Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pretty Man: Is it really possible?

Nervous! Who me?
Mattei gets within touching distance and women lose the ability to think. Also, eat, sleep, read, write or speak in sentences with more than one syllable. It seems so far-fetched, and yet . . . I remember a restaurant waiter who served my table once. It must have been at least five years ago, but I've never forgotten him. Why? Because this guy was Beautiful with a capital Hubba, Hubba. He wasn't the ordinary level of good-looking. He rated off the charts. When he got near, I got flustered and couldn't make eye contact easily. It was the weirdest thing and it's never happened before or since. But because of that incident it helps me believe a guy like Dokko Mattei could exist.

That's not to say this drama is grounded in reality. But who cares when they give us such charming, oddball characters to laugh at for an hour? Their situations may be beyond belief, but their emotions feel true. Here are a few of the things I enjoyed in week 2 of Pretty Man:

Strike a Pose
Mattei's ability to Vogue it at a moment's notice cracks me up. He revels in the adoring glances women shoot his way and milks it for all it's worth. This sometimes leaves him stretched on a couch or broodily standing in the rain for hours at a time, but he must appear from his best angle, no matter what. You would expect to hate him for it, but this actually makes it all the more poignant when he drops the mask to do a little dance over his new car or dig in to a heaping plate of his favorite fried eggs.

Speaking of which, doesn't anybody feed this boy?
I just love the running gag of how Mattei enjoys the food Bo-tongie leaves him. First, he casts petty sneers at the homecooking. Then he daintily grabs his chopsticks and pokes around. And, finally, he shovels it into his mouth with all the finesse of a bulldozer. Is there a fat man inside him just itching to get out? How great would it be if they showed us his backstory was an overweight little boy being teased in school, until he hit a growth spurt and vowed never to go back. It would explain a lot, including his compulsion to always look good no matter what.

You can't fool me . . . can you?
This show excels at presenting ridiculous characters up front, and then explaining them little by little. How heartbreaking was Jaek-hee saving Mattei over herself, and then admitting she loved her money even more than him? And the electric fairy's handicapped parents who still worked because they wanted to help the less fortunate. Motivations are key. The writer knows that, and keeps giving us good reasons to forgive these morally bankrupt characters. Even the ice princesss, Yu-ra.

Don't get me wrong. I still think Yu-ra is eeeeevil . . . sorta. I mean how can you hate someone who just wants to go to her little girl's birthday party? The actress, Han Chae-young, is doing a great job painting some sympathetic colors into her black-hearted role. I still hate how she manipulates Mattei, but it's so much better when the villain actually has a believable reason for being the way she is. I forsee redemption in her future. Maybe she and her husband can get it right the second time around.

Two sides of the same wacked out coin
Can you imagine if these two defied the second-lead odds and got together? (It's never gonna happen, but just think about it.) They would have the weirdest, most hilarious, adorable children ever. I can just picture their family photos with Mom and Dad dressing everyone in hair hats and flower-printed cat suits. I enjoy their scenes so much, not only for their cute chemistry and wacky hijinks, but also the jealousy it instigates in Mattei.

Beauty and the Beast
I think we all know who the beast is in this equation. Honestly, Bo-tongie's all-consuming crush on Mattei seemed a little pathetic in the beginning. I'm happy to see that she recognizes when he's being a jerk and is not above pretend hitting him when he's not looking. She knows when he's being awful, but chooses him anyway. (It reminds me of Oh Ha-ni and Seung-jo in Playful Kiss.) And you can start to see that Mattei cares for her, as well. When she's hurt at the sock store, he not only tends to her, but also vehemently declares it's not her fault. Quite an accomplishment for such a self-centered egotist. I look forward to the day when he looks at his pixie stalker and sees her for the beauty she truly is.

