Monday, December 30, 2013

Reply 1994: Ooooooookay?

Yep. That sums up my reaction to the finale. It was . . . okay.

We got to spend one last night with our 1994 crew and witnessed their tears, and loves, and noisy jubilation when Korea beat Italy that just went on and on and on. (Seriously, how long was that scene?) There were sweet callbacks to previous episodes and character interactions that made you want to go “awwwwwwwww”. I guess my dissatisfaction stems from one major flaw. But more on that later. Let’s start with the good stuff.

He’s the husband! He’s the husband!

I picked the Oppa ship early on and stuck with it, despite the heavy temptation to leap overboard by the overwhelming awesomeness that was Chilbongie. Oppa’s initial hesitation, his rival’s adorable persistence, and the out-of-nowhere overseas separation might sway a viewer’s heart back and forth. But there was one thing that never wavered. Na-jungah. In her eyes, there was only one man from start to finish. She wanted Oppa. Period. Not that I blame her. Our trashy, but affectionate medical genius pinched, and laughed, and cuddled his way into my heart, as well. They make sense together. Any other ending would have felt like a con-job, after the way the writer made Na-jung’s heart rock-solid from beginning to end.

But why does the writer hate Chilbongie?

THIS is my major beef. Did someone see Yoo Yeon-seok kick a puppy or something? It seems like the writer held a serious grudge for some unknown reason and took it out on his character. Why must our cherubic pitcher be tortured up until the last minute? Let’s recap what they put him through, shall we:

1. Drowned him in the ocean in Samcheonpo’s hometown.
2. Almost crushed his skull in a department store collapse.
3. Had an angry sunbae beat him up for protecting Na-jung.
4. Gave him a mother and father who see him once a year.
5. Packed him off to Japan, where we didn’t see him for 3 episodes!!!!!!
6. Wrecked his pitching shoulder and made him go through surgery.
7. Broke his heart over & over again as he watched Na-jungah watch Oppa.

I’ve probably forgotten something, but why should we depress ourselves. At least with such an overinflated finale, I figured we’d get to see him happy for one episode. But, nooooooooo. He spent most of it rejected, crying, alone in America, or in the hospital. *Sigh* Was it asking too much to give him longer with his own happy-ever-after girl than one scene?

One Stinkin’ Scene!

Talk about an unromantic meet-cute. I never expected Chilbongie’s true love to come in a shower of chicken wings. It was obvious this was the girl for him. Kooky accent, not overly feminine, and doesn’t seem to know he’s alive. She’s just his type. I knew the actress playing the chicken girl must be a cameo, but I didn’t recognize her. Being a drama rookie, I had to look up Jung Yoo-mi and even then I wasn’t impressed. For our dear, longsuffering Chilbongie, I wanted someone with the beauty of Kim Tae-hee, the spunk of Ha Ji-Won, and the sweetness of Moon Geun-young. But it’s really asking too much of any actress to satisfy us in ONE! STINKIN! SCENE! So bitter.

The point where I reached for a tissue

It wasn’t so much the bittersweet goodbye that choked me up. Or our ever-faithful puppy finally letting go. It was Na-jung’s speech as she hugged him. I loved her promise that she would brag like crazy to her children someday that the awesome, famous person on TV used to like her. That may be the best version of “It’s Not You, It’s Me” I’ve ever heard.

What it’s really about

Who’s the husband was never what Reply 1994 was really about. It wasn’t romance. It was family. The kind that you’re born with, and the kind that you collect along the way. I admit that I envy Na-jung. But not for the two hot guys that couldn’t live without her. (Well, not much.) I envy her that she sits with all of her adopted family almost twenty years later to reminisce about the good old days. I’ve lost touch with so many dear, college friends that I spent some of my happiest moments with. I wish it were as easy for me to call them over my house for a lazy night of reflecting. She’s one lucky lady.

Reply 1994 really was like life. Sometimes disappointing, but still filled with fun and sweetness to ease the pain. Thank you, show, for all the laughter you brought me. Kamsahamnida.

Friday, December 27, 2013

You From Another Star: The Alien. In the Library. With the Candlestick.

Remember the debate about whether this was a rom-com or a star-crossed lovers tragedy? Turns out we have another hat to throw in the genre ring. Murder mystery. This episode moved our characters around like the pieces on a game of Clue. So please allow me to pull out my metaphorical magnifying glass and examine the evidence.

