Empress of China: Wu Zetian

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I told myself I wouldn’t start it many times due to the long length of the drama, but I finally caved. The costumes of the Tang Dynasty are just so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist. Now I haven’t watched any of the actors or actresses in the drama before except for Janine Chang, so I really just came for the costumes. I am in the beginning of the drama at the moment, and so far Wu Ruyi, our main character has captured my heart. She has the makings of all the main lead females that I like. She is smart, witty, gorgeous, and a fighter. Wu Ruyi enters the palace as a “imperial wife”, one of the dozens that comes through each year. All the concubines wait eagerly for their chance to be with the emperor even for one night. However, Ruyi, just wants to eke out a living in the palace. By chance, she is able to meet the emperor one night and he becomes interested in her (not sexually). He thinks she has interesting ideas and a cute personality. Instead of sleeping with his other wives, he ends up spending time with her whether that be just talking or hanging out. Of course, as this is the royal harem, all the women get jealous. Not the regular kind of petty jealousy, but the vicious, I’m going to poison so you will never appear in front of His Majesty again. Poor Ruyi made only a few friends in the palace so far, but has already had some stab her in the back. She is also targeted by the higher up concubines who do not like a young thing usurping their power and the majesty’s attentions. However much torture Ruyi endures, she struggles through it and becomes stronger on the outside. She gives it back as good as she has got. She knows that she can’t rely on the emperor’s fleeting favor and has to fend for herself.

I ended up really liking this drama which is surprising because usually I dislike watching internal harem politics and the viciousness of women who are jealous. However, I enjoy how strong Ruyi is and I really couldn’t care less about romance in the story. I just want her to achieve more power and give it back as good as she got it. She is enduring so much pain and misunderstanding now that she can’t get revenge on. Although later we will know that all this hardship will harden her heart and will affect how she rules in the future. I really also hoping that some of the friendships she has made will last her most of her rule because it will be so lonely for her if at the top of her power, she has no one to share her happiness with. However, in such a dog eat dog world, it may be the just the closest ones to her that stab her the deepest. I don’t know how many episodes I will watch of the drama, but so far it had me watching 10 in one sitting!

 

Whisper: Dark Intentions

 

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While I do admit that this drama is a little over dramatic at times, I nonetheless am still interested. Following her husband Ji Sung, Lee Bo Young is also part of a drama where the corrupt upper crust of society uses power and money to get their way and out of illegal doings. However, Bo Young plays Young Joo, a police officer whose father is wrongly accused of murdering a informant. While her father’s trial seemed to be going well at first due to a just judge, it quickly went down hill as the judge gave in to the dark side. The judge, Dong Joon, had been once known for his morals and justness while standing up to the upper crust. He had refused to let those with money bully him into changing verdicts and refused all bribery. With this, Young Joo, had thought she would get a fair trial for her father and she even brought concrete evidence to supplement her father’s innocence. However, Dong Joon eventually was backed into a corner where he would loose his entire career and never get reappointed as a judge if he didn’t give in to Chairman Il-hwan. The Chairman was the head of a famous, but also infamously corrupt law firm that helped the rich get away things. Dong Joon tried with all his might to resist being influenced, but ultimately, he joined hands to save his career that he had worked so hard for. Heartbroken and furious, Young Joon who was now fired for meddling in the case, decided to get her revenge. She filmed a video where it appeared that a drunk Dong Joon had raped her and used this to blackmail him into helping her get her father free. Dong Joon, who had now become a lawyer at Taebek, the law firm was backed not only into a corner by his in-laws, but also by Young Joon. He has no one to turn to and must get out of this web of evil, but at what sacrifice?

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Solomon’s Perjury: Truth Trials

