Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review on Korean Movie: A Frozen Flower (2008)

Title: Frozen Flower (2008)
Genre: Period Drama, Romance
Duration: 133 mins
Directed by Yu Ha
In Seong Jo as Hong Lim
Jin Mo Ju as King of Goryeo
Ji-hyo Song as Queen of Goryeo

Under the virtual rule of China's Yuan Dynasty, the King of Georyo has to produce an heir to keep his position.  Unfortunately, he cannot bear to sleep with a woman and only has eyes for his loyal general, Hong Lim, who is his real lover.
Thinking that all his political problems will go away once he produces an heir, he unexpectedly asks his lover to sleep with the queen.  He assumed that Hong Lim, who has never slept with a woman before, would stay true and loyal to him even after sleeping with a woman.  He miscalculated on his assumption though and failed to consider that bonds may be formed after mating. 
Hong Lim, who had always placed the king above all else, was hesitant to perform the king's orders at first but after the king urged him to perform his order, he does so and soon, his emotions were stirred in the process of mating with the queen. 
Soon after, all three were enmeshed in a complicated love triangle which led to deep-seated rage, uncontrollable anger, betrayal, and numerous deaths. 
Complicating the situation further is the political stability of the kingdom with threats of killing the king and establishing the Yuan Dynasty as the ruler of the kingdom.
I was shocked by the graphic sex scenes between the king and his chief guard and the scenes between the queen and the chief guard as well.  What was even more shocking to me is that the sexual orientation of the king seemed to be an open-book secret.  The scenes were very graphic and steamy and at times too revealing but was never offensive.  The cast were beautiful though which probably helped maintain balance in the film.
I was deeply impressed with the performance of Jin Mo Ju and his portrayal of the conflicting emotions, feeling his deep hurt which eventually leads him to abandon his sanity in pursuit of his love for Hong Lim.  In Seong Jo also gave good performance but somehow, I felt his performance was more inclined with the steamy sex scenes rather than the scenes outside of the bedroom (and the library).
I almost felt sorry for the queen in the end but somehow, I never got there.  Although the king did atrocious acts in his jealous rage, I somehow connected to his character more and felt his pain and regrets.  He only had his eyes set on Hong Lim and has never wavered on his emotions towards the chief guard. 
However, it became apparent though that Hong Lim's emotions were not at the same levels as the king's as he wavered after he mated with the queen and fell in love with her, leading him to abandon the king and ultimately seek his death. 
I am not convinced however that he never felt anything for the king besides loyalty due probably perhaps to his hesitation to initially sleep with the queen and his undying devotion before then.  The king might not have been his one great love but I felt, there was an emotional connection between them though.  When he knew he was dying, he chose to look at the king, shed a tear and somehow, I'm not sure if it was regret he felt for denying he ever loved the king, that being his last words or was it he was confused with his emotions until the end?  There was also the scene of them hunting together which was the king's dream which leads me to doubt if he never truly loved the king at all.
The worst scene was when the king wanted to give him the stallion and waited for him until the next day and he told the king he was at the library "reading military strategies" when in fact he went after the queen and slept with her the whole night.  I felt he was asking for death then and was brave enough to stare death on the face.  At that moment, when he lied, I felt as if my heart was being gripped with the knowledge that the king knows he's being lied to and still maintaining a straight face when deep inside, he must have felt like dying.
I found the movie very interesting, moving and stimulating.  We would never truly know Hong Lim's heart and could only stipulate on the scenes on the movie.  I give this movie 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Review on Korean Movie: PORTRAIT OF BEAUTY (2008)

Title: Portrait of Beauty (2005)
Genre: Period Drama, Romance
Duration: 1hr 48mins
Directed by Jeon Yoon Soo
Kim Min Su as Shin Yun Bok
Kim Nam Gil as Kang Mu
Kim Yeong Ho as Kim Hong Do
Choo Ja Hyeon as Seol Hwa

