Tuesday, June 28, 2016
I would not blame anyone for forgetting that "Vampire Detective" has a main plot, given we only see a few seconds of it in each episode, but it is finally here and so are some explanations about the past. Unfortunately, those explanations feel rushed, as do some important character decisions. Even though it is about eight episodes late, the backstory and character development we did not get for an entire series have been provided.
I have an important question for the creators. Why did this episode's story happen now and not in episode two, at least partially? Everything that happens here until things go awry is basically the character and relationship development which would have made sense as part of the introduction. It would have made me curious about and invested in Yoo-jin (Kim Yoon-hye) and Tae-woo (Jo Bok-rae) enough to be excited over the tiny amount of screen time they have been given between the premiere episode and now.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 10
Korean dramas place great importance on providing escapism. They portray words where love always conquers all and bad guys always pay. At the same time, many cross the line of being relatable to the real people watching and very few go beyond satisfying superficial needs before sending us on our merry way. "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is an idealistic drama which bends the law and reality to its will, but unlike most series, it does so for a worthy payout.
After being framed for taking bribes from a powerful businessman whose crimes he refused to conceal, Jo Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) loses everything and gives up on society. Three years later, Deul-ho reunites with an old friend and fellow victim of his rivals. When this friend is tragically killed, Deul-ho decides to become a champion for the wrongfully accused and bring his old enemies to justice.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho"
Summer is officially here and so is the time for a fresh drama season. This week I round up some news on the troubled, but resilient production of "Beautiful Mind" and upcoming mini-drama "Baek-hee is Back". I also brace myself for the hype that Jeon Ji-hyeon and Lee Min-ho are about to rain down upon us. As usual, I conclude with other news and some words on my followed dramas.
"Beautiful Mind" Still Waiting for Its Lead
KBS firmly states that Park So-dam is still on track to film this series, but things are moving along until she makes her appearance. Some new stills are out for Jang Hyeok and also some for Park Se-yeong, while the second teaser released portrays the male lead's lack of empathy. Having a lead who cannot emotionally connect to others is interesting, but I doubt it will hold. Dramas love their miraculous cures through romances after all.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Missing "Feels" and Hallyu Surfing Mermaids
Dramas rarely answer my prayers so quickly, but that makes the times when they do all the more satisfying. Gil-do is back in action and he is as nasty as ever. Between his resurfaced murderous intent for his father-in-law and everyone else's claws reaching for Goongrakwon, this episode is a merciless shot of suspense. Kang-sook's and Mi-ja's battle intensifies, future conflict between Myeong and Tae-ha is brewing and Gil-do's past pushes him one step closer to ruin.
In my previous piece I voiced my worry over Gil-do's (Jo Jae-hyeon) continued inaction. Looking back now, I myself once said that "Master - God of Noodles" smartly goes back and forth between plot progression and character development. Perhaps I should have given the writer more credit and more of my patience. The monster we know Gil-do as has reared its bloodthirsty head again and it is a gratifying return. The revelation of him using cooking ingredients as poison fits the extended metaphor of noodles as expressions of life.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 12
It is a time for reunions in today's episode of "Master - God of Noodles", most of which are less than happy for either party. Yeo-gyeong's perseverance brings Gil-do to her workplace and Congressman So is using her and Myeong to meet his old enemy as well. Kang-sook's and Mi-ja's battle over Goongrakwon is about to hit a very decisive moment. The more our characters' motivations and methods clash, the more dangerous things become for our heroes.
As much as I have been enjoying the fact that many people hate Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon), it could have become a problem. If everyone is against him and working together for a common goal, then there is nothing to fear. Episode eleven pounds exactly what we have to fear into our heads by reminding us that we have a lot of players who have their own agenda and who will not think twice about harming our heroes for it. This keeps the story tense and therefore involving.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 11
Monday, June 27, 2016
The end has arrived for "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho", but the food for thought it leaves us with makes this goodbye a satisfying one. The time for our criminals to receive their just rewards has come and they all face the situation in a different way. We have some surprises when it comes to the future of our heroes and life goes on for everyone involved. Despite Deul-ho's constant success in the courtroom, the show's moral is realistic and therefore incredibly profound.
I will not downplay the effect the drama's flaws have had on my enjoyment of it at times, but I am always surprised by how quickly it addresses the things that stand out the most as problematic. In the last episode, I wondered why Yeong-il (Kim Kap-soo) made unnecessarily cruel decisions and Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) now asks the same, showing us just how blinded Yeong-il is by power. I wondered why Deul-ho did not record things and now we are shown that he does and so does anyone who needs evidence.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 20 Final
One of the strong suits of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is its handling of emotions and episode nineteen gives Deul-ho and us a rough time, as his life is endangered by evidence. It also reveals crucial information about the past and the true extent of Yeong-il's involvement in important events. Some revelations raise more questions, others neatly tie threads opened in the drama's beginning. Deul-ho repeats certain mistakes and we have miraculous interventions, but they do not majorly harm what is a thrilling episode.
