If you're still experiencing technical difficulties, please report it here.

Details

  • Last Online: 4 hours ago
  • Gender: Female
  • Location:
  • Birthday: November 30
  • Roles:
  • Join Date: February 9, 2014
Jumong
32 people found this review helpful
Mar 23, 2014
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
Jumong was my gateway drama. Someone might as well have handed me 81 packets of heroin and said “Go for it!”. Epic in all the best ways, it steals shamelessly from adventures stories ranging from the Odyssey to The Three Kingdoms to Robin Hood, traversing decades of time and miles of gorgeous mountain scenery as it crams in battles, family strife, romance, betrayal and the occasional heavenly portent. It has a sweeping, old-school Hollywood feel, but with modern touches that include a smart, independent heroine and a transgender character who actually gets to have an adorable romantic relationship with the most unlikely of partners.

The plot lines may hardly be original, but the complexity of the main characters gives the old stories a freshness and power they would otherwise lack. Song Il Guk does a fine job as the young prince destined to found an empire, but my favorite actors (and characters) were Hu Joon Ho as the grizzled veteran Haemosu and Jun Kwang Ryul as the tormented king Kumwa. Hu exudes presence every moment he’s onscreen, and Jun’s portrayal of the king’s increasingly conflicted and destructive loyalties is devastating. The show also uses its length to draw us so completely into its web of relationships that many of its most powerful scenes are not the giant battles but the quiet moments where a truth is revealed or a lie is told or a heart is broken.

Does everything work? No. The plot meanders in the final third, with wild goose chases down narrative lines that seem designed to kill time rather than actually deliver meaningful revelations. I could have lived without the saccharine pop ballad love songs on endless repeat and you could get rip-roaring drunk in no time if you took a shot whenever someone stages an ambush, falls off a cliff, discusses an evil plan around an ornate wooden table or survives getting shot by multiple arrows. However, if you’re looking for ridiculously immersive popular entertainment and don’t mind sleep deprivation, you’re in for a hell of a ride. Just be careful – this whole drama thing can get addictive . . . .

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Giant
27 people found this review helpful
Mar 7, 2014
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
Who knew that road construction could make for compelling drama? Or boilers? Or building permits? It is a testament to the skill of the Giant production team that they are able to turn such seemingly mundane matters into taut, dynamic story arcs. While Giant draws on plenty of tricks from the melodrama playbook, it’s distinguished by its complex characters, sharp writing and an extraordinary ensemble cast.

The writing is a bit sketchy in the initial episodes, with extra servings of trauma and some odd lapses in logic. However, the child actors are terrific (why hello, future stars!), and they morph into equally terrific adult actors. The male characters are particularly nuanced, as we watch two generations struggle to drag themselves and their country out of dire poverty. It isn’t always pretty, and I appreciated the show’s willingness to give all of its characters dark edges, especially since it’s equally willing to give them all moments of insight and grace. The female characters initially tend towards angelic but dim or shrewish and evil, but they also become more complex as the show progresses.

Keeping a 60 episode show engaging is no easy task, and Giant does it with sophistication, style and humanity. It has plenty of “big” moments, but it never forgets that even the most ordinary activities can be dramatic. It finds poetry in mud flats and rock piles, and in the rough-edged men fighting to build a nation from them at any cost.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Coffee Prince
26 people found this review helpful
Jun 1, 2014
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
Romantic comedies aren’t usually my cup of java, but Coffee Prince is everything a rom-com should be: sweet, funny, and sexy. If you can get past the silliness of the mistaken identity premise, you’ll be rewarded with a show full of carefully observed human moments, played out by an eclectic, engaging ensemble cast. The poor girl/rich guy love story may not be especially original, but it’s told with a great deal of heart and refreshingly little artifice. The characters come across as fleshed-out human beings instead of walking plot devices and the show understands how to create scenes of real emotional impact without heaping on the melodrama or resorting to cheap dramatic tricks. It’s also genuinely hilarious, with a central couple whose on-screen chemistry is off the charts.

