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3-Iron
50 of 54 people found this review helpful
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Oct 21, 2012
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 10
Wow! Just wow! I watch A LOT of films and the more you see the more you realize how difficult it is for filmmakers to create something that sticks out from the crowd.

This, my friends, stuck out from the crowd. This is the type of movie I like to watch and someday hope to make. This film was absolutely amazing from start to finish! A true art film, slightly similar in read more tone and mood to one of the best art house films of all time, In The Mood for Love.

I did not know what to expect going in. I was half-terrified that this was going to be some gut - wrenching tragedy that will haunt me for days, but it wasn't. Not in the least. Instead it was one of the most beautiful renditions of love I've ever seen materialize on film in a very long time.

The leads do not speak a word of dialogue, but it was neither missed nor needed. Everything that's important was beautifully communicated with a meaningful glance or a tender act. The chemistry between the leads was undeniable. I never grew tired of being in their world, in fact I wanted to get lost in it.

More than anything, though, I loved the message that I interpreted from it.

A lot can be said about life and how we get through our own personal struggles. The audience might not be entirely sure what is real or imagined, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter. What matters is that as human beings we need these moments of reprieve, real or imagined, to get through life. They add meaning to our existence and give us the strength to carry on in the face of adversary. I just love it.

I also loved the ending - bittersweet, but not in a sad, haunting sort of way. In a very positive, hopeful, uplifting sort of way. It's been a couple of days since I saw the film and it still brings a smile to my face just remembering it.

I can't praise it enough. Everything about it was just perfectly rendered: the atmosphere, the setting, the acting, the score! I've been listening to the lovely, evocative music of Natasha Atlas ever since I saw this film. Kim Ki-duk, by this effort alone, has not only cemented himself as a director to watch for me, but also one that is likely to influence my own work as a filmmaker. This was a perfect 10. I'm sure I'll be re-watching for this for years to come.
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Orange Days
42 of 46 people found this review helpful
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Dec 16, 2012
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 10
Orange Days is a throwback from 2004, but don't let that put you off if you haven't seen it yet. This gem of a story is timeless and universal. Even if you watch it 10 years from now it'll still have meaning. Watching this show induced a strong sense of nostalgia in me. We all know what it’s like to be young and uncertain about our place in this big scary world. read more And for me, it wasn't so long ago that I faced the exact same crossroads as the characters did.

The show gives us a peek into the lives of 5 friends, all college students on the cusp of becoming contributing citizens to society. Some have dreams they want to pursue, some have dreams they've had to let go and some are still trying to figure out what next. Their stories are all relatable and poignantly human. Inevitably you'll find yourself reevaluating your own life and wondering if you're on the path you set out for yourself.

Orange Days is also a sweet love story. About a beautiful, talented girl who lost the thing she loved the most, who was without hope and angry at the world because of her misfortune, and the boy who healed her soul with his kindness, his patience, his gentleness, his understanding, and most of all, his unconditional love. Kai, our hero, has got to be one of the most compassionate heroes I've ever come across. Massive kudos to the actor for bringing him so impressively to life!

Kai manages to be both masculine and incredibly sweet and sensitive at the same time and let me tell you it was pretty darn sexy to watch. Sae is one very lucky girl. All the while I kept thinking, where the heck was my Kai when I was in college? LOL I enjoyed every minute of watching these two on their journey to find themselves and each other.

Both leads were standouts, but the supporting cast did a fairly good job too. I was drawn to Shohei who projected an air of infallibility, but was really just a lost kid searching for the love he never got from the most important woman in his life. I really liked him and wished his story had more development. He had a weird sense of fashion, though. I don't think young men wore such ugly-ass clothes, even in 2003/2004. LOL

Orange Days did not avoid the usual Asian drama clichés -- the ever present love triangle, the mandatory separation and what have you, but somehow it wasn't over played to the point where it got annoying (as is the tendency in a lot of other -- for eg Korean -- dramas). Issues were resolved quickly so that the characters' growth as people remained the focus.

All in all, what made this show an absolute joy to watch is that it's a great slice of life drama about overcoming grief and savouring the precious moments we have with the people we love. But it isn't pessimistic in its message. There's an undercurrent of hope that permeates the stories of each character. You get a nice dose of reality but not so much that you're unable or unwilling to escape into their world. It also reaffirms the fact that no matter where we're from, no matter our gender or our ethnicity the only race that really exists on earth is the human race, and we all share the same hopes, dreams and fears about finding our way in this life.

I don’t usually take notice of music, but I remember the music in this drama because it was so simple and yet so effective. Unlike the theme song in Autumn's Concerto (Taiwanese drama) that literally almost drove me mad, the music here served its purpose of evoking all the right emotions at the right time. Even though the same instrumentals were repeated throughout the drama, it didn't feel repetitive because it wasn't overdone to the point where it grated on the nerves.

