Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bride: Weird to the very end

Like a windmill on a Korean hillside, this show is weird and unexpected. My main feeling while watching the wrap-up was, "WHAT is going on?" I do love my happy endings. But even after the writer crafts a finale with a pot of gold at the end of everyone’s rainbow (and I do mean EVERYONE), I still have one question left. Where are my kisses?!!!!!

Those aren't the kisses I wanted
Did the director take some Artsy Pills before shooting the ghost backstory? The stolen kiss among the freshly washed laundry. The origin of the bead bracelet. The falling petals from the surrounding trees. It was all so beautiful and tragic as we watched the somber, wealthy man fall in love with his mute, caring servant. Until someone mentioned his wife. Hold up! He’s MARRIED! So our sassy ghost lady isn’t the first bride, but the first mistress? I fervently hoped Dramafever subbed it wrong. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) But no, Ghostie had an affair with a married man while his wife stood by and watched. This wasn’t Sageuk times where he could collect as many concubines as he wanted. The show specifically pointed out it was a hundred years ago. 1914. The guy came home in a suit, not a fancy beaded top hat. It made the whole thing so sordid to me. A cheater knocking up his servant girl then abandoning her is never romantic. I don’t care how many cherry blossoms you throw at them.

My favorite line in the whole finale
You know what is romantic. THIS GUY. Kang-joo got better and better as the show progressed. He forgave Doo-rim for her deception waaaaay quicker than expected. He publicly admitted everything to the public in two separate press conferences. And he takes his vows seriously, even if there’s no legal piece of paper to back them up. The writer can draft as many poetic speeches as they want about how finding love is like a blind turtle looking for a piece of driftwood in the ocean. When an attractive model gets in a guy’s face and he doesn’t even hesitate to throw the ring up and say, “You must not have heard, I’m married.” Now THAT’S sexy times a hundred.
Someone get the padded cell ready
Who else enjoyed Makjang Ma’s total descent into Looneyville? The sight of her choking Doo-rim, choking the ghost, choking her own daughter, and then ripping into a piece of rare meat with her bare fingers before earning a bed in the Psych ward. It seemed like a fitting end for this horrible excuse for a human being. Why couldn’t the writer leave it that way! That must be some therapy program at that hospital, because two years later she’s hugging Doo-rim and begging for forgiveness. It may sound twisted, but I would have preferred her to say the line about waiting for her to show up, and then reaching out to choke her again. It would have been such a fitting piece of macabre humor. I'm all for love and forgiveness in real life. But fictionally speaking, some villains just shouldn’t be redeemed.
Boy, did I read that wrong
Am I the only one that got the wrong idea from this scene? I assumed it was Yi-kyung and Oppa sitting together at first. So when a medical looking professional started lecturing about removing the biological problems, I got this crazy idea they were trying not to be blood related so they could be together. I know it sounds insane, but we’re talking about a show with Bride Curses and Look-a-like Strangers. And then it turns out it was just a commercial for hand treatments. How dare they waste any part of the finale on product placement! Less side characters. More smooches. Or ANY smooches for that matter.

Look at that face!
Dramas must have brainwashed me, because I don’t get super upset over time jumps any more. Now my reaction is more, “Oh good, it’s only been a year or two.” That’s almost nothing in K-time. Some viewers probably knew the moment they saw the red yarn, but this scene came as a surprise to me. A lovely, sentimental surprise. Kang-joo spends all day tracking down another fruitless lead to Doo-rim’s whereabouts and it looks like he’s just going to walk away, when a ball of fate rolls by his feet. Lee Hong-ki deserves major props for this moment. I thought both actors sold it, but the way his face just crumpled with joy hit me right in the heart. No cheesy slo-mo rush to embrace each other as the camera swirled around them. It meant so much more to have the two just stand and quietly smile at each other, relieved that the long separation is finally over.

