Forest of Secrets: Forest of Lies

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Tis’ the year for corrupt prosecutors and law enforcement! But wait, tis the year for whistleblowers as well! Hwang Shi Mok, a stoic prosecutor who literally cannot express emotions due to a surgery he had when he was younger is the only one who is one of the only non-corrupt officials in his organization. After meeting Lieutenant Han at a murder scene, he is caught up in a complicated scandal that implicates several of the higher up law enforcement officers. Because of his personality, people find it hard to work with him. However, Shi Mok doesn’t mind and marches to the beat of his own drum. Because of this personality, he is dogged in his desire to expose all the corruptness of his higher ups even if it costs him his job. Lieutenant Han is the heart of this team and slowly Shi Mok absorbs her compassion as well. Through their investigations, they are thrown many red herrings and everyone is constantly switching sides! However, their doggedness will certainly pay off!

tvN is always a trustworthy network that always gives me something interesting to watch. The actors are the core of the story. I enjoyed Cho Seung Woo’s stoic performance and those rare bursts of emotion. You never quite know what he is thinking, but that just adds to the mystery of the drama. As for Bae Doona, she is amazing as the down to earth cop. She is not necessarily using her visuals(thought I think she is gorgeous), but is rather dressing down to match her character. It just comes off so natural. I also thoroughly enjoyed Lee Joon Hyuk as the intense brown-noser who doesn’t hesitate to ingratiate himself with power no matter the humiliation he must endure. He struggles so hard to survive in a cut throat organization even if he has to beg on his knees. In the beginning I was hoping for a grand redemption, but I prefer him this way because he is more realistic! The most unfortunate loss was Shin Hye Sun. She was such an underrated character and I wished she could have made it through the end! The plot was very intricate and well written. I was guessing until the very end where everyone’s true loyalties lay! I like how it wasn’t just focused on action, but rather how clever thinking and manipulation solves the case! These shorter stories keep my watching until the end, so that the first impressions are more like general impressions (without hopefully giving too much away). However, this is definitely a must watch of the summer!

Liar Game: Dirty Money

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So I watched the Japanese version of Liar Game many years ago before the Korean version came out. After the hype of the Korean version, I thought I must check it out! The story is quite similar between the two with some extra twists in the Korean version. The Korean version features Da-Jung, a naïve and way to kind girl who is struggling in society, after her father left her a huge gambling debt. One day, she finds her self +500million dollars courtesy of trying to help out an old lady. However, this money is actually a set up for her to enter a game show called Liar Game. Liar game pits people against others in a competition for large sums of money. However, the key of the game is deceit and manipulation. This is something that Da-Jung really lacks. However, fortunately she is able to get help from expert con-man and past professor, Woo Jin. Woo=jin had just spent a stint in jail for being suspect of killing a man. However, he had not killed this man, but rather brought his company down because it had ruined his mother’s life. Da-Jung reminded Woo Jin of his late mother which encouraged him to help her. Later he finds out that her father’s debt is actually his fault as he had manipulated the stocks that her father had bought. Now it isn’t just chance that both of them get roped into the game. The host of the game, Do-Young, is actually manipulating everyone to his own plan. He wants to see the ugly side of everyone, especially in the face of greed.

While this drama received many good reviews and hype, I could only get through 8 episodes of it before having to drop. This is also after a second attempt at watching it. However, I do find it better than the Japanese version. Perhaps it is my severe annoyance at Da Jung whose “naiveness” or kindness is honestly just stupidity to me. She lets everyone walk over her and does not learn from her past mistakes. I suppose that is what makes her so innocent and encourages everyone to protect her. However, it is just exasperating to me. As for Woo-Jin, I do love Sang-Yoon the actor, and he plays decently enough in the drama. As for Do young, played by Shin Sun Rok, that is what really shined in this drama for me. He is an excellent villain who you just don’t know what he is going to do next. While half the time he seems surprised at the outcomes, in reality he had already planned for it. The games they play are really interesting and thoughtful. For me, perhaps it was just not the right timing again. But don’t let this deter you from watching the show. It is definitely a different feel and format!

