Always (오직 그대만)

Always

Jang Cheol Min/Jang Marcelino (So Ji Sub) is a man who makes a living off small jobs. When he takes the position of a security guard he meets Ha Jung Hwa (Han Hyo Joo), a beautiful blind woman. She used to watched TV soap operas with the previous security guard and keeps the same habit although he is not there anymore.

Slowly they get to know each other and Cheol Min can’t help falling for her although they have little in common. Despite being blind, Jung Hwa remains jovial and optimistic. Cheol Min on the other hand is quiet, reserved, and sometimes cold. His cold behavior hides a sad past.

Both start dating, but things get complicated when Cheol Min’s past catches up with him; he finds out that he is in part responsible for Jung Hwa’s blindness. His only option: find a way to give her back her sight even if that means going back to his old ways…

Comments

I have watched this drama more than 5 times and it never gets boring. So Ji Sub portrays the reformed bad boy who finds a meaning in life thanks to love. The Cheol Min-Jung Hwa pairing is one of those unexpected one, and I think them falling for each other is possible because she is blind. Jung Hwa’s blindness pushes her to see things with her heart. If she was able to see, she might not have been attracted by Cheol Min. Appearances can be deceiving and in this case her handicap helps her meet true love.

The drama also made me think about the past we all wish to leave behind. I feel like everyone has something that they are not necessarily proud of. The thing is can we just leave those things in the past or will they catch up to us?

The one thing that got me sort of confused is the first date between Cheol Min and Jung Hwa. I didn’t quite understand why he got annoyed by her. He got angry out of the blue and no matter how many times I played that scene I couldn’t understand. Is it because she is a sloppy eater? I mean she is blind, it’s not like she was doing it on purpose… Was it because of her hair? Well that hair style sucked but that was a one time thing… Is it because he realizes that her handicap can be too much for him to handle? I hope that one day I will be able to fully understand the scene lol.

The ending is sad but in an unusual way. It’s not what I expected but it makes sense. A different ending would have been unrealistic or the fruit of bad writing.

~ maniac Ride

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A Company Man: Making a Killing

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Another action flick! This is definitely a company you do not want to work for. From the outside, the company looks boring and ordinary. You have secretaries, managers, assistants, busy telephones, fax machines, all the gears of a Misaeng workplace. However, each staff member doubles as a assassin. They all know a variety of martial skills and perform contract killings to generate revenue. Like a regular company, you have promotions and you of course have demotions. With demotions or “resigning”, often you are completely obliterated from the face of the earth. The point of the company was to keep you in service until your retirement days. For our main character, Hyeong Do, he is rising and star employee looked upon very favorably by the company’s CEO. He asks no questions and follows all his orders to a T, no matter his own personal opinions or emotions. The company was his world and home. However, one day he decides to save a “temporary” worker from being disposed of because he had developed a close bond with the young teenager during work.

With this one action started a snowball effect of finding happiness outside the world of murder. He meets the teen’s mother, Mi Yeon, who was a faded pop-star and a single mom. They develop deep feelings for each other and hoped to start a new life together. As his happiness for the other world grew, he began to become more merciful and this lead to the company finding out about him not following his orders. Even though he was promoted to a high position for his extraordinary work ethic, he decides to resign in order to pursue love. Of course when Hyeong Do runs away, this is not taken lightly by the company. Meanwhile, an old retired employee tries to get back into the company and betrays Hyeong Do and his new found love/family. In a bloody fight, Mi Yeon unfortunately becomes a casualty. Heyong Do decides to get revenge by taking down the company. However as he arrived to the company, each staff member is armed to the teeth and ready to annihilate him. However, of course he manages to defeat them all and kill all the members, down to the CEO and slimy VP. He escaped with only a few bullet wounds and also took the brunt of the blame from the teen who had come along to help me. The movie ends with him walking out into the huge crowd gathered outside the company from when they had heard gunfire.

