Circle: Star Power

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A rare breed has appeared! We don’t often get to see sci-fi kdramas! Or at least ones as amazing as this where I finished it in 2 days! Circle tells the story of fraternal twins, Woo Jin and Bum Gyun. However, the drama is split into two timelines. One is set in 2017, after the twins grew up and are in their college years. The other timeline is fast-forwarded another 20 years into the future where S. Korea has completely changed due to technology and pollution. During their youth, the twins encounter an alien, who takes on the form of Byul/Jung Yeon. She possesses a form of advanced technology which allowed her to view her memories in a video format. However, this knowledge was too dangerous for the world to handle, so the twin’s father decided to erase her memories and let her start a new life as a regular human girl. However, this did not sit well with his fellow researchers who were desperate for the knowledge. The father ended up disappearing while the twins grew up while enduring a rough life. Bum Gyun was convinced that the alien had made his father disappear and dedicated his whole life into finding her. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital as well as jail several times due to his fanaticism. However, Woo Jin tried to forget what happened in his past and was just struggling to survive. He was the sole breadwinner of his family while still keeping up top grades. He sacrificed social life in order to garner every chance of study or money making opportunity. The twins had a hard time getting along as Woo Jin was always having to chase after his brother who would wander off trying to find the alien. It got to the point where Bum Gyun was eventually kidnapped! Meanwhile in the future timeline, Bum Gyun as Kim Joon Hyuk, a detective who has been searching for his younger brother for the last 10 yrs. He has no memories of his past life and only knows about himself through a video footage of Woo Jin’s memories. In the future, Korea has become inhabitable because of dust levels and a new Smart City had been created. In this city, everyone has a chip in their brain that helps regulate extreme emotions which results in a boasted no-crime rate. However, the chip has a more sinister use of being able to delete a person’s memories. Thus, in the two timelines, each brother is searcing for the other frantically!

A beautifully intertwined story that have two parts that are mirror reflections of each other. I loved both timelines equally as each story was heartwrenching and full of emotion/intrigue. Yeo Jin Gu is one of the best young male actors of his generations. He is able to portray that deep seated angst and frustration. He makes each scene incredibly intense and when it culminates into finally meeting his brother, I bawled! Meanwhile, Kim Kang Woo as the older Bum Gyun was excellent as well. I have always loved his action acting and he has the same type of intensity as Jin Gu. He was always able to draw on his younger counterpart’s character so that it was a seamless transition! I also enjoyed Gong Seung Yun who played Jung Yeon/Bluebird/Byul. She performed her alternating stoic alien personality versus her human self roles perfectly. While the filming was not high budget, the acting really upgraded the drama. I don’t usually fall in love with dramas that fast nor finish them in 2 days! However, this thriller really kept me clicking the next episode with each cliffhanger!

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Shoot Me in the Heart: I Feel It!

 

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Lee Min-Ki and Yeo Jin Goo, power actors, in my humble opinion. I knew it was going to be good just by looking at the actors, let alone the story. The movie, Shoot Me in the Heart, ripped all my heartstrings to threads. These two boys play Seungmin and Soomyung, patients of a psychiatric hospital (more like jail). Seungmin, who doesn’t have any psychiatric issues, is dragged to this asylum due to family inheritance conflicts. They try to put him away, out of sight, but he doesn’t go down with a fight! Every day, he tries to claw his way out of the asylum and back to his one and only passion, paragliding. However, he is slowly losing his sight without an escape in sight. Meanwhile, Soomyung is in the hospital due to PTSD when he found his mother dead in a bathtub due to suicide by a pair of scissors in her neck. He even develops a phobia of scissors and cutting his hair! These two end up rooming together and develop the most unlikely of friendships. They began to depend on each other and ground each other in this unfamiliar place. They realize what living life is about and even endure brutal treatments by the staff members. However, this does not break their spirits, and they live life even more fully than before. The main theme of the movie is the unlikely friendships and relations these two develop with others in the institute.

