Vincenzo (2021)

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Drama: Vincenzo (빈센조)
Network: tvN
Episodes: 20
Release Date: February 20 – April 26, 2021
Runtime: Sat. & Sun. 21:00
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
A lawyer for an Italian mafia goes back to Korea with a plan.

Main Cast
Song Joong Ki – Vincenzo Cassano
Jeon Yeo Bin – Hong Cha Young
Ok Taecyeon – Jang Joon Woo
Kwak Dong Yeon – Jang Han Seo
Yoo Jae Myung – Hong Yu Chan
Choi Young Joon – Cho Yeong Un

Review
I was looking forward to Vincenzo because I loved The Fiery Priest and this one did not disappoint! This drama reminded me why I loved Song Joong Ki during his Nice Guy days and pre-army (I didn’t like him in DOTS). He is more than just a pretty face – he is an amazing actor, esp. when he goes on his mafia rage. His cold blooded looks and lifeless eyes were scary!

At first I found it hard to believe that he is the consigliere considering he looks young, he’s not Italian and he’s scrawny. But by the end of the show, I now know why he is the consigliere. He is compassionate yet ruthless, he is precise and he thinks ahead. I honestly didn’t understand why Babel and the 2 lawyers were not scared of him and his threats. I guess, they didn’t think it was true until they faced death.

The most memorable character after Vincenzo is Jang Han Seo. From the start, I already thought that one day he will side with Vincenzo and go up against his brother, but did he really had to have a sad ending? When Vincenzo said “you deserve to be my brother!” I cried too.

I wasn’t that keen on Hong Cha Young at first, I thought the actress was overacting (or maybe trying hard to be like Lee Hanee’s character in The Fiery Priest, who was effortlessly funny and cool) but I eventually warmed up to her (or maybe I got used to her OA-ness?) I like the little team of her, Vincenzo and Lawyer Nam. She was one of the main drivers in the first half of the story, but I also felt she took a backseat when the story focused on Vincenzo and his taking down Babel. The romance between them was also subtle, maybe because it wasn’t the highlight of the story, and also because it would be hard to have a happy ending when Vincenzo can’t stay in Korea. I still loved where they ended up though.

Speaking of Lawyer Nam, I absolutely adored him!!! Very different from his character in Hot Stove League. He is so cute here, and such a fan boy of Vincenzo (him, President of Vincenzo fan club Ahn Gi seok and cutie curly haired Bye -Bye Balloon guy). I was worried that something bad might happen to him along the way, but I remembered that no one died in The Fiery Priest so was happy.

It took some time for me to get used to the Geumga Plaza gang. IMHO, they were not too memorable individually, but together they were a great team! Aside from Lawyer Nam and Bye Bye Balloon ahjussi, I also liked the Scissorhands guy.

I know, some people didn’t like the humor, but I loved the humor (as always from this writer though less laugh out loud like The Fiery Priest), and I loved that the BGM is always perfect for the specific scene. The final episode showing the winery named Vincenzo Cassano 1+1 was perfect (though I don’t think I want to drink wine fertilized by Jung Woo’s remains)!!

Now on to the not so nice part. Hanseok as the main villain wasn’t that engaging to me, mostly because I thought he was no match for Vincenzo. He is a psycho, but the minute his life is in danger, he runs away like a lame bully. The only reason he can get away with it is because of Myunghee, who is the more evil one. She is despicable and I hate her but she was a great character! Their brutal deaths were well deserved.

I wondered how the writer will end this show. Will Vincenzo get exonerated from his crimes? Will he become a consultant to Ahn’s organization? But I think, the ending was just right. Vincenzo stayed the same as an anti-hero, but he gained another set of family and more purpose in life.

Looking back, there wasn’t a meaningful lesson to be learned in this show. It just felt like a mafia guy on a personal vendetta against one corrupt company. Nothing really changed with society. He came and left and everyone moved on with their lives.

Oh, and the most tragic of all — what a waste of gold!! They didn’t even get to spend it!

Rating: 8.5/10

Descendants of the Sun (2016)

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  • Drama: Descendants of the Sun (태양의 후예)
  • Network: KBS2
  • Episodes: 16
  • Release Date: February 24 – April 14, 2016
  • Runtime: Weds. & Thurs. 22:00

Plot

This drama tells the story of soldiers and doctors who volunteer in Uruk and faces various challenges along the way.