Bride of the Century started out weird, and finished the same way. The finale meandered on and on, and it wrapped up every loose end imaginable, except the ones we really cared about. Where was the moment when Na Doo-rim first tells Kang-joo he’s a father?  Where was the first kiss between the long parted lovers? Or any kiss for that matter? They jumped straight from the reunion to “old married couple.” One of the most awesome things about this show’s beginning was the ridiculous amount of skinship. Did they blow their wad in the first half and the censor shut them down? Did Hong-ki have the flu and not want to pass it on to Yang Jin-sung? Did the director think wandering around planting trees was more romantic than a few cuddle sessions? I confess it was disappointing. But the show stayed true to its weird self to the very end and provided some nice moments along the way. Ghostie playing with baby Kang-nim in the sunlight. Choi Mama turning into a Go-Stop cardshark. Kang-joo finally admitting the moment his heart fluttered for Doo-rim was the first night they met. I guess we can re-watch the first few episodes for the skinship stuff. And I’m glad we can fade out of this wacky ride of a show on a happy note.

Friday, April 11, 2014

WGM Global: 1st Impressions

Hmmmmm. Not sure about this new season, yet. It's entertaining enough to keep me watching, but lacks the spark of its predecessor. Maybe I'm just missing Gui Gui, cause that girl was hilarious. The two new couples cavort through the expected hazards of language barriers and forced romantic setups in the usual manner, like so many We Got Married stars before them. Time will tell if they can distinguish themselves from the pack with either a heart-flutteringly good or train-wreckingly bad relationship.

The Roll-with-it Couple
The suit in this picture should be a clue that Super Junior member, Kim Heechul, is no wallflower. He tries to convince the audience in his interview that he's oh so shy. Yet, some of his first words to his pretend wife are "Where are you, Baby?" Pfffft. I can tell he's just a shrinking violet. His other half, Taiwanese actress and singer Puff Guo, has been forewarned of his playful personality and takes it all in stride. (I looked forward to her appearance on WGM, until I learned that she couldn't do Aaron Yan's latest drama Fall in Love with Me, because of it. Now I'm bitter. I loved them together in Just You, and think their chemistry could have livened up the so-far, so-so FiLwM. Seriously, I think it took me four tries to finish the first episode.) The newlywed's first conversation takes place over the phone as Heechul tries to locate his wife, and his inability to admit he can't understand her mix of English and Chinese bodes well for future hilarity. She rattles away directions and he keeps repeating Hao-Hao like he's fluent. He hangs up and then calls her right back. She gives more directions and he throws in more Hao-Haos for good measure. Heechul hangs up and then calls her back again. Rinse and repeat. Believe it or not, he does eventually find her and they linguistically stumble through their first date in a precarious but good natured manner. I like them together. Both singers appear confused but up-for-it.

The Awkward Couple
SHINee member, Key, seems more happy about starring in We Got Married than about meeting his new bride. He's been lobbying for it awhile and he finally has his heart's desire, but he's in for a few surprises. His partner is Japanese model, Yagi Arisa, who informs him that she is in her third year of High School. Cue panicked look of horror on Key's face. What's the proper way to welcome his barely legal wife? Why teach her the proper way to drink in Korea, of course. (He does so with a bottle of soda, but still. Does not compute.) Language proves less of a difficulty for these two as they switch comfortably between Japanese and English. It's obvious their relationship will be more PG than the other couple's.

Ironically, the Roll-with-it Couple looked more comfortable with each other at the WGM press conference. It could be the difference in personalities, the older ages, or the fact that Heechul just grabbed his wife around the waist and pulled her to him. Yes, he's soooooo shy. The Awkward Couple possesses better communication tools, yet seems a little stilted standing next to each other. But both couples are interesting, and I look forward to plenty of culture sharing, hearts-and-flowers faking, and Hao-Haoing in the future.

If you want to check out We Got Married Global: Season 2, you can find it at www.dramafever.com.

