Hollywood releases its big blockbusters during US holidays but in the Chinese-speaking countries their domestic movie releases follow a slightly different schedule. Lunar New Year is a major movie release period since all schools and jobs are off for weeks on end. The preference during that time to to release comedic movies since it’s a holiday meant to celebrate family and happy times so fun movies are what the audiences crave. Taiwan has a couple of movies out these few weeks and the one I’m eager to watch is Sweet Alibis (甜蜜殺機 Sweet Murderous Intent) starring Ariel Lin and Alec Su. These two are unlikely of a pairing as any despite their mutual A-list status. Alec is a good decade older than Ariel and hasn’t been working in the Taiwan since she debuted, whereas Ariel does Mainland projects but is currently limited to dramas. Alec was lured by by a great script and Ariel as a co-star and the result is apparently a fast and funny police caper romance that is currently doing well in the domestic box office. Sweet Alibis also features some fun cameos and none bigger than Ruby Lin. She did it as a favor to Alec since they have been friends for a long time and one of the rare exes in the industry that genuinely get along and care about each other. Alec plays a veteran cop who is best at avoiding danger while Ariel is the rookie assigned to be his partner to keep her out of danger. She’s the daughter of the police chief and daddy wants her daughter to be the cop she desires without experiencing any real danger along with it. Ruby’s cameo role is the matchmaking date Alec encounters who comes complete with a dirty mouth and the attitude of a mobster’s girlfriend. Ruby is doing such a great job of continuing to pull of interesting roles whether as the leading lady, the producer, or even doing cameos as a favor to friends. I’m also loving the chance to watch Ariel play a serious cop while Alec does the scardy cat turn as her douchey partner. Initially they are assigned to mundane tasks but quickly get swept up in a real life drug dealing murder mystery that starts off with the poisoned death of a dog. Check out the full trailer below with official English subs and have a chuckle. Continue reading
Holy momma what did I just watch? Episode 15 of Miss Korea was an hour of sheer perfection. Complete and utter writing, acting, and directing mastery elevated to a new level of impact. It’s the opposite of watching a drama and going “that’s it?”, and instead my eyes kept getting wider and my heart kept accelerating as the episode barreled toward an ending that wasn’t the least bit predictable. When I first heard of Miss Korea, my gut reaction told me that Lee Yeon Hee‘s character had to win the 1997 Miss Korea pageant otherwise we’d have no drama. That was such a simplistic fallacy and as the previous 14 episodes unfurled I was swept away into a complex and rich world of pageant dreams and business survival. I had already tossed out the requirement that Ji Young narratively had to win the pageant for this drama to have achieved a purpose and actually would have been just as curious to watch what happens if she doesn’t win. That’s how well written this story is, in taking what ought to be an absolute and turning it on its ear so the audience has choices and the story isn’t fixed on one outcome. Even better is that I want Ji Young to win not because it would make the drama good, but because I am actually a cheerleader for her endearing character to conquer the odds.