Coffee Prince is hardly an undiscovered gem, but like the best coffee shops, it’s a warm, inviting place to pass the time. It gently reminds that life’s small pleasures should be noticed and savored, and that choosing love, for a person, a profession, or a place, is worth whatever heartache or stigma may tag along.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
The Great King, Sejong
16 people found this review helpful
Jul 28, 2015
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 4.0
If the wild historical liberties of fusion sageuk are grating on you, The Great King Sejong is a refreshing alternative. Hewing relatively closely to fact, it generates its dramatic power through complex characterizations and thoughtful explorations of moral quandaries. Sejong’s reign may have been lauded precisely for its lack of drama, but the writers find plenty of conflict to build engaging story lines around, as they explore the challenges of ruling with benevolence rather than terror. They do an excellent job exploring how political systems stymie or support progress, as they build a compelling argument for governing to the better angels of our nature. That being said, this is not a fast show to watch. There are no love triangles, gorgeous warriors with great hair, gravity defying ninja moves, or epic cliffhangers. Many of the best acted and most intriguing characters are the various grey-haired ministers in their matching robes and odd hats, who for once are given compelling personalities instead of serving as indistinguishable agents of repression.

The first half of the show is particularly strong, in part due to outstanding performances by Kim Young Chul as Taejong and Choi Myung Gil as his embittered queen. Taejong may be monstrous, but he’s also powerfully human, and the show loses some of its spark when he exits the scene. The second half is weaker, perhaps because the series was cut down from 100 episodes to 86. This causes pacing issues, as some events are rushed through while drawn-out moments of pathos feel unearned due to a lack of dramatic set-up. Subplots get dropped and major characters disappear without acknowledgment or comment. It also means that Sejong comes off as far more serious than perhaps he was, as the show leaves out such “frivolous” elements of his life as his love of music and his passionate relationships with his concubines. In general, the show is more comfortable in the elegiac than the celebratory mode, but its tendency to emphasize loss sometimes deflects attention from just how extraordinary Sejong’s achievements were. It may be difficult to do great things, but there is great joy in such success as well.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
The Return of Iljimae
16 people found this review helpful
Mar 27, 2014
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
Discussing tone in the context of a review is tricky. A show’s atmosphere is something so ephemeral it’s hard to even define, much less evaluate. That being said, The Return of Iljimae is most remarkable for its evocation of mood. A fantasia in a minor key, it weaves a bittersweet, melancholy spell, accented not so much by its characters’ tragedies as by their loneliness.

Intentionally structured like a storybook (complete with an initially over-intrusive narrator), the show jettisons many of k-drama’s structural clichés as it follows the growth of its protagonist from innocent young man to wiser hero. Jung Il Woo gives a lovely (in more ways than one) restrained performance full of moments of quiet sweetness and pathos. Jung Hye Young, as his mother, is also exceptional, radiating warmth and longing. There are plenty of fight scenes and large helpings of occasionally distracting slapstick comedy, but the show never loses its contemplative feel. The characters find fleeting moments of connection in sex, friendship, compassion, and sacrifice but the world’s injustices are always there, calling them away from comfort. The show suggests that heroism is not a natural gift, but something learned and struggled for and easily lost if the passion for justice tips over into hatred. There are occasional missteps, including a bizarre first episode, but once the show finds its rhythm, it becomes a hero’s journey very much worth the taking.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Deep Rooted Tree
22 people found this review helpful
May 12, 2014
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
I doubt many writers wake up and say “Hey, let’s do a show about creating an alphabet! That will be exciting!” I suspect even fewer producers would greenlight such a project. Presumably, in the case of Tree with Deep Roots, the authors sold it as a conspiracy thriller, emphasizing the murders, mysteries and epic fight scenes. There is plenty of stylishly choreographed action and several hot guys with swords. However, as befits the show’s subject, the real battles are fought with words. And those battles are some of the most extraordinary I’ve ever seen on film.

“Tree” took a while to pull me in, but once the writers found their groove and the verbal fireworks began, it was riveting. Against the backdrop of a violent era, it asks if the brush can ever be mightier than the sword. If there is power in writing, and if so, who deserves to use it. If literacy is liberation or a different kind of slavery. Characters wield speech like blades in philosophical duels where systems of government and social orders hang in the balance. This is argument as blood sport – spectacular, visceral and deadly.