Mystery #1: Who’s wearing the sparkly shoes?
Status: Solved

Kudos to the writer, who plotted this episode like an Agatha Christie novel. Feeding us a little information at a time. Jumping ahead 60 hours, then back to the cruise ship, and fast forward again. Yet, nothing felt rushed or confusing. I think we all knew it wasn’t Song-yi in those shoes. There’s still 16 episodes left, after all. But it didn’t lessen the enjoyment of finding out how she survived the Worst Wedding Reception Ever. I wonder if anyone asked for their gift back?

Mystery #2: Will Yura make it out of the show alive? 
Status: Solved 

Talk about an obvious NO. She was a goner the moment she tried to blackmail Smiling Psycho to the altar. At least she got to have an epic vogue-off with her rival before she slept with the fishes. And having Song-yi witness the hallway conversation between Yura and Evil Oppa, and then unknowingly carry off the hard drive with the incriminating evidence adds a delightful layer of suspense. Will she be the next victim on his hit list? Talk about an obvious YES.

Mystery #3: How many people want to kill this girl? 
Status: Under Investigation 

So far we have her careening off a cliff, kidnapped and tied up in the woods, shot at with arrows, and choked by her own mother. It’s been a rough two weeks for our child widow. Even with an alien superhero as her protector, it’s little wonder that she doesn’t make it. The only mystery remaining is how. Min-joon once referred to it as an “accident”, which makes it sound like it wasn’t one of the murdering horde that are lining up to off this poor girl. And he still feels sorry to her four hundred years later. Is this because he failed to rescue her again, or because the accident was his fault? We last saw the sageuk savior poisoned, tied up, and surrounded, so I don’t think this mystery will be solved anytime soon.

Mystery #4: Does Hwi-kyung really have a brain? 
Status: Under Investigation 

Well, looky here. Even Mr. Clueless can recognize a perv when he sees one. How much did I love his swooping in to save Se-mi from the clutches of the lecherous director? I’m glad he knows she’s alive. There was some doubt up until now. And, later, he knew enough not to out himself in front of the reporters camped outside Song-yi’s door. So there’s hope for him, yet. Now if he can just figure out that he’s wasting his time chasing Ms. Never-Gonna-Happen, and refocus on Miss Longsuffering Sweetheart. Is there really grey matter in that well-meaning blockhead of his? More clues must be collected.

Mystery #5: Was Casablanca right? Is a kiss really just a kiss? 
Status: Solved 

Lip contact achieved! What a relief. And they only made us wait four episodes. This bodes well for things to come. *Everyone does a little happy dance* Saliva doesn’t kill Min-joon or the other person, since they’re both alive and well the next morning. Then what does it do? Were there any after-effects from the cruise ship liplock that we still haven’t seen, yet? He interviewed that this was his first, so he must have learned the saliva rule from something else. Sharing food, perhaps? (That whole communal soup bowl thing they do in Korea took me awhile to get used to.) But who cares! We got a kiss. *Another little, happy dance*

So this Alien-Sageuk-Romcom-Murder Mystery show is really floating my boat. It’s smart. Tight. And gorgeous as all get out, both actor-wise and camera-wise. It may be the best thing I’ve seen all year. I’m still collecting evidence, and will let you know when the case is solved.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You From Another Star: Forgive me, for forgetting

I admit it. I forgot this show is Alien Awesomesauce, spread on top of a six-layer cake of sexy, smart and funny that leaves me shaking my head in admiration. Please forgive me, show. How could I even debate whether or not to turn you on? You reminded me quickly of all the reasons I want to be watching YFAS. Here are just a few:

Let’s go together.

Sageuks aren’t my thing. But the flashbacks could be a separate drama and I’d still be hooked. Nevermind the gorgeous scenery (I don’t think I’ve ever seen Korea look better. And Kim Soo-hyun may be one of the only men alive that can pull off those crazy tophats). The little girl who says she wants to grow up faster so she can capture her hero’s heart and then plays it off as a “first snow lie” just got me. I know she’s not going to make it, but it’s the “why” that’s still to be answered. And I have to give the show a big shoutout for assuming its audience has a brain. It never bothered to explain that our alien explorer can’t understand Human. It didn’t need to. Min-jung's smiling, slightly baffled expression conveyed it quite well. And we didn’t need any voiceovers clarifying how he suddenly started speaking fluent Korean. The guy’s a physical and mental powerhouse. He picks things up quick. We get it. Thanks for having faith in us.

