Friday Drama Review: “Incarnation of Money”

Is Money the Root of the 7 Deadly Sins?

 

Incarnposter1 The eternal battle – winning at all costs verses leading a righteous life.

A story of the redemption of some, for others, the inability to redeem one’s self.

And money. Lots of money. BIG money. The kind of money that incites enormous greed and induces people to abandon their convictions and sense of moral responsibility in order to acquire it.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

“Money is God”, Lee Kang Suk’s father tells him at a young age. A bright child raised in a wealthy household with a doting mother, attentive staff and proud but often-absent father, Kang Suk is a confident young man with a bright future ahead of him. The fairy-tale future crashes around him when his father’s mistress, Eun Bi Ryung and right hand man, Ji Se Kwang conspire to kill his father and frame his mother. Stripped of his family and wealth, the young Kang Suk discovers the truth and becomes the target of twisted cruelty.

Injured and suffering memory loss, Kang Suk is discovered by the powerful, politically connected loan shark Bok Hwa Sool and her quirky daughter Bok Jae In, who christen him with the name Lee Cha Don. They eventually place him in an orphanage, but provide funds for the best education.

incarnation castA hero who is beautifully flawed, imperfect – gasp – even criminal! Lee Cha Don grows up to be a conceited, self-assured, money-hungry extortionist. Not your average Prince Charming, to be sure.

Jae In, our heroine, is a conceited, self-assured but approval-seeking, food-hungry, overweight over-eater. Not your average Princess.

The story revolves around the struggles of the conspiracy group who killed Kang Suk’s father and conspired to keep everything secret and their rise to powerful positions with the help of the money stolen the family, and Lee Cha Don’s (Kang Suk’s) discovery of his own identity and battle to set things right.

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

As an actor who appears equally comfortable dressed in a fashionable three-piece suit and dressed in drag as a dynastic queen, Kang Ji Hwan is remarkable to say the least. His acting style is amusing and engaging. His performances are honest. His portrayal of Lee Cha Don/ Kang Suk was, for the most part, credible.

Hwang-Jung-Eum-incarnation-of-moneyHwang Jung Eum played Bok Jae in, the wealthy loan shark’s daughter with an unusual personality. Although her character in this drama was not very appealing, whether it was the actress or the script is debatable.

The script called for Bok Jae In to be grossly overweight, a theme that’s been used successfully in dramas like Dream High and less effectively in dramas like Romance Town. The make up work is outstanding. It’s difficult to see where the real actor ends and the artificial pudge begins. The question becomes whether or not the weight issue is necessary or if it is being used rather gratuitously and/or abusively. In Dream High, the weight issue was vital to IU’s character. In Incarnation of Money, not so much. The character of young Bok Jae In was unpleasant and unappealing even without the weight factor. Using weight for gratuitous purposes felt like a cheap shot throughout the series.

The other issue it caused was the implausible nature of the romance between Lee Cha Don and Bok Jae In. Lee Cha Don thoroughly disliked Bok Jae In when she was overweight but began to love her after plastic surgery (cheater!) Nothing in her personality changed at all, yet viewers are supposed to believe that Cha Don loves Jae In for who she is. There was nothing in the script to support this premise, so the romance always felt artificial and was a major detraction from the story.

Incarnation-of-Money-6Take out the romance, though, and a fine Machiavellian tale emerges of lust, greed, avarice, wrath, pride and envy. (For those wondering, that’s 6 out of the 7 Deadly Sins. Perhaps Jae In’s gluttony was included to make a perfect set?) Park Sang Min was entirely believable as the sleazy prosecutor cum murderer Ji Se Kwang. Oh Yoon Ah as Eun Bi Ryung, mistress, abandoned lover, and not-so-intelligent businesswoman, was required to play a huge variety of emotions and character iterations and did so with style. The other major characters in the evil cadre, Lee Seung Hyung as Go Ho and Lee Ki Young as Kwon Jae Kyu added depth and drama. The loan shark, Bok Hwa Sool, played by Kim Soo Mi, was a delightfully witty character. Her descent into dementia was treated with dignity and humor, and acted with soul.

There were, to be sure, a few unbelievable gaffes – like the evil chief prosecutor Ji Se Kwang goading Cha Don by telling him their plans as a fait accompli in writing via email. Pure silliness.

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

While my preference would have been to leave out Bok Jae In’s weight problem, the make-up work was very well done. Filming for some stunts was also nicely done, others were kind of cheesy. Cinematographic themes that began at the onset were not carried out throughout the drama, making it feel almost as if a new cinematographer was introduced at some point.

Drama clichés: Same old prison, same sets as seen in many others; shower scene (thank you, Kang Ji Hwan); little bit of a turnaround as we have a rich girl, poor boy (who should have been a rich boy, alas).