Just You: Just For A Change

We Got Married Season 1: Fake, but Funny

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bride: I've heard this story, no wait I haven't

Clichés aplenty. But how about we turn them on their ear? We’ve laughed at the ridiculous amount of recycled setups in Bride of the Century like evil twins, arranged marriages, accidental kisses, and more. But this week took the same old-same old and twisted it in some unexpected and delightful ways. This show barrels along like a Walmart shopper on Black Friday, but never leaves me confused or out of breath. I like it. I really, really do.

It's the same old song
Was anyone else worried here? It looked like our kitten couple would follow the K-drama playbook to the bitter, noble end. Kang-joo tries one more time to convince Doo-rim to run away with him. She refuses, for his own good, of course. And talks about how she’ll be cheering him on from the sidelines. Reminds me of the speech the older brother’s girlfriend gave him in Heirs. (No, I don’t remember either of their names. That’s how much I didn’t care.) You could just see the grim future unfolding: Kang-joo marries Yi-kyung to save his family’s fortune and good name, time jump to the future, they have a child, Doo-rim runs into them on the street one day, the sad music plays while the heartrending flashback sequence runs. What is true love compared to a multi-million dollar conglomerate, right?

But what about THE COMPANY?????
This is my favorite part!!! It deserves three exclamation points. Maybe more, because Kang-joo takes the same hopeless situation we’ve seen how many times and does exactly what we’re always clamoring for. Chucks everything out the window. How many dramas have gone down the tubes because the main couple had to save THE COMPANY? (I’m looking at you Golden Rainbow. I pretty much stopped watching it after the hero revamped his hair, not to mention his personality, and subsequently sucked all the sunshine out of the show.) So often the scheming second lead runs circles around the good guys, because they can tank their reputation and strip them of their fortune with one call to the media. Meanwhile, all of us ordinary 9-5ers sit in front of our computers and think, “What’s so bad about that? I’m doing alright without a million dollars.” When Kang-joo started reminiscing about the girl he fell in love with and then gave that delicious pause after, “Her name is . . .” You know we were all holding our breaths, right? Begging him to do the right thing, but not really expecting it because Noble Idiocy is always the route they take. And then he says it, “Na Doo-rim”. Laaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh. Cue the angel choirs. There is finally a K-drama hero that won’t be swayed by family honor or the threat of financial ruin. He sticks it to Vicious Vixens Sr. and Jr. in front of a room full of reporters and then walks out with that adorable smirk on his face. I wish I had a video of my reaction, it probably included clappy hands and a little chair dance.

Makjang Mama and a surprise reveal
Madame Ma dropped by the restaurant for a little side trip to Loonyville, and it looked like our heroine once again forgot her secret, ninja fighting skills. I understood when Na Doo-rim screamed and cried while Oppa was flattened by the hired thugs. I didn’t like it, but I could give her a pass because she was already beaten up, herself. But when she crawled backwards on the floor in a weeping mess while a middle-aged woman in high heels threatened her. . . (insert eye roll here). How many of us were thinking, “Why is she crying like a big baby? Why isn’t she drop kicking that psycho instead of meekly allowing herself to be strangled? Why is she glowing? Wait . . . glowing!” When the supposed Na Doo-rim morphed into our sassy ghost, I did not see that coming. What a great reveal. Slow clap for the writer.

If I recommended Bride to someone and they asked me what it was about, I think I’d feel embarrassed to explain. Well, there’s this ordinary girl from a fishing village who takes the place of a rich, wealthy look-a-like and proceeds to fall in love with her uber-rich, snotty fiancé. She marries him. He finds out she’s a counterfeit but forgives her. The scheming fake mother-in-law blackmails the groom’s family with information about his murderous grandma, who just happens to be on her deathbed. The fake brother is also in love with fishing-girl. Oh, and there’s a ghost! It all sounds so ridiculous. I think this show must be experienced firsthand, to be appreciated. Even with all its over-the-top melodrama and wall-to-wall clichés, it works. I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining.

