Saturday, May 31, 2014

DramaQueen Korean Romantic Comedy Movies List

I have always enjoy watching romance comedy since my school days. There were many romance comedy movies that I had watched and here are a list of movies which I enjoyed watching. Feel free to share with me your favorite movies or dramas. If you are looking for some old school dramas to reminisce, please look for this link: DramaQueen Old-School Korean dramas list

Title: 100 days with Mr Arrogant 

Starring: Kim Jae Won, Ha Ji Won

Storyline: Ha-Yeong (Ha Ji Won) a high school student, accidentally kicked a can and hit a rich college student Hyun-Jun. He demanded $3000 for the car scratched. Unable to pay the compensation, Ha-Yeong signed an enslavement agreement with Hyun-Jun to be his slave for 100 days. They gradually fall for each other. 

My thoughts: I absolutely love the main leads. Ha Ji Won does have great chemistry with all her co-stars! The story itself is chessy, unbelievable and cute. All the goofy, hilarious situations and imaginations, together with those over-the-top exergerated expressions were the highlights. I supposed these are the elements of a typical Korean romance comedy drama. Yes, it is supposed to be romance comedy, therefore the storyline is plain silly. I must admit that I just watch this show with little expectation and normally this type of movie is predictable. My advice is just to watch this movie to relax your mind and get ready for some good laugh. This is the first time where Kim Jae Won whose nickname is killer smile and milky skin attempted a romantic comedy movie. 

Title: My Sassy Girl 

Starring: Jun Ji Hyun, Chae Tae Hyun

Storyline: Gyeon-Woo (Chae Tae Hyun) an engineering college student met a nameless girl (Jun Ji Hyun) on the train. Their fate has crossed and a series of abuses unfolds. However, Gyeon-Woo is determined to heal the girl's wound and to overcome her pain. 

My thoughts: Chae Tae Hyun is a good actor and I pity his character in this movie because of his silliness. His face looked like a "wounded puppy" that is quite comical. Everytime when he was been abused by the girl, my heart goes out to him. Nonetheless, I did laughed at him and thought it was funny for him to be mistreated by Jun Ji Hyun. This is a rather complicated feeling because I really feels for the characters. One moment the scenario can be funny and the next moment can be touching. Sometimes, I root for the leads to be together and sometimes, I rather Gyeon-Wooi stop being foolish with his thoughts. Anyway, I truly recommend this movie because of the nice plot, amazing chemistry between the leads and the beautiful theme song - I believe.

Title: My Little Bride

Starring: Kim Rae Won, Moon Geum Young

Storyline: Bo-Eun (Moon Geum Young) is an ordinary high school girl that worries about grades and has a crushed on a baseball team ace, Jung Woo. One day, her grandfather order her to marry Sang-Min (Kim Rae Won) who is in his twenties because of an old pact he had made with Sang Min grandfather. 

My thoughts: I am bias towards Kim Rae Won and I totally root for Moon Geum Young with him. The storyline is illogical and weird but I do enjoyed the interactions between the leads. They started out as strangers and begin to know each other better. Nowadays, young people believe in freedom of love and refused to have arranged marriage. What do you think? I personally felt that arrange marriage will be good if the couple truly love each other. Sometimes, if we don't try, we would never know what is the outcome. Nonetheless, this is a sweet movie that is nice to watch for the first time but you may not want to watch it again. 

Title: 200 Pounds Beauty

Starring: Kim Ah Joong, Joo Jin Mo

Storyline: Hana (Kim Ah Joong) is an overweight phone sex employee and the ghost singer of Ammy, a famous pop singer who used lip sync. He was humiliated by Ammy infront of her crush Sang Jun ( Joo Jin Mo). Heartbroken, Hana attempted suicide. Fortunately she was saved by her phone sex customer who happened to be a plastic surgeon.

My thoughts: Come to think of it, it is quite sad that the society shaped us the way we are. The influence of the media affected our perspective about being unique  individual that people can accept just the way we truly are. After watching this movie, I felt that the movie is trying to convey this message: In order for people to accept us, we ought to accept and love ourselves first. Confidence is the key factor and some people resort to plastic surgery to achieve certain looks which boasted their confidence. This movie emphasize on how people judge through appearance and how shallow some people are. Nonetheless, there is a reality to this situation. I like the ending of this movie and it definitely end in a positive note. 

