a definite thumbs up for Live up to your name

I was sad to see it end..a few meaningless wrinkles mean nothing when compared to the enjoyable hours spent watching the drama unfold. Great chemistry between the leads continued till the end..but what I also loved was that they were two strong actors who gave strong performances separately and were even better when they came together. Watching Kim Nam Gil as a goof is awesome..lol..but when he gets all serious and broody he’s even better!

Lies Within

Well..you had to know that I wouldn’t wait too long to see Lee Minki’s latest didn’t you??

In his latest drama he plays a dogged detective who is asked to investigate one more case before he transfers and he reluctantly agrees. It happens to be a woman who fell out of her apartment building..looks straightforward..especially so after finding her suicide note!  But then he comes across another case which looks suspicious too and then a disappearance and they all seem linked together.  What begins as a routine case quickly develops into something that takes over everything including working with the missing man’s wife who asks for help. The first thing I noticed ( with delight) was that he was playing a much more human character than I’ve been used to seeing and it makes such a difference! No face blindness this time! I’d forgotten that he can smile and that his face is quite expressive..lol. I love the character and I love the way he’s playing the character.

But..this is OCN..known for grittiness at the very least..and I will say that they went reallllllyyyy gritty this time..almost gruesome. I enjoyed the secondary characters too..I thought that they were really nicely fleshed out and supported him well. I wasn’t familiar with our heroine (Lee Yoo-young)..hadn’t seen her before but I had heard good things about her. She has a real presence on the screen – a softness and vulnerability about her and I’d like to see her again. This was another of those onion like dramas where you peel away layer after layer to reveal the truth and that’s a very good thing!

Thumbs up!

Live up to your Name

a strange title of a drama that I’d never even heard about till it popped up on Netflix. I don’t know how I missed it since it stars Kim Nam-gil and deals with time travel (which I’m a sucker for).

Basic plot is that our hero, a doctor in Joseon times, finds himself transported to modern day Seoul and meets up with our heroine, Kim Ah-joong who is also a very driven doctor. Each character definitely has baggage to contend with and so far there is no explanation regarding the reason for any of it..though we are given hints.

I never expected the humour to be so highlighted and I’ve found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity and yet..this actor is so skilled that he really sells it. Sometimes it’s quite borderline and if it was anyone else I would be rolling my eyes and moving on but he keeps me watching because he is really able to sell me on believing his amazement at this new world he finds himself in.

Try as she might our heroine can’t get rid of him and their chemistry is very very strong. I’m up to ep 5 right now and I can see the nuances appearing as he becomes less clownlike and she becomes more vulnerable and did I mention how hawt he is looking..lol??

Happy New Year Chingus!!

Is 2020 going to be a special year? I sincerely hope so..or at least a year full of good health and happy memories..and a good drama or two wouldn’t hurt either!!!!!

Feeling conflicted about The Longest Day in Chang’an

I’m about 10 episodes into The Longest Day in Chang’an and I’m of two minds (at least) about this drama. On the one hand, it’s visually stunning, with every episode like a quality piece of cinema, with tension and creative storytelling. On the other it makes me uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, because it feels like there is a subliminal plot cooked up by the CCP to justify ongoing policies in Xinjiang and other provinces regarding ethnic minorities. Is that a stretch?

The plot revolves around finding and disrupting a terrorist plot by a gang of ethnic outsiders who look and dress unlike the ethnic majority of Chang’an. The police force and then ‘armies’ are called upon to take all means necessary to round them up. The threat of terrorism by Uighurs and other ethnic minorities is one of the main justifications given for the programs to forcefully homogenize and assimilate minorities.

Dramas and movies have long been used as propaganda pieces, this is nothing new, but when a piece is so visually seductive as what I’ve seen in this drama, I feel somehow especially more manipulated than usual, when in comparison with the amusingly jingoistic Arsenal Military Academy (also recently finished), where everything is much more surface level/gung-ho in its presentation.

Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll continue with this one, for these reasons. What do you think? How do you feel about blatant nationalism versus more subtle propaganda in your entertainment? What are the dramas that most come to mind when this topic is raised? I’d love to hear your opinions.

#commentary, #the-longest-day-in-changan

Rookie Historian, Goo Hae-ryung – Series Impression

Yes, I’m clearing up my in-progress back-log in this holiday lull and Rookie Historian, Goo Hae-ryung had been in limbo at episode 6 for too long and deserved a speedier completion. Although it suffered from a slightly split personality tonally, there is a lot to recommend about this fantasy piece (because after all, it is a fantasy to think that a female, let alone a historian where she to exist, would ever be permitted the free rein to speak and act as our heroine does in a Confucian society, but let’s not let facts get in the way of our enjoyment, okay?)

It took me a while, but I’ve come around to really enjoying Shin Se-kyung’s work, and as our heroine Goo Hae-ryung she shines. I particularly like the timbre of her speaking voice which is low and melodious. She’s nobody’s patsy or plaything and an independent woman with a mind of her own. She’s got no time for romance novels, such as the drivel written and published anonymously by the youthful Prince Dowon (played by Astro vocalist Cha Eun-woo, he of the sparkling dark eyes and innocent face and coltish limbs). She wants to learn things that mean something, like astronomy or medicine or history, so when the chance comes to sit for a civil service exam given for women in a ploy by government officials to keep secrets and weaken the current regime, she does what any girl needs to do. She works out a deal with a prospective bridegroom and skedaddles!

