Hana Kimi (花樣少年少女)

!!!BEWARE: SPOILERS ABOUND!!!

EPISODE 01

Hana Kimi has always been one of my favorite manga's, so when I heard there was going to be a live-action drama of it, I was beyond ecstatic. My first impression? I thought the actors for Sano and Nakatsu were PERFECT: I'd seen them on other dramas, and had a fairly good idea of how they'd fit into their roles. I was convinced, however, that Ella was NEVER going to be able to pull off playing Mizuki. She looked too much like a guy, and wouldn't be able to look cute and girlish, which was part of Mizuki's appeal. All of this I predicted after looking at the promotional posters that had been released in anticipation of the series.

Then I saw the first episode.

I'll admit it: I was a judgmental idiot. Now, after seeing Ella perform, I just can't picture anyone else playing that role. Sure, she may look like a guy... but I would much rather have someone who can act, than some pretty girl who simply cuts her hair short, and calls herself male. And honestly, the more you watch it, the more feminine she becomes... even when she's dressed like a guy, there are times when it's VERY obvious that she's female. And I must say, I adore the variety of expressions she pulls off... they're so cute, even though some people call them over-exaggerated or annoying, I think they're great. It's just another part of her character...

And the interaction between her and Quan is perfect: the chemistry is definitely there.

I fell in love with this series within the first 3 minutes. They really managed to capture the humor of the manga, and place it into a realistic setting... and the characters, all of them, are SO entertaining to watch.

My only complaint is Doctor Umeda's hair. The guy playing him is great, but I just can't get over how hideous his hair looks!! And he's one of my favorite characters from the manga, so that really pains me...

Again, I really can't begin to tell you how much I adore this drama...

The balance of humor, romance, and... I give up. It's just too cute for words.

EPISODE 02

(Quan = Sano; Xiu Yi = Nakatsu; Rui Xi = Mizuki)

Geez, this series is awesome.

I love Jiro's portrayal of Nakatsu (Xiu Yi in Taiwan). He is just so hilarious, and I love the funny/horrified/confused expressions he makes whenever he touches Mizuki. The poor guy... he has no clue she's a girl, but he's falling for her anyway. He's just so sweet... I love when he's yearning to hold her, to comfort her, when he sees her crying, but is afraid to since they're both "guys". It's really hard not to love his character... though I'm still a hardcore Mizuki & Sano fan. ;)

Speaking of Sano... ^_^

Honestly, I didn't think much of Wu Zun in Tokyo Juliet, but in this drama, I think he really IS Sano. He's got the handsome, quiet, tortured-but-talented thing going on for him... and every time he takes off his shirt, my inner-fan girl squeals. **dreamy sigh** I love how every time he catches Rui Xi sneaking a peek, all he does is give a cute, secretive, little smile.

I'm so glad they made him aware that she's a girl... I love the protectiveness he shows for her, and how he's determined to keep her by his side, no matter what. I'm just in love with his character. ^_^


EPISODE 03


This is one of my favorite episodes, and not only because I helped time the first half. ;)

This is when their first kiss happens!! Sure, he's drunk, and can't really remember it, but they kiss!! Aww, so cute. I wish it wasn't quite so forceful though... I think I prefer how they did it in the manga: she just kind of found herself trapped against the wall, he leaned in, and before she knew it... BAM! Kissed!

It was still cute in the drama though. ;)

One of my favorite scenes is in the beginning, when the boys are telling Rui Xi about the importance of Valentines Day. "Valentines Day... chocolates..." (haha, I just love how she says it). In a little bubble above her head, Rui Xi imagines giving Quan some chocolate--they confess their love, they hug--then, seconds later, out of nowhere, he pulls away, only to loudly proclaim (to their surprise) that she's a guy! Looking completely horrified, she replies, "Oh right! I'm a guy."

Wow. I was laughing like crazy! hahaha. Poor Rui Xi...