Dramas are very prone to plot holes, even when it comes to main points. This can be especially frequent for creators who crack under the pressure of live filming. Seeing the key given to Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) by Il-goo (Choi Jae-hwan) making a return is a sign that the crew has not abandoned their story. Il-goo's "accident" being murder explains why he tried staying away from Deu-ho. Perhaps it was to protect him, rather than due to anger.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 19
Sunday, June 26, 2016
This time around, our detective trio tackles another mystery and warns about some of the dangers of being famous on the internet. Episode eight was not perfect, but it was a solid attempt at creating emotional investment and it lacked major plot holes. Episode nine is not only a haphazard attempt at criticizing online broadcasters while being a "light" story, its conclusion sadly makes about as much sense as an octopus wearing a thong.
People are discovering new ways of using the ever evolving internet to express themselves, socialize, promote their work and create opportunities for their future. As any tool, however, there are dangers to it if used unwisely. Adding to that the fact that technology advances faster than our ability to safely adjust to it and it makes for good horror stories. Or in this case, a not-murder mystery. The episode looks at these dangers as well as the role of parenting in them, but only in passing.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 9
If you are feeling empty on the romantic comedy front, look no further, as "Beautiful Gong Shim" is here to provide all the things we love about them. Of course this means it includes a lot of the things that are problematic for less tolerant of certain frustrating cliches viewers, but this is not breaking news when it comes to dramas or romantic comedy.
"Beautiful Gong Shim" is not fresh in many ways. The character of Ahn Dan-tae (Namgoong Min) is not officially a jerk chaebol heir, but his hinted birth secret will probably take care of that. He is also a hoot and a half and a pure pleasure to watch. Gong Shim (Minah) is equally quirky, from her odd choice of wig to her bike bell used to clear her way in crowded streets. She is a typical lead in many ways, but her unique features and sympathy earning presentation are enough to make one love her.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Beautiful Gong Shim"
Some major titles are coming our way and this week is rich with announcements. With many series approaching about younger characters, we get to experience the new wave of actresses tasked with bringing the roles of young women back in the spotlight. "Cheese in the Trap" fans are in for some odd, but potentially good news and we have script reading photos from some upcoming series along with the usual news.
The Rise of Young Actresses
There has been a shortage of young actresses in the Korean film and drama industries for a while now. Seasoned artists are more cautious with role choices and ageism is an issue for women's casting. Whichever side of the idols vs. actors argument you are on, idol actresses have helped fill some of those spots and many are getting quite popular, as this piece speaks about. At the same time, new talent is sprouting from within the acting industry, bringing more variety for film and drama.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Rising Actresses and Consolation Cheese
We have now hit the midpoint in "Master - God of Noodles" and all of our players are in place, fully ready and motivated to close in on Gil-do and destroy him. Episode ten surprises me in some very pleasant ways, pleasant surprises being a rarity for me in drama. Myeong, Yeo-gyeong and Tae-ha face their problems head on, Congressman So's connection runs much deeper and important new information surfaces for us and the characters.
Dramas are quite liberal with their repetition. We know a character with important information will probably meet a truck of doom before delivering it. A lot of Korean series would end in four episodes if characters simply communicated and used their wits more. It is plot stretching at its nastiest. I have to admit, I did not give this series enough credit. Seeing Myeong (Cheon Jeong-myeong) and Tae-ha (Lee Sang-yeob) speak so honestly and bond more, rather than drift apart is a delight.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 10
If your head is not already spinning from all the character connections and intricate plot, prepare to hold it in place, because episode nine of "Master - God of Noodles" is mercilessly packed. Gil-do's true nature and weaknesses are slowly being discovered by his enemies and Congressman So's connection to the story gets a big boost. Our makeshift family is threatened by misunderstandings as Tae-ha gets closer to the man we least want him to.
My worry over Gil-do's (Jo Jae-hyeon) connection to Da-hae (Gong Seung-yeon) being used as a possible excuse for redeption persists, but it is wise of the drama to remind us what he is truly like. Gil-do's secret room is an extension of himself. It hides in plain sight and keeps his crimes inside. Gil-do adapts and manipulates without mercy. His talk of honor to Seong-rok (Kim Joo-wan) is replaced by a more honest one to his wife. Do not touch my things or you will pay.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 9
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Deul-ho and Ji-wook are pulled towards their respective loved ones and away from justice. Eun-jo voices her worries over this and reminds Deul-ho and us what this series has been about. With only two episodes left, it is time for the fight against Yeong-il to get dirty and the dirt sadly touches our heroes as well. This is the first time "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" has missed some marks on its hero, but I hope the end brings justice back.
