Ticking Off Another In the Done Column: Abyss

This photo sums Abyss up for me: it’s two likable young actors in search of a better plot. You could also say that the Ahn Hyo-seop’s oversized jacket on Park Bo-young fits her as well as the pairing of these two. I wanted to like them together, I like them individually just fine, but when all is said and done there were just too many times that I wasn’t convinced that they fit well together.

Her character is a little too bossy and abrasive and fails to grow as a person in significant ways* and his youthful boyishness is not quite in keeping with that of a slightly older man his original persona was — though to be fair, as the man (boy) who was pretty virginal (due to his natural homely looks), appearing to be younger and more innocent works better with the premise of the ‘back to life matching your soul’ concept than does hers.

I wanted to like this; it started out with enough plot to be different and intriguing, but by the 4th or 5th episode I began to feel the plot wearing thin already. I sat it aside for a good long while, but I resolved this week to finish it (with a healthy dose of fast-forwarding, I confess), though I can’t exactly say that I’m glad that I did.

Where are my issues with Abyss? The biggest one is the whole murderer(s) hunt back and forth business episode after episode, with relatively little progress and the same kind of mistakes and near misses happening over and over. Will Cha Min’s ex-fiancée tell the truth or betray them? Was it 3 or 4 times that the result was the same? I lost count and interest and fast-forwarded thru a good chunk of her scenes. Was there a good reason for the murderer(s) to act the way they do? There’s no real answer to this (sorry if this is a spoiler) other than “they are evil people” (unless I missed it in fast-forwarding thru scenes that looked pretty repetitive.

I did enjoy the work done by Lee Si-eon as the detective used by Park Bo-young’s character to get to the bottom of things, and the actress who played the real Mi-do, once she was part of the Scooby Gang. In her small way, Song Sang-eun as the cosmetically changed Mi-do, added some vitality to the sagging repetitions of the plot.

Overall, I wanted more and got less. I found the junior cops and pseudo science of He Is Psychometric more enjoyable and a better use of my time and yours.

*Character-related spoiler follows, after the break.

Continue reading

#abyss, #ahn-hyo-seop, #kwon-soo-hyun, #lee-si-eon, #lee-sung-jae, #park-bo-young, #series-review, #song-sang-eun

This Watcher Finished “Watcher”! – Series Review

I began Watcher soon after it started airing, but I could tell that it was one I’d want to pick and choose my time to watch and savor its plot-twisty story, so I put it on hold until I could finish it in as big a gulp as I wanted (the final 9 hours worth in 2 days), and it didn’t disappoint.

Seo Kang-joon plays one of the 3 central protagonists; Kim Young-goon is a young police officer* with the unhappy past. He was the sole witness to his mother’s death at the hands of a murderer and for years he’s thought that person was his father, a top detective in the police force, suspected of corruption. His driving ambition is to discover the truth behind his mother’s death, his father’s presumed guilt, and the reasons why he cannot fully recall the traumatic events of that day.

*He’s not just a police officer but a former elite Army ranger, which means that he’s had lots of training for the tough fight sequences to come.

Han Suk-kyu (who I’ve always admired in his films and drama work) is the veteran detective, Do Chi-kwang, formerly of Internal Affairs and before that a member of the same squad that was headed up by Young-goon’s father. As a result of causing some heartburn with HQ brass because he tried to take them down for corruption, he’s been tasked with a seemingly dead-end position as the director of an Anti-Corruption unit, with one assistant (who’s likely a spy), and soon the angry young man Young-goon.

The third protagonist is the troubled former prosecutor, Han Tae-joo, played by Kim Hyun-joo. She was the prosecutor for the murder case and worked with Young-goon to testify. Unsatisfied with the evidence, she’s prompted later to try new technologies to root out the truth and this leads to the string of violence that forms the basic plot that drives the story forward — there is indeed corruption and collusion in the police and prosecutorial offices and these three form an uneasy alliance in doggedly pursuing the truth, no matter the risks or costs.

This was a very satisfying drama to watch, even if the subject is murder and mayhem because I rarely knew exactly who was involved and who was trustworthy. Well, you knew that Kim Young-goon was trustworthy because this is his journey towards truth and justice (and he was a child when his mother was murdered), but you’d also know because Seo Kang-joon played his role so transparently. Anger looks very good on Seo Kang-joon, as does mistrust, and mistrust he does because Han Suk-kyu’s Do Chi-kwang is one complicated man, one who seems eminently pure and driven and noble and trustworthy… but may not be!

Equally motivated, equally canny, and equally given to pursuing her own agenda (which may or may not support the team’s), Han Tae-joo is a bundle of controlled PTSD nerves (with good cause). I can’t blame her for her seemingly double-dealing ways because they helped keep me and everyone else on our collective toes. Plus, I always applaud female characters who are well-written and complicated heroines of their own lives. She defends those who are loyal and takes down the rest. I could happily watch a sequel with her as the lead.

