Hana Yori Dango Final [Movie]: Doesn’t need to exist…

We’ve reached the final stage of the Japanese Hana Yori Dango drama series with the movie Hana Yori Dango Final (2008). As this follows up after Hana Yori Dango and Hana Yori Dango Returns, there will be spoilers for the two series.

movie

What’s it about?

Makino Tsukushi (Mao Inoue) and Domyoji Tsukasa (Jun Matsumoto) are finally engaged, having overcome all of their previous difficulties and having earned the reluctant acceptance of Tsukasa’s mother Kaede (Mariko Kaga). In a show of good faith, Kaede presents the couple with a family heirloom in the form of a tiara. However, their hotel room is broken into, and the tiara stolen. Tsukushi and Tsukasa decide that they must get it back quickly and quietly, and fortunately their friends, the other members of the F4, are there to help them. However, their travel to Nevada, USA, is only the beginning of a long journey.

The Positives

One thing that I really liked about this movie is that we finally get to see Tsukushi and Tsukasa as a couple. They’re actually pretty cute together, with their bickering back and forth. I also love Tsukushi’s reaction to Tsukasa’s constant stupidity… especially his mix-ups with idioms!

cute

I also like that we have Tsukushi being overwhelmed by Tsukasa’s life in this movie. It wasn’t a main feature throughout the series, but it’s obvious that she should be so shocked by a world in which money is only money. I also like that she doubts herself in this new strange world; it makes her a much better character!

The Negatives

As a whole, the movie was really haphazard. It jumps around from scene to scene really quickly, with some major mood changes. At times I was often wondering what the actual point of the movie was, despite having a clear plot… this was how jumpy it was! I also didn’t really like the plot of the movie itself; the reason for everything happening in the first place was… well… rather stupid. It would have been okay if the movie was sort of played for fun, but everything was treated super-seriously, and it just came off as silly. Finally, as with the drama series, we still have the inconsistent characterisation of Tsukasa. So much for character growth.

Anything else I should consider?

As I mentioned in my review of the second series, you don’t really need to watch this movie to feel like you’ve completed the story-line. And well… I don’t think you really should!

I should also mention that there is another movie associated with this series, although it is about Tsukushi’s family visiting New York at the same time she went at the beginning of the second season. I did not watch it.

Conclusion

Story: 5/10. Although parts were enjoyable, as a whole, the movie felt rather pointless and messy.

Characters: 6/10. Tsukushi shows further character development while Tsukasa remains the same… inconsistent.

As you can probably tell by now, I didn’t really like this movie. On the surface it is pretty enjoyable, with some cute Tsukushi-Tsukasa moments and a fun atmosphere, but when you start to really think about the plot and start to see how jumpy the movie is, you start to wonder if this movie was really necessary. Overall I give it a 5/10, and a recommendation to check out only if you’re a hard-core Hana Yori Dango fan.

-S

end

Goodbye, Hana Yori Dango!

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A Pick-Me-Up For Any Occasion

Hi all! Today I thought I might write about a TV series that I think everyone should know about. I only started watching it in 2014, but it quickly became one of my favourites. What I love about this series is that no matter what mood I have going into an episode, I always come out feeling happy, excited, and refreshed; it’s a perfect pick-me-up for any occasion! I really think this show can be enjoyed by anyone because of the humour and fun that happens on screen. What show am I talking about? Why, it’s the Korean variety show Running Man!

runing-man

What Can I Expect?

A lot of laughs, for a start! Running Man is basically a show in which Korean celebrities play games, or complete missions, against each other, usually in two teams. The games and missions change from episode to episode and includes any type of game you can think of; quiz games, karaoke, obstacle courses, food-related games, and so on! In some episodes the games are connected to each other, but in others they’re completely separate. A mission that slowly becomes a regular staple of the show is the “race mission” in which one team must complete some sort of mission within a time limit whilst the other team tries to catch them and rip off their name tags (on their backs) to get them out. Whatever the format; losers face some form of “punishment”; having to ride public transport in ridiculous outfits, being dropped off on the side of the road in old lady underwear, and so on. What makes Running Man unique is that each episode is filmed at a different, well-known location. The first episode is in a large shopping mall (filming takes place after hours), but other episodes follow the celebrities chasing each other on public trains, at a large science museum, at a ski resort, and even on board a ship, just to name a few. Often, games will relate to the location of filming. There is one thing that remains consistent throughout the episodes, however, and that is the regular Running Man cast. Originally having eight members, but later dropping to seven, and then again to six, these celebrities appear in the episode each week, while the guest celebrities change each episode, and include idols, actors, and comedians. Let’s meet the regulars, shall we?