Title: My Boyfriend is Type B

Starring: Lee Dong Gun, Han Ji Hye

Storyline: Lee Dong Gun protrays title character Young-Bin, a handsome but obnoxious young man. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the beautiful Han-Min, a meek university student looking for true love, but never seems to find it. They know each other after a phone incident.

My thoughts: I love the main leads chemistry. The couple developed to real life lovers after this film. As usual, the story is cheesy and ridiculous. I mean since when did the Koreans does this type of romance-comedy seriously? However, I did enjoyed the whole show because it is interesting. It is dreamy for a girl next door to meet and fall in love with a handsome young chap. 

Title: My Tutor Friend

Starring: Kim Ha Neul, Kwon Sang Woo

Storyline: This story is about Kim Ji Hoon (Kwon Sang Woo) and Choi Su Wan ( Kim Ha Nuel ) both 21 years old. Su Wan is in the second year of university, while Ji Hoon is repeating his senior high school. Su Wan mother works in their family business, selling chicken. To help out, Su Wan gives tution to other children. However, she often gets fired after hitting the students. One day, she was offered a huge sum of money to teach Ji Hoon, who often fights in school. 

My thoughts: A pretty interesting movie about status and love. Initially, they detest each other and eventually fall for each other towards the end. Two people with different background status overcome all obstacles. Definitely a good movie for romantic freaks. 

Title: The Art Of Seduction

Starring: Son Ye Jin, Song II Gong

Storyline: Min Jun ( Song II Gong ) and Ji Won ( Son Ye Jin ) are the first class "players", who are dating gurus with 100% success rate in any dating pursuits. After their encounters, they realised that they had met a match in each other. However, like the veteran players that they are, these two should'nt show any sign of weakness in their dating tactics. Who will emerge victorious and become the last player standing? 

My thoughts: Both of the main leads are easy on the eyes and charismatic in their own ways. They were trying their best to dominate the other party and desperate to win in their game. Sure enough, the actors have a great time flirting with each other and the audience have fun watching it.  

Title: Speedy Scandal

Starring: Cha Tae Hyun, Park Bo Young

Storyline: Former teen idols Nam Hyeon Soon ( Chae Tae Hyun ) who think he is pretty popular is in his thirties and working as a radio DJ. A lady named Hwang Jeong Nam ( Park Bo Young ) sent stories about her as a single mother to the radio station, telling him that she is finding her father. When he finds out that he is the father of Jeong Nam when she came to his apartment with her son Ki-dong, he could not accept it. How is Hyeon Soon going to deal with this sudden changes?  

My thoughts: Cha Tae Hyun excel in this role as the cowardly, self absorbed celebrity. He is always hiding this 'secret' because of his burden as a celebrity. I enjoyed watching the process of Hyeon Soon transformation and I was touched by the story towards the end. The child actor is very adorable and Park Bo Young did well in protraying a single mother. This is a highly recommended movie that has a good ending. 

Title: He was cool

Starring: Song Seung Heon, Jang Da Bin

Storyline: This story is about a cheerful high school girl named Han Ye Won. She is a sweet, clumsy and warm girl. On the other hand, Ji Eun Sung ( Song Seung Heon ) is a well known bully from a vocational school. They gradually fall in love after a kissing incident. 

My thoughts: There was a saying - girls are attracted to bad boys.  I do not know how true it is, but after watching this movie I am personally attracted to this cool guy -  Song Seung Heon. He is  dashing and handsome in this role. Regarding the storyline, I felt that Ji Eun Sung is actually very pitiful since his father died because of AIDS. The people around him do not dare to be near him. I do think that this movie has an education purpose to the public regarding AIDS awareness. Towards the end of this movie, I am glad to see the connection between the leads which stretched back to their childhood.

Title: I'm a cyborg, But that is Ok

Starring: Rain (Bi), Im Soo Jung

Storyline: This film take place mostly in a metal institution. Young Goon ( Im Soo Jung ) is a young woman working in a factory constructing radios and she believed that she is a cyborg. Her delusion is characterize by refusing to eat ( lick batteries and electric shock herself) According to her mother Young Goon had shown signs of delusion after a childhood trauma which involved her mentally ill grandmother being taken away by the 'white people'. 

II Soon ( Rain ), a young mental patient is anti-social and kleptomania. He is described as a person with no sympathy and he claimed that he is able to steal people souls and conscience. He likes to wear a hand make rabbit mask and is fascinated by Young Goon.

