Tuesday, August 8, 2017

266. Ode to Joy 2 欢乐颂 2 (2017) Chinese

Liu Tao, Jiang Xin, Wang Zi Wen, Yang Zi, Bridgette Qiao Xin

Drama Rating: 7/10     Neck Score: A

As a continuation of the same story, this one definitely had a darker tone.  It was especially noticeable as I started this one immediately after finishing the last season, because even the filter was much darker.  Also, it went back from the seemingly happy ending implied at the end of season one, and showed that things were much more complicated than they seemed.  People who we thought were getting along weren't yet, and people we thought got back together still had stuff to work on first.  That was confusing, but maybe if I had had a year to wait like everyone who watched them on time, then it might not have been as stark a difference.  It definitely focused on the darker, more complicated sides of everyone's issues.  I actually liked it more for that.

As always, I love how raw and imperfect everyone is.  They are so human and flawed, but that's why it is so nice to see them take care of each other and grow.  Making mistakes, making the same mistake over and over, taking responsibility for their decisions, whether good or bad.  The focus is still on the girls and their personal growth and not necessarily just their romance, although I feel like that was a larger portion of this one, since the relationships all reached new levels in this one.

Can I just say how much I love Bao?  I might have started this whole show, both seasons, because of the spoiler clips I saw of Andie and Bao, which totally explains why I was having none of Bofu... that old Mr. Wei guy who looked 50.  He just wanted to "fix" Andie, while Bao just thought Andie was the best thing ever and already too good for him.  What a difference.  I also just loved the teasing little way he wormed his way into her life and into her heart.  His sexy little dimples!  So unabashedly awesome for her.

As always, Xiao Qu was my favorite little demon, and I liked how she grew in this one.  We saw a much more vulnerable side of her in this season.  She matured a lot, and her relationship with all the girls on the 22nd floor grew a lot as well.  They were on good terms more often.  I did, of course, appreciate how her and Dr. Zhao's relationship took off, became serious, went through the wringer and ended up adorable.  It was a good arch for both of them.

I was really impressed with Ying Ying as she probably grew the most from season one to the end of this season, she really progressed from being immature and complacent, to being a strong power woman who stands up for herself in love and manages a store.  She went through a lot of rocky in between.  I'm not sure how I went from liking her IT boy, to hating him, to liking him again.  I guess I was able to understand their progression as well.

Guan Guan definitely made some improvement as well as she became a more active participant in her own life, as well as these stories.  Darn it, if I didn't relate to her the most this time around, because she was dealing with things I have to deal with daily.  She is just the cutest.

Fan, man slow clap for her.  She really took some big steps in all aspects of her life.  She made me cry the most, but she also grew the most.  Her family drama and personal drama, as always, was dramatic, but she actually progressed this time, instead of just leaning on her man.  She started improving herself and realized that she has to become independent as a person if she is going to be in a happy relationship. She started taking the power woman steps too, and I was so, so proud of her.

So much growth and so much drama.  I really love how this show, in both seasons, is about women.  Normal women who are learning to support themselves and each other.  This is about their growth and mistakes, and success too.  I love that, and I am going to miss watching my girls everyday.  Wah.  I miss them already!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

250. The Perfect Match 極品絕配 (2017) Taiwanese

Chris Wu, Ivy Shao, Ben Wu, Xiao Man, Nylon Chen

Drama Rating: 5/10     Neck Score: A+

This started out really cute and fun, but like most dramas, it got really weird half way in.  Well, actually it started out so cheesy that I couldn't even watch it at first and I had to give it a second chance.  But for Chris Wu and his amazing chin, I did.  It got better for a bit, and then it got crazy.  The typical build of a Taiwanese drama seems to be a series of short but ever increasing dramatic episodes that just build up until you don't even remember how the show started.  Each problem gets resolved quickly enough that you don't hate it too much, but each problem is more ridiculous than the last until you are just watching it to see how the crazy will end.  Fall In Love With Me is the most extreme example of this.  The Perfect Match was no where near as bad, but certainly went full circle in crazy.

