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However, here on MDL, this drama officially goes by its best and most appropriate title "Doctors". If you're looking for a straightforward, romanticized show about what it really means to be a Doctor, this is the show. If you want lots of action, lots of drama, and lots of clichés, you're in the wrong place. While it starts very fast, this is ultimately a very dry, low-key show that bucks typical drama conventions in favor of telling a "more realistic" story. Does that make it less interesting than other popular dramas? Perhaps. But it doesn't make it valueless. There's a lot to like here.
You're not going to find a kdrama story quite like this one very easily. While it's a romance, they don't drag the will-they-or-won't-they all the way until end. While there's a love triangle, it's a very sharply angled isosceles: one of three arms of the triangle is really short and it's clear from the beginning that it has no chance. While it's a drama, it has no mustache-twirling villains, only complex characters that make serious mistakes and end up hurting others simply because they struggle to face the reality of their wrongdoing.
These things aren't necessarily going to work for everyone, but for this reviewer, they all combine into an enjoyable and, most of all, refreshing experience. The flip side of this is that often times the plot seems to lack teeth; it doesn't grab you and hold on, forcing your heart to come with it. While the first few episodes are action-packed and energetic, the show mellows out immensely toward the latter half, eventually getting to the point where the directing felt almost lazy. This show is largely a leisurely stroll, which can be very pleasant but simply is not the experience we're set up for in the first quarter.
The main romantic pairing quickly becomes the driving force of the show and remains such for the entire 20 episode run. However, it's not your typical kdrama relationship full of peaks and valleys and Noble Idiocy. It's clear the writers wanted to tell a more sensible and realistic romance story, for better or for worse. The combination of almost complete focus on this one relationship while simultaneously making that relationship feel very "normal" definitely results in an end product that lacks dramatic punch and hurts the secondary plot threads. Those secondary threads, however, are delivered with the same understated feeling as the main plot. If you want "larger than life" storytelling, you're not going to get it here at all.
On a random side note: at one point, about halfway through the story, we're teased with a possible side romance with one of the nurses, but that plotline goes literally nowhere and is completely dropped by the end of the show. This kind of sloppy handling of the material makes me wonder how much of the script was being rewritten during filming. It is possible, though, that it was simply a matter of a needed actor/actress suddenly becoming unavailable.
Definitely the strong point of the show and possibly the only reason it's as popular as it is. The four leads all do a great job. PSH is as good as ever, which is kind of surprising since she's never done a role quite like this one. You'd think she'd have some yips or letdowns for her first time branching out into a new character type, but nope. She's lovely and wonderful, and her portrayal (like most of this show) is especially strong in the early episodes.
Kim Rae Won, who plays the first male lead Hong Ji Hong, is one of the most charming actors I've yet to discover in kdrama. A great voice, interesting face, and lovely smile, he performs the first lead here perfectly. I can't imagine another actor playing this odd and unique role, a character who values self-control and communication above all. Imagine that, in a kdrama! Compared to the usual selfish and emotionally infantile male leads we often get in typical romances, the Hong Ji Hong character is a most welcome change.
Yoon Gyun Sang seems to be very popular, even if he perpetually looks like he's had an allergic reaction to something. Although I didn't like him much at all, at first, he won me over by the end. A good performance to go with yet another unusual character. if you ever wanted to know what it's like to be on the losing end of a love triangle IN REAL LIFE, his story is basically that. It's worth seeing.
Last but not least, we have Lee Sung Kyung. Although her character is the trope-iest one (mostly just your typical Mean Girl trope, but with a more sympathetic twist), it really doesn't matter too much because.... well, I'll be honest, Ms. Lee is ridiculously attractive. Seriously. She's surrounded by beautiful women and even among them she stands out. I'd love to see her in a role where she can smile more.
All that being said, the supporting cast here is strong enough on their own to make the show worth trying. My two Honorable Mentions for the Supporting Cast go to:
1. Baek Sung Hyun as Yeong Kook, who I dubbed "Dr. Glasses". He starts as a very odd and (somewhat) forgettable character, but when the writers found an interesting hook for his character, Sung Hyun took it and ran with it. Sung Hyun seems to be particularly skilled at delivering subtext with his eyes.
2. Of course, I have to mention my new crush (I get one almost every show), Pyo Ye Jin, who plays a character I affectionately referred to as "Nurse Cutie Pie". Although her role is very minor, her portrayal was stellar. You'll never tire of her smile. The writers gave one big scene to her character early on and, after she utterly blew it away with her adorableness, they wisely gave her at least one speaking scene in every episode after that. Ye Jin is 24 years young and would be great in a starring role in the future. I may soon watch my first ever Family drama because of her.
Strong but standard kdrama fare here. Lots and lots of vocal themes, so there won't be too much repeating. In fact, they re-use themes here at just the right pace; enough to get the songs in your head, but not so much that they start to annoy you. Special mention to the tracks "It's Love" and "No Way", which are the best of the best here. If music is a deciding factor for you, just listen to those two tracks to get a good sense of the quality of "Doctors" in this category.
Unfortunately, there's no getting around the fact that there is absolutely very little RWV here, especially the closer you get to the climax. While most kdramas try and build toward a climax that is exciting and satisfying that you want to see over and over, this one does the opposite. Early episodes are full of exciting character moments, culminating in perhaps the most rewatchable scene of the whole show involving a rooftop, a helicopter, and the best romantic character reunion ever.