THE VETERANS

These three men are variety veterans; appearing on multiple shows over a period of many, many years. Not only that, these three have worked together on multiple occasions, often appearing in the same show, and have a lot of history and chemistry with each other!

Yoo Jae Suk

Yoo Jae Suk

Also known as “Grasshopper” and the “Nation’s MC”, Jae Suk is the host of Running Man, and so well-known in Korea that he’s considered a household name. He’s funny, he keeps the show moving well, and he makes sure all the guests feel welcome and comfortable. Jae Suk is more than willing to make a fool of himself, but he does take the missions and winning seriously. Chances are you might have already seen Jae Suk and not even know it; you know that guy in the yellow suit who does a weird dance in Psy’s Gangnam Style? That’s him.

Kim Jung Kook

Kim Jong Kook

Consistently referred to as “Sparta Kook” and the “Commander” due to his athleticism, strength, and formidable character, Jong Kook is a serious competitor, often the opposing captain of a team to Jae Suk. Despite his tough-guy act, he still produces a lot of laughs from the audience when he lets his façade slip on camera, and he shows off his softer, cute side.

Ji Suk Jin

Ji Suk Jin

Suk Jin has been friends with Jae Suk for over twenty years, and their sometimes-bromantic-sometimes-prickly friendship on screen is hilarious to watch. Like Jae Suk, Suk Jin happily accepts his consistent feature in the losing-team, and is particularly happy to watch the younger celebrities run all over him, especially if they’re pretty females.

THE TWO KIDS

The next two celebrities are often referred to as “the two kids” and are seen constantly by Sparta Kook’s side. Trouble-makers and jokers, Jong Kook seems to be the only one to keep them under control.

Haha

Haha

Obviously a stage name, Haha actually started his entertainment career as a singer and rapper, but when that fell through, he became a MC and host. Haha is often (jokingly) picked on by the other members for a variety of reasons, such as his weakness in the race missions, short stature, or simply to provoke him to lash out verbally at the others. He is the primary joker in the show.

Gary

Gary

Introduced initially as one of the “variety rookies” due to his inexperience in variety shows, Gary, like Haha, also started his entertainment career as a rapper, and continues to work as a solo rapper, as well as part of two different duos. He is one of the more gullible and honest members of the show, but is also known for having a “dark horse” quality in the games. Gary is the most recent permanent member to leaving Running Man, focusing on his rapping career in 2016.

THE YOUNGSTERS

The final three celebrities are the youngest in the shows. Although one has had previous experience in variety shows, the other two are rookies. It’s fun to watch them grow in confidence and come out of their shell more and more as the episodes go on.

Ji Hyo

Song Ji Hyo

The only regular female celebrity on the show, Ji Hyo is an actress and former model. She is initially introduced as a guest, but soon becomes a regular part of the show. Ji Hyo is very competitive, and is willing to use both her womanly charms as well as her cunning (and betrayal tactics) to ensure her own survival in the games. She is often referred to as “blank” due to her spacey expressions, or “Ace” due to her skill in the race missions.

Song Joong Ki

Song Joong Ki

Bearing no relation to Ji Hyo, Joong Ki was actually my sole reason for watching Running Man to begin with. He’s one of my favourite actors, and I fell in love with him after watching Sungkyunkwan Scandal. He’s a bright, fun actor, often referred to as the “brain” and the “flower boy” (a Korean term for beautiful men) of the series. However, he tends to fail miserably in all the games, but at least has a good time giving everything his best shot. Unfortunately, Joong Ki leaves the show after episode 41 to focus on his acting career and to complete his compulsory military service, but returns a few times as a guest!

Lee Kwang So

Lee Kwang Soo

Our final regular member of the Running Man team is the funny Kwang Soo. He is easily the most recognisable, towering above the other members at his grand height of 1.93m (6 ft 4). Like the other two youngsters, Kwang Soo is also an actor, thriving in funny side-character roles. He is known for his over-exaggerated facial expressions, timidness, and general incompetence (although, he often fairs better than Joong Ki!).

Tell Me More!

