더 케이투 (The K2 Ep.1-2)

I don’t really know much about The K2 except the fact that Ji Chang Wook and SNSD’s Yoona will work together in this TvN drama. Funny because after watching the first episode, I still don’t know anything. I saw it with subtitles but it felt like I didn’t. All I remember was blood and biceps. Oh, and the operatic music.

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The episode is fast paced and action-packed and we are introduced to our smokin’ hot hero who tends to his own wounds. There are scenes at a Catholic church as our young heroine gets coerced into entering a convent and later on, as an adult she tries to escape from her powerful pursuers. Surprisingly, the controlling villain is not the assemblyman himself but his chaebol heiress wife who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal of becoming the nation’s First Lady. By her side is a creepy secretary with seemingly lesbian tendencies.

Considering all these, the show gives a lot of Yong Pal vibes and upon checking, I found out that this is indeed a product of Yong Pal‘s screenwriter Jang Hyeok Rin. And I was like, “Oh no.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Yong Pal, it is to not go around recommending an unfinished drama to friends (no matter how much you love the main actor or how great the first episode is) because it is uncertain that it’s going to be consistently good til the end. Yet, I didn’t criticize Yong Pal too harshly seeing how Joo Won looked so haggard – doing all the hard work, filming 70% of its earlier action-heavy episodes while all Kim Tae Hee had to do was lie down and look pretty ( since her character’s in a coma in the first few episodes). Fortunately for Joo Won’s sake, Yong Pal was able to maintain its 20% ratings.

Going back to The K2, this show has high production value that is just as good as a pre-produced drama. The exquisite shots were filmed on location in Spain and even the ones from Seoul were done tastefully, hence it was regarded as the next Descendants of the Sun. However, people said the same thing about Uncontrollably Fond and we all know how THAT turned out.

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The first couple of episodes of The K2 include some really cool and sleek fight choreography. Kitty feedin’, granny lovin’, tank top wearin’ Ji Chang Wook, who plays the soldier-on-the-run named Kim Je Ha, obviously worked out and worked hard for his amazing action scenes. I hope the show won’t put all his efforts to waste because even though his moves are awesome, the scenes tend to be headache-inducing due to the shaky camera shots, questionable angles and blaring musical score.

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As Go Anna, Yoona is beautiful despite looking disheveled but had very little to work with since all she did was run barefoot and desperately cry for help (which is definitely not an easy thing to do). Pretty much the same on the second episode, I can’t comment on her acting skills since she was on the plane, drugged and unconscious. She isn’t a great actress but at least not cringe worthy so it it’s sad to see the endless criticisms she’s been getting when her acting is better than other idols-turned-actresses. Girls’ Day Hyeri was good in Reply 1988 since the role seemed to have been custom-made for her but her weakness and lack of versatility was apparent in Entertainer. IU’s acting was quite forced and stiff in Producer. She has improved in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Ryeo but not powerful enough for a sageuk fusion as she gets outshone by the male leads. Miss A’s Suzy is pretty but overrated and my goodness, A Pink’s Son Na Eun from Cinderella and Four Knights. I have no words. Back to basic acting lessons please.

I think the problem with Yoona is that most of her dramas didn’t really perform well in Korea so people tend to simply conclude that it’s mainly because of her lack of acting skills. I’m not a fan and I haven’t seen any of her projects since Love Rain (I only watched that one for Seo In Guk.) but she gives a decent performance here. Hopefully, she’d be able to hold her own because she’s up against another Yoo Na who’s like a powerhouse.

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Still gorgeous at 43, Song Yoo Na successfully got into my nerves with her riveting portrayal of a powerful woman filled with grace and sophistication but has a dark, psychotic side and not a single damn care about innocent people’s lives. Two episodes in and the audience are already chanting “Shoot her!” along with Anna. I believe she is like the female version of Nam Gyu Man. The villain you’d love to hate.

The K2 started off with a bang but got a little carried away. There’s too much action and little narrative, good thing the actors are doing a fine job in making their characters intriguing to keep the audience hooked in spite of the plot holes that appear one by one as the story unfolds.

But the main reason for tuning in is the main cause of distraction, too: Ji Chang Wook! Seriously he is so sexy, he just won’t let the viewers concentrate on the story of his own drama. I had to rewind at times just to check if I missed a line from the subtitles while I was picking my jaw off the floor.