Automatic forgiveness of past transgressions because of family bonds is a pet peeve of mine in Korean drama. I have seen horrible characters being given a free pass at redemption without having worked for it or seen them suddenly grow a conscience to justify it. Wanting to support loved ones is a noble cause and a human, and therefore understandable desire. It is the execution which often fails the idea. I think this drama does a lot of things about it right.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 18
The time has come in "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" for our heroes and villains to give into or resist some great temptations. The actions taken by different characters are surprising and so is the way the writing handles some of them. I am not sure if this is a good thing, but it is definitely unexpected, keeping the series suspenseful. Sin-woo is the man of the hour and he has set big things in motion.
First up we have the outcome which least surprised me when it comes to our main characters and that is Ji-wook's (Ryoo Soo-yeong) decision to help his father, even if a little. At least for now. His alignment with the good side came too early to be final and a short lapse in judgement before the big finish is to be expected. No smart storytelling reveals the true colors of a character whose choices are the most interesting thing about him without a twist.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 17
Muism (Korean shamanism) is a popular theme in Korean film and television. The clash of tradition and modernism, religion and science and the prominence of scammers conning the desperate make for interesting drama. "Vampire Detective" has its own take on the topic this week and it almost coveys it well. Unfortunately, some of its choices end up sabotaging its own point. Being almost-good is a recurring theme in the drama, but I wish it could cross that line.
Religious fanaticism is a very prominent topic in our society. The more we push forward, change and adapt, the more those of us clinging to old systems of power and the stability of tradition panic. Unfortunately, that panic sometimes manifests as bigotry and abuse. It is easy to understand why the notion of solving all of our problems with a ritual appeals to so many of these individuals. Individual beliefs aside, a weakened state of mind caused by tragedy, fear or other such conditions makes us more vulnerable.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 8
Since pre-production started getting more popular in drama, I have had hopes things will get better for their quality and the filming conditions. They have in some ways, but big industries will always have their problems, I guess. This week the "Beautiful Mind" mess continues over at KBS, we take a look at one pro of pre-production and check out upcoming titles and the expectations for them.
"Baek-hee is Back" and "Beautiful Mind" Struggles
Do you remember the Park So-dam "drama" from last week? Well, it has been ongoing and now KBS' Monday and Tuesday schedule is looking even messier. The channel wants to extend "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" by 4 episodes, reaching a total number of 24. Park Shin-yang's own obligations will not let him, however, so now we have no idea what will happen. Meanwhile mini-drama "Baek-hee is Back", which is used to bridge the gap has its mother-daughter duo confirmed and will also star In Gyo-jin.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Slumps and Filming Ouchies
The convenient workings of fate thankfully take a break in episode eight of "Master - God of Noodles" and we are back to character focus after another three-year time jump. Our protagonists and antagonists have moved on to bigger, but not necessarily better things, there are grand revelations and birth secrets confirmed and avoided, too. The noodle dishes are back with a tasty vengeance and tensions run high as our hero gets dangerously close to his target.
The connections between Tae-ha (Lee Sang-yeob), Moo-taek, Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon), Do-kkoo (Jo Hee-bong) and Yeo-gyeong (Jeong Yoo-mi) are revealed and it is about time. I expected Gil-do to be behind the events of the past and I expected the connection between Tae-ha and Yeo-gyeong, but I am very glad to see that Do-kkoo does not have a birth secret with Tae-ha. It would have been one cliche too many already and the series is engrossing despite their "help", not due to it.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 8
Fate is a very prominent concept in Korean drama and we all know how good it is in making things happen without the need for a logical path leading to them. "Master - God of Noodles" has used fate in plausible ways, but episode seven crosses some limits I wish it hadn't. Fate-coated writing hiccups aside, the episode gives us some juicy revelations, new players for our backstabbing chessboard, plenty of suspense and material for the future.
The revelation of Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon) as Da-hae's (Gong Seung-yeon) father offers an interesting contrast to Myeong's (Cheon Jeong-myeong) life and it reveals a weakness in our villain. I am not sure if Do-kkoo (Jo Hee-bong) is Tae-ha's (Lee Sang-yeob) father, but that will be another interesting and plausible family pairing. After all, both men sacrifice a lot for those they feel indebted to and we know Do-kkoo had a baby in his life once. Both pairings hold good potential and perils.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 7
Friday, June 24, 2016
Get ready to feel happy, relieved, disappointed and worried. Get ready to feel a lot of things in today's episode, frankly, because a new villain has revealed themselves and they will not make the same mistakes Chairman Jeong has been making. It is time for some of our characters to decide on some really tough choices and a highly awaited conversation takes place between Hae-kyeong and Deul-ho. Also, adorable Soo-bin is back!
