Descendants of the Sun: All is Fair in Love and War

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Slick and cinematically beautiful are the words I would use to describe this highly anticipated drama. Bolstered by famous A-lister actors, Song Joon Ki and Song Hye Kyo, as well as popular writer Kim Eun-Sook, it has the makings of a hit drama. Here, Song Joon Ki is Captain Shi-Jin, captain of the special forces, and his right hand man is Sergeant Major Dae Young. They specialize in defusing dangerous situations where political balance is precarious. One day, while on leave, they become involved in a motorcycle accident. Per chance he gets acquainted with Dr. Mo Yeon, who at first suspected him of assault. Dr. Mo Yeon, played by Song Hye Kyo, is a brilliant surgeon who practically lives in the OR, and often gets passed over promotions not due to her competence, but to her lack of VIP connections. However, as the misunderstandings are resolved, they gradually become mutually attracted to each other. Due to Shi Jin’s line of work, he has to go on multiple emergency missions for the nations and ends up standing up Dr. Mo Yeon a couple of times. Each time, their dates are interrupted due to their line of work. Furthermore, their ideology on life is different. Shi Jin takes lives in order to protect people. Mo Yeon spends hours trying to save lives no matter who they are. This difference ultimately facilitated their belief in incompatibility and they decided to part ways. Shortly after, Shi Jin is deployed to Urk to support the war and disease torn nation. Mo Yeon ends up volunteering in the same region because she refused the hospital chairman’s advances. While Shi Jin believes that they are just “bumping into each other” while passing by, fate has brought them back together!

As I am only two episodes in, I have yet to be completely drawn in, but am intrigued how this drama will pan out. I very much enjoy post-military Song Joon Ki who is practically reliving his service again in a drama. Although he is swaggery and arrogant in the drama, somehow it comes off full of charisma and effortlessly cool. His competence and seriousness in dangerous times is definitely a plus factor. While Song Hye Kyo is not my favorite actress, she is decent in her role as a competent doctor who believes in her ability and is not afraid of power/connections. For me, I do not quite feel the chemistry between the two, however I very much enjoy their witty banter. They are not people who cling, but cooly let go of each other if deemed incompatible. Their relationship seems grounded in reality, and hopefully I will see some fire between the two soon! However, I feel the fire burning already between secondary pair of Sergeant Dae Young and army surgeon Myeong-Joo. Their story has not been delved into yet, but the angst is already flowing! I also appreciate that the drama is not just about romance, but about international politics too. I look forward to seeing how the politics, violence, and ultimately, humanity tie in!

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Snow Lotus: Deeply Rooted

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Another modern saguek fusion like Splish Splash Love, but with a different take on reincarnation. Snow Lotus focuses mainly on two characeter’s lucid dreams about a past life in Joseon times. These dreams feel so real to them that they keep on trying to find connections in real life that pertain to them. Ji Jin Hee plays San Baek and Soo Hyun. San Baek plays the historical part of a commoner’s son who ends up becoming a scholar using a secret identity. Lee Ji Ah plays Yeong Dae and Yeon Hee. Yeong Dae is nobleman’s daughter who is skilled in swordplay and in an arranged marriage with her childhood friend Moon Jae. However, Moon Jae’s love is not reciprocated in her. Instead, Yeong Dae falls in love with San Baek which Moon Jae tries to break them up. Their love story ends in tragedy when Moon Jae accidentally kills Yeon Dae. Fast-forward in modern times, Soo Hyun is the CEO of a gaming company who ends up hiring intern Yeon Hee as a character designer. Yeon Hee, an artist masquerades as a man for a large part of the story due to certain circumstances during hiring. Both of them keep on dreaming similar dreams and searching for their counterparts. However, their happy reunion is cut short by Moon Jae’s modern reincarnation of Yoo Ri. As a punishment for killing Yeong Dae in the past, he is reincarnated as a woman who ends up being in love with Soo Hyun. Like her past counterpart, she throws Yeon Hee off the roof of a building in a fit of anger after Soo Hyun cancel’s their loveless marriage ceremony. Will history repeat itself in the form of a tragic ending?

As a two episode drama, it was a decent watch, but not give me the feels. I enjoyed the unique storyline of lucid dreaming and reincarnation, but was not feeling the chemistry as much between Jin Hee and Ji Ah. Perhaps a different pair of leads would have made the story more heartfelt? However, I feel there was a marked improvement of Ahn Jae Hyun from Blood to this saguek character here. His villainous role was very on point. I did find it interesting how the drama played up the genderbending portin of the story. For a large of the drama, when Jin Hee’s character did not know that Ji Ah’s character was a woman, Jin Hee’s character did not seem too bothered that he was in love with a man both in his dreams as well as in real life. I find that to be refreshingly progressive and different.

