Archive for the television Category

City Hunter: The Climax We Loved

Posted in korean soaps, television with tags , , , on August 25, 2011 by sunshin3girl

Unexpectedly, for a short while, I got a life. Therefore, updates, posts, and reviews took a backseat. Happily, the flipside of getting a life is that it enables you to gather loads of fodder for future posts. Many life-altering incidents happened – an impromptu trip to Paris, culmination of City Hunter, discovering another gem by Murakami, switch from French to Korean classes, and some other such brilliance. However, we shall start with the end, and talk about City Hunter today.

After a long time, I have watched a drama that left me satisfied. The K-hunger has been substantially satiated after my heart almost stopped beating for a few minutes in the last episode, and also in the second last. It is not only because of the ever-cute Lee Min Ho, (who by the way is now officially dating the lead actress from City Hunter, Park Min Young, fondly known as Nana Bear, thanks to Javanbeans) but also because of sleekness of the show. The music, the shots, and the story’s twists were pretty suave.

The first episode had left my mind fully blown, and though I thought that third episode took a dip, it quickly picked up my interest again. For one, the show struck impeccable balance between the drama, romance, and anticipation. The characters are few, but mostly strongly etched. Almost always, every scene had a purpose, and yet, it was hard to predict what happened next.

The best part about the show was that there was no “Eight Years Later” in the last 20 minutes of the final episode. Also, no one fled to a foreign land to nurse their broken heart; two of my biggest pet peeves in K-dramas.

Maybe I am blinded by the hotness, but Lee Min Ho seems to mature as an actor with every passing drama, and I found myself looking forward to solo scenes of Park Min Young too, so she is pretty engaging as an actor. Also, Lee Jun Hyuk as the second lead (?) and the third angle of the romantic triangle was like a breeze. He had character and principles; he wasn’t just another guy to begin with. Also, the way they wrapped up his story was magnificent. Although, we do not like deaths, but when shown so convincingly, it was almost glorious.

Of course, Kim Sang Jung is the real gray character of the series, with shades of evilness, ruthlessness, and yet, inspiring sympathy once in a while. Gratefully, no one was wicked just for the sake of it; either they hungered for power, or for money, but they all had a clear motive behind their acts. Of course, all this makes for a strong plot.

I also liked the way they subtly wrapped up the Cheon Ho Jin’s angle. No dramatic scenes of hugging the son whose existence you were unaware of until ten minutes back, no weeping and wailing over the long-lost true love. Thumbs up for that.

All in all, a great show. Maybe even my most favorite so far.

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Team Khaleesi

Posted in television with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by sunshin3girl

Ever since I started watching Game of Thrones, I have wished to write about it but I lack the skill and patience to describe something so layered. It is a fantastic epic from the very first frame, having not read the books, I have nothing to complain. I simply devour each character, story, and scene as it comes.

Many characters are to be loved, many hated, but hardly any to be ignored. While there are way too many story arcs and characters, and I can hardly remember the names of some, but no scene is meaningless. Every word uttered has a reason to be present and one realizes this later – a minute later, a week later, sometimes a month later. It’s beautiful, this well-crafted show.

From commencement of the epic, my favorite character was Arya – so determined, so strong, and yet extremely innocent. I also have been in dread of Joffery, whom I detest so much that it is unbelievable he hasn’t hurt me personally. Others like King Robert, Catelyn Stark, the Lanniester siblings couldn’t be ignored either. Also, the Targaryen siblings, how could I be ambivalent of them? And of course, true to girlhood, I like the brooding Snow too. However, as the first season culminated the choice of a one favorite character become simple. With the last scene of season finale, I have to say that I am not onboard Team Khaleesi!

This image could be considered a spoiler, but I really do not care.

Remaking Shitī Hantā

Posted in korean soaps, television with tags , , , on June 2, 2011 by sunshin3girl

For the first time ever, I have started following a Korean television show as it is being aired. What this means is that I cannot OD on it, while it stays with me all week. Gosh, it is almost cruel.

I have been hearing of City Hunter for a while now; it was probably one of the most anticipated dramas of this year. Besides the fact that it stars insanely hot Lee Min Ho, it being based on the popular Japanese manga by the same name also added to the eagerness of the fan community.