However, toward the latter quarter of the show, almost every episode can be described thusly: "two or more characters chat about plot with each other, then someone gets a phone call, they answer it, then it cuts to another scene where there is more chat about plot, and then someone gets a phone call, they answer it, and they cut to a new scene where they chat about plot, and then YOU GUESSED IT, someone gets another freaking phone call and the cycle starts over."
All of that does not make for a high RWV score, as it's bad enough to sit through the first time.
Despite being better than most kdrama in many areas, this only gets a solid 8/10 from me, and no more. It has too many issues to justify anything higher, despite how strong it is in other areas. However, on the flip side of that, it's way too good to be lower than 7.5. If you're looking for a solid 2016 drama with a great cast that delivers lessons about communication, professionalism, and relationships, you won't go wrong here. Just don't expect the plot to blow you away.
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While it's not without an issue or two, My Lawyer, Mr. Jo is both clean in content and high in entertainment value.
The plot centers around the titular character as he makes a transition from high-powered prosecutor to penniless lawyer. While there is a central conflict that progresses in each episode, the story is told through multiple court cases that connect to one another, which creates multiple emotional climaxes through the course of its 20 episodes. You'll rarely feel like you're just being teased, and the action never feels like it's being prolonged artificially.
There are villains aplenty here as well, and the story structure does a great job of keeping the audience wondering "Who is REALLY the Big Bad here?" Only one villain is a mustache-twirler, but even he has complex motivations and a true story arc.
While one or two of the early dramatic courtroom scenes come off as overdone due to some sloppy editing, you mostly won't see an issue with the storytelling at all. The endings of the episodes are also some of the best I've seen, not so much for their "cliffhanger" status as for their emotional impact and comedy. This is a very well put-together show. Many times, when the End-Of-Episode Musical Glitter thing happens, you'll be completely taken aback.
Unequivocally, though, the biggest strength of this drama is its cast. I can't even take the time to point out the stand-out actors, because they basically all stand out. Just go to the Cast page for this show and look at all the Main Roles and Supporting Roles: you're looking at the stand out actors. There's essentially no "soap opera acting" here. While larger than life, these characters are people, and the writing never leans on the crutch of Sudden And Inexplicable Stupidity in order to create drama, tension, or conflict.
The entire ensemble is a joy to watch, and I'd love to see it be nominated in the "Best Ensemble" category for any 2016 awards.
My Lawyer, Mr. Jo is one of the most fun watches of the year, free from the usual kdrama trappings of either "too serious" or "too silly". It's a clean drama with a ton of heart, energy, and positivity. One of the overlooked gems of 2016.
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The cast is brilliant here as well. Basically everyone is amazing. Lee Min Ho seems like he has a lot of experience working out the 'likable jerk' archetype, because he nails it here. I called him a moron so many times during the watch and yet found myself loving him and rooting for him all the same.
Park Min Young is divine perfection as always and continues her place in my Top 5 Kdrama Actresses list. Lee Joon Hyuk is probably the best raw actor in this show, and Kim Sang Joon has the sort of charisma you want in a good villain, despite having literally one facial expression for the entire 20-episode run. But even the Supporting characters shone here, foremost among them being Kang Jin Sung, whose voice is like the most beautiful music, and Kim Sang Ho, who proved here that ugly can still be oddly attractive.
Honorable Cast Mentions:
- Chun Ho Jin and his 'intense eyes' should always be in every drama.
- Hwang Sun Hee can't really act well, but she's extremely good at being more beautiful than everyone, so props to her.
- Gu Ha Ra was born to her role here. I never got tired of her immature antics and that bouncy, youthful movement that always sent her too-perfect hair flapping this way and that. Simultaneously annoying and endearing, I always smiled when she was on camera.
- Choi Jung Woo embodies his characters better than most Korean actors. He has more range than you would you think at first glance.
Now, all that being said, unfortunately, despite its amazing cast, the story of City Hunter is ultimately a letdown and makes it a candidate for my Most Overrated Drama.
From a writing standpoint, the first half of the show is a paradise of interesting character moments and interactions. The characters grow, you fall in love with them, you root for them, you laugh and cry along with them, the way every good drama does. In particular, there is one scene where Park Min Young starts crying in the middle of a sentence without showing any other facial indications of sadness. She is fighting to be reasonable, dispassionate, selfless, and brave. Her voice is clear and strong and nary a quiver is to be found in her lips. And yet the tears betray her. It's a powerfully acted sequence that takes you by the heart and screams 'LOVE ME!'
However, the further you get into the back half of this drama, the more disconnected it becomes from anything relatable. All the character build-up you were invested in? Almost completely gone. The intriguing hero? A veritable wellspring of idiotic and inexplicable decisions, especially in connection with the heroine. The likable side characters? Either disappeared or killed off for no reason. The heroine? Used almost exclusively for reaction shots. All of this culminating into one of the most lackluster endings I've yet to experience in a drama. It did a couple interesting things, for sure, but for the most part the final episode just felt like a normal episode and the resolutions were either rushed into unimportance or simply nonexistent. So many story threads simply left dangling. And for what? Longer and more numerous reaction shots, yelling of character names, and oft-repeated plot points. The main plot of the show is well-written and compelling, but the characters are all but abandoned towards the end, which is inexcusable.
Basically, if you want some great action, awesome acting, and a handful of laughs and warm fuzzies, you'll get them from this show. If you want satisfying resolution and characters that do stuff that makes sense, you'll be disappointed. It's a show everyone should see, but not a show that everyone will love.