You’ve heard my personality is bad, right? It’s not just a rumor. 

This sassy superstar with a soft, mushy inside is really growing on me. She’s seriously self-centered, but I like how attuned she is to her friend’s feelings. Her lecture to the fawning juniors solidified how smart she is with the social stuff. Don’t ask her to spell Propolis or write an intelligible book report. But if you need someone to read a room, or come up with a razor-sharp zinger on the spot, she’s your girl.

No one knows I’m your brother. 

If Song-yi embodies street smart, then Hwi-kyung must have a permanent seat reserved on the Clueless Bus. His ignorance of the social taboos in his undercover office job tickles my funny bone. (Mini-rant: If a co-worker spoke to me the way his senior lambasted him, I don’t know what I’d do. This is hardly the first drama I’ve seen this in, so I assume it’s a common thing in Korea. The newbie gets the crumb jobs. The newbie stays later than everybody. The newbie makes the coffee run. I understand it all centers around seniority and respect, but why do the seniors assert their authority by showing such DIS-respect? It makes me thankful for the people I work with, who speak to me in a normal tone of voice, and ask politely when they need me to do something. Okay. Rant over.) Hwi-kyung’s willingness to please only exacerbates the situation when he follows Mr. Meanie's advice by putting his family photo on the computer and everyone realizes he’s the boss’ son. Although I’m enjoying his current harmless but hilarious persona, it doesn’t line up with the flashback we saw of him in high school. Back then, he oozed harsh and haughty when Song-yi rejected him. I wonder if he’s mellowed over the years, or if he’s going to take a future turn for the dark side.

Always the bridesmaid 

They’re not giving Yoo Inna much to do, but I think she’s making the most of what she’s got. With her, it has to be all about the eyes as she reacts to being treated like The Invisible Woman by her junior actresses, reporters, and the man she’s loved for years. I hope that Hwi-kyung stops chasing after his unreachable star and recognizes the sweet, lovely woman in fabulous vintage-styled clothes right beside him. (Seriously, does anyone know where I can buy her wardrobe?)

If my appendix is removed, does my weight drop a little? 

Who knew appendicitis could be so fun? Min-joon can shout from the rooftops that he doesn’t care about Song-yi, but his actions drown him out. Spending all night at the hospital, surrendering your precious beeper number, and taking a stroll with the girl so she can pass gas isn’t exactly a declaration of love. But it’s a far cry from indifference. And what about the fact that this Prince Charming stole Cinderella’s shoes! That’s a new twist. The vibes between the two aren’t quite romantic, yet. But I love the one-on-one scenes. Every sweet gesture is wrapped in a verbal barb. The emotional armor is ten-feet thick with these two, and I look forward to the day when they finally lay their hearts bare.

Don’t worry show, I won’t forget how awesome you are before tonight. You can trust that I’ll be watching later, after I leave my quiet workplace where no one expects me to fetch them beverages or keep my head tucked between my shoulders.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You From Another Star: Wherefore art thou?

Being a happy-ever-after junkie, there are certain descriptors that make me drop a dvd back on the store shelf like it’s contagious. Words like heartwrenching. Or based-on-a-true-story. And that giant of all red flags – starcrossed. I admit some tragedies are too good to ignore. Who can hate the soul searing beauty of Romeo’s declaration, “Then love-devouring death do what he dare; It is enough I may but call her mine.” *Swoon*

What does Shakespeare have to do with K-drama you ask? I’m afraid this story is giving me a starcrossed lovers vibe. How is it labeled a Romantic-Comedy? Granted, there are some hilarious moments. But the overall mood is thoughtful, lonely, and a little tragic. That being said, I’m still eating it up. Whether the end brings triumph or heartbreak, it looks like I’m in it for the long haul.

These violent delights have violent ends

I thought we were done with the Joseon backstory, but far from it. A whole mystery surrounds the child-widow in the past. Her mother makes her copy long, morbid death passages for her homework. And some masked bandit with an unknown motive is trying to kill her, but fails thanks to our Sageuk Superman. This makes the second rescue by the sweet alien, but we already know she still dies. No wonder his future self is so averse to messing with fate.

Et tu, Brute? 

