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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If cats disappeared from this world (2016)

Country: Japan
Format: movie
Genre: drama,
Cast: Sato Takeru, Miyazaki Aoi, Hamada Gaku, Okuna Eita, Ishii Anna, Okuda Eiji, Harada Meiko,
Synopsis: There is a young man who has never thought much about his future and though it is only natural that next morning he wakes up, takes care of his cat and goes to work. One day he learns that he has a late-stage brain tumor and he might have less then a week to live. Arriving home, he finds a strange man, who looks just like him, sitting behind the dinner table. The man introduces himself as devil who can prolong his death by one day in exchange of erasing one thing from this world.  
Rating: 5/5
I have no idea how to start this review. I do not have many movies that have made completely speechless, but this definitely has done it. In every possible way, this movie is absolutely incredible.
I think what made the biggest impact to me is the way you get to know the characters and in the end you understand that in reality you do not know a single thing about them. It at least made me think about my relationships with other people and rethink how much I really know my friends.
Almost all of the characters are referred to without a name, the only character in the movie whose name is mentioned is Tatsuya and it is because of a certain reason. That's why I will call the characters "He" - the postman, "She" or "girlfriend" the ex-girlfriend, Tatsuya, mother and father - I hope it won't end up too confusing. All the characters are first introduced differently from who they actually are - it kind of makes you understand how wrong the first impression can be and how the only way you will really know the person is to actually spend time and learn things about them. It reminds me that each person's actions are based on the things they have lived through. So that's why I will also bring out the differences with the characters.
At first He seems a bit doubtful - living very ordinary life without any excitement while being not so communicative with people. With the story developing you understand how non-ordinary his life really has been. It is astonishing to see different parts of his life. The moments shown are the ones that have influenced his life the most. It also made me wonder about my own life - if I were to die tomorrow, what are the moments that played the biggest part of my life decisions? Another curious part of his story is to see how seemingly unimportant  material things play a role in his whole life. The whole concept can be just explained with "the butterfly effect" meaning disappearance of a small thing will create drastic changes in everything.
At some times they also bring out what goes on in his head - I do not mean the tumor at the moment, but his thoughts. I guess this might be my favorite role by Sato Takeru. His performance is spectacular, especially how he brings out the details in "he" and at the same time portrays the devil with totally different attitude and emotions. These kind of roles are what really bring out the greatness of the actor and make the value of his skills.
The first moment seeing ex-girlfriend gave me the idea that he was the one dumping her or they broke up because he was not man enough, but she is still a bit mad and does not want to really see him. As they recall the memories, you understand that they really are the case of "just falling apart". It is really sad to see, because you can see them happy together until one moment influences everything and they just do not know how to deal with it.
The grief is something that impacts people differently and I know very well from my own experience that people react differently and cannot even remember that for someone else it might have been the moment where suddenly the whole world seems unfair and cruel. This is exactly what happens in their relationship and it is normal that it leads to break up as being together might just remind the sadness and makes it impossible to forget the pain.
As I already mentioned, Tatsuya is the only character with a name and the reason behind it is that He always calls him "Tsutaya" which is a DVD-store in Japan. Fairly enough, it is just the change of two syllables in his name. Again, at first Tatsuya is introduced as a average guy working in a DVD-store and He is just forgetting his name all the time as if it is not important enough to remember. While the movie goes on you understand the real meaning of calling Tatsuya with wrong name and every little moment they are having. I want to acknowledge Hamada Gaku's acting too. His acting is amazing here and he gave me the emotions that I was looking for.
There is also the story of mother and father. Though they do not show so much affection for each other directly, you will receive the feeling how much they really loved each other. Since the childhood His relationship with mother is closer than with father and I would say that He is similar to his mother in every possible way. His father is a man who does not say much and keeps things to himself. I can only imagine what father actually went through once he was left alone in the house after He moved out. It can seem like He hates his father and cannot forgive him, but it is more that he has never understood his father and does not find the things to talk about.
By the last I think I should mention Retusu and Kyabatsu or as they are originally in English - Lettuce and Cabbage. They look so alike that at first I did not even think that they are different cats - maybe the "actors" of cats are the same. They show the importance of the children growing up with animals and also how animals are the best companions for a person. It made me miss my cats so much.