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While you'll come to love that catchphrase if you watch Liar Game, it wouldn't surprise me if it were actually spoken by the producer who first pitched the idea of a Korean version of this classic Japanese manga story. If so, they were right: from the beginning of this fast-paced drama, all the way to its closing minutes, it gets its hooks in the viewer and never lets go. There are twists and surprises in every episode and you won't be able to resist the urge to predict what's going to happen next.
Although Liar Game is held back slightly by the clichés it employs (causing some of the twists to be too predictable), it is ultimately a satisfying ride for any fan of intrigue.
It takes about an episode and half or so for this story's manga roots to show. If you have any experience with Japanese manga/anime like Yu-Gi-Oh, Hikaru no Go, or even ones themed around sports, you'll immediately recognize the format of this show. Main Character is tasked with winning a complicated game against challenging opposition > Main Character uses math/numbers/cleverness to win said game > plot twist creates problem > Main Character uses quick thinking to overcome the problem and win the game at the last second in dramatic fashion. While Liar Game deviates from this formula slightly at times, you can still expect to see those steps play out for each major chapter of the plot. The major twist of the plot, too, is painfully cliché, especially if you're familiar with popular Japanese storytelling.
However, despite Liar Game's plot being rather formulaic, the twists and the games are consistently interesting, and the characters involved have all the charisma anyone could ask for from this premise. And clichés aren't bad if they're executed well, which Liar Game does with aplomb.
For more details on the story itself, just analyze the promo poster for this show that's probably in the upper right hand corner of your screen right now. That one picture basically explains the entire premise perfectly.
If you start Liar Game, this category will likely be the reason you stick with it. Most of the Supporting Roles here will be in almost every episode, and they'll be important. So with an Ensemble Cast this big, each actor needs to bring something to the table that will grab the attention of the audience. They succeed. Choi Jin Ho, Park Jae Hoon, and Jo Jae Yun are the best of the supporting cast, but the top spot really goes to Lee El, who gives maybe the second-best performance in the show. How Lee El finds herself stuck in Supporting Roles after this performance makes no sense to me. She's unbelievably watchable and gorgeous to boot. She deserves bigger roles.
Of course, with any good drama, the Main Roles absolutely shine. Lee Sang Yoon is his usual self: very watchable and good-looking. Really, his only job is to step in front of a camera, look "less Korean" with that face of his, and not ruin the scene. And he does that perfectly. The guy is great. The female Lead, Kim So Eun, was essentially born to roles like this one: a perfect, sweet, naive angel. She just has the face for it, and like many of her peers, her eyes project an earnestness that befits the character. She's easy to like, easy to fall for; a good "helpless damsel" character, but with enough of a spin that she's not boring. Watching her in this is like watching a puppy: it never gets boring and you can't help but go "awwww" every few moments.
But the actor that really bumped the score here from an 8.5 to a 9.5 all on his own was, without a doubt, Shin Sung Rok. When I first saw him in You Who Came From The Star, I thought "Yikes... that face...!" But when I saw that he was in this, I thought "Oh good, that face!" Never has anyone in the world had such a perfect villain's face, and you will want to see him on screen more and more the more you see him. Beyond that, though, the way SSR *uses* his face in his role here is what will blow your mind. If you love villains, Liar Game has the perfect one for you.
Liar Game's vocal songs are unremarkable and forgettable. However, the incidental music is actually quite good. Music is critical in building tension in shows like this one, and the job is done well here. It's unlikely that the Liar Game soundtrack is going to sell a ton of copies or pull in more viewers, but it does what it needs to do and does it well.
Sadly, with shows that center on intrigue and mystery, you can't expect a ton of rewatchability. What keeps you hooked is not knowing what's coming next, so in general these sorts of shows will score low here. What helps Liar Game to achieve an 8/10 in this category is the cast. There are several performances that would be worth watching multiple times. However, the RV could have been even higher had they seeded a few more major plot mystery hints throughout the earlier episodes. Still, Liar Game doesn't hurt in this area if Rewatching dramas is your thing.
Liar Game is a thrilling, if familiar, mystery show with a stellar ensemble cast that will keep you guessing until the very end. If you enjoy Japanese manga/anime stories and have somehow never been exposed to Liar Game until now, this one should not be missed. If you're just looking for a fun, quick kdrama, Liar Game is perfect for you, too. Watch it for the story, stay for Shin Sung Rok. You won't regret it.
Or maybe you will? Maybe this was all an elaborate ruse. Maybe I am Shin Sung Rok. But as they say in Liar Game...
"If you want to know the truth, you have to play the game."
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While it started out as a fun rom-com with a campy mystery B-plot, it eventually bought into that campy B-plot completely, abandoning the rom-com aspects that were so strong in the beginning and trying (and mostly failing) to sell itself as a serious thriller drama.
While comparisons can be made to The Count of Monte Cristo, the show itself was more Jekyll and Hyde than anything. This irritating misdirection and mishandling of characters was punctuated by possibly the worst and most unnecessary Noble Idiocy I have yet come across in all of drama. While it's not as insulting as something like Angel Eyes, Birth of a Beauty is still guilty of turning its lead female into a bonehead in order to drum up cheap conflict without having to write something original.
