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Petty Romance
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
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May 23, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 9.0
Romantic, wickedly cute and laugh out loud hilarious! Whatever you can ask for in a bona fide romantic comedy this movie totally delivered! I was NOT expecting to enjoy it so much. I started this just before going to bed last night, convinced that like most other stupid romcoms this one would bore me right to sleep. Boy was I wrong!

The laughs kept piling up 'til 2am. I had to force read more myself away from my Mac screen, and that was only because I had a super important work meeting later that morning. Otherwise I totally would have stayed up and finished it.

I usually approach romcoms with reserved disdain because a lot of times the movies in this genre are neither romantic nor funny OR they're one but not the other. What made Petty Romance great was that it's funny and romantic AT THE SAME TIME, for the entire show.

Furthermore the superb acting & cracking chemistry between the leads was awesome! They both had wonderful comedic timing and played extremely well off each other. Their interaction never felt forced or awkward, but very fluid and natural, which is not an easy feat when doing comedy.

I was never that impressed with Lee Sun Gyun in Coffee Prince, but here he brings a cavalier charm to his character that neither you nor our female lead can resist. Moreover you gotta give nuff respect to a man who has the balls (pun intended) to expose his crotch for a close up. Now don't get all bent outta shape ... he was covered (barely). Still, this is NOT a pose most male actors would jump to do, but one which Lee Sun Gyun delivered with great aplomb!

Choi Kang Hee was sweet and innocent in her role without being Moon Geun Young annoying. They both did a great job!

If I had to complain about anything, it would be what Jung Bæ did when he first met Da Rim. I mean, really? Who does that? You'll know what I mean when you see it. I could not believe him! Jeez. It made me look at him with slightly less adoration...

Anyway, Petty Romance still deserves a solid 9. Fun, fresh story (because it's not a storyline you see often) & great, great chemistry between the leads. My favourite Korean romcom yet! :-)
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The Journals of Musan
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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Aug 12, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 4.0
  • Rewatch Value 4.0
This heartbreaking, raw, gritty tale takes us into a day in the life of a North Korean defector’s struggle for survival in a brutally capitalistic Seoul.

For Seung-Chul, a quiet, unassuming, hard working, church going man, it is a world away from the derelict backwater that is his hometown of Musan in the communist North. He longs for a life of small pleasures and dignity, but faces a harsh reality he never read more saw coming.

Working for pittance amid rampant discrimination and heartless bastardry, his life reflects the dismal hopelessness faced by many escapees from the North. Nevertheless, Seung-Chul makes a brave effort to rise above his circumstances and not lose hope. But when an entire system seem to conspire against him, he finds himself in bind after bind with no reprieve in sight. And just like the stray dog he adopts for comfort and company, he’s a man without roots, unable to find his place among his own people.

An impressive debut by director Park Jung-bum who also wrote, produced and starred in the film. A filmmaker after my own heart, the movie was made in the true spirit of independent filmmaking: on a shoestring budget with borrowed equipment and a mostly amateur cast.

Whilst picture quality & Park’s shaky camera movements bear the mark of budgetary limitations, this is without a doubt a sturdy first effort. The Journals of Musan captures well a dark, unforgiving world, and will pull at your heartstrings from start to finish.

Park, as the tragic misfit that is Seung Chul, is exquisite. At first his performance came across a bit stiff, but by the end of the film I adjusted my perception. What came across as stiff was a true depiction of Seung Chul’s intinct for self-preservation in a world that would have broken him if he didn’t always have his guard up.

I really liked this movie. It’s a deep human story, based on true events. The real Seung Chul, a close friend of Park, didn’t live long enough to see his legacy materialise on screen. He died young -- from cancer -- in 2006. Really sad business.

Park has a decent future ahead of him. I’ll be looking out for his next film.
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Love and Honor
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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Apr 14, 2013
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 4.0
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
The third and final installment in Yamada Yoji's Samurai trilogy, which includes The Twilight Samurai (2002) & The Hidden Blade (2004). This review will focus on Love & Honour, but will draw upon the similarities in all three films.

Through an unfortunate twist of fate Mimura Shinnojo's life is never the same again after he discovers poison in food meant for his clan's lord. It causes a series of events that would read more rock the resolve of the strongest of men. For me, Love & Honor was the most entertaining of the 3 films. Where the other two films were slow-paced & preoccupied with portraying the mundane, everyday lives of low caste samurais Love & Honor was more fast-paced, though not by a lot, and more developed to keep the viewer wondering what would happen next.

I kept watching The Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade because I became attached to the characters and wanted to see what happened to them even though the pacing of their stories would have bored a less patient viewer. Love & Honor was slightly different in that the story pulled you in as much as your affection for the characters.

And let's face it, the fact that Kimura Takuya is the star of the movie makes it a worthwhile watch, but the film is anchored on it's own merit by having an engaging plot as well.

