Review – Great Seducer / Tempted (to Fast Forward)

Review – Great Seducer / Tempted (to Fast Forward)

Full disclaimer – I adore the male lead in this show.  Even if his character is immensely boring, as it was in this drama.  Even if his usually shining star seemed dim playing a conflicted, conceited Lothario.  Even when he tried to convince the audience that rich kids have problems too… just not money problems, which is the vast majority of life’s problems, but, ya know… problems.  Even though this show kinda sucked, I still liked it.  Such is the power of Woo Do-Hwan.  I’m just a fan.

This show was an odd, very loose adaptation of the old Les Liaisons Dangereuse by Pierre Choderlos de Lacios.  What?  Not familiar with that 18th century French novel?  What about the play?  What about… Dangerous Liaisons, the fantastic 1988 movie with Glenn Close?  Or Valmont in 1989?  No?  Okay… Cruel Intentions in 1999?  Untold Scandal… the 2003 Korean movie?  The 2012 Chinese version?  It’s a popular story.

The plot (of Dangerous Liaisons) is simple:  Two very rich and powerful people are friends, skirting around some powerful attraction to one another.  They are both shameless sexual deviants, having affairs left and right with no real feelings for the people they are sleeping with.  When the woman is jilted by her lover for another woman, her pride is hurt and she concocts a revenge scheme… ruin the reputation of her sweetie’s new sweetie.  It’s a very passive aggressive move.  She enlists the help of her bestie to seduce this new woman, offering herself as the reward for a job well done.  Everything goes to hell once her bestie falls in love with this conquest… ruining all their lives in epic proportions.

It’s a great story, honestly, who isn’t fascinated by the idea of sex as a weapon – and worse, love as a game.  It’s a story about cruelty for pleasure, about deep insecurities, about those with power using it shamelessly over those without.  It’s funny, sexy, and… a tragedy.  Because if you start to care about your prey… it’s no longer the same game.  You’ll have a hard time serving the family dog for a holiday meal, ya dig?  Once you love them, to destroy them is to destroy yourself.  If you haven’t seen the 1988 movie version, do yourself a favor… Glenn Close is the master at playing a cruel bitch.  Though for camp value, the 1990s Cruel Intentions is also fun.

This drama takes the Dangerous Liaisons story and adds a bunch of unnecessary story lines – unrequited love between parents, another leading male, some teen sob stories, a few tangled connections and angles that do nothing to enhance the classic tale of sex and heartache.  It attempts to make the villains, aka the leads, sympathetic… which declaws the beast.  It doesn’t really make us love the bad guys or the good guys… everyone is just lounging around in the middle.  The power of the original story is that the two leads are total assholes – just terrible, terrible people –  and having one of them fall in love shatters their delicate world of manipulations and smug, shameless conduct.  That in fact, they are their own worst enemies.

This show wants to play it nice.  It’s not a morality play, it’s a teen romance.

So instead of being a fantastical, K-world version of the centuries old, beloved and wicked classic Dangerous Liaisons, it’s more like a few episodes of Gossip Girl.  And there’s nothing wrong with Gossip Girl.  Sometimes you just want to watch beautiful rich people run around and be mean, then nice, then mean, then nice to each other and know it will all work out in the end.  Fans of Gossip Girl will love this.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10.  Basically a Few Episodes of Gossip Girl, K-Style. 

Yoo Ah-In Always Brings It

Yoo Ah-In Always Brings It

Oh, he’s bringing it… and has so much he’s leaving with leftovers

So, it’s been a pretty lazy Spring for me – with a tendency to rewatch old dramas over committing to new dramas.  I justed rewatched Chicago Typewriter (absolutely love this unusual love story that bounces through time), and was in awe of the acting prowess of Yoo Ah-In.  What can’t he do?

Chicago Typewriter

He’s so good that I didn’t even realize he was Moon Jae-Sin in Sungkyunkwan Scandal.  And I’ve watched that romantic drama at least six times!  Maybe it’s the wig, but even so… I generally recognize my favorite Korean actors now.  I’ve got an eye for it.  Or so I thought….

Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

I thought he was a cute, horny mess of a piano prodigy in the “noona” romance Secret Affair.  Still not a favorite, but I admit it was good.

piano inspired orgasms everywhere

To me, probably forever, he’ll be Lee Bang-Won, the Scholar Dragon, from Six Flying Dragons.  Damn, he was amazing in that drama.  That entire drama was amazing!

Six Flying Dragons

So far, there’s nothing on his docket for 2018, as far as dramas go… but I would rather he hold out for something worthy of him than just kill time making a “meh” drama.  He could probably transform a “meh” drama into something fantastic just by being in it… I mean… geesh, he’s good.  But quality actors should seek out quality dramas.  It’s always so disappointing when one of the A-Lister’s make a so-so show.

There are very few actors I keep an eye out for… watching the news feeds to see what their next move will be.  Yoo Ah-In is one of those actors.  He’s just golden.

 

 

Review – When A Man Loves

Review – When A Man Loves

Deep satisfied sigh.  What a cool melodrama!  Talk about an unusual plotline that hooked.  I was completely swept up into this romantic entanglement.  Not quite a love triangle, not quite NOT a love triangle.  There was more nuance and character development in this drama than most shows.  You’ll be hating someone in one episode and completely understanding them and sympathizing with them in the next.  Shades of gray, my friends.  It’s a show about how your life experiences define you, even when you’ve changed your life.

Plotline Short Version:  A gangster falls for the daughter of the man he’s terrorizing and a series of events leads him to change his ways and give up his life of crime to reemerge several years later as a successful businessman.  When he runs into the daughter again – he sweeps her into his new life, with promises of financial security and his heart.  However, our young lady is wary of her new suitor.  He’s over a decade older than her, excessively smitten, and… ya know… a bit scary.  While she’s attempting to let this man into her life, she meets another man – her age – whom she shares natural chemistry with.  Unfortunately, his life is equally tied to the reformed gangsters.   It’s a struggle of will, of families, of obligations and of fear as these three circle around each other.  And it’s really great tv.

Overall Rating – 9/10.   One Person’s Love Is Not Enough To Carry Two Hearts.

LOTS OF SPOILERS, life musings, dating advice, and rambling follow…

Continue reading

100 Percent Love – Top 10 Feel Good Dramas

Everyone Feels the Love in a Classic Feel Good Drama

There are a LOT of great romances in K-World.  But sometimes my favorite romances are the ones that are just that – romantic.  And not much else.  This is not the list for Goblin (too many tears!), Love in the Moonlight (political plotline rather dull), While You Were Sleeping (serious crimes), or Will It Snow for Christmas (dude… so melodramatic!)… though all of those are stupidly romantic.

This is the list of the FLUFFY BUNNY SLIPPERS variety… the ones you start smiling just thinking about it.  Though there may be some drama (well, there’s gotta be a little conflict for plot), it will not distract you from the ultimate plot, which is love sweet love.

Top 10:

  1.  Coffee Prince – a joy ride from start to finish
  2. Sungkyunkwan Scandal – Sageuk cuteness
  3. Shopping King Louis – gaaaaahhhhh so adorable
  4. 1% of Something – a classic premise of contract love
  5. The Greatest Love  – zany and fun
  6. Beautiful Gong Shim – weirdos in love
  7. Cinderella and the Four Knights  – fairytale romance
  8. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo  – slice of sweet life
  9. Flower Boy Next Door & Me Too Flower! (tie of Yoon Si-Yoon, king of cuteness, dramas)
  10. Which Star Are You From?  – opposites attract

Runners Up:

