Friday Drama Review: “Sword and Flower” 칼과 꽃

 

Beautifully scripted and delightfully enacted, Sword and Flower was a moving melodrama placed in a historical setting.

 

 

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

sf-genkingAlso known as “Blade and Petal”, this drama recounts a story of two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo* period in Korean history. The pacifistic King, Yeongnyu, believes that war with the Tang (Chinese Dynasty concurrent with Goguryo) will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The top military general, Yeon Gaesomun, believes that military strength is the only way to save the people, and that meeting the Tang head-on is key to the survival of the Goguryo Kingdom. He sees the King as weak and fears for the safety of the people. Each man firmly believes that what he desires is best for the people. Caught in the middle, in a Romeo and Juliette-like dilemma are the children of the two great men: Princess So-hee and Choong, the illegitimate son of the general. In a drama fraught with crossed-purposes and misunderstood objectives, the young people fight to protect the principles important to them, as well as the people they love.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 8/10

While filled with action and drama, the pace moves a little slower in Sword and Flower, allowing time for plot development, character development and historical background. The tempo befits the drama, however, and as the episodes progress, the drama becomes engrossing. An intriguing aspect of this story is that it does not attempt to create “good guys” and “bad guys” in the typical fashion of many dramas, but instead focuses on the difficult questions decisions intrinsic to leadership.

s&w1Kim Ok-bin (Over My Dead Body, The Front Line) was Princess So-hee, also known as Moo-young when she infiltrates the enemy camp as a young male warrior. She’s the kind of heroine every young woman admires: faithful, filial, loyal, and can sword-fight with the best of them, as well. As the eldest daughter, she was more than strong enough to be a good ‘king’. After witnessing the assassinations and degradation of her father and brother, she became the leader of a cause. Kim Ok-bin combined intelligence, strength and femininity to create a character s&w2that was more than appealing enough to garner the attention of the men around her. Her charisma was necessary and credible.

Yeon Gaesomun’s illegitimate son, Yeon Choong craves recognition by his father. Unfortunately, his father’s agenda is at odds with the plans of the woman he loves and has pledged to protect: the Princess So-hee.  Uhm Tae-woong (7th Grade Civil Servant, Man From Equator), while quiet and subtle in his acting, was powerful as the talented warrior, fighting an inner battle with himself at every crossroads. The chemistry between the two central characters was palpable in its authenticity.

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Choi Min-soo (Faith, Warrior Baek Dong-soo) was the dark, somber, powerful Yeon Gaesomun. For a character that was, by all intents and purposes, a stoic who showed no emotion for others to witness, Choi was remarkably talented at broodingg looks that conveyed more than words.

 

s$ w kingKim Yeong-cheol (Innocent Man, IRIS) brought King Yeongnyu to life. Believing that war would be the death of the Goguryo Kingdom he advocated for a peaceful, diplomatic relationship with the Tang. He had great affection and respect for his eldest daughter, and feared the powerful military hero, Yeon Gaesomun. The character was portrayed with great dignity and empathy.

joo wonOn Joo-wan (Natural Burials, Twelve Men in a Year) had the difficult task of playing Jang, nephew to King Yeongnyu, and a man without his own power base. Used and disparaged by the King, despite his intelligence and loyalty, he eventually betrays the King when he is passed over as the obvious choice of successor when the Crown Prince becomes injured and disabled. As in the historical records, Jang is placed on the throne (to become King Bojang) by Yeon Gaesomun, only to become a puppet king. The frustration at his position, the greed for power, and the lack of real support are all fleshed out well in the intriguing character created by On-Joo-wan.

nmwIf there was a truly evil character in the drama, it was Yeon Namseng, legitimate son to Yeon Gaesomun. The nefarious young man was brought to life in all his malevolent, bloodthirsty, maniacally power-hungry glory by No Min-woo (Full House Take 2, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho). Filled with jealousy over the attention his illegitimate brother receives and with a natural passion for physical violence, Yeon Namseng personifies the ‘bad gone badder’. No Min-woo’s soft, sweet face wreaks havoc with the viewer’s mind as he transforms from well-spoken young nobleman to rogue and scoundrel with the flash of a sword or the swing of a fist- or whip!

shinLee Jung-Shin (CN Blue band member) was the KPop cameo boy, playing Shi-woo, master swordsman and bodyguard/supporter of the princess. His acting abilities are as credible as his musical abilities. As Shi-woo, he played an engaging character, loyal and passionate for the cause. The role was not as well-developed as it might have been, and I look forward to seeing this young man in more challenging roles.

 

 

 

sf impossibleCinematography: My Rating 7/10

Creative camera angles did much to enhance and contribute to the storytelling. A few stunts, while silly (and impossible) – i.e. the flipped upside down gaze – were charming, nonetheless. The lighting and sound were also managed and directed in a manner that enriched the story, rather than detracted.

 

Music: My Rating 6/10

Some of the instrumental background music was very interesting: 60’s-ish James Bond-style electric guitar background. Finger’s crossed that a full OST release with instrumental music included is coming soon. In the meantime, two vocal pieces are available:

A nice love song: Wax  “Dear Love”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgfV9Xm20jM

Another nice ballad: F.I.X. “Even When I Die” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M34sDARkiHs

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A wonderful story combined with an illustrious cast created a drama that was a pleasure to watch. While the pace was slower than many viewers might find ideal, the tale is absorbing and the characters are thought provoking. Add to that beautiful sets and scenery and nice musical scoring and you have all the makings of a good evening in front of the television.