If this sounds like a lot of fun for you, then I advise you check it out! Although you can easily pick up the show from any of the episodes (currently over two hundred), it’s fun to watch right from the first episode; although it takes a bit for the format to finalise, you get lots of different things going on in each episode, and see the development of different jokes and nicknames. Alternatively, find a list of the funniest episodes and start there. Finally, be prepared to read subtitles very quickly; even if you’re a seasoned subbed-anime watcher, you’ll probably need to pause and go back a couple of times, because there’s always a lot happening on screen. If you check it out, let me know what you think! Happy watching!

-S

Hana Yori Dango [Drama]: A fun and enjoyable adaptation

Well, I’ve finally come around to checking another adaptation linked to the Japanese manga “Hana Yori Dango.” I’ve previously checked out the Korean and Taiwanese dramas, but this time I turned my attention to the Japanese school drama Hana Yori Dango (2005). This 9-episode drama is only the first season of the Japanese adaptation, with a second season and two movies.

hanayoridango

What’s it about?

Makino Tsukushi (Mao Inoue), born to a poor family, attends the prestigious Eitoku school. She’s doing her best to keep her head down and not be noticed as the school is ruled by the infamous F4, the four sons of the richest and most influential families in Japan. However, when her only friend at the school, Sanjyo Sakurako (Megumi Sato), accidentally crosses F4’s leader, Domyoji Tsukasa (Jun Matsumoto), Tsukushi she stands up to them, making herself a target for the whole school to bully. When things start to go too far, Hanazawa Rui (Shun Oguri), the only kind member of F4 steps in. Naturally, Tsukushi starts to like Rui, but is it possible her stubbornness and determination has stirred something in Tsukasa?

The Positives

I found the characters in Hana Yori Dango to be pretty likeable. Having most recently finished the Taiwanese version with the lead Shanchai, I was worried that Tsukushi would be more of a push-over, but she proves to be both intelligent and plucky. She doesn’t back-down from what she believes in, and it’s very easy to cheer for her throughout the series. Tsukusa is cute and also sweetly stupid, which is emphasised throughout the series, although I did have issues with his characterisation (see below). I also really like Rui’s odd but adorable character. I also really like there is a decent amount of attention to Nishikado Sojiro (Shota Matsuda) and Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe), the other two members of F4. I also loved the unique character of Okami-san (Takako Kato), Tsukushi’s boss- she improved every scene she was in, and never failed to make me laugh! Helping the characters along is the fact that the cast all had a very good handle of their roles, especially the relatively younger main cast.

hit-him

Go Tsukushi! Show ’em who’s boss!

The second thing I really liked about Hana Yori Dango is that it’s very easy to watch. The pace moves quite quickly, so you’re getting through a lot of content in a decent amount of time. However, the quick pace doesn’t neglect the logic or meaning of the plot, and the story that plays out is easy to follow and by no means boring. I like that there’s quite a few unique events to this adaptation, so you’re not trying to predict the order of events as you watch. I was left wondering where they’d take the story at the end of the series, leaving the opening for the second season perfectly.

The Negatives

Although not always the case, as I’ll remind you that while bullying her, Tsukushi’s classmates put fucking SNAKES IN HER LOCKER, Hana Yori Dango is a much lighter adaptation. There’s no shots of Tsukasa being violent and/or forcing himself on her like there are in the other adaptations, and certain characters seem to be forgiven pretty quickly. In a similar vein, Tsukasa’s mother Kaede (Mariko Kaga) is a touch inconsistent with her attitude towards Tsukushi and Tsukasa, especially in the last episode, which makes the earlier troubles seem pointless.

bitch

Evil… or not really?

Speaking of, Tsukasa’s characterisation seems to be the weakest point of this series. He goes from being right up there as a sadistic psycho to an awkward, cute boy in love very, very quickly. His characterisation quickly jumps between these two extremes throughout the drama. I get that it’s Tsukushi that calms him down and helps him grow as a person, but he shouldn’t be reverting to his old self the second she’s off-screen!

Anything else I should consider?

From what I can tell from the first season, Hana Yori Dango presents the same plot I’ve seen already with slightly different characters. It’s a lot lighter and cuter than the Korean and Taiwanese adaptations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lacking the details of Meteor Garden, but with an easier plot than Boys Over Flowers, it’s so far very watchable and fun. I’m interested to see how it unfolds over the next season.

Conclusion

Story: 7/10. This series is fun and easy to watch, with a quick pace that doesn’t neglect plot points.

