Pied Piper: Follow Me if You Dare

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Even though I am still withdrawing from the excellent Signal drama, I decided to start this crime thriller to fill that void in my heart. As crime dramas go, there is always a special unit that is established to utilize one special technique or follow one type of crime. Pied Piper decides to take the crisis negotiation route. Joo Sung Chan starts out as a private negotiator for big corporate businesses that need to get out of sticky situations. Confident and famous for his abilities, Sung Chan gets paid handsomely for his services that serve the business’s interest even at expense of citizens with lower social economic status. However, one deal goes a little sideways and he loses a hostage. However, he plays it off with the media so that he and the company will not look bad. Yet, karma comes back around as the remaining sibling of the hostage decides he wants to revenge. As a result Sung Chan loses his fiance and a police officer dies in a standoff that he was unable to diffuse. To make matters more complicated, he received a mysterious phone call in the middle of the crisis.  The person on the other side hummed to the tune of The Pied Piper (childhood story), and threatened him to confess his wrongdoings in order to save the person he loved. However, the situation became ultimately unsalvageable. The police officer who died was the uncle of Myung Ha, a young female officer who wishes to become as great of a negotiator as her uncle. She believed that situations could be diffused just by listening to the victim and eventually Sung Chan takes her under his wing. However, they get off to a bad start as she was ex-SWAT and believed he was a just a scammer. Later these two join forces in the police squad to diffuse more situations such as terrorism, suicides, standoffs, etc. Interestingly enough, each time they encounter a crises, they find that the Pied Piper is involved and is using these innocent people who are desperate to his own ends.

While the drama does not have many well known actors, Pied Piper still holds its own as a great crime thriller. It is interesting to see how each situation is diffused, hopefully with minimal casualties. I am also extremely curious to see who the Pied Piper is as he seems to be a mole in the police force because he is often a step before the team. I like how the female lead, Myung Ha, is physically stronger than Sung Chan and reins him when he gets out of line. It makes for a funny dynamic as Sung Chan has a silver tongue and uses that to worm himself out of sticky situations. With these two joining forces, they will be a team to be reckoned with.

P.S. Unfortunately subbing has been a little on the slow side as it was picked up pretty late by drama subbing channels.

 

Goodbye Mr. Black: Black Swan

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Looks like military is the theme for dramas this year. While ratings wise, DotS is slaughtering Goodbye Mr. Black, I enjoy the raw ball of energy the second one possesses. Cha Ji Won is a special forces officer (we love our elite soldiers, don’t we) who is cheerful and doesn’t seem to have a bad bone in his body. He has it all, a rich household, a loving and supportive family, and is a leader among the soldiers. In contrast, his best friend Sun Jae is a bit surlier and less fortunate. Coming from a poor family and basically abandoned by his debt-ridden father, Sun Jae tries his hardest to become the best and hates being looked down upon. He is subsequently almost adopted by Ji Won’s family and so the two grew up together. However, he always feels a sense of inferiority to his friend and even has feelings for his Ji Won’s girlfriend. Unfortunately due to his father’s crime issues, he had to leave his hard-earned position in the special forces and work for Ji Won’s father instead. One day, Ji Won is sent to Thailand for a mission. There he encounters, Kaya, a orphaned Korean girl who makes a living as a con artist/scammer/fruit seller. She is sassy and knowledgable about the streets of Thailand. Although they get into a misunderstanding in the beginning, they resolve it and leave each other with good feelings. Meanwhile, Sun Jae makes an unfortunate decision using company money and loses the trust of Ji Won’s father. He had tried to make a deal with gangsters in Thailand which went sour as a bigger conspiracy was underfoot. Moreover, he becomes involved in the murder of Ji Won’s father (even though he did not pull the trigger himself) for a bid of more power in the company. Sun Jae and the gangster loan shark set up a story that slanders the good name of Sunjin Group and even manage to sabotage Ji Won himself. Ji Won wished to investigate the suspicious death of his father himself, and is set up to be a murderer through media. Thus, he is now pursued by the Thai police and is unable to go back to Korean to clear him and his father’s reputation. He begs Kaya for help to get a fake passport and cross the border, which ultimately did not work out.

