The Host

I’m not normally a fan of “monster” movies… they usually lack originality, believability, and likable, sympathetic characters. Plus, the monsters almost always look fake and ridiculous.

The Host, however, made me rethink the monster genre completely! The entire film was so well done I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Maybe because the movie revolves around the rescue of a child… so you really want the heroes to succeed. All the characters were interesting and had depth: I loved how they all seemed so distant at the beginning of the movie, only to become unbelievably close in the face of the crisis. It was really inspirational…and sad. One of the most heart-breaking scenes in the whole movie is the beginning, when they all come together to mourn Heon Sae who they think has died. When they lose it and start rolling around on the floor, fighting and throwing blame… it manages to be funny and extremely sad, all at the same time… it’s such a great, powerful scene.

And considering the plot, everything was actually very believable—if a mutant monster was ever created through dangerous toxic waste, I can imagine it behaving/looking a lot like the creature in this movie. I was surprised how realistic it looked, and how creepy it could be—I definitely wouldn’t want to go up against that thing!! The human reaction too, was very strong—the initial curiosity, which quickly turns to disbelief, fear, and panic—it was perfect. I loved how the crowd was originally throwing it food, and treating it like it was harmless… if a situation like this ever happened, I’d bet money people would be acting exactly this way!

It was all very believable… right up to the way everyone who came in contact with it was quarantined and isolated. Even the American government stepped in, and managed to screw things up.

I just loved the main family. Every single one of them was likeable, and the way they banned together in order to save their youngest was inspirational and beautiful. We can only hope our own families would go to such lengths during a tragedy, and do so fearlessly and bravely. I cried so much for them… I almost wanted to dislike them, so that it wouldn’t be so painful to watch. Truthfully, this was like a really well thought-out, acted, and directed revenge-and-rescue drama. The only difference is that the foe they’re facing is a freaky, killer monster… and their own government.

I really can’t stop gushing about this movie. It quickly became a favorite of mine, and is one that I wouldn’t mind watching again and again. Perhaps it’s because my expectations were so low to start with… but whatever the reason, this is a terrific film.

I really think this is a movie that almost anyone would enjoy. So trust me and watch it, okay! I promise that in the end, it’s more than just a “monster” movie. ;)

My Rating:

Spy Girl

Wow. Not even Gong Yoo could save this movie. The story was sooo boring… and there wasn’t even one real conflict throughout the entire movie! Even the way it was narrated was disappointing: it begins from Go Bong's point of view, and not even half-way through the movie, suddenly switches to the spy’s perspective instead. (You’d think it would be more interesting that way… but surprisingly enough, it's not!)

Normally, I'd be okay with this type of shift, but these characters are both so dull that jumping between their narrations is unnecessary, distracting, and pointless.

And, really! How can a spy be so uninteresting? Even her mission lacks everything that makes a spy intriguing... there's no danger, no mystery, no suspense. This is a movie, isn't it? Even if spies aren’t that interesting in real life, writers and directors are allowed to ‘spice it up’ for entertainment’s sake, right? I mean, there’s only so much espionage that can go down at a Burger King...

For a majority of the movie, she’s so wrapped up in her boring undercover-role that we rarely get to see her being kick-ass and cool (something She's On Duty accomplishes continuously and without effort). I think she goes into spy-mode perhaps once or twice throughout the entire film… and even then, its not impressive. She’s a good actress (I’ve seen her in several other things—including the drama, Taste Sweet Love/ Snow White) but in this movie, she really doesn’t have much to work with.

(If spy movies were always depicted this way, I think the espionage profession would dry out.)

As for the romance… I’m truthfully at a loss… there was no chemistry whatsoever. This alone is very rare, since Gong Yoo is known for making his co-stars shine when it comes to romantic scenes (of course, this film didn’t really have any, so it’s not really his fault). We’re talking about a character whose entire idea of romance involves buying his girlfriend a tube of lipstick… and then telling her shyly that he wants her to put it on and then kiss him. I just found that weird and almost fetish-like: next thing you know, he’ll tell her he just wants to smell her feet…

Gong Yoo is SOOO much better when he’s playing a cool character, like in She’s on Duty. Here, Go Bong (his name being one of the only funny jokes in this movie) is so average and uninteresting that anyone could have played him. Don’t get me wrong, the acting here was still great… but the characters, the script, the directing… everything was so bland, it didn’t matter. Nothing could have saved it!

It’s a great concept… just horrible execution.

So in conclusion, don’t waste your time with this movie.

There are many more just like it that are better written, have interesting characters, and involve an actual plot. If you’re a fan of Gong Yoo and just want to watch this for him… go ahead, but don’t expect to be constantly swooning. The opening scene alone shows him on a toilet, taking a dump—and not many of his other scenes will make your heart race, if you know what I mean. Though he does look cute when he's dressed like a spy. ^_^

My Rating:

Crocodile (Ag-o)

((summary taken from IMDB))

Violent thug Crocodile lives under a bridge by the Han River in Seoul together with a peddling boy and a homeless old man. Crocodile saves a beautiful young woman Hyun-Jung from suicide by drowning, but only to use her for sex. Yet, for some reason the woman, betrayed by her lover, stays with Crocodile, and a peculiar family-like friendship forms between the four homeless people. Crocodile gets in ever deeper trouble because of his mindlessly violent temper, and eventually Hyun-Jung decides to attempt suicide again.


Bloody Beach

haha. Wow. hehe, I loved this.