The way how the movie is built up is amazing. You start to understand the things by seeing more and more as the story unfolds itself. In addition, the camera-work and special effects add so much more to it. They had some scenes filmed over-seas in Argentina and it just made me want to travel to South-America right away. Also the special effects used in the movie stay into borders of reality, that makes the whole movie not so surreal.
This is definitely one of my favorite movies now and I guess I will think about it for a long time. I guess the magic with it is also that it is not depressingly sad. It just shows the life as it is - unexpected and full of doubts. It reminded me to live the fullest every day and regret nothing. If I were to die tomorrow, I want to die knowing that I have had the greatest life possible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Three Musketeers (2014)

Country: South-Korea
Format: drama in 12 episodes
Genre: history, adventure,
Cast: Lee Jin Wook, Jung Yong Hwa, Yang Dong Geun, Jung Hae In, Yoo In Young, Seo Hyun Jin, Kim Myung Soo, Park Young Gyu, Jeon No Min, Lee Kyun, Kim Sung Min, Park Sung Min,
Synopsis: It is Joseon era that is full of confusion and betrayal. Young Park Dal Hyang goes to Hanyang in hope of becoming soldier to protect Joseon and marry the girl he loves. While arriving to Hanyang, he meets 3 mysterious guys who introduce themselves as Three Musketeers. On his entrance day, Park Dal Hyang finds out that these men are no-one else than the Crown Prince and his two guards and within the last 5 years, the woman of his dreams has become the Crown Princess.
Rating: 2/5
I must say that this was one of the most difficult dramas to watch and it actually took me 2,5 years to complete these 12 episodes - and for some reason I always think it has 13 episodes. I also say already that this will be one long review, so I wish you good luck.
Let's start with Park Dal Hyang. In the beginning of his journey, he is rather naive. He grew up in the country side where he did not have friends nor anything special to do. I think that was also the biggest reason he fell in love with Yoon Seo just in one month period. In a way it is awesome to see him and his world changing making a man out of him. On the other hand, he pissed me off so many times with his stubborn behavior. Once he grows up and makes up his mind about how he sees the world around him. he becomes clever man with great plans. In addition, I would give him a medal for the "best spying", because no matter how obvious his spying-hiding was, he did got caught just by once. Come on - when an area is full of "enemies" and he is able to go back and forth without being caught, it is something. For those who do not feel the irony, then I would compare his spying-hiding skills with an elephant trying to hide behind a coconut.  Out of all Jung Yong Hwa roles, this might have been the best one with the best acting as he just had more things written on his role than in other dramas.
I definitely had weird feelings for the Crown Prince So Hyun. Most of the time I found him really arrogant bastard who thought he was doing good while making his closest suffer the most. In the end it is difficult to say if his actions were correct or not, but as also in the drama they say, you can only know in the future if the things made were right. Why I disliked him was mostly due to his behavior toward Crown Princess. Despite that the blame was clearly his, he made her the one in fault due "her over-thinking" and "not being enough" and made her suffer alone. Not only, he did not love her, but he did not let her be happy either in any possible way. On the other hand, this all makes it good to see how his feelings are changing a bit by bit and he is realizing how great of a woman she is. I only liked him in the very last episodes when I also saw Lee Jin Wook's great acting skills that made my heart melt a little bit. Other than the end I did not find him appealing by his personality.
Out of musketeers, I think I was most amazed by Heo Seung Po character and Yang Dong Geun's performance. This role definitely made me forget the horror from "I am Sam" - in some way he looks here much younger and attractive than there - well, they say that years just make men more handsome and in his case 7 years makes a big difference. Heo Seung Po loves to drink, gamble and have a lot of women, but despite being a "ladies-man", he is actually married with kids and when you see his family, you will definitely have a good laugh. His character is based on Porthos and similar to him, he adds the comedy into serious situations.
The last musketeer is Ahn Min Seo and I can swear that I forgot his name all the time through the series. He is a more religious than others and the calmest out of them all. Despite that he still goes out with them and drinks alcohol. He is also the most handsome man in the hole area, but despite that he does not mingle with a lot of women. But due to the fact that he is the most silent guy, then it is also difficult to write more about him as most of the time he just was there but did not make anything remarkable to talk more about him. Though Jun Hae In made his acting debut with "Bride of the century" and "The three musketeers" was his second role, you would not say that his acting is a "rookie". Until now he is still mostly part of supportive cast, so I am looking forward to see him in great breakthrough roles.