I think anyone who watches Orange Days will come away with a joyous feeling of having just watched something great. And like me you'll probably be sad that it's over.
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Lovers
34 of 38 people found this review helpful
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Jul 18, 2013
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 10
  • Rewatch Value 10
*** This is going to be one of my longer reviews because when a show hits you good, in all the right places, I think you deserve to know exactly why. Please bear with me. ***

After almost a year in dramaland and close to 30 dramas, I've finally, finally found a bonafide favourite. A Korean favourite and an overall favourite. I've watched many dramas that I've liked & enjoyed, but none read more comes even close to how much I love Lovers!

Lovers is the kind of drama I've been waiting for since Oct 2012 when I first took up residence in dramaland. It was just what I needed to pull me out of a minor slump. I chose it at random because it's a combination of two of my favourite genres, gangster/crime and romance so I said what the heck, just watch one episode and see how it goes. I fully expected to be disappointed. Well, that one episode turned into 20 in less than 48hrs.

And damn … what can I say about Lovers except that this drama is really a wickedly delicious lesson in Sexual Tension.

I'm an avid fan of romance, but lately I’ve become rather disillusioned with Asian romance dramas. It's mostly because of all the recurring cliches: separation because of overseas work or study, random cancer diagnoses, stupid nonsensical love triangles etc but it's also, perhaps mostly, because I hate fake intimacy. A LOT.

I hate the fake kissing, the cheesiness, the characters' lack of sexuality and just the general feeling of watching two grown ass adults act like pre-teens stealing pecks from each other when no one is looking. I can understand that for younger viewers this might fly, but at my age I want to see an authentic relationship between an adult man and woman. And let me tell you, this is exactly what I got in Lovers!

Sometimes great sexual tension is better than the actual thing. If most dramas of this genre were half as good at building that tension, as Lovers did, I’d die a happy watcher having never seen two people kiss.

The AMAZING build-up of passionate feeling between Kang Jæ and Mi Joo completely blew me away. Massive props to the director and actors who were able to play up an attraction so palpable that you experienced their every emotion. I loved the banter, alternately playful and frustrated, the subtle flirting, the stolen glances, the longing, the internal struggle, the denial … all of this served to create such mad chemistry you could easily catch your breath and forget to release it.

When they’re finally intimate … it’s like dessert, only more satisfying than the main course. Moreover, if you’re a child of Hollywood like me and you do not want too much to be left to the imagination, fret not … you can look forward to passionate, spit swapping, tongue twisting, lip devouring kisses. Hey, a smoking, HOT red-blooded mob boss like Kang Jæ wouldn’t stand for anything less! Even better? Mi Joo doesn’t want him to! To me Lovers sets the tone of how a romance between adults should play out. The characters act their age in life and love. None of this silly, wide-eyed playground stuff. The typical drama cliches are kept to a minimum or they play out in a way that's logical, rather than frustrating as they tend to be other dramas.

I’m just decidedly pleased with this drama overall. It’s well written, well executed and well acted.

Given that I like to attack life's struggles with a gangster's swagger I love that the romance is set against the backdrop of the Korean Yakuza. From the safety of my own living room, it’s a fascinating world to inhabit for 20hrs. Now you may have to suspend belief a little given the absurdity of certain scenes, for eg 2 bands of pipe wielding gangsters invading a hospital en masse and having a go at each other, but no one thinks to summon the police. LOL In spite of this, I love the machismo, the fight scenes, the car chases, the assassinations, the bromances, the loyalty, the code of ethics.

Best of all, the leads are amazing! Kang Jæ is totally badass. Tough as nails on the outside, but melt your heart soft and sweet on the inside. If you have a weakest for bad boys ...
By far one of THE coolest male leads I’ve ever encountered. He lives hard, play hard, fight hard, love hard. And is 100% sex on legs. No wonder Mi Joo calls him her Dimpled Gangster. Male audiences will want to live vicariously through him and female audiences will want … well, HIM! (ha!)

As for Mi Joo, for once I have no complaints about the female lead! I love her, she is awesome! She’s smart, silly and confident all in one nice little package. She’s a breath of fresh air from typical female leads who are annoyingly aloof, stubborn, mercurial and uncommunicative all in an attempt to portray a ‘strong’ woman (I’m looking at you, Joon Young from A World That They Live In, Soo-in from Love Story in Havard).

Her and Kang Jæ’s love is a slow, but simultaneous, burn. They basically grow on each other over time, as fate brings them together, until they realize … wow, this person is really amazing. To me it felt very natural and organic, rather than constructed as say … when one or both characters are made to fall in love at first sight.

