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

He Is Psychometric – Series Review

This is one of those series that, while you’re watching it you suspend a good chunk of disbelief because you enjoy watching some young talent with bright futures — namely Kim Kwon (as Kang Sung-mo) and Park Jin-young (Lee Ahn, the titular ‘psychometric guy’) as the two “brothers by fate” male leads. I should also add Jo Byung-gyu to this short list too (he plays the teenage Kang Sung-mo) because he is pretty darn good too.

There is also some nice work by Kim Da-som as their friend, Eun Ji-soo, and I appreciate the fact that the female lead played by Shin Ye-eun (Yoon Jae-in) is not the hysterical type in spite of some of the circumstances in which she finds herself.

But once all is said and done I felt that the early promise of the story is let down by the “kiddie cops” nature of the latter half of the plot.

In short: Lee Ahn develops psychometry after the traumatic loss of his parents in an apartment fire set to cover a multiple murder, ostensibly involving Kang Sung-mo’s mother as a victim. He cannot touch a person or things people have touched (including dead bodies) without picking up those memories of recent events. (Because this is based on a real thing… hah!) If such a thing were possible you could certainly understand how overwhelming it could be to come in random contact with the millions of stories of those near you as well as passers-by. Kang Sung-mo becomes like a brother to him after the fire, but has to place him in an orphanage while he completes his studies. Eun Ji-soo meets them during Lee Ahn’s time in the orphanage and becomes their friends, developing a massive one-sided crush on Kang Sung-mo. She follows in her dad’s footsteps and becomes a police detective, Kang Sung-mo becomes a prosecutor, and Lee Ahn skates by on life until he meets Yoon Jae-in and feels a connection. Turns out her father was unfairly blamed for the murder and fire and sent to prison for it. During the story, she and Kang Sung-mo independently work to find the real murderer. Lee Ahn is used to tap into the memories of various victims encountered along the way.

Kim Kwon is not the official lead of this story, but in truth he really is because he’s so compelling in his portrayal — he’s got the aloof, guarded, and mysterious thing down pat in his gaze. And he’s so damaged, life has been so hard for him (I’m not revealing the specifics here because to do so would diminish there impact), that his is a character you can empathize with and yes, even applaud his actions even when they go to extremes. The personality traits and how they’re portrayed by both Kim Kwon and Jo Byung-gyu are so in sync that while they don’t look like adult and teen versions of each other they do feel like it.

Park Jin-young also manages to convey the immaturity of a teen and young adult (there is a child actor who plays him as the boy in the story) who does his best to slough off the responsibilities of his “gift” and for a while does so by getting into fights and avoiding school. But once he realizes that his talent can really truly help get to the bottom of the crimes that orphaned him and so harmed the girl he’s fallen for, he tries (not always succeeding) to become more responsible. He’s boyish and enthusiastic and wears his heart on his too long sleeve (to protect those hands) and he’s very appealing.

The weak part of this all is that Yoon Jae-in may be a gifted student and a top-scoring rookie at the police academy, but it’s silly to think that she’d have the capacity to be involved in the crime-solving incidents that happen in the latter part of the plot. It definitely felt like a “kiddie cops” / Scooby-Doo gang shift and there is no way this could happen. But, if you’re going to believe in psychometry you might as well believe in rookie cops heading up investigations too!

All in all, in spite of those weaknesses, there are plenty of moments of genuine emotion and sufficiently compelling acting to make this worth your time. And keep an eye out for our leading men; they’ve got places to go!

#he-is-psychometric, #jo-byung-gyu, #kim-da-som, #kim-kwon, #lee-jong-hyuk, #park-jin-young, #shin-ye-eun, #that-psychometric-guy

Well Intended Love – Series Review

I began this drama with some cautious optimism because I’d had a pretty good experience with another Mango TV production (I Hear You) and someone in my Twitterverse had enjoyed it, but I also was curious because of some pretty adamant negative remarks on MyDramaList.com — people abandoned ship fairly early on and never looked back. So what inspired these conflicting viewpoints? Well, a lot, it turns out.

Frankly, I think most people stayed for Xu Kai Cheng, because he frankly is very appealing. I actually found Wang Shuang (aka Simona Wang) likable as well. But oh, the drama tropes they put these two through! It’s only because I was shallow enough to enjoy their performance together that I followed along with the various obstacles thrown into their paths willy-nilly (with a judicious use of the fast-forward button), but I won’t say say that I especially enjoyed much of what I saw along the way.