Man To Man: Bromance Level

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Action, Spies, Thriller, Entertainment, GO~ Reminiscent of K2, Man to Man is like the comedic version of it. Touted as the new Netflix foray into the Korean entertainment industry, I am just hoping they won’t knock off the airing schedule and free subtitles! Man to Man tells the story of a ghost spy named Kim Sul-Woo. He is an expert spy who has been on many missions with his latest one being to infiltrate a hidden mansion in Europe to find a hidden figurine. This figurine is of upmost important to huge companies in Korea and the politics attached to the upper crust society. However, to do this, he must become the bodyguard of a popular action movie star. The owner of the mansion loves this movie star and had invited him to the mystery home for a party. Said movie star is Woon Gwang, a notoriously hard to get along with man who is a dramatic flair. Sul-Woo with his charm manages to instill himself next to the movie star to the consternation of Do-Ha, the star’s manager. Do-Ha is Woon-Gwang’s utmost fangirl and a little on the psychotic end. She is completely distrustful of Sul-Woo’s intentions which are ironically correct as he has ulterior motives. However, again and again, Sul-Woo proves himself worthy to be the bodyguard and saves them from several awkward situations. With half the drama being comedy and the other half action, it is an interesting mix of a drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Innocent Defendant: Prison Break

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Dark crime or law dramas are again right up my alley. I find it especially interesting to see the cat and mouse game between an intelligent villain and our hero. Innocent Defendant is about Jeong Woo, a prosecutor who ends up waking up in jail with no memories of the previous four months. Jeong Woo was a successful and dogged prosecutor who was not afraid to dig deep into cases and even put himself in harms way to crack a case. However, he buried his nose too deep in a murder case committed by Cha Min Ho, the twin brother of a conglomerate heir. Cha Min Ho is a playboy twin who ended up killing a golddigger in a drunken fit. Instead of owning up to his crimes like his brother told him to, he ends up killing his twin brother to take his place. He had always been jealous of his twin, Cha Seon Ho who was the apple of his father’s eye and heir to the conglomerate. Min Ho decides to push his brother off the building and become him when Seon Ho died. He used the cover story that the brother who had fallen was actually him and that he had committed suicide out of guilt. Of course, Jeong Woo suspects something foul is at play because he thinks that Min Ho is not the type to commit suicide. Jeong Woo ends up finding out that Min Ho is actually alive and pretending, but he has no evidence to prove it. One day after his daughter’s birthday, he wakes up the next morning in a jail cell. He doesn’t remember what has happened and thinks that something is playing a trick on him. He is told that he is on death row because he had somehow killed his loving wife and daughter. They are unable to find his daughter’s “body”, and he is unable to remember what exactly has happened. Apparently he has been having these repeat losses of memory in jail for the past four months with the gaps getting larger and larger. Jeong Woo is furious and heartbroken as he cannot remember and accept what is going on.

I love a good thriller and mystery. Ji Sung is one of my favorite actors as he has one of the most expressive faces I have ever had the pleasure to watch. He definitely throws his entire being into the role. His anguish is so hard to watch. Juxtaposing him is another fantastic actor, Uhm Ki Joon. I have seen him in more villainous roles and he plays them to a “T”. The more evil his character is, the better his acting becomes. Not only does he play one character, but he plays two, or even three (if you count him pretending to be his brother). As for the female leads in the story, I have no reads on them yet except for the quick appearance of Yuri. So far, the drama seems to be an on your seat thriller that will keep me guessing as what is really going on. I hope that Jeong Woo will be able to recover some of his memories and be able to go against Min ho soon!