With that said, this episode of MK was entertaining as all out and ends on a whopper of a doozy moment. The Miss Korea 1997 pageant ends at the end of episode 15, folks! I know, I could hardly believe it when the credits started to roll and I realized there was still 5-episodes left. What normally should be the penultimate or final episode moment is instead wrapped up now in a flourish of shock and awe. I commend the writer for having such guts to keep her storytelling tight and fast and not drag out anything. Want to know who won? Is it Sun Young who will resort to betrayal and sabotage to win? Is it insecure and bitchy Soo Jung? Is it reserved and determined Jae Hee? Is it wuri Ji Young with her big dreams and even bigger heart? Or is it none of the Miss Seouls and instead an unknown from one of the other provinces steals the crown in an upset orchestrated by the pageant organizers? This episode had both the highest of highs for one of our leads and the lowest of lows for the other one. But their love and support for each other shines through even if a chair is left empty and a girl stands on the precipice of a victory that she earned through tears, sweat, and natural born beauty. I thought I couldn’t possibly love MK more and once again the drama proves me wrong and shows me how to BRING IT. Continue reading
It’s understandable that Lego Lee is the breakout star of In A Good Way and has reaped the most attention from the cast of the drama. Who the heck doesn’t love Liu Chuan? It’s harder to write female leads and Kirsten Jen‘s Jia En has taken me awhile to fully embrace, and it’s also clear Kirsten needed a bit more time to ease into the character. She’s still one of the greener members among the main leads but she’s really coming into her own with the last few episodes. Protesting can sometimes make the character come across as self-righteous or stubborn but Jia En has walked a fine line of being willing to go at it alone to help a friend in need and be true to her principles. I can’t wait for the drama to return this week with episode 12 but in the meantime the leads had some fun during the Lunar New Year time off. Lego, Kirsten, Jay Shih, and Smile Wen spent an afternoon together playing badminton while extoling the virtues of exercise especially during a holiday typically known for consuming huge quantities of food and vegging out on the coach watching cheesy television programs. Lego was the captain of this excursion, of course, reflecting both his athletic ability and background as well as carrying over from being Liu Chuan and always in charge in the show.
I LOLed at some of the outfits, with Kirsten looking like she was headed to an exercise fashion show, Smile doing some eyebrow raising short shorts and even more eyebrow raising pink off-shoulder drapey sweatshirt, and Jay donning what appears to be male compression tights under his basketball shorts. Before the game started Lego led everyone in some warm up exercises and I keep envisioning Gru leading his minions on working out. The teams were split into Lego-Kirsten and Jay-Smile, which better reflect the end pairings in this drama as well otherwise I’ll have words with the network. The stills of them trying to swat the shuttlecock are hilarious because only Lego has good form and the other there look like they are aiming for something imaginary. I miss these guys and the drama desperately so any news about the gang is like manna from Heaven. In addition to these cute badminton stills, Kirsten herself has recently encountered some new gossip about her love life which makes sense that the media will dig into it since she’s shot to fame with IAGW. Her ex-boyfriend is Taiwanese basketball star Xiao Si (nickname and pictured below) and they were recently spotted out on a dog-walking date near her house by her neighbors and fans. Kirsten and Xiao Si dated in 2010 for about a year and a half and reportedly broke up because he was too popular with the girls and Kirsten wasn’t having any of that. But their friends have revealed they dated-broke up a few times. Both sides have issued public comments admitting to being good friends and former classmates at Shi Da (National Taiwan Normal University). I’m amused by all this outside-the-drama gossip in addition to all the are they-aren’t they BTS interactions between Kirsten and Lego. It sure makes watching IAGW extra fun especially since I take none of it seriously and merely enjoy the cute. Continue reading
