Review – Lookout

Review – Lookout

Sigh.  The first few episodes were promising.  Secret vigilante hackers with a secret boss directing them.  A heinous crime committed by a cold-blooded psychopathic teenager.  A badass detective leading female and swarmy, egocentric prosecutor leading male.  There were promising elements at work in Lookout.  And yet… I could tell there was a disconnect somewhere.  I actually finished this drama awhile ago and have been sitting on this review, wondering what it was exactly that caused me to shrug this mystery-thriller off.  Honestly, I’m still not sure.  Somewhere around episode six, I started to lose interest.  I stuck around… but I was never fully committed.  I caught a few eps here and there.  The ending came, with its dramatic finale, and I was underwhelmed.

If I had to guess what ingredient it was missing… I would say heart.  There was no love (not romantic, not bromantic, not friendsies, nothing) between these characters.  Their relationships were tenuous at best.  Even their relationships with their families and coworkers seemed lukewarm.  Hell, even the show Bad Guys managed to have more heart than this drama – and it threw together a bunch of ex cons in a violent stew.  A similar show that nailed it with camaraderie and love between the underdogs fighting together to defeat corruption would be Mad Dog.  That show had everything this show lacks.

I guess there was a bit of something between the hackers, but eh… not enough.  And other than the initial murder of the detective’s daughter, I never felt a sense of danger or actual threat in Lookout.  Which is probably why the ending was so confusing, cause it literally just fell over into it… almost as if on accident.  Oops!  We forgot to make this climax, uh… climatic.  Let’s just kill someone off.  That’s dramatic, right?  Wrong.

I do give snaps for the sexy priest (cause… let’s just have a sexy priest in every show… I would be fine with that) and the creepster factor of our young psychopath miming “I Killed Her!” to our grieving mother, just after she’s surrendered her gun… cops and witnesses everywhere and he’s just shamelessly dogging her!  That’s good stuff.

 

Anyways, you want to see “crazy-mom” done right, watch God’s Gift: 14 Days.  You want to see criminals working outside the system for justice, watch Bad Guys.  You want to see a multi-layered prosecutor(s) or a scarier psychopath, watch Remember.  You want to see a hacker at work (not teenage stereotypes, either), check out Healer or Phantom.  If you want to see what this genre can really do – watch Mad Dog.  All of these are better dramas, in my opinion.  Not that Lookout was terrible, mind you.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t very good, either.

Overall Rating – 6/10.  The Hackers Stole The Show… But Not My Heart.

Review – Go Ho’s Starry Night

Review – Go Ho’s Starry Night

Okay, so… I watched this show last weekend.  All 20 episodes.  And then I completely forgot that I watched it… until a week later, when I was checking to see if new episodes of I Am Not A Robot are available.  Yeah.  So, I guess we can safely say it didn’t make an impression on me.  The leading lady was okay.  I wasn’t charmed by her, but I did like her enough to hope she hooked up with her hunky boss.  I didn’t much care for the eight hundred dudes who were all smitten with her angle… seriously… there’s a point where four guys are all fighting over her and there’s only about six dudes who work in her office, so basically everyone had a hard on for Go Ho.  Why? 

I was on a Kim Young Kwang kick, so I checked it out.  It’s nothing new.  It’s a predictable, reasonably entertaining piece of fluff with lots of cute moments but not a lot more.  This might be a good drama to watch after you’ve just finished something intense and amazing… like Liar Game or Remember or Bad Guys… when you just want a fluffy bunny to cuddle with, even though you know rabbits are terrible pets, cause for a few hours they’re kinda awesome and that’s all you need – a little time with a soft, fluffy diversion.

Overall Rating – 6/10.   Cute And Forgettable.

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Review – Sweet Stranger & Me

Welcome to backflash city.  The heavy handed, overuse of backflashes in this show reminded me of K-dramas of old… when you’d have a backflash to something that literally happened in the same episode.  It’s K-dramas for goldfish.

With that said, I still enjoyed this light drama.  The side characters were particularly enjoyable.  It’s one of those rare dramas that fully develops its side characters, so that they’re not just around as a plot device to add conflict as the two leads find love.  Oh no, these side characters get their own stories and you’ll be rooting for them to find happiness too.  In fact, I liked the side characters more than the lead characters.  A lot more.  The two second leads, the stalker sister, the goofy side-chef, the young gangster guy… I found them all to be more interesting and complicated than our reformed gangster turned chef and the grumpy stewardess.  My biggest qualm with this entire series is that it didn’t firmly wrap up the endings to these people – after laying all that foundation for them, giving them walls and windows and doors… why leave us hanging?  Give those people a roof, damn it, and complete their stories.