Truthfully, there is absolutely nothing new in this movie: it's extremely typical as far as teen-slasher films go. So don't expect to watch a life-altering Korean version that sets out to revolutionize the psycho-killer movie franchise.

Like all films of its kind, it has all the necessary ingredients--sex, violent deaths, an isolated setting, and the ever popular "oh, no! The killer's among us!"--just think I Know What You Did Last Summer or the Scream movies, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

So, no. Bloody Beach is not anything new, or dare I say, creative.

Again, the only reason I loved it as much as I did was because of the Jae Hee fan in me. If you're not a huge, obsessed fan-girl, then you're better off skipping this movie altogether--unless you happen to be a horror-movie junkie--in which case, knock yourself out! Just be aware: this entire movie screams American influence, so you really won't see anything new.

Everyone else, don't bother. ;)

This is actually the first Korean teen-slasher film I've ever seen... and I doubt I'll go out of my way to watch more (unless they're starring Jae Hee). Of course, going into this, I had absolutely no expectations-- I thought Jae Hee would be killed within the first 15 minutes! The fact that he wasn't is what kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time--just waiting to see how he'd die. And even though I guessed the ending half-way thru (I was so satisfied with the end, lol) it didn't bother me at all!

Overall: sure, there's nothing new here... but it still manages to be pretty entertaining. And any Jae Hee fan out there will be more than satisfied. ^_^

And I know I've said it once, but I feel the need to say it again: Holy crap, he's hot.

(Unfortunately, this really will be the final Jae Hee entry for awhile... the only other movie he's made that I haven't seen yet still hasn't been released in Korea. But the minute it is, and the subtitles are up, you can rest assured, I'll be there!)

My Rating:

The Evil Twin

I am beyond thrilled: I actually found one of Jae Hee’s newest movies on Bittorrent, so I got to watch him again after all!! And

it was a horror movie!! ^_^

First off, this is a movie comprised of Asian-horror clich├ęs—it has everything: the freaky long-haired ghost; same creepy music and sound effects; a vengeful ghost; the unbreakable bond between a mother and her daughter; predictable twists. It reminded me a lot of the failed-horror movie, Cinderella.

However, where Cinderella failed, The Evil Twin succeeded.

I actually liked this movie! ^_^

For one thing, I think this may be the first time I ever saw a horror movie that ended happily. There are so many movies in the horror genre where I’ll think: “They should have done this” or I’ll end up rolling my eyes at the absurdity of the plot. In this movie, that rarely ever happened! I’ll admit: it was pretty obvious what the “twist” at the end was going to be… but even knowing how it was going to end, I wasn’t disappointed. It ended just the way I thought it should… without leaving any unexplained plot points in its wake. Evil Twin focused more on the story and used the ghost and the horror elements to reinforce the plot, not for just the sake of appearing creepy without substance.

There were a few parts where I jumped… but I can’t honestly say this movie was all that scary. I liked it more for the plot and how it combined the two elements. If you’re looking for a movie that will just make you scream from start to finish, then you’d be better off watching something else. But if you’re looking for an intelligent horror film that isn’t afraid to use the usual conventions, but in a fun and interesting way, then I really think you’ll enjoy this one. Plus, Park Shin Hye is always a terrific actress, so you can watch it without fear of terrible over-acting and hilarious over-the-top screams.

Oh, and did I mention Jae Hee is in it? ^_^

My Rating:

The Art of Fighting

Okay, so this wraps up my Jae Hee addiction--but only because this is the last movie of his I have access to. I need his two new movies to come out ASAP, or I may start suffering from withdrawal! :(

Luckily, I’ve always liked these kinds of movies: seeing the underdog overcoming the odds; watching as they learn to stand up for themselves, and become stronger. It makes it a lot more fun cheering for them, since you know that in the end they’re going to succeed. After all, in this kind of movie, a successful fight at the end is a given—so it’s the underdog’s journey and how they improve that keeps you watching. I’m always excited to see that pivotal moment—when they just snap, and finally fight back.

In this one… it took a lot longer than expected.

I really liked the main character, Byung-Tae, but I found myself growing frustrated with the slow progress of his training. I just wanted him to get tough, and start kicking butt already! Of course, he eventually does, but it isn’t until the very end of the movie. So for almost an hour, we’re treated to a constant flow of scenes, in which the main character is either hiding or getting his butt kicked repeatedly.

But then suddenly it all just clicks.

Byung-Tae manages to become both scary and cool the moment he starts fighting back—and you can tell the exact moment he changes. The way his expression suddenly becomes resolved; the new confidence in his step. And yet the character isn’t lost in the shuffle. When he actually does start to fight for real, you can still see his faulty movements; the way he pulls back ever-so-slightly when he kicks his opponent after he’s already down; the way he recoils and stumbles around after throwing the chair through the window; the angry, animalistic way he attacks the boy moments later in the elevator with the can. It’s like he’s snapped, and the more he fights, the more confident he grows… the fear is completely gone, and he no longer holds back.

It’s disturbing, and not pleasant to watch. That is the art of fighting. It isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always fair.

And through all of this, Jae Hee still manages to keep Byung-Tae in-character, while simultaneously making it seem like we’re watching a completely different person in action. And I’ve seen Jae Hee fight before… it’s completely different in this movie. It’s more sloppy, confused, desperate, and very very realistic.