So far, so good. Lots of questions left unanswered, including will Mattei get a new haircut for each romantic conquest? But we've got lots of time, and I'm enjoying the wacky ride.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pretty Man = Pretty Good

Is THIS the face of a vegetarian?
I refuse to call this drama Bel Ami. (Might as well call it Bore Ami, for all the interest that title evokes.) So, for this blog, it’s still Pretty Man. And I’m relieved to say it’s pretty good.

Cue the Runway Music

JGS still has a voice that could melt the M&Ms right in your hand. We first meet his character, Dokko Mattei, as a rich, older woman tries to crawl right into his dress shirt, offering to buy him anything he wants. I was impressed that he turned it all down. Maybe this guy isn’t a gigolo, just a misunderstood pretty boy. Pfffft. Nope. He was just waiting until the price got high enough. Despite this MAJOR flaw, I still don’t hate him. We see brief glimpses of a tortured soul underneath the pink, pretty dust. And anyone who tears into a plate of spare ribs like him can’t be all bad.

Sweet Sixteen is all grown up

Bo-tongie’s babyface hides a surprisingly racy mind, as she’s turned on by everything from the muscular arms of the butcher to raw chicken in the freezer section. But nothing turns her on like Mattei Oppa. She’s not too bright, not too good, not too ambitious, but altogether hilarious. And her relationship with her equally dim brother looks ripe for comic fodder.

Hard-hearted Hannah

Yu-ra remains a puzzle at the moment. But three things you can be sure of. The gal is gorgeous. Clever. And Eeeeeeeeeeevil. Did anyone else wonder if she’d smothered Mattei’s mother with a pillow? When teasers about the show were coming out, it looked like Mattei was going to seduce a flock of other women just to win her over with some weird bet. How much better is it that she holds the key to finding his long-lost father, and she’s openly manipulating him. *Shiver* She is one cold customer.

Is there a chill in the air?

Speaking of cold, this drama surprised me with its dark, jaded undertone. The candy colored action bounces around like a page from a comic book, then suddenly we’re knee deep in birth secrets, hidden chemotherapy, and emotional blackmail. It left me a little unsettled, but interested, all the same.

Too soon for sparks

Mattei and Bo-tongie spent very little time together in the first episode, so it’s hard to gauge their chemistry. But I liked them, and I think there were hints that Mattei cares for her. Like when he railed at her for wrapping herself in Saran. That seemed like the kind of angry you only get at the people close to you. Especially for the cold-as-ice playboy. It looks like the two will be working together in the upcoming episodes, so that should leave lots of room for romance to blossom. IU never seems to shy away from the skinship, unlike some of her fellow actresses *cough-Park Shin Hye-cough*. And she wasn’t afraid to take the initiative and plant a kiss on her much older, though completely adorable co-star Jo Jung-suk in You’re the Best, Lee Soon Shin. Hopefully, we are in for some squee-worthy moments with the OTP.

I’m a little weirded out by Pretty Man, and yet strangely attracted. I hope Mattei shows genuine growth and emotional maturity as the show progresses. I bet Bo-tongie continues to crack me up. And I’d really, really like some smexy kisses (the ones with his Sugar Mama don’t count). Pretty please!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Noonas Over Flowers or "If it's got Seung-gi, I'm In"

Seung-giyaaaaaaaaaaa! I find this guy so adorable. (Along with practically every female K-drama fan on the planet.) He stole my affections in The King 2 Hearts and now he’s back with four veteran actresses filming the travel/variety show Noonas Over Flowers. The news is starting to trickle in, and here are five tidbits that make me do a little dance in my chair:

Family Reunion

This show reunites Seung-gi with his Queen Mother co-star, Yoon Yeo-jung. She rocked it as the royal matriarch of K2H who wasn’t afraid to call her pampered playboy of a son trash to his face. I look forward to seeing these two interact in real life, since they already have a previous relationship to fall back on.

