Nirvana in Fire…finally!

I know how much this drama was loved by Robin and Yolette and lots of others too. I’ve always wanted to watch it but just never got anywhere with it,..well I just came across a site which was preparing to do a group watch and realized that this was my opportunity. I think it’s probably a drama which needs lots of input…so best watched in company..I look forward to learning the details regarding the characters and any other analysis which is sure to happen..since it’s that kind of drama…looking forward to it…now..I will have to figure out who is who quickly…lol!!!

Cafe con Aroma 2021

Not sure how much they can update this classic, but I will put forth the energy to give it a try. Have not watched a Colombian novela in ages, or a novela, as we’ve known them, period. Can this one renew my interest? Guess I’ll just have to wait and see…….

Miss you guys…..sigh……

Oh Master?

I was all excited and looking forward to the latest Lee Min Ki drama…the drama itself didn’t excite me really because it sounds an awful lot like his previous one..but hey..I’ll watch him in anything really,…Silly me..I expected it to be readily available but the only place that I’ve found it is on iQIY and only with the VIP subscription.. Would you know if anyone else will be streaming it? Disappointed..after patiently waiting..

A Man and a Woman

So, while still in movie mode, checked out Gong Yoo and Jeon Do Yeon, in the 2016 movie “A Man and a Woman.” These two have special needs children, her a son, and him a daughter, and they meet in Finland, while dropping their children off to a bus trip to a special needs camp. Both are guarded, but highly protective of their children, so they decide to go to the camp themselves for piece of mind. When they reach their destination, they feel better and go off to share a meal. A snow storm ensues, and they spend the night, in separate rooms of course, until the storm blows over.

The next morning, they decide to take a walk, (the snow has stopped) and they end up in a small spa house in the woods. You can tell that both have been dealing with a lot where their children are concerned, and later we find out that there’s more to the story whereas they are both married to spouses with other issues. They end up making love, and part ways.

Eight months later, they meet again in Korea, and the love affair takes off. It almost seems “desperate” and “stalkerish” on Gong Yoo’s part, but as they get in deeper and deeper, the feelings are reciprocated on the heroine’s part too. They eventually want to take off together, but both are too committed to their children, and their marital situations as well. The sadness in their eyes and their beings, as realization of their situations set in more and more broke my heart for them. Worth the watch though, cause Gong Yoo is always worth it to me, lol. Also nice to see Jeon and Yoon Se Ah (aka “Ghost”) from LIP share the screen again…..

Mr Queen..I miss you already!

I have to share with you guys that I absolutely enjoyed this drama..it’s one of those dramas where you feel enveloped by the world that the characters live in and that you can just sit back and enjoy the ride…

Mr. Queen: The Bamboo Forest (2021) - MyDramaList

I started watching because I’m a sucker for those back in time body swap dramas but I stayed because it was just so much fun! I was familiar with both actors..I like her but here I think she brought her best performance so far..it’s great when actors have the chance to stretch themselves and portray two characters in the same drama and here one of the characters was that she play a man with all his mannerisms in a woman’s body..not any woman..a Josean Queen to boot!! And as for him..again..I liked him well enough in Crash Landing on You but I wasn’t besotted.Here I think he portrayed the king so well and gave him a share of charm, integrity and intelligence that I will always consider it his signature performance…unless a better one comes along..I just loved these two together. They possessed great chemistry together..and he joins the other greats in that he’s got one of the sexiest voices too! Since this was played for comedy you can imagine all the hijinks that takes place as she tries to get back “home” to the future..leaving the palace totally confused at this new side of her previously meek character..loved all the side characters too..(not the usual political rivals as much of course but the court ladies and chefs were awesome)..but mainly the burning question is: where are they going with this???? Is the “queen” falling in love in spite of herself..or…himself..lol?..Who is the king actually falling in love with? Questions…questions…I was happy with the ending ..I feared that it would be worse…though I know that not everyone was… so..if you should check it out you must decide for yourself. I do understand the objections but they don’t bother me much..now I’m going to watch the two special episodes that were produced..obviously for all the fans like me who find it hard to say goodbye!

Mood of the day

Which actually should’ve been titled “In search of Jin Cheol,” lol. Anyhoo, I could’ve sworn that I’ve seen the actor, Yoo Yoon Seok, in another drama or something, but looking up his bio, it doesn’t seem I have. Moon Chae Won I’ve seen many times before though. The premise of them meeting up on a train and graduating to coupledom sounded cute, and I was really in the mood for a short movie.

