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Lovers of the Red Sky (2021)

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Drama: Lovers of the Red Sky (홍천기)
Network: SBS
Episodes: 16
Release Date: August 30 – October 26, 2021
Runtime: Mon & Tue 22:00
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
This fantasy sageuk is about King Seongjo looking for a divine painter to seal the Devil in the king’s portrait while a blind scholar plots revenge on the king and everyone who ruined his family 20 years ago.

Main Cast
Kim Yoo Jung – Hong Cheon Gi
Ahn Hyo Seop – Ha Ram
Gong Myung – Prince Yang Myeong
Kwak Si Yang – Prince Joo Hyang

Review
I didn’t realize when I started watching that this is a fantasy drama but episodes 1 and 2 were interesting and I loved the actors who played the younger versions of Haram and Cheon Gi, the background story was enough to get invested in the couple.

I loved the paintings, it was so amazing that simple brushes can make these fantastic masterpieces. I did take big brush and small brush calligraphy when I was in school so I know how to feels like to write using these brushes. It is hard and my penmanship was bad so I can’t imagine having to actually draw these kinds of paintings. The best episodes were the painting competition, although it was still unbelievable that a young inexperienced painter can win against everyone else when her butterfly painting was not even that great to be honest.

I loved the Baekyu Painters Society and how they always had Cheongi’s back, esp her two painter friends. And the friendship between Haram, Prince Yang Myeong and Cheon Gi.

The story got messy and a lot of things were unexplained. More than halfway and I still didn’t get the reason for the ring, or why they need to seal the devil inside the painting (because the drama said so), how Cheon Gi is the divine painter (when it turns out without Hwacha’s power her painting was useless so what was the point?), why Joohyang was still alive when his body is supposedly rotting away, the king knew all about Haram’s plan and never told him the truth (rendering his whole life’s revenge plot unnecessary). And the whole nonsense about Haram’s grandfather. And what about Maehyang and her mysterious hatred against the royal family? It was never revealed. The whole showdown with the devil, Samsin and Ho Ryeong was also anti-climactic. Even the death of Haram’s bodyguard wasn’t that memorable.

The ending kind of redeemed the entire story since they get their happy ever after, but still don’t understand why they decided to live in an area so faraway from the city. The last scene between the two princes, at first I though the story is incomplete, now thinking back I guess they are trying to say that life goes on.

Haram was also blind for 20 years but he is extraordinarily aware of his surroundings that he doesn’t look blind at all! He looks straight at the person he is talking to, he fights against the soldiers when blind, he can interpret the stars without seeing them. It was too weird.

Rating: 7/10 (i should give a lower rating but the four leads were so pretty)

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Hometown Cha Cha Cha (2021)

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Drama: Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (갯마을 차차차)
Network: tvN
Episodes: 16
Release Date: August 28 – October 17, 2021
Runtime: Sat. & Sun. 21:00
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
A city dentist moves to the seaside village and falls in love with Chief Hong, who is nice and helpful but hides a painful secret.

Main Cast
Kim Seonho – Hong Dusik
Shin Minah – Yoon Hye Jin
Lee Sang Yi – Ji Seong Hyun
Gong Min Jung – Pyo Mi Sun
Kim Young Ok – Kim Gamri
Lee Bong Ryun – Yeo Hwa Jeong
Im Gyo Jin – Chang Young Guk
Jo Han Chul – Oh Chun Jae
Cha Chung Hwa – Jo Nam Sook
Kang Hyung Suk – Choi Eun Cheol

Review
This drama reminds me of that Air Supply song that goes “Two less lonely people in the world, and it’s gonna be fine. Out of all the people in the world, I just can’t believe you’re mine. In my life where everything was wrong, something finally went right. Now there’s two less lonely people in the world tonight.” Cheesy. Yes.

The drama moved at a slow pace, it really felt like watching Hyejin, Dusik and the villagers live a simple life in Gongjin with the beautiful scenery and yummy food. I always thought living in a village vs a city, life will be simple yet I realized that everyone no matter where they live, have their own set of problems.

