Tag Archives: Drama

Tunnel, Korean drama series (2017)

People have always held a kind of  morbid fascination when it comes to serial killers. One has to wonder why on Earth that is. There is nothing romantic about it. In fact when you look at all the serial killers from the past and present all you see is a lot of sadness and pain. Especially for the families of the victims of these often loathsome individuals. What drives one to become one? Some of them are just born that way, and have an evil inside them from a very young age. But it also happens that something triggers it. Choosing the wrong friends, an abusive childhood, a traumatic experience, all of these might be the cause of turning someone into a murderous psychopath. But they also say that each and every one of us has a dark side. Which brings me back to my original question, why are we so obsessed with them. Is it because of that inner darkness that we all have inside and that we have to satisfy it in some way? You think I am overreacting? Well, look at the sheer amount of movies and books about serial killers. Got you there didn’t I? Getting creeped out already by this post? Am I getting under your skin? Insert evil grin. No worries…this introduction only served to set the tone for the thrilling Korean drama series Tunnel. Which of course features a serial killer, and time travel. Say what?!?

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Why are you looking at me with such a dumb face?

It is the year 1986 when we meet up with Park Gwang Ho a police detective who is always very determined, enthusiastic and takes his job very seriously. One a day a horrific series of killings shakes up his police district. Women are found dead, having been strangled with their own stockings, and strange dots are left behind on their ankles. Purely by chance the detective stumbles on the culprit and gives chase on foot. Eventually the killer and Park Gwang Ho end up in a tunnel where a fight between them begins. Unfortunately the killer gets the upper hand and strikes our hero on the head leaving him unconscious. When he wakes up and exits the tunnel, he gets the shock of his life. Apparently Park Gwang Ho has been transported thirty years into the future leaving him stranded in the year 2016. Determined to find his way back home and to his wife he left behind, he assumes the identity of a police detective who carries the same name as himself. Together with a new (and in the beginning very reluctant) partner named Kim Sun Jae, and a beautiful but mysterious criminal profiler and psychology professor Shin Jae Yi, he tries to fit into this new and unfamiliar world. But when it seems the murders that he tried to stop 30 years ago are starting up again, things become very grim indeed. The serial killer is still at large and will stop at nothing to continue with his killing spree……

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Who are you calling a cold fish?!?!

Time travel and a serial killer blended into one single series? That is pretty much a match made in heaven. While this 16 episode series wasn’t perfect, it was very enjoyable and I bingewatched the hell out of it finishing it in about 3 days. One of the best things in this Korean drama is once again it’s characters. The three leads had a very good chemistry between them, which helped make this series a cut above the rest. Actor Choi Jin-huyk brings to life the hero time travelling cop and he just had a vibrant energy to his role that worked very well. He seems to be able to handle a wide range of emotions, from heartbreak to comedy, and he is able to switch between them in the blink of an eye. His future partner played by actor Yoon Hyun-min is more serious, but the chemistry between both actors is terrific. I really enjoyed some of their comedic banter that hardly ever failed to bring a smile to my face and a lot of their scenes together were certainly the highlight of this series. And then there was actress Lee Yoo-young who played the role of Shin Jae Yi. She was a bit of a cold fish at the start of this series, and I did not really know what to make of her. But when the series progressed her character began to grow, and at the end I really ended up liking her very much. She was very heroic and a verbal exchange between her and the killer in one of the show’s final episodes gave me goosebumps. She played that scene so incredibly well and lifelike.

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This guy had such a fun role (yeah I know he looks like he doesn’t have much humor)

Speaking of the role of the killer, and I am not going to mention the actor’s name in fear of spoilers, I can only say one thing: WOW! What a loathsome, terrifying and incredibly evil monster did this actor give birth too. It is an incredible performance and out of the many serial killer roles that I have seen in my life, he certainly is in the top three. That’s for sure. Over the course of the 16 episodes that this series has, we get a story that has some nice shocks and tension, some comedy (mainly because of a few side characters that I haven’t named here, but really help to relieve some of the darker aspects of the show), and heartbreak as well. That said, there were also some moments during the middle of the drama where I felt it began to feel a bit slow. But luckily those moment did not carry on and the final episodes really made you forget those moments very quickly. Another element that I was a bit dissappointed by was the use of the timetravel aspect of this series. I had expected it to be used more, with maybe some clever jumps in between the timelines, but sadly that did not really happen.

