Thursday, April 26, 2012

2nd Drama Review ~ Extravagant Challenge ~ Skip Beat

This is probably the 4th or 5th Taiwanese drama that I've ever watched. Its the 2nd one that's based on a Japanese manga adaptation to live-action, the first one being Huā Yàng Shǎo Nián Shǎo Nǚ; or Hana Kimi for short. The male and female lead didn't impress me at all and in fact I ended up loving the supporting actors more. But one theme that I found in common for both of these manga adaptations was the severe lack of plot development and conclusion at the end of the series. But before I go into depth on either of these topics I'll start from the top and shift gears a little to talk about what I did like.

Pros -

1) FUNNY - I felt like I was watching the whole thing acted out the way the original author and artist had put it together through their drawings. Even the superbly outlandish parts like the bikes falling, or Gong Xi's screaming being heard miles away to terrorize the guards who keep getting in her way. Not to mention the little devil thingys that rise out of her whenever she's in demon mode. It helped to keep the tone of the show on a lighter side when it had the capacity to slip into mucky melodramatic quicksand.

2) Actor selection - GONG XI (Ivy Chen)- Keeping the characters in mind I felt like the actress chosen for this role was appropriate and the changes that she went through the story were awesome. She was really good. This drama being about acting emphasized the seriousness of acting and played quite a bit on the methodology that goes behind it from character study to immersion into a character. It wasn't like Spy Myung Wol for example, where the drama within the drama is superficial and mainly used to get the actors 'real' feelings out through overacting. The viewers can see her change with every new experience she goes through in the drama and how she's able to become a better actress for it. As audience we all learn from her experiences.I love the chemistry between her and Siwon's characters even though they're clearly not speaking the same language, their body language, or when their eyes meet, the audience can feel the air turn into ice or melt with the smiles or coo at their cute awkwardness together while we cheer them on. It's amazing to see their journey on healing each other through the course of the drama.

DU HU LIAN (Siwon) & BU PO SHANG (Donghae) - I like the way Siwon was portraying his character as cool and collected while at the same time falling/denying the fact that he was in love. I'd never seen the man act so I was deeply impressed by his work. SPECIALLY considering he's not a native Chinese speaker and the entire drama was done in Chinese. What worked for me despite the dubbing for both Donghae and Siwon was the fact that these guys were able to deliver the story with the body language so much more than just the words. At first it was really disturbing to look at, the fact that their lips were moving differently than what was being said (thus the dub) but their facial features and body language was completely coherent with the emotions and dialogue being spoken. VERY IMPRESSIVE. Donghae though better looking (in my opinion he looked like he came right out of the manga and into human form...that hair color made him look sooo good LOL), Siwon's acting skills were MILES ahead. I love the way he portrayed his character (plus I'm not so into the bad boy type with the ripped up pants and what not, I like my men in SUITS :)

Before I forget my lovely supporting actors, I loved Mr. Du! He was the most adorable manager I've ever seen (except for the one who is Dok Go Jin's manager from Greatest Love) espcially because of the level of understanding between his character and Lian's. They're more like best friends than manager and managee. LOL plus his endless attempts to get Lian and Gong Xi together are so sweet! ;p

Bianca Bai's character although at first extremely annoying becomes really lovable as the story progresses. I wish she could've gotten more screen time though considering the friendship between Qin and Gong Xi's characters which was the main focus of the first half of the show and then she goes missing as Lian comes into the picture.

Cons -

1) Lack of Development & Conclusion - Its like the screenwriters were so busy fitting in mini stories of EVERYTHING that happens in the manga into the drama that they forgot the over all plot and character development leaving everything to come to head in the last episode and then leaving the audience hanging. For the audience not only is this the worst case scenario I believe that its the WORST way to end a mini-series, especially when there is no plan for a sequel to finish up the story and bring all the different conflicts within the story to a conclusion. Yes, we understand that life is not perfect and there is no clean and neat tying up of loose ends but please at least answer most of the questions that are basic to the freaking plot!!! I understand that the main reason that couldn't be done was because the manga has not concluded and thus there is not enough material for them to conclude the series...OR they could have made the progression themselves which has been done before. Some example of that are the Korean drama Goong based on a manhwa that was still being published or Ouran Koukou Host Club in which case the screenwriters took the characters into account when they tried to resolve the questions and conflicts posed in the storyline.

2) The Unanswered/Unresolved Issues - This really ruined it for me especially because I was looking forward to Lian coming face to face with Gong Xi and telling her that he had known her from their childhood and was in fact the friend 'Corn' whom she had confided in. Definitely not enough development in their relationship as I was expecting by the end of the series. The imaginary kiss at the end left me growling because that meant that neither of them had understood/acknowledged the fact that they did like each other. We also never get to find out why in the world Lian has all the issues that he does and more than anything else why the heck he was BLONDE ten years ago?! That was the most baffling thing for me....I mean is one of his parents supposed to be American? (I haven't read the manga so I don't know the specifics). Not to mention Donghae's role as Bu Po Shang is kept in the background to such as extent that we can count the amount of times he's appeared on screen on our fingers and toes. Sad as that is we never get to see the head-to-head between Bu Po Shang and Lian. SIGH......So many things left unfinished and we literally stand right back to where we had started...Aside from the minor detail that Gong Xi doesn't care for Bu Po Shang anymore. And that's about the only resolution we receive at the end of 15 episodes. I'd have rather watched the drama that they were filming within this drama "Dark Moon" that looked more impressive. UGH.

Overall rating for this drama - If you're looking for a in between-waiting-for-new-episode-filler kind of deal then I guess its okay and if you happen to be a huge Siwon fan you'll like it. BUT if you're looking for an actual coherent storyline with well developed characters then this is definitely not your thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Secret Garden + King2Hearts = Secret King

Not to take any credit away from the person who made this video but I just had to put it on here! I love it, love it, LOVE IT!! It is so well made with scenes from two of my favorite dramas :) LOL not to mention I'd been watching Secret Garden while waiting for new episodes of King2Hearts to come out! So I can piece some of the dialogues together and they are superbly mashed together! Its a love triangle between Hyun Bin -> Lee Seung Gi -> Ha Ji Won (Kim Joo Won - Lee Jae Ha - Hang Ah)!!! MUST WATCH!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Legend of Korra! Sequel to Avatar the Last Airbender

Didn't know that they had a sequel in the making! I'd actually been wondering what the creators of avatar the last airbender were up to as I rewatched season 1 and managed to stumble upon the brand new series that is actually a sequel 70 years into the future from where we left off Aang and Katara (plus friends). In the middle of watching episode one and I'm noticing the changes for the positive! The animation style has been improved drastically and its very difficult to tell it apart from Japanese anime. Not just any anime either but high class stuff. Things you might see from Hayao Miyazaki's studio gibli type animation. Very well made and defined. The environment (the streets, architecture, technology) kind of reminds me of Full Metal Alchemist and Howl's Moving Castle. There are lots of architectural elements that are pulled from real life albeit American landmarks like the Golden Bay Bridge in San Francisco as well as the Alcatrez Prison which is the new temple that Aang created.

OMG the cops are like spider man LOL ;p But instead of using spider threads they're metal benders (advanced form of earth bending). I seriously miss the silliness of Aang, Katara and Sokka though. It's heart wrenching to let them go but I really hope that this series provides just as many laughs and as amazing of a story as its predecessor because they've definitely improved other aspects of the show. Right now it just feels like there's way too many adults in the picture and everything around Korra is so tightly controlled that there's no room for fun and games like the kid's adventure that started with Aang, Katara and Sokka fumbling their way around to get Aang trained. They managed to get sidetracked so many times, with their mini adventures and got to do all the things that Aang as any 12 year old would want to do. But there is a stark difference in this series because here everything is being controlled by the adults. Which surprisingly includes an adult Aang who tried to watch over Korra by making sure that she is well trained and extremely sheltered. Now his progeny who are also adults are in charge of making sure that Korra stays in line. They've practically drawn a box around her and told her where and when to breathe. Nothing like the freedom and carefree environment in which Aang grew up. Taking his own decisions doing what he wanted when he wanted. As an adult he's made a will in which he's taken all of that away from Korra. And even though she is 5 years older than him at the very start of this series, she's lived a very regimented life always under the watch of her teachers and she knows infinitely less about the world around her.

Episode two further elaborates on how Korra is fundamentally different from Aang even though she is his reincarnation. In the first episode it is shown that Korra was able to master water, fire and earth bending as a child and pretty much on her own without getting trained by a master like Aang but we find out now that she has never once been able to air bend. She has a personality that seems like a combination of Toph and Katara being both strong mentally and physically but she isn't patient, or smooth in her movements. There is always a lot of haste, a lot of fast reflex but no contemplative skill like what Aang had mastered as a young air bending monk. What's worse is that Tenzin, one of Aang's children, is her air bending master and he's carrying out his father's will of constantly keeping Korra under surveillance. The fact that they kept her in a high security facility all her life in the South Pole doesn't help the fact that she's becoming more and more rebellious. Only Katara seems to understand what Korra's going through and let's her go saying that the time of her brother and her friends has passed on with them and its time that Korra began to take care of her world in her own way. BUT for that to happen she's going to have to understand her world first and that's not going to happen if she's constantly being guarded or kept in enclosed surroundings.

LOL this is awesome Tenzin just says there's nothing for Korra to be worried about, when she can't concentrate during meditation, because air is the element of FREEDOM....can we get any more ironic than that? The poor girl has been caged up all her life and you expect her to feel FREE??!!! ROFL she blasted her way through the 2,000 year old basic air bending exercise simulation and blew it to smithereens!!! HHAHAHHAHAH But she makes it to the bending arena (bending has become a pro sport) and here's where she meets a pair of siblings who are competing for the championship title. Interesting to see that's they've added another pair of siblings only this time they're brothers and the younger one acts a lot like Sokka did when he saw a girl he likes LOL. The older one is pretty aloof and he reminds me a lot of Zuko, his name? Mako named after the voice actor of uncle Iroh from the last series who passed away before (or after) the series was completed. The fact that Mako is an fire bender probably helps that fact. Modern styles of fighting? Nice one Korra. She's totally into moving forward with what bending and its development have to offer and in the sport of pro bending she'll get to do just that...if Tenzin lets her...not by a long shot though. Just finished the episode and I don't think he'll have a choice *pfft* Korra's one strong headed child.

This show looks extremely promising, especially since they've made so many changes with the plot and the overall flow of the story. It might even be more relatable to the audience because it includes more things that we as viewers can relate to and by that I mean the technological elements. The music is smooth and subtle as always. Classical Asian and Native American instruments, depending on the scene with an added touch of 1930's United States California. I'm in for the ride!