  1. My Girl – an oldie but goodie
  2. Tomorrow’s Cantabile / Naeil’s Cantabile – quirky proteges in love
  3. You’re Beautiful – a staple of K-world silliness and fun
  4. What’s Up & Dream High (tie of musical teen group  feel great dramas)
  5. Cheer Up Sassy Go Go – aerobics love
  6. Twenty Again – ajumma!  I love you!
  7. Reply 1997 – nostalgic sweetness
  8. Queen In Hyun’s Man – grinning like fools in love
  9. Oh My Venus – so adorable
  10. Marriage Not Dating – cuties falling for each other

Hm… I didn’t realize I hadn’t reviewed some of these until now.  My goodness.  How did I forget to review My Girl???  That was one of the first romantic comedy K-dramas I watched, many moons ago…. gives me an excuse to watch it again, I guess.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite 100% Feel Good drama that didn’t make it to the list?  Let me know!  

Review – Shopping King Louis

Review – Shopping King Louis

A totally adorable drama that’s bound to please, Shopping King Loui delivers an impossibly sweet story about a stupidly rich boy falling in love with a pauper girl.  One of everyone’s favorite tropes, amnesia, is used to full effect here:  After an accident, a pampered .01% uber-rich, unemployed, shopaholic young man is left homeless and afraid on the streets of Seoul.  Thankfully he is quickly adopted by a simple, sweet, and diligent young woman from the rural mountains who has come to the city to find her missing brother.  I love a good Prince & Pauper storyline, and anything that will lead to flirty cohabitation is always good television.

Here is what’s most important – about the show and the plot – these two mismatched pairs are simply the cutest things you will ever see.  Our leading male has no idea how the world works (this was true even before he had amnesia, and now it’s doubly so), follows his instincts (which are laughably unsuited to the real world), and is genuinely, adorably, grateful that this bright eyed young woman has decided to take him under his wing.  He would literally be lost with out her, and charmingly points this out all the time, flashing the innocent dog grin that wins her over, no matter how much he’s misbehaved.

She, on the other hand, is used to serving and taking care of others.  Raised sheltered in the mountains, she isn’t aware of the dangers of the world, the insanity of social media, the often cruel natures of men and women.  Without this “standard modern society fear,” she’s free to live more naturally – walking the streets of Seoul at all hours, living in bath houses, taking in strangers, trusting people easily and finding joy in simple, non-materialistic things.

I shouldn’t have to tell you these two fall hopelessly in love, but I should warn you that will too – with both of them.  They’re sooo cute.  So, so, so cute.

The music in this show is spot on – often referencing pop culture (Kill Bill and Aladdin anyone?).  The gimicks are perfect (the little snippets of narration, the visual guides to general users shopping behaviors, social media uses, and group think.  The side characters are all lovable and funny – and I never once minded when the story shifted away from our adorable couple to these other people.  Even the little cartoon additions (used sparingly) were super cute… cue the puppy ears.  Gah.  It was so freakin’ adorable I feel like watching the whole thing over again.

I won’t go into more of the plot because, honestly, everyone should see this show for themselves.  It’s like Weightlifting Fairy or Sungkyunkwan Scandal – the joy of this show is the viewing, not the reviewing.  Watch it!  Watch it now!

Overall Rating – 10/10.  It’s A Hug You Give Yourself.

 

Review – Jugglers

Review – Jugglers

Jugglers was a mild drama.  By mild, I mean that the stakes weren’t very high professionally (something about who will get the VP position in a big company, a bit of sabotage and backstabbing, some very silly villains), personally (biggest back story obstacle we had was our lead male trying to overcome his phobia of other people and fire), and romantically (dating your boss was the theme of this show… which, naturally, has its problems).  Even though it wasn’t a long show, only 16 episodes, it felt long.  To me, at least.  I honestly wasn’t charmed enough by any of the characters or compelled enough by the plot to deeply invest… so I skimmed quite a bit towards the end.

