2015/10/05 | | Permalink
Immediately prior to the Joseon era Korea was kind of a giant hot mess. "Six Flying Dragons" doesn't get into too many details on how or why this happened. All that's known is that General Yi Seong-gye (played by Cheon Ho-jin) is a capable leader who appears to be the target of constant attempted subversion precisely because he is a capable leader, and the people in the palace don't seem to have anything better to do with their time than to gossip about him. The situation is a little absurd, actually- although that's part of the point...More
2015/10/05 | | Permalink
"The Intern" rises to the top while Ryoo Seung-wan's "Veteran" breaks another record…
Nancy Meyers' "The Intern" has dislodged Lee Joon-ik's popular period piece "The Throne" to become the country's new number one. Lee's latest has been sitting pretty at the top for three weeks now, and since its release mid-August it's managed to amass a total tally of 5.5 million admissions, 492 thousand of which came from this past weekend. But a second week in the charts has helped raised Meyer's film to the top in a tightly contested weekend where the podium placements could have gone either way...More
Disaster stories in Korean cinema and drama do not have much of a presence at all. That is, aside from a few action films, and very few dramas slightly touching upon disaster, but not going all the way. "D-Day" is a very ambitious production in general, but especially for Korean drama. With pre-production on its side and so far focusing on a near real-time method of progression, it has made one impactful start...More
Korea's only specialised documentary project market, Docs Port, kicks off later this month; check out BIFF's official page to find out what's happening at Korea's biggest film festival; KOBIZ recaps the Hollywood blockbusters that made bank over the summer; and Hangul Celluloid shares their experience of the 'Korea Joa Project'....More
Bookmark Seoul Eats for a feed of Korean food delights, Holly has a complex dish for risotto fans, Korean Bapsang shares its recipe for a timely Chuseok treat, and Kimchimari has another delicious apple and pork meal for us to try...More
2015/10/03 | | Permalink
Tourists come to South Korea for many reasons, but those can be broken down into two general categories: its far-reaching, rich traditional history and its lively modern day happenings that have won the hearts of international citizens and netizens. Part of KOFICE's Korea Joa program is not only to cover Kpop and Korean film and drama, but also to experience the culture that drives these popular forms of entertainment...More
2015/10/03 | | Permalink
The mystery thriller genre is not one we see often outside of cable television in Korean drama. This is for good reason, as will be explained shortly. More and more shows are injecting mystery and suspense into their stories, however, and this means that the genre is evolving and hopefully improving. "The Village: Achiara's Secret" has a very interesting premise and could be a great success with some proper care...More
2015/10/02 | | Permalink
On October 1st HanCinema attended the 20th Busan International Film Festival's (BIFF) red carpet, opening ceremony, and opening film. Stars and talents walked the red carpet, stayed to present, and then "Zubaan", an introspective Bollywood film directed by Mozez Singh, had its world premiere. Despite the intermittent rain and blustering wind typical of the Busan area, fans braved the weather in raincoats and Snoopy towels to catch glimpses of the stars.
Upon arrival, what strikes one most is the architecture of the Busan Cinema Center located in Centrum City...More
KOFICE has gathered an international crew to join the Korea Joa program headed by Director General Kim Deok-jung, and coordinated by Minju Kwon and Julia Jayoon Choi. The fifteen members and their guests round out the group. I, Lisa Espinosa, represent HanCinema, the Korean Movie & Drama Database. The other members represent the different industries of Korean culture coverage such as Kpop, Korean fashion, Korean events, and how Korean culture and enjoyed in their respective countries...More
HanCinema has begun its Korea Joa journey! KOFICE - The Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange - brought fifteen Korean culture-focused websites together to the Ritz Carlton Hotel of Seoul to commence the first year of Korea Joa, a program geared towards sharing Korean culture through its entertainment and the journalists' personal experience of Korea itself. September 30th was the orientation banquet where the journalists met with the KOFICE director general and staff, and with one another...More
The opening portion of this episode is mostly a competition to see who can show the most love to Seong-joon. As usual the comparative analysis is, well, pretty obvious. Hye-jin does the best that she can within reason. Ha-ri doesn't do a very good job because she's just pretending to be a kind person when she isn't really. And Hyeok just...well, you ask for help from Hyeok, there's not really any guarantee that he's going to do it correctly. To Hyeok the right way is the fun way- no exceptions...More
2015/09/30 | | Permalink
We've got the usual hijinx here of Hye-jin fumbling around Seong-joon, trying to keep stupid secrets, and the symbolism for how this relates to the biggest secret of them all is pretty difficult to ignore. Ditto with Ha-ri- the bit with the shoes practically hits us over the head with how yeah, this is a metaphor for the stupid choices Ha-ri is always making, even when explicitly warned. The tendency of these plot points to be so recurring can, at times, be a tad repitive, and that's the main flaw of "She Was Pretty"...More
2015/09/28 | | Permalink
For the second week in a row, Lee Joon-ik's timely period piece "The Throne" has claimed the top spot by adding another 1.2 million admissions to its total tally. Lee's depiction of the cruel fate of Prince Sado entered the charts on the 16th, and, with the Chuseok weekend included, now stands at 3.5 million admissions ($23.9 million). "The Throne" had to compete with a string of new releases leading up to Korea's harvest holiday but ultimately managed to capture 36.9% of the box office pie to remain in pole position...More
To say that the events of the second episode were a surprise would be a gross overstatement. While well played, they were so predictable that the episode was mundane. It followed the process behind Sang-pil's ascension to the National Assembly and the catalyst for the change in his attitude towards his new career in politics.
At this point in time, Sang-pil is no more than a pawn on the political chessboard ...More
Pierce Conran reviews Lee Joon-ik's "The Throne", Hangul Celluloid and Co. interview Bae Doona, the Busan International Film Festival will be a star-studded affair, and The Korea Times recommends a few films for Chuseok...More
Food-themed gift sets for Chuseok are hear, what to do will your extra perilla?, Holly details her steps for making Ox Tail Bone Marrow Soup, and My Korean Kitchen makes it easy with a light seaweed and egg omelette snack...More
Millions expected to hit the roads during Chuseok, would you surf North Korea's east coast?, what kind of beauty does Seoul hold?, and the government asks hikers to stop and smell the roses...More
Korean drama is known for strong emotions and highly dramatic situations. At the same time, the topics explored are often quite limited and the approach to them quite repetitive. "Midnight Diner" is an odd show when looked at as a Korean drama. Perhaps staying closer to its story's Japanese origins, it is more understated and slow paced. This makes it an interesting mix of two very different types of storytelling. Does the mix work? Mostly very well...More
Jeong-min (played by Yoo Ha-joon) is struggling both in film and his personal life. After a sexy but rather uninspired bit of lovemaking, Jeong-min mostly just wallows in self-pity about how much of a failure he is in life. From there, Jeong-min gets the idea to try and inspire his creative juices by going to the middle of nowhere and stop worrying so much about modern troubles. So instead, he deliberates over whether or not to have sex with a teenage girl...More
Yeong-do (played by Tae In-ho) is a young man who lives miserably in the shadow of his father, a person whose main accomplishment was being executed as a murdered. Yeong-do is also the name of the island on which Yeong-do lives- an utterly miserable hopeless location of bleak, ugly looking housing and even less encouraging opportunities for life advancement. That much is true even for the people who aren't descended from murderers...More
The opening of "Self-Referential Traverse: zeitgeist and engagement" doesn't exactly have anything to do with the rest of the movie- it's just a sort of faux sitcom where the mundane laughtrack experience is punctuated by political discussion. The kind of awkward political discussion you might have had with your father, back when you were a teenager, becoming aware of a wider world which your parents didn't seem to know or care about. Then writer / director Kim Sun moves on to the main story about Podoli, the adorable mascot of the Korean police, trying to build himself a pair of legs and murder the borderline sentient rats in his apartment. And then things get weird...More
2015/09/24 | | Permalink
I really like all the chararcters in "She Was Pretty". They just have such very distinct charms. Take Hye-jin as an example. Yes, as Seong-joon points out, she is loud and proud in a way that is not necessarily justified by life circumstances, however much effort she puts into her work. But it's this very dogged quality that makes her such an impressive protagonist- one that's easy to identify with, because I think we've all had to make a major save that wasn't necessarily appreciated, since technically speaking everything is the fault of the lower-ranked person...More
2015/09/24 | | Permalink
Annyeong haseyo, everyone! I am Raine aka Lisa Espinosa, HanCinema's representative in the first year of the Korea Joa (KJ) program hosted by KOFICE. As your fellow fan of Korean film, drama, culture, and music it is my distinct pleasure to travel, write, film, and photograph my experiences for you. Please be sure to leave comments for the HanCinema team below about what you would like to see in my travels that will take place September 27 to October 9th...More
2015/09/23 | | Permalink
Ha-ri is one of the stranger contradictions in the drama. She acts like the main character even though that role is actually filled by Hye-jin- although neither Ha-ri nor Hye-jin are aware of this. Beyond that, though, Ko Joon-hee puts in a surprisingly compelling performance. Just look at her squirming around, trying to think of the best way to resolve the Seong-joon situation in a way that meets Hye-jin's rather eccentric specifications rather than just dumping the guy...More
2015/09/22 | | Permalink
As expected, "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" has to hastily wrap up complicated plot points mostly because there wasn't proper discussion of these story issues back when they were actually going on. In-yeong's impulsive decision, and the crisis that makes up most of the episode, is annoying primarily because the resolution is too simple. Was Joon-soo just really incompetent or what? He really should have been able to come up with that strategy on his own, given that it was the best possible explanation, as well as the most obvious...More
2015/09/21 | | Permalink
I'm frankly not grasping the logic of In-yeong and Myeong-seok suddenly acting like they're from completely incompatible worlds like this is a bad thing. To be entirely honest In-yeong has never seemed like an especially competent idol in the first place, and the way the story is suddenly acting like she's an obvious natural at the job is a bit off-putting. A celebrity can give some juice to their career by appearing on a variety show but that in itself isn't much of a gamechanger. Especially since "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" never showed us that much of the variety show in the first place...More
2015/09/21 | | Permalink
"The Throne" takes its seat at the to...
Lee Joon-ik's "The Throne" and "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" were both released in Korea last week and race to the top of the pile as the filmgoing public to capture over 80% of the box office action. "The Throne" opened its account with 1.3 million admissions pooled from 1,210 screens while the latest in the "Maze Runner" series managed 849 admissions across 804...More
The first episode of director Hwang In-hyeok's and writer Jeong Hyeon-min's Assembly is labored and slow, but is, nonetheless, still interesting. It suffers some for the heavy political setup, but that ponderous plot material is offset by the experienced and grounded cast.
We open with crooked politicians and businessmen battling powerless laborers whose plight is a vehicle for power more than it is a vehicle for change ...More
The 2nd 'Chinese Korean Share Your Dream Short Film Festival' is now on, Song Kang-ho and Marina Golbahari to host BIFF next month, what to see, do, and eat in Busan, and 5 incredible South Korean films that drew inspiration from troubling real-world events...More
Holly pulls together a special spicy fish stew for us, Korean fusion food never looked better with Kimchimari's apple pork bulgogi, how to make Korean milk ice sorbet (Injeolmi Bingsu), and Seoul Eats vista a new American bistro in Apgujeong...More
The "Jeju Rural Experience Festival" closes soon, the Eat Your Kimich crew share a stack of pictures of their travels in America, KoreaBoo looks at international K-pop fans and their views, and The Korea Herald lifts the lid on eyelid surgery...More
Enjoy 80 stunning snaps by professional photographers of South Korea; Robert Koehler captures the dying light around his offices in Bukchon, a retired South Korean photographer uses his time and talent to support the elderly, and Hallyu stars and their unrecognisable graduation pictures...More
What is Korea Joa?
We have been looking forward to sharing this with our readers for months and the time is finally here. HanCinema has been invited by KOFICE (Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange) to attend ten days of events covering Korean culture and entertainment, including Korean cinema, Kdrama and Kpop. The project, named 'Korea Joa', includes 15 members from 9 nations. The events will take place mainly in Seoul and Busan, where we can also follow the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Members of the 'Korea Joa' project will be creating content for their respective sites and we will also be collaborating to promote one another's content through social media, giving you a fuller experience...More
Having a little gimmick to spice things up for the romance is quite common for romantic comedy drama. Be it time travel, serial killers or ghosts, they have been done before. As the word reveals, however, those elements are mostly used to frame the romance, rather than to define its characters or enable them to grow. 'Oh My Ghostess' does offer a fluffy romance, but also has some messages to convey...More
Sung-il (played by Jo Hyeon-sik) is a boy with no parents and a famous name- Shin Sung-il, you see, was a famous movie star who once appeared in hundreds of classic Korean films. What does this has to do with "Shin Sung-il is Lost"? I have no idea. "Shin Sung-il is Lost" is one of those movies that's more focused on ideas than story. There's a lot of backdrop and exposition that's shaped like a plot, but it never ends up going anywhere...More
I first saw "Haeundae", not from start to finish, but beginning midway through on cable television. There were, as to be exected, a lot of special effects about a giant tidal wave destroying everything. Given that the press materials have always pretty explicitly tried to sell the product as a disaster film, this should come as little surprise. Then I tried watching the movie from the very beginning and made a shocking discovery. "Haeundae" is, in fact, a romantic comedy...More
Hangai (played by Bat-Ulzii) is a Mongolian man who's living out his dream- to plant trees in the steppe in an effort to fight off the oncoming spread of desert. Hangai's dream is...not really a very good dream. He's pretty much fighting against inevitability, and it's little surprise that in the opening segment Hangai's wife is able to come up with a better way of using her time than to support Hangai's apparently hopeless battle against nature. From there, Hangai lounges and waits...More
2015/09/17 | | Permalink
Seong-joon (played Park Seo-joon) is Hye-jin's first love. In the past Seong-joon was fat and generally unlovable. In the present day, though, Seong-joon is mainly a cipher. There are frequent subtle hints that Seong-joon was influenced for the better by Hye-jin- that she taught Seong-joon how to calm himself down and have confidence in himself. Then there are more confusing moments where Seong-joon appears to have taken this advice as a license to act like a total jerk...More
2015/09/16 | | Permalink
Hye-jin (played by Hwang Jeong-eum) is a woman in her twenties who looks and acts like a woman in her late thirties. Her best friend Ha-ri (played by Ko Joon-hee) is fashionable and popular, with a veritable army of handsome shirtless men always on call to save her from any minor inconvenience. So...why's Hye-jin the lead character? Isn't Ha-ri the glamorous kind of person who's always the protagonist of romantic comedies? In fiction even frumpy girls are gorgeous...More
2015/09/15 | | Permalink
Why exactly do Korean gossip media always refer to romantic relationships as scandals? It's not just a translation thing- as this episode of "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" demonstrates, that's literally the word they use to describe these entanglements. My guess is that the industry thinks that "Scandal" just means "something that gets a lot of press". And also I guess celebrities aren't supposed to have romantic relationships for some reason...More
2015/09/14 | | Permalink
Even though the story of "The Eccentric Daugter-in-Law" is bearing an increasingly strong resemblance to safe family dramas, the material still feels a great deal less outrageous. So I'm not totally sure how to feel, for example, when an opener that consists of a kiss, and quite literally just a kiss, ends up defining the entire conflict of the episode. In-yeong and Myeong-seok act like and are treated more as teenagers than adults...More
2015/09/14 | | Permalink
"Ant-man" enjoys a second weekend at the top...
For the second week in a row Marvel's "Ant-Man" topped the South Korea box office and has now moved its total tally to 2.3 million admissions ($16 million). Release in Korea on the third, "Ant-Man" continues the superhero trend by bringing international audiences another incredible character from the Marvel's inexhaustible universe of heroes. Last weekend the film opened in first by capturing over 45% of the box office pie, and week two for Marvel's mighty mini man saw it retain the top spot by claiming 40.8% of sales (695 thousand admissions). Although a foreign flick topped the weekend's list of top performers, the home team occupied positions two through sixth with a variety of compelling local features, some of which are still writing their names into the record books...More
The finale of "Oh My Ghostess" was all about goodbyes and seeing what our characters have learned since the start of their adventures. Soon-ae's departure was the heart of the episode and was handled beautifully in all of its facets. It captured the essence of the drama and helped it earn a place in the annals of drama history.
Overall, "Oh My Ghostess" was a strong drama with a powerful cast, an intriguing storyline, and substantial character growth from start to finish. There are, of course, flaws such as inconsistency in ghost rules and a lack of true understanding of the otherworld that prevents a deep empathy for the mysterious, possessed Sung-jae and a keener understanding of Soon-ae's issues...More
DramaFever does its research and reveals the highest paid K-drama actors and actresses, 11 Korean films head to VIFF, and KOBIZ explores the success of period dramas in recent years as more films reach 10 million admissions...More
Holly takes a break on the spice to create a peachy treat, Kimchimari shares menus and recipes for a Korean BBQ fusion dinner, Preen offers a crash course in Korean food, and the Eat Your Kimchi team eat…Chinese lamb skewers?...More
The Cut explores the rise of Korean beauty products, is KakaoTalk's emoticons gender bias?, a recent WEF report reveals Korea's income distribution may be unequal, and the BCC tackles smartphone addiction in Asia...More
South Korea does not have many disaster films, aside from works like "Haeundae" or "The Tower". The genre is usually expensive and perhaps not as appealing to local audiences as bigger productions from abroad. For drama, this genre has only been slightly touched upon in the past with series like 'At The End Of The World', which handled an infection, rather than a disastrous event. JTBC is taking another shot at this, with Korea's first true disaster drama, "D-Day"...More
Several decades ago Maggi lost both of her sons to unforeseen incidents, leaving behind only three daughters. In traditional Confucian culture this is a big deal- children and especially sons are supposed to care for you in old age. So Maggi dealt with this problem by buying Chunhee, a mentally deficient woman, to serve as her husband's temporary concubine. Now, in the present day, long after Maggi's husband has died, "With or Without You" chronicles the irony of their continued living arrangement...More
Being an American in my late twenties I have an appreciation (well, disgust is probably the better word) for the extent to which empty pop culture references pass for communication. And yet for all that, while I've heard the name Ed Sullivan, I never knew what Ed Sullivan actually looked like until I saw "Try to Remember - Documentary". There was this huge pop culture phenomenon regarding what I can best describe as lounge music, and today we don't even have a good word to describe what that genre of music even was. What does this have to do with Korea? Well, "Try to Remember - Documentary" is the story of the Kim Sisters- who became the first Korean girl group to break into international popularity...More
Director Lee Eun-ji-I came out of film school in her thirties at a bit of a loss as to what to do with her life. She ultimately ended up deciding that the best way to move forward, for the moment anyway, was to accompany her mother on a trip to France. Lee Eun-ji-I's mother, a professor who also does translation work, had been commissioned to produce a new translation of the works of Michel de Montaigne. And so it seemed that Michel de Montaigne, one of the world's most famous and influential philosophers, would help Lee Eun-ji-I figure out what she wanted to do with herself...More
2015/09/10 | | Permalink
After the usual moping...egads what is it with "Scholar Who Walks the Night" and excessive moping? Even in the final episode it feels like hardly a minute can go by before one character starts going on about the need to make sacrifices for the greater good. And as before, this discussion is less an essential thematic need so much as it is the writing team just stalling for time because this drama doesn't actually have that much plot to get through. I do wish "Scholar Who Walks the Night" had been shorter and punchier- that's where most of its strengths are anyway...More
2015/09/09 | | Permalink
The actors in "Scholar Who Walks the Night" are really good sports. No matter how many times they discuss the exact same plot points over and over again, everyone manages to use the same level, serious tone of voice. I always appreciate it when actors are this determined to do justice to source material, regardless of whether or not the source material really deserves it. That much, at least, manages to keep the stakes high going into the final confrontation...More
2015/09/08 | | Permalink
The characters continue to be mostly passive as the storyline of "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" remains bogged down in a few key conflicts. Thankfully, the issue of trying to get Choon-ja to acknowledge In-yeong as not being completely terrible daughter-in-law material does at least get directly addressed. What's more, by the end of the episode the two even manage to find a sense of shared cause strong enough that might sort of make the iciness of their general relationship warm over. Late though it may be, I'm glad "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" is finally providing some hint of a long-term solution...More
2015/09/07 | | Permalink
Divorced from the frustrating recent context of the storyline, the opening confrontation between In-yeong and Myeong-seok is actually pretty cute. As it happens, In-yeong does in fact have a flaw that mostly doesn't reflect too badly on her- general cluelessness. It genuinely does not occur to In-yeong that Myeong-seok could have been stoking jealousy by pretending to have a girlfriend even though In-yeong was quite literally running the exact same scam...More
2015/09/07 | | Permalink
Marvel's "Ant Man" makes a move on "Veteran"...
After weeks of local delights dominating, Marvel's latest superhero film, "Ant Man" by Peyton Reed, has managed to outperform the home team's frontrunners to top the chart. "Ant Man" was allocated 946 screens around the country, and from that pool it was able to attract an impressive 1.1 million filmgoers to its cause (45.7%). Peyton's effort made its debut in Los Angeles back in June, and has already grossed over $383 million, but only arrived in Korea last Thursday...More
There is some major action in the penultimate episode of "Oh My Ghostess" and that action brings the show into darker territory. While it has been hinted at that Soon-ae's demise was not a pleasant one, to see it was appropriately gruesome and shocking.
Episode 15 primarily focused on the chase between Soon-ae and possessed Sung-jae...More
As Seon-woo learns to cope with reality and the ghostly and nefarious situations surrounding him, Soon-ae is coming closer to the truth behind her death and the truth that haunts Seon-woo's family.
Soon-ae is such a marvelous character and Kim Seul-gi-I handles her with finesse...More
This was the episode of truth-fueled angst that required Seon-woo and Bong-seon to run through a gamut of emotions both together and alone. Every relationship suffers growing pains, especially when a difficult truth is revealed and feels more like a wedge inserted than one removed.
Bong-seon has revealed her biggest secret and it is one that is difficult for Seon-woo to stomach ...More
Several key plot threads come to a head in this exquisitely timed episode of "Oh My Ghostess". The acting in this is superlative on the parts of the three leads and the terrifying villain. All elements came together in one of the most emotional episodes thus far that highlights the mystery, the love, and the innermost fears of our beloved characters.
Seon-woo is opening up in a way he has never been able to because of the love he feels ...More
Kim Dae-woo's web series "The Witch" heads to China, have you watched "A Tale of Two Sisters"?, The Hollywood Reporter separates fact from fiction with regards to North Korean propaganda films, and "Veteran" headed for North America...More
Enjoy southern-style barbecue in Itaewon, Holly presents an alternative way to make kimchi, anyone can create Gamja Jorim (Korean potato salad), and Hyosun continues sharing recipes for healthy Korean temple food...More
The Eat Your Kimchi crew share their favourite Korean apps, an opinion piece challenges the reality of young Koreans fleeing abroad, is Maxim's new cover sexists and offensive?, and CJ Groups calls out government and politicians to help spread Korean culture...More
The Seoul State of Mind team visit Jeonju, what is around Achasan station?, and Robert Koehler delights with another stunning pic of modern Korea in black and white...More
HanCinema recently met up with actor Kahlid Elijah Tapia to find out about his experience working in South Korea's television and film industry.
You came to South Korea back in 2009 to teach English. What was it about the country and culture that inspired you to explore its film and television industry?
This is a funny one actually because it wasn't the country or the culture. I was living in Florida taking acting classes before I came to Korea and I actually was just wanting to live in this country for one year and go home. A fellow actress and now close friend recommended that I put my headshot and resume on Craigslist. I thought to myself, "For what?" "This is Korea, I can't get anything done here". But I did it and 28 credits on IMDb later, I'm still here. What I learned after posting my information is that I can be an actor anywhere. Especially in this internet driven age...More
Writer sisters Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran are behind some very beloved romantic comedy shows such as "My Girl", "You're Beautiful", 'The Greatest Love' and 'Master's Sun'. Offering a unique writing style and often colorful, fun characters, their shows have had a unique identity and approach. While "Warm and Cozy" attempts to recapture their more old school romance works, however, it loses some of what makes those older works good...More
Woo-jin (voiced by Yoo Yeon-seok) is a man with a unique problem- every time he wakes up in the morning, Woo-jin is an entirely new person. Young, old, man, woman, beautiful, ugly, Korean, foreigner. To some extent there are advantages to this. We see early on that whenever Woo-jin hits the sweet spot of young / man / beautiful / Korean, he goes out with his buddy Sang-baek (played by Lee Dong-hwi) to hit the bars and get laid. One night stands are quite easy when a changing face makes it quite literally impossible for any woman to ever have any hope of finding him again...More
Having lost her parents at a young age Yeon-woo (played by Uhm Jung-hwa) resolved to become an unambiguous success in life so as to do honor to their name. And Yeon-woo succeeded at that goal...sort of. Most parents would be proud, of course, to have their daughter grow up to be a top tier lawyer, recognized by her peers, well-respected, and wealthy. The problem is that Yeon-woo's clients tend to be rich more than they tend to be decent human beings. That is the backdrop into which Yeon-woo falls into the "Wonderful Nightmare" of being an ordinary housewife...More
The opening sequence of "Scary House" consists of a mannequin being put together while spooky music plays. By spooky music, I mean the kind of music an older sibling might sing trying to frighten a younger sibling with ghost stories. It sounds completely ridiculous, and not actually scary at all to anyone over the age of ten. "Scary House" is less a horror movie in its own right so much as it is a minimalist parody of what a horror movie is supposed to look like...More
2015/09/03 | | Permalink
Gwi's plan to legitimize his rule of the world is, as to be expected, fatally flawed because Gwi vastly overestimates his own intelligence. Humans aren't complete idiots. The vampires showed up at the same time the Gwi rumors got serious, and no one can vouch for Gwi having done anything, well, not unnecessarily violent and selfish. By contrast, Seong-yeol has been the beneificiary of his own advertising campaign in the form of Yang-seon's novels. So that's what it comes down to- a war of vampire public relations...More
2015/09/02 | | Permalink
Everybody's plans end up blowing up in their faces. I have to admit, this is a heck of a lot more fun than things going wrong because the characters are passively stupid. Unfortunately Cheol-joong's actions remain unhampered. This is annoying mainly because Cheol-joong isn't really any smarter than any other character. Cheol-joong's only useful asset is the inexplicable loyalty of his minions. I can see the evil vizier turning soldiers against the lawful King for a lot of reasons, but to help out the vampire that keeps snacking on them? Really?...More
2015/09/01 | | Permalink
Never mind what I've written about Choon-ja so far. Her character, too, moves beyond any reasonable point of redemption this episode with a bizarrely conservative spiel about how it's impossible to be a wife, mother, cookery assistant, and teacher all at the same time. I might have found this speech sympathetic except that as far as we've seen Se-mi has had zero logistical trouble juggling these various tasks- the end of the last episode was really more Dong-seok's fault. It's not like he does anything important during the day after all...More
2015/08/31 | | Permalink
I'm struggling at this point trying to figure out what exactly the point is supposed to be to "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law". Is the drama really just supposed to be a standard romantic comedy between In-yeong and Myeong-seok, with no other frills? That much wouldn't be...terrible or anything, but their romance is among the most least interesting topics here, and the jokes we get don't really have that much variance. Even the kiss was more just, eh, that happened. There wasn't any urgency...More
2015/08/31 | | Permalink
"Veteran" pushes past 10 million as local delights dominate...
Ryoo Seung-wan's "Veteran" added another million admissions (43%) over the weekend to write its total tally into the history books. For the past month Ryoo's popular crime drama has remained the country's film of choice and now moves onto an incredible 10.8 million admissions ($71.6 million). Only ten other Korean films have managed this impressive feat, including "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" (17.6), "Ode to My Father" (14.2), "The Thieves" (12.9), "Miracle in Cell No.7" (12.8), and "Masquerade" (12.3). The success of Ryoo's film has bumped "The King and the Clown" (10.5) out of this exclusive top ten, and soon "Veteran" will challenge "The Host" (10.9), "Haeundae" (11.3), "The Attorney" (11.3), and even this week's number three, Choi Dong-hoon's "The Assassination" (12.1). Each weekend since its release "Veteran" has managed to capture over 40% of the box office pie, and, to state the obvious, it's no done yet!...More
Almost the entire dramatic thrust of this episode is on the resolution of the relationship between Deok-in and Yoon-seo. And you know, it's really cheating to just have that relationship improve over the course of a timeskip. We never actually got to see these two get closer, so why is this resolution supposed to have any serious impact? Why did all the interesting material get shunted into a part of the story that we never actually got to see?...More
"Oh My Ghostess" has its flaws, but they are overpowered by its strengths. The balance between Jo Jeong-seok, Park Bo-yeong, and Kim Seul-gi-I is such a delicately struck balance that it seems almost natural to imagine ghosts and ghost possession as a part of everyday life.
Man, woman, and ghost struggle to come to terms with the events in the lives (or life after death), and in that struggle they are more relatable than ever...More
This was Soon-ae's episode. Her tunnel-vision ended at her goal: have sex and be freed of her ghostly body into heaven. She did not see what it would cost to attain that goal and the knowledge of leaving and losing love that she never had while living is painfully present. And that's what good angst is all about.
Soon-ae falls in love with the earthly life she is borrowing from Bong-seon...More
"Oh My Ghostess" grows both more whimsical and more dire as it progresses into deeper plot territory. The mystery of Soon-ae is slowly being unearthed, but as that happens, new bits of information crop up that create more questions. While that happens, Soon-ae and Bong-seon are discovering what love is like, especially with an agenda driving the already potent emotion.
Episode 9 is nothing if cute...More
Find out what South Korean film made Taste of Cinema's list of "metaphysical films", BIFF 2015 announces its 2015 lineup, R-rated directorial debut has the makings of a cult hit, and learn about modern South Korean cinema with Jinhee Choi's "The South Korean Film Renaissance: Local Hitmakers, Global Provocateurs"...More
How to make mini Kimbap to go, Beyond Kimchi combines spicy tofu and bean sprouts, what do Korean Buddhist's eat, exactly?, and CNN lists their seven "super-spicy" Korean dishes...More
Beautiful water-colour postcards will have to you heading out to the countryside, Korean families to be reunited for Chuseok, John Oliver weighs in on the recent threats from North Korea, and where are most Koreans getting their protein?...More
In the final stretch of "Make a Woman Cry", writer Ha Cheong-ok has decided to pretend like Eun-soo hasn't been the entire focus of the drama for about as long as I can remember. The cliffhanger is resolved just a tad too easily and with a tad too much easy forgiveness. Then practically out of nowhere Deok-in and Jin-woo start acting like the main characters again, having extended heartfelt conversations about loss, forgiveness, and being able to move on with life...More
It is a fact that entertainment is not kind to women past a certain age. In film and television specifically, while being an older man still lands one opportunities, older women are given limited options. Ageism in entertainment is nothing new and most actresses adapt and manage with what is available. They portray mothers, grandmothers and other such roles. Lee Yong-nyeo, however, is someone who has found a unique place in these industries...More
Yoon Bin (played by Oh Chang-seok) is a top star. He's kind of a jerk and an idiot, but not excessively so. Yeong-sook (played by Yoon Ah-min) is the woman who kidnaps him. She's kind of mean and has a bad attitude, but not excessively so. Soo-jin (played by Kim Joo-ri) is a reporter. She's alternately aggressive and demure, but not excessively so. That's "Mission, Steal the Top Star" on a base level. It's a movie about characters who have personalities, but not excessive ones...More
The rather arresting poster for "Alice In Earnestland" features lead character Soo-nam (played by Lee Jeong-hyeon) wearing a classic Alice-style pinafore holding a mop with the yarns coated in red while smiling in the midst of an ominous looking flower patch. Neither the pinafore, nor the mop, nor the flowers make any on-screen appearance comparable to the aplomb we see on the theatrical poster. This is a bit of a disappointment- the image suggests a film of intriguing weirdness. Whereas in actuality "Alice In Earnestland" is just a film of confusing weirdness...More
The first segment of the "Now Playing" omnibus posits a very simple question. Why do people go to movies? Is it because they like movies? Well...not really no. For most people movies are just a social event, like a date, where they can forget the drudgery of their actual lives and pretend like love exists. This opening segment sets the tone for the next two- where movies are exposited as generally pointless gimmicks designed to make certain people feel better themselves more than they are things intended to actually be watched...More
2015/08/28 | | Permalink
Dong-gil (played by Choi Kwon-soo) lives with his father Gook-jin (played by an unusually not-scary looking Yoo Oh-seong). There's no mother in the picture- but there is a younger brother Yeong-gil (played by Park Isaiah). As you might have guessed by the name- Yeong-gil isn't quite Korean. Sure, he speaks Korean, and has a Korean name. But it's obvious to everyone who looks at Yeong-gil that he's the son of an African-American soldier. A frustrated Dong-gil works out his frustrations by getting involved in dance, with Seo Taiji as his idol...More
2015/08/27 | | Permalink
After the usual requisite moping about regarding whether Seong-yeol is terrible for being a vampire or whether he should be allowed to love or blah blah blah we finally get to some exciting action. Remember the plan that everyone has been talking about for forever, the one that we never actually get to see? Well we get to see part of it here. And goodness, is it ever relieving to finally find our good-aligned characters on the same page even if strictly speaking they don't actually know what's going on...More
2015/08/26 | | Permalink
I think Gwi's just making these evil schemes up as he goes along. Really. The guy never seems to have an actual plan. He's always being surprised and simply responds by terrorizing as many people as possible without any regard to how this is supposed to fit it to his long term designs. More often than not Gwi just expects other people to do his dirty work for him, then he doesn't even bother to check up to see if they did it correctly. One might think that an immortal invincible vampire would be a tad more patient and farsighted...More
2015/08/25 | | Permalink
Even at its most interesting "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" is completely centered around a gimmick- and the gimmick is starting to wear thin. Maybe that's just because not too much is done with the material that's very interesting. The chicken chase is funny, although the basic prompt of a variety show obviously intended to humiliate In-yeong really just calls attention to how the show-within-a-show in "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" isn't a perfect analog for actual Korean variety television...More
2015/08/24 | | Permalink
In-yeong is surprised to see Myeong-seok stick up for her with the producer, considering that up until this point In-yeong and Myeong-seok haven't really gotten along that well. And so In-yeong, as well as the other characters, make a seemingly logical deduction. Obviously Myeong-seok has fallen in love with In-yeong. Why is this the obvious explanation? Well, because it's the most storylike, and thus the best possible ratings hook. Naturally it does not occur to anyone to simply ask Myeong-seok his reasons, because that would completely ruin the fantasy world In-yeong and friends have concocted...More
2015/08/24 | | Permalink
"Veteran" eyes 10 million…
Ryoo Seung-wan's crime drama "Veteran" has once again emerged at the top of the pile as it enjoys a third week as Korea's number one. "Veteran" saw another sizeable weekend as it added 1.3 million admissions (43%) to move its total tally to just over 9 million ($59.1 million). Last weekend Ryoo's crime drama attracted a massive 2.2 million filmgoers, and the weekend before that saw 1.9 million flock to its screens, and now the films is poised to join an elite group of South Korea films that have claimed 10 million admissions...More
Deok-in solves the mystery of what really happened with the death- well, technically the cops solve it but they do convey through Deok-in their genuine appreciation for Eun-soo giving the tip that ultimately allowed them to crack the case. The look on Eun-soo's face throughout that exchange really is priceless. Apparently it's never occurred to her that a good deed can be its own reward. Eun-soo didn't get the result she was expecting, so instead of doom and destruction all that happens is reconciliation...More
Despite the neatly tied ending, "Mask"'s finale didn't truly end cleanly. There are too many "could-have-beens" and ideas that were proposed, but never seen through to fruition. So much of the ending was smiling at the camera for ages or making sure that each villain received his just deserts. What it did do right was show Ji-sook and Min-woo living mask-free and as themselves without being fettered by lies and deceit.