My main complaint for this episode is the "fat" issue. I'm really not sure how I feel about this. Part of me admits that it makes sense, and it further justifies why she admires Quan so much--a legitimate reason, but one that never occurred in the manga. But another part of me is a little insulted by it. I mean, I know that America is sort of known for being unhealthy and having weight problems, but not ALL of us do, and living here doesn't necessarily mean you'll get fat. It's just a little insulting, I guess.

It's just like that annoying misconception that everyone from the west greets each other by kissing. I have NEVER kissed another person on the lips/cheek when introducing myself, and I'd really like to know where they got such a strange idea. Personally, I think it's Richard Dawson's fault... the old guy who used to host Family Feud... but that's just me. ;)

But again, both of these, I can overlook. It's just something that stood out to me since it never happened in the manga.

EPISODE 04-14

I really love Rui Xi and Quan together... they really do have excellent chemistry. And I like the the fact that there were legitimate reasons for not confessing their feelings right away... I mean, such a big secret is understandable, as is the desire to actually keep it a secret.

And they included my one of my favorite story-arcs: the beach resort. I loved the kiss scene, even though I wish Quan hadn't looked so surprised, and tried enjoying it instead. ;)

But really, Xiu Yi is hilarious. One of the funniest things to see, was him coming "out of the closet" and confessing to Rui Xi! I don't think I've laughed like that in a long time... and hearing him call Julia an American Witch...? Classic. ^_^

And much to my surprise, I loved the Julia character. Judging from the first episode, I didn't think I'd like her much... but as soon as she entered the picture I couldn't stop laughing. She just interacts so naturally with Rui Xi that it's easy to picture them being life-long friends. Also, it was one of the few times we could actually see Rui Xi acting like a real girl... even if she wasn't actively aware of it.

I was a little disappointed that they still included the evil teacher arc though. They could have given us a decent ending, if they hadn't wasted an entire episode to that stupid cheating storyline... and knowing what happens in the last episode, makes me hate that arc all the more!

EPISODE 15

I'm so angry right now. I have never been so disappointed in a final episode in all my life. Seriously. What the hell were the writers thinking?! They had a brilliant set-up for a full-blown confession, and yet somehow managed to ruin it! What kind of drama has that kind of build-up, and then ends with the characters not officially getting together?! No. What I'd really like to know is how it went from, "I better confess my feelings" to the ever popular, "I better fly back to the US without telling anyone... even if I don't have a good reason."

...WHAT the #*%#?

What kind of ending is that?!

One little kiss--is that too much to ask? Just once when neither of them are drunk, irrational, or asleep? They did it in the manga, you know--I wasn't just dreaming it.

There were more problems with the ending than that, but I'm too frustrated to go into it. Don't even get me started on Xiu Yi! I loved the twist (it's actually what I wanted to happen in the manga) but the way they handled it was HORRIBLE. It was rushed, and made no sense.

Please. Someone tell me there's a sequel. I really can't say I liked this drama if this is the way it's officially going to end. I am just so disappointed and angry right now. Only my love for Rui Xi and Quan (and of course the 14 other episodes) is keeping me from giving this only one star...

Update: Don't worry, I've calmed down now, lol. Still disappointed by the ending, but still madly in love with the series overall. Especially since I tried to watch the Japanese adaptation, and am one of the HanaKimi fans who wanted to claw their eyes out afterwards.

My Rating:




Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World

I wonder if I'm a horrible person. I wasn't nearly as moved by this movie as I should have been... and I was ready to cry, I was ready to watch something hopelessly depressing, and get lost in its overwhelming sadness. But for some reason, with this movie, I just couldn't get into it.

Honestly, I'm not sure why.

The story itself was sad and touching, and it painted a beautiful picture of first love... yet, in the end, I wasn't affected by it. And I'm a HUGE wimp when it comes to these type of movies, so I'm kind of at a loss as to why this one affected me as little as it did...

The characters were well-rounded, believable people, who you could easily sympathize with. And it was heartbreaking seeing Saku struggling to come to grips with Aki's death, even after 15 years have passed.

I think my main problem with this story is that I've seen it all before. I've seen plots very similar to this one in movies and in dramas, so it was a lot harder for me to get into since it seemed like I was watching something I'd already seen before.

