February 1, 2013

Damo – Episode 11 – Korean drama recap

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to Episode 11 of Damo. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what comes next, so I’ve been dragging my feet.

The episode opens with the former thief instructing his borrowed troops to masquerade as a rebel band, under the supervision of Jang Sung Baek’s younger sister (so much truer than he and the damo know!). They scare villagers and bully travelers to establish their false identities.

Meanwhile, Chief Joh’s investigation is at a standstill, since his suspects are too high in the court hierarchy to touch. When he receives the letter Chae Ohk faked for the police chief who lent them the soldiers, he knows right away who to blame, and what they are up to. If they can capture the rebel leader, that will move the investigation forward. Chief Joh sends Hwangbo after Chae Ohk.
Guards stand atop a stone wall at the rebel hideout
At a rebel meeting, a captain crows with delight over their successful misdirection of the forces that are hunting them. Then he reports that another band claims to be led by Boss Jang’s younger sister. Jang abruptly leaves the meeting. MORE…

January 3, 2013

Damo – Episode 10 – Korean drama recap

Damo 10 Hwangbo looks off into the sunny morning with a happy expressionAs Damo Episode 10 opens, Hwangbo (Lee Seo Jin) and the old monk rush into Chae Ohk’s room. She is gasping, and falls over when Hwangbo touches her arm. Then her eyes open. Hwangbo smiles, the monk says a prayer and Hwangbo walks out into the grounds to drink from a fountain. There is a sudden sprinkle of spring rain. In this moment, all is well. If Hwangbo’s smile momentarily dims now and then when he thinks of his job, it soon returns. Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) will live.

December 24, 2012

Damo – Episode 9 – Korean drama recap

The damo (Ha Ji Won) does not, of course, give up her plan of seeing the King to plead Hwangbo’s case. But first she writes Hwangbo a letter, telling him how much he has meant to her, and how much she regrets her baffling inability to kill Boss Jang, even to save Hwangbo’s life. Then, it’s off to the palace.
The King looks down on the kneeling damo with a concerned expression;
After a lot of swooping, slinking, swimming, and close calls, Chae Ohk finds the King. His guards pounce on her, and she is severely wounded. Her battered body is dumped at his feet. He is amazed that such a low ranking woman has gone to such lengths to meet him. The damo manages to gasp out the story of a conspiracy against the throne, insisting that Chief Joh and Hwangbo are innocent, and demanding their release.

November 29, 2012

Damo – Episode 8 – Korean drama recap

Hwangbo and Chief Joh are escorted to the jail by guards in conical hats;In Episode 8 of Damo, we learn that the general has left a suicide note, swearing his loyalty to the King. The King is upset, and berates Chief Joh and Hwangbo. MORE…

November 1, 2012

Masquerade – a Korean film review

Masquerade - Lee Byung Hun dressed in a royal red robe and seated on a gilded throne;Masquerade is a costume drama set in the royal court of 17th century Korea. Although the film was supposedly inspired by Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, it’s more nearly a remake of the American 1993 Kevin Kline/Sigourney Weaver film, Dave.

A jaded leader, surrounded by political intrigue and assassination threats, hires a working-class lookalike to cover more frequent visits to a favorite concubine than his neglected queen would approve of. He suddenly falls ill, and his stand-in has to go full-time while he recovers. MORE…

October 18, 2012

Damo – Episode 5 – Korean drama recap

The first 10 minutes of Damo Episode 5 are awash with wave after wave of fighters swooping over rooftops into and out of the Left Police Bureau. To make sure we understand it’s exciting, it’s filmed hyper-energetically from a myriad of camera angles. The place is like a Joseon Grand Central Station, as lone Damo Chae Ohk (Ha Ji Won) rescues two escaping prisoners from dozens of guards armed with swords, bows, and rifles.
smoky torchlit courtyard of Left Police Bureau filled with armed officers poised to fire guns and bows;
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched yet, stop here.

October 13, 2012

Dream of the Emperor, Happy Together and a Hangeul note

Life (the other life) descended with a bagful of unexpected deadlines and other demands, opportunities and distractions. Also, I’ve been auditioning alternate themes, as you may have noticed if you visited during an audition. But I haven’t forgotten Damo, and I will return to it, I swear.

Meanwhile, I saw an episode and a half of the new Choi Su Jong sageuk, variously translated as Dream of the Emperor, The King’s Dream, The Great King’s Dream, or if you’re feeling playful and run the Hangeul title (대왕의 꿈) through the Google Translator, The Maharaja’s Dream. Who knew there were Maharajas in 7th century Baekje? Not I. But Google knows…

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I didn’t like about Whoever-it-is’s Dream. It just didn’t grab me, seeming more like a 영화 (movie), not something that had 80 episodes to go deep with. There’s also the matter of taking sides in the 3 Kingdoms period. Can I switch allegiances just because a new drama came out? Of course not. What do you take me for?!

It’s airing in a very convenient timeslot, however, so it’s possible I’ll give it another chance later. See, I have learned to be more temperate with words I may later have to eat :)

Speaking of eating, I caught Choi Su Jong and other cast members on Happy Together today, where they were competing to make the best late night snack. Happy Together has another one of those formats that strikes me as distinctly Korean. Cast members from current dramas join emcees and others (Kpop groups, for example) for chats in a make-believe sauna (for which they all dress alike in t-shirts and towels), with various truth tests and other challenges. Since there is not really a concept of TMI in Korea, you can learn all sorts of interesting incidents about the filming of your favorite drama, how the actors really feel about each other, etc.

Language Note: Just recently, I learned that the name which is Romanized as Choi, and which I have, not unreasonably, pronounced Choy for the past year and a half, is actually pronounced Che (as in Che Guevara). If you haven’t read my rant about Why I Don’t Like Korean Romanization, this would be a good time.

September 29, 2012

Damo - Episode 3 - Korean drama recap

Ha Ji Won as Chae Ohk;The third episode of Damo continues to develop the back stories of Hwangbo and Chae Ohk, and their conflict over Chae Ohk’s safety comes to a head. While the Left Police Bureau engages in a sting operation to lure out counterfeiters, the audience sees signs that the counterfeit operation is just the tip of the iceberg.

SPOILER ALERT: Stop here if you haven’t watched yet.

September 11, 2012

Damo with Lee Seo Jin - Watch with me!

Damo – Episode 1

Something about fall puts me in the mood for sageuk. SO many episodes, though! Do I want to be watching the same drama until spring? But I found just the thing in my DramaFever queue.

Damo (다모), an MBC drama from 2003, is positively petite by sageuk standards, at a mere 14 episodes. I’m curious to see some of Lee Seo Jin’s earlier work, and I always appreciate a storyline that revolves around a Spunky Heroine.
SPOILER ALERT: stop here if you haven’t watched yet

April 19, 2012

The Shadowless Sword (무영검) - Korean film review

It’s spring and I’m restless, and about as focused as a butterfly. My DramaFever queue is full of verified winners, but nothing grabs me –
I can’t commit.

It seemed like a good time to watch my first Korean film.

I didn’t notice it until now, but in a year of watching Korean TV, I have never once so much as channel-surfed through a Korean movie. I don’t know whether the total absence of movies on US Korean TV stations is representative of TV in Korea, or just a quirk of the local market. Another question for my list of Korean mysteries.

I feel a little remorseful that I’ve been neglecting Lee Seo Jin in favor of Yeon Jung Hun. I’m not usually so fickle. But like I said, it’s spring.

To make it up to him, I selected the 2005 film, The Shadowless Sword (aka Legend of the Shadowless Sword), for my first Korean film experience. It’s billed as a martial arts film (though it’s just as much a road film), so I wasn’t expecting to like it very much. However, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

picture of sword with fancy handleYes, there is sword fighting withinin the first 5 seconds of the film, but by the 10th second, a woman uber-warrior (Yoon Soy Yi) appears on the scene, and proceeds to save the reluctant Balhae prince (Lee Seo Jin) for the rest of the movie, battling through forests, fields and marketplaces, in mid-air, and under water, while dodging barrages of flying blades of every conceivable description. Probably typical for this kind of film, but as a neophyte, I found it entertainingly novel.

It was also virtually bloodless. Sometimes the slain simply exploded into a cloud of flying debris.

The Shadowless Sword is more of a showcase for athleticism than acting ability, but Yoon Soy Yi does a respectable job with the scraps of backstory and dialogue that are allotted to her, as well as with the ubiquitous fighting scenes. I also appreciated that she hadn’t messed with her eyelids, although I think she has since (sigh. why would she want to look more like my ancestors than her own?? This near-universal self-mutilation has made it really difficult for me to relate to Korean actresses).

I haven’t seen Lee Seo Jin in a period role before, so his shaggy mane was great fun. The Shadowless Sword is not deep, and his talent was largely wasted on it, but the film-scale budget provided colorful period costumes and sets, and eye-catching locations (it was filmed in China). I’m sure this is even better on a big screen. It engaged my flighty mind just enough without asking too much from me. If you’re in the mood for something like that, The Shadowless Sword is just the thing.

See all reviews for dramas with Lee Seo Jin