Most of the time I just felt sorry for the Crown Princess. I think that Seo Hyun Jin acted really well as she was able to deliver the frustration of the Crown Princess. To give the princess nature she could not show out too many emotions and this also always leads to the point where actress has to act with the same emotion and expression for a long time. That's why I was very happy to see the breaking point of princess - both to see more of the character and also to see Seo Hyun acting. Though, I might have felt mere sympathy for her, I guess she might have been most appealing character in the whole drama. I could really feel her distress and unhappiness in the palace. In addition, in the end it is good to see how the relationship with prince is developing.
One of the most conflicting characters is Mi Ryeong and I was fighting with my feelings for a really long time whether to like her or not, whether to feel sympathy or feel anger. Only in the last episode I got my feelings straighten out. Despite being maybe the most important character of all, I do not want to talk too much about her, because the more I tell you, the more I will spoil the drama. So in order not to spoil too much, then I just say that Mi Ryeong has untold history with Crown Prince as she supposed to become the crown princess before the light was shown on ugly truth. In a way she is just a woman who dared to dream too much and who learnt to turn her unfortunate life in her favor - without being afraid to dirty her hands. I like that from the start she is very mysterious character and you will only learn about her with every new episode. I guess that was the most interesting part to see in the whole drama. But I definitely want to give a big applause to Yoo In Young's performance, because she definitely nailed it.
Out of all the other characters in the drama, I should mention Choi Myung Gil who is a tutor-mentor for the three musketeers. In a way he is also the brain behind most of the things and as he has high reputation in the court and trust of the King, it is no problem for him to do everything. It did made me a bit suspicious about him as I was not sure if I should trust him with 100% or not. But he proves to be all good man who also punishes his students when he finds that they have crossed the line, even if it was for the best outcome.
The King In Jo was one of the most complex characters and he is the only reason why I would have wanted to watch other seasons too. If you do not know the history, then the Crown Price So Hyun died in mysterious way - there are rumors that he was either poisoned or the King killed him with an ink slab as his body was found in King's room. Through out the drama you can also see who King is starting to doubt if he can trust his own son. Other than that King is very nervous and even paranoid about everything and makes irrational decisions.
From more characters that I would like to lit in fire is Kim Ja Jeom - corrupted man who is also the main antagonist. He likes everything that puts more many in his pockets and more power in his hands. He is powerful manipulator and thinks no body can do him any harm.
For the last character I would like to say few words about Yong Gol Dae. He is the general of the so called barbarians. He is intelligent man and amazing swordsman. Park Dal Hyang starts off with him on a very bad note, but after understanding the situation and the thoughts, they start to tolerate each other more. At first it is very difficult to understand on which side he is standing and what are his purposes, but once things get cleared, you will see that despite being heartless army general, he is a man with a big heart and sincere thoughts.
Despite being officially said that the drama is based on novel written by Alexandre Dumas, then in reality there is only little similarities. You can loosely draw lines between which character is playing which part, but I think almost only thing that is similar, is the overall idea. I am a big fan of the book and that was also one of the reasons why I wanted to see it (in addition to Jung Yong Hwa), but I soon understood that there is almost no reference to the book.
If you ask me why it took me 2,5 years to watch - longer than any of the dramas in those years that I have been watching Asian dramas - then I have more than one reason for it and these are the following:
1) Some of the episodes go on with just one emotion - tension. One situation ends and right away another begins with the same amount of tension in the air - or there are many different things happening at the same time in different places, but the tension is the same. It is one rule of script - viewers are unable to stand one emotion for too long - especially tension. I lost a lot of nerves on it and left like breaking the screen just to escape this feeling. It did not make the drama more interesting for me - it was the opposite - I totally lost the interest. Just give me some more minutes to enjoy the victory and success.
2) There is a lot of jumping of time - meaning sometimes they go back in time to give the explanation of the situation and sometimes they go ahead of time. Most of the story is as a memoir written by Park Dal Hyang. To be honest, for some episodes I totally forgot about it, until they forcefully put it back in again in an unnatural way, as they just tried to give a better reason for the "time-jumping". In addition, the time reference is showed really badly as at first episodes show things that happened in few days with a lot of details, while the later episodes give just an overview with months difference within one episode. It seems more that the scriptwriters discovered that they have not enough screen-time to waste more or they just got lazy to develop the story to make it match.
