Category Archive: Reviews

쾌도 홍길동/ Kwaedo Hong Gil Dong/Hong Gil Dong Review

Title: 쾌도 홍길동/ Kwaedo Hong Gil Dong/Hong Gil Dong
Type: Drama
Genre: Fusion drama of: Historical and romantic comedy. Later Melodrama plays in.
Cast:
- Sung Yuri as Heo Yi Nok.
- Kang Ji Hwan as Hong Gil Dong.
- Jang Geun Suk as Lee Chang Hwi
Notable other cast:
- Choi Ran as Lady Noh (Was in two other Hong Sister productions)
- An Suk Hwan as Minister Seo Yoon Sub (Also in two other Hong Sisters productions.)

Basic Plot Summary:
Based on a fictional book about a Robin Hood in Korea, Hong Gil Dong, this drama is very loosely based off of that book and the time it was set in.

Hong Gil Dong is the bastard son of a minister. He spends most of his time lazing the day away and taking goods from the various merchants. However, a local monk think he’s destined to be more. Hong Gil Dong, for his part, really dislikes the injustices in this ranked world.

Heo Yi Nok has returned to Korea, fresh from China. She’s an upbeat, naive and carefree girl. She’s been living with her grandfather for the last few years. They both are merchants looking to make a fortune back in Korea.

Lee Chang Hwi, however, has been told since he was young that he’s the rightful king of Korea. He bumps into Heo Yi Nok. This initially causes misunderstanding between them, but over time his heart is softening towards her.

Meanwhile Heo Yi Nok and Hong Gil Dong are developing a friendship that feels like (at least to Yi Nok) that it could be more.

As the question of rightful succession comes into play, Hong Gil Dong and Yi Nok are forced to take sides.

Hormones:
Three notable men, one notable women.
In Sung, Jang Geun Suk, and Kang Ji Hwan are the men.
Sung Yuri is the woman….

Popularity:
Popular on the internet. It was usurped twice by other dramas for number 1, but it did make it into the top ten and stay there.

Music:
The music is a mixture of something like Rock music, and modern music, rather than the traditional music one would find in productions such as Dae Jang Geum and Hwang Jini. This definitely forces one not to take this drama seriously, and adds a fresh new flavor to the drama.

Acting:
The acting is well delivered in all parts. Sung Yuri gives a surprising performance considering the lack of acting skills in Prince’s First Love. She, herself, has admitted that she sees improvement as she tries to grasp the character more than memorizing the lines.

Also watch out for Kang Ji Hwan, who also gives a great range of emotions, both in voice and facial expression. He’s shown great range in Hong Gil Dong, from serious to downright childish.

I would also say that Jo Hee Bong is an excellent actor for this part since he ranges from downright looney to somewhat lucid throughout the scenes with nice fluidity, that one can believe there is not just insanity, but an undercurrent of conscience and intelligence.

Jang Geun Suk also does a nice job with subtlety, though his role doesn’t call for as much range, his facial expressions are often dead on.

Overall the supporting cast doesn’t have a weak bit of acting in them. The supporting cast has done a fantastic job of understanding and getting their characters in line in a short amount of time. The people you hate, you hate for the right reasons, and the people you feel bad for, you feel bad for the right reasons.

Visuals:
Lush visuals, and the right camera angles with that understated tone, make for a very visually pleasing drama. The rich colors of the Choseon Era definitely come alive.

Direction:
I thought that the direction wasn’t lacking. It was subtle, and it’s obvious that the actors are having fun. He was also the director on My Girl and Chun Hyang.

He could have tightened some of the episodes, particularly at the end.

Story: The Hong Sisters never fail to impress me. There are twists and turns in the plot. What would seem to fit into two to three episodes is put into one. It’s a very fast paced drama with a variety of plotlines that don’t drag down or detract from the main two storylines. (The romance and succession storylines.)

I will warn people that the ending is a shocker. From episodes 1-18, it’s a comedy. From episodes 19-24, it’s a melodrama, with an undercurrent of comedy, particularly in episodes 22 and 23, before the big battle.

The Good:
The strongest points in this drama are the excellent writing and the excellent acting. However, the production overall is fairly strong.

The Bad:
Some complaints people might have is that they don’t like the smaller subplots, even if they grow out of the larger plots.

Also some of the melodrama in Episodes 18-24 might drag people down from watching the drama.

In the same token the contrast from sad to funny might also leave people cold.
It’s not historical in the strictest sense either, however, the drama never promises from episode one and the use of contemporary music to be any serious history lesson.

Why Watch it:
If you’re a Hong Sisters fan, this is not far off from Chun Hyang. It’s an enjoyable watch. It follows a lot of Chun Hyang conventions as well. Also it doesn’t deviate from feeling too far from a Hong Sisters drama. It’s funny and light with a gripping storyline.

