My Love from the Star (2013): A pretty boy alien falls in love with a Hallyu star

promotional poster-http://i.imgur.com/JvmqW7D.jpg

An alien Do Min-joon (Kim Soo-hyun) arrives in Seoul in 1609 in the Joseon Dynasty and finds himself stranded for 400 years after saving a young noble girl. Just when he is about to return to his planet three months before, he falls in love with a famous Hallyu actress Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun). Do Min-joon later finds out that Song-yi was the young girl he saved 12 years ago who looked like the young noble girl from the Joseon days. Song-yi meanwhile gets embroiled in a controversy that affects her career and causes her popularity to plummet. Having no one whom she can rely on, Song-yi turns to Min-joon to save her from various mishaps. The most serious is protecting Song-yi from the hands of a psycopath scion of a large conglomerate who has no qualms in murdering those who stand in the way of his ambition to succeed his father as the chairman of the conglomerate. Since Do Min-joon is an alien with superpowers, he can freeze time and has visions about the future not to mention that his senses are 7x stronger than humans. Later, Song-yi also falls in love with Min-joon. However, Min-joon cannot stay forever with his love on earth because this would cause him his life. How the two would face this dilemma would seal their fate.

The chemistry between the two lead stars is electrifying despite the age gap of 7 years (Kim Soo-hyun was 25 years old and Jun Ji-Hyun was 32 years old at that time). As they say in the Philippines, there were lots of “kilig” (titillating) moments between the two leads. Kim Soo Hyun’s portrayal of a pretty boy and “soft” masculine alien who is aloof and never grows a day old from his present age of mid-20s is convincingly portrayed by Kim. Kim has a certain boyish charm and sex appeal that oozes everytime he pouts and when he smiles. I noticed a trademark feature of Kim in his dramas like Moon Embracing the Sun (2012) where he has this grimaced look when he cries out loud when on the verge of losing a loved one. One can feel the pain that made him howl in sadness.

Jun Ji -Hyun on the other hand, effectively portrays a sultry primadonna and “shallow” and “dumb” actress Cheon Song-hi living in the “plastic” and artificial world of showbiz where one has to mask of their real selves in front of their fans. She has been criticized for having “botox on her brain” and lacks common sense and the ability to think. She is hurt by people who are nice to her in front but backstabs her, as if she is not used to showbiz life. She has a nasty temper but is actually a caring and a pitiful person who longs for the love of her estranged father and allows her mother to take advantage of her.

Her love for Do Min-joon is tested when she lets go off Do Min-joon when she finds out his life is in danger on earth. I think Jun Ji Hyun is one of the beautiful faces on Korean screen after Song Hye Kyong and Kim Tae Ha.

About the plot, it is one of the more consistent and focused plot that I have seen among similar genres. Although the episodes were extended to 21 from the usual 16, I didn’t see any dragging scenes nor did I feel bored and thought the scenes were forced there to make the fans happy. This drama series has romance, fantasy, sci-fi, suspense, intrigue, comedy, all woven perfectly in one drama series. It is not surprising that this drama was the most watched Korean drama in 2013.

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Descendants of the Sun: The beginning of the on and off screen love story of the Song-Song couple

Just after the divorce of the Song-Song couple exploded in the news towards the end of June 2019, Netflix pushed Descendants of the Sun (2016) to my playlist. I read that the couple’s love story started on the set of Descendants and after two years in July 2019, Joongki announced a divorce due to incompatibility. Until the news, I was only familiar with one half of the love team– Song Hye-kyo whom I consider one of the most beautiful faces on Korean screen. The other half, Song Joong-ki, I have never bothered to even google, until of course I watched the first episode of Descendants. I would say Episode 1 which is about how the two lead stars first met was “cute” and light. Although I wouldn’t call Song Joong-ki handsome, he was very charming in an impish way in the drama series, aptly termed as “pilyo” in the Filipino language. Behind his very dangerous job as Captain of the South Korea Special Forces, he would always crack a joke to lighten the seriousness of situations he finds himself in. Just like with other Korean actors (e.g. Park Seong-jee, Lee Min-ho, Kim Soo-hyun), Song Joong-ki’s complexion is “girlishly” smooth and their handsomeness grows on you as you watch their character develop through the series.