Shin Yun Bok(Kim Min Su)keeps a tricky charade of posing as a man to maintain her status as a royal court painter under the tutelage of the master painter Kim Hong Do.  Although it was never explained why the father held a deep grudge against the master painter, he urged Shin Yun Bok to ensure that she learn everything from him and to later on surpass the master painter and utterly destroy him in the process. 
Kim Hong Do (Kim Yeong Ho) is a master painter who was greatly favoured by the king and was the envy of the other ministers.  He was so impressed by Shin Yun Bok's talent that he took her in as his apprentice even with the knowledge that her father might have planned to use her to ultimately destroy him.  Shin Yung Bok was so talented she becomes a royal painter after a year and is shown preference by the master painter which led the other painting students to hold a grudge against her and pick on her for being too effeminate and accuse her of sleeping with the master. 
Urged by her master to find her own style in painting, she started painting controversial scenes, including naked women, mating, dogs in heat, and other questionable paintings and stirred controversy in court.  In the process, she also begins her sexual awakening as she gradually falls in love with a street hustler, Kang Mu(Kim Nam Gil).  In his arms, she realized that she could give up everything just to be with him. 
Their love was bound to fail though as Kim Hong Do realized that he needed to posses Shin Yun Bok and needed more than her art.  He forced the two lovers to separate and forces Shin Yun Bok to stay at his side to save Kang Mu.  This led Seol Hwa, his courtesan lover, to be jealous of Shin Yun Bok and strived to make sure the two lovers would not be parted.  She the taunted Kim Hong Do, telling him where the two lovers are and his lack of knowledge of women and of love.  Kim Hong Do rushes to find his student, urging her to stay by his side but failing.  He then decided to force Kang Mu to abandon Shin Yun Bok.  Kim Hong Do shoots him with an arrow dipped in poison, promising to give the antidote if he would erase her from his memory, to leave and never return. Kang Mu however refuses the antidote, replying "I never loved her half-heartedly..." choosing death than abandoning Shin Yun Bok. 
It's a story of moving art, love, sexual awakening, obsessive jealousy, betrayal, sacrifice and regrets.
I found it hard to relate to the film due probably to high expectation set by the reviews I've read online as well as my connection to the drama series which led me to so much tears. Compared to the tv drama, I found the film trying too hard to show depth and failed to stir any deep connection with me as an audience.  I believe the movie was trying to do too much and failed to do an effective characterization and balancing of plots.  Perhaps, I also found the acting lacklustre compared to the excellent performance given by the cast of the tv series.  I found it hard to relate to the tragedy that befalls the main actors although I clearly understood their pains.  It even showed a scene when the young Shin Yun Bok first met the great master and was given her first brush which led a deep impression to the great master.  Later on, when she was presented by his father, the great painter showed that he recognized her but chose to keep her secret as well. 
Perhaps, I was expecting a deeper connection between the master and his pupil that goes beyond the usual but was bound for disappointment as it only showed master's lust for his student.  His emotions eventually became deep-seated jealousy and led him to kill someone.  It would have been a moving plot if only there was more care given to the character development.
The beginning of the film held so much promise but fell flat in the end.  I believe the movie tried to incorporate everything featured in the drama series which was a major flaw and led to the disappointing ending as it felt dry and lifeless.
I give this movie 4 out of 10 stars for the beautiful paintings, sceneries and steamy sex scenes which the film might be remembered by.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Review on Korean Drama: Painter of the Wind (2008)

Title: Painter of the Wind (2008)
Genre: Period Drama, Romance, Comedy
Duration: 20 episodes
Moon Geun Young as Shin Yoon Bok
Park Shin Yang as Kim Hong Do
Moon Chae Won as Jeong Hyang
Bae Soo Bin as King Jeong Jo
Lee Joon as Shin Young Bok

"What is a painting? Painting is the absence of someone or making you remember someone who is not there.  Painting is missing someone..."

In the beginning, it already gave me the expectation that it would not have a happy ending showing the painting of a woman and Kim Hong Do (Park Shin Yang) crying for the lady in the painting, talking about her as if she lives in his past. Kim Hong Do was a genius in painting, with a keen sense to details and so well-loved by the king that officials and painters envied him so much they schemed devious ways to send him away from the court.  He was sent to the mountains and was only allowed back to investigate the truth about the painting that made the queen so mad.

The woman in the painting is none other than his disciple, Shin Yoon Bok (Moon Geun Young) who was the daughter of Kim Hong Do's best friend.  It was believed that his best friend and his family were killed 10 years ago due to some big conspiracy that involves the legitimacy of the king.  When they were killed though, Yoon Bok was able to hide and evade being killed that night.
Yoon Bok was so talented that after her family was killed, she was adopted by one of the members of the Ministry of Painting, after seeing how talented she was in painting. He believed that with her genius in painting, she would be one of the royal painters someday and with this in mind, he adopted her.  He made her wear a man's clothes, and provided everything to develop her talent. At that time, women were not allowed to pursue the art of painting.  

To protect her and her identity, his brother, Shin Young Bok (Lee Joon) always followed her around making sure she's far from harm and from discovery.  Shin Young dared not confess his real feelings for her sister and preferred to exert all effort to support her and to make her happy even at the expense of his life.  To Young Bok, his adopted sister is simply "god".  He gave her unconditional and undying devotion, not sparing any thought for his well-being.  To save his sister, he would willingly lay his life for her, burying his feelings for her and watching her from a distance.

In the beginning, Kim Hong Do was  just so impressed with how talented Yoon Bok was that he could not bear to reveal that she was the one who was behind the painting that made the queen mad.  He could not bear to sacrifice losing her hand and so offered to have his hand destroyed in her stead.  He sent her away to protect her but realizing how her master would protect her, she decided to return and take the responsibility for painting the picture.  