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Dark and thoughtful (with a dose of sociopathy), just the way I like them. Solomon’s Perjury is definitely reminiscent of White Christmas, the short little series a few years ago that broke out a lot of popular actors today including Kim Woo Bin, Kim Young Kwang, Lee Soo Hyuk, Sung Joon, and Hong Jong-Hyun, just to name a few. I hope that Solomon will also highlight the new generation of acting talent by featuring some not as trendy popular actors/actresses. To get to the nitty gritty, Solomon is about high school students taking a death investigation into their own hands to uncover the truth for which the parents seem to be wanting to cover up.  In the beginning of the drama, we meet So Woo, a quiet young kid who got into a fight with the school bully, Choi Woo-hyuk. Choi Woo-Hyuk nearly kills So-Woo during the fight, but everyone is to afraid to speak up. It’s beacuase Choi’s father also happened to be extremely powerful in society and whoever crossed his family ended always up squashed. With Choi’s family pressuring So Woo to admit that he instigated the fight, So Woo decided to quit school instead. However, it is hinted that So Woo has knowledge of another of the Choi family’s weaknesses and was in a shaky spot regardless. Unfortunately a few weeks later, his body is found in front of the school, buried in the snow. Two students, Seo Yeon and Joon Young are the first ones to discover the body of their classmate. While the police and school hurry to close the case as a suicide, the circumstances of his death were a little suspicious. Both Seo Yeon and Joon Young are traumatized by this event and ended up bonding over the situation. Joon Young’s life at home has also been hard due to his abusive mother and he had contemplated ending his life at one point as well. However, with Seo Yoen’s support, he decides to keep on enduring. One day, a letter is delivered to Seo Yeon’s house because her father is a detective who was on this case. The letter accused Choi Woo Hyuk and his cronies of pushing So Woo to his death, making the case now a violent homicide instead of a suicide. Of course this spurs on more rumors in the school and this opens the investigation back up to the consternation of the school and Choi family. To the students, it seemed that the adults were doing a slipshod investigation and they want to find the real truth. Fortunately, at this school, an anonymous person called the Watchman seemed to take interest in spurring the student population in opening up their own investigation.

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The Princess Weiyoung

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My tastes in tradition Chinese dramas are very specific. I love the ones where the heroine surpasses her peers in either intelligence or martial arts, or even better, both. Princess Weiyoung hits all of those points and has a perfect cast to match. Tiffany Tang plays Xin Er, the princess of the Northern Dynasty whole is loved by all for her intelligence and kindness.

However, one day, the Jiang Clan of Northern Wei decides to take it upon themselves to overthrow Xin’er’s family so that they can enjoy the power instead. Much blood is spilled and Xin’er’s entire family is completely wiped out except for her and her personal bodyguard. While on the run, Xin Er is saved by the illegitimate daughter of the Imperial Tutor. Weiyoung is shunned by the Jiang family because her mother is of low birth. Her family tries multiple times to assassinate her so that she is unable to go to the main house. Thus, she lives her life in the countryside and ends up dying while defending Xin Er from harm.

As a result, Xin Er decides to take over Weiyoung’s identity and get revenge both for her friend and the deaths of her family. She survives numerous attempts on her life by the Jiang family and eventually moves into the main house under the fake identity. There, she encounters much resistance from the main madam and Chang Le, her rival in love and status.

The Jiang family tries every which way to discredit her and kick her out, but she is able to outsmart them all and even gain praise for the Emperor himself. With her kindness, she manages to gain loyal supporters by her side even in the tiger’s lair. She also manages to catch the eye of Prince Gaoyan and Prince Nanan, potential heirs to the throne. Prince Gaoyan moves her heart as he has saved her from several difficult situations. However, she must keep her distance due to her real identity and her quest of revenge. Of course, Chang Le also has her eyes set on Prince Gaoyan and plots with her mother on how to get rid of her rival. It is a game of cat and mouse where a wrong step could mean one’s life.

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Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Gifted Hands

 

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While other people may find medical dramas boring, I absolutely love them…if they are done well. RDTK, for short, is very appealing and gave me all sorts of feels just in the first episode. This drama tells a story of growth and development of three doctors, Teacher Kim, Dr. Dong Joo, and Dr. Seo Jung.

We start the story by seeing how Dr. Dong Joo stepped onto the path of medicine. When he was younger, he saw how corrupt the hospital system was when his father ended up passing away in the ER because a VIP received care before his father did. As a result, he tried to exact revenge by trying to demolish the ER through brandishing a bat and destroying equipment. Luckily, that day, a doctor was able to subdue him and talk him into exacting his revenge in another manner. He told young Dong Joo to become better and more skilled than his opponents instead. He needed to change his environment instead of beating powerlessly against the corrupt authority. Thus, Dong Joo puts his mind into becoming the very best and top of his class. During one of his residencies, he meets Dr. Seo Jung.

Dr. Seo Jung is the illegitimate daughter of the corrupt hospital director. She also has very talented hands and smarts to the point where she became the legend of the ER. It is no surprise that Dong Joo was so impressed by her that he fell head over heels for Seo Jung. However, in a freak car accident between Seo Jung and her then fiancé, Seo Jung ended up injuring her wrist to the point where she had PTSD from the event and could not even practice medicine. In a retreat hike during her period of grief, she ended falling down a mountain the boonies and recovering at a small local hospital. The famous Teacher Kim works at this hospital and used his expertise to help her recover.