I honestly didn’t like the first few episodes because I thought the villagers were all rude and always made Hyejin feel like she was a horrible person. I know Hyejin looked and sounded off from a villagers’ point of view, but they should also realize that their actions toward her were also very judgemental and bias. They were too in your face and act so pushy and invade her personal space. And I know they’re just being friendly but they also were too gossipy, esp. nosy Namsook. Even with the reveal of her tragic story, there’s still no excuse for spreading rumors about another person because they’re bored or still in mourning.

Because the drama is based on an old movie, one can feel there are some dated tropes and ideas, and I think this would not been as successful without the lovely combination of the dimple couple, Shin Minah and Kim Seonho. I enjoyed Hyejin and Dusik’s rollercoaster romance, from the first time they meet, to falling in love, how they supported and healed each other, until their ever after. I didn’t like Chief Hong in the first few episodes mostly because he was so rude to Hyejin. At the end of the episode 1, there was an epilogue that showed Dusik was intrigued by Hyejin at first sight, so I thought maybe he just has a bad way of showing it (like a boy pulling the pigtails of a girl he likes). Plus not wanting to get close to people because of a tragic past. I loved the actors who played the younger versions of Hyejin and Dusik, esp mini Dusik who looked so much like Kim Seonho. Their sweet moments were OTP cringey but I’ll give them a pass because they deserved all the happiness in the world.

The sea won’t always be gentle though. We will be met with wind and waves. And even typhoons will come our way. So what if we get soaked in the rain? Who cares if the wind blows a bit when we’re in the same boat?

Hyejin and Dusik final scene at the boat

Euncheol and Misun’s relationship was low key and adorable, I loved them (sometimes more than the main couple). And I got it right, Euncheol was the mystery lotto winner 😄. Of course I have to mention I love Hyejin and Misun’s friendship. Misun follows her friend to the seaside, when she was heartbroken, Misun helping Hyejin put up her dental clinic. Both friends cheering for each other’s love lives, though I still cant get over Hyejin leaving Misun in Seoul after planning an overnight girls night out to go back to Dusik!! But I can understand, I would also do the same for my girl friends.

Another fave character is Hwajeong. To me, she is one of the least annoying villager (after Dusik and Eun Cheol). Although she listened and followed the villagers, she never openly gossiped about other people, would scold them esp Nam Sook if they went too far, and wasn’t harsh on Hyejin. I cried for her when we found out why she divorced her husband. I’m happy they got back together, just wished they showed more sweetness and more groveling from the husband to make up for the 15 years he treated her bad. As for her relationship with Chohui, I already guessed that maybe Chohui liked her not Young Guk with the way Chohui was acting. Chohui was always smiling and trying to be close to Hwajeong, and I thought she was too insensitive – she knows they got divorced, yet she kept asking them to hang out with her, I’m glad Hwajeong confronted her about it. And when Chohui finally confessed to Hwajeong, I also appreciated how Hwajeong turned her down in a nice way and they continued to be friends. I love Im Gyo Jin so I know even if he played a jerk for the most part of the drama, I couldn’t stay angry at him, because right from the start, I knew Young Guk and Hwajeong will end up together again. And Gyo Jin’s so cute and funny!

Oh grandma Gamri 😢 Whenever I see this actress, I’m scared to think if she will die by the end of the show or not. But at least she died peacefully here, not like in Mouse where she was murdered.

Seonghyun is another fave character, though it felt like he was only introduced to pressure Dusik to finally make a move on Hyejin. I liked how his first love story with Hyejin ended, again, quoting another 80s song from Barry Manilow that goes, “We had the right love at the wrong time. I guess I always knew inside, I wouldn’t have you for a long time”. I also love how he became friends with all the villagers, and most especially with Dusik – so nice to see Dusik have actual friends again that are of same age, who he can talk to if he has problems. I just didn’t think he really had to end up with his writer – they could have continued being partners producing great shows without the romance (or maybe they could have gotten someone prettier to match him *sorry*) I knew what they mean, that he has been chasing for his first love with Hyejin, when all along the girl he likes is the one who was always besides him, but still, there’s still that 30% feeling that he “settled”.

