Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Watchin'

At the moment, I'm not finding anything to love on terrestrial TV or cable. Well, except maybe Wipeout (I can't believe I just admitted that! — but nothing on TV makes me laugh as hard as seeing those poor people bounce from obstacle to obstacle in such an overly optimistic way — I mean, is this THE metaphor for life or what?). Okay, it is the summer season, but even at the height of ratings season, there wasn't much, was there?

So, what's a TV addict to do? Watch Asian dramas on the Internet! So far, here's what I can recommend.

Knock Knock Loving You (Taiwan): explores that perennial dilemma — do you chose the dull but cute guy who takes you for granted or the charismatic business shark who loves you for who you really are (even though you have like zero self-esteem)? Knock Knock is very cleverly written (if you don't count the last episode or two) with a great lead in Maggie Wu as Yao Zi Wang, a sharp-tongued business gal who just wants her daddy to love her!

Satomi Hakkenden (Japan): only for those of us who love stories about brotherhoods of knights and the black magic that tries to stop them. Lots of silly business about women who have to kill themselves for the greater good of mankind. And I do mean mankind. I just love the glamorous animae-inspired hairdos on the samurais though! Worth the whole movie. Spoiler alert! The great thing is that in the end, the villanesse of the story is rehabilitated in the afterworld and all her evil blamed on men! How about that, girls!

Hwang Jin Yi (Korea): fictionalized drama about the legendary courtesan, Hwang Jin Yi. The story itself is pretty silly, but I'm riveted by the performances of the head courtesans: Ha Ji Won (Hwang Jin Yi), Kim Young Ae (Yim Baek Moo), and especially Kim Bo Yun (Mae Hyang). And it's proving to be a good primer about Korean folk art. Also, for a TV series, it's absolutely gorgeously filmed. And the music is fantastic (what is it about Korean dramas? they have the best, most unforgettable theme music).

He Who Can't Marry (Korea): Korean remake of a highly popular Japanese series, it's the story about an obnoxious 40-something male who's finally humbled by love. I wasn't really sure about this one after the first episode, but it's really growing on me. I like the natural way all the relationships are forming, not just between lovers but female friends. The second episode was hilarious in the way it talked about the politics of eating alone at a restaurant (I've eaten alone at many a restaurant, in several different countries, and I have to agree with every one of their points! And I wish I was confident enough to eat alone at a grill!). And the setup is pretty funny too: slowly falling for the woman doctor who performed surgery on your hemorrhoids. I mean, after that, what more does a woman need to know about you, anyway?

BTW, Yang Ja Jeon plays mom — she also played granddad's sweet girlfriend on Mom's Dead Upset. The two performances are so spectacularly different, it took me four episodes to place her!

Joshi Deka (Japan): female detectives! I think that's what Joshi Deka means, and in the series, it's always used as a derogatory phrase. Anyway, it's all good fun, mostly because of Izumi Pinko. I could watch her in anything! (She's also in Satomi).

Antique Bakery (Korea): based on a Japanese manga and involves pastries, serial killers, kidnapping, blah, blah — just watch it! It's fun, with really cute camera and graphic work. Joo Ji Hoon, who played the sad prince in Goong, is the lead character — totally different performance — he's a bit louche with lots of physical comedy. Can't wait to see him in Love Kitchen.

Around 40 (Japan): 40-something women and their mid-life crises. This is a sweetheart of a series with so much heart! As a woman, whatever choice you make always seems to be the wrong one! Amami Yuki is so wonderful.

All of these shows are available on I can't believe how good the subtitles are, too! Much, much better than what you get on KBS or MBC. And sometimes with really good explanatory footnotes about language or culture. And usually from viewers who took the time to translate. I love the Internet!

If, Dear Reader, you have any other recommendations, please share! I'm still hungry!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pride of Pyongyang

Some tales are just too strange to be true. Like how about the one where a mad North Korean dictator sends his minions to a small town in England and has them dismantle a brewery brick by brick so they can rebuild it in Pyongyang. Why? Because he's a mad dictator? And just what do you do after you've rebuilt the brewery and Thunderbirds are go? You make a commercial, of course.

Someone really has to make a movie about this. In the meanwhile, here's the commercial in all its cheesy, post famine glory.

Of course, I've never had the pleasure of watching North Korean TV, but somehow I never figured they'd have commercials. Which begs the question of who these ads are aimed at? Peoria? Because most North Koreans don't even own a TV. I mean, if they had money, they'd buy food. And are all their commercials like this, mind-control in psychedelic mode? Listen to those voices, echoing into the depth of your subconscious: aren't you dying for a beer now?

North Korea. On the one hand, they have nuclear weapons. On the other hand, now they have beer. I'm not sure which is more scary.

Here's a link to the BBC story, which is delivered with an earnestly straight face. I love how the Germans are involved. Well, if you're going to do beer, might as well go to the best.