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.

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#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

One Spring Night – Series Review

Back on the kdrama bandwagon — I just finished watching One Spring Night, and I must say that I really enjoyed it. I know that it’s compared a lot with Something In the Rain, since it shares the same director and actor, but I actually enjoyed this much more!!

Of course..it was hard for me to accept the gravity of the obstacles that the main couple faced..our hero being a single dad being the most grave of them but it was about so much more. Han Ji Min did a fantastic job of portraying a strong woman who has vulnerabilities but also many strengths and is willing to fight for them..she’s not perfect..she admits it herself..but you would want someone like her in your corner. it’s also heartwarming to see how strong all the women are in this drama..no doormats to speak of..yeah!!! Refreshing and still interesting despite the fact that the traditional overbearing father did still make an appearance and it was fun to hate quite a few characters as well.

I liked the fact that though it was clear that their love was deep..it was also unsettling as a viewer because you weren’t quite sure all the way through if that was enough..it isn’t always in life is it? The supporting cast (actors and characters) was excellent as well..I really enjoyed discovering a new actor (Kim Joon Han) who I hope to see more of in future.

They did deserve an “F” for one thing..I don’t know about librarians in Korea but here they are no longer the stereotypical little old lady with white bun and glasses..lol..but that’s exactly what they were thinking when they made the poor girl up each morning..all she lacked was the white bun..I’ve never ever seen such a horrible wardrobe in my life..shame on them! What were they thinking?????

#han-ji-min, #jung-hae-in, #kim-joon-han, #one-spring-night, #series-review

Beauty Inside – All finished!

I have to say that though there were quite a few holes in this drama on the whole I’m glad that I watched it. Would I recommend it? Hmm… maybe, and only if you’re like me and really love Lee Minki, but don’t get me wrong, there were some real positives.

I can’t say enough about the excellence of the main group of actors..especially Lee Minki and Seo Hyun-Jin. They had amazing chemistry, but were also really comfortable with each other too. From the BTS videos on YouTube I saw that they seemed to have lots of fun as they shot the scenes and that’s definitely reflected on screen. Though his robotic performance felt very familiar… his face was able to convey a sentiment or reaction very well in a subtle way (and let’s face it I was studying him VERY closely, LOL!).

She really is a very skilled actress, a powerhouse full of energy. I’m thinking that Yolette would have especially loved her because she took nothing from anyone. She gave as good as she got and she enjoyed her bad girl image. She wasn’t perfect and she made me really mad at the end but I won’t soon forget this character.

But, this wasn’t only about the main couple. I also really enjoyed the scenes where the secondary characters interacted because they were able to really feel like individuals who were just spending some time together (and not always peacefully). They even had an adorable miniature dog who was passed around like a little treasure. LOL What more can I ask for?

As expected there were many questions for which we got no answers. I felt that the writing really failed especially in the last couple of episodes. The final episodes felt rushed in one sense and very slow in another. I think that this drama could easily have been much shorter. It didn’t need 16 episodes for this plotline at all, though it was nice to see the guest cameos.

#ahn-jae-hyun, #beauty-inside, #lee-da-hee, #lee-min-ki, #seo-hyun-jin, #series-review

In case you’re tempted to watch Here to Heart

I think it’s good to go into it knowing that you will need to fast-forward, you will gnash your teeth at the repetitive plot that keeps the leads apart, you will want to slap the well-meaning family and friends who act thinking that they are doing the best for their loved one even though it means you’ll be fast-forwarding even more, you must recognize that there are lots of things that keep the lead couple off-screen more than should be allowed in any drama (hence the fast-forwarding), even though there are some respectable performances by most of the male supporting characters. It’s not for nothing that some people have complained that Hans Zheng and Janine Chang are almost like guest actors in their own drama… But at the very end of it all… well, you can tune in for my rant after the jump at the bottom of the post!

Janine and Hans are trying to figure out why they can’t just be together

Even with all this complaining, there really were some entertaining moments in this drama. I think that’s what irritates me most — they could have had something solid, even very good, if they had just gotten out the scissors and cut this 48-episode show into, maybe 24… tops! Even though there are some personal space issues between between Hans Zheng’s spurned boyfriend/CEO and Janine Chang, the spurner (for good reasons)/his assistant, there are some moments where they work really well together, and separately. He’s got the driven, ruthless, yet tender-hearted thing down, and she’s very good at fragile-looking but strong. There’s some deep sh#t that’s kept them apart, and on paper it makes sense that she would find it very hard for her to believe that they should be back together again (no matter how much they long for each other).