The main things I didn’t like about this drama are the too many coincidences. Hyejin and Dusik meeting several times through out their lives — when they were kids, when Hyejin ran away, when Dusik almost jumped from the bridge and now in Gongjin. I know they’re supposed to show that they’re destined to be with each other, but it was just too much. Plus finding out Dusik’s tragic past was connected to Seonghyun and his assistant’s family. Like really? There’s this magnet that pulled them all together to meet in Gongjin. It was just too convenient story wise.

I took me some time to write the review because I couldn’t decide on my rating. I didn’t like the first few episodes, and the middle part felt too long and boring, that I was sometimes half watching half doing something else. But still I looked forward to watching this every weekend.

Lalalalalalalalala…romantic sunday 🎶🎶🎶 will forever be embedded in everyone’s minds.

Rating: 8.5/10 (because I liked the ending despite the flaws and this was the perfect weekend watch)

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Penthouse Season 3 (2021)

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Drama: Penthouse 3 (펜트하우스 3)
Network: SBS
Episodes: 14
Release Date: June 4 – September 10, 2021
Runtime: Friday 22:00-23:10
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
The final story of the tragic lives of the people in Hera Palace.

Main Cast
Uhm Ki Joon – Joo Dan Tae
Kim So Yeon – Cheon Seojin
Eugene – Oh Yoon Hee
Yoon Jong Hoon – Ha Yoon Cheol
Shin Eun Kyung – Kang Mari
Bong Tae Gyu – Lee Kyu Jin
Yoon Joo Hee – Go Sang A
Kim Young Dae – Joo Seok Hoon
Han Ji Hyun – Joo Seo Kyung
Choi Ye Bin – Ha Eun Byul
Kim Hyun Soo – Bae Rona
Jin Ji Hee – Kang Jenny
Park Eun Seok – Logan Lee
On Joo Wan – Baek Jun Ki
Park Ho San – Yoo Dong Pil

Review
This drama finally ended after a year of craziness at the Hera Palace and will likely go down as one of the legendary Korean dramas ever to air.

I loved The Penthouse S1 (2020) and Penthouse S2 (2021) and was looking forward to the two new characters Jenny’s dad and Baek Junki. Thought the idea of Joo Dantae stealing Junki’s identity was genius plotline and was always curious about why the dad was in prison. I thought the first few episodes were great but their characters and stories were disappointing and didn’t add anything to the story. Wasted potential seriously!!

The first few episodes were strong and kept the momentum from season 2 but until they killed off Yoonhee and the story went downhill. I know Penthouse story is already crazy but the next couple of episodes just went off kilter outrageous. Logan surviving the explosion, Alex showing up played by the same character, Seojin under a chandelier yet surviving, Joo Dantae escaping from Japan, dying but showing this beggar looking like him. Blech. Too much.

I always thought that Seojin is worse and more intelligent than Dantae and I was right. And i wondered how they will face off so I laughed in evil glee when they attacked each other after Logan Suryeon exposed them in public. I personally loved Joo Dantae as the villain but his sexy evil charisma was gone in season 3. And his sad story came too late for viewers to feel sad for him.

I could never understand why Suryeon and Logan were loved by the viewer and were branded as the “good ones” when they were equally bad. If Suryeon never plotted the revenge against Dantae none of this would have happened or it wouldn’t have ended so tragically for so many people. She could have just hired an assassin to kill him or poison him. She also has a lot of blood on her hands so to me, her suicide does not make her a hero. It just shows she was as flawed and selfish as the others.

It feels so long ago but even from season 1 i thought the parents were so toxic that the best thing was to kill them all. Well the main baddies died alright and they all died appropriate way. If they were in Squid Game, I’d say Kang Mari played her cards well and she was the ultimate survivor/winner.

The kids were all terrible even Rona the brat but I liked how they all got their second chances. Goes to show that parents highly influence their children’s behavior and adults should not include their kids in their own fights.

It was also very very satisfying to see Hera Palace crumble. The whole gold appearance and the lady statue with wings were too ostentatious and tacky to be “luxurious”.