 Happy Drama Watching!

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Goguryo*: An interesting note: “Goguryo” is the name from which the modern name “Korea” is derived.

 

Written by Kwon Min-soo

Directed by Kim Yong-soo & Park Jin-seok

 

Friday Drama Review: “Who Are You?” (후아유)

Who-Are-You-Poster1

 

Crime, romance, fantasy and action combine to create an absorbing drama with appealing characters. So what if some of them are not quite alive?…

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My Rating 7/10

Detective Yang Shi-on awakens from a six-year coma to find her memory gone and the ability to see ghosts as an unusual replacement. Her coma was caused by an accident sustained in the line of duty but, upon awakening, Shi-on is unable to recall the events surrounding her injury. So she relegates herself to the Lost and Found Division – something of a no-man’s-land for career-oriented cops, but a welcome respite for haunted, memory-deprived young woman. Besides, the objects in the Lost and Found Division seem to draw her, and have interesting stories that her unique capabilities are able to unravel.

who are you funHer partner, Cha Gun-woo, recently demoted to the Lost and Found department, is less enthusiastic about being relegated to this dead-end job and is eager to find a way out. His new partner is an ‘odd bird’ who seems to have some secret source of information that helps solve crimes, but who would believe the truth?

He becomes intrigued with her unusual crime-solving sense and, eventually trusts her ability. Gun-woo begins to fall for her mystique and charms, but, unfortunately, his rival in love is none other than her dead lover.

 

Script/Acting: My Rating 7/10

The mini-story does, indeed, seem to be the flavor of the season, and Who Are You? is a drama particularly well suited to the popular approach. Short stories, based on objects brought to the Police Department’s Lost and Found Division, are told over the course of a few episodes – with ghostly interference! These stories serve as the vehicle for character development as the main plot-line slowly evolves.

Who-Are-You16So Yi-hyun (Cheongdadong Alice, You’ve Fallen for Me) was well cast as Detective Yang Shi-on. Her demeanor is suited to the somewhat melancholy and self-reflective characteristics needed for Shi-on’s character. Her portrayal of the confusion and pain surrounding her memory loss, the eventual regain, and the odd love triangle was surprisingly credible, given the incredible (and somewhat humorous) circumstances. If her chemistry with Taecyeon was less than perfect, it seemed more of a personality difference in the scripting than the acting. The authenticity of her love for Kim Jae-wook’s character (Detective Lee Hyung-joon 어빠), was heart-wrenching.

Who-Are-You10Ok Taecyeon (2PM band member), is no newcomer to the small screen, with hits like Dream High and Cinderella’s Sister under his belt. His role as Detective Cha Gun-woo was another serious role role for him, although it also afforded him opportunities to show off his silly side. The character was appealing, but he felt a bit too young for the part. His boyish looks make him more suited to younger roles. Perhaps his youthful appearance contributed to slightly off mix between the two main stars.

Who-Are-You12On the other hand, Kim Jae-wook (Mary Stayed Out All Night, Bad Guy), most definitely seems mature enough to be the love interest of Detective Yang Shi-on. Walking a precarious line between the living and the dead, Kim Jae-wook was required to play multiple personalities: the affable, loving, Detective Lee Hyung-joon of Shi-on’s memory, her 어빠 (oppa), and the stoic, sad ghost, guarding Shi-on, and leading the detectives to the criminals responsible for the crime ring that caused everyone so much pain.

tvn_Who_Are_You_bc4Veteran Kim Chang-wan (Queen of Reversals, What’s Up) has been very active lately, with supporting roles in a couple of other current dramas as well: Good Doctor and The End of the World. As Detective Choi Moon-shik, he played the field, leaving the audience wondering if he was a good guy or a bad guy. Brilliantly scripted, the actor managed to straddle the fence quite convincingly.

no young-hakNo Young-hak (Shark, 7th Grade Civil Servant) was the comic relief of the drama. Playing Im Seung-chan, a love-struck young detective, undoubtedly doomed to be a  permanent fixture in the Lost and Found Division, he nonetheless wielded his small authority with gusto. A scheming, but well-meaning, young man, Sung-chan’s character was the one that made you laugh and slap your head in frustration at the same time.

tvn_Who_Are_You_bc6Kim Ye-Won (Innocent Man, I Need Romance) was Jang Hee-bin (yes, really), the object of Sung-chan’s affections and a woman of unusual talent: she, too, can see and communicate with ghosts. Putting her talent to materialistic use, she assists ghost and human alike, and ends up entangled with Hyung-joon and Shi-on.

 

Cinematography: My Rating 8/10

Special effects were nicely not overdone. The general lighting and cinematographic effects added to the character of the drama’s mysterious flavor without giving it an overtly fantasy or science fiction feel. The sets and lighting style is reminiscent of old 1940’s Bogart movies – and with Taecyeon’s sleeves rolled up in some scenes, all he was missing was a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. 😉

 

Overall Charisma: My Rating 7/10

A worthy watch, overall. If the pacing felt slow in a few places, it was for brief periods of necessary plot development that may not have been scripted as well as other scenes. Overall, the action was nicely interlaced with the drama, which was nicely mixed in with the romance, sprinkled here and there with a melodramatic moment.

