Train to Hanyang.

Mini-Review: Kingdom

I have been amiss with my K-drama viewing for more than a year. I simply don’t have the time, energy and attention span for it lately. However, Netflix released its first original Korean series called Kingdom, which is often described as a “medieval Korean zombie movie” or as some put it, “Train to Busan meets Game of Thrones“.

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones – yup, surprise! I’m one of the few – but I have seen Train to Busan and I’m a veteran of K-dramas. The plot seems interesting. And most of all, this series only has six episodes. It should be easy to binge watch on a weekend. I added it to my watchlist right away.

Guess what: it’s not the weekend, and I had planned on popping in just a couple of episodes last night until I fall asleep. I ended up marathoning the entire thing and slept at 2:30 in the morning. :sleep:

Kingdom has all the elements of a classic sageuk (Korean historical drama): the political intrigue, the lies and conspiracies, the power grabbing, the prejudice among classes, the violent resolution to anything. Throw in a horde of zombies in there and literally, all hell breaks loose. It’s brilliant how the screenwriter and director were able to fuse these two plots seamlessly. I even find it hilarious that there’s discrimination among classes even among the undead. Only on sageuk, folks! :lmao: This isn’t just blood and gore and mayhem – don’t worry if you’re watching this for that, though, there’s a lot of that in there, too – it also has a story. A very familiar story to those who have even the slightest knowledge of Korea’s history and culture. I won’t go into too much details so as not to spoil it for others.

Acting wise, the entire cast delivered. Joo Jihoon is simply perfect as the Crown Prince Lee Chan. He’s no stranger to royal characters; remember his breakthrough role of Shin Goon in Goong? But I think Joo Jihoon has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of acting here. Every scene he’s in is believable. Even his moments of PTSD looked painful to me as a viewer, but in a good way.

I think I’ve only seen Ryu Seung Ryeong in movies where he played an evil palace official, and I’m not surprised. He has mastered the art of playing one.

I’m kinda disoriented seeing Bae Doona in a role where she wore a lot of clothes. :hihihi: She has always portrayed strong female characters, but her role here required her to be strong, but with a timid quality of a peasant during the Joseon era. I think she nailed it.

But the best part of Kingdom for me is its production values. The cinematography is just gorgeous. :arrow: Joseon-period Korea looked so beautiful here. The royal costumes looked elegant. I even saw some Tweets noting the hats that the characters wore. You know, fighting zombies in fabulous hats and all that. :lol: There’s authenticity in the costume design. It’s not like in other productions where we see stuff like the clothes still looking immaculate after a fight scene in the mud.

Most of all, I was fascinated at how the director choreographed, framed and shot all the zombie swarm scenes. The exciting chase scenes gave the adrenaline rush, but nothing beats those quiet attacks that are both eerie and haunting at the same time. You’ll find yourself staring at the screen no matter how squeamish you are at all that blood and gore.

As for the story and screenplay: viewers who are not so familiar with Korean period dramas might find the slow-burning presentation of the plot and characters a bit too lengthy. I mean, we won’t see actual zombies until the end of episode 1. But as I’ve said, the story is essential to this zombie series and it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about how things became what they are. What I love about Kingdom is, it knew exactly how to make its audience thirst for more. It will leave you wishing that it had 20 more episodes. Or at least, a Season 2 that’s just right around the corner.

(Image credits: Netflix)

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The cause of my sleepless night.