I love how the final confrontation takes place in their classroom… in front of all the people he was constantly humiliated in front of. It made his victory all the sweeter. And that last punch… Whoa!

Another thing I liked was that it didn’t end the moment he kicked his tormentors butts. We actually got to see the aftermath, and their retaliation. Usually, in these kinds of movies, we get to see the final victorious battle, and that’s it. The fact that they went beyond that moment was really cool… even if, again, the result wasn’t pretty.

To be honest, it was a very hard movie for me to watch. I was cringing and covering my eyes through a lot of it… and it was a lot darker, and more depressing that I thought it was going to be. I was glad that they threw in that small twist at the end though… the tone suggested it would end much worse than it did. It was a good movie, but it’s not one I’d care to revisit. Once is enough, thank you very much. If Jae Hee hadn’t been in it, I think I would have been more indifferent in the end… but it was really good for the kind of movie it was.

My Rating:

Sassy Girl Choon Hyang (17 Episodes)

(EPISODE 01-17)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

"Sassy Girl, Choon-hyang" is the 2005 interpretation of the "Legend of Choon-hyang". The story begins when Lee Mong-ryong is transferred from Seoul to a high school in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. Chun-hyang does her best to help Mong-ryong, her first love and the son of the Namwon Police Station chief, to enter a prestigious university. However, after meeting with Mong-ryong’s first love, Chae-rin, Mong-ryong’s love toward Chun-hyang is shattered, although Chun-hyang’s love remains unwavering. One day, Byeon Hak-do, CEO of a famous entertainment company, appears in her life. He exudes confidence that he can make any woman fall for him. But as Chun-hyang shows no interest in him, his self-esteem is damaged profoundly. Byeon Hak-do is determined to make her love him. 


3 Iron (Bin Jip)

I've wanted to watch this movie forever, ever since I read its synopsis and several glowing reviews... then I realized Jae Hee was the main protagonist, and that was the final motivation I needed!

First, I must get this out of the way: holy crap, he's hot.

Okay, now on to the movie...

It was amazing. The only draw-back for me was the fact that Jae Hee doesn't speak. At all. For the entire 2:35 minutes, I don't get to hear his voice... I won't lie... that hurt. But I could look at him, so that more than made up for it. And surprisingly enough, I was so captivated by his actions--by the subtleties of his acting--that I didn't realize he wasn't speaking until the movie was already well under way.

Of course, since this is by the same writer/director of Time, I should have seen this coming! ^_^

The concept itself is very intriguing: it never even dawned on me that language can be so unnecessary. It's something we all use... and yet, here are two people who don't need language to communicate. They both have the capacity for speech, and yet it's a personal choice not to use it. Still, it doesn't feel like we're missing anything. The woman speaks one word towards the end--it's short, sweet, and the only words they need. I loved watching them bond and fall in love. In a way it was very innocent; very touching.

I found the scene where they first meet extremely interesting. Trespassing is a huge violation, no matter how you look at it… of personal space, safety, comfort, and of piece of mind. Nobody likes the idea of having their privacy and property rummaged by a stranger—of finding their lives laid bare without their consent; it’s humiliating and overly humbling. The battered woman has already been humbled and humiliated by her husband; she has nothing left to lose. This is probably a huge part of the reason why she’s able to watch his invasion with a sense of detached fascination and awe—she doesn’t call the police or immediately confront him, but instead, shadows him silently—turning the tables by observing him without his knowledge. It’s very fitting then, that when she finally does choose to confront him, it’s when he’s in the middle of a very private, humiliating, and humbling act himself: masturbation. How very apt... ;)

Now, for golf. I've never seen such a boring sport used in such a creative, through-provoking way. One of my favorite scenes was when Tae-Suk watched the husband attacking his wife, and very calmly started hitting golf-balls into the huge target-screen--then, when confronted, started aiming the golf-balls at her husband instead. The golf motif was something that was constant throughout the movie, and I liked how it could convey so many things. It was also a nice touch how later, every time Tae-Suk would try to practice golf with his little tethered ball, the woman would silently block his way; shadowing him, so he couldn't play.

I'm also convinced that this writer could take any item and make it look much deeper and cooler than it actually is. Next, he should base an entire movie around an umbrella! I think he could pull it off...

As cool as the rest of the movie was, the ending, I'll admit, confused me. But really, that's nothing new... I guess I'm just not smart enough to decipher all these deeper, hidden meanings the writers and directors want me to take away from their films. Up until the end, even with the emphasis on silence, I thought everything I'd been seeing was pretty believable... and yet, once he's released from jail, everything I thought I knew about Jae Hee's character went out the window!
It's hard to tell that the world we live in is either a reality or a dream.
As beautiful and cool as everything leading up to that moral was (the focus on the scale reading "0" was a nice touch) it came out of nowhere. I loved watching him shadowing the husband; being ghost-like in all the houses they stayed at; hiding on the guard in his cell. But none of it made sense.

The moment he was released, I wasn't sure what I was expected to believe. The first half of the movie (strange as it was) could easily be based on reality. I could honestly see people doing this, even if the odds of them escaping the police (or the tenants notice) seemed unlikely. The fact that they actually were caught several times, only reinforced that sense of realism. Yet, during the second half of the film, this concept of reality we've become familiar with, is stretched to its limit.

It peaks the moment he's released from prison.