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See? I rest my case 🙂

Still, this Korean drama was a wonderful show. Even though it had some dark events happening in it, it never became too depressing. Most serial killing movies/series always seem to go to for the shocks or the horror, and while there were certainly scenes like that in it, there was also enough room for other more lighthearted things which was very refreshing. Tunnel is well worth checking out and also a series that for me at least seems like a good one to watch if you have never entered the world of the Korean dramas before. With memorable characters, a great, gripping and often tense story, this drama will leave a lasting impression in your mind. Well, that wasn’t too bad was it? I know the beginning of this review might have creeped you out, but hey it had to be done. Even I have a dark side…..

I give Tunnel a 8 out of 10 score.

 

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Sword Art Online-Ordinal Scale, Japanese (animated) movie (2017)

The world of computergames is vast. Some say it is currently one of the biggest entertainment mediums, bigger even than Hollywood movies. Many of you already know this but I used to be a very fanatical gamer. One could argue that I was so fanatical that it wasn’t even healthy anymore. But that’s a thing of the past now, as I have stopped playing computergames altogether, well on consoles that is. I do play the occasional game on my Ipad, but that’s nowhere near the level of games that I was used to playing. Games these days are becoming ever more immersive, with virtual reality being one of the latest trends. Putting on special goggles, gamers can experience the gaming world in a way that is almost lifelike. I do say almost, as of course the technology isn’t anywhere close to the things you sometimes see in science fiction movies. Two years ago, around the time when my blog was up and running for a few months, I discovered the anime Sword Art Online, which focusses heavily on virtual reality gaming. It fast became one of my alltime favorite animeseries and now I have a huge collection of merchandise from that series (proving once again my point that I can truly become obsessed when I like something).

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Don’t look now, but I think you might have something stuck in your ear.

Last year a movie that was a follow-up to the series saw the light of day, and now I finally had the chance to see this one for myself as it was released on dvd two weeks ago. (Well here in Europe anyway). Was it worth the wait? Hell yeah it was! It is the year 2026, and the world is under the spell of the Augma device, a new system that allows players all over the world to simulate reality while still being conscious. As a few years prior players became trapped in a virtual reality game called Sword Art online, that used a full dive system, this new device is deemed much safer. We once again meet up with Kirito and Asuna, both survivors of the horrible SOA event, and not surprisingly both are also using the Augma to play the newest and most popular game Ordinal Scale. Although Kirito doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself as much. But then a new event is introduced to the game: old boss monsters from the Sword Art Online world begin appearing accompanied by the mysterious AI idol singer Yuna. What at first seems like a fun and welcome addition to the game, soon begins to take on a much more sinister shape. With Asuna’s life on the line, Kirito has to find out what is going on, before it’s too late. But it might already be too late, for Kirito seems to have met his match in the form of a player that is able to counter his every move….

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Gotta love Asuna’s new look in this film.

Sword Art Online is a series that is hated upon by a lot of animefans. I’m not going to start up that old discussion as I am here to talk about this movie. Suffice it to say though that I am a huge fan of this anime, in fact so much so that it has taken up a spot on my personal top 3 of favorite animeseries. When I first heard about the fact that there would finally be something coming out that would continue the storyline I was delighted. At the same time though I also felt anxious. What if it would suck? Well, having finally been able to see this film now, I am very glad to let you all know that my fears were unfounded. If you are a fan of the animeseries you will love this. Let’s talk about the storyline first. One of the things I really liked about it, is the way it treated the main characters of Asuna and especially Kirito. It was very refreshing to see the latter being out of his element and not the powerhouse player we are used to seeing in the series. Kirito really struggles within this new life and death game, and it takes him a long while to adapt. Asuna also at a certain point becomes very vulnerable, and it’s a side we are not always used to seeing from the starstruck couple. It’s their relationship and love for each other that continues to be heartwarming, and very touching though.

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GET READYYYYYYY: FIGHT!!!!

