joo Wan, the cast is thereby rounded out in a very eclectic mix. I’m going to tentatively say this is a promising coupling if it does come true because I do love Shin Hye and have been wanting her to do a sageuk drama for ages, and Lee Jun Ki just shines like no other in sageuks. Hoping for a confirmation soon so I can start anticipating the drama. Continue reading
I’m still waiting for someone to convince me of the appeal of Lee Jong Seok. Back when School 2013 aired I thought he and Kim Woo Bin would forever be popular actors I would never find interesting enough to watch. I don’t need cookie cutter good looks, far from it really, but I do need my actors to have some sort of “it” factor that makes me sit up and take note. Kim Woo Bin went on to do that in Heirs and now I find him the bees knees, but I couldn’t get past a few episodes of Lee Jong Seok in I Hear Your Voice and for the life of me he totally looks like a cross between The Joker and an anemic vampire. I concede he’s definitely more mainstream attractive than his best buddy Kim Woo Bin, but between them I’d take Kim Woo Bin to headline a drama any day.
IHYV was more a Lee Bo Young drama when it first started before Lee Jong Seok really came to the forefront and won audience hearts, while School 2013 was an ensemble piece. That makes the upcoming Doctor Stranger on SBS Lee Jong Seok’s first real headlining drama with him playing the titular Dr. Stranger. Lee Jong Seok plays a South Korean who was abducted to North Korean along with his doctor dad. He was raised and educated in the North and follows in his father’s footsteps to become an accomplished heart surgeon. He becomes the doctor in a strange land when he returns to South Korea but bearing the education and life experiences of growing up in the North. Park Hae Jin is a fellow rival doctor while Kang Sora and Jin Se Yeon round out the female portion of the cast and the love interests. Check out the first official pictures from the drama, including a first look at the overseas shoot in Hungary. Dr. Stranger will premiere the last week of April following God’s Gift: 14 Days on Mon-Tues. Continue reading
There are only a handful of genuinely active Hallyu stars who criss-cross the region promoting on a consistent basis. Lee Jun Ki remains at the top of his game, picking up right when he left off after taking the requisite two year hiatus for his military service. I’ll be interested in seeing if the recent top young male stars who are headed towards military service soon (Lee Min Ho, Yoochun, Jaejoong, Jung Il Woo, Lee Seung Gi, et. al.) can handle the interruption to and transformation of their idol careers into something more mature after they return much like Lee Jun Ki did so seamlessly. Last year’s underrated MBC drama Two Weeks was a great treat to watch for me but now he’s coming back to television with the sageuk with Joseon Gunman. I feel like this guy knows exactly how to fan service and toggle his acting career deftly between genres and challenges. When it comes to drama casting Lee Jun Ki is one of those guys who often gets mentioned with projects that don’t pan out (he was attached to Faith before leaving for the military, then supposed to do Age of Feeling before passing on it) so I’m hoping he follows through with his idol drama fan service. He’s in the cover and pages of this month’s Ceci Magazine China and I’m loving his current auburn-haired look as the snappy suits he’s sporting. I also love Lee Jun Ki for being such a fun actor to follow on his various social media accounts. When news broke that My Girl co-stars Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae were reuniting in the drama Hotel King, Lee Jun Ki promptly tweeted “설공찬 주유린~!ㅋㅋㅋ ㅊㅋㅊㅋ (Seol Gong Chan Joo Yoo Rin ~! kekeke *coughcough*), which are the names of Lee Dong Wook and Lee Da Hae’s characters in MG where Jun Ki played the best friend to Lee Dong Wook and carried a totally unrequited love for Lee Da Hae. His shout out to those two is totally adorable. Continue reading
Episode 14 of Bride of the Century ups its own successful formula in the previous 13-episodes and shoves everything into one action-packed hour that left me literally screaming at the screen when the ending rolled around. Drama be leaving me hanging with that crazy cliffhanger? *claws at the screen for moar goodness* This episode had a death, an attempted suicide, multiple revelations, a divorce request, and it still found time to drop moments of Kang Joo and Doo Rim cuteness on us. This screenwriter needs a nice hefty bonus for tackling such a crazy concept and executing it to well and still managing to shock and awe me with the twists and turns. After enjoying the snarky and rather befuddling presence of the family ghost, this episode drops the major shocker hint as to how she became the ghost and what exactly she may be after. I figured she was herself a former bride of the Choi family and somehow met an untimely demise, what I didn’t see coming was the how and the who involved.
It’s fantastic to watch this drama remain so gutsy with its overarching plot line at the same time not holding back with the overwrought machinations. Doo Rim and Kang Joo have breached all obstacles and are together at last but they never forget the price they and others have paid to come this far together. I found Doo Rim’s concern for Yi Kyung really moving because it rings true to her personality, and because I keep having this niggling sensation that they really are twins. I can buy the doppleganger premise but the whole ghostly presence in leading the two girls down different paths hints at their connection between looking identical. While I’m super content my OTP are together at last without any hint of romantic doubt or confusion about their love for each other, I expect a bit more anxiety still to come stemming from external forces that appear to have lurked around for the last hundred years and is ready to rear its ugly head at last. The biggest potential new obstacle was dropped at the end of this episode so make sure you watch with your knickers held on tight. Continue reading