The Handmaiden (2016)

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Movie: The Handmaid /Lady (아가씨)
World Premiere: May, 2016 (Cannes Film Festival)
Release Date: June 1, 2016
Runtime: 144 min.
Genre: Thriller / Period-1930 / Erotic / Award Winning
Distributor: CJ Entertainment

Main Cast:
Cho Jin Woong – Uncle Kouzuki
Ha Jung Woo – Count Fujiwara
Kim Min Hee – Lady Hideko
Kim Tae Ri – Sook Hee

Review:
Mesmerizing! I finally watched this critically acclaimed movie and I loved it!

It’s 2 hours and 25 mins long but I didn’t even realized the time. Everything looked so beautiful. The story is about a fake count hiring a handmaiden to help him marry the lady and steal all her money. But turns out who is really scamming who?

There are three parts, told from different perspectives but of the same narrative, so it was interesting to realize what each character was thinking of. I honestly was so surprised after part I! I totally didn’t expect it! But i feel like I’ve seen another movie similar to this or maybe a book but I can’t remember which one. (I have never read Fingersmith). There are a lot of sexy and some torture scenes so don’t watch with your parents or if you can’t stomach these kinds of scenes.

This is Kim Taeri’s first ever role and she was phenomenal. Actually all the 4 leads were so good. And there were also some funny moments. Count’s reactions are mostly funny (Ha Jung Woo is always unintentionally funny). Even when Lady Hideko tried to hang herself and Sookhee was holding her made me chuckle.

I didnt like what happened to the count, i thought he deserved the money as much as the ladies deserved their freedom. Or maybe i’m just biased because it’s Ha Jung Woo 🤗

Rating: 9.5/10

Twenty Five Twenty One (2022)

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Drama: Twenty Five Twenty One (스물다섯 스물하나)
Network: tvN
Episodes: 16
Release Date: February 12 – April 3, 2022
Runtime: Sat. & Sun. 21:10

Plot: A story about five friends and their once youthful lives filled with dreams, passion and love.

Main Cast
Kim Tae Ri – Na Hee Do
Nam Joo Hyuk – Baek Yijin
Bona – Ko Yurim
Choi Hyun Wook – Moon Ji Woong
Lee Joo Myoung – Ji Seung Wan

Review:
The title alone should already warn us of the ending but some didn’t take the hint.

I loved the nostalgia feel of the drama because I grew up in the 90s. Actually I was the same age as Heedo in 1998 that’s why even though I didn’t grow up in Korea and was not an athlete, I could still somehow relate to her. I keep thinking, she is my age. What if I were her friend? How would I support her? It also made me think of my own high school experience and how different I am from when I was 18 years old vs who I am now and how I interact with my friends. I could totally understand them, that even though so many years have passed and we don’t always get to meet often, we will always remain friends and when we get together, it’s as if time has not passed. We also reminisce the good and bad memories and laugh about it.

I really loved the friendship between Heedo and Yurim. They started out as strangers, almost like enemies, fan to idol. They fought, they disagreed, they supported and comforted each other through out their personal and professional lives. I loved and teared up in all their final matches and when Heedo retired and Yurim was there to support her. Boys/men can come and go but friends will always be forever. The writer is the same as Search WWW and it’s no wonder you can also feel some girl-love vibes between Heedo and Yurim (just like Gakyeong and Scarlet in WWW).

I also loved Heedo and Yijin’s relationship. I think the drama spent more time showing how close they were (friendship, brother-sister kind of love) and less than when they were in love. A lot of people hated the ending. They thought they should have ended together. I was fine either way, as long the writer end it well (more on this in the latter paragraphs). I think it was the right love at the wrong time. The love they had was real and it was what they needed during those times. But their circumstances and the events just didn’t make it possible for them to survive.

Maybe if they met in their 30s they could have handled the relationship better. But Heedo was in high school. Sometimes she was brave but often times she was still immature and couldn’t handle a relationship with an older guy. But give her a break, she was young, she still had so many things going on for her and I agree that she deserved to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t make her sad and worry. There are other guys out there and she knows herself and to walk away when she is no longer happy. But at the same time, she also didn’t empathize and understand enough with what Yijin was going through. That’s why they failed.

On the other hand, Yijin tried his best to stay away from Heedo. Not only was she younger than him, he knows he also has a lot of issues to work with himself and his career and his family. Plus the trauma of witnessing the New York attacks took a toll on his mental state. I believe he wasn’t in the right state of mind to maintain a relationship and it was best to let go, no matter painful it was. I was also crying in that scene when they knew it was over and just wanted to take back all the hurtful words they said to each other. Their looks told me they may have broken up but they will always love and support each other. Just like 10 years later when they meet again via Yijin’s show. Although they haven’t kept in touch, you can see they’re still happy for each other and how far they have gone from 10 years ago.

On the other hand, Yurim and Jiwoong’s happy ever after is a contrast to H&Y. Despite the LDR they still made it work. Again, I would say the difference is that they didn’t have a lot of issues to deal with. No mommy issues, no mental health or career issues. That’s why it was easier for them to stay long and strong. I loved the proposal. Very creative Jiwoong and very apt for Yurim.

What I didn’t like in this drama? I think the present timeline wasn’t necessary. Maybe because they used a different actress to play Heedo and she had a very different vibe from the younger Heedo. It makes you think what happened to her all these years and how her youth and passionate love shaped her into who she is now but we didn’t get any of that.

Instead the present timeline served more as a way to introduce the story and was weakly trying to show a parallel between Heedo and her daughter who wanted to quit ballet. Before, Heedo’s mom was against her continuing fencing, but mom Heedo didn’t force Minchae if she didn’t want to do ballet anymore. Minchae, through reading Heedo’s diary also got inspired after reading all the hard work that Heedo went through to reach her success and made her want to take up ballet again.