3) They are giving rather good historical reference about the people and the situations, but at the same time if you are not familiar with the Korean history, then it just adds a lot of confusion whether you should pay more attention on this character or not. There is definitely much more historical reference than any reference to the book.
4) Secrets, secrets, secrets - if any one wants then I call up an challenge to count how many times "secret" is mentioned. I do not find it interesting when a whole conversation looks something like this: "I have to talk with that person about one matter, that I cannot tell you, concerning one other person, about who I cannot tell you, and you should be careful because of reasons I cannot tell you". Gosh dammit - this kind of thing makes me so angry - first of all, if you already hinted something then already tell everything; for second, is it not understandable that it is so difficult to protect oneself when that person does not even know from what or who should protect. Only in the 7th episode I started to understand what is really going on - I mean like. I watched half of the drama without understanding most of it and just hearing about "it's a secret".
5) Back-stabbing and betraying is the new fashion. In addition. connected to the previous "secrets", then in reality a lot of those secrets ended up not being much of a secret - they were just secrets to people who had right to know the truth and not secrets to people who will misuse the information. But what do you expect, when you can hear through every door or wall and around are tens of other people who are all eyes and ears. It is clear as water that someone from the servants is willing to open up his or her mouth to spill some inside information.
6) I had no favorable character - every single character did something or had some characteristics that made me not like them. It is difficult to watch something if you even do not have anyone you want to see.
In the end, I totally understand why they did not make more seasons. At first the production was written for 3 seasons, all 12 episodes, but due to lack of popularity, the production of other seasons was cancelled and only first season aired. They even aired the first season in many different channels and it also was shown in Thailand, but over all popularity was still low with average 2,4%. Maybe the reason was also that it aired on Sundays - at least from my experience Sundays is "no-watch-day" as on Monday morning I have to work or I am writing review on Sunday evening.
I think that the saddest thing is that in reality the theme is not bad at all and the actors are all doing amazing job, but it is just the script that makes it almost impossible to watch. I might have been even interested in other seasons if it was just a bit easier on my emotions - and I do not consider myself too emotional watcher - but it is just too much to see that "good" never truly win and who does not like happy endings? I am not saying if the end of the drama actually is happy or not, so watch it if you really want to know what happens.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Seven First Kisses (2016)

Also known as: First Seven Kisses, First kiss for the seventh time
Country: South-Korea
Format: mini-drama in 8 episodes
Genre: romance
Cast: Lee Cho Hee, Choi Ji Woo, Lee Joon Ki, Park Hae Jin, Ji Chang Wook, Kai, Taecyeon, Lee Jong Suk, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Jung, Lee Chung Mi
Synopsis: It is Min Soo Jin's 25th birthday and as usually she is spending it alone without boyfriend. In fact, she has never had a boyfriend and never shared a kiss. This year her birthday wish becomes reality when she is granted to pick a perfect partner for her first kiss from the goddess of  fate.
Rating: 2/5
The first reason why I wanted to watch it was, because as I mentioned in one of my comments before - I want to watch all Lee Min Ho's dramas and movies. It just aired and it is a mini-drama, so it is fast to watch it. Another reason was that just this weekend I had a BIRTHDAY (and Yanne also as we still after all these years are twins..), so I thought that there might be something proper to watch as Min Soo Jin is having her birthday in the drama too and I am just one year younger than she.
I think that Min Soo Jin already had become desperate of having a boyfriend and having her first kiss, though I am still surprised that are there really so many women in South-Korea who by age of 25th have not dated even once? It happens way too much in dramas. If we are talking about Min Soo Jin's professionalism at work, then she definitely lacks in it when it comes to hot guys. With other costumers she is very good, but as soon as she sees a hot guy, she falls into daydreaming and starts drooling over the guy - that's why I say that she has become desperate of having a boyfriend.
At the same time, we can also see from the drama, that she has set her standards really high, which also might be the reason that by 25th birthday she is still single. About Lee Cho Hee, I really enjoyed her face expressions. It definitely marked her out and it was interesting to see her acting in diferente situations. I guess out off all the cast she was the only one able to show her acting ability with this role.
The first story with Lee Joon Ki did not make me so interested of continuing as for me this kind of childhood love already seems to be turning into obsession. Taking photos on since she was little etc. and thinking that this was all past that she actually did not have, is weird. How do you be with a person, who should be your childhood best friend and in reality not know anything about this person? Is not it similar of having an amnesia?
Park Hae Jin is playing the most average type of male-lead in dramas - rich guy in powerful position who puts his work in first place, so he seems really arrogant and it is almost impossible to talk to him, but he ends up falling for one of his employees that is somehow suffering at work. There are way too many dramas like this.
I think Ji Chang Wook episode was the most unreal as if it was true then Min Soo Jin's life in past would have been way too different from what she had in reality. In addition, this story does not match much with their age. I would have believed it maybe more if she had her 30th birthday. On the other hand - who from us has not wondered what it would be to be a secret agent and do some undercover stuff?
EXO's KAI was the only idol who kept his true identity even after the change. The story has student-tutor theme and you can feel that the whole atmosphere is young and a bit naive. I was really annoyed how most of the time they kept running from one place to other and having this fake amusement on their faces. In addition, the dancing part was really a crime as it was so bad. But I must say that I liked KAI's acting and I am supporting his decision to take up more acting, whatever the fans and anti-fans are telling him.
The episode with Taecyeon might have been the funniest, because Min Soo Jin also understood how ridiculous it all is, yet it is perfect fast-based synopsis of many Korean dramas. It is interesting to see these stories without knowing the background and it is even funnier to see that Min Soo Jin is also totally oblivious about the things happening before that moment. I guess this story is one that really needs the "Ending" to have the cherry on the top of the episode. This episode was great for the comedy-purposes.
For some reason I am not a big fan of Lee Jong Suk - something in his face makes him look more alien than human and most of the screen time I am trying to figure out what it is and not pay attention to the storyline. I yet have not watched any of his dramas, but I hope that after watching one, I stop doing it. In a way, this episode was the most realistic, even though I do not think that they would take an average information girl to fill model/actress position in commercial. Yet, it definitely was one episode that I really enjoyed. I just remembered that he also kept his true identity.
I admit that I was disappointed and also confused by Lee Min Ho. It definitely was the "easy-money-role" as he almost did not have lines to say or much acting to do. And what the heck is "free-spirited travel writer" when he is actually made into "Nobody-really-cares-about-the-things-he-writes-but-he-looks-damn-hot-so-he-will-have-fans-and-be-famous-whatever". If you think I am exaggerating, then he also has a line: "This is the main thing I wanted to say with my book, but people mostly over-watched it..". The meaning what I wanted to say is that Lee Min Ho once again is not acting much and he is just filling the screen-time to show his face and put some money to pocket - not that I mind it - I actually really like to see him on screen. but just it has nothing to do with acting. In addition, Lee Min Ho was added to the cast later, so he did not even participate on the press conference and his episode was labeled as "extra". I wonder if they thought that adding the ultimate king of drama make more people watch it?... well at least it made me watch it so I guess adding him served its purpose.  
Overall the drama shows different scenarios that some Korean women daydream about, no matter how weird these are. Also, all the stories are based on the most famous story-lines of Korean dramas. I bet that about every episode you can name few other dramas that have this storyline in it. Thing that I definitely did not like about it was that all male characters were still made into "rich handsome men who are way out of league for her", even though she herself admits it too. Just as I usually say about this kind of long advertisements, it is just a "quick-money" for the actors.
We are dealing with very famous actors and artists with huge fan-base. This means that not only this is viewed by many people, it also makes an influence on them to actually go to the store "just to be in the place were it was filmed". We all know that LOTTE has a lot of money to but into these kind of advertisements, unfortunately I think that most of the fans of any of the idols do not have enough money to put into LOTTE..
The end of the drama was confusing as the extra-endings messed up my order of watching and in the end I could not understand what really happened or how things went on.
To finish the review, I just say that I had great birthday and spending birthday with a boyfriend is actually a great thing to wish for, because my boyfriend definitely saved my day from it being a disaster.
All the episodes are available on LOTTE DUTY FREE Youtube page and in ENGLISH.