Main Cast
Song Hye Kyo – Kang Mo Yeon
Song Joong Ki – Yoo Si Jin
Jin Goo – Seo Dae Young
Kim Jiwon – Yoon Myeong Joo

Review
Yup, i admit, despite this drama being the most talked about drama in 2016, with the SongSong couple married and divorced, it is only this year that I finally decided to watch this show. If it weren’t for the community quarantine, I probably still have not watched this.

I did start the first 2 episodes a few months ago in 2019 but I stopped and didn’t feel the urge to continue. When i tried watching again last week, this time for real, I realized why I stopped watching before and why it took me a bit long to finish this drama. It was because at the start and mostly all throughout the show, I couldn’t feel the chemistry between the two main leads. I’m sorry, probably unpopular opinion, but no matter how much romantic and witty pickup lines Si Yin says to Mo Yeon that is supposed to thrill her and the audience, I just found the lines too cheesy and cringy. Likewise, Mo Yeon/Song Hye Kyo trying to be cute worked super well when she was younger in Full House, but this time, it felt off. I preferred her emotional scenes, I think she was so good at it (the first when she cried because she didn’t get the professorship, then all those time she cried in Uruk, and lastly on episode 15 when Si Jin died), and between the two leads, SHK did it better, although SJK gave it as good as he can. They did deserve the daesang that year. The only time I felt genuine chemistry between them was on the last episode, when the jokes and teasing looked natural and the beach scene felt sweet. On MY and SJ’s relationship, I love that there was no love triangle and miscommunication. Instead, the story focused on their relationship – i could feel Mo Yeon’s struggle – as much as she wanted to love Sijin, it was so difficult when you know that his job is super dangerous and he can be killed anytime, and yet you can’t stop loving and letting go of the person. I loved the growth of the two characters in their chose n profession, as well as the growth in their relationship. MY was finally able to accept it and be the anchor/safe haven for Sijin. Oh, and apart from the cheesy lines, the intrusive and overused background music whenever they got close was too annoying. Gummy’s You are my everything is a beautiful song but now everytime i hear it i feel blech.

As for the secondary couple, i loved Wolf but i didn’t like Myeong Ju. I dont even know what Wolf saw in her. All i saw was a stubborn, prickly brat who is used to getting what she wants and doesn’t care about other’s feelings. For the part of the show, she was selfish, always ordering DY around that I felt bad for him. That scene in one of the episodes when MJ kept saying that DYnever talks to her and DYsays, i have been talking to you by running away or not saying anything — that is already my message to you and you didn’t even picked that up. Likewise, when DY said he wants MJ’s father to respect him for him and not because MY ordered him to and MJ just got angry and sulky, i thought dang dude, get away from that toxic person! But i have to admit, no one will love DY as much as MJ and I’m sure he will always have a partner, but i just hope that MJ eventually tones down and grows up – and learn to listen and support her partner.

The couple that i really adored (sometimes even more than the two main couples) were Doctor Song and Nurse Jea. They are so cute together! Doctor song did everything for the nurse, and i can’t believe Nurse Jea only accepted him at the last episode!! he was sweet and funny and a great doctor! She is so lucky to have him.

I also love the friendship between SJ and DY, and also their entire team! More than being team members, they were brothers and they were willing to die for one another. When SJ and DY died, and the whole squad were together and they reported that they coudn’t fidn their bodies, I can feel their pain and grief – liek they lost their family member and they can’t properly honor and bury them. Likewise when they came back and the stoic Commander hugged them both, and the Lieutenant was equally happy to see them. plus the shouting and happiness of their squad to see their two leaders alive. I also cried when KKB saw DY alive and he cried in front of his team. Poor baby. (Can you really get promoted from Private to Sergeant in just one year?)

Plotwise, the majority of the scenes to place in Uruk (around 10 episodes i think) and I was half-bored, half-i dont care with the story. Sure, there were lots of things that happened in Uruk, but the plot was boring — i didn’t like the whole story about Argus, i thought it went on for too long. Also the timelines in the drama were too weird. So many things happened in Uruk – saving the Arab, earthquake, pandemic, catching Argus – i was wonderng how many months have they stayed in Uruk until MY said on episode 10 that they just volunteered for a month!! Seriously!! Plus, each of the storylines were finished in just 2 episodes and proceeded to start with another tragedy – plus all the times people tried to kill MY and SJ, man, these guys must be invincible because no matter what happens, they still won’t die! and they become healthy the next day like nothing happened!