The ghost-like shadowing; the sinking into the wall; the impossible scale. All of this I could've bought... if it weren't for the woman's husband. It's through him that we're informed Jae Hee's character was released from jail--not that he's dead or missing. If this had been hinted/alluded to instead, then I would have had an easier time buying everything that followed. By having an outside character (who's one of the most reality-grounded people in this whole movie) tell us outright that this person is out there somewhere, planning to return. Why wouldn't we believe it...? Especially since the woman can see him, and we can too. Why then, are we suddenly shown a series of blurred, impossible scenarios, that seem impossible?

Whether it is reality or a dream, I don't really care... what I want to know is why the sudden change? Is it just to give the movie a deeper meaning? A cool way to throw in a twist? At the end, what are we supposed to believe? Is he a ghost? A really good hider? Did he suddenly develop the ability to move through time, space, other dimensions...? I know what the writer/director is going for at the end: we're told what he wants us to take away from this film. I just have trouble buying it.

I guess it's the down-to-earth, non-professional critic in me that bulks at something that isn't explicitly spelled out, or hinted at from the get-go. How anyone can expect mainstream movie-goers to understand something so complex--something that only people with film degrees are likely to understand--is beyond me. So consider this the layman's review, and click the title link above, to find out what's really going on. ;)

Oddly enough, I still enjoyed this movie.

And no, not just because of Jae Hee, lol.

Even though the ending had me scratching my head, overall, the film works. It was definitely thought-provoking, and the idea was unique and interesting. I didn't even realize I enjoyed this movie as much as I did until I sat down to write the review! I can appreciate a movie that makes me think, wonder, and isn't afraid to push the boundaries of its limitations. Even if I don't always understand it. ^_^

EDIT
Oddly enough, I didn't realize this was another Kim Ki-Duk film when I started watching it-- hence the confusion and head-scratching that followed immediately afterwards. If I'd known ahead of time, I would've been much more open-minded to the ending. But since I had no idea at the time (this only being the second movie of his I've seen--at present, I've seen 4 or 5) I had no idea what to make of it. Now, however, considering the source, it makes perfect sense: Almost all of Kim's films mix the real with the unreal--with impossible scenarios that appear almost dream-like in their execution. Knowing these things ahead of time has a huge impact on how you interpret or react to a film. By watching this unaware, I really missed out on something.

Just be aware of this fact before watching it yourself, and try to keep an open mind: it really is the kind of movie that wants you to think outside the box. So as long as you throw the box away, you should be fine. ^_^

My Rating:

Liar Game (11 Episodes )

(EPISODE 01-11)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

Kanzaki Nao is an honest college student who receives a hundred million yen one day, along with a card saying she has been chosen to take part in the "Liar Game". The aim of the game is to trick the other players out of their hundred million dollars. At the end, the winner gets the hundred million and the loser is a hundred million yen in debt. The next day, she receives notification that her opponent is her former teacher, Fujisawa Kazuo. She goes to him, seeking help, but ends up getting tricked into handing her money over. Desperate, she approaches the police for help, but they are unable to do anything. However, she is told of a mastermind swindler, Akiyama Shinichi, who is to be released from jail the next day. Desperate, she goes to him for help. -- Rikayla (Updated by Backalley)


Que Sera Sera (17 Episodes)

(EPISODE 01-17)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

Kang Tae Joo (Eric) is a player with charm and good looks who always dates rich women. One day, he finds a strange poor girl named Han Eun Soo (Jung Yoo Mi) sleeping in front of his door. Although he initially despises her, he eventually finds himself falling for her. Cha Hye Lin (Yoon Ji Hye) is the daughter of a rich shopping mall CEO. Her first love, Shin Joon Hyuk (Lee Kyu Han), dumps her at her father's request. Hye Lin buys herself a new boyfriend to make her ex jealous. That man is Kang Tae Joo, and during their contract relationship, Hye Lin begins to fall in love again. However, Tae Joo already has a girlfriend and he can't forget her as easily as he has forgotten all the women in his past. This drama is basically about the redemption of Kang Tae Joo from bastard to human.  

Coffee Prince (17 Episodes)

(EPISODE 01-17)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

The life of Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) is not easy; she works many jobs to pay off debts and even gave up her feminine image. Choi Han Kyul (Gong Yoo) is the heir of a big food company, but his grandmother wants him to settle down, so she arranged many dates for him. After Eun Chan bumped into Han Kyul and was mistaken for a boy, Han Kyul decided to hire Eun Chan to be his gay lover in order to avoid the arranged dates. Desperately in need of money, Eun Chan had no choice but to accept. Han Kyul's grandmother also made Han Kyul in charge of a filthy coffee shop in danger of being bankrupt. Eun Chan begged to work at the coffee shop, and not long after, feelings start to spark, except, how would Han Kyul accept his "homosexuality"?  

Dal Ja's Spring (22 Episodes)

(EPISODE 01-22)

((summary taken from dramawiki))

‘Dalja’s Spring’ is the story of Dalja, a 33-year old single at a crossroad of whether to remain single or get married before she gets older. The drama aims to comically and candidly portray the reality and undying pursuit of romance of a thirty something single woman.

The love triangle of Dalja, Taebong and Gijoong brews conflicts over love versus marriage. Taebong, a hunk six years younger than Dalja, works as substitute dates and becomes Dalja’s fake boyfriend. Gijoong is the type who dreams of an ideal and rational courtship. The drama also highlights the life and work of women in their thirties through Dalja who is a talented managing director at a home shopping channel.


