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41 of 42 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
33 of 34 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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Que Sera, Sera
21 of 21 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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25 of 26 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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The Intimate Lover
22 of 23 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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Petty Romance
12 of 12 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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Love 911
18 of 19 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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17 of 18 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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Dream Affection
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
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Dec 25, 2013
  • Overall 2.0
  • Story 1.0
  • Acting/Cast 3.0
  • Music 3.0
  • Rewatch Value 1.0
Anyone in the mood for a decent erotic drama film with a good story at its core should look elsewhere.

The film makes a shoddy attempt at storytelling. A young man seeks to escape from his unhappy, monotonous life by taking refuge in a dream like world. Here he meets a nubile young thing who fulfills all his sexual desires. We're given hints of who these people are, but we never get read more to know them or why they come to be in the situation they're in. On the other hand, we're privy to their sexual exploits, ad nauseam.

Hear me when I say Dream Affection is pure porn. With a budget.

Given that there's essentially NO story to speak of, I don't even know why this picture was made except to continue the widespread objectification of women.

The acting is lame. It's clear the female lead is probably an aspiring actress looking for a big break. Or an amateur porn actress. Whatever her story, if she has any talent we don't get to see it considering the lack of a plot and the director's obsession with her breasts.

The male lead is only a little better. Dude spends the entire show dazed & confused. Even when he's getting his rocks off.

What a waste of time. Pisses me off that films like these get made when there are brilliant indie filmmakers out there who will never get a shot.

Needless to say, I won't be watching Part II.
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The World That They Live In
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
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Jun 1, 2013
  • Overall 8.0
  • Story 8.0
  • Acting/Cast 8.0
  • Music 5.0
  • Rewatch Value 6.0
This was a pretty good series. As good as any South Korean drama is gonna get, I think. I’ll explain below what particularly worked for me and, of course, what didn’t. This review contains one minor spoiler, but it won’t spoil your enjoyment of the show. This is also going to be one of my longer reviews (I hope you'll read it, anyway :)


THE STORY - There are two read more sides to the plot. First, there’s the behind the scenes look at drama production in Korea & secondly the complicated love lives of the people who work in this industry. I was very pleased with the former, but not so much the latter.

I loved getting a glimpse into how productions go down in Korea. Even though I work in film production rather than TV production, I recognized well every challenge the young directors face because I face them in my own career too. The huge pressure of wanting to stay true to your artistic values while trying to satisfy overbearing executives who control your career, difficult actors, bad working conditions, productions going over budget & over schedule. Yup, been there, done that. There were also significant differences that really shocked me. I won’t get into details, but let’s just say Korean production crews deserve every respect for their dedication to their jobs. They work under some very extreme conditions that would have unions shutting us down here in the West.

THE MATURE TONE & MOOD OF THE DRAMA - I loved that in this drama sex isn’t the usual pink elephant in the room that’s never acknowledged. The drama is written by adults for adults, and that mature tone and mood permeates the show. The chemistry is just popping. If only more Korean dramas are like this. Unlike so many other Asian dramas - I actually BELIEVED the couple are indeed a couple.

THE ACTING - Overall the acting isn’t bad. Most of the supporting cast are great & like other reviewers said I too really enjoyed the storyline of Hæ Jin and Gyo Ho. I never thought their relationship would play out the way it did. I had a bad first impression of Gyo Ho, but he completely redeems himself by the end.

As for the leads, since coming to dramaland some 7-8 mths ago I’ve heard an earful about Hyun Bin. This was my first opportunity to see him in action & I must say I get the hype. He is gorgeous! There were times when I really envied Song Hye Kyo, that she should be so lucky to play house with such an amazingly handsome guy.

But anyway … now that that’s out of the way, I think, acting wise, what Hyun Bin has going for him is that he’s got some of the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen on a male Korean actor. The eyes are one of an actor’s most powerful tools. Look at the most successful, well-regarded actors and they all have these amazingly expressive eyes that can convey any variety of emotions: love, anger, sadness, indifference … I believe this is true for Hyun Bin. All he has to do is just look at his co-star and you can feel his emotions through his eyes without him having to open his mouth.

Hyun Bin certainly has the skills, the charisma and the charm to be a really powerful actor. However, he was still a relatively young man in this drama, 25-26 yrs at the time of filming. So he didn’t have much life experience that would've added an extra layer of nuance to his performance. For this reason sometimes his acting did come across a bit immature. Had nothing to do with the character he played (an immature guy in his own right, sure), but just the fact that life experience adds another dimension to how you process the world around you & thus how you interpret a role.

Lead actress Song Hye Kyo is not able to emote on the same level as Hyun Bin. The one emotion she's good at in this drama was ire. That is not to say she’s a bad actress because she isn’t, per se. One of the characters, an actress playing an actress, made an interesting observation: she said many young actors don’t know how to apply acting techniques. They try to portray emotion in a very literal, mechanical fashion, for eg if they’re supposed to be angry they scream, if they’re supposed to be sad, they weep etc … it’s an interesting observation because I think this describes both Hyun Bin & Song Hye Kyo’s performances well, but more so hers than his. This is true of Hyun Bin only when he expresses anger (his rantings & ravings were hilarious and cute, though lol), but with Song I felt like this mechanical interpretation of her character’s emotions is her default approach. I didn’t like it, but okay.


JI-OH & JOON YOUNG'S RELATIONSHIP - Their relationship is annoying & immature, probably because both characters are really just big babies that throw temper tantrums when they don't get their way or say dumb sh-- because they don’t know how to express their emotions in an adult fashion. Ji-oh and Joon Young fight over the dumbest things. The childishness grated on my nerves, and as the drama ended I didn’t feel confident that they’ll last any amount of time with this type of dynamic between them. They were together before, broke up then got back together, but neither one of them seem to have grown from this experience. This feeling took away from my enjoyment of the show because for me what makes a great romance drama is the feeling I’m left with at the end, that even though no relationship is perfect they’ll be able to overcome the trials life throws at them & live together happily.

THE SHOW'S ATTEMPT TO BE PHILOSOPHICAL - the show’s attempt to philosophize about how life imitates art fell flat for me. All the introspective commentary just felt like they were trying too hard to be 'different', for the lack of a better term. Contrived.

THE FEMALE LEADS - But by far what provoked me the most about this show ... some of the female characters, in particular two of the 3 female leads. The main female character Joo Joon Young, played by Song Hye Kyo is, when all is said and done, not a very likable person.

Joon Young is a driven, ambitious, career-minded young woman. She works in a male dominated environment where she deals with a lot of sexism & has to hold her own. I loved all this about her because when it comes to work, I related to her character so well. She lives my life & with great panache (as I would like to think I approach my work as well).

On a personal level though Joon Young is rude, selfish, spiteful and cruel, sometimes for no good reason whatsoever. I think the deficiency in the characters is both as a result of how she’s written and how she’s played by Song Hye Kyo. There’s not one perfect character in this drama, but it’s one thing to have a character who is human and isn’t always cookie cutter perfect & another to have complete jerks & bitches with NO redeeming qualities.

Take for example Ji - Oh, played by Hyun Bin. He verbally and physically abuses his staff on set, and loses his temper left, right and centre. But once the production is wrapped & the stress of the situation tones down he’ll humbly apologize and take everyone out for soju. In his love relationship he has a mean streak that rears its ugly head when he feels cornered by emotions he can’t process, but again once he comes to his senses he’ll humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness. So just when you’re convinced he’s a jerk, he turns around and convinces you otherwise. This made him very human & very sympathetic because even though he makes mistakes that sometimes hurt people, he accepts responsibility & expresses remorse.

Joon Young, on the other hand, never takes responsibility for anything even when she’s blatantly in the wrong. Here’s one example (out of many) of what I mean:

There’s a particular scene in which she agrees to meet another character at a restaurant. She sent a text saying that she is going to be late. She doesn’t say how late, but naturally the other person is not expecting her to turn up 2.5 hrs late. But that's exactly what she does. And when the character expresses annoyance, instead of apologizing, she gets all huffy and argues that she did send a text and blah blah. As if she’s so great that anyone should wait around 2.5 hrs for her. That type of arrogance. That type of rudeness. Ugh. This is just 1 of MANY such scenarios. She’s missing a real sensitivity chip and that made it difficult to like her.

I initially rated this drama a 7, but decided to raise it to an 8 because in the end it became somewhat of a masterclass for me. It made me think about how I develop my own work, esp female characters that I may write in the future. TWTTLI also has other good things going for it, so I’d still highly recommend it to anyone who likes a nice, adult drama. Moreover this was the best introduction ever to the lovely mr. Hyun Bin. Not sure if I’m a fan yet, but yeah he’s got me all hot n bothered alright! Haha! :-)
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Sweet Room
11 of 11 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:

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)

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

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)

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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One Fine Spring Day
11 of 11 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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Aishiteiru to Ittekure
16 of 17 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
16 of 17 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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The Servant
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
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Jan 1, 2013
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 7.0
  • Rewatch Value 9.0
The Servant is a retelling of popular South Korean folk tale The Story of Chunhyang, and can either be viewed as a prequel or a sequel to the 2000 film, Chunhyang.

Where the original Story of Chunhyang (and earlier film adaptations of the folk tale) tells the story of the beautiful courtesan's daughter and the handsome nobleman who falls for her, in this retelling this classic love story takes on a new read more dimension.

Bang-ja has worked in servitude to Mongryong for many years. He's satisfied with his existence until one day he encounters a woman who changes his life forever. Both master and servant fall for the beautiful Chunhyang at first sight. However, due to his lack of status, Bang-ja is convinced he doesn't stand a chance against the aristocrat, Mongryong.

I have to say this retelling of the original folk tale was quite moving to watch.

Where Chunhyang (2000) is an upbeat, pure love story with likable characters all around, The Servant is a poignant story of long-suffering and sacrifice. It puts a more mature spin on the original story, and solicits a deeper emotional investment from the viewer.

Both films are great for different reasons. In Chunhyang I loved the feel good story of young lovers discovering each other for the first time as well as the skillful direction of the film by Im Kwon-Taek. In The Servant the hero's strait journey to be with the love of his life is what touched my heart.

He was a very sympathetic, worthy, if tragic, hero, portrayed superbly by actor Kim Ju Hyuk. Though powerless & trapped by his low class Bang-ja revealed himself to be the true noble, a man of honour, wisdom & sound character who, for the sake of love, suffered through much humiliation and hardship. A number of the supporting cast put in notable performances as well, in particular Oh Dal Su's In No, Bang-ja's compatriot & mentor. The Servant was also surprisingly modern in tone and mood. It took on a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach towards its handling of sexuality. It may seem a bit contradictory to the period in which the film is set, but it worked somehow with the overall arc of the story.

In closing, I'd say both films are well worth a watch, though it's not mandatory to see one in order to understand the other. I'm giving The Servant a 10 (as I did Chunhyang) for its story & Kim Ju Hyuk's performance. The ending was beautiful and bittersweet. Just an overall enjoyable watch that I'd recommend to everyone.
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