Thursday, February 13, 2014

Drama Review: Shark/The Legend of Orpheus: Don’t Look Back (2013)

Rating: 7/10

Genre: revenge, thriller, melodrama, romance, mystery

The Cast:
Kim Nam Gil as Han Yi Soo/Kim Joon
Son Ye Jin as Jo Hae Woo
Ha Suk Jin as Oh Joon Young
Honey Lee as Sec.Jang
Nam Bo Ra as Han Yi Hyun
Lee Si Yeon as Kim Dong Soo

The Plot:
                A man comes back to Korea to fulfill his revenge mission against his lover’s family. He covers his real identity in order to unravel the mystery surrounding his father’s death and many unknown deaths. Then he uses his former lover who now torn between past first love and present husband to bring down his sworn enemy.

Kim Nam Gil

                Shark is revenge thriller melodrama by writer/director duo Kim Ji-woo and Park Chan-hong (the minds behind Resurrection and The Devil). It was also Kim Nam Gil’s army comeback project so many people anticipate it. The drama however didn’t live up to the expectations and the ending sealed the deal as disappointed drama. This drama also has many allegories in form of shark and Chagall’s painting “Orpheus”. The shark fish symbolizes that life must goes one as shark has to keep moving in order to live. The “Orpheus” painting features in some scene to remind us that this is a story between man and woman that cannot be together. The painting depicting the sad myth of Orpheus where he travels to the underworld to save his wife, only to lose her in the end because he looks back before they’ve both reached the upper world.
                The first few episodes are good, gripping and balanced. They provide background story to romance and the revenge mission. The childhood story is tragic and one can only hope their life wouldn’t be as bad as Yi Soo. He was poor and his father was merely a driver in Jo Family where he met his lover, Hae Woo. Then, someday his father framed as hit and run driver only to murdered days after. As Yi Soo tried to unravel the secrets behind his father’s murder, he was hit by truck. Severely damaged Yi Soo had to get reconstruction surgery that changes his face and his physique gets tainted. As convenient as any other dramas, Yi Soo just happens to be CEO of Giant Hotel, rival of Jo Hae Woo’s family hotel and Jo Hae Woo just happens to be prosecutor in charge of some mystery murders. The secondary characters are nice and sometimes provide comic relief and happy moments in an otherwise bleak and depressing drama. The story between Han Yi Hyun, Yi Soo’s younger sister and Kim Soo Hyun is even interesting and memorable. The main romance is depressing as ever as Hae Woo already has husband but still play fire with Yi Soo, leaving husband, Joon Young, the loneliest man all the time. Their romance is passionate made by promises and kisses but you can’t help but feel sympathy to Joon Young that left out and clueless most of the time
 As the story moves the drama little by little unravel the mysteries all thanks to Prosecutor Jo-Detective Byun combo and some random professor in charge of explaining the history of Korea and the connection with evil mastermind, Granddaddy/Chairman Jo. If there’s one thing this drama does well it is the creation of the evil character, Granddaddy/Chairman Jo, Hae Woo’s grandfather and Chairman of Gaya Hotel. He is truly terrifying and beyond redemption. In early episodes he seems nice and even Hae Woo cannot believe his Granddaddy would do many evil things. But towards the end more and more horrendous stories came up and truly justify Grandaddy Jo position as the evil of all evil.
What totally kills the drama is of course the ending. The ending maybe the most WTF ending in K-drama history and really makes me want to forget this drama. Warning!! Spoiler!! So in the end the hero died with no solid reason why he must die in the closing stage of this drama. Even when he cannot be with his lover (because she has husband) doesn’t mean he must die. What makes me mad and angry, he died because of Evil Chairman who only get prison sentence and still smile in the end. What a way to anger the viewer who from day 1 roots for the hero to destroy the villain. The villain doesn’t feel any remorse or even apologize and he still dares to kill the hero!! End of spoiler. The revenge mission seems moot and at some point you just want the hero to forget the revenge and live happily with his sister. 
Ha Suk Jin

It also wastes Ha Suk Jin’s talent as Oh Joon Young. Most of the time he just seems sad, confused, depressed, unable to get Hae Woo’s attention. He is clueless and only knows the bigger picture when everyone in their family already knows. He is supportive, kind, nice husband and good cook but he just can’t get Hae Woo’s love. Even his own father only confess to him when it’s too little too late. Poor Joon Young!!  To conclude this drama also solidifies Kim Nam Gil’s position as “Nation’s Corpse” as he almost always die in every project he’s in. Poor Kim Nam Gil!!

Life Lessons:
1.    Never watch Kim Nam Gil’s drama/film before it finished just to know the ending. It is painful and depressing to see your hero die in the end.
2.       Never seek revenge to anyone, especially the one that higher than you and the one that close to your lover. Your revenge either fails miserably because your opponent has so much power he can destroy you or your love distract your revenge mission.

Drama Review: Alice in Cheongdamdong (2012)

Rating: 7/10

The Cast:
Park Shi Hoo as Cha Seung Jo
Moon Geun Young as Han Se Kyung
So Yi Hyun as Seo Yoon Joo
Kim Ji Sook as Tommy Hong

The Plot:
A Candy heroine who tired became a Candy and wants to be “Cheongdamdong Wife” while pursue a career as designer. She meets a wacky, mentally disorder chaebol, Cha Seung Jo, old friend, Seo Yoon Joo and fashion designer, Tommy Hong all the way to move closer to live up her dream in Cheongdamdong. 

A social commentary drama about present day Korea that uphold materialism in form of money, physical beauty, and other worldly things. To be” Cheongdamdong Wife” one must possess money, brain, and beauty and all should be done in elegant manner. Many women want to climb social ladder but only a select and lucky few can be chaebol’s wife. It’s the re-imaginary of Alice in Wonderland story as the heroine Han Se Kyung literally became Alice in a world that have different set of rules and standards, Cheongdamdong district in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea.  
Se Kyung is smart, capable heroine but intelligence isn’t enough to get decent job as fashion designer. Lack of foreign education and connections means she should be satisfied with rock bottom job in fashion industry. Seung Jo is a very different chaebol that we used to see. He has mental disorder and crazy antics and he rarely makes physical abuse. He is charming, funny, and romantic and it does help that Park Shi Hoo acted with his antic comedy that made me laugh everytime he’s onscreen. The second leads are all interesting. Tommy Hong is awesome, especially towards the end of the drama when he supports Han Se Kyung to get back with Seung Jo. Seo Yoon Joo should get “best frenemy award” in which she isn’t all nice to Se Kyung but provide reality checks and guide. Even the supporting cast, Daddy Cha and Han Family are interesting characters that interact like normal people.

To be honest I like this drama. The character growths are real and didn’t feel like caricature. The romance is fluffy and sweet, the melo is not downright sad or sappy. The comedy is not over the top but it makes me laugh hard especially when Seung Jo seems like manic. Many people find this drama silly but I find it amusing. I even rooted for the second leads to be couple in the end. The story could be packed so much better and not dragged many episodes. The manipulation plot didn’t seem real as I never consider Se Kyung manipulate her feeling towards Seung Jo and Seung Jo just need to wake up to face the reality. All in all “Alice in Cheongdamdong” is a decent drama for me.

Life Lessons:  
If there’s one life lesson that people have to remember from this drama it must be that love is integral. You cannot love someone just because one thing and leave the other things. If you love someone, you need to accept his/her status, personality, money, education, physical looks, etc. You need to love him/her as a whole package.