The Twins Effect


((summary taken from AsianMediaWiki))

Ace vampire slayer Reeve (Ekin Cheng) tracks his arch-enemy, the Duke Dekotes to Hong Kong. The Duke is hunting for Kazaf (Edison Chen), the fifth prince of the vampire nation. With Kazaf's blood and the ancient vampire bible, the Duke will bring a new age of darkness. On arrival, Reeve learns that he has a new partner, a feisty but inexperienced young beauty named Gypsy (Gillian Chung). Matters are further complicated when Reeve's innocent younger sister, Helen (Charlene Choi), develops a romantic relationship with Kazaf. With all the odds against them, our heroes get some unexpected help in the form of high-kicking paramedic Jackie Fong (Jackie Chan). In a high impact final reel, Reeve, Gypsy and Helen join forces to fight the Duke and his minions¡K Horror, comedy and high impact martial arts action collide in 'The Twins Effect'.


Miscellaneous Dramas #1


Since there are so many dramas I've watched/enjoyed over the years, I decided to do a small series of miscellaneous posts, where I list some of my favorites, along with its rating and an accompanying music video. My memory is admittedly horrible, so it would be too hard for me to go back and give individual, in-depth reviews for each of these series (though one or two of them I may eventually go back and rewatch.) Hopefully the mv's will showcase them better than my poor rambling ever could.

(Click on the drama title, to read a synopsis.)


My Lucky Star (Episode 01-20)

(EPISODE 01-20)

As far as most dramas go, this one took me awhile to get drawn into. Originally, I thought the plot was cliche and the over-exaggerated dub-job for the main character, kind of annoying. Actually, it wasn't until I skipped 10+ episodes to work on timing episode 13 for Sublimes, that I got truly "addicted" and had a My Lucky Star marathon. There's just something about seeing an angst-ridden Tian Qi torn between love and hate, that really did it for me. After their reunion scene, I just had to go back and watch the series from the very beginning--how else would I find out what tore this potentially loving couple apart, creating such anger and hostility in its place?

And wow, am I glad I did!

This drama had everything I love: humor, angst, romance.

Okay... so that sums up just about every drama, but still... ;)

For me, as always, the main draw was the romance... and Zhong Tian Q/Xia Zhi Xing, did not disappoint. I haven't cheered this hard for a couple in a LONG time!! I like how Tian Qi had a past, and that the first half of the drama was focused on him trying to move on from his ex, while unknowingly falling in love with Zhi Xing. Some of my favorite scenes were from the first half, when they finally get together and are so loving and obviously in love... it doesn't take long to see that their relationship is going to outshine his past romance in every way. Plus, Zhi Xing is such a likable character--even if she is an ex-con, you can tell she has a good heart, and always tries to put other people before herself. It's not hard to see why Tian Qi falls for her. I was cheering for her from the very beginning, and really wanted her to be happy. And watching Tian Qi forsake everything for the girl he loves was adorable (and beyond heartbreaking) when he lost her...

One of this dramas strongest points for me though, surprisingly enough, was its length. Despite the fact that this series was comprised of 20 episodes... for me, it didn't drag at all! This is VERY unusual. Almost every Taiwanese drama I watch, I find myself groaning in frustration, or yelling at the screen mid-way through, wishing for the story to wrap up. My Lucky Star, however, had me captivated from beginning to end. Its pacing was perfect, and never once did I feel like it was growing draggy or boring. Even after watching episode 20, I wanted more!

When I say "marathon", I really mean marathon: this series kept me up several nights, and had me glued to my computer screen. I couldn't seem to go to bed without knowing what would happen next!

The acting, I will admit, was a little over-the-top. But honestly, I haven't seen a Taiwanese drama that isn't! In fact, I'm starting to think that overacting may be a requirement! But still, I can't help but love the playfulness of it all... you can tell that the actors are having fun, and it really comes across while watching it.

The way Yoo Ha Na handled her role, in particular, was really impressive--especially since she is korean and doesn't speak much chinese--yet, she seemed so at ease in her role, I had trouble believing she wasn't even Taiwanese! It would be interesting to see her in something else, maybe something Korean, where she gets to use her own voice. Also, I thought she did exceptionally well with all the crying scenes she had... and trust me, she had a lot!

I'm probably one of the only people who will ever say this... but this was the first time I'd ever heard of Jimmy Lin. At first, I didn't get the big deal--sure, he was somewhat cute, and he's a decent actor--but so are a lot of other Taiwanese actors out there (some, who personally, I find a lot cuter). And although I agree the boy can sing--hearing him trying to sing Elton John's My Song was one of the funniest/most disturbing thing I've ever heard.

Of course, aside from his rendition of My Song, my other earlier impressions were short-lived...

I quickly fell in love with him, especially the way he brought Tian Qi to life: he went from a carefree, rebellious, rich boy, with no interest in his fathers business, to an angry, obsessed, workaholic who had no qualms against using his wealth and power to track down the ex who betrayed him. And he made the transition so well!

Oh, man, his eyes.

How can someone have so much control like that?! It was like watching two completely different characters fighting for dominance--the sweet, naive, Tian Qi of five years ago, against the bitter, angry, revenge-driven Tian Qi of the present--and oh geez, he was hot when he's angry!!

Overall, I loved this series! The length was perfect; the acting, entertaining; the story, intriguing; the race-scenes, exciting; and the romance, adorable.

Plus, I loved this couple.