It might turn people off who don’t like political plots or use of any kind of melodrama in a comedy, however, it also doesn’t use many of the normal drama conventions.

This is also not a simple drama one can play in the background. Nor one where if one likes the usual conventions that one would expect.

Also if you don’t like bittersweet endings, steer clear of this one.

Things to Watch for:
- the Chamberpot scene in the river.
- The way that Hong Gil Dong’s stick wear down over time.
- breath steaming in Yongmun.
- Yongmun cookies.
- Hair and clothing changes in relation to character change.
- How many times Hong Gil Dong sticks some straw or a stick into his mouth.
- Comparing the first scene of the drama to Yi Nok now.
- The pouch.
- The sunglasses.
- The eyeglass/ telescope.

Overview:

Overall it’s a good drama. I think those who liked Goong most likely will like Hong Gil Dong as well. It has good production values, lush colors, good acting and a great production crew. How can you truly go wrong with a Hong Sisters-written drama anyhow? They’ve never failed to impress me.

Rating:
4/5 This is one of those you must watch to see which way Korean dramas are going.

Hwang Jin Yi (movie 2007) Review

For those who have watched the original series, which is about a gisaeng that through triumphs and tribulations becomes one of the most popular and sought after gisaeng in the district and in Korea in general. This movie is not that drama.

If you take the drama, drop any sort of art plotline (which was my original attraction to the drama) and add a Robin Hood plot to it, you pretty much get this movie. Also reduce Gisaeng to whores rather than artisans of craft.

I find this a bit shocking since in movies they tend to be more daring, and try to break boundaries of how people perceive events, rankings, and so on. This movie didn’t even dare to go there. In fact, the Robin Hood Plot with Myung Wol as his maid Marianne would probably been able to hold itself if it wasn’t in the gisaeng heritage.

Overall, I think this movie probably be good for those who hated the drama and don’t care about art, and maybe like a fatalistic version of Robin Hood.

Over the Rainbow

Summary: Don’t watch this drama. The actors are OK, but the writing stinks. If you want to watch good actors suffer, then watch it. Because the writers just took the actors for pretty faces without content.

The music s worth the download if you can find Hwan Nee’s Tomorrow.

If you do choose to watch it quit after episode 7.

쾌걸 춘향 / Kwae-geol Chun-hyang/My Sassy Girl Chun Hyang review

Title: 쾌걸 춘향 / Kwae-geol Chun-hyang/My Sassy Girl Chun Hyang
Type: Drama
Genre: Romantic Comedy/ Drama
Cast:
Han Chae Young (한채영) as Sung Chun-hyang
Jae Hee (재희) as Lee Mong-ryong
Uhm Tae Woong as Byun Hak-do
Park Shi Eun (박시은) as Hong Chae-rin
Lee In Hye (이인혜) as Han Dan-hee
Moon Ji Yoon (문지윤) as Pang Ji-hyuk
Kim Chung (김청) as Kong Wol-mae
Ahn Suk Hwan (안석환) as Mong-ryong’s father
Choi Ran (최란) as Mong-ryong’s mother

Basic Plot Summary:
Loosely based on the legend of Chun Hyang, this drama follows Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong from high school into adulthood.

The legend of Chun Hyang is about a devopted wife whose husband went away, but then a Minister tried to force her to marry her who was much, much older than her. Believing her husband would return Chun Hyang stayed devoted to her husband and waited paitiently for his return.

The drama follows this loosely in the latter half of the drama, but as a drama in of itself it makes fun of the original legend. It starts with Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong meeting badly, first by her landing on his head, and then later by her crushing his phone and mixing them up. Because she wants to go to Hankook University, and through a series of scandels, they agree to get married.