I guess I've become sensitized to these types of movies. I really can't figure out why else this movie didn't get through to me...

But it was good. I don't want to belittle its story, or the acting, or directing. It was put together wonderfully, and I just love how he transitioned between the present and the past through use of the cassette tape.

I must admit though, that I thought their sudden (obsession? fascination?) with Australia was a little silly. I mean, they see one random photograph from some old camera, and suddenly they deem it the center of their world? I mean, I guess I can understand why Aki is so fascinated by it... but still, it just sort of came out of nowhere. In the end, I really couldn't understand why that place--out of all the places in the world--became so important to them.

And then, their obsession with actually going there had me distancing myself somewhat from the movie. For some stupid reason, all I could think of was, "how can they afford that? Aren't they in high school? They couldn't even afford a new Walkman, but they suddenly have enough cash for a trip to Australia?" And of course, from there, I started wondering what the whole point of taking a trip like that so late into the movie would accomplish anyway. Is traveling to Australia a form of escape? Is it a way to force them on a physical-type-journey, so that they're not completely entrapped within the emotional and psychological?

I admit, it was a good way to end the film, but it seems like the same could have been accomplished somewhere in Japan. Why go all the way to Australia?

Err, maybe it's just me... so don't take my opinion on this movie too seriously. ^_^

My Rating:

Doll Master

I guess this movie was okay--but it wasn't anything special. I was expecting something more, given so many reviews for this were positive and almost everyone claimed it was scary. So of course, going into it I had very high expectations. In the end, I was disappointed.

But the dolls were cool... ^_^

My main problem with this movie, was the plot. Frankly, the idea for this is just really stupid... especially since I've had my own fair share of dolls since I was little, and they don't exactly conjure up images of terror and fear. Which is one of the reasons I found it so hard to be scared watching this...

I had a doll. Her name was Fame Holly. Trust me, if a bald thing in diapers, with a huge oversized head, wearing a hideous green bonnet suddenly approached me, talking... I wouldn't need any help "remembering" her.

Another problem I had with this is movie is that it's SO predictable. I guessed almost every twist they threw at me, right from the start... the story of Mina, though, was really sad... but again, I expected it, so it came as no surprise.

The only good thing about this movie, in my opinion, is the fact that the dolls inside the house were really creepy. I would never have stayed in such a house!

Overall though, I had a hard time taking this movie seriously. It was interesting, I'll give it that... but I would've liked it more if it was a comedy. The story is too ridiculous to be taken seriously, and the final outcome too cliche and predictable. For a horror movie... well, it didn't quite work for me.

But that's just because I don't find dolls scary in the least...

Then again, who's to say it won't work for you? If dolls creep you out, then by all means, go ahead and watch this. But if they don't, I'd strongly recommend something else. ^_^

My Rating:

Fly, Daddy, Fly

This movie wasn't what I expected at all. In fact, it was better than I could have ever imagined. It was inspirational, sad, and touching. I have never seen a main character who is so easy to root for--someone who you honestly, whole-heartedly want to see succeed, no matter what. Seeing the transformation he went through--it really was amazing to witness. And it's always wonderful to see good triumph over evil, especially when it's achieved through the use of an underdog.

The main actor, Lee Moon-sik... they could not have chosen a better person for the lead role. And I heard he actually trained extensively for the part too: at the beginning, it's not due to great use of makeup, or some sort of fat-suit--the actor really transformed his character into a completly different person by the end of the movie. I couldn't believe it at first, but once you watch it, you can really apppreciate all the work that went into creating such a well-rounded, likeable, character.

And I'll even admit it: I got a little teary-eyed at a few parts, especially towards the end. And I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but it wasn't always because something sad was going on. Geez, I get way too emotional over some of these films... lol.

To sum up: this was just a great, fun, entertaining drama. I really can't say that enough! And part of it was about boxing. Boxing! I know nothing about that sport, nor have I ever cared to--I've never even seen Rocky!

