Friday, September 7, 2012

DC/Baltimore Artist of the Month

Everyone - go vote for my daughter Meghann and the band she is in - M.H. and his Orchestra as best band in D.C. PLEASE!! :

Monday, May 7, 2012

Queen SeonDeok

  • Title: 선덕여왕 (善德女王) / Seondeok Yeo Wang
  • Also known as: Queen Seon Duk
  • Tagline: The one who secures the people will acquire the world and rule the ages
  • Genre: Historical Drama
  • Episodes: 62
  • Broadcast network: MBC
  • Broadcast period: 2009-May-25 to 2009-Dec-22
  • Air time: Monday & Tuesday 21:55


Deokman was born a twin but was abandoned as a baby and sent to a place far away by her father, King Jinpyeong in order to protect her from being killed by an influenced royal court lady, Mishil who tries to snatch away the throne from the royal successor. Deokman was later brought back to the Silla palace, where she joined forces with her twin sister Princess Cheonmyong to oppose Mishil. However, Mishil devised sinister plans to have the two Silla princesses exiled from the kingdom, and in a secretive battle, Princess Cheonmyong was accidentally killed. But Princess Deokman shrewdly enlisted the help of General Kim Yusin and eliminated her archenemy Mishil. She then became Queen Seon Deok, the first female ruler of the Silla kingdom. This drama is about a story of a beautiful queen, who has to give up her love to save the people and thus, leaving behind many brilliant achievements.
Yeah, so that's the synopsis DramaWiki would like you to have.  You can have it.

Ponder Angst – So much ponder I almost stopped watching the series.  If I wasn't trying to talk my friend into watching Damo, I wouldn't have finished it.  0 points
Love “ – “ Angles – YuShin Loves DeokMan, DeokMan loves YuShin, Bidam loves DeokMan, DeokMan eventually loves BiDam, SeolWon loves Mishil, Mishil loves Mishil.  30 points.
Sizzle Oh, there was sizzle!  YuShin's "I'll always be by your side" sizzle, and when we find out he always knew DeokMan was a girl?  Whhoooooof.  And then Bidam's amazing charisma that screamed off the screen and right into my face.  Another 30 points, mostly because I loved looking at these two.
Physical Intimacy Hugs and some intimacy. 20 points.
Tragic Heartwrenching Disease and/or Character Death from Same – The white cloth of life/death was out in abundance in this series.  Nearly everyone who dies - dies from the scourge of Shilla - the dreaded bloodinthemouth.  You know when you see the white cloth come out and someone coughs?  It always comes up bloody - so you know they are about to die.  When the white cloth comes out to cool a fevered forehead?  They live. bloodinthemouth.  But we get bloodinthemouth even when there is no white cloth of Life or Death.  Stabbed in the belly?  Bloodinthemouth.  Stabbed in the shoulder?  Bloodinthemouth.  Arrow in the back?  BloodinthemouthEven Chil Sook dies only -  ONLY when he bleeds from his mouth.  Bloodinthemouth kills more people than constipation; and toward the end, it was literally gushing out of our character's mouths.  10 points just because of that white cloth of death and all the bloodinthemouth.
Tazza Factor – Ahhhhhm, the tazza.  Sorry QSD, you blew it.  You started slow, then Bidam showed up and you almost had me, and then, well, and then the show got dull. 0 points.
Going to the Beach –  There was some suicide, but nothing at the beach.  0 Bonus points.

90 points on the e-mometer, which is way higher than the series deserves in my book.  Well, OK - I'll say that the tragic ending was a tear-jerker and I was most certainly moved.  Moved still to see YuShin still by the Queen's side at the end, just as he promised in the beginning.  

So OK.  I'll let the 90 stand. 

More Queen SeonDeok

Almost a Big Fat Fail.

I had moments where I thought Queen Seon Duk was going to be another Jumong.  The Mishil Smirk. Hot Hot Yu Shin.  Bi "I'm the Duck" Dam.  Twin #1.  Woot Tae, I mean, Munno.  Some really great cliffhangers, clever maneuvers and out maneuvers.  Kites.  You just can't go wrong with kites.