Incarnation_of_Money_OST_Part_2Music: My rating 7/10

Final song “Up and Down” EXID extremely fun, catchy (But then, I’m a big EXID fan…): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7qFVs4RbC8

Be-boppy fun. “Chance” Kim Ji Soo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PV5Ge9zf0Q

“Memories of You” IVY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jbjf2mOqHM

The main theme: “Money” P-Type feat. Kang Min Hee of Swings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN376rQW5TQ

“You Are the Love” Seo In Young http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGc41fdoDp0

Great Song! “The Day for You” Jang Jae In

Overall Charisma: My rating 6/10

I debated long and hard over what kind of overall rating to give this drama. There was so much to like in this drama series! The general concept was good. The acting was good. The music was good. The cinematography was fine. The biggest problem was that the romance in the drama was so implausible that it was a difficult hurdle to overcome, and it colored too much of the drama. Had the romance had been downplayed, perhaps I could have scored the drama higher. But even the ending rested on the culmination of the romantic pairing, in the worst possible context, in the least probable way. Better characters were left unaccounted for and instead the focus was placed on the least gratifying aspect of the series.

Other aspects of the drama ended pretty well. Conclusions for the ‘axis of evil’ while not entirely explained, were at least appropriate. I find it interesting that directors and scriptwriters feel that romance (at any cost) is more important than a good story.

 

 Happy Drama Watching!

drag queen

Production Company: JS Pictures

Chief Producer: Han Jung Hwan

Director: Yoo In Sik

Screenwriter: Jang Young Chul, Jung Kyung Soon

 

Friday Drama Review – “Hong Gil Dong”: Nearly Caused My Demise

HongGilDong1 셰릴씨의 ‘드라마가좋다’ – ‘홍길동’

그녀가 최고로 꼽는 사극 중 하나인 ‘홍길동’의 평을 들어보자

Quite some time ago now, I had decided it was time to conquer a new genre of Korean drama and, never having seen a historical drama, I set about reading synopses. Hong Gil Dong looked to fit the bill — a Korean Robin Hood? Perfect. Our Robin Hood stories are fun and adventurous so this was sure to be great fun. Yeah. Continue reading “Friday Drama Review – “Hong Gil Dong”: Nearly Caused My Demise”

Friday Drama Review – “Hong Gil Dong”: Nearly Caused My Demise

HongGilDong 셰릴씨의 ‘드라마가좋다’ – ‘홍길동’

그녀가 최고로 꼽는 사극 중 하나인 ‘홍길동’의 평을 들어보자

Quite some time ago now, I had decided it was time to conquer a new genre of Korean drama and, never having seen a historical drama, I set about reading synopses. Hong Gil Dong looked to fit the bill — a Korean Robin Hood? Perfect. Our Robin Hood stories are fun and adventurous so this was sure to be great fun. Yeah. :-/

I will begin by telling you that this is, to date, one of my favorite historical dramas. However, I also experienced at least three days post—drama trauma, being reduced to a sobbing, blubbering mess. OK, I may be a little emotional.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Hong Gil Dong is a mythical figure is Korea as well known as Robin Hood or King Arthur is to English speaking people. Understanding his story and myth was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this drama as references are made to this character as colloquially as we do with our mythical figures.

The story in set in Joseon times and revolves around a man born illegitimately to a high-ranking official with mad skills in the martial arts. Although initially a happy—go—lucky drifter, he is inspired to fight for justice for the common people. While the Hong Gil Dong is indeed a Robin Hood sort of figure, the character quickly evolves, and the story becomes something more along the lines of “Braveheart”, than the lighthearted Robin Hood adventure tale the synopses led me to believe.

Script/Acting: My rating 8/10

Kang Ji Hwan stars as Hong Gil Dong and Jang Geun Suk as Prince Lee Chang Hui, a young man with the best of ambitions, wanting to protect his people well and seeing the value of Hong Gil Dong. Sung Yu Ri is Heo Yi Nok, a sweet, innocent, but not terribly bright young woman loved by both men. The trio creates a dynamic connection with each other Hisand with the viewers. Jang Geun Suk’s performance was stellar and, in my opinion, one of his finest performances. Kang Ji Hwan also shone, but I have yet to see anything of his I have not liked (yet?) There were a fleet of fabulous, extremely well-written and well-acted characters aside from the main three as well: a mad king played by Jo Hee Bong, Choi Ran as Lady Noh, the ever-present guardian to the prince, as well as the many wonderful oddballs in Hong Gil Dong’s tribe of misfits.

The script itself is a delightful mix of fantasy, comedy and ultimately heartrending, gut—wrenching drama. The characters are built and developed thoughtfully throughout. Although set in the Joseon period, period language is not used, but modern day language, including modern slang.

Cinematography: My rating 8/10

Fun special effects, silly props and great sets made for seriously good viewing. Hilarious costuming that literally looks like badly patched bathrobes alongside spectacular period costumes constantly tweaked the viewers’ sense of propriety. Somewhat distracting are the odd sounds not filtered in many quiet indoor scenes. The following scene is Yi Nok and Hong Gil Dong’s first comical encounter:

Music: My rating 8/10

I think it must be mentioned that only now, over a year later, can I finally listen to Park Wan Kyu’s “Fate” without weeping. Lovely sad songs abound, and the vast majority of the music is more than worthy of listening to more than once. Track lists are available online although not as popular on American music venues.  ”Yun“ is a haunting tune, ”Alone“, heartbreaking, ”Back To You My Tears“ evokes a sense of yearning, ”What If“ beautifully romantic (and sung by Tae Yeon of SNSD).