Friday, April 4, 2014

WGM Global: Fake, but Funny

Who knew faux marriage could be so fun? The new We Got Married: Global Edition airs tomorrow and, in honor of Season 2, I dug out an old recap of last year’s premiere, starring Ok Taecyeon and Lee Hongki. (All the Bride of the Century fans should excuse me for my obvious bias towards the Taec/Gui Gui pairing. This was long before our scratchy-voiced Hongki played the charming, crankypants Kangjoo.) For those unfamiliar with the setup, two celebrities are paired up in a pretend marriage, complete with bogus ceremony and honeymoon. (No, I don't think they take the honeymoon THAT literally.) It's like getting a front row seat to the ultimate blind date, as we indulge our voyeuristic tendencies and secretly hope that one of these couples will fall in love for reals.

Episode 1 Recap
We open at JYP Office and our first groom, Korean Actor/Singer Taecyeon (Dream High, Wonderful Days), poses in front of a full-length mirror with one foot propped behind the other like he's in a revival of All That Jazz. The show reminds us of his boy group fame as a member of 2PM, and also gives the obligatory shot of his six-pack.

The bride, Taiwanese singer/actor Gui Gui, gets dolled up at a Seoul beauty salon and tries out her limited Korean as she greets the camera. The show tags her as a girl with "innocent and cute attractiveness." Now, be honest, who would really describe themselves that way on their Facebook page? When asked who her favorite member of 2PM is, she answers "Nichkhun" with a laugh, but then clarifies that she likes Nichkhun's face on Taecyeon's body. I think I like this girl.

The pretend lovers' first meeting is set at a Shoes Cafe. (I don't know what that is, but I'll take an order of Louis Vuitton's to go, please.) Taecyeon arrives first and fidgets as he waits for his other half. Under the half-drawn blinds, he sees a pair of legs walking outside and leans over to get a better look. The door opens ever so slowly. Gui Gui appears and immediately starts laughing. Taec interviews that his first impression was something very bright had entered the building.

They speak almost entirely in English which adds a whole other layer of cuteness. Taec lived in Boston for seven years, and his American is perfect, but hers is endearing. She communicates very well, but makes the little, grammatical errors here and there that lead to unintentional hilarity. She asks how she should address him and he says in no uncertain terms, "You will call me, Oppa." Gui Gui balks a little, protesting that there's only a year's difference in their ages, but Taec reiterates that he is Oppa.

They sit at the table with matching cups of hot cocoa. Taec takes a gentle sip, and she murmurs and waves at him to drink up. He panics when he realizes she literally means "One Shot" with the steamy beverage. Taec tries to keep up with his bubbly partner, but eventually reaches over to take the mug from her when it looks like she's going to lick the cup clean.

Then he asks a stupid question. "Do you like shoes?" Proving she's a girl, she says yes, and for some inexplicable reason, she's drawn to a pair of shiny, gold, grandpa loafers, complete with tassels. A hilarious sequence follows where he tries to put the shoes on for her and she freaks out, crying: "What are you doing? I don't the like the boy touching my . . . I can do myself." Taec collapses on the couch already worn out from his first thirty minutes of marriage. He later tells the interviewer he thought it would be this great Cinderella moment. Um, Fail! But in the best possible way for the viewers at home.

Gui Gui thinks he's buying the gold monstrosities for her, but he proves he's a guy, and says no. Cue Hilarious Interlude #2 as we see her version of Aegyo. She grabs his arm with both hands, swinging it back and forth while saying, "So saaaaaaaad." Despite this, he remains firm in his refusal to buy them. But she has her revenge later on when she dubs him "Scrooge" in an interview.

We meet our second groom, FT Island's lead singer Lee Hongki, though some may remember him better as Jeremy in You're Beautiful. It appears his real-life personality is a far cry from that sweet, doting character who only let himself be sad on buses. When his friends found out he was doing the show their reactions fell into two camps: “Don't Do It!” and “Oh, That Poor Girl!” Apparently, Hongki is not known as the best of boyfriends. He's the type that will let a door slam shut in the girl's face and then not understand why she's so upset. But there's something kind of cute about how readily he admits it.

