Review – Liar Game
How incredibly awesome was this show? And it was the perfect length – at 12 episodes – not too long, not too short – just right. I had read a bad review of it and skipped watching it for a long time, but decided to check it out recently… and twelve hours later, this binge-inducing show had completely swept me off the planet and into an exciting world of intrigue and suspicion!
Plot in a nutshell – a new reality show tests people moral aptitudes and problem solving skills as they attempt to win money in increasingly difficult ways. This is a character driven show – and after a few games you are down to a small number of key players and you get a firm sense of their personalities, faults and strengths without the use of backstories or flashbacks (exception to the rule being the main three characters). What lines are they willing to cross for money? And is there a darker secret behind the show?
Overall Rating – 10/10. Manipulation Is A Group Sport!
More discussion and very mild spoilers follow (cause I don’t want to spoil the excitement!)….
Review – Can You Hear My Heart?
This is “old school” k-drama done right. A small but incredible cast in one fantastically complicated knot. We’re talking tropes, tropes, tropes – birth secrets, evil moms, love triangles, revenge plots, stolen children, all-people-with-disabilities-are-angels, family feuds, memory loss and more! It’s surprising how difficult it is to try to summarize this 30 episode trip to quality, emotional trauma/drama. It’s about family – the ones we are born with but more importantly about the ones we create for ourselves – through friends, through neighbors, through marriage, through fate.
A true gem and worth the watch, when you’re feeling patient and understand that a four course meal takes time. I liked it a lot. I didn’t love it, necessarily, but I enjoyed it.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10. Dumb People Are Happier In Life… So It Sucks To Be You, Smarty Pants.
Read More… in which I try to explain this ridiculously unique plotline about intelligence, the hierarchy of needs, and familial love (major spoilers ahead!)
Review – Love in the Moonlight
So, I finished Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, or Love in the Moonlight, not too long ago and have been wondering what, exactly, I had to say about it. It was nothing special, to be perfectly honest. This drama offered no new ground to the pantheon of K-Dramas, yet it still managed to be enjoyable, settling into well worn territory… like coming home and putting on your favorite t-shirt even though it’s faded and has holes in it and probably smells a little suspicious if you get too close. Love in the Moonlight is your usual tropes thrown together in a historical romance with a light melodrama. It’s the safe bet. The meal you’ve ordered before and know you like.
I liked the first half best, that was more focused on the romance, than the second half, that was more focused on the politics. The young actors were beautiful and charming, the seasoned actors were outstanding as always. Costumes, sets, writing, all well done. They added a lot of modern humor in, which made it fun and playful. The lead female looked like an alien, albeit a pretty alien. I’m not kidding. She was straight from a Steven Spielberg movie – and yet it was cool, like her Western alien friend Amanda Seyfried. The black-clad guard was clearly the poster child for perfected jaw sculpting… just startlingly handsome. That wig was working for him, too. Usually the wig doesn’t help improve the looks of our male historical characters, but Kwak Dong-Yeon lucked out. He has NEVER looked better, and probably never will. The rival to the Crown Prince was also handsome and generic and overall the entire production was very easy on the eyes.
But it was the Crown Prince that owned the show. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have stuck around for the entire drama if it weren’t for Park Bo-Gum. Is it the capped teeth that make his smirk so cute or what? Park Bo-Gum took a rather tired plotline of a clueless dude falling in love with a girl in drag and made it adorable all over again – by being impossibly adorable. Geesh, he was a cutie.
Overall Rating – 8/10 – Like A Fluffy Bunny, Pretty Worthless But Oh So Cute!
Review – Faith
There are few historical dramas with an interesting female lead… whose interest goes beyond “I want to rule” or something generic like that. But the lead female in Faith is by far the most interesting character in the show – and she’s interesting for lots of reasons. The girl wants TONS of things – cause the world is full of possibilities and she’s crafty and resourceful and full of life and energy. And she’s not the only one! No, no, no, my fine friends, there are a multitude of interesting ladies in this show. In fact, the ladies are JUST AS INTERESTING AS THE MEN! Gasp! Equal representation in a historical drama? Be still my feminist heart. This show has ladies with humor, personality, individuality, sexuality, and self interest. Heck, there are even female guards in this show. It’s awesome.
