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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coffee prince - Kdrama Review

Coffee Prince or 'The First shop of Coffee prince'(2007) is the latest South Korean drama that I have seen. The plot is based on a novel 'Coffee Prince Store #1'. The drama is fairly good and its a romantic story based in where else-a coffee shop. It starred Yoon Eun Hye, Gong Yoo,Lee Sun Gyun and Chae Jung Ahn.

Eun Chan(Yoon Eun Hye) is a poor hardworking young woman who does a lot of jobs to support her family. She is tomboyish and looks like a guy which works out to her advantage while delivering food, working at odd jobs and other tasks. Through a series of circumstances she lands a job in a coffee shop that only employs guys. Since everyone thinks she is a guy and being in dire need of a job, she goes on with the charade.

The owner of the shop is Han Kyul(Gong Yoo) who is actually a heir to a huge food corporation but has been assigned the run down coffeshop so that he can prove himself capable to his grandmother. Through a series of incidents he falls in love with Eun chan. But obviously the situation is severely complicated as it’s a guy falling for another guy(or so he thinks). Cue more drama and anger and misunderstandings.

There is also another love story that is more on the matured side between the coffee shop owner's cousin(Lee Sun Gyun) and his long time girlfriend(Chae Jung Ahn). They are on-off lovers who have just reunited after a period of separation. It is interesting that both the coffee shop owner and his cousin brother fall for the same woman at different points in the plot. This second parallel love story shows how long time couples deal with infedility, boredom and other issues that come along at a later stage in life.

The other characters or princes in the coffee shop include the owner's mischievious playboy type friend(who keeps saying 'My Chan' in the most adorable manner), a wimpy dumb guy who is besotted with Eun chan's sister and a good looking waffle maker(Kim Jae Wook) who speaks in Japanese whenever he has to talk.

When I saw the characters working in the coffee shop, I was instantly reminded of the South Korean Movie 'Antique Bakery'. It had a similar setting with 4-5 really good looking guys working in a coffeeshop/bakery. In fact the waffle making guy in coffee prince played a pivotal role in Antique bakery. I thought that he was terrific and quite cool as a gay guy in the movie. I hope he gets more parts like 'Antique Bakery' so that we can see more of him. In coffee prince though it’s sad cause he has a half baked role and hardly any lines but he is still very good eye candy.

Coffee prince drama was quite bold for two reasons. There was the whole homosexuality tone that was shown in a very mature manner. After a certain point, the central character does not care anymore that he has fallen in love with a guy or how he will explain it to society.

Secondly the kisses in Coffee Prince were definitely not PG13 like other Korean dramas. You could see clearly that the actors were told not to be prudish about kissing on screen and it shows. However to use a cliche, the kisses are not forced and are important whenever they occur in the context of the story. I believe that future Korean dramas were warned to tone down kisses because of the flak that the drama makers got from this drama's scenes.

Eun Chan's character was well acted by Yoon Eun Hye. A lot of credit for the success of the drama belongs to her. The surprising part is the actress actually looks so tomboyish that it is very difficult to make out that she is a girl. She was very cute in the entire drama without trying too hard. I liked the scene when she breaks down and cries on the road after Han Kyul rejects her on realizing her identity. One thing I was stunned to see was Eun Chan(the girl) carrying Han Kyul on her back after a drinking session while walking on heels. I have no freaking idea how she did that. If that isn't back breaking, I dont know what is.

In the initial episode, I was'nt too sure about Han Kyul(Gong Yoo) but he kept looking and acting better as the series wore on. By the time the finale rolls around, he looked like the best dish in the coffee shop. It was very amusing to watch him troubling Eun chan and then later how he struggles to make sense of his own love. The two stars of the show have tremendous chemistry and its fun to see their expressions change with the dialogues from playful banter to jealousy to love.

The love story is quite believable and you can actually sense how Eun chan's personality affects the people around her. There is a scene in the last episode where Han kyul is trying to prevent her from entering his house. It is so funny especially in the context of why he is doing that. Also his proposal scene is beyond sweet, loved his complete dialogue in that. Thankfully there is not too much interference from elderly people and evil relations to derail the love story. The main emphasis in the drama is always on being true in love.

