Sunday, March 30, 2014

Drama Review - TEN (Seasons 1 and 2)

OCN's dive into the crime genre has produced a few solid shows over the last few years. Since all of them are within the investigative and crime genre, their premises are what the channel relies on to entice viewers and freshen things up. Although mostly no more than gimmicks, these features do bring another dimension to crime fighting. Han Jin Woo's fight with his past and himself ('God's Quiz'), Min Tae-yeon and his larger-than-life vampirism ('Vampire Prosecutor') etc. 'Special Affairs Team TEN' is ironically not 'special' in any way. There is no real gimmick here. What this drama relies on instead is a more realistic and cold approach to crime.

The TEN team is created to investigate the toughest murder cases which have a very low rate of arrest. Yeo Ji-hoon (Joo Sang-wook), a cold, but intelligent detective now working as a professor, Nam Ye-ri (Jo An), a detective of 4 years who possesses great observational and profiling skills, Baek Do-sik (Kim Sang-ho), a veteran detective with great intuition and an active personality and Park Min-ho (Choi Woo-sik), a rookie with good reasoning skills are the ones hired to form the team.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Special Affairs Team TEN (Seasons 1 and 2)".

Drama Review - Surgeon Bong Dal Hee

Melodrama and illnesses are no strangers to each other in Korean drama. From the common to overused cancer and amnesia to the more rare, like Leber's congenital amaurosis ('The King of Dramas'), drama just loves wringing tears out of viewers through health-related woes. The good thing with medical shows is that those woes actually belong and that they are often used more sensibly. 'Surgeon Bong Dal-hee' is one of those shows and unlike typical melodrama, it finds a balance between career and personal life and between hospital politics and patients, rather than letting one single element carry all the drama.

Bong Dal-hee (Lee Yo-won) is a doctor starting her residency. Having graduated from a lesser college and suffering from a heart condition, she is all the more determined to make a career for herself and help patients. The problem is, she is less skilled than her co-workers and therefore often dangerous. Something which Cardiothoracic surgeon Ahn Joong-geun (Lee Beom-soo) is less than willing to accept. The story follows Dal-hee's career and personal path through her residency, as well as that of the other doctors.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Surgeon Bong Dal-hee".

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Drama Review - Bad Family

When it comes to the concept of family, Korean dramas usually go for a traditional approach. Biological nuclear families. The types of parents we see in them are also very few. Sometimes, they seem to be there just to oppose a union, nag and bring humor or then melodrama. But sometimes, a drama will step out of those tropes and offer something new. 'Bad Family' is all about the most unconventional step-family one could imagine. It also turns out to be a great piece on what makes a family and what is important in human relationships.

When a little girl named Na-rim (Lee Yeong-yoo) loses her entire family in a car accident and suffers memory loss from it, her uncle hires Oh Dal-geon (Kim Myeong-min), a man offering fake guests for weddings, to get together a fake family in order to not further shock Na-rim until her uncle can investigate the event that took his relatives' lives. Dal-geon finds his group of misfits and mostly forces them into the whole deal. There are two simple rules for this fake family. Presenting a harmonious and happy environment and no romance between members. Both of which the viewer just knows will be broken.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bad Family".

Drama Review - Vampire Prosecutor (Seasons 1 & 2)

Between genius doctors, genetically enhanced super beings, brooding intelligent detectives and other manner of male leads OCN's crime series are focused on, they have a bit more of a classical approach to offer as well. Vampires. 'Vampire Prosecutor' and 'Vampire Prosecutor 2'. As unfortunate and lacking in creativity a title as it may be, the series itself is a pleasant watch that finds its place as a solid piece in OCN's original content range.

Min Tae-yeon (Yeon Jeong-hoon) was living a peaceful life with his sister until she was murdered. During a car chase with the criminal, he received a far more shocking revelation. Vampires exist and now he is one, courtesy of a man the mysterious suspect stabbed during the accident that followed and who bit and turned Tae-yeon before he died. Working as a prosecutor and along with his team and aided by his ability to see a victim's final moments when he tastes their blood, Tae-yeon takes on all kinds of cases, eventually stumbling across some which are clearly related to what happened to him; a truth he is most desperate to find out.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Prosecutor" (Seasons 1 & 2).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kim Jae Joong Joins 'Triangle' as Middle Brother

So, this happened. A 'Dr. Jin' reunion, just not the one we expected. Seeing Song Seung Heon potentially join 'Triangle' [트라이앵글] had sure laughs in my future, but now we have reached an in-between point.