Ji-sook decided to come clean and reveal the truth, to remove the "Mask" for which the show is named...More
Episode 19 of "Mask" felt like an attempt to prolong the inevitable end. Each scene went on a bit too long. Each emotional scene was irreverently dramatic in order to fake a few feels and create a tension that had long since seeped away.
The Min-woo/Ji-sook couple has become a representation of love rather than telling their own story...More
Some of this episode was cleverly wrought while the rest of it was reused material that was weaker with the repeated use. The development of Mi-yeon and Seok-hoon continues to be riveting while the contrived behavior of Ji-sook and the battles between family members and the money-hungry grow wearier.
Let's get the overused stuff out of the way ...More
The cat's out of the bag. Seon-woo kissed Bong-seon and there is no way that he, Bong-seon, or Soon-ae realizes what that means. There is genuine affection at play here and it hits all three of them harder than expected.
What lead to the kiss was the long-awaited pairing between Bong-seon and Soon-ae ...More
"Oh My Ghostess" is reaching its midway point and a storm is definitely brewing. Bong-seon and Soon-ae have finally talked, which changes the game entirely. They know each other's situations. Hopefully others, like Soon-ae's father and Seon-woo, will be let in on the supernatural secret as well.
The pressing matter is Soon-ae's tether of time ...More
EYK shares their favourite K-pop tracks to listen to while travelling, do North Koreans love K-pop?, Slovenian band "Laibach" plays in Pyongyang, and Super Junior scores at the Teen Choice Awards in LA...More
ESL 101 shares its tips for how to make life in Korea (more) awesome, explore Jeju's stunning waterfalls and valleys, are 'love hotels' cleaning up their act?, and what to do during your first 24 hours in Korea...More
Could Donald Trump learn something from Korea's DMZ?, How Stuff Works explores "fan death", are South Koreans just plain rude? (in 1988), and where does Korea stand seventy years after liberation?...More
Eun-soo attempts to regain...whatever it is she thinks she lost by making a rather curious revelation to Deok-in. What Eun-soo fails to understand, as usual, is that most people think in terms beyond immediate personal gain and satisfaction. The accusations Eun-soo makes are enormously serious ones. It's difficult to imagine that Eun-soo would make up a lie so elaborate unless she had some kind of proof- but then, Eun-soo has told blatant lies before...More
Good action shows can be hard to come by in Korean drama, especially outside of the crime-oriented channel OCN. Its sister channel, tvN is more known for its romantic comedies and other lighter offerings, but has occasionally taken a shot at darker works. "Hidden Identity" is tvN's latest attempt at a sleek action show, offering a unique blend of actors and crime-fighting suspense. While not brilliant, it is quite a nice addition to the action genre...More
SM Entertainment is the South Korean entertainment company that is responsible for such artists as Kang Ta, BoA, and Girls' Generation. That's a very abbreviated list- there's also Super Junior, EXO, and Red Velvet. Probably a bunch more that I'm forgetting too. This is easy to do, because "SMTOWN The Stage" packs about as many of its artists into the runtime as possible, with time roughly evenly split between live performance footage and the performers themselves just discussing why it is that they've dedicated their lives to entertainment...More
In present day Cambodia, a protest about poor working conditions escalates to tragedy. Director Lim Heung-soon explores this by...interviewing employees in Korean industries. The juxtaposition isn't as random as it may initially sound. Once upon a time South Korea too had a dictatorial business system comparable to Cambodia's today. The women who participated in this system did so for the hopes of a better life for their children. And yet in the present day, the vestiges of this system yet remain in the "Factory Complex" of maximized productivity...More
Why exactly do Christians willingly put themselves at risk in such a way that they become martyrs? Well, because God told them to. That's probably not a very satisfying answer, and unfortunately "The Martyrdom" never really rises above it. The documentary is more an affirmation of faith than it is a real argument for it- a fact that makes sense when we consider that the persons profiled here aren't glorified mainly because they died in the line of duty more than for what their duty actually was...More
2015/08/21 | | Permalink
Seung-hee (played by Lee Soo-kyeong-I) is a pole vaulter. Pole vaulting is one of the more gimmicky Olympic sports- basically you use a pole to leap over a high bar. Like all obscure Olympic sports, it's something the athletes do more out of love than glory. And even though Seung-hee is a fairly talented athlete, she's starting to break down in frustration about no longer being at the top of her game. Her parents, having met because they too were pole vaulters once upon a time, help Seung-hee out by getting her a spot with top coach Jin-ah (played by Kim Hee-jeong)...More
2015/08/20 | | Permalink
Seong-yeol continues to sulk. Admittedly for better reason than usual, since Yang-seon now seems to be genuinely frightened of him, for good reason. From my end, well, maybe it's just that all the vampire-induced massacres, but I feel kind of desensitized to the problems in Seong-yeol's love life. The main plot, namely the new round of anti-Gwi plans, continue to lack much inspiration. Although interestingly Gwi's own plan isn't really all that good...More
2015/08/19 | | Permalink
The premise at the start is somewhat interesting. Everyone managed to escape from Gwi last night, but now the operating assumption is that they only have one day before Gwi manages to locate and murder them all the following night. Much as I dislike spoilers I feel compelled to point out that this alarm ends up being a false one. No one ends up preparing for Gwi all that effectively. What's more Gwi barely even seems to care about the fact that a serious attempt was made to kill him, one that might have worked better if the king's snipers were better shots...More
2015/08/18 | | Permalink
Myeong-seok (played by Ryoo Soo-yeong) is a mathematics professor and In-yeong's husband, for the sake of the television program. He's kind of grumpy. Myeong-seok is interesting for being an aloof math genius in a way that's not commonly portrayed. He's perfectly capable of being social. It's just, all Myeong-seok really cares about is math. His temperament is the exact opposite of In-yeong's in pretty much every concievable way. Which would seem to doom any hope of this variety program actually working out...More
2015/08/17 | | Permalink
In-yeong (played by Dasom) is a girl group singer who has fallen on hard times. Nobody likes her girl group anymore. Also In-yeong is kind of a jerk, who has a really bad habit of making smelly farts. But all is not lost- in the world of Korean broadcasting, there is constant demand for variety shows featuring low-level celebrities in comical pseudo-realistic situations. Like marriage. For basically random business-related reasons, In-yeong is offered a shot at a comeback provided she become "The Eccentric Daughter-in-Law" to a well-known traditional cookery...More
2015/08/17 | | Permalink
Ryoo Seung-wan's crime drama "Veteran", Choi Dong-hoon's "The Assassination", "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation", and "Minions" all retained their place as Korea's films of choice at the top. Last weekend, these four managed to capture over 90% of the box office pie and have all now retained their place with 83% of the interest going their way. Once again "Veteran" led the charge, and actually managed to outdo itself in week two by attracting an impressive 2.2 million filmgoers to its screens. With this past weekend done and dusted, Ryoo's popular flick moves its total tally now to 6.6 million, or $44 million...More
Eun-soo's temper tantrum shows no sign of abating. Well, she is finally forced to stop being petty and selfish briefly, when one character finally manages to come up with a threat serious enough to force Eun-soo to cooperate on the question of Jin-han's wife instead of being constantly selfish. I'm tempted to call the theatrics over-the-top and unrealistic- the problem is, I've known people in real life like Eun-soo. Heck, in my worst moments, I've acted like Eun-soo myself. That's not an easy fact to acknowledge, but it's senseless to pretend like we're all rational actors in the real world...More
The nature of the ghostly possession gives "Oh My Ghostess" a nice blend of episodic and climactic formats. Soon-ae and Bong-seon develop depending on who is in control of Bong-seon's body whilst the rest of the action continues to flow forward. The tension comes from the developing (probable) murder mystery, the developing romance that alternates between Soon-ae and Seon-woo, and Bong-seon and Seon-woo, and the characters overcoming personal milestones.
Seon-woo has a large person hurdle to jump over: he was bullied as a kid and still harbors grudges against the bullies ...More
As many laughs as the past four episodes have given us, episode five of "Oh My Ghostess" gives us just as much heart. We get our timid heroine back and watch her struggle through her reality: she's lost two weeks and feels more lost than ever.
This episode is a testament to Park Bo-yeong's acting as she reverts to Bong-seon and gives us further insight into the terrified young woman ...More
Sabotage is the name of the game. Seok-hoon attempts it out of need for revenge; Mi-yeon attempts it out of emotional despair; both Min-woo and Ji-sook battle the powerful emotional tide of the unhappy Seok-hoon and Mi-yeon. The others of their family and work place are dragged along with the roaring tide.
"Mask" juxtaposes the Min-woo/Ji-sook and Seok-hoon/Mi-yeon couples to great effect this episode ...More
"Oh My Ghostess" is chugging along at quite a nice clip. We learn a little bit more about our main characters, get a huge and wonderful dose of sexy humor, and watch relationships build and grow.
Soon-ae may be a blessing in disguise for both Seon-woo and Bong-seon ...More
"Oh My Ghostess" spares not one moment as it delves into character development. Each interaction means something to our three main characters: Bong-seon (despite the fact that she's not mentally present), Soon-ae, and Seon-woo. They learn and grow from the people they were in the past or have the potential to learn in the future.
This episode was about missed timing ...More
Episode 2 of "Oh My Ghostess" is just beyond the threshold of setup and jumping into new material and the transition is flawless. The story is propelled forward by compelling characters and a self-driven story. Each main character has their own history to contend with and their own present that troubles them. What "Oh My Ghostess" excels at is merging their worlds.
The loss of Bong-seon the tired girl as she is overtaken by ghostess Soon-ae is the only downside of the ghost possession ...More
"Mask" still has secrets floating around, but they are no longer the focus. The focus is on what the characters choose to do with their knowledge. They dance around feelings and play games of noble idiocy or vicious ignorance.
The heart of this episode was the relationship between Min-woo and Ji-sook as herself, not as Eun-ha ...More
The struggle to adapt to secrets is often as difficult for characters as it is to keep those secrets. Now that Ji-sook's major truth has been made known to Min-woo, other truths have begun to leak, dragging down loved ones as the secrets attempt to remain hidden from the world.
Ji-sook's truth causes Min-woo to real for most of the episode ...More
As I said in the last review, it really is the calm before the storm. Ji-sook's truth has been revealed to all major players. The next episode will tell us how Min-woo reacts, but the build up in this episode was well-wrought.
Mi-yeon is on a vengeful path fueled by the pain of loss and betrayal...More
Christopher H.K. Lee's documentary "The Last Tear" premieres in LA, Film Comment examines a touchy trend in South Korea cinema, Pierce Conran reviews "The Piper" for Twitch, and be sure to browse KOBIZ's book page for insight and information into the wonderful world of Korea cinema...More
LA promotes K-pop moves with its annual convention, What is Korean 'trap music'?, Harvard Political Review tackles PSY seriously, and the New York Times exmaines Keith Ape and rap in Korea...More
Would you send your man to a "Happy Guy Cooking Class"?, enjoy your coffee at a "poop-theme" cafe, see how Jeju Love is redefining the cafe experience, and the Eat Your Kimchi crew take on LA's K-food scene...More
How much Korean should you know before coming to Korea?, Seoul Beats holds a roundtable discussion on the thoughts and experiences of LGBTQIA K-pop Fans, what are "apple hips"?, and a new brand of sunglasses claims to cater to Asian features?...More
The story has long since moved past tensionless social battles. The last cliffhanger featured Jin-han losing his temper and making direct threats. And the cliffhanger here is even more pronounced. Eun-soo has finally managed to anger enough people severely enough that they're willing to respond with force instead of just letting her insult them for another day. The fact that Eun-soo has a defendable angle no longer matters. Eun-soo has been too deceptive and manipulative at this point for anyone to believe anything she says anymore...More
Drama fans who follow the domestic ratings for shows will know that the numbers have not been doing well in the last few years. Because of this slump, "Yong Pal" has been quite the pleasant surprise, with ratings most shows of its kind can only dream of nowadays. There is good reason for those ratings. The series has appealing drama and an intriguing story. Even so, there are issues which will cheapen it if continued...More
A big part of what often keeps dramas or certain concepts in dramas superficial is the refusal to get real and get dirty. From romance to violence, everything is too black and white and too idealistic. Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, which is frequently overlooked in fiction and especially genres like action. "My Beautiful Bride" is a series which presents a grand romance in a suspense show, successfully combining genres others have failed to...More
Do-cheol (played by Hwang Jeong-min) is a cop that doesn't play by the rules. That makes him a good guy. Tae-oh (played by Yoo Ah-in) is a corporate heir who doesn't play by the rules. That makes him a bad guy. That's "Veteran" on the most basic level. Both of its lead characters want to have fun, often in equally pointless and gratuitously violent ways, but Do-cheol's antics are funny and Tae-oh's antics are evil because that's what it says in the script...More
South Korean media doesn't deal much with the Japanese Occupation. The main reason for this is historical awkwardness. The resistance wasn't all that effective. And after the war most major figures involved in it either joined North Korea, or they ended up in a losing political battle with the US-backed South Korean dictatorship, which was managed almost entirely by Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese. "The Assassination", amazingly enough, actually addresses this directly. The framing device is in 1949 and the main villain in 1933 isn't a hardened Japanese soldier, but a Korean collaborator...More
The time is the late Cretaceous period. Tyrannosaurs survive by feasting on the flesh of herbivores. Even though "Tasty 2: Happy Together" is basically just a kid's cartoon, this plot point is treated with quite a bit of seriousness. Tyranosaurs and herbivores both have a right to live, so a balance must be struck. The moral dilemma is a difficult part of daily life, but it's not one the characters can ignore. It's from that backdrop that the young Tyrannosaurus Mir (voiced by Eom Sang-hyeon) has to struggle to adulthood, learning to appreciate that Tyranosaurs have to be more than mere predators...More
2015/08/14 | | Permalink
Eun-beom (played by Baek Seong-hyeon) manages a part-time job search website. He has to take care of his little sister Eun-byeol (played by Kim Ji-yeong-III), but other than that life is mostly unremarkable. Matters take a turn for the dramatic when on a live debate show Seong-woo (played by Jang Se-hyeon) takes the entire production hostage. And from there the story takes an even more bizarre and outlandish turn. What could possibly be more extreme than a deranged hostage negotiation? Well...I don't want to ruin it...More
2015/08/13 | | Permalink
After nearly a full drama of little-to-no actual plot, this episode almost manages to overdo it. The heroes have extended conversations with each other- not just each other even, but one of the villains too, and working together they come up with a plan to finally take on Gwi. Obviously this doesn't work out too great but even so! Finally! Vampire action plots and scheming in the vampire action drama! It's been so long since there's just been a good fight, you know?...More
2015/08/12 | | Permalink
Apparently the last couple of episodes weren't enough of a downbeat tone for director Lee Seong-joon. This one too, at least initially, continues to have its character mope around in general angst and depression over death. Maybe it's heartless for me to think this, but Seong-yeol and Yang-seon really need to move on. Death isn't some new surprising occurence in this drama. It's hardly fair to prioritize a couple of deaths more just because the main characters happened to know them personally...More
2015/08/11 | | Permalink
The essential conflict in "Remember You" boils down to feelings and logic. Hyeon is a man without feelings who struggles when memories of past events force him to come to term with feelings. The detectives, by contrast, are perfectly at ease with feelings but have always needed help when it comes to dealing with the basic logic necessary to make deductions and come up with effective plans for catching criminal perpetrators. "Remember You" is able to achieve convincing catharsis on one of these points...More
2015/08/10 | | Permalink
The conflict this episode is mainly philosophical as the resolution of last episode's cliffhanger centers around motive. It's interesting watching the characters themselves try to puzzle this information out. We've already been made privy to Joon-young's thought process- but how exactly are the other characters supposed to be able to suss this out? Ji-an's conclusions, while obviously wrong, make sense given the information that she has access to. So Ji-an ends up trying to find more information...More
2015/08/10 | | Permalink
"Veteran" enjoys stunning opening weekend...
After a stunning first couple weeks at the top of the pile, Choi Dong-hoon's "The Assassination" remained in second by adding another million admissions (23%) to its total tally. With this past weekend's figures in, "The Assassination" has now amassed 9 million admissions and moves past "Ode to My Father" as the second highest-grossing Korean film of the year...More
Jin-han has clearly recovered some of his memories. It's not totally clear which ones or how many. But what we do know is that this recovery was prompted by Eun-soo's blatant attempt at emotional manipulation. Eun-soo has frequently demonstrated intelligence, but she appears either unwilling or unable to process the significance of this. Jin-han isn't rejecting his family because of his current wife. He's rejecting his family because they consider Eun-soo to be his de facto wife, and Jin-han is completely unwilling to tolerate Eun-soo's presence...More
Director/Writer pair Yo Je-won and Yang Hee-seong of "The King of High School Manners" team up again for what seems to be another strong tvN hit in "Oh My Ghostess". Despite the fact that this first episode was mostly set up, we get to know the characters and understand their aspirations and motivations along with some cleverly delivered exposition.
"Oh My Ghostess" has a fantastical premise - a virgin ghost sets out to get laid...More
As truths are slowly revealed to key players, the weather grows quickly stormy and as unstable as an electrical storm. In the eye of the storm Ji-sook and Min-woo slowly grow their love, and although it's sweet, this is truly just the calm before the storm for their relationship.
The burgeoning love between Ji-sook and Min-woo is made possible because first Min-woo, and then Ji-sook, allowed him and herself to open up to love and the fact that they must trust another person...More
"Mask" continues to barrel forward, uncovering surprises along the way. Ji-sook is turning into a formidable opponent not only for Seok-hoon, but also for the greedy loan shark who trails behind their family like a starving dog. What this episode reveals is that Seok-hoon is completely fallible and his wife, Mi-yeon, could become the newest opponent. It also shows us that romance can be both beautiful to watch and useful as a plot tool.
Now that Ji-sook has found strength of will and realized what she can do in her new position of wealth and affluence, she is now more open to Min-woo's charms and affections...More
Three Korean actors sign on for a Korean-Chinese web drama, Jason reviews "Veteran" for Screen Daily, Kim Jee-woon gets Warner Bros. to invest in their first Korean-language film, and Pierce explores the work of director Lee Chang-jae for KOBIZ...More
Jeju to kickstart their tangerine output thanks to a five-year farming plan, Learn how to prepare cubed radish kimchi from My Korea Kitchen, Holly shows us how to make beef and bean sprout stew, and CNN interview celebrity chef Edward Kwon...More
South Korea's popular Jeju Island is in focus this week, as well as news that those seeking a nip/tuck will soon be able to get a tax refund in an effort to boast tourism...More
The Korean Hanbok gets a modern and street-wise twist, August 14th declared a holiday, two South Koreans cycle across America for "comfort women", and the EYK crew probe marriage equality in South Korea...More
Eun-soo is at it once again with her terrible and blatant emotional manipulation. But the blowback ends up being more immediate than anticipated. Hyeon-seo has always been a thoughtful, considerate young man, and meeting his father answers a lot of questions. Namely, why Hyeon-seo is thoughtful and considerate when everyone else in his family is so mean. Jin-han is thoughtful and considerate too. He doesn't go for all or nothing. Which is why for all Eun-soo's outrage, Hyeon-seo really is satisfied with just a heartfelt hug...More
A lot of dramas include action and crime, but there is usually more to it than the world of crime itself. Revenge, justice, survival and other manner of more grand elements are the goal of those stories. "Last" is an odd show in the sense that it approaches new topics and from a slightly different angle than what most shows go for. What has been quite a nice start can now hopefully evolve and succeed...More
A lot of people like a good revenge plot. Others like tales about justice and the heroes who deliver it. Seeing good win against bad is a basic feature of most stories and easy to make exciting as a concept. A series like "Masked Prosecutor" also belongs in a medium which is good with revenge stories, that being Korean drama. Unfortunately, the show manages to waste its opportunity with bad execution and unexplored intriguing topics...More
Min-soo (played by Kim Beom-joon) is a man who's trying to get a decent enough job to finally marry to his girlfriend Soo-jin (played by Bae Jeong-hwa). Unluckily for Min-soo, the job market is pretty terrible at the moment. Min-soo lacks any social connections with people who know how to make money- except for one bad choice. And after stewing around in frustration for all too long, Min-soo finally decides to become a winner- whichever way he can...More
Ga-eul (played by Kim So-hee) is an extremely sensitive older woman living by herself with many cats. A crazy cat lady isn't an ideal life goal in any country, but it's an especially difficult trajectory for Ga-eul to justify, living in South Korea where cats tend to be thought of as wild animals. For Ga-eul, the lifestyle choice is a simple one. Reality is harsh. People, even her family, tend to be really mean. Except for Ga-eul's boyfriend Joseph (played by Seong Ho-joon). He's kind and sensitive. Joseph is also still a teenager...More
In the modern era probably the biggest impediment to real change is that people are scared of looking ridiculous. Seriously, what was the main criticism lobbed at the Occupy Movement a few years back? That they were protesting imaginary grievances? No, everyone knows the employment market (still) sucks. It was that they were dumb smelly hippies. The men and women in "Miryang Arirang" are immune to such insults. They are old. All their life they've just wanted to farm in peace and then the dumb smelly government shows up and says like it or not, now they have to live next to a dumb smelly power plant...More
2015/08/07 | | Permalink
Prince Sado (played by Kim Dae-myeong) is not of very sound mental health. It all started back when he was a kid, and his dad King Yeongjo (played by Kim Myeong-gon) made zero effort to shield or reassure his son in the face of horrific bloody violence. As a result, Prince Sado grows up with little skill when it comes to ascertaining the difference between reality and hallucination- especially when haunted by a certain malicious, constantly taunting specter...More
2015/08/06 | | Permalink
Even though Jang-seon isn't actually in jail anymore this episode of "Scholar Who Walks the Night" somehow manages to be even more lurid and depressing than the last one. Granted, after the ending of the last episode we could hardly have expected this one to be all sparkly vampires and rainbows, but even so. I can only tolerate so much abuse of the lead heroine before it just gets to be incredibly offputting. The camp elements are pretty much completely absent here...More
2015/08/05 | | Permalink
This episode is thoroughly bogged down in the "Jang-seon is in jail" storyline. While this doesn't go on forever, Jang-seon is so heavily restricted here it's a little difficult to ignore the extent to which her character is basically a damsel in distress. About the only saving grace is that this isn't her fault. If Jo-saeng hadn't been acting in such a boneheaded way this whole time they'd already all be out by now, and the general gruesomeness of the cliffhanger could have been avoided...More
2015/08/04 | | Permalink
The walls seem to be closing in on Joon-young. And yet the man himself doesn't even seem to notice what's happening. Or maybe he just doesn't care. It's hard to tell the difference. Joon-young doesn't act like a man who literally knows everything that happens at every time. Even his internal monologues have less to do with actually killing people and more to do with motivation. Which, as per usual, is totally incomprehensible yet weirdly logical at the same time...More
2015/08/03 | | Permalink
The cliffhanger from last time was naturally a fake out- although there's still plenty of high stakes danger in the opening portion. Right now Hyeon is struggling with whether he should be his normal haughty self, or give into emotions and admit that the person Hyeon cares the most about is in trouble. It's a fascinating contrast because Hyeon really is at his most effective when playing socipathic mind games. But what's the point of sociopathic mind games if there's no deep emotional hook?...More
2015/08/03 | | Permalink
Cruise disrupts "The Assassination" on entry…
After a recording-breaking performance by a local hit last week, Tom Cruise qua Ethan Hunt has come in and immediately upped the ante and put pressure on a home hero. Last weekend Choi Dong-hoon's "The Assassination" attracted over 2.4 million admissions ($16 million) during its opening weekend out; it was a stunning start that finally put a Korean film firmly back on top. Choi's high-stakes drama may have conceded the lead, but in just over a week it's managed moved its total tally to 6.5 million admissions (that's $43.8 million since July, 22), 1.5 million of which came from this past weekend...More
The final epilogue to "Jing Bi-rok" is an extended speech made by Seong-ryong, not directed to anyone in particular except the viewer, where he exhorts us to continue the struggle. It's a fitting epilogue to a drama that doesn't really end. Yes, the war ends- with a final battle the Japanese threat to the Korean peninsula is eliminated once and for all. But anyone who's been paying attention so far knows that "Jing Bi-rok" was never about the war- it was about the dysfunction that made the war possible. And that dysfunction yet remains...More
As expected, the cliffhanger simply ends in another lack of confrontation with Jin-han. Don't worry- by the end of the episode serious progress is finally made to actually integrate the Jin-han character with everything else that's happening in the story. I just can't help but be a little annoyed at this point at the extent to which Jin-han doesn't really participate in a story that's pretty much all about him. Particularly since this plot point revolves around the rich family's business decisions...More
"Masked Prosecutor" has come to an end. It has been quite the journey that concludes pleasantly. Everyone gets what they deserve, including our hero. Justice is had, but what is missing from this show is the feeling of justice and satisfaction.
"Masked Prosecutor" went through the motions of working the law, catching the villains, dealing with impossible family and childhood loves, but that magnetic spark that makes a drama special and attractive to the viewer was missing...More
Everything in the action of episode 15 tells us that exciting things are afoot. There are trials, brothers at odds, secret identities uncovered, and romantic antics. A lot happens and yet very little is felt. It's action devoid of emotion. Action for action's sake. Action to attempt to salvage the drama.
The acting on the part of Eom Ki-joon and Joo Sang-wook is stellar...More
This is an episode of choices and realization that centers around Dae-cheol. The character arcs move in relation to his personal journey, which is lazy writing or perhaps desperate writing as we head into the final week of "Masked Prosecutor".
Dae-cheol is heart broken several times in this episode as his living family continue to disappoint him ...More
Jeon Ji-hyeon shines in "The Assassination", Koream reveals the highest-grossing films of 2015, Jason Bechervaise reviews "The Assassination" for Screen Daily, and 25 of South Korea's best films listed...More
The Eat Your Kimchi Team enjoys "Royal Cuisine" in Jihwaja, Holly shows us how to make a delicious plum cake, and Kimchimari and My Korean Kitchen share they lists of what to keep in cupboard for Korea cooking...More
The New York Times tours Seoul through the eyes of some of country's creative talents, Jeju property continues to be snapped up, MERS virus no longer a threat, and check out The Korean Herald's Travel Bits for tops stories and events...More
Would you spend part of your gap year studying in North Korea?, upper-class North Koreans are becoming increasing brand conscious, Korean men's fashion spotted in America, but who wears it better?, and how is the "Asian" identity represented in the music industry?...More
The war starts to come to an end, not with a bang, but a whimper. Really, the entirity of the Myeongnyang battle is completed within about ten minutes. Lee Soon-shin shows up, reassures the men that they're not all completely doomed, then they come up with a plan, they execute the plan, and just like that the Japanese invasion plan is once again completely tattered. With no fallback options the Japanese just fall back into complete despair...More
The story is still just about completely centered around Jin-han- although we're still not that much closer to his actually participating. From Deok-in, we do get an explanation that indicates her icy attitude toward Eun-soo wasn't just a function of the latter woman's terrible personality. There's an excellent logistical reason why Eun-soo shouldn't be the one to confront Jin-han, at least not in the immediate sense. And also Jin-woo is working at the company now...More
The Korean drama industry is at a time where productions desperately try to mix every element imaginable in order to cover as many needs as possible. With ratings having severely declined over the past few years, many shows end up a mix of genres, tone and ideas. Occasionally that works, but some just become convoluted beyond repair. "Yong Pal" might be in danger of this, but its premise does have potential...More
Breakups are not exactly a fun time for most people, yet they become the topic of romantic comedy very frequently in fiction. This approach in a rom-com context might not be so frequent in Korean drama, but there have been works which went there, such as 'Sly and Single Again' and 'Emergency Couple'. TvN's 'Ex-Girlfriends' Club' handles the consequences of breakups in the present. The approach has potential, but this particular series, while entertaining, does not make the best of it...More
Hae-rim (played by Seo Yeong-hee) gets a new job working at a VIP medical ward. This is a terrible job, you see, because rich people are terrible, what with always expecting complete subordinate obedience and also blow jobs. Hae-rim is disgusted, but she has debts, so what's a woman to do? Later on Hae-rim gets involved in the mysterious case of Mi-na (played by Kwon So-hyeon). And it's here that Hae-rim learns the terrible secret of life which she mostly already knew- that all men are rapists...More
Before and during the Korean War, the South Korean government made a point of murdering people, often in large numbers, on the suspicion of their being Communists. Disturbingly, the elderly interviewees in "Red Tomb" have taken this as such a matter-of-fact detail of life that they barely even flinch when director Gu Jahywan or anyone else asks them where the bodies are buried. This is the face of successful government-sponsored mass-murder- No Regret, no anger, this was just a thing that happened...More
In "Sprout", seven-year-old Bo-ri (played by Kim Soo-an) goes on an epic quest to go find vegetables. Bo-ri isn't exactly mentally equipped for this journey, being only a small child who is easily distracted. Even so, Bo-ri makes a strike for independence and journeys on a miniature road trip guided only by her feet. "Sprout" is no thriller- Bo-ri's neighborhood is just, well, a typical Korean neighborhood. Or is it?...More
2015/07/31 | | Permalink
Cheon-dong (played by Lee Joon) is a man who alternates between thinking the best and thinking the worst of his girlfriend. Moo-rim (played by Jo Soo-hyang) makes a point of constantly agitating for Cheon-dong out of a mix of spite and genuine romantic affection. These two are the perfect portrait of a couple that makes you wonder why they're even together in the first place, since they seem to be more about slapping than kissing. And it's from that backdrop that Moo-rim visits Cheon-dong from the great beyond for a final reques...More
2015/07/30 | | Permalink
Jo-saeng (played by Jeong Gyoo-soo) is Yang-seon's adoptive father, though he pretends to be her father by birth. He's also the main reason why the plot regarding the book hasn't gone anywhere. Jo-saeng has spent most of the runtime acting unhelpful because he's seen what vampires can do and is completely terrified at the prospect of getting involved at the storyline at all...More
2015/07/29 | | Permalink
In the aftermath of a major battle recovery is slow- well, not that slow given that Seong-yeol and Gwi are vampires, but this definitely appears to be a cycle that repeats fairly frequently. Seong-yeol is only able to outsmart Gwi enough to force another stalemate- they both live to fight another day. Which as far as Seong-yeol is concerned is a loss, because another day as a vampire is another day he has to suck blood from the living and, well, Seong-yeol doesn't like doing that...More
2015/07/28 | | Permalink
How does a man who doesn't feel react when hit with emotional discoveries? The question kind of sounds like a riddle, which makes the experience of watching this episode of "Remember You" a somewhat odd one. Watching Hyeon cry is, well, a little awkward. On one level I want to criticisize Seo In-guk's performance. But then on the other end I remember that he's been perfectly capable so far as the man with the unchanging, steel cold expression...More
2015/07/27 | | Permalink
After a brief bit of flirtation establishes that no, Hyeon hasn't suffered a major personality shift just because of romantic chemistry, "Remember You" gets into some pretty serious stuff. The subtitle this episode is "birth of a monster", and the ensuing backstory is stone cold primarily because of the philosophical issues it raises. Everyone knows that abuse can turn a child into a monster, but sheer indifference?...More
2015/07/27 | | Permalink
"The Assassination" dominates and threatens records...