My thoughts: This movie is plain silly in the storyline and everything. However, it is refreshing to watch a romance comedy that has a different setting and unusual characters. This movie shows that even mental patients may fall in love with each other. There were some scenes that was touching, heart-warming and funny. I do like the movie because of the simplicity and the innocent love between the characters. However, this is not a movie you would want to watch again because of the weak narrative in the storyline.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Man Episode 195 - Kim Jong kook on Fire


In episode 195 - Battle of the Idols, national MC Yoo Jae Suk dressed in a retro colourful shirt and hosted the event. He kept complaining about his shirt which make him feel awkward. Little did he know that the colors on his shirt symbolize the group colour. 

The first Idol group which performed was 2PM! Song Ji Hyo put on dark red lipstick which in my opinion, look pretty weird. She would have indulge in her dream, until Yoo Jae Suk commented that she look like their auntie and not 'noona'.

2NE1 performed their song with Gary and Kim Jong Kook. That look pretty hot and i like their dance! Jong Kook even demostrated his hip hop dance step and his instruction Voiceover.. That really tickles me! Hahaha. Yoo Jae Suk even teased Jong Kook about his El Tigre sweater. 

The last idol group belonged to the 80s! Kwang Soo, Haha and Ji Suk Jin joined the Mystic 89. Their dances was so old school and some of them even forgot about their dance step. In ths end, they turned around in a circle. 

They were divided into three groups: Green - 2NE1, Blue - 2PM, Orange - Mystic 89). Their first mission is to complete a marathon race and the reward for the winner is to broadcast their MTV on the big screen for one whole day. 

Each group member were separate to complete their individual mission. Their final goal is to hand over the tape to the video room. The first group that does so win the race. MC Yoo job for the day is to conduct live report. 

I like this mission because we get to see their stamina and it was fun to see them running. The mission about walking the dog was also interesting. Poor Ji Suk Jin, he had a hard time with the dog after he pat her head. 

On the other hand, Kim Jong Kook looked so hot when he carried CL (2NE1). CL felt sorry about her weight. However, Jong Kook does not seem to mind at all! They completed the mission first. Despite their lead, Gary make a silly mistake by dashing off in his flippers without taking the tape. Therefore, he had to start all over again. In the end, the blue group won the race. 

The second mission was guessing the food preference of MC Yoo. Jong Kook questioned why they have to guess his favorite foods, to which MC Yoo dish an advice to everyone not to pick what Jong Kook chooses. 

Time for some food sampling and it was no surprise that MC Yoo chose the Ramen. He reasoned that the noodles will turn soggy if soaked in the soup for too long. Next, he chose the ice cream, stating that it will melt. He put the ice cream in and out of his mouth to keep everyone in suspense. Suddenly, Jong Kook commented that MC Yoo expression looked 'dirty'! Finally, MC Yoo took a big bite on the Ice cream. 

MC Yoo chose the fried chicken next and Jong Kook was so excited about it. He adorably dance infront of Yoo Jae Suk while showing his choice. Last of all, he ate the bread. Next, the groups have to guess if MC Yoo could achieve 18 chin up at the metal pole. It was touching that everyone cheered for MC Yoo and he did it! The Green group won and they received a benefit for the final mission.

Finally, the last mission was a nametag ripping game. The green group can use the benefit to forfeit a player in the other team from playing. The blue group was chosen and Ji Hyo was unfortunately eliminated. The orange group was technically the weakest, thus they agreed to betray the other team.

Gary did well enough and put up a good fight with the other teams. On the other hand, Kwang Soo was betrayed by Nichkhun. The next player Minzy nametag was torn as soon as she was found. Spartakook was angry that the guys were collaborating to eliminate a girl, thus he wanted 'revenge'!!! 

Yoo Jae Suk was so funny when he ran everywhere and the way he interviewed Spartakook! It was as though getting an interview with an angry! The game ended with Spartakook eliminating everyone in lighting speed. The Green team wins and the exhausted tiger asked for a treat with his signatured hip hop dance. :)

My thoughts

Honestly, it was gratifying to see Jong Kook running in top speed and getting everyone eliminated! Finally, Spartakook in action and it has been a long time since I saw tiger on fire! Gary commander team was so strong and powerful. It was simply wonderful that they took this nametag ripping game more seriously. 

Kookie the cute tiger was so adorable in this episode when he ran around and did a little dance infront of Yoo Jae Suk. Lastly, the hip hop dance sealed the deal and make it one of the best (must watch) episode for this year. 