Hearing her confess, Young Bok declared he was the culprit and begged to bear the full responsibility for the painting and to spare his sister.  Hong Do pleaded with the king, telling him that he could not bear to have this kind of talent go to waste that the king devised a plan to force the queen to cancel the harsh punishment. Instead, Shin Young Bok was sent to the place where they mixed paints.  Young Bok was more than happy to bear the consequences for his sister but Yoon Bok was distraught with guilt that her brother will suffer for her.  In her anguish, she also hit her hand with a big stone and lost her drive for painting.  

Hong Do had to carefully draw her out of the shell and make her want to paint again.  It started the journey for the master and disciple towards the pursuit of improving their craft and overcoming overwhelming odds.  Compared to the paintings at that time, both their paintings were lively-spirited, detailed and a lot were very controversial.  Shin Yoon Bok dared to confront the limits of society by painting women which were not allowed at that time.  It was believed that if they painted women, the painter would fall in love with the subject. She went to great lengths to portray every detail which made the paintings come to life and also which brought her to difficult situations for a couple of times.
After so much struggle and drama, Hong Do and Yoon Bok became the royal artists and were commissioned to paint the king's portrait to lift him to a new level. Yoon Bok was striving to please the king in the hopes that she would be able to ask the king to let his brother return to the ministry of painting to be able to paint again. Unfortunately, the paint (ink) to be used for the robe was jeopardized that Young Bok had to mix so much paint to be able to finish the king's portrait. Unbeknownst to Yoon Bok, his brother was poisoned due to mixing too much paint for her that he hallucinated and fell, dying instantly.  He visited her in her sleep and said his goodbye to her.  (This was where I started to cry...bawl was more like it)
Unable to accept his death, she tore the king's painting after hearing the ministers question the quality of the paint used in the portrait, calling it unfit and vulgar.  At that time, all paint to be used for the king's portrait had to be approved prior to being used.  This shocked everyone including the king and made him so furious he ordered to have her head cut.  

Hong Do knelt in front of the gate pleading for an audience with the king.  The king though was too angry he ignored the pleas.  Taunted by the other ministers on his sincerity for pleading for his disciple's life, he threw his precious hand into the fire to show and clamoured for the king to forgive her.  The king moved by the master's love for his disciple, decided to hear Hong Do's plea for her life. (I was just crying right when her brother fell until the final judgement was given. Longest I've cried for any scene. LOL)

This drama gave me so much pain.  I don't think I have ever cried that much for a drama it became ridiculous. I was crying even before the drama started and still crying even when the scene was no longer that dramatic. I just felt so much for the characters in the show. This show has superb cast and the leads were just awesome. 
I was initially disappointed and worried about the huuuuugeeee age gap between the leads.  I felt it would make the story awkward.  

Also, the parts wherein it showed Yoon Bok's confused towards the feelings she had for the Jeong Hyang (Moon Chae Won) made me cringe and I was almost wanted to literally grab her shoulders and stop her.  Being a genius, both artists had to struggle with so much specially Young Bok.  She was so passionate towards her art, so emotional that she unintentionally endangers everyone who loves her.    
I loved how they showed how the paintings were made and the passion the painters showed in creating their masterpieces that it actually made me want to paint...Unfortunately, painting never agreed with me.
I love his brother's selfless devotion to her, never sparing a thought for his well-being if it means Yoon Bok would be able to continue with her passion for painting.  It was an unrequited love until the end and the only consolation he got was a tearful hug he got from her when he gave her the paint that would ultimately lead to his untimely death.  Everything that Yoon Bok did that was careless was almost always because of her guilt for her brother's sacrifice.  I almost hated her for it because ultimately, Kim Hong Do would have to strive harder, offering his life in exchange for hers, time and time again.
It was evident that Hong Do loved Young Bok with his devotion and selfless offering to follow her wherever she may be.  For all the troubles she brought, she also breathes new life to his paintings and he begun to enjoy life again.   Unfortunately, in the end, all he had is the painting of her and forever be reminded of her absence and his pain.
Having seen so many Korean dramas, there are only a few actors who are able to bring so much emotion and character on screen without overdoing it.  A little quirk of the brow, a mischievous smile, expressive eyes...Moon Geun Young's acting was definitely excellent on this drama.  She brought so many emotions and so many expressions.  She really deserved to be the female protagonist for this drama.
This definitely would be one of my favourite dramas and a sure classic but I'm not sure I would recommend you to watch it unless you're prepared to shed buckets of tears.  Definitely 10 out of 10 stars for me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review on Japanese Drama: QUEEN'S CLASSROOM (2005)

Title: Queen's Classroom or Jyoou no Kyoushitsu (2005)
Genre: Drama
Duration: 11 episodes with 2 specials
Theme Song: Exile by Exit
Shida Mirai as Kanda Kazumi
Amami Yuki as Akutsu Maya
Fukuda Mayuko as Shindo Hikaru
Kaho as Kanda Yu
Matsukawa Naruki as Manabe Yusuke

It's the start of the new semester for the 12-year old Kanda Kazumi(Shida Mirai).  She was looking forward to making new friends and making a lot of memories of her last year in grade school. Although she's not so bright, she balances it by being cheerful and striving to make everyone like each other including her parents who seem to not really get along with each other very well, made obvious by their constant bickering whenever they are in the room together.  This year, Kazumi's class was assigned a teacher who has very rigid principles in her teachings and of life.  Akutsu Maya(Amami Yuki) values studying and intelligence above all else and believes that friendship and memories are trivial and non-essential. 