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쇼핑왕 루이 (Shopping King Louis Ep.2)

I thought something was wrong with my video player when I watched the first episode with its cotton candy cloud colors but now it all makes sense since the washed out palette and the exaggeration in Louis’ lifestyle seem to have all been done on purpose to give a more distinct transition from his seemingly perfect wealthy world to the harsh reality of losing everything including his memory.


From a rotten spoiled chaebol to a cute little lost puppy, Seo In Guk chose another interesting character to play and knocked it out of the park. Seo In Guk as a chaebol is more dashing than all F4 members combined. His character’s surname is Kang so plot twist: he is actually the fourth knight! Kidding.

Post-amnesia, SIG’s aegyo is going to give his I Remember You dongsaeng ,Park Bo Gum, a run for his money. (Sorry Min, you know I’ve always loved your hyung more.) He makes me feel proud that I’ve been following him since Love Rain and I’ve loved him since Reply 1997. He really is something!

It’s kind of adorable how Louis’s memory loss hasn’t affected his personality much, if at all. He’s still cheerful and impulsive, charming and happy-go-lucky. His reckless handling of money certainly carried over, and I have a feeling that’s going to be the main thing he’s going to learn from Bok-shil. I want her to teach him that you can have all the material wealth in the world, but what he really needs is to be with the people he loves. And I love all the little touches that highlight what a fish out of water he is, culturally as well as the effects of his amnesia — like the way he gets out of breath walking on the steep roads because he’s not used to that much exertion, how he keeps slipping into English and French, and his complete lack of social awareness. It’s fun that he’s retained what we liked about him from before, that essential Louis-ness that’s so darn charming.

— Lollypip, Dramabeans

SIG doesn’t even need all those fancy clothes to get this Bok Sil heart palpitating and jaw dropping moment.

I’ve never seen Nam Ji Hyun in a drama before but she’s slaying the earnest country girl character. I was disappointed with SIG’s leading lady in 38 Task Force but Nam Ji Hyun has such strong presence that could match his.  It’s only the second episode and clearly, we already have our OTP. Now I can’t listen to A Whole New World without thinking about these two. It seems cheesy to use a timeless Disney song as their background music but actually quite apt since Bok Sil grew up destitute while Ji Sung led a sheltered life. One is searching for her brother, the other’s searching for himself, but now they’re seeing a whole new world together!

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I don’t have anything against real life couples with huge age gap but in a drama, I feel a bit icky since they totally look incompatible. This ginseng ahjussi doesn’t seem to have the personality to stand a chance to get in between a budding friendship/romance of these two who only had each other to lean on. People would possibly root for him if only he’s at least half as nice as his second lead namesake, Joong Won, in Jealousy Incarnate.

I couldn’t care less about the female second lead, Baek Ma Ri. I hate that she didn’t show some real sadness over Louis’ “death”. She was crying over the idea of losing her chance to marry a rich heir instead of being sincerely sad about the demise of a childhood friend. The butler’s grief after losing his “master” is more genuine than hers. I miss their bromance but there’s a new one coming.

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I’m excited to see Oh Dae Hwan in the next episode. He played Ma Jin Suk in Seo In Guk’s 38 Task Force and their new Grazia magazine photos hint that Oh Dae Hwan will play a huge role in Louis’ life. The show continues the pop culture references with its characters’ names: Seo In Guk as Ji Sung and Oh Dae Hwan as Jo In Sung.

Well, since this post has become quite picture-heavy then here’s another one just for the ‘kyaa’:


You’re welcome.

쇼핑왕 루이 (Shopping King Louis Ep.1)

After the sageuk The King’s Face, thriller Hello Monster , and crime comedy 38 Task Force; Seo In Guk returns to full romcom, looking all dreamy in this prince turned pauper fairy tale, Shopping King Louis. The show, however,comes with a myriad of overdone tropes so its pilot episode sadly landed last place in ratings.

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The unbalanced tone of the show is quite off putting since at one point we’re seeing a somewhat realistic feel of attempting to tackle the world of commerce then on the next scene, we are being introduced to the titular character who lives in a European mansion,obsessing over extravagant purchases.  The dreamlike set-up and the slapstick bits with his butler make Seo In Guk’s character, Kang Ji Sung, look like someone who’s living inside a manga/manhwa. Am I missing something here? Are the characters living in two worlds just like in W? I’m sure there are other ways to make it known that he’s filthy rich without having to try so hard to be funny. I don’t know how Japanese dramas manage to make silly, over-the-top, situations look acceptable but it just doesn’t quite work when Korean dramas attempt to do the same.