I was highly entertained in this episode with a competent MC Yoo, cute Kookie, Gary commander team, fun games, entertaining guests and a great showdown. Well if only ace Ji Hyo was allowed to show her skills.. Hehe. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Amazing Spider Man 2 at GV Gold Class

In a bid to celebrate Mother's Day, my family and I decided to watch a movie to pamper ourselves. After dinner, we head down to Gold Class movie at 112 Katong. The experience was amazing and for a moment the cinema looks like a club to me. There are limited seats in the theatre and all of the seats come in pairs.

Once we stepped into the cinema, we were warmly greeted by the staffs as we were ushered to our seats. There were ample space around our seat and we can adjust the position of the armchair. There is a button on the seat and it is use for ordering of foods and drinks. We scanned through the menu and each of us ordered a drink which we can pay later. Their service was fast and with our seats adjusted to our likings and armed with a blanket, we were ready for the movie.

Scientist Richard Parker recorded a message in a video to explain his disappearance. Soon after, he and his wife were hijacked in the private jet plane by a man send to assassinate Richard. The pilot was killed and the plane crushes.

In the present, Their son Peter continue to fight crimes as Spider man. During a crime chase, he rescued a Oscorp industry employee Max Dillon. He began to idolize Spider Man but was unfortunately attacked by a group of mutated eel fish during an accident. After the 'betrayal' from Spider Man, he had called himself Electro. The world is in danger from now onwards.

Peter love his high school girlfriend Gwen Stacy but he had made a vow to her decease father who was a police captain to stay away from Gwen. On the other hand, Peter childhood friend Harry Osborn returns to Manhattan to visit his terminally ill father Norman Osborn. He reveals to Harry about their family hereditary illness and gave a small device to Harry which he said contains his life's work. The first symptom of Harry appears and he looked through Norman device and deduced that Spider Man blood could save him. 
Harry Osborn thirst for Spider Man blood to save himself and Electro attempts to revenge on Spider Man and Gwen sudden announcement for a scholarship in England, how is Spider Man going to handle all these problems in the midst of controversy and hidden conspiracy about his parents death?


Thoughts and Review

I was drawn by the leads chemistry right from the beginning of the show. I know that Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are real life couple and it helps in their chemistry with each other. The special effects and sound system was good. I have expected such good quality from the Hollywood movie and The Amazing Spider Man 2 does not disappoint with the action packed scenes.

Spider Man as usual helps to fight crimes and surprisingly I do not find him annoying at all as compared to the previous movie about Spider Man that I had watched. In my opinion, Andrew Garfield did pretty well protraying the Superhero.

He is convincing when he is torn apart with the decision to continue his romance with Gwen or to leave her. Andrew Carfield protray a down to earth hero who has to make sacrifice even if that makes him the saddest man in the world.

Jamie Foxx and Dane Dehaan were convincing as the villains. Jamine Foxx protrays a delusional Max Dillon that idolize Spider Man till it became an obsession. After that incident, he transformed into Electro who is full of hatred and negativity of humanity. Dane Dehaan acted as the desperate childhood friend of Peter who became mad when faced with death. Overall, The Amazing Spider Man 2 has a good storyline, great cast and a satisfying ending. This is a good movie that is definitely worth to watch, just be prepared to sit through 2 hours 22 minutes.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Divergent (Movie)

From Wikipedia:
Divergent is a 2014 American science fiction action film directed by Neil Burger, based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. The film is the first installment in the Divergent film series and was produced by Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shabazian, and Douglas Wick, with a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, and Kate Winslet.

The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions and soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in her seemingly perfect society.



Thoughts and Review

I seem to notice that these days, as long as you do not have any high expectations of a movie, it will superseded your expectations and the movie will be not as bad as you imagined. 

The movie exists in a world where people are ‘pre-destined’: the selfless go to Abnegation; Amity are peaceful and hardworking; Candor, who are lawyer-like, are the truthful; Erudite are intelligent; and Dauntless are the brave (reckless) ones. If you really think about it, this world, unlike its Hunger Games counterpart, is not that realistic. Truthful? Really… there is no such thing and don’t get me on the selfless part, no one in this world (let alone a story) is truly selfless. As humans, we have a bit of everything, but most importantly we have to choice (i.e. tell the truth, help a person in need, be brave and do something daring etc…). Yes, genes and personally may make us more propelled to make certain decisions and make us more suited for a certain type of job, but we have the choice, the choice to break out of a certain mould – that individualistic characteristics that makes us so uniquely us. 