However they both have to contend with their rivals–Chae Rin and Byun Hak Do. Chae Rin is Mong Ryong’s Nuna, whom he wishes for her to look at him as a man, and Hak Do wants Chun Hyang to be his.
Hormones: Hormones to watch for, would be Jae Hee… When he smiles it’s very cute and killer. Also Han Chae Young is also someone that might appeal to the guys. Besides them the count on hormones is lower.
Popularity: Most people are blissfully ignorant about this drama. However, the majority of people who watch it have very little complaints about the drama itself. Despite My Girl being popular many people continue to ignore or not know about this drama.
Music: The quality of the music is high. There are several good outside pieces as well as several excellently cued pieces made for the drama. The voices used aren’t the usual pop-flavor which compliments the tone and outset of this drama. It’s a very rememberable track despite this. It even has a kind of traditional flavor as well.
Acting:
Jae Hee is remarkable as an actor. He acted in 3-iron previously which was the exact opposite of this role. He’s funny, charismatic, his body language and movement are really funny and remarkable. And he has a good sense of timing and humor.
There were no painful performances overall, and until the last moment everyone does their part fairly well.
Visuals: The set design for the past paraodies were really good and showed a deep understanding of it. The color use, and framing shots weren’t of particular note, however, the shot work is integrated to tell the story more than to make one notice them.
Direction: The director’s influence can be seen throughout this. It feels like he tried to have a lot of fun, working well with the writers (enough that he went on to do My Girl). I particularly like the show of the love of dramas and the jabs he makes at the current dramas out there.
Story: The writing is excellent. It usually takes up to 3 episodes for a Korean drama to finally warm up, but this one is captivating from the start and doesn’t let go until the end. It does lag for one or two episodes, but it’s not as bad as some other dramas where if you skip those episodes you won’t have missed anything.
The Good: The story, the acting, the use of hanbok, the slow and progressive movement of the story with smooth transitions. This drama doesn’t fail to deliver on most levels. When it’s funny, it’s funny, when it’s meant to be dramatic and sad it shows it. And even in the dramatic moments itseems to make a jab at other dramas. The chemistry between Jae Hee and Han Chae Young is interesting to watch as well.
The Bad: Sometimes when Chae Young and Mong Ryong weren’t fighting it was a bit difficult to believe. However the writers did try to cover for this by making fun of it. This is also not a drama to watch if you haven’t watched a long list of things before it and have no idea about Korean dramas that proceeded it. As prevviously mentioned it does lag around Episode 13-14, but it’s not so bad.
Why Watch it:
This is good if you want a fast-paced drama with a good amount of laughs and gags. It’s particularly good if one has been around the block and then some and are getting tired of the regular korean drama. This makes fun of previous Korean dramas in both direct and indirect ways. If you know th conventions of Korean dramas this makes a lot of stabs at them.
Things to Watch for:
- The Matrix reference.
- The jab at the bridge scene.
- The jab at the suicide scene.
- The jabs at I’m Sorry I Love you, Full House and Winter Sonata.
- The constant references to My Sassy Girl movie. (Both the main actress’s name in which they say they can’t get her and also the most common phrases that Chun Hyang says)
- Mind Your Own Business and “Do you want to die” you can count them during the series to keep track of them.
- Countless other references which I won’t give away or it’ll spoil it.
- The subtle scene changes and character development.
- Also watch the NGs. They are really hilarious!
Overview: This drama is light, and funny and posesses the second most hateful villian in history. It also has a female lead that doesn’t turn whiny and crying during the course of the drama nor tries to reform her significant other. Since it makes fun of other dramas it’s quite refreshing after you’ve watched the gamut of movies and dramas that have the same forula. I would watch this one after Full House, but before My Girl. It’s an entertaining watch and very original compared to other dramas.
Rating: 5/5

Wonderful Life/원더풀 라이프 Review

Title: Wonderful Life/원더풀 라이프
Type: TV Series Drama (16 episodes)
Genre: Romance, drama, family life
Cast: 김재원(Kim Jae Won) as Han Seung-wan
유진(Eugene) as Jung Se-jin
이지훈 (Lee Ji Hoon) as Min Do-hyun
한은정(Han Eun Jung) as Lee Chae-young
(Joo Hyun) as Han Bum-soo (Seung-wan’s father)
(Sun Woo Yong Nyeo) as Yoon Tae-hee (Seung-wan’s mother)
(Kim Hye Ok) as Pyo Jae-kyung (Se-jin’s mother)
(Choi Joon Yong) as Han Seung-pil (Seung-wan’s older brother)
(Yoon Hyun Sook) as Baek Hyun-joo (Seung-pil’s wife)
김효진(Kim Hyo Jin) as Jung Il-jin (Se-jin’s older sister)
(Kim Seung Min) as So Chang-myung (Seung-wan & Do-hyun’s flying academy classmate)
정다빈(Jung Da Bin) as Han Shin-bi (Seung-wan and Se-jin’s daughter)