Tunnel: Time Slip

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In a way, this drama reminds of Signal, but only with the time travel part. Otherwise, it is another fascinating drama by OCN based on the Hwaseong Murders. To give a little background, the Hwaseong Murders is a famous case that was never solved in S. Korea. Several women ranging from ages 14- 70 were strangled by their own clothing by a serial killer. Tunnel features a homicide detective in the 1980s who is in the middle of investigating a series of murders where the victim is strangled by her own pantyhose and the ankles are dotted in the order they were killed. After several false leads, detective Gwang-Ho manages to catch a glimpse of a mysterious man in a tunnel. While running after said man, he is knocked out on the head with a rock by the man. When he wake up and tries to get out of the tunnel, he ends up walking into another world. This world is the same as his, but 30 years in the future. He is extremely confused as to what is going on and tries to make sense of it by going to his police station. He pretends to be an officer with the same name, but his experience gives him away. Coincidentally, a junior officer of his has now become chief at the same station. His junior officer recognizes his friend that had disappeared 30 years ago. In the past, his body is never found and his team is disbanded after the tragic event. Together, in the future, they try to make sense of what has happened, where Gwang-Ho’s wife is, and how to get back to his time. Of course, adapting to the new traditions at the police station is difficult. He ends up clashing with Sun Jae, an extremely smart detective who is also quite abrasive. Joining the bunch is Jae-Yi, a criminal psychologist who lends her expertise to the homicide unit.

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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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Fatal Intuition: Psychometric

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I admit I watched this movie because Joo Won was the main actor and I love me some intense acting! Which I got for sure! Joo Won plays Jung Woo who lives with his sibling Eun Jin in a small seaside town. Jung Woo works menial jobs in order to support his sister going to college. His aim is to get both of them out of the rural countryside. Eun Ji is a playful and outgoing girl who is kind to everyone. She is also very pretty which makes Jung Woo very protective of her. One day, after an argument about there future, Jung Woo locks Eun Ji in the house so she won’t run away. Upset, he goes out drinking with his friends. Unfortunately, an intruder breaks into their home and ends up drowning Eun Ji in his own bleaching vat in the basement since she couldn’t escape the locked house. Jung Woo comes back and ends up filing a missing persons case when he couldn’t find where she went. Meanwhile, another girl in the town is bullied severely and cursed by everyone due to her unique ability to foresee the deaths of people she comes across. Before Eun Ji’s death, the two girls had come into contact with each other. Eun Ji was nice to her and the psychic girl Si-Eun had accidentally saw her death. Si-Eun had passed out from the force of her vision and wasn’t able to save Eun Ji. However, she did manage to let Jung Woo know where Eun Ji’s body was. Jung woo was heartbroken when he found out his sister died and swore vengeance to find who did it. He suspected the neighborhood pharmacist who had a upstanding reputation had done it. He beings chasing him down, but no one would believe that the pharmacist was the culprit. Si-Eun even tries to use her powers to help him. Little by little, we find out about the pharmacist’s sordid and bloody past. His own family had died by his hands. Even without the police helping him, Jung Woo swore he would kill the pharmacist with his own hands for what he had done.

The movie itself did not have much dialogue as it relied mostly on cinematography and the actor’s expressions. Joo Won puts on a rural dialect to play role and the chase is thrilling since the pharmacist is physically a strong fighter and able to elude Jung Woo. He is also manipulative enough to escape the police and turn the tables in his favor. Poor Si-Eun plays a sister substitute to Jung Woo’s real sister after she passed away. He becomes protective of her and they fight against society themselves to bring about vengeance and survive the ordeal. All in all, a decent movie to pass the time, but not anything to write home about.

 

Coin Locker Girl: An Eye for an Eye

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In the lieu of Hwayi, Coin Locker Girl has the same dark feel which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Il-young, who is named Ten for short, was abandoned as a baby and stored in one of those 10cent coin lockers at the subway. As a result, she grew up with the homeless and was later kidnapped by a loan shark gang. Even as a young girl, she proved herself resilient and capable of handling her jobs. This grabbed the attention of the gang head, Woo-hee, who is known as Mother of the underground society. Ten grows up to become the right hand man of Mother, handling all sorts of dirty jobs with a dispassion and calculation that frightens many. One day, she is supposed to retrieve the debt from this father-son pair, but only encounters the son because the father had ran away. The son, Seok Hyun, shows her a kindness that she has never encountered before in her harsh upbringing. He cooks for, takes her to movies, and gives her the warmth that she craves for. At first, she tries to treat him harshly to get the money from him, but slowly becomes attached. However, their little world collapses when Mother issues the order to kill Seok Hyun because his father had completely abandoned the family and left the debt to be taken care of by the son. Ten is emotionally unable to kill Seok Hyun and instead betrays the only family she has even known. They try to run, but don’t get very far as the rest of the gang catch up. Seok Hyun is brutally murdered before her eyes aInd his organs used to make up for his debt. This completely breaks Ten apart as she is now hunted by those who she once called family. She decides to take fate and vengeance into her own hands.