Characters: 7.5/10. The characters are all pretty adorable, each with their individual quirks. The young cast does a great job.

Hana Yori Dango is an easy, fun watch with a great cast and some good characters that you quickly like and become interested in. The story unfolds well and sets the scene for the second season. Overall, I give the series a solid 7.5/10.

-S

f4

Cute!

Coffee Prince [Drama]: Your new favourite drama

This review got put on the back-burner while I focused on an assignment that was due. Sorry about that!

I had previously heard many, many things about this classic 2007 drama. I’ve watched a couple of gender-bent dramas and anime before, and I actually like this common trope… when it’s done correctly. Luckily for me, Coffee Prince (aka The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) is perfect in just about every way!

coffee-prince

What’s it about?

Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) works several jobs to provide the main income for her family. After a mishap on one of her deliveries, she meets Han Kyul (Gong Yoo), the good-for-nothing son of a rich family, who, like many others before him, mistakes her for a boy. Seeing that Eun Chan is desperate for money, and wanting a way out of dates arranged by his grandmother and mother, Han Kyul hires the girl to act as his gay lover. However Han Kyul’s family quickly tries a different angle, putting him in charge of a run-down cafe with the order to triple the investment money in three months. Han Kyul hires Eun Chan as the first “prince” working in the cafe, but what will happen as the two spend more and more time together?

The Positives

Let’s get started with our main couple and the love story. I absolutely adored Eun Chan as our main girl. She’s strong, determined, funny, and fiercely independent. I also liked how she’s a little unpredictable, as she’s ready to just do what feels right in the moment. Han Kyul is adorable as well, and I particularly liked his childish, almost innocent character. AND THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER! I also liked how the whole “Han Kyul discovering Eun Chan is a girl” part was handled. I think it’s a lot fairer to Han Kyul’s character and a lot more realistic that what I’ve seen in other similar plot lines. I also like that this isn’t the climax of the two’s relationship, and that overcoming this obstacle doesn’t mean that there’s going to be smooth sailing on the other side… again, much more realistic. Yoon Eun Hye and Gong Yoo, the two actors, were perfectly cast. They really handled the various stages of the emotional roller coaster of a relationship perfectly. I also liked that we got to compare Eun Chan and Han Kyul to the older, more experienced couple of Han Sung (Lee Sun Kyun) and Yoo Ju (Chae Jung An), who get tangled up in everything as well. A fantastic touch.

socute

Gah, the cute >.<

However, with the setting in the cafe, our drama isn’t all about love. We have a few other “princes” that interact with our two leads. There’s not too much to say about Manager Hong (Kim Chang Wan) except that I liked his fatherly-mentoring relationship with Eun Chan, and the way he always knew what was going on with everyone else’s emotions. Min Yeop (Lee Eon) just reminds me of a adorable, bouncing, but super-sensitive puppy. I loved everything about his character. Ha Rim (Kim Dong Wook) is funny and quirky in his own way. I know there’s one section of the drama where he does get on the audiences’ nerve, but I don’t blame him for his actions that led him there. Sun Ki (Kim Jae Wook) provides the much-needed brains of the group, as well as fitting the bill as the mysterious, “cool” character. However, I really liked that he’s still as much of a dork as the rest of the princes, and has no problem loosening up around them. What really makes these characters great is how naturally they fit in and work with each other. Throughout the series, the cafe has a really fun and interesting dynamic, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.

princes

I would be a regular at the cafe just for the above three reasons! (L-R: Min Yeop, Ha Rim, Sun Ki)

Finally, I really loved that the series presented two functional, loving families. Anyone who’s seen a K-Drama know that this isn’t always the case, especially in any drama with a class divide between the main couple. However, Coffee Prince pulls this off these loving families convincingly. Scenes such as Eun Chan snuggling up with her Mum when she’s worried and Han Kyul teasing his mother and grandmother really sold me on this drama. No toxic environments and no hate allows the drama to be character driven and focused, which makes it so easy to watch!

The Negatives

To be honest, I didn’t have too much to criticise the drama for. Given how great their chemistry was, I would have loved more scenes featuring the cafe princes. They just all bounced off each other really well and were very entertaining to watch. I also would have liked more of Min Yeop’s, Ha Rim’s, and Sun Ki’s backstory. Ha Rim in particular seemed he had a lot going on in his life, and I feel that Sun Ki’s story had more potential. However, I’m still satisfied with what the drama gave, I’m just greedy 😛

Anything else I should consider?