Not since "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" (South Korea's highest-grossing film) have Korea's moviegoers rallied so vehemently behind a moving picture. Choi Dong-hoon's drama "The Assassination" was officially released last Wednesday and was the film to see over the weekend. And see they did...More
We learn this episode, quite predictably, that bravado is no substitute for competence. We don't see that much of the naval battle, but what we do see indicates a complete rout on the part of the Japanese. There's nothing standing between them and the rest of Korea. The situation's so bad that when the Chinese show up King Seonjo is actually glad to see them- all previous disputes now being forgiven. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to be enough here...More
Technically speaking I think Hong-ran is supposed to be the bad guy right now. She knows where Jin-han is, and is withholding this information from the rest of her family out of sheer spite. There's just one problem- Eun-soo has proven herself to be a substantially more unlikable person. It's actually pretty enjoyable just watching Eun-soo squirm, because this isn't a problem she can't solve through browbeating and threats. Not like that ever solved any problems in the first place, mind you...More
For the first time we see the potential in Ji-sook actualized. She is a fierce woman to be reckoned with, which is not at all what Seok-hoon expected. Watching the power balance between them even had is not only satisfying, it's great writing. Seok-hoon has had such overwhelming power over all the characters in "Mask" that it was beginning to feel infinite and real. Now we see he is just a very clever, very evil, very selfish man.
Seok-hoon is the pivotal character of the show...More
"Masked Prosecutor" has taken a darker twist than I had anticipated. While jarring, it hurtles forward with such conviction that I've almost forgotten that it doesn't quite fit. Most of this next direction rests heavily on Hyun-woong's shoulders and therefore on the very capable Eom Ki-joon's shoulders.
His character has stepped forward from the shadows only to be doused in a darkness of his own making...More
Chinese company invests in South Korea's top VFX studio, Tilda on board for Bong's next feature, catch the latest episode of Korean Cinema Today, and Mying Films has some exciting plans for the future of film production...More
Top spots in Seoul to sip your coffee with a view, Korea's Bok-Nal festival under fire, Nuns preserve monastic cuisine and culture, and what kimchi to make when you're in a pickle?...More
What are the differences between Koreans and foreigners?, Eat Your Kimchi present their report of a top spa they visited, golfer Bae Sang-moon fails to duck military duties, and are Korean men missing out on their golden years?...More
Robert Koehler captures Bugaksan, top tips for shooting Korea's temples, it's monsoon season in Korea, and The Washington Post probes South Korea's Ji Yeo on surgery in the city...More
Jin-han (played by Choi Jong-hwan) is the long-lost eldest brother of the Choi family, and the not-exactly-husband of Eun-soo. He's gotten amnesia and now lives a humble existence selling street food with his wife. Strictly speaking "Make a Woman Cry" hasn't actually confirmed that this person is Jin-han, but he's currently listed as such on MBC's official website. And besides, given how much of the conflict lately has been about Jin-han, it would be pretty ridiculous if the snack guy wasn't actually Jin-han after all...More
Well, it's finally happened. After forty plus episodes of King Seonjo being a generally ineffectual leader, his insecurities finally get the best of him. King Seonjo makes an obviously terrible decision based on the self-serving advice of a minority of his advisors and from here, it's only going to get worse. What really stands out about the situation is just how ridiculous it is- even the Japanese seem to be in complete disbelief as to the scale of their good luck here. Not that this in any way weakens their resolve...More
Politics in Korean drama can be a tricky subject, as ratings for KBS2's "Assembly" have shown. Perhaps catching audiences at a bad time for intrigue and government drama, the series has not been doing well in the numbers. For international fans, this is only important if changes are made due to it. What is most important, however, is whether the series is actually good and consistent in what it presents itself as. "Assembly" is both...More
Hye-joong (played by Jeong So-min) suffers from debilitating nightmares. So debilitating, she has to take long breaks from graduate coursework, and that's just not the kind of thing that can easily be explained to an impatient professor. It's not like she can get a doctor's note either, because the doctors say Hye-joong is perfectly healthy. It's just, some people inexplicably go into comas for several days at a time, only waking up to briefly be terrorized by an inability to separate reality from delusion. What else is there to do except go find a shaman?...More
Horror movie tropes are so simple that they generally tend to work better the less you think about them- or conversely, when you think about them so much that every generic slasher becomes some sort of weird metaphor for transgenderism. Thankfully writer / director Oh In-cheon goes the former direction with the spooky atmosphere in "12 Deep Red Nights: Chapter 1". See, there's four different stories. And scary stuff happens in each one...More
Dong-chul (played by Jo In-woo) is a sleazy guy who boasts to his friends about how he's totally figured out the whole relationship conflict thing. See, Dong-chul has a wife and kids. But they live in the Philippines. So even though Dong-chul has already solved the life goal of getting married and having a family (since he knocked her up in college), Dong-chul is still free and clear to engage in whatever philandering he wants in Korea, where none of this could possibly reflect badly on him. And you know what that means- copious soft core sex scenes...More
2015/07/24 | | Permalink
And so, "Orange Marmalade" ends rather anticlimatically. This much was unavoidable. The main problem with the story is that we stopped halfway through to do a mostly unrelated Joseon vampire plot. The tension between Si-hoo and Ah-ra is quite cute, but the effect is badly mollified by the fact that these two never really interacted with each other all that much in either the past or the present. The resolution of that subplot is a pretty classic case of what might have been...More
2015/07/23 | | Permalink
Gwi very quickly seems to forget that the reason he captured all the booksellers wasn't to spread a message of anti-literacy- Gwi's goal was in fact to get more information about Yang-seon. And he quickly gives that up to just do more obviously evil stuff that serves little apparent purpose except to force cover-ups and make people like Gwi even less than they already do. By the end of the episode Gwi isn't doing much better. He's once again easily bamboozled by Seong-yeol and manages to forget to take precautions against his most glaring weakness...More
2015/07/22 | | Permalink
Seong-ryeol does a lot of watching. Really, it seems to be his main special ability. He always has a perfect view of whatever scheme Gwi is planning at any given moment- that much would seem to be Gwi's special weakness. But for the most part Seong-ryeol has his eyes focused on Yang-seon this episode. It really does seem like a pity that Seong-ryeol has the power to read really fast but mostly just ends up waiting for people to finish doing stuff rather slowly...More
2015/07/21 | | Permalink
One of the reasons why "Remember You" takes an unpredictable amount of time to get through any given case is because the difficulty the detectives have solving any given case is directly proportional to how difficult the case is. That sentence probably seemed kind of long-winded and repetitive- but for formatted drama television this is genuinely a really unusual concept. And in "Remember You", it completely messes around with any sort of expectations we can have for any given episode...More
2015/07/20 | | Permalink
The last case was apparently resolved just as quickly as it looked. This is another one of the more uneven qualities of "Remember You"- it really is impossible to tell how long any given investigation is going to last. Right away we're given more hints as to another incoming crime, and sure enough, it isn't too long before the situation heats up until we get to a cliffhanger that just gives off a portent of disaster...More
2015/07/20 | | Permalink
Last week Disney and Pixar's "Inside Out" entered the fray to settle in second with 21% of the box office pie; this weekend, however, saw the popular animation clinch the top spot by outperforming Kim Hak-soon's "Northern Limit Line" by almost most doubling its efforts. "Inside Out" claimed 939 thousand admissions over 931 screens (35%) to top the chart over the weekend, bumping Kim's war drama down a place with its 530 thousand admissions (19%). Worldwide, "Inside Out" has been extremely well-received having now banked over $490 million...More
The story in "Jing Bi-rok" is quickly catching up with the more well-known parts of history. King Seonjo hasn't quite completely destroyed the backbone of the Korean military just yet, but he's working on it. It's sad watching Seong-ryong do his best to try and move the political edge of the story back into coherent sensible territory, knowing that he's doomed to fail. In this way King Seonjo is something of a tragic figure, too heavily mired in his own paranoia to realize that the purges have gone too far and are only making Korea more vulnerable...More
I really don't think we need any more exposition on how Eun-soo is a genuinely terrible person. "Make a Woman Cry" is overdoing it at this point. It's not just making her look evil but also kind of socially retarded. Deok-in didn't accept the proposal from Tae-hwan when he was acting nice about it, so why in the world would she accept it from Eun-soo in full-on bitch mode? Eun-soo's back-up plan is equally terrible, and predictably falls apart completely by the end of the episode...More
There is nothing quite like a romantic fantasy drama for the summer and MBC seems to have taken its intended type of show quite seriously with 'Scholar Who Walks the Night'. It offers vampires, doppelgangers, damsels and rescues, romance and mystery, and of course the quite important beautiful men. None of those elements will work without an engaging plot, however, so let us see how the drama is faring with that part so far...More
In a lot of ways, cable television has brought more daring concepts to Korean drama. What was once an age where any non-virginal female character was an antagonist or flawed existence has given way to even leading women who do not remain stuck in perpetual wish fulfillment for those in love with gender stereotypes. 'Oh My Ghostess' is yet another tvN series which tackles the s-word and it also cast stars who are talented and loved by audiences to do so...More
Different is not always good, but its existence always is. For a largely limited medium such as Korean drama, shows which step outside of the norm in some way are a push towards programming which covers not just one group's preferences, but those of many. "Midnight Diner" is a unique little show which has done poorly in the ratings, but might just offer the few who watch it a much needed breather and some comfort...More
"Masked Prosecutor" is getting desperate. It'll pulling out all of the stops and taking a gamble, which unfortunately hasn't worked out for the best. The romantic scenes are quite adorable, but a lot of the deeper emotional material misses the mark.
A lot of it - but not all of it...More
Despite the melodrama in this melodrama, this episode of "Mask" was particularly fantastic. The character writing is so strong that it pulls the hectic storyline together. Characters who have taken longer to build up, like Mi-yeon, have begun to blossom and we can expect to see some definite action from them in the future.
Normally in a drama like this, betrayal and power struggles overwhelm any sort of character development. "Mask" seems like it will be overtaken by the melodrama, and those many moments when a new problem surfaces can get exasperating, but I find myself eager to see how characters will handle these new situations...More
There are many ways to comment on and cite literature, but moving images are harder to handled and quote. The history of cinematic thinking has long been tied to the shadow of literary concerns, taking its terms, theories and filtering them through audiovisual cues back to typographical symbols. Is there a way to articulate the themes, motifs, moments and magic found within films without relying on the power of the written word?...More
The Busan International Film Festival coming soon and calls for submissions, catch BiFan screenings online through KOBIZ, Variety looks at the genre and indie movement at this year's BiFan, and Erin McDermott reviews Lee Song-hee-il's 2013 film "Night Flight" for Beyond Hallyu...More
Do Western children enjoy Kimchi?, how to make a savoury Korean egg soufflé, Jin Joo combines avocado and pasta on Beyond Kimchi, and what do experts have to say about the link between food and tourism?...More
Feminism in Kpop on the rise, EYK explores Korea's drug culture, Emma Stone loves K-pop, and Irene Kim signs with Estée Lauder...More
Rainy skies over Bukchon Hanok, Seoul State of Mind visits Yeomiji Botanical Garden, TIME marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, and what to keep in mind when taking pictures of your food to share online...More
After romantic melodrama 'My Love Eun-dong', jTBC has something quite different coming up. "Last" is not looking like the kind of show which drama audiences are used to, but its cast, approach and the fact that it is based on a popular webtoon might deliver something substantial or at least entertaining. On the other hand, it might be shallow and messy, but one can hope...More
Seong-ryong has tried to step into the role of conflict resolution- and it's not really working out all that well. The main issue is that while ministers have very fervent discussions about maybe doing something in the immediate future, meanwhile, people are still being brutalized out in the torture yard. The year is 1596 and this is still the best solution anybody can come up with to internal problems. At this rate it seems like the Japanese are going to invade again because the Koreans have learned absolutely nothing from the awful early times of the war...More
The conflict takes on the fairly traditional trappings of money versus remorse this episode. To some extent I think Deok-in is bein unfair to Tae-hwan. Obviously it's a somewhat insulting gesture to try to make up for the death of someone's son by giving them money, but what else is Tae-hwan supposed to do? The guy's not exactly overflowing with fatherly warmth and affection. Expressing sympathy through financial gifts is probably the best way Tae-hwan knows how to articulate himself...More
As the opening sequence demonstrates, there is a kind of medical factor to tattoo art that's rather fascinating. They both involve needles, obviously, but what exactly is that weird ink that creates tattoo art anyway? Soo-na (played by Yoon Joo-hee) is a doctor turned tattooist who utilizes their mysterious properties- for murder. That sounds like a good premise for a movie doesn't it? Well, unfortunately the actual main serial killer character of "Tattooist" is Ji-soon (played by Song Il-gook). He's just a generic übermensch serial killer...More
Seol-ji (played by Dana) is a North Korean defector living in the South. Her days are filled with nothing all that remarkable. Seol-ji works in a flower shop with another defector, fulfilling the sometimes bizarre requests of people who order flowers. She also paints as a hobby- this being the profession of her old life in North Korea. Life isn't amazing- but it's not terrible either. Seol-ji has enough money to get by. Which is why she bristles at Sin-woong (played by Kang Eun-tak), an ambitious director who thinks Seol-ji has exactly the right story for a compelling television documentary...More
Tae-woo (played by Jeong Kyeong-ho) is in a dead-end relationship with Hee-yeon (played by Jung Yoon-sun). I mean that very literally- Hee-yeon is dying. Tae-woo idles away his time between work, funeral preparations, and visiting Hee-yeon at the hospital. But what ultimately commands most of the screen time is "Amor" is Tae-woo's own memories. There's a definite irony about this- Tae-woo himself frequently notes that he and Hee-yeon didn't have much time to make memories in the first place. And in emphasis of this point, there are barely even any flashbacks of their relationship...More
One thing that's nice about the characters in "Orange Marmalade" is that they consistently act like teenagers. Jae-min is really grumpy about having to completely rethink his hatred of vampires, and this shows in his now muddled relationship with Ma-ri. He still likes her, but he's mad that she lied to him, but she lied to him for good reason because Jae-min can plainly see how everybody treats vampires, including him, and so Ma-ri's behavior was sort of justified from that angle...More
"Mask" has taken a turn for the epically dramatic. And despite the fact that it has become a little ridiculous, it still has that special something that makes it a great watch. The characters are so well-planned that the incredulous amount of bad luck that befalls Ji-sook can almost be overlooked.
So much stacks up against our heroine that it's difficult to digest...More
"Masked Prosecutor" is both better and worse this episode. It is very engaging on an emotional level and focuses more on the core relationships in the show rather than the faulted procedural happenings.
The relationship between Dae-cheol and Min-hee in both of its incarnations is endearing because Min-hee has stopped fighting her feelings for both Dae-cheol and his masked alter ego...More
2015/07/16 | | Permalink
Poor Seong-yeol. I mean, I know it's a big genre convention that the brooding romantic vampire has to hate who he is, and regret the mistakes of the past, but still. Running into Myeong-hee does a number on Seong-yeol's brain here. It's a trauma only amplified by flashbacks which indicate that Seong-yeol didn't even really manage to knock Gwi out temporarily- at that point Gwi let Seong-yeol leave the throne room alive (or undead if you want to be technical) mainly out of pity...More
2015/07/15 | | Permalink
One of the odder quirks about "Scholar Who Walks the Night" is that the villain is kind of incompetent. Sure, he can beat the tar out of pretty much anybody in a fight- that's why Seong-yeol is walking the night instead of trying to take Gwi down in hand-to-hand combat. The problem is that Gwi's ultimate goal is largely political in nature, and he has two kinds of allies- not terribly competent henchmen, and political power players who are smarter than the overly ambitious vampire...More
2015/07/14 | | Permalink
Hyeon isn't really in love with Ji-an just yet. We can tell because throughout the entire crisis at Ji-an's apartment, Hyeon continues to think logically and ask reasonable questions about the suspicious occurrences on their date. Naturally these questions carry over into the apparent attack- what motive could anyone have to put Ji-an in danger? And more relevantly, why would Seon-ho be nearby? It's like Hyeon says- there's never really any such thing as coincidence...More
The first two mysteries in "Remember You" didn't have much of an emotional catharsis, but that's not an option this time. As Hyeon himself admits in narration, his involvement in this case isn't a matter of curiousity or justice. Hyeon sees himself as the accused murderer, and is completely unwilling to acknowledge the prospect that biology is destiny. It's for this reason that Hyeon keeps making missteps. His deductive mind is as powerful as ever, but Hyeon wants a specific conclusion. And more importantly, he's admitted that to himself...More
Episode 10 was all about backing the bad guys into the corner. This means it focused on the procedural aspect of the show. The procedural aspect of "Masked Prosecutor is, by far, the weakest part of the drama. Therefore, this episode was decidedly weak.
Dae-cheol and his helpers figure out how to back Sang-taek and his cronies (who include Hyun-woong) into a proverbial corner...More
Kim Hak-soon's "Northern Limit Line" back on song…
Kim Hak-soon's war drama "Northern Limit Line" returned to the top of the pile this past weekend after having been dislodged last week by the hard-hitting "Terminator Genisys". Kim's war drama did this by capturing 26% of the box office pie (872 thousand admissions), and so moved its total tally onto 4.6 million ($31 million). Last week's number one, the fifth in the "Terminator" series, fell two places to settle in third with 647 thousand (21%), while second place went to the critically acclaimed new Disney and Pixar feature: "Inside Out" by Pete Docter...More
Drama tropes are used in abundance in this episode. They are merely tools to vamp up tension in this already high-tension drama. That said, the outcome of the trope usage has cleverly accelerated plot motion. A melodrama is not a melodrama with tears and a sick person, but "Mask" uses them well, as well as Seok-hoon uses Ji-sook.
The two major tropes that played a major role in this episode were family illness and a person from the past making an all-too-convenient reappearance in order to stir up a main character...More
It really is uncanny how, every time the focus shifts back to internal politics, most of the characters straight up seem to forget the fact that they're in the middle of a war. In all fairness it has been a while since the war actually seemed important, especially since it seems like peace is just around the corner. Of course peace has seemed to be around the corner for several episodes now and, once again, we know that once peace does show up it's not actually going to be permanent...More
Last episode's cliffhanger promised a lot of tears- and that's exactly what we get here. Deok-in has a complete breakdown. She loses interest in everything- her social position, her relationships, all of them become absolutely meaningless in light of the new information Deok-in now has about her son's death. There's nothing for the other characters to do except look on awkwardly in silence...More
I really do wish I had some idea how the Japanese view the invasion of Korea. Often in "Jing Bi-rok" I feel like the Japanese are being treated as unreasonably evil. And yet at the same time everything that happens is based on real events, and it's obvious that whatever talk of surrender is being floated around now, the Japanese do manage another invasion in the near future, and this invasion almost certainly would have destroyed the Korean state if not for Yi Sun-shin...More
Eun-soo's attempts at playing detective have at this point completely torpedoed any hope of her character being seen as sympathetic. I kind of want to see something terrible happen to her son, because short of that, it really doesn't seem like there's anything else that could make Eun-soo realize that taunting a woman about her dead child is only a few hairs short of outrageous cartoonish evil...More
Dramaland is no stranger to attempts at new concepts. Sadly, it is also not a stranger to abandoning them before they have the chance to flourish. "Assembly" is a type of series which has been done before, but it comes at a time when the industry is desperate to sell, not to create good content. It also marks the drama debut of award-winning movie actor Jeong Jae-yeong, raising the bar and therefore making its potential fall more severe...More
"Producers" was a big gamble when it was announced, combining a very popular cast with a new format, new thematic approach and an unpopular new timeslot. The worries that it would succumb to the fame of its cast and change its course were there, but that it would do so after only two episodes was something which shocked many. What started as a variety drama ended up a romantic comedy. The question is, did it end up a good one...More
In the opening sequence of of "The Wicked Are Alive", we're treated to a character who appears to have met a terrible fate at the bottom of the mountain. The situation goes from bad to worse when another characters show up who decides that, rather than acting helpful, now would be a good time to exploit the situation for personal gain. Well, it's like the title says. "The Wicked Are Alive". Most of them do end up dying sooner or later but they have to be alive at least a little while for the gruesome violence to show up...More
Hae-kang (played by Park Jeong-pyo) is an independent film director. Like most directors in the independent circuit, he struggles with short films, trying to gain enough recognition at a major film festival to acquire funding for a feature length project. And Hae-kang has managed to get this funding, kind of. He faces much more logistical difficulties, though. Boring stuff like gaining permission to film at certain locations. Also Hae-kang's staff is nearing revolt. And his personal life is kind of falling apart...More
Yoo-rim (played by Kang Hye-jeong) is a new teacher. Because she doesn't have a prior employment record, Yoo-rim is placed under the care of fellow teacher Hong (played by Park Hae-il). They both have significant others. So, naturally, Hong proceeds to sexually harass Yoo-rim at every possible opportunity. On one occassion this escalates into explicit rape. So obviously "Rules of Dating" is a...romantic comedy?...More
2015/07/10 | | Permalink
The completion of the Joseon storyline appears to have added some necessary perspective to Jae-min and Ma-ri in the present day. Sure, the premature dissolution of their teen romance is disappointing, but at least they didn't fall victims to a murderous war between vampires and humans. Be that as it may, Ma-ri has now been outed as a vampire. So now she has to suffer from the prejudice of her classmates...More
2015/07/09 | | Permalink
Yang-seon (played by Lee Yoo-bi) is a cross-dressing book merchant. It quickly becomes very obvious why that is- apparently even in the Joseon era, selling books required lots of borderline perverted gamesmanship. Yang-seon is completely stoked to find any source of new book material, no matter how obviously ridiculous. No, actually, the more ridiculous the better. That's what drags the clients in- the promise of preposterous sexy stories...More
2015/07/08 | | Permalink
Seong-yeol (played by Lee Joon-ki) is a warrior scholar with a special interest in vampires. Matters take a turn for the disastrous when one such vampire by the name of Gwi (played by Lee So-hyeok) decides to make a serious effort to take over the world. The young lady Myeong-hee (played by Kim So-eun) ends up getting caught in the middle of this. Which is unfortunate, since Seong-yeol and Myeong-hee get along rather adorably together...More
2015/07/08 | | Permalink
After the midway point of "Masked Prosecutor" Min-hee began to fill out as a character. In this episode especially she shows significant growth as her past comes to haunt her and she loses the composure for which she has been known. Alongside her walks Dae-cheol and his sidekick Ho-sik propels him into realization: he must use the mask for justice and not for revenge.
I've been hoping to see Dae-cheol to learn to be powerful as a prosecutor, but the show wants him to fight on the side of justice rather than use the mask for personal reasons...More
2015/07/07 | | Permalink
Apparently enough clues have surfaced that Hyeon has bee able to identify the true culprit behind the cases we've seen to date. It certainly didn't seem that way to me, but then I'm not a genius criminal investigator. And as per Hyeon's usual disregard of proper narrative structure, his explanation of how he unraveled the mystery comes at the beginning of he episode rather than the end. The true villain begrudgingly gives Hyeon a few more inexplicable clues before making a quick getaway...More
Ji-an and Hyeon continue their secret investigation. This entire plotline invokes a lot of ambivalent feelings for me. On one end, it's wrong for Hyeon to hide from the police. On the other end Hyeon is fairly obviously doing this simply because it's more fun to work against the police than it is to work with them. Considering how easily bamboozled they are it's hard to blame him. Ji-an delivers a plausible explanation in a very implausible way and her co-workers still don't bother to question it...More
Min-woo has completely fallen for Ji-sook and that brings cuteness and jealousy into tonal tapestry. To counter the levity of Min-woo's burgeoning first love is the fact that Ji-sook's secret is slowly leaking to those who knew her and creating new troubles for Seok-hoon's master plan.
Joo Ji-hoon is completely winning as the rigid Min-woo who falls in love with the only person in his life who is genuinely kind to him...More
Taylor's new "Terminator" shoots and scores…
Last week Kim Hak-soon's war drama "Northern Limit Line" managed to dislodge the record-breaking "Jurassic Park" at the top of the chart. This past weekend, however, saw another foreign favourite come back from the archives to thrill audiences yet again with its dystopian take on future days...More
We start off with Lee Soon-shin showing how to actually inspire confidence among the common people- by thanking them. No, really, that's the main important part. Lee Soon-shin understands that the only reason he has an army at all is because the common people of Korea are offering him his support. Granted, they're offering their support so that Lee Soon-shin can protect them from the Japanese invaders but even so. Lee Soon-shin doesn't patronize the common people like King Seonjo does. The admiral genuinely doesn't seem to be that pretentious...More
Eun-soo has this really bad habit of using a threatening tone of voice even when she's not actually trying to act threatening. The weird part is that it quickly becomes clear that Eun-soo doesn't actually know anything about what's going on with Jin-woo. She just seems to be gossiping with Deok-in for no apparent reason, except to try and hurt Deok-in emotionally. So that character, at least, remains mostly unsympathetic...More
There was a lot of development in episode 6 of "Mask". It was all for the better. We got to see inside the hearts of many of the characters and that shaped all the elements that had the potential to be overly dramatic into effective plot moments.
The most important aspect of the episode was that we got to see past the veils of many of the characters...More
The opening is a fairly good representation of the main political conflict right now. Prince Gwanghae behaves like an actual leader, carefully considering the advice of his subordinates, but ultimately deciding that difficult situations necesitate risk-taking. And as usual he has to run all this past his dopey dad King Seonjo, who always puts the considerations of the people first, even when in the long-term being well-liked is a matter of demonstating competence, not empathy...More
It's all well and good for Jin-woo to say that he'll love and support Deok-in no matter what- but at this point "Make a Woman Cry" is forcing the issue of how they have very different perspectives on relationships and trauma. Jin-woo is unwilling to acknowledge that his previous marriage was a failure, on account of the fact that it didn't end in divorce. Whereas Deok-in takes death much more seriously, and realizes that even the best intent can't salvage an awful overall situation...More
It is truly the age of manhwa, webtoon and novel adaptations, and we have another one coming. MBC's 'Scholar Who Walks the Night' is based on a manhwa of the same name and it is a fantasy period piece involving revenge, gender bending and vampires. It sounds like a lot to deal with, but the drama will hopefully do it well and bring some summer entertainment...More
When it was announced that 'Heartless City' writer Yoo Seong-yeol would be writing OCN's "My Beautiful Bride", many of its fans started building their expectations. The former series had some very unique and nuanced characters and relationships, it was dark and yet beautiful and despite its eventual issues, it was a good piece of Korean television. "My Beautiful Bride" is not entirely similar, but the quality is there and it has created an impressive start and reasons to anticipate its future...More
I have a lot of respect for soldiers. This isn't because of any ridiculous nonsense like how they're stoic invincible highly trained heroes protecting our freedoms from the barbarian hordes. No, I respect the troops because they have lousy jobs. It's either do nothing, or do something really quickly. Plus, the punishment for pretty much everything is infinite push-ups. "Northern Limit Line" is, first and foremost, a story about these down-to-earth soldiers...More
Jae-ho (played by Lee Kyeong-yeong) is a working class man turned radical protestor after the city of Seoul appropriated his home for eminent domain. Jae-ho and several of his like-minded fellows responded by holing up in the building and refusing to leave, prompting an attack by the police. In the aftermath of tragic disaster, Jae-ho needs legal defense to sort out what happened- enter Jin-won (played by Yoon Kye-sang), who initially treats this as a regular job but changes his mind upon realizing that for reasons unknown, the prosecutor is trying to impede the investigation...More
Ji-noo (played by Ryoo Seung-beom) is always clad in his distinctive helmet as he does jobs for...I think he's supposed to be working for some sort of corporation but they act like the mob. I don't mean that metaphorically. Their response to the disappearance of important money is literally to bludgeon people until they're so disfigured they need special make-up for the rest of the movie. Anyway, what Ji-noo does isn't that important anyway. Na-mi (played by Ko Joon-hee) runs a junk yard. Her much more important contribution to the story is to show off her butt...More
The Eat Your Kimchi crew get some spicy payback, what is "Sambok"?, 10 Korean dishes to enjoy this summer, and a delicious chicken noodle soup recipe from Korean Bapsang...More
Would you travel around Korea on your bicycle?, Korea Herald highlights some of Seoul's top hidden hotspots, 7 things to enjoy in Gwangju, and a list of South Korean festivals that are simply not to be missed...More
Complex takes a look at three Korean hip=hop artists making new waves, Seoul hold mass wedding for North Korean defectors, Korean culture awakens from MERS, EYK share their thoughts on how living abroad has changed them, and did you know that there is a South Korea-North Korean translation app?...More
A stunning HDR pic from Robert Koehler, 7 street photographers to spy, check out Hugo's beautiful photography portfolio, and tentacled food porn?...More
The power of family and true fidelity bring "Heard It Through the Grapevine" to a close. The drama made plenty of social commentary and gave Jung-ho his just desserts by having everyone leave him. This highlights the show's biggest point: equality among people despite socio-economic differences.
The final episode itself was anticlimactic and had a few too many bow-tied plot threads, but it was effective for its purpose...More
The corruption of Jung-ho continues even though it results in losing the people in his life. His continued ignorance of his social situation makes him more pitiable than detestable. While he suffers as his world falls apart, In-sang struggles to acclimate to life away from his father's protective monetary comfort. The episode highlights the differences between those who pluck up the courage and try to change and those who refuse to change out of fear.
In-sang chooses a new life situation where he must learn to adapt...More
2015/07/02 | | Permalink
Romance starts in earnest in episode 5 of "Mask". It is the catalyst for change in Min-woo's brickwall personality and it is the one small happiness for Ji-sook in her new, masked life. Surrounding that romance is the darkness of intrigue, deceit, and the hunt for more money and power.
Seok-hoon is a master manipulator and revels in his conquests...More
"Mask" keeps the tension high as Ji-sook and Seok-hoon butt heads. Min-woo skirts on the fringes of their tense relationship, struggling with his illness and his ambition. Already the effects of Ji-sook's presence in his life are obvious, but they are not yet strong enough to distract for the incredible tension between Ji-sook and Seok-hoon.
As with any melodrama, Ji-sook is faced with scheming in-laws and never ending misfortunates...More
Romance blossoms in episode 8 of "Masked Prosecutor" and it's quite welcome amongst the darkness of the procedural happenings. It livens up Min-hee's character and also provides some conflict. The cards also continue to stack up against Dae-cheol at this halfway point of the drama and bring both him and Min-hee to critical decisions.
The path towards these decisions was decidedly clunky...More
Despite the unhappiness at home, Jung-ho continues to play in the political arena using money to buy him power and influence. In his selfish venture for more power, he doesn't that his son has been agonizing over which path he should take: staying in luxury and abiding by his father's law, or living with Beom and Jin-young and working hard to make ends meet. The decisions both men make also legally affect the other characters in the show, but that aspect of the drama is the dullest.
Jung-ho plans to overwhelm Beom, Secretary Min, and the rest of the staff with insidiously clever legal proceedings and doesn't think about how his children, especially In-sang, view him or his actions...More
2015/06/30 | | Permalink
Normally I really dislike it when a nominally sympathetic character in a story works unfailingly to prop up a lie. What makes Ji-an different in this regard is, in the first place, she knows full well that Hyeon won't cooperate if she just tells him the truth. Hyeon's willingness to be helpful is directly proportional to how much he gets to act like an uncooperative, mean-spirited jerk in the process. This is what Hyeon's personality has been like since childhood, and that's not going to change any time soon...More
2015/06/30 | | Permalink
This show is gearing towards the ending. It spirals inwards on itself, making the same plot moves over and over again. Jung-ho is selfish and hurts everyone around him. In-sang has several battles raging within him: his loyalty to his family, his greed over his inheritance, and his love for Beom. Beom is struggling with her pride and battling Jung-ho's incredible arrogance and power.