In a strange clarification by Chinese producer Li Shao Hong who has been getting lots of media attention for supposedly producing the Chinese drama version of the Korean hit drama Heirs, the drama started filming last week and it turns out NOT to be an adaptation of K-Heirs at all. Li Shao Hong finally put an end to the speculation by revealing the C-drama called Billion Dollar Heir (亿万继承人) is a completely different story than the drama starring Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye. It doesn’t even share the bare bones synopsis of high school or a bunch of Heirs. Does that mean we should let out a sigh of relief or scratch our heads that Li Shao Hong let the rumors go for so long that she was making the C-version of Heirs. I still think her drama will end up being call C-Heirs as a way to easily reference it because of its title, and that may be the brilliance of Li Shao Hong to let the rumors fly and drum up curiosity about her drama which isn’t beholden to the clunky K-version and has its own story and universe. The SARFT filming permit application was submitted for C-Heirs in June of 2013 before K-Heirs even aired lending credence to Li Shao Hong’s claim that her version is not a remake of the Korean one. I’ve translated the plot outline below that was submitted to SARFT and trust me when I say it bears zero resemblance to K-Heirs other than the male lead is the Heir to a whole lotta cash and seems to be quite emo with mommy issues. Super Junior member Choi Si Won will play one of the two male leads while the other role goes to Li Shao Hong protege Yu Xiao Tong. Si Won’s character is described as the hidden heir grandson who ends up in an inheritance battle. The drama is a two male lead-two female lead structure so it’s not correct to say Choi Si Won is headlining the drama. With that said, he’ll probably end up having more screen time since he’s a better known star internationally. Si Won was spotted on set already in Bei Hai, Guangxi province in China, and the other male lead Yu Xiao Tong snapped a hanging out picture with one of the female leads Kan Qing Zi also from the set. Continue reading
I’m genuinely nervous about the upcoming two episodes of Miss Korea. That’s a good place to be in because it means this drama has really gotten to me. I’m not watching dispassionately like observing a particularly well-drawn painting. I feel like I’m one of leading lady Ji Young’s friends and family cheering section and personally sitting behind the computer but cheering her on nevertheless. So far nothing in MK had led me to question its ability to keep the storytelling quality high and this faith also makes me certain that win or lose the Miss Korea crown Ji Young will still be in a far better off place than when she started out in the drama. There remains so many conflicts to resolve and with 6 episodes this drama can do it if it understands how to structure the final pay-off. Will the baddies like Kang Woo’s brother at Bada and even resident jealous relationship wrecker Lee Yoon get their just desserts? Will Jae Hee gain the freedom to be herself in the public eye? Will the two competing queen makers Madams Ma and Yang continue their bickering rivalry with an eye towards Miss Korea 1998? What job will Ji Young do in the long run? I’m sure Vivi will survive and the Vivi cream a blockbuster item but will the team stick together, or will the lovely Dr. Ko marry a certain gruff softhearted gangster ahjusshi. Of course there is the question of whether Hyung Joon and Ji Young will be able to stay together since every K-drama loves to throw in a final minute separation anxiety for the OTP. Before getting to all these questions being answered, the actual Miss Korea 1997 pageant is right around the corner in the drama as the first stills have been released by MBC showing the two most promising contenders in their evening gowns. Ji Young’s entire look is absolute perfection, her hair a lustrous wavy waterfall to the side and her blue, green, and silver embroidery ornate gown the stuff of legends when seen on stage in the visual arena of a beauty pageant. Jae Hee’s normally stunning buttercup yellow chiffon strapless ruched mermaid gown is classy but just doesn’t have quite the pop and pizzazz as Ji Young. MBC went all out in re-creating the pageant and even has the MC showing up to make it as authentic as possible. Seeing the pageant filming completed makes me realize the pageant scenes are likely coming in the next 2 episodes which then begs the question as to what the drama will do with the final 4 episodes after revealing who is Miss Korea 1997. Please continue to surprise me, drama. I sorely need some picking up after a disappointing start to this drama week. Continue reading
It’s emotionally exhausting watching dramas live. It’s like walking towards something with a leap of faith and no certainty for what awaits at the end. I can handle the weekly waits because patience can be an acquired virtue. What I will never ever be able to reconcile is the feeling of devastating disappointment that guts you like a child at Christmas opening the biggest present under the tree and discovering Grandma knitted a year’s supply of holiday sweaters in an array of hideous yarn colors she picked up for sale at the craft store. A child wants satisfaction of the most visceral and straightforward of ways rather than being told to like Grandma’s present because its the thought and effort that counts. Prime Minister and I wrapped up today like a lame present hidden in an exciting package. Perhaps I can takeaway the effort of the cast and crew, maybe the moral of this story was true to life and subtly stirring, it could be this drama works better with time and distance between us. None of that matters though in changing my gut punch reaction when the last scene rolled in episode 17. That’s it? That’s all? Am I supposed to be happy?