This drama has (rather oddly) 17 episodes in total. However there is an 18th episode, which is a bonus episode containing behind the scenes cuts, interviews with actors and production staff, and the writer’s perspective on the story. It’s quite interesting to check out if you loved the series.

Conclusion

Story: 8/10. The story is largely character-driven, which works well in this plot. Plenty of funny, cute, and emotional moments. You’ll care about the characters the whole way through, so find a comfortable position, ’cause you’ll be glued to your screen for a few hours!

Characters: 9/10. Our main leads are amazing, but they’re not the only characters in this series that are wholesome and interesting and -gasp- act like real people.

It only took a few minutes into the first episode to fall head-over-heels in love with this drama. The emotion throughout the series in genuine, the characters are amazing, and everything was handled perfectly. Whether you’re a drama newbie or veteran, if you’re yet to check out Coffee Prince, I recommend you drop everything and watch it at once. Overall, I give this drama a 9/10.

-S

bcouple

Obligatory second-couple photo. As lovable as the main 🙂

Detective Chinatown [Movie]: Simple, crazy fun

Being stuck on planes for what feels like endless hours is an unfortunate necessity of travel, but often a great opportunity to catch up on movies you’ve either wanted to watch, or would never know about otherwise. The latter applies to the Chinese movie Detective Chinatown (2015), a fast-paced comedy-crime movie that entertained me for a couple of hours!

title

What’s it about?

After his mother notices his bad mood following a rejection from the police academy, Qin Feng (Liu Hao Ran) is sent to Bangkok to visit his distant relative Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang), the s0-called “Greatest Detective of Chinatown”. However, it doesn’t take Qin long to realise that his cousin has been exaggerating his reputation back home, and only Tang’s promise to take him sight-seeing makes him stay. Just when the two are ready to set out, Tang gets a mysterious call; a man associated with a gold robbery has been murdered, and he is the prime suspect! On the run from the police, Qin persuades Tang that they must solve the case in order to clear his name… but this will be difficult with two gangs and two competing detectives after them!

The Positives

First up, this movie is very funny and entertaining. But also stupid. Stupid-funny. You all know what I mean, right? It’s the kind of humour where you don’t have to think about any of the jokes. You can just sit back and laugh at the obvious cues. The movie made use of music quite a lot to set the light mood for the funny scenes, which was very successful. The build up of some scenes to reach a climatic ‘funny’ point were just handled very well; I laughed so much throughout this!

run

Run boys, run.

Secondly, I really liked Qin as one of the main characters. He has a very dry and stoic nature which really makes him stand out with all of the crazy shenanigans happening around him. Obviously very intelligent and down-to-earth, he’s get a bit of a dark streak, which makes his character quite interesting. Initially I didn’t really like Tang and wasn’t expecting too much from his character. However, he grew on me throughout the movie as he proved to be a very resilient character. He’s also a fast thinker on his feet, and has the street-smarts to complete Qin’s logical intelligence. The pair can get through a lot together!

duo

Tang and Qin… the epitome of teamwork??

Finally, for a movie that is first and foremost a comedy, the detective story within is actually pretty decent. The case the pair had to solve was not simple nor straightforward, and there were a lot of interesting twists and turns. I really liked how Qin and Tang acted out scenarios to solve the case, and how it all came together in the end. It definitely kept me interested the whole movie.

The Negatives

As I mentioned earlier, this movie uses a lot of ‘stupid-funny’ humour, which I know is not going to suit everyone. Once or twice it veered a little too far into stupid for me, but I still found it bearable. Some scenes were definitely funnier than others, but if you’re more the type for witty or intelligent humour, chances are you won’t enjoy this movie. At the same time, and quite common with Chinese comedies, a lot of acting is exaggerated or over-the-top. This will get on your nerves if you’re not used to it, but if you approach the movie expecting it, you’ll get through fine.

Anything else I should consider?

This movie contains a lot of adult themes. In fact, it was altered by the airline I was flying with, and so when I re-watched it with a friend I was surprised to find extra bits and pieces in scenes that hadn’t been there previously. Although there’s nothing I would consider too risque, there’s at least one scene that’s not suited for anyone under the age of sixteen.

Conclusion

Story: 7.5/10. A decent detective story and a lot of laughs!

Characters: 7/10. Qin and Tang work surprisingly well together as the two main leads, keeping the audience on-track in the fast pacing of the plot.