Thoughts of Mine

Lets start with the plot and get that out of the way. Concerning that, you know you are not getting anything new other than powerful killer falls in love with innocent women and gets revenge because she died. Although that trope is very much overused, I enjoyed other aspects of the film. It was interesting how they juxtapositioned normal ordinary office worker life with the killing missions. These workers only went outside of their company if they were to go on a mission. They worked in teams like in a office, with a Manager, Assistant Manager, Director, etc. Instead of some files, we have weapons hidden in between them. Instead of supplies in their drawers, we have more weapons stuffed inside. They went on retreats just like normal companies. What the movie did well was show that these employees have been so jaded and brainwashed that murder has become part of their normal life. It is just their job and nothing personal.

Although the fighting choreography is on point and very intricately done, at times it is overly done. For example, it is not realistic, not even a smidgen, that Hyeong Do can walk out of that bloodfest at the end without any fatal wounds even if he had a bulletproof vest on. I had hoped for more character development for the main character played by So Ji Sub. I had also hoped for more bonds between him and the teen in the “fatherly” role instead of boss to employee.

I must say thought that So Ji Sub is wonderfully casted for this role. He definitely portrayed that cold, emotionless attitude of a professional assassin perfectly. It was those tiny and brief moments of emotions that appeared on his face which are memorable. A single tear when he knew happiness was out of his reach. That quick quirk of the mouth when he found something amusing and touching. That endearing awkwardness for social situations and puppy love. He definitely worked his character to the max which really carried the movie. Other than that, I would say this movie is just something quick to fill the time, and not something to write home about.

Man on High Heels:

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I must say this was a very interesting movie. It was something that I passed the first time around, but came back due to Cha Seung Won’s acting reputation. The movie juxtaposes two very different topics, homicide crime and transgenderism. Cha Seung Won plays Ji-Wook, a revered homicide detective whose reputation is the “manliest of all men”. The gangster world is completely afraid of him and his fighting prowess. We are treated to multiple excellently choreographed fight scenes where Ji-Wook bests 20+ men with minimal injuries. Fan-service provides us with a beautiful view of his chiseled body with multiple scars from his various fights.

However, slowly we learn that this is just on the surface. Starting from his childhood, he had fallen with his best friend, who happened to be a boy. As much as he loved this other boy, he could not accept himself socially and emotionally. This other boy opened his eyes to love and broadened his view of the world. Their relationship ended tragically as the other boy committed suicide and left behind a sister.

Fast forward to the present, Ji-Wook secretly keeps a watch over the younger sister and protects her. He is reminded much of his childhood friend through her. Everyday he eternally fights with the “woman” inside him, wanting to change his sex, but still afraid to. With guidance under a transgender woman, who shows him the realities of undergoing the surgeries and life afterwards, he is still willing to go through them to reveal his true self. He quits his detective job and resists the gangster world’s bribe for him to join them.

Unfortunately, the gangsters do not give up and kill one of his good cop buddies and kidnaps the sister just as he was about to board the plane for his surgeries. He decides to go back and try to rescue the sister. He fights his way through the millions of minions and manages to best the leader. All is well ends well….except the ending. The ending was kind of disappointing for me, but also makes a little sense I suppose.

Let’s talk about this ending. So after all that angst and internal conflict, you would have expected him to go through the surgeries to reveal his true self in the end right? Maybe that is my idealistic thinking and what I wanted for Ji-Wook for his peace of heart. He had pushed himself so hard to be masculine because he thought it was wrong to feel like a woman. He even was able to walk in public for awhile in the feminine clothes he liked. Was it all for naught? Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where transgenderism is accepted. Remember Leela Alcorn, the transgender girl who was suppressed all her life and now Bruce Jenner who was held prisoner in her own flesh? Although the US is becoming more tolerant in these issues, it is still a slow process of equality. I feel like LGBTQ is even more socially unaccepted in Asia, with an exception in Thailand. Even then, transgenderism is still a taboo issue and not looked well upon in society. Now for Ji-Wook, is it because the movie showed the reality of life for transgender women who often cannot get decent jobs, that he decided not to get the surgeries? At the end, he is still the oppa on the outside to the sister and had even grown a beard. However, we see that dainty pinky raise at the end? I’ll take it as a open ending that he is just not ready yet to be his true self or what do you guys think?