The cast tackles their paragraphs of text with gusto, and the director keeps the camera moving and the tension high. The final episodes falter a bit, veering away from ideas and more towards traditional action, with an ending that felt yanked from a summer blockbuster instead of developing organically from the drama's themes. Perhaps this was designed to appease nervous studio execs desperate to get to away from all the talking. It’s a small price to pay though for a show that is otherwise so smart, unconventional, and emotionally engaged as it teases out the limits and possibilities of language.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Six Flying Dragons
18 people found this review helpful
Mar 26, 2016
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
In a time of injustice, what means are legitimate to right the wrongs? What happens when efficacy clashes with idealism, loyalty with morality, when the codes of the scholar, the warrior, the peasant and the noble founder on the shoals of ambition, love, envy, and self-preservation? Six Flying Dragons sets up six (well, actually, seven) protagonists, real and fictional, male and female, elite and ordinary, and sends them hurtling into the chaos of a collapsing nation as they struggle to conjure something better from its ashes. As a microcosm of the wider world, their intertwined stories allow the writers to explore how every choice, for good or ill, ripples through society, and to humanize both the triumphs and the costs of revolution.

On a technical level, the screenwriters’ ability to juggle so many through lines is stunning. Set-ups in early episodes lead to powerful payoffs hours down the line, and little time is wasted, with each scene deepening characterizations, drawing parallels, establishing new conflicts and reinforcing themes. Fictional elements are well integrated with the actual history, and while liberties are certainly taken, this is a much less romanticized world than that of most fusion sageuks. Reality constantly intrudes in all its messy brutality, and show embraces this, refusing to whitewash the actions of its characters. For me, the only misstep was the writers’ attempt to create a grand, overarching mythology running from Queen Seondeok to King Sejong. It felt forced and unnecessary, an in-joke that distracted from the story at hand, and its corresponding secret society was the least convincing aspect of the show.

The directing is initially a bit awkward, but as things progress, the editing calms down and the fabulous ensemble cast takes center stage, riveting in all their flawed, passionate, terrible humanity. Dark but never cynical, violent but never gratuitous, grim but never hopeless, the show cares for all its characters, and it makes you care deeply too. They often lose their battles, but they fight with everything they have, refusing to stop seeking, striving, dreaming. They can’t go on, and yet they do. And because of them, Six Flying Dragons soars.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Goblin
55 people found this review helpful
Feb 13, 2017
Overall 6.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 3.0
Somewhere inside Goblin, buried under a mound of PPL and tears, is a good show trying to get out. The first two episodes suggest what might have been, deftly mixing intense action and off-beat humor in a dark world filled with ominous reapers, wounded goblins, ghost-seeing teenagers and cabbage-wielding grannies. The stage seems set for a life and death clash of epic proportions. Alas, it soon becomes apparent that the writer forgot to include an antagonist. The goblin-reaper face-off devolves into a chummy bromance, leaving “fate” to play the role of spoiler. Unfortunately, it’s hard to fight disembodied destiny. Whole episodes are spent weeping in pretty scenery and eating Subway sandwiches. The talented cast tries to up the urgency, but with nothing tangible to battle, the pacing slows to a crawl. The extended episode lengths and the director’s tendency to linger a little too long on every moment exacerbate the problem. Even the romance falters on the uncomfortable age gap between the protagonists.

Every so often. interesting ideas pop up about guilt, redemption, and the role of kindness in a cosmos more random than rewarding. Alas, the fickle gods that rule this universe stay above the fray. A drama that actually allowed its characters to take them on rather than simply lamenting their cruelty could have been powerful indeed.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Secret Love Affair
20 people found this review helpful
May 15, 2014
Overall 7.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
Great roles for middle-aged actresses are rare. I loved that Secret Love Affair was anchored by a smart, sexy, morally complicated 40-something female protagonist, and it was obvious that the phenomenal Kim Hee Ae was having a blast playing the part. Yoo Ah In also does a fine job as a young piano prodigy, and when he’s onscreen with Kim, they make beautiful music together, both literally and figuratively. The love story generates plenty of heat, and, despite its salacious premise, feels genuine and ultimately quite moving. As long as the two leads are playing duets together or sharing bowls of noodles the show sings.