However, the movie fell flat for me. I couldn’t really see him as a player who breaks hearts, but more of a man of a series of relationships that didn’t work out for one reason or another. Moon Chae Won, otoh, I could see as a girl in a “going nowhere 10 year relationship,” but I didn’t feel the necessary connection as to why she hung in there that long. Her boyfriend, mind you, was only on screen for a hot 2 mins, but Korean writers usually live for the breakup scene! Had it been an angst filled breakup, I could’ve believed her reason for hanging in there 10 yrs.

The leads had some chemistry, but not enough to root for them moving forward. He was a great kisser though—— so my heart jumped .5 on the Richter scale……everything else was very formulaic.

Guess I gotta watch So Ji and Han Hyo Joo in “Always” again, lol….Heard So Ji got married last year! I’m truly out of the loop!

Love In Between – Series Review

I was intrigued by Avenue X’s praise (and legitimate quibbles) with Love In Between but the things that caught my attention in her review were ‘beautiful lighting’ and ‘live-recorded audio’ and ‘likable ensemble of leads.’ These are indeed reasons to watch this drama, and there are more, so without too much in the way of spoilers (always marked), here’s to my first fully completed drama of the new year!

First off, in terms of atmospheric lighting and general set pieces, this drama delivers the most beautiful, warm, candle-lit (and seriously, did someone in production have the candle concession and/or know about my pet peeve of historical dramas with night scenes lit for electrified day?) sequences that one could ever hope for in a relatively lower budget drama. Maybe they were using candles to reduce their electricity consumption, or perhaps to hide any imperfections on set, but one cannot complain about the end results. The natural shadows and mood created by this illumination just makes every yearning glance that much more poignant.

Just look at this beautiful room and candle-glow; you can just imagine the character of Wen Si Yuan straining to read by the dim light (no matter his levels of qi circulating around his eyeballs). The set piece for this room too is really that much more lovely in candlelight, though it’s satisfyingly detailed enough to enjoy in daytime scenes as well. In fact, although this is a much less Big Production drama than The Longest Day in Chang’an, they share much in the way of beautiful and thoughtful set lighting, and that is high praise because The Longest Day in Chang’an is one of the most stunning I’ve seen… ever.

The other thing that this drama does successfully is deliver on not one, not two, but three romances (not to mention two buddies and one failed suitor). Zuo Qing Ci and Su Yun Luo are the primary young lovers; he is the brilliant, medically trained (but, in a nod to Nirvana In Fire, seriously ill and fur-colored cape-wearing) young master with A Past. She is the young master thief with excellent neigong searching for ingredients to free her master from another type of poison. They’re young, they keep saving each other’s lives, and they’re in love, but they have Important Things to Do that are impediments. They part but cannot keep apart, so there is some lovely yearning time for this couple.

Couple number two is one of an older (30s?) mysterious leader of one of the Jianghu sects (he runs a NIF-like Lanya Hall/business managing information and more), Wen Si Yuan, and the oldest female disciple of the most important of the sects, 18-ish? Shen Man Qing. The flies in their ointment are her arranged marriage commitment to another sect’s (weasel) heir and his Secret Past (and his awareness that he is a little old for her).

Couple number three is the youngest one, a couple of cute kids who meet in times of conflict and whose families are on opposite sides (though not them, nope, not them). They’re Man Qing’s younger martial brother and the heir to their sect, Zheng Yang Palace, Yin Chang Ge.

Now one might think that having so many couples in a drama might bog it down a bit, but it’s really one of the more enjoyable things in this drama. When the story focuses on their joint and/or separate journeys the plot moves along briskly and the mostly very youthful cast more than delivers the emotional goods. I particularly enjoyed Zhang Yao’s lanky, intelligent Zuo Qing Ci; he must have been 21/22 during the filming, but for his relative youth he holds his own with more experienced actors. Nope, for me the show bogs down a bit with what one might call ‘an excess of plot.’ Here are the major arcs: Zuo Qing Ci’s birthright and connection to imperial palace intrigues (a plot to usurp the throne), Su Yun Luo’s and Wen Si Yuan’s connection to a power grab in the sects, and corresponding plots and attacks between sects driven by Zheng Yang Palace (home of Man Qing and Chang Ge). There’s also the little business of an invading army nibbling away at the border of the empire. Whew! Not gonna lie, I took advantage of the WeTV feature to play scenes at 1.5, even 2x speed during some of the more repetitive plotting sequences by the bad guys. (And what a nice feature that is! All streaming apps should off this feature; I can read fast, don’t even need to skip ahead!)