As for Cha Seung Won’s acting, it is impeccable. After watching Best Love with him and Gong Hyo Jin, I had him in my mind as literally the manliest of all men. With his scruffy beard, husky voice, and amazing physique, he was a specimen to behold. I had never imagined him in this unique type of role. He portrayed a feminine side that I thought would be impossible for him. It was portrayed delicately and not in a flamboyant manner, thank god. The scenes where he reminisced to his past and his desperation from his internal conflict were really heartbreaking to watch. And wow, he was really pretty as well!

Hot Young Bloods / Blood Boiling Youth

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Surprisingly cute! So far, there has not been a Lee Jong Suk performance that has disappointed me yet! With Hot Young Bloods, the story admittedly starts off slow with a few laughs mixed in and then sends in the punches. While I had expected a slapstick sort of comedy, the movie was more like a growing pains type. Lee Jong Suk plays Joon-gil, a flirty playboy who chases all the girls and mostly gets them. He has a ritual of stealing the girls heart, treating her to some black bean noodles, and then taking her back to his place. However, there is one girl that he never touches, Young-sook (Park Bo Young), a female gang leader who can pretty much beat up his booty. Joon-gil loves acting the cool guy, but is a great big coward who shudders at the thought of mixing with Young-sook and her ally Gwang-sik, played by Kim Young Kwan (Pinocchio bros). Gwang-sik harbors a crush on Young-sook who has a unrequited crush on Joon-gil….who has a crush on the new transfer student So Hee. Young-sook tries her best to get Joon-gil’s attention and love, but it’s a bust. Gwang-sik of course takes every opportunity to beat up and one up Joon-gil. Meanwhile, Joon-gil is not having much luck with So Hee, who seems the nice and charming type, but is actually gangster-ish herself. In order for Gwang-sik to not touch Joon-gil, Young-sook sacrifices herself to be beaten by her ex-minions, re-establishing the pecking order. So Hee is also attacked by Gwang-sik and Joon-gil gets severely beat up trying to defend her. We also learn that Joon-gil’s playboy style is just a act from previous family wounds. His mother had left when he was young and he had blamed that on his father’s frequent absences. However, he finds out that it was because his mother cheated, but the father couldn’t forget the wife still even this many years in the future. His world is turned upside down. On the train ride to school, he discovers what is truly important to him and goes berserk when he finds out that Young-sook sacrificed so much for him. He attacks Gwang-sik and does his best actually landing lots of punches on the gangster leader. However, the culmination of the fight is when Joon-gil pulls Gwang-sik off the train and into the river. After resurfacing and stealing back the shoes that Young-sook had bought for him (but Gwang-sik had stole), he goes to Young-sook’s house, but she has already left for Seoul. She had decided to forget their past and try to find her future as she had dropped out of school. Joon-gil is devastated that he missed her, but her note encouraged him to continue his studies since he is actually smart. He takes this time to grow and self-improve. Of course, we have a lovely happy ending…which I won’t disclose too much of!

While it did start off a bit slow and with less humor than I expected, Lee Jong Suk provided a satisfactory performance. He has that natural and easy going charm that makes him very comfortable and pleasant to watch. However, he will surprise you with the depth of his acting that will literally pull at your heartstrings. He is that type of actor that does not hold back during angsty scenes and still brings me to tears with his acting of pain and despair. As for Park Bo Young, she is really adorable to watch and reminds me of her Wolf Boy days. She has great chemistry with Lee Jong Suk, and with other male actors as well. She, too, has a more natural way of acting that does not seem fake or stupid. As for our ex-broship of Kim Young Kwan, he has certainly improved a lot since the first drama I’ve watched him in, White Christmas (seems he likes the Woo Bin, Jong Suk, Young Kwan trio here). His acting is very earnest and he displays emotions very well. While the accents and fashion did get some used too, it was quite an enjoyable watch!

