Saturday, April 18, 2020

An Addiction to Korean Tv mini series

It took awhile to develop an interest in Korean films, even though they are well organized to promote popular arts.  My son spent 18 months in Korea and that spurred an interest.  Roger Ebert had publicized a few films before.  Before all that I had developed an interest in sub titled movies from Bollywood and eventually many different nations with a little boost from my sister Rebecca.

When Korea hosted the Winter Olympics I was fascinated by the closing ceremonies for the Paralympics.  One musical group with some sort of connection to the disabled community, Bae Hee Gwan Band made an impression.  Even more so when they were joined by a singer Ailee who I assumed was a popular singer of the hit parade variety.  I went looking on YouTube and iTunes with little success, but discovered Ailee sang for the tv serial shows and I quite liked one of her tunes.

The local library provided many subtitled movies from all over the world.  Once you get on Netflix a lot of doors open, but mostly I searched for movies including those from Korea, some of which left a very strong impression. (check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/04/a-slice-of-korean-cinema.html ).  The promo for "Crash Landing on You" got my attention and on an impulse decided to give it a trial.  It had been touted as second top Korean tv series on cable.  My son had shown us a photo of him with one foot in South Korea and the other in North Korea so I was aware of the border tensions.

"Crash Landing on You" left a very strong impression and I watched it a second time and even persuaded some friends to watch it.   Before too many months passed I had actually gone through 6 series.  Mind you I had started one or two that I didn't complete because they seemed too frivolous.  They all had 16 episodes each averaging a little over one hour in length and despite the length I found myself binging  Read more: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/crash-landing-on-you-very-addicting.html

I noticed a few patterns.  First they introduced some sort of dilemma and the following episodes piled on with complications and sub plots.  They used a lot of flashbacks which I appreciated as initially you were confronted with occurrences that were mysterious and intriguing.  The flashbacks gave the background and opened up understanding.  They were generous with previews of the next episodes which spurred curiosity.  They blended humor into the stories.  I suspect it was a challenge to fill over 16 hours per series, but they did a good job of time filling as your curiosity was always active.

Sex is relatively pristine, especially compared to some of their movies.  In a few cases you see the leading characters in bed and there are a few allusions to it.  American and Europeans streaming films leave less to the imagination.  Romance is key to their attraction. with very likable would be couples.  Music plays a stronger role than in most American or European series, but not as much as most Bollywood features.  I discovered more songs by Ailee and even discovered more likable tunes, singers and instrumentalists.

A short synopsis of the five additional series for you to decide if any interest you.

"Something in The Rain"  (2018) was watched as it starred the heroine from "Crashing Down on You", Ye-jin Son.  She is not quite the most attractive woman, but she has such a likable personality.  In this series she plays a thirtyish woman who is pursued by her best friend's younger brother, (Hae-In Jung) younger by about ten years.  She also is a supervisor in a chain of coffee shops and gets involved in a sexual harassment case.  It drags on as she has to deal with age and class issues   I learn that Ye-jin is a fitness buff and in one brief segment we can watch her dance).  She has definite ideas about glamour.  She avoids a hair dresser for early morning scenes getting out of bed of which there are a few in this series.  We get a feel for the Korean masculine culture that has been resistant to feminist trends.  They actually play an American song so often it becomes annoying.

"Chocolate" (2019) was promoted for foodies.  Two young children start, with the young boy wanting to take over his mother's restaurant and the girl who eventually does  become a world class chef.  The plot is classic misunderstanding with the girl pursuing the childhood aquaintance, but is interrupted by his close friend and then the childhood friend ignores her and she leaves for Greece as she can't handle being too close to someone who can't return her interest.  A lot of circumstances combine to bring the girl back to Korea after the childhood friend becomes a surgeon and eventually after an accident is demoted to the same palliative care facility.  Lots of interesting food, family intrigues and unfortunately a lot of deaths.  A charming couple acted by Ji-won Ha and Yoon Kyesang who had started in a K pop group.  Beautiful song by Ailee.

"Itaewan Class" (2020) is a lot of about class conflict   It has rival restaurants and a love triangle with the viewer rooting for both women.  The hero played by Seo-joon Park is likable, but very stoic. Seo-joon can be seen in the Oscar winner "Parasite."  Nara plays one of the leading ladies.  One character is a transgender who over time wins over a lot of support.  Another is a black man hired because it was assumed he spoke English, but in fact he spoke French. 

"Memories of Alhambra" had the leading man from Crash Landing on You," Hyun Bin playing a very different role as he is not stoical,   Caught Hyun on Youtube singing (very well) the Lady Gage song, "Shallows." The leading lady is played by award winner Shin-hye Park.  I recommended this film to a science fiction lover.  The music conveys a sense of history for Granada and there are impressive scenes in Barcelona as well.  The visual effects are outstanding.  The  romance seems awfully one sided.  Another good song by Ailee.

"Hyena"  with humor well spaced and about lawyers reminded me of "Suits," but I understand there is an actual Korean remake of the popular American series.   Egotistical lawyers, office politics, romance and some social injustice are common elements.  The first episode with quite the twist itself leads up to contrast to the fifteenth that gave me my biggest laughs of the year. The main romance offers a age difference and class contrast.   A few interesting songs over the course of 16 episodes, but I was most intrigued by a clip of a Paganini song which I have been unable to locate.

Ji-Hoon Ju plays the younger lawyer who is attracted to the older female lawyer played by Hye-su Kim.  The bad guy is played by Keong yeong Lee.  Hye-su is a big award winner and has been in two movies I enjoyed,; "The Thieves" and "My 11th Mother." She is even older than the age gap suggested by the script, but she pulls it off very well.

I enjoyed them all, but if you wanted to give them a trial I would recommend "Crash Landing on You" or "Hyena."  If you get kicks out of visual effects, "Memories of Alhambra" would be a good choice, even in comparison to American products.

I have enjoyed a lot of mini series.  I went after "Indian Doctor" at the library, but will have to wait for the final season same with    Two from India both different from the usual Bollywood films I love.  "She" has more sex than is normal, but from a different perspective.  "Sacred Games (I bought the book over a decade ago) starring Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, has both way more sex and even more violence than used to from India.

Mini series have the advantage of more detailed plots and character development, however in danger of boring or distracting elements.   Flashbacks bring new facts or remind you of details you might have forgotten, but too much is annoying.

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