You know what killed it for me?  The length.  The freaking d  r  a  w  n  o  u  t  baaaaaaatttttttllllllleeeeeesssss hiiiiiiiiidddddddddinnnnnnnnnnggggg, ccccrrrrryyyyyyiiiiiinnnnngggggg, taaaaaaallllllllkkkkkkkkiiiiiinnnnnnng    mmmmmmarrrrrrcccccchhhhhhiiiiinnnnnnggg ssssssssiiiiiiiittttttttiiiiiiiinnnnnnngggggggg aaaaaaattttttt taaaaaaaabbbbbbbllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssss.  Oh my goodness, and it just doesn't end.  Taking for freaking ever to do anything.

And it wasn't about the length of the series.  "Jumong: Legend of the Three Han" was 81 episodes.  I was sad when that series ended because I loved every single one of the characters - I even became fond of the bad ones.  Daeso?  Come on - loved that drunken sunuvabitch.  "Jewel in the Palace" - at 50+ episodes, I think I've watched that 5 or 6 times.

But somehow I just didn't fully connect with the characters.  I thought I was going to and I really tried. In the end, it was like basketball.  I don't like watching the game because all I can focus on are the squeaky sneakers on the gym floor.  I'm not even watching the game, all I can focus on are the stupid squeaks.  I stopped caring about the characters and started counting the pans across a room when someone would say something shocking - Mishil, BoJong, SeJong, Mi Saeng, Seol won, Ha Jong, Smirking Mishil, BoJong, SeJong, Mi Saeng, Seol Won and won and won and won.

YuShin sacrificed his love for a woman for the love of his people, Woot Tae, I mean Munno intrigued me, Seol won - I loved the way he loved Mishil.  The can't kill him Chil Sook and his tender love for Seowha, and then Korea's Johnny Depp steps in.

As I said before - Bi-dayum.  Kim Nam Gil injected something into the whole series for me; not just - is he good or bad - is he Mishil or WooTae - I mean Munno - but his characterization, the flexibility in his face; this wasn't just a one dimensional character.  Bidam was the best of Mishil's spawn, a diamond in the rough, waiting to be cut and given the facets that would make him shine from within and become the strongest and most beautiful rock in the foundation of Queen SeonDeok's impossible dream.  The dysfunction of a lifetime, his fear and his inability to really understand how to fully love and trust brought about his own end.  He was a fascinating character and I cheered for him even as he got as close as 10 steps to the Queen. 

Similar to Song Il Guk's Yeom Moon in "Emperor of the Sea", it was Bidam that forced me to come back to the series.  It was his multidimensional character that brought it all together and then mercilessly ended it, not DeokMan. 

I think I would have liked to see a little more of the strong and forward-thinking SeonDeok.  The woman who brought a Renaissance to her people.  Who built Buddhist temples and helped her people grow.  It was alluded to, but never realized.  It was plot plot plot, war war war, screw with Bidam, screw with SeonDeok, screw with YuShin.  And unfortunately, I got tired of that.

Queen SeonDeok

Mishil is bad.  The kind of bad you love to hate.  The kind of bad that you really want to see wander off into the ocean and lose her shoes.  She was ancient Shilla's version of white trash -  she had a kid by just about every guy in the series.  You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting one of Mishil's spawn.  A skank with class and a dream.

SeonDeok/DeokMan is good.  The kind of good you want to see live happily ever after.  The kind of good you want to see have babies and till the land with the man she loves.

YuShin is good.  The kind of good that makes you ache.  The kind of good that comes around once in a lifetime; that sacrifices himself completely for the ones he loves.  The kind of good that will help his apparent enemies if it means the betterment of the nation and the health of his queen.

Bidam is...Bidam is...Bidam is hot.  The kind of hot that makes you turn on the air conditioner.  The kind of hot that makes you wish he was looking at you with those devil may care eyes, with those fierce eyes, with those wounded eyes. The kind of hot and anguished and good and bad that every woman longs for really, so she can fix him, but finds out later that he's always going to be sort of a delicious mess. 

Everyone else, as far as I was concerned, revolved around those four characters.  Ass-kicking Woo Tae...I mean, Munno, the twitchy and catatonic Seowha, the can't kill him with fire or sand Chil Sook - (Korea's version of Jason in Friday the 13th), the fancy brother, the annoying husband, the hot and devoted sergeant at arms SeolWon, the Nancy King, the crying Queen, the dead twin sister, the tricksy nephew, the many toadies and on and and on and on. 