This is actually my first drama with Lee Jin Wook, whom I have heard good things about. So far, I enjoy his portrayal of a carefree and warm character who is about to grow out of his naiveté real fast. Good revenge stories always start out with a personality that is turned 180 degrees because of bitter betrayals by close friends/family. I also absolutely adore Moon Chae Won who looks fresh and tomboyish in her short pixie cut. I am looking forward to seeing how she will adapt to Korean culture when she engages in a fake marriage with Jin Wook’s Ji Won. My last drama with Kim Kang Woo was Missing Noir M and I am excited to see him again as he is amazing actor. Although he is playing a baddie in this piece, he has got that tortured role squared away. This will be an exciting ride!

Commitment: Sleeper Spy

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Commitment is a pretty good spy-betrayed-revenge movie that stars T.O.P as Myung-hoon, a North Korean sleeper spy in South Korea. Under the guise of a high school student, Myunghoon’s mission is to eliminate political competition through assassination of a different faction’s spies. After his father died for the same mission, Myung Hoon takes up this spy role to save his sister from further punishment in the labor camps. Even though Myung Hoon is very young, his skill set is very developed to the point where he eliminates older and more seasoned spies with ease. However, after political turmoil in the north tips the power scale to a different faction, his own handler betrays him. He becomes a wanted man in the South and the whole national security force is on his tail and the bag of diamond funds he stole from another faction.  Angered and confused by this turn of events as well as the impossibility of seeing his younger sister again, he decides to lay low at a friend’s house. Although he was told not to make friends, he develops a crush on a girl with the same name as his younger sister. The girl protects and helps him even though she realizes that he is a wanted North Korean spy. His sister was then brought to S Korea as bait to hand over the diamonds, but the hand off did not go as planned. Even the sister made it to safety, his friend gets captured. Myung Hoon goes on suicidal mission to rescue his dear friend, even knowing that he is outnumbered and that it would be hard to get the police force on his side.

Coming from watching TOP in IRIS, also playing a spy role, I believe he made a marked improvement. As a movie with not much dialogue, he did use his face expressively enough for me to feel his sincerity. I very much enjoyed the slick fight choreography though. Because Yoo Jung is a very capable actress, I do wish she had gotten a bigger role in the movie other than just being the little sister used as bait. A waste of talent that could have been used to a greater advantage! Otherwise a enjoyable action flick!

Pluto: Rabbit Hunting

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Pluto is a movie about the academic pressure of getting into a SKY university in Korea. At this particular school, such cutthroat competition is created that it begins to turn young adults into budding psychopaths. It is a deeply dark and disturbing movie to which young adults who watched it ended up connecting with it on a basic level. The drama tells the story through the eyes of June, who is a recent transfer and genius in science. He is particularly interested in astronomy and has written a thesis on why Pluto, an outlier, should be a planet in the solar system.Even though he was in the top 1% of his last school, he is in the lower end of the class in his new school. Often he is envious of the top 10 students in his grade and how they have special privileges and classes. They pass around a notebook that seems to help improve their grades. June wants to be in this special club and Yujin, the leader of the club says he has to perform special missions in order to be one of them. They call this process Rabbit Hunting. Rabbit Hunting, at first, seems like your general high school bullying, but it has a more sinister aura to it. The missions become more dangerous, bordering on assault and sexual harassment. While Yujin tries to regulate the missions to his best ability due to his past guilt, it is the second in command who enjoys such pleasures. Unfortunately, June participates in these missions just so he can improve his grades and ranking. However, as he is engrossed in such activities, he develops characteristics of a psychopath himself. The turning point comes when Yujin becomes the victim of one of their plots and is murdered by the club. The club members try to blame it on June. June is jolted back into moral reality and ends up trying to bring justice to the group members. As the group members have rich and powerful parents, he thinks that the law force will be of no use. Thus he is taking this into his own hands and forcing the members to perform the missions that he did before. He blackmails them and threatens their life with homemade bombs (that they had originally made him concoct for a mission). On the day of the solar eclipse is when everything comes to a head and June will smite the club with his hand of justice.

