Breathtaking, simply breathtaking movie: Shadow

From the moment I saw the trailer on the big screen I knew I would pay the exorbitant parking fees to go see it in the downtown Chicago theater (it’s in a very limited release, unfortunately). Shadow, the most recent work from Zhang Yimou, is one of the most visually stimulating movies I’ve seen in recent years.

There is nothing to fault in this movie; story, cast, costume, set direction, cinematography, fight sequences, soundtrack… it has it all.

The plot seems straightforward; a worthy general has taken the drastic step of challenging the general who represents an “allied” (usurping) kingdom that is holding the principal city of his king. This act has potentially serious consequences and sets in motion a number of plots and devices. There’s more to the story that the superficial political moves; the general is more than he seems to be. His story unfolds in a non-linear narrative, contrasting to the more straightforward conflict. He is the “shadow” of another, chosen in boyhood for his resemblance to another, trained to be his double and protect him from potential assassination and other threats. Deng Chao plays both characters and is so convincing that it seems that another actor plays his genuine alter-ego.

The one who must tread carefully between the two (especially now that her real husband is ill and cannot be seen publicly) is the real general’s wife, played by Sun Li. The above image would imply that she is emotionally close to the imposter, but the relationships are not so transparent. You could say that they’re as cloudy as the inky character banners, ink-wash drawings, and swirling layers of silken robes that provide the visual texture to every scene. And let’s not forget the rain… constant rain which plays its own role in the story.

The fight choreography is beautiful as well, especially the sequence in which Sun Li’s character tells her husband that she thinks that she can adapt his moves to find a way to defeat the opposing general’s deadly techniques. The others involve the use of the “umbrella” weapons; when unleashed en masse they made me gasp aloud in the theater!

Those of you who’ve seen Ever Night will recognize General Yang; it’s Hu Jun again as an imposing and difficult to beat fighter. And lovers of Nirvana in Fire will be surprised to see impertinent little Fei Liu now the muscular youth, the son of General Yang. Wu Lei has grown!

Official Synopsis:

With SHADOW, director Zhang Yimou (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

#dong-chao, #guan-xiaotong, #hu-jun, #leo-wu, #shadow, #sun-li, #wang-jingchun, #wang-qianyuan, #wu-lei, #zhang-yimou, #zheng-kai

Possessed – Final thoughts

Somewhere along the way the lightness that served to balance the heaviness of the main plot just faded away and it went unbearably, heartbreakingly, agonizingly DARK! This has to be one the cruelest drama that I’ve seen and the last few episodes were so hard to watch… and yet I had to see the final outcome. I felt that the writers started out really well but I don’t believe that they delivered what they set out to and it just left me very angry and dissatisfied with the whole thing!! You have been warned!!!

Having said that I thought that the actors did an excellent job with what they were given..our hero was so real and so fragile and so human that you just wanted to give him a hug..but at the end of the day..these characters were brought to a breaking point and the utter bone crushing weariness that they were feeling came right through the THAT’s a job well done!



#go-jun-hee, #possessed, #song-sae-byeok

Let’s Eat – Initial impressions

Given the unsettling nature of Possessed I wanted to balance by watching something light and totally I came across this one and started watching.

My goodness, I’ve never seen a drama where the one and only focus of many of the scenes was watching eating..but not only transported by sheer joy and pleasure with each mouthful..and these were not quick glimpses..but rather loooonggg minutes of enjoyment.

I have to many pounds did these actors gain while filming?? and imagine having to do retakes? It’s certainly been a journey so far and I’ve learned alot..what I would love to eat and what I would NEVER touch with a ten foot pole of course!!

#lee-soo-kyung, #lets-eat, #shim-hyung-tak, #yoon-doo-joon, #yoon-so-hee

Netflix has picked up another potential blockbuster

I saw this news on Soompi re: the air date for Arthdal Chronicals with Song Joong-ki and Jang Dong-gun and it’s coming very soon. And, Forbes has stated that Netflix has picked it up and it will air simultaneously with screenings in South Korea.

It has kind of a Tribes and Empires vibe from what I’ve seen in the trailer, and everyone looks interesting (cough, especially SJK).

I’m interested in seeing a different kind of historical drama from South Korea — fingers crossed it will be spectacular!

Having finished “My Terrius” I moved on to “Possessed” – something totally different.

Didn’t know much about it but I was browsing Netflix and I wanted something different, so decided to have a look. The first thing I noticed of course was the lead actor, Song Sae-Byeok. I loved him in My Ajhussi and was delighted to recognize him (though I wish his brothers would show up!) He’s definitely not our typical handsome leading man but there’s something about his face that I find so appealing and just looking at him makes me certain that there’s lots going on inside that head of his.