Despite the middle part being too crazy, I still enjoyed the “happy” ending.

Rating: 8/10

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Police University (2021)

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Drama: Police University (경찰수업)
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 16
Release Date: August 9 – October 5, 2021
Runtime: Mon & Tue 21:30
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
A relentless professor/detective trying to solve an illegal gambling case gets the help from his police university students, including a young hacker.

Main Cast
Cha Tae Hyun – Yu Dong Man
Jung Jin Young – Kang Sunho
Krystal Jung – Oh Kang Hee
Hong Soo Hyun – Choi Hee Soo
Lee Jong Hyuk – Kwon Hyuk Pil
Lee Dal – Noh Bum Tae
Yoo Young Jae – Jo Joon Wook

Review
This drama was my happy pill for the past few weeks. I could never turn down watching Cha Tae Hyun.

Yu Dongman and Kang Sunho’s mentor-student relationship was one of the best things in this drama and the reason I kept watching. The drama felt like a classic story yet also felt modern and fresh. I love Dongman as a character. He had integrity, even though he sometimes breaks the rules, it’s because he knows what he is doing and is very certain of his decisions and hunches. I teared up when i found out why he was so keen to crack the case. Likewise, episode 1 and 2 did a good job to show the background of Sunho’s story and why you would want to root for him and the initial encounter between the two. So the two of them growing closer and their journey through out the drama felt so touching. Like they said in the last episode, Sunho found his family and friends because of him while Dongman felt young and alive again after meeting Sunho.

I also loved the relationship between Sunho and Kanghee, from their meet cute, to Kanghee imagining Sunho with puppy face, the red bracelet, breakup and getting back together. The only downside is Kanghee breaking up with him during the time he needed her the most and Park Min Kyu’s character who was wasted here. I initially thought Park Min Kyu would be the annoying character at the start but will end up being part of the team. He did help them a bit but overall, he still was annoying for expecting Kanghee to like him over Sunho just because he saw her first.

But who cares for Min Kyu when Sunho and Kanghee have the best besties in the university — Bum Tae and Junwook!! I love their bromance, the funny love triangle between the girl, how Junwook gave way to Bum Tae (I was so happy when Bum Tae got the girl!!) and how they supported Sunho and Kanghee during the whole drama, even if they almost got expelled from the university.

As I said earlier on, once of the things that got me emotionally invested on the story was Sunho and his relationship with his father. It took a long time but they finally understood how much they loved each other and Sunho realizing that his dad treated him like his own son from the very start.

In the middle, I thought the illegal gambling story dragged and was going nowhere, and it’s mostly because there were too much whodunit teasers like C’mon tell us and take us out of our misery. sidetracked but didn’t mind because then we got more focus on the romance and bromance. I did appreciate that after everything else was revealed bad guy wasn’t that bad at all. Of course, the end didn’t justify the means especially when you’re breaking the law and hurting other people despite good intentions. The villain was also my initial guess even though I had no idea of his motive (just a guess based on the setup of the characters and probably from watching too many dramas)

The final episode was probably one of the best written endings where every one’s story was neatly wrapped up and gave me a warm happy fuzzy feeling that happy ever after can happen!

Also sharing two of the OST that I loved:

Rating: 9/10 (8.5 for the story +.5 for how this drama made me feel)

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Squid Game (2021)

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Drama: Squid Game (오징어 게임)
Network: Netflix
Episodes: 9
Release Date: September 17, 2021
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
Players compete in dangerous children games for a chance to win billions of money.