The newly arrived 17th century Min-joon feels different from his 21st century self. Less jaded. Happy to wander about like a space travel tourist, enjoying the sights of this strange planet called Earth. And not averse to stepping in and helping those in need. He arranges a gambling win for a father who bets his sick daughter’s medicine money, but this decision comes back to haunt him when the unscrupulous father tries to sell his offspring for one more chance at the tables. I get the feeling that four hundred years of being constantly disappointed by people is what led to Min-joon’s fatalistic attitude. I hope the human race gets a redemption arc before the end of the show.

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain

I don’t think Evil Brother is getting any redemption, not that he’d ever ask for it. He’s too busy threatening hysterical women on the phone. His smiling persona of the puppy savior clashes so drastically with his psychotic alter-ego who expects his victims to thank him for not killing them. *Shiver* I don’t know what he has to do with our main couple, but you can be sure he’ll orchestrate something nasty in the future. And I can’t help but wonder if the masked kidnapper in Joseon will prove to be him, as well. Time will tell.

What fools these mortals be 

Open, Sesame! Was this everyone’s favorite part, or just me? The drunken Song-yi trying to break in to her professor’s apartment injected some much-needed comedy into this “Rom-Com”. Which then led to some naked-shoulder staring from our brainy hero, proving he’s not made of stone. For such a detached observer, he got awfully worked up when Hwi-kyung took her away. It appears that our emotional robot has a heart after all.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t 

Thank you, show. Thank you for not dragging out their past connection mystery for six episodes. Min-joon now knows that Song-yi is the girl he rescued twelve years ago, thanks to a family photo in her wallet. And his calm, collected demeanor is starting to crack like crazy. It’s fascinating how attuned to the idea of fate our Scholarly Spock is. You would expect him to sneer at such things, but he’s seen too many “coincidences” to ignore his connection with this woman. Where will it all lead?

Will this drama be All’s Well That Ends Well or Romeo and Juliet? Will it leave me all hearts and flowers, or huddled in a weeping mess? Either way, it looks like it’s going to be a tale worth telling.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

You From Another Star: It's a bird. It's a plane. It's . . .

Well, helloooo strange visitor from another dramaverse.
I’m a sucker for Superman. So imagine my surprise when I found the Joseon version of him on my TV screen last night. Truth be told, I felt very little interest in You From Another Star, but made myself watch it so I could enjoy the recaps today. There I sat folding laundry as a flying saucer crashed into 17th century Korea. Towels, socks, underw . . . wait. What is this amazing thing unfolding before my eyes? Needless to say, I had to stop folding the laundry. It’s such a stylish, beautifully shot, Alien-Fusion-Superhero hybrid that I’m rubbing my hands together, just waiting for where it will take us.

No Red Tights Needed 

Not only do I love Superman, but I have a serious thing for Clark Kent. So the sight of our alien eye candy wheeling around in a snazzy suit and giving the most hilarious college lecture on the mating ritual of bugs. Be still my heart. Kim Soo-hyun plays this part with a tight restraint, yet you never feel like he’s phoning it in. There’s acting going on, even when he’s completely still. Which happens a lot. He sits calmly at his desk or stands motionless in an elevator and you still get an other-worldly vibe from him. This guy is good.

She’s no Lois Lane 

This girl. *Snerk * K-drama females aren’t exactly known for their SAT scores. Cute, clumsy, heart-of-gold Candies are the staple. But this anti-heroine takes braindead to a hysterically low level. When I thought about it later, I realized that I don’t actually like her. Yet. She’s self-centered, abrasive, and dumb as a rock. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate her, and find her clueless antics highly entertaining. Anyone who can karaoke into a hairdryer like that can’t be all bad. But the show isn’t trying to sugarcoat this girl, and I appreciate that. She’s got a lot of room for growth, and I hope the drama slowly develops her to the point that I love her in the end.

Cue the Hero Shot

This show is pretty, pretty, pretty. And I’m not just talking about the actors. The matrixy leaves being brushed aside during our extraterrestrial introduction. The multiple versions of Kim Soo-hyun in period clothing as we fast-forward through four hundred years. Everything looks like a movie. Can they really keep this kind of quality up through the chaos of a live-shoot? If so, I will be one happy K-camper.