That being said, the premise of the show itself is still not without merit. If you enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo, you'll enjoy aspects of this as well. A normal, everyday woman is mistreated and, eventually, murdered by those she trusts. Except she survives, transforms herself, and returns to exact retribution on those who did her wrong. However, don't expect it to be as satisfying as Monte Cristo; while that classic slowly seeds his revenge over time and then reveals it mostly in the climax, Birth of a Beauty belabors the revenge plot early on and offers very little satisfying resolution over the course of time. By the time some of the villains have actually tasted justice, I barely noticed, since it was often handled with little dramatic impact and usually the effects of it were only temporary, seeing the villains shortly back to their misdeeds with almost no consequence. Expect to see lots of mustache-twirling here from the innumerable villains and, especially in the back half, multiple minutes per episode of people just looking dramatically at each other after nothing of consequence was said.
You're probably thinking "This sounds worse than a 7/10", but the reason it scored that high is because the romance plot was far superior to the revenge plot. While that, too, was mishandled (badly) in the back half, it was still good enough to keep my wife and I interested throughout. Most viewers will have little trouble buying into the romance here, as JSW and HYS have some SERIOUS chemistry with each other. Not only that, but despite how poorly written the back half is, the resolution and payoff is actually pretty good. While I would have preferred at least an entire episode dedicated to falling action and character send-offs, what you get is good enough.
If, however, you're someone who simply cannot tolerate main characters behaving stupidly, Han Ye Seul's character here will almost certainly have you dropping this before you reach Episode 15.
I never thought I'd see the day where I give a Joo Sang Wook drama less than 8 in this category, but here we are. Not MUCH less than 8, of course, but still. Han Ye Seul is charming and fun, but from what I could see, comedy is her strength. She wasn't bad at all with the dramatic stuff, but I wouldn't say she was good either. Her face seems custom built to smile (literally, perhaps?), and when she is smiling, you could almost really believe that men would follow her around Korea like sheep with a shepherd. However, in her one melo scene, her face contorted so unnaturally that it took both me and my wife right out of the moment. Would definitely love to see more of her in a strictly comedic role. While the aforementioned JSW was, of course, great, even he started dripping into "dry" territory in the back half here. Not his fault; he really just didn't have much to work with in the script. That being said, he is at his comedic BEST in the front half. Many many hilarious moments, the absolute best being when he dresses up as a mariachi with a big fake handlebar mustache and sings (you just have to see it for yourself).
All of this, of course, leads me to our second leads. Wang Ji Hye was probably the second best actor in the show, talent-wise. She handled the subtleties of her character with ease. Again, though, she wasn't given a wide variety of things to do. On the other hand, this is the second drama with Jung Gyu Woon I've seen, and I don't think I've seen his facial expression change once in either drama. He's better here than in Oh My Venus, but only because his character is comically evil. Even with such an extreme character to play, don't expect much from him here.
As for the Supporting Cast, exactly two actors are worth mentioning:
Han Jin Hee plays a stern, loud buffoon for 19 and a half episodes. In his final scene, he is given a touching moment with one of the main characters and he ABSOLUTELY KILLS IT. His character is one of the more interesting and dynamic throughout the plot, despite having very little of consequence to do.
Kang Kyung Hun has the most honest acting moment in the whole show, a throwaway moment barely given time to shine and yet it drew a teardrop or two from both me and my wife.
Weird that I gave this highest marks, but really Wife and I were singing and humming so many different songs from this one. While the incidental music is forgettable, the vocal themes are consistently strong and memorable, especially the opening credits theme, "She" by SHINee. Very catchy.
The first half is immensely rewatchable, honestly. So many cute and fun moments. High-energy, lots of comedy, lots of intrigue. And the very first episode, particularly, is superbly shot and edited. But that back half of this drama.... ouch. It was hard to get through it once, so I can't imagine trying to watch it again. I remember laughing out loud once because there was one particular reaction shot that I think had to be over 60 seconds long. I'm not exaggerating. The camera just stayed on JSW for forever while he looked serious. I imagined JSW in his head thinking "Uh.... is someone gonna say 'cut'.... sometime?" And that right there is par for the course for the second half of Birth of a Beauty. Lots of reaction shots, lots of people staring at each other, lots of villains twirling their mustaches. Not a lot worth seeing beyond a few decent plot points and, of course, the resolution, which really does manage to satisfy and is worth watching a few times.
All in all, if you're in the mood for a good rom-com, exhaust your other options first. If you're in the mood for a thriller, look elsewhere. If you're in the mood for Joo Sang Wook and you've seen his other dramas, dive right in to this one! Despite my serious complaints, there is still an odd charm to the show; an intangible factor that can still hook a viewer. My wife complained about a lot of it, but at the end said "You know, I still liked this." I can't say I disagree. You may have the same reaction, so don't be afraid to give it a shot.
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The entire premise is lovely, and definitely works as a rom-com. However, there are a few small problems here. There are hilarious misunderstandings everywhere, yes, but also a few very frustrating ones. Some serious writing sins are committed here as well. For example, for the cliffhanger ending for one particular episode, one of the myriad misunderstandings between two of the main characters gets cleared up, which will change the nature of the relationship between the two. As a result, at the episode cliffhanger, one of the characters makes what amounts to a heavily-implied confession, speaking a couple of the most overtly romantic and affectionate lines in the entire script. At the start of the next episode, the two characters are nonchalantly acting like it never happened, with no explanation, and no in-dialogue reference back to it is ever made ever again. Unforgivable. However, this is really the only "unforgivable" sin the show makes, which means it comes off cleaner than most dramas in the Story department.