My only question is, where is Ji-hoo*???

   

 Happy Drama Watching!

Who-Are-You3

 

*Yoon Ji-hoo: A character from the drama series “Boys Before Flowers” that has come to represent a wonderfully sweet, attentive man who has an unrequited love for a girl and who becomes her friend and/or protector. He never gets the girl.

 

Written by: Moon Ji-young (I Love Lee Tae-ri) and Ban Ki-ri

Directed by: Jo Hyun-tak (Beloved)

Tune-in: K-pop Fanatics from Across US on New Series – #mykpop

mnet casting
Photo courtesy MNet

Mnet America, the only national, English-language lifestyle network in the U.S. for fans of Asian pop culture, premieres its newest reality series #mykpop on TuesdaySeptember 24 at 7:30pm ET/PT. This series showcases the K-pop wave that is spreading worldwide by documenting the lives of nine of the biggest K-pop fans in America as they make the trip to the largest K-pop fan convention in North America – KCON 2013.  At first glance they all might seem very different, but they have one thing in coming – A deep passion for K-pop.

Peer behind the doors of a fast growing niche community and answer questions like: What does a K-pop fan look like? How much do these fans love K-pop? How does K-pop influence their daily lives? What happens when you bring K-pop’s biggest superfans together?

KCON 2013 took place August 24- 25, 2013 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Last Chance to see “Let Me Out!”: Screening to be cancelled if more tickets are not reserved!

LET ME OUT US Poster 1Only a few hours remain to secure our screening of “Let Me Out”, the Korean comedy starring  Kwon Hyun-Sang (THE KING 2 HEARTS and QUEEN OF AMBITION) and K-pop star, PARK HEE-VON from SM Entertainment’s girl band, MILK and star of (GRAND PRIX, READ MY LIPS, FAMILY and GOD’S QUIZ SEASON 3). The film is written, directed and produced by Korean Americans,  Jae Soh and Chang Rae Kim.

To secure this screening in San Diego for Wednesday, September 25 at 7:00pm, please go to:

http://www.tugg.com/events/5388

I hate to see the message sent to the Korean film industry that San Diego is not the right place to show Korean movies. Show your support for Korean cinema!

Happy Movie Watching!

Exclusive Interview: Actor Kwon Hyun-sang and Director Jae Soh from “Let Me Out!”

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Kwan Hyun Sang and Jae Soh sat down for an hour-long interview with Cheryl Dawley and Jini Shim of KKonnect.

 

Here’s what they had to say about their upcoming movie,”Let Me Out” – coming to San Diego for one day one only – and more!

 

Cheryl: Hyun-sang-씨, congratulations on your first leading role! How was it being the main focus of a movie?

Kwon Hyun-sang: This was the first film where I was in over 90% of the scenes and dialog. It was a big responsibility, but it was a great experience.

Cheryl: What was the best part of filming this movie?

Kwon-Hyun-Sang-1Kwon Hyun-sang: The type of film this was – being about film students – was fun, because I have been a film student so it was a concept I knew.

Cheryl: What are your hopes for “Let Me Out” – especially with respect to U.S. audiences?

Jae Soh: I really hope US audiences enjoy this movie. American audiences see to receive indie films better than Korean audiences do. Plus American like Zombies!

Cheryl: Anything funny or interesting happen during filming that you want to share?

Kwon Hyun-sang:  We were actually trying to film, (being film students) but the film crew were actors, so no one really knew what they were doing, so it was interesting trying to get the scenes done!

Cheryl: Do you plan on doing movies in the US?

HSJ7Kwon Hyun-sang: Yes, I’d like to make films in Hollywood.

Cheryl: You’ve now been in horror, comedy, historical, drama. What is your favorite genre?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I don’t have a favorite genre. Since I haven’t had that much experience yet, I am still learning and enjoying all the genres. I can’t really choose. It’s all acting, they’re all good.

Cheryl: You come from a a very well-known theatrical family. Is it hard establishing a name for yourself under the shadow of your parents? Or are they a big help?

Kwon Hyun-sang: Having famous parents is not necessarily as big a help as you might think. In fact, sometimes it can be a hindrance. Because my father has such a successful career and such a good reputation, I am always very conscious of that, and I am careful about what I do. The media always seems very interested, though.

Cheryl: You’ve played really great bad guys and really sweet good guys. What’s your preference?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I like playing the good guys!  (Cheryl’s note: His answer was immediate and unequivocal!)

Hyun-sang and jaeCheryl: 2013 has been a really busy year for you so far: Dramas: Fugitive of Joseon, Queen of Ambition; Movies:  Let Me Out, A City In Blossom, Fists of Legend. Which was your biggest challenge?

Kwon Hyun-sang: The Fugitive of Joseon (천명). It was a historical drama, and the directors had very definite ideas about how they wanted the character portrayed, so I was always working on that. Also, there were a lot of action scenes, lots of swordplay, and I even got injured. 

Cheryl: What are you working on now?

Kwon Hyun-sang: It’s a secret! But I’m taking a short break then I’m working on a movie and a drama.

Cheryl: What are your professional ambitions?

Kwon Hyun-sang: I want to do many more films and dramas. Eventually, I want to work in the U.S., too. Hollywood!