This comes a shock to Kazumi who wants nothing more than befriending everyone and enjoying her last year in grade school.  Adding to the pressure, her mom has been constantly nagging her to strive to get into a private high school which ultimately matches Maya's goal for her class. 
Maya comes to the class dressed in all black, hair pulled back, never smiles and shocks her class by showing just about how much she knows about them including their darkest secrets.  She gives much emphasis on studying that she does not even allow students to leave the room as soon as the class starts which causes Kazumi to get her second 0 in the exam and even worst, this ultimately leads her to pee on her pants.  The only reason she was allowed to leave class during exam is because her classmate, Shindo Hikaru(Fukuda Mayuko), one of the gifted ones, took pity on her and stood for Kazumi. 
Because of this outright defiance, Maya changes the rules to state that disobedient students will be the ones to do all the chores which are not limited to cleaning the classroom but other areas as well.  The students tried to get their parents to air their grievances however, this backfires as Maya wins them over to her side as most parents just want their kids to get high grades and get into private schools.  The principal and the vice principal also turns a blind eye to Maya's methodologies since they can only appreciate the so-called progress by Maya's class in terms of their lessons, their behavior towards teachers and their unceasing efforts to get into private schools.  To make matters worse, Maya also gets some students to spy for her since she anticipates that there would be students who would devise actions to defy her.  This creates more conflict in class and made it harder for students to trust their peers.
Kazumi, undaunted by the seeming helplessness of their case, strives to win her classmates over and struggles to prove Maya wrong with the help of 2 of her classmates.  However, Maya seems to always be two steps ahead of them, knowing everything they do and doing countermeasures to prevent them from achieving their goal. In the end, will the class unite and defeat Maya?  Will the class be able to make good memories before they graduate or will they just continue to live in hell?
I don't understand how some people could be unsatisfied with the ending to this drama.  I have seen shows with seemingly same plots with some varying twists (i.e. GTO,  Gokusen, etc) but this is the first show where I see the teacher who is excels in everything she does (including ballet and self-defense) but terrorizes and bullies her students to submission.  It is very evident though that the writer wanted, more than having a good show, to actually communicate a message in this show through the discussions during class. 
The reasons given behind Maya's outrageous methodologies makes one think twice whether she's wrong or not which I actually love most about this show.  I never grew to hate her character because however bad she was made to appear, it was obvious to me that she treats her job with much passion and dedication which can be easily misunderstood specially if she wants to be misunderstood. 
Maya talks about the 6% in society that is given special privileges that is beyond the imagination of the normal folks and applies the same principle in the class giving them their first taste of discrimination.  She continues that the reason why some people treat studying with nonchalance is because these people are sisies and cowards, refusing to aim for more because they fear failure thereby convincing themselves to aim for less and have more.  She bravely tackles about bullying and betrayal, which leads even the most indifferent student to participate in resolving the seemingly impossible class situation.  Her punishments include cleaning the gym, comfort rooms in school, shaming a person in front of the class, and the likes.  However, because of her unusual manner, it forces her students to re-evaluate themselves, to think on their own, meditate on their dreams and discover their strengths. 
At times, she is made to appear as the devil reincarnate but to me, she is just playing the devil's advocate.  However harsh the punishments are, if one is to evaluate objectively, you would understand that there may be a bigger picture than the one she presents.
For some reason, Kazumi seemed to always bear the brunt of Maya's ire but to her credit, she never once surrendered to Maya choosing to exert every effort to continue to trust and to win her classmates over. 
In the process, when everything was said and done, the parents finally clamouring to change the grade 6 teacher and board of education demanding her to resign, the students then realize the values that Maya has been inadvertently trying to teach them.  They realize that because they didn't want to lose to Maya, they have been improving themselves without even realizing it. 
In the end, it was revealed that Maya does not go to sleep in order to keep an eye on her students, to review their progress and to make sure that she is always prepared for her next class.  Her body ultimately gives up and she ends up in the hospital which is the first time she was portrayed as being human.
I could never be as passionate as she was about her job that she stays focused on her goal of improving her students no matter what the cost is to her which she achieves in the end at the cost of her job. 
This is definitely an "intelligent" drama and belongs to my top 10 list. I liked the characters in this drama and how it did not try to sugar-coat the harsh realities of life.  The show forced me to think objectively and to "open my eyes" (which is a fave phrase of Maya).
Queen's classroom gets 10 out of 10 for being an excellent show that is more than entertainment.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review on Korean Movie: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

Title: Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Genre: Drama, Action
Duration: 1 hr 58mins
Directed by: Chan Wook Park
Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum Ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr Baek
Kwon Yea-young as Jenny
Kim Shi-hu as Geun-shik