Firstly, let us talk about Yeong-il (Kim Kap-soo). I have speculated about his alignment and wished he would choose the side of good. Sadly, he has not. His new position as Big Bad would have felt sudden if not for the fact that he, Sin-woo (Kang Shin-il) and Chairman Jeong (Jeong Won-joong) have been the main three baddies since the start. Yeong-il makes a far more interesting antagonist, because he has a moral compass, which he chooses to ignore. Chairman Jeong lacks that deeply unsettling feature.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 16
The case against Chairman Jeong Geun-mo is reaching a climax as his accomplices are cornered and his secrets are revealed. Some of our characters choose their sides clearly, others continue to be a mystery. Deul-ho is not above gloating, but he knows better than to trust an easy win. The more you back someone into a corner, the more they and those who can go down with them will lash out.
The Power King case pushes a lot of characters to action and Hae-kyeong's (Park Sol-mi) true motives are revealed with the conclusion of it. It seems the past really did go as we witnessed and she betrayed Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) as a colleague and as family. However, the Hae-kyeong of today has matured. Her wish is to be the person she admired in Deul-ho and place ethics first. Sin-woo (Kang Shin-il) is different. He adapts to survive, not for any noble purpose such as justice.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 15
"Vampire Detective" finally delivers on the vampire part, but the results are sadly less exciting than they sound. Episode seven attempts to humanize our villainess and reveals her origins to us. San meets an old friend who is very different from what he remembers and our other leads take a break while he works this new case. We also meet an unexpected guest star who reveals an interesting fact about the drama. Any "Vampire Prosecutor" fans here?
I have to say, I am a bit confused by the choices regarding the characters here. Yo-na (Lee Cheong-ah) has had very little screen time and she has been a pretty one-dimensional evil character. A complex villain is more appealing of course, but there has to be sensible writing involved in their creation. Yo-na has not shown any significant signs of humanity in her and she can therefore not be humanized in one go. Her backstory tries to make us care, but it feels a bit late.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 7
Some new dramas are or will shortly be available to us and the next batch of upcoming ones is in the making. Aside from the usual role confirmations, rejections and possibilities, it has been a relatively quiet week in Dramaland. Today I speak about a few noteworthy developments and my followed dramas, a section which I have been neglecting a bit.
My Sassy Audition Winner
While not a film I personally like, the popularity, success and significance of "My Sassy Girl" in South Korean cinema are undeniable. I am usually distrustful of remakes and a drama adaptation in a different genre sounds risky. The production of "My Sassy Girl - Drama" is making interesting production choices though. Aside from being fully pre-produced, they will choose the female lead through an audition judged by professionals and the audience alike. I can see a lot of issues here, but it is an interesting concept.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Auditions and Conflicting Illusions
Get ready to stop breathing every few minutes and keep any comforting items or pets nearby, because episode six of "Master - God of Noodles" is one intense ride. Our characters drop their facades and others reveal the effort it takes to maintain them, reluctant alliances are formed and we have a birth secret on our hands if ever I have seen one. Between the tight storytelling and torturous food shots, this episode is a health hazard.
Let me first address the elephant in the room here. Da-hae (Gong Seung-yeon) is so very much Gil-do's (Jo Jae-hyeon) daughter and I am sure it will be confirmed soon. She may be an illegitimate child or a tie he needed to cut before entering Goongnakwon. What I find hard to believe is that he allows her to live. Blood did not stop him from killing his father. Blood does not stop abuse, neglect and abandonment, but perhaps this is the one low he will not stoop to.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 6
This week "Master - God of Noodles" opens with a nicely timed detailed introduction to the character of Da-hae. Three years have passed and the present finds some of our characters as we left them and a few having made drastic changes. We are also introduced to new people on both sides of Gil-do's plans. Speaking of the Devil, life in Gangnam is sweet and he will let nothing and no one jeopardize it.
I was discussing character connections in the series with a friend and she pointed out something my own mind skipped. The possibility that Tae-ha's (Lee Sang-yeob) father could be the killer of Yeo-gyeong's (Jeong Yoo-mi) parents. I assumed his sacrifice was fueled by love. In retrospect, I should expect that a Korean drama would feature twists like this and now I am noticing a lot of possible connections. We know Da-hae's (Gong Seung-yeon) parents were also murdered, so perhaps Tae-ha's father and Do-kkoo (Jo Hee-bong) have killed plenty of folks for Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon).
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 5
Thursday, June 23, 2016
After a case fully dedicated to Chairman Jeong Geun-mo's financial transactions it is the turn of one related to the cost of human life lost to his dirty business practices. As Jeong becomes more reckless and obsessed with destroying our Superman, his accomplices start to worry over their involvement with him. Hae-kyeong goes head to head with Deul-ho and Eun-jo in court and her motives are being questioned by those around her.