Mini-Review: Man To Man

  • First of all, I’d like to thank my good ol’ friend Charity for recommending this drama.  She was raving about our sentimental favorite Park Hae Jin’s performance and let me browse through Episode 1 during an impromptu O-nite with some of my Voltes friends.  I super-liked what I saw and promptly asked for the files but didn’t start on it until a week later, for maximum focus.  :tounge:
  • I can’t remember the last time I did a sleepless-night marathon for a Korean drama.  I did remember almost doing it with Goblin, but work and migraines got in the way that I finished it in several installments.  With Man to Man, I finished it in two installments for two consecutive days, with the second installment finishing at almost 5:00am.  I just couldn’t stop watching it.
  • One reason why it took until early morning for me to finish this drama: there were several instances where I had to pause for a minute or two because the scene affected me so much (in local parlance, hindi ko kinaya).  It’s either I had to stop to swoon at Hae Jin, or because I was laughing too much that I can’t concentrate on the next scene so I had to press ‘pause’.
  • This drama is classified as “action-thriller-melodrama” by Wikipedia, but I don’t know exactly where the ‘melodrama’ part is. :shrug: I do know that the one thing that impressed me with the story is that you won’t know who exactly was the villain until around Episode 14 or so.  You thought you already knew, but you don’t. It has many surprises along the way until the very end.
  • Dare I say it? Despite the many similarities with Descendants Of The Sun (the writer of Man To Man is the second writer of DoTS, after all) I liked this more than DoTS.  I’m talking story- and storytelling-wise.
  • The only thing in favor of DoTS per my tally is the leading lady.  Sorry to any Kim Min Jung fans here, if any, but I really don’t get her.  She’s actually annoying in this drama.
  • Then again, ALL the female characters in Man To Man super-pale in comparison to all the men.  They only acted as decorations or plot machines here for me.  Otherwise, you can take them all out and I’m perfectly fine with it.
  • May I just rave about the men some more?  :drool:  It’s not even because they’re hot men (most of them are old hahaha), although Park Hae Jin is incredibly cute and hot here in a very Song Joong Ki way.  It’s the way the male characters interacted with each other.
  • The sense of humor and sharp wit of the creators of this drama are the type that I like.  The random genre switches didn’t look nor feel off at all.  They make viewing more interesting. Of course, there are loopholes and goofs along the way but that’s normal for even the most critically-acclaimed films and TV dramas.
  • As mentioned above, Park Hae Jin is the main reason why I watched this drama.  He is the Voltes team’s sentimental favorite, having met him twice in two of our trips to South Korea.  I started liking him in Family Outing, then I started loving him after we met him the first time at a random office supplies shop in Seoul. It was an ambush meeting and he was on his private time, but he was gracious and kind to us.  My love for him was cemented after he showcased amazing acting chops at My Love From The Star.  Thus, it didn’t come as a surprise that he gave a performance with so much depth and versatility as Agent K.  The only part that surprised me is his physique.  He used to be reed-thin and frail-looking. Now, he’s lean and smokin’ hot. :drool:
  • Random comment coming up:  I read on Wikipedia that GMA-7 already got the rights to air this drama. It seems the network execs like Park Hae Jin? They’ve already aired some of his dramas, ie., My Daughter Seo Young and My Love From The Star.  Once Man To Man starts airing here, I most probably will be taking out my photos with Hae Jin again. :hihihi:
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“Goblin”, in bullets.

  • I’m using the above photo as my featured image, because those three made Goblin such a viewing pleasure. At least, for me. :grin:
  • I don’t remember the last time I actually lost sleep because of a K-drama. While I didn’t exactly do a marathon viewing because work and migraine got in the way :aargh: I know that if I could, I would’ve done it. It’s that engrossing.
  • This is one of those K-dramas where you kinda knew how it would end, but for some reason you want to know exactly how they would end it. You thought you already knew, but na-ah! There’s a twist in there, somewhere. This is what got me hooked for all 16 episodes.
  • I was never a fan of Lee Dong Wook – actually, if you search through all my old entries, you’d find that he’s the subject of one of the biggest rants I’ve ever written on this blog – but I find him to be super-adorable on this drama. :drool2: And at the same time, he delivered some pretty brilliant acting on some of the latter scenes. I won’t specify which is which for the benefit of those who haven’t seen it.
  • It’s kinda weird how Gong Yoo is not your traditional Korean pretty boy leading man, but he’s attractive in a lot of ways. His charisma here reminded us why everyone went gaga over him at Coffee Prince.
  • There were quite a lot of downright laugh-out-loud moments, and you would laugh louder if you’re familiar with the references. Watch out for the movie house scene. :lmao:
  • I share this observation with my niece: Gong Yoo doesn’t exactly nail the sageuk look. :neutral:
  • I’m familiar with the age gap issue that some viewers have with this drama. I didn’t quite mind because Gong Yoo’s character Kim Shin is 900+ years old in the first place, so he’s basically much older no matter how old the leading female character is. :hihihi: I did feel a little grossed out at the ending. :shutup:
  • One big factor that made Goblin work is the chemistry among the cast. They seem to have gotten really close and it radiated through the screen.
  • I absolutely love the OST.
  • I wouldn’t mind seeing Gong Yoo and Lee Dong Wook in another project together.
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    Finally: Descendants of the Sun.

    I don’t need to put a **SPOILER ALERT** on this, right? Since I think I’m the only one on my side of the fandom who hasn’t seen DoTS until now? :oops:

    Thanks to the four-day weekend and the fact that I’ve finished all my reports, I finally found the time to watch Descendants of the Sun in its entirety. I’ve seen it here and there when my niece watched it, but this is the only time I managed to sit down and watch it religiously.