Cheryl: Films and dramas are so different. Do you have a preference?

HSJ4Kwon Hyun-sang: They are very different. I like doing movies because there’s more time to build characters and the filming is done at a slower pace. On the drama set, everything is rushed. There’s not as much time to develop a character, no time to build friendships amongst the cast. 

Cheryl: What are your personal ambitions?

Kwon Hyun-sang:  I’m a workaholic. I have no ambitions outside of work!

Cheryl: “Let Me Out” seems to be a movie about making movies. What makes this one stand out?

Jae Soh: Although this type of movie is more common in the U.S. it is quite uncommon in Korea. Also, Zombie movies are not really done in Korea, so this is really unusual. Zombies are pretty popular in the US, so this movie should appeal to American audiences as well, especially since it’s a comedy.

Cheryl: You’ve gone from American cinematographer to Korean writer/director/producer! Big changes. What was the impetus for the change?

Jae Soh: I worked in the US doing a cinematography and working on short films. There were plenty of opportunities to do more work in those areas, but I really wanted to direct. I moved to Korea, thinking that would put me on the fast track, (laughs) and 18 years later I’ve directed a movie. It’s been good, though, reconnecting with my Korean history. I didn’t know much Korean when I moved back here!

Jae & HS
Photo courtesy of Jae Soh

Cheryl: What was the inspiration for “Let Me Out”?

Jae Soh: We were kind of under the gun to produce something fast when the money came through, but I believe that being ready when opportunity knocks is important. The script was easier to write because I have been a film student and professor and have worked in the film industry.

Cheryl: Did you learn anything interesting while directing “Let Me Out”?

Jae Soh: Everything was a new experience. Just directing it was valuable experience. Learning to do things from the director’s point to view, and the production end as well. I was also more involved than usual in many other aspects of the film, such as promotion.

Cheryl: Is there anything you would change or do differently of you had the opportunity?

Jae Soh: Everything! As soon as you’re finished you find things you want to do differently!

Cheryl: Now that you’ve worked in the American film industry and the Korean film industry, can you compare and contrast? Especially with respect to artistic freedom, production, etc.

Jae Soh: On a basic level, the industries are very similar. There are some big differences in production. In the US, you have the Screen Actor’s Guild, unions, etc. There’s nothing like that in Korea. If production time runs over, no one gets paid overtime. Things are starting to change a little, though. Artistically, there is more freedom in Korea, in some ways. In the US, it seems you’re locked into certain formulas when making films. Korea films tend to break out of those molds. Artistically, they are not as set in their way – still experimenting. However, Korean audiences tend to be really picky. In fact, when American movies are released in Asia, they go to Korea first. If Korean audiences like it, it will do well everywhere.

Cheryl: What do you plan to do next? What’s the next project? Movies in Korea? Movies in the U.S.?

Jae Soh: I’m working on documentary about the changing landscape of Seoul. How the historical Seoul is disappearing. I’ve also got another feature film in the works. It will be more commercial. I would like to direct movies in the US, too.

All too soon, the questions were over, the evening was running late and it was time to bid our farewell. We thanked Hyun-sang and Jae for their time and for sharing a few laughs with us. Next – we see them at the movies!

HSJ6

 

Join us for a Movie meet-up:

AMC Fashion Valley Wednesday Night

The movie starts at 7:00pm

After-movie meet-up and discussion review? I want to hear your voices. Let’s have coffee or drinks. Make suggestions below!

“Let Me Out” plays Sept. 25. Buy your tickets by the 18th!!!

LET ME OUT Korean poster 1

The Korean Zombie comedy,”Let Me Out” plays for one showing only on Sept. 25.

Theater: AMC Fashion Valley 18

Date: 9/25/2013

Time: 7:30pm

 

 

Buy your tickets by the 18th! Tickets are available for purchase at the following website:

tugg.com/events/5388

[BIBIMBEATS] Track-By-Track: G-Dragon, ‘Coup D’etat’ – Why GD’s Most Polarizing Album Is His Most Important Yet

Back in March at a press conference for his ‘One Of A Kind’ promotional tour, G-Dragon created media buzz for his controversial response to a question asking how he’s changed over the past four years. Four years ago, upon the release of debut solo album ‘Heartbreaker’, G-Dragon considered himself an idol – someone with ‘cute, adorable and varied looks’ who still had a lot to learn. Fast-forward to 2013 and he’s very much an artist, putting more thought into the creative process in hopes of reinventing K-Pop as a whole. It’s with this in mind that the title for his second full-length effort ‘Coup D’etat’ is fitting. Pairing a wide variety of genres with a cynical undertone, G-Dragon puts the limitations of Hallyu under a punk sense of scrutiny. And with a list of guest collaborators that reads as something of a ‘Who’s Who’ in rising talent, ‘Coup D’etat’ will easily be the album that takes G-Dragon from a Korean idol to a global music star.

