Beautiful Gong Shim: Duckling to Swan

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Let me just put it out there that I totally tested out this drama just to see if Nam Goong Min could be in a nice guy role. The story itself is about four people, two sisters, and what suspect is two long lost brothers. Gong Shim, our main character, is the younger sibling to her beautiful older sister. She has an inferiority complex due to her sister getting all the blessings in life, good looks, a decent job, and the favoritism of her parents. Meanwhile, Gong Shim looks nothing like her sister and is struggling to make ends meet due to her moving out of the house. She ends up renting her rooftop room to Dan Tae, a happy go lucky guy who is a lawyer does that charge exorbitant fees and helps the underdog. He also seems to have an enhanced sense of eyesight and reflexes. These two of course butt heads as Gong Shim thinks Dan Tae is a bully/pervert while her odd habits/personality is driving Dan Tae around the bend. Due to them constantly bumping into each other, Gong Shim meets Joon Soon, the unfavorably treated grandson of a large corporation. He was rescued from some gang members by Dan tae. She develops a crush on the handsome and wealthy son, who is also the envy of many others in the same social circle.

One day, at Gong Shim’s part time job at a gas station, she is humiliated and beaten by the snobby wife of a law firm. She wanted to sue and press charges, but was stopped by her older sister, who worked for the law firm. In an act of selfishness, the sister pretended to be pitiful to gain Gong Shim’s sympathy and stop her from pursuing the arrogant wife. Luckily, Dan Tae was able to persuade/threaten the wife into apologizing to Gong Shim. With this happy event, Gong Shim was also able to get a job as the President’s secretary of Joon Soon’s company even though she had attended the wrong interview and scolded the interview panel. Gong Shim’s interesting personality, but warm heart has won over many of the people she has met.

Even though Dan Tae’s character is as happy as can be, literally, rainbows and giggles, I still can’t shake his villain character style. Especially, whenever he strokes his sideburns and smiles a little too widely, I’m reminded of his role in Remember: War of the Son and Girl Who Sees Smells. That underlying, I’m going to kill you if you provoke me type of feeling. However, I find his total opposite character intriguing and he has good chemistry with Min Ah who plays Gong Shim. Min Ah who is part of Girl’s Day is a decent actor in my books even though this is the first project I have seen her in. She portrays the frustrated and oddball Gong Shim to a tee and endears her to us. Meanwhile, common second lead of her sister played by Seo Hyo Rim gets your blood pressure up as she uses and abuses her sister. Overall, I am intrigued to see ugly duckling Gong Shim evolve into a beautiful swan.

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The Whirlwind Girl: Triple Kick

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This marks my third novel to drama adaption by Chinese novelist, Ming XiaoXi with the previous dramas I enjoyed being Summer Bubbles and Moon River. Like Tong Hua pieces, I enjoy the way XiaoXi writes her strong female protagonists and swoony male leads. The Whirlwind Girl tells the story of BaiCao, a girl who just recently entered the Yuan Wu Dao (a form of martial arts that focuses on kicking power). After losing her parents at a young age, she was taken in by a former Wu Dao Master named Qu Xiang Nan. However, Qu Xiang Nan carries a horrible reputation in the city of AnYang (birth place of the martial arts style) for cheating in his last competition by using steroids. For BaiCao, Qu Xiang Nan is her father and Wu Dao master no matter what happens and no matter how much she getes bullied or abused because of her master’s reputation. While he could not take her as a disciple, he trained her from a young age to keep up her strength and flexibility. BaiCao grew up that strong positive girl who is willing to do all the work such as cleaning, working part time, etc, to support herself and her master. However, after an incident where her honesty got her into trouble, she ends up kicked out by her previous institute. She is heartbroken by this turn of events. Because her master wanted her to pursue her Wu Dao dreams, he begged another institute, Song Bai, to accept her into training. Although she was reluctant at first, gradually she grew to love her new place of training. It was at this place that she meets three young guys who would each push her to new heights. The first is Ruo Bai, a cold, but ultimately warm hearted instructor at the Song Bai institute. He is always pushing to train her harder, and putting his own time and money on the line to help her. He sacrifices a lot of his own future that BaiCao doesn’t know about.  Second is YuChu Yuan who was a previous Wu Dao genius that withdrew from the support due to a tragic accident between his mother and his friend’s mother. He is studying to become a doctor instead and doesn’t want to touch Wu Dao ever again. His ex-friend, Ting Hao has become a famous international champion due to his talent in Wu Dao, as has his sister, Ting Yi. However, he was a humongous grudge against Yu Chu Yuan for his mother’s accident. He is always challenging Yu Chu Yuan to fight him while his sister is deeply in love with Yu Chu Yuan. With these multiple love lines in place, it both distracts and at times pushes BaiCao to improve her abilities in Wu Dao. With her hard efforts, she ascends the ranks of Wu Dao extremely quickly to the point where she is almost evening out in abilities with Ting Yi. Many people have placed their hopes and dreams upon her.