The first third of the series sets us up.  We get the Big Dipper Prophecy alluding to Mishil's downfall, the twins, the escape; relationships introduced, formed, and cemented.  Sisters lost and found and lost again.  Devotion established.  Motivations built.  This part of the series is "AllaboutDeokman and Mishil" and the people who love them both.

The second part of the series; episodes 20 - 40 or so, we are introduced to Korea's Johnny Depp - Bidam. I call this part of the series "Bi-dayum!".  Mommy was he beautiful.  Hot hot son of Mishil and King Jinji.  Disciple of WooTae, I mean Munno.  Physically abandoned at birth by his mother, emotionally abandoned in adolescence by his master WooTae, I mean Munno, later describing himself as "The Duck" - following the first person he lays his eyes on when he's born (or re-born as in this case).  That person is DeokMan.  We learn about Bidam's past, we learn about his present, and we hope for his future.  Gets pretty messed up by his Mom and her violet cohort, the Men in Purple - Her husband, her son, her brother and her lover.  Thus begins the third part....

Which should have been titled, "Men Who Carry Feather Fans Are Up To No Good".  A mess of mistrust, miscommunication, and mismanagement.  Bidam styles himself into a gay asian hairdresser, Queen SeonDeok decides she can't trust anyone, and YuShin....well, YuShin is still good, and devoted and lovely and strong and courageous and brave, workaholic though he is.  

I will grant you that the ending broke my heart.  I was moved a la "Emperor of the Sea".  I had longed for Bidam to be able to tell the Queen what was in his heart, but it was not to be.  And there were some sincerely marvelous performances, particularly by Kim Nam Gil.  Come for his hotness, stay for...his hotness.

In the end, it was all sort of a Romeo and Juliet thing with our two Big Dipper star-crossed lovers missing each other by inches; tragedy at its Korean best.  If you are into that kind of thing, you will love this series.  It just got too long and drawn out for me and I wanted to put it out of it's misery at around episode 50. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Princess

I've been watching "My Princess" this week and have found it completely charming - with one exception. Overall, kdrama is very enjoyable from my perspective and when I find a performance that can move me, it's even more memorable; primarily because I'm reading subtitles and I'm fighting an ingrained western upbringing that doesn't fully appreciate the thousands of years of Korean culture that is embedded in the writing, the cinematography, and the acting. Jang Hyuk, for example, never ceases to amaze me with the depth of his characterization and emotion - I don't think I can name an English actor that can surpass his gift.

When we get to bad performances, I try to be accommodating for the same reasons - I'm an ahjumma, I'm American born and bred - you don't get whiter than me. Occasionally, however, I find a performance that is so bad, it stands out. Readers may remember my review on Kingdom of the Winds and how I was in awe of Yeon's expressionlessness - I called her little Wooden Face.

In "My Princess" I've found another example. Oh Yoon Joo - the female antagonist - hateful and hated by everyone except Nam Jung Woo. I find nothing redeeming about the character - and could forgive that - sometimes the bad guys are have the most charisma and make the series that much better. Not here. I started to wonder if the actress had botoxed her face, since there was no expression, regardless of the situation. In fact, it's beginning to amuse me - I'm looking for something, anything, a wrinkle, an eye crinkle, an expression of wonder, or love, or anger, or pity, or indifference...and I get...well, I put together a little slide show of expressions for OYJ, and you can make up your own mind.

Just really, really bad. The actress that plays her - Park Ye Jin - is apparently in the next drama I'm slated to watch - Queen Seon Duk - I'll be interested to see how she does there.

Review should be up in a few days. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

My Princess

“When someone gives you something you thought he could never give, that’s when a person’s heart thumps.” – Seol


Correlation Chart

Well pinch me if this series wasn't the cutest darn thing I've seen in a long time. Predictable - sure. Kdrama must haves - absolutely. Happy ending - sweet mother, yes. None of that bothered me because I was charmed right through to my little toes with our main characters Park Hae Young and Lee Seol.

QuickPlot: Down on her luck adopted plucky gal, meets astonishingly wealthy, young diplomat fella. Gal turns out to be a gen-u-wine princess, fella is assigned to be her "I will teach you all things royally political" protector. A variety of personal and professional challenges later, he is fatally charmed by her cuteness, and she can't help but fall in love with his diplomatic hotness. 16 cutesydrama episodes later, happy happy happy joy joy joy!