In fact, OCN could do a sequel with this cast, and may have hopes of doing so, thanks to the (relatively) open-ended finish to the story. I would also like to see if Do Chi-Kwang holds to his mission, and how Han Suk-kyu would portray his hero’s (anti-hero?) journey.

Note: this drama includes scenes of violence that result in regular digit amputations (thankfully blurred), so if you’re squeamish at the thought of that, this might not be for you, but if you do like complex, character-driven mysteries about police corruption most definitely give this one a try.

#han-suk-kyu, #hey-sung-tae, #joo-jin-mo, #kim-hyun-joo, #park-joo-hee, #seo-kang-joon, #series-review, #watcher

Why I’ve been MIA lately…

The past few months have seen little of me on the site, and for that I’ll say “mianhae.” But the truth is, it’s not because I’ve been in a viewing slump (just the opposite), or because I’m not interested in our drama world (again, couldn’t be further from the truth), but because I’ve been more interested in reading than writing. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, especially since my decision to officially retire from the workaday world of Instructional Design this spring!

That means that, in addition to my nighttime forays into delights such as WWW: Search and Rookie Historian: Goo Hae Ryung (and the reality show The Barber of Seville) to name just a few of the titles I’m currently juggling, I’m enjoying a pretty darn nice summer on my back porch reading something fun. A lot of these are from Asian authors, so they fit in nicely with #kdrama, #cdrama, and #jdrama vibes, and in fact many of them would make really good foundations for serialization. One of them is actually in production and will air in 2020 on Netflix, so keep your eyes peeled for The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo.

In case you’re wondering what some of the other titles are, here’s a selection of the most recent ones — mostly in the YA and Fantasy genres (the mysteries and biographies are not listed) — and I highly recommend Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik in the audiobook format.

  • Uprooted + Spinning Silver, by @naominovik
  • The Bird and the Blade, by @meganbannen
  • Descendant of the Crane, Joan He
  • An Ember In the Ashes, by @sabaatahir
  • Shadow of the Fox + Soul of the Sword, by @jkagawa
  • The Invisible Library, by @genevievecogman
  • Spin the Dawn, by @lizlim
  • The Magic of Unkindness, by @dalekevan
  • The Witches of New York, by @sideshowami
  • Nevernight + Godsgrave, by @misterkristoff
  • Sorcery of Thorns, by @marrogerson
  • The Poppy War, by @kuangrf
  • The Night Tiger + The Ghost Bride, by @yangszechoo

Why am I watching this?! Before We Get Married

Yeah, Jasper Liu is attractive, but dang! My skin crawled more than a little at times in episode 1 watching him obsess over the engaged and proper Puff Kuo! I confess to having watched 3 episodes so far of this Taiwanese drama because I just am more than a little curious how far (and dark) they may take this one.

Let’s be sure about one thing though, if he were not rich and attractive (his character, that is), there would be a restraining order slapped on him pretty damn fast, let alone an arrest for sexual harassment! Will I keep watching? I dunno…

#before-we-get-married, #jasper-liu, #puff-kuo

Sampling The Longest Day In Chang’an

Wow! If the first 2 episodes are any indication of craft and storytelling, this one will be spectacular!

There wasn’t anything that I didn’t find fascinating (though you might have to be a fast reader to catch all of the details in some of the subs). The story begins presenting problems to be solved — who are these people, what is the conspiracy that’s feared, what are they (both sides) up against? For a thriller fan like me, it’s enticing, but there is the added bonus of a very richly portrayed and exotic Tang Dynasty world.

Brief plot points for the set-up: A disgraced sleuth (military or police?) on death row is ‘bailed out’ by a wunderkind head of the anti-terrorist force (my term) to find a gang that appears to be set on murder and mayhem that very day in Chang’an. The plot may destabilize the throne, it may overthrow it… who knows!

I see that there are going to be 2 seasons of this but it looks amazing and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it continues as strongly as it started.

#the-longest-day-in-changan

Stop promoting a drinking culture, stop demonizing relationships

By now you’ve probably seen the news about Kang Ji-hwan being brought in on charges of sexual assault and no doubt this just makes you about as sick as it does me.

Our mutual disillusionment

The report is that he and two women returned to his home after a company event and continued to drink, whereupon the two women stayed the night at his house and later found their fellow intoxicant and host assaulting them as they slept. The women called a friend (not the police – why, were they concerned that the police would do nothing or were they looking for some other sort of advice/help?) who informed the authorities. He was still considered intoxicated when the police showed up. So drunk that he claimed to have no recollection of the evening’s events.