Another thing I liked about the film’s story is some of the questions it asked that really made you think.What if you were able to forget about things from your past that were not very happy thoughts or events?  Would you do that if you were able to? Or are they a part of your life no matter how unhappy these memories might be? I think that is an intriguing question and one that could almost be the topic for an entire post or at the very least a lively discussion. The movie runs for two hours, and it is in my opinion just a tad bit too long. Some of the story elements felt a bit forced, and a few of the side characters had way too little screentime, but were probably just added to the mix for the fans. Nevertheless there are also quite a few things in it for fans of the original series that will in all likelyhood give you a few goosebumps. On the action front the film doesn’t disappoint. Even though it’s not a full on fight fest, there are enough action scenes in the film that make it very satisfying. The fights also feel much more threatening and dangerous.

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I just love my special edition boxed set version of this movie 😀

 

While the animation might not be as beautiful as some of the higher level animefilms out there, I still found it to be very decent, with some spectacular setpieces. The new outfits for most of the characters also worked quite well and had a really nice look to it. Another thing that plays a big role in this film is the music. With the introduction of the new character of Yuna, an AI idol singer, there were quite a number of scenes that featured her singing. At times it almost felt as if I was watching a new installment of the  Macross saga. But I have to admit that this element did work quite well and wasn’t distracting in the least. The music featured in the film fits the tone of Sword Art Online and as such is very pleasing to the ear. Even though the film can be watched on it’s own without any prior knowledge of the world of Sword Art Online, you will find it more enjoyable if you first watch the original anime. If you hated SOA in the first place, this movie won’t make you love the series all of a sudden. For the fans though this is a more than decent follow up to the original anime and with the words Sword Art Online will return at the end of the credits, we can rest assured that we haven’t seen the last of Kirito and Asuna. And I would not have it any other way. Link start !

I give Sword Art Online-Ordinal Scale a 8 out of 10 score.

The Villainess, Korean Movie (2017)

There is a particular type of film in the action genre that I am very fond of: the revenge movie. I always love it when someone loses everything and then turns into a complete psycho, hellbent on getting revenge on his or her tormentors. Usually that makes for a very entertaining, albeit often bloody, movie experience. As with any film genre there is always a risk that there are too many movies that are being made and as such it becomes either predictable or very boring. The South Korean movie industry certainly is no stranger to this particular type of film. In the past, movies such as Old Boy, I Saw the Devil and A Company Man have all been received very well (while at the same time causing quite a stir because of the often extreme violence depicted in those movies). No matter how you look at it, I have always thought that the Koreans are masters of the genre, and I always look forward to a new entry into the ranks. Last year The Villainess was released, that supposedly infused the revenge movie with a new and fresh take on it. Having just seen the film, I have mixed feelings about it, but more on that later.

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Some people take the “till death do us part thing” way to literally.

The Villainess can best be described as South Korea’s take on La Femme Nikita. It focusses on a woman named Sook-hee who is a highly trained assassin. As a young girl she lost her father to an unknown assailant and witnessed him being killed while hiding under her bed. The face of the killer is unknown to her, but she does hear him whistle an eerie tune. Years later Sook-hee is captured by South Korea’s intelligence agency and given a new identity and name: Yeon-soo. While she is being trained by them, she gives birth to her daughter Eun-hye. Yeon-soo is offered the deal to work for the intelligence agency, and after 10 years she will gain her freedom for herself and her daughter. Having very little choice she accepts. But the shadow of her father’s death always looms over her. Eventually the past creeps up on her as it usually tends to do in these matters. With people gunning for her at every turn, the life expectancy of the skilled assassin becomes ever shorter. But Yeon-soo will not go down without a fight…

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When the airconditioning of your car doesn’t work this is a great alternative.

The opening sequence of this film puts you smack down right in the middle of the action. Without even knowing exactly what is going on, we see a fight sequence from a first person view as Sook-hee hacks, shoots and punches her way through a group of men in a warehouse. It is chaotic, bloody, brutal, but honestly a truly terrific way of setting the tone for this film. Where this film excels at is it’s uniquely choreographed fight sequences. The camera angles in some of the scenes are really one of a kind, and at times it feels almost as if you are the one that is delivering all of the violence. And there is a word that also describes this film very well: violence. This movie is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t shy away from showing arteries being ruptured, limbs being cut off, and blood spraying in every direction. The Villainess is a brutal movie but as usual this does suit the theme of the film. If it’s action you want, this film brings it and then some. Be especially on the look out for a highspeed motorcycle chase that I found to be one of the best scenes of the film.