I picked up the first episode to kill time, with no plans to go through the complete show until it was completed. However, the fast pace, crisp storytelling and mind-blowing cinematography melted my resolve and I jumped on the City Hunter wagon!

The first episode opens in 1983 Burma and sets the premise of the show calling for a cold blooded revenge, lots of action, and of course, suspense. The guy swearing the revenge is hardcore invincible special agent, but he gives way the next generation, who is equally devoted to the cause, but has compassion, vulnerability, and curiosity. What caught my interest (besides the suave Lee Min Ho) was extreme characterization of the main characters, and pacing of the drama.

Despite being addicted to Korean television, I have always found the dramas extremely slow. Not, City Hunter. The story is captivating, cast well-chosen, and filming gorgeous. Be it the shots of the wild Golden Triangle (shot in Thailand), or Seoul, the director Jin Hyeok ensures slickness.

The tone changes substantially with the second episode, but it matches the expectations set by the first. Second episode is frothier, but the script ensures that it does not degrade into a soppy romance.

Actor Kim Sang-Jung performs his bitter and ruthless character well and convinces us to see him as a gray character. You cannot love or hate him, but you always know where he is coming from.

Lee Min Ho does a fantastic job in the first episode as a carefree and emotional 17-year old who transforms into a polished twenty-something with a hidden identity and secret agenda by the end of the episode.

Park Min-Young is a like a breath of fresh air, bubbly, smooth, and yet, emotive. I am a little tired of seeing haphazard cluelessness in the leading girls of the dramas. It is either that or innocent pride and haughtiness. Park Min-Young is refreshing, and I am seriously hoping she stays that way.

Besides these three, the other actors too do their job well. At least for the first two episodes, I cannot complain of any clichéd dialogues and boring characters or clumsy actors.

With the plot thickening in the second episode, I am really looking forward to unravel how the Big Five come down. While this revenge drama may not turn out to be a Kill Bill, my appetite for a well-directed, zippy revenge can never be satiated.

Mae Ri Christmas & Cotton Candy Romance

Posted in korean soaps, television with tags , , , on May 30, 2011 by sunshin3girl

Some of the Korean dramas I come across are so messed up that even the incest trodden weep-fest of One Fine Day seems fairer in comparison. It makes me wonder what goes on in the minds of the drama houses, script writers, and directors when they conceive such a plot. Sadly, most of the K-drama content available in English is by fans. The real meat on what goes on is probably available on Hangul sites.

Hence, I am forced to make up my own theories and derive my own conclusions. My money is on the audience analysis, which makes the drama houses believe that they need a handsome cast, and cute moments, with affable OST with the word sarang thrown in for a good measure. Next, they weave a story to encompass all those cute moments that they have come up with, and voila, we have the storyline for a 16-episode series ready!

First up for discussion is the bizarre fest called Mary Stayed Out All Night. With extremely cute little 24-year old girl in lead, it is a story of Wi Mae Ri who has to take care of financially delinquent dad, who is trying to get her married to a guy in order to get his sorry ass out of debts. In order to escape this forced alliance, she forces the indi singer Moo Kyul, whom-she-crahsed-her-car-into-and-then-he-came-over-to-shampoo-his-lovely-hair, to pose as her husband while her dad gets her marriage with the guy of his choice registered using her ID behind her back. After some quick complicated scenes, Mae Ri’s father and father-in-law-to-be decide that she should get 100 days to decide between the two guys by spending first half of the day with one guy, and the second half with the other.

Do you still think Winter Sonata was unrealistic?

So, Mae Ri of gorgeous hair spends more time with Moo Kyul of superb locks in order to stay away from the guy her dad chose. Complicated things continue, the other guy falls in love with Mae Ri (I bet it was her hair!), while she is increasingly drawn to Moo Kyul (of course, it’s his hair). She keeps running between the two houses, and her father apparently is fine with her daughter dating two men at the same time. Interestingly, the two men are also fine with it. They all seem to be extremely empathetic of the delinquency of her father, and are epitome of patience. The journey is full of cutesy moments that my melted my heart appropriately and there are some very catchy tunes to go with it. Wi Mae Ri’s innocence and Moo Kyul’s charisma made me continue with the series and I continued to disregard reality and went with the over-the-top flow of the show.