About 2 days too many

The flowered fun kicks off with a 10 day trip to Croatia. Anyone who’s done a lot of foreign tours knows, 10 days is a long time. The dirty laundry piles up. The unfamiliar food sits like a rock in your jet-lagged stomach. And you’re ready to stuff the “funny” man of the group in the trunk with the luggage. Let’s see how long these ladies last before the tears appear. And not just the ladies, we may see Seung-gi cry before this is all over.

Poor Puppy 

How much do you want to bet this show won’t end before we see him curled up somewhere in the fetal position? Having been the girl with the subway map and fistful of internet research, I can vouch for the pressure the person in charge feels. Each thing that goes wrong feels like a personal failure. Seung-gi seems like the type that needs babying and lots of affirmation, so he may not handle the stress well. Na PD interviewed, “He was supposed to be the team’s luggage boy, but he ended up being baggage himself.” Hahahahahaha. I can’t wait!

Speaking of the evil genius 

This director delights in tormenting his celebrities. And Seung-gi is no stranger to his machinations having filmed many long, hard hours of 1 Night, 2 Days. The staff jokingly calls the new show “Seung-gi-ya, Run Away”. But even the sadistic Na PD isn’t immune to the opposite sex, admitting that he wasn’t sure how to approach the female cast members. He said, “To be honest, I’m a little scared about how I should do things.” We saw how flustered the Grandpas made him on this show’s previous installment, when they played the Age card. So I can just imagine what the Gender card will bring. Be afraid, Sir. Be very afraid.

Hear me roar 

Maybe I’m watching the wrong things, but I feel like men dominate the reality world in Korea. (Not that I don’t luv exceptions like Song Ji-hyo.) On the big shows like Running Man, 1 Night 2 Days, and Infinity Challenge, it seems like the men always lead, and sometimes the girls get invited to play second fiddle. It will be a nice change to watch the girls call the shots, and order the boys around for awhile.

We won’t have to wait long since Noonas Over Flowers premieres on Friday, November 29th, after Reply 1994. Be still my giddy heart. I have to act calm. I’m sitting at my work desk. Must look professional. Musn’t squeal. At least, until I get home.

*Credit goes to lovelyclover and on Soompi for the gif and translation of the top image.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Waiting for Pretty Man

I used to avoid anything with Jang Geun-seok in it like the plague. I think it was the hair. (Which he just cut, by the way. Wooo-hooo!) Then I actually watched one of his dramas. Then another. And another. There’s something about this guy that jumps off the screen. So the news that he’s teaming with IU for the upcoming Pretty Man is welcome indeed.

In honor of his return to television, I thought I’d list a few things I liked in his last drama Love Rain. From what I hear, this tanked in Korea, but did well internationally, so you’ve probably already watched it. But in case you missed it, I’ll give you a tip for how to enjoy this story. Skip the first four episodes and any scene with just the parents. No, I’m serious. The older generation’s tale is weepy, maudlin and depressing throughout the series, and it closes with only a semi-happy ending. That doesn’t work for a happy-ever-after junkie like me. Their children’s modern love story begins in episode five and it has all the snap and crackle that their parents lacked. Focus on them, and you should enjoy this drama. Here are a few things that make the kiddies worth watching:

Diamond Snow

K-dramas recycle the same settings over and over. You know the ones: the Han River, street food vendors, amusement parks. But introducing our OTP in mid-winter Japan while they search for a famous snowy outlook that sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight . . . that’s different. In a really good way. It lends the story a kind of romantic mystique, and also provides a few good laughs as Jang Geun-seok’s character pathetically falls all over himself in the fluffy drifts.

Speaking of falling all over himself 

This playboy photographer’s nickname is Three-seconds, because that’s how long it takes him to pick up a girl. So how awesome is it when Yoona’s character turns it back on him, and uses his own line to reel him in. Believe me, this hero falls HARD. He basically makes an idiot of himself trying to look cool and act like he doesn’t care, all while following her around like a love-crazed puppy.