Faithful Sidekicks 

Maybe I have a Yoo Inna bias because of Queen Inhyun’s Man, but I’m really rooting for her. She hardly had any lines, yet she won my sympathy right off the bat. The way she silently suffered in the van as her manager tried to get better treatment for her told a lot about her character. She doesn’t seem like the scheming second lead type even though it’s obvious she’s nuts about the guy who’s nuts about the heroine. I really liked Park Hae-jin in My Daughter, Seo-young, so I guess there’s a bias for him, too. I hope these two get their own side-couple storyline, and we get double happy-ever-afters in the end.

Or is Happy-Ever-After even an option?

The thread of fate runs strong through this story. The revelation of our OTP’s previous meetings both in the near and distant past delights the romantic in me. But I’m worried. There’s something inherently tragic lying just under the surface. We don’t know the details yet, but the reason he’s been stuck on earth all this time is because of an accident that caused her death back in the Joseon era. Four hundred years later, he finally gets the chance to go home and meets her again only three months before his departure date. Will he go? Will he stay? And, even if he chooses to remain with her, she will eventually grow old and die. This leaves him alone again, and still so far from home. I’m okay with bawling like mad in the middle, as long as I’m smiling when the credits roll. Please, show. Don’t break my heart.

It’s easy to get swept away by a story when the actors generate enough electricity to light up Pittsburgh. I first saw these two together on a movie I saw on my plane ride back from London and they were the best part of The Thieves. Believe me. I’m already squeeing in anticipation for what’s to come.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reply 1994: Little Things Mean A Lot

It’s the little moments that make a lifetime. Those sepia-colored details that other people didn’t even notice as they happened. Reply 1994 does not do fast-paced. Far from it. But it does know how to capitalize on the little things. And sometimes, in the end, they turn out to be not so little after all. Here are a few that left me smiling this week:

All in the Family

One of the reasons it’s so easy to root for Oppa is because he’s already a longtime member of this crazy, country bumpkin family. The four of them sitting in a row, watching the hit parade on TV just warmed my heart. Not that the outrageous dancing hurt, either. I especially liked Trash’s cross-legged bouncing behind the more exuberant Na-jung.

Oooh. Buuuuuuurn! 

How many times have we watched the hero tell his girlfriend she shouldn’t be jealous because the other woman is just a buddy? They’ve always been close. She would never think of him that way. Meanwhile, the second lead schemes and plots and does all sorts of horrible things to break the OTP up. So how much did I love the moment when Oppa’s pretty colleague offers to pick his mother up and his response is: “Why should you?” There was so much sub-text in that moment. “Who are you to pick my mother up? That’s not your job. You’re not my girlfriend. So let’s not even go there.” Trash Oppa can be pretty dense, so the fact that he picked up on the impropriety of her suggestion and shot it down immediately just made me love him all the more.

Don’t leave me! 

Sometimes I wonder which choices come from the actor, director, or writer. That heartbreaking gesture when Trash is packing up the truck and Na-jung just follows behind, holding on to the back of his shirt. So good. A big handclap for whoever thought of it. That small act encapsulates how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you love, even when you know you have to let them go.

Reunited and it feels so good 

Welcome back, 1997! The bus scene was great. Hilarious. But I loved the extra stuff that we weren’t expecting even more. Hak-chan being tutored by Najung-ah and just as awkward as ever. And our original Answer Me couple being the noisy neighbors upstairs. When Shi-won opened the door I got so happy. I love the reminder that she and Yoon-jae keep on living and loving and screaming at each other in Busan dialect long after the credits of Answer Me, 1997 rolled.

‘Til Death Do Us Part 

Die-Die won me over pretty quick. She sits quietly with her dainty, little hair bow, and then downs a potent potful without blinking. Just to save the cute hoobae beside her. It’s a testament to the acting and the writing that I liked this couple together even though they only had two episodes to sell it. The whole “Confirmation” scene with her and Binggeure hearkened back to the original series when Yoon-jae stole a kiss from Shi-won at the water fountain. That moment ended in a beat-down, but what would be the result this time? When our shy med student awkwardly went for it, you had to hold your breath to see where this was going. Would this end in love or rejection? Kudos to the director’s choice of focusing in on Binggeure’s face to let us know. When he opened his eyes for that split second and then softly closed them again, you knew she had him. No dialogue necessary. Such good storytelling.