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What do you mean you forgot the bread to feed the ducks? Go home and get it!

The hero of the film (if you can call her that of course) is being played by actress Kim Ok-vin and she does it well. Or to phrase it better: she knows how to kick some ass. A film like this stands or falls with a good lead, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. In the fight sequences she shines the most as she is able to hold her own against the men that are trying to take her life. And she manages to do so with guns, knives and her bare hands. It all feels natural and realistic and you could almost believe she is an assassin in real life. Her character hasn’t got much depth to it, but admittedly the bond with her young daughter is what gives this otherwise very bleak movie at least a little bit of sunshine. This movie pretty much centers around her, and that’s why the supporting cast, such as it is, doesn’t really get a chance to show what they are made of. That is certainly one of the weak points of the film.

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If looks could kill, I would be dead right now.

Another one is the story itself. At times it’s very confusing to follow what exactly is going on. The film uses a lot of flashback scenes, which is not a bad thing in itself, but at times it seems to insert them almost randomly. Not only that but sometimes you get one right after another and in a totally different time frame. That took me out of the film quite a few times and left me looking at the screen in bewilderment. While the action in movies like this is usually the most important, I do have to say that in revengethrillers especially it’s nice to have at least some kind of motive for the main character. In that this film partially succeeded but it could have been handled better. With all of it’s flaws I still recommend seeing this movie if you like these type of films. The action sequences alone make it a very worthwhile watch, as in this it really does try to do something totally different than what we are used to seeing. Don’t expect to much from it, and you will have a great time. Especially if you like to see a strong woman beat the crap out of a bunch of men.

I give the Villainess a 7 out of 10 score.

 

The Anthem of the Heart, Japanse (animated) movie (2015)

Let’s talk. Let’s really talk for a bit. The topic? Well how about conversations? No, I am not trying to be funny here, I am really going somewhere with this. We have conversations every day. Unless of course you are stranded on some remote island with no one to talk to (although I hear a volleybal called Wilson could really help you out with that problem). Getting back to the topic of conversations. you have to admit that they make up a very big part of our lives. We talk to our friends, loved ones, parents, customers even total strangers. But now for a tough question. In how many of the conversations you have had were you totally honest? Ahhh…hard to say isn’t it? We all tell lies, and anyone who denies that is, well a big fat liar. But probably not all those lies were intentional. Sometimes you might tell a lie just to spare someones feelings. It’s the conversations where you have said something hurtful that you can’t take back though, that most of us will probably remember the most. A slip of the tongue or an intentional comment with the sole purpose of causing pain, I guess it’s safe to say we have all been there at some point. A moment where you kick yourself for saying something so stupid, or wish you could take it back. It’s the conversations where you don’t even realise that you are causing pain that might be the worst though.

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Hey! You…yeah you! Stop talking this instant!

And this last thing is exactly what happens to the young child Jun Naruse in the animated movie the Anthem of the Heart. Jun has always been a chatterbox. She is very cheerful and is always happily talking about pretty much anything that is on her mind. One day she comes home and tells her mother how she saw her father doing something that to her young childlike mind was pretty awesome. Her mother freezes though, and eventually this innocent remark results in her parents getting a divorce. Even worse her father puts all the blame on her. Jun runs away in tears, and while she tries to work through her grief a fairy egg appears. It makes sure that all of Jun’s words are sealed away so that she can never cause hurt to anyone ever again. Years later we meet up again with Jun when she is in highschool. She is but a shell of her former self. Jun is unable to speak, and tries to stay of the radar in class. But then her teacher, mister Jōshima invites her to become a member of the Charity Committee together with three other classmates. Naturally she is not at all happy about this, especially since it seems that they are going to have to prepare for a musical piece. But just when she is about to quit, something happens that changes her mind. Or beter yet someone. Will Jun find the courage to regain her voice?

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The school ran out of chairs so they had to find an alterative….

