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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Two less lonely people.

Mini-Review: Kita Kita

With all the hype surrounding this year’s surprise box-office hit, I felt that I *must* see Kita Kita. You know, just to see what the fuss is all about. Also, to see with my own two eyes if people are really coming to theaters in droves just to see the movie. Well, we saw its last full show at Megamall, and the theater is full. The hype is real, people. No paddings there. ;)

I’ve read several socmed posts about the movie, analyzing it using deep prose and profound meanings. You’re not going to see that here. See, the main thing about Kita Kita is it’s simplicity. It’s very Japanese, and I’m not just talking about the filming location. The story, the execution, the “feel” of the entire film is very Japanese. If you have seen a Japanese romance movie, you’ll get what I mean. I can’t even describe it as “Korean” because Korean romance movies tend to be on the dramatic, borderline hysteric side. Japanese romance movies are simple and subdued. Kita Kita has a very simple story with a very simple execution, but that’s what makes it beautiful. It’s the type of movie that will make you cry and laugh and cry and laugh and then stab you right through the heart. And then, when the end credits roll, your thoughts about the movie will be reduced to one word: AWWW. :dream:

The movie only has two major characters and a smattering of supporting ones. Alessandra de Rossi, an actress who is famous for her indie-type underacting is perfect for this. Her characterization of Lea is just flawless. As for the newest heartthrob in town, comedian Empoy Marquez as Tonyo stripped down his usual antics and came up with a performance that will, for some reason, make you fall in love with him. It’s strange, but true.

On the technical side, the cinematography is breath-taking. It captured the beauty of Sapporo – Hokkaido, in general (thanks to my friend Mavic for the correction) – that you’ll just find yourself adding it to your bucket list.

I won’t be elaborating much further. Just give in to the hype and see it for yourself.

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I miss Korea.

Aka. Mini-review: My Ex and Whys

1. I’ve been trying to hold off watching this movie because – sorry to his fans – I’ve always been annoyed at Enrique Gil’s acting. :shutup: However, I am GLAD that I finally saw it. Both Enrique and Liza’s acting skills have leveled up so much that I did not get annoyed at all. When did they become this good?

2. Liza’s role is a derivative of another female character that I will not name. Only less annoying and actually likeable.

3. Two words: RYAN. BANG. :clap:

4. The story is simple but the screenplay is engrossing and nicely paced. I have seen quite a number of local movies that center around social media but for me, it was best utilized in this movie. It didn’t feel forced or out-of-place. The main plot revolve around how social media affects real-life relationships, after all.

5. The main reason why I’m blogging about this movie: KOREA.

Watching My Ex And Whys made me realize how much I missed visiting that country. :cry: The last time I was there was in 2014, and it’s been too long since. All the memories came rushing back. Strolling around Dongdaemun, eating street food in Myeongdong after a looooong day of walking (I can relate to that scene so much that I nearly cried watching it), the traditional houses in Jongno, and of course. NAMI ISLAND!

Cali (Liza Soberano)’s reaction upon seeing the row of ginko trees at Nami was very familiar, because that was exactly my reaction when I first saw it way back in 2006. Except I was much, much, much less pretty, of course. :hihihi: I find it a bit funny that they were sad that the leaves have fallen off because there are several other rows that still has leaves, as shown in the scenes just before this one when they were running around the island looking for Ryan Bang’s fiancee. But who needs to know that, right? hehe

If only for the nostalgia factor, I really enjoyed watching this movie.

PS: Nice cameo by Sandara Park. Not random and forcing through, at all. :thumbup:

(Image credits: Star Cinema)

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Ten things I learned from “Train To Busan”.

I will try my best to make this spoiler-free, but just in case:
***SPOILER ALERT***

10 Things I Learned From The Korean Zombie Movie ‘Train To Busan’:

1. A zombie apocalypse won’t stop people from taking video footage and uploading it to social media before they die/become zombies themselves. Expect Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat posts with hashtag #zombies #brainssss and the like.

2. A zombie apocalypse won’s stop Koreans from searching it on Daum/Naver and complaining about it on internet bulletin boards.

3. Koreans never watch zombie movies (because apparently, Train to Busan is the first ever Korean zombie movie), so they don’t know what the heck to do in the event that a zombie apocalypse happens.

4. Helicopters and trains can work in Korea even if they’re not manned by a pilot/driver.

5. Korean zombies can see and hear, but cannot smell. Therefore, even if you’re reeking of kimchi and/or soju, you’re good as long as you hide yourself and be very, very quiet.

6. As in all Korean dramas, Koreans can outrun moving vehicles. Including KoRail trains.

7. It doesn’t matter if they’re human or a zombie: an asshole is an asshole, no matter what state they’re in.

8. It is possible to hate on a child and wish she becomes zombie chow. (Sorry. I tried not to hate. I couldn’t stop myself.)

9. Always carry a coat or jacket. It might become handy in case zombies come-a-crashin’.

10. Learn a hula song. Who knows, Pearly Shells may end up saving your life.

===

Random comments, in bullets:

1. Gong Yoo never seems to get old.

2. Out of all the zombie movies I’ve seen, this movie has got to have the coolest zombie swarm scenes, ever.

3. If you’re into zombie films for the gore, you might be disappointed. But since I’m perfectly fine not being grossed out, I’m ok with it.

4. I won’t tell you exactly how it ends. But prepare to be heartbroken.

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