So this movie tells us that people in this world are fragments of what really is (in the real world) and are divided into these 4 groups, anyone not fitting in (i.e. more individualistic) are faction-less (e.g. the homeless). Divergent is an anomaly that is highly rejected and known individuals with this trait are (supposedly) killed. It is all in the genes this movie (and its novels') says… and the law of gene selection as time goes by… It is actually revealed (in the later book series) that divergents are not actually killed but recruited to be part of the government that oversees the factions, staying hidden away and working from the shadows. Divergents, are in fact, the true superior race and are selected to govern them all. Even among the divergents there are anomalies, imperfect beings whose genes are damaged in some way, hence they are not ‘pure’ and are persecuted. Though I can relate to the parallels, like how those who don’t conform society’s norm may be persecuted, or how governments like to have to control the people (to an extent), the part where it’s about genes - the progression or regression of it – does not really make that much of sense to me. 

Sans the background storyline (Hunger Games is much more realistic), and the lack of any real lab/scientist gene manipulation on part of the ‘government’ (which would have made this universe more believable), the characters really bought the show together. Tris shows her growth and development of becoming a Dauntless and how she overcomes her odds to succeed in a harsh environment. Not the mention the crazy tests that she takes just to get into Dauntless and the prejudice she faces for not being born Dauntless. The action is also another good point of the movie. No ‘real’ special effects were used; it was just plain old simple gun and fight scenes, with a couple of explosions here and there. 

The attraction between the two main leads were evident and had chemistry, something it’s teenage demographic would appreciate. So just for the acting and the fight scenes with emotions put in, I would give it a 4/5. If it were with the plot and the back-story (which I cannot really accept)… I would have to give it a 3/5.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Thieves (Korean Movie)

From Wikipedia:

The Thieves (Hangul: 도둑들) is a 2012 South Korean heist film directed by Choi Dong-hoon with an all-star ensemble cast. Splashy action in overseas locations is mixed with double-dealings and multiple betrayals as a gang of South Korean thieves team up with a Hong Kong crew to steal a diamond necklace from a heavily guarded casino safe in Macau.


Review and Thoughts

Given its title it is not hard to guess that this movie is about thieves and a big heist: a team of 5 Korean thieves have to work together with their counterparts from Hong Kong to accomplish this big heist (which makes little sense, stealing a diamond necklace selling it back to the same owner).This is also the movie where Kim Soo Hyun and Jeon Ji-hyun collaborated before their famous “You who came from the star” fame. The team consists of: 
  • Popie [Jung Jae-Lee]
    The muscle and brains of the team; the leader. He might seem easy going and carefree, but in reality he is a selfish person who caused the breakup of his original team due to his greed and jealousy. His double crossing ways soon catch with him as he is outwitted by Yenicall and spends him time in prison for a couple of years (only?!!).