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However, I am totally biased in favor of Seo In Guk so regardless of the show’s blunders, I was never on the fence on whether I’d drop this or not. His character here is actually quite a breath of fresh air since I am used to the whole ‘chaebol is equal to pompous manchild’ formula. His chaebol is different. Ji Sung seems to have done some introspection, knowing what he lacks and what he has. Given that he has all that money and claims to have a voice in his head that allows him to distinguish the items that are worth buying, then ‘shopping’ is his way of escapism. More so, I like that he doesn’t rebel against his overprotective grandma, he doesn’t treat his house helps like trash, and he’s well aware of being financially blessed that he didn’t even think twice about getting the best refrigerator for the girl from the mountains.

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Go Bok Sil first appeared in front of Louis via special documentary he just chanced upon on TV. She lives with her brother and grandmother away from civilization, but after her brother went missing and her grandmother’s passing, there’s no reason to stay deep in the forest in a house where electric wires can’t reach. Unfortunately, due to her own kindness and naïveté, she ended up at Seoul station with only a bottle of water and wild ginseng, the rest of her other valuables gone. This is where she encountered Oska! I mean Cha Joong Won, a charismatic but hotheaded president of an online store. Bok Sil seems to have an eye on who to deal with since after a few exchange of words, she successfully sold her ginseng and even got the well-off guy’s phone number as a bonus. If it weren’t for him, she’d probably be wandering around for a while, penniless.

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I don’t usually complain about the actors’ real life age difference but Yoon Sang Hyun has a whopping 22-year age gap with Nam Ji Hyun and reports said that his character’s feelings will develop into a romantic one. That’s pretty awkward because Yoon Sang Hyun looks old enough to play her uncle.

The show should’ve just chosen an older actress to match Yoon Sang Hyun since it won’t pose a problem for Seo In Guk anyway. The latter’s always standing at the corner of cute and manly so his leading ladies’ age was never an issue. According to Director Lee Sang Yeob, Nam Ji Hyun was selected for the role since she was a perfect match for what the production crew was looking for in Go Bok Sil. Her character reminds me of Jin Se Yeon’s role in the web drama, High End Crush- a simple and earnest woman who values nature while the rest of the world has become so superficial. And I’d have to agree with the director that Nam Ji Hyun totally embodied that innocence but with more zeal than Jin Se Yeon. I love her already and I’m excited to see her chemistry with Seo In Guk.

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Chaebol with amnesia, businessman second lead, adorable grandma, and an evil uncle~ Is this another Beautiful Gong Shim? I just hope the show will not go off track the way Gong Shim did when the identity search and corporate issues overtook the romcom aspects. Shopping King Louis’ plot is utterly predictable but it’s an easy watch compared to how Cinderella and Four Knights is currently testing one’s patience!

異常犯罪捜査官・藤堂比奈子 (ON ~ Ijou Hanzai Sousakan Todo Hinako Ep.1)

Based on the novel of the same title, written by Naito Ryo, ON Ijou Hanzai Sousakan Todo Hinako begins with an apparent dream sequence where our main character walks in on a bloody crime scene of a young girl with an upper body so horribly slashed, hands and feet both nailed on the floor and mouth full of candies. Hinako wakes up to the sound of the alarm, picks up her canned shichimi lucky charm and opens the door to face the world with her mask ON.

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Haru plays rookie detective, Todou Hinako, who graduated top of her class in the police academy and has the ability to memorize names and events of cold cases for the past ten years. She may not have had a lot of experience on the field but her knowledge makes her a useful addition to the team.  She puts this Seven Spice powder on literally everything she eats (including desserts), she recommends a maid cafe as a place for conversation and she owns a notebook filled with doodles because she says she remembers things illustrated more than when they’re written. So, yes she has her own quirks, but the most noticeable and disturbing part is the glint in her eyes and her involuntary smile when it comes to her morbid fascination with crimes.