You see, Kim Jae Joong is both not as bad as Song and therefore not laughter inducing, but really nowhere near a good actor either. Especially to (hopefully not) lead a melodrama. But he is cast and I am sure he will work hard, even if that is not enough to save this.

Jae Joong will play the middle brother here, Jang Dong Cheol, who grew up in a life of crime, ready to make his cop hyung proud. You can see man-pain and melodrama written all over that. The brothers get separated after their parents die, and do not meet again for 20 years.

Lee Beom Soo and Im Si Wan have already been confirmed to play the oldest (Jang Dong Soo) and youngest (Jang Dong Joon). Oh Yeon Soo is now confirmed as the profiler and apparently the oldest brother's love interest. So we might at least get more than eye-sex this time.

I cannot say I am any happier about Jae Joong joining than I would have been with Song. Since the laughs are gone and the kid is not melodrama lead material (unless he dramatically improved), I am more on the deflated side now. That said, with Lee 'Idol Whisperer' Beom Soo leading this (thank you to Aigoooo from Dramabeans for that awesome title), it might actually work. So let's hope he does.

That is assuming we forget this is by Taewon Entertainement, which has gravely disappointed in terms of plot and characterization in its series before. So really, bring it. I am not in any way invested in it beyond Lee's involvement and a hopefully good pre-army role for Jae Joong . If all else fails, more-than-eye-sex will have to do.

I am still not sure about the length, but 'Triangle' will air after 'Empress Ki', in May.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Drama First Look - God's Gift: 14 Days

The Big Three of Korean terrestrial television (MBC, KBS, SBS) might all have their unique projects from time to time, but it is safe to say that SBS seems to be more daring in terms of choosing fresh stories and going for more high quality works. 'God's Gift - 14 Days' is well on its way to becoming one of its top quality experiences. The question now is, are they able to make an airtight series from start to finish, or is it just too soon to see the cracks?

From the very opening scene, it is easy to see that this series means business in terms of production quality and the viewers' emotional involvement. The drama has two parts in its main plot. One part is the fantasy one, where a mother is transferred to the past by a force and given the chance to save her daughter's life. The second part is the murder mystery. Instead of making the fantasy element too personal and detached from the big picture, the writer is shaping that picture through it, showing that whatever the force was, it knew this woman was the center of bigger things than just her daughter's own fate. This works well right now, because it allows them to develop the paranormal part alongside the murder mystery, rather than having to spend time setting rules for how changing the past works, although it will have to eventually be addressed.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "God's Gift - 14 Days".

Drama First Look - Three Days

SBS seems to be enjoying an experiment with suspense and the real-time format at the moment. Both 'God's Gift - 14 Days' and 'Three Days' take place in the amount of time seen in their title and this means the way their stories are told is very different to the way we are used to seeing them in Korean drama. The suspense element and mysteries are also adding to the tricky nature, making the works' success or failure a potential standard that the industry will follow or avoid in the future.

In contrast to the more personal approach of 'God's Gift - 14 Days', 'Three Days' is going for exciting action and political conspiracy intrigue. With barely any introduction to the characters, the series goes for the big event, the assassination attempt, after which it slowly and methodically reveals little bits and pieces about it and the bigger picture, keeping viewers invested both in how the current issues will be resolved and the story that led to them. The same goes for the characters, who start off as quite hard to really get a read on or feel for, but slowly get characterized through their actions, backstory and connection to the events taking place.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Three Days".

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

'Triangle' Most Likely Gets Oh Yeon Soo

After the Donga false reporting fiasco with Park Jin Hee, you can never be too careful. That said, multiple sources are reporting it this time, so it's a safer bet. Oh Yeon Soo ('Bad Guy', 'IRIS 2') is apparently considering/in the final stages of being cast as the cool profiler for MBC's melodrama 'Triangle' [트라이앵글].