I very much enjoy BaiCao’s hardworking attitude and absolutely love the parts where her martial arts abilities transcend people’s expectations. It is the underdog effect for sure. Of the three ships available, I am firmly riding the Ruo Bai one. While he seems so cold and unforgiving to many, it is obvious that he cares deeply for Bai Cao’s future. He sacrifices so much of himself for her and doesn’t even care that she doesn’t see it or return the favor. Meanwhile, I do love the banter between Ting Hao and Bai Cao as well. He has a cute crush on her, which she firmly rebuffs every single time. However, she is able to push him back into this passion from Wu Dao. On the other hand, his sister Ting Yi makes me curl my lips in disgust. She is extremely arrogant and bullies Bai Cao all the time, claiming she has the talent, power, and riches that Bai Cao can never have. Furthermore, she always act as the cute spoiled girl in front of the guys and makes Bai Cao seem like a kid. Ugh. While Bai Cao had her sights set on Yu Chu Yuan, the doctor that TingYi is clinging to, I find him pretty boring. I ultimately hope that the Ruo Bai ship sails the furthest.

Now about the martial arts part. It is exciting and right up my alley! While the training parts leave much to be desired, the actual fights are interesting and well choreographed. Some parts are over-dramatized and probably used wires, but they are amusing for sure. I especially enjoy the nonrealistic, but cool triple kick that BaiCao develops as her secret kick.

PS: I heard there is a Whirlwind Girl Season 2 coming out staring Ji Chang Wook, from Healer! Yay!

 

 

Blind: Sees More

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An excellent movie that I heard many good things about and had set my expectations sky high (it was fortunately met!) Kim Ha-Neul plays a budding cop, Soo Ah, who gets into a tragic car accident that leaves her adopted brother dead and her permanently blind. Three years later, her hearing senses have adapted to her loss in vision, to the point where she is able to pick out minute details in her surroundings. She wises to stay independent with her seeing eye dog and get back into the police force, but things aren’t going well with her goals. One day, she gets into a “cab” to go home and the driver ends up hitting something while driving. Although she cannot see, she believes it was a person and that the driver had stored her in the trunk. She manages to escape from this cab and reports the incident to the police. At first they do not take her report seriously because of her blindness, but they soon realize her heightened sense are giving them serious clues to cracking the case. Enter in a rebellious young teenager who claims to have seen the vehicle and perpetrator himself, the search for the kidnapper becomes more intense. However, the kidnapper / serial killer has his eyes on the pair. He manages to bash the head of the young kid, Gi Sub, played by Yoo Seung Ho for being a witness and as a warning to back off. Fortunately, no permanent damage is done. However, his next victim is Soo Ah, who is majorly disadvantaged due to her blindness. She is almost caught by him, but her dog sacrifices his life to protect her. Unfortunately, when a break is finally made in the case, the lead detective pays with his life as he accidently discovers the culprit. The criminal then goes to find Soo Ah and Gi Sub to finish them off at the orphanage where they were hiding out. After intense battling in the dark where Soo Ah has the advantage and poor Gi-Sub gets injured several times by this killer, Soo Ah manages to gather her wits about her to beat him.

With excellent acting from both Kim Ha-Neul and Yoo Seung Ho, Blind was a very enjoyable movie. I also took a look at The Witness, which is the Chinese version starring Yang Mi and Luhan of EXO in their respective Noona- Dongsaeng roles. The Chinese version followed the Korean version almost to a tee with some minor changes due to the year difference with the production of the two movies. Blind portrayed the other heightened senses cinematically in an interesting way with shadow play. Kim Ha Neul played the blind woman very convincingly and had me on the edge of my seat the entire time with her near misses and escapes from the predator. I a definitely glad that I picked up this movie as it was a delight (in a dark way, of course!)