Now admit it: you read the synopsis of the film and were thinking something along the lines of ” Wow this sounds incredibly boring”. When I tell you that the runtime of this film is two hours I can almost hear the gears grinding in your head already and crossing this movie of your to watch list. You would miss out on something quite special though. This is one of those films that has a very simple story, but turns into something quite extraordinary. And here’s some of the reasons why (erm, no not going to give you 13 of them I am afraid). For one thing it’s the wonderful characters. Jun herself is hard not to like. Since she is at the center of the films, and this is pretty much her story it’s important to have a lead that you care about it. And you do. Jun’s journey of rediscovery and trying to forgive herself is fascinating to watch. At times you want to kick her, and even hate her for some of the things she does in this film. At the same time though, you can understand what drives her, and how incredibly vulnerable she is. The supporting cast is equally important to the story and just as enjoyable to watch as Jun herself. Why? Because they are really human. All of them are not perfect and have their own insecurities and flaws.

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Yeah I don’t really know what to say to this image. Egghead is the best I could come up with.

I love it when there are characters in a film that are not just there because it’s necessary for them to appear at a certain point, but just have depth and things you can relate to. It’s hard to make a story like this interesting to watch, especially considering the fact that this is a two hour movie that is filled with dialogue and a lot of music. But it succeeds in doing that. The intricate relationships between all of the characters and the way that basically they support each other’s flaws is the heart of what makes this movie work so well. As this is in part a musical as well, you will find sections of the film that are filled with music. But not the typical music that you normally find in anime films. Songs like “Over the Rainbow” and ” Around the World” give this film an extra special touch and just simply work very well, and don’t feel out of place at all. The animation style and level of detail is great too. It’s one of those films that has an almost dreamlike quality to it, and unless you are a very cynical person that doesn’t see beauty in anything, it’s almost impossible to not get touched by it.

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How do you like your eggs in the morning, erm evening?

But that strength is also at the same time it’s weakness. If you are someone who likes their films tense, filled with action and a breakneck pace, then I’m sorry to say that you are not going to be finding that anywhere in this film. What you are going to find though is a movie that has it’s title very well chosen. It will touch your heart and fill you with emotion while at the same time giving you a wonderful feel good feeling. If I were to make a comparison to something that has as a similar feel to Anthem of the Heart it would be Your lie in April. And I don’t think I could hand out a better compliment to this movie than that last one. While I would not call this film a masterpiece or classic, it does come very close. It’s a wonderful film that turns something simple into a very powerful piece of storytelling. It will also make you ask an important question: When is telling the truth something that might not be the best thing to do? I haven’t yet discovered the answer to that one. If you have, be sure to let me know!

I give The Anthem of the Heart a 9 out of 10 score.

Cobra Kai Season 1, American tv series (2018)

In the 80’s there was a movie that was a boost to every kid that experienced bullying in some form or other (myself included). The name of that film was The Karate Kid. A classic movie and one that redefines the word feelgood, it spawned three sequels (not counting a modern day remake) and is regarded by many people as one of the best films from the roaring 80’s. As much as I loved the original, the sequel for me was the one I loved the most (and you can read why by pressing on the link). But one can’t help but smile when the young hero of the film Daniel LaRusso takes revenge on his childhood bully Johny Lawrence by beating him in a karate tournament in part one. It was a moment that was edged in my memory as around that time I experienced the effects of bullying in a very bad way. Seeing someone actually turn the tables on his tormentor, even though it was a film, gave me some much needed hope. Late last year rumors started to spread about a sequel to the original Karate Kid franchise in the form of a television series. I really had severe misgivings about this, thinking that pretty much nothing is sacred anymore.

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Hey…they are older now. No martial arts, just trying to stare each other to death.

And then…the first trailer arrived. I could not stop myself and had to satisfy my curiosity.  If nothing else I could at least have a laugh about how bad it probably would be. But it wasn’t. In fact the trailer managed to actually convince me that there was a small chance this might actually be a fun sequel. But…this was a trailer, and a trailer always shows the best bits right? Let’s be honest: how can a tv series based on a 34 year old movie reignite that same feelgood feeling I had when I watched the original film in the 80’s? Naw, this would probably suck. But boy oh boy was I wrong, and a lot of people with me. Cobra Kai, as the new show is called, has become an overnight succes. It has an unprecedented 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, something no television series has ever managed to pull off. Yes, you heard that correctly. Not even juggernauts like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. People are going absolutely crazy over this YouTube Red series and rightfully so. What exactly make this series so much fun? Well…relax: wax on, wax off. I’m going to try and bring across why you absolutely have to watch this, if you haven’t already.