One thing is amusing: while most of the villains of the piece wear the typical black of their kind, take a look at this group shot (above) and their white/pastel robes. Now one might think that they’d be of the more noble and righteous character archetypes, but one would be (minor spoiler but acceptable because come on, look at their smug faces) wrong.

I also enjoyed the lovely relationships between Zuo Qing Ci and his servant/medical assistant/friend Bai Mo. Poor Bai Mo! Saddled with carrying this medicine kit cum instant market stall backpack most of his scenes, like some sort of porter, but truthfully, he’s charming and adds both humor and concern, reminding us that his master/friend is gravely, GRAVELY ill. Zhi Yun Peng (who was coincidentally a minor supporting character in The Longest Day in Chang’an) as Zhu Yan is initially a little less fleshed out as a character, but he swears an oath of friendship with Chang Ge that bolsters his position with the group to being more than the one with a hopeless (jealous) crush on Su Yun Luo.

All in all, this was a fairly satisfying way to start the new drama-viewing year. Will it be a favorite drama of the year? Probably not, but there’s a lot to like and it hit the spot, and I’ll look forward to seeing more work from the young cast in the future — and hopefully more works filmed with glorious candlelight!

#deng-yu-li, #love-in-between, #one-inch-of-yearning, #series-review, #shi-yun-peng, #yang-jun-sheng, #zhang-ya-qin, #zhang-yao, #zheng-hao, #zhou-ting-wei

Robin’s 2021 Viewing List

Completed

  1. C – Love In Between

In Progress (or Abandoned)

  • K – The Uncanny Counter
  • K – Run On
  • C – DouLuo Continent
  • K – Mystic Pop-up Bar
  • Reviewing last year’s abandoned/on-hold list to see which makes it here

Next Watch?

  • K – Kairos
  • K – Sisyphus
  • C – The Long Night
  • C – Love of Fei

Kairos… Yes!!!

If you are a fan of Signal you will really enjoy this one. I’m up to Ep 10 and can honestly say that each episode has been amazing!!

Kairos-Korean Drama-P1.jpg

Shin Sung Rok does it again..He plays the arrogant creep very very well but at the same time he is able to be so vulnerable and your heart goes out to him when you see him in his agony..I love the way he goes from a short tempered, mean, arrogant man to an emotional, grieving shell shocked one as he deals with the kidnapping of his daughter and subsequent tragedy. I love the way he is able to stretch himself as an actor and he makes it work so well.

I’m a great fan of time-travel dramas and whether, as in Nine (our hero goes back 20 years) or the audience is taken back a mere month, makes no difference at all. I buy into it immediately even though I honestly have an issue in following the intricacies of the plot. One thing is consistent though… if you change the past you also change the future and never more than in this drama except our hero has a partner in crime to do it for him.

There are strong performances by all supporting cast as well..including our adorable little girl. Big thumbs UP — hopefully it will hold till the end..which I expect will contain a few holes like all these types of dramas do..but it really doesn’t impact on my enjoyment at all…

#kairos, #shin-sung-rok

The Wolf: Series Review

2020 was, for me, the Year of Xiao Zhan. He captivated me in The Untamed (and yes, I watched both the Netflix version and the special edition version — more Xiao Zhan/Wang Yibo scenes), made me catch my breath with his cliffhanger role in Joy of Life, broke my heart with the traumatic negativity and cyber harassment to which he was subjected, and tickled my fancies with each musical appearance and small sighting on Weibo or Douyin (Tiktok), so there was no question that when The Wolf was released in one surprising all-in-one upload (rather than weekly installments) that I was going to watch it. Sure, it was his first major role, he’d expressed concerns about how nervous he was to have people see him as such a novice and judge him for his inexperience, but baby, he had nothing to worry about!

Oh, and note: I’m going to avoid specific spoilers in this review, but there will be some comments that indicate a direction or two in the plot that are minor hints of outcomes. Feel free to read on without risk of having things ruined egregiously 🙂

That’s not to say that this is a perfect drama, a perfect drama, even a pretty good drama because, to be frank, it’s got some rocky moments. It’s also important to note that technically, Xiao Zhan is not the lead male character — Darren Wang is the titular Wolf — but for a number of reasons, for all intents and purposes, you could argue that he is the male protagonist, the one who truly walks away as a survivor, just as he has at the end of this horrible year.