  • Zampano [Kim Soo Hyun!!!]
    the guy in charge of the wires and strategy. Silent and brooding sort, he has a crush Yenicall, cat burglar extraordinaire at scaling walls and fitting in tight places. There was a hilarious scene with him being the subject of interest rather than Yenicall, who was supposed to be the ‘bait’. This assumption is soon broken when it is indicated that their target prefers men instead, and poor Zampano ‘suffers’ for the sake of the mission. Towards the end of the movie, he gets caught as he purposefully gives himself away after confessing his love to Yenicall. And that is the last we see of him.
  • Yenicall [Jeon Ji-hyun]  
  • The one who basically does all of the stealing and con-woman breaking men’s hearts. She scales walls, squeezes in vents and makes her way past laser beamed booby traps to get to the spoils, with a little conniving along the way the cheat her target. We are first introduced to her as fiancé to a rich museum curator, with the intention to steal from him. She does not take Zampano’s confessions seriously, but is slightly moved by his gesture (of getting caught so that she could escape). Still with bigger things in mind (i.e. the necklace), she (seems to) quickly forget about him (poor thing). She is on the characters that get away relatively unharmed and in possession of the real necklace. The ending is hilarious… you have to watch it to know :p
  • Pepsee [Hye-su Kim]
    A renown safecracker who cracks safes and was in the original team with Popie. Her feelings for Marko cause the jealous Popie to cut the wire on their last stint, which resulted in Marko falling and injuring his leg. But with Marko missing, so did the gold that they stole that night. As Pepsee had been caught on the CCTV, coupled with the loss of Marko (and their budding relationship, and the gold), she decided to turn in herself to the police the day after. After her time in prison, Pepsee is out for revenge on Marko and joins the gang on their expedition to steal the necklace.
  • Chewing Gum [Kim Hae-sook]
    A middle-aged alcoholic mast con-woman who gives al her hard earned money to her daughter, never saving a penny for herself and one of the reasons why she drowns her sorrows away in alchol. She and Yennicall have a pseudo mother-daughter relationship and are pretty close. She is one of the 2 characters that die in this movie (alongside Simon Yam’s character Chen).
  • Marko Park[Kim Yoon-seok]
    After being betrayed by Popie and mistaken about Pepsee, Marko recruits his former team on this big heist to be coordinated with a Hong Kong team (unbeknownst to them there is a police spy - Julie, daughter of a famous safecracker). He is the mastermind behind this heist and he literally plays out his team as he uses them as a distraction and steals the necklace himself. He gets away scoot-free, while the rest are either injured while in their attempt to escape, captured, or dead. He soon learns that it was a misunderstanding with Pepsee and towards the end of the movie there are hints that they might get back together. Because of this revelation he risks his life to save a drowning and trapped Pepsee cuffed inside a police van heading into the sea. We soon learn of his motivation of stealing back the necklace and selling it back to the same owner, Wei Hong – an enigma underworld figure whose face no one has seen and known for his butterfly tattoo on his left hand. Wei Hong was the guy that killed Marko’s father when he and Chen (Simon Yam) tried to sell the necklace back to him years ago. Marko wants to use this as an opportunity to get his revenge and use the police to capture Wei Hong. The amount of artillery that Wei Hong and gang bring to confront Marko is staggering and so is the fact that he is not in his hometown but in Korea (where the battle ensues). It turns out that Wei Hong had bribed many people, including high ranking official across the globe, which explains why he was never caught let alone identified. However, for all his bribery and money, Wei Hong finally meets his (timely) demise in (his) most unexpected of ways. With Wei Hong dead, there is no price tag hanging on Marko’s head and he begins his quest to steal back the necklace from Yennicall (at least he had the heart to pay her outstanding hotel bill at a posh hotel) and get back together with Pepsee.


In conclusion, it was funny and entertaining (if you don’t think too much about the plot and just go with the flow), minus the sad deaths of 2of the thieves. It started off amusing, progressed to exciting with action, peppered with the funny and dangerous, followed by a sense of loss and betrayal, and finishing off with redemption and retribution (of sorts), and ended with a little bit of humor and a sense of hope and wonder. The plot was a little thin and the stealing scenes (at the beginning when Yenicall is making her way to the secret vault) a little too relaxed and unprofessional (like she would be caught at any moment), but still the action and the adorable banter (between Yenicall and Zampano) was fun to watch. It could have been better, but it was entertaining enough and the ending although open-ended (and could have benefitted from more closure), does give it room for a sequel.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, May 02, 2014

Secretly, Greatly (Korean Movie)

From Wikipedia:

Secretly, Greatly (Hangul: 은밀하게 위대하게) is a 2013 South Korean action comedy-drama film starring Kim Soo-hyun, Park Ki-woong, and Lee Hyun-woo, who play North Korean spies who infiltrate South Korea as a village idiot, a rock musician, and a high school student, respectively. They assimilate to small town life while awaiting their orders, until one day, due to a sudden power shift in the North, their mission turns out to be an order to commit suicide The film is based on the 2010 spy webtoon series Covertness by Hun, which has received over 40 million page hits.

Review and Thoughts

The trailers looked interesting and it helped that the leads were good looking (haha). But beyond the façade and the obvious little details (e.g. way a highly trained soldier would end up as a village idiot and why that particular was chosen etc...), I think the story was well crafted and the ending, while sad and somewhat open, ended the way it should and was bittersweet (in a nice way). There were many parts to the movie and it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions from happy, to sad, adorable, to angst and heartwarming towards the end.

While some might think that the storyline was weak, I think of it this way: the whole premise of the mission was not really into the spy-conquer-the-world-and-kill-the enemies-infiltration (e.g. Won Ryuhwan being the village idiot), but rather an experiment, an experiment by the mad scientist Professor Seo Young-guk, who wanted to proof that the whole concept of the 5446 Corps was a failure and that when it comes to survival, survival outweighs the prospect of death and loyalty is a farce. It is a movie after all, and sometimes to go in with too high an expectation would only lead to greater disappointment. Since you know the storyline and what it is about, given the short time that a movie has to portray everything, sometimes that time is not enough and you just have to go with the basics (and just not think too much).