Performance wise everyone delivered. Kimura played a disabled man in this film. I'm tempted to give him high scores all around because I love the guy so much, but if I'm entirely honest his 'disability' was perhaps the weakest point in his act. I wasn't totally convinced. I've seen movies where other actors were more authentic. Having said that the lovely Mr. Kimura delivered on all other counts, with the usual charm, emotion and dedication he's known and loved for. He plays a very vulnerable character in need of tender, loving care in the movie. So for lady viewers he's bound to awaken your nurturing instincts because you just want to reach in, give him a hug & a kiss and tell him everything is going to be alright. :)

The other actors did well too. In particular the actress who played Mimura's wife.

Overall I found this movie to be more emotionally gripping than the other two, and in order of preference Love & Honor would be my first, followed by the The Twilight Samurai and then The Hidden Blade.

All three films tell the stories of low caste samurais struggling to survive. There's an element of romance in all of them, and the added bonus of all 3 films in the trilogy ending on a very satisfying note.Samurai films are almost always synonymous with death, in my experience, but another reason to love this trilogy is that they follow a different path in this regard.

Love and Honor, in particular, puts a lot more emphasis on the romance than The Twilight Samurai & The Hidden Blade. It packs a stronger emotional punch, and is thus one of the reasons the film worked so well for me.

The films are all similar in mood & tone, though L&H is slightly more upbeat than the others which felt more melancholic & dreary. The charm of these films, in my opinion, is that they're very good in portraying the not so glorious side of Samurai life. Therefore, if you're looking for a Samurai movie with the sweeping, epic battles these are not the films for you.

Here the Samurai profession is not as 'pedestalized' as it normally is in other films. Many of the Samurais featured are poor & barely earning enough to support their families. The heroes of these movies are simple men wanting simple pleasures out of life, but by their lowly status are forced to live under the thumb of brutal feudal lords. They work as Samurais not necessarily because they want to, but because they have no other choice.

I think the trilogy is well worth the watch, but if you're not given to the Japanese's affinity toward slow paced narratives then I'd say prioritize Love & Honor, if nothing else. The films are independent of each other so you won't be missing anything if you choose to watch one and not the other.
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Happily Ever After
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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Apr 9, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 10
Happily Ever After is a love story like only the Japanese can make. Calm, contemplative and quirky on the surface, thought-provoking and nuanced in its subtext. It's a story underpinned with optimisism & hope even whilst its packaging is tinged with darkness.

I loved this movie for it's many layers. Abe Hiroshi and Nakatani Miki in the lead roles offered up some stellar acting. Their performances did not disappoint at all.

For read more about two hours we're transported into the dreary, uneventful lives of Isao and Yukie, two lost souls, co-dependent, broken ... both trying to claw their way towards a better future but not knowing how. Their relationship is not the healthiest you'll ever see, but somehow they make it work, together, in all its dysfunction. There's a lot of love there, even when you're just about convinced there isn't.

I loved the strong sense of loyalty and acceptance of each other that existed between Isao and Yukie. These characters dared to show each other who they were: the rawness, the imperfections without fear of rejection or judgement. At the same time, they epitomized the saying 'can't live with you, can't live without you' so well it's beautiful.

Another thing that pulled me into this story even further was it's rich commentary on life and our need as human beings to feel a sense of purpose, acceptance and belonging. The movie argues that these are important requirements to living a contended life, happily ever after, and I tend to agree.

With all round wonderful performances and a beautiful story of new beginnings there's no way I could score this less than a 9.Moreover, Japanese happy endings are the best! They're always sweet, poignant and whimsical, just the way I like it.

NOTE: If you choose to watch this film, and I hope you do, please keep in mind that there's one final sequence AFTER the credits roll. It's one of the best scenes in the movie so you won't want to miss it! :-)
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Changing Partners
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
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Sep 10, 2013
  • Overall 7.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
The movie had very a Allenesque quality about it (that is, similar in style to films made by Woody Allen), and since I like most Allen films Changing Partners worked really well for me. There were the crisp, clean visuals; the nicely groomed protagonists set to play against the backdrop of an upscale, sophisticated Seoul; marital discord and a darkly comedic commentary on the gamble of love. Somehow, while this story has read more been heavily explored in other films, Changing Partners offers a more palatable treatise, one that surprises you with its subtle depth.

The cast was great. In particular Lee Dong-gun in the role of the emotionally detached workaholic. Veteran actress Uhm Jung-hwa doesn’t always convince me with her efforts and this time around she almost did, but not quite. At least there were no hammy, over the top performances, from any of the cast members, to grate on the nerves. The bond that developed between the second couple stirred my emotions.

Overall a movie well worth the watch if you like sophisticated, mature dramas that make an attempt to demystify the complexity of romantic relationships.
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Seducing Mr. Perfect
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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Oct 21, 2012
  • Overall 6.0
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 6.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
I've seen this romantic comedy many times before in western cinema -- the young, handsome, arrogant CEO bosses the sweet office worker around until eventually they fall in love. Meh. This story has been done so many times all the life has been sucked out of it, but it was nice to see it played out in a new, exotic setting (I loved the look of Seoul in the background).

This was read more pure mindless entertainment with little of the substance I've come to associate with Korean films ... which is probably why I enjoyed it. After film after film with deep, heavy themes, gut-wrenching emotion, angst, heartbreak and or eminent death, I was just happy to watch something light and uplifting.

