Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Hwarang" Episode 3 recap

Youth places limits on characters and defines many quarrels in "Hwarang". Youthfulness equates to weakness in Silla as the adults control the political landscape and pass their rivalries down to their children who can do little but act out.

Each of the flower boys and Aro feel the helplessness of their age. Moo-myeong (who now goes by Seon-woo) is alone in the world after losing his only friend and because of his status and age he can do nothing but act out irrationally. The king, called Ji-dwi for disguise, is still frustrated because he must remain in hiding. His mother controls everything because of his age and lack of power. We start to see him fight back after reaching a breaking point. Aro helps him to see his limitations, but also that they aren't a poor reflection on him. They just are and he decides he can do something about them, which makes a dang good hero.
12
Our other hero, Seon-woo, is too deep in his grief to be anything more than a catalyst for some very damaging change. He has quite far to grow to truly grow up. His inclusion in Aro's family will certainly draw out the best and worst in him. Thus far it has just created confusion, but such is the state of things after immediate change.

The other flower boys, Soo-ho, Ban-ryu, and the others, have very little development aside from the face that many of them are rivals because of their parents pro-queen, anti-queen, and neutral proclivities. The queen is desperate for them to protect the king. Sons of her enemies will make the best guards because the officials will have to seriously dial back their evil plan-making.
34
I am quite pleased with the upped pace of this episode. While "Hwarang" isn't a brilliant show, it is pure entertainment in its silliness, visual beauty, and the mixture of historical darkness.
Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"Hwarang" is directed by Yoon Seong-sik, written by Park Eun-yeong-I, and features Park Seo-joon, Ko Ah-ra, Hyung Sik, Seo Ye-ji, Minho, and Do Ji-han.

"Night Light" Episode 11 recap

The tone takes a turn for the somewhat mundane here as I-kyeong uses business acumen to further drive a rift between the various members of the Park family without their really having any idea what's going on. The tendency of characters to underestimate I-kyeong is one of the finer subtle plot points in "Night Light". One reason it's so easy is because I-kyeong doesn't really have any kind of decisive victory to claim credit for. That makes them think they can come out on top of the double cross later on.
It's one of the better examples of subtle sexism I've seen in media because really, I-kyeong being a woman is the only reason I can come up with for Moo-sam and Moo-il being so willfully blind. They would see a man as a more obvious threat. Indeed, Gun-woo has been sidelined pretty much entirely because Moo-sam and Moo-il have convinced themselves the younger man could take this opportunity to usurp them, in blatant disregard of all current characterization of the actual leads.
But aside from that characterization there is, as usual, not very much here. The ridiculously long-winded build-up to Se-jin's training makes the brevity of her role here especially puzzling. Considering how many times I-kyeong has "tested" Se-jin in the past, from Se-jin's perspective, the cliffhanger could easily just be another such test. This really makes a mess of the dramatic tension- by this point the viewer and the characters should be on the same page.
The real problem, though, is just the generally dry business transaction nature of the plot, with deals that devoid of context are completely unremarkable. At this point the story is so excessive with detail to financial minutae I'm beginning to wonder if writer Han Ji-hoon read a book about this stuff and is just determined to regurgitate every minor detail into "Night Light". It's hard to think of any other reason why this material is given such disproportionate focus.
Consider the conversation Tak has with Se-jin. It's actually fairly interesting in its own right, if somewhat gossipy, but Tak as a character is so underdeveloped we actually know surprisingly little about him. So the man's statements carry little dramatic weight although it certainly feels like they should. The romantic elements in "Night Light" in general suffer from the same weakness, even as the script implies they ought to be fairly central to the conflict.
Review by William Schwartz
"Night Light" is directed by Lee Jae-dong, written by Han Ji-hoon and features Lee Yo-won, Jin Goo, UEE, Choi Il-hwa, Choi Min and Sim I-yeong.
Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink

"Solomon's Perjury" Episode 4 recap

Things get dangerous as news of the trial shakes every party involved. The court group are racing against time and the Jeong-guk foundation's scheming, which pushes them to put more pressure on Joo-ri and Woo-hyeok. After news of the trial spreads, a mysterious figure commits a crime and complicates the situation. Seo-yeon is faced with tough decisions and an increasing amount of uncontrollable participants.
I believe we have the source material and the drama's shorter length to thank for the tightly packed plot. The writer wastes no time with the proceedings and they use the more slow-paced moments for character development and the exploration of their subject matter. Facing a death and now another, a media circus and a trial is not an easy thing for anyone let alone for young minds. It would have been a waste if the series did not delve into the feelings and thoughts of the people involved.
Seo-yeon apologizing to Joo-ri's mom for her sufferingJi-hoon deciding to comfort Seo-yeon as the Sentinel
One person whose thoughts and feelings we know little about is Ji-hoon (Jang Dong-yoon) and this seems intentional. I love and fear his character. He shows kindness in profound ways, but whether that is pure or a part of his manipulative behavior to keep the trial going is still unknown. I find his playful argument with So-woo (Seo Yeong-joo-I) during the hospital scene very foreboding and So-woo's expressions toward him in the latest flashbacks are suspicious. We also do not know what kind of crimes his father may have committed that the boy knows of.
At times it feels as if Ji-hoon is trying to stage a trial in order to escape accusations. On the other hand, it makes no sense that he would encourage Seo-yeon (Kim Hyeon-soo) when the case was conveniently ruled as a suicide. I do feel uncomfortable with how much the group trusts him, however. Seo-yeon needs all the help she can get, but making trial plans in the same room as the person tasked with overturning the outcome you must work toward is dangerous and so is using school grounds.
Kyeong-moon telling the current principal to stop the trial using school regulationsWoo-hyeok witnessing his house burning down with his grandmother inside
Joo-ri (Sin Se-hwi) and Woo-hyeok (Baek Cheol-min) are a mystery as well. Woo-hyeok is clearly shaken by his grandmother's death, but also Seo-yeon's reaction to Joo-ri's mother. He could be doing this because he does not want to further endanger his family, because he is guilty or because he thinks he may be and sees the prosecutor as weak. If he and his friend were really drunk, his memories are unreliable and doubt is possible.
The people involved are piling up and So-woo's brother, Lee Tae-woo (Yeo Hoi-hyeon) seems to have proof that this was not a suicide. The envelope appears to have tickets or maybe something else proving So-woo was making plans. Tae-woo is a suspect for the arson, of course and a new variable to consider for the trial. I am highly anticipating next week's episodes.
"Solomon's Perjury" is directed by Kang Il-soo, written by Kim Ho-soo and features Kim Hyeon-soo, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo Ji-hoon, Seo Yeong-joo-I and Jo Jae-hyeon.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink

"Entourage" Episode 16 Final recap

The end of "Entourage" is here and it brings the convenience of an equus ex machina and a time jump. Yeong-bin has escaped to Busan without the group for some alone time while everyone back in Seoul is trying to handle the fallout and get the star and Ho-jin to make up. Eun-gap in particular becomes closer to the boys than ever and provides some valuable advice to Ho-jin.
As much as I have wished for some solid character development and some self awareness from Yeong-bin (Seo Kang-joon), I believe the creators made the right choice with this happy, convenience-filled conclusion. As I say in my previous piece, this feels like the start of maturity for everyone in the group, including Eun-gap (Jo Jin-woong). Someone like Yeong-bin would need a big shock for an instant realization and one final episode cannot handle such a big plot point.
Eun-gap giving Ho-jin some adviceYeong-bin and his group
On the other hand, it feels as if little has changed in terms of the characters themselves and their lives. I can see where the writers were going with their relationships. The conclusion is essentially all about a tight-knit group who realize friendship is more important than anything, but the drama has not explored these connections enough for the outcome to have any emotional impact. Sixteen episodes of a story going anywhere and characters who accomplish very little is not exactly riveting entertainment.
"Entourage" is a very confused work when I consider it in its whole. It went for style over substance, then it tried tackling industry workings and at the very end decided to focus on its characters. For a pre-produced work, such indecisiveness and muddled progress is surprising. I know editing can change a lot, we have seen proof of that many times before and with a couple of famous cases as well, but there is much more to the problems of this series than that.
Eun-gap drunk and joyous, hugging Yeong-bin and Ho-jinThe crew after a successful movie premiere
The question for my final, spoiler free review will be whether this series is worth watching, but what I am contemplating here is whether I would want to watch more. In all honesty, with the same writing crew the answer would be "definitely not". Even Eun-gap, the show's most developed character is not very rich, if taken out of the context of the drama. Perhaps if things were different and better, I would feel this investment.
I would love a story where Yeong-bin becomes a professional and where Ho-jin (Park Jeong-min-I) becomes a super manager. One where Joon (Lee Gwang-soo) seeks help for his issues and where Turtle (Lee Dong-hwi) finds himself. Where Eun-gap and Ok-ja's (Choi Myeong-gil) relationship is developed. I would love a good series with this cast, but "Entourage" is just not that series.
"Entourage" is directed by Jang Yeong-woo, written by Kwon So-ra and Seo Jae-won and features Jo Jin-woong, Seo Kang-joon, Lee Gwang-soo, Park Jeong-min-I and Lee Dong-hwi.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Night Light" Episode 10 recap