I definitely enjoy psychological thrillers and this movie had a White Christmas aura about it. Are monsters born or molded by society? Clearly, the intense academic pressure has twisted these young adults so much that they are willing to do anything to beat out the other person. Yujin played by Sung Joon is the ultimate broody leader who develops somewhat of a conscious after a previous tragedy caused by the club. Sung Joon does dark and brood very well, taking his White Christmas character to the next level. Meanwhile June’s transformation is definitely interesting and frightening to watch as he goes from the timid meek boy to bringing of justice. Pluto is definitely a movie that tries to bring into focus the tribulations of young adults.

Remember: War of the Son

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To me, Alzheimer’s is one of the scariest diseases out there. It is untreatable and the most you can do is slow down it’s progression as you gradually lose your own identity and bodily functions. To be honest, that was one of the reasons why I didn’t start this drama when it first came out. However, the raving reviews about the script and acting really pushed me to try it. Remember tells the story of a son’s battle to give back his father’s innocence after he was falsely accused of murder. After tragic accident in his childhood that took away half his family, Jin Woo lives a happy life with his father, Seo Jae-Hyuk. He has a special condition called hyperthymesia which allows him to recall everything he has seen in perfect detail. However, the irony is that his father has early onset Alzheimer and is slowly losing his memories, even though he does not know it himself. On the other end of the spectrum we have Nam Gyu-man, a special kind of crazy chaebol who has a violent temper and is set to inherit Ilho Group from his father. After a night of crazy partying, he assaults a women and ends up killing her. In an effort to cover up this situation, he bribes prosecutors, to cops, to doctors, and even to housekeepers to pin this murder on Jin Woo’s father who happened to find the body first when he was wandering aimlessly. Jin Woo manages to convince a famous lawyer, Dong-ho to be his attorney and it had looked like they were going to win. However, Gyu-man grabbed Dong-ho’s weakness and even bends the attorney to his will. Thus, Jin Woo’s father suffers in jail for the next four years as Jin Woo takes the fast track into becoming a lawyer himself. While his father is slowly losing himself and not even remembering his own son at times, Jin Woo prepares for a retrial by trying to convince the past people who were bribed to confess. However, all is for naught as Gyu-man’s power is so far-reaching. Unfortunately Jin Woo’s father ends up passing away. This not only does not deter Jin Woo from his aim to clear his father’s name, but now he is even more galvanized to put away all the people responsible.

Wow, can I just say A+++ for all the actors in this drama. Yoo Seung-Ho practically cries his eyes out every single episode as he is beaten down again and again by the powerful. This drama definitely makes you feel furious and helpless at the same time as you spit nails at the corrupt people in each field. You think, how can they smile and eat while knowing that they put an innocent man in jail? Like WTF? It made me sick for sure. However, I know we have to reach the nadir of Jin Woo’s life to make his comeback and revenge all the more satisfying. I also really enjoy Attorney Dong Ho’s role here. He is a grey character who tries to be good morally, and one of the only people on the other side who has a conscience for all the bad things he has done. And damn, can I say that Namgung Min is perfect for the villain? Ever since Girl Who Sees Smells, where he played the psychopath as well, he took it to a new level of crazy here. It is disturbing and awesome to see how twisted he is…and interesting to see him cower in front of his father. I really enjoy this intense melo drama so far and am definitely rooting for Jin Woo’s revenge.

PS. As Alzheimer’s is genetic….we all know how this is going end no?

 