That said, it’s really a very cute little show.  If you go into it with low expectations, you’ll probably have a lot of fun.  The lead female is feisty and silly.  When her boss moves into her house, becoming her tenant, she has fun with the power reversal – and it’s fun for us, as viewers, to see the home life of these suits and secretaries.  The lead male, her boss, is lovably grumpy, awkward, and nerdy… quoting anime and manga, flipping the bird at people when he’s adjusting his glasses, bluntly rejecting anyone’s attempt to befriend him.  Naturally we all wanted to see this dude fall in love and smile.  Considering our lead female turns into a manga shojo character when she’s smitten, acting silly and cutesy and overtly flirty, it’s actually kinda perfect.  I half expected hearts to come out of her eyes, or little cat ears to appear.

Rounding off the romance, we have office politics – including a side romance (sorta) between a housewife-turned-secretary and a ridiculous man-child with a high paying job.  They actually saved this drama for me, as I found their story line to be surprisingly endearing and sweet.

We also have another man-child, the ridiculous “villain” who basically runs around laughing awkwardly and doing victory dances, or frustration dances, or… just dancing.  His character was extremely physical – again, a lot like a manga villain… more silly than menacing.  I found him amusing.  As well as his long-suffering secretary who had to put up with his insanity.

So, Jugglers was kinda cute.  It had its merits.  But honestly, there are so many k-dramas that cover this same ground that are better.

Overall Rating – 6.5/10.  Goofy Men in Power and the High Heeled Women Who Take Care of Their Messes.

Review – Black Knight : The Man Who Guards Me

Review – Black Knight : The Man Who Guards Me

This show started off unsteady, but by episode four I was totally hooked and in love.  Why?  Cause the villains of this show were so mesmerizing!

Without any spoilers , the plot is simple:  It’s a super sweet love story between a rich business man and a woman who works for a travel agency.  They’re childhood sweethearts who are reunited as adults, and clearly meant to be together.   Unfortunately, there’s a beautiful witch who wants to break this couple apart and have the handsome man all to herself.

Our adorable re-incarnated lovers

I admit, I was charmed by the cuteness of the main couple, but it was the devious witch dressmaker with her eerie pale shop and colorful assistant that won me over completely!  It’s quite possibly the best, weirdest work environment of all time… it’s like a David Lynch dream of stark interiors and bright, bizarre characters.  If you aren’t sure whether or not this odd little show is for you… watch this clip.  There is basically no context for this dance sequence… it just happens.  If you’re thinking to yourself “How cool!  What’s happening?” then you will enjoy this show.  If you’re thinking, “That’s too weird for me” then don’t bother with Black Knight.

The jumps through time are especially awesome, as we got lots of flashbacks of the two immortal ladies in various decades, fully decked out in the latest fashions.  It’s the one thing I am usually disappointed with in other shows that deal with time travel, the lack of “inbetween” years.  Not Black Knight, though!  We get plenty of glimpses through the two hundred years these ladies have roamed the earth.  Between the time jumps, the atmospheric sets, the location shooting, the sickeningly sweet romance, and the calm deviousness of our witch made Black Knight awesome.  It’s a surrealist fairy tale for grown ups.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Hell Hath No Fury Like A Witchy Woman Scorned.

More about the actual plot – with SPOILERS galore – follows…

Continue reading

Review – Hwayugi / A Korean Odyssey

Review – Hwayugi / A Korean Odyssey

You never know what you’re going to get when you start watching a Korean supernatural drama.  Vampires, ghosts, gumihos, goblins, demons, grim reapers, or deities.  You also don’t know how involved they’ll be in the human world.  So it’s always fun – because each show tends to write their own rules for the game.  In Hwayugi, we have demons, ghosts, deities, fortune tellers and more – and they are all heavily involved in the human world.

All the supernatural characters in this show are extremely quirky and enjoyable.  The pompous tv host demon who is trying to mend his ways, the shallow celebrity, the bratty exiled monkey deity, the male/female fairy, the demon dog and the zombie girl.  We even have a powerful billionaire CEO that spends his evenings playing a servant because these domestic chores bring him joy.  Most of these supernatural peeps have a job or something they are doing for a reason, or striving for, or living for.  They kinda make sense, motivation wise, though they are also silly and preposterous as well.  That preposterous nature is where the fun of this show lies.  It’s so over the top and silly that you can’t help but love it.  Reminds me of You’re Beautiful.  Just… fun.