Faith is a show that knows its strengths and weaknesses and plays both correctly. It doesn’t have great action, but it will distract you with a handsome lead. Heck, they even let him get away with abandoning the top knot in favor of a fan favorite bangs. There isn’t too much political tension, but there’s fun characters. Loads of them. Faith is a fish out of water via time travel story… as well as your basic “kings trying to keep their thrones while their court plots against them” story. There are fantasy elements, people with special powers, magical portals to different times… but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a bit long, a bit cheesy, a bit under dramatic for something that should be more dramatic, and definitely light on the action (for my taste – I prefer much more sword play!). The romance is PG at best. Yet it was still extremely enjoyable just for having so many refreshing elements and unique characters! If only we could have such well written characters in other historical shows, eh? To dream!
Overall Rating 7.5/10. Lee Min Ho Looks Cool With A Sword Even If He Doesn’t Know How To Use It.
More Review and Spoilers and Discussion Follow…
Review – The Moon Embracing the Sun
LAWD! Save us all from historical dramas! Why are they always so good?
I’ve heard about The Moon Embracing the Sun for many years but for some reason never watched it. Scratch that – I did try, originally, but got bored around the third episode and turned it off (a mistake I almost made again the second round). This time I firmly planted myself in front of the show and stuck with it – until the young cast went through their youthful turmoil and misfortunes and reached adulthood… only to be met with more turmoil and misfortunes. In between all this they also found moments of happiness and true love. It was wonderful. I mean, it wasn’t The Princess’ Man, but it was still worth watching.
Plot in a nutshell – two young royals fall in love with the same young lady, but she only likes one of them, the one destined for the throne. A series of unfortunate events occur and the young woman is presumed dead, the young royals both left heartbroken. Young lady grows up with total memory loss, raised as a shaman. Young royals grow up as well. They all meet again. The young lady doesn’t recognize her male admirers, but they are drawn to her like bears to honey. The entire process of their youth repeats – with both men falling in love with her again… who will she fall in love with round two? Will she remember her past? What happened to her all those years ago? Mystery and intrigue and romance abound in this historical drama.
Overall Rating – 8/10. An Satisfying Appetizer to Prepare You For Better Historical Drama Meals.
Discussion and spoilers follow…
Review – The K2
The K2. In which I die and go to heaven.
Summary: Shady politician is almost caught having an affair, which would have ended his run for president, so he quickly sweeps the witnesses under the carpet – except for one random dude, who turns out to be Super Wook. Super Wook says “I don’t like the look of that carpet. When’s the last time you cleaned it?” Since the Super Wook can’t be silenced or killed, the politician and his wife decide to hire him… going with the old “friends close, enemies closer” rule. Super Wook becomes the bodyguard of the shady politician and ends up neck deep in their personal lives (which are about as comfortable as a barbed wire mattress – these people are NOT pleasant).
This is a high production value action packed political thriller with enough romance to melt butter. I loooooooooooved it. We’re talking explosions, breaking through glass windows, car chases, epic fight sequences, guns, bombs, hostages, espionage, military and black ops and more! Think… James Bond or Jason Bourne. This is Ji Chang Wook kickin’ butt and looking fantastic doing it (as always). This is globe trotting, big political conspiracy, high stakes ACTION.
If you actually watched this as it was airing, then I pity you. Cause action dramas are hard to enjoy when you have huge gaps of time in between episodes. The K2 is best watched in chunks, if not binged. So, dedicate a few days to it and soak in the sweaty awesome sauce. Sit back… let it blow you away….
Overall Rating – 10/10. Super Wook For Sixteen Hours. YES, SWEET JESUS, YES!
