Sunday, December 29, 2013
For every nice and mature romantic comedy drama out there, there seem to be way too many juvenile and/or abusive and badly written romances. When it does change, however, it makes for sweet, warm and surprisingly poignant little stories that might not offer the rollercoaster cliché-filled fun more popular options do, but are remembered for the beautiful emotions and thoughts they leave one with. 'The Accidental Couple' is such a story, making it one of the best and more mature romantic comedy dramas out there.
Written by Jeong Jin-yeong-I and Kim Ee-chan ('First Love of a Royal Prince') and directed by Ki Min-soo ('Ojak Brothers', 'Good Doctor'), 2009 drama 'The Accidental Couple' is a contract marriage drama. Goo Dong-baek (Hwang Jeong-min) is a meek and kind man working at a post office. Having raised his younger sister alone, he has always been responsible and caring. Han Ji-soo (Kim Ah-joong) is an actress with the air of a diva around her. She is dating a mayoral candidate's son, Kim Kang-mo (Joo Sang-wook), but due to their work and his father's disapproval, she is forced to keep their relationship a secret. When Ji-soo and Kang-mo get into a car accident while being chased by reporters, Dong-baek, who happens to be at the scene, is asked a big favor. To pretend being the driver so that there is no scandal involving the two. Being Ji-soo's fan, a good man and in the confusion of the moment, Dong-baek accepts, setting the plot in motion.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Accidental Couple".
Spiced-up fantasy plots in romantic works have been popular for a while in Korean drama. With 2013 having brought with it everything from mind-reading to ghosts, 'You Came From The Stars' came with a bit of a more unusual, but definitely more interesting approach. So how does a romantic drama about an alien's love with a human fair? So far, for what it seems to be building itself up to, it's doing well.
When we look at the material released before this started airing, there seemed to be a more of a light tone added to the latest ones, hinting at romantic comedy elements in this. While the couple bickering is present and there are some jokes, admittedly not all of them in good taste, here and there, this is most definitely not a rom-com. This is shaping up to be a fantasy romantic melodrama and there are even some darker elements present which will probably shift the focus to a more menacing territory later. That said, it is good that the tone is consistent right from the start. 'You Came From The Stars' will be a dark fairytale, but it is looking like a dark fairytale done well.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "You Came From The Stars".
Sunday, December 22, 2013
With dramas being produced so frequently and all the regurgitated tropes that come with that, it is often the case for some dramas that there is not much potential there to begin with. They might be fun and good to pass the time, but nothing which could ever be more than that. Sometimes, though, a drama will come up that is very sad. It is very sad because it will have some good parts, maybe even excellent parts and potential, but will ultimately let that potential down. 'Medical Top Team', by director Kim Do-hoon ('The Sun and the Moon') and writer Yoon Kyeong-ah ('Master of Study', 'Brain') is such a drama.
Being the name in the title, Medical Top Team is a team established recruiting the finest doctors at the Gwang Hae University Hospital with the goal to offer top quality treatment for rare illnesses and challenging cases. When doctor Park Tae-sin (Kwon Sang-woo) enters the team, he quickly discovers that working there means having to navigate through the power struggles in the hospital, facing the difficulties of working in a team and constantly struggling to maintain one's ideology under pressure to obey orders.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Medical Top Team".
Between let downs and false advertising, 2013 has been a disappointing year for fans of the romantic comedy genre. While 'The Prime Minister And I' brought some hope, it also had a lot of worries attached to it. Now that four episodes have gone by and the show is settling into its routine, it is possible to make an assessment. Thankfully, for fans of rom-com, the worries mentioned are disappearing with each episode.
One great thing about 'The Prime Minister And I' is that, while it does employ certain tropes and a style found in many a romantic comedy drama, its tone and way of handling those tropes make it incredibly refreshing and give it depth often lacking from works of the genre. Where many series choose to go for an incredibly light tone which quickly deteriorates into melodrama, this series goes for balance, presenting all the elements we know will bring said melodrama later on and spending time on its light and heavier moments in a wonderfully balanced way. The series is very funny and brings back much missed laughs and comedy, but it also has a lot of heart. Additionally, the melodrama is mostly done in moving ways, not with exaggeration and theatricality in mind.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "The Prime Minister And I".
Sunday, December 15, 2013
When Jeong Ryeo-won's character in 'The King of Dramas' wrote the drama all the characters were out to produce, it was pegged as a period noir romance set during the Japanese occupation and called 'Gyeongseong Morning'. For drama fans who found that drama within a drama interesting, it could be perhaps inspired by 2007 drama 'Gyeongseong Scandal' or 'Capital Scandal'. While not really noir in nature, the series does have a very unique style of presentation slightly similar to it and is an interesting mix of a period drama and romantic comedy.
The series dives into the time of change during the 1930s, when independence fighters and tradition were head to head with the Japanese occupants, pro-Japanese Koreans and the rapid modernization that was forcefully brought along with them. Seon Woo-wan (Kang Ji-hwan) is far from a hero for a lead in such a series. In fact, he is a womanizer and a spoiled prince, determined to not meddle in the war and just out to have a good time. Na Yeo-kyeong (Han Ji-min) is a strong-willed, but innocent and naive teacher who aspires to be an independence fighter like her father and is unwilling to budge from traditional values. Cha Song-joo (Han Go-eun) is a gisaeng who is trying to help her people using her influence as a powerful celebrity figure liked by Koreans and Japanese alike. All three have their lives shaken and their adventure starting as Lee Soo-hyeon (Ryoo Jin) enters the picture, a man working for the Japanese who has ties to Song-joo and Woo-wan, but is also now having Yeo-kyeong on his radar.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Capital Scandal".