There are so many great things about this movie... but if I had to choose one particular aspect, I'd have to say, hands-down, its the acting. The actors are the ones who brought this movie to life. The story was great, don't get me wrong, but I just can't imagine it being as effective if other actors had been cast in those roles. And if the acting had been horrible, this movie just wouldn't have worked...

Lee Joon-ki was wonderful too, although this isn't the first time I've seen him. I watched him in My Girl (which also happens to be one of my favorite-top-5 Korean Dramas) and though I didn't think he particularly stood out or took my breath away (which he did for so many viewers) in this film, I took notice. I guess I just prefer the type of character he played in this movie more. I like guys who can fight, and fight well. In My Girl he played a womanizer, which immediately turned me off his character. But now, seeing him act out a character who's very cool without being pomous or conceited, I have to say I'm quickly becoming a fan of his. I definitely intend to look up some more of his movies and dramas--same goes for Lee Moon-sik, of course. ^_^

One thing that surprised me about this movie was the lack of romance in it. I am a huge fan of romance, and almost every movie I watch needs to have at least some romantic love going on: the fact that this movie had none, and that I felt it still deserves a 5 stars, says something.

My only complaint: I wish they had translated the song lyrics, lol. Other than that, I plan to buy this movie; and hey, I may even buy the soundtrack too! ;)

My favorite scene? The bus-race. Hands down. I was going to give this movie a 5 based on that scene alone. Awesome. Awesome. I couldn't stop smiling throughout that whole race. And of course the boxing match at the end... but that's to be expected, since the entire movie is building towards their confrontation.

Again: I really, really, really loved this movie. I loved the music, the directing, the fight coreography, the acting, the boxing--everything. I really couldn't find a flaw in it. I'm sure there is one, but for me, this movie was perfect.

My Rating:

The Harmonium In My Memory

This really is a sweet, romantic movie. While I was watching it though, I did get a bit bored and felt it dragged a little (it does run almost 2 hours!) but for a story that attempts to realistically portray a young girl's crush on her school-teacher, a little bit of boredom is well worth the development it takes to set up the ending.

But still, I couldn't help feeling a little... well, awkward, I guess... at this young girl's admiration for her teacher, and her shy, yet honest attempts to get his attention. They were cute, I'll admit... but some of the things she did seemed really contradictory, and well, annoying. I mean, one minute she'll be hiding her face behind her book, or darting out of his line of vision; the next, unabashedly dedicating a very honest, frank, journal entry to him--one she knows he'll read. It was just a little odd considering the sudden shifts in behavior. But, I guess some people feel more comfortable writing about their feelings than talking about them... I know I do. But still, I'd never actually show anyone! And she was young, so I guess that could account for some of her bravado.

But I guess that just means she's got more guts than me. ^_^

And I have to say, I LOVE the poster for this. It seems nostalgic in a way, with just the colors and the positioning of the actors. It really does look like a photograph someone took of a cherished memory--honestly, I think the main reason I wanted to see this was because of its cover. I seem to be a sucker for judging a movie by its picture, rather than by its reviews and descriptions, lol... even though I'm continuously let down. Thankfully, this time I wasn't!

Her journal entries really freaked me out though. I can understand liking a teacher, but to be so bold as to talk openly about your crush in journal entries you know he'll read... yikes. It made me uncomfortable for both him and her. And the young girl herself... she seemed kind of weird to me, and a lot older than she was portrayed. But still, I liked the moments that showed her bonding with her teacher; they were very innocent and didn't overstep any boundaries.

The best thing about this movie is its ending--even with a title like this, it's easy to forget the foreshadowing that takes place throughout. It really makes up for the film's shortcomings, and satisfies anyone who's ever had a crush which seemed unlikely to come to fruition.

Definitely worth a watch, I'd say. ^_^

My Rating:

신데렐라 (Cinderella)

No fair. This movie sucked! It wasn't scary and it made absolutely no sense. Plus, the last 30 minutes were shot almost entirely in a dark room. I couldn't see anything that was going on! Of course, if they had simply installed LIGHTS in these stupid houses, rather than walk around in the dark all the time, then we would've had a better chance of figuring out what was going on. As it stood, the ending was a complete and utter disappointment.