His future, fake wife is being primped and polished. She is the very glamorous, Japanese actress Fujii Mina. She reveals that she would like a "Ladies First" type of guy, and we can all see the warning signs in the distance for this couple.

On the way to their first meeting, the bride "spontaneously" decides to send him a photo of herself. It's obviously an excuse for a cell phone commercial as she texts him cropped shots of her eyes, her chin, and her legs, for him to paste together into one photo. (This kind of blatant product placement totally works, since I am now a proud owner of the Galaxy Note 2.)

You can see the difference in the two grooms right away. While Taecyeon sat in nervous expectancy, noticing Gui Gui from the moment she walked by the window, Hongki sits with his back to the door, completely absorbed in writing something. He doesn't even hear when Mina enters and she's practically in front of him before he turns around.

Her beautiful face kind of throws him, and you almost hear his internal monologue:

Yes! My wife is hot!
Uhhhh . . . what do I do now?

Their conversation is painfully polite, in that forced setup kind of way. She likes books. He doesn't. She knows his work. He doesn't know hers.

The couple has the exact opposite situation of Taec and Gui Gui when Mina informs Hongki that she is two year older, but she doesn't want to be called Noona. (I understand age hierarchy is a huge deal in Korean society, but I'm with her on this. I would not want my husband constantly reminding me I'm older than him every time we have a conversation.)

He gives her an envelope that has puzzle pieces in it and, when you put them together, it forms a letter he's written her. Okay, I must admit I dig that. So does the bride as she starts fitting the puzzle together so fast it actually intimidates the groom.

Internal Monologue #2

She likes books AND she's good at puzzles.
Definitely have to up my game.

The personal note with a promise to grant her a wish impresses Mina. She interviews that the time passed very quickly for her. Add a point for Hongki. But then she says that she sees him more as a little brother than a husband. Subtract two points for Hongki.

Back to Couple #1, Taec and Gui Gui visit a ski resort and she delights in the dazzling snowy expanse. And I must add, it takes a very secure man to wear matching stuffed animal, couple earmuffs. They ride the ski lift, visit an igloo to take pictures with a sleepy, fake polar bear, and then Gui Gui rams her head right on the icy door jamb on her way out. These two are like an episode of I Love Lucy with the pratfalls, and Taecyeon refusing to buy her things.

Gui Gui initiates a very powdery snow fight with her new, pretend husband. He retaliates and pelts her with clouds of the stuff until she protests, and points out the difference between her snow-covered clothing and his pristine black coat. To make up for this, he throws the two handfuls he'd been holding on himself. So cute.
Taecyeon comes across very paternal as he tries to explain the snow is too loose for packing snowballs, but she runs away mid-lecture like an errant toddler. Then does a few more trips on the ice, just for our amusement. The groom looks . . . befuddled. You can tell he doesn't quite know what to do with this charming, childlike bride. But he tries to watch out for her by holding her hand and wiping her nose with a handkerchief. Maybe she should call him Appa instead of Oppa. He sings part of 2PM's hit song "I'll Be Back" for her, and they confirm that they both had fun as they walk off hand in hand.

Old Comments

I don't get romantic vibes from either couple, but the show is definitely entertaining. The hook is in the mutual culture shock going on in the already awkward context of a fake marriage. If it were only Hongki and Mina, I probably wouldn't stick around. They have their own brand of cuteness, but it's very well-behaved and low-key.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Gui Gui. Her charge-ahead cheerfulness, coupled with Taecyeon's bewildered good humor is a winning combination. It's a hilarious kind of slapstick comedy. Taec is obviously the straight man, standing around giving reaction shots as Gui Gui stumbles around building one-foot snowmen and running head first into igloos. You can tell that the crew finds her hilarious, as well, from how often you hear the PDs laughing in the background during her interviews.

New Comments

I admit after watching all 15 episodes, the Taec/Gui Gui interactions got a little repetitive, while Hongki/Mina’s relationship grew into something more natural and sweet. Season 1 must have been a hit, because the show is back for more with two new couples. You can watch it on the official Youtube channel or Dramafever. Come back next week for my initial reactions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bride: You shouldn't act that way!

