Friday, March 04, 2011

Secret Garden

Secret Garden (시크릿 가든) is a 2010-2011 Korean romantic/fantasy drama that has the basic framework of any other Korean romantic drama, but adds things that makes it different and just that much more refreshing. It stars Hyun Bin, Ha Ji Won, Yoon Sang Hyun, Kim Sa Rang, Lee Philip, Lee Jong Suk, Yoo In Na, and Kim Sung Oh. The summary is as follows:

The drama tells the story of Kim Joo Won, an arrogant and eccentric CEO who maintains the image of seeming perfection, and Gil Ra Im, a poor and humble stuntwoman whose beauty and body are the object of envy amongst top actresses. Their accidental meeting, when Joo Won mistakes Ra Im for actress Park Chae Rin, marks the beginning of a tense, bickering relationship, through which Joo Won tries to hide a growing attraction to Ra Im that both confuses and disturbs him. To complicate matters further, a strange sequence of events results in them swapping bodies.

You know what bothers me? Even though summaries give you a hint of what goes on, it's really not that accurate. I don't know why I started this drama, but I do remember that I began it approximately two weeks before my arrival date in Korea (yes, I'm in Korea now and have been for the past two weeks). No wait, I was stuck on for dramas because of the good quality of the videos; the commercials I could ignore and if I could see the pores on the actors' and actress' faces, all the better. Anyway, the summary didn't really pull me in though it did intrigue me. What? Romance and some fantastical idea all in one? O_o So I decided to try it out.

First off, the acting's superb. The switching of the bodies showed their talent and when Joo Won reverted back to his 21-year-old self, that was a testament as well. The plot was great as well, even though it seems a bit generic at first. I mean, it's a poor, orphan girl who gets noticed by some privileged guy. Then you learned a bit more: it's a stunt woman (who's pretty kick-butt if I may say so) who has a firefighter for a dad with a CEO for a lover and to-be husband. There are plot twists and I love how the roles are reversed where you see the guy going against the very fabric of his being and chasing after the girl. It's so romantic. Personally, the 17th and 18th episodes are my absolute favorites and you know what? The ending isn't all happiness and butterflies in a meadow full of blooming flowers. They're together (which is what's important - it seems like the main theme was how love could surpass all in the end solely by itself) and it shows a bit of life after marriage, but - well, you'll see. ^^

Anyway, I highly recommend it. One more thing: the body-swapping seems completely random at the beginning, but it all makes sense towards the end (sort of). :) It also links in references to fairy tales via Disney princesses which is sweet.You can watch it on hulu (but as hulu doesn't stream outside of the US, I finished it here).

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sungkyunkwan Scandal (성균관 스캔들) is a 2010 Korean period drama; a romantic comedy following a girl who disguises herself as a man in order to make ends meet and the group of friends she meets while masquerading in a Confucian school, known for producing government officials. It stars Micky Yoochun, Park Min Young, Song Joong Ki, and Yoo Ah In. The synopsis is as follows:

Sungkyunkwan Scandal is set in Sungkyunkwan University in the late Joseon era during the reign of King Jeongjo, revolving around the exploits and love stories of four youths. When her younger brother's illness worsens and their family is in danger of being evicted from their house for lack of money, Kim Yoon Hee enters the school under his name, disguised as a boy in her desperation to support him. There, she becomes friends with the intelligent and upright Lee Sun Joon, the playboy Goo Yong Ha and rebellious Moon Jae Shin.

First off, what drew me to this drama was not the cast - though I surely grew to love them as the drama progressed - it was the plot. I'm a sucker for girl-masquerading-as-a-guy plotlines and having a straight guy question his own sexuality and all the humorous events that ensue in due course. That being said, although I know of DBSK and I do like some of their songs, I don't know much about them. Now, I can say that I definitely know Yoochun, though. ^^ My favorite's still Yoo Ah In... but that's not the point. There were a lot of comments about Yoochun's lack of acting skills, or so I remember when it had first started airing. Even so, I didn't see it as a hindrance. I still loved the drama and it tickled me funny. He's not the most expressive guy, but when is that important? The message got through. Cute moments are plenty but it also touches upon the more serious topics of social and gender equality, which was fairly nonexistent in the time setting of the drama.