There is at least one big Impossible Coincidence cliché. Also, don't let this show's promotional pictures fool you: there's almost none of that kind of sweet relationship stuff in this show, so don't go in expecting it. In the romance department, this is a massive 16-hour tease. But as teases go, this one is a lot of fun. The romantic tension between the two main characters never really gets old or stale, despite the constant teasing, misunderstanding, and generally idiotic behavior. And to add to that, there's a secondary romance plot here that is one of the sweetest and cutest romance stories in all of drama. So if you love cute romance, you won't want to miss that.
The comedy here is gold, as well. It's probably the most legitimately funny drama I have seen since You Who Came From The Star or Fated To Love You. While most of the laughs predictably come from misunderstandings, the showrunners here got creative with some comedy, using some special effects and some parody at random times that send the show into the realm of the "absurd". None of these moments feel gratuitous or cheap, though, and the touches of silliness keep everything fun.
Is there anyone more beautiful in all of Korea than Kang So Ra? I have no shame admitting that I came to this drama just for her, but I fell in love with the rest of the cast as well. Kang So Ra and Yoo Yoon Seok are really quite adorable together. So Ra's heartfelt earnestness will command your attention here and she continues to be perhaps THE most believable actress in drama. She can act the most absurd and unrealistic scenes and still come out feeling genuinely human. This believability works to greatest effect when she's crying. I first fell in love with her in Doctor Stranger when she cried, and her tears in this role destroyed my heart as well. She's the best part of any drama she's in.
Yoo Yoon Seok is kind of a "love or hate" actor, but his unique looks work perfectly for this role. The puppy eyes and pouty lips are used to maximum effect, so if that's your thing, prepare to get wrecked. If you find that annoying, he may still win you over in the end, as he did me. He plays a character that is oddly easy to root for.
Jung Jin Young is adorable as heck here. Dude's face is irritatingly perfect and his character here is one of the best. Written as kind of a "stand in" for the audience, you'll always love everything his character does. If you're a fan of Jin Young, Warm and Cozy is a must-watch.
Seo Yi Ahn has quite a talent for playing a villainess. She is the most "hateable" person I have ever seen in any drama. She is seriously awful here, which is perfect. Props to her for acting the crap out of this role.
Kim Sung Oh is an absolute revelation in his role as Town Mayor. The first time you see his character, you won't think anything of him. His quick transformation from "random weird-looking dude" to "wow I really like this guy" is one of the best parts of this drama. I first saw Sung Oh in Midas (which I dropped) and didn't even recognize him here. Based on Midas, I would never have guessed he had this kind of memorable performance in him. I defy anyone to watch this and not totally embrace his character by the end.
You'll also want to get to know Kim Hee Jung and Lee Sung Jae. Together, they're maybe the best and most memorable part of the show. Hee Jung may be well into her 40s, but she could almost rival So Ra in beauty. Ignore her terrible MDL headshot, she's seriously attractive in this drama. As for Lee Sung Jae, his character's looks and mannerisms are so cool and awesome he can even make a confident and secure guy like myself feel inadequate. You'll want to see these two act together as often as possible.
I'm hardly a music expert, but I know what sounds good and I know what's memorable. The vocal themes in Warm and Cozy are quite strong, particularly "A Little Closer" and "Butterfly". However, the non-vocal music was even more memorable, in my book. They got truly creative with a few of the themes, particularly with "(Lala Theme)" and the Mayor's Theme, both of which I found myself humming every time they came on. Also, if you love acoustic guitar and you want a treat, check out "Funning Guitar" and "I Missing You" from this soundtrack.
NOTE: A few months after I originally wrote this review, I went back and bumped the score on the Music category from a 9.5 to a 10. Amongst its kdrama peers, this show simply soars above them in this category. No other drama I have ever seen uses Music as effectively as Warm & Cozy to get across mood and emotion. I originally left it at a 9.5 because I am always hesitant to give out 10s, but over time it has become apparent to me that if this show isn't worthy of a 10 in Music, no show is.
While not exactly chock full of amazing sequences that you just have to go back and see, this drama still has rewatch value for the mood it sets. If you want something simple and heartwarming, any random episode of this show will achieve that feeling for you. Not only that, but a lot of the humor is worth seeing multiple times. Especially do sequences like "the arm wrestling competition" and "the Mayor's identical siblings" stand out in my mind as things I'd like to go back and see. However, the constant teasing of the main pairing here hurts the rewatch value, as the two characters too often act like morons, which is frustrating enough to see just the once.
To wrap-up, this a sweet and cute rom-com that has plenty of value to make it worth watching. If you don't like rom-com, this won't convert you, but if you do, then you have no reason whatsoever to skip this one. Grab some hot tea or a snack and start the first episode. You won't regret it.
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The above was spoken by my wife, less than halfway through this drama. I wondered, at the time, if Oh My Venus would continue to live up to that endorsement. As you can tell from the scores I gave it, the fun never stopped until the final ending credits rolled (and even then, the fun kept going for a little longer).
Scarcely have I seen a better story in a rom-com. It's not a wholly original premise, of course, but the themes of Beauty, Weight, and Health and how those themes work together are still somewhat unfamiliar ground for Korean entertainment.