Story wise I think the show is golden. Badass mobster trying to go legit, but not being able to fully untangle himself from the dark side. Throw in romantic and familial complications and you’ve got yourself one captivating drama. And there are some hilarious, laugh out loud moments too.

There wasn’t any poor performances here either. I was pleased to finally meet the (in)famous mr. Kim Nam Gil, who delivered well as Kang Jæ’s dongsæng and left hand man. Basically every actor did an amazing job with their role. No one stood out as annoying or unconvincing, not even the child actors. Lee Seo-jin, as Kang Jæ, has netted himself another fangirl! To me he played his character just right. With just the right amount of emotion, or lack thereof, befitting a top gangster.

I can not relate to other reviewers who said this drama dragged. I personally never skipped a minute of any scene, a first for me. In fact I rewatched several scenes whilst in the process of watching the drama. The great sexual build-up and the machinations of the mob world kept things fast paced and action packed.

Even the music, which I normally don’t notice, captured my attention. It helped that the lyrics were translated so I knew what was being said, and as a result the score seemed very appropriate in amplifying the overall mood of the drama.

If I have to criticise anything about Lovers it would be the ending. It’s perhaps a tad rushed. If ever there was a drama that needed to be 21 episodes, this is it. That said, it works as it is and I LOVE the show regardless. I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for more than your average run of the mill romance. Something with a more mature spin, and a little danger thrown in for added excitement. As of now Lovers has taken the # 1 spot as my all time favourite Asian drama. It was a bit underrated when it first aired, but then … the best dramas usually are. :)
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Que Sera, Sera
23 of 26 people found this review helpful
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Sep 15, 2013
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
A drama that literally takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotional twists and turns, Que Sera Sera revolves around 4 young people, all dealing with their own personal struggles, and how they overcome and grow.

Kang Tæ - Joo is a suave, unrepentant lady's man who goes about his romantic liaisons with cool practicality. He's your regular joe with high ambitions. He sees the beautiful rich women who fall over read more themselves for his manly charms and good looks as his ticket to bigger and better things. He’s a realist, with little patience for idealistic folly.

Some people have described him as a jerk, but to me he isn't. He never misleads the women in his life about his intentions nor does he try to hide the fact that he's essentially a gold digger. He's certainly a lady killer, a breaker of hearts, but not a mean spirited one. Women can't help but fall for him, but to Tæ-Joo that's neither his fault nor his business.

I don't always agree with his methods of achieving his goals, but I respect him. I admire his ambition and drive to make something of his life. It’s far better than the laziness, inertia and complacency that grip today's youth. So what happens when a brutal realist and a starry eyed idealist meet and fall in love? Well, chemical waves short circuit and the whole goddamn house burns down.

The show features an intense love quadruple which serves as the main driver of sending your emotions into a tailspin. Normally I hate these type of romance dramas, but this wasn’t bad at all. It kept me anxious but not angry. And as other reviewers have pointed out QSS isn’t your run of the mill kdrama with chaste kisses and secret glances. It’s wild and it's hot and it’s passionate. Sex is not taboo. The characters are age appropriate in their behaviours, if not always in their deeds. I loved it!

What I enjoyed even more, though, were the extremely valuable life lessons imparted:

- Life is a gamble, you can win a fortune or lose everything.
- Opportunities come only once, don’t pass them up.
- By the same token, know that whatever path you choose in life comes with consequences you have to live with.
- Most of the time money doesn't make you happy.
- Love, though fragile and fleeting, is the most important experience of human existence.
- We want what we can’t have, but don’t appreciate what we do have until it’s gone.

It was just amazing. I felt like by the end of the show I learned and grew right along with the characters. This is why I gave the drama an 8, instead of a 7.

The only downside, and why this drama didn’t net a 9, was that I wanted more ‘happy and in love’ screen time with our leads. There was an overabundance of negative angst. Not the exciting, sexually charged type of angst you’ll experience in say … Lovers. I’m fine with negative angst as long as equal amounts of positive angst balance things out.

Characters, on the other hand, were very three dimensional and human, all having their negative and positive attributes. I have to continuously commend the Koreans for writing such layered characters who I didn't see regularly before my foray into Asian entertainment.

Of the four main ones I felt like the female lead Eun Soo was the weakest link, mainly due to how she was acted by Jung Yu Mi. First of all, the actress looked like an underaged teenager and was much too childlike in her portrayal. As the drama progressed she matured a little and you realize she isn’t completely a pushover, but that she’s written as the stereotypical ‘strong’ Korean female lead afflicted with misplaced pride, noble stupidity; defiant, stubborn, obtuse … for totally idiotic, nonsensical reasons to the very end. Don’t get me wrong she remained a sympathetic figure throughout the show, but there were moments when certain behaviours of hers raised my ire.

