Monday, February 8, 2010

Hana Yori Dango Vs Boys over Flowers

Just finished watching the season one of the Japanese 'Hana Yori Dango' and I felt it was just about ok. I guess this is because I saw 'Boys over Flowers' first and the kdrama really was top notch in every respect. 'HYD' aka Hana Yori Dango was telecast in 2005 and was the second adaptation of the HYD manga written by by Kamio Yoko. The first one was a Taiwan production 'Meteor Garden'. Kamio Yoko must be one happy lady now that her work has been made into three dramas in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. I am sure India's queen of soaps-Ekta kapoor will also be planning her very own version of this hit drama.

HYD starts off with Makino(the main girl) already in the elite school owned by the richest conglomerate in Japan. How she lands there I really dont know. She has trouble fitting in and the F4 boys come along and make it worse. When I saw Domyoji, I was pretty disappointed. He is not a patch on Gu Jun Pyo(Lee Min Ho) of BOF. I think Lee Min Ho elevated Gu Jun Pyo's role in the kdrama to another level. His quick fire expressions, temper tantrums and boyish behaviour were really captivating.

It doesnt help that in the Japanese version, Domyoji's character is very violent and invariably ends up punching random people whenever he is in a bad bood(which is a lot). Makino characterization is well done and you can identify with her problems. Once Makino stands up to Domyoji's crazy antics and kicks him, the love story begins and other characters enter into the picture.

Hanazawa Rui plays the second love interest of Makino. Here he is not into music so much but still does the sleeping and the staring into space behaviour. I didnt find him appealing either and his chemistry with Makino left a lot to be desired for. There were hardly any scenes that showed the bonding between Makino and Rui which was so unlike BOF where Jan Di and Ji Hoon were attracted to each other initially but end up being very good friends.

After seeing both 'BOF' and 'HYD', it is very apparent that the 'BOF' team has toiled away at the script to make it more sensible and interesting. It is horribly silly that apples were the cause of conflict between Domyoji and Hanazawa Rui. The BOF writers took care of that and introduced a much valid childhood incident between the two friends that makes sense in the plot. Also 'HYD' has a lot of Japanese references that dont make sense to the world viewers so it becomes a tad difficult to get some of the jokes.

In season one of HYD, there are no new locations whereas we were treated to 'Macau' and 'New caledonia'in BoF which were beyond picturesqe. As far as the casting is concerned, again BOF wins. The F4 Korean guys were way better looking than the Japanese F4. I wonder if the Korean casting directors make it a point to choose really good looking actors that have universal appeal.I have yet to see a Korean drama that does not have awesome looking stars.

I had a lot of problem rooting for Makino and Domyoji in the Japanese drama cause I didnt care about them at all. What's worse is that there are hardly any scenes with the couple spending time together which is a travesty considering that this is basically a romantic drama.

In the Korean version, there are quite a few incidents where the couple share thoughts, bicker and make up. Jun Pyo's character slowly but surely grows on you and you can feel his earnest attempts to win Geum Jan Di's heart. Also the sports battles in BOF were really well done and highlighted the fears and growth of Gu Jun Pyo and Ji Hoon.

Let me talk about the two events in the Japanese 'HYD' that were worth watching. The first one was the elevator/first date scene. It was quite interesting to watch Domyoji wait in the rain for hours for Makino and when they finally meet up, they get stuck in the elevator where more trouble ensues. This was done better than BOF as we get to see Makino's selfless and caring side.

Then in the last episode of HYD of season one, the 'Teen of Japan' competition scenes were nice. Makino's final goodbye to Domyoji as he leaves for New York and the really touching letter he wrote to her were the highlights of that episode.

Maybe 'Hana Yori dango'lacked a big budget and better looking stars but since it came out in 2005, you cant expect much from it. Also since HYD came out first,the 'BOF' scriptwriters had the ability to correct many of the flaws of 'HYD'. Season one of HYD ends with almost everyone in a very happy place. The only person left in a waiting phase is Makino who has to bear her first christmas without Domyoji. All things considered,'Boys over flowers' is definitely a clear winner over the Japanese 'Hana Yori Dango'. I for one ended up watching repeat episodes of 'BOF' again :-)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Kick the Moon - Amazing Korean comedy, gangster movie

If anyone recommends you to watch-'Kick the Moon'(2001),you wont get any hint of what the movie is all about from the name of the movie. That's one place where Korean films suffer and its in the movie titles. Literally all of their movies have titles that are direct translations of Korean words. It hardly makes any sense for the rest of us. But I digress, Kick the Moon is one really funny gangster story and should not be missed. I for one was really entertained by the fast paced plot and the unique storyline.

The story goes something like this-
A nerdy guy and the school bully come face to face at a high school fun social event. The nerdy guy gets booed offstage while the school bully wows the crowd and then goes onto fight a much hyped inter school gang war. After 19 years, drastic differences have occurred in both their lives. The nerdy guy has turned into a cold blooded gangster(who does mask a kind heart) while the school bully has become gasp-a teacher. They are shocked at the way life has turned out and unexpectedly they fall in love with the same woman.

To win over the lady, the two protagonists start their own covert operations. Now the rough and tough teacher has to try his best to avoid getting into his fights while the one time nerd turned gangster has to learn to be gentle in his behaviour. This is far from easy and this sets the stage for gang wars, past memories and loads of comedy.

There is another side track of a group of youngsters taught by the teacher who want to become gangsters themselves. They are really cute and run into all kinds of problems trying to achieve their twisted goals. The teacher guy identifies with their growing pains but has to provide tough love to rein them in from going to the dark side.

Kick the moon is what I would call a complete movie experience.The stars of this hit Korean film were Cha Seung-won,Lee Jong-su and Kim Yeong-jun. There is comedy, love, drama, fighting, sacrifices and emotional stuff too. The fight scenes in this involve so many people from opposing gangs that I have always wondered how the hell do you figure whom to hit when you are in the middle of such a confusing fight.

While watching the story, you can see how the director has excelled in putting all the relevant scenes and almost every scene has a humorous touch to it. The best part is that the movie teaches us some good lessons on morals and doing the right thing in life, without being too preachy about it. I thought that the actors did a fine job and made a lot of the scenes very naturally comic.

At the core of it though, this is a movie about friendships. It also shows us how a one off incident can change the course of the lives of the people who are impacted by it. You cant stop smiling when you realize how life and people having certain characteristics in their youth turn out to be so different from what you expect. Watch Kick the moon and enjoy a fun fest at the movies.