Let’s see, we’ve got a high-powered wealthy CEO 👍🏻, who’s a domineering control-freak 👍🏻, who does things for the heroine’s love that are supposed to be romantic but really?, really? 🤔 There’s a “terminal” illness and medical malpractice… We’ve also got a contract marriage, and the requisite cohabitation hijinx. Then there’s the “but they’re gay, right, and we’re cool with that, right?” sub-plot which falls incredibly flat. Let’s toss in a rich girl who won’t take “no” for an answer, a rich boy who is the type who probably enjoys pulling wings off flies but is nice to his dog (but not above using it as a pawn), and mommy abandonment issues. There are probably a half-dozen more I’m forgetting… oh, like amnesia!

When a drama is one long inter-connected string of cliches after another, what is there to like or admire about it? Well, I did say that I found Xu Kai Cheng and Wang Shuang appealing, and it is true, but hardly enough to stick around for if I’m to be honest. I liked his “I only have eyes for you” intensity and I liked her breezy playfulness with his best pal and dedication to making her career as a “D-list actress” on her own merits without cashing in on his name and influence. This, like I Hear You, places value on earning your own way in the world, and I can’t dislike that. But the rest of this is a mess. What’s even more astounding, though, is that they’re purportedly working on a sequel!

Oh, and there is a turn of events at about episode 11 that put most people off for good. You can read what this is after the jump if you want to save yourself the trouble of watching that far!

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#boss-wants-to-marry-me, #ian-yi, #simona-wang, #wang-shuang, #well-intended-love, #xu-kai-cheng

Netflix and new Chinese dramas from Mango TV

In order to not swoon myself to death over the gorgeous thing that is the Park Min-young and Kim Jae-wook relationship in Her Private Life, I have been taking detours all over the place and picked up 2 new Cdramas that Netflix has added. The first of these is I Hear You; the second is Well-intended Love and I’ll write about that one soon. Wile neither was top-drawer, they both have things to enjoy and even admire.

I Hear You is the story of opposites attracting (of course), and it ends up as a cohabitation drama. Ye Shuwei is a gifted violin maker and Bai Erduo is an aspiring voice-over actress. He’s tall and (overly) fashionable (in a manga hero way) and she’s petite and more the casual type. He’s established internationally and she’s yet to find success but is studying hard. He’s tsundere (of course) and she’s candid and outgoing. They are paired up on a reality dating show by his uncle (a younger uncle played by a guy with a strong resemblance to BTS’s Jimin), the show’s producer, and her best friend, the show runner. Their first meeting prior to the show casting is tainted by a misunderstanding; she thinks he’s been bribed or enticed by another voice-over actress with less talent but influential connections. He’s miffed that she would judge him so without knowing the facts, or even who he is.

On the show they must portray a real-life couple, but her poor first impression makes this a challenge to play along. Also, they’ve not really had romantic relationships before so they struggle with finding the way to do so genuinely. One scandal in the making leads to another and before you can say “Bob’s your uncle” they’re sharing his palatial home (separate bedrooms, of course).

There are some very predictable but cute moments between them that makes the show entertaining to watch, but what I really appreciated was the focus on her trying to develop her career and not depend on his connections. She’s studying Japanese, for example, to win a place at a good school in Japan and get proper training, and the show is a way to earn enough money to get there sooner. He doesn’t get in her way, and he doesn’t go overboard in trying to help her behind the scenes either — no fairy godfather stuff.

The relationship between the show producer and show runner though is very interesting too, especially the choices both make in the course of the story. If you watch the show, or have seen it, I would love to discuss Tang Li’s decisions in particular! (And also, tell me who you think she reminds you of because she’s not done much besides this so I’ve not seen her before. Some of her mannerisms remind me, in a way, of Gong Hyo-jin, but there’s someone else and I can’t put my finger on it…)

It’s not perfect; I find that they went a little overboard with the manga-esque characterization and costuming of Ye Shuwei because it takes you a little out of the moment when he’s cutting wood for a violin in a suit. I also was not keen on Bai Erduo’s mom and the money situation at times, but it wasn’t horrible, and that’s what the fast-forward button is there for.

One final comment (but it’s a spoiler so it’s after the jump)…

Continue reading

#dai-zhuo-ning, #gratitude-dai, #i-hear-you, #mango, #netflix, #riley-wang, #wang-yi-lun, #yuan-hao, #zhao-lu-si