From the get-go, the drama managed to introduce the lead who’s dark and aberrant but can fit in the society as if owning a switch that allows her to turn her emotionally cold personality ON and OFF at will. I like that she exerts effort to establish normal social relations in spite of her natural lack of empathy and innate psychopathic tendencies. This trope usually gives either an anti-social or an overbearing character but often tolerated because they’re a genius and extremely helpful in solving mysterious cases. An example is Tatsuya Fujiwara’s Akagi Samon, an eccentric hikikomori forensic expert character in ST. Another one is Takumi Saito’s Himura Hideo, a criminologist who is similar to Todou in terms of getting enraptured by crime scenes and being too curious about a murderer’s mind that he often imagines himself in the shoes of the criminal.

Todou Hinako puts on an amiable rookie face but she isn’t completely fake or deceitful because it is normal for people to establish a certain workplace image that’s different from their real personality. Todou genuinely cares for the people around her, it’s just that her inner curiosity over horrendous murder cases gets the better of her. And her tough douchey senpai, Shoji, calls her out for that.

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Kanjani Eight’s Yokoyama Yuu as Yasuhisa Shoji is introduced in the middle of a chase which gives his character a troublemaker image. I thought he’s going to be the usual funny-bad boy-oddball type of character but it turns out he’s a serious, albeit short-tempered, member of the same investigative squad. He is running after the bad guys, not away from them. And when he catches them, he can’t help but get violent. I’m having a hard time taking him seriously though. Kanjani members are known to be funny sweethearts and his acting here looks a bit awkward and forced, plus his lips are protruding at times when they’re not supposed to.

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Stealing the spotlight is one of my favorite actors, Hayashi Kento. You see he can do outright violent cray or subtle mysterious dorky cray as easy as one-two-three. In this show, it’s the latter. I’m curious to see what kind of person Nakajima Tamotsu is. Coincidentally (or not?), his ‘fluorescent light baby’ video suggestion revealed the perpetrator of the crime that led to the death of Todou’s best friend. He’s the most compelling supporting character for now (probably even more intriguing than the leads since Shoji’s violent outbursts have a predictable back story).

Kaname Jun works in the same department as Todou. Tall, good looking and overreacting over a slight burn that doesn’t even hurt, I suppose he’s meant to provide a bit of comic relief and a slight romance angle but it just doesn’t work because clearly Todou is more interested with corpses. Atsuro Watabe has been in several police dramas so his parental role in this one isn’t something new. The team speaks highly of Mieko Harada’s Professor Taeko Ishigami but aside from the Death Goddess nickname and the piles of cigar butts around her office, I couldn’t see a distinct trait that makes her more appealing than the usual smart doctor characters.

Though the crime scenes are bloodier than expected, it seems that the series will focus on the psychology behind the act. More than just solving the crimes, Todou gets more elated when she figures out the killer’s motives. I just can’t pinpoint yet whether it’s Haru’s acting or the way Todou’s character was written but as a lead, she is quite bland compared to Himura Hideo or even Oguri Shun’s Ango Ishikawa in Border.  The 90-minute pilot episode is lacking in some areas but still quite engaging overall thanks to the thought-provoking cases and Hayashi Kento’s convincing portrayal of an incisive but shady character.

부산행 (Train to Busan)

Numerous articles have already been posted about Train to Busan and both audience and critics share unanimous point of view that this is one of the most entertaining zombie apocalypse thriller movies in recent years. This is animation director Yeon Sang Ho’s first live action movie. Two months after its domestic release, we finally get to see it in cinemas here in the Philippines. But there are several factors that set me apart from other local moviegoers:

I’m a Korean film and drama fanatic.

– The language doesn’t sound unusual since I watch something Korean almost everyday, and having seen these actors in their past projects allow me to weigh how effective they are in the roles they have been given here. Fortunately, all of them lived up to my expectations and some even surpassed them.

@ The Original Coffee Prince Shop in Hongdae

People recognize Gong Yoo since he played the lead in Coffee Prince: one of the dramas which contributed to the international spread of Hallyu. His new movie Miljung (The Age of Shadows) will start its screening in Korean theaters this week. It is set in the Japanese era and he acted alongside Song Kang Ho, the actor from Snowpiercer. Just like Train to Busan, Snowpiercer provided intense action that took place in a moving train.

The rest of the main cast might be unfamiliar to those who haven’t had the chance to watch that many Korean films and dramas. And even if they did, they probably can’t remember the actors’ names or where they’ve seen them before.