At it’s heart, Hwayugi is a love story about a woman who can see ghosts and a monkey god who’s been banished from the heavenly realm.  She is an outcast amongst her own people just as he is.  She’s spent her life alienated and alone.  And he’s spent large chunks of his life imprisoned.  She’s our human, struggling with her emotions, and he’s our crazy deity, struggling to have emotions.  Problem is, she’s been transformed into a mythical monk whose blood grants powers to demons and he’d like very much to eat her and gain that power.  These two are bound to each other, with contracts and spells.

It’s a total mess.  But a lovable mess.  With outstanding costuming.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Modern Deities Wearing Funky Fur Coats.

More discussion, musings, and spoilers follow….

Continue reading

Review – Fantastic (isn’t quite)

Review – Fantastic (isn’t quite)

Here’s the thing with this show.  It really does deliver all that it promises to in the first episode.  You’re introduced to all the characters, you get the general sense of what will happen, and most importantly… the tone is established.  This drama plays out both campy and melodramatic.  It’s an odd mix, and one only K-Dramas seem to master.  You’ve got silliness on the flip side to serious issues.  Cancer isn’t the only thing that can kill you after all.  The public’s opinion of your skills, for one.  Loosing yourself in a loveless marriage.  These things can also kill you.  They murder your confidence, they eat at your self worth, they slowly liquify your soul.  A lot of people are struggling in this show – and only by coming together, and anchoring themselves to others who have more grounding and positive life experiences, are they able to heal themselves.

It was okay.  I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it.  It wasn’t what Goldilocks would call “just right,” but it was comfortable enough that I settled in and watched the whole thing.

The main couple, the drama writer diagnosed with cancer and the goofy, struggling actor… meh.  They were cute.  I don’t really have anything else to say about them though, as the second romance in this show was far more interesting:  The story of the confident, head-strong young woman who’d turned into a mousy doormat after marrying into a rich, political family.  She was Cinderella, literally cleaning up after everyone and mocked openly for her circumstances.  I enjoyed how this show had her rescue herself, in a way.  Sure, she had the love of a hot young prosecutor (Ji Soo!) to help her and the support of her friends – but as an adult, more often than not you have to rescue yourself when your life goes sour.  And run away on a motorcycle.

Honorable mention also goes to another side character – the lovable doctor who is also fighting terminal illness.  Though I wasn’t overly in love with the romance in this show, the bromance was outstanding.  Our goofy actor and this doctor end up bonding and sharing a remarkably sweet friendship towards the end that helped them both become better people.  Plus I like Kim Tae-Hoon… he has an unusual vibe and tends to make most shows better just by hanging around in the peripherals.

Anyways… it is what it is.  Nothing to write home about, but I wouldn’t avoid it either.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Fantastic It Is Not.

P.S.  Jo Jae-Yun, who played the actor’s manager, rocked my socks.  He’s always comedy gold.

 

Review – King 2 Hearts / The King 2hearts

Review – King 2 Hearts / The King 2heart

Ah… King 2 Hearts… a hit from 2012 that is still great.  It imagines a constitutional monarchy in modern South Korea, but with the same divide between North and South.  Our male main character is the second in line to the throne, but reluctant to step up to the demands and responsibilities of his title.  In an attempt to help him “grow up,” the King sends him on a peace-making mission to work with North Koreans for a military collaboration.  There he meets our female lead, a North Korean assassin.  Throw in a maniacal global arms dealer determined to crush the monarchy, a motley but lovable group of soldiers, royals, and all the family and political intrigue of mixing two long-separated countries… and you have an amazing show that is sure to entertain.

Overall Rating 9/10.  A Fairy Tale Romance With North Korean Cuteness.  Who Knew?

More discussion, ramblings and spoilers follow….

Continue reading