Registers, Schmegisters

The basic plot is as follows: Mom and Dad meet in the 70s. Fall in sweet, sentimental love. Are separated by the typically unbelievable K-drama misunderstanding, and go on to marry other people. Years later, his son and her daughter meet and form a much more volatile, passionate bond. Unbeknownst to them, the divorced dad and widowed mom meet up again and rekindle their relationship, deciding to tie the knot. This is where the trouble starts.

If you’re an American, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” I’m no Korean law expert, but from what I read, a boy and girl who are listed as siblings in the family register when two adults marry are legally considered related. In their society, this makes Geun-seok and Yoona’s love taboo, both legally and culturally. (Don’t worry. It all works out in the end. Remember, I’m a happy-ever-after junkie.)

Cohabitation Hijinks 

Don’t we all love when our OTP are forced to share living space? But this drama goes one better. This couple’s apartment sports two bedrooms which are separated by a bookcase. The kind you can look right through and talk to each other. That’s right, nowhere to hide.

The Fountain Kiss

Even if you haven’t seen Love Rain, you’ve probably seen the fountain kiss on some sort of Youtube compilation. The colored water, the subtle, sexy love song playing in the background, and Jang Geun-seok’s technique all add up to a major squeeworthy moment. And it’s not the only one. There are quite a few cute kisses to enjoy in this drama.

Pretty Man starts this week, which they are now calling the more innocuous Bel Ami. *Sigh* Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Still, I have high hopes for an entertaining story and a few more tantalizing kisses that I can watch on Youtube when I’m bored. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reply 1994 or "Who read my diary?"

What is this moisture in my eyes? This isn't my story. I wasn't raised in Seoul, Korea in 1994. I don't know who Seo Taiji is. But I did go home with college friends and meet their crazy families. And I did nurse a huge crush on a guy I never confessed to. So, maybe this is my story, after all. And, because of that, this show is quietly making a place for itself in my heart. Here's a few reasons why:

Protestin' to the Oldies

Who knew political demonstrations could be so fun? The townspeople turned a sit-in into a sock-hop, dancing in front of City Hall with their protest signs. I loved the guards surreptitiously tapping their feet to the music. Everyone had a grand time. At least until the storm troopers showed up with their tear gas.

Grandma, what big lies you have!

I know how Chilbongie felt when he learned Samcheonpo's frail-looking Grandma was just a con woman in a curly wig. Shock. Outrage. Amusement. I know because I felt the same way. This lady reeled me right in with her story about the Oppa under the tree that she never got to confess to. I may have even got a little misty when she bid goodbye to the kids for possibly the last time as she waved them off from the front porch. But how awesome is it that she's still alive and kickin' in 2013, and ready to start on her fourth honeymoon.

Samcheonpo gets to first base

A smelly, fishing boat never looked so romantic. This side couple's story tickles my funny bone. With her shelling the conches for her future Mother-in-law and him packing hot cocoa because he knows she hates coffee, their little moments really ring true. I feared Yoon-jin might grab his throat and choke him when he leaned in for a kiss. But the pint-sized gangster revealed a hidden girly side instead as she leaned her head against his shoulder and enjoyed the sunrise.

Second Lead Symptoms

Ah-choo. I think I might be coming down with something. I usually don't suffer from Second Lead Syndrome, at all. I pick a ship and stay on it. But after watching Chilbongie's overwhelming awesomeness last night . . . *cough, cough*

This guy rides a smelly, old bus for twelve hours just to have a five minute conversation with his crush. And what a conversation! There's something so sexy about a man who's willing to look a girl straight in the eye and say, "I like you." Instead of sending his friend, to ask her friend, to ask her, etc. I think we've all been there. And I'm not just talking about high school.

And then to top it all off with a tender but confident kiss. Someone call a doctor!

Ah, Doctor. There you are!

If it were anyone less than Oppa, I might be jumping ships. But our mutton headed man in the backwards sweatshirt can turn me around in a heartbeat. His long pause before he admitted to Bingguere that he couldn't remember anything about the movie he watched with Na-jung. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaal!