Beware: it IS a very typical idol drama. But personally, that didn't bother me. I still thought it was much better than average, and seeing a drama dealing with jewelry rather than fashion was a refreshing change.

I would definitely give it a try if you're looking for something fun and entertaining to watch.

My Rating:



Lovely Complex (Movie)

I recently discovered an anime (based on a shojo manga) that I instantly fell in love with called Lovely Complex. But since the series is currently airing, and is only up to episode 11, I needed something to ease the torture while waiting for new episodes. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I learned there was a live action movie made recently!!

So, as soon as I got caught up with the anime, I watched it.

And wow. At first I thought it was terrible...they add lots of unnecessary original stuff... and rather than focusing on the relationship from both perspectives, we're given Risa's angle and little else. The main thing that kept me watching was the awesomeness of Teppei Koike who played the role of Otani: he had the character down perfectly and did an excellent job bringing the character to life!! ^_^

The girl playing Risa, however...

Err, well, she certainly looked the part, and she was very cute.

Her performance on the other hand...

To be honest, it kind of annoyed me. For one thing, the way they had her over-acting drove me crazy. I realize that's probably the way the director wanted it... especially since there were certain scenes where the other characters mimicked the same kind of gestures. But still, it was distracting, looked bad, and was really unnecessary. It was like, with every line she delivered, she'd shake like crazy, and make weird motions with her hands. And her movements were over-exaggerated and looked staged--part of the reason though, is probably because they had her wearing high heels for a majority of the film. Which, by itself, didn't make much sense to start with. I mean, she's supposed to be at least a little self-conscious about her height, especially when standing next to Otani... and yet they have her wearing high heels to make her look even taller!

I just thought that was funny. Especially since being tall and being a good actress should have been the only requirements for Risa's actress... and yet, the girl they chose, didn't have either.

Throughout the entire movie, I just couldn't picture her as Risa--not like I could picture Otani. But that's just my personal take. I've heard of a LOT of people who loved her. And to be fair, her accent is adorable.

But still... was she the ONLY semi-tall girl in Osaka with an accent, or something?!

Oh! And it was cool how they had Maity narrating... though I really wish they would have had him doing it in Japanese instead. His English really wasn't very good, and half the time, I couldn't understand what he was saying. If they really wanted to include an English speaking narrator, they should have at least chose someone who can speak it fluently. Why else include Japanese subtitles, when the language you're translating can't even be understood by native speakers?! Though I do like how they saved that "revelation" until the end. It was funny, on hindsight, that it was that crazy teacher speaking all along, lol.

I did NOT like that strange guy in the chair though--the one who kept popping up at random moments, to point out something really obvious or stupid. What was the purpose...?! Because it definitely wasn't funny.

And what was with Risa's sister?! That whole bit was annoying, disturbing, unnecessary, corny, and stupid. Instead of wasting time with made up story-lines and over-used jokes (their teacher's "wig" anyone?) they should have concentrated more on developing Risa and Otani's relationship. Or in the very least, developed Otani's side of the story a little more. We never got a good look into his head, so his revelations at the end practically came out of nowhere! I wish they had stuck more closely to the manga Maity-storyline instead. It wasn't quite as corny... and much more romantic.

Plus, the whole "height" issue which is the staple of the story, wasn't as powerful in the movie. She really wasn't that tall. In the anime, you can DEFINITELY see the difference between them in height--same goes for the manga--but in the movie, there really wasn't that much of a difference. Not enough to make such a big deal over anyway...

And (this is me, totally being nit-picky) but I really wish they would have had the kids wearing school uniforms like in the anime. Normally, I really wouldn't care, but the clothes they had the girls wearing (particularly Nobu, Risa's best friend) made them look like junior high delinquents pretending to be grown-ups--not high school students. It was so annoying! Plus, I didn't like how they tried to portray Nobu and Chiharu's relationships, into something dirty.

Prime examples: Chiharu blushing as she admits to her boyfriend that she's not wearing any panties underneath her kimono. And at the beginning of the movie, Risa's other friend, asking her bf to buy her something, and in exchange, she lets him do stuff to her body--

They sounded like lines out of really bad fanfics!

At least make it subtle!

Overall, it was a pretty average adaptation of a wonderfully, funny, cute, romantic story. They could have done so much better with the script and the casting though...

But again, Teppei Koike definitely held this movie together: in my mind he IS Otani. Of course, I'm in love with the japanese seiyuu for the anime too, so it could just be that I love his character period. Risa is one lucky imaginary girl, lol.

In the future, I have (and will) watch this again... simply because I have an unhealthy obsession with this couple, and need to see them in whichever form they happen to embody. If, however, you could care less about Lovely Complex (or most high-school oriented romantic comedies, for that matter) I'd suggest skipping this one all together. But for shoujo fans, you're sure to be entertained. Just ignore Risa's shaking, concentrate all your energy on Otani, and enjoy! ^_^

My Rating:




Yobi, The Five Tailed Fox

What a gorgeous movie. The directing, the animation, the music, the story. I fell in love with it all. I never would have thought I'd like it this much--it reminded me a lot of a Korean version of the Japanese anime, Spirited Away. If you like fantasy stories, with a touch of romance, then you'll definitely enjoy this one.

The characters in this film are wonderful, especially Yobi. It's so much fun watching them come to life, and interact with each other. It really made me nostalgic for when I was younger. Since most of the characters are children, you get to relive the innocence and joys of youth, and all the things that go along with it: childhood friendships, crushes, playgrounds, facing your fears in the woods. It was all so much fun to watch!! The little aliens were really cute too, especially the little guy that ate nails, lol.