We later learn that Teacher Kim was famous at her old hospital for his genius, but due to corrupt hospital directors, had to take the fall for a surgery gone bad. He was banished from practicing medicine, but managed to change his name and restart his career at the local small hospital. In a twist of fate, Dong Joo also had to take the fall for a surgery gone bad due to his greed of trying to reach the top. He was banished to this same local hospital where he meets the grumpy, but brilliant Teacher Kim. At first, they butt heads stubbornly, but gradually Dong Joo’s admiration for his skills won over. He decides to stay and this hospital and learn all he can. Of course, its not a coincidence that Teacher Kim was also the doctor who set him on the path of medicine. Furthermore, he gets to reconnect with his past flame, Seo Jung, who he has not heard from for the last 5 years due to her self-isolation.

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Goblin: Sorrowful Love

goblin_korean_drama-p1Dreamy and absolutely beautiful. I am in love, all the feels kind of love. To be honest, I was really hesitant to try the drama at first due to the vapid Descendants of the Sun….and the hit or miss track record from Kim Eun-Sook. For me, her dramas usually start out fantastic….and then peter out. However, this drama has got me wrapped around its finger.

With an amazing cast, beautiful filming and a gorgeous OST to boot, it hit the trifecta for me. Goblin tells the story of Kim Shin, an immortal being, who is waiting to find his bride so that he can finally die in peace. Hundreds of years ago, Kim Shin was a proud warrior who defeated many of his enemies, but was ultimately betrayed by royalty. He was unjustly branded a traitor by his country and his family ended in tragedy, including his sister, the young queen. He ended up being run through by his own sword.

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As a result, the gods above decided to give him both a punishment and reward. He would live forever while remembering all the deaths around him until he can find a bride to pull out the sword that is stuck in him.

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Uncontrollably Fond: Uncertain Futures

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Uncertainty is a keyword for me right now. After being all hyped up by all the promotions and media coverage, let’s just say that my expectations were elevated a little more than usual. Add in one actor that I adore, Kim Woo Bin, you know I was gunning for it. However, after watching the first two episodes, I feel a little detached to story, but not enough to drop it right then and there. Uncontrollably Fond is uncontrollably makjang from the start, which is to be expected as it is a drama penned by Lee Kyung-Hee (Nice Guy, A Love to Kill, etc.). Kim Woo Bin plays Joon Young, illegitimate son of a famous (but dirty as in bribe-taking) prosecutor. The drama starts off in the future, where Joon Young is a famous actor. However, it seems like he has an incurable disease with only 1 year to live. He is slowly becoming depressed and retreating into a shell. On the flip side is Noh Eul, broke and an opportunist. She was previously a documentarist who chased after illegal doings of big companies. However, instead of exposing these horrendous acts, she ends up taking bribes to keep her mouth shut. She has to pay off loan sharks, rent, and her little brother’s education. Unfortunately, she is shortly fired from this job. These two are brought together when Noh Eul sets out with the task of persuading Joon Young to participate in a documentary. She needs a job and money while he is trying to search for her (assuming that they were separated in the past). Of course, their reunion is indifferent at first as both pretend not to know each other. Then emotions explode into angst.

With a time skip to the past, we learn that Joon Young does badly in school and gets into fights often. His mother, who didn’t tell the father about her pregnancy, only wishes that Joon Young would grow up to be like his father. After getting into trouble with the police, he learns of his birth parents which makes him decide to grow up and start studying in an effort to make his mother (and future father) proud. Meanwhile, Noh Eul, is a kind hearted daughter of a food stall seller. She had liked Joon Young in the past, but decided to give up on the chase because she believed he was out of her league and unavailable. She also knows that Joon Young treats his suitors badly. They are brought head to head as she tries to get him to make her friend feel better who he had rejected. As all this is happening, her father manages to get into an accident. A rich girl had run him over and he was put on life support. In an effort to find the culprit, she hounds the prosecutor who changed the info around so that the girl would not get prosecuted. This prosecutor happens to be Joon Young’s dad. She even insults him about his intelligence in front of his future father, unknowingly. As revenge, he pretends to woo her in front of the school saying that it was their 100th day of dating. This made her seem like a girl who stole her best friend’s crush. Unfortunately, her father ends up dying and she is chased away from their home by the loan sharks. Joon Young, strangely starts to care about this girl and continues to try and find out what is really going on. It is there, that we jump back to the present where Joon Young forces an acknowledgement of their past relationship. Noh Eul haves none of it, walks off, and promptly faints.