Given I was half convinced they would eventually cast a guy in drag, what with Lee Mi Yeon and Go Ara dropping it and the false Park news, this is a very happy turn of events. Also, eye sex. Yes, we get more eye sex, which was one of the few things worth one's time in 'IRIS 2'. There is some good chemistry between Miss Oh here and Lee Beom Soo. Since their characters will be working together in this, it is quite appreciated and the lady is very cool, so I really couldn't be happier about it all.

What is not such good news and not appreciated is that the production company for this is Taewon Entertainment. Yes, the 'IRIS' franchise company. Which explains the casting and adds to my fear for this series. If Song Seung Heon also signs up (no news there yet), then this will be both a 'Dr. Jin' and 'IRIS 2' reunion project, which makes it a special kind of horribly epic.

Maybe 'Prime Minister and I' going so wrong at the end will help me through this. There is no greater disappointment I have experienced from Lee Beom Soo's works, given how awesome that was before things went South, so I might have just been desensitized to any other type of already iffy looking failure.

If you'd like to know how I felt about 'IRIS 2' and enjoy my pain, here.

'Triangle' is still airing as originally planned, following 'Empress Ki' in May, on MBC.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Drama Review - Heartless City

Korean drama titles are often on the silly side and depending on genre, might not even hold any meaning. For those who like the title of 'Heartless City', you will be pleased to know it is a very accurate one. This is not a happy series. But it is also not melodramatic in the usual over the top way. 'Heartless City' is a dark, noir-like suspense series about less than lovable characters. There really is no happy way to portray the underworld, drug trafficking and crime. But the series goes all out in its characterization, attempting to show how such a life affects people and how dirty and indeed heartless the world really is. And it does this quite well.

Jeong Si-hyeon, otherwise known as Doctor's Son (Jeong Kyeong-ho), is a drug trafficking gangster who tries to take over his boss's territory. When a detective he had a personal connection to dies during a police operation, her fiancé, Ji Hyeong-min (Lee Jae-yoon-I) vows to catch Si-hyeon, thinking he is the killer. Meanwhile, the dead detective's sister from the orphanage they grew up in, Yoon Soo-min (Nam Gyoo-ri) decides to become a cop and infiltrate the organization as an undercover agent for Hyeong-min. With different players from the side of the gangsters and police alike making their moves, all having their own hidden agenda and goals, a race against time begins for the main characters to survive and reach the top of the drug ring food chain.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Heartless City".

Drama Review - Incarnation of Money

Both in terms of ratings and content quality, there is no doubt that when PD Yoo In-sik and writers Jang Yeong-cheol and Jeong Kyeong-soon-I come together for a work, something great is created. Having brought audiences two major hits with "Giant" and "Salaryman", they have proved they bring the best out of one another and the cast and crew they work with. While 'Incarnation of Money' sadly does not live up to the expectations the two series before it created, it still has plenty to offer.

When Lee Cha-don's (played by Kang Ji-hwan) father is killed by his trusted protégé and his mother is framed for the murder, he finds himself on the run. After losing his memory and being taken in by Bok Hwa-sool (Kim Soo-mi), he grows up to be a prosecutor. As he slowly recovers his past by being linked to his own family's case without realizing it, he must take his revenge against Ji Se-gwang (Park Sang-min), the man who ruined his life and is now a top prosecutor.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Incarnation of Money".

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

'Golden Cross' Lands Its Main Cast

Image credit: AsianWiki

As I said in my 'Triangle' pieces, I do not watch melodrama for just anybody. But Lee Si Yeong has now been confirmed to star in KBS2's 'Golden Cross' [골든 크로스] and this makes it the third melodrama I'm in for this spring. I am terrified, but smiling.

'Golden Cross' is about a man named Kang Do Yoon, who has a lovely relationship with his mother and sister. When his sister is murdered, he decides to take revenge against the person responsible. Who, of course, is the father of his leading lady. It's a melodrama. You know the woman's family has to have done some terrible thing to keep the lovebirds off each other until the end.