Should I call foul and ask for the last four episodes to be completely rewritten so that even if nothing makes sense and hobbits and orcs suddenly show up in the story as least the rest of the episode is filled with Da Jung and Yul in bed reading, kissing, and making babies. If a drama is far-feteched and silly but ultimately works, then it’s almost unfair for the writer to make an about turn at the end and try to be serious at the expense of giving viewers a satisfying pay-off. I’ll never understand the K-drama predilection to start off a rom-com with so much absurdity to sink a barge (A contract marriage? Agreed to by a Prime Minister?) and then insist on ending in a whimper of trying to please the sticklers for convention and housewife morality clucking. So Yul’s first wife isn’t dead – big fucking deal. It’s a legality only that Yul can rectify with a divorce and a practicality of integrating her back into the lives of their kids gradually. The end. So easy, so why did this drama make it such a prolonged bout of angst and woe. I’m finally ready to say out loud that Da Jung had a lobotomy in the last few episodes. She had a functioning brain about to think but her thought processes and personality morphed into a wet blanket of a passive giver without any of the courage to be bold and forge a new path in her own life. Yul remains the stand out in this drama from the first frame to the last, a male lead of amazing emotional fortitude and moral character who remained true to his own heart. Once he decided on something, he never wavered even if the going got tough. I lost all ability to connect with Da Jung in this episode and by the end just wanted this story to be over so I can move on. Continue reading
Talk about putting the skeptics and naysayers to rest with one very heartwarming cross-straits trip. TW-actor Nicky Wu brought his C-actress girlfriend and frequent co-star Liu Shi Shi to Taiwan last week to spend Lunar New Year in his hometown. They visited his parents as well as spent time with people who are like an extended family to Nicky. Above is the pic snapped at a dinner attended by Nicky’s mother figure the godmother of Taiwan entertainment variety programs Zhang Xiao Yan. She is a familiar to any Taiwanese person as Americans would recognize Oprah Winfrey on sight. She’s hosted a successive string of variety and talk show programs and runs her own management agency that is uber-successful and twenty years ago she found three teenage boys and packaged them together to create the first modern day Taiwanese boyband in The Little Tigers. Nicky considers her his mentor and mother figure and she wrote after the meeting that it was the first time Nicky introduced a girlfriend to her and she was so moved by the meeting and how impressed she was with Shi Shi. Also at the girlfriend introduction dinner was Nicky’s fellow Little Tiger and A-list actor in his own right Alec Su, who is himself back in Taiwan recently to promote his movie Sweet Alibis with Ariel Lin. Alec and Nicky remain super close friends and Alec has been gushing in his own press interviews about how envious he is that Nicky found such a wonderful girl in Shi Shi. Other TW-celebs at the dinner are all part of the same agency including popular comedian and variety hosts Huang Zhi Jiao and Pu Xue Liang along with singer-host Zhang Ke Fan. It was Zhang Ke Fan who posted the picture above on his weibo with the compliment that Shi Shi was so beautiful even without a lick of make up on. TW-fans were the first to spot Shi Shi and Nicky in Taiwan even before this picture was released, with folks doing double takes in the touristy area of Tan Sui when spotting them strolling the streets and eating snacks. A fan asked to take a picture and Nicky sweetly declined asking for privacy and was seen very solicitous and protective of Shi Shi. Some pics are surreptitiously snapped by fans and posted online but for the most part they were left alone to be an ordinary couple out on a sweet date. At the rate these two are going, I’m going to predict wedding announcements by year end. Continue reading
I’m fully aware of the writing blips in the last few episodes of Prime Minister and I but I still love this drama to pieces. The return of the first wife was planned from the beginning so it doesn’t feel like railroading, and ultimately Da Jung’s noble idiocy won’t have any lasting repercussions since no one buys her crock of bullshit. She could have told Yul the truth, explained that she wanted to leave because she didn’t feel right staying when the kids mom is back, and then discuss her rationale with Yul. It then becomes a really thorny problem for them to work through together, but with different points of view because she thinks Na Young should come back in all respects while Yul can accept her as the kids mother but his his wife. The problem is that she is clinging onto a lie to get her point across and that is neither Da Jung’s normal personality nor is it the mature and thoughtful way to deal with a problem. Expressing her reservations and concerns directly is the right way, lying through her teeth to get to the same end goal is not. There is no two way around it. Nonetheless this drama is still all sorts of fantastic not withstanding a run in with noble idiocy.