Even our sassy ghost is pouting!
And so we enter the part of the story that makes me cringe. The everyone-acts-like-an-idiot-just-to-whip-up-the-tension part. It happens over and over in Dramaland, so I’m not surprised. Just annoyed. And it’s not even everyone. Mainly Doo-rim. But I’ll riff on that later. Let’s examine who was acting out this week.
You shouldn’t act that way . . . offscreen
He put the pieces together in one episode. That's a plus. But would it kill the writer to show us Kang-joo zeroing in on the differences from the start? In his defense, Kang-joo said his new bride was acting weird. So I can create a scenario in my head that had him picking up strange vibes all along. But we never got to SEE him noticing that. How long would it take? 30 seconds at the most, for him to say, “Are you okay. You seem kind of off today?” He spent hours following her around the mall and she never once yelled at a stranger, pinched or punched him, or fell in a clumsy heap on the polished floor. Obviously this isn't your wife. Why couldn’t the writer show us one scene of him giving her a suspicious look BEFORE Roo-mi’s “no ring hint”?

You shouldn’t act that way . . . period
This set-up drives me crazy. Some villainous, manipulative female tells the heroine to back off for the good of the man she loves. So she does. The end. Excuuuuuuuse me! Does anyone else see the logic fail here? It happens over and over again. Why are K-ladies always so gullible? I get that Doo-rim feels guilty for her lies, and responsible for Oppa’s coma, and worried for her family’s safety. But how does that justify condemning her true love to a lifetime of unhappiness with Malicious Mama Ma and her Smirky Spineless Daughter? Doo-rim knows from first-hand experience that these two are capable of murder. But she still hangs her wedding ring on a potted plant and thinks he can be happy with them. Even the ghost is dissapointed in her! *Sigh* A few episodes ago, Doo-rim railed at Kang-joo for not having the guts to face death with her, but now she’s doing the same thing to him. It’s like she was offered Door #1: Fade off quietly and no one gets hurt. Or Door #2: Make trouble and we’ll take down everyone you ever cared about. Who said there were only two doors? Or how about kicking a hole in the wall? She didn’t even try to find a way to beat these psychos. Where’s the fighter we all know and love?

You shouldn’t act that way . . . INHUMAN
This . . . *Shudder* What should we call her? She’s definitely not a lady. And person seems too kind a word, as well. Doo-rim hit the nail on the head when she talked about people who only pretend to be human. She’s a very Mwahahaha kind of villain, that doesn’t seem to have any kind of normal emotions or relatable characteristics. She’s the bad guy, because the story needs a bad guy. I can live with that. But she’s just so evil. With a capital EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

You shouldn’t act . . . no wait, you should!
Roo-mi won her redemption card this week. She is now allowed a happy ending with anyone she chooses (other than Kang-joo, of course). Maybe she can marry Younger Brother, and she and Doo-rim end up BFFs for life. I wonder how many viewers were on the edge of their seats for that terrace scene, thinking “Tell him! Tell him!” I like how she didn’t fill him in on every detail, and draw him a map to where Doo-rim was. She just let him know that his wife was exactly the kind of caring person he always thought. With that one simple gesture, she wiped out every bad feeling I had for her. There’s hope for her, yet.

You shouldn’t act that way . . . but I love it
Admit it. The sudden return to pigtail pulling Kang-joo made no sense amidst the cesspool of betrayal and lies swirling around them. But who cares! This is the stuff that made me love the show in the first place. What a welcome relief to see him needle and pick on Doo-rim like the good, old days. And then see her verbally smack him down like she always did. I love the scene where he reserves the restaurant, takes a bite of the food, and starts to gag, all while his wedding ring is cheerfully shining on his finger. It’s very telling that he never once took it off, even when he felt the most wronged. Unlike his wife, he plans to push back against this malevolent fate bearing down on them. And I say a big – FIGHTING!