The energy drink case is a return to issues concerning citizens. In a series which places a lot of importance in social commentary, keeping such cases coming is important. By making the source of this Chairman Jeong (Jeong Won-joong) once more, the creators stay close to our main story as well. It is smart to remind us that Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) and Eun-jo (Kang So-ra) do take on other cases and make a living, because it feels as if everything is about the Chairman sometimes.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 14
Our plot and character development make great strides in episode thirteen of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho". It is amazing how people show their true colors when push comes to shove and now we get to see who Deul-ho's and justice's true allies and enemies are. Are those revelations surprising? Not really, but some are so very satisfying, especially when Deul-ho's fate is at stake. We still need more information on the past, but the present is definitely delivering.
First up in in this week's game of spot-the-ally is Ji-wook (Ryoo Soo-yeong). Ji-wook's predicament is sad, but seeing him step up for what is right is such a relief. It is lovely to see Deul-ho's (Park Shin-yang's) unshakable faith in him as well. Ji-wook needs that faith. Hae-kyeong (Park Sol-mi) is trying to fix some past errors as well. She was cruel and selfish, perhaps unforgivably so, but choosing what is right over what is convenient this time is a good start at redemption. Her father, Sin-woo (Kang Shin-il) is unsurprisingly less flexible.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 13
Monday, May 30, 2016
If things were serious in the last episode, they are deadly dangerous in episode twelve of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho". Our villain is finally showing his biggest tricks, although they are interestingly very similar to his past ones and hopefully full of errors. Deul-ho is in deep water and what remains to be seen is who will aid and who will hinder him. Eun-jo will have a lot on her hands and so will Ji-wook.
Hong Yoon-gi's (Park Choong-seon) case is unique in conclusion. The drama does not spend time on the potential moral dilemma of Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) in settling his client's grievances, but losing a chance to get Chairman Jeong (Jeong Won-joong). I do understand that Lee Myeong-joon provides an alternative route, but it is still good to see Deul-ho not even getting tempted to settle. While he should have expected what is currently happening, it is a relief to see that he does learn from past mistakes for the most part.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 12
Things get serious in "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" as our main villain becomes more aggressive than ever. Eun-jo's step-father sparks a new case, new challenges and social commentary. Eun-jo herself reaches a boiling point, but now her time has hopefully come to get down to business. New adversaries surface and older ones falter as the chessboard rattles. Deul-ho's determination to risk everything is about to be challenged, but we know him pretty well by now.
I always worry when dramas handle topics such as depression or suicide. Serious topics in general. They are often used for dramatic impact, but rarely in a sensitive and honest way. I really appreciate the way Hong Yoon-gi's (Park Choong-seon) situation is portrayed here. Depression does not go away when you have support and neither do tough times. Support helps, but it is not a cure or a one-time good deed. Support takes dedication and being able to use it well and hold on takes great strength of character and perseverance.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 11
Finding a romantic comedy drama that does not go majorly dark and depressing or then lose its coherence completely is hard. "Beautiful Gong Shim" promises a return to the good ol' days, where people trying to hook up with people happily was possible without major physical and emotional scarring. There is still a mean grandmother in the mix, but that is a rom-com staple in Korean drama.
One sister is "a beauty", the other "ugly". One man is "successful", the other a charming "failure". A lot of quotation marks here, as the series is still about four pretty and well-off people navigating the geometry of romance through their love square.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Beautiful Gong Shim"
Join me in a week of awards, casting additions and even some new drama announcements. This time around I contemplate the drama race for appeal in the Chinese market, which we all know is becoming a top priority of wannabe-popular series. I also present to you some of our links for the upcoming 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards and take a look at some of the freshly cast or confirmed actors for upcoming dramas.
Reading about "Flower Knights: The Beginning" being sold to China and about the Chinese evaluation for "Uncontrollably Fond" got me thinking about how common reporting on China's reactions to Korean dramas has become. China being a huge market for this industry affects it greatly. There are positive and negative sides to this. Pre-production is an element the Korean drama industry is desperately in need of, but then dramas eager to impress tend to get conservative and uninspiring. What is your take on this?
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Stars, Awards and Exports
If you enjoy murder mysteries, then welcome to some Cluedo-like fun in episode six of "Vampire Detective", as our team tries to solve a death of the past. The incident is personal to Goo-hyeong and this means we finally get to see him act like a human being instead of a womanizing cardboard cutout. Yo-na is still around, but neither San or we know what she wants. She is sadly falling victim to plot stretching, which will hopefully end soon.
Atmosphere and writing play a big part in the enjoyment of murder mysteries. The creators choose to have things happen at night, in close quarters at an abandoned school and this sets a great mood for the truth being unraveled. Another fun element of such a concept is the idea that anyone could be guilty and the episode does well in gradually having its characters' facade crack as their personal secrets are revealed. As the incident took place in the past, this brings the tension back.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 6
A depressing fate befalls our makeshift family and the group is separated. Gil-do has big plans for his business and becomes more dangerous to our leads the closer he gets to the truth. Da-hae's spying endeavors reveal she has more than noodles in mind and Myeong is officially on the run. Episode four of "Master - God of Noodles" offers rich characterization and emotion. Grab a hot noodle soup and prepare for feelings.