This week gave me that happy, contented feeling like when you’ve just stuffed yourself with a plateful of your mom’s best Thanksgiving leftovers. I know the Chilbongie shippers must be livid at his small amount of screen time. But there’s still four episodes to go. Plenty of time for the angst later. Right now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy my K-drama comfort food.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Just You: Just for a change

Ah, marathoning. How I missed you.

I remember the rosy beginning of my Korean fixation. Everything was new, with a mountain of dramas I could start and finish in two days flat. The sad thing about catching up with all the classic K-shows is that now I’m stuck watching the new stuff a week at a time. Ready to hit the fast forward when it feels like nothing is happening. (I’m looking at you Heirs.) But there’s no fast forward!

Therefore, I decided to give a Taiwanese story a try. Usually, I don’t care for T-drama. The few I’ve seen had an unbelievable, over-the-top quality mixed with the oh-so-convenient-wrap-up of their melodramatic problems at the end. And the language is soooooo different from Korean, grating against my ears like a linguistic Brillo pad. But somehow I found myself sitting down with Just You this past weekend. I think it was one of those sappy Youtube music videos that sucked me in. (I don’t understand why studios make users take them down. It’s free advertising! Who knows how many shows I’ve started watching because of them.)

So what’s the verdict? Is Just You unbelievable? Yep. Over the top? Oh yeah. What about the Oh-so-conveniently-wrapped-up ending? Guilty as charged. Did I like it? *Clears throat and whispers guiltily* I kinda loved it.

Meet Mr. Tighty-whities-in-a-twist 

The plot involves Qi Yi, an OCD, neat freak who buys a company and immediately hangs up a NO DATING office policy. The fact that he posts it in the middle of two co-workers getting engaged just shows what a Love Scrooge he is. The employees decide something must be done, and recruit their cohort Liang-Liang to make him fall for her and cancel his ridiculous rule.

Meet Ms. Drama Doppelganger 

Liang-Liang embodies the formulaic drama heroine. Cute. Clumsy. (In that fortuitous, oops-I-didn't-mean-to-land-right-on-top-of-you way.) And not too bright. She even falls for the evil ex-girlfriend’s typical argument “I-loved-him-first-so-if-you-just-go-away-we-can-be-happy-together-again.” Despite all of these eye-rolling clichés, I still like her. She’s spunky, resilient, and tends to fall for things because she has such a tender heart. She’s the type of girl that will sympathize with her kidnapper, talk him into taking her home, and make him buy her breakfast first. (I’m not making this up. I warned you this drama was unbelievable.) But her sunny personality is just the antidote for Qi Yi’s frostbitten heart.

Unwilling Roomies 

Oh, didn’t I mention these two have to live together. That’s right. Co-ed hijinks ensue when Qi Yi buys the foreclosed house where Liang Liang still has three months rent paid. Their first meeting involves him walking in on her wrapped in nothing but a towel, which, of course, gets caught in a drawer and falls off. This all happens before she finds out he’s her boss, but she still refuses to move and they’re stuck together for the duration of her lease. This leads to all sorts of fun like her accidentally poisoning him by seasoning his dinner with seafood, not realizing he’s allergic. Or when he slips on the toothpaste she didn’t clean up from the bathroom floor and smashes his arm against the sink. How is a poor guy supposed to wash his hair or shave himself with only one arm? She just HAS to step in and help. We should all have such problems.

It’s the little things that make a family

What other drama boasts a goldfish as a major player? One of the sweetest parts of the story comes when Qi Yi accidentally kills Shan Shan, Liang Liang’s pet of over ten years. This isn’t just any goldfish. Liang Liang talks to her, dances with her, and even takes her for a walk. This part is equal parts sad and hilarious. Qi Yi panics and even tries to give the fish CPR. Then he buys a replacement so she won’t be heartbroken, but Liang Liang notices right away it’s not her Shan Shan and he has to work long and hard to get her to forgive him. She finally accepts the new boy fish, Ming Ming, and they start referring to each other as his parents, taking him for walks together, in matching couple shoes no less.

The real reason you should watch this drama

CHEMISTRY. Qi Yi and Liang Liang spark like crazy. Enough to make you forget all the corny clichés, overwraught misunderstandings, and eleventh hour angst in the last few episodes. It’s not just the kisses, although there are several of those, I’m happy to say. One of my favorite scenes is near the end when the two are walking off together. They join hands and she plays with his fingers. He pulls her close then playfully pushes her head away. She keeps walking by his side. And their fingers link back together without their even looking. It’s difficult to describe, so I'm including a short clip and you can see for yourself. Simple moments like that really emphasize how cheesy the 360-degree camera swooping embraces are.

