I’m a little disappointed Full Sun (Beyond the Clouds) won’t air next Monday on KBS. Having that time slot just vacated by Prime Minister and I remain dark for a week without a new K-drama feels as blah as the way my beloved PM signed off without any sizzle. On the upside, no drama production has ever complained about getting extra time to film. The third teaser trailer has been released and it’s my favorite to date because it combines the first two. The first teaser was stylish and dark, with leads Yoon Kye Sang and Han Ji Hye enacting a very angst-ridden melodramatic brooding. There was Yoon Kye Sang walking alone in a field of wildflowers, which is a K-drama staple to show loneliness and despair. The second teaser was narrative driven and showed off the location shoot in Thailand and glimpses of all the main leads including Jo Jin Woong, Kim Yoo Ri, Son Ho Joon, and Song Jong Ho. This teaser expands on the narrative and shows us exactly how the central life-changing tragedy went down, and then ends with a very desperate snowy walk in the mountains before Yoon Kye Sang points a gun to his own head. Yeah, I think that man hates his life BAD. The male lead is the son of a conman who tries to escape his father’s legacy by working hard and studying to pass the diplomat’s exam. A diamond swindle gone bad in Thailand ends up with the death of the fiancee of the female lead. She shuts down emotionally while the male lead goes to prison for the crime. Years later they meet up again unaware of each other’s past and fall into a passionate and increasingly dangerous love affair. Kim Yoo Ri is a fellow con woman who secretly loves the male lead, while Jo Jin Woong is both the male lead’s best friend as well as secret envious rival. Son Ho Joon plays Han Ji Hye’s younger brother while poor underrated Song Jong Ho makes an impactful but short appearance as the ill-fated fiancee. Continue reading
Best episode of In A Good Way so far? Oh you betcha! To begin with, when the title song started playing I almost got teary-eyed from the undeniable realization that even with just one week off I missed In A Good Way so much. The entire cast of characters have become like friends I hang out with once a week. They have their share of issues around unrequited love, school troubles, and friendship blips, but nothing feels manufactured outside the realm of what is probable and likely happened to many viewers in their own college experience. There was a bit of a narrative slowdown in the last two episodes but episode 12 starts off this drama in the year of the horse with a blast right out of the gate. I thought this episode would be short to recap since I would pretty much be writing “The gang organizes a concert to lure students to join their protest”. The drama proves my thinking to be much too simplistic and this episode was meat and potatoes dense in character interaction from every single cast member AND threw in tons of flashy sizzle at the end with the high profile guest-starring performances by real life rockers Wu Bai and Chang Cheng Yue. IAGW managed to integrate every aspect of its drama identity into one stellar episode dealing with youthful ideals, the courage to fight for freedom and justice, and the way music is such an indelible part of expressing what is so hard to put into words.
I’m sure you all want to start reading the recap or watch the episode since that still above of a major hug between Liu Chuan and Jia En is about as sexy and romantic as it gets for these two. Lego Lee‘s performance in the entire sequence was beyond perfect, the way his face and eyes searched for Jia En when the song first started to when he lit up to find her. Conversely this episode continues to deliver confirmation to Bai Xue that Liu Chuan likes Jia En a lot, and Ren Wei’s silent observation of Jia En and Liu Chuan is starting to make me hurt for him the way I hurt for Bai Xue when Liu Chuan turned her down. If Ren Wei really does like Jia En and its not some fleeting thing, it becomes one of this missed opportunities that he will look back on with regret that he had her beside him the entire time and only after she spreads wings and starts to fly on her own does he see her completely for her splendor. It’s going to get a bit more complicated for these four but I have faith the drama will continue to address each tangled knot to untie it with sincerity and consideration. I also loved watching Ri Qi and Xiao Wei move past the 3631 misunderstanding and resume their sweet support of each other, and even better was that it didn’t require a full blown explanation with things just naturally sorting itself out. It was so satisfying to watch the gang succeed in their admittedly ambitious endeavor and sometimes we all need to watch the good guys get rewarded while the bad guy gets a taste of his own medicine. Professor Chang is clearly not down and out for the count yet, but I have faith that his eventual take down will be majorly epic. Continue reading