Desendants is about an imaginary country called Uruk (which I read in reviews had references to Iraq) and was shot in Greece and in Korea.

Song Joong-ki as Capt Yoo Si-jin https://weheartit.com/entry/290093615

Song Joong-ki plays Captain Yoo Si-jin of the Special Defense Force while Song Hye-kyo plays Dr Kang Mo-yeon. They met in the Seoul hospital where Dr Kang worked and started dating. However, since their dates are always interrupted by emergency missions for Capt. Yoo, their relationship does not progress. Then, they meet again in Uruk where Capt. Yoo was assigned for 8 months already while Dr Kang was sent by their hospital on a two-week medical mission. After an earthquake struck Uruk where both engaged in emergency relief and recovery missions, Dr Kang finally accepts the inevitability of her love for Capt Yoo despite the seeming contradiction of their respective professions and becomes officially a couple. In the beginning, Dr Kang saw herself as a doctor “saving lives” and Capt Yoo as a soldier “killing people.” The relationship was further complicated by the secret and dangerous missions of Capt Yoo that not even people close to the latter are allowed to know. But Dr Kang’s love for Capt Yoo wins and Dr Kang finally accepts and understands the dangerous life of her boyfriend and is consoled by the fact that Capt Yoo is serving his country and keeping peace in other countries–thus both of them are actually “saving lives”.

Song Hey-kyo as Dr Kang Mo-yeon

I finally finished watching the series today. I had thought that the resolution of the kidnapping of Dr Kang after solving the Ebola like epidemic in the camp and the packing up of the medical team would be the end of the drama, but the later episodes would show other exciting but suspenseful scenes like Capt Yoo on the verge of death when he was on a VIP mission after a North Korean military lieutenant was gunned down with him. Capt Yoo nearly nearly went into cardiac arrest but he was revived by Dr Kang. Meanwhile after solving this conspiracy of North Korean mercenary, Capt Yoo was sent on a mission where he went missing together with best friend Master Sgt Seo Dae-yong (Jin Goo) and declared dead by the Korean Armed Forces. Afted a year, they finally show up in Albania where Dr Kang was on a voluntary medical mission and Sgt Seo showed up in Uruk where his girlfriend army doctor First Lt. Yoon Myeung-joo (Kim Ji-won) was on assignment.

The two lead stars were amply supported by this second love couple, Maste Sgt Seo and First Lt Yoong. Both Jin Goo and Kim Ji won are great actors and likewise, chemistry between the two was also titillatng.

I enjoyed watching this drama so much it has been added to my list of all time. favorite K drama. And I do not doubt the reports that this drama revived a two year slump in interest in K drama because it contains all the elements of a wholesome drama- romance, suspense, humor and comedy, action, family values, honor and ethics, and life lessons.

#Song Joong-ki, #Song Hye-kyo, #Korean drama, #suspense

A second look at Full House (2004)

When Netflix “pushed’ this Koream drama into my playlist, my interest in watching this K-drama was sparked. I first watched this K drama in 2007, or about 12 years ago. At that time, someone gave me a DVD copy which had very bad subtitles so I could not really understand the nuanes of the dialogue even though the plot was simple. I recall that the feature that I best liked with this drama was the OST (original soundtrack). I like the songs Geh Deh Ji Geum by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUnZUi76DF0 and I’m Falling For You by Byul https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP-Ar7PRd0k . I also recall that I least liked, or hated was the verbal abuse of the lead male character. I was also drawn to the drama because of Song Hye-kyo, who I thought was one of the most beautiful faces on Korean screen. She played Han Ji-eun, an aspiring writer who was forced into a contract marriage with Lee Young-jae, a popular but controversial actor Lee Young-jae played by Rain but later fall in love with each other.

Both Rain and Song Hye-kyo were 22 years old when they starred in that K drama. Now they would both be 37 years old. Rain got married to another beautiful face on Korean screen and graduate of the elite Seoul National University, actress Kim Tae-hee in January 2017 and had a baby girl later that year. Song Hye-kyo married Descendants of the Sun co-star Song Joong-ki in October 2017; the latter filed for a divorce on June 27, 2019. Both are big Hallyu stars now and have appeared in Chinese films and for Rain, also in Hollywood alongside Bruce Willis and John Cusack.