Detective Chinatown is a funny, easy watch than you can use to lift your mood or take up some time. As long as you don’t mind enjoying something a little on the silly side, you’ll find it very enjoyable. Overall, I give it a 7/10.

-S

qin-feng

Oh Qin, how I love you!

Monster Hunt [Movie]: Funny, cute, and easy to watch

I watched this movie a while ago, on a flight between Sapporo and Bangkok. I needed something light and funny to fill the seven hours, and Monster Hunt (2015) was my first choice!

monster-hunt

What’s it about?

After a civil war in the Monster Realm, the pregnant Queens flees to the human world, pursued by supporters of the new regime. Although she runs the risk of being found out by human monster hunters, she is protected by the husband-wife duo Gao (Eric Tsang) and Ying (Sandra Ng). Young village mayor Song Tianyin (Jing Boran) lives oblivious to the turmoils of the Monster Realm when he encounters the small group, disguised as humans. He welcomes them to his small inn, but when hunter Huo Xiaolan (Bai Baihe) enters, chaos ensues as she tries to capture the group. Tianyin and the Queen have a brief encounter in which she ‘marks’ him, later to return to give him her unborn baby. Xiaolan stays with the now-pregnant Tianyin, and convinces him to travel with her to sell the baby, which she suspects will go for a high price. But now with both monsters and humans after the two and the baby they carry, will they simply be able to sell it and move on with their lives?

The Positives

What I really liked about this movie is that it’s just such a light and easy watch. The plot is straightforward, slightly predictable, but entertaining nonetheless. With a healthy mix of adventure, fighting, and romance, it was very well rounded, keeping me interested the whole time. I also found it really funny. Although the majority of the comedy is of one type (see below), there are also quite a few witty lines and more subtle humour flying around. It’s the kind of movie where you can just sit back enjoy, since it’s aimed at kids, there’s not too much to think about, but it still keeps you entertained!

Another thing I really liked about this series is that the characters have a really nice dynamic on screen. Tianyin, the ‘ordinary character’ of the movie, was really likeable. I liked that he either just rolled with what was happening around him or was completely oblivious. He continuously tries his best, despite all his failings, which is always a good quality for the hero to have. I think that it’s really interesting the writers decided to give him a physical disability, but then not focus nor expand on it, and have him as the hero despite it. It’s something you don’t see often in Western movies, and it adds a nice touch. The female main, Xiaolan, was also a character I really appreciated. She’s sly and cunning, a lot more clued in than Tianyin, but proves that she’s not as cold-blooded as she’d like you to believe. Separately both characters are good, and together they are fantastic. I really liked that they were the focus of the movie; their chemistry and interactions were one of the highlights for me. As for the other characters, they were all fairly likeable (at least all the “good guys”, the “bad guys” were what you’d expect for a kids’ movie), making enough of a presence in scenes to be memorable and distinct.

otp-material

Feeling the pains of (forced) pregnancy, Tianyin? Don’t worry, Xiaolan’s got you covered!

Finally, the mix of CGI animation and live-action works pretty well together. Sure, the CGI isn’t the top-notch Hollywood quality you’re probably used to seeing, but it was better than my expectations, and I think it worked really well. Throughout the movie, the interaction between the CGI and live-action is handled very well and is very convincing, really shining in the fight scenes. Plus the baby Monster King is so cute! The sound effects, personality, and animation made me want a little Monster King of my own!

wuba

Have you ever seen a radish this cute?!

The Negatives

This movie won’t be for everyone, and a lot of that has to to do with the style of comedy. It tends to be on the more physical comedy side (although not as much slapstick as you’d expect), and tends to be a little on the odd side. There are also a lot of elements that are over-exaggerated or over-played for comedic effect. However, this is fairly typical for family movies (in which kids are expected to be part of the audience), and is especially the case for Chinese comedies. Having said that, though, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

On another note, one thing that I was disappointed by in this movie was the fact that not all plot points are explained or make sense. I’m not sure if there was something lost in translation, or the writers just assume that the audience will either forget about it, or later figure it out. A throw-away sentence here or there would have easily solved this problem.

Conclusion

Story: 7/10. Not breaking any story-telling boundaries, but enjoyable and enough to keep you invested in the movie. Lots of fun and laughs to be had along the way.

Characters: 7.5/10. A really good male and female lead, who had a really good dynamic.