Now on to the characters (and spoilers)… 

Kim Soo-hyun - Lieutenant Won Ryu-hwan / Bang Dong-gu
Kim Soo-hyun in his role as Won Ryu-hwan, who has the ability to read people and is fluent in 5 languages, was convincing as he alternated between his idiot persona and his normal one within the confines of his room. Each of his calculated missteps, leading to his daily fumbles and little ‘accidents’, added humor; even more so when his inner thoughts are played out to what he is really thinking about the people he pretends to fool. He starts off as a cold hearted killing machine with only one purpose in life, that is to accomplish the great mission (though he doesn’t know what it is) and to bring glory to his country.

His childhood had propelled him to want need to become the best, having to literally kill others to get into the position he is today (and to essential just stay alive). But despite being trained to kill and be heartless, Ryu-hwan is somewhat a naïve character (he really believes that his mother is still alive and taken care of – his main motivation for staying alive to accomplish the mission) with really bad interpersonal skills. He tries not to get to involved and attached to the village people he has come to live with over the years under his guise, but as trouble brews back home with a plan to kill all the 5446 Corps and the introduction of 2 other spies (who turn out to be his friend and fan respectively), Ryu-hwan’s cold exterior is soon melted as he starts to care about the people around him and gets (too) involved in their lives; learning the meaning of relationships and treasuring those around him and the value of life.

Ryu-hwan originally planned to follow the order to kill himself, but when he found out that his mother – his sole purpose for living – had been killed, he wanted to get back at the organization that raised him and was practically on a death mission. Knowing that it might be a mission of no return, he ties up things as nicely as his can within the village (e.g. bidding farewell to his adopted mother and telling her to visit the doctor, givinga n airplane ticket to Ran to go and find her son etc…). There could have been some hope of his survival if he had cooperated with the South Korean agency, but his pride would not let him (to collude with the ‘enemy’ - the power of propaganda indeed). Towards the end of the movie, as he was about to give up on himself, he saw the bankbook that his adopted mother placed in his pocket and his purpose to live was renewed. Alas, it was not to be as he soon met his end because he wanted to protect Hae-jin from the onslaught of bullets.

Park Ki-woong - Rhee Hae-rang / Kim Min-su
Although Hae-rang is the son of a high ranking North Korean official, Rhee Moo-Hyuk, with skills as good as Ryu-hwan, he was born out of wedlock. And since his mother was not the main wife but a lowly concubine, his status is actually not as high as some might think. He understands more about the world than Ryu-hwan and always tries to show off his superiority to Ryu-hwan (when in actuality he cares for respects Ryu-hwan as a friend).

His guise is a singer-wannabe, and it is hilarious to know that he can’t play the guitar for peanuts (at the beginning). And it was even funny seeing Ryu-hwan trailing him to his audition (wanting to find out what his ‘great mission’ was) only to discover that Hae-rang cannot play the guitar. The embarrassment that ensues was hilarious. However, Hae-rang soon puts a lot of hard work into learning how to play the guitar and he soon (midway towards the end of the movie) manages to play a simple tune.

I personally believe his mission was the most relaxed and easiest – being a wanna-be-singer. And I guessed it could have been his father wanting to spare him a life of hardship as much as possible. But I could be wrong.

Past his worldly playboy-ish exterior, it seems that there is more to Hae-rang as it is revealed towards the end of the movie that he used his position and actually helped smuggle many people out of North Korea to safety. He is somewhat disillusioned with life and knows that the life that he leads can be easily snuffed out, so he intends to live life to the fullest and end it with a grand bang (which he literally does at the end of the movie when he futilely sacrifices himself hoping that at least the others can live).

Lee Hyun-woo - Rhee Hae-jin
Rhee Hae-jin is the youngest secret agent in North Korean history. He is an excellent sniper and has a ‘crush’ on Ryu-hwan his hero and someone he looks up to. His sole purpose of becoming a sniper and maturing so fast was so that he could meet his idol - Ryu-hwan. It is adorable seeing him going all puppy eyes, yet denying his admiration for Ryu-hwan, whom he would so willingly kill for. It is a ongoing gag from the moment Hae-jin enters the movie with 'Should I kill him?' (Hae-jin asking Ryu-hwan is he should kill a person simply because he was being mean to Ryu-hwan) 'No!' (Ryu-hwan’s somewhat horrified face and reaction).

Hae-jin’s sole purpose of living is Ryu-hwan, and so when he is captured by the South Korean agency, he volunteers to assist them only if they let Ryu-hwan live. Despite being injured, he escapes from his shackles and takes down the North Korean snipers that are shooting at his precious Ryu-hwan. His perspective of the world is very simplistic, only black and white exist, there is no grey. This is also the reason why he naively though that the South Korean agency were going to kill them no matter, so he fired the first shot which soon led to his and Ryu-hwan’s deaths.