I have to say it wasn't all that painful to watch, romantic-wise, so don't be afraid to watch it if you hate the roller coaster ride of feelings romantic dramas tend to take you on. There's unrequited love, for sure, but I seriously had no love for the other girl - she annoyed me - though I did feel for the other guy. It wasn't unbearable, though, since that left him all to myself. ^_^ Anyway, I love the plot and the plot twists and the riddles here and there; it keeps you guessing. There is action as well, so it's not all fun and games and such. As usual, I'm surprised she stayed a secret for that long, but it is a drama, so it's a given. All in all, I really did enjoy this drama - the filming, the message(s), the plot, the eye candy...

I watched it on hulu, since the videos are high quality, though there are commercials.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Playful Kiss

Playful Kiss (장난스런 키스), or Mischievous Kiss, is a 2010 Korean romantic comedy and the Korean version of the Taiwanese It Started With a Kiss (2005) as well as They Kissed Again (2007) and the Japanese Itazura na Kiss (1996). It stars Kim Hyun Joong, Jung So Min, Lee Tae Sung, Lee Si Young, Jung Hye Young, and Kang Nam Gil. It also features Korean indie band Bye Bye Sea (안녕바다) that I rather like. The summary is as follows:

Based on the popular manga, Oh Ha Ni is a clumsy student who falls for the perfectionist, Baek Seung Jo. However, Seung Jo is indifferent towards her and rejects her love. When Ha Ni's house collapses, she and her father moves into his long-time friend's house. It turns out that Seung Jo is the friend's son and Ha Ni is given the opportunity to be near the guy she loves. Will she be able to move Seung Jo's heart?

When I first caught wind that a Korean version of ISWAK would be coming out, I decided that I absolutely had to watch it; there was no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Of course, this doesn't mean that I wasn't apprehensive. ISWAK took us on for a long ride and there were plenty of moments where I experienced a lot of second-hand embarrassment, courtesy of the female lead, but I guess it was her "charm." It doesn't hurt that Kim Hyun Joong would be playing the male lead either. ;) The ratings for the drama weren't very good at the beginning due to other popular dramas (i.e. Kim Tak Gu) and some comments weren't very positive about Kim's acting, but I still went on with it and I'm glad I did.

The drama pretty much squeezed most of the events from ISWAK and a part of TKA into 16 episodes when compared to the 40 or so total episodes of the Taiwanese version combined. Because it was shorter, it wasn't that painful watching Oh Ha Ni finally catch Baek Seung Jo's eye, but I feel that the ending could have ended with more closure. Then again, I was watching this drama with the Taiwanese series in mind which was much longer. The acting wasn't horrendous - isn't he supposed to be a cold and stoic guy anyway?? - and I felt that the foreign girl, Chris, was rather likeable and her Korean sounded much better than the foreign girl in the Taiwanese version, but I'm not an expert in Korean so that's just how it sounded to my inexperienced ears. ;) The last episode didn't leave you hanging - it did show snippets of everyone else's love life, which I thought was cute, but it really was just a hint. Hints are nice, but I also like nice, long stories that show you everything; you tend to get more involved. ...On the other hand, it's a good thing that Playful Kiss was shorter. I really can't have my Internet lagging for too long. >.>

To sum it up: if you love ISWAK and want some semblance of it back, you should totally watch this. If you haven't watched ISWAK, you should still watch this (as well as ISWAK). If you're just lazy and don't want to go through the 40-odd episodes of ISWAK + TKA, then you should watch this just to get a good idea of the plot. When you have and decide that you want to see a more in-depth version, then watch ISWAK. :] This seriously hooked me in, haha. And even though it took me a year to complete ISWAK and TKA because it was that painful to watch the girl for the first couple of episodes, it really is a good series.

I watched it on hulu because the quality was excellent as well as the subtitles. I attempted to watch it on MySoju and DramaCrazy but the videos kept on getting all wonky. :/