The Imperial Doctress: Female Physcians

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I am extremely picky with my Chinese period dramas, versus ones from other eras. They tend to be 40+ episodes, so it has to be really riveting for me to stick with it for that long, especially if much of it will include political intrigue. Lucky for me, I found a project that two of my favorite actors/actresses is in. I have the pleasure of watching Liu Shi Shi (Bu Bu Jing Xin) and Wallace Huo (Love Me if You Dare)! The Imperial Doctress is a drama about the first female physician in the Ming dynasty to become well known. In an patriarchal society, women were basically to do nothing but the arts at home. Our main character, Yun Xian’s whole family use to be imperial physicians for the royal family. However, due to the naiveté of Yun Xian when she tried to help her family with the medicines, she ended up accidently cause d her whole family tragedy. She was tricked by a mysterious person as a child to put extra medicine in a broth that was to be given to the empress. Thus, her grandfather ended up being put to death and her family exiled. During this hard time, her brother who was to take up the family tradition ended up dying as well due to Yun Xian not having the knowledge to help her brother at her young age. Years later, the father finally manages to change the family name and rise again as an official. However, he forbids his only daughter to study medicine with her grandmother. Her grandmother does not want the long passed down knowledge of medicine to die out, but the father is adamant about his daughter not repeating the same mistakes. However, Yun Xian is unable to watch anybody die in front of her and takes any opportunity possible to exercise her skill. By chance, she manages to save a prince, Qi Yu, who is being hunted down by another faction of the royal family. They of course fall in love with each other. Because we need a love triangle, she also manages to attract the emperor’s attention as well. However, she does not know Qi Zhen is the emperor as he is loudmouthed, brash, and mischievous. He has a deep heartache and is trying to go against the empress dowager due to a tragedy involving his birth mother in the past. Meanwhile, the empress dowager is going against the emperor and wants to put Qi Yu on the throne instead as the ‘son’ she raised isn’t listening to her. With this politic mess and Yun Xian’s persistence to practice medicine as a woman, I am looking forward to the drama it will bring!

I’ve always adored Liu Shi Shi in ancient drama settings. She has an elegant look about her that fits well with that era. I also love the spunkiness that her characters have. As we all know, Liu Shi Shi attracts all kinds of princes and emperors like she does in Bu Bu Jin Xin. As for Wallace Huo, I can attest to his acting from Love Me If You Dare and enjoy the brash character he adopts in this drama. However, it does make me sad that he is not endgame in our drama. Wallace and Liu Shi Shi are on fire, and most stills we see have them together. However, this is not to say that she doesn’t have good chemistry with Huang Xuan, prince and future emperor. They are also pretty adorable together. Though it does feel different than your usual dramas where the girl ends up with a “second lead type of guy” rather than the usual “brash” one. Or which one will she end up with really?

Madame Antoine: Fortunes Told

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An interesting fortune is being told here! Madame Antoine is about the bickering of a fortune teller versus a renowned psychologist. Han Ye Seul plays Hye Rim, a fortune teller who has a knack for being observant and being a good guesser. Often she is described as conning people, but in reality she is just handing out life advice. Meanwhile, Sung Joon plays Soo Hyun, a psychologist who doesn’t have any morals when it comes to his experiments. He is focused on the female psyche and especially does not believe in love. In fact, the drama is based on an experiment he is conducting. His hypothesis is that most women will choose a man who gives them financial stability and that true love does not exist. However, even with his first pilot study, he is unscrupulous and plays with other people’s feelings. After moving into the center above the cafe, these two butt heads as each derides the other for their work. Thus, in a form of revenge Soo Hyun decides to apply this experiment again, but using Hye Rim as the subject. He sets three men of varying characteristics upon her. One is his own genius protege, Ji Ho, to be the young flower boy type. The second is his younger athlete brother, Seung Chan, as the one who has a sexy body. He plays the third guy, a rich man in the mid-thirties. Each pushes their “fake” feelings onto her and tries to make her fall in love with them. However, as time goes by, each man develops their own true feelings for her. Most importantly, Soo Hyun, himself begins to have feelings for her. Now he is in a rocky spot of pulling out of the experiment, revealing what he has done, or setting up a new third man. Of course, when this experiment falls apart, Hye Rim will definitely be very hurt. Will they be able to rekindle or forgive?