Before getting to story-related topics, I would like to speak about a production-related element I feel makes the show emotionally impactful. The cast and PDs do a great job in portraying the difference between emotion and more visceral reactions. Dramas often rely on crying and yelling for intensity, but the range of what humans feel and show is much greater. This fervent approach of the creators and cast gives every moment gravity. It would not be enough without good writing, but "Master - God of Noodles" has no major problems there.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 4
Gil-do has clearly never been worried about the idiom of burning bridges, because he is walking around waving fire at everything and everyone. His sadistic nature reaches new lows every time he acts or speaks. Episode three introduces new character connections and things get very dire for our hero, as his friends get caught up in his mess. The road to a complicated future stretches before us. Time for tangling some noodles.
Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon) has been largely presented as a genius manipulator until now, but the thing about getting high on power is that it makes one sloppy. The man makes enemies out of the people close to him and it will eventually be his downfall. Go Kang-sook (Lee Il-hwa), Gil-do's wife seems to know that well and she is able to play him with it. On the other hand, Hwang Seong-rok (Kim Joo-wan) is his slave and their incredibly tense car scene makes that point clear.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 3
Monday, May 2, 2016
Mysteries are rarely done well in drama. It seems to be a combination of complicated ideas and little time given due to the filming system, but they are also usually simple in concept and easy to guess as well. The creators of "The Village: Achiara's Secret" were very confident before the drama began airing. Stay until the end, they said. We will show you something good. Dramaland has lied to me a lot, but it just makes the rare truths all the more satisfying.
Han So-yoon (Moon Geun-young) lost her family in a car accident as a child. When her grandmother, who raised So-yoon in Canada dies from a fall, So-yoon receives a cryptic letter from Korea. She believes the truth of her family's death lies in a village called Achiara. After being assigned there as a teacher, she begins to uncover the village's dark secrets and her family's fate.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Village: Achiara's Secret"
Have you been missing good ol' rom-coms, folks? You know, the kind where people do not cry for sixteen episodes and get some form of terminal illness. Well, let us see if those will be making a return and take a look at some recent drama trends while we are at it. More upcoming drama goodies are out, including some for new titles. Even less eventful weeks are full in Dramaland.
The Return of Rom-coms?
Writer Lee Hee-myeong and PD Baek Soo-chan of "The Girl Who Sees Smells" are back with romantic comedy "The Beauty of the Beast". The premise does sound too simple and possibly boring, but do things always have to be complicated? The creators' previous show might be about a serial killer, but it also has adorable romance and strong female characters. So you know what? I trust them to bring some enjoyable fluff back. Here is some information on Namgoong Min's character and some videos.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Rom-coms, Psychos and Youth
Gil-do is well on his way to winning a one-man moral limbo dance by going lower every day, our hero has revenge and food in mind and we have some new character introductions. Episode two pushes Myeong towards a very dangerous path and it will not be long before he has to start evading the truth to reach his target. The reunion hits him hard and the memories harder. Manly tears and noodle slurping ensue.
Myeong's (Cheon Jeong-myeong) reaction to meeting Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon) again is very instinctive and very powerful. While a trauma does not simply disappear, Myeong seemed to be doing relatively okay. This episode lets us know that he is most definitely not okay and it shows in his relationships with his peers as well. He is emotionally withdrawn and ends up hurting the ones who care about him while focused on his own pain. The other important fact we learn is that he has a natural talent for food.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 2
Friday, April 29, 2016
If you think your life is tough, welcome to the world of revenge dramas. "Master - God of Noodles" offers hot noodle dishes and heaps of the famous dish best served cold. The creators waste no time and give us the full backstory between our hero and villain, all the way to the awkward reunion in the present. This is one impressive, stylish and exciting premiere episode. You could cut the tension with a knife. Enter the noodle jokes.
What hit me first about "Master - God of Noodles" is the incredible presentation of the series. This is one very appealing work. From its oppressive atmosphere to its stunning visuals, vibrant representation of different eras, living arrangements, costume design, everything is just beautifully crafted. A lot of creators underestimate the importance of the art. You do not just point a camera and film, as soap operas tend to do. There is so much more to it and this drama's production shows us how it is done.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Master - God of Noodles" Episode 1
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Everyone give the flashback fairy a round of applause, because she is here and she brings a lot of backstory with her. Episode ten gives us a little look into Deul-ho's and Hae-kyeong's less than blissful life together, as well as his musical interrogation room meetings with Dae-soo. I find myself with more questions than answers, but the past is returning and maybe bringing those answers with it. Chairman Jeong's time has come yet again.