That said, the curtain lifts a bit on Jung-ho's backdoor dealings and how he has maintained his wealth...More
The culprit apparently apprehended, the police team comes up against a very serious problem- there's not much real evidence. For Hyeon that doesn't pose a problem. This isn't because Hyeon is a super detective who can pull evidence out of nowhere to bring criminals to justice. It's quite the opposite really. Hyeon's interest in crime is directly proportional to how interesting the crime is. And sadly, Hyeon simply isn't impressed by the current villain...More
A few big revelations took place this episode of "Masked Prosecutor", but more than that, we got to see genuine character development in Min-hee. The development walked hand in hand with the unfolding of her backstory. Kim Seon-ah also opened up with her burgeoning character.
We learned more about Min-hee's past as she chases the cold trails that Sang-taek left behind...More
What makes "Mask" unique is the view that each character has of his or herself. There is the villain, Seok-hoon, who sees himself has deserving the fruits of his evil deeds. Ji-sook must pose as another woman and battles with herself to accept the new reality. These views are the most typical in the melodrama genre. But then there is Min-woo, mentally unstable, but highly ambitious. He is the wild card that stimulates intrigue in the plot and fuels the actions of other characters.
The fable of the scorpion and the frog outlines the relationship between Min-woo and Ji-sook...More
A rush of fresh blood dislodges "Jurassic World"...
A string of new flicks, both foreign and domestic, flooded Korea cinemas last week, and in the aftermath of the weekend a new championed emerged. For the past few weeks the gigantically successful "Jurassic World" (which has, to date, banked over $1.2B worldwide) has dominated Korean screens with its ferocious abominations, but this past weekend saw a new favourite rise to the top, a local flick that's based on a true story of war and young courage...More
The language in "Jing Bi-rok" is so consistently thick that I honestly have trouble following it even in the best of times. But in terms of story structure this episode is particularly challenging. The Chinese and the Japanese both lack much presence here, so there's no villains / other civilization for us to compare to when it comes to the general dysfunction of the Korean government. Consequently, I can barely even detect a plot arc here- that much might be more obvious if I knew more about the historical context...More
Deok-in's attempt to get a clear explanation of Jin-woo's behavior doesn't go that well. Part of the issue is just that Jin-woo doesn't want to tell her what's really going on, so he simply tells Deok-in about his emotional state instead. This isn't really much more helpful- just because Jin-woo wants to see her even though he doesn't actually want to see her just means...what exactly?...More
Korean street food in Hong Kong?, Shabu Shabu is on the menu over at Kimchimari, Holly shares her recipe for an egg and veggie frittata, and spicy chewy noodles anyone?...More
Track the evolution of a 100 years of Korean beauty, explore tattoo culture in Korea, what does America's LGBT ruling mean for Korea?, and the Korea Herald interviews some of its veterans to share their stories...More
I increasingly feel somewhat foolish for not focusing on Prince Gwanghae more in my writing on this drama. It's obvious the more we see of him that Prince Gwanghae finds this entire situation degrading and insulting, in every possible way. He's mad that the Japanese have invaded the country, he's angry that the Chinese are forcing political battles, and he's especially furious that accomplishing anything requires that Prince Gwanghae make deep serious bows to his weenie dad. As usual, King Seonjo doesn't really know what's going on...More
What makes the action scenes in "Make a Woman Cry" feel odd is that, first and foremost, this is a family drama. It's been over a dozen episodes since Deok-in has ever fought anyone. It's one of the odder parts of her background as a cop. In a more conventional story this stuff would show up all the time. But purporting as it does to be at least partially be a representation of real family life, "Make a Woman Cry" has to show much more restraint in this department...More
More romance is arriving from tvN, a channel which by now has made romantic comedies its most notable genre. This time around, we have fantasy involved in the form of what sounds like quite an embarrassing ghost possession. With Park Bo-yeong making a return to dramas and a cast and premise which sound at the very least entertaining, we might be in for a fun summer rom-com...More
Korean drama is not really entertainment known for its fresh stories. Even when they appear to be, a lot of them are based on other works, such as manhwa, webtoons or even works in other countries. "Midnight Diner" is itself based on a Japanese drama called 'Shinya Shokudo' and originally a manga. However, that does not change the fact that it can bring some much needed diversity to Korean drama...More
TvN's new crime drama, "Hidden Identity" is now done with its introductory episodes and has begun going into the main plot. Expectations for this show have been high, partly on a Hallyu level due to the participation of Kim Beom, but also because the promotion for the show has looked promising for fans of the genre and the way cable television treats it. "Hidden Identity" has a few key issues right now, but it has enough good things to do well...More
The year is 1938, and Joo-ran (played by Park Bo-yeong) is a young woman who's sent off to boarding school, mostly to avoid being too much of an inconvenience to a restructured family that's decided to move to Japan. For the most part Joo-ran's adjustments to the new environment are nothing out of the ordinary. There's a bullying clique, a new friend by the name of Yeon-deok (played by Park So-dam), a curricular obsession with long jumping, and freaky hallucinations involving missing students covered in nightmarish gook. At least, Joo-ran is hoping these are just hallucinations...More
Soo-ho (played by Kim Tae-yong-II) is a young boy living with a terminal illness- although on a day-by-day basis he's still healthy enough to do things like go to school and do the cooking for his widowed mother Eun-joo (played by Jeong Jae-yeon). For all this, Soo-ho still feels his life is incomplete. When Soo-ho meets Yangming (played by Yang Fan) at his favorite park, Soo-ho hatches a scheme- to turn this handsome Chinese man into the father figure he's always wanted...More
The painter (played by Yoo Joon-sang) isn't actually all that angry. It's a fact that confused me throughout most of "Angry Painter". Yoo Joon-sang is a very capable actor who can play with a very wide range of emotions. And yet no matter what the painter does, be it painting or cooking or paying condolence visits or witnessing crime scenes or brutalizing rapists or engaging in mortal street fights or even just carving up some meat, Yoo Joon-sang just maintains the same generally blank expression...More
2015/06/26 | | Permalink
In a somewhat confusing twist, it would appear that we're still not done with the Joseon portion of "Orange Marmalade". Lately I've found it more and more difficult to relate the Joseon phase to the high school part of the drama, and this turnabout doesn't make matters any different. At this point "Orange Marmalade" legitimately appears to be a historical fantasy action thriller, with high stakes combat, political maneuvering and almost incidentally, a love triangle...More
2015/06/25 | | Permalink
The tone for the final episode is a surprisingly somber one- there are very few jokes, just serious questions. Namely, does this relationship have any future? Doesn't the very idea of living together without being married imply that this was always just going to be a temporary situation? The worst of it is that most of the crises are not prompted by actual relationship problems, but rather employment issues that would appear to make these relationships too inconvenient to continue over time...More
2015/06/25 | | Permalink
The inability to adapt and change has cost Jung-ho what he needs most: people. One by one they leave him because of his severe superiority complex. What is sad is not that Jung-ho acutely feels the loss of his people, but that he feels offended by what he views as their desertion.
Jung-ho's arrogance stands out in relief against a backdrop of disgruntled employees and family members...More
2015/06/24 | | Permalink
The second episode of "Mask" is nothing short of melodramatic. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, it brings the events from the first episode full circle and propels the plot forward at breakneck speed. All the trappings of a self-respecting melodrama are present and they are, if not novel, at least interesting. This could be due to stellar acting on the parts of the three leads: Soo-ae, Joo Ji-hoon, Yeon Jeong-hoon, and Yoo In-yeong.
In particular, Yeon's acting stands out because he is better known for his brooding heroes than for his scheming villains...More
2015/06/23 | | Permalink
The chain of events that explains how Hyeon came into his present-day position as an eccentric professor are mostly clearly defined. His motivations are what's more difficult to grasp. In most dramas the death of a father and the disappearance of a younger brother would be the spur to a lifetime of seeking revenge. Yet bizarrely, Hyeon doesn't even seem to be taking these events all that personally. It's the psychology of motivation that keeps Hyeon engaged rather than any kind of emotional attachment...More
2015/06/22 | | Permalink
Hyeon (played by Seo In-guk) is a strange man who investigates unusual events just for the fun of it, and likes to mess around with people without ever changing his eerily vacant expression. Ji-an (played by Jang Nara) is a perky detective who is easily provoked by actions obviously intended to stupefy her. Together they...don't actually fight crime just yet. After a rather peculiar opener most of the runtime is dedicated to Hyeon's backstory...More
2015/06/22 | | Permalink
"Jurassic World" still rules, but under pressure from two new local entries...
Two films (one foreign, one local) dominated at the top of the pile over the weekend. "Jurassic World" and "The Classified File" were the nation's films of choice, and together constituted over 80% of the sales with just over 2 million admissions between them. Last weekend, "Jurassic World" came and conquered, and week two for this record-breaking thrill ride saw it retain the top stop with over a million in attendance (45%). Colin Trevorrow's "Jurassic World" has already broken the record for the all-time opening weekend in North America, and in South Korea that support has continued as the film, the fourth installment in the "Jurassic Park" series, now moves onto $27M (3.4M admissions)...More
The rich family conflict between Jin-myeong and Hong-ran finally comes to a head. Their differences have become so irreconcilable that divorce would appear to be inevitable. The irony of the situation is rather obvious- all this time we've had families arguing over divorce and whether or not this should be the proper basis for long term decisions. And yet here, Hong-ran is treated like the bad guy because...well, as far as I can tell because she's not a blood relative...More
From a storytelling perspective Prince Gwanghae is in a very awkward place in "Jing Bi-rok". The main issue is just a historical one. Normally we think of Gwanghae not as a prince, but as a King. Gwanghae appears right now in "Splendid Politics", the other major historical long-form Korean drama currently airing. He's the villain. So it's a pretty odd transition to go from that to "Jing Bi-rok" and see that Gwanghae is mostly just a pawn in political games he can't actually control...More
"Masked Prosecutor" has such potential that it is not living up to. Dae-cheol hides behind his mask because he feels impotent as a prosecutor. The story is about how he grows up. Min-hee also hides behind a less literal mask, one of a driven, hard woman who works for justice and who leaves little time for herself to be happy.
Neither of these characters are compellingly written...More
"Mask" barrels out of the gate with swift, secure characterizations, and a fresh take on a few of the more belabored drama themes: owing money to loan sharks, severe mental illness, and on the idea of doppelgangers. Director Boo Seong-cheol of "Lobbyist", "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, and "Jang Ok-jeong" and Writer Choi Ho-cheol of the melodrama "Secrets" tackle this dark story with panache and a surprising touch of comedy.
The story centers around a woman, Byeon Ji-sook (Soo-ae) whose family has always lived in dire straights due to her father's irresponsible fiscal habits...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" is going through puberty much too late. It is episode twenty-five out of thirty and only now do Beom and In-sang start having major problems. These problems are only a point of intrigue rather than an integral part of the plot motion. The groundwork had been laid for issues to manifest much sooner between them. What annoys me most is that their fight is merely a tool to make the story last until the end of the drama's run.
All the character development that I'd been hoping for in Beom and In-sang bursts forth from the emotional flood gates...More
Concerns about war take a back seat this episode as the bulk of "Jing Bi-rok" moves back to political maneuvering. Big words like reshuffling and abdication are thrown around- well, I'm not really sure those are the actual words. It's difficult to fully grasp everything that's going on in "Jing Bi-rok" because the vocabulary is really elaborate- even more so than a typical costume drama. I'm just glad the production team keeps defining the more obscure words for us...More
Jin-woo isn't at all sure how to deal with the information he learned from his son. In the immediate sense all Jin-woo really knows is that he has to continue making a sincere emotional effort to help Deok-in out, because this new information doesn't change the basics of their emotional bond. Deok-in is a woman who's always trying very hard to do the right thing, and not always succeeding. Particularly when it comes to Kyeong-cheol...More
Actors vary a lot in their talent, skills, types of performances, popularity and even function in the industry their career develops in. There are many who might not be familiar or very familiar to foreign fans and especially drama fans, but whose work has been significant. They have helped the film and drama industries maintain a certain quality through their individual artistic efforts and choices. Park Hee-soon is such an actor...More
While crime shows are in general more realistic and handle more dire topics than for example fairytale romances, they do not necessarily explore their stories more deeply. Crime fluff does exist and has its own tropes that also become clichés. OCN has delivered many good dramas, but had not gone the extra mile into meaningful stories with a theme. Until 'Missing Noir M' came along. A show which elevates its genre and becomes a milestone for the channel's drama output...More
The time is the late seventies in Busan. The South Korean dictatorship is in full swing, but as is often the case, this isn't something that most common citizens necessarily notice on a day-by-day basis. Just because the central intelligence bureau can capture and torture citizens on flippant reasons doesn't mean they can do something more obviously useful like, say, apprehend a kidnapper. That's the main hurdle facing detective Gil-yong (played by Kim Yoon-seok). The police just aren't used to trying to find people who are making an active effort to hide...More
Chen (played by Park Ki-woong) is a Chinese eel farmer who smuggles himself into South Korea to get his eels tested, in an effort to figure out the transnational reasons behind familial business failures. Incidentally, Chen looks very hot with his shirt off and is surprisingly good at fighting people as long as he's not blindsided. There's just one problem. Try as he might, Chen will forever be marked by the fact that he was "Made In China"...More
While no high school student has an especially strong positive attitude toward school the students in "School Riot" have it particularly rough. Their campus literally appears to be falling apart. It also metaphorically appears to be falling apart, in that students frequently openly disrespect teachers. Alas, the title is a bit misleading. There is no riot in "School Riot". In actuality this is just the story of how Lee Hyuk became a teacher at this school and taught the students about music...More
South Korea's catchy cuisine takes to the screen in a new festival starting in July, Korean Bapsang has another hot recipe for your Summer BBQ, My Korean Kitchen shares its secret for a tangy dipping sauce, and would you try a jellyfish salad?...More
There is still time to sign up for a free online course on South Korean history, Tragedy strikes young actress, South Korea's 'comfort woman' weekly protests continue, and do North Koreans love K-pop, too?...More
Top tips for travel from expats, the Korean Herald sniffs out Bangsan Market, what to do in Korea in Summer, and MERS outbreak information...More
2015/06/19 | | Permalink
The first half of "Prince of Prince" certainly had its charms, what with moving so outrageously quickly that I could barely keep track of what was happening. Here though, the story goes the more traditional route of having good guys and villains. And in this regard the lack of serious buildup is a much more serious problem. For all practical intents and purposes these story points come out of nowhere, and the flashbacks don't offer much of a convincing reminder as to who these basically crazy people are...More
2015/06/19 | | Permalink
The whole star-crossed lovers thing has gotten to be a bit overdone. What makes it obvious is that quite a bit of the screentime is simply dedicated to Jae-min and Ma-ri moping about how they can't be together forever, and it's hard to escape the fact that this is a very modern romance narrative. That's not necessarily horrible on its own but given that this is the Joseon era I'd sort of expect that the possibility of concubinage would at least be discussed. Even if the vampire thing makes that obviously impractical...More
2015/06/18 | | Permalink
The transition between opening monologue and opening sketch is actually fairly smooth this time. The joke, to the extent there's a joke at all, is simply that even when living with another person, while they're at home with you, you can still feel lonely. Smart phones are the obvious culprit. There's just something so imminently sad about a grown man who would rather look at pictures of cars than actually go out and do something with a car. And his girlfriend...More
2015/06/18 | | Permalink
The young couple has weathered the storm that is In-sang's parents together. Together they are strong and their sense or morality gives them a sturdy backbone. Jung-ho and Yeon-hee understand that together, In-sang and Beom cannot be swayed, so they work to rip them asunder.
The bait that is dangled before In-sang is his substantial inheritance...More
2015/06/17 | | Permalink
The villain gains the upper hand in this episode because he is cunning enough to stay two steps ahead of our heroes. This episode shows how far-reaching his power and how difficult it is to battle someone with no conscience.
Each of the main characters, Dae-cheol, Min-hee, Hyun-woong, and even Ri-na, is effected by Sang-taek's clever mechanizations...More
2015/06/16 | | Permalink
Now that the story is complete I have little choice but to address the plot problems in "Who Are You - School 2015". To the credit of the production team, the contrived nature of the twin plot and all the other points related to that have never been that big a deal. This is mainly because the narrative itself has never been in focus. "Who Are You - School 2015" is a story about growing up. Although even there weaknesses are definitely present...More
2015/06/16 | | Permalink
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" has created a world where a prison needs no bars, it merely needs terrifyingly strict social barriers. Those barriers can even prevent mothers from running to their children's aid. This has been true for most of this show's run, but never has it been as nearly insurmountable as the present.
The world that Jung-ho and Yeon-hee live in is one that his family established and raised him in...More
2015/06/15 | | Permalink
The story moves somewhat sedately here, as the emphasis is on making peace and moving on. Pretty much every character relationship that has had any conflict at all is resolved except for So-yeong's vendetta. And that's really just gotten tiring at this point. It's exactly like her dad says- she needs to shut up and stop initiating conflict. So-yeong still hasn't figured out that nobody actually cares whether or not she's right. And given Eun-byeol's behavior, it seems likely that the twins weren't actually planning on keeping this secret forever anyway...More
2015/06/15 | | Permalink
"Jurassic World" fever hits…
Over the weekend, the globe gave Colin Trevorrow's "Jurassic World" the biggest opening of all time. The much-anticipated "Jurassic World" banked more than $511M worldwide, making it the first film to ever gross more than $500M in a single weekend. In South Korea, the film opened in first with 1.5M admissions (71%) going its way, adding around $16M to that gross record...More
While the external political problems have not by any stretch of the imagination disappeared, "Jing Bi-rok" mostly returns to domestic problems this episode. And fortunately, this is a fairly hopeful stretch. Unlike the beginning portion of the drama, everyone is pretty much in agreement now that war is a serious immediate concern and that resources need to be allocated to allowing the Koreans to deal with a potential invasion on their own. Foreign armies have just caused way too many problems lately...More
Kyeong-cheol comes off surprisingly sympathetically considering that he's basically a whiny child. The confrontation at the rich family's house doesn't go the way he was hoping, and when given the chance, Kyeong-cheol unwinds by literally having a temper tantrum. Watching Kyeong-cheol is kind of like watching a kid who has just been told that life isn't fair, after having been told point blank that the authority figures are going to do things in a hypocritical way...More
This is the episode of the underpaid and overworked hired help. Until recent episodes they have mostly made commentary on Jung-ho's and Yeon-hee's lives and decisions. Now they finally stand up for their rights as human beings and it throws the rich folk into a tizzy. Unfortunately that tizzy gets taken out on Beom.
The new pressure on Beom allow her to prove her mettle...More
King Seonjo once again has to have everything told to him, rather than being able to see it himself. This is a worthwhile fact to note. Aside from the occasional publicity tour even today world leaders only ever really see what their immediate subordinates want them to see. While King Seonjo knows by now that not everything he's told should necessarily be believed or trusted, at the same time, there's only so much he can do with limited information...More
After establishing that the last cliffhanger was for real, "Make a Woman Cry" quickly takes the focus off of the rich family and gets back to the more interesting character/situation- Deok-in and her birth mother meeting up with Deok-in's in-laws. It's a situation that slowly moves from awkward to just plain painful. On a basic level Deok-in just can't relate to her birth mother. And her birth mother, too, really doesn't appreciate that this is Deok-in's actual family she's condescending to...More
Doing one thing and doing it well is just fine, but with channel OCN having successfully established its own style of series for a while now, branching out into different things is inevitable. "My Beautiful Bride" is an upcoming drama which adopts more of a regular drama programming form and focuses on a main plot, something the station's series have already attempted a few times. Done well, this might just be a milestone for the provider...More
TvN might be best known for its romantic comedies, but the station has offered more genres during its run. Shows like last year's "Incomplete Life" or 'Gabdong - The Serial Killer' have been well received while attempting a new approach for the channel and Korean drama in general. The new addition to this variety comes with crime drama "Hidden Identity", which might not sound exciting yet, but has all it needs to succeed...More
As much as Je-hoon and Yeon-hee loved Beom before is as much as they find her worthless now. They turned into rabid animals as soon as Beom fell out of their favor. Their ability to flip flop is terrifying and not only do In-sang and Beom fear them, but so do the overworked, manipulated contracted workers.
Je-hoon and Yeon-hee's marriage is built on pride and money...More
Ji-yeon (played by Im Soo-jeong) is a woman in her thirties who's been drifting around aimlessly on the international circuit. After an interview with Seong-yeol (played by Yoo Yeon-seok) an intriguing possibility is floated. Does Ji-yeon continue with her dead-end lifestyle, or agree to the risky and convolunted scheme? You can probably guess the answer to that question. What kind of boring movie would prevent its characters from doing anything interesting? Well I can think of several actually but "Perfect Proposal" isn't one of them...More
Jae-gon (played by Kim Nam-gil) is a generally unfriendly detective who has a distinct lack of a shame in his everyday interactions. If nothing else, I have to give "The Shameless" credit for having an accurate title. In nearly every scene there's at least one moment where one character acts so incredibly rude that I can't help but think to myself "have you no shame", and it's at that point I remember the title. What was I expecting, a story about happy well-adjusted characters?...More
The time is the early sixteenth century, and Korea is under the reign of King Yeongsan (played by Kim Kang-woo). His retainers are in a bit of an awkward position, what with King Yeongsan being a depraved maniac. The man's got delusions of being attacked by ninja assassins, personal grudges against horses, an obsession with uncomfortable nude model painting, and the occassional tendency toward violent graphic murder...More
The first Korea Indie and Expat Film Festival kicks off, Korean Cinema Today interviews documentary filmmaker Lim Heung-soon, Hangul Cinema looks at "Speed", and AFR features Alison Broinowski's "The Director Is the Commander"...More
Enjoy some Korean plum tea with My Korean Kitchen, check out Kimchimari's tips page, the story behind kimchi pot gate, and CNN lists their forty favourite Korean dishes...More
Jeju's 'mermaids' revealed, the "Fight against MERS", South Koreans win DARPA robot challenge, and amateur writers making things happen for themselves...More
Check out the photography of Jean Chung and Roy Cruz, browse Trek Earth's page on South Korea, and Robert Koehler is at it again...More
Everyone has a different agenda on this episode of "Heard It Through the Grapevine". Even if agendas match, emotions are ambivalent. Jung-ho has amped up his level of selfishness to a point that is only matched by his estranged wife Yeon-hee.
Both manipulate others to make themselves feel more comfortable, especially Jung-ho...More
What makes web dramas somewhat disorienting compared to the television ones is that they tend to be really, really fast. I mean this in very literal terms. By the second episode "Prince of Prince" has stopped even trying to slowly draw out its characters and simply resorts to dossier profiles. Which strangely enough works out all right. These are uncomplicated people working in the fast-paced world of video games. Job time is work time, not play time, even if there's plenty of spare moments for the characters to have short, indignant arguments...More
Bizarrely, the Joseon portion of "Orange Marmalade" actually feels more like a standard high school romance than the actual high school portion of the drama did. Back in the first four episodes the conflict was centered almost entirely around the fact that Ma-ri is a vampire, and vampires can't coexist with humans. Whereas in the Joseon portion, the vampire worldbuilding only really comes up when Ma-ri has to deal with inconveniences like her not having any idea how normal food works...More
Despite the fact that Jung-ho and Yeon-hee display incredibly childish behavior, the people around them continue to cater to their every whim. It is a result of the fact that they have money and power born of inheritance and enough cunning to maintain it. Against these unfair circumstances do In-sang and Beom find themselves waging war.
Those around them hold unique opinions as to whether or not they should even try to battle the power that be...More
2015/06/11 | | Permalink
The sketch comedy moves more even-handedly into hit-or-miss territory. Some of the jokes are funny and others are not so funny. That's a bit of a simplistic statement but then "The Lover" is a bit of a simplistic show, however much the voiceover tries to add pretension to the proceedings. I frequently get the impression that the production team comes up with the sketches before the voiceover, since it's rare for there to be a unifying theme. Or at least a normal theme. As far as I can tell the main obvious theme here is set decoration...More
2015/06/11 | | Permalink
The children turn out to be the most conscious human beings and citizens while the parents act like spoiled children. It's an interesting dichotomy because while the children are intelligent and have good intentions, the immature parents have the wisdom of age. It is a delicate battle that In-sang and Beom fight to win control over their stifling lives.
In-sang and Beom meticulously research the shady undertakings of Jung-ho's professional life...More
2015/06/10 | | Permalink
The web of corruption and lies that Dae-cheol and Min-hee are fighting grows wider by the episode. This was quite the exciting hour as Dae-cheol discovers how deeply his past and his father's past ties into the current landscape of abuse of power, and Min-hee suspects him to be the Masked Vigilante. There's also a bit of romantic interest budding on her part. Nothing says excitement like a sprinkle of love a dash of murder.
What intrigues me most about Dae-cheol is that he's not just leading a double life, he's actually leading a triple life...More
2015/06/09 | | Permalink
It's hard to imagine what "Who Are You - School 2015" was like without Eun-byeol's presence. She's just such a fascinating duality with Eun-bi. Seeing the way Eun-byeol reacts to any daily inconvenience it's rather inescapable that the young woman has strong aggressive tendencies. To some extent this is good- Eun-byeol doesn't need a knight in shining armor like Eun-bi did. She can solve problems quite effectively on her own. Yet this makes Eun-byeol a very unsatisfying person to know on a personal level, because she is so independent it's nearly impossible to help her...More
2015/06/08 | | Permalink
The explanation behind Eun-byeol's disappearance is both more simple and more complicated than what I was expecting. This is mainly a function of a few plot holes in Eun-byeol's plan which may or may not be addressed. Overall it's not really a big deal. The important, quickly established information is simply that the main plot has been resolved, so how are the characters supposed to deal with the aftermath?...More
2015/06/08 | | Permalink
Korean filmgoers trade dystopia for disaster as "San Andreas" disrupts…
Brad Peyton's epic disaster film "San Andreas" hit South Korea last Wednesday and now sits atop the box office. The $110M film attracted 724K admissions over 847 screens to end the first weekend of June comfortably on top with 48.3% of the box office pie going its way. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film has attracted fans locally and internationally and has already banked over $150M worldwide...More
The greater theme this episode is well-meaning lies. Surprisingly enough this is actually well-integrated into all three spotlighted storylines. I can't tell whether this was intentional or just a coincidence, but mostly I'm just relieved that the rich family storyline has been given some much needed comparative context. It turns out all the characters are likely to sink or swim together on these problems...More
Just prior to this episode of "Jing Bi-rok", terrestrial Korean viewers were treated to an advertisement of Kim Sang-joong in his Joseon costume extolling the importance of protecting Korea by buying local beef. I bring this up mostly as a reminder point. Frequently despairing tone notwithstanding "Jing Bi-rok" is at least on some level a patriotic story. Even if most of the characters are either incompetent or easily fooled, several of them are still genuine national heroes...More
This episode was chock full of the kind of plot material I've been waiting sixteen episodes for. Hypocrisy is exposed and Beom and In-sang finally begin to take measures to rid themselves of the foolishness brought upon them by Jung-ho.
There were a couple of powerful, long awaited moments on the parts of In-sang and Beom...More
Past collides with present as Dae-cheol fervently dives into revenge for his father. So much of what fueled his father's sad turns in life remains and continues to fester in positions of power. It is in this third episode that we also see his half-brother, Hyeon-woong, start to question his place in life and his father's past corruptions. Min-hee is the most vaguely developed main character, but as she is caught up in the thick of Dae-cheol's investigation, she will hopefully get her own development.
As Dae-cheol explores his father's past and suffers the grief of losing him, we get to experience alongside him how difficult and unfair life was for his father...More
Their main explicit offensive push having failed, the Japanese regroup to come up with more of a long-term strategy here- negotiation. At first glance this might seem incomprehensible. How exactly can they negotiate or compromise on an issue as loaded as the Japanese attempt to occupy the Korean peninsula for the sake of launching an attack on China? Well, from the Japanese perspective it's simple enough- they need time to come up with a new plan. But why would Korea want to negotiate on this?...More
Deok-in's struggle with her birth mother continues. It's a bit of a heartbreaking situation, because "Make a Woman Cry" is delving into the reality of what these reunions usually mean for people. There's no magical moment of understanding- just this lingering sense of regret that this was how life turned out because for whatever reason, a mother was not able to be a mother. Even though Deok-in and her mother are mostly on the same page in the ambiguity department, that doesn't make their meetings any less awkward...More
Entertainment is not an easy field to work in. As a woman, it is usually even harder. Young talents do not only need a breakthrough, but also to be supported during their first steps and nurtured into something great. This benefits everyone in the future. The same is true for the entertainment of South Korea. One such young talent who has shown potential and needs the opportunities to develop it is Jo Bo-ah...More
"Masked Prosecutor" gave hero Dae-cheol his impetus in episode two. Until now, he has been a prosecutor who wore a mask, a man who hid behind his mask. Now he shall because the "Masked Prosecutor", a man who seeks justice. We also get to see beyond the stony mask of heroine Min-hee and it's a story just as tragic as Dae-cheol's.
Both of the leads are compelled to find justice for their families...More
Cho-rong (played by Hong Ah-reum) is a high school student who regularly comes to class obviously and completely drunk. She does have good cause- Cho-rong laboriously works at her family's ancestral rice wine brewery. Her father dedicated his life to brewing rice wine, so Cho-rong wants to honor his memory by doing a good job producing as much rice wine as she can. And this process inevitably involves drinking rice wine, so as to test it. Hence the whole drunkenness problem...More
Sometimes it seems like every time I think every form of meta film commentary's been done, another weird angle pops out of the woodwork. With "A Midsummer's Fantasia", that commentary is on location scouting. Technically speaking most location scouting these days is done according to tax incentives. And realistically speaking "A Midsummer's Fantasia" was obviously produced the same way. The project was spearheaded at the Nara International Film Festival, and as it happens the location on display here is Gojo City, a picturesque town in the Nara district of Japan...More
In 2008 the Seoul Government passed a law mandating standardized testing for students graduating elementary or middle school as well as those entering high school. You read that correctly- "The Disobeying Teachers" is a 2015 documentary where most of the footage either comes from 2008 or 2009. The reason for this, on the most base level, is that "The Disobeying Teachers" is a time capsule. It's a reminder that South Korean attitudes toward education are not lockstep, and that the current system has been controversial for quite some time...More
Sang-hwan (played by Ryoo Seung-beom) is a young man with rather poor decision-making abilities. He's the kind of guy who thinks that sticking it to the cops is proof of his street cred. In reality, no one actually cares about street cred. They just know that Sang-hwan is a jerk who's not really worth sticking up for. Tae-shik (played by Choi Min-sik) has the opposite problem. The older man cares so little about the way other people see him that he straight up publically humiliates himself for...what exactly?...More
Pierce reviews the thriller "The Office", a look back at the past 20 years with CJ Entertainment, Yoo Seung-ho and Cho Jae-hyun to star in new period piece, and "Northern Limit Line" and "Perfect Proposal" hold to end domestic drought...More
Ever wonder what Joseon royals ate?, how to make fresh Kimchi, Jin Joo mixes herbs for her Hottoek, and 5 alternatives to the Korean BBQ...More
Hear from a top K-pop composer in an exclusive interview, Jamie documents his trip through Gangnam on his way to the DMZ, emerging K-pop groups perform in France, and the "White Porcelain in the Joseon Dynasty" exhibit is now on at Ewha Womans University Museum...More
Looking for a great guide to travelling in Korea?, nature-lovers take note of Uljin, try Adventure Korea for amazing outings and events, and The Korean Herald features five ideas for you next trip...More
2015/06/05 | | Permalink
This episode is less a continuation of the "Orange Marmalade" storyline as it is a completely new story with the same characters and concepts transported to the Joseon era. Like the title says right at the beginning- this is Season 2 Episode 1. Surprisingly the backdrop isn't quite as medieval as might be expected. Sure, the opening violent setpiece brings to mind a time period when normal people had way, way less patience for vampires. But beyond that, most of the vampires are relatively friendly...More
2015/06/04 | | Permalink
The emphasis this episode shifts to moody voiceover. While I appreciate the token attempts made by "The Lover" for the sake of seriousness, these statements are increasingly getting rather out of proportion to the actual emotional seriousness of the drama. The story, to the extent "The Lover" even has a story, appears to have gotten mired in silly, petty arguments about nothing. With the right priming this can, as was the case in previous episodes, come off as amusing. Here it just seems childish...More
For the first time "Let's Eat - Season 2" reminds me of "Let's Eat" in a bad way, as the Dae-yeong / Soo-ji love conflict is only solved at the last minute. The same thing happened in "Let's Eat", and we saw that how that turned out. Well, actually no we didn't, which is part of why the conclusion here isn't that satisfactory. Should there be a third season of "Let's Eat", writer Lim Soo-mi could easily just give Dae-yeong a new love interest there too...More
The mystery regarding what happened at Eun-byeon's school a year ago is mostly cleared up. Rather anticlimactically, I might add. After all that build-up I was expecting some sort of elaborate conspiracy. In all fairness, the situation itself was so low-stated it's easy to see why psychological terror was the only real direction for the situation to go. The tragedy wasn't the result of a bullying so much as it was the failure to properly make a check-up...More
While "Masked Prosecutor" was tonally undecided in its first episode, it did deliver a compelling backstory and give impetus to watch the next episode. The cast is strong and the younger generation performs so well that it makes me hope to see them for many more trips to the past.