I still prefer Korean dramas, although I could probably get used to the T-versions pretty quickly if I tried. I’m thinking about it after Just You. As long as I can skip ahead whenever I like. That’s the great thing about marathoning. When you get to those annoying parts where the ex-girlfriend is wreaking havoc on the romance, you just fast forward to the next totally-ungrounded-in-reality, smexy situation, sit back, and enjoy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reply 1994: Aaaargh!

This picture sums it up. Two sets of stairs. Two guys to choose from. And I’m looking around for the elevator that will get me to the top faster and put me out of my misery. Whose brilliant idea was it to make Reply 1994 twenty-one episodes long? Oh, Oppa and Chilbongie. Why do you make me want to bang my head against the floor like Yoon-jin yearning for Seotaiji's toilet seat cover? Why do you both have to be so great! I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn between two characters before. It’s bad. It’s really, really bad. So I guess that means the show is doing its job really, really good. Here’s a few ways they got it right this week:

Little things that warm your heart 

Aren’t Na-jung and Oppa adorable? They laugh, and snuggle, and make us believe that they’re meant for each other. Jung Woo is especially good at highlighting his character’s adorkable side. I loved his little dance outside the hospital after he kissed Na-jung. This actor doesn’t mind looking ridiculous, and I applaud him for it. If it weren’t for the shadow of the poor, heartbroken Chilbongie casting a pall over my happiness for them.

Little things that rip your heart to shreds 

This writer does the slow reveal really well. Remember Oppa’s gift, when we saw the box, then him putting what looked like a pillow under Na-jung’s head, and then we finally saw it was a replica of her beloved stuffed animal from childhood. Well, they did that again this week with the hat. Chilbongie gently placed his cap on Na-jung’s head to protect her from the snow, and she carelessly tossed it to the side when she got home. That seemed a little cold already. But when the camera panned over to show us her picture was still tucked in the band. Ugh. Are you trying to kill us, show.

Love is a stolen toilet bowl 

At least I can enjoy one couple with no regrets. The evolution of their romance continues to bring chuckles and warm fuzzies, sometimes simultaneously. Samcheonpo complained and grumbled about his girlfriend’s Seotaiji obsession until you would think he was ready to dump her. But the way he rushed up the stairs to lock her in her room when the news of her idol’s retirement came out. And then committed a white porcelain felony to bring her back to the land of the living. All together now . . . Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

On a totally, weird and unrelated note 

We met some wacky side characters this week. I probably laughed the hardest at poor, abused Haitai’s interaction with the screw-loose Sergeant. (Mini rant: Did they have to break up our happy little family so thoroughly? Oppa moved out. Haitai got drafted. And Bong-ah’s off to Japan for who knows how long. I miss the days when everyone was under one roof.) And Oppa’s claims-to-be-clairvoyant cousin came from way out in left field. The freaky part of the field with the rusty chain link fence and unmowed grass. Thank goodness she was played by our hilarious “Right Now” girl from Flower Boy Next Door. You know she’ll be a trip the minute you see this actress. Was she right? Is a break-up imminent for our cute Oppa-Dongsaeng couple? Considering we have six episodes to go, I think it’s safe to assume that’s a YES.

Many a tear has to fall, but it’s all in the game 

Yoonjin warned us that this baseball has a story to tell, and I bet we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. What a great fakeout to make us think Chilbongie would give it to Na-jung and then have him pass it to Oppa instead. It’s not a sweet, sentimental remembrance. It’s a challenge. (It’s really great to see such a tenacious character that isn’t afraid to repeatedly throw his pride out the window for love. But I can’t help but wonder if Chilbongie isn’t partly motivated by the challenge. We’ve seen how competitive he is in sports. Does this translate to his love life, as well?)

Right now Oppa has the ball, but how many times will it be passed back and forth before it ends up on the shelf of that Seoul apartment in 2013? Even then, we can see that our two heroes can’t ignore its meaning as they cast sheepish glances at each other. I’m glad to see their future selves hold no resentment. But there’s obviously a lot of history there. And this game is far from over.