**Probably too many SPOILERS ahead, but these are really just how the plot goes.  You can still watch and enjoy if you're into this kind of crazy.**

Friday, July 28, 2017

260. The Best Hit 최고의 한방 (2017) Korean

Yoon Si Yoon, Lee Se Young, Kim Min Jae, Cha Tae Hyun, Yoon Son Ha

Drama Rating: 6/10     Neck Score: A

This show had so much potential.  But it was all over the place.  I think it took too much on itself and then couldn't follow through.  There were so many wonderful characters and situations, but it ended up being just typical and slapped together at the end.  It's a lower middle on my range of disappointment vs. liking of the four dramas early summer dramas we watched together.

It was a weird but interesting premise to start off with.  It started with Ji Hoon (Kim Min Jae) narrating it, so we though his part in the plot would remain important.  In fact Yoo Hyun Jae (Yoon Si Yoon) wasn't introduced in the first few episodes, except at the very end.  There were so many plots that were supposed to be tied together, I wished they had all stayed that important.  I wanted to see way more Bo Hee and Kwang Jae.  I was always down for more Grandpa and Granddaughter stuff too.  Instead, they focused on the love triangle between father and son in a super awkward and lopsided way that was reminiscent of Reply 1988, meaning it gave Lizabreff some Jung Hwan Syndrome.  Well, I guess it was a modified second lead syndrome, because they focused so much on Ji Hoon being in love with Woo Seung while Hyun Jae was falling in love with modern technology, that she ended up shipping them too much.  It's easy to forget the three accidental kisses in one episode at the beginning because they were way too comical to be believed.  The problem was they didn't balance or pace the show well so we didn't know who to root for.  Even I (a die hard Yoon Si Yoon Fan- team Hyun Jae the whole time) would have been fine if Ji Hoon had won, because of how unbalanced the love story was.  The real OTP was Hyun Jae and his phone.  Or even just the BroTP- Hyun Jae and Kwang Jae.

There were so many plots that I wanted to see more of that just fizzled out.  Bo Hee's quest to reenter the entertainment field and her devotion to Hyun Jae (her baby daddy).  Kwang Jae's long time love for Bo Hee, which could have been a pretty funny "love triangle" since 93 Hyun Jae was pre-baby daddy Hyun Jae.  Even Ji Hoon wanting to be an idol sort of fizzled out of importance when all of the sudden it became completely and only about the main couple.  It all went down hill when Woo Seung moved out and Hyun Jae started working at Star Punch.... well not completely, it was still fun and cute.  I loved all the interactions between Hyun Jae and Young Jae.  Him always using his office, etc.  That is just when the focus really got skewed.  It seemed like they sacrificed the purity of the story to the rating gods and turned it into a blase romcom (not that Yoonie in love will ever be blase, he's the cutest thing in all creation).

I just wanted there to be way more focus on Hyun Jae and why he was there, where the money went, and why he did what he did in 93, what happened in 94, and why he disappeared and died.  They managed to cover all of that, but with way less focus and screen time than I wanted.  Kind of rushed it.  Although the meeting of 93 and 94 might have been my favorite thing ever.  Hyun Jae and Hyun Jae is a beautiful thing.  They were the same person, yet not, because they had had different experiences, separate from each other.  Was that too much of a spoiler?  It was a tiny spoiler.  I don't regret that though, because this show doesn't make that much sense the way it jumps around and forgets to update you on people and stuff.  It was almost as bad as a 50 episoder that only had 16 episodes, except it would have been way too draggy if it had been longer.... unless they suddenly wrote it better and gave plenty of time for all the story lines and characters and didn't try to confuse us as to who the OTP was, etc.

