Gangnam Blues- movie, starring Lee Min Ho and Kim Rae Won- loosely (I THINK loosely, maybe it’s true to life, in which case I feel sick) based on historical events behind turning Gangnam from a bunch of paddies to the most expensive district in Seoul.
Not recommended- lots of nudity, graphic everything, and language, though some of the language I know was a translation issue. One scene where the character just groans was translated into expletives in the subtitles. Lots of horrific violence as the main feature of the film is gang wars and assassinations, and the gangs are using axes, knives, machetes, shovels, bricks, and finely filed umbrella tips.
Tazza 2: The Hidden Card: A Tazza is a card shark and/or a con artist in the gambling world. This is part of a longer story, parts of it told in previous movies and a television show. It stars T.O.P. and a bunch of other most excellent people but, you know…. T.O.P. TOP was pretty fantastic. So were those other people.
The story was terrific, very well done, clever.
Not recommended, though, because of the nudity and some of the violence (though nothing like Gangnam Blues level). One funny bit- TOP has a well known quirk in K-Pop Idol land. He won’t take off his shirt. Mostly, he doesn’t even wear short sleeves. He’s a member of Big Bang, and all the other members have done shirtless scenes in their music videos (Taeyang surprises viewers more if he leaves his shirt on), but not him. There are some shirtless scenes here, and I think they are all CGI. I mean, I know or a fact most of them are, it’s so obvious, I assume all of them are.
Super Daddy Yeol: Not recomended because it’s stupid. The storyline is that several years ago Yeol’s girlfriend (Cha Mi Rae) broke up with him, dumped him really cruelly and left for America. Now she’s back in Seoul with a daughter, and she wants Yeol to be her daughter’s dad, and she gets him to get back together with her. He’s sincere, in love, and trying his hardest. She’s dying of cancer and isn’t telling anybody. Also, if it wasn’t obvious, she’s selfish, manipulative, dishonest, unfair, has a grotesque double standard, and she’s abusive. I really, really hate shows that play it for laughs and have women kicking men in the groin for no better reason than the man say something like, “I like you”. And the way the show plays this couple, Yeol is the dumb loser who just needs to get his act together, and she’s a wonderful mom – when it’s really the single mom who behaves in ways that are are just appallingly selfish and cruel- for the daughter as well as Yeol. UGH.
The Beast and the Beauty: She’s blind and beautiful. He’s a taxi-driver. They start dating. He lies to her about a lot of things, but he means well- he makes the world around her a prettier place than it is, turning a trash littered, stoney park into a grassy, flower strewn meadow that he piggy backs her through. Unfortunately, he also lies about how he looks, because he’s not very handsome, but he doesn’t want her to know. Of course, she has an operation that restores her sight, and he’s too ashamed to let her know what he’s done. There’s some crime and suspense in here as well. It’s cheesey and kind of lame, but if there are a thousand better things to do with your time, there are a thousand worse things as well, and it’s innocent enough.
High School Love On: Super cute, very adorable. Sad in places and I do not understand the mother or the mother-in-law at all, but the three main actors are adorable.
Pinocchio- The ending was flat. The beginning was heart breaking. There’s a totally inexplicable turn towards psychopath land by one of the most lovable characters in the show (not the grandpa, he’s always a perfect darling) and I found it hard to overlook that. and an explicable revealment of the psychopathic character behind another seemingly lovable character, But the middle was fun, interesting, charming, sometimes funny and other times suspenseful. There are murders here, as well as a suicide, so it’s not for small kids, but I could watch this with teens.
Healer: My drama crack for this season. Five episodes in and I’m still totally wowed. “Healer” is the code-name for a loner ‘courier’ who will collect and deliver anything, no questions asked, if the price is good enough. He does cyber espionage, among other crimes, and he’s very cool. He gets tangled up in a case, and we are off on a romp of mixed espionage, thriller, suspense, romantic comedy, and some very cool history as well. I almost jumped for joy when I spotted Court Lady Choi from Faith (really, the incredibly gifted actress Kim Mi-kyung), this time dressed in yellow socks, sandles, with frizzy hair, as Healer’s computer whiz woman dispatcher. Part of the story reminded me a bit of of Sandglass and Story of a Man, and if you want to know more about that painful part of South Korea’s recent past when their ‘Democracy’ was a secretive and bloody dictatorship, you should watch them. Lo and Behold- same writer- Song Jin-Nah.
Healer is played by Ji Chang-wook, whom I had never seen in anything before, and I will be remedying that.
The other female lead is played by Park Min-young- Kim Na Na in City Hunter. I love her, too. She’s adorable and fun to watch. She mostly plays the same kind of character, but it’s a character I like and she does it with charm. Here she plays an abandoned, abused child, adopted at 7 or 8 and raised by a doting and loving criminal justice lawyer dad who also owns a coffee shop staffed by the criminals he put behind bars and then helped out when they served their time. He was married, but the adoptive mom has died before our story begins. Min-young’s character is an entertainment reporter for a second string organization, but she aspires to be a real reporter.