Main Cast
Lee Jung Jae – Sung Gihun
Park Hae Soo – Cho Sangwoo
Jung Ho Yeon – Kang Saebyuk
Wi Ha Joon – Hwang Junho
Heo Sung Tae – Jang Deok Soo
Oh Young Soo – Oh Il Nam
Kim Joo Ryung – Han Min Nyeo
Tripati Anupam – Ali
Lee Byung Hun – Host

Review
Much have been said about this drama so I’m not going to dissect and analyze the drama in detail. I loved the six games and how each game levelled up the intensity and danger. I had no clue what the story was all about since I was able to avoid spoilers when this first came out. So when the first game started, the red light green light and shots were fired, I was as shocked as the contestants!! I think this was the perfect game to start it all. I felt as tense as everyone and was praying that they all get to the finish line safely! I honestly probably would have died in the first game! 😅

The second game, honeycomb was a little boring. I remember shouting at my TV, just lick the honeycomb so it will melt! I was so surprised when Gihun did exactly that!! By then I knew I couldn’t trust Sangwoo! He didn’t even bother to tell his neighbor/friend or help him even when he knew what the game was! A lot of people hated the thug but I actually liked him haha! (or maybe because I’ve watched Heo Sung Tae in variety shows and I know he is the exact opposite of his villain characters).

The third game, tug of war, was probably my favorite. It reminded me of when we used to play this game in high school! and the minute I saw they will be playing the game at such high place, really just amped the brutality of the drama.

Fourth game the marbles, had me crying. They’ve somehow built a bond the past few days. and knowing one of them had to die so the other can live was a tough pill to swallow. Sangwoo totally betrayed Ali (though I think Ali was too naive), even Gihun ending up betraying the old man to live. Saebyuk only came out alive because the other girl sacrificed herself. I was so stressed every single game, but knowing that the main leads won’t die until the very end made me a little less stressed.

And that’s the downside of this drama. I thought that the main lead mostly passed the levels because of luck or through someone else. Green light, Ali held him up. Honeycomb he barely made it. Tug of War, they were saved by the old man and Sangwoo. Marbles, he didn’t know it back then but the old man saved him. Glass bridge, yup, Sangwoo again. I honestly thought Sangwoo if we were to judge the perfomance of each other, Sangwoo deserved the money. He was strategic but he’s not the lead so in the end he lost against the “morally nice” guy.

Also Saebyuk, the actress became instantly famous for this role and I’m scratching my head why. Her character didn’t do anything memorable either. She barely spoke a word, had the same look on her face the entire time. Like Gihun, she also was lucky the whole time and made it to the last game because of Gihun and Sangwoo. But I’m not hating on the actress, it’s the character I’m wondering why is popular.

I wasn’t sure what was the message the writer wants to tell us. At one point I thought the lesson of the show was to learn to share and not be too greedy. Or find a way to work together and get out alive not kill each other and they will all get the money. But I was wrong both times since I realized there could only be one winner.

I was so disappointed at Gihun! After all the blood sweat and tears, Gihun sat on the money for a year and didn’t use them because he felt guilty and morally wrong to spend the money that killed lots of people! Hello!! He should have kept his promise to the people who had to die for him to live. At least pay off Sangwoo’s debts, give money to the mother, and get Saebyeok’s brother out of the orphanage. Live a better life. Go see his daughter and be a good father. Use the money for a good cause. Create a foundation that will help people like him so they won’t be desperate enough to join this dangerous game.

Another disappointment was the reveal of the main guy. I was already suspicious of him since there was a scene where the VIPs arrived and the host said the owner can’t join because he is busy and even though we only see the owner’s back, you can definitely see the white hair peeking from his mask. But his final conversation with Gihun in the abandoned tower was weird. His explanation didn’t make sense. Why go through all of that and kill hundreds of people every time just for the fun of it? So that he can feel something? BS.

Other things that were not explained and maybe a prequel like what they did with Kingdom Ashin of the North would be good. Like how did Inho become the host? And I didn’t realize that Inho was older than Junho. All throughout the drama, I was wondering who the host was. I thought the english was so familiar but I couldn’t remember the actor. So when I saw it was Lee Byung Hun, it was a facepalm moment to me!! Speaking of Junho, I thought he was there to save the day, like he will collaborate with Gihun and crack the case. Turns out, he had a separate story that didn’t feel connected with the rest. How was he able to go around the house without getting caught and without eating, showering, pooping, peeing and survive? And the whole organ transplant thing was another plot that wasn’t explored. And the VIPS were cringy and horrendous.

Overall, this was fantastic drama except for the final episode.

Rating: 8/10