The acting was a bit cringe-worthy, especially, sorry to say, Daniel Henney's. Everyone's performance just seemed a bit forced. Maybe because of the dual use of language, English/Korean, throughout the movie? I don't know. It was definitely a bit weird for me listening to the actors speak two different languages to each other, but I get why it was done. Many times we understand a lot more of a language than we can speak it so it was a clever way for Korean audiences to get the best of both worlds, I suppose. For me, however, as a native English speaker, the speaking of Korean and English at the same time was quite jarring. But really, who cares about acting and language when you have a gorgeous man like Daniel Henney dominating your TV screen for a couple hours? I was just content to stare at him for the duration of the movie. lol

All in all, this was light and fun with a happy ending. It will not leave you with any big impressions (maybe a blessing if you watch a lot of heavy drama). You'll probably forget it a few days after you've seen it, but if you want a break from the usual gloomy fare of Korean/Asian cinema, this is it. I'd re-watch this movie if I need a Daniel Henney fix.
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Sweet Sex and Love
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
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May 2, 2013
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 7.0
Sweet Sex and Love is a far deeper movie than what meets the eye. At first you might be tempted to dismiss it as pure decadence, but allow yourself time to absorb the underlying themes and you'll be surprised to realize there actually is something of substance there. Something that tells you this isn't just a movie about two people who's got the horny. It has a message which is so subtly read more and understatedly delivered, you just might miss the message if you don't pay close attention or if you allow your own preconceived notions (that this is just softcore porn) to bias your viewing.

This is a movie about opposites attracting. Both parties jump into the relationship with gusto and are more than happy with their arrangement initially. As time goes by, though, the true natures and motives of the characters are revealed, and they begin to realize they might have bitten off more than they bargained for in starting this relationship.

Sweet Sex and Love is truly a well executed case study of how disastrous a relationship between a man and a woman can be when there's no communication of expectation on either side. When one, Sweet Sex ... or Love, is given full reign to dominate, to the neglect of the other.

I really enjoyed how the plot unfolded in this story. It's one of the better 'opposites attract' movies that I've seen in a long time. The script, the direction and the editing are all cleverly done. For once the pacing isn't slow and as grating as fingernails on chalkboard. The director deftly controls what you see, feel and experience until just the right moments. Nothing is revealed prematurely. No dialogue or sequence squandered. The narratives is very nuanced, leaving the audience to decipher much of the characters' actions and behaviour. At the same time you're taken on a journey where you're inundated with one truth for almost the entire film, until just like the characters you get the rug pulled out from under you. HARD. (No pun intended)

Certain themes that you never thought to associate with this type of film begin to surface with stark clarity and force; valuable lessons, on sweet sex ... and love, emerge. Sweet Sex represents one character & love the other, can they really coexist beyond the initial intoxicating stage of a new relationship? Everything falls into place. The title begins to make sense, the explicit internal dialogues, what you may have dismissed previously as a repetitive sex manual ... all begin to take on a whole new meaning.

Very nicely done indeed.

Certainly a good movie for audiences who enjoy a more mature exploration of the complex relationship between men and women. If there's any kind of sexy movie I love, this would be it.
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The Relation of Face, Mind and Love
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
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Nov 20, 2012
  • Overall 3.0
  • Story 1.0
  • Acting/Cast 6.0
  • Music 4.0
  • Rewatch Value 3.0
This movie left neither a lasting nor positive impression on me.

Basically what I disliked the most was its message that a woman's worth is determined only by her beauty.

The story, about a selfish, cocksure playboy architect who falls for an "ugly" woman due to a temporary vision impairment, was pointless and shallow. The hero was a jerk for most of the movie. He did little to endear himself to me, read more and the supposedly "ugly" heroine was anything but. I think if you're gonna make a movie about a playboy falling for an "ugly" woman don't cast a woman who looks like a supermodel, put fake buck teeth in her mouth and pass her off as ugly. That's just weird, disingenuous. Cast someone plain then at least the movie might have acquired a little authenticity, if nothing else.

I was surprised to learn that Kang Ji Hwan who I recently saw and liked in LIE TO ME was the male lead in this movie. His acting was okay, but I didn't like him in this role. There was no growth to his character. He started out being a shallow bastard who takes advantage of women and pretty much remained that way 'til the end.

I've heard a rumour that South Koreans are unusually fixated on looks. If there's any truth to that I guess this film isn't so far fetched. Nevertheless, I couldn't get over the blatant objectification of its female cast members.

I try not to judge East Asian culture through the prism of western ideals, and for the most part I don't mind that they adhere to traditional gender roles, but it's hard to suspend belief or maintain a laissez-faire attitude when certain liberties are taken. I worry about what lessons impressionable South Korean girls (and boys) will draw from this film.

I wouldn't recommend it. Watch My Little Bride instead. It's a lot sweeter, funnier and the hero is a decent guy who appreciates the heroine in all her adorable quirkiness.
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18 vs. 29
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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Oct 23, 2012
  • Overall 6.0
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 4.0
I was willing to give 18 vs 29 a go because I liked the premise: a marriage in trouble and the couple trying to find their way back to each other.

Good potential for some great drama, I thought, but I almost lost my patience with this show in some of the earlier episodes.