There are other characters, threads, and plots running this tale of espionage, revenge, set ups and more. I’m not going to go into that. I just love this so far, and I hope it keeps living up to itself.
Conclusion: it lived up to itself. There’s one bedroom scene where the indication is an unmarried couple slept together, but otherwise, all the romance is sweet and innocent
SPY: I got TWO drama cracks the same season!! Jae Joong (Triangle, singer for JYJ, the singer in the K-Pop rock video Mine, and more)- based on an Israeli spy thriller where the mother is a former spy for the other side and her family doesn’t know it, her son is now a spy for the good guys, but his family doesn’t know it, she gets found by her old colleagues and forced back into action to protect her son. Jae Joong’s last project before going into his army service.
Kill Me, Heal Me: Make it THREE Drama-crack shows that season. I don’t think I can take anymore. This season is Daeback. This is not a drama I had any intention of watching, but I saw a review that made me curious and I’m glad. The main character has split personalities- about seven of them. It’s also part rom-com. That just didn’t sound appealing to me. But the lead actors are fantastic, the female character’s family is so delightfully adorable, and charisma and skill of the lead, who has to be all these different people, is just incredibly riveting. There’s also, of course, a lot of mystery and dark secrets behind just why poor Cha Do Hyun has/needs seven personalities, including the tall, dark, and dangerous Sen Gi. I was really surprised at how good this is.
Updated to add- the first part of the first episode is not so great- it’s set in American and you get horribly painful English, and nasty, nasty brutality in a stereotypical cardboard (and thankfully, short-term) villain of a white father beating up his Asian daughter and calling her horrific names. Just ugh. Once they came back to Korea, I loved it all the way through.
Legendary Witches: a weekend family drama. the lead female actress is rather plain vanilla and doesn’t make her character terribly interesting- but the rest is pretty interesting, even if it does have some of the usual fare- chaebol jerks, birth secrets, revenge plots, and a second lead female who cannot take no for an answer. It had other things that make up for it- feisty female leads who stick up for themselves, a makeshift family that supports each other just because, not because of blood ties, cute family relationships, a son-in-law and father-in-law who are too cute for words, and a smart alec little girl who is hilarious with her father. Lots of cute, lots of love- and then the story stumbled into a deeper makjaeng ditch and limped along to the end. Meh.
Dramas I’ve completed, recommend, and reviewed: see here.
K-Dramas I almost liked- most of these are darker than I usually prefer. Some are also-rans- I thought I was going to like them, which is why I started reviewing, but they there were just too flawed.
Things to know when watching a K-drama
More Things To Know
Addiction, and why I like K-dramas
You might be watching a K-Drama if….
Where to get your fix: Sites where you can find subtitled K-dramas (and dramas from other countries, as well. I’ve watched a handful of J-dramas (Japanese) and TW (Taiwanese) dramas, but I vastly prefer the K-dramas, even though I know more Japanese – I got an A in my Japanese 101 class back in the day, when we actually lived in Japan and once I even knew both hiragana and katakana- but still K-dramas interest me vastly more).
Need to read still more about K-dramas?
Dramabeans- must reading.
Learn more background stuff about Korean culture from askakorean
The social commentary at one of the above sites in particular drives me nuts. It won’t take long for you to figure it out. You can tell they were well indoctrinated either by direct contact with a woman’s studies program in college, or by some secondary influence. The double standard is bad, but it’s the near complete blindness to it that is absolutely jaw dropping. They freak out over all alleged, perceived, imagined or real disrespect, misogyny, and patriarchy involved in a wrist grab (a common K-Drama thing, and also something I actually do to my husband and kids when I am really excited about something and want to drag them over and make them share the moment with me). I understand that many of the wrist grab scenes are about asserting male power, I just don’t agree that all of them are, nor do I agree that asserting one’s gender is always and everywhere a bad thing.
But what really sticks in my craw is having somebody who cannot bypass a wrist grab without genuflecting to one’s Womyn’s Studies brainwashing also giggle, chortle, and cheer like spiteful school girls when a female character is violently abusive towards a male. I’ve witnessed the giggling and cheers over scenes like a female kicking a male character in the shins, or worse, in the groin, merely because he has annoyed her by being in her way, making a dumb suggestion (not a lewd suggestion, I mean stupid stuff like coming up with what she deems is a foolish suggestion for fixing a work problem) or had the audacity to ask her out or tell her she’s pretty.
I have watched them issue virtual high fives of delight over scenes which have the female lead demonstrate her ascendancy over the male lead by leaving him with a fat lip, black eyes, and/or a bloody nose- again, only because he’s annoyed her, not as a matter of self defense against an actual attack, or even a verbal threat.
They think wrist grabs are abusive but male battering is hilarious. I think the double standard is disgusting and very, very telling.