The nation was shook with the news of a young boy of 5 who was kidnapped and killed senselessly.  It was disturbing though that the alleged kidnapper is a young, beautiful woman, who looked like an angel but showed no signs of remorse for the crime she committed.  When she confessed to the crime, even the detective investigating the crime did not believe her but felt that she had a strong reason to confess to the crime she did not commit.  13 years later, she is released from prison and she immediately goes into action for the culmination of the revenge she planned for 13 years.  While inside prison, she was consumed by her plan for revenge and did everything necessary to achieve her goal even donating kidney to her inmate and killing the bull-dyke which has made a sex slave of her inmate.  She was later on dubbed as the witch which was kind hearted and everyone was more than happy to oblige to her requests including one woman who marries Mr Baek as part of Geum Ja's plan.
It would later on be revealed that her daughter was kidnapped by Mr Baek, a private school teacher, to force her to confess to the crime.  She later on discovers that her daughter, Jenny, was adopted by foreigners and was brought to Australia.  She visits her daughter in Australia and although wanting to be with her, Geum ja knows that she has to leave her behind since she still has some unfinished business to do in Seoul.  Unfortunately, Jenny wanted to go to Korea with her and convinces her adoptive parents to allow her to go with Geum Ja. 
While the mother-daughter bond becomes deeper, her plan for revenge is set to full gear.  It became evident though that Mr Baek was aware of her plans and sent two thugs to kidnap Geum Ja and attack his wife, who was a former inmate of Geum Ja.  Thereafter, Geum Ja kills both thugs and binds Mr Baek who was knocked unconscious by the drug given to him by his wife. 
The next scene shows Geum Ja eager to take her revenge yet hesitant to kill Mr Baek but then discovers the his cell phone is decorated by several children's toys including the favourite marble of the boy Geum Ja supposedly kidnapped and killed.  She was devastated by the discovery so she calls on the previous detective who handled her case$, feeling more burdened by the fact that she inadvertently aided Mr Baek because she confessed to the crime and allowed him to be free to kidnap those other kids and kill them.  The police was then led to discover the bodies of the kidnapped children who were all killed by Mr Baek.  Rummaging through his things, Geum Ja discovers that Mr Baek filmed the killing of each child he kidnaps and kept them for his record.  She then decides to involve the family of each kidnapped child and shows them the painful film of how their children pleaded and were killed. 
It brought me to tears when she showed how each child pleaded and was killed without remorse.  It showed the pain of each family as they watched their child killed before their eyes making them filled with renewed hatred.  Geum Ja then gives them the option of either turning him over to the authorities or to take the matter with their own hands.  As they were discussing each course of action, the film showed that Geum Ja has setup a speaker in the room so that Mr Baek could hear everything they were discussing in the other room.  The film also showed that although each family were filled with deep hatred initially, they also hesitated a bit when they were really confronted with the issue of exacting their vengeance but they each were able to overcome the hesitation and goes for the kill. After which a picture of everyone was taken and they buried his body together with the weapons they used to kill him.
Even after she has exacted her revenge, the movie showed that she was still filled with remorse and confusion until she meets with her daughter on the road.  She tells Jenny to live white and Jenny in turn tells her to live whiter. 
This film was unbelievably, showed genuine human emotions and forced me to meditate on the issues at hand including the morality of revenge, of forgiveness, atonement and remorse.  As each of us would like to lead a life that is white and pure, how would you be able to forgive a man who killed children without remorse and let him live another day?
I give this 9 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Review on Korean Movie: A Moment to Remember (2004)

Title: A Moment to Remember (2004)
Genre: Korean Movie
Duration: 2 hrs
Directed by: John H. Lee
Jung Woo-sung as Choi Chul Soo
Sohn Ye-jin as Su Jin
Baek Jong-hak as Young Min


Movie starts with Su Jin at the train station heartbroken after being dumped by her previous married lover.  Feeling lost and abandoned, she goes to a store to buy soda but she forgets both the soda and her wallet.  She goes back to the store but was met by Chul Soo holding a can of soda.  She grabs the soda and drinks it in front of him thinking he took her soda and then takes her leave.  He was amused by her display of courage since people usually stay wary of him having the look of a troublemaker.  Su Jin goes back again to the store remembering she did not get her wallet and the attendant gives her back her wallet and soda making her realize her earlier mistake and feeling embarrassed about it. 
Later on, she realizes that he works for her father as a foul-mouthed, bad tempered, perfectionist foreman.  She felt herself drawn to him more especially when he rescues her from the snatcher.  There isn't much of courting as they agreed to be together over a glass of liquor but Su Jin was obviously so much in love and they were both in bliss.
Chul soo had a bad past making him cynical about life, love and people.  He doesn't believe in love and marriage but changes his mind after Su Jin collapses the night he met her family.
They live a life of bliss after with hints of her illness manifesting early on.  She consults a doctor and was confirmed to have a rare disease of Alzheimer's.  She was advised to quit her job immediately since she would not be able to continue working.  She tells Chul soo she'll quit her job and will stay home to do chores.  Chul soo only discovers her illness after she prepared his lunch with two bowls of rice.  Su Jin gets disoriented while on her way to meet her ex-lover while Chul soo frantically looks for her in the street, discovering her at the batting station.  Su Jin asks for a breakup realizing that sooner, she would not even be able to recognize him and would eventually forget the feelings she has for him.
As her situation worsens, Chul Soo begins doubting her feelings for him after she calls him by her ex-lovers name and tells him that she loves him.  He then realizes that he has never told her that he loves her.
More tearjerker scenes follow...