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" knows how much to give and how much to keep, I have to hand it to its creators. I have been hoping to see a redeeming revelation for Hae-kyeong (Park Sol-mi), but they are cleverly avoiding the details of her involvement in framing Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) and keeping Soo-bin (Heo Jeong-eun) away. On the other hand, we find out their marriage was not so great. Deul-ho was away and Hae-kyeong was ashamed of his humble origins. This is where Eun-jo (Kang So-ra) comes in.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 10
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" can go heavy on the sugar-coating and feel-good approach at times, but I cannot blame a show for trying to give some hope and joy. The time has come for our food criminal to get her just des(s)erts in this case and Deul-ho is definitely eager to provide. Eun-jo is hanging onto her dream and desired mentor, but life is not so peachy when you are broke. Hire her already!
With one episode left until we are half way into the show, I do feel slightly disappointed over Eun-jo (Kang So-ra) having taken the back seat too long. Seeing some progress in her work with the Neighborhood Weirdos and also her current life situation is a nice change. I have been wondering how she supports herself through this and now we know she does not. It speaks volumes about her determination to become a good lawyer that she sacrifices so much for it. Deul-ho's (Park Shin-yang) own determination is tested by the reality of ungrateful clients.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 9
While the vampire side of things remains benched, we have some welcome forward movement in character development in episode five, sparked by what is probably the most interesting guest character yet. The case itself is very entertaining and nicely presented, giving us plenty of suspects and inviting us to a guessing game. Worry not, Yo-na is still around and she is very eager to have a piece of San, figuratively and very literally so.
Yoon Seol-ah (Goo Jae-yee) is really the core of this episode and one half of what sets it apart from the rest. "Vampire Detective" has been using its guest characters to reveal more about our leads and especially San (Lee Joon), but it goes deeper this time. Seol-ah's life as an actress might be worlds apart from the life of a detective, a girl with a secret and a vampire, but she shares the common pain of responsibilities she did not ask for and the consequences of she has to live with.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 5
Sunday, April 24, 2016
We have had quite an eventful week in Dramaland. KBS, SM C&C and SBS are getting into a fight while actors and the fate of a drama are caught in the middle, rumors become news only to be refuted and we have a casting which is already dividing viewers. As usual, upcoming drama goodies and my personal drama updates are included, so join me in a recap of the craziness.
Petty BTS Battles
Dramas changing channels is nothing new, but things are getting serious this time around. "Incarnation of Jealousy" switched over from KBS to SBS and all was well. Except KBS is now acting like an obsessive ex who cannot let go and is even dragging Kong Hyo-jin down with it. I have no idea who is justified here and who not, but it is a good reminder that dramas are still an industry. Foreign fans often dismiss internal and domestic happenings, but these influence our entertainment.
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Drama Fights and Trolling Rumors
Revenge has been taken in all manner of ways in a genre very favored by Korean drama. The basics of these premises remain very similar, something which sadly extends to their entire plots sometimes. Worry not, however, because a new type of revenge has arrived. An apron is his cape and a rolling pin his weapon. It sounds funny, but do not underestimate "Master - God of Noodles".
Moo-myeong (Cheon Jeong-myeong), which means "nameless", is a man whose father was murdered and life was ruined by Kim Gil-do (Jo Jae-hyeon). With his new anonymous identity, he plans to become a master noodle cook and take back what was stolen from him.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Preview] "Master - God of Noodles"
Another case is almost done and "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" keeps doing what it does well. A lot of Deul-ho's successes rely on good people doing the right thing and bad people not taking things further, but there are lessons to be found in this idealistic view. Aside from morals and case solving, I believe one of our antagonists may be worse than I thought. Let me know if I am being oversuspicious.
Before getting to that, I am very happy to see that the drama over Deul-ho's (Park Shin-yang) and Soo-bin's (Heo Jeong-eun) cancelled meeting does not overstay its welcome. Soo-bin is a smart kid and she understands that her dad has an important job and that things with her mother and grandfather are awkward. Deul-ho is actually the one suffering, because he understands the importance of his ability to be there for her after having been absent from her life for so long. On a happier note, I love how she is his inspiration for cracking this case.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 8
Korean dramas making abrupt changes is something audiences have grown used to, but one of the latest variations of this bad habit has been radically changing a drama's presentation and tone from the cheerful to the melodramatic very early on. "Please Come Back, Mister" felt like such a refreshing change to that. The drama does a lot of things well. Unfortunately, it also makes so many big mistakes that it ultimately ruins a lot of the good it had previously managed to build.
Kim Yeong-soo (Kim In-kwon) and Han Gi-tak (Kim Soo-ro) return to our world together after dying, in the hopes of closing unfinished business regarding their deaths and protecting their loved ones. Yeong-soo returns as Lee Hae-joon (Rain) and Gi-tak as Han Hong-nan (Oh Yeon-seo). Their time is limited and actions restricted, giving them little to work with as they fumble about in their new form.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Please Come Back, Mister"
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Deul-ho finally discovers his true calling beyond the case of Michael Jeong and Eun-jo incorporates herself in our team, which is always welcoming her presence. Episode 7 marks the opening of a case not related to our main villain, at least not so far. Most importantly, Deul-ho's triumphant return faces some problems, as he struggles between his role as a father and a newfound hero for the people.