So this wasn't as gross of a disappointment as Lookout was (still angry and crying, what the heck!) for me anyway.  Maybe Lizabreff feels differently, as a Team Ji Hoon Girl, but it was definitely not all it could have been, and that's sad.  At least it was still funny and cute until the end, even if it didn't make as much sense.  You all know I would watch any show for Yoon Si Yoon no matter what anyway (literally have a post dedicated to that...)  So points for casting my Yoonie?  JK, I will also watch anything for Cha Tae Hyun and Kim Min Jae too... so great cast, interesting premise, and writing.... wth?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Korean Movie Night: Hyung, aka My Annoying Brother, 형 (2016) Korean

Jo Jung Suk, Do Kyung Soo, Park Shin Hye

Movie rating: 8/10     Neck score: A

Can I just say that the genres assigned to Korean movies are all lies?  They say it's a comedy, and then you're crying by the end.  Such liars!  Well, I guess that's why this one is labelled a comedy drama, which seems like a walking contradiction, but trust me, it does it and does it well.  The situation itself is both comedic and sad, as it is about a conman (Jo Jung Suk) who uses his younger brother's sudden blindness as an excuse to get out on parole.  To make matters worse, his younger brother (Do Kyung Soo) was a judo athlete training for the Olympics when the injury happened.  Talk about depressing right there, but then there is the conman comedic element that makes it also weirdly funny.  It's just a mix of lots of emotions.  Plus you have some of my favorite actors.  I have always had nothing but praise for both of these boys, and their brotherly chemistry is the best.  Bromance between real brothers is the best.  I love seeing families coming together.  I was super impressed with Kyung Soo's ability to act blind.  I believed it.  I also loved how they look enough alike to be half brothers.   They were just great.  Park Shin Hye was... okay.  Like usual.  I liked the pace of the story, as well as the comedy.  The timing was pretty great.  Then the emotions!  Wah!  So many emotions!  All the emotions in the world!  I think I might have felt them all!  Haha, maybe an exaggeration, but hey, I am obsessed with these boys.  Jo Jung Suk makes me feel things.  It was definitely a good one that I would recommend watching, especially if you happen to love these boys as much as I do.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

265. Ode to Joy 欢乐颂 (2016) Chinese

Liu Tao, Jiang Xin, Wang Zi Wen, Yang Zi, Bridgette Qiao Xin

Drama Rating: 7/10     Neck Score: A

I started on this late, as I saw everyone tweeting about season 2, but I had been planning on watching it since back when I watched When a Snail Falls in Love.  But it was better than I thought it would be, because it is a girl power show.  The show is about the girls and not necessarily about the romance.  It takes forever for them to introduce the men, and I love it.  It totally passes the Bechdel Test as it certainly has more than two women in it and they all talk to each other about things besides men.  Not that they don't talk about men, they certainly do that too, but that is not necessarily what the show is about.  It is about their friendships, family, struggles, growth, and also about love.

It is about five women who live on the 22nd floor of the Ode to Joy apartment building.  Three of them are roommates renting the middle apartment.  The other two own the apartments on either end.  Each comes from a very different background and each has a very different personality.  I found myself relating to Andie and Xiao Qu the most, but I still related and loved them all.  I related to Andie's logical frankness, and Xiao Qu's not caring and saying/doing whatever she wants attitude.  I see myself in Guan Guan as I overwork myself and never actually try to get in a relationship.  I'm definitely Ying Ying when she is pulling those faces and bouncing off the walls to cheer people up.  I related the least to Fan Jie, as she's a drama queen, but I still can see myself being the mother hen advice giver all the same.  And who isn't a little materialistic, huh?  Basically what I'm saying is that I loved them all and I cared about them all.

I also loved how it addressed issues that women face in general and especially in China.  Issues such as male/son favoritism, marriage over careers, materialism, and cyber bullying, as well as other general problems such as whistle blowing, becoming a full time employee, blind dates, adoption, and mental illness.  This also meant that I was going to get super angry that these situations existed and that our girls had to struggle through them.  I practically screamed every time that Fan's family was on screen.  They're the worst!

It was definitely not a perfect drama.  It is prone to be over dramatic, and the need for a narrator to tell us the inner thoughts of our girls was a bit silly.  I was a bit wary of how they talked about mental illness and how big a deal it was.  But overall I just loved it and was super excited for season two, which I started the minute I had finished season one.  That was weird.  Talk about change in tone and filters.  But if you are looking for a good girl show (not a perfect one, but still progressive) then I do recommend this one.