I found the interferences of her guy pal and her older sister the most annoying, less so on his part, much more so on her part because this is ALL HER FAULT in the first place! She’s so immature at times, and needy, that I’d like to reach through the screen and slap her. Who she ends up with (and how) is somehow so appropriate, but yet it feels wrong, mostly because of the casting of her love interest. I do feel bad for Jing Chao’s character, the wish-he-could-be-boyfriend friendzoned pal. Maybe because he’s easy on the eyes… No, because he is trying really hard to be a good guy, even if he does cock things up now and then.

But what irritates me… spoiler rant after the jump

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#hans-zheng, #here-to-heart, #janine-chang, #jing-chao, #series-review

Goodbye Mr. Sunshine!

This one was a longer drama and not the kind that you necessarily wanted to do a marathon viewing of given the subject matter. I’ve seen enough dead bodies of soldiers and civilians to last me a life time..lol! I won’t touch on the background political issues because really my interest was in the characters..though there is NO doubt whatsoever that Japan IS THE BAD GUY (just in case you might have been wondering.)

I must say it was a pleasure to discover (or rediscover) these actors.  I knew more OF Lee Byung-Hun than really being familiar with his acting so I appreciated getting more familiar with his work. It was a pleasure to finally see Yoo Yeon-Sook in action – first time and how lucky that I saw him in THE most awesome role..strutting around like a Samurai. Another discovery was Byun Ho Han – what a complete charmer he was! The biggest surprise was Kim Ming Jung who was just blah in Man to Man, but here she was really awesome and she had the most fantastic wardrobe I’ve ever seen (I’m partial to the turn of the century western fashion)..she looked gorgeous.

I think the writers made a real effort to flesh these characters out. Each one of them had a back story that deserved his or her own drama. All had suffered and all had taken different paths and all paths crossed in Joseon.

I think the relationship between the leads was handled respectfully (given the huge age gap) but for me the biggest plus was the relationships that grew between them all, not necessarily having anything to do with romantic love. These were strangers who came to care about each other – though not everyone cared for the CAUSE – they cared because someone else did. The bromance was strong and oh so satisfying. There was even a lightness at times (much needed, of course); how can you watch a drama like this, filled with human sacrifices and fighting for something so much bigger than them without spilling a tear or two or three? That should come as no surprise at all.

Lastly, the incredible cinematography continued until the very end and it was a visual ongoing feast!

#byun-yo-han, #kim-min-jung, #kim-tae-ri, #lee-byung-hun, #mr-sunshine, #series-review, #yoo-yeon-seok

Love O2O – Series Review

I was browing my Netflix list and thought I should make an effort to start actually watching some of those I’d bookmarked, so I started on Love O2O as I recalled hearing favorable things about it and I was in the mood for fluffier stuff. Happily, this was charming fluff, with an attractive lead couple who clearly have eyes only for each other (no betrayal angsty moments) and have friends who are happy to support their relationship.

Yang Yang is not the most expressive of male actors, but he sure is pretty, and I’m never going to complain about a popular, well-liked guy who falls head over heels for a girl because she is a dedicated computer gamer (who also happens to be a knockout – bonus!) to the point where he gets a little bit stalker-ish gazing on her from afar in real life and drawing close to her in their gaming platform. (Sigh… stalking is wrong, I know, but getting a little swoony-eyed because you have a crush on someone and doing something intrusive about it are two different things. His character is more in the swoony-eyed category.)

Zhang Shuang’s Weiwei is a stunner (though man, she could use a sandwhich or two), and it’s gratifying to see women who exceed in school, merging study with interests (she is a computer science major like Yang Yang’s character, Xiao Nai) to become the top female gamer in a role-playing game. She’s pretty much perfect, as is he, so their coming together is clearly written in the stars.

I’ll confess: I’m not that much into gaming myself so some of the play time and getting his game business up and running were less compelling to me so I did a little judicious fast-forwarding so I could spend more of my time with the couple and their friends. Mao Xiao Tong plays a bubbly (borderline annoying but super cute) best pal to Weiwei who gets involved with poorly styled Bai Yu’s character (that hair!), who has a crush on Weiwei and has a harder time with her polite ‘no thank you.’ Zhang Bin Bin (the demon prince from 10 Miles of Peach Blossoms) has a surprising role (saying would be spoiling) that I found to be a little broody and almost predatory, even if it’s touched on obliquely. More on this after the jump.

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#bai-yu, #just-one-smile-is-alluring, #love-o2o, #mao-xiao-tong, #netflix, #series-review, #weiweis-beautiful-smile, #yang-yang, #zhang-bin-bin, #zheng-shuang