“COUP D’ETAT”: ‘Coup D’etat’ opens up with the greatly anticipated title track of the same name, a thickly layered trap-and-bass created in collaboration with Mad Decent producers Diplo (MIA’s “Paper Planes”, GD&TOP’s “Knockout”) and Baauer (“Harlem Shake”). The overall low-tempo creates a stark and declarative contrast to the steady stream of party anthems GD started with “Crayon” and “One Of A Kind”. While it didn’t fare as well on live music charts as other tracks on ‘Coup D’etat, Pt. 1’, it is by far the most important track in that section of the album. It’s a song that takes G-Dragon out of his safety zone as an idol and projects him directly into artistry. Is it a good K-Pop song? No, not really. But GD seems to have never considered it to be one. Classify it as a bold EDM track, and it introduces the audience to something a bit more challenging and outside of the box. It catches attention and allows the listener to take it from there.

“NILIRIA” featuring Missy Elliott: The next track “Niliria” puts GD and hip-hop veteran Missy Elliott together in something of a Hype Williams dream collaboration. Tribal beats paired with futuristic instrumentation were always something of Missy’s trademark, but throw in G-Dragon’s flair for inflection and the track is taken to a whole new level. During GD’s verse, he announces that “Niliria” is not only just a collaboration but ‘an international diplomacy through rap’, leaving his audience only anticipating more global hip-hop stars to step up next. (Earlier this year, both G-Dragon and rapper Ludacris’ camps confirmed a collaboration single was recorded for future release, although it didn’t make it to the final stages of production.)

“R.O.D” featuring Lydia Paek: Lydia Paek is no new name to YG Entertainment superfans. She’s written songs for a number of artists on the label’s current roster and is responsible in part for hits like 2NE1’s “I Love You” and Lee Hi’s “1 2 3 4”. Her YouTube channel showcases a wide array of vocal and dance covers, her adaptability as both a singer and dancer creating much fan hype for her own debut. While production on her own EP is indefinite, “R.O.D” is the first time Lydia steps into the YG focus as a recording artist, laying down the song’s chorus with almost a dancehall feel despite its choppy dubstep influence. The track also shows a huge growth in the style of YG staple producer Teddy, the stripped down, contemporizing bridge bringing ‘R.O.D’ a sense of hip-hop maturity reminiscent of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.

“BLACK” featuring Jennie Kim (KOR.) / featuring Sky Ferreira (ENG.): “Black” stands alone as the album’s only true ballad and showcases the talents of up-and-coming YG trainee Jennie Kim and American indie-pop girl du jour Sky Ferreira in the Korean and English versions, respectively. The two collaborators have two distinctive ways of singing, giving the song almost an entirely different feel depending on which version you’re listening to. Sky’s breathy delivery brings angst to a song that is already somber in nature, while Jennie’s voice provides a layer of vulnerability throughout. While having Sky work with G-Dragon may be toward his image’s advantage, it seems like almost a waste of a collaborator. However, Jennie’s work on “Black” is not only sufficient but brilliant – perhaps enough to even gain her substantial recognition even before her official debut.

“WHO YOU”: “Who You” tells the story of an ex-girlfriend who’s moved on and seems almost thrown in to reassure fans that have been skeptical throughout the album thus far that the ‘old G-Dragon’ is still alive. The poppy synthesizer played throughout matched with the ‘do-do-do’ of the chorus is much more Bruno Mars than it is the ‘MC-eating PacMan’ we found boasting his way through the first few tracks. The aggressive attack of his delivery slows down and softens up, making it sort of a strange fit when paired with the rest of the album, though still a fun and enjoyable track.

“SHAKE THE WORLD”: It’s no wonder that “Shake The World” introduces listeners to the second part of ‘Coup D’etat’. It was chosen as part of the 30-second teaser announcing the new album, as the title song for YG’s new reality show ‘WIN’, and is an all-around strong introduction to the natural progression taking place with G-Dragon as an artist. In fact, one could easily put “Shake The World” next to the first album’s “A Boy” as something of a growth marker. Fidgeting and frantic, the song is far removed from K-Pop, having less in common with PSY and more with Die Antwoord. (Also, pardon my fangirl, but everything past 1:15 should come with smelling salts. It’s hands down the coolest I’ve heard between GD and Choice37.)

“MICHIGO”: Originally released as a promotional single for global messenger app LINE, I wasn’t immediately sold on “MichiGO”. Everything sounded like I had heard it before in “Crayon” – that same ‘hip-hop meets house’ party track now turning into a formula helping both G-Dragon and YG Entertainment make a whole bunch of endorsement money. However, within the context of ‘Coup D’etat’, the song goes from being someone else’s commercial to being a part of GD’s attack. It flows in nicely after “Shake The World” to further solidify that glitchy, futuristic sound that’s evolving. Do I think it’s his most original track? No, but it’s really awesome to bump in my car.

“CROOKED”: Upon first listen, “Crooked” reminded me a lot of BIGBANG’s “Oh My Friend” collaboration with Korean rock outfit No Brain. But both lyrically and musically, the song seems to want to rouse up the same in-your-face rebellion found in “Coup D’etat”. (Is there any wonder why these both became the promoted singles?) I love the ‘Anarchy in the UK’ style of the music video, a continuation on the theme of doing away with the politics of constrained image and sound. The song has shown to be wildly successful both in Korea and internationally – proof that despite all of this artistic overhaul, G-Dragon can still write a hook.

“RUNAWAY”/“I LOVE IT” featuring Zion.T: “Runaway” seems like something of a throw-away track, similar to “What Do You Want?” from the GD&Top album. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. “I Love It” is only slightly better, the way the song builds into full-out cowbell-laden disco track enough to keep the listener from being entirely bored throughout. As a big fan of both Zion.T and German electro-house producer Boys Noize (who also worked with BIGBANG on Alive track “Feeling”), I expected a lot more from “I Love It”, but perhaps knowing what both are capable of when as their best is what so easily let me down.