For the Emperor

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For the Mob Boss is what the title should actually be called. If you remember Lee Min Ki in Shut Up Flower Boy Band, where he tragically only appeared for two episodes, this is what might have become of him if he hadn’t had grown up with such a good group of bros. This movie is about Lee Hwan, who was a prominent baseball player, but was kicked out of the league after being in a game-fixing scandal. While trying to survive, he gets recruited by Emperor Capital. EC is a huge loaning company aka loan sharks aka mobsters. Lee Hwan adapts really fast to this new life and makes a name for himself after fearlessly taking down rougher and meaner enemies. Sang-ha, the ruthless mobster leader takes Lee Hwan under his wing and grooms him to rise quickly through the ranks. Between the two, they rule much of Busan through killing and controlling all the finances. Lee Hwan also tries his hand at dating a bar owner that he had his eye fixed on, but it was only sex for her. While it seemed the ties were getting tighter between Lee Hwan and Sangha, Lee Hwan is manipulated into betraying Sangha and landing him in jail. He also gets the CEO above Sangha as well in jal, becoming CEO himself. However, the ex-CEO has more power and influence to which he ordered a hit on Lee Hwan. Sangha, who was released from jail, rushes to help Lee Hwan who is overwhelmed with knife-wielding gangsters. They fight through the pack together, but suffer grievous wounds. Eventually, they were able to hop onto a yacht, and died peacefully at sea. Brotherhood in arms.

Violence. Sex. Money. That’s it, that is the whole movie. Not really much of a plot other than a skeleton to string the story together somewhat. While the fight scenes were nicely choreographed, and Lee Min Ki looks pretty damn good while fighting, it’s your run of the mill bro-fight movie. With graphic sex. What PD’s can’t show in a drama, it shows excessively in a movie. The whole experience is mehh for lack of a better word. If you are looking for a mindless fight movie with a spot of revenge and some brotherhood to pass the time, this is for you. This is not for me.

The Technicians / The Con Artists

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I’ve always loved a good heist movie…plus Kim Woo Bin as a con drew me in. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the movie at all. Did I set my expectations too high? The bar just wasn’t reached and I was left feeling mehh about the whole affair. The movie is about Ji Hyeok, a thief, who has a special talent of breaking into all kinds of safes. He and Goo-in, an engineer buddy make a life out of conning other people into buying their fake products and stealing the real deal. They also recruit hacker Jong-bae who may or may not have a history of betraying his colleagues. These three decide to perform a diamond heist, but hit up the wrong jewelry store. The executed their plan perfectly, but the diamonds they stole were from Chairman So, a gangster-like boss. However, the Chairman wants them to perform a bigger heist of stealing 150 million from Korean Customs. In order to this, they must break through several layers of security while not even having the guarantee of safety after they perform the job. Luckily, genius Ji Hyeok has already thought ahead multiple steps to plan out a con to con the original con….while also getting the girl. What you think are betrayals are just twists of plot, so don’t be fooled (but don’t worry, it’s predictable).

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The Huntresses

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The Huntresses

The common theme for me while watching this movie was the phrase, “What?” Coming into it, I thought I was going to watch an action thriller with Korean “Charlie’s Angels”. However, it turned out to be an odd mash up of 80% comedy and only 20% of serious action. Jin-Ok, Hong-Dan, and Ga-Bi are three beautiful bounty hunters who work with Moo-Myung, who brings them job assignments.

Each of the three has unique personalities. While, Jin Ok (played by Ha Ji Won), seemed to be the leader of the three with a traumatic past, Hong-Dan (played by Gang Ye-Won) was the long-suffering wife with pin-throwing skills. Ga-Bi (played by Ga-in) was the tom-boy who doesn’t really care about anything much except for her fellow fighters and will finally discover love in an unexpected place.

One day, the group receives a job to deliver a stauroscope from China to the King of Joseon dynasty. Secret envoys on this mission have been dying one by one after being attacked by assassins on the Chinese side. Of course the three musketeers take up this dangerous mission for the big monetary reward at the end. Add in a dash of a past lover/servant of the family who of course has amnesia and doesn’t remember Jin Ok, and we have ourselves a mashup of an almost comedic trope of star-crossed love with one side busy trying to kill the other.