Eric Mun as Kang Tæ-Joo was absolutely divine. Eye candy and talent, for a voracious cinephile like me it doesn’t get any better. And you could tell he’s Korean - American too because the guy has mad swag. I was swooning! This is the first time I’m seeing Mun in anything and I can understand why everyone says this is his best role. I can not imagine who else could play this character better than him.

But while Eric swept me off my feet and impressed me, the true stand out was actually Lee Kyu Han who I had recently seen in Smile, You and did not like! I thought his character was useless and a pest, but here wow … he played the ruthless, lonely, misunderstood, vulnerable businessman to a T. I sympathized a great deal with him even when I was supposed to hate him, especially toward the end. Finally, Yoon Ji Hye did great as the desperate, insecure rich girl.

Everyone pretty much threw themselves into their roles to create a truly engaging watch.I wanted a bit more from the ending, but was still satisfied with what we got. This was gooddrama, folks. Romance done right. It’s crazy and a little far-fetched as only Korean dramas can be, but totally worth it. If you don’t already have Que Sera Sera on your list, add it now.
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Brother Beat
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
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Mar 19, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
Feel good family drama with lots of heart and laughs. They don't get any better than this. I totally loved it!

Brother Beat tells the story of a Tokyo housewife and her 3 sons. After her husband passed away she was left to raise 3 rumbustious boys all on her own, but after the kids reached a certain age this mom hung up her apron, leaving all the household chores to the read more boys.

The boys carried out their duties with varying degrees of dedication, but still, men doing house chores in Japan is a novelty to me so I appreciated their efforts with awe.

Mom was an offbeat, carefree character & while you're likely to see her face if you look up the definition of slacker mom, I actually think she did her sons a service by teaching them to be self-sufficient at home and not leave all the household chores to her or their future wives. To date I have never seen a Japanese man help out his wife/girlfriend in the kitchen (or lift a finger around the house). Granted I haven't seen that many Japanese dramas or movies but it was nice to see this occur in Brother Beat.

I'm no feminist, but I'm certainly for mutual respect and equal treatment between the sexes & here in this drama I think a fair balance was achieved in so much as can be achieved in a traditional, patriarchal society like Japan.

Moreover, the girlfriend of one brother in particular may strike you as your typical docile Japanese belle, seen but not heard, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I liked how she stood up for herself when he passed his place. It gave me the confidence to believe that in a traditional relationship the woman need not be a doormat.

Brother Beat was just an overall great slice of life drama, man. A revolving door of themes were explored, from lighter stuff to more heavier fare, but it never got dark. Everyone played their roles really well. That positive, upbeat, feel good vibe was maintained throughout the series and that's why I loved it. I almost couldn't believe I was watching a Japanese series. Usually melancholy, sadness, depressing worldviews are staples in Asian cinema, particularly Japan's, but not this time around. This was just pure enjoyment and escapism. The episodes flew by in a jiffy, leaving you wanting more.

It was refreshing to watch a drama where young people acted as you'd expect them to. Especially when it comes to young men, you know they're having sex and they didn't skirt the issue in this drama. This is something the Japanese is decidedly better at dealing with than the Koreans who tend to frustrate me with their innuendo and allusions when it comes to sex. It's like the big pink elephant in the room no body wants to acknowledge, lol.

As usual, though, the lack of kisses was a disappointment. They were pretty much non-existent and when they did occur it was your standard frozen kiss. No passion, no engagement, no nothing, just ... blah. Sigh. Aside from that, though, this drama was flawless entertainment, but I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Brother Beat to anyone. It's the best family drama I've seen to date. The Sakurai family is a wild, but great bunch. Mom put a wonderful spin on the typical Japanese housewife archtype and her rough housing with her sons is quite adorable to watch. Last but certainly not least, female viewers will be particularly pleased with the brothers. They're certified eye candy, esp the older two. I mean seriously. THEY.ARE.FINE!!! :-)

If you don't watch this drama, you're really missing out!
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The Intimate Lover
24 of 28 people found this review helpful
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Oct 20, 2012
  • Overall 7.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 7.0
  • Rewatch Value 5.0
I never realized how given to fairy tales many Hollywood films were until I started watching Asian cinema.

Films from this region can be so painfully true to life, not prone to sugarcoat or providing even the narrowest of escape from the unpredictability and cruelty of human existence. There's no compromise. I don't know what to make of it. I both love it and hate it.

The Intimate Lover poignantly unveils our read more contrary nature as human beings. When it comes to matters of the heart, we want security and stability, but also a constant supply of that heady rush of new love, of being in love and seeing the stars in our lover's eyes. But it's impossible to attain both at the same time, with the same partner for the long haul.

So where does that leave us? Pretty much between a rock and hard a place.

To not chase that high is to commit yourself to a life of probable unfulfillment and what ifs, and to chase it would be like chasing a rainbow. You'll be going around in circles. If you leave one partner for another just to experience the high of being in love, eventually you'll end up back where you started with the same irrational need to begin the process all over again.