“YOU DO (OUTRO)”: This song has quickly become my iTunes’ sleeper hit. The very basic hook and stripped down production still remaining very ‘hip-hop’ gives the end of the album a very early 00s Neptunes sound. It’s no wonder that upon releasing the album in full, Neptunes’ own Pharrell Williams is on Twitter begging GD for collaboration.


“No, seriously. Please happen.” – Me and every other N.E.R.D/G-Dragon fan

But if anything, just the fact that ‘Coup D’etat’ has made him a blip on someone like Pharrell Williams’ radar is putting him in a prime location. If ‘Coup D’etat’ is nothing more than a catalyst for breaking out of the ‘aegyo hip-hop’ image K-Pop is known for and being taken more seriously, G-Dragon is well on his way. Will he pull it off? Time only knows. But the buzz he’s created doesn’t seem to be dying down soon.

Fall Drama Watch: What’s New To View This Season

If the reviews have been coming on a less regular basis, it is not for lack of viewing. We are currently in the midst of a whole slew of great new dramas for the fall season. And with nothing ending, it seemed appropriate to report on what is going on in the Korean drama world.

 

Good-Doctor-04Good Doctor (굿 닥터)

The Good Doctor is the story of an autistic man pursuing his dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon. Socially awkward, but brilliant, Park Shi-on must overcome the social stigma of being different in a society that cherishes conformity. Filled with heartwarming episodes that focus on the medical challenges of children who come to the hospital for care, the drama also throws in a good measure of political maneuverings amongst the hospital higher-ups as well. The drama so far has been a brilliant mix of adorable youngsters, conniving business people and a cast of characters destined to be forever changed by the one man they resented from the day he stepped foot on the hospital campus.

Should you watch it? An enthusiastic yes! It’s one of your best bets for great entertainment at an enjoyable pace.

 

the-masters-sunThe Master’s Sun (주군의 태양)

Part melodrama, part romantic comedy and part fantasy, The Master’s Sun is one of the new Ghost Dramas presently airing. Tae Gong-sil suffers an accident and is left with the unwanted ability to see ghosts. Alone, and suffering from insomnia (those pesky specters just won’t leave her be!), she finds solice in an unlikely source: the loveless, money-grubbing Joo Joong-won, CEO of  a large company. For reasons unknown, his touch can dispel the ghosts that frighten the timid Tae Gong-sil. Once she discovers his unique gift, she doesn’t want to let him go. Joong-won, however, is not so happy about the company of a crazy-looking young woman, until he comes to believe in her gift, and finds that she might be useful.

Should you watch it? Yes – it’s fun. There are some great characters. So Ji-sub’s character has been a bit dimensionless so far, but things seem to be picking up…

 

Who-Are-You-01Who Are You? (후아유)

Who Are You? Is the other ghost-watcher drama. Yang Si-ohn awakes from a 6 year coma to find her memory gone and the ability to see ghosts as a replacement. As a police officer injured in the line of duty, but unable to recall the events surrounding her injury, she relegates herself to the Lost and Found Division, a welcome respite for Si-ohn. Besides, the objects in the Lost and Found  Division seem to have interesting stories that her unique capabilities are able to unravel. Her partner, Cha Gun-woo, sent to Lost and Found as punishment, becomes intrigued with her unusual crime-solving sense and he falls for her charms. Unfortunately, his rival in love is none other than her dead lover.

Should you watch it? Yes. It’s intriguing and fun, although at some points taking the love triangle seriously is difficult, although definitely amusing! If you enjoy Taecyeon and/or Kim Jae-wook, this is definitely for you. 😉

 

Ä®°ú ²É Åõ¼¦ ¾Æ¿ô¶óÀÎ ¿Ï¼ºSword and Flower (칼과 꽃)

This drama also goes by “Blade and Petal” which refers to the two major political dynamos at odds with each other at the end of the Goguryo Period in Korean history. The King, Yeong-nyu, is a pacifist who believes that war with the Tang will be the death of the “flower” (the people). The military general, Yeon Gae So-mun, believes that only by strengthening the military and meeting the Tang head-on, can the people survive. The stress of war is causing starvation in the kingdom. Each man firmly believes that what he desires is best for the people. Caught in the middle, in a Romeo and Juliette-like dilemma, are the children of the two great men: Princess So-hee and Choong, illegitimate son of the general. In a drama fraught with crossed-purposes and misunderstood objectives, the young people fight to protect the principles important to them, as well as the people important to them.

Should you watch this drama? Even if you are not a historical drama fan, I believe the characters are interesting and the fight scenes are a definite draw for the manly crowd. While the pace may slow down at times while political intrigues are fleshed out, they do serve a purpose.

Jung-Yi,_The_Goddess_of_Fire-p1Jung Yi: Goddess of Fire (불의 여신 정이)

Set in the Joseon Dynasty, Jung-yi is based on the story of a real historical figure: Baek Pah-sun, the first woman to become a potter by trade. She was kidnapped during the war. The drama begins before Jung-yi’s birth and chronicles her struggles through young adulthood. She was beloved by the prince, Gwang-hae. Palace politics abound. Filled with interesting characters, the pace can, nonetheless, be a bit slow at times.