This is a large cast of regular characters, what with the 4 women chosen as historians, the 10 or so main male historians (including Lee Ji-hoon as the 2nd in seniority but of his status), the royal family, including older brother crown prince (Park Ki-woong) and father, grandmother, etc., and the key manipulative ministers, and so on, but they all tie in… eventually. I confess, the plotting for the throne part is fairly predictable so you have my blessing to fast-forward to your heart’s content. You’ve seen one coup plot you’ve seen ’em all, but the scenes with Shin Se-kyung and Cha Eun-woo are sparkly good fun.

He’s still green as an actor and it shows, but in a way that’s kind of okay because he’s playing a 21-year-old naive and sheltered baby prince with a loving heart who wants to be loved, who’s living in virtual isolation. She’s older than he by about 6 years in the story and has a lot more life experience so it’s perfectly logical that she should be more forceful and better able to control most situations in which they find themselves. They are so appealing together that it’s not hard to imagine that they could find each other attractive.

It’s also relatively interesting to imagine the ‘what ifs’ of a court that would allow women to have any kind of role of this importance, and what it might have meant to government structure. While some women have over the course of time played influential roles, they were far and few between.

Some of the other characters of note are those played by Park Ki-woong as the crown prince, caught between a rock and a hard place — or many rocks and hard places (cruel father, wife he cares nothing for because she’s daughter to his ministerial enemy, etc.). He’s underutilized in this role, but it’s nice to see him back in dramaland. Lee Ji-hoon as the moral and honorable historian sonbae gets a little more meat in his role as the brother-in-law to the crown prince and son of the villain of the piece. He’s proving to be a versatile actor too, handling drama and comedy equally well.

I think they could have trimmed some of the subplots and had a tighter, more cohesive story, and in a way if they’d not gone a little too far into progressivist history (just saying that of all the radical insertions of modernistic takes on aspects of the plot, the ending could never, ever happen) it would have potentially had more skin in the game, emotionally speaking because the risks would have been more grave, more realistic. If it were tonally more consistent it would have been a better drama, but I’ll recommend it (with judicious use of fast-forwarding) on the whole, and mainly for Shin Se-kyung.

#cha-eun-woo, #heo-jung-doo, #kong-jung-hwan, #lee-ji-hoon, #park-ki-woong, #rookie-historian-goo-hae-ryung, #shin-se-kyung, #sung-ji-ru

Extra-ordinary You – Series Review

This has been a year of ups and downs when it comes to drama creativity, and onscreen chemistry, but how nice to have a few series to think back on that bring both, and in spades. I’m going to put Extra-ordinary You in that collection.

Art class with Haru and Dan-oh

Because high school is many years ago for me (sob), there are times I just can’t get into dramas set in that age bracket and will often take a pass on dramas that others rave about, but there were some compelling arguments for giving this one a look/see and I’m so glad that I did. What first intrigued me was the premise; the characters were inhabiting the arbitrary world of an in-progress manhwa (or manga) and the main characters in the drama are not the main characters in the on-page story, but supporting characters — extras. This was a fresh take on the school setting and allowed a lot of unusual things to take place that introduced both creativity and urgency to the plot.

Eun Dan-oh, played by relative newcomer Kim Hye-yoon, is frustrated by her character’s nonsensical besotted behavior in the presence of her intended fiancé, Baek Kyung (Lee Jae-wook), who does the surly teen thing proud (he has his reasons, of course, for the attitude), and the fact that her character has been given a heart condition that is likely to be terminal in the course of the story. This irritation, and strange elements around her lead her to becoming “aware” of her surroundings. Her off-page character is feisty and energetic and determined to not take things lying down. If she can change her story and her future, she will do so.

Baek Kyung’s growing jealousy

A tall, almost mute fellow extra (so unimportant he doesn’t have a name) catches her eye and is instrumental in saving her in a situation; this leads to her becoming curious about him and how he seemingly has this ability to alter the course of the plot. She pursues a friendship with him and in doing so, gives him a name: Haru. Played by the extremely TD&H Rowoon of the group SF9, Haru slowly becomes more integral to the story, and the love of off-page Dan-oh’s life, to the increasing chagrin of Baek Kyung.

The problem with changing the plot without the unknown writer’s intention is that the so-called “butterfly wing effect” occurs. Things go askew in other aspects of the plot, and not always with the happiest of consequences. Complicating matters, it turns out the writer has been a little lazy when it comes to building characters and plot triangles in her/his works, and there is precedence to much of what will happen to Dan-oh, Haru, and Kyung, thanks to this “recycling” of concepts and characters.

This is a romantic little fantasy, and very gratifying in that regard. It’s not as mature in its fan service of kisses, etc., as Her Private Life, for example, but then it is a young adult-plus drama. Watching Haru be so protective of Dan-oh is lovely to watch (don’t we all have a thing for the tall protective male and the petite female in his arms?) and frankly, those glowering looks of Kyung as he seethes with anger towards his father’s on- and off-page actions and grows increasingly jealous of the relationship between Dan-oh and Haru are worth the price of admission on this drama. He’s another one of the reasons I chose to watch this drama; I enjoyed his work in WWW:Search so much I knew I wanted to see more and he did not disappoint. As sweet and lovely as he was in that prior drama he was angsty and sulky in this one. And, it turns out, he was filming them simultaneously, so talk about your mood swings!

I’ve seen some complaints online about the plot bogging down about the mid-point, but I did not find that to be the case for me. I was fascinated by the worlds created and wondered all the time how the drama writer would get them out of the plot holes created by story disruptions and the manhwa writer. I spent a ridiculous amount of time just admiring the “visuals” of the drama (oh, the dimples!) and really came to enjoy the plucky Eun Dan-oh.

Definitely recommended!

 

#extra-ordinary-you, #jung-gun-joo, #kim-hye-yoon, #kim-young-dae, #lee-jae-wook, #lee-na-eun, #lee-tae-ri, #rowoon