This is an interesting concept, if unscrupulous. It is always horrible to play with another person’s feelings for the sake of an experiment, in my opinion. However, for now, the drama has enough of comedic element to level this distaste in my mouth. Hopefully,there will be some heavy groveling from Soo Hyun for doing such a thing. I very much enjoy Han Ye Seul’s acting here which is has been a hit or miss in the past with her other other projects. She is funny and endearing. I absolutely love the parts where she pretends to talk to Madame Antoine’s ghost while reading a fortune, but is really just saying nonsensical phrases in French since no one understands. Meanwhile, Sung Joon’s facial tics are hilarious. I am so used to seeing him in sulky brooding roles, but I think comedy is really his element here. While the other flower boys are cute, I do wish they were given more of a background or depth rather than the stereotypical roles, literally, that they are forced into. Other than that, Madame Antoine is a quirky fun drama to watch in between my other obsessions.

Shoot Me in the Heart: I Feel It!

 

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Lee Min-Ki and Yeo Jin Goo, power actors, in my humble opinion. I knew it was going to be good just by looking at the actors, let alone the story. The movie, Shoot Me in the Heart, ripped all my heartstrings to threads. These two boys play Seungmin and Soomyung, patients of a psychiatric hospital (more like jail). Seungmin, who doesn’t have any psychiatric issues, is dragged to this asylum due to family inheritance conflicts. They try to put him away, out of sight, but he doesn’t go down with a fight! Every day, he tries to claw his way out of the asylum and back to his one and only passion, paragliding. However, he is slowly losing his sight without an escape in sight. Meanwhile, Soomyung is in the hospital due to PTSD when he found his mother dead in a bathtub due to suicide by a pair of scissors in her neck. He even develops a phobia of scissors and cutting his hair! These two end up rooming together and develop the most unlikely of friendships. They began to depend on each other and ground each other in this unfamiliar place. They realize what living life is about and even endure brutal treatments by the staff members. However, this does not break their spirits, and they live life even more fully than before. The main theme of the movie is the unlikely friendships and relations these two develop with others in the institute.

While it was fun watching each of their escape attempts, it is also gratingly raw how harshly they are punished each time they are caught. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but you do know that your heart is hurting for these pour souls. For me, this movie unfortunately paints a bad picture of how psychiatric institutes should be operated. From the unruly and uncaring nurses to the misuse of ECST (electric convlusive shock therapy). I for one, am for the use of ECST, but only in the proper way of treating consenting patients suffering from depression or schizophrenia. It is definitely not a tool to be used as punishment or to lobotomize “unruly” patients. Fortunately, the overarching theme of friendship in the movie makes up somewhat for this disturbing part. It shows the genuine bond these patients share with each other even in their most difficult of times. I especially enjoyed the open ending where we do get to see improvement and growth in our characters (even if it must be a heartbreaking one).

As for the actors, Lee Min Ki has a special knack for playing the wild rebellious type from Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Quick, and For the Emperor. He captures that on the brink of insanity feeling while also displaying the most genuine insights. Even with this wild nature and flights of fancy, he seems more grounded any of the other individuals. Yeo Jin Goo, this developing actor, plays his angsty broody roles really well. We see him tormented by his past and the sacrifices he makes in the future. Lucky for him and us, his bromance with Lee Min Ki really brings in the feels and lets your heart soar!

Psychometry: Hands That Save

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It’s not often that I am completely satisfied with a Korean movie, but this one hits the mark! With action and a dash of supernatural, Psychometry or Gifted Hands is the perfect flick for me. Yang Choo-Dong is your mediocre detective who doesn’t get much results in the force. However, he has a special affinity for missing children cases due to his past. One day, he by chance meets a graffiti artist who sprays him in the eye to escape. Later on, he finds that the mural that the artist painted depicted a crime scene that was found weeks later. Curious and suspicious how this artist, Kim Jun, would know what the crime scene of the missing girl looked like before police did, he begins searching for the young man. After he finds him, they get off to a rocky start as the detective thinks he is the perpetrator. However, Choo-Dong realizes that Kim Jun can perform pscyhometry which is a supernatural talent where a person can gain memories form touching an inanimate object. For Kim Jun, he can see memories of what happened in the past by using his hands. However, through a freak accident, his mom died after he touched her hand and he never forgave himself for the incident. Furthermore, each “viewing” puts strain on Kim Jun’s body to where he gets nosebleeds and even vomits up blood. However, after reconciling, Choo-Dong gets Kim Jun to help him find another little girl who went missing. Unfortunately, the police didn’t believe in this supernatural power and arrested Kim Jun as the kidnapper and murderer. Choo-Dong of course rescues Kim Jun from this predicament and together they try to find the real suspect.

Not a very complicated plot, but it gets you in the feels for its suspense and bromance feels. Kim Kang-Woo who also played in Missing Noir M, is perfect as the rambunctious detective who has a good heart. Kim Bun plays the broody Kim Jun who isolated himself from society because he thought his hands brought death. However, they develop a brotherly bond together through these investigations. I very much enjoyed these bromance moments and had wished the movie was longer or had a sequel. It would have been fun to see more crimes solved this way!