Should you watch it? If you like historical dramas, yes. The cinematography is lovely and the story-line is good. The acting is also credible and enjoyable. The pace is slower than a standard rom-com, but this is meant to be an epic saga.

 

Two-Weeks-03Two Weeks (투윅스) 

Jang Tae-san has lived his life as an orphan thug. Forced by a gangster boss to do jail time in his place, Tae-san spends time in prison, rather than endangering the woman he loves. Years later he finds he has a daughter who is dying and needs his bone marrow. He’ll gladly donate, but the mob boss has just framed him once again, never imagining that Tae-san might fight back this time.

The most adorable small child on planet earth, Lee Chae-mi, plays the eminently endearing Seo Soo-jin, Tae-san’s brave little daughter, fighting cancer, cheering her father on. Twisted turns of events keep Tae-san running from the law in hopes of preserving his precious body long enough to save his precious daughter.

Should you watch it? Keep the Kleenex handy. In fact, have a back-up box ready as this one really tugs at the heartstrings. The only complaint I have is that the drama is literally one long chase scene, which, after a number of episodes, is getting a little old. I, however, need to see how this one ends…

Stay tuned for final reviews in the upcoming weeks.

All Things Korean for International Fans – Top 25 Korean Drama Cliches

Top 25 Korean Drama Clichés

Korean Dramas have reached the point of international fame; with viewers of different ages and ethnicities around the world tuning in to watch a new (subbed) episode of their favorite drama. Of course over time, stereotypes, patterns and clichés have emerged into the plots – and no matter how ridiculous or overused some of them get, fans still continue to adore them because they are, in an essence, what makes Korean Dramas.

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1. The Confession Kiss Scene:

When the two main characters finally confess to one another, that scene will usually contain a kiss. But that kiss won’t be romantic. No, their lips will barely be touching; the camera will circle in a 360-degree-slow-motion that lasts a good minute or two, with the girl’s eyes wide open in shock (because of course the guy initiated the kiss in the first place). Nothing says “I love you” better than a barely there kiss.

2. Love Triangle:

There will always be some kind of love triangle (or love square), where the girl is torn between two guys who reveal they are romantically interested in her. Occasionally it will be the guy caught between two girls; one who is the girl he has always been in love with that never paid attention to him until now, versus the main girl who he finally starts to like. But none the less, there will always be someone else to complicate the romance.

3. Poor Girl vs. Rich Guy:

The main girl will be a poor character, who lives in a rundown neighborhood in a tiny apartment. She will have several jobs because she is in debt or struggling to pay rent, but is very optimistic and usually very likable. The main guy will be rich in a huge, luxury apartment with an unbelievable view of the city. He has a high position job but he barely works and gets away with it because his family owns the company. He tends to be very arrogant, lazy and conceited.

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4. Grabbing the Wrist:

When the two main characters are fighting, the girl will try to leave and the guy will grab her wrist to try and stop her. Sometimes it works and he is able to pull her back into an embrace of some sort, but other times she will forcefully pull her hand away and walk off without looking back. Another example situation is when the girl is on a date with another guy; the main character will coolly walk in, tell the other guy the girl is taken and grab her wrist, dragging her out of the restaurant or cafe.

5. Good Guys Always Finish Last:

It doesn’t matter that the secondary guy is always there for the girl; that he is there to save her from trouble, lend her money, keep her entertained or be there for her when she is feeling down. It doesn’t matter that he is richer, smarter or nicer than the main guy because the main girl will always choose the “jerk” or “bad guy”.

6. Accidental First Kiss:

The Confession Kiss is usually not the first time the two main characters kiss. More often than not, the two will have some kind of situation in where they accidentally kiss. Either one of them trips on the other and their lips meet when they fall to the floor, or one will kiss the other to make someone else jealous or keep up a “cover story” that they were indeed dating someone.

7. The Evil Mother:

This is usually the main guy’s mother, since he is the one who is significantly richer than the girl. She will be uptight and snobby, not accepting the fact that her precious son is dating or wants to be married to someone that low in society. She will try to bribe the girl to leave her son with money or cause trouble for the girl to get her to disappear.

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8. Hospital Visit:

There will be some trip to the hospital but 90% of the time it’s because a main character fainted from shock or stress, and not because of an actually medical illness. If it is something serious then it will be something deadly like cancer or a fatal heart disease. But they don’t call an ambulance whenever said person gets sick, no usually the guy will carry the girl in his arms, running several blocks, yelling for her to wake up instead of taking a cab.

9. The Main Leads Getting Drunk:

At some point the main girl will get drunk, because she is stressed out about her job or a personal matter. The guy will come to pick her up and she will make random statements and drunken motions which will result in her passing out and the guy having to carry her or drive her home. Occasionally the roles will be reversed and the girl has to take the guy home, and more often than not, the one intoxicated will say some cryptic statement that means they like the other main character. But they are of course only admitting this because they are drunk.

10. Brand New Cellphones:

It doesn’t matter if you are dirt poor- you will have a brand new, latest edition smartphone that just so happens to be the same one as the other main character. Usually dramas will promote a certain cell phone model, so every character in the drama will have the same type of phone whether it fits their character or not.