Moo Kyul’s character is unlike any I have seen in a Korean drama before. He isn’t the picture perfect quintessential hero with icy attitude towards the girl nor is he a spoilt brat with a good heart hidden under the layers. He is a street cat who gathers stuff off the street to build his pad, and does a cool job of it. His mother is a scatter brain who lives off his meager earnings and regularly ditches him, but he takes it in his stride without any bitterness. Even when he is clearly attracted and attached to Wi Mae Ri, he is supremely cool about it and does not pursue her actively. He just hangs around, but he is still warm and caring. How does one achieve this balance?

The warmth between the two leads, which is unlike the love-hate relationship in most dramas and the indie vibe of locations was a plus. From the first scene, the two share a rapport which is seen being transformed into affection almost naturally. However, every other character than the two mentioned above is uninteresting and fails to impress. The other guy is the quintessential good boy we earlier talked about; he is sweet, gentle, caring, generous, and extremely boring. Also, his hair is pretty ordinary. However, the parents are deeply infuriating and add to the flaws the weak story line. Their characters are etched to create problems but are completely cowardly and spineless at the same time. The other girl (what? You thought this wasn’t a romantic square?) could have easily fit in any other drama, where she is obsessed with the guy and hates the girl he likes. The obsession with vamps continues.

The last episode sees Mae Ri walking down the aisle with the guy of her father’s choice but in the end the one with better hair wins! Thankfully, no one gets married to anyone, which is a relief seeing that everyone with good hair is pretty childish and needs to grow up.

Now coming to the point, why did I finish watching this show? And why am I writing about it after almost three months? How on earth something so silly stick with me for so long?

It goes to show that whatever miraculous formula those drama-houses are brewing works despite its apparent flaws. Also, I wish I can find some web sites which give me the real news about the Korean television industry; any recommendations?

K-Drama: Pasta

Posted in korean soaps, television with tags , , , , on March 31, 2011 by sunshin3girl

What a refreshing series!

After being off K-dramas for a few months, I restarted with Mary Stayed Out All Night; entertaining though it was, stories cannot get any more bizarre. Followed this up with an old series, Attic Cat, but I had already seen its remake of sorts Full House, so there.

But Pasta was loads of fun. As the name indicates, the series is set in an up market Italian restaurant, La Sfera, where our hardworking Seo Yoo Kyung (Kong Hyo-Gin) has been toiling for three years as a kitchen assistant and has finally been offered a chance to hold the pan and hone her pasta-making skills. Overjoyed with the long-awaited opportunity, she bumps into an intriguing stranger on the crossroads where she is trying to save her goldfish.

The stranger, however, turns out to be the new head chef of La Sfera, Choi Hyun Wook (Lee Sun Gyun). The optimistic Yoo Kyung is happy to have her as her new boss but she soon finds that the Italy-returned, arrogant new chef detests girls in his kitchen. Hyun Wook sequentially fires all women chefs from his kitchen on his first day or so. Shattered but determined Yoo Kyung persists despite being fired and soon finds a spot for herself in Hyun Wook’s kitchen, quickly followed by one in his heart.

So, what is so special about this story, you ask? To begin with, it has well-etched protagonists and there is a definite character growth over the 20 episodes of the series. Second, the show does not call itself pasta for nothing; it has detailed scenes and drama around cooking. We see some real food being cooked, and though an Italian chef may disagree, for laymen the makers have done enough research.

What I loved the most was the breeziness of the show; despite the requisite drama in the story line, the series maintain a happy note throughout, and always end with a feel-good moment. The supporting characters played by the hot-hot-hot Alex and very pretty Lee Ha Nui are free of malice, which is almost unheard of in K-dramas. The love quadrangle has no scheming and plotting, just well-handled emotions.

The show is full of sweet moments but they do not end in the expected manner. You know how a sweet conversation between the girl and her admirer always ends with her boyfriend overhearing and misunderstanding? Nope, not even once. However, this does not mean that everyone is goody-two-shoes in this series; far from it, in fact. The main character starts off being a well-meaning pain-in-the-ass of a boss, whose confidence mixed with arrogance makes him look down on every other chef in his kitchen, but he slowly transforms into a good leader and teacher. The admirer of Yoo Kyung played by Alex is the most lovable character. He is a good friend, an understanding boss, and an empathetic lover, who knows when to step back but never does this in a spineless or spiteful way.