When I said My Princess had kdrama must haves, I wasn't kidding. I actually started looking for them to make my warmth for this series turn in to downright affection. We had palace machinations, hospital scenes with a humidifier, drunk girl getting piggy back ride from rich man, evil girlfriend and an evil sister. We had a forgotten meeting between our two lovers when they are pre-pubescent and while there was no dramatic eye-cancer there was some heart disease. There was also a showing of two of my very favorite kdrama staples; poop jokes and the healing white cloth of life. (My all-time favorite is fatal constipation; you just don't see that often enough).

Kim Tae Hee was the absolute picture of plucky sparkle balanced nicely by Song Seung Hun who went from bewildered charm to captivated delight to head over heels in love. The other characters...meh. I think that Little Chef Gunnie was underutilized - so adorable - we didn't get much of him until the end. I liked Professor Glutton-for-punishment Nam, a guy that needs some serious therapy having deliberately entered back into a toxic relationship with B*tchy McBotoxFace. Come on Jung Woo - you are a smart good looking guy - you can totally do better.

My nits to pick? I have no idea what motivated Yoon Joo (B*tchy). Maybe I blacked out or something; but why so bitter? Why so absolutely hateful to everyone? B*tchy to the only people that had any affection for her – to Jung Woo, to her father, to Hae Young – and then after burning all her bridges, whined “How could you do that to me?” ------- Really Yoon Joo? Really? Was I supposed to care for the character in the end when she lost all of her prestige? I didn’t understand her at all and she was an expressionless annoyance from beginning to end. And she looked like she was 40.

I also thought the last two episodes could have been mushed into one. I didn’t need the agony of a two month absence and then the next episode’s agony of a two year absence. It all started to feel contrived and campy – ridiculous in a fluff piece, right? But I hadn’t felt that throughout the series until the end, having enjoyed the character and relationship development.

Ponder Angst – Not too much of the ponder here. We got some, but it was all going back and fetching some repressed memory stuff that was important to the plot. There was ponder toward the end that started to annoy and I had to ffw. 10 points

Love “ – “ Angles – Jung Woo is in love with Toxic, LS initially crushes on JW, PHY is initially in love with Toxic, but eventually falls for LS who in turn falls for HY. I'm giving out a half a point for adorable little Gunnie's crush all over LS, like a fluffy little brown-eyed puppy. 20.5 points.

Sizzle Ah, the sizzle. Our main characters definitely had the chemistry set out. It all seemed sweet and genuine, with some really stellar sizzle moments from Song Seung Hun. 15 points.

Physical Intimacy A good amount of nice kisses, wrist grabbing, and hugging. 15 points.

Tragic Heartwrenching Disease and/or Character Death from Same – Like I said, we have some heart disease, which in its’ strictest sense of the metric would be considered heart wrenching, but it's not stomach cancer, so I can really only give it 10 points.

Tazza Factor – Ahhhhhm, the tazza. Did the series grab my interest like a jealous oppa taking hold of my arm? Did it keep it there, panting for more like a dysfunctional Professor hugging his soulless ex-girlfriend? Doesn’t hit the level of Tazza, War of the Flower, for which this metric is named. This was a nice sweet series that I will recommend to ahjummas everywhere, telling them their nice teenage daughters can watch. I'll give it 10 points.

Going to the Beach – Nothing in the bonus round. We have flashbacks of little Lee Seol on the beach with her Dad - clearly homeless, and he makes it fun, but no suicide. 0 Bonus points.

80.5. Overall, I enjoyed this series and I will absolutely watch it again for some mindless entertainment. Not thought provoking at all, but charming and diverting; and sometimes that’s just what you need. - e

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Secret Garden


Secret Garden

QuickPlot: Claustrophobic Rich spoiled Captain of Industry (Kim Joo Woon) meets Orphaned poor hard working Stunt girl (Gil Ra Im). He is entranced, she is angered, he is entranced, she is annoyed, he is entranced, she is intrigued, he is disgusted, she is hurt, they drink magic flower wine, switch bodies; hilarity and drama ensues.


I read about this drama back in 2010 when Jang Hyuk was slated as the Rich Claustrophobic Captain of Industry. There were some issues with his management company and aigooo - Hyun Bin was cast as the Rich Claustrophobic Captain of Industry. I haven’t seen enough of Hyun Bin’s work – in fact, the only other drama I saw him in was “My Name is Kim Sam Soon”, where he played Leg Wounded Rich Spoiled Captain of Industry. So sadly, it felt like I was watching the same character.

Ha Ji Won –I’ve seen her in Damo and Hwang Jini. Different characters, both fierce and striking. She impressed me with her grace and intensity. Her character Gil Rae Im started out all fierce and butchy, then turned plucky, then got all weepy and apologetic toward the end. I was a bit disappointed.

In the beginning of the series, I found much that was endearing; puzzled over her lack of social standing, money and breeding, KJW can’t stop thinking about GRI. When he walks, he imagines she’s there with him, when he’s at the opera, she’s there with him, wherever he goes, there she is, moving at his pace, just there. Gil Ra Im eventually gives in to her feelings and is willing to accept whatever spoiled Kim Joo Woon is able to give, just as he realizes that what he wants to give her is everything. It’s really very sweet.

K-drama staples – this series has ‘em. Modern-day palace machinations at the shopping center, evil mothers, scheming sisters-in-law,the white cloth of life made an appearance, oh and the sacrificial if-one-of-us-has-to-die-let-it-be-me episode. The chemistry between HB and HJW definitely kept me coming back – there were lots and lots of achy moments that made my belly flop.

Oh and Lee Phillip as Director Im Jong Soo? Wow. I had more empathy for his character quietly loving GRI. Sigh. Nice.

The odd stuff? The whole Oska hallyu singing sensation and the ruinous relationship that left him a bitter bitter player plot didn’t do it for me; and I never quite got the gay ingénue that developed feelings for him – that felt contrived. However, I did feel bad for gay ingénue leaving and having no one in the end. And was I supposed to believe that Son Ye Jin was into Im Jong Soo at the end or was she just hiring him to be a director? Didn’t get it. KJW’s mother was a monster – just a plain, evil, hateful, bitter dreadful excuse for a human being.

Hyun Bin behaving as a woman? Hilarious and adorable. Ha Ji Won acting as a man? Well, she was pretty butchy as it was – all Coffee-Princey, so not such a stretch. On reflection, the body switching thing, I think it was simply a mechanism for the sacrificial if-one-of-us-has-to-die-let-it-be-me episode and that was too bad. It could have been more. We could have seen KJW learn to have appreciation for how and why GRI lives as she does, GRI could have learned bits about KJWs crippling and heart-attack provoking claustrophobia…but maybe that was too obvious. Better we all just get awkward at work and learn that Joo Woon’s security password is 36 24 36 and that Ra Im’s roommate leaves the bathroom door open asking if it smells bad. You can’t miss with a good poop joke.

Ponder Angst – Not a lot of ponder angst. This was not a ponder-fest. There are some moments that reflected on the past, but that was all Oska’s and his woman’s and it was blessedly brief, because I didn’t care. 20 points

Love “ – “ Angles – KJW loves GRI, Oska loves whatshername, hot hot Director Im Jong Soo loved GRI, one of the other students at the Action school loved GRI, and Joo Won’s mother loved no one but herself. 16 points.

Sizzle – Ah, the sizzle. As I said, there were some sizzly moments between KJW and GRI, some aching looks from Im Jong Soo and that kept me coming back. 10 points.

Physical Intimacy – Lots of stiff kisses, wrist grabbing, hugging and a couple awkward cappuccino lip locks. The payoff kiss at the Christmas party went on too long and seemed a little, I don’t know, slick somehow. I wanted to give them a hanky to wipe off their faces. 10 points.

Tragic Heartwrenching Disease and/or Character Death from SameThere was no death from disease. GRI’s dad dies in a heroic flashy elevator car of death, and Joo Woon has a claustrophobia induced fainting spell. GRI is brain dead for a little while, but that all gets fixed. I’ll give it 10 points for Dad’s fiery fireman death.

Going to the Beach – Nothing in the bonus round. Too bad mom didn’t do us all a favor and smother herself in all that organza she wore. Hag.

So, 71 on the e-meter. It wasn’t a bad series, but I won’t be watching it again. The last 5 episodes or so felt rushed and not really in concert with the whole. The editing seemed sloppy and some of the story lines were dropped without any explanation. The effort to pull it all together in the last quarter of the series with Ah Young’s predictive dreams was lame.

When the squealing charm of Hyun Bin acting like a girl wore off, I wondered how the series would have been different had Joo Woon been played by Jang Hyuk.

And I could have done without the leopard print robe.

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