TV Review – Itaewon Class

Co-posted at Heroic Cinema

TV Series – 16 episodes

Itaewon Class –
Kim Da-mi and Park Seo-jun

I really didn’t want to love this so much. I didn’t even want to watch it. Let me explain…

It started with a song. I’d never liked Park Seo-jun, but a friend recommended the series, so I finally watched the ad. And man, that song is powerful – in about 30 seconds it had me half-convinced I wanted to start a bar and take over the world.

So I started watching. The effect is like swimming on a beach with a rip tide – it looks calm on the surface, but before you know it, you’ve been dragged into deep water and you can’t get free.

If you put the story into words, it sounds pretty trite: schoolboy stands up against rich bully and his even worse father, drama ensues, boy spends next 15 years enacting a special kind of vengeance. Yah, yah, yah, yawn. But I’m not writing the script, or acting it. And the people who did so, did it brilliantly. The series is based on a webtoon by Jo Gwang Jin, who also wrote the script (as well as the lyrics for the song Diamond in the OST).

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Gaho, Ha Hyun-woo – Itaewon Class OST

30 seconds of this song made me watch a 19 hour TV series. That’s a pretty good ROI, don’t you think?

This first song is so damn inspiring, it could make you stride out into the street to lead a revolution, much less start your own business.

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Taemin – Criminal

Taemin’s back in the bondage closet, being dark, dangerous, and ever so enticing.

In this MV Taemin becomes the poster boy for the B&D community, and possibly the S&M community as well. It does make you wonder what was going on in his life that he’s diving right into the dungeon. And since he’s going public with this much, what on earth is he keeping secret?

Once again, it’s dark, musically, lyrically, and visually. Taemin keeps returning to themes of love, lust, and obsession, appropriate for a man who’s the living incarnation of at least one of the 7 deadly sins. I’d say it’s odd for a Catholic to be so overt about all this, except that I’ve known too many Catholics to be able to say that with a straight face.

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BIBI – Life Is A Bi***

Glorious BIBI – Ulysses would have had himself lashed to a mast to hear this voice. But then, given her predilection for singing about uncomfortable topics, he might have ended up lashing her to something afterwards. And by uncomfortable topics, I mean things that aren’t about boyfriends, makeup, or fashion. She doesn’t pull any punches – indeed, in this video she looks to cop a few instead.

Korean girl groups and singers tend to one of two extremes: they’re either overtly sexy or overtly cute, and it’s rare that female singers get to avoid these two narrow paths. But BIBI is one of the few who’s succeeded, and she’s done it with style and sass, not so much by remaining above the fray as by wading right into it and doing whatever the hell she wants.

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TV Review – Love In The Moonlight

Co-posted at Heroic Cinema

TV series – 18 episodes

A historical entry in the “I fell in love with my eunuch” category, lifted above the ordinary by the quality of the whole cast. Kim Yoo-Jeong plays Hong Ra-on (or Hong Sam-nom, as a male), the young woman who ends up working in the palace as a eunuch (long story), while Park Bo-gum plays crown prince Lee Yeong, heir to the Joseon throne, who becomes intrigued with Hong Sam-nom while still unaware she’s a woman. Both young actors are charming, and their early scenes together have a will-they-won’t-they tension.

This young love is complicated by Kim Yoon-sung, a childhood friend of the crown prince who, as grandson of the Prime Minister, the chief villain of this piece, has fallen out of favour. The role of Yoon-sung is brought to life by Jinyoung (not to be confused with Park Jinyoung of GOT7, or veteran actor Jung Jin-young), who possesses the ethereal beauty of the late Leslie Cheung, as well as some of Leslie’s awesome subtle talent. Jinyoung, ex-singer/songwriter of K-pop group B1A4, glides through the series like a stalking panther, always enigmatic. Yoon-sung offers friendship to Ra-on, and would like to offer more, but is biding his time (see me raising one quizzical eyebrow). The friendship here is surprisingly gentle – Ra-on has spent her life pretending to be a boy, and although Yoon-sung spots the deception immediately (unlike the crown prince), he opts to reveal his knowledge to her in the most delicate and supportive way possible.

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Sandeul, Ben – Love In The Moonlight OST plus promo teaser feat. Park Bo-gum

Update: I’ve had to remove the Ben MV as it’s no longer available – not sure why this is happening, but it’s probably a copyright issue also.

Something a bit different this week – I’ve got a review for a K-drama series going up on Heroic Cinema today, so I thought I’d dig up a couple of songs from the OST for your delectation.

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B1A4 – What’s Happening?

Wildly boppy hyper-pop with a hippy trippy MV that makes you wonder whether the whole art department were hallucinating – anything that opens with songwriter Jinyoung’s apparently disembodied head singing in a box trips my weird-o-meter. The song’s just a guy berating his girlfriend for lying all the time, but for some reason the sets are cartoonish and disturbing, while the costumes are in colours and patterns that will suck your eyeballs right out of your head. Be warned.

Psychedelics aside, it’s hard not to sing along with this one, especially given the smattering of English in the lyrics. My advice is just give in to your bad self and sing those incorrect Korean lyrics – you’ll definitely want to shout out “got-ji-mal” (lie).

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SHINee – Ring Ding Dong

You know those trashy magazines with headlines like “ALIEN worms CRAWLED in my EAR and ATE my BRAIN!!!”?

They’re talking about this song. From Jonghyun’s first powerfully belted “Baby”, through the hypnotic bridge of “Rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka fantastic” (and so on), to the triumphant “Ring ding dong” chorus, this song is one long hooky earworm.  You’ll be infected, you’ll be infested, and soon you won’t be able to think of anything else. That’s why it’s the song most banned by students during college entrance exam periods – they said that listening to this song drove everything else out of their heads.

Musically, it was a departure from their debut, which was mellow R&B, from the ‘Princes of K-pop’. This is tight EDM, with a beat that will have you dancing whether you want to or not, from the bad boys.

Or at least that’s what they claim. Yes, they’re dressed to kill, and their dance skills are awesome, and Jonghyun, Minho and Key at least look sufficiently wild, while Onew’s voice alone gets him over the line. But Taemin was still only 16 when they did this song, and despite the black ‘fallen angel’ wings, seeing him drink milk makes him look like the innocent he really was, with his floppy Beatles haircut and his baby face.

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Taemin – Advice

Not many artists would be brave enough to finish their music video posing like a paint-splashed Christ, but you can always count on Taemin to go the extra mile.

The fact that he spends a portion of the MV wearing an upmarket gimp mask is a trifle unusual, but hey, his hobbies aren’t my business. The tartan outfit might be taking it a tad too far, but again, man’s got a right to do what he chooses in the privacy of his own, ah, music video. Yah, I see where that went wrong.

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Film review – Pandora

Co-posted at Heroic Cinema

  • Director: Park Jong-woo
  • Cast: Kim Nam-gil
  • Cast: Jung Jin-young
  • Cast: Kim Dae-myung
  • Cast: Kim Joo-hyun

Prepare to be gruelled. This film will take every tender feeling you possess and run them through the mincer, then stomp on the bits.

The hero of the story is Jae Hyeok, brought to life by the incredibly talented Kim Nam Gil. This is not the sex-incarnate Kim Nam Gil of Bad Guy, or the lovable doofus turned responsible doctor of Live Up To Your Name, or the arse-kicking priest of Fiery Priest. No, this Kim Nam Gil is almost unrecognisable – Jae Hyeok is a lazy, truculent, loser, who complains about the nuclear plant at which he works, and disappoints his mother and his girlfriend.

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