Basic Plot Summary:
Han Seung Wan and Jung Se-jin end up on the same airplane headed for Singapore. Se-jjin goes there to say goodbye to a long-time lover who died, and Seung Wan goes there to surprise his girlfriend. However, they accidentally mix up passports. Starting in a Love-Hate relationship they end up consoling each other and drinking. Leaving each other with a one night stand and Se Jin pregnant…
Hormones: Kim Jae Won could be considered a hormone factor in this, however, his pretty boy (Just stand there so female viewers can stare) is greatly diminished in this as he plays a type he rarely plays previously. (Though it does have touches of 100 days with Mr. Arrogant).
Popularity: There is no real big popularity for this show to speak of. With a lack of the usual pretty boy people, it doesn’t have great fan draw. The ratings for it are currently not availible.
Music: The musical score is very cute and poppy at times. It has three major scores, that of the opening score, the voice, but wordless score, and a really cute edition of Se Jin and Seung Wan’s daughter (Jung Da Bin) singing. The musical score might remind some vaguely of 18. v. 29.
Acting: The acting for the most part started out pretty mediocre–I feel this is because the actors didn’t feel they had to deliver anything. The first section is pretty much a huge tribute to Full House, which shows up later as they explicitly mention Bi’s name and use the same character for bi’s name in Shin Bi’s name.
The most surprising acting performance for me was Kim Jae Won. He’d mostly played arrogant types, or the eye candy type before in what I’d seen him. But as a character that’s downright immature, doesn’t know to handle things, he seemed to have a lot of fun with the role as it challenged him more and more. I loved him in the role because he subtly matured the character and I finally got to see him display real acting talent.
Another surprise was Jung Da Bin–the one that played the daughter. She’s adorable, cute, but she also plays a convincing role later in the series.
Eugene was fairly good in her own role, and also managed to mature the character, but I didn’t feel the same kind of elegance to the change. Most of the change happened after she showed up with the daughter and sometimes it was hard to tell where her character was going, which is why I think she struggled with it.
The other roles weren’t as impressive because they did not play against the usual roles that I’ve seen them in.
Visuals: The framing shots, etc weren’t all that impressive for the show. There were a few here and there that struck me once in a while, but not a lot of artistic thought was put into it. However, the subtlty of the shotwork did work in favor fo the script which turned more towards developing the characters later in the show.
Direction: The director was fairly good, though I don’t think he had his heart in it which is why certain parts of it struggled, however the framework that he set up was pretty impressive at times.
Story: To be honest this series doesn’t really capture you and make you think it’s good until about the 8th episode. After the 8th episode you feel that i gets really good. The slow shifts in the phases of the character’s life is what makes it compelling, but to be honest it struggled quite a bit in the beginning. It’s only when it gets to the family life and the characters are forced to grow up that it becomes from OK to engaging. So you’ll have a fairly long wait before the story picks up. It’s almost as if the writers realized they had some decent actors to play with and adjusted the storyline accordingly.
The Good: The compelling things about this drama is that while it looks run of the mill, later on it gains a sense of heart–both main characters are reaching for their dreams, and even if they don’t gain fruit throughout the series they continue to try. I also like the fact that not for a second did they glorify pregnancy nor one-night stands, but went to great lengths to show how difficult it really is. The musical framework for the series was a nice addition as well and they tried to really work off the lyrics for the song they based this drama off of. They in fact, made fun o a lot of dramas that make life look easy. The idea that no life goes exactly as you planned is played up in the latter half of this 16-episode drama to perfection.
The Bad: The music connection could have been played up a touch for a better sense of framework. Because it’s Seung Wan who falls for Se Jin because of the musical connection, and it’s the major point of the drama, it could have been subtly interwoven a bit more. This drama also is not for people who like comedies to stay comedies–this story turns very, very sad at the end and for some just plain confusing (if you are just used to sitting back and laughing). While I got the ending, not everyone will. This drama is slow to start, but I never found a place where I wanted to skip an episode or go ahead. So it holds its own in that sense.
Why Watch it: This would make a great second or third drama (If you’re just starting)–I wouldn’t recommend it as a first drama. If you like seeing relationships and people evolve over a long period of time and mature due to situations, this woud be a good drama for you. If you want pretty faces, eye candy, and a plot that doesn’t make you think, you won’t like this drama. Since this dama has a touch of everything, it’s a good beginner drama, however, its a bit confusing at the end for beginners who aren’t used to the asian idea that one should be able to figure out from implications what the ending is. This drama is pretty good to watch in between other dramas and works that way. You won’t be bored as long as you have patience that the drama will pick up.

Things to Watch for:
The major thing of note is the large tribute to Full House. One may want to watch Full House first, even though this drama is better quality in terms of plotting.
Jung Da-Bin is also equally cute and may be worth watching for those who get bored with the first half.
For those who like to follow good acting and see an actor grow outside of the usual roles, Kim Jae Won’s performance might be interesting to watch.
I like the children’s song about the fish, which can be counted as kind of a counter to the Three Bears song of Full House, but is not fully realized.
There are no “special” moments in of themselves to watch.
Overview: A good, solid drama to watch, I’d say better than Full House in terms of plotting. While it’s not funny 100% of the time the theming is very strong in the drama, and in the end it’s very compelling to watch.
Rating: I’d recommend this drama. I won’t say it’s required. 3.5 out of 5. 5 being good.