To be honest, I think I know what they were getting at towards the end. But that explanation makes no sense whatsoever! It's impossible for several very important reasons:

SPOILERS

ONE: If the "deformed" daughter in the end IS in fact the "adopted" daughter she picked up at the church, then why was her face all scarred and deformed? Are we supposed to believe that the psychotic mother gave her flesh-and-blood daughter the "adopted" girl's face...? And if so, why? And how? She simply carved it off and placed it neatly over her scarred tissue and lovingly sewed it on? She had a closet FULL of those things, so if they were so easy to make, why not just do the same thing for the adopted daughter? Why break her promise to her?

Is it only because her secret would be out--that she practically kidnapped that girl, as a replacement? And if so, why did the father know?

Bah, too many questions, and none of these are adequately addressed in the movie.

TWO: Why even show the part at the beginning where one of the daughters is supposedly hanging herself? It looks like she succeeded, but if that's the case, then why does the mother keep her body? Where does she keep it? And if it's dead, why can it move around, interact, and talk to everyone, as if it were still alive?

Is it just some really talented ghost...?

And if the mother was keeping the fake daughter near the real one, then why didn't the real one know? Was her memory systematically wiped out? Was she brainwashed, and forced to remember everything except the accident, the operation, and the "other" sister, etc?

Bit of a stretch, there...

I think the only reason they did this was for the "Wow! What a twist!" factor. If they had just stuck with an ending that made sense, it would've worked a lot better: the main girl was the adopted daughter--the ghost was the real one. There, easy. And the motivation's there. At least then it would have made sense, and not ruined the whole movie.

There are even more problems with this outcome, but I'm not even going to bother.

END SPOILERS

Come on... even in horror movies, things need to make some sort of sense. At least in the ring, we can understand Samara's anger, and realize the repercussions of viewing the tape.

Here, none of the important scenes are made clear.

I am so disappointed and angry right now... I had such high hopes for this movie.

Stupid cover. It made it look so good too. :(

My Rating:


Almost Love

There are so many things I loved about this movie: the acting was top-notch, the characters were extremely likeable, and the story was very realistic. I think most of us dream of having someone who knows us inside and out, just like Dal Rae and Ji Hwan. They knew just what buttons to press to make the other mad, and what to say to cheer them up: I like how everyone seemed aware of their feelings for one another except themselves. Honestly, I just fell head-over-heels in love with them as a couple: I was cheering for them the entire time!

Some of my favorite scenes were when they showed them as children--how they met, how their friendship grew stronger, and of course the burial of the squirrel. The way they grew from friends to the possibility of something more, was handled perfectly, and I love the way their relationship developed throughout the film.

I had a feeling while watching this, that maybe this was based on a real account, or maybe someone's blog--like My Sassy Girl or My Tutor Friend was. I have no proof of this, of course, it's just a feeling more than anything else; but that just goes to show how real these characters were to me.

There was very little I disliked about this movie... but if I had to name something, I would have to say it was Ji Hwan's hairstyle. No seriously. I mean, I know he idolizes Jackie Chan, but really, his hair just looked hideous like that. For his character though, it does fit his personality, and eventually I learned to accept it... but it took a lot of getting used too. And honestly, I don't think I ever truly got over hoping that maybe he'd surprise her with a haircut. Sadly, that was never the case. Even with his hair that way though, he is still cute, so I can't really complain that much.

SPOILER

I do wish they had expanded a little more on the ending though. I realize that they are (probably) together by that point, but a little better confirmation would have made me feel a lot better. Just one quick kiss, that's all I was asking for! Just something to show that their relationship had indeed changed--something I could squeal happily over, rather than get teary-eyed--darn you, overused plot device!

END SPOIERS

Jeez, this was cute. Even when I was crying over how cruel fate could be, I was still on the edge of my seat, waiting for them to get together. The fact that Dal Rae had a boyfriend who was actually nice, didn't deter my determination for true love to win out in the end. It's always a nice change too, when the jealous boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't go out of their way to ruin the main couple's relationship. You have to repect a character who realizes when he's lost and his willing to step down... she really did choose a great boyfriend.