Those were fine, but it doesn’t really link back to Yijin and Heedo’s story, which was very much the center of the plot. I felt like maybe she wasn’t really over Yijin? It felt like she had so many regrets and that she only had closure when she found her diary. Also, we didn’t see who she married and why they married. Is she happy? If she is happy why is she still not over the diary? Why did she have to go back to the tunnel and look so regretful? If she left Yijin because she wanted to have a relationship with someone who would be there for her, then why is her husband not around? The ending /present timeline really did not close the story well.

We also do not get see what happened to older Yijin aside from being UBS anchor. Did he marry or did he stay single because he couldn’t get over Heedo? He was able to build a home for his family, and we see his younger brother look so grown up. Is he happy? He is the male lead but I felt we didn’t get his own ending.

Overall, I loved this drama. It made me cry buckets of tears every single episode and made me feel so much emotions. I just wish the ending was stronger and made more impact considering the rest of the 15 episodes were almost perfect.

Rating: 9/10

1987: When The Day Comes (2017)

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Movie: 1987: When The Day Comes
Release Date: December 27, 2017
Runtime: 129 min.
Distributor: CJ Entertainment
Country: South Korea

Main Cast
Kim Yun Seok – Park Cheo Won
Ha Jung Woo – Prosecutor Choi
Park Hee Seon – Jo Han Kyung
Lee Hee Joon – Yoon Sang Sam
Kim Tae Ri – Yeon Hee
Kang Dong Won – Lee Han Yeol
Yoo Hae Jin – Han Byeong Yong

Review:
This movie is based on actual events called June Democratic Uprising in Korea which happened in 1987.

It all started when a college student was tortured and killed by anti-communist group and they tried to conceal his death.

I love how the director was able to tell the story through different people, starting from the prosecutor who demanded autopsy, to jail guard who passed on info to the opposition, the reporter who tried to reveal the truth to the public, and to the students who bravely rallied against the government.

Not for the faint hearted. It’s moving, horrifying and inspiring. The extra romance between the two college students slightly felt out of place but the end made up for it.

Rating: 8.5

Mr Sunshine Eps. 1-6

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Drama: Mr. Sunshine (미스터 션샤인)
Network: tvN
Episodes: 24
Release Date: July 7 – September 30, 2018
Runtime: Sat. & Sun. 21:00

Plot:
During the United States expedition to Joseon (South Korea) in 1871, a boy from Joseon boards an American warship and goes to America. As an adult, he returns to his home country as an American soldier stationed in the country.

Cast:
Lee Byung Hun – Eugene Choi
Kim Tae Ri – Go Ae Shin
Yoo Yeon Seok – Goo Dong Mae
Kim Min Jung – Hina
Byun Yo Han – Kim Hee Sung

First impressions:
I kept seeing this in my Netflix so one night i was bored and watched the first episode. I loved it!

1. The scenary and cinematography is so lush and beautiful. Even the sets look so authentic. The clothes are beautiful and all the cast looked good.

2. The story feels very similar to what happened to our country in 1898 when the spanish were overstaying their welcome, the Americans have arrived, looking to conquer and the local government and rebels are fighting against each other, trying to vie for the land. thus, the story somehow feels close to my heart althrough i know this is fiction but based on certain events in Korean history.

3. The actors are wonderful. I dont particularly like Lee Byung Hun – mostly because of his face and how stoic he always look (feels like only his mouth is moving most of the time) but I’m interested to see his character’s journey from being a slave hating Joseon to being an American soldier but starting to feel for his homeland again.

It’s the first time i’ve seen Kim Tae Ri act – she seems young but is a very promising actress. I loved how complex her character is – she is still stuck in her nobility and privilege yet wants to do something for her country. A little bit idealistic for now but i like how strong she is.

Dong Mae is the Korean butcher’s son who became a Japanese gangster – some people say sell out but i understand he did it to survive. he mostly broods and looks dirty most of the time (and his fake moustache is icky), i still haven’t decided if he’s a good or bad guy. I have a feeling he will eventually be good.

Hee Song (hello, guy from Misaeng) looks charming and devilish. He is educated, carefree and i think it’s mostly because of feeling a little guilty of coming from a rich but evil family. His father and grandfather is so bad, i’m surprised he turned out nice. Not sure how he will end up supporting the revolution but i’m interested to see him change from a party boy to a great freedom fighter.

Kim Min Jung in Man to Man was so ugly because of her haircut. Here in this drama, she is breathtakingly beautiful. I love her perfectly round face, thick lush lips and flawless skin. I have a feeling she is going to be one heck of a woman later on, also joining the fight for Korean’s freedom.

So far, after episode 6, i feel like the story is still shaping up, the characters are not yet finished being introduced, but the plot lines are starting to firm up, with the bad guy arriving (hello traitor Wan Ik, who is the same bad guy from W), the 3 guys seemingly going after Ae shin. I’m afraid to find out who will die in the end – for Korea and for Ae shin – i have a feeling it’s either going to be Hee sung or Dong Me or both. Eugene can’t die right since he has to end up with Ae shin. Speaking of which, one thing that is hard to believe is not just the age gap between the LBH and KTR, it’s how young KTR looks here and when you side her with LBH, it just looks weird – she looks like his daughter already. But Eugune’s gaze is so magnetic and he looks dashing in his uniform, no wonder Lady Aeshin is so charmed and utterly smitten with him.

I started watching this show around mid-September but because the pacing is a bit slow and the story is heavy, it is taking me a while to watch. I cant marathon the show because 1 episode makes me feel so bad that i have to stop and for another day or two before i continue watching. But i’m so interested to see how the story will unfold. I hope there will be more action and intrigue so that it wont get boring!