I knew it was a mistake to watch this movie.  I knew it would be a good one but I knew I would be crying for this movie so I have been avoiding it for the last couple of months.  I just momentarily forgot that I'm not supposed to watch it and when I realized my mistake, I thought I could stop while the story was still happy but I was sucked right in.
Given that she has alzheimer's, I knew it won't be a happy ending.  There is no cure for this disease and there is no happy ending either.  It would just be a movie filled with sadness, being so young and beautiful yet her life is about to end when it's just supposed to be starting.

The actors were superb specially Jung Woo portraying the raw emotions of a man who was hunted by his past but has so much love for his wife that he was able to forgive his mother for abandoning him and making peace with his past.  He is the epitome of the dangerous, ruggedly handsome yet gentle with his lover type of guy who would never leave your side.  He was able to perfectly convey the emotions of a husband torn with the love for his wife, wanting to be with her and yet knowing she needs more than what he can offer.  I made a realization though after the movie, he is also made of pure fiction...listen girls, HE DOES NOT EXIST (hehehe).

While watching the movie, I can't help staring into Sohn Ye-Jin's doe eyes as they show only innocence and happiness until she discovers her illness then it drowns me in sadness and tears.  This movie made her so heart wrenchingly beautiful, so gentle and so innocent...almost ethereal.
I felt that the ending was good since there really isn't anything he can do for her except love her even though her memory of him has been long gone and to not doubt her feelings for him.
I won't recommend watching this movie unless you're prepared to shed some tears and share some happy moments in love. It made my head ache though from crying...LOL
I give this movie 9 out of 10 stars.

Review on Japanese Drama: Last Christmas (2004)

Title: Last Christmas
Genre: Japanese Drama
Duration: 11 episodes
Theme Song: Last Christmas and Wake me up before you Go-go!
Oda Yuji as Haruki Kenji
Yada Akiko as Aoi Yuki
Tamaki Hiroshi as Higaki Naoya
Katase Nana as Fujisawa Ritsuoko
Ihara Tsuyoshi as Shintani Goro

Aoi Yuki (Yada Akiko) believes that men are there just to serve a purpose for her and not for anything as foolish as love.  Haruki Kenji (Oda Yuji) initially thought that Yuki can actually be a snow fairy but changes his opinion quickly when he discovers that she moved in as his next door neighbour and has a throng of admirers that showers her with gifts while pretending to be all prim and proper at the office.  Discovering that she was formerly a member of a ladies gang and is dubbed as the "love killer", he tried to convince her to take his friend seriously as his friend is serious about her. 

Kenji changes his opinion though when he accidentally watches a recorded video she made for herself confessing about her terminal illness which unfortunately also caused her divorce. Perhaps feeling guilty because of his disdain at her behaviour before, he becomes extra nice to her and even went out of his way to protect her from his own friend when she decides to have a relationship with him and is led to a hotel. As time passes, he found himself wanting to do things for her and wanting to protect her more and more.  He even convinces her to confess her feelings to Higaki Noeya (Tamaki Hiroshi) as she said she was content to continue with the platonic relationship she had with Higaki fearing he would laugh at her if he knew her true feelings as they both pretended to be players.  She in return encourages him to pursue Sally (Ryo), a girl he had met in the past who's showing interest in him.  They wagered that whoever falls in love first would be treated by the loser with a round-trip ticket to Yellowknife to watch the aurora which was said to bound lovers who are able to witness it.  Yuki mustered all her courage to confess to Higaki on the eve that she convinces him to pursue his love for Fujitsu Ritsuko (Katase Nana) as she is convinced that Ritsuko also loves him but is in self-denial.  After her confession, she was finally able to let go of Higaki.  Yuki also discovers that Sally is actually married but is having marital problems.  They both were able to surpass this hurdle and they both in the end goes back to square one as they were both rejected by the parties they were interested in.
Unfortunately though, Yuki's past caught up with her and there was a nasty "expose" of her past dealings with men and her reputation at the office suffers.  The expose stated that she only got her position because of these men and not due to merit which forces her to submit her resignation. Haruki tried to convince her to stay and declared he would protect her.  Yuki dismissed his declaration and goes on with her plans.  When Haruki saw her stuffs packed outside her apartment, it forces him to take drastic actions and forces his boss,  who is also his long-time friend, to dismiss her resignation or he would also be forced to resign.  Learning this, Yuki started to see Haruki in a different light since it's the first time anyone has done this for her and it stirred her feelings for him.
When things were starting to get better, Yuki discovers though that her illness had a relapse and that she really might not make it until Christmas.  Fearing that she would be repeating history if she tells Haruki, she initially decided to keep things from him and always show a healthy, smiling Yuki to him.  Will they make it to watch the aurora at Yellowknife and spend another Christmas together or would it be her last Christmas?