After watching Full House for the second time after 12 years, what do I think about it? I just realized that this in one K drama where the hunks rule. I can’t help but stare in awe at Rain’s beautiful butt and his big body. Rain may not be your usual “handsome” guy but his perfect shaped butt and his big chested body more than compensates for his not being the conventional good looking guy type. The same goes for co actor Kim Sung-soo‘s   (Yoo Min-hyuk in the drama) Adonis-like physique. Rain’s very low V-neck shirts prominently displays his big chest in the drama. This is in contrast to recent K-dramas that I have watched where the lead actors are played by “pretty-looking” boys who are super slim and skinny with a flawless complexion (e.g. 2013’s My Love from the Star’s Kim Soo-hyun and 2018’s What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’s Park Seo-joon). Of course, the usual shower scene where the lead actor’s half naked body is still present despite the change in definition of the “ideal and perfect” figure. (BTW, I have never seen a K-drama where women are shown taking a shower….)

In terms of acting, I think Song Hye-Kyo was a better actor than Rain. There were times when I was irritated by Rain’s acting as a spoiled and stubborn popular actor who has difficulty in expressing his true feelings but at other times, found his antics “cute.” But what bothered me was the constant yelling and “barking” by Rain’s character Lee Jae Ha in the drama which tantamount to what we define these days at verbal abuse/Violence Against Women. Full House being a romantic comedy and unrealistic enabled me to forgive the constant verbal abuse. The redeeming factor was Han ji-eun’s standing up against the abuse and Lee jae-Ha’s transformation for the better in the end. However, I would think that dramas should be sensitive to this even if they belong to the comedy genre.

An unforgettable cute scene was the “Three Bear” dance by Han ji-eun and Lee Jae-Ha.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWzJ8yrWmp8

†

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcVJv43myYk

As a whole, I enjoyed watching Full House for the second time.

They Kiss Again—-And Again and Again

They_Kiss_Again-poster

They Kiss Again (2007) is the sequel of It Started with a Kiss–the  2005 Taiwanese live action adaptation of the 1999 popular Japanese manga Itazura na Kiss by Kaoru Tada.  It stars Ariel Lin as Yuan Xiang Qin (袁湘琴) and Joe Cheng as Jiang Zhi Shu (江直樹).  This sequel starts with the honeymoon in Guam of couple Xiang Qin and Zhi Shu and ends with the anticipation of the pregnancy of Xiang Qin. It focuses on how the  young married couple weather the challenges in their lives while studying to become a nurse and a doctor.  Xiang Qin’s life is fully devoted to Zhi Shu, almost to the point of complete dependency on Zhi Zhu in the sense that she loses grip on her life everytime Zhi Zhu is away from her (here, Zhi Zhu goes on military service in remote Matsu Island for a year).  Zhi Zhu on the other hand, wants Xiang Qin to be independent to the point of not even answering her calls thus increasing the worries and fears  of the wife on the fate of her husband.   The drama shows a cold Zhi Zhu whose reaction to jealousy over a male nursing student, Yang Qing Tai, (played by Figaro Ceng, who I must say is a look alike of Japanese idol Kimura Takuya when he was in his 20s). was to completely ignore his miserable wife.  This was the part when I most hated Zhi Zhu when he was at the peak of his cruelty.   Not even Qiang Xin’s father could restrain himself when he hit his son-in-law to put some sense into his passive reaction or his “unhusbandly” behavior.  However, after this challenge was successfully overcome by the couple, the relationship between the two became more or less “stable.”  It was Ah Jin, former suitor of Xiang Qin (played by Jiro Wang), who made Zhi Zhu realize that what he was feeling for Xiang Qin was “jealousy” and since he didn’t understand the feeling or has never experienced such strong emotion in his whole boring and uninteresting life, he could not cope and thus the weird behavior unbecoming of an intelligent and mature husband.  As the drama progresses, Zhi Zhu develops  into a relatively kinder and more loving husband and professes his love for Xiang Qin more easily and more often.

Insterspersed with the story of Xiang Qin and Zhi Zhu are the love stories of Xiang Qin’s best friend Lin Chun Mei (played by Petty Yang) and her boyfriend, Ah Bu (Aaron Yan) , Ah Jin and  English exchange student Christine Robinson (Larisa Bakurova), and Zhi Zhu’s brother Yu Shu  and Lin Hao Mei.  Jiro Wang as Ah Jin was a bit overacting to the point of being  annoying.