So really that sweet, intoxicating love we all want to experience can only last for a lifetime in our memories; and what this film imparts on us is that it's better to experience that love and end it while you're still on a high rather than let it wane from the onset of familiarity. It is the memory of this intoxicating love that will cradle us as we're delivered into the bosom of death.

It's a powerful message, if a little depressing.

All in all, though, this was a good exploration of the human condition. I think the actors did a good job, especially the female lead. I was happy to see some good physicality between the characters. None of this brushing of the lips nonsense or people who are supposed to be intimate acting like strangers around each other.

I've seen where this film has been described as "erotic". Perhaps by Asian standards, but this was just an average film to me. Explicit, yes, but erotic, not really. Because of the subject matter the film attempts to analyze they HAD to show that level of intimacy between the characters. To not do so would have been unrealistic. When you meet someone and you fall in love with them, you want to be intimate with them. Film, being a visual medium, has to show that intimacy to strengthen the story being told, otherwise the movie would have defeated its own purpose.

I must admit even though I had an idea where the movie was headed, and was okay with it, I held a small hope for a different ending. What can I say? I am a romantic. I know how life works. I know we're powerless to its whims. But I don't need to be reminded of that constantly in my entertainment. Be that as it may, however, I'm glad no one had a terminal illness. No one got hit by a truck. No one died or was dying. Thank goodness.

The ending was appropriate, poignant, but not gut wrenching. If you're in the mood for a film that will make you think and or spur an intellectual conversation afterwards, this is a good choice.
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Sweet Room
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
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Dec 22, 2012
  • Overall 6.0
  • Story 6.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 4.0
Sweet Room is pure man candy, and for that reason I loved it! LOL
Narimiya Hiroki and Kaname Jun without their shirts on, getting their love mojo on ... a vision!

Anyway, getting to the actual review, this is an anthology film consisting of 4 shorts which explore the theme of romantic love. Each film looks at different types of love: unrequited love, first love, forbidden love, love at first sight, framed read more by different circumstances.

I'll comment individually on each:

LAST LOVE:
Narimiya Hiroki was pretty gorgeous here, and boy can the man kiss. His love story was interesting. It left me wanting to know more about his relationship with his woman leading up to the Sweet Room. (7/10)

BIRTHDAY:
My favourite of the four. Romantic, sweet, it depicts, in my opinion, love in its purest form. (8/10)

TRIANGLE:
Perhaps my least favourite of the four. The dramaturgy was a bit off. The story felt too big for a short format, and so it lost some of its impact as a result. I was left with a feeling of ... huh? at the end. That's never a good thing. (5/10)

ROOM SERVICE:
Started off a bit slow and for well over half of it I was pretty sure I didn't like it, but turned out that I did. The ending was great. I loved the cinematography too, especially those shots of our male lead in the hallway. (6/10)

Overall, this did not leave as big an impression on me as it's Korean equivalent Five Senses of Eros, but I still liked it. If you're in the mood for romance, and not the watered down kind you see in your average drama, I think you'll enjoy this. Plus you get to see some pretty fine looking Japanese men in compromising situations. What's not to like? Throw in the Korean version while you're at it too. Eros explores the erotic whilst Sweet Room is more romantic, the perfect balance. Enjoy!
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A Dirty Carnival
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
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Dec 19, 2012
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 7.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
A Dirty Carnival is everything a mob flick should be plus a little bit.

The movie is appropriately titled because living the life of a gangster is indeed dirty business, and the film neither sugarcoats nor glamorizes this lifestyle (as other, especially Western, gangster flicks are wont to do). Once you become entrapped there are few, if any, routes of escape.

It's a cautionary tale about an underbelly of society that's dog read more eat dog, where karma is a real bitch. Trust and betrayal thread a very thin line and losing your humanity becomes the only modus operandi to ensuring your survival.

From where I sat the film was brilliantly executed both in terms of story and plot. The pacing was taut, there was never a dull moment that I can remember. You're kept fully engrossed by a stellar cast who made their characters seem real and very convincing.

Jo In Sung, in the role of charismatic, but conflicted Byung-doo, puts on a memorable performance. Byung-doo is a young man whose life has become twisted by fate. A filial son, and still possessing a shred of conscience despite the violence that surrounds him, I was able to sympathize with the character even while I was appalled by the brutality and ruthlessness fueling his actions.

Considering previous events, the big boss singing a cappella in one of the final scenes really struck chord in me. That's pretty much all I remember about the music, but it was effective enough in that moment to warrant a 7.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I wouldn't have minded if certain things went down differently, but I appreciate the film for its realistic portrayal of what I imagine that world and the people who live in it to be. I doubt fans of the mob genre will be disappointed.
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One Fine Spring Day
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
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Oct 26, 2012
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 7.0
  • Rewatch Value 5.0
Sometimes love sweeps you off your feet when you least expect it. It takes you on a roller coaster ride of high emotions and make you see things that may or may not be there.