The main romantic pairing of Oh My Venus is, of course, the biggest attraction, as the story of how they meet and fall in love never fails to be gripping. There's really no end to the amount of "cute" moments that these two have on screen together. However, from a story perspective, the secondary romance is also intriguing, albeit without the cuteness. The secondary couple is comprised of the main character's ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, a pairing that most audience members would be predisposed to hate. But the writers knew that would be the case and and built a rather interesting and sensitive arc around the two characters. In general, though, that subplot lacks importance in the main narrative, so even though it's handled cleverly, it can feel somewhat like a digression far too often. Oftentimes, when one of the second leads was on screen, I found myself thinking "Hey, remember THIS person?" Again, though, the fascinating love story of the main pairing of Kang Joo Eun and Kim Young Ho should keep any rom-com fan happy for 16 episodes, without fail.
One of the best things this drama does in the Story department is dedicate the last two episodes almost entirely to resolution. Too many dramas just end right at the climax, with no room to celebrate the ending or spend more time with the characters you've grown to love. Not so with Oh My Venus, as you'll get a very satisfying 2 hours to say goodbye. Going forward, I'd like to see more dramas adopt this approach.
Were it not for a small bit out-of-character writing for some major characters, which culminated in a tenuously-motivated cliché in Episode 13, and also the secondary romance, this Story would be a 10.
I can't even begin to describe how much I love this cast. Were it not for Jung Gyu Woon (who has literally one facial expression for the entire show) it would be a perfect 10.
I honestly don't want to write too much here, because the overall chemistry of the entire ensemble cast is something that needs to be experienced. But I would be remiss to not specifically point out Shin Min Ah and So Ji Sub. Min Ah outshines absolutely everyone here, superbly handling both comedy and melodrama and doing so in heavy effects makeup for much of the show (a talent that would not be appreciated by your average audience member). There's very little chance of a a viewer failing to be completely in love with Min Ah's character by at least Episode 8. So Ji Sub, on the other hand, is a special case: he doesn't exactly pop off the screen the way Min Ah does, but his subtle mastery of comic timing heightens all of the jokes, his easy dignity and strength give extra weight to his every action, and he saves his really brilliant acting for the little bit of melodrama that he gets to do.
Honorable mention goes to Yoo In Young, who's really good at being horrible jerk that for some reason you still sympathize with.
A lot of the incidental music here was lovely-but-forgettable, which is par for the course with kdrama. However, the vocal themes were great, with "Beautiful Lady" being perhaps the catchiest and most danceable vocal theme I've ever heard in any drama. Seriously, that song completely rocks and you'll want to move to it every time it comes on. My wife and I both found ourselves singing and humming some of the other songs as well, so if Music is a critical part of dramas for you, Oh My Venus will not let you down.
If I had to guess, I would say that every single one of the 16 episodes of this show has at least one scene worth rewatching. There is always something fun, hilarious, or emotional to go back to. Not only that, but the rewatch value is heightened by the main plot hook: going back and seeing the difference between how Kang Joo Eun looks in Episode 1 compared to how she looks at the end can be quite shocking! Some of the subplots hurt Oh My Venus in this category, but only just barely. When the final credits roll on this one, you'll definitely want to go back and see some of this again.
This is tied (with You Who Came From The Star) for the second best kdrama rom-com I have ever seen, and is officially one of my all-time favorite dramas ever. Even if you don't like rom-com, there's still enough of an interesting hook and story here that it's at least worth giving it a try. If you hate fun, then stay away, but if, like me, you enjoy having fun, start Oh My Venus tonight.
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Easily the weakest aspect of this show, the plot revolves around a perfect and adorable angel named Lee So Young, played by Jang Na Ra, and a sweet-but-dorky man named Choi Jin Wook, played by Daniel Choi, as they attempt to be normal nice people in a sea of selfish morons in the fashion industry. While these two start off their relationship like a cat and dog, they eventually grow closer to each other through your typical dramatic happenstance. While there are a handful of other likable and interesting characters, where the Story really struggles is with its villains, their motivations, the pacing, and the supporting characters.
The villains here are horrible, and not really in a good way. There's no dancing around it. They are evil just to be evil. If they had mustaches, they would twirl them in every single scene they're in. There's no deep exploration of the villain's motivations. In fact, the following is a paraphrase of a conversation with the villain toward the end of the show:
Good guy: "Why did you do all those horrible things?"
Villain: "I wanted to."
Good guy: "That's it?"
So expect to be furious and frustrated with all of the scheming going on in this story, especially when it's directed toward Lee So Young. While shallow villains can work, there need to be truly good characters there to balance it out and give the audience a break from the villainy. Unfortunately, this show's truly good and unselfish characters can be counted on one hand. Almost everyone does something stupid and/or mean at some point. And to make things worse, Lee So Young is constantly scolded, humiliated, and punished at every turn while the villains simply do not face any consequences for their actions whatsoever. While I can tell you that the payoff is nice, getting there is an exercise in self-control.
But the Story isn't all bad. Far from it. Enter: Ji Seung Il, played by Ryu Jin. His character absolutely shines here, and you could argue that his is the most interesting character to follow, since he exhibits some of the most growth. His character becomes embroiled in one of the most effective and interesting love triangles I have seen in kdrama. Even though you'll root for the OTP, you WILL be conflicted every time Ryu Jin is onscreen.
Cliché-wise, you'll also have a little bit of Noble Idiocy to torture you toward the climax of the show, but it won't come in a way you would expect. It's interesting and will keep you hooked.