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The K2: Bourne

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Watching this simultaneously with Empress Ki is like watching two Ji Chang Wooks. One that is a cowardly wimp versus another one is a Jason Bourne style badass. Or in a way, we are reprising a upgraded level of Healer who has become more deadly. Wook plays Je Ha, ex-special forces soldier who seems to be on the run and working menial jobs to lay low. He meets our lead lady, Anna, in Spain where he seemed to be finishing up a mission.

Anna is the illegitimate daughter of a assemblyman who is trying to run for presidency. Anna’s mother seemed to have died through mysterious means and Anna is sequestered in this monastery to keep her out of the way or hidden. However, she is constantly trying to run away since she believes the people who have her captured are villainous. In one of her escape attempts, Je Ha manages to help her for a bit, even though he is injured. However, it was for naught when she is recaptured and he ended up returning back to Korean in order not to get involved with foreign police.

Back in Korea, we get a peek into the assemblyman, Se Joon, and his wife’s tense relationship. His wife, Yoo Jin, is not the mother of Anna, and seems to be in a contract relationship with Se Joon. Yoo Jin is the daughter of a powerful conglomerate and it seems that Se Joon is using that power to back up his candidacy. However, they don’t have a loving relationship at all and seem to be sabotaging each other. Se Joon keeps on having affairs while Yoo Jin tries to catch him at it. She is calculating and manipulative deep down and tries to keep a mask of innocence and romanticism for the public. Unfortunately, Je Ha becomes involved in their power struggle when he takes on a banner fixing job at Yoo Jin’s company. He sees things that he shouldn’t have and now is being hunted down by both parties for recruitment or worse.

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Vampire Detective: A New Strain

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OH OH OCN, you have lured me into watching the 7th airing drama on my list. Vampires done the right way for once! In the lieu of Vampire Prosecutor (which I will watch one day), we have vampire detectives now! Lee Joon is Yoon-San, who originally attended police academy before messing up a special undercover operations with two other new officers. One of these officers was his girlfriend, who always wore a sun pendant. However, after the three of them barely escaped from a dangerous situation, his girlfriend starts acting weirdly. She ends up shooting Yoon-San in the chest, and then blows up with the car and the third officer. I guess in one way, you can see it as her trying to save him before the car blows up. Yoon-San is mystified and heartbroken at the the turn of events. After recovering from his wound, he decides to do private investigating instead of pursuing a path in police work. He and Goo-hyung make a living investigating everything from murders to affairs. One day, Gyeo-wool visits them and demands that they help her find out why her brother is acting suspicious. They end up running into more suspicious people who have a storage of blood samples and the boss is a woman wearing a sun pendant. This piques their interest and they decide to take the case. It turns out that her brother is actually a vampire who is researching different blood strains in order to save his girlfriend. However, things come to a head as the brother and girlfriend sacrifices their lives to protect the little sister. Before the brother passes, he injects his new blood strain into Yoon-San who had leapt into the path of a bullet to save Gyeo-wool. The blood saves Yoon-San’s life as his chest wound heals. The three are left in amazement at the aftermath of such events.

Vampires can either be done very well or end up in nonsense.  Luckily, as a spinoff of Vampire Prosecutor, we know we have good writing and cinematography behind the wheel of this drama. Fortunately at the helm of this drama is Lee Joon, an idol turned actor that I very much admired due to his previous works. He has a wide range of acting, and I especially enjoy the brooding type. I am interested to seeing how his new powers manifest and how it will aid his job. Furthermore, I want to know what is up with the sun pedant woman and if it is old girlfriend. As for Goo-hyung and Gyeo-wool, the other two legs of this detective agency, they make nice support and I hope to see them develop more into their own characters. I am already loving Geyo-wool who is street smart and already a big help to their multiple escapes.