I often have a sneaking suspicion of Korean romantic dramas because I'm always expecting someone to die. As a result I didn't think I'd like this movie, but I did. We have all experienced the story before: read more boy meets girl, they fall in love ... maybe one more so than the other. Nothing special. What made it good was Yoo Ji Tae. He did a really good job of making me empathize with his character. I felt his struggle, so much so that I wanted to reach into the movie and give him a hug. Haha.

The supporting cast, esp the hero's family, were pretty good too. Grandma gave one of the best piece of advice about women I've heard in a long time.

I also loved the scenery in this movie. Due to the nature of our hero's job Korea's natural beauty was very much emphasized here. The more I watch K-movies the more fascinated I become with its culture, its food and its people. My mind's now made up: the next vacation will be to South Korea.

Finally, the ending of One Fine Spring Day was very appropriate. Life is rife with tough decisions, but we gotta make 'em and rock on.
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Happy End
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
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May 4, 2013
  • Overall 7.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
The cheating spouse theme has been done to death in Korean romantic drama films, but this movie is notable for putting the proverbial shoe on the other foot. Instead of the unrepentant, philandering husband it's the woman who cheats, and the man, a dedicated family guy and doting father, is left to pick up the pieces. As with every drama that deals with cheating you feel bad for the person being wronged. read more The ever popular Choi Min-sik, of Oldboy & I Saw the Devil fame, delivers a solid performance as the scorned, emasculated house husband. The juxtaposition of gender specific traits in his character, nurturing femininity vs aggressive masculinity, was particularly well played in my opinion. It shows how, in the heat of passion, one can really act against type.

The reversal of stereotypical gender roles, especially in a strongly patriarchal society like South Korea, is always interesting to watch. I did enjoy the film, but can not score it higher than 7 because with the exception of the cheater being female, the storylines are essentially the same for pretty much every film I have seen in this genre. The movie is definitely worth a watch for Choi Min sik and reversing the role of who cheats, but don't go in expecting any clever twists. There are none.
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Love 911
20 of 24 people found this review helpful
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May 11, 2013
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 8.0
A cute romantic dramedy about a foul-mouthed firefighter & a good-natured, down on her luck doctor who fuss & fight until they fall in love. The story is pretty familiar (read: unoriginal), a bit far-fetched in parts even, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Generally speaking I dislike silly romcoms that have no substance whatsoever. While it's no secret that I love the romance genre, I prefer it packaged with a read more lot of thought-provoking, heartfelt drama. The movie Always with So Ji Sub & Han Hyo Joo (who also stars as the female lead in this movie) is a good example.

Love 911 fell somewhere in the middle of this preference. It had the usual tropes of a light, brainless romcom, but with an undertone of melodrama. I would've preferred just pure drama (without the melo), but I'll take whatever I can get.

If you watch this genre as much as I do, you'll know Korea doesn't make enough films like Always & Love 911. That is, dramatic romances with happy endings. Movies in this genre are more times than not tragedies and or stories about morally corrupt, cheating spouses that will squash even the slightest of belief in love you ever allowed yourself to entertain.

Love 911 is, therefore, a nice change of pace from all that dreariness. The couple here had amazing chemistry & I had fun watching them get under each other's skin.

The male lead, Go Soo, was like ... wow! Soooo cute! When he allowed people to see the real him, he had this boyish gentleness to him, but in the next breath he could be ALLLLL man! I loved it! And he wasn't too bad of an actor either. He was able to convey an array of heart stirring emotions, even while you wanted to slap him for being a boor. Moreover, I'm sure his reason for being prickly is bound to win over most women! Han Hyo Joo was just as much a delight to watch as she was in Always. So far she hasn't disappointed me in anything I've seen her in.

This is a must watch for any romance fan. It has all the right ingredients: nice, if unoriginal plot, a very likable, sweet female lead, your typical brooding alpha male hero with the heart of gold & man candy galore. Could the makers of this movie be a tad more creative with the story? Sure, but overall this was a whole lot a fun to watch & re-watch.
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Aishiteiru to Ittekure
17 of 20 people found this review helpful
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Sep 16, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 7.0
  • Rewatch Value 9.0
Aishiteiru to Ittekure can be summed up like this: before the 8th and after the 8th. I stayed up until 4am watching this drama & in its first 8 episodes Aishiteiru is an absolute gem. Simply superb! Everything I look for in a romance.