As with the prequel, I like the OST.  My favorite songs were Ariel Lin’s NI (You), which was the ending theme and Joe Cheng’s Zhong Yu Yuan Wei (Loyal To The Original Taste).  The excellent music enhanced the mood of the drama.

An unexpected reaction of mine was crying at the sad ending when Xiang Qin learned about her incurable genetic condition and ran away while a frantic  Zhi Zhu looked desperately for her.  There was a scene  when  Zhi Zhu broke down  in frustration when he just missed Xiang Qin who visited the wall where he had first kissed Xiang Qin.

The last scene showed Zhi Zhu scraping the shit on Xiang Qin’s sneakers when she stepped on it  while videotaping  their walk to the OB-Gyne.   We are not sure if Xiang Qin is really pregnant or not but since it is Zhi Zhu who suspected it, being a doctor, he may be right  (if you will recall, there was a false alarm in the early episodes when a Xiang Qin had stomach ache). This kind of ending surely calls for a Part 3.  I am wishing….although it has been seven years since Part 2….

 

 

Dong yi (2010)–A beautiful historical romance

Promotional poster for Dong Yi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Yi_(TV_series) Promotional poster for Dong Yi; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Yi_(TV_series)

After Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean dramas,  I was not disappointed in my next choice–Dong Yi, a Korean historical drama shown in 2010.  Dong-yi is about the love story between King Sukjong (Joseon dynasty) and Dong-yi (Choi Suk-bin) and tells it all in 60 episodes.

The drama  traces the life of Dong-yi,  an orphaned slave who found her way into the Royal palace Bureau of Music and because of her ability to solve court cases, becomes a  palace investigator.  She later became  a royal concubine with the  rank of Suk-bin, then bears a son who, under her tutelage, later becomes the 21st king of Joseon, Yoengjo, the father of Crown prince Sado and grandfather of Yi San.  Throughout her life, she has protected  the lowborn commoners.  Dong-yi met King Sukjong, who  introduced himself as a court judge and enjoyed his treatment as an ordinary person.

I enjoyed watching Dong-yi because its plot was made interesting through a combination of  romance, comedy, history, Korean culture and court life, suspense, intrigue, magic and even sword fights.  In this sense, it is similar to Jewel in the Palace.

Han Hyo-joo won a major best actress award as the optimistic and determined Dong-yi.  I loved the way Jin Ji hee  portrayed the character of King Sukjong–especially when Dong-yi treated him as an ordinary person and even stepped on his back to climb a wall during one of her investigations.  I think Jin Ji hee looks better with a beard and in period costumes.  I saw him in Perhaps Love but I think he looks more handsome in Jewel and in Dong Yi.

The theme song  is also very memorable -“Walking on a Dreamy Road” by Jang Na-ra.  It has a simple yet sad melody.

After Dong-yi, I have not yet found another interesting historical drama that I would like to watch.  A candidate is Jumong, said to be the most popular of all.  But when i watched the trailer, I sensed a heavy kind of drama.  Any recommendations?

 

Jewel in the Palace (2003): An insight into Korean culture and history

key_art_jewel_in_the_palace

Nine years after this worldwide hit Korean drama series  Jewel in the Palace  (Dae Jang Geum) was first shown in the Philippines in 2005 and was a phenomenal success among Filipinos, It is also a drama that my Korean intellectual friends know.  I finally watched the drama in July 2014.   I am not really a full-fledged drama addict; I do not like sad endings and tearjerkers and do not have the patience to watch dramas in installments.  I have a preference for light comedy-romance dramas that are usually between 10-20 episodes max, so I was hesitant to watch a 54-episode historical drama even when everybody was raving about it.  But after watching my first “serious” Korean historical drama, I was not disappointed.

Jewel in the Palace is a fictional drama based  on a  Korean historical figure  Seo Jang-geum  (played by Lee Young-ae)  during the reigns of King Seongjong (1457–1494), King Yeonsan (1494–1506) and King Jungjong(1506–1544).  It follows the story of Jang-geum,  an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the Joseon dynasty king’s first female royal physician. Min Jeong-ho (played by Ji Jin hee) is a goodlooking and intelligent  outstanding Korean scholar who became romantically involved with Jang geum.