The simple version of the plot:  A young woman comes home to rest shortly after her mother dies and she catches her fiance cheating on her.  Once home, she discovers her mother secretly married a young man and this handsome guy is now her stepfather and owner of her family house, business, and property.  Her family turns out to be full of secrets, including tons of massive debt.  An extremely handsome and feisty local “Robot Museum” owner wants to buy the land to develop it into a resort… and he’s not only interested in the property, but also our leading lady.  On top of all this, the girl her fiance had an affair with keeps hanging around, bringing all her drama and shenanigans with her.

It was cute.  You have to suffer through the flashbacks for it, but it’s still a nice romantic show.  With two very handsome leading men.

Overall Rating – 7/10.  Kneading Dough… Better Than Crossfit For Upper Body Strength.

More on Characters, Spoilers, Complaints and Musings follow….

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Review – White Christmas (A Tribute to 90’s Angst)

Review – White Christmas (A Tribute to 90’s Angst)

In 2011, they gathered together all the young stars who could tear down a house with their acting abilities and threw them in a short, creepy drama together called White Christmas.  They set the entire thing to late 20th century indie music…  Primal Scream, Massive Attack, The Pixies, Alice in Chains, Velvet Underground… like a stolen mixed tape from my formative years.  The plot is simple – seven students receive a threatening, confusing anonymous letter saying they’re all cursed and someone will die over the Christmas break.  So they all stay behind, as the rest of their peers leave for the holidays.  These stragglers linger in a huge empty school building isolated on top of a snowy mountain… desperate to discover what role they have to play in this mystery.

And at its heart, the show is a mystery.  But it’s also an examination into a high pressure school system.  It’s social commentary.  It’s a therapy session.  It’s an exploration of natural violence.  It’s a story about people… and how they hurt and heal each other.  And it is DARK, people.

I’ve had it in my que for months… saving it.  Now that summer is coming to an end, I finally treated myself to dessert.  And it was exceptionally tasty.  Only eight episodes long but jam packed with mesmerizing performances, plot twists, and a startlingly original story.  It’s on Viki – go watch it now! (and please when you’re watching it take note of all the bizarre conceptual 90’s-style photoshop artwork all over the walls in every room… cause… wow… so eerie… remember the doll heads?)

Overall Rating – 10/10.  REDRUM!  REDRUM!!!

Discussion of characters and SPOILERS follow….

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Review – Doctor Crush / Doctors & Good Doctor (Diagnosis please…?)

Review – Doctor Crush & Good Doctor

So… pushed myself to watch some medical dramas… some of my LEAST favorite shows of all time.  Ugh.  Is there any thing more tedious than watching people being rushed about on gurneys, those annoying machines that are always beep beep beep beeping cause something has gone wrong or dropped too low or too high or whatever?  A bunch of people continuously washing their hands and slicing up humans like it’s Top Chef.  Gross.  Clearly I am not cut out for the healing arts.  I’m grateful that others are… but it’s not my cup of tea.  And I am rarely interested in anything that occurs within the horror white washed walls of hospitals.  But still… I thought I’d try.

The first time I tried Doctor Crush, also known as Doctors, I didn’t make it past episode six.  Despite the somewhat promising first episode and unique premise (rough and tumble bad girl decides to mend her wicked ways and focus on turning her life around – to become a surgeon, of all things, motivated by the suspicious death of her grandmother… and the encouragement of a hunky doctor-turned-teacher-turned-romantic-interest who also becomes a surgeon again), it quickly did a belly flop into snoozeville.  After six episodes, I thought to myself… I’ll never get these hours of my life back.  I must abandon ship! I must run before the love I have for Park Shin Hye is diminished.  I really liked her and that older teacher dude, too… though their chemistry was off.  Way off.

Seriously, I am uncomfortable even LOOKING at this picture, that’s how bad the chemistry was…

Which dooms a romantic storyline, so the show lost its spine right there.  They seemed like friends, I guess… but every time they were out having one of their “romantic” dates, the smiles of the male lead seemed fake and strained and our female lead actually seemed physically uncomfortable.  The actors tried.  But I wasn’t buying it.

Then I gave the show a second chance, months later, and completed the series.  The second time around, I did enjoy it a bit more but it still felt lacking.  The tall Yoon Gyun-Sang was awkward as a physician and a character, his one sided crush on the female lead felt forced and convoluted.  The beautiful Lee Sung-Kyung was slightly more interesting, as the insecure pretty girl who was used to being at the top, but her character came across as unintelligent… and she was supposed to be a freakin’ brain surgeon so I had trouble believing anyone could be so dumb and so brilliant at the same time.