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11. Mandatory Piggyback Ride:

The guy will usually give the girl a piggyback ride at some point in the drama. Either when the girl is drunk and unable to walk home or when the couple is together and he willingly does this sweet action for her. The guy will make some joke about the girl being “too heavy” (but of course this is never the actual case because the main female character will be unbelievably skinny).

12. The Tragic Car Accident:

Apparently no one in Korea can drive well because there are always one or more tragic car accidents per drama. A) Either one of the main character’s parent (or parents) died in a car accident when they were little. B) They get in a car accident themselves and lost their memory or C) someone close to them like a best friend or a first love was in a car accident and died.

13. Random U-turns:

Driving rules seem to not apply to the main guy because there will be at least one scene where the guy makes a random U-Turn (but of course coincidentally there will be no other cars around the area for him to hit). They make this type of spontaneous action because they A) receive some urgent call from a family member or loved one or B) realize they have to go back to say something to the main girl before it is too late.

14. The Estranged Parent:

One or more character will have bad relations with their parents. Either they abandoned them when they were young, or they disapproved of their career/life choices and cut them off financially (and emotionally). Most of the time this is occurs between the main guy character and his father, because the son does not want to take over the family business.

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15. Airport Scene:

A character decides to move to another country but before they leave, their loved one will go chasing after them, telling them not to leave. This usually lasts for about five minutes of one character running at lightning speed through the airport while the other one causally strolls with their heavy suitcases to their terminal. They either miss each other by a second or the person arrives right on time, finally having caught up with the walking person.

16. “Engrish” (Bad English):

If a character studied abroad then they went to America (or more specifically New York). The character will have “great” English abilities making them highly desirable in the work place and automatically makes them that much more attractive to any Korean person. However, when they express these tremendous English skills with a line or two, native speakers will cringe at the accent and wonder how the scriptwriters could get away with adding a foreign line for an actor/actress who doesn’t know said foreign language.

17. The Nicknames:

The main characters will always have nicknames for one another. If they are made by secondary characters then they are usually endearing and sweet. But if they are nicknames made by the main guy and girl (for each other) then they are “mean”, teasing nicknames towards each other.

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18. Cross-dressing Females:

Whenever there is cross-dressing in dramas, it is usually done by the female leads. With a simple short haircut they become a convincing pretty boy (well…some of them…), and use this disguise to obtain a job opportunity they wouldn’t have had if they applied as a female. They spend a majority of their time trying to keep their identity a secret from their co-workers and boss, one of which is always the main male love interest, and by default there are several comedic moments when they were almost discovered.

19. The “Almost” Meet-Up:

Either from the very beginning, there will be a scene where the two characters are in a common location (before they have even met) and they barely miss each other, someone turning one way at the incorrect time. This also happens when one character is trying to find someone else in the drama. They will look everywhere but from their certain angle they can’t see the person they are looking for but the viewers can. Or when a character ends up eavesdropping on a conversation and hears something they weren’t supposed to hear.

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20. Shower Scene:

There is always that one scene where the main guy is pondering over something important. But of course what better place to think about life choices than in the shower! Foggy shots of the handsome actor with a set of six-packs, with water dripping down his body and he is running his hands through his hair like a model. This trend in Korean dramas is pretty new, but none the less extremely liked by the female audience.

21. Taking out the Cellphone Battery:

It’s not enough to simply turn off your phone, oh no, Koreans find it necessary to take out the cellphone battery whenever they are avoiding someone’s call. Instead of putting their phone on silent or ignoring the calls, they tend to throw their phones to the opposite end of the room, physically separating the battery and cell phone so there is no chance to receive a call.

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22. Phobias:

The men in Korean Dramas tend to have certain phobias; weakness to show their “tender” side that they hide behind their arrogant, pretty, rich faces. Whether it is rational or not, the rich male lead will either have a phobia towards heights, germs, crowds, in-closed areas, transportation vehicles (cars) or large bodies of water (pools). The main female will usually help her love interest overcome this fear.

23. Norebang:

Koreans (and most Asians) love their Karaoke. In Korean, the name for Karaoke is “norebang”. Norebang is a must to bring co-workers closer together – for how can you not bond after singing, dancing and drinking into the early mornings? In dramas, this is an opportunity for the comic side characters to bring laughter to the audience with their off-pitch singing and girl group dancing. Also, this is a chance for the male lead to show off his amazing singing abilities and serenade the main girl (though not directly) with a sweet, slow, love song.

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24. Saunas:

Koreans have their own type of saunas called “Jjimjilbang”. These bathhouses have hot tubs, showers, ice rooms, massage rooms, exercise rooms, saunas (of course) and many other forms of relaxation for the tired business man or overly active family. In dramas, there is usually a visit to a type of Jjimjibang combined with the orange, blue and pink famous matching clothing, the ‘Princess Lea’ towel buns, and the boiled eggs these scenes always release the tension of the drama and bring a comedic moment.

25. Couple Items:

Who wouldn’t want to be in love in Korea? When there is literally couple items for anything you can think of. It’s not just matching T-shirts, but full length outfits from head to toe and any other accessory (cellphone charms being the most popular). In the sweet moments of dramas, when the main leads are enjoying the calm before the storm, producers like to include fluffy scenes of the couple getting matching items to show the world their cheesy love.