But really what the story comes down to is two insanely adorable people growing into one of the most insanely adorable couples you're likely to see on television. If you like cute romance, ignore everything I typed above and make this your next drama.
Believe all of the comments you've read about this show being worth watching just because of Jang Na Ra and Daniel Choi. Believe all of the hype. These two are not only precious together, they're hilarious. Daniel Choi brings a sense of humor and a childlike charm to the leading man role that I have never seen in a drama before. He is legitimately funny. Jang Na Ra, of course, exhibits everything that has made her famous: those emotional eyes, that sense of vulnerability, that unique face. You'll get all of it in spades. No Jang Na Ra fan should miss her performance here.
The rest of the cast works, although I insist that Kim Min Seo simply gets repeatedly miscast, as she is here. Ryu Jin is awesome, despite not needing to do much with the role. Ahn Seo Hyun will grow on you quickly. Kim Mi Kyung is a gravitational force all her own. And you'll really enjoy Hyeon Yong and Yoo Tae Woong, too.
Really, the music here is largely good enough to receive at least a 9/10. As with any good vocal tracks, you'll find yourself humming along to a lot of the songs, or singing them out loud to yourself at times while inventing your own lyrics. They're quite good. Not only that, but the incidental music stood out as well. Rather than being "mood noise", the incidental music had distinction and personality.
Special credit goes to Jang Na Ra for singing more than one of the songs on this OST. She actually sings a song in character in Episode 8 and it's one of the best scenes in the show. Obviously Na Ra herself has a lot to do with that, but the song stands on it's own merits. It's lovely and adorable and you'll want to hear it again and again. Although I can't link you to any of the exceptional incidental themes, a few of them will have you bobbing your head and feeling warm just at the sound of them.
However, I ended up docking BFB a half point here because some of the incidental music was misused. There were a handful of scenes where basically nothing of consequence happened, but the music was overly dramatic. Took me out of the moment. This was rare, though.
This is definitely the kind of drama that bears rewatching. When all you want to do is feel warm and fuzzy and see cuteness again, Baby-Faced Beauty has you covered. Whether it's going back to an early episode and seeing So Young and Jin Wook fighting comically or rewatching how they slowly become close, none of it is boring. The terrible villains and wildly overdone plot devices hurt it here, but ultimately there's going to be plenty here that you wouldn't mind seeing twice.
Baby-Faced Beauty gets an 8/10 from me, and 6 of those 8 points are for Jang Na Ra and Daniel Choi. For any fan of either, this is a must watch. For rom-com fans, this is a must watch. For anyone else, there's honestly not a lot here for you.
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The next most important part: if you really loved the original movie, you should probably stay away from this. They're nothing alike.
The original Crouching Tiger was an absolutely beautiful and sincere film, a movie that had important things to say while the action choreography was simply the dessert course of the experience. On top of that, everything about it worked: the performances of the actors, the script, the music, the cinematography, the costumes, the locations, and of course the action choreography were all unimpeachable. One of the cinematic masterpieces of our time.
Unfortunately, as you might have guessed, none of that can be said about the sequel. What's really sad was that it had potential, and you can see it during the first third of the film. Some of the character and plot ideas they have, specifically in building Yeoh's legendary Shu Lien and using the Green Destiny sword as the center of the conflict, are actually good. And the execution is there for the first 30 or 40 minutes. But after that, the film completely loses the plot (literally). It just devolves into a bunch of meaningless nonsense, filled with mediocre-to-good martial arts choreography (punctuated by one truly impressive battle on a frozen lake) and some pointless and emotionless character deaths. The villains are almost nonexistent. One of them (who kills like half of the film's main characters) has no introduction or story at all. And the other, the film's main villain, has the most tenuous motivations, making it difficult to really care about who he is or why the heroes should defeat him. Another villain uses magic for no reason. This is sort of like what you would get if they made an action-movie sequel to Pride & Prejudice or something (I joke, but something close to that was actually made).
- The script is terrible. Starts off with promise, but then just decides to skip the plot and jump right to the fight scenes. There's no satisfying character growth or resolution. The last line of spoken narration falls so flat it's almost like the film is making sure that you know that it had nothing to say.
- The acting is bland. 7 of the 8 points I gave this are entirely because of Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen. But honestly, Yeoh is not nearly her best here and needs a director like Ang Lee to really shine. Yuen Wo-Ping (the director here in the sequel) does a fine job with the camera work, but doesn't know how to get the best out of his cast. Besides Yeoh, Donnie Yen is his usual watchable self, but doesn't get enough to work with. The rest of the cast is serviceable. They (mostly) know how to act and do stunts, but that's about all you can say about them.
- The music is actually quite good, if not nearly as memorable as the original's.
REWATCH VALUE: 3/10
- 3 points in case you want to see any of the fight scenes again. 0 Rewatch Value in the story.
- The costuming and sets were fine and it all looked good on film, but it lacked the believability of the first film, and everything felt very small-scale.
- The cinematography was probably the best part of the movie. Very nice camera work here.
- The action choreography is bordering on "vanilla" for this genre. They get creative in a few places, but most of the major battles lack a satisfying climax.
- Don't watch this directly after watching the original if you want to enjoy this movie. Otherwise, there's a little fun to be had here as long as you're not expecting anything grand.