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Never trust a car salesman…even if he offers you a bonsai tree.

Cobra Kai takes place exactly 34 years after the events of the first film. Daniel LaRusso has grown up and been doing incredibly well for himself. He has a wife, two kids, and is the owner of a very succesful chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley. Life is not without it’s challenges though and Daniel tries to make the best of it, without the help of his former mentor mister Miyagi who has sadly passed away. Meanwhile the life of his former nemesis Johny Lawrence has been steadily going downhill. He lives in a rundown appartment, has trouble keeping his job, and is drunk most of the time. One night Johny saves a young man called Miguel from a bunch of teenagers that are about to beat the crap out of him. Having seen what Johny can do, Miguel begs him to train him, but the former karate champ declines. In a strange turn of events Johny and Daniel run into each other again after this. Even though Daniel welcomes him with open arms, it’s pretty clear that the old rivalry is still there. After his run in with LaRusso, Johny has a new plan at which he is determined to succeed. He will reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, and bring it back to it’s former glory. But if Daniel has something to say about it, that will never ever happen…..

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Dude….your hair? What’s wrong with it???

Cobra Kai is a tv series that will have you grinning from ear to ear right from the start. Even if you haven’t grown up with the Karate Kid films, I guarantee that you will love this show. For fans of the original movies though, it will be an even more special experience. One of this show’s biggest strengths is the way it portrays it’s characters. All of them have a depth to them and are more than just empty airheads made out of cardboard. William Zabka who reprises his role as Johny more than steals the show here. He is without a doubt the best thing this series has to offer and he turns his character into someone who you will grow to love. Huh? Wait wasn’t he the bad guy? Well…without giving too much away here, all I can say is that this series manages to offer quite a few surprises. It really turns the tables on quite a number of things and plays with your emotions in so many ways. Seeing Ralph Maggio returning as Daniel (seriously does this guy ever age), and settling back into his character that he last played almost 30 years ago now, is just incredible. It’s almost as if he has never even quit playing the Karate Kid. Seeing the banter on screen between the two rivals makes for some of the best scenes this show has on offer.

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Don’t look now, but this is Daniel’s daughter Samantha. Nope…I would not lie to you.

So how about the new characters? Glad you asked because they are just as must fun as the original cast. From Daniel’s daughter Samantha to the new hero (but is he really a hero) Miguel, they all fit in perfectly. Some of them act as comic relief, some act up as the villains, and just as with Daniel and Johny, you will constantly shifting who you are rooting for. Cobra Kai has managed to do something that very few other shows based on older properties have pulled off. It brings back the feel and spirit of the original franchise into a modern day world, while at the same time giving it a new and fresh spin. It will probably not come as a huge surprise that a second season has already been given a green light, and in the way the series ends, it promises to be every bit as good. Well…at least I hope it will be just as much fun as this season. But that’s the future. For now, just go and check this show out when you have the time. With only 10 half an hour episodes in this season, you will bingewatch this in one day. It’s one of the rare exceptions where the hype really is real. So put on your black belts, and watch this. Or go and catch flies with chopsticks…whatever preference you have.

I give Cobra Kai season 1 a 10 out of 10 score.

 

March Theme Reveal: Anime

Goodmorning, goodafternoon , goodevening, or maybe even goodnight! No idea when you are reading this post ofcourse, but I always try to be polite. So, we are already at the halfway point of February, and that means it is time to reveal the theme for next month. A few of you already knew about this (because really I am terrible at keeping secrets), but for those of you that didn’t yet know or for some reason missed the title of this post: it’s anime! I’m very excited for this month, for not only is it a theme that is very close to my heart, it’s also because if all goes well I have some collab posts lined up that I am really looking forward to. Just like last month I am going to ask you for some help again. For this month I am going to be reviewing two animes that will be selected by you the readers. And yes…..there are again a couple of rules for this. Ugh….I know I hate them too. But let’s get them over with, shall we?

The Rules

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Ughhhh…rules? Again? This is getting so annoying!