The animation, of course, was just beautiful. The way they animated the forest alone was breathtaking--the use of colors, the images of the leaves flying like butterflies. You can tell they put a lot of time, effort, love, and energy into this movie. I was consistently blown away. Of course, this is by the same director as My Beautiful Girl Mari (which was the first thing I reviewed on this site) so it's really not that surprising.

People who are overly familiar with Japanese anime, will notice how different the Korean style is, though there are some similarities. Those not familiar with anime, however, will probably assume this is just another one. But the way they set the scenes and capture the different frames--even the way the characters move--really sets itself apart, boasting a completely different style. I personally love it, and can't wait to watch more like this one!

I was actually familiar with the legend of the foxes already, so I understood most of what was going on. I'm not sure if it's really necessary to know the history beforehand though--all you really need to know is that a fox with tails have the ability to become human, but in order to do so they need to steal a human soul/liver.

It's a common folk tale in Korea, and one that the target audience will surely know about. But non-Koreans, of course, can (and will) still enjoy it.

SPOILER

One of the reasons I think I fell in love with this movie, was because of the reincarnation aspect at the end. I am a sucker for anything reincarnation/fate related, and almost any movie that ends this way is going to get an automatic high score from me.

That's not to say I wouldn't have given this movie a high score anyway--it's that great a movie. I'm just admitting that I'm bias in this particular way... which is probably why I was so impressed after watching it. If it had ended differently, I probably wouldn't have started gushing so unabashedly about it.

If you dislike reincarnation story-lines though, then you probably won't like the ending, and consequently, the movie.

I personally find the idea incredibly romantic...

I thought it was the perfect ending for Yobi. She finally got to become a human, and didn't need to steal a soul in order to attain it. I really believe her and Geum-yee will someday be reunited. And that's all I need to believe, in order for me to consider it a happy ending.

END SPOILER

Again, my favorite thing about this movie was the ending. But everything about this film was enjoyable. If you like funny, interesting characters, and a story that's unpredictable, original, and entertaining, then Yobi will definitely be a movie you'll enjoy. ^_^

So if you have any free-time, hurry up and watch it!!

My Rating:


Witch Amusement (16 Episodes)

EPISODE 01-16


Chalk up another finished drama to my list of accomplishments! Two down, three more to go!

Overall, Witch Amusement was a cute, amusing drama. It was one of the shows I was watching that was being subbed almost simultaneously as it was airing in Korea. I really liked the premise, and kept watching mainly to see what would become of the OTP. Moo-Ryong's character alone was enough to steal the show... it's not often you see a thoroughly likeable character that you wouldn't mind dating in real life! I wish I had a maid like him, who would clean and cook for me, lol. He was so sweet, and really complimented Yoo Hee's character perfectly. Without him, she would have forever been a witch! The fact that he also has a girlfriend at the beginning of the series, just made it that more unique, and made it seem a little more realistic. After all, a guy that awesome CAN'T be single! Plus, he was played by Jae Hee who was also in Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang (another favorite of mine). So really, he can do no wrong! ^_^

I'll be honest though... I've never been a huge fan of Han Ga In. I've seen her in enough dramas/movies to have formed an adequate opinion of her (A Tale of High School, Super Rookie, Dr. Kkaeng, Witch Amusement) and I've decided I definitely don't like her as an actress. She's not exactly bad... there's just something about her that rubs me the wrong way. For one thing, she always has this huge, doey-eyed look, where her eyes get HUGE--and no matter what drama she's acting in, it's ALWAYS present. It annoys me to no end for some reason. Plus, she's terrible at kiss scenes... and in a romantic drama, you really want the romance to be believable, and to get lost in their story. I can't do that when I see her kissing Moo-Ryong: all I see is how stiff and uncomfortable she looks! Of course, this is just my own personal opinion, so others might not (and probably won't) feel the same way. It all comes down to personal preference I guess...

But really, despite my dislike for the lead actress, the story was interesting and engaging enough to keep me watching. Plus, with so many handsome actors, (Dennis Oh, Kim Jeong Hoon; aka, Yul from Goong!) I had more than enough motivation to stay tuned in.

The only other thing that stopped me from giving it a higher rating (up until episode 15, I was planning on giving it a solid 4) was the last two episodes. I don't know what the writers were thinking at that point... but all of a sudden, the big climax was filled with korean cliches that you can see in any drama!

The "break up" scene: check.

The spurned-lover's accident scene: check.

The airport scene: check.

The sick parent in need of an operation: check.

Honestly! The only thing missing was an incurable disease! For such a fun series, I really wonder why they ended it the way they did. It was very anti-climatic, in my opinion. And the last 10 minutes, was just a lot of "evil" characters seeing the light out of nowhere, and pushing the main character to be happy. I was like... "WHAT?!"

So again, it was a good, cute series... but the ending (though ultimately happy, don't worry) was a huge disappointment. To be honest, I guess I expected more considering its lead-in.

My Rating:






Strange Circus

Beautiful. Disturbing. Haunting. Disgusting.

I am at a loss—again, this director has blown me away. First, I must warn you: this film is not for everyone. The plot alone is enough to turn most people away: there is sex, incest, gore, disturbing images and more. Yet, those who manage to stay till the end will find it’s a thought-provoking, thrilling, horrifying movie. If you’re looking for some kind of film to weigh it against, Old Boy is the first thing that comes to mind.