Moo-sam (played by Lee Jae-yong-I) is the new acting chairman of the Park family's conglomerate, and it is with her political maneuvering to make this possible that I-kyeong has finally managed to advance major substantative change in the high level corporate power dynamics of "Night Light". Moo-il (played by Jeong Han-yong), the former chairman and Gun-woo's father, is down but not out. And it looks like I-kyeong is counting on it.
Moo-sam and Moo-il themselves are brothers, which is the way I-kyeong appears to be planning to tear the Park family's life work apart and replace it with...something. As usual the specifics of I-kyeong's plan are a bit of a mystery. But the direct consequences of her actions are undeniable. I-kyeong is sowing discontent and misery among all the people capable of opposing her, whittling down their strength to such a level that eventually ultimatums won't even be necessary. I-kyeong can just do what she wants.
And this legitimately bothers Se-jin. Once again I-kyeong's plan when it comes to Se-jin is unclear, especially considering how much time was built up "training" the younger woman. Surely it should not come as a surprise that the woman whose main stated talent is empathy would sympathize with Gun-woo's problems. While I-kyeong can push around the Park brothers, Se-jin is too essential to I-kyeong's own interests to be pushed to the side even temporarily.
To that end, we're dealing with a philosophical battle between I-kyeong and Se-jin. I-kyeong's thinking is fascinating in its own evil Buddhist way. Se-jin must eliminate all sense of emotional attachment in order to most effectively strike back. The problem with this is that Se-jin's sense of righteous grievance is much less than I-kyeong's, so it's more difficult to see why Se-jin should have such a large stake in what's happening. The good times she's had with I-kyeong so far are the main incentive.
And it is admittedly a fairly strong incentive. Even as Se-jin insists, not entirely convincingly, that I-kyeong is neither a monster or a villain, it's very difficult to interpret the powerful woman's actions in any other light. All we really have to go on is that we know it's physically possible to make I-kyeong smile. We see it this instead- and most significantly, I-kyeong's joy does not directly come as a result of her malicious politicking. That's about the main possible breath of hope Se-jin has to hold on to right now.
Review by William Schwartz
"Night Light" is directed by Lee Jae-dong, written by Han Ji-hoon and features Lee Yo-won, Jin Goo, UEE, Choi Il-hwa, Choi Min and Sim I-yeong.
Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink

"Solomon's Perjury" Episode 2 recap

The plot thickens in a delightfully twisted way in episode two of "Solomon's Perjury" as we discover there is more to the witness than meets the eye. The press becomes involved and now the parents are distrusting the school and the police. A mysterious online figure named the Jeong-guk Watchman resurfaces in the school and Ji-hoon's role in all of this becomes more complicated.
I feel that the drama has been very good in leading viewers to certain conclusions. As I mentioned in my review for episode one, Lee Joo-ri (Sin Se-hwi) could have been lying about the incident due to personal reasons and it was the clues that the creators provided which made her suspicious nature easy to pick up on. I have to say, however, I did not expect to see such a tense and disturbed character in her. I am very pleased to see that the creators pay attention to several characters.
Cho-rong and Joo-ri as Joo-ri is being bullied by Woo-hyeokWoo-hyeok becomes the center of suspicion and gossip
I am not sure who killed So-woo (Seo Yeong-joo-I) and why, if anyone even did, but the possibility that Woo-hyeok (Baek Cheol-min) might be one of the least wicked characters by the end of all this makes the mystery and drama very appealing. There is clearly a lot of pain, manipulation and many broken minds among Jeong-guk high school's youth, faculty and parents, but it all works because we have such intriguing characters and relationships.
I love seeing Joon-yeong (Seo Ji-hoon) tail Seo-yeon (Kim Hyeon-soo) like a duckling and a trusting friend. Their mutual support and trust will help them through this tough situation, as the burden they must carry is catching up. In contrast, Joo-ri and Park  Cho-rong (Seo Sin-ae) have a dysfunctional and abusive relationship. The series also uses them for its social criticism, but also a ray of hope, such as the moment when Joo-ri's venomous comments are proven wrong by people who do care about the person she has been using.
Seo-yeon and Joon-yeong having a discussionJi-hoon's secret identity is revealed to us
Ji-hoon remains the most mysterious character here and now we have an added layer to the confusion. If the boy is the Jeong-guk Watchman, as evident by his phone when the post was made, what is his goal? What does the son of the most shady figure in the school aside from its biggest benefactor know which pushes him to become a fighter for justice? What urges him to defend Woo-hyeok in court?
There is so much to talk about in this series and my desired review length leaves a lot of it out. Every scene feels like it is building up to something big, the characters are deeply engaging and the show's production quality is great. "Solomon's Perjury" is shaping up to be a dark piece about the corruption we become a part of as we grow up and those who fight it.
"Solomon's Perjury" is directed by Kang Il-soo, written by Kim Ho-soo and features Kim Hyeon-soo, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo Ji-hoon, Seo Yeong-joo-I and Jo Jae-hyeon.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink

"The Legend of the Blue Sea" Episode 11 recap

The key to episode 11 of "The Legend of the Blue Sea" is listening. Joon-jae can hear Cheong's mermaid voice although she doesn't realize that he can, which leads to many insights on his part. He starts to really listen to what she speaks and is attentive to what she does in order to really be there for her. It can be excessive, but it does allow Lee Min-ho to be ridiculously adorable.

Listening also applies to Ma Dae-yeong, the murderer who also has a connection to the past. He is sensitive to his dreams of his past incarnation and the people in them who look remarkably like Joon-jae and Cheong. Where the communication ends is between Joon-jae and his brother Ji-hyeon. They talk and don't get anywhere. There is so much for the two to work out, so much conflict and resolution to be had, but the drama seems overly concerned with romantic aspects of the plot. While watching Lee Min-ho fawn over Jeon Ji-hyeon is delightful, less of it would make room for more pressing issues like Cheong's declining health, Ji-hyeon's mother's poisoning of his adoptive father, and the dangers that Dae-yeong presents.
12
What is strong about this episode in particular is that we seen Joon-jae actively changing himself, going out of his way not only to help Cheong, but Cheong's young friend Yoo-na. He slowly begins to straighten out his crooked ways. He gives of himself for the betterment of the lives of others. Albeit those people are the woman he loves and her friend, but it's a start. He pretends to be family for Yoo-na, creating relationships he hadn't known for a long time. This will definitely give him a taste for more of the warmth that family gives.

A black moon was mentioned only during the start of the episode and it indicated something ominous. What was strange was that the ominous feeling didn't persist throughout and only returned at the end. It manifested in Joon-jae's arrest, which will definitely muck up the romantic works and perhaps trigger more health problems for Cheong.
34
Another strange thing about the episode was that there were flashbacks to the Joseon days, but no real action happens. The Joseon storyline is swift and strong and its absence was keenly felt. Aside from that, I'm looking forward to getting into the nitty gritty of the conflict in the drama. I want to see what Dae-yeong plans to do with his visions and how Joon-jae will escape his handcuffs. I want to see how the mermaid's heart fares with the passage of time and if Joon-jae's father will survive slow poisoning. May these be revealed tomorrow!

Written by: Lisa Espinosa AKA Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
"The Legend of the Blue Sea" is directed by Jin Hyeok, written by Park Ji-eun, and features Lee Min-ho, Jeon Ji-hyeon, Lee Hee-joon, and Sin Hye-seon.
Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink