Quarantine viewing No. 4: Hyena.

There’s always that one moment when someone recommends something out of the blue, you decide to check it out with no expectations whatsoever, and you end up with a pleasant surprise. Hyena belongs to that category.

Out of the many recommendations from various friends, two people mentioned this K-drama to me: one is a colleague who said that she and her daughter liked it; and another from a friend from the K-entertainment (and at some point, Alden) fandom who bravely described it as, “better than the popular ones”. This second one piqued my interest. I know her taste. She won’t recommend something that’s not, at the very least, interesting to watch.

Another factor: Joo Jihoon is in this drama. I’m still on Joo Jihoon Fangirl Mode after Kingdom 2 and the Along With The Gods movies (I’ll devote a separate blog for the movies I saw during ECQ) so Hyena really should be next on my list.

The premise might not sound too attractive for the general viewing public. The story is about lawyers, so the automatic reaction is, “legal drama = too serious = BORING.” At least, that was my initial apprehension. First of all, it’s not a serious drama in the sense that it’s actually a comedy to some extent. Half of the scenes are light and oftentimes cute. May kilig factor rin, but not in the usual Rom-Com fashion. It’s Rom-Com for adults. No pabebe kissing here, folks. :naughty: Which should be expected because, hello, Joo Jihoon AND Kim Hye Soo. If you’re familiar with their work, you should never expect to see dead fish kissing in Hyena.

But since it’s a legal drama, it requires a lot of focus and concentration from the viewers, especially those of us who heavily depend on subtitles. I lost count of the number of times I had to hit ‘Rewind’ because I mistakenly checked my phone for incoming messages and missed a crucial line or two. And in this drama, every freakin’ line or two MUST be understood because you will miss the plot twist, you’ll end up asking yourself WTH just happened. Each episode is filled with that, and you must remember everything they said, who appeared in what episode and how did they fit in the story because it will all come back again at some point in the series. They won’t even help you with the usual repeated scenes in flashbacks which are, surprisingly and a pleasant one at that, quite few here.

I know it doesn’t sound attractive right now (of the ayokong mag-isip variety), but I sometimes think we need these types of dramas that stimulate our brains. Especially when we’re on quarantine.

Anyway, I’m amazed when I did my research and found that the writer is a rookie (although Hancinema listed two projects and her first one was another legal drama in 2015). :shock: I can’t believe that a rookie can come up with something as polished as this. She probably has a legal background, given that her two dramas are both about lawyers?

I also read that Hyena was first offered to Song Hye Kyo, who declined it. I’m glad that she did. :razz: Don’t get me wrong, I’m an SHK fan. But I simply don’t think she’s fit for the role. She could be feisty (see: Full House and Descendants of the Sun) but still a bit… sweet? On the other hand, Kim Hye Soo is just PERFECT for this. She’s a great actress, she’s sexy – at age 50, no less! – and she has electrifying sexual chemistry with Joo Jihoon. Well, both of them, individually, have electrifying sex appeal, regardless. It just blended so well on this drama.

As for Joo Jihoon, what can I say. That man has now entered my list of competent Korean actors who are not just pretty faces. The guy can really act. :clap: Such a dashing debonair, too. When women swoon over him, you just understand why. That innate Royal Aura still works even if it isn’t a sageuk drama.

Viewers of Kingdom would be delighted to know that the actor who played the bumbling Beom Pal is in this drama, too.

So. Dare I follow what my friend said and say that Hyena is better than the popular ones? I say, HELL YEAH.

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Quarantine viewing, No. 1: Crash Landing On You.

Since we’re still on Enhanced Quarantine brought about by COVID-19 and I do have a lot of time on my hands, I’ll be writing a series of blogs on what I have been watching while stuck at home. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my word on this. I oftentimes get lazy, ya know. :hihihi:

Side note: I initially thought that this should be No. 2 since Kingdom 2 is No. 1, but I realized that I technically binge-watched Kingdom 2 before the quarantine started. Therefore, this is really No. 1.

Mini-review: Crash Landing On You

***SPOILER ALERT***, although I really might not need it. I think I’m the only one left in my universe who hasn’t seen CLOY. :lol:

Continue reading →

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No goodbyes.

Aka. A (hopefully) spoiler-free mini-review of Hello, Love, Goodbye

I wasn’t prepared to write about Hello, Love, Goodbye this early.

I went to last night’s by-invitation-only premiere with the intention of just showing my support outside the cinema, as I don’t have a ticket. Then, a friend informed me that another friend was able to pull some strings and managed to score tickets at the last minute. I was one of the lucky few who were able to see the movie ahead of the general public. Hence, this mini-review.

I’ll try my best to keep things spoiler-free for those who haven’t seen the movie yet.

1. Let’s talk about the technicals first. The utilization of a Thai film production house for post-production is very evident if you’ve been regularly watching movies produced by Star Cinema. The color grading is different. I’m used to seeing vivid colors in Star Cinema films. On HLG, the colors are more on the subdued, sepia side. Which, for me, perfectly captures what the story is all about, as well as the real feel of Hong Kong. From the way the scenes are framed up to the production design, even the songs included in the soundtrack, everything fits.