First let me start off by saying Etsushi Toyokawa as the handsome, deaf-mute artist Sakaki Kohji will stir your heart. A wonderfully emotive actor, I just love performers read more who can express a million feelings with only their eyes and this guy totally nails it. It’s not possible to look at him and not be moved. I thought the female lead went a little overboard with all the ‘aegyo’, but thankfully she toned it down a bit toward the second act. Once things took a more dramatic turn in the latter part of the drama I could see that she had some good acting chops, but unfortunately the material she had to work with was a disservice to her character. Supporting cast were like pestilence, especially Shiori and Ken, but in some scenarios Hikaru too. I was too annoyed by them to care about how they deliver. I just wanted them to go away.

Acting aside, this love story just completely captures you away. I enjoyed watching the unique challenges the male lead's deafness introduced to his life and relationships. The Japanese, as per usual, are masters in depicting regular everyday life in all its sweet mundanity. No flash of wealth, no chauffeur driven chæbols. Just an ordinary slice of life about two young people trying to figure stuff out.

Kohji and Hiroko’s chemistry is apparent from the start. They steam up the screen with every glance, every touch, every intimate embrace; and there's just something wistful & nostalgic about the exchange of love letters written by your lover's hand. I enjoyed the music - repetitive though it was, but certainly fitting and beautifully sung.

For a while there I couldn’t believe I was watching a Japanese drama, because for sure the Japanese just don’t do romance this good, do they? And an older one at that. When I found out the same writer who wrote Orange Days wrote Aishiteiru that pretty much explained it. The sweet sentimentalism, the pure headiness of falling in love, the slow build up of passion, it’s all there. Though this time around it’s the guy who has the disability, their love evokes those same warm, wonderful feelings Orange Days did. I was on cloud nine.

Sadly by ep 9 this setup starts to unravel. It’s not possible for Asians to give us a simple love story without all the nonsensical drama … can they? One hopes, but the sick feeling that blossoms in the pit of your stomach tells you something’s up, and sure enough the usual tiresome drama cliches start to rear their ugly heads. By ep 10 an otherwise well developed script takes a most illogical and drastic turn. Things go from bad to WTF in a minute, and by the final episode the show is irrevocably ruined. I was stunned.

It made it really difficult for me to decide on a rating because the first 8 eps and the last 4 eps, esp the final 3, felt like 2 entirely different dramas. And to add insult to injury the terribly ambiguous, unsatisfying ending left me feeling let down and bitter. Mostly, I felt really bad for Kohji. The guy got a raw deal. I wanted something better for him. He didn’t deserve all that crap. If I were to rate this drama based on the first 8 episodes it easily nets a 10. Not because it’s a masterpiece of any kind, but because the emotions resonate so well & so deeply. In the end my 9 rating here is also a reflection of this fact. Eps 9 - 12 get a 1 because ‘pathetic’ is truly an appropriate label for ensuing events that were totally unnecessary and foolish.

So here’s what I recommend, chingus. Go ahead and watch this show in its entirety at your own risk. But if you need to have or prefer to have a happy or relatively satisfying conclusion to a drama you’re about to invest 12 hrs of your life in, stop after the 8th episode. Arassoyo? Save yourself the grief and just create your own ending. I sure wish I had. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
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Rich Man, Poor Woman in New York
17 of 20 people found this review helpful
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Apr 6, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 7.0
The special picks up where we left off in the Season 1 finale. Toru is reinstated as President & CEO of Next Innovation; Asahina is paroled and living a simple life as a software engineer; and Makoto is a world away in Brazil, pursuing her dream of becoming a research scientist.

For one week she returns to Japan to be with Toru, who can't seem to make up his mind about what read more exactly she is to him.

I thought these two were already officially dating, albeit long distance, but turns out this is not the case. In the special they're given a chance to develop their relationship from a question mark to a period. Their journey is, of course, fraught with professional obstacles, miscommunications & Toru's eccentricities. Like with every new relationship having another person share your life, your personal space is an adjustment for both parties. But Makoto learns to ask for what she needs & Toru learns to compromise.

Sometimes I watch TV couples and think if they were real they'd never make it beyond TV land. But I feel good about this couple. I love their bicker and banter. They already seem like an old married duo.

Along the way there were moments when I wanted to blow Toru away with a shotgun. I mean how obtuse, stubborn & cantankerous can one man get? Everything worked out for the best though.

The ending was nice. Left a huge grin on my face. I even started to hate Asahina a little less. I didn't take notice of the OST before, but here it was very fitting. The theme song is actually quite beautiful.

Overall, this was a nice addition to the series. I enjoyed it more than the drama because there was more focus on the development of Toru & Makoto's relationship. Hence the 9 scoring. Not everything was as I had hoped for, but I still really, really liked it. Now I just hope they produce a season 2 because even though we got some closure on the couple's relationship their story still feels incomplete.