I’ve just recently finished the series, 38 Task Force which stars Ma Dong Seok, the giant with a gentle heart. Playing his pregnant wife is Jung Yu-Mi. The actress reunites with Gong Yoo after their controversial true-to-life 2011 movie Silenced.

The song “Nobody” was a big hit back in the day and former Wonder Girls’ member, Ahn So Hee, is Jin Hee. She walked in like a stereotypical, assertive and possibly annoying girl but as the horror unfolds, her character is revealed to be quite likeable. She’s straightforward in expressing her feelings towards sports player Young Gook. If Gong Yoo’s a Coffee Prince, actor Choi Woo Sik is Rooftop Prince. I thought he can only do supporting for romcoms but under the right direction, he can bring out his dramatic skills as he won Best New Actor for the coming-of-age movie, Set Me Free.

Even the zombie stowaway is a noteworthy actress. I didn’t recognize her immediately but looking closely, it’s Shim Eun Kyung, the lead in the popular comedy movie Miss Granny,  as well as the Korean remake of Nodame Cantabile, Naeil Cantabile. She lent her voice in Seoul Station, Train to Busan‘s animated prequel.

I am currently addicted to W- Two Worlds, which includes actor Kim Eui Sung as one of the key supporting characters. He is brilliantly playing dual roles as both heroine’s father, Oh Sung Moo, as well as the antagonist in the manhwa that he has created. He once again proves how he can convincingly portray an obnoxious character : one that the audience wishes to get rid of, but just won’t die.

But delivering the strongest pathos is 10-year-old Kim Soo Ahn. Her innocence as a child and excellence as an actress turns simple lines into something totally adorable and sometimes completely heartbreaking. She played the young Kim Go Eun in the award winning movie, Coin Locker Girl, and she is under the same company as current Korea’s biggest stars; Park Bo Gum and Song Joong Ki.

I’m an online English instructor to Korean students.

–  Films and dramas base their characters and stories on actual situations but often exaggerated for comic and dramatic purposes. It is however, easier for me to discern the differences between their reel and real life since I’ve been talking to Korean students for a decade now and 80% of them are from Busan.

Interestingly, one of my students actually worked behind-the-scenes of this film ( somewhere in the editing department) so I’ve heard about Train to Busan long before it premiered. When I called her last Monday night, she said she literally just got home from Train to Busan’s dinner party with the cast and crew. She was ecstatic to meet and take pictures with the actors especially Gong Yoo. Ma Dong Seok, however, was not able to attend the event.

I took the Train to Busan.

I visited South Korea late winter of 2014. Prior to my arrival, I purchased the KORAIL Pass which allows tourists to go on unlimited train rides with discounted prices. The Korea Train Express (KTX) is South Korea’s high speed rail system that cuts down travel time from Seoul to Busan by half.

Gong Yoo’s character Seok Woo is a fund manager who raises his daughter, Soo An. But instead of coming home to a wife, his own mother greets him at the door : a sign of a marriage gone wrong. His ex-wife lives in Busan, a city that’s six hours away from Seoul, but the young girl’s relationship with her mom doesn’t seem to be as estranged as the couple’s relationship with each other. After running out of excuses, Seok Woo finally gives in to his daughter’s request of spending her birthday with her mom down South. And they got on board the high speed train before even realizing that a zombie outbreak has just occurred. Problem is, an infected stowaway managed to infiltrate the train and the vehicle is not safe anymore.

This totally brings me back to that time when I hopped on the KTX. The movie made me imagine how I would have felt if a zombie appeared right there and then. Well, considering how much I love to drink water and have the urge to go back and forth to the lavatory, I probably would have survived since I’d be in the toilet in the middle of a zombie plague. I won’t come out til it’s safe. I’d be missing all the action though. Good thing I didn’t encounter any zombies during my trip so I arrived in Busan unscathed.


People from different walks of life go to the theater for various reasons. The Korean-related stuff that I’ve mentioned above doesn’t make me superior to other viewers. They only serve as examples on how prior knowledge and previous experiences can affect one’s reaction, thus, people can view the same film differently. But what makes a really good movie is its ability to put its audience on equal footing. Even with a setting as confined as the narrow aisle of a bullet train and very limited time to delve into each character’s backstory; the movie has all kinds of cliched yet relatable characters, a compelling story, some humor, a lot of action and powerful emotional moments. So regardless of background and interests, Train to Busan was able to evoke the same emotions and elicit exclamations of approval from everyone.