Entertainer – Tantara

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Entertainer, does it entertain me enough to continue watch? Yes, it does. After Ji Sung’s last drama, KMHM, I of course wanted to try his new work. In Entertainer, Ji Sung plays Suk Ho, a director who manages successful groups under a large entertainment group called KTOP. His pride is a group called Jackson, which he hand fed and raised to the popularity they enjoy now. However, his type of management is very “the ends justify’s the means”. He is willing to use whoever and whatever he can to promote his group. With his successes, he decides to make his own entertainment company and back out of KTOP while taking the most popular boy group, Jackson with him. He had set everything up and was ready to go, until two unfortunate things happened to him. He had used a songwriter without giving him credit which made the songwriter commit suicide. On the way to the funeral, he gets into a drunk driving accident to which the other party would not settle. This lands him into prison and his once loyal assistant backstabs him and pushes him out the KTOP door before he was ready. With his name blackened and Jackson resigning with KTOP, Suk Ho has a hard time reviving himself. He even goes to Busan to ask a colleague to borrow money, to which he was coldly rebuffed. However, there he by coincidence hears the voice of Ha Neul singing an academy jingle which he was in his most depressed state. Ha Neul, a young boy who had just been convicted of sexual assault (questionable circumstances…) in court, was enduring his own torment. With his named blackened and his poor sister, Geurim struggling to make ends meed with their parents gone, his outlook was bleak. It was even due to his love of singing that caused his parents accident. However, that one jingle pulled Suk Ho out of his stupor and he began to pursue Ha Neul. After some convincing of both siblings, he manages to convince Ha Neul to come sing under him. He finds a Juliard-grad guitarist who seems to be struggling for a career to play instrumental to his new vocalist. As things are starting to look up for this small new group under Mango, some more bad news is gunning for Suk Ho. What comes around goes around.

While I wasn’t impressed with the first episode, the second one gave the show much more potential. Like the newbie band and entertainment group, I am looking forward to seeing if the drama will gain momentum. Ji Sung has a way of saving shows and I really enjoy the real life talents of Min Hyuk and Hye Ri who play budding musicians. Especially, Min Hyuk, who has a heavenly voice which is downplayed by his real life band CN Blue with Jong Hwa. This drama was will a stage to show off his talents independently. I also couldn’t help, but see many of Ji Sung’s past personalities form KMHM in his new character Suk Ho. This just goes to show how much his performances stick with you! All in all, I am a big fan of musical dramas and really hope that this understated drama will gain more popularity!

 

Bleak Night: Broken

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Because I am not done with my Lee Je Hoon spree, I watched his darker piece, Bleak Night. Bleak Night tells the story of a broken friendship between three young boys. Ki-Tae, Hee-Joon (Becky), and Dong Yoon were three best friends who literally did everything together and ruled the school together. However, a break in their friendship started after Becky witnessed a private talk between a girl he liked and Ki-Tae. He became jealous and slowly isolated himself from Ki-Tae. Meanwhile, Ki-Tae who had chosen his friendship over this girl, was confused at Becky’s coldness. He tried apologizing a couple of times to Becky and to clear up the misunderstanding, to which all were coldly rebuffed. This provoked Ki-Tae into bullying Becky instead in his way of trying to make Becky react to him. This further alienated Becky to the point where Becky decided to transfer schools to get away. This depressed Ki-Tae a lot since he had really liked being friends with Becky. Meanwhile, Dong Yoon who had been friends with Ki-Tae since childhood was caught in between this stalemate. Ki-Tae in an effort to revive his pride, blustered and bullied others everyday. He wanted to keep up a strong front to hide the fact that he was extremely lonely as his family was never home. He only had his friends and pride to keep him going. After another incident where Ki-Tae went to far and broke up a romantic liaison between Dong-Yoon and a girl he liked, it was the last straw. With the girl ending up in the hospital and Dong-Yoon pissed at the situation, Dong-Yoon said the unforgivable words. Ki-Tae who had come to apologize for the situation, was rebuffed harshly by Dong Yoon as well. Dong Yoon said Ki-Tae was the source of all the misfortunes and should not have existed in the first place. Unfortunately, these were the words that broke Ki-Tae, who then committed suicide.

What is unique about this movie was that it was told almost backwards since it starts out with the funeral of Ki-Tae and a father who was trying to piece together what had happened for his child to commit suicide. As he visits the two friends, he can only get a watered down picture of their friendship and the events that had happened between them. The story is told in fragments and flashbacks. Becky’s perspective came first as we learn how he was bullied. Then Dong-Yoon, who had dropped out of school due to the suicide, told the second half which had broken Ki-Tae. Much of the story was up to your interpretation as to who was in the right or wrong, and the grey spaces in between. Ki-Tae is portrayed very sympathetically as a lonely boy who only knew how to bluster and bully, but ultimately treasured his friendships above his own life. What was tragic was that Ki-Tae did attempt to make amends and apologize, but it was the cold rebuffs from both his friends that pushed him over the ledge, literally. However, it is also true that his bullying tactics made him seem like a monster in his friend’s eyes. Although we already knew the ending, I still yearned that the misunderstandings could be resolved. Let’s just say I wished it was the School 2013 bromance route.

PS. Lee Je Hoon’s fierce portrayal of Ki-Tae was fantastic. His killer glares were intimidating, and when we saw those rare vulnerable parts where he tried to open up to his friends, it was heartbreaking. You both hated and loved him.