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)…

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

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

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!

#arthdal-chronicals, #jang-dong-gun, #song-joong-ki

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

Here’s the Netflix promo for “My First Love”

My First First Love tells the story of college students and their realization of first love as they meet new friends. The series will be written by Kim Min-seo, who wrote Little Black Dress, created by Jung Hyun-jung who wrote Five Enough and Discovery of Love, and Oh Jin-seok who directed Yong-pal and Goddess of Marriage will be directing the trendy romance story.

Jisoo, Jung Chae-yeon, and Jinyoung will join the cast of My First First Love. Jisoo who made impact in Strong Girl Bong-soon, Jung Chae-yeon who gained popularity not only as a singer but with her acting in Drinking Solo, and Jinyoung, known as an all-round entertainer and for his role in Love in the Moonlight, will join as the three main cast of the series.

My First First Love will be an 8 episode series and be available only on Netflix globally in 2019.

www.netflix.com/title/81026700

My First First Love tells the story of college students and their realization of first love as they meet new friends. The series will be written by Kim Min-seo, who wrote Little Black Dress, created by Jung Hyun-jung who wrote Five Enough and Discovery of Love, and Oh Jin-seok who directed Yong-pal and Goddess of Marriage will be directing the trendy romance story.

Jisoo, Jung Chae-yeon, and Jinyoung will join the cast of My First First Love. Jisoo who made impact in Strong Girl Bong-soon, Jung Chae-yeon who gained popularity not only as a singer but with her acting in Drinking Solo, and Jinyoung, known as an all-round entertainer and for his role in Love in the Moonlight, will join as the three main cast of the series.

My First First Love will be an 8 episode series and be available only on Netflix globally in 2019.”

And one of my favorite Instagram artists, Zipcy, has done some illustrations for it: BwZNwQqg

#ji-soo, #jinyoung, #my-first-love