The story is a hybrid fantasy, star-crossed lovers mish-mash that was not helped by the scissors of censorship; originally the Wolf in question was intended to be more of a werewolf (per early trailers), along with his loyal pack, er, team of the “Night Fiends” (members of a sort of a crack paramilitary squad), but with the cuts came a loss of character depth and plot for Darren Wang’s part of the story. He’s now just a human raised by wolves (but with the benefit of being hyper in-tune with nature and being shockingly strong and vulnerable to a certain herb that brings out the beast in him). He meets the lovely, strong, brave, and often naive daughter of an important member of the court, head of an important army supporting the king of Yang. She’s played by Li Qin (you may remember her from Joy of Life, or Xiao Zhan’s movie Jade Dynasty). They frolic and live a happy life exploring the mountains of her hometown, until things go wrong and suddenly they don’t. Misunderstandings and tragedy happen and the big, bad Emperor of Yang is at fault. Said big, bad Emperor of Yang is played by a familiar face, Ding Yongdai, who was the big, bad emperor in Nirvana In Fire. In fact, there is a lot of his performance that feels like he was just channeling that previous (better) performance.

He’s captured wolf-boy (yes, that’s how he’s called by his sweetie), tamed him, made him a tool of war, and even adopted him, making him Prince Bo. But this is never an easy task; just as in all court scenarios, there are ambitious other princes/misunderstandings/tragedies/suspicions/etc. and Prince Bo is often called upon by his adoptive father and Ruler to do his dirty work. This dirty work involves an engagement to his former playmate Ma Zhaixing (Li Qin) in order to keep the army loyal to her under control even though he now hates her/loves her. I did say big, bad Emperor was involved in cooking up some misunderstandings and tragedies, right? Well, he did a number on Ma Zhaixing, but because he’s put the blame on a neighboring kingdom, the Jin, she’s unaware of the truth and labors along under various misconceptions. “Why does he look just like Wolf Boy? Why does he hate me one minute and is nice to me another?”

Into this mix comes a rough-and-tumble brash bounty hunter, Ji Chong (Xiao Zhan), who is captivated by Li Qin and works hard to be her friend and supporter. He’s the one who stands behind her when Prince Bo is treating her badly, and is a clever and resourceful ally. And he’s easily the best-looking of the men in her circle, in spite of the fact that the shooting conditions where rough, causing Xiao Zhan eye problems and skin issues (but we love the stubble the director encouraged him to grow). The minute Ji Chong enters the story things pick up, in part because he’s not part of what must have been the werewolf part of the original plot and therefore his storyline is not as choppy, but mainly because he just brings a freshness and visual honesty to his performance that is lacking in his love rival’s. The open, observant gaze of Xiao Zhan’s Ji Chong is so much more realistic and appealing than the often shifty, squinty, surly gaze of Darren Wang’s Prince Bo. Ji Chong’s emotions and intelligence is right at the surface level; when he’s feeling something, you know what it is and it’s not overplayed. When he’s not speaking in a scene, he’s acting his role as the listener too and frankly, it’s no wonder that when Ma Zhaixing is delivering a speech the camera is often on Ji Chong capturing his reactions! I wonder just how much they changed the story to give him more screen time when they saw how much the camera loved him…

Another person who is just loved by the camera (in spite of the absolutely atrocious hair and costumes given her character — and let me add that the costumes in general for this show look like they were constructed from the scrap yardage bins at the local fabric shop, opting for shiny and/or frayed and/or netting whenever possible) is Xin Zhilei, playing Yao Ji, a sort of hybrid priestess/healer/maybe ex-werewolf? and rival/frenemy to Prince Bo. She was the lovely Haiting Duo Duo in Joy of Life and she has a luminous quality to her performance. I think she outshone Li Qin on a number of occasions; for all her beauty, Li Qin often looks fragile and brittle, but as that’s not out of keeping given what traumas her character endures, it’s not a negative against her looks, but at times her performance is as brittle as she looks. Being a dubbed drama, it’s hard to know how much of this is the way lines are delivered on set versus in dubbing, but it’s clear that she does not have the fluidity of Xiao Zhan’s delivery, nor of more seasoned actors, such as the one who plays the King of the Jin.

Is this drama worth 49 episodes? IMO, if Xiao Zhan were not in it and he did not deliver the performance that he did even as a rookie, I would have to say “no, no it’s not.” There are some good moments, but very few very good moments, and a lot of meh or even borderline laughable moments, but definitely not enough to put this drama in the must-see category. (Of course if you’re a Darren Wang or Li Qin fan, have at it!) I spent a lot of the non-Ji Chong scenes with my finger on the fast-forward button — watch a minute to get the plot advancing gist of the scene and zip to the next — and I’m not in the least bit sorry!

#darren-wang, #ding-yong-dai, #guo-shu-yao, #li-qin, #the-wolf, #wang-talu, #xiao-zhan, #xin-zhi-lei