This first episode mostly focused on how the main characters came to choose their current careers...More
To further emphasize the way "Let's Eat - Season 2" is moving into conclusion mode, there's actually more character relationship montages than food porn sequences this episode. What makes this particularly weird, though, is the two of the chaarcter relationship montages appear to be ironic. It's like writer Lim Soo-mi is explicitly telling us- no, as a matter of fact, these two particular storylines never actually went anywhere, and the only reason these characters are waxing on romantically on the subject is because they're just kind of lonely...More
As it turns out, I-an is still dealing with the consequences of his dramatic decision to protect Eun-bi. It turns out that the swimming team wasn't just background noise- "Who Are You - School 2015" correctly notes that even in an individualist team like swimming, proper camaraderie is a pretty big deal. I-an hasn't just ruined his own athletic inspirations for the near future- he's also wrecked the relays. I-an's story is a cold reflection of how even noble actions can reverberate negative consequences...More
When one conflict loses steam, a new one is introduced to maintain plot tensions. This manner of retaining viewer interest leads to haphazard plot construction and choppy character development.
The newest intrigue surrounds Jung-ho's obsession with Young-ra...More
2015/05/31 | | Permalink
With the Japanese counter-offensive comes yet another tear in Sino-Korean relations. At this point I'm wondering whether the entire rest of the drama is just going to be Seong-ryong forcefully arguing with Chinese military commanders. It would be appropriate enough- the whole problem with military alliances is that by definition there are members with differing agendas. The only reason the American-Russo alliance in World War II worked out is because American and Russian soldiers never had to be in the same place at the same time...More
2015/05/31 | | Permalink
In a bit of a fakeout, Deok-in doesn't confront her mother right away. Instead, she retreats to Jin-woo, admitting that there's some things she can't handle. And Jin-woo responds...by wristwatch. I can't tell whether that was supposed to be weirdly clunky product placement or whether director Kim Geun-hong just needed to include some kind of visual clue that Jin-woo the school teacher comes from a wealthy family. I'm inclined toward the former explanation personally...More
First, just to make it totally clear, the final case of "Missing Noir M" is just another one-off case. We get some details regarding Soo-hyeon's backstory, but it's made quite clear that we're only getting all the answers if "Missing Noir M" is renewed for a second season. I'm not sure that's happening- to be honest I'm not sure I want it to happen, because while "Missing Noir M" has certainly had its strong points, right to the end the drama seems determined to make things as depressing as possible...More
The final episode opens up with a final board meeting to end them all. As usual the lack of serious dramatic urgency is palpable. Hee-cheol doesn't actually seem to know what he wants. Which is of course the entire point. Even if at times Hee-cheol has tried to play the villain here he's forced to realize that picking fights just isn't that much fun in the long term. And so, with a slump to his knees, that pretty much does it for the last character arc...More
It's another episode mostly focused on the rich family. I didn't dislike this one as much as usual, though. I'm not really sure it's because I actually care about what the rich family is doing so much as it is I'm just used enough to their antics by now that there's not much apparent point to complaining. I do somewhat empathize with Hyeon-seo, who's stubbornly taken sick mainly because his mom's such a jerk...More
As fun as it is to analyze "Jing Bi-rok" in a comparative context to modern events, trying to be too rational about this can get us into a confusing place. One early scene features a large group of characters darning a bunch of ropes. In a modern industrialized context, where important materials can be fabricated at factories, there's something almost absurd about troops having to create their own important stuff. But that's what total war means- not having easy access to stuff all the time...More
When the teasers for "Masked Prosecutor" first came out, they raised quite a few eyebrows. There is really no way for a man in a Mexican wrestling mask to be seen as part of any kind of normalcy, even for the often unrealistic standards of Korean drama. The show teased with cool action and a little comedy, as well as hope for something fun and new. Unfortunately, it does not capitalize on its strengths or deliver on its created expectations...More
It is difficult to pinpoint what makes some failures easy to forgive in some works and unacceptable in others. How the creators treat their piece and audience plays a big part, because even flaws can be forgiven when something good is delivered by people who do not attempt to mask their weaknesses as strengths. 'The Girl Who Sees Smells' has many problems, but it is also an entertaining show which seems to have a lot of passion put into it...More
Normally when we think of retirement, we think of, well, good things. We think about all of the colleagues we've known over the years stopping by to make a final congratulatory remark. We think of the reminisces of the times gone by, and all the wonderful experiences therein. We think about having made a nice life for ourselves, and how to enjoy retirement. That's the romantic view anyway. "End of Winter" paints a rather more bleak picture- thank goodness that much is over and done with...More
Why do you think people make movies, especially on the independent film circuit, where very little money is involved? The real answer will probably disappoint you. To rub it all up in theory, film is a kind of simulacrum that represents the real world but can never in actuality be the real world. Film can be used by filmmakers to pretend that they live in a different world than the one they really live in- typically one where they are more well-liked...More
Animated film on "comfort women" gets government support, Choi Min-sik honoured alongside "Revivre" at the Paeksang Arts Awards, "Intimate Enemies" is coming soon, and Madonna causes a stir at Cannes...More
My Korean Kitchen's shares an easy-peasy recipe with rice, a Korean ambassadors does his delicious duty, Jin Joo shares a modern dish for the kimchi-starved among us, and CNN states the obvious...More
" Arirang " folk song demystified, don't drink the water, 4 ways ajummas are impacting South Korean fashion, and meet a "magician of light"...More
Travelling to compete online?, Korea's most popular destinations revealed, check out The Korean Herald's travel bites, and Korean Air takes the moral high ground...More
2015/05/29 | | Permalink
First, a retraction. In my first review for "Orange Marmalade" I assumed, for no particularly good reason, that the drama is set in Seoul. This episode I finally realized that the setting is in fact the eastern portion of Jeju Island. This is an important clarification because let's be entirely honest here. The beautiful scenery is a pretty important aspect of the drama. Even when the actual plot hinges on the inherent tragedy of a teen vampire romance, it's the background ambience that's really beautiful and enchanting...More
2015/05/29 | | Permalink
The lack of an actual conflict is getting to be...well, not necessarily bad, but it's kind of messing around with my perceptions of how to evaluate "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" as a drama. There's really just not much actual drama here. As expected, the situation with Ji-na's father is cleared up simply by having Ji-na explain the situation. And after that, there's not even much in the way of obvious tension, because everything mostly goes along all right...More
2015/05/28 | | Permalink
The opening sketch is just a tad long, even if the premise is reasonably funny. Fortunately, everything else mostly falls into the standard pattern of "The Lover"- to the extent this drama has a standard pattern at all. I get a disordinate amount of enjoyment just wondering how exactly "The Lover" is produced. It often feels like the characters who get showcased are chosen by the availability of their actors. Really, though, who cares about that? It's the jokes that matter here, and the main theme this time is how much nonsense a person will put up with from their significant other...More
As was to be expected, So-yeong's plan to get back into everyone's good graces fails miserably. What So-yeong constantly fails to realize is that it's not circumstance which is causing her to be bullied- So-yeong's own attitude is what's causing the problem. And exposing the existence of Eun-bi does her no favors. To the contrary, up until now Eun-bi's strange behavior around So-yeong has made all the classmates suspicious. Now that So-yeong has provided an explanation, it's only that much more difficult for anyone to sympathize with her...More
There is a broader goal in "Heard It Through the Grapevine", but it keeps getting lost in the episodic format of the show. The meshing of Beom's world and In-sang's world causes friction and change, which is quite interesting. Unfortunately the show has turned back to Jung-ho and Yeon-hee's childish antics. If they don't get their way they have a temper tantrum.
Not all of the show was about Jung-ho and Yeon-hee's insecurities and obsession with status...More
Last episode was such a huge flash in the dramatic department that "Let's Eat - Season 2" was more-or-less fully destined to let itself down this episode, if only because of the disappointing reality of characters having to face consequences for their actions. In light of everything that's happened there's not really much to do except sulk in front of the police and hope that eventually everything manages to take a turn for the better. Everyone else is just trying to stretch the plot out. With food porn, when possible...More
This drama didn't quite end how I expected it would. I wanted fewer bow tied endings and a little more realism. It's not like I wasn't happy with how things turned it. It was all sweet and full of fuzzy warm feelings that were enjoyable to feel and enjoy. However, these sentiments didn't quite fit with the overall tone of the drama.
"Unkind Women" was about these women findings themselves and learning to overcome their pasts...More
The tonal shift this episode is to serious drama- we're not looking at anything super-weepy or anything, but the immediate reactions of the characters are fairly appropriate. While Jeom-i has never been a terribly important character, she's always been friendly and likable in her own way. And this was just in dealing the other residents of the building. There's something humbling about realizing that Jeom-i actually has an actual family- and that of course, every other character has an actual family too. That they don't talk to as much as they should...More
The tone this episode is a fairly somber one as Eun-bi and I-an come to grips with the fact that Eun-byeon is most likely dead. I write "most likely" because technically speaking we don't actually know that Eun-byeon's remains are the ones that were cremated. We don't even know how they were identified...More
"Mad Max" retains pole position...
The fourth film in the "Mad Max" series continued its reign atop the Korean box office, claiming additional 310K (31%) across 714 screens to move its total tally now to 1.8M ($15M). "Mad Max: Fury Road" has been peppered with praise from critics and filmgoers worldwide, and is quickly closing in on the estimated $150M it took to produce. Last weekend "Mad Max" (along with Spy) entered and dislodged Marvel's "Avengers" as the country's favourite flick; week two for George Miller's dusty dystopia saw that success continue as fans flocked to theatres to catch Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in action...More
As expected, the Korean and Chinese military forces continue to butt heads over the question of proper military sovereignty. Mostly they don't actually get along that poorly except when they have mutually conflicting cross-purposes. There's not really any way to resolve the question of whether or not to execute a presumed traitor when there's just too much inherent dispute over whether or not the person in question really is a question. Of course, some form of trial would probably be more appropriate than just letting the highest ranked person around solve the problem...More
Kyeong-cheol has many flaws, but the worst of them has to be that the guy's just not that smart. Last cliffhanger he "discovered" that Deok-in was having an affair with Jin-woo. A more farsighted person might have realized that Deok-in finding a boyfriend is a good thing. It makes Deok-in less likely to try to cling to the marriage. Which, consequently, would make it easier for Kyeong-cheol to get a divorce and finally marry Jin-hee. So how does Kyeong-cheol use this information?...More
The penultimate episode of "Unkind Women" was undeniably fantastic. There was so much resolved and the reactions to those resolutions were emotion-packed. At the same time, there are still a few issues that will linger into the finale and tide us over to the end.
This show is about overcoming the past and this episode really proved that point...More
During the sixties and seventies, the Park Chung-hee regime strongly pushed Yi Sun-shin as a model of the truly noble quintessential Korean man- a soldier who was great because he won battles, and was unfortunately and tragically persecuted by jealous, incompetent civilian officials. I bring this up because at this point it's clear that "Jing Bi-rok" is trying to push a more nuanced interpretation of that political environment. Ironically, it would seem that the eventual paranoia regarding Yi Sun-shin wasn't actually so much a problem with Koreans or the Japanese so much as the...Chinese allies?...More
This episode opens up with another dumb rich person argument...of course. Well, they're not all dumb. I find I'm liking the Eun-soo / Hyeon-seo conflict. A well-to-do mother wanting to keep her son from getting involved with some woman without a pedigree, that much I can easily understand. Eun-soo no doubt has an inferiority complex about marrying into wealth. But there's just something awfully petty about Eun-soo trying to keep Hyeon-seo from hanging around Kyeong-tae. You pay no mind to that boy, he's from a lower economic class...More
The cast helpfully explains what they've figured out regarding the mystery so far, and Soo-hyeon helpfully puts the clues together in such a way that we've at least got a basic narrative explaining what exactly has happened to date. In short, there wasn an incredibly elaborate scam perpetrated for the sake of extorting money from the woman who wanted to find her daughter again. This ends up going badly because, like most elaborate scams that involve large numbers of people, this one required that all the participants shut up and act predictably...More
Looking back I think I may have misjudged where "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" is going. The current narrative thrust is less about an actual confrontation between Tae-woon and Hee-cheol and more about catharsis as all the characters come to terms with their responsibilities, and what their decisions have to do with their future. What's happening in their professional lives is almost entirely incidental to how these storyline movements affect them on the personal level...More
With promises of a brand new type of drama and a good look into the world of the variety entertainment backstage, "Producers" has made its start and it has done so with mixed reactions. Featuring a popular cast and well known creators, including Kim Soo-hyeon-I and writer Park Ji-eun of hit series 'My Love from the Star', it has inevitably attracted attention and certain expectations. At the moment, it is not meeting those, whether this is good or bad...More
There is great pressure to deliver when it comes to people's favorite pastime, especially from creators who have raised the bar. Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran have been creating the same type of romantic comedy shows for years, which means viewers mostly know what to expect from them for their entertainment. "Warm and Cozy" is an old school romantic comedy at a time when those are no longer popular, but it stays true to its nostalgic nature as light entertainment...More
Love triangles, squares and other manner of romantic geometry are a staple of Korean drama. They have a set of tropes that go with them and they entertain people when done well. For a series which would under normal drama circumstances be a love pentagon, however, 'Ex-Girlfriends' Club' breaks the mold in the type of dynamics found between the characters. This is an interesting enough feature to speak of and will perhaps become the show's strength down the road...More
Twenty-four episodes may be too long for this show. It is just getting around to introducing the climax: a cooking showdown that will involve every main character in the drama in some form or another. The tensions in the show are more contrived than ever save for a select few.
One of those tensions is that between Hyeon-jeong and her father...More
Chang-sik (played by Son Hyeon-joo) is a reasonably competent police chief who attains a probably well deserved promotion. Life quickly takes a turn for the weird though, when on the ride home from his celebratory party the taxi driver starts acting really strange. An impulsive decision on Chang-sik's part sets the remainder of "Chronicles of Evil" in motion- how is he to solve this bizarre mystery without somehow implicating himself, and ruining his whole life?...More
It's very easy to be judgmental to other people for failing to be perfect. One thing that judgmental people tend to not realize is that most of time no one actually cares about their opinions. That's what life is like for Yeon (played by Son Yeo-eun). Her husband Sang-pil (played by Lee Yeong-hoon) can beg her for money. Her husband's loan shark Jae-gon (played by Jeong Wook-I) can take a more violent tact. But as far as Yeon's concerned, none of that is her problem as long as she can keep her son Geon-ho (played by Jeong Woo-jin) safe. Even if the method Yeon manages is, well, less than perfect...More
Historical korean television and film dramas have a tendency to give an epic narrative flare to history. Even the pseudo-documentary style of "Jing Bi-rok" is often subject to this. With "Crown Princess Hong", though, we're looking at the topic from a very different angle- the modern Korean stage. The perspective too is quite warped. The disturbing story of Prince Sado is nothing new, but from the perspective of Hong (played by Kim So-hee), this isn't just the tale of how Prince Sado lost his mind. It's about Hong herself has become emotionally shaken by these events...More
KOBIZ interviews Director Han Jun-hee and actress Kim Go-eun-I, Modern Cinema Cinema reviews two Korean films that made it to Cannes, and Fabien previews two local films set for release this week...More
Ever thought of adding kimchi to your pizza?, a Korean food tour for hipsters, Beyond Kimchi shares a cheap and hearty dish from the 40s, and the Korean Tourism Organization gives travels and locals some intel on seasonal delights...More
Are young Korean brides happy?, The Korean Herald explores Korea's luxury Fetish, Ha Jeong-woo's artworks on display in Seongnam, and Former U.S. Ambassador Donald Gregg shares his experiences from his time in Asia...More
Take a trip back through Korea's recent history through pictures of its people, see shots of Gangnum's last slums before they're demolished, Robert Koehler captures Gwanghwamun Gate, and Seoul State of Mind expires "Calmversation"...More
It would appear that "Orange Marmalade" has decided to take the more sensible route of having one normal-length episode instead of airing two somewhat shorter ones air right after the other. Well, good. The last two episodes only had about one episode worth of plot anyway, and this episode moves along quite zippily. By the end the particulars of the romance are clearly established, as well as countless other important, intriguing plot points...More
This episode doesn't have much in the way of interaction, be it direct or indirect, between Tae-woon and Ji-na. So I don't have much choice except to address the main weakness of "My Unfortunate Boyfriend"- its rather light storyline. Frequently I find myself forgetting what the conflict is even supposed to be. Aside from the lovelines this is just a corporate plot with little to no urgency. It's odd how even though the stakes are higher with Tae-woon and Hee-cheol, the relationship as a whole feels a lot less important than the one between Ji-na and Hye-m...More
This episode was as disjointed as the last episode was cohesive - it jumped around all over the place! It was a desperate attempt to heighten excitement that ended in a mishmash of badly intercut scenes. There were some good moments, but the sloppy editing detracted from the juicier character beats.
There was a montage of scenes that cut from Hyeon-jeong and Moon-hak to Mo-ran and Soon-ok that were so poorly planned that it severed the flow of the story and instead seemed spastic...More
The Jae-hee storyline is finally, definitively resolved by the halfway point. As usual it's loaded with various improbabilities- the ambulance explanation which begs more questions than it does answers. The way the story quickly forgets its own epilogue which stated most of the characters aren't actually police officers anymore. And the fact that Jae-hee is foiled mostly because his superpower of predicting events perfectly has been turned off...More
Episode 20 was a turning point for "Unkind Women". It highlights the changes that have gradually worked themselves into the story and into the characters. With four episodes left, the story is really about how the characters will come together and learn to overcome and appreciate life after all the hardships they have suffered.
Soon-ok embodies this concept best...More
There are exactly four continuous scenes this episode. Even for a drama of below average length, that's really not very many. So for the first time, "The Lover" manages to make a misstep with its creativity. There's some laughs here, but the central joke in every single sketch has to be stretched out for so long that the drama just ends up feeling really awkward. Watching an awkward argument for a long time isn't really any more fun than being involved in an awkward argument for a long time...More
2015/05/20 | | Permalink
And so Jae-hee is down for the count...or is he? Normally I make a point of how proper set-up is important for effective delivery. Here's the problem with this episode's cliffhanger though. The fact that it was obviously foreshadowed only served to make me dread the end of this episode, as well as the next one, because it means that once more "The Girl Who Sees Smells" is going to insist on doing its stupid invincible serial killer shtick right to the end, when Jae-hee is once again foiled less because his opponents are competent and more because the writer turns off Jae-hee's omniscience superpower...More
2015/05/20 | | Permalink
There is a lovely dynamic shift between our characters as they learn and grow. Also, it shifts as those who are too insecure and selfish continue to interfere in the lives of others. As time passes all of these unkind, supposedly unhappy women finally gain insight into themselves and their lives. They see they are content despite all of the trials that they must walk through because they have each other.
The first example of this is the peculiar friendship between Soon-ok and Mo-ran...More
In a somewhat surprising twist, it would appear that the main potential victim of Eun-bi being exposed is not Eun-bi herself, but rather I-an. His normally static character arc comes into sharp relief here as I-an deliberately chooses to believe that Eun-bi is Eun-byeon, regardless of how much of his experiences with her post-amnesia simply don't add up. Right when I was wondering if I-an ever had this much fun on dates with the real Eun-byeon, a flashback helpfully pops up to tell us that no, he did not...More
As if to reprimand me for doubting its seriousness, the mystery plot of "Let's Eat - Season 2" ends on a pretty shocking cliffhanger, particularly so coming right after a super cute date sequence. Not just shocking, either, but overall well-integrated, because the mystery plot and the main Soo-ji plot share one important commonality. Both are being interrupted by unnecessary snooping. Of course Jeom-i is snooping- that's what old ladies do. But why is Soo-ji so obsessed about Dae-yeong's imaginary girlfriend?...More
This episode really highlights how much the pressures on Beom have changed her, and the family dynamic along with her. The change is realistic given her situation, but I'm dying to see more of how she is feeling and thinking.
Beom comes off so coldly now...More
The cliffhanger this episode and the cliffhanger from last episode are more-or-less the same. But "Who Are You - School 2015" doesn't quite fall into repetition because these repeated plot points establish something very important- that the drama's conceit isn't really sustainable. Even if So-yeong appears to have been subdued, the fact that Eun-bi can't recover Eun-byeon's memories means that this ruse can't go on forever however much Eun-bi and her new mother want it to...More
No, nobody is actually moving around dead bodies in briefcases. Again, "Let's Eat - Season 2" might have fooled me on that point except that the first season of "Let's Eat" tried to pull the exact same stunt. Although admittedly the question of what's going on with all that money is a pretty potent one. It's not really all that interesting compared to the question of how Soo-ji is planning to manage all her financial affairs. But it's decent as far as subplots go...More
"Chronicles of Evil" and "Mad Max" dislodges "The Avengers"...
While Cannes is playing host to the top stars and filmmakers from around the world, the South Korean public came out in droves over the weekend to catch two new features that recently made their way onto the chart. Baek Woon-hak's thriller "Chronicles of Evil" and George Miller's remake of "Mad Max" were the must-see films, and between them the capture over 70% of the box office pie; in the process removing "The Avengers" from its previous privileged position as South Korea's number one...More
2015/05/17 | | Permalink
The near comical extent to which "Jing Bi-rok" refuses to actually show us Lee Soon-shin on screen is, I feel, rather appropriate. Very few people actually know what he looks like outside of his immediate subordinates. What's more, he's too busy doing actual fighting in the war to bother around with the usual political conflicts. Which leads to the greatest plot twist of all- this time, the Korean end of the war effort goes well, and consistently goes well, for the entire episode with no bad news...More
2015/05/17 | | Permalink
The general ambiguity of Jin-hee's character is played up a lot here. As has been noted multiple times now, her request is a reasonable one. Deok-in and Kyeong-cheol don't have a marriage anymore, and both of them know it. The problem is that Jin-hee is a total jerk. Deok-in is totally correct when she points out that Jin-hee can't expect people to just give her whatever she wants because she apologizes. Deok-in is also correct in noting that Jin-hee's immaturity will almost certainly prove a major barrier in any kind of marriage, and that she's not properly anticipating how hard marriage will be...More
Thirty years ago a mother lost her daughter. Miraculously, they were recently united, and their familial ties were confirmed on national television. Then the adult daughter disappeared again. "Missing Noir M" makes one thing clear right away- she was being chased by some sort of gang. The detectives don't see this information directly, but it's not actually much of a deduction. The continual question here is just- why?...More
Things briefly appear to be going well. For once King Seonjo is able to see the common people in a context that doesn't imply they despise him for being a terrible leader. Look into the crowd and you'll even spot some genuine smiles. It would appear that the action in "Jing Bi-rok" has turned the corner. Then we find out that the Japanese are responding to these reversals by escalating their practices of sheer brutality...More
...And once more, it's back to the rich family. There's something terribly frustrating about a drama that insists on only being interesting half the time. The main issue is that most of these people just come off like jerks. Which isn't necessarily bad. Deok-in is definitely a pushy, bossy jerk. But she never comes off that badly because we can see the emotional heart underlying Deok-in's motivation. That's mostly gone any time the action shifts to the big house...More
The lack of a general plot finally catches up with "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" here. To be entirely honest the competing corporate team aspect of the drama has been in such low focus I've kind of forgotten what the stakes even are. There's not anything for the story to really build up to at this point, because all of the focus has been on the romantic plotlines. And to a lesser extent, the backstory that gives these relationships important subtext...More
It is no secret that Korean drama favors the melodramatic over the cheerful and that stories outside a certain premise pool do not often end up well. However, hope is a strong emotion and whenever a show comes along that looks fun and upbeat, many begin the same circle of excitement and trepidation. "Masked Prosecutor" could go very wrong in many ways, but it might also inject some much needed lightness into the medium...More
Adding comedy to a story about someone's terminal illness and last attempt at leaving their own in good hands does not sound like a wise move. Life is of course complicated and joy co-exists with sadness. In fact, one gives the other more impact. It is therefore not a wise move, but also not impossible to pull off well. Sadly, 'Super Daddy Yeol' does not succeed with this approach and the rest of its issues drag its good potential down...More
In September 2013 Kim Jho Kwang-soo married his long-term partner, also a man. And so, they had a gay wedding. Normally I'd just call it a wedding but "My Fair Wedding" makes an extended point, not so much of the actual romantic relationship at the center of all this as it does the political implications. And also the wedding plan. The nuptials of Prince Charles and Lady Diana are cited as a specific inspiration. This event happened several years before I was born so it was kind of difficult to relate...More
If there's anything I dislike about film, it's that the format is too perfect. Countless editing and extra takes are such that movies are never really real so much as they are deliberately calculated to seem real. Modern theater, with its own brand of flash, goes along the same lines. But there is one genre of performance that manages to remain genuine, simply because of the lack of pretensions- community theater. All the people that happen to live in a nearby area get together to put on a show and generally have a fun time. And that's the story that's documented by "Some Journey - A Citizen Created Musical", the story of an Incheon community theater group and their efforts to put on a play...More
"Let's make a feature length movie about Pororo" is kind of a weird hypothetical idea. Pororo cartoons are, by design, very simple and easily understood, with inoffensive moral lessons that shouldn't require a whole lot of effort to explain. How exactly do you make a feature length cartoon about Pororo? As "Pororo, The Racing Adventure" demonstrates, this task can be accomplished mainly by adding in a lot of fun racing scenes, and a bunch of one-off characters who are not likely to ever feature in the main cartoon...More
What Korea films are on at Cannes this year? Chris Horn reviews the heartbreaking "Taegukgi" for Modern Korean Cinema, actor Cha Seung-won to play famous geographer in Kang Woo-seok's first period film, and be sure to visit Korean film critic and journalist Darcy Paquet's website for quality news and reviews...More
Sue releases her first free e-book on Korean BBQ for My Korean Kitchen, Holly shares her recipe for a mouth-watering stir-fry, Hyosun hits ribs right, and there's some fine Korean pottery on display that will suit all your serving needs...More
KoreAm celebrates 25 years, The Korean Ministry of Culutre, Sports, and Tourism calls for "Korean DNA" in art contest, Is Seoul really going green?, and how Yi Kwang-su's daughter keeps his words alive...More
A single stunner from Robert Koehler of Cheonggyecheon's cityscape, explore the photography of Ben Weller and Manchul, and Alphonse captures the Lotus Lantern Parade...More
2015/05/15 | | Permalink
Ma-ri (played by Seolhyun) is a teenage girl who also happens to be a vampire. People in "Orange Marmalade" tend to not like vampires, what with the whole blood sucking thing and war against humanity and all that. Trying to grow up in that environment, poor Ma-ri can't even be bothered to worry about normal hassles like perverts on the...tram? Subway? What exactly is that thing they keep riding on? In an alternate vampire universe, Seoul's public transportation developed in a slightly different way?...More
2015/05/15 | | Permalink
Tae-woon really is just infectiously adorable. He doesn't even seem to have it in him to be pessimistic. When Hye-mi ruins his big exciting event date with Ji-na, Tae-woon's response is to simply explain to Hye-mi in elaborate detail every single detail of the event. Tae-woon is super upbeat because he put a lot of effort into planning this, and to him, that's the fun part. Putting in the effort. The fact that Ji-na didn't actually show up is sort of besides the point, because Tae-woon is that sure she'll have an explanation...More
2015/05/14 | | Permalink
By the end of this episode the evidentiary problem regarding Jae-hee is finally resolved. Thank goodness. Jae-hee's improbable feats of invisibility are by far the worst part of this drama and this episode is no less frustrating in that department. How did he manage to get a full-sized unconscious woman outside of the mall without anyone noticing in the middle of the day? Did he have a secret garage? Of course, I might as well ask why Yeom-mi's brilliant plan was to let herself be caught. I figured she must have a GPS tracker or a weapon or something, because otherwise why not set up an actual trap?...More
2015/05/14 | | Permalink
One weird thing about older unmarried people is that they often seem to have some kind of philosophical problem with marriage. It's not that they hate marriage persay, it's just they find it sort of offensive when a younger, more obviously stupid person decides to get married even though they're obviously younger and stupid. And usually, of course, this is a relative. Like younger brothers. Younger brothers never have an easy time of it, really. I'm an older brother so I would know...More
2015/05/13 | | Permalink
Writer Lee Hee-myeong appears to have remembered that the title of the drama is "The Girl Who Sees Smells", so we finally get some more smell-seeing. The whole sequence feels like a flashback to the earlier parts of the drama- we have Cho-rim proving that she has the abilities, and then she solves a simple mystery with them. Which is nice, I guess, except that then it's right back to the same old serial killer antics where the smell-seeing abilities aren't used even though by the end there is a really, really obvious use for them...More
2015/05/13 | | Permalink
I'm not a fan of the relationship between Mo-ran and Soon-ok's family. A lot of excuses are made in order for friendships to be had. The truth of her involvement with the family shakes them to the core and the way the situation is resolved is extremely unsatisfactory.
I don't get the friendship between Soon-ok and Mo-ran...More
Contrary to what was implied by the preview, Dae-yeong and Sang-woo actually just start out by discussing their problems like adults and giving honest answers. It feels absurd for me to be surprised by this- of course that's what non-crazy friends do in that kind of situation. It's just...you know, the wacky plotting of television dramas is usually more prone to contrived misunderstandings. Writer Lim Soo-mi is above all that, though. She focuses on the important stuff in life. Like balancing checkbooks...More
The conflict between Eun-bi and So-yeong remains unresolved. In the first place, there's not actually very much So-yeong can do- her usual shtick of physical intimidation doesn't work without the surrounding cult of personality. People can and will question So-yeong's behavior, since they haven't grown accustomed to it. Evidence is another matter- while So-yeong does find better proof for her conspiracy theory, she's still hamstrung by the fact that there's no way for her to explain how it was acquired...More
The juxtaposition of the past and present continues as bitter memories fuel revenge in the present and interfere with the newest relationships. This is also the point in the drama where those who have done wrong begin to atone for their sins - most of them anyway.
Wounds from the past have hardened Hyeon-ae and have negatively affected all of her relationships...More
This episode opens up with an extended mountain hike- that naturally ends with food porn. I'm surprised "Let's Eat - Season 2" doesn't do this more often really. Just have a completely random datelike activity end in food porn because that's what the viewers wants. But then again, Soo-ji never really pays attention to food because she's too head-over-heels with Sang-woo to actually notice her first love in life. With Dae-yeong, though, food and petty arguments is what they're all about...More
So-yeong (played by Jo Soo-hyang) was Eun-bi's tormentor in the past and appears to have come back to haunt Eun-bi in her guise as Eun-byeol. It's difficult to get a good read on what So-yeong wants- this episode definitely implies, though it does not state outright, that the real reason for So-yeong's transfer is that she was expelled from her last school after Eun-bi's apparent suicide exposed a plethora of disturbing bullying behavior. One would think that such revelations would have made the girl a bit more reflective...More
This episode further explored Jung-ho and Yeon-hee's plan to separate Beom from her family. Her family is feeling the social pressure, especially Beom's sister Noo-ri. Relationships in the upper crust of society are complicated and neither Noo-ri nor her parents and uncle are ready to tackle them.
The most obvious change in the family is that Noo-ri is pushing herself to equal Beom...More
Marvel's massively successful "Avengers: Age of Ultron" continued its reign at the top of the pile over this past weekend. The $280 billion film added an additional 804 admissions (52%) to its cause, bringing its total tally in South Korea now to 9.3 million admissions (or $73 million). Currently, "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" has grossed over $875 million worldwide...More
Unfortunately the focus shifts ever so slightly to the rich family again. I'm really not interested in their petty, destructive arguments. There's just no sense of urgency. At best, we're just looking at a bunch of petty, emotional jerks be petty, emotional jerks to each other. On a basic level none of these people are really all that sympathetic. Bear in mind that to some extent most of the characters in this drama are at least somewhat unsympathetic- the humanity comes in trying to unravel their personal situation...More
Yoo-kyeong (played by Lee Ki-yeol) is a rotten little sneak. And also a welcome addition to the cast- with all the moral ambiguities flying around everywhere it's nice to be able to point at this guy and go, you know what? This guy's a total jerk who's up to no good. Dealing with the Japanese is one thing- their intentions are fairly obvious. But Yoo-kyeong is deliberately playing up the fact that no one really knows what he wants to get whatever it is that he wants. It's probably nothing good...More
The first major showdown between Hyeon-ae and Hyeon-sook was fantastic. These two women are so powerful on screen and their rivalry is fraught with such delicious tension. It's the most engaging conflict in a show full of what are now all engaging conflicts. Some of them started out lukewarm, but they have all turned up the heat.