As I was watching, I wondered if I wasn’t being overly critical of the show.  I mean, it wasn’t that bad, was it?  But then cameo actors would show up and suddenly everything became exciting, interesting, and completely engaging.  The motorcycle riding thug played by Ji Soo stole every scene he was in, for example.  I also want to add that our leading lady had real chemistry with this guy… I’d love to see them paired up in a show, wouldn’t you?

The grandmother?  Brilliant.  Namgung Min came in as the father of two young boys who both had brain tumors – around episode 13 – and I was overwhelmed with how he could turn a bit part into the most profoundly moving few episodes in the show.  Namgung Min was the nail in the coffin, in my opinion.  After he showed up, and basically turned every other plotline into a stale piece of bread, I knew I wasn’t being overly judgmental.

There’s a scene in the last episode where a stern father is coming to comfort his grown son – who is facing a serious surgery.  And the son confesses he’s terrified his life will be ruined after the surgery, or worse, he might die.  And the father grabs his hand and yells at him that he won’t die.  And then both are overcome with emotion, the son crying, the stern father unable to look at him turns away but still holds his hand.  Now, that scene was amazing.  And it was two side, side characters.

  

This is my problem.  Why are there no scenes like this with our leading characters?  Or even the principle side characters?

Doctors just wasn’t that great.  Tolerable, yes.  Memorable?  No.

Overall Rating:  6.5/10.  A Flatlined Medical Romance.

Good Doctor was much better.  Even though I didn’t love it, at least it was interesting.  An autistic genius doctor struggling to overcome his ticks and social limitations to function properly enough to make it as a successful surgeon?  Okay, I’m intrigued.  The actor was brilliant, too.  He was brilliant in Bridal Mask and he was brilliant in this.  Moon Chae-Won was also lovely, as always, as the sorta doofy but genuinely sweet surgeon who took him under her wing and into her heart.  Though I liked her, she never felt fully believable as a surgeon.  Opposite this sensitive pair, we have just about everyone else… a well rounded cast of doctors and patients.  And of course, the head of pediatrics, the hunky young doctor who spends the majority of the show screaming at or belitting our autistic doctor.  It’s rough.  There’s a lot of abuse disguised as tough love, and a lot of flat out abuse.  And yet… I don’t know… I wasn’t entirely emotionally invested since the outcome seemed obvious from the first episode.  I would have stopped watching this show – but it had something unexpected….

The Good Doctor provided small moments of beauty.  Almost painful in their sincerity.  If it had been delivered in another show, it would have seemed too corny, too cheesy, too force-fed lesson-of-the-day… but because they snuck it in between bloody operations and screaming doctors, it worked.  These moments were largely delivered by the autistic doctor, but not entirely… sometimes they came from the children, or the staff, or the just through an expression or a moment of understanding between two characters.

The romance was sweet but also kinda… hm… well, it’s difficult.  The man has the emotional maturity of a 10 year old.  He’s incredibly smart and sensitive and kind… but it’s hard to imagine a night of passion with him in the bedroom.  Though I am no expert on the subject.  Perhaps that’s just another thing he would surprise everyone with and also be extremely good at… who can say.  It seemed unlikely.  But whatever, that’s not all there is to romance, after all, as this show clearly demonstrates.  Our lead male offers love in a strangely pure form and our leading lady is able to receive it with equal kindness of spirit.  They were, in a way, a wonderful couple and truly unique in the history of k-drama.

I’m not sure I’d recommend either… but if you’re gonna watch a medical drama – Good Doctor is your best bet.

Overall Rating – 8/10.

Review – Pinocchio

Review – Pinocchio

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Every once in a while a finely tuned drama like this comes along and grabs you unaware.  The premise seemed simple, almost silly.  I thought it was going to be another cheesy romance with some silly work comedy thrown in.  Oh how wrong I was.

This is one of those rare shows that just does everything right.  Every character is well developed.  They give you enough time to explore the world – the family and friends and dynamics of relationships.  No one feels plastic or cliche.  By the end of episode five, you have a deep commitment to all the players on the stage.  It isn’t just about a cute couple falling in love.  This is a drama about lots of people and how interpersonal relationships shape your life, for better and worse.

The Plot, Short Version:  After inaccurate news coverage leads to tragedy, a young man grows up and tackles the enemy from the inside by becoming a reporter.

Overall Rating – 10/10.  Do Reporters Go To Heaven or Hell?

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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