I wouldn’t consider this movie a “must watch”, but if it sounds like your kind of thing, or you’re looking for something simple and easy to entertain you for a couple of hours, you should definitely consider watching this movie. It’s funny, the characters are interesting and likeable, and it’s just a lot of fun. Overall, I give it a 7/10.

-S

family

The most adorable family of 2015!

Dream High 2 [Drama]: Lacking a lot…

After watching the first Dream High, I was a little cautious to watch the second series Dream High 2 (2012), since I didn’t think there was too much to expect from it. I was however sucked into it, thanks to a couple of idols that I really liked who were starring in it. Was it worth the watch?

Dream High2

What’s it about?

After a law is passed enforcing restrictions on underage idols, Oz Entertainment CEO Lee Kang Chul (Kim Jung Tae) takes over the long-neglected and drown-trodden Kirin Art School. His idols are transferred to the school, including girl group HershE and boy duo Eden. The schools’ students are at first starstruck, but it doesn’t take long for them to realise that they’re getting kicked out for the sake of the idols. In particular, Jin Yoo Jin (Jinwoon) the school’s rocker, doesn’t want anything to do with idols, and Shin Hae Sung (Kang So Ra), who dreams of being a singer, hates being looked down on. When the two set up rivalries with idols JB (JB) and Rian (Jiyeon), it seems their future at the school, and the chances of following their dreams, depends the outcomes of the schools’ assessments.

The Positives

Right from the start, I was really happy to see that Dream High 2 is not a follow up to Dream High; there’s no attempt to tie the two together apart from the setting of the series and a couple of other minor things. I think that the character development and ending to the first Dream High was handled well enough to be left alone, so I’m really glad that the writers from Dream High 2 kept it separate. I also like that the character struggles are different to the first season. Dream High had characters struggling to succeed, not because they lacked talent, but because there was something else about them holding them back. Dream High 2’s characters are either outright told they don’t have talent, or are already in a position of stardom, and are struggling with everything that comes along with it. It’s an interesting take on the same subject matter.

idols

Yes, idols have their problems too.

As much as I loved the first Dream High, you can’t deny that it’s quite far on the corny side. I think that Dream High 2 is more realistic in terms of characters and situations. There is a bigger range of different types of characters in the second season, from the quirky, weird high-school students, right through to the bratty and the losers of the school. If you’ve been to high-school you’ll know the different cliques of kids I’m talking about. The bigger mix of characters and the interactions of the main characters with the others helped cement the school setting. I also think the second series was better at pulling off more realistic situations for the characters to be in, and the characters reacted like high-school students. Even the problems the idol students faced (particularly Eden member Si Woo (Park Seo Joon)) felt very realistic.

The Negatives

The main problem I have with this series is that a lot of the time it’s either really flat or really choppy. There is hardly any character development in this series; with the exception of maybe one or two characters, all the characters are essentially the same at the end of series… apart from where there is inconsistent characterisation. I feel like JB and Yoo Jin are the two characters who suffer the most from random out-of-character behaviour, and I think this is done to make the romance in the series work. I’m not sure the writers knew what they wanted with the romance, and to make it fit the way they eventually wanted it, they were required to make random adjustments to characters. By the end, the couples felt very forced, and I honestly still feel they are around the wrong way. The final problem related to the writing of this series is the sudden and just plain bad ending. On a whole, a lot of this series is very disappointing.

jbyujin

I’m so surprised that in the battle for love, Yoo Jin never once picks on JB for bedazzling the hell out of his school uniform.

Another, relatively minor point, this series does not have the best acting I’ve seen in it. It might be because Dream High 2 uses younger idols, but I feel that the acting ability is very, very average.

Conclusion

Story: 5.5/10. All the right elements are there, but story falls flat far too many times.

Characters: 5/10. On one hand, I like the greater mix and different perspectives of the characters, but the severe lack of development and choppy characterisation is horribly noticeable.

I don’t know what it is about Dream High 2, but it just lacks that something that made the first season so enjoyable. It had the right elements from the start to be a great second season, but inconsistent characterisation and flat development just led it down the drain. If you’re a fan of any of the idols starring in it, you could probably get through with a lot of grimacing, but if you’re looking for something more, don’t waste your time. Overall I give it a 5.5/10.

-S

otp

Ui Bong (Jr.) and Lee Seul (Jung Yeon Joo), one of the few saving graces of this series for me (also OTP material for the win).