The C-netizens have spoken and the most buzzed about performance during the entire 4 hour long CCTV Lunar New Year Gala is by a fifteen year old girl who said not a word. She beat out Lee Min Ho by a huge margin and this time I totally get why. This year’s Gala was directed by movie director Feng Xiaogang, clearly an effort by CCTV to bring some pizzazz and buzz to their increasingly staid and stolid festivities with year after year of manufactured cheer and cheese. The result is a mixed bag despite the ratings remaining high. The scene stealer of the night is a teenager with the nickname Xiao Cai Qi (小彩旗 which means Little Rainbow Flag), a performer who is the niece of a famous Chinese dancer. Her role during the Gala was to be “The Emissary of Time” – she stood off to the side of the main stage and from the moment the show began at 8 pm she started turning and stopped after midnight. When I say turning, she literally stood in place and spun in circles. She spun and spun for the entirety of the Gala program which lasted 4 hours, never stopping for a rest, break, water, anything. She was Director Feng’s “brilliant” idea to be a physical embodiment of time which stops for no one. Errrr, okay, I guess. Her turning was exquisite though because she literally did not wobble, shake or actually lose her center of spin for the entirety of the 4 hours. It looked like she was standing on a spinning stage rather than the stage being stationary and she was the one turning. Netizens are both appalled and fascinating with this girl who can turn for 4 hours, and one netizen calculated her turns to be one turn every 0.76 seconds times 4 hours which meant she spun 19,000 times during the course of the night. That is C.R.A.Z.Y. Folks are calling child cruelty on Director Feng who defended himself by saying turning in place was Xiao Cai Qi’s special talent, which is actually true. She does the same trick on a stage performance program that her dancer aunt choreographed, though her performances there is limited to a measly two hours of turning which is the duration of the show. Xiao Cai Qi has given her own interview after the Gala spinning which confirmed she loved her skill and treats turning like she’s meditating as well as a feat of endurance. She did admit loathing the training when she was a kid and being by forced her aunt to learn it and always crying and running away, but her aunt persisted and now she’s clearly rocketed to super stardom with what amounts a really odd and incredible parlor trick. Check it out for yourself below. Continue reading
Awwww, Jeon Ji Hyun can sell me anything. Toss in Lee Jung Jae and I pretty much just throw money at them so I can continue to stare at their collective cuteness. SK Telecom has brought them together for a CF out this week for its LTE-A advanced wireless network. Below are a ton of endorsement stills along with the two short CFs which come in his and hers version. My favorite was hearing her call him so naturally Jung Jae oppa, because I figured she had all the oppas wrapped around her finger all these years. These two A-list movie stars go way back as part of the late 90′s early Hallyu wave that moved from dramas to movies seamlessly. Their first costarring effort was in the 2000 romance movie Il Mare (remade in the US as The Lake House), which remains one of my favorite straight up romance K-movies even though their characters were separated by time. Literally. They communicated via a mail box and letters and ooomph was it already sexy enough. They reunited in 2012′s Thieves as part of a sprawling ensemble but didn’t have a lot of screen time together. I hope Chungmuro makes it three times a charm and deliver me a real Jeon Ji Hyun-Lee Jung Jae movie where they do lots and lots of scenes together and I can watch the screen crackle happily. Jeon Ji Hyun is currently starring in the high profile SBS drama You From Another Star with Kim Soo Hyun. She’s winning raves (deservedly) and new fans (about time), but I can’t help but still be underwhelmed by the story ricocheting from funny to serial-killer-on-the-loose serious, and in between Kim Soo Hyun tries to convey the world weary gravitas of an alien who has lived on Earth for 400 years except he comes across as a young man with the inner depth of someone living for 25 years. Whatever he’s selling I’m not buying, whereas whatever Jeon Ji Hyun tosses out in the drama remains stunning performance perfection. Chances are she’ll go back to making movies after this so I’m enjoying YFAS for the rare chance to see her twice a week. Lee Jung Jae just had an amazing string of successful movies in the box office with The New World and recently with The Face Reader. Up next is another movie stacked with major acting heavyweights called Big Match co-starring Shin Ha Kyun and Lee Sung Min. The synopsis sounds kinda like TRON – Lee Jung Jae is a martial artists who enters a fighting match video game to save his brother played by Lee Sung Min, while Shin Ha Kyun is the mastermind game developer. Sounds loopy and interesting. Continue reading
I’ve gotta give credit to Miss Korea for making winning the big kahuna of the beauty pageant merely the beginning for much more storytelling to come. This was a drama premised on winning Miss Korea 1997 but there wasn’t a moment after Ji Young won that I felt like the intensity deflated and we were left filling time with tying up lose ends. That is the very nature of life, right? One accomplishment doesn’t mean it stops there, and it certainly doesn’t mean all problems magically go away. Ji Young wins Miss Korea fair and square, coming up against overwhelming odds but never giving up in spirit or slacking in hard work. Her speech before the announcement was heartfelt and summed up her journey perfectly for why she deserves to be the last girl standing. Jae Hee remains the embodiment of classy and I felt genuinely proud of her for revealing her paternity onstage and for accept her defeat so graciously. She’s a winner in my eyes, and if Ji Young’s crown does become in peril due to a question about her age, then at least Jae Hee is a worthy successor waiting in the wings. There remains so much conflict to resolve and this episode resolved none of that but instead felt like people took a much needed breather.
Ji Young’s happiness at being crowned Miss Korea was rather short-lived once the truth came out about what happened to Vivi, but I was so happy when Hyung Joon arrived and they got to celebrate however briefly. It’s such a bittersweet feeling watching Hyung Joon suffer stoically, yet that remains all he can do. There is no solution before him that wouldn’t strip him of his dignity and pride, so all he can do is become the sacrifice while trying to toss everyone else out of the sinking ship. The drama remains about conversations and working through problems, but what if there is no misunderstanding and the problem really is too big to solve and the chasm too wide to bridge. My elation at Ji Young winning was there but the pain and despair inflicted by Yoon on the entire Vivi team really put a damper on it. My only consolation is that there are four episodes left which is plenty of time to find creative solutions to problems and hopefully give the baddies a taste of their own medicine. So many characters need a comeuppance BAD. This drama started off with the main characters facing external problems caused by a lack of a higher education or the instability of the financial market, but along the way their already tough journey got tougher because of sabotage and backstabbing. I reckon they have suffered enough and now Ji Young winning Miss Korea ought to become a launching point for a series of good things to start happening. I don’t think I can handle watching Hyung Joon get beaten down one more time, and neither can Ji Young. Continue reading
The main cast is complete for the C-drama Heirs (C-Heirs), which is NOT a remake of the Korean drama Heirs from last year but its own take on a bunch of emo heirs to billion dollar fortunes dealing with their pretty people angst. I enjoyed K-Heirs but the popularity of that drama is probably inversely proportional to the story actually making a lot of sense or having a meaningful takeaway at the end. Starring Korean actor-singer Choi Si Won, rising C-actor Yu Xiao Tong and promising C-actress Kan Qing Zi, producer Li Shao Hong seems to want to even out the foursome to have two from each country as Korean actress Hong Soo Ah has been confirmed as the other female lead. She’s already in Beihai, China filming with the rest of the cast. Her character is reportedly Choi Si Won’s character’s first love and ex-girlfriend, and other male lead Yu Xiao Tong will be nursing a one-sided love for her. She grew up in the countryside and is described as down-to-earth and harboring an optimism towards love. Her life starts to change when her father falls ill and she needs to pay his medical costs and strains to even pay the rent on her apartment. Her character transforms from a girl who doesn’t even dare dream of a greater world outside her little village to someone who gets involved in the world of the rich heirs and their inheritance battles. The two male leads are also related as Choi Si Won and Yu Xiao Tong will be playing half-brothers who have the same father but different mothers. Despite this being a C-drama, directing will PD Oh Sang Won who co-directed Sad Sonata and Oh! Pil Seung Bong Soon Young. Director Li will be taking producing credit this time rather than getting behind the camera and she wants this drama to really have a Chinese sensibility but a K-drama aesthetic. That means expect either trainwreck oddness or a brand spanking new way to mash together drama styles and produce a tasty new treat. As for Hong Soo Ah, she’s made plenty of K-dramas and movies but the only one of her works I’ve watched is the Kim Sun Ah movie She’s On Duty. My recollection is that she’s serviceable albeit rather unmemorable. In which case it might serve her well here since Choi Si Won will be taking up the entire Super Junior idol fame quota. Continue reading
Being disappointed with the process by which Prime Minister and I wrapped up doesn’t mean I’ve erased all my love for this drama. It probably just downgrades the feeling to like very much, which in the grander scheme of things is pretty hefty praise for it considering the dearth of solid rom-coms in years. I get the tendency to see the glass as half full (they reunited in the end, yay!) but the final lap around the track in PM getting there was both unnecessarily cluttered with artificial considerations along with one huge Na Young-sized rock that was impossible to swallow. It rankles me that this drama devoted so much time in the final stretch to a character no one cared about and frankly everyone loathed with the heat of a thousand suns. If she were a villain that would be understandable, but for her story to get a happy ending achieved by the maturity and sacrifice of everyone else but her own atonement, I simply can’t stomach that rotten logic. With that said, I think PM remains a zippy little romance that I will always rewatch up to episode 13 when Yul took Da Jung’s hand and they admitted to loving each other. The hard working cast and crew attended a well-deserved drama wrap party last night attended by all the main leads and the three cute kids playing Woo Ri, Na Ra, and Man Se.
I think there was too little of the three of them in the last episode and perhaps if there were more cute children it would have been the sugar to better wash down the Na Young bile. If ever a drama called for fanfiction this would be it, and it’s not even rewriting the ending but actually appending an afterword to how the Kwon family found their happiness with Da Jung again. This was a difficult drama for Lee Bum Soo to film since he lost his beloved father at the outset of filming and also broke his pinky. He wrote a handwritten letter to thanking his fans and cast mates for helping him through a difficult time. He was simply amazing as Kwon Yul and nothing more needs to be said that he’s an amazing guy in real life as well. Yoona completely changed my impression of her and she’s now joined my collection of actresses that I keep an eye out for. The supporting leads from Chae Jung Ahn, Yoon Si Yoon, and Ryu Jin were all fantastic and this really was a rip-roaring cast that sadly was let down by a last minute writing fail like so many promising other dramas before. Continue reading