Lee Young-ae’s portrayal of Jang-geum, marked by her warm smile despite all the challenges that came her way is very powerful.  The child actress who portrayed the little girl Jang geum was  really good; I liked the way she recited the memorized passages from the classics and the medicinal properties of herbs. Ji Jin-hee was really dashing and  one of the more good-looking Korean actors that I have encountered.

Jewel in the Palace sparked my interest in Korean historical dramas.   I thought Jewel in the Palace would be boring, but  this drama combined the elements of history, Korean culture (Korean royal court cuisine and traditional medicine), comedy, romance, tragedy, mystery and intrigue to make the plot interesting.   Moreover, Jang geum’s  perseverance  in a time when women’s status in society was low was truly inspiring.  The use of traditional Korean music in the theme song “Onara” also enhanced the drama.

Itazura na Kiss, Love in Tokyo 2013: The Best Naoki and Kotoko

I have seen all the live action adaptations of this popular Japanese manga series Itazura na Kiss (イタズラなKiss, Mischievous Kiss) written by Kaoru Tada  –the 1998 first  Japanese drama version, the 2005 Taiwanese -drama version  starring  Joe Cheng and Ariel Lin,  and the 2010 Korean version starring Jung So-min  and Kim Hyun-joong.  I like all the versions, although each  have their strong and weak points, but I will save that discussion for a future review.  For now, I would say that I  found this 2013 Japanese version–Itazura na Kiss, Love in Tokyo–  the most “refreshing” and “cutest” version of all, thanks to the good performances of the actors  who portrayed their roles well,  the cinematography and good editing.

When I learned of this latest version,  I viewed the trailer and postponed watching the  drama because I thought that the actor who portrayed Naoki Irie (Yuki Furukawa) was not my ideal of a “handsome” Naoki compared to all the lead actors who portrayed him in the past versions.  On the other hand, I found the actress, Honoka Miki,  who portrayed  Kotoko Aihara, as the “cutest” and closest to my ideal of the adorable and charming Kotoko.  The latter gave me the incentive to watch the series.  But after watching the initial episodes, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Yuki Furukawa is so far the “perfect” Naoki–the reserved, unaffected, detached and bored, all-around genius who  at first rejects the love proposal of Kotoko because he “hates dumb girls” but later falls for her because of her perseverance and determination.  Yuki’s “handsomness” grows on you as you watch him through the series.  The confidence he exudes, very well shown when Naoki introduces himself to his father’s company’s prospective investor, strengthened by his very well modulated voice, his fluency in English, his  stolen glances at Kotoko, his relaxed gait–all these won me over.  Yuki Furukawa’s profile is proof that he may have  some similarities with Naoki –he is currently  a student of the prestigious and elite  Keio University’s Faculty of Science and Technology in Tokyo, speaks fluent English and Japanese, has lived in Canada and US and was on  the basketball team of his high school.  He has even  joined breakdance competitions.  His mature aura despite his boyish looks would probably stem from the fact that he is already in his late 20s (born 1987).  

The cute Honoka Miki, was  17 years old when she starred in the series,  about the age of a senior high school student, so I should say she comes closest to being the appropriate Kotoko in terms of age (and perhaps, the characteristics of a bubbly senior high?).  She has round wide and innocent eyes, and is really pretty by any standards.

With the lead stars perfect for their roles, the chemistry between Furukawa’s Naoki and Miki’s Kotoko is “enchanting”, despite the 10 year  age gap.  Even though the celebrated “kiss” is actually just a “peck”, I swooned and gasped everytime Naoki “kissed”  Kotoko.  The camera angles were done in such a  way to capture the “magic” of that “kiss.”

The rest of the cast who acted superbly  include  the father of Kotoko, Mr Aihara (Yoji Tanaka) and Kinchan Ikezawa (Yuki Yamada).

The cinematography was also fantastic, in particular the changing seasons that marked the passage of time and the third kiss rain scene–where the camera focuses on the  transparent umbrella that fell on the rain drenched pavement in slow motion  before the change in mood from a reserved Naoki to a jealous Naoki  who kissed Kotoko for the third time.  For a romance- comedy Japanese drama , this is about the longest I have encountered, that is 16 episodes, compared to the usual 10.

There is a Season 2 forthcoming in the last quarter of 2014, and I look forward to watching it.