In a surprising and emotional turn of events, Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) reunites with Soo-bin (Heo Jeong-eun), who is smart and brave like her dad. Their scenes destroyed me. "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" really knows how to present its characters in a sweet and pure manner. We also get more development for Hae-kyeong (Park Sol-mi), with the revelation that she really thinks Deul-ho did something wrong. I am still hesitant to forgive her, because she is projecting her own regret and lingering attachment to her daughter. This is unfair to Soo-bin, but at least it humanizes a former antagonist.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 7
Monday, April 18, 2016
You know, for being investigators and therefore quick-witted and curious by trade, our team are very slow to address San's condition. I understand initial denial, but his vampirism is starting to feel like a gimmick, when we are one third into this show without it having played a significant role. The episode's plot and some other parts of the main story thankfully progress much faster, however, as our villainess has come out to play.
When I saw that San's (Lee Joon) vampirism happened not in some painful flashback, but right in our present, I was very happy. I thought "Vampire Detective" would finally portray the confusion and battle with one's self as they change. It is disappointing to see that this is not the case. While we did get a little forward movement here by being shown San, Goo-hyeong (Oh Jeong-se) and doctor Hwang (Kim Gi-moo) are all perplexed and worried about San's change, the creators do not show them speaking about it much, or about anything personal at all.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Vampire Detective" Episode 4
Sunday, April 17, 2016
I do not always pick complex subjects, but when I do, I pile them on. This week I briefly talk about disability and age gaps in upcoming dramas, although the topics deserve much more discussion than I can spare them here. You also get more promotional goodies, as we look into some dramas from the new season. I have my picks. They are many. Send help.
Weirdos for Weird Ori
Noodles I cannot eat do not sound exciting, until you drop fine teasers and stills along with the element of cooking for revenge. A show about paying taxes does not sound like the most exciting thing either, that is until you add Seo In-guk, Ma Dong-seok and Choi Soo-young in it and tell me it is from the "Bad Guys" crew. I am attracted to oddity, so I will be doing episode reviews for "Master - God of Noodles" and "38 Revenue Collection Unit".
Full Article: [Orion's Drama News] Age Gaps and Noodles
The Korean drama industry is constantly looking for hits, like any business does. As pre-produced shows have not done well in the past, creating something like "Descendants of the Sun" was a risk. In this case, the risk paid off in a major way. The series is a big global hit. As a reviewer, however, my job is not to gush over success. The drama has its virtues, but it is definitely not on the meatier side of entertainment. So here is my own take on it.
"Descendants of the Sun" portrays the struggle of its leading soldiers and doctors to do their respective jobs and stay true to their calling while falling in love. Yoo Si-jin (Song Joong-ki), Kang Mo-yeon (Song Hye-kyo), Seo Dae-yeong (Jin Goo) and Yoon Myeong-joo (Kim Ji-won-I) are assigned to a country in war where their relationships and dedication to their duties are tested.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Descendants of the Sun"
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
So many important and intense things happen in episode 6 that I actually needed a break and a glass of water before starting my work on this piece. Eun-jo has finally made her big decision about life as a lawyer and we are moving past the introduction. Ji-wook and Hae-kyeong just entered the delightful grey zone, there are wins, losses, regrets and redemption. The future of "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho"? Unknown, but I will be anticipating it with glee!
We have known Eun-jo (Kang So-ra) will join Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang), but it is so satisfying to see her walk out of Geum San with a smile. Eun-jo is great because she learns, evolves and makes decisions based on her values. I appreciate that the scenes with her mom, Se-mi (Yoon Bok-in) are not just for cuteness or for nagging Eun-jo to get herself a man and money. Instead they are a sort of an "Eun-jo Ethics Guide", where she voices her internal conflicts and hesitations, but also ideals.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 6
"Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" is relentlessly pursuing the right to be quirky and sometimes downright weird, as our hero creates larger-than-life schemes to protect his client. Eun-jo's new position as his rival in a case close to her heart gives us her backstory and leads her on the path we know she will take. Last, but not least, Park Shin-yang's granny pampering quota keeps being filled and yes, it is still adorable.
Our second case seems much closer to home for both of our leads and this makes it an even more emotional journey for them. Getting to know our main characters through the development of the subplots is an efficient way of keeping the plot moving without some necessary for sympathy elements being sacrificed. Deul-ho (Park Shin-yang) is clearly emotional, chasing after a simpler past through his cases. He is also very impulsive, which is an issue I will speak about in a bit.
Full Article: [HanCinema's Drama Review] "Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho" Episode 5