2. Cancel out whatever theories you’ve formulated in your head based on the teaser and trailers. If you’ve heard stories – fabricated or otherwise – about the plot or certain scenes, throw them out of the window. This is a love story, yes. But love stories aren’t limited to romantic love, and this is exactly what the movie is saying. There’s family love, and also self-love. It’s not one-dimensional.

Also, while the movie is not short on hilarious and kilig moments, it’s not a rom-com. And it’s most definitely NOT pabebe.

3. Speaking of pabebe: Kathryn’s critics have branded her as a pabebe actress, and to be quite honest, I agree to a certain extent. This is coming from someone who has seen practically all KathNiel movies. Prior to The Hows Of Us, the one whom I’ve always thought to have grown so much in the field of acting was Daniel Padilla. Then THOU came along, and while there was a very noticeable change in Kath’s acting, the one who still caught my attention was Daniel. Despite two Best Actress trophies won for THOU, I still didn’t see the “bagong Kathryn Bernardo” that they were talking about. (Sorry, just being honest here.)

For me, the “bagong Kathryn Bernardo” has truly arrived in Hello, Love, Goodbye.

I mean, WOW. The sacrifices that she had to endure to fully absorb the Joy character really paid off. One look at her eyes and you’ll feel her pain. One look at her face and you’ll see her changing. Even her diction which I had always found to be pabebe-ish is gone. Now I can truly say that Kathryn Bernardo is one of the best actresses of this generation.

4. As for the one who’s also being called a Pabebe Actor by his critics: well, I’ve always known Alden Richards to be one heck of an actor. It’s the reason why I became a fan. I know what he can do and he is most certainly more than just Pambansang Bae. After seeing HLG, I’m like looking at a brand new actor. Yes, he CAN do more. He has mastered the Art of Pakilig, but it’s a different kind of pakilig here. It’s not just the charms. As Ethan, there’s a certain mystery in his aura that when he finally let go and opened up, you just find yourself being uncontrollably drawn towards him the way Joy has.

Also, if you’ve only known him as Alden Richards of Kalyeserye in all his wholesome goodness, prepare to be in shock for like, 20 minutes or so. Actually, it’s been several hours and I still couldn’t get over it. This, despite me knowing that KSAlden isn’t really the real Alden. I’m shocked because I didn’t expect to see it on this film.

5. Come to think of it, it’s the same with Kathryn. Frankly, I was totally floored that I spent the first quarter of the movie clutching my armrest and screaming internally because I couldn’t take what I’m seeing on the screen. In a good way. It was raw, it was totally unexpected from these two actors, and one particular scene was so beautifully (and shockingly) executed, you’d end up hungry and wanting for more (in Ethan’s words, “nagutom ako”).

But all that shock factor is just an introduction to the characters. They let us in to their pain and struggles, and when they had to go through the ordeal of choosing what to do with their lives, we, the audience, also go through that same ordeal. We felt their pain. Director Cathy Garcia-Molina is not just a master storyteller, she’s also a genius in drawing out raw emotions from her actors. Kathryn and Alden delivered master performances under her helm.

6. I’ve seen majority of Star Cinema’s previous movies about OFWs, particularly Anak which was also set in Hong Kong. It might be the same scenario but the stories are definitely different. HLG truly has a millennial feel.

As with all Cathy Garcia-Molina/Carmi Raymundo films, HLG is filled with one-liners that will end up on the list of Classic Movie Lines that becomes the film’s trademark. Although I cringe at some of Ethan’s pick-up lines, but I think that’s the point. We’re supposed to cringe at his random cheesiness.

7. Supporting cast: you could never go wrong with ever-reliable actors like Joross Gamboa (trademark one-liners galore), Kakai Bautista and Jeffrey Tam. Maymay Entrata is endearing as Joy’s cousin Mary Dale, and Lovely Abella certainly didn’t look and act like a newbie beside Kakai and Kathryn. We should see more of Maricel Laxa; she had two scenes in the movie but it didn’t go unnoticed. The revelation for me was Jameson Blake. It’s my first time to see him act and I was pleasantly surprised that he was able to duke it out in the acting department alongside Alden and Lito Pimentel, who are both amazing actors. Jameson just has to improve on his delivery of Tagalog lines (he still has a hint of American twang) and he will go much further as an actor.

The thing that I like about HLG is, everyone in the cast is indispensable. If you take out one of them, it won’t work as well as it did.

8. That ending.

Echoing what most of the people who came out of the cinema after the movie said: can we have the sequel by tomorrow? Please? Don’t make us suffer like this! :cry:

As I was traversing my way home, I was pondering on what other movie had the same feel as how the story of Joy and Ethan unfolded. I came up with…

Sana Maulit Muli. Yes, the Aga Muhlach-Lea Salonga starrer which is now a cult classic.

Do you agree?

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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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