This love triangle really messes with my enjoyment of the show. Even though I was rooting for Oppa, I can’t enjoy his romantic triumph because I feel so bad for Chilbongie. I imagine I would feel the same way, if their roles were reversed. If its predecessor Reply 1997 is any indication, this show is going to drag their struggle out to the end. But at least 1997 was only 16 episodes. 21 is just too cruel for the boys, and for the viewers. I want everyone to be happy in the end, but most especially me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Noonas Over Flowers: I like it . . . I think?

Hulu’s officially on my Naughty List. They promised me a subbed Noonas Over Flowers by December 2nd and I’m still waiting. I finally broke down last night and watched the RAW video while looking at the Dramabeans recap as a cheat sheet. It’s not the first time I’ve watched something unsubbed, but those were usually dramas. Variety is so much harder to follow because it has lots of interviews, and people going off on tangents and making those ever popular Korean puns. But the charm of Lee Seunggi transcends any language barrier, so I still enjoyed it. These are a few of my favorite things:

Evil Editing

I imagine Lee Seunggi groaning in front of the TV when he saw that Na PD kept his primping for the camera in. I loved this part. SO. MUCH. He adjusted the lighting. Stacked books to get a better angle. Banged his elbow against said books. And his little satisfied smirk when he got it fixed right killed me. You could just read the “Man, I look good” on his face. Then he pounds a fist on his back, like he’s already exhausted. It takes real skill to pick out little gems like that from hours and hours of footage, but this show does a bang-up job.

Sarcastic Soundtrack 

If the editing sticks it to the talent, the music just twists the knife a little deeper. Poor Hee-ae never knew her innocent comment about watching her diet would be accompanied with tons of eating clips and a singer declaring, “It’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie.” And how about the royal fanfare when Seunggi stepped out of his van at the airport, immediately followed by Na PD nagging him about his wardrobe, late arrival, etc. And I loved the use of “The A-Team Theme” as Seunggi’s eyes darted around the crowd of fans, frantically forming a battle plan to get the ladies to the gate. The editing and soundtrack form a one-two punch that adds so much to show.

Picture Postcard Scenery 

I guess I need to add Croatia to my travel list. This place looks stunning. Like a French Riviera, only with waterfalls, and autumn leaves. And a middle-eastern influence prevails from the looks of some of the turrets, towers, and fashion. (Or am I mixing up the Istanbul layover with Croatia? It's kinda hard to tell when you don't read Hangul. Ooh. Istanbul. I should add that to my list, too.) Maybe I should take note of everywhere the Noonas visit and someday I can find the same steps they sat on. Do you think there will be a plaque reading “Lee Seunggi Wept Here”?

The Queen Mum still rocks 

How cute was our head Noona being waved off on her trip by her tiny little mother as if she were a schoolgirl? And the whole debacle with the lotions that wouldn’t pass through security that left Seunggi squirting like crazy in the airport gift shop? Hilarious. She must not have heard of the cursed 3-1-1 rule. And now I know we both use Cetaphil. If I ever meet her, we have something we can talk about.

The Other Noonas

I need to give them all nicknames, because I find it hard to keep their real ones straight. Mi-yeon can be Boss Noona, cause she always seems to be on a mission, asking questions, and getting frustrated when things take too long. Hee-ae is Angel Noona, cause she projects an air of calm as she quietly watches over our puppy, collecting gifts for him from the Turkish fans and directing him to the right car rental agency without telling him she’s already spoken to them. And finally, Ja-ok, or Cleopatra Noona. She pretends to pack her fluffy poodle, scrawls in her diary, and lays down for a nap whenever she feels like it. I’m more of a Boss Noona type when I’m traveling so she would probably drive me nuts. The mix of personalities hints at an interesting trip, and I look forward to the fun.

A promising beginning, especially considering I don’t understand Korean. I bet the whole running gag of Seunggi trying to take care of everyone, and needing a babysitter himself won’t get old. If he keeps going like he started, they might need a leash for our puppy. I can just picture a future episode with the noonas holding Seunggi’s hand like a six-year-old, because they don’t want him to wander off. Hahahaha. I can hardly wait. Right now I’m wishing for a lump of coal in Hulu’s stocking, but hopefully they’ll get their act together. If not, maybe somebody will take pity on this poor sub-shackled English speaker and let me know all the good stuff I missed.

Noonas Over Flowers: If it's got Seunggi, I'm in