If you add the makjang tropes in dramaland, you will have Uncontrollably fond. Incurable disease with a limit of 1 year to live, childhood sweethearts, birth secrets, untimely deaths, dirty people in power, and forbidden love, we’ve got it all, in just 2 episodes! To me, the drama felt a little disconnected. One situation did not flow into another well, especially their past scenes. The romance felt forced, and I mean the situation, not the acting. Furthermore, the scenes in the past were frankly strange to me. Why would you run after the villain’s car for that long, without first checking upon your father who is dying on the road? Why is there not more emotion at her father’s bedside? I’ve just insulted you greatly in front your father who you were trying to impress, but please seduce me, or I will seduce you? It’s just not making sense!! I really feel bad for Suzy’s past scenes as it was flimsy and awkward to be honest. The writer seemed to focus so much on Woo Bin’s character. His past and characterizations are more fleshed out. There is more purpose to his actions and reactions. I actually like the future scenes better. It kind of disappoints me since I loved her previous Nice Guy work.

So enough about the jaded plot, I find the acting to be decent. While I know there are many people who like Suzy and then there are many people who don’t like her. I have no extreme emotion about her, and I find her acting tolerable in the drama. She is trying to pull of a happy, but really angsty inside character, which is not bad. I enjoy that she is not your average Candy, and that she is realistic. She is broke and needs money. She does what is necessary to pay her debts. While her high school scenes were so-so, I am really looking forward to her adult scenes. They have the potential to be nuanced! As for Woo Bin, he is still acting as great as he has in the past. He plays internal conflict and broody scenes quite well. Reminding us of his shaky teary eyes from School 2013 and Heirs. His character is somewhat similar to ones he has done in the past, where he is a troublemaker who decides to man up. I am interested how he will play a dying man who is trying to live life best he can.

So I think I will give their another 2-3 episodes?

PS: He is going to have some friendly competition with his RL BFF Lee Jong Suk’s W.

Plus I guess this is why I am always hesitant to watch hyped up dramas in fear of being underwhelmed.

Oh Hae Young Again: No Shame

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Wow, just wow. I had completely skipped over this drama at first, not even having the slightest inclination to watching it. I thought it was going to be a silly rom-com judging by the poster and teasers. But, I could not be more wrong. This drama is more of a melo that has hit the dysfunctional couple trope for me combined with excellent acting and intense feels. In the drama, Oh Hae Young, an ordinary woman is all set to get married to her handsome and rich boyfriend. However, their wedding is called off the day before. Her boyfriend dumps her cruelly and in her embarrassment, she requests that it be publicized as her calling off the wedding instead. Everyone in her family and friend group is surprised at this turn of events while Hae Young wallows in pain and misery. Her family, in order to shock her out of her despair and also angry at her “irresponsibleness” kicks her out of their house. She ends up moving into a side studio connected to a larger house with a door for access in between. The man who is her neighbor is Park Do Kyung. As fate would have it, these two people are connected. Park Do Kyung had suffered a painful breakup where his fiance left him on the day of his wedding. But get this, her name was was Oh Hae Young. What is more is that both Hae Youngs went to school together in the past. However, Do Kyung’s fiance was the pretty and popular Hae Young, while our Hae Young was more plain and constantly was compared to the prettier one. Heartbroken, Do Kyung had planned revenge on pretty Hae Young. However, through a misunderstanding and confusion with names, Do Kyung ended up ruining the wedding and life of our Hae Young. Through rumors and confusion, he thought that his Hae Young was marrying our Hae Young’s Tae Jin. Thus, he made investors pull out of Tae Jin’s company and the man ended up in jail for a stint. However, it turns out that Tae Jin broke but with Hae Young cruelly in order for her to stop waiting for him and recover her family name before it was ruined. As these Hae Young and Park Do Kyung start to live together, they at first butt heads, but eventually fall for each other. Do Kyung is tortured and guilty because he is unable to tell Hae Young the truth, while Hae Young is unknowingly loving the one who ruined her life. With the pretty Hae Young and Tae Jin coming back into the picture later, it creates all sorts of pain for all parties involved.

Instead of this being a first impression, it is more like a rant after watching 12 episodes! I literally could not put this down. While it does have romcom moments, this drama is very deep into the melo world. Do Kyung and Hae Young is one of the most dysfunctional and toxic relationships I have seen in the drama world. Both are severely heartbroken and depressed when they first meet each other, and somehow manages to help heal each other. However, it is so unfortunate that they have such a knot to untangle between them. Each is torturing themselves for loving each other because it started out wrong. People they are crazy or selfish to be in love after all that has happened, but they just can’t help it. With Eric Mun’s Do Kyung, the character is the brooding and silent type which much of the acting in Mun’s eyes. His agony and regret are palpable. As for our Hae Young, her feelings are so relatable. She had to overcome such comparison and endure many embarrassing situations. However, she picked herself back up, albeit in some weird ways and with the amazing support of her parents. She also doesn’t play hard to get and is honest with her feelings. Yet, I hope the premonitions that Do Kyung keeps on having do not end in tragedy. That would just break my heart !

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?

 

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!