Additionally, the show does not depend on the clichés to ensure viewership. There are no super villains in the show and no one goes overseas for three years (although the last episode scares you with the probability for a while). Also, there are no overbearing almost-Indian parents poking their nose into every little thing and arranging marriages. The drama is added to the series by the chemistry between the chefs in the kitchen who are divided into two gangs, locals and Italian-trained. There is also an ex who sabotaged her boyfriend’s chances of winning a prestigious cooking contest in the past, and is now a rival but not the spiteful kind.

Lastly but very importantly, the show is full of lots of eye candy. A perfect way to unwind after a tedious day at work, I’d say.

Of hurried endings || Dexter Season 5

Posted in television with tags , , on January 22, 2011 by sunshin3girl

I have always been a big fan of the show. From the day when I first watched the beautifully crafted opening credits of Dexter season 1 on my tiny Creative Zen screen in 2007, I have followed the show religiously. I have marveled and critiqued the happenings, the growth of characters and the twisted crime scene of Miami over the last five seasons. Nevertheless, I have loved every moment of it.

Season 5 also had me gripped although it took the first three – four episodes to get me into the mood, I was not disappointed. Until the last ten minutes of the season finale happened.

I cannot help but think that someone was in a hurry to wrap up the season. Such a pity.

Dexter and His Irish Super-Nanny

The story took off fabulously after the huge shock of death of Rita. Dexter’s character was broken and conflicted, and he does things that not only break Harry’s code but also, make the audience shudder. Quinn is suspicious and reminds us of the good old Doakes. There is a lot of emotional drama thrown in thanks to the supporting cast and we see Dexter slowly evolve and respond to the people around him. And then, Lumen happens.

While the gorgeous Julia Stiles adds to the season’s mystery and motivation, she also acts as a catalyst for Dexter to rediscover his dark passenger, and passion for the kill that he seemed to have lost with the inability to avenge Rita’s death. To top all of this, there is Jordan Chase, played awesomely by Jonny Lee Miller. It is a much layered character that could put your best onion to shame. Slowly with every passing episode we unveil his layers in the most fascinating ways.

Then, why am I complaining? For this is a rant in disguise of a fanboy post.

Everything was fine until episode 12, but in the last 30 minutes, so much went wrong:

First, they wasted Jordan Chase. The most convoluted character of all times, his motivation is almost clear to the audience. He is the reason behind the entire season and the most heinous crimes, but in the end he seems to be turned into a crazed maniac with misplaced self-esteem. There was more to the character, and I could sense it. I just wish they had shown it a little more.

Second, Jordan Chase was the man of routines. Wasn’t the entire show based on this understanding? Then how on earth could he kill Emily and leave her corpse on the crime scene? He would never do that!!

Third, Lumen had to go. I fully understand. Besides the fact stated by my husband that the show wouldn’t be able to pay someone like Julia Stiles as a permanent actor, the story and the characterization demands that she moves away. However, I refuse to believe someone could do that in a span of 12 hours! Dexter saved her life numerous times, he helped her take revenge, and they were intimate and more. After all this, it took her 12 hours to pack her bags and leave? I would much rather have seen her leaving in the flashback in the first few episodes of season 6. I mean, they just made her seem like a manipulating selfish bitch.

Having said all this, I am still in love with the show and will eagerly await September 2011.

A Fantastic Sonata about Lies, Assumptions, Misunderstandings

Posted in fiction, korean soaps, television with tags , , , on August 5, 2010 by sunshin3girl

It has been a fairly long and completely unintentional hiatus. But do not be mistaken to think that I was living a real life while I was away. Much to my husband’s disappointment, my Korean-drama-obsession continues. So I recently finished watching my first (arguably) tragic show. And I must talk about it, of course.

Winter Sonata is by far the most popular Korean television show outside of Korea. When it was aired in 2002, it swept entire Japan in an emotional wave and till date, you can find people passionately discussing the show. The reason I picked up the drama was the lead actor – Bae Yong Joon.

Have I talked about him before? Well, to put things in perspective, it was Bae Yong Joon’s wax statue in Hongkong’s Madame Tussauds that got me interested in the whole K-thing. I first watched him in a movie called April Snow (외출), which greatly reminded me of Lost in Translation for some reason.