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Yes, I gave it a 10 in the Story category. And no, that isn't post-romance butterflies dancing in my heart (although I do have those). I tried really hard to find something in the story I didn't like, but there just wasn't anything. There wasn't a bad episode, a slow start, or a poorly handled cliché. There were clichés of course, but they were done so well that I couldn't justify docking points in this category.
There really aren't any weak moments in the show. It never becomes too tragic, too sappy, too silly, or too dramatic. While the portrayal of Korean politics feels absurd throughout, the characters feel exactly real enough to sell the whole thing. All About My Romance gives audiences a beautiful, classic story of love blooming despite social boundaries: boundaries of family, past, and ideology.
First, you have the two leads. I can't explain the chemistry between the two of them in text. You just have to see it for yourselves. Even before they realize how they feel about each other, I was already telling my wife "I want to see SO MUCH MORE of the two of them together". The second lead characters are particularly well-written, too, though. Although they both could easily have fit the role of "Uninspired Villain", the writers avoided using that easy crutch and instead gave us two great, likable, and sympathetic second leads. As good as the OTP is, the second leads here add just as much to this story.
On top of all of this, halfway through the drama, they bluntly and suddenly drop a massive plot twist on you that completely changes the interpersonal landscape of the plot. It turns out that one of the Supporting characters, who acts quite suspiciously throughout, is not at all who the audience is led to believe he/she is. This twist transforms a potential villain into a sympathetic character in one fell swoop, and it's not until the twist that you're likely to understand this character's actions. The seeds of this twist are sewn throughout the plot perfectly, and once it lands you'll think back to several scenes and go "Oh, THAT'S what that was all about!"
Lastly, the cinematography here is much more creative and beautiful than you usually get from a drama, too. You'll see a lot of great shots and some fantastic framing that really adds dramatic punch to several story moments.
The four Lead Roles are so stellar here that I really wanted to give another 10. I can't imagine anyone ever tiring of their character portrayals here. All 4 get to flex their substantial acting muscles across the kdrama spectrum: comedy, melodrama, physical humor and stunts, romance, and even some worthwhile reaction shots. It's a drama tour de force among these 4.
Shin Ha Kyun is utterly hilarious, and manly enough to turn even my wife's head (not easy to do). I really doubt anyone could watch this and not fall for his performance here. In fact, he has one of the all-time greatest acting moments I have ever seen in about Episode 3 (iirc), where his character realizes, undeniably, in the middle of a political meeting, that he has fallen in love. It's a moment I would love to see again and again. Major kudos to Shin Ha Kyun for it, and the entirety of his work in All About My romance.
Lee Min Jung is... well, I'll get to her later.
Park Hee Soon plays a role that's a bit unusual for him but he absolutely knocks it out of the park. When I first saw his character, I thought "Why did they get someone so ugly to play a romantic second lead?" And yet, his ugliness became part of his charm as the show marched on. I don't know how else to explain it.
And I loved Han Chae Ah the first moment I saw her. In fact, she was the first thing that I laughed my head off at in Episode 1. She was funny and attractive and her portrayal of a beautiful woman who loved to be hated by the men in her life really resonated with me.
The only reason I didn't give it a 10 is because the Supporting cast, while very good, is not quite as strong as it could be. And, to be fair, Han Chae Ah loses a tiny bit of her spark toward the end when she isn't allowed to do as much comedy as I would have liked. Still, there's only nitpicks that can be leveled at this. It's a fantastic cast. I give Supporting Cast Honorable Mention here to Kim Hye Ok. For an "old ahjumma", she's quite charming here, and utterly hilarious.
Before I move on, though, here is where I simply have to say a special word about Lee Min Jung. First of all, she may have the most beautiful face in the world. I don't feel like I'm exaggerating much there. She's at least in the running for that award. But beyond that, she was born to play a role like this. Why? Her eyes. In All About My Romance, LMJ plays a tough and independent politician who, while still making a modest effort to be attractive, actively avoids romantic entanglements. But when confronted with somebody who cares about her unconditionally, despite the million reasons he has not to, she exhibits a vulnerability underneath all that bluster that reaches levels of charm that defy description. And it's her exceptional eyes that really pull off that combo. She is able to switch from "defiant" to "scared", or "angry" to "thrilled", in just a flicker of her eyes. And if you're a sucker like me, your heart will be pulled helplessly along. It has been a good long while since I have pined for an actress as much as I have for Lee Min Jung in this role.
First of all, listen to the main theme "I Love You" by Akdong Musician: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvQu63cMQ0w
Have you listened to it? Wasn't it cute? That's as cute as this whole show is. This song will get you bobbing your head every time, and you'll smile every time you hear the adorable "I love you!" that the female singer blurts out at the end.
Beyond that one song, though, the incidental music here is better than you'll get in most dramas. There's actual style to the background music, with various European instrumentations, instead of your usual Korean Drama Synth Philharmonic that comes standard on 80% of kdrama. I love it.
I don't normally score shows this high, but the sheer amount of adorable scenes, hilarious moments, romantic mishaps, and plot twist hints all through the drama make it very rewatchable. If I were ever to go back and rewatch EVERY episode of a drama, it would be this one, simply to see everything again with a fresh perspective, knowing how it all ends and what twists are coming.
As near to being a perfect drama as you can get without actually being Healer, All About My Romance joins Fated To Love You and Oh My Venus on my Top 3 Romantic Comedies list. It has everything anyone would ever want from this genre, and more. If you're a rom-com fan and you haven't seen this one, there is literally (LITERALLY) no reason whatsoever for you to pass this one up.
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