    Since everyone has seen it and I’m very late, I’ll just do my usual bulleted list of random comments.

    1. The production values are definitely top-notch. :thumbup: They didn’t scrimp on the budget for this, and it showed. The cinematography, production design, even the camera angles were well-thought out.

    2. The story is actually quite simple if you remove the disaster/military conflict aspects of it. It’s just couples bickering here and there, as normal couples would. The fact that the characters involved have complicated jobs allowed the story to move to 16 episodes. Having said that, I think the simplicity of the plot and its execution are the ones that lured the audience hook, line and sinker. The script was very relatable; they spoke like they’re normal people, just like the rest of us.

    3. Song Hye Kyo has definitely cemented her mark as a prolific actress on this drama. I love that the Kang Mo Yeon character has a strong personality. She’s not a damsel in distress. SHK has truly moved on from her old characters where she’s always weak and helpless. All of her roles since Full House are that of a strong woman, and she definitely has the chops to pull them off.

    Some of my favorite scenes in the drama are those of Dr. Kang trying to control her emotions because she is in the middle of a situation where she cannot afford to break down. There’s this one scene during the earthquake rescue where all her facial muscles moved as she was on the brink of tears but she tried to control them. It’s very raw and natural, as if she really was in distress. And then that other scene when she finally broke down after she finished attending to all those patients. Hye Kyo was able to convey the grief that she kept all along in the most heart-wrenching way.

    4. I know you’re all waiting for me to comment on Song Joong Ki. :hihihi: First of all, I get it. I get that his charm was like, level 100000000 on this drama, reminiscent of Full House‘s Lee Young Jae. I still think he’s too pretty, though, so I didn’t fancy him that much. I fancied Jin Goo more.

    I must commend him for his delivery of English lines. It’s not perfect, particularly on the delivery (it could’ve been more natural), but at least we didn’t need subtitles and he didn’t sound like Donald Duck. I didn’t cringe at all. :clap: He’s not a native speaker, but I’m not surprised that he has that skill because I am aware that SJK is one of those Korean actors who not only has high IQ scores but is also street smart. His Running Man stint showed me that.

    5. Truthfully, the one couple that I liked most on DoTS were the old doctor and the nurse. They’re so cute. :drool:

    6. Is it just me, or Kim Ji Won has a strong resemblance to the-princess-that-must-not-be-named?

    7. To sum up, I understood why this drama is a hit. I’m not sure, though, if it will warrant a repeat-viewing from me. It did suffer the K-Drama Fatigue on me because everyone has demanded that I see it, so I kinda expected a little bit too much. To be fair, it’s one of those dramas where I can actually recite scenes and dialog even if I’ve only seen it once. It’s like a pop song that will stick to your ear whether you like it or not.

    8. PS: I know people will bomb me for saying this. Nope, I didn’t feel any electricity between the leads. They’re more like best buds to me. Yep, feel free to throw stones at me now.

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    Traversing that road again.

    The universe must really, really hate me.

    I am trying my very best to move on, so to speak. And then the local TV network suddenly decides (sudden, as in they only announced and started to promote it last week) to bring back Full House on our screens. :aargh: :wall: Why, universe? Why?!?! :cry: #OA #DramaQueen


    credits: GMA Network’s Official YouTube channel

    I have to admit. The kilig is still there. I hate it, but I have to take it. #wow #anudaw?

    The great news is that this K-drama still holds a massive following among Filipino fans because despite the (1) extremely short notice; (2) sucky time slot; and (3) GMA-7 being not known for hyping its programs on social media, or anywhere else for that matter, the official hashtag #FullHouseIsBack still managed to trend No. 2 in the Philippines and No. 1 Worldwide. :clap: It’s been almost an hour since the episode ended and it’s still trending at No. 2 in the Philippines and somewhere in the top 10 Worldwide. :thumbup: Aja, aja, fighting, Full House!

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    Ironically (or is it?), fans have been trying their darndest best to make Rain or any topic related to Rain trend on Twitter. He finally trends at No. 1 worldwide, and it’s because of Full House. :shutup: Hey, just being real here.

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    On a somewhat related note: what is up with that duet version of Fallin’ that they are using as OST? The feel of the original version was lost in this version. I don’t know who the artists are, and I don’t intend to find out who. For their own safety. :shutup: #IbalikSiJanno

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