I'd love to see them again, juggling life, career and love, and preferably living under the same roof. But this is a Japanese series we're talking about. I won't hold my breath on that happening even if they do make a S2.

Anyway, give this a go. You can watch it without having seen S1. You'll still be able to follow. Would I re-watch? Yes. I don't know exactly when it happened, but these characters have really grown on me. I'll never get tired of seeing them together.
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Chunhyang
19 of 23 people found this review helpful
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Dec 30, 2012
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 9.0
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 10
The Story of Chunhyang is one of Korea's best known folk tales. It tells the love story of a beautiful Courtesan's daughter & the nobleman who falls in love with her.

The story has been dramatized many times on film. Besides this version, released in 2000 by director Im Kwon-taek, there was also a retelling of the story in the 2008 film, The Servant. Another version from 1968 exists. It stars one read more of South Korea's most well-known veteran actors, Shin Seong-il.

In the Story of Chunhyang as depicted by this film, the young nobleman, a scholar, takes an interest in the beautiful daughter of a courtesan at first sight. As custom dictates that a courtesan's daughter is also a courtesan the young master orders his servant to fetch the girl, thinking she'll be an easy lay. To his amazement she rebuffs his advances & reveals she’s no light skirt, but a scholar herself, gifted in art and poetry. This makes him fall for her even more and so begins their story.

And a beautiful, simple, upbeat story of love it was. I enjoyed every minute of it. The characters featured in this film are younger than those featured in The Servant (2008) & Chunhyang (1968). And ahh, the wonders of young love, new love. I never get tired of it. Never.

The film turned out to be so unlike what I expected. I had no prior knowledge of the folk tale so I thought this was going to be tragic & indeed there is this Romeo & Juliet feel to it, but that’s about where the comparison ends.

The acting was reasonably well done considering this was the acting debut of both leads, and the chemistry between these two love birds was sizzling. They made a very cute couple. I could watch them frolic & dilly-dally around all day. Female viewers can look forward to serious eye candy in the form of Cho Seung Woo. Though he's really young in this movie (around 19 I think) the guy is a distraction, perhaps THE most photogenic South Korean actor I've ever come across. You know who's gonna be stalking him from now on... LOL

Strong themes of duty, everlasting love and loyalty make up The Story of Chunhyang, as well as class differences and the role of women in pre-modern Korean society. It was all quite fascinating to watch. I felt like I gained a deeper insight of Korean culture & history.

But more than anything else I'm giving this movie high scores of 10 because this is what I consider a filmmaker's film – where a good balance of both creative & technical excellence was achieved to create something artistic & unique. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say it's arthouse, but there's a strong sense of the director's voice here. And I liked that voice. It was captivating. It pulled me in, made me smile, made me wonder what would happen next. The story is told with traditional linear narrative, but with an unconventional twist. I suspect audiences who are not appreciative of movies as an art might find this a bit off-putting simply because it is different & not what they might be used to.

Personally, I think director Im Kwon-taek deserves props for this unexpected, but refreshingly original unveiling of the story. I won't reveal exactly how or what was done, except to say you've probably never seen a movie narrated quite like this in a long time, if ever at all.

The OST is a wonderful mash-up of old Korea sounds that were always beautifully matched with interesting, pleasing to the eye pictures.

I thought it was pretty well done.
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Five Senses of Eros
19 of 23 people found this review helpful
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Dec 18, 2012
  • Overall 7.0
  • Story 7.0
  • Acting/Cast 7.0
  • Music 6.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
It's difficult to rate this "movie" because it's not really a movie in the traditional sense of the word. Rather it's a compilation of short films which explore the theme of erotic love. Two of the stories are very loosely related whilst the other 3 are independent of each other.

Some stories were better than others in both content and acting ability. The first two were quite enjoyable and philosophical. They asked read more deep, thought-provoking questions that I pondered appreciatively.

My favourite of all 5 was the 2nd story. Very poignant, but also a very sweet manifestation of (erotic) love.

The 3rd and 4th stories were a bit bizarre. Think murderous wives, blood sucking vampires and lesbian loving. I liked the 3rd story the least. Though darkly comedic in parts, I found it boring and uninspired in others. The theme of Eros was not very well conveyed, in my opinion, and the acting was off.

The 5th and final story about partner swapping could have been interesting, but the narrative was somewhat nonlinear, making it difficult to keep track of who was really boyfriend/girlfriend with who.

If I had to rate each story individually:

Story 1: 9
Story 2: 10
Story 3: 3
Story 4: 5
Story 5: 6

The average comes out to about 7 so that's my overall score for this anthology. I enjoyed it while it lasted. This movie is suitable for mature audiences, but nothing about it felt gratuitous. In fact a lot of the sexual encounters were pretty PG. I'd say it's a good date movie to watch with your long term partner, if you have one.
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