Things like this never look good for anyone involved, especially the accused, but also the accusers. And there’s plenty of shame to go around.

I’m not going to excuse Kang Ji-hwan for any misbehaviors; he needs to take his punishments as he ought. Excessive alcohol consumption at company events needs to be seen as the detrimental behavior that it is; it leads to any number of social and physical ills, such as alcoholism, liver damage, cancers, and impairment leads to poor judgment and decision-making liabilities too, drunk driving, sexual assault, loss of control, fights, even regretted choices (like sex when drunk), and many other damaging events. The causal effects of alcohol are both immediate and long-ranging (such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).

As for “Miss A” and “Miss B,” they need to examine their choices too. I can understand the risk scenario; he’s a very handsome, desirable man and the prospect of spending time in his company so intimately could be very enticing. It seems that they went willingly to his house, but really, could they be that naive? Is it possible that they went to his home because they were not attracted to him or his fame? Of course, it’s always possible… Do women (and men) have the right to expect that they will not be sexually harassed or assaulted? Of course, but it’s also important to practice common sense by not exposing yourself to situations where something can go wrong. Why go to his house? Why continue to drink? Why not call for a ride home? The finger of blame and shame will point their way too; were they looking for some attention, e.g., social promotions, career advancement, or even physical/sexual relationships with him? Those are all valid questions in light of their poor decision-making, even if their intent was simply to continue a fun evening and light-hearted partying, with no thought to benefit or gain.

While they culture of “Drink ’til you drop” in South Korea (especially at mandatory company events) is certainly a key component in what transpired, there is another component that needs to be addressed: the puritanical mores that are imposed upon celebrities. The commandments are:

  • “You shalt not look with romantic and/or sexual intent upon another person,”
  • “You shalt not form romantic and/or sexual relationships with another person,”
  • “You shalt not flaunt any romantic and/or sexual relationship with another person,” and
  • “You shalt not have a marital relationship and/or committed sexual congress with another person.”

These are unrealistic and unhealthy. Fans that demand this level of sacrifice are not fans, they are deluded obsessive types who should not be encouraged. When an actor/actress/singer states that s/he lives for her/his fans alone and “doesn’t have time to date” they are sending an unhealthy message and I implore my fellow true fans to celebrate happy relationships a celebrity pursues.

It’s sad when a relationship doesn’t work out. Song/Song couple, it’s a shame, but divorce happens to the best and most optimistic of us, but life goes on and we can learn from those unhappy mistakes and grow. It’s not a reason to clamor for a sponsor to drop someone from commercial work; it’s just a sign that people are imperfect and the things you like about that person (s/he acts/sings beautifully, etc.) are still the same. Yes, if someone commits a serious crime, proven in a court of law, then it’s time to acknowledge that s/he is a flawed individual and make your own personal choice to step away from being a fan of that person, or equally to hope that s/he can pay for the crime and make amends and grow up (as in the case of drug misdemeanors).

This rant is over for now, but let’s hope that the discussion continues, as does an awareness of what’s needed to avoid circumstances that lead to dangerous choices, that can leave people vulnerable to predators, and to learn how to make more intelligent and responsible decisions.

#kang-ji-hwan

Remembering one of the most influential actresses – Edith Gonzalez

Today Edith Gonzalez, actress in countless telenovelas and other works, lost her battle to cancer at the too-young age of 54.

For me, the most memorable role she undertook was that of Mónica, in the brilliant adaptation of Caridad Bravo Adams’ novel, “Corazón Salvaje.” The scenes with her costar Eduardo Palomo (also gone far too soon) were perfection and epitomized romance for me in the telenovela genre and beyond. The wedding night scene remains one of the best of any drama sequence I’ve seen in countless years of watching telenovelas and other serialized works.

Years ago, a group of dedicated aficionados (shoutout to our old companion, Telenovela-World.com) did a group watch when “Corazón Salvaje” was re-aired on Univision in the wee hours — locally it was from 2:00 to 4:00 am. I began by recording it and watching the tape the next day, or a few days later a couple of episodes at a time, but that was not good enough. Soon I was recording it and setting my alarm to wake up early before my normal time to watch it before work because I had to know what would happen next! His mesmerizing green eyes and her delicate beauty captivated me as much as the story did — but that was not enough! Soon I was setting my alarm to watch it as it aired, then went back to sleep to dream of the love story of Juan del Diablo and his “Santa Mónica.” I watched those old VHS tapes over and over again, and selected favorite scenes to replay and discuss on the phorum with other devoted fans. Those were the glory days of telenovelas!

I hope that she and Eduardo are cast soon in some heavenly creation, entertaining their adoring fans above.

#corazon-salvaje, #edith-gonzalez, #eduardo-palomo