Other Characters
The characters in the village from Ryu-hwan’s adopted brother and mother, to the resident pretty girl next door and her brother, Ran – the smokaholic with a sad past (and assets to be reckoned with), and the two resident little boys who often ‘bully’ Ryu-hwan (in his idiot mode) all tie in nicely into the development of Ryu-hwan’s character into becoming a more warm-hearted person who learns how to care for others.

Actually there was an ex- the 5446 Corps who had defected and wanted to help them live (seeing them being so young); he even went against orders to not meddle in the issue. But this movie was meant to have a tragic ending, so tragic it was, but at least there were some kind intentions.

It was sad, but it was ambiguous at the end (a hint which tells his adopted mother to take care and not get sick) which might indicate that Ryu-hwan is still alive (who knows?). Minus the lack of a real plot (just don’t think too much into the plot and go with the flow), the character development of the 3 spies worked out somehow and the ending, while sad, wasn’t as tragic as it could have been; a lingering bittersweet aftertaste that was somewhat satisfactory (it fit the storyline and direction). If there was a drama series with more backdrops on the spies characters and more of their fun banter and interactions, there would have been more time to explore all the emotions and storylines that this story had to offer. But for now, I think this movie did a pretty good job, it might not have been stellar but it was good enough. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Taiwanese Drama: 求爱 365 (True Love 365)

Synopsis: The Lai family siblings were instructed to get married within a year or else their rightful inheritance will be donated to charity organization. Will the Lai siblings who were in their thirties finally find happiness and get married and grant their parents wish? 

My thoughts: 

This is a nice drama which narrate about a rich family and their interesting/colourful characters. Just like any typical Taiwanese drama, there were siblings rivalries and love triangle. In fact, we were immediately introduced to the interesting Lai siblings and the female leads within the first few episodes. 

There were already a few drama series about people in their mid thirties looking for love. However, in this drama the leads were not so desperate and hungry for love although there were some thoughts that people in their thirties were considered being 'left on the shelf'. 

The only few flaws about this drama is the exergerated moment with the 'car incident' and sometimes the slow pacing of the show. Nonetheless, this is an interesting drama and you can give it a shot if you have not watch.

Generally, the storyline was kept simple within the 20 episodes, the scriptwriters were able to keep things interesting. The director keep me entertained with a series of interesting dialogue and fun happenings. The main characters transformation and the ending is satisfying to me. Below is a brief introduction of the characters in this drama. To their merits, the cast acted pretty well in this drama series. 

Joanne Tseng play a gullible and helpful working class lady named Zhang Bi Ting. She work in a wedding planner agency and carries a torch on Lai Jun Jie (Johnny Lu) the second son of Lai family. Initially, she dislike Lai Yu Xiang (Bryant Chang) the third son of the Lai family. However, Bi Ting has a love rival who happens to be her superior. Will she be able to win the heart of Lai Jun Jie or will she fall for Lai Yu Xiang? 

Jerry Huang is the eldest son of the Lai family - Lai Tian Chen. He is an aimless person who behaved like a spoilt brad that idle around. His weakness is women and he likes to flirt with them. After he seperated with his ex wife at the divorce party, he begins to recognize his own faults. He is a good natured man who loves his wife and daughter despite his shortcomings.

Johnny Lu is the second son of the Lai Family - Lai Jun Jie. He is actually an adopted son when his parents passed away. His uncle treated him like his own son and he gets along well with his siblings. He is a workaholic who works hard in the company but has no time for love. He is easy going and is the ideal man for many ladies. 

Bryant Chang is the third son of the Lai family - Lai Yu Xiang. He is picky and arrogant in many people eyes. He has a special taste for the things that he likes and he is passionate about the things that he does. However, his personality is hard to get along with and it clashes on Zhang Bi Ting character. 

Queenie Tai is the boss of a wedding planner company. She is a smart, independent and brainy woman. Although she is in her thirties, she execute charm and beauty which men were attracted to her. However, she only like capable and workaholic man - Lei Jun Jie. She is also the best friend of the youngest daughter in the Lai family. 

Lene Lai is the ex wife of Lai Tian Chen. Although she appears to be aloof and cold towards her ex husband, she still love him deeply in her heart. She is upset that Lai Tian Chen neglected her and their daughter.