The start was fast-paced humor and heart all rolled into one, the falling in love process was sincere and creative, the emotional breakthroughs were wonderfully expressed and realistically arrived at. How can I forget all of that with a brief detour right now, especially since I’m certain it’s going to be a happy ending. There is no two ways around it because the only other ending is Yul getting back together with Na Young and he’s has already made it clear to everyone that hell would freeze over before that would happen. It’s just getting Da Jung to really listen to Yul and stop insisting her way is the right way. I have full and complete faith that Yul will solve all his other problems both creatively and in a satisfying way, be it how to re-integrate Na Young into the kids lives, how to officially divorce her weak and loser ass, and how to resign his Prime Minister position but still have a meaningful political career where he gets to accomplish good for the public. I’m sad the drama is ending in hours and still remember the stirring excitement this drama delivered immediately in episode 1. KBS released stills for all the main cast members shown holding the final script and it’s a relief to see everyone happy and not about to keel over in exhaustion. I loved this cast to pieces, each and every actor and actress, and so many characters really touched my heart. Continue reading
Oh boy was this a rough episode of Prime Minister and I. There was some romance but any whiff of comedy went right out the window thanks to Da Jung being so bloody obstinate about breaking up with Yul. It was countered by so much Yul awesomeness that it saved what might otherwise have been a fall off the cliff episode. I don’t think anyone is surprised to see Yul saving the day, but I remain truly impressed at what a great male lead he is in every respect be it professional and personal. This episode was all about Yul dealing with the two-headed hydra of Not Dead Na Young on one hand and his political dreams hitting the brick wall that is a President who refuses to enact just reforms. Both of these problems posit the same question to Yul – what must he endure and give up in order to do what is best for others? Does he take Na Young back by brushing the truth under the rug and therefore his kids think a miracle has happened without any ill will towards their selfish mother? Does he keep being a Prime Minister in name without any ability to keep his promises to administer with principles? Yul decides to be true to himself and forge a different path – he will neither sacrifice himself for the sake of family or public nor will he let his own disappointments dictate his actions. While I understand Da Jung’s reasons for pushing Na Young back on Yul and his kids, I totally completely disagree with her actions.
The kids deserve to have their mom back? Yes, but it’s not part and parcel with Yul taking Na Young back as his wife. Thank god Yul told her so right off the bat which makes her insistence on that path so absolutely baffling to me. I wanted to smack her and explain in words even Man Se would understand that even if Yul doesn’t have Da Jung it doesn’t mean he will take Na Young back. It doesn’t work that way, and the fact that Da Jung was the only one who clung onto that artificial construct frustrates me to no end. I was soooooo happy that Hye Joo chewed her out, that In Ho called her on her self-deluded lies, and that Yul never once bought her lame “I’m not ready to be a mother to three kids” cockamamie excuse. The only good thing coming out of Da Jung leaving the mansion is that she gets to spend time with her dad during what might be his final days with his rapid health deterioration. It’s just weird that everyone seems to be able to discuss issues and move on except for Da Jung. Even Joon Ki asked Yul to take Na Young back and when Yul said he would as the kids mother but not as his wife, Joon Ki let it go. I suppose watching Yul being incredible and perfect and brave and funny and resourceful in this episode was worth it, but gosh darn it this drama has gone so long with the OTP both being so refreshingly thoughtful it was a shame to see Da Jung’s character tank so deeply towards the end. It’s nothing that ruins my affection for her but when the drama is done I’m sure going to give her some long and hard chastising for putting her hubby through this pointless frustration. Continue reading