I also love how they showed their relationship with their parents. Neither of them had a regular family life--Ji Hwan was raised alone by his father; Dal Rae's father was sick--but both of them were stronger because of it. And I really envied the dedication and tenacity they showed when pursuing their dreams... even when it looked impossible, they refused to give up.

And of course the chemistry between them was terrific. I loved the karaoke scene, and the part where they watched the movie together... it really showed how compatible they were, and how close they were to being boyfriend and girlfriend, without realizing it.

I really think I could watch this movie over and over and over again. ;)

As if you couldn't tell by this point, I loved this movie. It wasn't perfect (though in my opinion it was close) but then again, I have yet to see a movie that is perfect. I will admit, however, that during the second half something happens which seriously changes the genre of the film from comedic to dramatic. But honestly, even that didn't bother me. I thought they handled the situation well, and that it brought them even closer together.

Either way, if you like a great romance, this is the movie for you. The chemistry between the two leads is reason enough to watch... ^_^

My Rating:

Hellevator: The Bottled Fools

 
((summary taken from dramawiki))

One elevator, one girl who can read minds and one floor where the elevator should have never stopped: the ideal ingredients for a classic piece of weird horror. In the claustrophobic space of the elevator, a bunch of screwed up psychos who board halfway through produce absolute madness and mayhem on every square inch.

Kou Kou Kyoushi 2003 (11 Episodes)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

Hina, a student at Nikko High School, goes out one evening with her classmate Beniko. They get split up and Hina ends up in a strange meeting with a man named Ikumi in a game arcade. The next day, Ikumi turns up as the new teacher at her school. Ikumi doesn't seem to recognize Hina but the wheels of fate are slowly moving to reunite them in what is a passionate story of forbidden love.

One of the main underlying themes of this drama is death. Another important theme is the struggle Hina and Ikumi have in trying to realize the difference between love and dependence... or is there a difference?

Not just a remake of the 1993 version; it takes place at the same school, but with different characters and situations. 

Delicious Proposal (10 Episodes)

EPISODE 01-04

((summary taken from dramawiki))

Imagine that you're at the so-called "marriageable age" of your life as a single woman...what would your ideal conditions for a husband be? Back in the day, people used to say the "3 Hs"--high salary, high educational background, and tall height; nowadays it's more like the "3 Ls"--ladies first modest attitude, low risk, and a low dependency rate. But that's another story. The real problem is that before your very eyes, a young, well-paid "super hot celebrity guy" appears...and proposes to you...what do you do?

Hasegawa Kyoko plays Shiraishi Suzuko, a beautiful and strong-minded female chef. Koide Keisuke plays the naive young celebrity businessman, Katsuragi Haruki. These two characters await you in this comic drama full of all sorts of mishaps.


Ikinai (Suicide Tour Bus)





((summary taken from AsianMediaWiki))


The sign says "The Sunshine Club Okinawa New Years Tour." Yet everybody sitting on the bus seems strangely somber. Everybody is accounted for and the bus is about to leave when a young woman joins the group. Her uncle has been committed to an asylum and she will use his ticket. Reluctantly the tour manager lets her join the tour. Eventually we find out that the passengers and tour manager all have a suicide pact to send the bus over a cliff so the families can collect on insurance.

Redeu-ai (Red Eye)



((summary taken from AsianMediaWiki))

On July 16, 1988, a train accident which drives 100 hundred people to death occurs. Without knowing the cause, the case becomes a mystery and soon gets forgotten. After 16 years, a train attendant Mi-sun is on board first time at work. The train leaves its platform as scheduled and rapidly gains the full speed. All of sudden, it stops for 10 minutes without any reason, and restarts. However, when it begins to run, all Mi-sun can see is from the 80’s and old newspaper with the date written July 16, 1988. What happened during the 10 minutes when the train stopped and where are they going?