While it was fun watching each of their escape attempts, it is also gratingly raw how harshly they are punished each time they are caught. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but you do know that your heart is hurting for these pour souls. For me, this movie unfortunately paints a bad picture of how psychiatric institutes should be operated. From the unruly and uncaring nurses to the misuse of ECST (electric convlusive shock therapy). I for one, am for the use of ECST, but only in the proper way of treating consenting patients suffering from depression or schizophrenia. It is definitely not a tool to be used as punishment or to lobotomize “unruly” patients. Fortunately, the overarching theme of friendship in the movie makes up somewhat for this disturbing part. It shows the genuine bond these patients share with each other even in their most difficult of times. I especially enjoyed the open ending where we do get to see improvement and growth in our characters (even if it must be a heartbreaking one).

As for the actors, Lee Min Ki has a special knack for playing the wild rebellious type from Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Quick, and For the Emperor. He captures that on the brink of insanity feeling while also displaying the most genuine insights. Even with this wild nature and flights of fancy, he seems more grounded any of the other individuals. Yeo Jin Goo, this developing actor, plays his angsty broody roles really well. We see him tormented by his past and the sacrifices he makes in the future. Lucky for him and us, his bromance with Lee Min Ki really brings in the feels and lets your heart soar!

Year End Special: Growing Pains

Talent from toddler to teens! I’m so used to seeing these actors playing child versions of adults in my favorite dramas. However, these youngins’ are grown up fast and are now leading men and women in their own dramas! Here are 5 of my favorite child actors that have matured into amazing young adults (teens).

Yeo Jin Gu (18yrs) – Uniquely known by his mature deep voice paired to such a young age and face, he started acting back in 2005. He is commonly paired with Kim Yoo Jung as a child actor for saquek dramas. Furthermore, at such a young age, he has played many difficult roles that require heavy angsting and crying. He has become such a master at these broody roles and has progressed to lead roles now as a young adult. Most memorable performances for me are in The Moon Embraces Sun and I Miss You as the childhood version of the adults and Hwayi, the movie, as a lead role.

Dramas: 16 / Movies: 14

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Orange Marmalade: A Sweet Taste

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While the rabid Twilight era put me off most vampire stories/movies, fortunately, Orange Marmalade runs in a different vein. What I had expected when I decided to open up episode 1 was a light fluffy romance between human and vampire, much like Hi!School-Love On (angel and human). While I did get my fluffy teenage blossoming romance, there is something about the drama gives it a dark twinge as it features vampires who are treated like second class citizens.

The story itself tells of a high school boy, Jung Jae Min, who is popular at school and musically gifted with the guitar. However, he seems to have a hatred against vampires, propagated by the fact that his mother married one. I am not sure what happened to his biological father, but perhaps that had something to do with his uneasiness with vampires? He had even quit his guitar playing due to past traumas. He refuses to acknowledge his mother or his new father who is also a teacher at his school.

One day, Jae Min unwittingly falls in love with a girl that he runs into on the subway to school. Ma Ri is a vampire girl, who grew up being ostracized and called a monster by her follow peers. She just transferred to Jae Min’s school in hopes to be not discovered again. Her family is a cute vampy family who by all means act and live like normal humans albeit with sun protection vaccinations and meals made of animal blood disguised as tomato juice.

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Hwayi (화이)

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The movie Hwayi tells the dark tale of revenge by young boy who was raised by criminal fathers, but later finds out his true origins. After a botched ransoming event, five violent criminals called The Daybreakers decide to raise the child they had kidnapped. They named him, Hwayi, which is also the name of a species of Chinese Juniper under which he was originally buried. Being a bright young man, Hwayi grew up in this unique family with five fathers and woman that becomes his mother. Under their tutelage, he learns a number of skills such as sharpshooting, fighting, driving, etc, that could be useful in their line of trade. Though he calls all the others “dad”, he calls the leader, Suk-Tae, “father”. Even though he grows up under such dark influences, his softness is still there. While the “intellectual” father hopes that Hwayi will be kept pure and wants to send him to a formal school for art, Suk-Tae has other plans.

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