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