This would be part of my must see dramas of all time.  It was moving, poignant, and beautiful.  The male lead wasn't a drop-dead, gorgeous guy but he was able to portray his character beautifully.  He was always kind, nice, good in everything and very considerate.  Yuki is beautiful, cheerful and courageous and gives off the facade of being able to live alone but in reality she very much wanted to be in love and to be with somebody. 
There were not too much display of affection and if anything, I would actually like to say that it's one of the major flaws in this drama. Despite that though, the story was really good, not too dramatic and both the leads approach to their characters were superb.  The chemistry between them is palpable and their eyes reflect their love for each other.
One thing though, I felt the writers were trying to avoid technicalities of her "terminal illness" and decided to just not say what the illness was which I found funny.  It made it convenient for her to have the surgery and relapse and the viewers will not be able to question the veracity of their data.
I thought this would just be another show since the start wasn't really that exciting but I found myself hooked and can't bear to fast-forward the scenes since I would like to see everything that's happening.  They could have extended the dramatic scenes when Yuki found out about her illness but I'm grateful they avoided that and   just allowed the right amount of drama and suspense.
This show made me smile, and cry and laugh and get excited and apprehensive which proves it's really one of the best drama I've seen.  One thing I love about Kenji is that he made you feel warm inside.  If you want to fall in love this Christmas, don't miss this show.

This would get 9 out of 10 stars for me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review on Taiwanese Drama: Corner with Love(2007)

Title: Corner with Love
Genre: Taiwanese Drama
Duration: 16 episodes
Theme Song: Love Courage by Lai Ya Yan
Barbie Hsu as Xin Lei
Show Luo as Qin Lang
Chen Zhi Kai as Yin Shang Dong
Lu Jia Xin as Cai Xiao Yang
Dean Fujioka as An Teng Feng

Xin Lei ( Barbie Hsu) is a wealthy, intelligent, confident and beautiful girl who has never known a day of hardship.  Her family is a business tycoon in Shanghai and she is engaged to Yin Shang Dong (Chen Zhi Kai) who is also perfect in every way.  he has only lived a life of fairytale and has never known a day of hardship as everyone tends to dote on her and treat her as a princess.  Her car accidentally crashes with Qin Lang's bike (Show Luo) on her way to meet with Shan Dong.  They met again when Xin Lei eats at the restaurant that Show Luo works at and loves the omelette he made that she asks him to teach her how to make it in order to impress the family of Shan Dong with her cooking skills.  Everything should have worked out until Xin Lei's family declared bankruptcy and her parents abandon her to escape their debtors thinking Shan Dong's family would take her of her. Unfortunately, Shan Dong also abandons her and gets engaged with another girl whose family is also wealthy.  Her parents only left her with a ticket and a house in Taiwan which Xin Lei decides to pursue since Shan Dong's family asked her to break away from Shan Dong since he was wavering and wanted to cancel the engagement with the new girl to be with Xin Lei.

Qin Lang is a frustrated artist whose father abandons his mother and him to pursue his passion for painting.  He goes to Shanghai with the hopes of pursuing his dream of becoming a renowned painter but was cheated of his money, his passport and his ticket.  Left with no money and no other choice, he worked as a cook to earn his ticket back to Taiwan, making his grandma's famous seafood fry.  He helps Xin Lei make the dish although he is annoyed at her princess complex and at the same time, he seems to be invariably drawn to her.  When Xin Lei's family declares bankruptcy and her fiancee abandons her, he found himself worrying about her and wanting to protect the princess and does everything to cheer her up.  Unfortunately, he had to go back to Taiwan to take care of his grandmother, unwillingly leaving Xin Lei behind and thinking that they would never meet again.
Coincidentally, they meet again in Taiwan and it turns out that the house that was left to Xin Lei by her parents is Qin Lang's house.  Xin Lei tried to drive Qin Lang's family out of the house which infuriated his grandmother and wanted Xin Lei out of the house since she can show no proof of ownership of the house.  Knowing that Xin Lei has nowhere else to go, Qin Lang lied to his grandmother saying that Xin Lei is his girlfriend who is now penniless and homeless and pleaded she let her stay.  The grandmother reluctantly lets her stay under the condition that she has to help with the household chores and she has to find a job and pay her rent for staying in the house.
A series of unfortunate events happen which leads Xin Lei to face up to her life's situation and learn to adapt to her new environment.  She is unable to give up her princess complex but little by little, warmed up to Qin Lang's family and the kind of life they were leading.  In the end, she would have to make a choice between staying as a princess in her castle or to lead a simpler life of a commoner for love.