Unfortunately, I found the world surrounding the lovers to be less fleshed out and compelling. While I understand that the awfulness of most of the other major characters is meant to highlight just how terrible Hye Won’s life is despite its surface luxuries, I would have loved for there to have been more layers to the antagonists. Their universal loathsomeness did draw sympathy to the protagonists, but it also undermined the realism of the show and simplified its conflicts. It’s not hard to cheat on a husband with no redeeming characteristics, but that felt like an easy out for the screenwriter (and the audience) rather than an honest exploration of the challenges of marriage.

The directing of the show is carefully composed and the pacing slow. This allows for some lovely, unhurried emotional beats, but it can also feel a bit stifling. There were times I would have liked less precision and more abandon. The technique mirrors Hye Won’s fierce control, but when the fissures open in her life I wish the show had cracked open more deliriously as well. The main couple and the music are amazing. Everything else feels well worth losing for their stolen moments of joy.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Emperor of the Sea
14 people found this review helpful
Mar 15, 2014
Overall 7.0
Story 6.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 5.0
In a beauty pageant, Emperor of the Sea would win hands-down. From sweeping vistas of windy cliffs to carefully composed interiors to torch-lit ships fanning out across the darkened sea, it is one of the most beautifully filmed k-dramas that I’ve watched. It also features an intriguing central triangle anchored by a break-through performance by a dynamic, dangerous Song Il-Guk. Unfortunately, the directing, acting and cinematography can’t make up for the weaknesses in the writing. As long as the screenwriters are dealing with the characters’ early lives where few historical facts are available, things clip along fairly well. The writing is solid if not exceptional, and the show’s other strengths outweigh the script’s drawbacks. However, once the characters collide with reasonably well documented historical facts in the final third of the show, things start to go awry. Character motivations change inexplicably and the narrative becomes confused and repetitive. The writers seem unable to fit the characters they’ve created to the actions that, at least according to extant sources, they actually commit. Lots of stuff, much of it bad, happens, but it often feels arbitrary, robbing the climatic scenes of the feeling of inevitability needed for maximum dramatic impact. It’s as if you’ve spent 50 hours with a set of characters only to watch them get randomly flattened by a meteor at the end. It may be spectacular but it’s not especially satisfying.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Kill Me, Heal Me
25 people found this review helpful
Mar 14, 2015
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.0
Like its lead characters, Kill Me, Heal Me is a splendid mess. If you’re looking for subtlety, good medical ethics, or a realistic exploration of mental illness, watch something else. However, if you’re willing to be swept up in the show’s campy, gonzo universe, it’s a hoot, and, towards the end, surprisingly moving as well. Ji Sung gives a fabulous performance (performances?), transitioning effortlessly from hilarity to pathos, guyliner to pink lip gloss, teen angst to adult longing. The tonal shifts are equally dramatic, and more effective than one might think, in part because the show never takes itself too seriously. It’s happy to acknowledge its inherent absurdities, winking at viewers while welcoming them, often quite literally, into its world. This is fundamentally a piece about performance, and its meta-theatricality is an apt medium for exploring the many roles people voluntarily and involuntarily play. Cha Do Hyun’s disorder is simply the most extreme version of the multiple sides all of the characters exhibit as they struggle with the challenges of life.

The writing can be structurally erratic, but it’s always balanced and humane in its portrayal of both its heroes and its demons. This is a show driven by the “Heal Me” part of its title, emphasizing not vengeance for past wrongs, but reconciliation and re-integration for future happiness. Some plot threads are left hanging, but its exploration of how people are broken and put back together, medically implausible as it may be, is metaphorically lovely. It’s fiction, but it’s a show that knows that the stories we tell have the power to reshape our lives.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Nirvana in Fire
10 people found this review helpful
Jan 23, 2016
Overall 8.5
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
In contrast to its English title, Nirvana in Fire is an icy beauty. The wintery vistas and washed out color palette mirror the cool, calculated strategies of its stoic protagonist. Despite an incredibly complex back story, the central arc of seeking redress for past wrongs is clear and compelling, and the 54 episodes fly by in a whirl of fight scenes, political gamesmanship and intriguing character interactions. Smartly written and well-acted, the show was a compelling introduction to mainland Chinese drama.