His character/personality has shades from that of his previous drama. He plays a cop who clearly has alot of baggage..who looks so unkempt that he’s mistaken for the criminal when trying to arrest a real one..he’s grumpy and irritable get my drift..but hiding under that gruff exterior is a tender heart which he tries to hide. It shows when he goes out of his way to play with a little girl whose mother was just murdered, or when he stops his car to warn an old lady to leave or she would be arrested. You just have to like this guy. And..he’s no keystone cop either..thank goodness!

And then we have our leading lady..don’t know that much about her yet except for the fact that she has supernatural powers, communicates with spirits and can definitely recognize evil ones when she sees them.  I like that she’s really collected, sure of herself, very perceptive and doesn’t exhibit an ounce of hysteria or over the top behaviour. I think these two are going to be a great team..she sees right through his exterior and he grudgingly is starting to respect her abilities…not quite believing her but not discarding her entirely either.

As background we have a very evil (and I mean REALLY evil) serial killer who needs catching and these two are just the right team to do so.  I don’t think I can watch more than one episode at a time though..can’t really bear to watch too much of the creepy murderer (who thinks that he’s the reincarnation of an executed one) but maybe the next time I chime in I will have finished it because the cliffhangers were just too good!! We shall see..

#go-jun-hee, #possessed, #song-sea-byeok

I had to take a peek – first impressions of Her Private Life

I know, I really should wait for this to wrap so we could all enjoy it together, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t wait to see how Kim Jae-wook would do in his first official turn as the male lead in a romance (nary a priest’s collar in sight). I couldn’t wait to see how much chemistry he would have with Park Min-young (who is the Kim Sun-a of her generation, able to have barn-burning chemistry with all her leading men). And I couldn’t wait to see how they would adapt the story of a serious fan-girl and her world. I just had to take a peek!

Let’s just say that after the first 6 episodes I’m very pleased with everything I’ve seen so far. Her Private Life should be called “My” Private Life because it captures both the squees and giggles of harmless fan-girl (and fan-boy) fantasy world and the more obsessive sasaeng side of things too.

Kim Jae-wook has got a few more miles on him than his glorious ‘Waffle Prince’ days but they serve him well. His Ryan Gold has issues, such as painter’s block, and more, so his wary, slightly care-worn face suits the role well. And yes, dear chingu-dul, he does have chemistry with Park Min-young, and she with him. You may have seen photos with the two in what looks like a romantic near-kiss pose… (from an early episode so too soon for spoilers) and yes, it does look like a de-lish moment. Plus, I want to know the paint color they used for his apartment… a yummy, rich mix of cadet and cobalt blues…

Park Min-young and her best gal pal, played by the ever entertaining Park Jin-joo, capture all the fun and enjoyment of having a rich fan-fantasy life, though we’ll all have to admit that they spend a little too much time and money on this pursuit. (Speaking of money, how does Park Min-young’s gallery curator Sung Deok-mi afford those lovely work outfits and Christian Louboutin heels?) Kim Bo-ra is the spoiled rich girl sasaeng side of things, and things get troublesome thanks to her machinations early on in the story.

Ahn Bo-hyun plays the torch-carrying best childhood friend who practically lives with Park Min-young’s parents – so much so that you think he’s her real oppa (and not an Oppa). But there’s a funny judo moment with him and Kim Jae-wook (you may care to watch on repeat) and more with him and Park Jin-joo’s little son.

The show has also managed to include thoughtful moments on alternative romantic preferences without being preachy, and some equally appreciated adult exchanges where feelings are hurt or inappropriate actions taken and thoughtful apologies are made and taken to heart. I am enjoying that aspect of the show almost as much as the funny and romantic moments. And yes, the fan-girling stuff makes me giggle as much as Sung Deok-mi and her pal Lee Seon-joo do!



#ahn-bo-hyun, #geunyeoui-sasaenghwal, #her-private-life, #jung-jae-won, #kim-bo-ra, #kim-sun-young, #kim-jae-wook, #one, #park-jin-joo, #park-min-young

Sad to hear this…

Micky Yoochun was arrested on charges of buying and using illegal drugs. I knew the allegations were out there, but now that he was actually arrested over destruction of evidence, being a possible flight risk and dropped by his management company, I can only hope that he has a good lawyer. I’m not judging cause I know what drugs can do, but his career is sadly over, at least for now. Hopefully Korea loves a good “comeback” story as much as America does…

#micky-yoochun, #park-yoo-chun