I really did not care for the lead actress when she reverted to her 18 year old self. read more Talk about annoying! She got on my last nerve with all her childish antics, and I felt really sorry for her husband who patiently put up with a lot of crap from her, including losing his very lucrative acting career because of her foolishness.

I kept watching, though, hoping things would get better and it did. In the later episodes, once Hae Chan started acting her age and the action moved away from High School and into the adult world, I started to really enjoy the show. It transitioned from a teen sitcom -- which I did not sign up to watch -- to an adult drama dealing with adult themes, namely two people who love each other, but have difficulty communicating properly, trying to save their marriage.

But even though I liked their chemistry, I wasn't entirely happy with how the story was executed. I think a lot of good opportunities to heighten the tension between Hae Chan and Bong-man were squandered. Too much screen time was given to the High School scenes and the Noon/Hae Chan story arc. As far as I could see those scenes served no real purpose in driving the plot, which was to save Bong-man and Hae Chan's marriage. The story arc with Bong-man's mother was also really good, but far too brief.

I liked the acting ... for the most part. I liked Bong-man/Sang Young, the husband. He was quite handsome with a really great, boyish smile. If he lost about 10kg and got some sleep he'd have been smoking! :)

Anyway, before watching the show I read a review that claimed he was sexist toward Hae Chan, but I couldn't see where he was sexist toward Hae Chan anymore than every man is sexist toward women around the world. Sure, his character adhered to what I suppose is the cultural norm in Korea for the home and its upkeep to be woman's domain, but that hardly makes him a villain. In fact, he was just the opposite. I thought he really tried to care for Hae Chan. You could see that he really loved her. In fact, this was one of the things I loved about the show. Hae Chan was plain, but she had this amazing, famous, handsome guy who would do anything for her. She did whatever she wanted, even when he told her he didn't like certain things.

As for Hae Chan herself, I didn't dislike the actress' efforts, but I didn't like it either. Perhaps by no fault of her own, her character was annoying to an extreme. I'm not even sure 18 year olds act the way she portrayed. She kinda went overboard, in my humble opinion. She was overly bratty, immature and selfish. She gave Bong-man a whole lot of grief, even though he showed her nothing but love, patience and support from start to finish. I was frustrated and angry right along with him when she went off and did something stupid.

The adult supporting cast were the best (the younger supporting cast annoyed me -- maybe because I didn't want to watch a show about teenagers). They all did a great job, esp Hae Chan's feisty younger sister, Hae Won, Bong-man's lovelorn agent Mr. Shu (hilarious guy!), and Bong-man's grandfather the Dictator/Prince of Evil (who, it turned out, had a soft core under his cantankerous exterior).

Another issue I had with this drama is the lack of intimacy between the leads. At first Hae Chan's wariness of her husband's advances made sense under the circumstances, but as the show progressed it just got ridiculous. These people are supposed to be married and not once do they even share a kiss? Come on! Their entire interaction seemed very juvenile, like a playground crush rather than a true romance between adults. Grrr

Perhaps this is due to some sort of censorship on onscreen intimacy in Korea, I don't know, but I've noticed the same thing in other Korean dramas and some movies I've seen, and it's very frustrating. Not because I'm eager to see the actors get naked, but where this sort of activity is naturally required by the story I don't want to see adults acting like pre-teens who don't know what sex or kissing is. It makes absolutely no sense for a married couple or even a boyfriend and girlfriend (in many cases, who have been together for a long time) to just hug and hold hands and act all shy around each other.

Finally, the production value on this show was a bit low. I didn't like the format this show was shot on. Or rather than the format, perhaps it was just shoddy post production work. The picture was too bright and there was basically no colour grading. I was almost blinded by all the brightness, brightness of colours, brightness of the actors' faces and surroundings ... even when I adjusted the contrast on my TV screen.

With all that said, the show was okay. The leads had good chemistry and despite certain flaws in the story their marriage was believable. Moreover, by the end of the show, I believed their marriage would last. And I suppose that's the most important thing considering this was the question at the beginning. I could have loved this show, though, had it been done differently, technically and artistically. I don't think I'll be re-watching anytime soon, if ever.
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Helter Skelter
7 of 14 people found this review helpful
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Mar 17, 2013
  • Overall 5.0
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 5.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 1.0
I decided to watch this movie based on all the glowing reviews. I was disappointed. To me this turned out to be one hot mess. Simply put, the movie was not very well made, in my opinion.

Movies are like card houses. All pieces must fit perfectly together for the house to stand: story, performance, production values. Take away one or the other and the house falls down.

This is pretty much read more what happened in Helter Skelter.

What started off as an interesting premise for a movie -- namely a character study of a lost and broken young woman's longing for human connection -- meandered off into bizarre twists and turns that could have been cut to make the movie more effective.

Many people think this movie is about the protagonist's addiction to plastic surgery, but to me the PS is just the effect, not the cause of her downward spiral. If you factor out plastic surgery this girl is battling some pretty serious personal issues stemming from her childhood and the potent influence of a callous, almost sadistic mentor. But while the plot may have been dubious at least there was some story there, so check.