Signal: The Butterfly Effect

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Thank the lord for this year’s batch of new crime dramas! If you have ever seen the American movie, The Butterfly Effect, then this takes it to a new level. With crime and a twist of supernatural, Signal creates on the edge of your seat cliffhangers! Signal is based on the Hwaseong serial murder case that occurred in the 1980s. A serial rapist-murderer killed ten women and was never caught and the case is unsolved to this day. Signal starts out by pursuing a 15yr cold case that involved a kidnapping, ransom, and murder of a young child. A man was used as a scapegoat for the murder and the real perpetrator was never caught. Park Hae Young, a young profiler, happened to see the young girl get kidnapped 15 years ago, but the police had ignored his efforts to contribute to the investigation. Fast forward to current times, he accidentally gets his hands on a radio that starts transmitting from a Detective Lee Jae Han….but from 15 yrs ago (although Hae Young did not know it at that time). This leads Hae Young to discover the body of the man that was used as a scapegoat and reopen the cold case before the state of limitations expired. With the help of female Detective Soo Hyun, the police manage to capture the real perpetrator. As a result of this last minute capture, old cold cases are now being reopened and a special crime investigation unit was created to solve these cold cases. However, no one wants to be in this unit due to the fact that this means cases are going to be reinvestigated and police will be forced to admit to their mistakes. Their first case becomes the Hwaseong serial murder case. With no leads, the team is forced to backtrack and ask past detectives on the case for more information. However, at the special time of 11:23pm, Hae Young’s radio start broadcasting again. However, this time, its Jae Han, from 30 years ago as a brand new cop and investigating the Hwaseong murders that were still going on. Unknowningly, Hae Young tells Jae Han about the future murders. This ends up changing the timeline in the future. Hae Young becomes shocked that the information and pictures he has change before his very eyes due to the rippling effect of his words.

I cannot describe how exciting this drama is! I am so hungry to know what happens next. Even though the timeline paradox is a bit confusing as the radio transmits at different times of the past. Even more so, I am interested to see how big or how subtle of a change that mere words one says in the future can effect what happens in the past. I am impressed by Lee Je Hoon’s intense acting as well as the other main leads in the dramas as I have not seen them before. The cases are raw and emotional which make it all the more cathartic when they get solved. Crime dramas or special investigation units as I call them are always done very well! Over and out!

 

Local Hero: Homegrown

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OCN never disappoints! As some of you may know, Park Shi Hoo has come back to the acting world with a new drama. After his highly publicized scandal in 2013, he laid low and now after two years, he ventures back, albeit a smaller cable channel. His name is still highly controversial and thus, many will probably shun this new drama of his. While I am disgusted by his past behavior, I cannot say the same of his acting. His acting ever since The Princess’s Man, has been brilliant and impressed me. He continues his excellent acting in Local Hero.

Local Hero tells the tale of Baek Shi Yoon, an ex-secret agent who was on a large scale mission before he was told to stop his efforts. Due to him not listening to this command, the mission becomes botched and a fellow agent ends up dead. He ends up going to prison for 3 years for being insubordinate. After getting out of prison, he buys the bar, “Neighborhood”, which doubles as a chill location for former agents. Secretly, he wants to revenge on the ones who told him to halt his mission and is haunted by his friend’s death. However, ex-agents are not allowed to dabble back in intelligence, so he is forced to act like a regular person instead of a highly trained agent. Meanwhile, Im Tae Ho, is a detective who is short on money to manage his wife and three kids. He ends up taking a side job from a ex-intelligence officer and sets up a “monitoring” company to make an extra buck. He hires Chan-Gyoo, a young man who wants to get into the police academy, but fails the exam. Chan Gyoo is ordered to follow ex-agents and take notes on their routines. However, one day the man Chan Gyoo is following ends up dead. The same guy who had told Shi Yoon years earlier to halt his mission. Shi Yoon, who comes into contact with Chan Gyo, tries to make friends with this young man, thinking he will be of use in the future. While being the new owner of this bar, Shi Yoon grows closer to its employees and even begins sympathizing with their plights. A few times, he takes action using his martial arts skills to help get his employees out of sticky situations. All the while, wearing a hat and mask to not reveal his identity and skills.

While I am definitely attracted to this plot, the drama is still laying down its groundwork in its first two episodes. Characters are introduced and their backgrounds are explained. People’s missions and ambitions are being established. As we know from The Princess’s Man, Park Shi Hoo does that brooding angst thing perfectly as well as stubborn on revenge part too. I get the added deliciousness of his abs in a workout scene as well! But beyond his abs, I enjoy the Batman, local hero type theme. And looking at the preview for episode 3, I can see that Chan-Gyoo, played by Lee Soo Hyuk (very steady actor in my opinion), will be his disciple in local crime fighting!