Hyeon-ae seems to have had a past that is quite similar to Hyeon-sook's ...More
The good news this time is that patriotic citizen soldiers are now stepping up to do their part to fight the Japanese invasion. The bad news...is that patriotic citizen soldiers are now stepping up to do their part to fight the Japanese invasion. It's just another typical day really. Anything that seems like a step in the right direction ends up secretly being a step in the wrong direction. Why? Well, mostly because war kind of sucks...More
The cliffhanger ends up going rather anticlimatically. There's no larger discussion this episode regarding bullying or proper filial piety. It's just kind of a weird opening gag about how sometimes punches go wrong and then it's time for everyone to go scooting off. Beyond that one punch, by the way, this episode is mostly a pretty nonviolent one. At least from Deok-in's end. She's had a stressful enough time lately to not be going around looking for trouble...More
This episode didn't seem that depressing. Bear in mind I'm not sure whether this is objectively true or whether my standards have just been completely warped by the miserable tone "Missing Noir M" has been driving at lately. The opening scene appears to be underage prostitution for pity's sake, and there are murders involved. But at least we don't wallow in that too much. Even the ending, while initially annoying, did feel appropriate in long perspective...More
Avoid the preview for the last episode if you can- unfortunately it spoils everything about this episode, including the cliffhanger. This isn't a huge problem, given the general appeal of the characters. It's just a little annoying to have go through an entire episode's runtime without actually learning much in the way of new information. Well, relevant information anyway. As I've noted in the past, the plot in "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" is somewhat weak...More
Experimenting and taking risks is not typical behavior for the Korean drama industry. KBS2 has been making great, even if not very successful efforts in diversity and its new Friday and now also Saturday timeslot is one example. Taking things one step further, "Producers" uses a powerhouse cast and production team to create a possible mix of formats between variety and drama...More
Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran are among the most beloved Korean drama writers, especially for foreign fans. Their romantic comedies offer star power and successful pairings, lively and unique characters and a writing style many love. Despite a few bumps along the way, their shows are entertaining and well received. Their latest installment is "Warm and Cozy", a phrase which will hopefully describe viewer sentiment throughout...More
Il-yeong (played by Kim Go-eun-I) was abandoned in a coin locker as a newborn infant. Literally, her name just means "one-zero". After a somewhat unpleasant life as a normal child bum, Il-yeong is recruited and sold to Mom (played by Kim Hye-soo), who runs a multi-faceted criminal enterprise. As it happens, Il-yeong the child has the right stuff to be promoted as one of Mom's children- a direct enforcer who somewhat incidentally gets to have a normal dinner with the rest of Mom's "family" every once in awhile...More
The plot is typical star-crossed lovers stuff. First, Cheol-soo (played by Hong Jong-hyeon) is the son of two supervillains. Well they're not really supervillains but Dal-sik (played by Sin Jeong-geun) and Yeong-mi (played by Park Eun-hye) have crime-committing abilities so superpowered they might as well be. Luckily "Enemies In-Law" is a comedy, so I don't need to do anything as ridiculous as criticize this movie for featuring a small army of crime dogs- that is, dogs that commit crimes, not dogs that solve crimes...More
Il-beom (played by Kim In-kwon) is forced by circumstance to look for well-playing work in morally duplicitous places, and ends up degrading himself for the amusement of older women, as part of a dubious but most likely legal scam to get them to buy overpriced consumer goods. What the women get out of this peculiar arrangement is initially unclear, but that much is quickly answered by Ok-nim (played by Lee Jo-sil), an older woman with little to look forward to in life except for these little junkets...More
Soo-hyang (played by Jo Soo-hyang), Eun-soo (played by Kwon Eun-soo) and Ha-dam (played by Jeong Ha-dam) are teen runaways. After an auspicious first encounter, they decide to stick together for awhile- which unfortunately leads to them becoming enlisted as prostitutes. If it's any comfort "Wild Flowers" implies that prostitution isn't a new experience for any of these girls. They do live on the street, after all, and turning tricks is about the only way uneducated teenage girls in that situation can manage to make money...More
"Unkind Women" is delving into the nitty gritty of all the issues at hand. Almost everything is out in the open and must be dealt with. The things that remain hidden ground the plot with a constant feeling of tension.
There was so much happiness in this episode...More
Lee Byeon-hun scores another Hollywood role, "Roaring Currents" documentary on the way, Paul Fisher's "A Kim Jong-Il Production" reviewed, and does Marvel's latest show Seoul's ugly side?...More
Mukbang, or "Eating Broadcasting"?, Jin Joo goes green with her second "Samsaek Namul" posts, See the South's seaweed form space, and steps for making Mayak Gimbap for the kids...More
Get introduced to South Korea through Lonely Planet's page, Penny-pinch your way to and through Korea, ""Why I Didn't Love Travelling in South Korea", and backpacking in Korea with Brown Man Trips...More
New cosmetic trend explored, Korea's favourite petite athlete is in the spotlight, Korea Times starts its special series on Korean animation studios and the creative culture powering them, and the "The evolution of shopping spaces" explored...More
The pacing slows down even more than usual here as quite a bit of the material is just Ji-na and Tae-woon trying to make the most of an unfortunate stranded situation. And it's really cute. From the very start a peeved Ji-na just tells Tae-woon to stop trying to be helpful while she takes a moment to calm down. He still ends up trying to be helpful, just not in an overbearing way. As it turns out, that's exactly what Ji-na needs- a chance to relax and realize the crisis isn't as bad as it seems...More
Jung-ho and Yeon-hee have begun their assault on Beom's family - they plan to morph them into a socially acceptable unit of society with monetary bribes. It places a distinct wedge between Beom and her family. In fact, the staff begins to call her a miniature Yeon-hee.
Beom is working so hard to please that she has begun to absorb the attitude of her in-laws...More
"Unkind Women" is one complicated show. Relationships are tangled into knots that can only be undone by major ego crushing - this will almost definitely take another ten episodes to resolve. What saves this episode from being too melodramatic are the family moments.
Hyeon-sook and Hyeon-jeong finally have their father back...More
I'm not a fan of some of the twists and turns in this week's episode of "Unkind Women". They were overly dramatic. The construction of the web of relationships in the drama is already a bit difficult to believe, so turning Mo-ran into a desperate woman in the twilight of her life is too dramatic a move. There are enough coincidental and unbelievable events to fill a lifetime without the addition of her dramatics.
Mo-ran has been seeking forgiveness from Soon-ok so that she can die in peace...More
2015/05/07 | | Permalink
The cliffhanger last time and the cliffhanger this time are for the most part the exact same cliffhanger. "The Girl Who Sees Smells" is having difficulty justifying its running time at this point. Even under the most charitable interpretation by all rights Jae-hee really should have been caught by now. Moo-gak actually manages to catch Jae-hee committing an explicit crime- at the very least there should be probable cause for a warrant. And a cursory investigation of Jae-hee's cellar would quickly reveal the existence of the books, and then it's game over...More
2015/05/07 | | Permalink
There's almost something of a recurring trend this episode- mothers. "The Lover" doesn't really have the thematic consistency to properly pull this off, but what do you want, this is mostly just a sketch comedy anyway. The jokes remain fresh, and that's what really matters. They also sometimes veer toward the vaguely gross, but honestly? Until I saw this episode I did not know it was possible to construct a dick in that manner, so points for novelty...More
2015/05/06 | | Permalink
The cliffhanger last time and the cliffhanger this time are for the most part the exact same cliffhanger. "The Girl Who Sees Smells" is having difficulty justifying its running time at this point. Even under the most charitable interpretation by all rights Jae-hee really should have been caught by now. Moo-gak actually manages to catch Jae-hee committing an explicit crime- at the very least there should be probable cause for a warrant. And a cursory investigation of Jae-hee's cellar would quickly reveal the existence of the books, and then it's game over...More
2015/05/06 | | Permalink
And the cat is out of the bag. Everyone knows that Cheol-hee is alive. It wreaks havoc on Soon-ok's family as each person struggles to digest the information was best they can. On top of that world shattering revelation, relationships hit turning points. This is all to be expected at this point in the drama - we are halfway through and that's where things begin to change.
The first major change we see is between Roo-oh and Ma-ri...More
2015/05/05 | | Permalink
This episode mostly takes a shift toward premise building. Something of an odd narrative direction given that this is the fourth episode, but "Who Are You - School 2015" makes good use of it. Once Eun-bi figures out what has happened, all that's left for her and Mi-kyeong to do is admit that there isn't actually going to be a happy resolution after all. Now they have to return to their real, mostly heartbroken lives...More
2015/05/05 | | Permalink
The humor this episode consists primarily of callbacks- namely to the entire incident with the bike. The extent to which the characters are willing to tell ridiculous lies for reasons that don't really make much sense is the larger thematic point. Sure it's fun to watch everybody squirm in the near term. But in the long term, why are they lying exactly? What exactly is the end game for a bunch of relationships that are founded upon the idea of silly deceit?...More
It turns out that there is bullying at Eun-byeol's school- but it's so subtle that even after watching this episode I'm not sure to what extent it technically exists. The story of Yeong-eun (played by Kim Bo-ra) is very instructive in this regard. As it turns out she was the recipient not so much of the explicit bullying that Eun-bi suffered from, but of the rather more crippling loneliness of simply being ignored altogether...More
In a mildly genre-bending twist, last episode revealed that Soo-ji's goal of a relationship with Sang-woo was actually much easier to accomplish then was expected. So...what exactly are the characters supposed to do for the remaining ten episodes? It soon becomes clear that from this point on, rather than being about Soo-ji being terrible at romance, we're now going to get a story about Soo-ji and Sang-woo being mutually terrible at romance...More
Episode 11 was strong than those of the past because something actually happened. And by "something", I mean that Jung-ho and Yeon-hee didn't just sit around plotting to take over the futures of In-sang and Beom. They set their plans into motion and the hired help quietly fights their corruption behind the scenes. Things happened!
The major theme of the episode was class and how it divides In-sang's family from Beom's...More
This was the strongest episode by far. For all the annoying interconnections between people that can be a weakness, this show timed its reveals so well that those interconnections ended up becoming strengths. Along with the reveals came many insights into a rich past that brought viewers closer to the characters on screen
Perhaps the strongest story was that of Hyeon-jeong's...More
"Unkind Women" is plugging along at a decent clip. Relationships are in full bloom and conflicts have been exposed. We see deeper into characters that were only two-dimensional. The ante has been raised and the going is good.
The major turn of the episode is that many conflicts come to a head and are exposed, whether to the characters themselves or just to the audience...More
Marvel's might continues while newcomers stake their claim…
There was some serious jostling for position going on at the box office this past weekend. Last weekend Marvel's latest "Avengers" film entered the fray and (righteously) dominated proceedings by capturing a mammoth 90% of the box office pie. And while this left little else for the rest of the pack to pounce on, a week later we find a string of new entries trying to make a move on Marvel's monster...More
One of the more interesting parts of the relationship between Deok-in and Jin-woo is that she's the heroic figure who gets stuff done, where as he's the dork who has to ask for help. So the ending of the last episode, as we see here, was a bit of a shock to Deok-in. No one ever comes to rescue her. The fact that Jin-woo isn't very good at helping out is really sort of besides the point. It's been awhile since anyone ever actually tried to help Deok-in tangibly...More
Korea's latest problem, among many, is collaboration. It actually shouldn't come off as too much of a surprise. The occasional moment of hot combat notwithstanding, from what we can tell the Japanese have been fairly good about not terrorizing the Korean peasantry. In medieval terms, the authority of a local ruler springs from his ability to protect his people from conquest. And given how poorly the invasion has been managed from the Korean perspective, it's little surprise that the Korean peasantry has concluded that they've been failed in that regard...More
Each unkind woman has begun to forge a new path in life. Their lives did not go the way they expected, but that doesn't mean that life is over. In fact, even the oldest woman is finding new life in friendship. As they try to take control of their lives, the past comes back to haunt them - whether or not is succeeds is a matter left to be seen.
Soon-ok and Mo-ran have found a comfortable ground upon which they can stand and relate to each other...More
A video surfaces on the Internet of an obviously terrified woman begging for help. Obviously the question quickly arises as to whether or not the video is fake- but as far as the detectives of "Missing Noir M" are concerned, the important problem is simply to find her first and ask questions later. As usual, delving into the greater context of the case quickly manages to bring up some rather dispiriting, discouraging stories that are just, well, really grim...More
This episode is the one where the title really hits an accurate mark. While Deok-in might be a hard-boiled ex-detective who's good in a fight, ultimately, we constantly see that all she really wants to do is cry. It's not something Deok-in can do with her husband's family, because to a large extent they expect Deok-in to just be a pillar of support. It is something that she can do with Jin-woo, mostly because he happens to be there when she breaks down...More
It's a little strange how the big naval battle this episode actually comes off as kind of boring. A movie like "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" can make use of the filmic experience and dramatic license to make any kind of war scene seem really cool. But "Jing Bi-rok", with its usual emphasis on stoic, unchanging permiters, comes off far more like a vortex of strategy. Lee Soon-shin wins more because he has an actual plan than because of any inherent brilliance. If nothing else Kim Suk-hoon definitely has the stoicism down pat...More
The splendid party mostly goes all right. There's no earth-shattering revelations or anything. Although it is somewhat odd that Tae-woon and Hee-cheol have more of a clearly defined rivalry at this point than Ji-na and Hye-mi. Most of the time it's hard to get a read on what Hee-cheol is actually thinking- which to some extent is perhaps why he comes off as attractive. Hee-cheol is very much a man of mystery, whereas Tae-woon wears his heart on his sleeve...More
Romantic comedy in Korean drama most often deals with budding relationships. The draw is the idea that two strangers meet, fall in love and this love is what entertains viewers. Even if those characters are connected in their childhood or by fate, which are popular tropes. However, some shows also deal with love beyond the original attraction and also rekindled love. 'Ex-Girlfriends' Club' appears to belong in the latter category...More
Seong-chil (played by Park Geun-hyeong) is a grumpy old man who's stubbornly standing in the way of a redevelopment scheme for his local neighborhood. The other characters decide, somewhat elaborately, that the best way to get Seong-chil to fold is to develop a convoluted romantic storyline involving Geum-nim (played by Yoon Yeo-jeong). And so, we get a love story involving Seong-chil and Geum-nim...More
Mi-yeong (played by Song Eun-jin) is a woman who likes having sex with her boyfriend. Somewhat awkwardly, her boyfriend is actually a friend of Mi-yeong's younger sister Mi-hye (played by Joo Yeon-seo). Even more awkwardly, it turns out that Mi-hye kind of sort of made one of those "if we're still single by such and such date let's get hitched" promises with said boyfriend. Well, there's no non-awkward way of resolving a situation like that...More
The K-pop boom gets analysed, there's no age limit on being a fan, Big Bang bounce back with new tracks, and Yuna pledges her support for earthquake victims in Nepal...More
Jang Hyeok begins shooting in Taiwan, what does the Korean media think of the "Avengers"?, Fabien introduces a couple of new local releases, and the 16th Jeonju International Film Festival gets under way...More
Sue from My Korean Kitchen shares a light noodle treat, Can kimchi and rice play nice with bacon and eggs?, a recipe for Seafood Doenjang Jjiga, and Kimchimari interviewed on KBS World Radio...More
The Korean Foundations launches its cross-culture program, Anthony Bourdain visits Korea for CNN, are young Koreans keen to depart en masse?, and the South Korean painter Park Su-geun revisited...More
Adorable series by Puuung on love's little moments, "The Rise of Urban Graffiti in Seoul", Robert Koehler visits Digital Library of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the Gallery 6 in Seoul's new exhibit...More
2015/05/01 | | Permalink
As expected, Ji-na is able to pull through the presentation like a Champ. And as mostly predicted, "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" continues with a tonal shift toward the subdued. The transition has been nearly seemless. It's pretty unmistakable here that character actions are dictated by personal motivation rather than a desire to make things wacky for the sake of being wacky. Ji-na's actually pretty consistently uncomfortable here as the target of an elaborate dating scheme...More
2015/05/01 | | Permalink
After ten episodes I doubt that "Heard It Through the Grapevine" is going to change much in style. Instead, it continues to play much like a manga adapted for the small screen and the main characters are the comical Jung-ho and Yeon-hee.
The couple has more fits than their infant grandson and the major theme of the episode was denial...More
2015/04/30 | | Permalink
The episode starts out somewhat promising- important facts regarding the mystery of Cho-rim's past are established. Moo-gak and Cho-rim continue to look cute together. And there's even a brief little piece where Cho-rim has to use her powers to apprehend a strange man found in a place he should not be. Unfortunately, this is resolved very quickly and abruptly as we get back to the age-old question of what improbable chain of events Jae-hee will use to impede the investigation this time...More
2015/04/30 | | Permalink
There's more format tweaking this time- perhaps it was just my imagination but all the jokes this time seemed to take place in the context of longer, more drawn-out scenes. Additionally, the conceit about everything happening over the course of a single day is gone. What's more, the voiceover by Choi Yeo-jin, at least, has gotten even more reflective. The concept of unmarried couples living together is now to some extent treated with serious dramatic weight. With condom jokes...More
2015/04/29 | | Permalink
Moo-gak and Cho-rim are still cute together. I like how for the entire opening portion of the episode they're holding hands yet are apparently oblivious to this fact. Cho-rim's shocked reaction to Moo-gak's conversational piece later on is equally cute. Unfortunately writ large "The Girl Who Sees Smells" has decided to double down on the serial killer storyline...again. And it's times like this I really wish Moo-gak and Cho-rim could just solve normal mysteries instead. When was the last time we even got to see some smells?...More
2015/04/28 | | Permalink
Somewhat disappointingly, this episode uses the plot device of amnesia to mostly avoid tackling the issues established about Eun-bi's character last episode. Now, obviously, given all the trouble "Who Are You - School 2015" went to to set up a rather mysterious premise, we're going to get back to all this at some point. For the moment though the drama goes in a mostly generic direction as Eun-bi tries to get a grasp of her new surroundings...More
2015/04/28 | | Permalink
Now that Dae-yeong has accidentally exposed the drama's premise to Sang-woo, there's not really any getting around the general sense of awkwardness. I like how Sang-woo seems generally perplexed at the idea that women would have any romantic interest in him. To be entirely honest I'm kind of confused on that point too, but then it's not like love is supposed to be easily understood or anything like that...More
Eun-bi (played by Kim So-hyeon-I) is a normal teenage girl who had the misfortune of being born into less than ideal circumstances. Eun-byeol (also played by Kim So-hyeon-I) was also born less than ideal circumstances. But she had the luck to be adopted into a more well-to-do family. From the very start "Who Are You - School 2015" makes a point of offering up the same old trope about what might have been...More
The slow pace of the plot catches up to the characters here. I can't help but find it rather inherently amusing that Dae-yeong and Soo-ji are acting like they have all the time in the world to get her together with Sang-woo, when from the very beginning every single work meeting Soo-ji and Sang-woo have had has referenced the blind date that Sang-woo keeps trying to avoid. Well, that's the problem with romantic fantasies really. They're a lot more fun than actually trying to date...More
Mind the Gap: The "Avengers" return to ruin…
Crumbs. That's what Marvel's monster left for the rest of the pack over the weekend, crumbs.
Its pre-sales were brilliant, over a million, and a million more stormed cinemas across the country to catch the heroes' phenomenal return (as well as to catch South Korean model-turned-actress Soo Hyeon make her movie debut as a support character). The hype building up to its release made the weekend's landslide no surprise, but the furiosity of the frenzy was still a sight to behold as "Avengers: Age of Ultron" affected a perfect cinematic storm...More
2015/04/26 | | Permalink
So, Kyeong-cheol (played by In Gyo-jin) is Deok-in's estranged husband. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that he's estranged from his entire family. Deok-in still lives with her relatives by marriage, while Kyeong-cheol has been hanging out with the rich family. Deok-in's new girlfriend, Jin-hee (played by Hann E-seo), is pushing for marriage- a task made inconvenient by the fact that Kyeong-cheol's family refuses to acknowledge that the marriage is over, on account of the fact that they really like Deok-in. And also Jin-hee is Jin-woo's brother...More
2015/04/26 | | Permalink
In a mild departure of format Seong-ryong actually tries to solve problems himself this time, on the ground. Given the man's awkward position with the royal court at the moment it's about all he really can do. The disconnect between what's going on politically and what's been going on with the actual population has always been a major plot point in "Jing Bi-rok", and the flash here is a welcome bit of variation from the normal discouraging format...More
It's getting difficult to recommend "Missing Noir M" at this point. The issue isn't that the drama's getting bad exactly, but more than the stories are consistently really kind of dispiriting. This is even explicitly discussed at the end- technically this is once again another mostly happy ending where no one actually got hurt. Or at least, no one got hurt who didn't already mostly deserve it. Poetic justice is a pretty sorry recompense for serious loss though...More
The formulaic nature of "Make a Woman Cry" puzzles me. It's mostly because this isn't really a genre combination that makes a whole lot of sense. The ex-cop who solves crimes by beating the living snot out every single low-life in punching range is the kind of trope I expect to see in a hard-boiled action movie. Somehow I was expecting Deok-in's investigation to involve more actual investigating and less excessive violence...More
The theme this episode appears to be how war doesn't make anyone happy. The Korean leadership is angry because they've managed a temporary stalemate with no real options. The Japanese leadership is upset because given the prior pace they should have won the war by now. The Japanese military leaders are worried because there's no positive way to spin these setbacks. Yi Sun-shin is mostly doing all right because the man has an amazing sense of patience...More
The shift to more conventional storytelling is very evident here. At one point a flashback quite explicitly points out that the first couple of episodes were pretty nuts. But for the most part Ji-na tries to solve problems here by, well, coming up with an actual plan. Rather than accidentally running into Tae-woon, this time Ji-na deliberately seeks him out to ask for his help. Even the rather unexpected obstacle is resolved with relatively little mess...More
Gaining the love of audiences is quite easy when those audiences feel their needs are a priority. "Blood" received a lot of criticism for its two leads' acting skills and that criticism is accurate. However, it would be unfair to say that this is the only problem of the series. It would also be unfair to say there is nothing good here to be found. It all comes down to balancing the bad with good. Unfortunately, that is where "Blood" fails...More
First it's fantasies about women's skirts getting shorter, or disappearing altogether. Then it's another story where the woman slowly loses all of her clothes, while vaguely discussing sex with mostly imaginary people. Then it's another story about sex in a movie theater. Then it's another story about a man going hiking, talking about sex with women he doesn't actually know. Then everyone talks about the sexy things they've learned. There's just one thing I can't understand about "Planck Constant". How can a movie so obviously about sex not actually really be about sex at all?...More
Ja-yeong (played by Park Myeong-sin) is a depressed middle-aged woman who's been confined to a mental institution. Cho-hee (played by Ryoo Hye-rin) is a depressed teenager who's been confined to a mental institution. They don't actually know each other that well, but become temporary allies when Ja-yeong's abrupt attempt to escape the mental institution coincides with Cho-hee having the resources and attitude necessary to make a break for it. Then it's on to the road trip...More
Director Hwang Yoon got into documentary filmmaking because she has always had a particular interest in animals. This was how she met her veterinarian husband, and eventually ended up giving birth to a son. Hwang Yoon herself is a fan of pork cutlet, and is naturally responsible for making sure her son gets fed. So the South Korea foot-and-mouth outbreak of late 2010 got Hwang Yoon to wondering. What exactly is her family eating? How is this meat produced? And should she do something about it?...More
Relationships that are too intertwined in dramas can be annoying. They are too convenient and make a world rather insular. However, when an anticipated revelation or meeting occurs, that insular world magnifies the effect - that is what "Unkind Women" has done.
We've been waiting for Doo-jin to find out what sort of woman his beloved stepmother and for the worlds of the women in Soon-ok's household to collide with Hyeon-ae's...More
For the most part, "Unkind Women" is an engaging show. The relationships are fulfilling, the acting is relaxed, and most of the story, despite relying on the past, moves forward. There is one relationship triangle that drags the rest of it down: the relationship between Soon-ok, Mo-ran, and Cheol-hee. The entire situation is awkward and lacks the conviction of the other relationships and their situations.
Perhaps I'm just not sure how to interpret the situation between Mo-ran and Soon-ok...More
Hangul Celluloid reviews the strange and unsettling "Vegetarian", Lee Byeong-hun to star in another Hollywood flick, Claudia Kim (Soo Hyeon)'s acting career off to a flying start, and find out what South Korean films have been making waves this year...More
Sue creates the perfect dipping sauce for seafood, Dan tries his hand at kimbap, Holly shows us how to combined cabbage and soybean paste, and there is nothing simpler than Gamjajeon!...More
CNN presents 40 stunning pictures of beautiful places around Korea, Anthony Bourdain experiences South Korean food and culture in a new series, Anne Jamobra shows us around Jeju, and just why are Koreans heading to Europe?...More
South Korea continues to invest in renewable energy, Samsung to launch new app for the disabled, Chinese scientist beat Korea to the first genetically modified human embryo, and Auto Shanghai 2015 reveals Korea's best wheels...More
Is the LGBT community in Korea growing?, Anthony Bourdain survives a Korean drinking session, Islam and Korea explored, and what can K-pop teach Australia about its pop culture?...More
The pace here is even slower than usual as most of the episode is simply dedicated to a long, awkward car ride between Tae-woon and Ji-na that somewhat predictably ends up with things going wrong because Tae-woon takes her instructions too literally. I've been a good sport about Tae-woon's slowness so far, but really, after a certain point it gets to be kind of contrived. Particularly since Tae-woon is evidently much smarter than he lets on...More
The pacing of the different storylines is "Unkind Women"'s strong suit. This is a large cast and the slow introduction during the first few episodes allows for all of them to develop individually. Where it weakens is how interconnected all of the characters are. It's easier to build an insulated world, but that becomes quite cliche.
At this point, we know the women of "Unkind Women" pretty well...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" is tackling social issues and injustices rather than attempting to break out of its mold. Each episode or pair of episodes takes on a new vice of Jung-ho's and Yeon-hee's. Luckily, this episode also highlighted the young married couple a little as well.
We got to see In-sang and Beom begin to dream about their future in a manner that is quite farsighted...More
2015/04/23 | | Permalink
The focus this time is more completely on the serial murder investigation- unfortunately. Part of the problem with giving Jae-hee improbably effective crime-committing superpowers is that I start to wonder why he doesn't use them more consistently. The man can take advantage of all sorts of information he stumbles across by accident- yet he can't be bothered to remembered how to stab a person in the vitals? Isn't he a chef? Isn't this, like, the one thing he would have an actual logical reason to know?...More
2015/04/23 | | Permalink
The overall design is slightly tweeked this episode. Gone is the rather goofy English voiceover about couples shacking up before marriage. Instead, the framing device for most of the skits just ends up being the voices of the women in these relationships. The result is a somewhat surprising blend of emotional complexity. Even as "The Lover" looks at times amateurish, with actors seeming to break character in the course of certain jokes, by the end we're left with a rather sweet lingering feeling of why people get together romantically in the first place...More
2015/04/22 | | Permalink
The format is mostly the same as last episode. Moo-gak and Cho-rim act cute for a moment, then Jae-hee does sneaky criminal stuff, then Moo-gak and Cho-rim get around to solving the current case of the week and finally, we close out with a dramatic cliffhanger wherein essential information relative to the case is discovered. While consistency is nice, "The Girl Who Sees Smells" continues to be consistent in a somewhat annoying inconsistent way...More
2015/04/21 | | Permalink
Soo-ji's incremental progress toward a relationship with Sang-woo here is foiled by...rental payments. Good, good, more absurdity. I mean it's not really that absurd. Pretty much everybody has to struggle with the rent, especially in the wake of a dumb impulse purchase. But this isn't the kind of real-life issue that normally shows up in dramas. Fiction tends to focus on concept rather than reality. Yet as "Let's Eat - Season 2" shows here, a lot of mileage can be accomplished just by watching Soo-ji squirm over the rent...More
2015/04/21 | | Permalink
This episode opens up with Ji-sang making one last random, pointless violent attack against Jae-wook's forces. Which inevitably comes down to nothing, and inevitably results in Ji-sang being let go. I guess this one was just for old time's sake- "Blood" has been pretty dedicated to its rather arbitrary format, and there's no reason for that to end in the last episode. It's just that this time the second half rampage actually manages to accomplish something, mostly because the drama has to end somehow...More
The mystery of the person who lives on the roof of the building is resolved appropriately- with a revelation as to the very serious financial penalties involved in building an illegal add-on to an apartment building. All right, that's somewhat ridiculous- which is good, because self-ridicule is always where "Let's Eat - Season 2" has been at its strongest. Most of the characters are at their most amusing when their perception of reality is challenged by their own apparent cluelessness.
Except for Dae-yeong. He knows that he's clueless, and doesn't really care. Which makes it all the more easier for him to identify where other people are going wrong. I'm really kind of impressed at this point seeing how little Soo-ji understands of men. Every time the three leads of this drama are together it's just Dae-yeong hurriedly trying to run damage control before Soo-ji accidentally reveals how unattractive she really is...More
I'm not sure there's really much left to say about "Blood" at this point. The drama has overstayed its welcome- I mean that literally more than subjectively. Take away all the filler and there's maybe about ten episodes worth of actual interesting plot here. But even the filler could have been potentially interesting if it actually led up to something. Again, I would have cared a lot more about Seok-joo's depth if we'd ever gotten any meaningful detail about his relationship with Ri-ta. Instead, it was just his continuing to get involved in Jae-wook's obviously bad research idea...More
Jung-ho and Yeon-hee become more ridiculous in this episode. They are the center of the show with their immaturity and, dare I say, idiocy. This episode displays that their manicured appearance most definitely belies the children beneath.
As of late, Jung-ho has become obsessed with losing hair...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" is an insulated drama. It has only expanded upon a few characters in eight episodes and it needs more than that. The focus on Jung-ho and Yeon-hee has provided humor, but is also becoming a little circular.