What about performance? Well, it felt very stilted to me, as if the actors rehearsed the scenes to death, one too many times. For a movie so dark and edgy to have any impact at all on it's audience the acting has to come from an organic, natural place. In my opinion, that didn't happen in Helter Skelter.

With all that said, though, the thing that bothered me the most was the production values on this film, or rather ... the lack thereof. I didn't believe the story being told to me. The direction lacked vision and purpose. The production design and cinematography were tacky and amateurish. I mean animated, fairy butterflies in a world of darkness and deprivation? Come on. Moreover, where was the glamour of Lilico's world? After all, she's a major superstar, isn't she? Japan's own Cameron Diaz. We should have been totally immersed in her glamourous existence by the movie's tone and mood so that we, the audience, can better appreciate the toll fame and fortune has had on Lilico's psyche. Instead what you got were set designs akin to a tacky porno movie rather than a bird's eye view into the lifestyle of Japan's rich and famous.

After spending 2 hrs watching this film I came away from it thinking what the hell had I just watched? And not in the good sense. I doubt I'll be seeing this again, ever.
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Unexpected You
5 of 11 people found this review helpful
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Apr 3, 2013
  • Overall 4.0
  • Story 5.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 1.0
This drama requires a huge time investment so I thought I'd share a detailed version of my opinion of it to better assist you in deciding if this show may or may not be for you. For this reason I hope you'll read to the end in spite of this review’s length.

First a brief introduction because the one here on MDL doesn't really sum up the show well enough:

Unexpected You read more is about driven career woman Cha Yoon-hee, who is newly married to the dashing Korean-born, American-bred doctor, Bang Gwi-nam. Because Gwi-nam was raised in the US he’s presented as prime husband material. He's willing to follow his wife's lead & capitulate to her every wish. Yoon-hee's pleased with herself for having landed such a "perfect" man, and best of all? NO worrisome in-laws to fuss and fight with since his adoptive parents are back in the States. Life’s sweet for our Yoon-hee. With a cute, somewhat neutered husband & no pesky children running afoot she can focus on her work AND rule her roost the way she sees fit. As fate would have it, however, Yoon-hee's blissful existence comes to a screeching halt when they unknowingly move in across the hall from Gwi-nam's biological parents.

Sounds like fun to me. So I used my one week Easter break to watch this drama. I jumped right in hoping for a hilarious, heartwarming family drama.

Let me now explain to you why these hopes were dashed.

What I Liked:

1) The fact that we had an established couple who were happy & affectionate toward each other for the entire drama. I haven’t seen that many dramas, but this is a first for me.

2) In the long run I didn't care for the character she played, but I do like lead actress Kim Nam Joo. Mature actresses tend to get a raw deal whether they're in Hollywood or Korea. However, KNJ proves that dramaland is better off with older artists whose life experience adds layers to their performances. I think in a better role, where she's not trying too hard to push an agenda & prove a point, she'd be great.

3) Lee Hee Joon as the witty, smart talking, smooth operator, Chun Jæ Yong. He turned into a lovesick fool toward the end, but for the majority of the show he was absolutely hilarious. I thought he was very well cast in this role. Just the way he spoke, his mannerisms, provided some really good comic relief.

4) The youngest Bang son & his family. My mom always tells me to look at a man's heart, not his face. Jung-bæ and his family are like a visual reference of this lesson. The guy isn't much to look at by any means & his wife is a complete ditz who a lesser man would have come to belittle & ridicule over time. But in Jung-bæ she couldn't have found a more devoted and loving husband.

5) This drama broke away from the usual clichés. Not completely, but for the most part. And whilst the story itself never quite took off for me, most secrets & lies were revealed within a 10 episode interval which was nice. I hate it when they drag things out until the very last minute before everything’s out in the open.

What I Disliked:

1) The script - it had a few great moments. I thought the overarching story of the lost boy who reunited with his real parents was pretty okay. But the individual stories of the Bang women were underwhelming & frustrating. There were a few twists & turns in the plot that made you go WTF? The script felt constructed, rather than fluid. As a result, characters, both old & new, appeared out of nowhere at the most inopportune times in the most inopportune of places & caused the story to go off on a tangent that was better left unexplored.

2) This drama had an agenda & it got very, very preachy - Now don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the show's attempt to challenge gender stereotypes and the sexism Korean women face in their society. I'm all for female empowerment and bettering the status of women, but beating your audience over the head with all this stuff defeats its purpose. Every woman has her own definition of "empowerment" so a tad more subtlety would have engendered more of my support for the women’s situation. There was too much righteous grand standing. Characters literally preaching at each other -- and thus the audience -- about gender equality, what they should think & believe. Too much. It got very annoying. Furthermore, it's funny that this drama is about empowering women, and yet most of the conflict arose from pitting women against each other.

3) This drama was dripping wet in cheese & not the good kind - Those who know me here on MDL know that I'm a romance junkie. I love love. I do. I love when my heart is touched by a good love story, but please don't go overboard. I get that, in Gwi-nam, the writers wanted to present a man that’s more sensitive & supportive of his wife’s needs as opposed to the old-fashioned, insensitive, uncommunicative Korean man. But it was too much, especially for a couple who, though newly married, has been together for a while. Instead of making me sigh, I was gritting my teeth while skipping that sh**. All the grand romantic gestures came off very inauthentic and felt too much like wish-fulfillment rather than a realistic portrayal of love between two grown people who've long since left the playground.