255. Suspicious Partner 수상한 파트너 (2017) Korean

Ji Chang Wook, Nam Ji Hyun, Choi Tae Joon, Nara

Drama Rating: 7/10     Neck Score: A+

Okay!  Here we have a solid middle candidate for how well we liked the four early summer dramas we watched together.  While this one started off fairly solid, it had problems in the middle.  I also really wanted to know how DF got that the plot was about a murderer with amnesia, because that didn't happen until way later and not enough for it to be the main plot point.  It was confusing (how did they know!?!).  The first couple of episodes, setting up the premise of her being framed for murder, were great.  The draggy part in the middle where Bong Hee's favorite line was "나 때문에!" and running away from Ji Wook... not so great.  It got old really fast.  Which was sad, because as a character she was the the best at first, but she became the worst by the end.

You know who was the best the entire time?  MANTIS!  I am pretty in love with Dong Ha.  He is a pretty amazing actor.  From Last to Chief Kim, he's proven he can be anyone and show such emotion with such subtle expressions.  This one was no exception.  How could he such a sympathetic and complicated person AGAIN?!?  He was what I watched for as soon as he came on, especially when the times got draggy.

Another surprise favorite was Choi Tae Joon, who was so annoying in Missing Nine, but so great in this.  I love this actor, but his character as murderous Tae Ho was a little much, but he was just an adorable loving puppy in this one, and from his fake annoying laugh to his actual good advice, he was the best.  I did think his story got a little shafted, but since I loved him, I forgave it.

Oh, and obviously Ji Chang Wook was unreasonably hot, cute and gave the best cuddle hugs.

The good part was that the ending totally made up for the slowness in the middle.  It wrapped up well, and with a decent twist, and then gave us a good denouement that was just cute and perfect after all the craziness.  It was a nice change, after some other dramas left us with a sour taste and ridiculous ending (still crying over Lookout).  This is a decently cute and fun murder romcom.  It's hard to do, but in the end, I guess it worked out, if you can forgive the middle stupidity.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

257. Fight My Way 쌈 마이웨이 (2017) Korean

Park Seo Joon, Kim Ji Won, Ahn Jae Hong, Song Ha Yoon

Drama Rating: 8/10     Neck Score: A

I would have to say that this one probably wins the prize of being consistently good and the best ending out of our four dramas we watched together.  It never got too bad, and the ending was really cute.  I was probably the most satisfied with this one's resolution.  It also had a good ending that didn't involve stereotypes such as weddings, etc.  It also had a lot of shirtless Park Seo Joon, so bonus points.

The part I loved the best about this one was the characters.  They were just the best.  I loved seeing them grow as they figured out what they wanted in life, both in their careers and romantically.  We started off with expectations, and we were met with some surprises, which was nice.  It was funny, and hard, and relateable, all the things.  There were some characters that we liked more than others.  Joo Man just needed to be punched in the face a lot sooner than he was.  Baked Potato (Seol Hee) was just the cutest, but I loved her when she put her foot down the best.  Ae Ra and Dong Man were probably one of my favorite OTPs of all time.  Like seriously, they were the best.  I especially just loved Ae Ra so much!  But Coach-nim was obviously my favorite character.  (I LOVE Kim Sung Oh!)  But that ex-girlfriend bitca could have just not existed.  I was over her before she first came on the scene.  However my hatred of her probably made the scene where she lost that much better, but I didn't like how she had to help fix things in the end.  Probably the worst part of the ending, in my opinion.  She just was the worst.

I loved that it was fairly equally about the four friends, and that it wasn't just about relationship problems, but about life problems.  No one was completely right and no one completely wrong.  It was messy and had to be worked out.  Overall it was funny and cute and a bit motivating too.  Plus, Kim Sung Oh in a tanktop, serving soondae.  Um, yes!