At first the satire was potent and relevant to the strict social circumstances portrayed in Korean drama...More
"Furious 7" stays ahead of the pack…
"Furious 7" remained the South's favourite flick over the weekend by capturing 41% of the box office pie. James Wan's action outing attracted an additional 472K admissions over 813 screens to move its total tally now to 2.8M ($21.7M). Globally, the film has amassed over $1.1B, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of all time, just ahead of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and behind "Iron Man 3"...More
2015/04/19 | | Permalink
I really like the way that Kim Jeong-eun manages her fight scenes. They just look so...casual. Deok-in doesn't resort to any especially outrageous theatrics. She just hits her opponents hard as quickly as possible. Although admittedly there are a few moments there where it looks like Deok-in was dodging hits more out of luck than skill. There's just something terribly appealing about an older woman with a harsh tongue and no patience for nonsense punching her way out of trouble...More
2015/04/19 | | Permalink
The naval victory of the last episode hasn't solved all of Korea's problems, but at the very least it's forced Japan to reconsider their strategy. While they've been doing very well in land battles, the Japanese are faced with the rather difficult reality that they're stomping about in another country, literally surrounded by Koreans. Short of instituting martial law the Japanese can't really stop Koreans from undermining their position. And the Japanese don't actually want to enforce martial law because they don't actually want to conquer Korea. The real target is China...More
Deok-in (played by Kim Jeong-eun) is an ex-cop who runs a snack shop next to the local school. Jin-woo (played by Song Chang-ee) is a math teacher who does his best to keep his students in line. Together, they fight bullying. Well, eventually. They don't actually know each other as the drama opens- a fact Deok-in takes memorable advantage of in one scene to teach those kids a lesson in plausible deniability...More
As the opening helpfully reminds us, again, what this war is actually about is the wishes of the people. The Koreans do not do a very good job of managing this. But the Japanese do even worse, as we early on get a shot of a rather abrupt, messy, and probably unnecessary execution. I try to give "Jing Bi-rok" credit on the racism question but that whole bit was just a tad over the top. Even if we are eventually moving to a comeuppance- knowing the overall thrust of the story doesn't make it any less awkward in the moment. Well, most of the time anyway...More
Any fears I had last episode about "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" not taking Ji-na to task for her bad behavior would appear to have been unfounded. Right away Ji-na is confronted rather uncomfortably about how inappropriate it is to hit another person with so little provocation. What's more, Ji-na is so ashamed of herself that she manages to completely forget why she came to the arboretum in the first place. The results are rather comical...More
This mystery's format somewhat disappointedly takes the same overall thrust as the last one. We discover, as expected, that the apparent victim in this case isn't quite so innocent as he may have initially appeared. What's more, there's a lot of lateral thinking involved here to figure out just how far this conspiracy extends, and how many characters have hidden agendas and past crimes that they're making a point of covering up...More
Acquiring and maintaining stardom contain different necessities than acquiring and maintaining a stable career and prestige as an artist. Stardom often depends on starring in successful works and being very prolific. Audiences get easily impressed by new things and move on quickly unless thoroughly engaged and hooked. This is especially true for the Korean drama industry. Gong Yoo is an odd case of someone whose acquired fame has kept him relative despite the sparsity of his works. He is also someone who is now branching out...More
The rise of cable television has also marked the increase in freedom of expression for drama creators. Especially paid channels which are not freely available to the public can handle topics which might be considered "morally harmful" for public television networks and therefore be censored more strictly. 'Hogu's Love' is a series which features a lot of major societal taboo topics and combined with tvN's signature romantic comedy style, it explores them in a refreshing and heartfelt manner...More
Jeong-woo (played by Kim Sung-soo) is a male surgeon. Yoo-kyeong (played by Han Go-eun) is his surgeon girlfriend. Neither of them are terribly bright. I mean, obviously they have medical expertise. But Jeong-woo is really bad at keeping secrets. And Yoo-kyeong has a rather unhealthy fascination with dark holes. The entirity of "Black Hand" is a mystery as we try to guess which of these two apparently dumb people has masterminded the film's atmosphere of shock horror...More
Director Lee-kil Bo-ra and her brother were born into a deaf family, although they both have functional ears. "Glittering Hands", on the most basic possible level, is just a home movie of their family life. Obviously Lee-kil Bo-ra didn't plan this project from childhood, so outside of recent years she just shows us brief snippets. There's old photo albums of what her parents were like when they were younger, and the story of their courtship. Mostly though, Lee-kil Bo-ra doesn't do the talking- her parents speaks for themselves, in sign language...More
It's somewhat awkward for me to watch an obviously political documentary like "Fukushima: Is There a Way Out?" While we're all familiar with the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, in part this is due to media alarmism. I don't want to downplay the general tragedy of the event- but we have to get our energy from somewhere. Watt per watt coal power kills more people and causes more negative health effects than nuclear power by several orders of magnitude. It's just that coal mine collapses are so common nobody really cares when they happen. A nuclear meltdown always gets huge media attention precisely because they're so rare...More
Ernie is a young boy who's a bit of a pest. He insists on narrating everything. Oh, and I guess he kind of sort causes unnecessary dangerous catatrophes for no real reason, but personally, it's the narration that really got to me. Stop acting like we're friends Ernie. You're an obnoxious brat who makes me long for the good old days when we used to beat disobedient children with rods. Unfortunately the good old days in "Dino Time" are rather a more romantic lot, featuring obviously carnivorous and obviously herbivorous dinosaurs living in apparent mutual harmony...More
"Twenty" makes it way to America, Fabien presents three new Korean releases for Modern Korean Cinema, CJ Entertainment reaches out to fans on Facebook with new initiative, and reservations for "Avengers: Age of Ultron" start flooding in...More
Sue and Holly have some delicious, and spicy, recipes for us, Seoul Eats reviews a new restaurant in Gangnum, and Stir-fried Fish Cake anyone?...More
How to master Korean cuteness, clashes at the Sewol sinking anniversary, and remember to celebrate Black Day in Korea (if you're single and you know it)!...More
South Korean nationals feel the power of their passport, and 25 reasons Seoul is now the coolest city in Asia...More
Seoul plans its first eco-friendly vertical farm, and Planning Korea presents a stunning design to be built in support of the next Winter Olympics...More
2015/04/17 | | Permalink
This episode lacks the frantic energy of the first two- not necessarily a bad thing considering how ridiculous the situations have been lately. Here it's mostly just a night and day of recovery. Ji-na once again shows off that her real magic trick is being able to improvise solutions that looks so impressive and pre-planned that it never occurs to anyone that she's just making it up as she goes along. Unfortunately her talent only really works in the presence of a crisis situation- and Hee-cheol wants is a drink...More
2015/04/17 | | Permalink
"Unkind Women" is delving into Hyeon-sook's past and from that burgeoning knowledge comes the reason why she has been so strict with the brilliant Ma-ri. We also learn more about Hyeon-sook's enemy, and about the pain that has plagued Soon-ok for thirty years.
This is the point when "Unkind Women" feels like it's truly starting to take off...More
2015/04/16 | | Permalink
We open up with the resolution of the cliffhanger...well, it wasn't really much of a cliffhanger. Just Cho-rim and Moo-gak sitting in a romantic nighttime visage admiring the cherry blossoms. Or so it would seem. I do appreciate how "The Girl Who Sees Smells" has (probably inadvertently acknowledged) the reality of the weather lately. You think cherry blossom season would involve lots of beautiful flowers falling to the ground but no, this of all times everything has to be really muggy and rainy...More
2015/04/15 | | Permalink
Every time I think I've figured out what kind of story "The Girl Who Sees Smells" is trying to tell the script throws me for another loop. At first it just seems like we're doing more character building between Cho-rim and Moo-gak. Then another procedural murder shows up out of nowhere. Then it's a brief break from the procedural murder to get back to having characters examine the backstory in more detail, then we have just enough time left over to explain, in clear detail, how the murder took place...More
You know, let's never mind the henchmen for the moment. Why do the regular hospital employees continue to work for Jae-wook under these conditions? Does it actually say in their contracts that they're obliged to continue their employment even if their lives appear to be in imminent physical danger? The patients are so out-of-control that I'm surprised they aren't straight up handcuffed to the gurneys. Even the security guards must be pretty weirded out by now...More
The main interesting thing to happen this episode is that the love triangle is established. Weirdly, the center of this triangle is not Soo-ji, which would make logical sense, but rather...well, nobody in particular because again, it's not clear whether Dae-yeong and Soo-ji are supposed to be getting together or not. Bizarrely, it's the platonic relationship between Dae-yeong and Sang-woo that ends up being the focus. Sang-woo doesn't appear to be gay. But at the very least, he's definitely queer...More
The setup stage of "Unkind Women" is winding down and we're getting to the meat and potatoes of the story. We're seeing behind the curtain and discovering what makes these women tick: the pain, the stories, the relationships.
First, I'll lay down what doesn't please me in order to get it out of the way...More
Try as I might I can't stop wondering where Jae-wook is getting all these henchmen. This just seems like a really lousy job that's more likely than not to result in a premature death to their presumably immortal lives. And the real kicker is that these henchmen aren't even any good at their job. I suspect Jae-wook could have saved a lot of time and effort by just hiring a hacker instead. Or he could have just stolen the information himself during a dinner party. That's always a pretty fun trope...More
This episode jumps right away to the finer more important points of the plot- Dae-young teaching Soo-ji how to act like an attractive woman. I'm not sure which part's funnier actually. There's the apparently sexless Dae-young being a complete master of romantic interaction. And then there's Soo-ji not having the slightest clue about what he's talking about. She completely whiffs Dae-young's softball attempt to try and get her alone in the same general area as Sang-woo...More
"Unkind Women" is a story about overcoming the past and the heavy emotional burden it can place on a human soul. All of the women in Soon-ok's family have challenges to face that are caused by wounds long since healed and scarred that have reopened to cause more pain. These women have to learn to lead their lives again. And on the way, we get some beautiful moments.
Chae Si-ra as Hyeon-sook is a grounding force of the drama...More
"Furious 7" retains pole position…
James Wan's "Furious 7" managed to stay in pole position over this past weekend by capturing 42.6% of the box office pie. The frantic action flick added 585K admissions over 818 screens to bring its total tally in Korea to 2.1M ($15.8M). The film, which stars the late Paul Walker alongside a host of Hollywood heroes such as Vin Deiesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Michelle Rodriguez, has thus far amasses over $800 million worldwide...More
2015/04/12 | | Permalink
I don't particularly care for the political elements in "Jing Bi-rok". Partially this is because they're rather reptitive- it's not a whole lot of fun just watching King Seonjo make more bad political decisions. And on the flip side, this also makes the general proceedings immensely depressing. You don't have to be a student of history to realize that King Seonjo and his similar-minded subordinates are making a rather boneheaded mistake. Apparently having their country overrun with a foreign army isn't enough to get them to change their corporally-minded attitude...More
I'm just gonna come out and say it- being twenty really sucked. Goodness knows culture tries to convince us that this was the greatest time of our lives, but the simple reality is that when we were twenty, we had no idea how the world really worked. And yet, we were just barely smart enough to think we had a grasp on what was going on, even if it was obvious that we did not. So it is with Chi-ho (played by Kim Woo-bin), Dong-woo (played by Junho) and Kyeong-jae (played by Kang Ha-neul). They became friends under peculiar circumstances, and these are the circumstances in which their relationships continue to awkwardly exist...More
No murders this time as "Missing Noir M" moves into its second case. Now, see, this is what I like about the writing in this drama. Lee Yu-jin shows excellent restraint in just making the crisis about a missing person without having to drag increasingly outrageous crimes into the equation. Certainly the set-up is intriguing enough- an abandoned car, obvious signs of furtive activity, and it all ties back to...an apparently unremarkable married salaryman?...More
I really love the aesthetic look in "My Unfortunate Boyfriend". I can't quite remember the last time a drama was quite this colorful- both literally and metaphorically. Director Nam Gi-hoon doesn't just settle for telling us that Tae-woon loves gardening. He lovingly shows up both a home that looks like an aviary and a workplace so utterly overflowing with greenery that it's easy to see why they need to keep a gardener on permanent staff. What's more, the visuals really sell the general absurdity of the drama's moral points- like why you should always listen to persistent clowns...More
As usual the episode opens up with King Seonjo and his advisors, now in a decidedly less dignified location, once again ineffectively debating the best course of action. King Seonjo comes up with more bad ideas, and everyone else is too busy being reverent and respectful to really seriously address the fact that they've literally been driven out of their own capital. The Chinese are no help either. Fortunately, by the end of the episode someone (you can probably guess who) finally shows up with a plan to make life less terrible...More
Many a serial drama is guilty of reinventing the wheel, but procedural ones are by nature able to get away with it. All crime shows do the same thing, but because they handle different cases and use the hook of a mystery, they offer something new through the same format every time. 'Missing Noir M' is neither original or brilliant so far, but rather than going for gimmicks, it goes back to the basics of what makes good crime stories and mysteries appealing...More
Selling an outrageous concept is a very delicate procedure. On one hand, you have to embrace your premise and on the other, you cannot take yourself too seriously or in the wrong way. Outrageous does not mean ridiculous and it is the latter there is less tolerance for. 'The Girl Who Sees Smells' certainly presents an odd world and combines two usually contradicting in tone genres, but its consistency, balance and involvement with what is has to show keep it enjoyable...More
Romantic Korean drama is the most forgiving type there is. Many viewers will swear by their love for a particular actor and especially a main pairing. If that pairing is good, the series will be also, they say. If works like 'Hyde, Jekyll and I' achieve anything, it is to prove that writing does matter. No amount of star power or romantic scenes can carry a work alone. While not without its virtues, this series fails in its basics...More
Lee Won-jong is an actor known for his diversity, and perhaps also for his trademark mole that finds its way into almost all of his dialogue. What makes this actor sought after, though, is that his acting is ageless. He retains the youthful, untainted passion in his acting that many younger actors have that win the hearts of the masses. He can also exercise the finely tuned skills that he's built up over years of working in a multitude of roles both on the big and small screens.
Let's look at one of Lee's more recent roles as Park Moon-soo in "Secret Door" ...More
Kim Soo-mi plays an old woman who, in everyday life, has to submit to the normal low-class indignities of being a maid, along with a small gamut of other familial problems. However, every so often, she does get to go out in the middle of nowhere and just cuss out every single person or thing in hearing distance. And that's pretty much the entire movie. There is something about a national swearing competition thrown in there, but don't expect too much emphasis on that front. The main serious rival doesn't even show up until the movie's almost over...More
So, there's a bunch of kids. Two of them, one boy and one girl, are very assertive and constantly gets into fights. Another two, also one boy and one girl, wear very goofy glasses and have a much more subdued personality. A fifth one is much older than the rest and serves as the helpful older sister type. What they all have in common is the ability to transform first into a weird hybrid animal form, and then into a full on animal. With this power, they solve mysteries...More
Taste of Cinema reveals 25 Korean films you might have overlooked, Fabien introduces this week's new releases for Modern Korean Cinema, China-Korea relations continue to flourish with regard to cinema, and Hangul Celluloid reviews the captivating drama "Han Hong-ju"...More
Tofu Kimchi Jeon, Crispy and crunchy fried chicken, Sausage Pea Lemon Rice: three delicious (and interesting) recipes to experiment with, and Seoul Eats shows us were to go in Seoul to find the best Jajangmyeon...More
South Korea's president considering raising Sewol, EYK comment on Korea's anti-gaming laws, Korea's diversification probed, and Japan's World War II atrocities to be taught in schools...More
Find out what Korean middle school students get served at lunch, Robert Koehler captures Changgyeonggung at sunset, and the Seoul Sub→urban team visited Janghanpyeong Station...More
The DMZ prepares for 'drone fighting', and Jose puts KIA's new Seoul EV under the microscope...More
2015/04/10 | | Permalink
Tae-woon (played by Noh Min-woo-I) is a somewhat mentally challenged gardener with an outrageously hot body and a powerful love of all living things- including plants. I wasn't expecting "My Unfortunate Boyfriend" to invoke the fairy tale of Thumbelina, of all things, but OK, sure. Let's consider the more important questions. Is Tae-woon likable? Is he funny? Do I laugh at his antics while still realizing somewhat shamefacedly that Tae-woon is a much better man than I could ever possibly hope to be? The answers to those questions are, naturally, all a resounding yes...More
Well, hm. Several of my assumptions about the last episode have turned out to be incorrect. In the first place Cho-rim really is mad at Moo-gak about what happened at the comedy club- she's just reasonably good at not getting too outrageously angry. I guess I'm just not used to seeing drama heroines exercise self-restraint. Of course, in the real world shame tends to be a better motivator than abuse anyway, which is how the Cho-rim / Moo-gak relationship is able to move forward...More
One of the problems of having a drama built around gag comedy sketches is a lack of plot. I have no idea where "The Lover" is going as a narrative, so that means I have to evaluate it on terms of jokes. Whereas the first episode was definitely more hit-than-miss, this one either breaks even or loses out slightly. I can't say which it is for certain because several of the best jokes are stretched out for longer than they should be...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" seems to be, on the surface, a story about young love, teenage pregnancy, normal troubles with in-laws and socio-economic differences. In reality, it is about Jung-ho and Yeon-hee, the infantile, yet incredibly wealthy and socially influential parents of In-sang. It is about their inability to adjust to situations outside the status quo.
The couple treats In-sang and his new wife, Beom, like dolls playing at being a family...More
2015/04/08 | | Permalink
It would appear pretty definite at this point that most of the characters are, in fact, just as incompetent as they look. Take Yeom-mi (played by Yoon Jin-seo). She's the one running this criminal investigation, as far as I can tell, because Yeom-mi is the only character professional enough to actually focus on the facts of the case rather than get involved in petty male bickering. Moo-gak does at least get credit for trying to be professional- his main embarassing moment of goofiness is mostly a result of Moo-gak forgetting that interrogation rooms use two-way mirrors...More
2015/04/07 | | Permalink
This episode opens up with another apparently dangerous cliffhanger rather nonchalantly solved, and we proceed from there to yet another cliffhanger that initially seems to be dangerous but...somehow I have trouble feeling the dramatic tension. "Blood" is rather surprisingly repetitive considering that theoretically this is supposed to be a long-form narrative. It would actually be much less repetitive if it had just gone with the standard patient-of-the-week format typical for medical dramas. Now there's a weird thought...More
2015/04/07 | | Permalink
The first season of "Let's Eat" only aired one episode a week. "Let's Eat - Season 2", by contrast, is airing by the more standard two episode per week schedule. And it's this episode I quickly saw one of the more obvious disadvanatages of the more standardized intensive drama schedules- it kind of messes up the pacing. Whereas the first season of "Let's Eat" had to accomplish basic facts rather quickly, "Let's Eat - Season 2" mostly just runs in place. There's a lot of filler here- and we've only just established the basics of the premise...More
The format at this point is pretty much to be expected. After an apparently daring cliffhanger where it seems like Ji-sang is just about to really get into it with Jae-wook...the younger vampire just leaves. I can't quite recall the last time I saw a drama go through so much deliberate build-up only to not actually be working up to anything. Ji-sang's strategy, to the extent he can be said to have a strategy at all, just seems to be to slowly wear down Jae-wook's weaknesses by being kind of a pest...More
Dae-yeong (played by Yoon Doo-joon) has been forced to escape from Seoul due to his usual bizarre habit of managing to obtain unwanted extreme emotions from women he only wants to know casually. While we get several memorable flashbacks indicating part of what happened, the big question of why he broke up with Soo-kyeong remains unresolved. Whether it will ever be answered is unclear- although the implication is definitely that it was an interesting story...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" is really a tale of two woefully clueless socialites who are blasted by a huge social dilemma and handle it terribly. Yeon-hee and Jung-ho do not know how to deal with In-sang's out-of-wedlock baby or his marriage to a common woman. This episode is the start of their attempt to conform the young couple to their standards and their ignorance in how to treat their family as humans rather than as a social concept.
What makes this show so effective is not just the acting, but the music that accompanies the moments that most horrify Jung-ho and Yeon-hee...More
"Fast & Furious" outplays "Twenty" for pole position...
April saw the release of a number of competitive films, five of which entered the fray and featured in this past weekend's top ten. The much-anticipated "Fast & Furious 7" (starring the late Paul Walker alongside Vin Diesel) hit theatres worldwide recently, and Korean audiences welcomed the seventh instalment by raising it up as the country's current number one...More
2015/04/05 | | Permalink
There's times when it feels like this drama's title should just be "King Seonjo comes up with more bad ideas". It's becoming completely obvious at this point that the capital is going to be overrun, and that the only option available for the government is to fall back and regroup. But King Seonjo keeps trying to evade this eventuality and offer up unworkable compromises, mainly because he can't bear the symbolic idea of a king abandoning his own people...More
2015/04/05 | | Permalink
"Unkind Women" is zipping right along, feeding us backstory and humor and relationships that are full of heart. Although the story is a tad jumpy, the characters and their situations are easy to relate to and fun to watch.
Hyeon-sook continues to be the most engaging character with her quirkiness, fiery-temper and significant background information ...More
The immediate problem our intrepid detectives come up with this episode is simply a lack of suspects. It's like Soo-hyeon says- pretty much everybody in the picture is dead, so what exactly are they supposed to be investigating? As it turns out, there is one somewhat windy trail that eventually leads the team to the culprit. And as is usually the case with a well-crafted mystery, everything seems so obvious in retrospect I'm not actually sure why it took so long for the team to figure out what happened...More
Don't let the opening scene fool you- there's very little real action here as the main important plot point is over characters deciding whether or when to run away. Which is in fact how wars are conducted in the real world. No one makes idiotic last stands for the sake of personal honor. In an actual life-or-death situation it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly which side has the upper hand, and at that point everyone, be they general or enlisted soldier, has to be alert for the best possible retreat...More
Why do terrorists exist? Something often lost in discussions about terrorism is that the people who carry out these acts generally aren't crude fundamentalists. Most of them actually have fairly good educations, and have been exposed to modern Western ideals on modern Western terms. So it is with Jeong-goo (played by Byeon Yo-han) and Hyo-min (played by Park Jeong-min-I). These young men make and detonate bombs as a protest against modern culture. The perverse part of it is, they hate modernity precisely because they understand that it's terrible based on direct personal experience. That experience being office work...More
Allegedly "If You Were Me 6" is an omnibus detailing human rights. To be honest that seems kind of specious. I suppose it's true that handicapped people, elderly people, and religious people all sort of have the commonality of being possible victims of unfair persecution. But save for the final story none of the short films here really deal with something that could be called a systemic abuse of human rights...More
Sakamoto (played by Jang Don-gun) is an ethnically Korean investigator working for the Japanese government in an alternative reality where Japan won World War II. Actually the counter-historical is fairly interesting- so far as I can tell, in this timeline Japan avoided the Second Sino-Japanese War and instead engaged in brinksmanship with the Russians. This resulted in Japan joining the Allies and Russia allying with the Axis. It should come as little surprise that in this timeline America entered the war a lot earlier. Goodness knows we hated Communists a lot more than we did the Nazis...More
The conservative and repetitive nature of Korean drama has been changing over the years and this includes the topics handled and opinions expressed though the individual works. While the series most often love larger-than-life and improbable stories, a lot of shows are also surfacing that tackle real life problems on an individual and societal level. 'Seonam Girls High School Investigators' goes a step further and focuses on troubled youth and especially women, an extra rare combination for the industry...More
Cinema Scope mention's "Memories of Murder" in the decade's Top Ten film, "What's Korean Cinema?" talks about the prolific filmmaker Im Kwon-taek and others, the 5th Beijing International Film Festival announces four Korean films, and a filmmaking workshop for immigrant women starts soon...More
Research finds that Korean's spend little time in their own kitchens, and three rousing recipes to try at home...More
Study reveals Korean's aren't miserable, Jeju's 'sea woman' revealed at the Gallery Korea, New York, TTMIK chat about ajummas, and L'Oréal makes history with their new ambassador, Soo Joo Park...More
Robert Koehler snaps a winner down a rainy alleyway, Alphonse finds a new spot in Seoul to appreciate the cherry blossoms, and Sansuyu Village exposed...More
KT invests in island connectivity, NAVER moves on "fierce" market, and Jose outlines Hyundai's RM15...More
2015/04/03 | | Permalink
Eun-hee (played by Moon Ji-in) is a woman who dreams of being a comedienne- specifically, she's already working backstage at a national comedy TV program, so for Eun-hee it's really just a matter of finally getting the chance to run a skit out front. In service to this point, Eun-hee ends up making a rather bizarre request to judge Jeong-woo (played by Kim Ji-hoon-I). Jeong-woo hates fun, though, and persists in mocking Eun-hee using his most neutral tone of voice...More
Cho-rim and Moo-gak manage to very quickly make really dumb promises to their immediate superiors at work, and are consequently forced to work together in order to solve their problems. As set-ups go "The Girl Who Sees Smells" is rather oddly convoluted. I'd think these two would be more likely to search for help from actual friends rather than a stranger they only just met yesterday but...OK sure? The story might be convoluted but it's not really contrived, and that would be the much worse sin...More
What is the difference between a married couple living together and a couple just living together? On a basic level it's just psychological. A married couple has already firmly decided that annoying personal habits are just part of a package. A non-married couple still isn't sure on that question. And so we get the basic premise of "The Lover"- it's a romantic comedy about a bunch of people living together, who annoy each other. Frequently in rather gross ways...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" feels like it is a ball of energy ready to explode - but it never does. In-sang's parents are a riot as caricatures of the rich and spoiled while In-sang and Beom are a rather perfect couple. Beom's family feels the most real and they are who ground this drama with their normalcy.
Beom's family hasn't been in the foreground as much as In-sang's has, but they finally stepped up to bat and give In-sang and Beom the stability that they need...More
2015/04/01 | | Permalink
Cho-rim (played by Sin Se-kyeong) is a girl who ends up having a very bad day. From the start "The Girl Who Sees Smells" doesn't do a lot to get on my good side. I'm really not a big fan of the whole "master criminal who succeeds mainly by dumb luck and no one paying attention to him" trope, and here it's a pretty essential part of the premise. Granted Cho-rim is just a high school girl, but even four years ago Korea had CCTV and they must have been running at least a couple hundred meters...More
It should come as little surprise that for the final episode "Hogu's Love" goes for the obnoxious sitcom antics that have characterized the bulk of the drama's run rather than the emotional heart that's been far more lacking lately. The first segment of the episode is devoted to the immensely creepy plan by Hogu and friends to get him back together with Do-hee. Seriously? It's supposed to be reassuring that they deliberately trick Do-hee into thinking she's a homewrecker?...More
Ji-sang learns a valuable lesson this episode- talking to people is actually a very good way to move the plot forward. The video by his mom stops being an exercise in showing off how Ahn Jae-hyeon isn't that good at emoting and instead is used for its substantial information regarding the infection. For Ji-sang to just be willing to share such private information with other people at all marks a long-needed improvement in his character arc...More
"Unkind Women" started in a fairly perfunctory manner, and yet, it had quite a bit of personality. This first episode is most definitely introduction and setup, but the humor and the music choices give it flair...More
The obnoxious narrative dip into melodrama "Hogu's Love" has taken over the last several episodes is justified here by...another narrative dip into melodrama that's supposed to explain Do-hee's motivation, but really just served to remind me how she's a complete cipher. For a character to behave irrationally isn't necessarily bad- there's irrational people in real life too. But these problems exist on a basic scriptwriting level too, and mainly just emphasize the way this story is deliberately designed to serve a certain point. That point being that rape babies are a gift from god...More
Ji-sang has this rather odd determination to solve all his problems with violence, even though he's not actually all that good at fighting. In all fairness Jae-wook is equally determined to have his goons provoke violent confrontations, again not for any particularly good reason. I get the impression that writer Park Jae-beom-I doesn't really have any idea how vampires could react to each other short of just fighting...More
"Twenty" starts, and scores…
Lee Byeong-heon-I's "Twenty" entered the fray last Wednesday and dominated proceedings over the weekend by capturing 48% of box office pie. The film, which stars Kim Woo-bin, Junho and Kang Ha-neul, attracted an impressive 852K filmgoers across 925 screens to end the weekend at the top; albeit during a quiet week in terms of turnout...More
2015/03/29 | | Permalink
We take a brief break from the actual Japanese invasion to focus on the reaction of the Korean government. As expected, King Seonjo is taking the situation rather poorly. Everyone is, really. But the worst of it is knowing that none of the people in political power have any real idea of what's happening. They're learning about the invasion through information dispatches. And the biggest problem soon identifies itself not as the Japanese persay but rather mass desertion on the part of the Korean forces...More
Soo-hyeon (played by Kim Kang-woo) is a US-trained investigator who's very good at math puzzles. Dae-yeong (played by Park Hee-son) is a mostly standard grizzled street cop. Together they...well, they solve mysteries more than they fight crime. The whole reason Soo-hyeon's been dragged out to the field in the first place is because he's implicated in a bizarre crime. The perpetrator of these criminal actions (played by Kang Ha-neul) is apparently interested in matching wits with Soo-hyeon. I guess because in prison he has nothing better to do...More
From mental illnesses to senses, 'The Girl Who Sees Smells' is here with a premise which is at the very least fresh. Not everything is as sugary as its promotional material, however, and it is very difficult to really get a feel for the actual work due to how its marketing and probable story tone will differ. Even so, there is promise here at the moment...More
I've come around to the portrayal of Hideyoshi as being a crazy madman mostly because the more I think about it, the more applicable this depiction is to anybody who tries to declare war on another country. A person pretty much has to be deranged on some level to think that it's possible to bend an entirely different culture to his personal will. To some extent it's certainly possible to accomplish this via force, but time and again history has shown such efforts to be inevitably doomed to failure...More
Creating a heartwarming story about human pain, desperation and the bonding between strangers is no easy task. When the plot devices which bring the people in question together are also outrageous, it takes extra effort to really solidify the motivations, emotions and troubles of the characters in order to make those outrageous devices feel human. 'Super Daddy Yeol' is not such a show at the moment. In fact, it has achieved the exact opposite through its clumsiness and mishandling of its important points...More
All kinds of characters have faced crime in OCN series. From coroners to simple detectives and from vampire prosecutors to superheroes. "Doctor Frost" takes a slightly different approach and looks at the individuals, rather than the crime itself alone. While less exciting than similar shows in terms of suspense and lacking a strong gimmick, it offers that unique exploration of crime through a different lens. That of what aids and breaks people's minds...More
The Goyang Wonders were an independent baseball team that operated in Korea from 2011 to 2014. What that means is that they were not affiliated with the official national leagues, either on the major or minor level. Their professional output consisted entirely of training baseball players who had either been undrafted or released from teams, and giving them an occasional friendly match with a league team in order to show off their skills to scouts for actual real teams. Hence the documentary's title- when you hit a "Foulball", you're not one. You still get another chance to hit...More
Every four years during the Olympics a large number of athletes in normally obscure sports appear to come out of nowhere. Never mind the top finishers- just getting to the Olympics is a trying ordeal. The bottom half that never even make it past the first round had to work hard just to even be an early loser. "The Ring of Life" that demonstrates this struggle. But more importantly it depicts the process. Boxing is a physically daunting and demanding sport. Why go for that in the face of a normal life?...More
Ji-soo (played by Uhm Jung-hwa) is an assertive ambitious woman who has recently come to accept the fact that she'll never be a world-renowned pianist. It's not her fault- Ji-soo has the talent, but inevitably her working class family ran out of the funds necessary to support this dream. So now Ji-soo has to accept a substitute fantasy- to simply be the piano teacher of a child who will later become a world-renowned pianist. But this aspiration, too, is hobbled by the fact that Ji-soo lacks access to young virtuosos. Also she doesn't particularly like children...More
"What's Korean Cinema?" tackles Lim Pil-seong's "Hansel and Gretel", Wildflower Film Awards Korea nominees announced, Dramafever lists Korea's top period dramas of the 2000s, and Bae Doona walks away with Best Actress prize at AFA...More
Holly shares her recipe for "Jelly Salad", Korean-American chefs to feature at the upcoming James Beard Awards, palates prepared ahead of Milan expo, and Maangchi demystifies the Korean table layout...More
Korea.net takes us up Gwanaksan Mountain to see spring, and the Seoul Suburban team visit Gunja Station and snap up a storm...More
TTMIK chat about K-Pop and its consumption, Korea's dog meat trade once again in the spotlight, and Tan explores one of Korea's favourite pastimes...More
An awesome abandoned pool captured, Daniel photographically reflects on microblogging in Korea, and one stunning photograph from Robert Koehler...More
A close look at Korea's flora and fauna, Korean satellite successfully launched from Russia, and the country is to invest billions in IoT and smart cars by 2020...More
2015/03/27 | | Permalink
Almost the entirity of this episode is dedicated to the musical show where the titular team makes their debut. There's plenty of musical numbers and very little plot- which is fine by me, since I'm rather tired of discussing my irritations with the plot. Weirdly enough, aside from the cliffhanger most of the important story points were actually resolved last episode. The secondary love line, the coming out story, and the ever-annoying Scarlett are now well in the past. That leaves the primary love line and the archvillain Je-gook. And these plot points aren't really resolved by deliberate character action so much as just by random accident...More
2015/03/27 | | Permalink
In-beom (played by Choi Tae-hwan) is a young man with an inferiority complex regarding his receding hairline. An unexpected windfall coupled with a well-timed promotion appears poised to finally let In-beom conquer the insecurities regarding his personal appearance. Then hijinx ensue, and it quickly becomes a struggle for In-beom to scrape together everything he needs before the deadline...More
2015/03/26 | | Permalink
The marriage ceremony at the beginning of this episode is an obvious symbolic representation of how Seo-jin and Robin will inevitably merge- it's the spiritual idea of two people becoming one. This notion has been alluded to a lot in the script lately, and it's here that "Hyde, Jekyll and I" finally pulls this idea off. There's only really fireworks in the literal sense. The main important aspect of the presentation here is subtlety...More
2015/03/25 | | Permalink
The tone this episode moves toward deathbed melodrama of all things. It's not exactly unprecedented. "Hyde, Jekyll and I" has been pretty consistent about treating Robin as if he is his own person, and not just an extension of Seo-jin's personality. And even if Robin himself is willing to accept that premise, that doesn't make the oncoming reality of his own "death" any less painful to bear. Nor does it make matters easier for Ha-na...More
2015/03/25 | | Permalink
What "Heard It Through the Grapevine" does well is slice-of-life storytelling without becoming too trite. If the show continues this path of development, it will be difficult to make any larger changes without a tonal shift. For now, though, it's quite a wonderful way to exploit the satirical elements that have been soundly nestled throughout the show.
In-sang's parents, Joon-ho and Yeon-hee, are the victims of this drama's satirical elements...More
2015/03/24 | | Permalink
The main dramatic event this episode that inspires worry is the fate of the Dracula doll. Will Ri-ta step on the Dracula doll? All right I know other stuff happened but for whatever reason that's the only visual interesting enough to linger on in my memory. Maybe it's because I understand where the doll is coming from- it had to be manufactured somewhere. Whereas "Blood" the actual drama tries to up the stakes by introducing another vampire, from nowhere...More
2015/03/24 | | Permalink
The episode opens up with two important clarifications to two relatively important tertiary characters. While it's nice for matters to be made transparent, I can't help but continue to feel irritated that almost all of the energy in "Hogu's Love" is dedicated to having characters explain things to each other. This is especially true given that the big plot twist this time isn't even that relevant. We could have learned the true circumstances of Do-hee's pregnancy several episodes ago, and it would have changed absolutely nothing save that there would have been more time to actually build up the romance that's threatened by the cliffhanger...More
After a shockingly violent cliffhanger where a furious Ji-sang physically accosts Jae-wook, this hard-hitting action is followed up by...their going into Jae-wook's office to discuss the finer points of ethics in regards to using terminally ill human test subjects for dangerous experimental treatment. This is why you have trouble making friends Ji-sang. That really should have been your first reaction. Although admittedly the cliffhanger probably would not have been quite so exciting...More
Apparently Do-hee has always had a problem with refusing to clarify misunderstandings for no good reason. While this is still a terribly annoying character trait, "Hogu's Love" does get credit here for finally treating it as a bad thing. The emotional climax of this episode features Hogu giving Do-hee a serious piece of his mind. And while Hogu does inevitably feel bad for being such a jerk, Do-hee really did need the wake-up call. Saying "you didn't ask" isn't an acceptable justification when Do-hee responds to most questions with either misleading obfuscations or indignant bullying (usually it's both)...More
"Whiplash" for the win...
Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash" rose to the top of the pile over the weekend having entered the fray last weekend in fourth. The film, which is based on Damien's experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band, claimed 374K (24%) over 574 screens to top the chart, brining its total tally in Korea now to 825K, or $5.9M...More
"Punch - Drama" is over and I'm feeling a little numb. What a ride it gave me. It was one of the strongest dramas I've seen, despite a few live shoot glitches. The writing was more than solid - it was inspired. The acting was heartfelt, the direction was clear and clean. Mostly, it was the impeccable writing and the ability of the writer/director pairing to keep the story, and me, on our toes, as each expectation was subverted, played upon and turned into another exciting event.
With the constant tension and battles between Jung-hwan and his enemies, there was barely a second to breathe ...More
2015/03/22 | | Permalink
Seong-ryong appears to have lost all hope of trying to resolve the situation through meaningful diplomacy, and has shifted to reluctantly accepting that clandestine military preparations are the only hope the country has of getting through the war. King Seonjo, still refusing to acknowledge that the war is even going to happen, insists on terrorizing Seong-ryong for his impudence. On that end it's more of the same from "Jing Bi-rok". War is portrtayed as an inevitable outcome of political psychology gone wrong...More
We finally get some action...in the previews. Yes, we're in for yet another episode of general political dysfunctionality. King Seonjo is still chronically depressed, Hideyoshi is still putting the last touches on the invasion plan of Korea, and the Chinese continue to be about as unhelpful as possible. In all fairness they're probably not taking Hideyoshi seriously because his plan is kind of impossible. Japan couldn't even take over China several hundred years later with modern weaponry after China had been reduced to a giant opium den by Western powers. The country's just too darn big...More
Fans of "Special Affairs Team TEN" will not be getting their third season yet, but those who appreciated the style of the drama will be getting a consolation piece. The production team of the aforementioned series is back with 'Missing Noir M'. The premise this time around involves missing persons, rather than the usual dead ones, and also a dynamic duo of very different characters working together and solving the presented mysteries...More
For all the variety and expansion of genres that the last few years have developed in Korean drama, romantic comedy is one which has suffered due to those changes. What used to be stereotypical, but also simple stories has given way to convoluted plots and dwindling comedy. "Heart to Heart", however, stands out as an old-school rom-com with a modern approach. Sadly, it is also a reminder that trends usually have their way by the end...More
As an adult with the ability to travel long distances across your country or even outside it, and with Internet access to connect you with information theoretically anywhere and anytime, the world is pretty impossibly big. For kids it's a different matter. Just getting across town without adult supervision is a pretty huge challenge- especially when that town is Seoul. So it is for older sister Ji-ho (played by Park Ha-yeong) and younger brother Seon-ho (played by Goo Seung-yeon). Especially since they inevitably get lost...More
Long ago, during the Japanese Occupation, a watchtower was erected in Chuncheon for the sake of watching over things. In the present day, South Korea's usual modernization regiment is working to tear down the tower and build something more useful in its place- even if modern Chuncheon needed a watchtower, this one is hopelessly out of date. In the future, time travelers look upon these proceedings with bemused approval. Such is the true path to enlightenment, they think- the effacing of all minor blemishes from the past not meant to be...More
'K-Halal' on the rise, Try Dream a Little Dream get a booking at Hanjeongsik in Kwangwon, and recipes for making Beoseot Bap and Army Stew...More
Marius shares his pictures of The Garden of Morning Calm, Alphonse captures spring by a bridge, and the Seoul Suburban crew showoff their new photographer around Gangdong-gu...More
100 years of Korean beauty flashes before your eyes, "The Accidental Citizen-Soldier" reviewed, Charles judges a book's cover, and TTMIK talks about Korea's coffee culture...More
Korea's National Geographic Information Institute releases a powerful and detailed online map, and the latest Kia Optima to be revealed on April Fools' Day in New York...More
2015/03/20 | | Permalink
Just when I thought "Sing Again, Hera Gu" couldn't get any more dumb and petty, the central conflict ends up being about security issues of all things. How did Se-jong even get into that office in the first place? Does the secretary just wave in everybody who she recognizes even if they're no longer clients? Why does Je-gook have a button on his desk that sets off the fire alarm- in what possible context could that be useful? Do bands regularly have guitar burnings in his office?...More
2015/03/20 | | Permalink
The opening is stylish enough. The scene is a prison bus, and the inmates are clearly up to no good. We can see them messing around furtively with their hands, and then all chaos breaks loose. Director Kim Yong-soon-I sets up a marvelous single shot camera take, where we somehow pan around the entire bus, getting only vague snippets of the action until in one, final explosive moment, victory is achieved via a loud popping sound...More
2015/03/19 | | Permalink
Up until this episode, the tacit understanding has been that Seo-jin is the real person and Robin is the interloper. But Ha-na's declaration flips all of that on its head- now everybody thinks that Seo-jin is just a facade put on the for sake of the family corporation, and that Robin is the real dominant personality. It's a turn of events that would have driven Seo-jin insane at the start of "Hyde, Jekyll and I". But bizarrely enough, here, he actually seems kind of happy about it...More
2015/03/18 | | Permalink
Seo-jin has made a major psychological breakthrough in terms of realizing his own general unhappiness, and how this directly relates to the way he's been acting like a jerk to everyone. Here's the problem. Seo-jin is the son of a jerk chaebol, who continues to be a jerk chaebol. While the other characters are happy that Seo-jin is doing better, no one particularly likes the man that much. In one particularly pathetic scene Seo-jin has to kill time at home, with little else to reflect upon save for the fact that his only real friend is in jail...More
2015/03/17 | | Permalink
Let's consider for a moment what the actual plot of "Blood" would be if vampires were not involved. Jae-wook would just be a somewhat ruthless researcher who resorts to somewhat underhanded techniques to procure test subjects. But, the test subjects already had questionable hopes for recovery to begin with. So the dilemma is really only an ethical one. Is it acceptable to use desperate people for scientific research?...More
2015/03/17 | | Permalink
The mystery behind the parentage of Do-hee's baby is mostly unveiled, and with that the narrative function of her character can now be easily identified. Do-hee is a melodrama protagonist. She's a basically good person who has run into some outrageous misfortunes. Do-hee is trying to do the right thing even if her self-confidence is trying. It would appear that all of the scenes we've seen so far of Do-hee's emotional vulnerability were not the woman acknowledging her own flaws, but rather Do-hee just being too hard on herself in the face of emotional crises...More
...Well, add car accidents to the list of things that "Blood" has somehow managed to make uninteresting. You know what would have been nice? If Ri-ta could have figured out this vampire stuff through inductive reasoning, or snooping, or an unrelated medical investigation. The fact that it's taken her this long to figure out what's wrong with Ji-sang when there have been so many obvious clues just makes her look kind of dumb...More
The opening of this episode is in a completely serious mode. Hogu has figured out how Do-hee located the adoptive parents, and promptly calls her out for believing in an obvious scam. It's a fairly strong scene. Do-hee's forced to come to terms with her own hopelessly wishful thinking, and Hogu is attacked for having such a high emotional stake in a situation that really doesn't concern him. Then, in a scene so short you'll miss it by blinking, they get the baby back...More
"The Kingsman" falls to "The Deal"...
British spy flick "Kingsman: The Secret Service" was finally, and narrowly, dethroned at the top of the pile over this past weekend. The action comedy has been reigning atop the Korean box office for a few weeks now, but was finally outplayed by Son Yong-ho's crime thriller "The Deal", starring Kim Sang-kyeong, Kim Seong-gyoon, and Park Seong-woong...More
This drama is so good. The penultimate episode is upon us and I'm still gripping my arm rests. Jung-hwan's illness has almost gotten the best of him and former Minister Yoon has almost won. Almost - not quite. We still have one more episode to see who actually comes out on top. Even more than that though, Tae-joon and Jung-hwan have joined hands for one final ride up the glass elevator.
The Tae-joon and Jung-hwan pairing, whether it be as partners or opposites, is such a rich match...More
2015/03/15 | | Permalink
The cliffhanger is resolved mostly unsurprisingly and uninspiredly. This much is to be expected given that "Family Outing" has now gone into full epilogue mode. Kkeut-soon has dementia, and as we see, it only really gets worse as times goes on. The main interesting hook here is that the dementia element actually does end up getting used in the larger storyline rather well- we finally get to see the full animated short than Dong-seok made, and it's probably not quite what you're expecting...More
2015/03/15 | | Permalink
Something exciting almost manages to happen here- I feel somewhat guilty having to state that. "Jing Bi-rok" establishes, as usual, that while all of the people with real power are just messing around with political games, the actual ordinary population is genuinely in panic mode. From their perspective, this isn't an epic adventure narrative. The possibility of invasion means the possibility of widespread death and destruction. And that's very, very bad...More
Technically speaking the war is at a standstill- but as countless modern examples have shown us, just because the fighting stops doesn't mean the underlying problems have gone away. The Japanese still have an army, and they still plan on taking over the world. So this is really not the best time to be thinking about executing the people who to date have shown the most foresight as to what's actually going on. San-hae, unfortunately, has decided to make politics the big priority here...More
There isn't really much conflict left to speak of at this point. The main remaining article of contention is whether or not Joon-hee and Dong-seok will get together. And for what it's worth, Jeong-sook's opposition to the relationship comes off as pretty well-founded. Joon-hee can't exactly dispute that the way she's acted up until now has at all been appropriate. It's really just a question of whether or not her newfound sincerity is to be believed...More
Outrageous stories and complicated plots are a Korean drama staple. Especially in the last few years, even prime time works have been getting convoluted and messy in ways that are most characteristically associated with soap operas. When 'Kill Me, Heal Me' was announced and during its early episodes, it seemed to be going down the same path. In a surprising and admirable manner, however, this seemingly generic show has achieved something incredible. It tells a good story and tells it wonderfully...More
The Korean drama industry is going through a period of change in the content, format and genres of its productions. KBS2 now seems determined to use its newly created Friday drama timeslot for experimenting with these elements. 'Spy - Drama' was promoted as a blend of a family and a spy show, two different and challenging to connect types. The series ultimately fails in this, but it does not fail as a whole...More
One of the more uncomfortable parts of Korean culture for me is the way it tends to fetishize how Wonderful Life would be if people could just go to America. I'm not sure what many Korean people think American life is actually like, but we tend to treat each other like garbage, and the immigrants even worse than that. So it goes for John (played by Kang Ji-hwan). He's a young Korean man living in America who looks and acts, well, kind of like a petty low-class bum. His only really selling point is youth, and even that's not going to stick around for much longer...More
Dan-woo (played by Dan-woo Jung) is a man in his mid-thirties who's been bumming most of his life around the international acting circuit- a career path which is far less interesting than it sounds. He's never even had a serious girlfriend. That changes when Dan-woo meets Elisabeth (played by Elisabeth Garcia), a French writer. Another character description that's far less interesting than it sounds. That's really the best possible description for "Mongolian Princess"- it's a love story about people who just aren't that interesting...More
Hyeong-sin (played by Kim Seon-bin) is a gangster who makes his living by kidnapping Koreans abroad and extorting their families for money. Don't expect "Dog Eat Dog" to get sentimental about Hyeong-sin's greater humanity or any nonsense like that- Hyeong-sin's motivation is pitifully simple, and his behavior grotesquely thuggish. Hyeong-sin is no fetishized übermensch serial killer- to the contrary, "Dog Eat Dog" far more correctly and unsettlingly notes that men like him are much more accurately described as horrific animals...More
Spicy Dandelion Salad, Asia's Top Restaurants Revealed, and Zen Kimchi's latest "Seoul Restaurant Expat Guide" has your taste buds covered for 2015...More
The Seoul Sub -> Urban team tackle Saetgang Station, and Seoulistic shares 37 wacky places to call it a night in Korea...More
The epic peaks and paths of Wolchulsan revealed, and travel photographer Robert Koehler captures the burning of the daljip...More
2015/03/13 | | Permalink
The villains in "Sing Again, Hera Gu" are very petty. I honestly can't think of any other way to describe their behavior. Je-gook, a man who's supposed to be a power player in the world of music, seriously dedicates resources and witnesses here to commit a crime that practically amounts to a high school prank. They've got him dead-to-rights for burglary and vandalism- if the accomplices have any sense they'll sell out the famous dude to avoid jail time. At least, that's what our characters could do, if they would just call the police...More
2015/03/13 | | Permalink
Chan-soo (played by Lee Moon-sik) is a detective who's part of a larger team of detectives who all seem to genuinely dislike each other. "Drama Special - Stay Still" doesn't exactly do a good job setting the stage for empathizing with its characters. Throughout most of the first episode it's quite rare to see any of the characters acting particularly pleasant to each other. They're not monstrous or anything it's just...they're not much of a team...More
2015/03/12 | | Permalink
So...last episode was the big climactic psychological brawl between Seo-jin and Tae-joo. Now that that's been resolved, what is this drama about exactly? To be entirely honest, I was kind of expecting this to be the last episode where everything just sort of wraps up, having forgotten that "Hyde, Jekyll and I" is in fact a twenty episode drama. In that light, it would seem we're heading into extended wrap-up mode...More
2015/03/11 | | Permalink
The emphasis here is less on physical danger than it is on mental gymnastics. To date, Tae-joo has always been able to backpeddle his way out of failures because he was always watching from some secret compartment somewhere. Here, he has to directly negotiate with Seo-jin over the terms which will decide who was truly at fault for what happened at the kidnapping so long again. And the dramatic impetus ends up hinging on one question that to date hasn't really been addressed- why does Tae-joo even care in the first place?...More
It seems like most of the energy in "Blood" is just spent recapping stuff we should already know. The irony is that the pacing and lack of clear emphasis is such that all these reminder points are actually pretty necessary. Ri-ta herself manages to totally forget about one serious chat she had with Ji-sang, and has to be reminded by another character into provoking the flashback that better contextualizes the current situation...More
Now that Kang-cheol has been all but definitively cleared in terms of not being the baby's father, I'm increasingly unsure what purpose he's actually supposed to be serving in the story. Most of this episode is just comedic hijinx at Kang-cheol's obvious expense. If he was the father I could call this just desserts. As stands, though, "Hogu's Love" is just acting kind of mean. Contrary to what was implied earlier on it looks like Kang-cheol is only involved with this case at all because he, too, has an unresolved emotional attachment to the baby's real father...More
There are very few people in "Punch - Drama" who are not selfishly motivated to the point that they will sacrifice others as a means to an end. Jung-hwan was once a man like that, but has thankfully changed. Unfortunately, his opponents have no sense of loyalty and will choose sides based upon which is most advantageous.
This wasn't always true...More
We finally find out why Jae-wook has spent the entire drama playing practical jokes on Ji-sang instead of doing something more purposeful- whatever Jae-wook needs from Ji-sang, it requires that the younger vampire at least be alive in one form or another. This plot point could have happened in the third episode and we would not have lost anything of signifiance. I know that to some extent I should really be grateful that "Blood" finally has an actual point but it is way, way too late for the drama to still be establishing basic facts regarding the premise...More
I've gone from loving this drama to hating it to now just being kind of continually perplexed. And this is pretty much entirely because of Do-hee. I keep wondering what exactly she would have done if Hogu hadn't bullied his way into helping her. Do-hee acts, in several scenes quite explicitly, like other people should just help her for no apparent reason. Her apologies especially come off as rather hollow, mainly because Do-hee has to struggle to even remember she's supposed to apologize in the first place...More
"Heard It Through the Grapevine" has taken The Miracle of birth and used it masterfully to achieve multiple ends. It captures the agony of childbirth, the wonder of new life, the tumultuous emotions new parents feel, the social terror In-sang's parents feel, and also manages to capture the irony of the fact that In-sang's parents are unhappy during one of the most wonderful moments of their son's life.
In-sang's parents are rich in wealth and social status, and yet they are unhappy at the birth of their grandson...More
"The Kingsman"'s reign continues unchallenged…
Last weekend British spy flicks "Kingsman: The Secret Service" and "The Imitiation Game" ruled at as the country's number one and two, claiming just under a million admission between them. The later lost its footing and fell to third, but Matthew Vaughn's "Kingsman" managed to retain its place as Korea's film of choice despite the arrival of Ahn Sang-hoon's period drama, "Empire of Lust"...More
2015/03/08 | | Permalink
Whereas the last episode dealt with the more tangible questions of the future, like how the characters plan to live professionally once all the drama is over with, this one deals more sharply with personal issues. The heart to heart discussion between Jong-tae and Kkeut-soon is really sweet. While Kkeut-soon herself has always been really recalcitrant about candidly considering her own needs, there are multiple sequences here which establish why that's important too, and why that's the real meaning of family...More
2015/03/08 | | Permalink
What really makes Hideyoshi interesting here is, paradoxically, how very hard it is for any of the other characters to understand him. It's not just a matter of the cultural or language barrier. Hideyoshi is genuinely just kind of a weird guy. Even the other Japanese characters aren't really sure what to do with him. They just know Hideyoshi holds all the power, and is prone to having people murdered right in front of him if they say something he considers to be displeasing...More
Some much needed balance is struck here as "Jing Bi-rok" moves back to showing a wide variety of events that initially appear completely unrelated. My favorite of the bunch is the customs check that inevitably devolves into a claustrophobic fight scene. These days the airports and even the port authority all have pretty elaborate immigration checks. So it's pretty hard to imagine that once upon a time it was actually rather difficult to identify and apprehend random spies...More
The abrupt disappearance of Kkeut-soon doesn't...create a crisis exactly, but her actions do make it quite clear that the inheritance game is soon to come to an end. Interestingly, in contrast to the antics that have characterized "Family Outing" to date, everyone's instructions are actually to behave like mature adults and plan for their long-term future. And it's hard to escape the fact that the family really is having fun, thinking about a future where they can live instead of bumming around from one paycheck to the next...More
After 'Hogu's Love' and its 'odd couple plus child' start, tvN is following with a similar premise for its Friday and Saturday slot. This time, the child is older and father-to-be less than capable of handling her. This twist of family themed romantic comedies is one with potential and being tvN's choice of topic for the season, both of these shows need to play their cards well. It is now 'Super Daddy Yeol's turn to shine...More
Kang-cheon (played by Park Seong-woong) is a übermensch serial killer. While I don't have any inherent problem with serial killer tropes in general, the übermensch serial killer is especially annoying primarily because it's so heavily fetishized. Dostoevsky pointed out the issues with the idea of the extraordinary man being a murderer way back in the nineteenth century. And this was back before serial killers and their bizarre fan clubs even came into existence. Newsflash- actual serial killers are cowards who would piss their pants if they had to face a task more difficult than hand-to-hand combat with a forty kilo accountant...More
Every year, high school baseball teams from all over Korea compete in a huge national bracket. If you don't think that sounds interesting, well, I don't blame you. Most people don't really pay attention to high school sports after they leave high school unless their kids are involved. So what's the gimmick that "Strangers on the Field" uses to justify a feature-length documentary? Well, like last year's "One for All, All for One", the protagonists are not Koreans, exactly, but rather Korean-Japanese. And once upon a time they, too, could compete in the tournament...More
Korean Cinema Today...
The latest two episodes of KOFIC's bimonthly podcast features Simon McEnteggart (founder of Hanguk Yeonghwa: "The Home of Korean Cinema") as he joins Pierce Conran and June Kim in studio to chat about Korea's indie cinema circuit, and then again about the blockbusters Korean cinephiles can get excited about this year...More
"Fusion Cuisine In Seoul"...
In 1825, less than year before his death, the French politician and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin proclaimed: "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are". This famous aphorism still applies to day, and through it Korea is looking might modern with its rise in fusion foods. It's a tempting trend that speaks to the influence of foreign flavours, as well as the intriguing innovation of modern Korean cooking and culture...More
Robert Koehler's Travel Photography...
Now this is my kind of photography! Robert Koehler, a Seoul-based writer/photographer, captures Korea through his lens for our enjoyment.
Robert's detail-demanding gaze immortalises serene scenes from around the country, and he enjoys playing with perspective, architecture, figures in space, and the black-and-white pieces I've spied remind me of my own walkabouts in Korea. It's all stunning stuff really...More
"Brains & Beauty: With Korean women achieving higher education, why do so many rely on the scalpel?"...
This is a fascinating research paper by Manouchka Elefant written for The Grand Narrative on the history and evolution of female beauty standards in Korea. Parallel to this enlightening enquiry, she reports on women's education in Korea, detailing its growth as well as discussing modern barriers to emancipation...More
In the modern day (technically ten years ago, since that was when the movie was made) North and South Korea are at a diplomatic impasse regarding nuclear weapons, and an ill-advised mission results in a small group of armed combatants from both countries meeting on hostile terms. Then something weird happens, and the whole motley crew is forced to admit that in the new situation, they have something more in common with each other than anybody else they can find. And that something is mostly their ability to stubbornly insist on arbitrary rules...More
As much as I enjoy parodies over the inherent absurdity involved in scripted television, I'm not sure "Sing Again, Hera Gu" is really in any position to be giving lectures over what constitutes comically bad writing. The big dramatic event this episode ends up turning into a rather petty, dumb scam that accomplishes very little except making Hera feel somewhat ill. For the record, an incident like this would probably provoke an investigation by the trade guilds. There are very serious regulations involved in who's allowed entry onto a set...More
The crescendo of the conflict is, like the previous episode, a fairly easy to understand affair. The characters here fight to hold on to any possible advantage they can find at any given moment. When the first stage of Gi-cheol's plan goes wrong, it takes quite a bit of quick-shooting and hot-headed negotiation before the scene finally ends with one character taking a prop from a previous scene out of nowhere. Unfortunately for Gi-cheol, keeping track of everything that's going on at once is pretty hard...More
As the shootout indicates, the time for negotiation is over. Seon-woo being, of course, the doof that he is, attempts to further negotiate anyway, and the results are predictably bad. Right to the end both he and Hye-rim are determined to make sacrifices for each other, and right to the end Gi-cheol takes advantage of this fact to make sure all his enemies are more focused on ethical discussion than they are the actual long-term goal...More
The police in this drama really aren't very competent. I haven't felt it necessary to discuss that aspect so far since there's so much else going on, but it's kind of unavoidable here. Tae-joo inexplicably manages to make a getaway and further his psychological schemes even longer. Which is unfortunate. While the whole Tae-soo story arc has certainly been interesting it definitely drags here, making me wish "Hyde, Jekyll and I" had at least one other meaningfully built up subplot...More
Director and writer pair Ahn Pan-seok and Jeong Seong-joo's newest drama, "Heard It Through the Grapevine" pleasantly surprised me. The stodgy premise of rich family versus poor family was not appealing, but the show played it well in it's first episode. It worked from the outside in, from how the families appear to how they actually function.
Hero Han In-sang (Lee Joon) is the dutiful son of a well-to-do, socially powerful family who holds high expectations for him in marriage and career...More
The timeline in "Punch - Drama" is very literal. It isn't a marked calendar day when things are due. It is Jung-hwan's death, the most final of deadlines, and it's coming soon. Before he dies, he and Ha-kyeong have things to do, but their enemies know this as well.
Jung-hwan's impending demise has not only changed him, but everyone around him...More
2015/03/04 | | Permalink
Tae-joo's decision to use Hee-ae as bait last episode was a pretty clear admission that he was willing to bet everything on his current psychological theory. As a result, his current attempts at backpedaling this episode just come off as kind of pathetic. Hee-ae barely even tries to argue with him this time. If Tae-joo isn't willing to accept Robin's decision as evidence that Seo-jin is seriously psychologically damaged, it's clear that nothing will ever get through to the man...More
2015/03/03 | | Permalink
Ri-ta's principle motivation this episode is to prove decisively that Ji-sang has a better-than-average ability to recover from flesh wounds. Why..? Uh...I guess because she just really dislikes Ji-sang? This is exactly the kind of scale problem I'm talking about. When half of the action in "Blood" is drawn-out brawls between superpowered vampires, it's a bit of an awkward transition to go from that to petty office politics...More
2015/03/03 | | Permalink
This time "Hogu's Love" tries to hit the middle ground between the absurdity of last episode and the profundity of the drama's opening sets. The effect is somewhat mixed, mostly because this episode is filler. One character learns an essential part of the story background- and that's really about it. Do-hee has a huge emotional epiphany at the end, but it's not completely clear why...More
There's an awful lot of recapping in "Blood" considering the drama doesn't seem to have any actual plot. I'm really not sure why we keep getting reminded of Ji-sang's basic motivation. I thought the entire point, of dedicating the first episode to his origin story was that we wouldn't need to keep referring to it again and again. By contrast, the main interesting hook of the first episode (how vampire powers can help to make a better surgeon) is barely even explored at all here. We just get more banal conversation about how Ji-sang is probably a psychopath...More
My last review for "Hogu's Love" was a bit harsh. It's not that I think my opinion was wrong so much as my expectations were probably unfair. First and foremost, "Hogu's Love" is a comedy. While the drama does have its moments of emotional tenderness those aren't the main selling point. As if to provide a pointed reminder of this fact, the entire first half of this episode is just Kang-cheol in apparently irrelevant flashback mode...More
Foreign agents rule and score one-two finish…
The British spy comedy "Kingsman: The Secret Service" fought back after losing out to "Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island" last weekend. "Kingsman" captured 32% of the box office pie to comfortably top the chart, banking $4.6M (597K admissions) and moving its total in Korea now to 3.3 million...More
The tension never dies in "Punch - Drama". Just when the good guys get a leg up on the pervasive corruption that endeavors to drag them down, the bad guys find a soulless way to quash them. Amongst the bloody political and personal battles are the most beautiful family scenes that center the show and keep it full of heart.
Tae-joon is the mastermind behind the corruption...More
We find out here that the ultimate point of "Snowy Road" was for Jong-boon to give Eun-soo the strength to move forward by reliving her own awful experience at the camps. In many ways the situation was so horrific as to be inexplicable, and Eun-soo raises an excellent question. Why should Jong-boon feel ashamed about what happened, when the whole situation was the fault of the Japanese? Jong-boon's dry replies soon demonstrate that Eun-soo was missing the point. The shame, and the cure for the shame, lies less in Jong-boon's situation as it does the nature of the human condition...More
The storyline is mostly simplified here. We have the core of the family unit generally arguing about the extent of Joon-hee's betrayal, and this is for a time interrupted by the marriage considerations of Dong-joo. While the advantage of this more streamlined storytelling is that it's fairly easy to figure out what's going on, it does lead into another rather awkward problem. I genuinely just really don't care...More
All right, it's not just my imagination. At one point this episode the repetitive political arguments get so boring they even manage to put another character to sleep. Is this what "Jing Bi-rok" is trying to do? Get me to sympathize with King Seonjo's inability to properly respond to the situation by pointing out that his ministers are describing what's happening in a completely uninteresting, unegaging way? Well, mission accomplished, I guess...More
Jong-boon (played by Kim Hyang-ki) is a young girl who idolizes Yeong-ae (played by Kim Sae-ron). Yeong-ae's not only pretty, she even gets to go to school and earn very impressive marks. In the year 1944. Which means that Yeong-ae is an implicit collaborator in the Japanese regime. Not that this ends up doing her a whole lot of good. Soon both Jong-boon and Yeong-ae are conscripted into directly helping the war effort. Yes, this is going in exactly the direction you're thinking...More
The difference between this episode of "Family Outing" and every other episode that's dangled the threat of exposing Joon-hee's true identity is that this time the drama actually goes through with it. There's not even much of an intermediate period of hand-wringing. Joon-hee just goes, you know what, forget it. I'm sick of acting like this. I'm going to say my apologies and just leave. It's a much easier thing for her to do now that there's other things in life that Joon-hee can enjoy aside from the con...More
It's back to political vacillation as "Jing Bi-rok" spends most of the episode having officials engage in abstract arguments about the best possible foreign policy in the current situation. Interesting, most of the discussion actually revolves around what the Chinese are doing- even though the Chinese don't actually seem to present to discuss the problem. That's kind of a bad sign- lots of mistakes have been made so far, and even that should be enough to establish that the Koreans can't move forward on their own...More
Korean drama has its hits and misses in all aspects, including acting. Yet this specific aspect is rarely as prominently criticized and discussed as it has been for "Blood". It is important to remember that even bad flaws do not always diminish the overall quality of a work, unless they exist in a place and form which make their influence crucial. Sadly for "Blood", its problems exist in two very important aspects of it. Its leading pair and unclear plans for the future. Is all hope lost? For a quality experience, probably. For entertainment? Not just yet...More
One of the lonely pleasures I discovered in Korea was getting lost: wallowing in my ignorance of the strange signs and streets around; wilfully wandering a new world and waiting for a thousand words, more or less, to appear.
On weekends, I was bound to encounter random packs of cheerful children stuffed with sweet, and/or sour, curiosity towards this particular picture-taking alien. With unadulterated honestly they'd often exclaim, whisper, wave and wonder about me...More
Min-jae (played by Sin Ha-gyoon) is a military man on a mission- to keep his eye on Bang-won (played by Jang Hyeok). Well, that's technically the plot anyway. While "Empire of Lust" goes to a lot of effort to nail everything about the background narrative to a specific historical time and place...it's actually surprisingly irrelevant to anything that actually happens. The main important movements in the story are mostly the machinations of Ga-hee (played by Kang Han-na) and Jin (played by Kang Ha-neul). The motivations, typically rape...More
Director Kim Sang-seok here writes and produces a film about Sang-seok (also played by Kim Sang-seok) who dreams of untangling the mysteries of his personal life by writing and producing a film. I hope you like introspective irony, because if that sentence didn't clue you in, this is pretty much the whole raison d'être of "Ordinary Days - 2014". The movie even makes a specific point of trying to confuse us about which scenes feature Sang-seok the director and which ones feature Sang-seok the actual person...More
Have you spent your whole life wanting to see a cartoon that combines cute small things, cool armored heroes, transforming cars, and the plot structure of Super Sentai? If the answer to that question is yes, then you are probably a small child. Do your parents know you're reading my reviews? I write about some pretty messed up stuff. Oh sure Korean film seems like fun and games now but just wait till you get to the more serious work and people actually die when they get killed...More
K-Films Coming Soon:
★★★ "Dog Eat Dog": Two vigilantes get bitten back by a gang that targets Koreans abroad. (03/05)
★★★ "Barracks": A group of friends are lured into a private camp with a mad instructor who's out to get them. (03/05)
★★ "Granny's Got Talent": A foul-mouthed granny takes part in a national cussing contest. (03/05)
★★★★ "Empire of Lust": A Joseon commander has to mind a scorned prince as well as a conniving gisaeng during a volatile time in the Kingdom's founding. (03/05)...More
Black comedy is a genre that requires an extremely delicate touch to succeed. It takes great skill to make dark topics funny and it takes even greater skill to make the characters in such stories likable. 'Villain and Widow' has its issues, mainly with its length, but it manages to not only be funny and feature some nice social commentary, but also be a work with characters that are just so easy to enjoy...More
Kil (played by Jeong Woo-seong) is an assassin. Why, I suppose you could even say he was..."Born To Kill". Yes, that is an obviously corny and dumb joke. Well, get used to it. In short order we watch Kil carry out multiple murders. Very stabby murders, where Kil comes off less like a person and more like some sort of hybrid land-shark who's drawn to blood, water, and people who insist on horsing around in spite of the obvious rules against such rude behavior. Also he has a pet monkey...More
I don't feel comfortable calling the pacing in "Spy - Drama" bad because it tends to be really unusual. The episodes are twenty minutes shorter than the standard for the format, and they also air back-to-back. Be that as it may, this episode got to be really long and tiring, mainly because we had to run around in circles with motivation cross-checks before finally getting to the big confrontation of the cliffhanger, where all the various spy faction manage to coalesce into a single location...More
Seon-woo is his usual fumbling self here, making threats he knows he can't deliver on while handcuffed to a woman he knows full well will split at the first opportunity. It's surprising then, that Gi-cheol is the one who manages to come off as not really in control here. The strain of having to juggle so many moving pieces is getting to the man. Hye-rim even manages to get a late stab at his psyche- although overall I'm afraid she doesn't have that much to do...More
Well I'll be darned. "Sing Again, Hera Gu" is one of the last dramas I'd expect to have a coherent, self-contained philosophical thread over the course of a single episode and yet here we are. Kudos to the production team- the theme here is confession, specifically of the romantic variety. Nearly every single character gets entangled in one of these somehow, and as the ending helpfully notes, what determines success or failure in this context isn't necessarily genuineness, but rather timing...<