4) The women - This drama was very popular in Korea & if I had to take a guess maybe it's because the drama was an outlet for frustrated Korean housewives who harbour grudges against their in-laws & husbands. For me, as an outsider who doesn't live the same reality, this show was somewhat burdensome to watch as it was a complete & utter whine fest.

That's also probably why I couldn’t identify with any of the women. At the start I liked Yoon-hee a great deal. She was put on this pedestal as the ultimate woman's woman, and at first she did project an aura of strength that I liked. I also sympathized with her struggles in a very sexist work environment. But as the series progressed she slowly took on a cloak of victimhood & wore it like a trophy, especially when it came to dealing with her in-laws.

I really have a problem with shows in which women wallow in victimhood. If Korean women want to be the only queen in their hen house, make a drama that encourages them to break with tradition & live on their own with their families. To me it's a better solution than pitting woman against woman the way this drama does, albeit unintentionally.

By the end of the show my perception of Yoon-hee was that she had turned into a shrill, selfish, entitled and conceited woman. Pretty much everything had to go her way ALL THE TIME. She bullied her husband with emotional & sexual blackmail. And ironically, instead of sympathizing with Yoon-hee, I ended up feeling like the mom-in-law was the real underdog.

The other women weren't any better. One, a self-centered, spoiled, bratty gold digger; another a clueless, childish virgin who was sooo hot & cold it's a wonder any guy was able to put up with her; the mother who is filled with covetousness and resentment toward her husband and children; the older daughter who casts herself in the shadow of a man even though she says she wants to be an independent woman. They were all very human characters, but given that I encounter these people every day in real life, I'd rather not spend time with them in my entertainment too.

5) Last but not least Bang Gwi-nam, the female lead's husband - At first I liked him, but he seemed to lose his manhood as the show went on. He’s incapable of standing up to Yoon-hee, even when she’s out of line. To me Gwi-nam was not an ideal partner. Sure, he's a gentleman, but he was also a complete wuss. I fear most men in real life will never be able to live up to his lofty ideal, not for long anyway. So I'm not sure planting such unrealistic expectations in women's minds is a good idea. Moreover, guys like Gwi-nam end up like the desperate housewives who capitulate and sacrifice too much until the day they cheat, walk out or both.

This is a drama for women, but not a woman like me. That said, I wouldn't encourage people NOT to watch this because there’s a chance this drama was made for a woman just like you.
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Innocent Steps
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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Oct 26, 2012
  • Overall 6.0
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
This was a cute little movie. Perfect if you're looking for something that doesn't require too much brain power.

The story was simple, one I've seen a number of times before in western cinema, but interesting for me nonetheless because of the exotic location and culture in which it plays out. Ever since I started watching Asian films on a regular basis a whole new world has been opened up to me. read more I'm discovering a lot about a region of the world I didn't really know or care so much about until recently.

The heroine's wide-eyed innocence took a little getting used to, but overall she had great chemistry with the hero. I did have difficulty suspending belief from time to time when it came to their romance because the age gap was just a tad distracting. Chae-rin didn't look a day pass 14 (even though she's actually 19) whilst Young-sae looked to be in his mid-to-late 30s. Every time I'd see them together I'd cringe a little because the cradle robber factor was coming across pretty strong. Haha. Also the fact that Chae-rin constantly referred to him as "sir" and "mister" served to only compound the issue.

That being said, however, there were a few very comedic and sweet moments between the two, and it was nice to see that under his gruff exterior Young-sae had a good heart. I think every once in a blue moon I might re-watch this.
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Temptation
22 of 26 people found this review helpful
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Nov 6, 2014
  • Overall 1.0
  • Story 1.0
  • Acting/Cast 6.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 1.0
PLEASE NOTE: Certain details related to the overarching theme of this drama are scattered throughout this review. There are no spoilers of important plot developments, however, reader discretion is advised.

THE GOOD

First and foremost it should be noted that this isn't a breezy frolic for romcom lovers looking for kicks and giggles/rainbow and hearts. The drama poses a series of pertinent questions related to love, commitment and marriage. Though certain situations read more are exaggerated for dramatic effect the drama presents ethical dilemmas people in long term relationships face in some form or another everyday:

Is it fair, reasonable or wise to expect blind devotion from your partner?

When does cheating become cheating? When physical contact occurs or when the heart departs and only the empty shell of the body remains? And regardless of which, is cheating grounds for the parting of ways?

Good food for thought. Exactly my type of gig. Up to about episode 4.

Secondly, the dynamic of the lead characters’ relationship. Let me say this right off the bat: I hated the leads in this drama. I wanted them dead. BUT I did like the dynamic of their relationship. It’s not every day you see a powerful, confident, intelligent female coupled with her equal. In a better drama I would have loved this pairing, as they represented a meeting of mind and heart on equal footing, as opposed to the usual pairing of the naive, country bumpkin and big city slicker or the take charge older career woman and her lap dog noona killer lover.