The drama began interestingly but latter dragged on with unnecessary subplots and too much drama.  I started out not liking Qin Lang as I found his character too loud and unrefined compared to Shan Dong's gentlemanly image.  But Qin Lang's character grew on me as his undying devotion to Xin Lei was so evident even as they continue their incessant bickering.  I felt the drama could have been shortened and I felt that the quarrels they always have become too much for a 16-long episode drama. 
It was also difficult to watch Shan Dong's acting as he tried to show frustration and anger but the acting was so awkward I had to forward the scene.  I had to also skip a lot of the drama since I found some parts to be too painfully dragging.  At the end of the drama, I found myself unmoved as Xin Lei struggled to make her decision to abandon Qin Lang so they could get their house back. 
I shed a lot of tears for Shancai in Meteor Garden but for some reason, I just wasn't moved with her acting in this drama. Barbie's acting was just alright but I found that a lot of the other cast's acting really bad and exaggerated that it hampered me from really enjoying the show since the portrayal was so unbelievable.  It was also obvious that a lot of the parts in the drama were prolonged just so it could be longer. 
I felt they could have developed the story better and given it more twists and depth.

The drama could have ended in just 9 episodes and I don't know why it had to go on until 16 episodes.

It's a good thing that the show had some eye candies like Dean Fujioka (dreamy eyes!!!) and Chen Zhi Kai or I would not have forced myself to finish the drama. 
I am giving this drama 5 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hataraki Man/Working Man

Title: Hataraki Man
Genre: comedy, drama
Duration: 11 episodes

Kanno Miho as Matsukata Hiroko
Hayami Mokomichi as Tanaka Kunio
Yoshizawa Yuu as Yamashiro Shinji
Sawamura Ikki as Narita Kimio
Sada Mayumi as Araki Masami

This story is about a 28-year magazine editor, Matsukata Hiroko (Kanno Miho) who is so devoted to her work she can completely forget everything else.  She has devoted her life to her work and aims to become the editor-in-chief of her magazine that she usually has to forsake her boyfriend in order to get the scoop.  She becomes so absorbed in her work that her colleagues have dubbed her as the Hatakari Man and loses her femininity in order to get the job done. 
Her long-time boyfriend, Yamashiro Shinji (Yoshizawa Yuu) is a supervisor for a construction firm who dreams of being able to build bridges but instead makes condominiums for his firm.  He has always been patient and understanding towards Matsukata and always prioritized her over his job.  He struggles to understand his girlfriend and strives to be there for her when she needs him even at the expense of his job even though he knows that her work always comes first for her ...but lately, he has been wondering if she really still needs him.

Tanaka Kunio (Hayata Makomichi) is a young, dispassionate newbie who longs to work for men's fashion magazine and scorns the work done at the magazine as mere nonsensical and unimportant as they usually just deals with gossips and controversies.  He is indifferent to his work and believes that as long as he could deliver, it should be okay.  He also believes that work shouldn't govern his life as there should always be a balance between work and life which usually infuriates Hiroko as she always puts work first before her life.  However, Tanaka proves that he is more than capable to do the job if he only puts his heart into his job.  Later on, he becomes inspired by the dedication of Hiroko but still believes that his stay in the magazine is only an interim as he is still preparing to pursue his dream of becoming part of men's fashion magazine.
Together, they discover the values of life, love, work, sacrifices and facing the consequences of the choices they make.
This drama made me depressed.  I was hoping that it could show a positive light on how women can pursue their dreams and still manage to be happy with their love life.  However, this drama only proved that a successful career and love life cannot be pursued at the same time for women. 
I was hoping that Tanaka would be able to help her strike a balance between life and work but was sorely disappointed until the end.  There were hints of a budding romance but it was never pursued.  At the beginning of the series, I really wanted her to break up with her boyfriend so that her romance with Tanaka can be pursued and they can both influence each other positively.  However, towards the end of the drama, I felt that it would have been unfair if she ended up with Tanaka since she is completely devoted to her job that even when she becomes so sick, all she can think of is her work.  I began to appreciate the patience and dedication of Shinji.  He was just always there for her to listen, to encourage and to help her whenever she needs him.  Unfortunately though, Hiroko only remembers him whenever she needs him or whenever her best friend reminds her of her "obligations" towards Shinji.  More often than not, she would have to cancel on their date which they had to schedule since she is so busy. 
At the end of the series, I just wanted to shake her up and shout at her to ask what the hell is she thinking.  I think the portrayal of modern women here is so negative that it makes me want to rethink my options and my dreams as a woman.  I wanted to ask the character if she would not have regretted the choices she made if one day she discovers she is already old and alone and all she has to show for is her work.  Does it mean that women would have to set aside love and family just so they could pursue a successful career?
I guess I wanted a more humane and positive approach on women and their careers that's why I was disappointed and probably a more enthusiastic acting from Hayata Makomichi as I felt he was just a background for this drama until the end.
I give this drama 7 out of 10 stars.