Unlike 'Boys Over flowers' or 'Lovers in Paris', this one does not have too many lavish sets and exotic locations but it is still nice to see a local drama. Coffee prince has a good storyline and although it takes a while to warm up to the characters, this is one coffee worth savoring at your leisure.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

'Virgin Snow'- Offbeat,sweet Korean romance

There are some movies that dont figure in anybodys list of must watch Korean movies. 'Virgin snow'(2007) is one of those which seems to have got lost in spite of being a very good movie. The thing is this is not one of your typical films but watching this is like sitting for a couple of hours in a coffee shop and reminiscing about your long lost love.

The plot is something like this-
Min(Lee Jun Ki) is a young 24 year old South korean guy who follows his father to Japan to live with him for a year. The father is a visiting professor in a Japanese university. Min takes this opportunity to see and experience life in Japan. One day he runs across Nanae(Aoi Miyazaki) and falls in love with her.

Coincidentally they find themselves at the same university and he courts her in a very cute manner. Since he is from Korea and she is from Japan, their conversation is greatly limited by the language problems but that does not dampen their enthusiasm to know one another better. He starts learning Japanese and she tries to understand Korean terms.

However Nanae has some bad family problems which cause her a lot of grief. One day Min learns of his grandmother's ill health and has to travel back to Korea. When he returns, Nanae has disappeared without a trace. Why she does that and how Min tries to figure his life out is the rest of the story.

I was very happy that the ending is a happy one cause Korean movies are so inclined towards sad endings.The virgin snow makes its impact in the ending and justifies the name of the film. I don't know why but the first snow has a lot of romantic associations with it in Korea.

Min's role is played by Lee Jun Ki who is apparently quite famous in Korea and I thought he played the part really well. He does a good job showing the lovers anguish and pain of separation.The Japanese girl takes a bit of time to get used to but she is also easy on the eyes.

One thing you get from the story is that lack of direct communication at the right time can seriously screw up relationships. But most lovers have this problem expecting their partner to magically understand everything so :)

There is a nice incident where the couple takes a boat ride when the girl tells Min that couples who take a boat ride on that lake eventually break up. Min retorts that there is a 'Doldam' bridge in Korea where the same break up belief holds true. But he tells her that there is also a concept that if a couple goes on a date in the first snowfall, they will be happy forever. So he suggests that they should go on a walk on the Doldam bridge in the first snowfall and that will cancel out the bad luck and solve their problem. It was one of those simple but beautiful romantic conversations that people have on dates.

Japan and South Korea are neighbours and have some kind of fascination with each other's cultures which is apparent from their movies. This film did very very good business in Japan according to wikipedia. Another thing that I appreciated is that the story shows us Japanese culture and things. I think the Japanese words for thank you is 'Arigato' and bye is 'Sayonara'. It is cute to see the two central characters struggle and encourage each other to learn basic words. Love even overcomes language barriers.

I liked the movie and found it to be quite entertaining. It is a tad slow no doubt but thats the best part of the story that without any drastic melodrama or plot devices, it still holds your interest. Watch 'Virgin snow' when you have some time and bask in a world where love can conquer despite misunderstandings and place and culture differences.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boys Over flowers - Nice Korean drama

'Boys over flowers' is the second Korean drama that I have seen after 'Lovers in Paris'. It is based on the worlds' best selling japanese manga 'Hana Yori dango'(dumplings before flowers). Makino and Domiyoji are the orginal names of the manga characters. The name boys over flowers is quite funny but it means that for some flower exhibition show, people are sometimes more interested in the good looking boys at the shows rather than the flowers themselves.

After I had finished watching 'Lovers in paris',I didnt know if there was any other Korean drama that was worth watching. But I thoroughly enjoyed watching 'Boys over flowers' with its lavish sets, beautiful locales and good storyline.

The central roles are of Geum jan Di and Gu Jun pyo. These are played excellently by Goo Hye Sun and Lee Min Ho. When I started watching the first episode, I was not quite sure that the F4 boys and the story would turn out to be so interesting. I was seriously amused by the way Koreans pronounce 'F4', you have to see the series to know what I am talking about. But it sounds very cute nonetheless.

The story is the typical rich kid falling for the poor girl while everyone else creates problems. Only this is set in the posh Shinhwa university owned by the rich guy himself. Jan Di is a cleaner's daughter who lands in the school on the basis of a swimming scholarship. She is pissed off at the arrogancy of Jun Pyo and his F4 cronies and proves to the only person who stands up to their antics. Slowly all of the F4 guys become friends with her and the leader falls for her which changes the plot completely.