Though the movie does deliver a few laughs and does have excellent special effects, especially with the fighting scenes, the plot is extremely loose. I had to often pause the movie and make sure I hadn’t missed a section. Then again, perhaps I came into the movie with too high of expectations since I was used to Ha Ji-Won’s serious thrillers, and this comedic piece threw me off kilter. To be honest, this movie is more akin to a Kill Bill movie where parts are exaggerated and exude an almost comedic affect with it’s craziness.

-phoenix

The Crucible (도가니)

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Kang In Ho is hired as a art teacher in a school for deaf children, outside of Seoul, in Mujin. He is looking for a change; his wife passed away and his daughter now lives with his mother. In Ho knows sign language and hopes to connect with the children at Ja Ae Academy. Yet, his cheerfulness and enthusiasm quickly deem as he discovers that children are reserved and seem to be scared of something.

Through multiple conversations, In Ho realizes that Principal Lee and his twin brother seem to care little about the children’s well being. It’s all about being strict and disciplining the children. Yet, there seems to be more than that. Principal Lee and his brother are not the only ones spreading terror among the children.

In Ho sees Yeon Du, one of the students, having her head shoved down a laundry machine by one of the teachers. When In Ho takes her to the hospital he finds out that she was sexually assaulted at school. Young girls are not the only victims. Young boys are also assaulted.

Other alarming signs include teachers repeatedly beating children who try to run away. Children who run away are immediately brought back by a police officer, who is bribed by the principal.

In Ho is touched by what he sees, but he is worried about losing his job. In Ho’s mother has been supportive of him and helped him follow his dreams to the point of giving up her house. The mother is also the one raising his daughter Sol, and that is even harder since Sol is asthmatic.

In Ho is helped by Seo Yoo Jin, a young activist who helps bring the story to the attention of media.

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Campus Confidential

So having just finished Campus Confidential, a recent Taiwanese movie, I realize that this zany piece was and wasn’t what I had been expecting. What I had expected was a cute little movie about how the prettiest girl on campus realized that the perfect match for her was actually in the form of a sweet ultra-geek. Without being too spoiler-y, I did get that, but with a sharp twist near the end. The story starts out with Kiki (played by Ivy Chen) fluttering about campus, half journalist student and half model, the flower in everyone’s eyes. To add the cream upon her dreamy life, she is dating a tall basketball playing medical student. Seems like the perfect life and couple, right? Due to an accident, she becomes involved in a campus legend where if two people meet each other on the day that the lake on campus dries up, they will fall in love and be together forever. Of course, who does she land in the mud with? Lucky Wu (played by Bolin Chen), the other half of this odd couple. Kiki, who had despises nerds, tries her hardest to research this legend and tries to find a way to break it. Kiki drags along Lucky Wu on this grand adventure and meanwhile falls in love with him on the way. She wasn’t the only one. What should have been the cutesy ending to the movie then did not come. For a second I was like, WHAAA?! But don’t worry, the movie is like a Warhead candy, sweet, sharp tang of sourness, but ultimately sweet again at the end.

-phoenix

Love for Life (最爱)

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Qin Qin (Zhang Ziyi) and De Yi (Aaron Kwok) live in an isolated community not far from their village. Both live with other villagers who have been infected by the fever – an incurable disease. Since there are a lot of uncertainties about the fever and its transmission, the ones infected were isolated in the village and had almost no choice but to move out. In their new community, those suffering of the fever count the days before their death. Qin Qin and De Yi were both rejected by their respective partners once they discovered they were infected. They learn how to lean on each other and slowly their understanding becomes love. Since both are still married, they first commit adultery before being able to marry. Remarriage being frowned upon, especially given their medical condition, the couple faces discrimination. Yet, they are both able to find joy in each other’s company and learn how to enjoy the little time they have left. Continue reading