Nuna romances are nothing new in Dramaland and given the main audience for romantic series is slightly older women, this will not be changing anytime soon. Since the type is used so often, it is necessary for each show to add a different spin on things. 'You Came From The Stars' offers one with some very intriguing potential. It begins airing on December 18th.
Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyeon-I) is an alien. Nope, not an immigrant. An actual space alien who crash landed at Joseon 400 years ago. Having lived on Earth for 400 years and into the present, he has developed a cynical view of humans. Cheon Song-i (Jeon Ji-hyeon) is a top actress and all around diva that will develop a romance with Min-joon, whom she seems to have a past involvement with already.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "You Came From The Stars".
Sunday, December 8, 2013
2013 has not been a great year for fluff or dramas in general. With a few exceptions garnering great love and ratings, it has been quite a melodrama-oriented and boring ride. Here to shine a ray of hope in the rom-com fluff department is 'The Prime Minister And I'.
Kwon Yool (Lee Beom-soo) is the nation's youngest Prime Minister. At the age of 42 and widowed 7 years ago, he is a workaholic with zero skills at being a father to his three children. Nam Da-jeong (Yoona) is a 28-year-old woman who wanted to be a writer like Jane Austen. Needing money to take care of her sick father (Lee Han-wi), that dream is put on hold and she now works as a tabloid reporter. Her latest task, stalk the Prime Minister to get dirt on his love life. When a scandal breaks out about her being his woman, they find themselves faced with some tough decisions. Enter contract marriage and hopefully, hilarity and romance.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "The Prime Minister And I".
In the two previous pieces of the 'Strong Drama Women' trio, 'The Norm' and 'The Definition', I talked about how problematic and limiting the portrayals of women often are in Korean drama, with the rom-com drama being my main focus. When it is the genre most watched by and intended for women, it is surprising to see how little it sometimes thinks of them. But in my second piece, I talked about the existence of hope. And hope is here. Bellow I have only a few examples that belong in one or more categories of the definitions I gave in my previous piece. While not the only ones or possibly even best ones (I have not seen every drama out there after all), they are, out of the ones I have seen, good examples of how women can be well developed and respected as characters, while often still maintaining their role in their romance.
There are some character-related spoilers here, which is inevitable in analyzing them, but they are kept to an absolute minimum.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Column] Strong Drama Women - The Examples.
The persistence and aversion to change of the majority of kdrama fans is nothing new. Neither is our overall preference for romance, handsome young men and the less challenging sides of entertainment. However, where one would think there are limits to how strong and forceful that behavior can get, we are often surprised to find out it gets worse.
The trigger for this post is the reaction by the international fan community to the romantic pairing of Lee Beom-soo and SNSD's Yoona for 'The Prime Minister And I'. Now, big age gaps are not romantic to everyone, for various reasons. That is to be expected. It is also to be expected that an older man (at the ripe old age of 44) without model looks will not attract many of the younger fans or those who prefer a cast more on the younger and aesthetically pleasing side. That is all fine. It is also fine to express that. Say we disapprove of it, will not watch the show and move on.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Column] Kdrama Fandom - Accepting Creative Decisions.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Virus epidemics are far from becoming a genre in Korean cinema. Given the lack of variety in genre found in Korean drama, they are even more of a rarity in television. However, 2013 brought us not one, but two series with that same premise. OCN's 'The Virus' went for the channel's usual sleek and investigation-oriented approach. 'At The End Of The World' is a production aired on jTBC, written by Park Hye-ryeon-I and directed by Ahn Pan-seok ('White Tower', 'A Wife's Credentials'). Having produced some high quality series such as 'Padam Padam... The Sound of His and Her Heartbeats' and 'Heartless City', it is clear the channel is going for a cinematic, detailed and polished approach for dramas.
The premise of 'At The End Of The World' is nothing new for the genre itself. It all starts with a host and the authorities that need to find that person. After a fishing boat sinks under mysterious circumstances, the only survivor, found floating mid-ocean on a liferaft, is brought to shore. Soon enough, people start contracting a deadly super-virus from him; one that has a 100% mortality rate. Enter the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and an investigative team lead by Kang Joo-heon (Yoon Je-moon), a sharp and focused man. Along with his team, including the rookie Lee Na-hyeon (Jang Kyeong-ah), they start a race against time, to stop the virus from spreading, but also, find the antibodies the carrier has within him.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "At The End Of The World".
As much variety as the Korean wave offers, there are certain works from each industry that simply stand out. Their popularity soars so high, that it is nearly impossible to stumble across an online portal, blog or other hallyu-related medium without seeing them mentioned or featured there in some major way. 'You're Beautiful', written by Hong Jeong-eun and Hong Mi-ran ('My Girlfriend is a Gumiho', 'The Greatest Love') and directed by Hong Seong-chang ('The King of Dramas'), is such a work. Everyone knows it, most have seen it, many love it.
'You're Beautiful' has a premise often found in Asian dramas and brings the usual tropes it carries with it. This series is a gender bender. When Mi Nam , a rookie idol about to make his debut with a band called A.N.Jell, cannot return to the spotlight after his plastic surgery went wrong, his manager has an idea. He finds the young man's twin sister and hopes to disguise her as him and fool everyone, including the band, until he can return. The problem is, miss Mi Nyeo (Park Sin-hye) is aiming to become a nun and is generally not well-versed in telling lies and pretending. Add to that Hwang Tae-kyeong (Jang Geun-seok), the band leader, whose arrogance and sourness are only matched by his demanding personality and dislike for the rookie, and it's a recipe for disaster. And as usual, romance.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "You're Beautiful".