Gu jun Pyo's character comes off like a typical spoilt rich kid who is brash and arrogant. And his curled hair didnt help matters because he didnt have that instant likeability on account of his hair. But as the series wore on, his behaviour changes and you actually begin to identify Gu Jun Pyo with his trademark permed hair.In fact he is quite handsome and you begin to slowly root for him so that he wins over the girl. He looks very good in all of his outfits especially in one of the plots main romantic scenes when he wears a houndstooth scarf, which is to die for.

Geum Jan Di was played very well and she proved to be a perfect fit for the role. She has a good mixture of sweetness and vulnerability needed to play her part. Although she is poor in the drama, I did notice that she wore a lot of high end clothes, bags and shoes. Some of them were very nice and had a hefty price tag.

Ji-hoo(Kim Hyun Joong) was the second member of F4 who has a very close relation with Jan Di. He is a sad, melancholic musician who has trouble expressing himself. He call himself as Jan di's emergency fire fighter. It is so nice that whenever jan di is in trouble or about to cry, he appears out of nowhere :)

Ji-hoo's hairstyle was something that I found to be very funny. His hair color is too loud and in the latter half of the series, the hairstyle starts resembling an real life, he is the lead singer of the Korean pop group SS501. Its funny but his facial structure is such that he looks too beautiful and effeminate at times.

In the initial part of the story, Jan Di falls for Ji-hoo but Jun Pyo eventually is the one who wins her heart. Their love story is a very funny one with both Jun Pyo and Jan Di constantly butting heads, beating each other and lots of other drama.

Kim Bum is the third person of the F4 group and is role is that of a playboy. He was the most popular in real life and many netizens were aghast that he was not playing the main role in the series. He has a killer smile and looks quite the ladies man.

The episodes 1-13 of the Boys over Flowers series is very interesting but the love story takes a nose dive in the 13th episode when Jun Pyo's evil mother makes her entrance. She dislikes Jan Di immensely and makes the lovers suffer like hell. The in between episodes take such a painful and serious turn as the lovers are separated and more confusion and evil things happen.

I was seriously pissed off at Jun Pyo's behaviour after he lands in Macao which was pretty hurtful for Jan di. It is only at the 18th episode that things take a better and lighter turn. The break up scene had some stellar acting by Lee Min ho as he potrays the anguish of a heartbroken guy who unsuccessfully pleads to his girlfriend to not leave him.

The child actors used to play the younger versions of the F4 boys are very cute and I found it extremely amusing that the children had the same hairstyle as that of the adults. You have to see it to believe it. Another thing is that all the F4 guys in the drama especially Ji Hoo and Jun Pyo are reed thin with the most enviable waistlines..seriously dont they ever eat? Jun Pyo incidentally is just 22 years in real life while jan Di is 25 years old but looks nearly eight years younger in 'BBF'.

Many people were very agitated when they thought that Jan di may end up with Ji Hoon but luckily for the JUn pyo-Jan di fans it ended well and the series finale did not disappoint. The Jun Pyo-Jan Di love story was definitely more worth watching than the Ji-Hoon-Jan Di love story. As it is rightly said in the plot, Jun Pyo was meant to be her husband and JiHoon her soulmate.

I had a bit of a deja vu while seeing the last two episodes of BOF. There is a scene in which Jan di jumps into the pool to test Jun pYo's love which is the same scene from 'Lovers in Paris' which was telecast in 2004, where the girl(Tae Young) drops into the pool in front of her guy(Ki Joo) to make him admit his real feelings.

Another common scene was the amnesia part that Jun Pyo suffers in which he purposely loses memories of jan di cause they are the most painful. This was the same scenario in 'LIP' kdrama where the second guy loses his memories of the gurl he is in love with.

BOF has a very good soundtrack. My favourite songs were 'Stand by me', “One More Time”,'Because I'm Stupid', 'Lucky' and 'Almost Paradise' by Tmax. I could listen to these songs over and over again and not feel tired of them. Now that I have listened to the songs I like the complete OST.