Song of the Desert: Call of the Wild

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Why yes, I am a fan of Tong Hua and Liu Shi Shi as this will mark my THIRD traditional drama with this writer and actress. I don’t know what it is about Liu Shi Shi, but she is casted perfectly each time into this writer’s traditional dramas a female lead who is strong, independent, smart….and creates a little male harem for herself. Again, we are thrown into the political intrigues of ancient China where warring tribal lords are fighting against the Emperor. This time Liu Shi Shi is Xin Yue, a girl raised by wolves in the desert who is then acclimated to civilization by the nomadic tribes of Da Mo (desert). However, due to political strife between the tribes, she almost loses her life as a warlord overthrows the current regime. Devastated, she goes back to her wolf family and into hiding until she meets two special people. One is Jiu Ye, a mysterious merchant who she tried to steal some clothes from. Jiu Ye has a disability and has very weak legs. However, he is the lord of Shi Enterprise which has a large influence amongst the Chinese empire as well as the people of the desert. The other one is General Wu Ji, illegitimate nephew to the Emperor who manages to achieve great military power at a young age. She manages to save Wu Ji from desert robbers and also lead the group back to the city. Enticed by Ji An, the capitol city, she decides to make a living there herself, just for fun and to find these two people again. With the help of Jiu Ye, she manages to take over a dance house and become a prominent business woman. She even manages to help a quiet, but beautiful woman named Qin Xiang to become a concubine to the Emperor. However, this friendship is doomed as Qin Xiang has her eyes set on revenge on the royal family due to a past family tragedy. At first she falls in love with Jiu Ye, who refuses to return her affections due to his noble idiocy about his disability and impotency. Meanwhile, Wu Ji, has already fallen in love with Xin Yue as she is a vivacious girl. While to others he is brash, proud, and stony cold, he always loves teasing Xin Yue. After being rejected one too many times by Jiu Ye, Xin Yue decides to let go of this love and go back to the desert. However, Wu Ji captures her on her way back and convinces her to hang out with him instead. While he is making war on the tribes, she dresses up as a man and participates in the battles with him. Slowly he becomes engraved in her heart.

Now I know plenty of people are aboard the Hu Ge/Jiu Ye ship, but frankly I did not feel a pull towards him at all. Yes, he is quite handsome, but that melancholy air about him is really a downer in contrast to Xin Yue’s playfulness. His noble idiocy was really frustrating at times and frankly I skipped over most of their scenes together. Now, Wu Ji is a whole different story. While most arrogant seemingly secondary leads are annoying, Wu Ji pulls everything off with smoldering looks and charisma. I could not resist his mischievousness and his perfectness for Xin Yue. He treats her like his equal in all manners, including on the battlefield and pushes her to her best. He knows she isn’t one to be coddled and they live in a relationship based on mutual trust and communication. It’s definitely a drama with plenty of scenes to fangirl about.

PS. Liu ShiShi looks so gorgeous in snowy scenes (Bu Bu Jing Xin + Imperial Doctress)

 

Come Back Ahjussi: Another Life

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What a pleasant surprise! Judging by the previews, it had looked more like a romcom, but underneath the humorous veneer is more of a melo that tugs at your heartstrings! The drama gives us an almost humorous take on 49days. In here, Kim Young Soo is a loving husband who has literally worked himself to death. He used to be a department store manager before unfortunate circumstances sent him plummeting to his death, which on the outside looked like a suicide. At the same time, another man, Han Gi Tak is a reformed gangster who owned a restaurant. In an effort to help a woman he once loved, he gets caught up in a deeper conspiracy. This woman was a celebrity who owed him her life when they were younger. However, after getting caught meeting up, he embarks on a chase after the paparazzi for taking their photo. Unfortunately for him,after being run over by a mysterious van, his passes away. In the afterlife, even though both were bound for heaven, they felt like they couldn’t peacefully leave things the way they were on Earth. Both jumped off the train headed for heaven and signed a contract to go back to Earth for two months to take care of loose ends. Young Soo ends up in Rain’s body, which is completely opposite for his own not as good looking and disease ridden body. Young Soo is ecstatic that he came back looking like a sculpture and sets out to make things right at his old workplace. He happens to meet his wife who now works there to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Gi Tak comes back in a woman’s body! A very pretty woman’s body…but one that he can no longer fight with. He tries to go back to his underlings, but with this new body, nobody takes him seriously even though he still has the old swagger. In an effort to help out his old lover who has got herself into a bind, he pretends to be his own “sister”.

While episode one was heartbreaking with the main lead’s backstories, the second episode made me laugh my butt off. The acting is definitely on point whether it be past or present incarnations. Rain is hilarious as the newly hot Young Soo, yet still super awkward and still a doofus like his old self. It was so funny in episode 2 where he basically fondles himself all over, admiring his new abs and rock hard pecs/biceps. Furthermore, I feel the chemistry burning between present him and his old wife. I really hope that somehow she will recognize him and that he can leave in peace later on after setting things right. Meanwhile, the new Gi Tak as a woman, Hong Nan, is fantastically comedic. Still not adjusted to being a woman, I love how she still has the old tough guy swagger. I look forward to more gender-swap hijinks and I hope his underlings will somehow recognize him as well!