The swift pacing does present some issues though. I know that adapting a well-loved, lengthy novel to the screen is challenging, but either pruning some of the more esoteric subplots or giving them additional screen time would have made the story easier to follow. It took a good 20 episodes to figure out the major character relationships, and some elements remained hazy up until the end. While I generally don’t advocate for extended flashbacks or childhood sequences, this is one case where showing rather than telling about past events would have been helpful. While I could intellectually understand the characters’ grief and their desire to right past wrongs, it was hard to emotionally engage with people and situations only encountered in the briefest of flashbacks. Like Mei Chang-su, the show is precise, intelligent and lovely. It’s also a bit cold. I would have liked more fire in the midst of all the snow.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Nodame Cantabile
10 people found this review helpful
May 25, 2014
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 7.0
On the surface, Nodame Cantabile is a typical romantic comedy of opposites attracting. Tamaki Hiroshi and Ueno Juri are pitch perfect as the mismatched pair, seamlessly veering from slapstick hijinks to emotionally grounded moments of discovery. However, the show’s real love affair is with music, and it’s a doozy, a delirious, swooning, unicorns-and-rainbows relationship that captures the raw joy of shared artistry, of that moment when an eclectic group of individuals joins together to become something greater than themselves.

The manga-esque staginess takes a bit of getting used to, with heavy-handed (literally) physical attacks and cartoonish mugging. The silliness alternates between endearing and alarming, but there is nothing frivolous about the show’s treatment of music. It notes how unforgiving the arts world can be, full of too many gifted students and too few opportunities, how competition, envy, harsh instructors and grueling practice regimens can drain the spark from performers. But, to its credit, the drama never glosses over the discipline needed to do great work. This is a show that celebrates both playfulness and rigor, suggesting that the best art comes not from one or the other but from a happy marriage of the two. It isn’t the misfits vs. the superstars, but an understanding that both are needed to bring a score to life. Moments of true harmony may be fleeting, but when they happen, in either love or music, it’s cause for celebration.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Stranger
9 people found this review helpful
Aug 10, 2017
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
I don’t like serial killer dramas. I also don’t like shows that pair cold male geniuses with spunky heroines so he can give her a brain and she can give him a heart. Plus, prosecutors and cops up against institutional corruption? Been there, done that. And yet, despite its clichéd premise, Forest of Secrets works. It works because it has Jo Seung Woo and Bae Doo Na as the leads and they act their asses off, refusing to be reduced to stereotypes. It works because it’s as much about human relationships as it is about crime, exploring how the social networks we build can both sustain and corrupt us, about how easy it is to excuse the misdeeds of a friend, a colleague, or a family member. It also shows how an outsider can take those networks down, but it never lets you forget the gut-wrenching loneliness of such isolation. And finally, it works because the writer and the director pay attention to details. Without gushing tears, blaring pop songs, or graphic violence they present smart professionals methodically uncovering the truth.

The show does drag out the denouement, with more moralizing speeches than I’d prefer. It’s also not a ringing endorsement of the idea that people can change. It is however, a lovely example of how good writing, acting and directing can bring an old genre to vibrant, urgent life.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Evasive Inquiry Agency
8 people found this review helpful
Aug 22, 2014
Overall 9.0
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
Few Korean dramas get better as they go along. Live shoots, script changes, and attempts to milk ratings tend to sabotage the second halves of shows. It is therefore remarkable that Mixed-Up Investigative Agency actually improves with every episode. It starts out low rent and silly, with broad acting and chintzy production values, but around the halfway mark, it morphs into a moving, tightly written meditation on friendship, life choices, and the way that the past always literally or figuratively haunts the present. Characters who initially seem like caricatures become multidimensional and unpredictable, with especially lovely turns by Ye Ji Won as a crackpot psychic, Park Hee Soon as an enigmatic gangster, and Ryu Seung Soo as an apathetic manhwa vender.

Off-kilter visuals, clever dialogue and ingenious music choices provide plenty of humor (don't miss the little bonus scenes tacked on at the end of each episode), but they’re in the service of serious themes. Without ever becoming overly didactic, the show notes the fragility of life and the importance of embracing the here and now. The protagonists may long for extraordinary riches (in this case, tons of hidden gold), but their everyday interactions are where true value lies. For the viewer, though, the biggest prize is getting to savor this underrated gem of a show. Like all treasures, it may be hard to find, but you’ll be well rewarded if you seek it out.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?