I havnt seen the Japanese adaption of this called 'Hana Yori dango' but I dont quite think I like the look of those characters playing the roles. Boys over flowers-the South Korean version is quite an entertaining Kdrama. Hope we get a similar Indian adaptation of this, I am sure it will be a hit in India. I wish there was a season 2 of this cute Korean drama. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dialogues from 'Lovers in Paris' -Korean drama

Best scenes and dialogues from 'Lovers in Paris'. I liked one thing about this drama was that KI-JOO had complete faith in his girl-TAE-YOUNG. No matter how many obstacles and misunderstandings cropped up, he never doubted her. Trust is key and their relationship proved that.

SOO-HYUK TO TAE-YOUNG --- I found this dialogue very sad and touching especially since he places her hand on his heart at the middle of this scene...

"Don't you see me? Don't you? Did you think about how I would feel? The girl I love cries before me. And I can't do anything for her. How would I have felt asking another man to help you? Don't you understand? You are in here. I don't know who is in your heart. But you are in here. I don't know who you are thinking about but I only think of you. You should know that because I plan of staying this way. There's one more thing. I really like you and I hope you like me."


"There's a saying that there's no reason for love. It's a lie. How could someone love without a reason? I can tell you at least 100 reasons why I like you. Your voice, your fingers. Your scent, your shadow. I even like your amnesia. I like everything about you. That's my reason."


"Yes. He's man who has everything but also nothing. He would never have saved coins in a piggy bank. Never eaten rice cakes nor hotdogs off the streets. Probably, never cried out loud in from of someone. Done many things but has no great memories. Never thought about any other life besides being the president of GD. He may not even know what his shadow looks like because he never walks looking down."


"I'm sorry for making you lose your smile. You weren't like this before. You were always smiling but you're not anymore. I think I made you this way. I'm sorry."


"Do you know hope torture? The best thing one can do for someone who loves her of course loves him. Loving each other. But if she doesn't love him, she shouldn't leave any hope for him. Because even the smallest hope can be tremendous torture to him. That's shy it's called hope torture."


SOO-HYUK to han Ki Joo
"I like Tae-young. Much more than you think. I gave up so many things for you all my life. But I don't want to give up Tae-young. I want you to let her go. You have everything- my mother and you company. You never have to ask for anything. You don't know what pain is and what waiting is. You don't know any of that. But I do. You can never be a good man. Your life is too busy. Tae-young will feel lonely. But I only got Tae-young in my life. Please uncle, I love her.

KI-JOO: I'm sorry Soo-hyuk. Like you said, I have a lot. But only outside. If I had to choose just one thing, I'd choose Tae-young. I'd have Tae-young.

SOO-HYUK: Over me?
KI-JOO: Over you.

TAE-YOUNG: What is the happiest moment in your life?
KI-JOO: Right now. The times I had with you are the happiest moments of my life.


You lost me, didn't you? You won't be able to find me. You're alone now because I'm leaving you. Let's break up. It's too hard for me. The chairman, your sister and Yoon-ah, all make it hard. We have hurt Soo-hyuk too much. I have hurt so many people for my own happiness. I was really a fool. I thought that love was something that would feed me, take me to sleep and make me happy. But now I know that there is something that even love can't fix. I don't want to be miserable anymore. I can't leave like that. I am leaving to make myself comfortable. Forgive me. You will be fine soon.

My heart is sick, sister. I didn't know that breaking up with a love would be so difficult. It is very hard for me. Tae-young want to break up. Maybe I'm being punished. I'm receiving the pain that I have caused to others once. I don't know what I am supposed to do. I was really firm with my work no matter how hard it was. I was sure that I could do everything well. But I don't know how to cope with this. This is too difficult. I am hurt so much.


To Mr. Han who does not have many memories. I recommend this camera to you. I hope you make great memories from now on. And I hope that I am always smiling in your memories. You'll of course be smiling in my memories. I was so excited when I had first left for Paris. But now I am scared because I don't know if I can live happily without you. Will Tae-young be okay without Ki-joo? Did you know that from some time on we were both crying? That's what love is. It begins smiling but ends crying. I have learned that the more love there is the more tears I shed. I don't regret it. You have given me a kind of love that I could have never dreamed of. I'm so happy to have loved someone like you. Now, let's take a picture. This is only one of this in the world and there is only one man in my life. I love you. I love you more than I can ever say.


I have learned two things from Tae-young Kang. One is about how to love and the other is about how to part with someone you love. But I am not smart enough to remember both. I only remember the first one. If I get to see you again, I will only learn about how to love not anyone else but how to love Tae-young.