Waxy Love: Bae Yong Joon in Hongkong

Coming back to the main subject of today’s post, I picked up Winter Sonata sometime in early July and I have savored it for close to a month. The music grew on me after the first one hour and I iPoded it immediately. I was forewarned by well-meaning friends about this tearjerker but they did not know much about my Bollywood background, I guess. I did not shed a single tear but yes, my heart got broken several times during those 20 hours.

The show is well-made and its cinematography is better than your average Korean-drama. However, there are so many things that go wrong in a couple’s life. But our lead couple here seemed to have committed great sins in their prior six or such lives. The twists of this drama can put Bollywood’s Race to shame.

Winter Sonata: Boy A & Girl A

How about I summarize the story of those 20 episodes for you in bullet points?

  • Boy A joins a new school and picks up fights with Boy B from the very first moment. He also shows interest in Girl A, who is liked by Boy B. Boy A completely ignores girl B, who falls for him regardless of his cold attitude.
  • Boy A and Girl A hit it off. Boy B is jealous. Girl B is also jealous.
  • Boy A finds out that he shares his father with Girl A and runs away.
  • Boy A meets with an accident and Girl A finds out that he is dead.
  • Girl A, Boy B, and Girl B mourn.
  • Ten years pass.
  • Girl A is getting engaged with Boy B today. On her way from saloon to the venue, she spots Boy A. But how can that be? He died many years ago? Anyway, she is late for the engagement now.
  • Girl A meets Boy A-lookalike in office next day. She asks him if he is Boy A, but Boy A-lookalike has no clue what she is talking about. Incidentally, Boy A-lookalike is Girl B’s boyfriend.
  • Boy A-lookalike falls for Girl A, who starts to like him back. Boy B and Girl B are rightfully jealous.
  • Boy A –lookalike finds out that he is Boy A! How come he does not know it? Oh, coz his mommy got his memory erased.
  • Girl A refuses to believe Boy A, and wants to marry Boy B, whom she does not love.
  • Girl A believes Boy A, and does not want to marry Boy B anymore.
  • Boy A meets with another accident. Memory starts to come back in bits n pieces.
  • Girl A is happy. Boy A is happy. Boy B starts to accept his sad fate. Girl B is still very sad.
  • Boy A remembers that Girl A is actually his sister. Gasps.
  • Girl A is clueless about the incest and continues to be happy.
  • Girl A finds out and is sad.
  • Boy A decides to go away but finds out he is in need of some surgery.
  • Boy A finds out he is not really Girl A’s brother. He is in fact Boy B’s brother. Hurrah.
  • Boy B is still upset. Girl A does not know about this new development.
  • Boy A goes away. Girl A finds out that Boy A is not related to her.
  • Three years pass.
  • Boy A is now blind.
  • Girl A meets Boy A again, and they kiss. Happy happy ending.

Phew. You still with me? (really, if you prove it, I will mail you a special gift!!)

Bae Yong Joon (Boy A) is deliciously handsome, but that is not the only reason this drama is a mega hit. The makers knew how to tug the right strings of the audiences’ hearts. The series is full of heart melting moments and the main characters are intelligently crafted keeping the female audience in mind.

Besides the heart rendering soundtrack, the drama is also shot in exotically beautiful locations and shows the best of Korea in winters. Despite this convoluted plot, the three lead actors impress. Choi Ji Woo (Girl A) changes shades based on the situation and is definitely a pleasure to watch. Park Yong Ha (Boy B) is also fairly impressive as a possessive man, fighting with himself most of the time. (He committed suicide the day I started watching the show. L)

What? You find my comments on the show conflicting? Hello! The show is conflicted. The story sucks and is completely based on miscommunication and lies. Everything else is brilliant. The actors, the photography, the brilliantly handled emotional scenes, and the unforgettable soundtrack – everything makes the show worth a watch, especially if you like romances.

Ok, now some food for thought: Why is that when anything goes wrong in a Korean drama, people decide to go abroad? In every bloody show, they just go overseas. To top it, once someone goes overseas, they can never be contacted again. Why? It is greatly annoying although I should not be the one questioning this. (It is not unheard of in Bollywood either, where the other person usually succeeds in catching up before the flight leaves but that is because the Indian traffic police is highly romantic.)