Couple of plot holes and storyline flaws too. One of the major ones that i didn’t like was Chi Hoon and the noisy earthquake survivor, who had no right to get angry at Chi Hoon for leaving him. I’m surprised no one in the doctor’s team, like doctor song or Mo Yeon was observant and sensitive enough to realize what has happening to Chi Hoon. someone should have also told off the survivor (i was hoping Doctor Song will but he never did) that Chi Hoon did the smart thing by leaving before he become another victim that the soldiers will have to deal with. and i’m disappointed at how the story was resolved — Chi Hoon running to the manager to save him (without wearing any protection) and survivor and Mo Yeon telling Chi Hoon, “he is now a real doctor” and Chi Hoon is happy crying and can now go home to his wife? The heck!! he was a real doctor even before the earthquake. Yes, he lived a privileged life, but he has always been a caring and competent doctor and hedoesn’t need affirmation from an annoying stranger.

Another one is the pandemic plot. So the manager suddenly has a contagious M3 virus, and only infected MJ. How easy to resolve the story when there’s not much danger – all the people, even MY (who also got blood on her face) and Chi Hoon (who was bitten) didn’t get infected. The only almost threat was when the vaccines were stolen, but yet again, Si Jin the superhero was able to save the day.

Back to the Argus story, I couldn’t really feel the betrayal and the animosity between Argus and Sijin because we only saw the same flashbacks over and over again, that they were part of the team and they even had their pictures together, and they were on a mission together. That’s it. There’s no personal betrayal or grudge, so i dont undersand why Sijin is angry at him other than being a traitor to the country, which is a big deal of course, but not enough for me to feel invested with their fight.

I loved the story starting from episode 12 when they came back to Seoul. The main plot about the North korean soldier was soo much better than the whole Argus storyline, mostly because it felt personal and I can feel the struggle and respect for each other. I was moved by the actor that I was hoping he didn’t get killed when he goes back to NK. That’s is how you create a story. I wished there was more of this and less of uruk, then I probably would have enjoyed the whole show.

Episode 15 when Sijin and DY died felt unreal, i did cry a lot too just like MY and MJ even though I know they wont die but kudos to the two female leads on their scenes. When they came back to life at the start of episode 16, I was almost laughing, like i felt like this was such fantasy and i give up, I’ll just watch this without any logic. Again, timelines didn’t fit. MY went to Albania for Sijin’s one year death anniversary, yet it took him one year before he showed up. The story said they were immediately locked undergroudn and beaten etc for a couple of months until the NK soldier came out of nowhere to rescue them. so what? it wasn’t a couple of months but the entire year if they just recently escaped. and why do they look healthy when they have been locked up for so long? they should have smelled bad or had rotting teeth or scars to their handsome flawless faces. The other half of episode 16 was pure fun — i wish the jokes were this funny earlier on. i dont think i ever laughed hard in this drama until that scene where the medical team was videocalling MY and they thought they were seeing SJ’s ghost. Bwahahaha. Another funny scene was when the boys were going crazy for Red Velvet. DY’s dance and SJ’s too happy chanting was so much fun to look at, though the 2 girls’ reactions were stupid. Why get angry at your bf for going crazy over a girl group? it was just fun and they didn’t need to be jealous.

The last scene where they went to Canada for Daniel and Yehwa’s wedding was totally unexpected and unnecessary (we didn’t even get to see the couple actually get married) and Chi hoon suddenly talkign to the audience was too weird. What is this show that I’m watching?? Plus a volcano in Vancouver? haha. I think they are just making fun of themselves now that we’re at the end of the show, but it’s still a wonderful message – that life goes on and there are brave doctors and soldiers out there who risk their lives everyday so that others are healed and saved. Especially at this time of the COVID 19 crisis, I appreciat very much all the hard work and bravery of the frontliners.