I'm so confused. Does he like her or not? And if he does, is he aware of it? And if he is, why isn't he doing anything about it?

So many questions. But no matter who the husband in 2013 is, I love that everyone seems as happy and close as ever at the housewarming party. This show matters because it's about more than romantic butterflies in the tummy. It's about all the relationships that matter: family, friends, and the people you may only meet once but never forget.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Heirs: Maybe Not

Sorry, show. You can't make me love you.
Each week I watch this show with my metaphorical fingers crossed. Wanting to like it. Wishing for something new. And always leaving with a sigh. Because something’s still missing. Eleven episodes in and I’m still waiting for someone to make a touchdown. Something that will make me throw my hands in the air and cheer. I do think the last episode improved, so maybe we’re headed in the right direction. Meanwhile, here are some things to work on at half-time: 

Greasy Directing

The PD must be a fan of cheese, ‘cause he heaps it on like he was getting kickbacks from Velveeta. Whether it’s the 80s guitar riffs that play whenever Tan and Young Do go at it or the “Love is the momeeeeeeeent” that pops up ad-nauseum, the soundtrack is anything but subtle and the same can be said for the directing. It feels obvious and manipulative. I find it a little insulting as the viewer. He doesn’t trust me to recognize the importance of the scene unless he shows it to me from six different angles. Close-up of the hero. Close-up of the heroine. Camera pans in from a distance. Camera swooping in from the top. Two-shot. Wide-shot. Has anyone else noticed how long it takes to get from the final scene to the credits? It’s ridiculous.

Why so stingy with the side characters?

There are hints of awesome hidden in each episode. We’ve got a bazillion side characters, so let’s see more of them and less of Tan brooding in the wine cellar for the umpteenth time. I vote for more Hyo Shin. This guy watches from on high like a sarcastic narrator, never fully a part of the action, yet giving the impression he knows more than he’s telling. We can see he lives in mortal terror of his family, but around his peers he does as he pleases. Everyone else cringes when Young Do walks in the room, but Hyo Shin feels perfectly comfortable throwing up in his toilet without so much as a by-your-leave. And that forehead kiss with teacher. Ahhhhh. I’ll take one of those over every romantic interaction the main OTP couple has had so far.

Speaking of the OTP 

Did anyone else play with Ken and Barbie as a kid? You’d dress them up in their polyester finery, maneuver them through an imaginary party, and then culminate by smooshing their plastic lips together. That’s kind of what I feel watching Park Shin-hye and Lee Min-ho’s love scenes. I want to care, but I just can’t… work…up…the…energy. *Yawn*

What happened to the spunk? 

Remember the girl in the first episode who whipped out her phone to call the police the minute the pervy ahjussis wouldn’t leave her alone. Yeah . . . what happened to her? I liked feisty Eun Sang who was ready to put up her dukes at a moment’s notice. Now she gets passed back and forth between Tan and Young Do like an old, worn-out basketball. Just once, when Young Do grabs her, why doesn’t she kick him in the shins? Don’t get me wrong. Young Do’s semi-psychotic attempts at wooing crack me up. The whole “Don’t-get-hurt-and-get-out-of-my-way” speech from the last episode was great. But I’d like to see her do more than threaten to kill him, then take it back a few scenes later.

More Stupid Teenagers, Please 

I know puberty is full of angst and all, but I don’t remember it being this bad. Maybe I should count myself lucky I wasn’t born rich, because these kids could all use some major therapy. That’s why a scene like Tan blocking Eun Sang in the radio room, and her opening the door from the other way is such a welcome relief. “This is why you’re in 100th place.” Hahahahaha. Please give us more of this. Teenagers thinking their clever and being so wrong.

I found myself more engaged in the last episode, so there's still hope. We’re halfway through the show so I might as well keep watching. I guess. If I feel like it. Maybe I should write myself a reminder in case I . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.