The real fun, however is the wild mix-ups thrown in here and there. For example, the opening scenes feature a Lord’s extravagant party complete with entertainment that suddenly becomes break-dancing to a thoroughly modern R & B track. One would have thought Shinee and the Wonder Girls dropped in. Moments later it’s a fast-paced fantasy martial arts extravaganza. The music throughout is a wild mixture of modern and period.

Overall Charisma: My rating 9/10

Again, for a drama where to American sensibilities, everything’s is just totally messed up at the end, it was in fact, refreshingly honest, humorous, dreadful, and real. The fact that it evoked such strong emotions is evidence in and of itself that it was drama at its’ finest.

I was intrigued that despite the fact that everything went horribly wrong in the end and my mind was screaming that it was just NOT HOW THINGS SHOULD GO, surprisingly, it all made perfect sense. The final decisions, while sad, we’re inevitable and correct. In an American drama, something ridiculous probably would have happened to make everything turn out all right, but not so in a Korean drama. The fact that it all ended horribly was — well — OK. In fact, it was really the perfect ending for the story. A happy ending would have nullified everything that happened before.

So much more like real life, don’t you think? Dang. That’s kind of depressing. Better go watch something happy now.

Happy Drama Watching!

jang geunsuk

Friday Drama Review: Lie to Me – Anytime

Lets return to 2011. There were several really great dramas that year including Tree with Deep Roots, 49 Days, Dream High, The Princess’ Man and Heartstrings – all of which are review-lieworthy, by the way. While listening to some exceptionally epic ballads issuing from my iPod, I was reminded of (and had to watch yet again) another 2011 favorite: “Lie to Me” with Kang Ji Hwan and Yoon Eun Hye.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

Who wants to be forever under the foot of the woman who stole (and married!) your first love? Intolerable taunts lead our heroine to tell a little white lie (“I’m married”); the gargantuan snowball that lands on her head as a result provides episodes loaded with comedy and romance galore.

Enter a demanding, handsome chaebol bachelor whose orderly life is suddenly disrupted by the hardworking but free—spirited, somewhat scattered Yoon Eun Hye. Following obediently along the proscribed path set before him, his life is suddenly turned upside down and inside out by rumors of a “secret” marriage to an unknown civil servant. Mix in an ex-fiancé and a runaway brother and the possibilities for confusion and trouble are endless.

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

Eun Hye

 

The role is perfect for Yoon Eun Hye who is delightful as a sweet, scattered, lovable Gong Ah Jung. The role fits her acting style perfectly.

ji HwanKang Ji Hwan as the cool, dispassionate, turned passionate, Hyun Ki Joon was also a perfect choice. Kudos to the couple for passionately convincing embraces and smooches. (Not your standard fare in K-dramas to be sure! LOL)

sung joon

 

Sung Joon (fabulous in Shut Up Flower Boy Band) was a credible, lovable and oh so pitiful Hyun Sang Hee. Excellent performances were put in by a number of veteran actors and actresses. The script held a few interesting surprises in what could have been a relatively predictable storyline. Especially gratifying was the evolving relationship between archrivals Gong Ah Jung and Yoo So Ran. Too often, ex-friendships remain one dimensional and static, but the storyline between these two women remained a compelling feature of the drama.

Drama Cliches: Taking care of him when he’s sick, carrying her piggyback, requisite hospital scene, a second male lead who won’t get the girl (sigh), running into each others arms on the beach. Let’s not forget really dumb mistakes that lead to obvious misunderstandings. (The jewelry box near the end.)

Cinematography: My rating 7/10

The drama has some great scenery, filming on Jeju Island as well as Seoul proper. As in many SBS dramas, the SBS building was used as the business office building, having failed to mask the sign in at least one scene where Ki Joon is racing into the building. There were places minor sound distractions were not masked well. Minor issues to be sure.

Music: My rating 9/10

Unbelievably sweet ballads prevail throughout drama. As I said previously, said ballads on my iPod provoked a second viewing of this drama! My personal favorite is “Walking on a Cloud” performed by Cho Kyo Chan. Sadly, nothing is available for purchase on iTunes, but the following tracks can be found online if you’d like to listen to them: “Shameless Lie” (4 Minute’s Heo Ga Yoon), “If This Night Passes” (SS501’s Kim Hyung Jun), “I Belong to You” (MBLAQ), “You are my Love” (Kim Yeon Woo), and “Are You Still Waiting” (Hee Young). Here’s a fan-made teaser set to my favorite music:

Overall Charisma: My rating 8/10

One of the best features of this drama is not so much the storyline, as the characters themselves. The evolution of each person was a drama in and of itself. Too often, characters evolve, if at all, in predictable ways, but in “Lie To Me”, personalities grew and changed in a somewhat realistic fashion.

I’m thinking twice is probably not going to be my lifetime viewing limit on this drama.  If you haven’t seen it at least once, it’s worth a try – at the very least for the music! (If not for the PDA… :-p)

Happy Drama Watching!

lean in