Overall, I wasn’t really wow’d by this drama like others seem to be (my friend loved this so much) but I’m glad I took the time to finish this show. SJK and SHK are probably the most beautiful couple that I have ever seen and the scenes were so gorgeous. Too bad, they weren’t able to make it work off camera. I keep thinking maybe this was the story of Mo Yeon and Sijin, in the end, maybe they really couldn’t get past their issues and had to separate. or maybe it’s the other way around, I’ll just remember the SongSong couple as Mo Yeon and Sijin, together for better or worse.

Lastly – i wonder why the name of the drama is called Descended from the Sun? Does anyone know the meaning or symbolism of this?

Rating: 8/10

Battleship Island (2017) movie review

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Movie: The Battleship Island (Goonhamdo / 군함도)
Director: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Release Date: July 26, 2017
Runtime: 132 min.
Genre: Period-1940 / Action / Island
Distributor: CJ Entertainment
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

Plot
During the Japanese colonial era, roughly 400 Korean people, who were forced onto Battleship Island to mine for coal, attempt to escape.

Lee Kang-Ok (Hwang Jung-Min) is a bandmaster at Kyungsung Hotel. He decides to go to Japan to protect his daughter, but he is drafted into Battleship Island by force, being deceived by talk to send him to Japan. On Battleship Island, he does anything to protect his daughter.

Choi Chil-Sung (So Ji-Sub) is the top fighter in Kyungsung (old name of “Seoul”). He makes troubles on Battleship Island, but he has a warm heart.

Park Moo-Young (Song Joong-Ki) belongs to the Korean Independence group. He sneaks onto Battleship Island to rescue a member of the independence group.

Movie Review: (by maandoe)

If you don’t think too much about historical accuracy or analyze the whole movie, this is an interesting movie to watch. The movie was visually stunning and seemed to look too real and authentic, like you were transported back to that time and place. The images were at times shocking and brutal, showing the harsh conditions and treatment that the Koreans in the island faced during the war against the cold and calculating Japanese. There were a lot of gruesome deaths and a lot of tears – showing the sickening and heartwrenching impact of war to everyone – from the men, women and child(ren). Some of the scenes were hard to watch but my eyes stayed glued to the screen and never got bored. The entire cast was good – not just the key characters – but even the side characters and the rest of the actors/actresses showed passion in their acting (most likely because the theme/topic felt too close to home).

So now I’m home and in front of the computer (and away from the beautiful face and tormenting eyes of So Ji Sub – lol!), how did i really find the movie? I think for the most part it was great – it had all the possible themes for a war movie – action (fighting and deaths), drama (tears, love), nationalism, a little bit romance, betrayal, good vs evil, we will survive and escape together, but there were times it was uneven. I will try not to post too much spoilers but I felt like there was a giant shift in the storyline on the third act. Before coming into the movie my expectation was that the movie was about Koreans trying to escape the island but halfway through the movie there were no plans of escaping at all. Instead I watch as Park Moo Yung (who came out of nowhere) secretly plot and plan to help Yoon escape – apologies but I’m not familiar with Korean histroy during this time – so I thought maybe they will let him escape and Yoon will change the “war” and help liberate the Koreans from the Japanese. His plan failed ( i actually like the huge twist in the story) ) as well as the rest of the story moving forward. I thought it was a pretty strong plot but when it didn’t happen, the writers, didn’t know what to do or how to move the plot along suddenly, we see Park Moo Yung change his mind (maybe because he briefly interacted with Sohee?) and started helping them get out of the island when he heard that everyone will be killed. and so the exodus (and the main act) started. I thought that was a huge shift of story that didn’t really make that much sense but it had to happen. Also, the mood/tone of the movie was uneven – at times they were happy and playing light jazz music and father/daughter bonding, at times it was brutal with all the guns, broken bones, blood, fighting. I guess the movie tried to put some lighter tone at some parts of the movie so that it doesn’t feel too heavy for the audience – most of the time it works but other times it was hard to think that they could still be happy when they were in that situation already – or maybe that’s the human spirit showing – how resilient people are.

As for the characters, there were a lot of them and I felt it was too bad that they could not give all the characters justice and chance to shine. I think definitely Hwang Jung Min was the main character and actor in this movie (even though it was mostly Song Joongki who got the most media exposure – i think they were trying to woo International audience). He had great chemistry with Kim Suan (who plays Sohee). I loved all their scenes together and I could really feel the love and partnership they have. I think their characters were more developed than the rest because we know where they worked before, how they got to the camp and why they had to get out of there (because of the kid!). Suan is a great young actress, who can cry on cue and make these cute faces that you really want her to live. But i find that her character was a little too much like her character in Train to Busan – almost the same storyline, she is running away with her father and trying not to get killed by the zombies/Japanese – same heartbreaking crying face (which i think the director was exploiting too much – especially at the last scene) to elicit sympathy from the audience. I’m a fan of Song Joongki but i thought his character (Park Moo Yung) was flat – we see him getting orders from when he was somewhere in the desert to get Yoon out but we dont know how he got into the island. He just magically appeared in one scene and stayed there for the rest of the movie. We don’t know his background (except for saying he trained with the US, etc), why he needed to be there (it seemed like he was just taking orders but didn’t really care about the rest of the people in the island). That’s why it was hard for me to root for him – i felt like he was just put in the movie as eye candy, huge draw in the box office, and to have a “hero” who helps the bumbling musician and kid and the rest of the people get out of the island. Certainly we dont expect Kang-ok to lead the team since as the movie has shown, he wasn’t a fighter – he was a musician who used his brains and connections to get ahead. He did have a heart though, which i didn’t see much from Moo Yung until the very end. Lee Jung Hyun was also underused – she was the only female lead actress but she wasn’t utilized that effectively. Yes, she did fight the Japanese men but I wish she was the force that can unite the ladies in the island – i was expecting her to become the lead captain of the comfort women who will retaliate against the Japanese and rally all the girls to fight or carry stuff, etc but most of the time her scene was with So Ji sub’s character. Which is another plot that was under developed. The chemistry and sexual tension between the two was so strong but movie didn’t capitalize much on it until the end, when they were side by side trying to keep each other alive.

And to the last character – Choi Chilsung – I thought he was a very interesting character and was actually the real hero in this movie. As soon as he came into the island, he was very tough and strong – he answered to no one. One of my favorites scenes were actually all with him – the first one was the bathroom fight with the team captain. Early on you will see why he’s the hero – on the outside you would think he is just a gangster who wants the power to lead the Koreans there, but actually i thought he would rather take the lead than to see another a**hole Korean treating them badly. At least he can keep everyone in line and protect them in case the Japanese tried to do something to them. In the second half of the movie, So Ji Sub almost became secondary to Moo Yung and Gang ok because of the plot – which i found weird because looking at the dynamics of the team, he led the team, he had the trust the loyalty of the men, but MY and GO didn’t even think of soliciting his help to accomplish their goal. When the Japanese killed a schoolgirl to setup Chilsung – he stepped up so that the other Koreans will not get harmed – i though that was another leadership quality he possessed. He took care of his men by sacrificing himself even if he did nothing wrong. and we see that it took fruit became when the whole-we-have-to-get-out-of-here plan was hatched, his men took the time to get him out of the locked room – if it were any poor leader, the men would have left him there to die. Another leadership quality and why i think he is the real hero? while MY and GO planned to leave the island with the others, he decided to stay – not because he didn’t want to leave, but because someone had to stay to fight the Japanese so they can freely escape. That’s why i feel like his character wasn’t developed too well – From the trailers and the write ups, his character was supposed to be a gangster and was meant to be the brawny but dumb guy and we dont know anything else about him. Was he famous in Seoul? was he the main gangster in Seoul? was he rich? why did he end up in the camp? if he was powerful in Seoul, he surely could have bought the Japanese and not get stuck there so why is he there? And is there really a gangster that has a heart of gold? He protected the Koreans in the island, he protected Mallyeon from getting too much raped. He stopped the fight during lunch and the bathroom. I thought his character and Mallyeon’s character should have had a bigger screentime because they were fighting for something – they were fighting for their country and they were tired of the abuses they faced. So i’m a little disappointed. the last scene where both of them were fighting til the very end. plus the cinematic no audio scene was awesome. CS was not able to keep his promises but at least he made good with one (you’ll know it when you watch the movie).

So overall, i liked the movie even though i thought the story could have been better. Will i watch it again? I probably would. I wish they can actually do a prequel of So Ji Sub’s character’s life before the movie.