Finally, acting wise there were no standouts, but no irritating or horribly unconvincing performances either. Pretty average all around, but okay enough for me. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Lee Jung Jin. I’m used to him in more wholesome, boy next door type roles so it was a pleasure to watch him as the debonair playboy who was more naughty than bad. He had just enough good in him to make me not completely hate him. I bought it.

THE BAD

The drama blights its own potential, given the mature, thought provoking subject matter, with cheap, superficial, self-congratulatory, crass plot developments. Poorly written and poorly realized almost from start to finish. A drama or movie doesn't start on the screen, but on the page. If what's on the page is bad from the get-go, no amount of good direction and acting can save it (in the vast majority of cases). This being one of them. The first 4 episodes did their job of getting you interested and engaged, but subsequent developments disappointed with one impulsive, puerile action after another. Not to mention characters who seemed impervious to any logical behaviour expected of normal human beings. Here are a few general examples:

*You hire your rival’s most trusted and loyal servant, tell that person all your secrets and are then surprised and angered when the servant betrays you. #smfh

*You’re under investigation for a crime where you stand to lose EVERYTHING, but instead of hauling ass out of there, you offer up evidence that could ruin your life as prize for a fist fight. WTF?? Nobody with half a brain does that!

*Just keep on throwing people together in parks and cafes for a nice ol’ chat, without thought or plausible motive as to WHY these people should even be talking to each other. Let’s create drama at any cost because my viewers are just dumb morons who won’t notice this sh--. Yay, panda!

And those are *only* the minor ones. It was just one absurdity after another.

Supporting characters were nothing more than vapid, 1-dimensional talking heads, transplanted only to encourage sympathy for the insipid. None had depth. In fact, pretty much everyone displayed some sort of split personality disorder every 5 minutes. To the point where I'm convinced the writer must have been kosher on some serious high grade herb as he penned this sorry drama!

If I had any affinity towards anyone that would be Han Soo, the mumbling, bumbling wannabe paparazzi. An insignificant character with no story arc of his own who should not have garnered my sympathies more than the leads! I also supported the wife. I don’t understand what HJ bashers saw that I didn’t. Even if she did everything people accuse her off, is it so wrong of her to be hurt and angry in the grand scheme of things? People are acting like only the Hong Kong incident is at play here when there’s far more to it than that. Is what she said/did in a moment of great crisis so much more worse than what transpired later on in Korea, after the Hong Kong trip? While I don’t condone all of her behaviour, I certainly understand what motivated her. Besides, she ultimately showed herself to be the only character of true character in this sordid tale of treachery and deceit dressed up as ‘true love’. Lipstick on a pig, as another reviewer puts it. A very apt description indeed. SHE was the only true heroine as far as I could see.

THE UGLY

I am still trying to fathom what exactly is the writer’s proposal here. Is it:

a) a bad joke to get viewers all worked up?

b) a nod to narcissistic weasel pricks and conniving home wreckers? or

c) an attempt at a balanced discourse on a complicated topic?

If the answer is a) then I didn’t get the joke. Sorry.

If the answer is b) this drama is a resounding success! Home wreckers and cheats everywhere should see this NOW! Somebody finally showed how shitty some of you people are … BUT not to worry you still get the ‘prize’! And a ‘good job, good job’ pat on the back to boot. Now ain’t that the shi..zzle!

However, if the answer is c) this would be the most vile, ludicrous piece of chauvinistic drivel I have ever witnessed. Here is a drama which basically dumps on women:

*Your husband is entitled to have you put up with all his sh*t, no matter how stink it gets. Continue to blindly trust him in everything he does even if his actions don’t match his words. Just delude yourself with the lies that come out of his mouth and be quiet, woman!

*Cheating is a man’s privilege. His right, even. Don’t make a big deal out of it, no matter what, as you’ll only end up hurting yourself. Just put up with it, uh, Yeobo? Endure. Taaaaaaaaaa kwænchana! (Everything alright, for those of you who need to brush up on your Korean :-).

*All my single ‘ladies’, it’s ACE to covet another woman’s husband! You go get him, girl! Even if you have to buy his ass. And slap a bitch.

*Brethrens, never give up on an opportunity to trade up, ya dig? Love? Loyalty? Conscience? Screw that. None of that gets you the good life. Or a fast track ticket to the big times. There’s no dishonour in being a kept man.

*But trust, only women pay the price for home wrecking. Us bros get off scott free because … well. It’s a man’s world. Haha. Sorry, ladies.

It’s insidious. If c) is the writer's proposal, then I utterly repudiate it. This is no epic romance about love conquering all. This is very sordid business, set in motion by a conniving serpent and a lying, opportunistic loser pig.

And just so we’re clear: I know it’s possible for people to fall out of love (one of my all time favourite dramas dealt with this very theme with an entirely different effect). I know good people sometimes do bad things. I know life is messy and doesn't always allow for things to be wrapped up nicely and neatly with a big red bow. I didn’t go into this drama expecting sweet, uncomplicated love. I was prepared to keep an open mind and forgive where necessary. Unfortunately the writer led the donkey into a ditch. I couldn’t find it in me to sympathize with characters who acted with such haughty and callous disregard for other people. At least show a little contrition that doesn’t come off woefully lacking, phoney and insincere. Show a little reverence for the years someone dedicated their life to you by being honest with that person at the very least. But, they were pompous, condescending arses to the very end. I seriously wanted to vomit.