The acting in this was, to put it simply, brilliant. This is the type of movie where the actors are forced to go through the entire spectrum when it comes to portraying a character: Iseei Ishida was amazing as Yuji. I can just imagine how nervous the writer must have been while penning this—they would’ve needed someone spectacular to bring to life such a complex character—same goes for Masumi Miyazaki. Somehow every actor in this film pulled it off. I wonder if any of them won any awards for this, or if it was too shocking to garner that kind of attention. How the girl playing young Mitsuko pulled it off… I’ll never know. I hope it didn’t scar her! I’d never let my kid play that kind of role, no matter who the director was!

The story was beyond grotesque, and has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing till the end. It’s a hodgepodge of genres, and I’m having trouble narrowing it down when it fits into so many: mystery, thriller, horror, psychological, with some eroticism thrown in. And for those who like a good revenge-film, look no further. You can’t get any better than this, lol.

One other thing though: the concept of reality in this movie is extremely blurred. It's hard to distinguish what's real and what's not… and to be honest, I don’t think we’re supposed to know. I think that's one of the uses for the circus--the show the internal minds of the characters, through a warped and twisted glass. The use of the circus really was genius; as was the use of guillotines.

When you get down to it, most people would consider this movie sick and twisted. Brilliant, yes… but it’s also hard to watch. I don’t think I could bring myself to watch it again. It’s hard to deny though, that this is a work of art.


Also, I’m starting to suspect that Sono Sion is incapable of making a bad movie. But now, I need me some romantic fluff. Looks like I’ll be leaning towards a nice Korean romantic comedy next. I’ve earned a break from the nasty, disturbing, thought-provoking films. I need something that will allow my mind and stomach to rest. ;)

My Rating:


Noriko's Dinner Table

Club Suicide is one of my favorite movies, so when I heard there was a sequel/prequel, I knew I had to see it!

Without trying to compare it too much to it's predecessor, I should first point out that it's not really necessary to see the first movie in order to understand this one. The major event that serves as the catalyst the first time around, is still present in this one...

First off, the story may seem pretty straight-forward on the surface, but it quickly becomes apparent that there's a lot more going on underneath. It's not just a story about a country girl who yearns for change, and longs to move to Tokyo--it's about family, isolation, lack of communication, and the growing generation gap between the Japanese youth and the adults.

In fact, there's actually a lot more going on than just that... but those were the first things that came to mind. So please, if you do watch this, be aware that this is the type of movie that requires a little bit of thought and effort. Of course, that's one of the reasons I've become such a fan of these films in the first place. ^_^

The directing, as always, is superb. The way he sets up these shots are brilliant, and part of the reason I'm always drawn to his movies. I'm definitely going to hunt down some more films he's written or directed in the near future. And of course, the casting was top-notch. Everyone fit into their roles wonderfully, and I was never once pulled out of the movie, or distracted by over-acting.

The movie's strongest point for me though, will always be its story. I love something that looks straightforward on the surface, but is actually a lot deeper than originally supposed. It's impossible to walk away from this movie without questioning most of what you've watched. Don't expect a film that hands the audience everything they need to know in order to understand what's going on... it's up to the individual and what they choose to take away from it. For me, the ending did not disappoint.

My only real criticism is that the story dragged a lot in the middle... but still, I couldn't help but feel that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and that every one of those scenes was necessary for the story.

I can't, however, say I liked it as much as Suicide Club: I think I prefer it when the range is broader, and not focused so entirely on one family in particular.

Here is my own personal take on the ending, in case anyone is curious/confused. Please keep in mind though that this is pure conjecture on my part... which means, most of it is probably wrong, lol. But hey, guessing is half the fun!
SPOILERS

The way I see it, the end was Noriko finally "connecting with herself"; moving on from all the roles she's constantly been playing. When she says goodbye to her adolescence, it's not like she's saying "Look! I've grown up, I'm an adult now." In essence, she's saying goodbye to all the loose terminology that goes along WITH it--knowing that it no longer holds any REAL meaning. Once you're connected, you find yourself, you become your own person--transcendence. Finding happiness by looking within; not depending on others for that happiness.

From what I understand, Ueno54/Kumiko has alreadyreached this point. She 'connected with herself' long ago, and is simply trying to help others reach that same point. Her smile at the end, I believe, is because she realizes that both Tetsuzo and Noriko have finally reached that point: Tetsuzo has put aside his selfishness, and has finally become a true father. Even though it took two years of searching, he finally got his new beginning. When he wakes up, I truly believe he'll be able to smile and accept Yuka's decision to leave--perhaps even understand it, which he was never able to do before.Noriko... I believe Kumiko already realized how close she was. Once she saw her honestly expressing herself to her father (something she could never do back in their hometown) she knew that she would be alright, and not get caught up in the old role she used to play. In essence, she watched her "student" graduate. Yuka, however, still has yet to make that connection. I think the fact that she leaves is because she understands she still has some searching to do. She realizes her happiness is too tightly ingrained in her family and her past--she is looking for happiness through them--when she should be looking for it within herself. In short: she has finally put Yuka to rest, and is ready to be reborn.

END OF SPOILERS

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this movie and wasn't disappointed at all. For anyone who is looking for a movie to watch that makes you think, then Noriko's Dinner Table definitely won't disappoint!

My Rating: