K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

I have to stress that Twenty-Five Twenty-One is beautiful. Of course, there’s the delicate soundtrack, and the story itself is people rebuilding themselves in the wake of economic recession, but I honestly, chiefly, mean the visuals. Where I’d expect any ‘90s-set period piece made 30 years later to desaturate, the colors of Twenty-Five Twenty-One are boosted. Grass is green, the gym is orange and red, the night sky is blue, and Na Hee-do actually gets orange and pink with emotions. I’ve already covered the camerawork, but there’s also the editing, like that small moment in episode nine where Coach Yang beckons Hee-do with a quick gesture and we punch in on it for just a second. It’s a super-confident production, and while that helps the big moments land, it’s also just a very pleasant watch. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One Part II

K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One

By traditional logic, Twenty-Five Twenty-One has a lot to live up to. Its writer/director team is Kwon Do-eun and Jung Ji-hyun, whose previous collaboration was 2019’s Search: WWW, which blew me away. This, of course, is K-drama, where I’ve had to rethink all the rules of everything. In this case, what drew me to Search: WWW was the actress Lee Da-hee and the promise – fulfilled – of her badass character. I came for Scarlett and stayed for the simmering romance and the slowly-unfolding tragedy. This is like the difference between being a fan of a movie franchise and being a fan of a director. If Production IG were to announce a new Ghost in the Shell the same day that Mamoru Oshii announced a new movie, I know which one I’d watch first. Sure, the Oshii movie might be better (guy’s so experimental it’s kind of a toss-up), but Ghost in the Shell has Scarlett, so to speak. So to speak. So when the makers of Search: WWW roll out a new K-drama, I can reasonably predict the same level of simmering romance and slowly-unfolding tragedy. Being that it’s about a high school girl who wants to be a real good fencer, it doesn’t speak to me the same way as the imagery of Lee Da-hee stomping on people or sliding over a car hood. … More K-Drama Report: Twenty-Five Twenty-One

Don’t Say No | Love and Leashes (2022) Review

Two office workers in South Korea enter a secret sadomasochistic relationship with the woman as the dominant and the man as the submissive. There’s a lot of intriguing words in this or any given logline for Love and Leashes, an ostensible romantic comedy clocking in at an epic two hours of whipping and bondage and the occasional hijink. What do you want from a movie like this? If you want a big, mainstream Korean movie about BDSM – in essence, The Korean BDSM Movie – it’s a no-brainer and you’ll likely be as satisfied as I was by the accordant trappings. If you want a solid rom-com with all those respective trappings, my recommendation will be longer and more convoluted. With the visual affect of a typical sun-drenched K-drama, shot with concern for beautiful faces and spurred by an eagerly open heart, Love and Leashes presents a strange case where everything absolutely works, except for the script – the bedrock. It’s beautiful and ambitious and something of a mess. Never frustrating, but imperfect nonetheless. … More Don’t Say No | Love and Leashes (2022) Review

Loves and Leashes Preview

So there’s two thoughts running concurrently when it comes to the upcoming Love and Leashes, that A) it’s probably not gonna check all the right boxes and B) but just enjoy it, please? No matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s kind of like when whenever a new movie has a [minority identity] lead for the first time. I guess like Love, Simon, the all-too recent first Hollywood movie to be about a gay romance. Critics were bracing themselves, to the point where a common sentiment online was “let gay people have a crappy Hollywood romcom, too.” … More Loves and Leashes Preview

Best of the Year: 2021

An annual tradition five or seven years strong is the Year End Review, in which, via podcast, I recount the ten best movies or TV shows I saw for the first time that year. Originally hosted on The Battle Beyond Planet X, it’s since migrated to Questions: We Don’t Have Answers. The three-part podcast with cohost Donovan Morgan Grant and special guest Stella Bowman is now up. The following is my individual top ten list, with Worst of the Year and Honorable Mentions thrown in for flavor. What were your picks of the year? Let me know in the comments! For once, I actually mean that. … More Best of the Year: 2021

Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

“Give me Cha Hyeon,” Ga-kyeong says, and as the scene whips between reaction shots and the music swells, I’m bouncing the iPad on my knees, making a positively indescribable noise. Search: WWW often shocked me like this, inducing so much excitement and even dread, then clocking me square in the stupid grin. It was urgent somehow, to even process my experience with it — but I couldn’t. Perhaps it left me feeling so much that my thoughts were annihilated. I’d like to recommend it, but where do I even start? … More Search: WWW | Recommended Korean Drama

Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

I promise not to make this a regular feature, especially since it’s rare anyway. It’s something I’ve always liked about actors, when an already compelling turn is underscored by just how opposite the performer seems to be in reality. It’s a strange thing to write about, but the actress Lee Da-hee represents an extraordinary case. … More Lee Da-hee: Dichotomy

K-Drama Report: The Beauty Inside (2018)

Yes, I cried. Happy? I am, because it’s been a while. The story as old as this website is my search for another K-drama as affecting to me as the first I saw, Cheer Up! (Sassy Go Go). Last year, I thought it might be Something in the Rain, with superstar Son Ye-jin, a relatively straightforward romance where the twist is that the woman is older than the man by maybe six years. Scandalous! Granted, it was further complicated by the man being a family friend, so to Son’s mother, it was like her two children were hooking up and she did not take that well. Also, it is kind of scandalous, damn it, and would be even in the States. Also, if the woman is taller, but I do go on. Could go on. I’ve seen ten episodes, but a few episodes back, my view rate slipped from days to weeks to months. It was so disheartening because I loved the show from premise on, and I really liked the central couple, as well as Son’s long-suffering friend. The problem was a fatal, repetitive subplot involving sexual harassment, which felt so tertiary to the main plot and certainly prickled me with sensitive subject matter. … More K-Drama Report: The Beauty Inside (2018)