I won’t close with a recommendation of whether you should watch this or not. See it for yourself and make your own determination as there are certainly those for whom this drama was a hit. I am just not one of them. Temptation is the worst adaptation of the ‘indecent proposal’ concept I’ve ever seen. It didn’t work. It left the mother of all bad tastes in my mouth. I couldn’t get away from these characters fast enough. I hated them. I wanted them dead. And I’m blacklisting the actors until I purge myself of this truly repulsive experience.
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Mahiru no Tsuki
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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Aug 4, 2014
  • Overall 8.5
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
This drama feels like one big public service announcement. It does, but that’s not a bad thing. It treats a very serious topic with the respect and sensitivity it deserves without coming off as too preachy.

Creatively this isn’t a bad script. I personally would have preferred a different structure to the story because EVERY Japanese drama with a romantic arc kind of follows the same trajectory. I can think of veeerry read more few exceptions. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but let’s just say I would have loved it if Naoki and Mæ were a couple BEFORE the incident occurred. For eg. Anyway, while audiences may be moved to sympathy and anger on behalf of the female lead, the pacing begins to plod around episode 6 or 7 and I found myself growing impatient with the repetitive nature of Mæ’s plight. This is neither the fault of the character nor the actress portraying her. Rather it’s the writer who just doesn’t know when to give sh-- a rest.

As for the acting, Tokiwa Takako does a fair job most of the time (when she isn’t in full ægyo mode), but she always seem to accept these scripts that make her character come across as whiny and irritating at some point or another in the drama. I had a similar reaction to her in Aishiteru to Ikketure, though thankfully that feeling dissipated a lot quicker here than there. Mostly I felt a deep sympathy for her because she really could have been any woman, me or you or someone we know. I also have to say she has an amazingly beautiful and radiant smile though a great beauty she is not.

What this show does well is that it shows that rape doesn’t only have one victim. The tentacles of evil will touch many lives, almost just as cruelly as the victim's. To be honest I didn’t really like Oda Yuji’s acting here. His interpretation is gimmicky and cartoonish, and you could easily tell this is one of his very first roles. Nevertheless, I really liked Naoki. I found him genuine and sincere in his efforts to lend support and understanding, in spite of making a few mistakes along the way. Moreover, he is such an average, ordinary guy with no spectacular talent or pedigree. He really could have just walked right out of your life. And that’s why I love Japanese dramas because they’re so authentic. They tell the stories of REAL people. Awesome. The supporting cast is well placed, never feeling arbitrarily throw in just to take up space (or annoy you). Instead they enhance and help to move the story forward, as supporting casts are meant to do.

Finally I want to take a moment to comment on the music. Now I’m not a very musical person. I’ll leave the squealing over a drama’s OST to people who have a better appreciation for the art. Usually I hate theme songs that play over and over again like a broken record -- at best they give me a headache, at worse they make me feel like I'm losing my mind. But I loved this TV mix of Swing Out Sisters’ Now You’re Not Here. Very fitting. It’s been stuck in my head for days. In a good way.

If you’re not put off by the topic, fans of the genre will like this show. The story is moving, the chemistry is there and their connection is so sweet. It’s very easy to root for these two.
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Lovers In Prague
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
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Jan 12, 2014
  • Overall 5.0
  • Story 5.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 3.0
A drama filled with all the cliches & horrible drama tropes we all know and hate, and none of the charm I’ve come to associate with Kim Eun Sook dramas (Lovers, City Hall, A Gentleman's Dignity etc).

I hate intense love triangles; I really wish they weren’t such a major part of so many dramas. Upon starting this drama I knew one was prominently featured, but I figured if anyone could pull read more it off in a sensible way maybe KES could (given that she had done a pretty decent job with the love triangle in Lovers). Well, I was wrong. This was one of the more nonsensical, nerve jarring love triangles I’ve ever had the displeasure to witness. It made absolutely no sense to the plot and only served as a filler where a legitimate advancement of events was lacking.

Moreover, I absolutely hated how the romance played out here. One of the reasons why I like KES is because the romance in her dramas is, for the most, mature & realistically portrayed. So great chemistry, REAL kisses and fairly good physical intimacy between the characters are the norm in her dramas. You don’t usually see frozen face kisses or disengaged female participants in a KES drama, at least none that I’ve seen. But here all the childish awkwardness and inauthentic skinskip you can imagine abound.

The characters were just about the only good thing about this drama. I recognized them as hallmarks of KES’s writing. Older and more worldly than your average drama leads. Acting wise, I was particularly delighted to see Ha Jeong Woo in a supporting role. Even as one of his earliest efforts, he was as magnetic & charismatic as ever. I just love the man. Other performances were decent enough, though nothing to rave about.

Great characters notwithstanding, they alone could not make up for the poor writing. Though I understand this was written early in KES’s career, I couldn’t rate it higher than a 5 even though I really wanted to. Watching it was just too painful. I definitely would not recommend it.
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