MORE MORE MORE (including lots of spoilers and poking of bears and fun)
Review – Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon reminds me a lot of iZombie. It has a playful “comic book” style that knows how to have fun. Zap, Boom, Shabang! Those over the top, tongue-in-cheek comics where though good guys fought off villains, no one was injured beyond repair and good humor ruled over seriousness. Think… the bright friendly, child-saving Superman of the 1900’s… not the monotone angsty Superman of the 2000’s. Do Bong Soon is here to save the day, damn it! And you’re going to feel great about it.
<-This NOT That->
I adored this show! It had so much going for it… which I will be discussing with massive spoilers below… but above all else, it was romantic. So, so soooo romantic. Cute romantic. First love romantic. Original Superman romantic. You remember… the big-grin fly me over the city romance of a hunky guy smitten with a feisty girl.
Overall Rating – 10/10. Saved The Day.
Spoilers and Fangirling with Much Discussion Ahead!
Review – Tomorrow With You
This is a show about a guy who can jump back and forth between his current time line and the future (until his own death, which isn’t too long in the future so he’s got a limited jump frame). Anyways, using his ability to pop forward and backward in time via the subway, he’s able to make some great investment decisions and manages a successful real estate company… doing little to no work, showing up in ripped jeans, treating the majority of his employees like douchebags, and being generally an ass to everyone. Normal CEO behavior, I guess, according to K-World. It isn’t until he decides to use his amazing time traveling ability to actually prevent a death that his own life changes – and his life gets further tangled with a beautiful photographer’s whom he decides to marry in an attempt to prevent his own future demise.
Since this drama was so insular – so focused on just two characters – it would have been a LOT BETTER if the two characters had been more interesting and/or more likable. They were just… eh. Both of them. They recently played very cool characters in other shows I loved (Shin Min-A in Oh My Venus… adorable! and Lee Je-Hoon was cool as cucumbers as the newbie cop in Signal), which only made it worse.
For a show about time travel, I felt like I was stuck in a time hole watching this. My God, it just dragged on and on for hours… and for what?
Overall Rating – Final Verdict… abandoned to the K-Drama Graveyard. Didn’t finish it… don’t care to.
More Musings with Spoilers…
Review – Spy Myung Wol
Spy Myung Wol is one of those adorable, zany romantic comedies that came out a while back – with heavy handed shenanigans, lots of side characters, tons of extras, and these stellar cliches for leads that are so out there you can’t help but love them. Think… The Greatest Love or You Are Beautiful or Fated To Love You or Secret Garden. Zany. With handguns! This drama is about a North Korean spy who ends up getting entangled with a South Korean actor/rockstar. National politics, international intrigue, paparazzi, and a hosts of fans are thrown into the mix for a good-hearted romp of a show. Not only are the two leads highly amusing, but there’s a whole gift basket full of side characters that are witty and entertaining. It’s so much fun!
Overall Rating – 9/10. The Drama Between North & South Korea Is Nothing Compared To The Drama Between Men & Women.
Mild Spoilers & Fan Gushing Follow
Review – Incomplete Life (Misaeng)
Work. It’s something most of us have to deal with about 50% of our waking lives, if not more. So much of your identity is tied to what your job is. What kind of life you lead is largely determined by your career, let’s face it. Whether you are a cop, a priest, a lawyer, a chemist, a construction worker, a teacher or a salaryman – your job wraps around you like an extra skin. It shapes your view of the world, the environment you grow accustomed to, the people you are in contact with, and the paycheck you learn to live on.
This is a show about work. It’s a character study, focusing on a few key players and exploring the nature of their personalities, their backgrounds, their current lives, and their struggles and successes as they navigate their careers. It’s fascinating, well written, engaging and just really good. It’s a show that makes you think. It doesn’t hand you all the answers. You’re expected to be smart enough to figure it out or patient enough to wait it out. And the pay off is worth it. It’s an odd mix of realism and subtle optimism, which makes you reflect deeply but offers you hope. I highly recommend it.
Overall Rating – 10/10. You Are What You Do, Not What You Think.
More Musings About Work and the Characters and SPOILERS…