The series is written by Yoo Hyeon Mi, who wrote 'Gaksital/Bridal Mask' and directed by Hong Seok Goo, a PD of 'Marry Me, Mary'... Ok, the latter is less than encouraging, but I have to believe such a writer would be given a worthy PD to work with, so let's see.

After a short scare with Park Shi Hoo gunning for the male lead role, he gave up (good riddance) and now Kim Kang Woo has confirmed to lead. This makes me very happy, because he's someone I really like. He is not afraid to be silly or different and in an industry where many a handsome man try to be swoon-worthy and cool, someone who feels more down to Earth and relaxed with his choices is appreciated.

This makes me happy for my "darling" too, because I honestly did not want to see her having to be romanced by a nearly convicted rapist. Given she has a strong image and that this is her first leading role in a big melodrama, it could have also tainted an important step for her. Now she gets a co-star without baggage.

Uhm Ki Joon is also confirmed to play businessman Michael Jang and complete the trio as the second male lead. Han Eun Jung is already confirmed as the second female lead. The best part? Lee Si Yeong's character's father is played by Jung Bo Seok. Yes, that Jung Bo Seok.

The man whose face made me want to hit my television in every single scene he had in 'Giant'. This man can look obnoxious and stir up a viewer's murderous instincts like nobody's business. And what better person to play a villain than someone who nearly makes you physically ill when he switches that on? I love this dude and I am so very happy he is the big baddie here.

'Golden Cross' follows 'Inspiring Generation' in the Wed-Thu 21:55 slot on KBS2.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Drama Review - Everything About My Relationship / All About My Romance

Politics is not something most would associate with love or romance. In fact, politics is often one of the sad things fans of romantic comedy want to run away from by means of happy escapism. Hearing those two combined in a romantic comedy drama would make many uncertain. However, we have to remember the medium and genre have a certain focus that viewers like and that it would be unwise to change that. Those who have watched works like the 1995 movie 'The American President' also know it is very doable without losing that focus. Thankfully for those who might not like the topic, 'Everything About My Relationship' uses it in a very good and fun way that adds to its romance and comedy, rather than sully it.

Kim Soo-yeong (Sin Ha-gyoon) is a rash and arrogant conservative party member who is struggling with his want to change the system and his loss of such a hope existing. He has reached a point where the whole thing feels like a big joke to him. No Min-yeong (Lee Min-jeong) is the determined and passionate Green Party leader. Despite her party having close to no power, she dreams of a better future for her people. When their political careers clash, the two start developing an attraction for each other. With both parties up in arms and the nature of their work being in the public's eye, they find themselves trying to juggle a career and a very threatening to it personal connection.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Everything About My Relationship".

Drama Preview - Three Days

Dramas taking a turn for the bleak is certainly not a shift a lot of fans appreciate, but since the domestic audiences seem to like their darker stories, this is something we will have to get used to for this spring season. The good thing about it though, is that rather than going for makjang, we are seeing a rise in suspense thrillers with highly cinematic qualities. And this is a good thing for an industry mainly about cheap and quick entertainment. "Three Days" is one of these new series going for a more serious approach.


"Three Days" follows a presidential bodyguard after he is framed for an attempt against the president's life. Having to prove his innocence, he and all the other players find themselves in a big mess of a national security alert. In what seems to be more of a character- and perhaps bromance-heavy suspense thriller, Micky Yoochun plays the bodyguard to Son Hyeon-joo's president and given the premise and cast, this drama is being treated as dark cinematic goodness by all involved.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Three Days".

Drama Preview - God's Gift - 14 Days

While Korean cinema often features female leads in active and well-written characters, dramas are having more trouble with that concept. Lee Bo-yeong's last drama , "I Hear Your Voice" was one of those dramas that featured a solid female lead and it looks like she is going for a second round in a woman-centric work. Needless to say, Dramaland can only benefit from this series being good.


A mother is given a chance to go back in time and attempt to save her daughter's life by piecing together the puzzle of the events that lead to her death.

Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "God's Gift - 14 Days".

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