Well, don’t worry I’m not going to make them very tough again, so here goes:

  • The anime must either be on Crunchyroll or Netflix (please bear in mind that I live in Holland, so not every show might be available to me. If it isn’t I ofcourse will let you know, so you are able to choose another one)
  • The anime must have a maximum length of 12-13 episodes (It can be a first season, if it has that number of episodes)
  • Any genre of anime is allowed, except full on comedy series (sorry, I just don’t like that genre and would not even know how to write a review for that)
  • Leave your choice for the two animes in the comments section
  • You can leave a comment on this post up until the 25th of February
  • The two animes that will be selected will be revealed on the 1st of March and just like last month I am going to use a random number generator to determine who has won
  • The two bloggers that have won will get an honorable mention on my blog

That’s it! Pretty simple huh? As always I want to thank you for your help, and I am really looking forward to seeing what you are going to come up with. Rest assured for the people that are not into anime, there will still be other content as well such as movie reviews and hopefully another Korean drama series. See you on the next post!

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Okay, let’s get out of here!

 

Stephen King’s It, American movie (1990)

Beep, beep, people! Beep, beep! No, I haven’t turned completely insane here by beginning this post in this way. For it has pretty much everything to do with the film that I am about to review. And let me assure you that it’s a scary one at that. This movie is the third request I have had for February’s theme, this one made by Shadowcat99. Now, I think all of you will have a few blogs that you somehow ended up following rather late, and you wonder why you did not discover them any sooner? Shadowcat99’s blog is one of mine. All I can say is don’t make that same mistake as well and go follow her blog right now. Why? Because her posts are awesome! She writes mainly about manga and anime, and her posts are written with great skill and are thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. If you don’t believe me just press the link above and discover her wonderful blog. The 1990 version of It was technically a miniseries, but I allowed it anyway as most people see this as a film. And quite a number of people still fear it…..you see how I did that pun right? Enough talk: let’s get started with the review!

The review

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I just love pop up books. Don’t you?

I think nobody can deny the fact that when we were young, we all had our own fears. There might have been simple things like an irrational fear of spiders (or in my case wasps, and no I don’t want to talk about that lol), but it might also be fears that run much deeper. Leave it up to writer Stephen King though, to turn those fears into something truly sinister. It, takes place in the town of Derry where something really awful seems to be happening. Young children are being murdered in horrible ways, but nobody seems to really care about it. Not even the police. All except for one person, and that is the man called Mike Hanlon, who works in Derry as a librarian. Mike has experienced a very traumatic event in his past that is linked to the string of murders that is currently taking place. Thirty years ago a similar spree of killings occurred. But contrary to what you might believe this was no ordinary serial killer that was responsible for these murders. As Mike unfortunately knows all too well. He, and a group of his best friends encountered the being responsible all those years ago. They thought they had dealt with it. They were wrong. With unpleasant memories from the past rising up, Mike begins rounding up his friends to deal with it once and for all. But will they be able to confront their fears, or will the being known as Pennywise have the final laugh……

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The joke is definitely on you!

Last year a remake of It was released in the theatres. It was well received, but many claimed that the new version wasn’t really scary enough. I can not yet say if I agree with that statement as I still have to see the new version. Yes, I know…how terrible of me. However, it was a delight to relive this one though, as it has been many years since I last saw this film. The strength that this movie has, is how well it plays with themes that we can all relate to, combined with some genuinely scary moments. How many of you remember your friends from school? Did you stay in touch with them? Do you even know what they look like these days? That for me was one of the things I loved the most about this film: the fact that real friends, no matter how long they have been seperated from each other, will always stick together. The first half of the film mainly focusses on the past, and through flashbacks we can see how the main characters lives were when they were still children. I loved the fact that each one of them had their own things to deal with. And most of these were not pretty. An abusive father, being bullied at school, stuttering, are just a few examples of how tough their lives were.

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Of course there has to be a bully in this movie as well. And an annoying one at that.

But those weaknesses are the things that would ultimately draw these children together. That, and ofcourse their common adversary: the sadistic clown Pennywise. I know there are a lot of people that hate and fear clowns. I am not one of them, but really….if Pennywise were ever to become a rolemodel for the common circus clown we would be in some serious trouble. From the very first moment he makes an appearance you are getting the chills and really you have every right to feel that way. Masterfully played by actor Tim Curry, Pennywise is a force to be reckoned with. He tortures these kids with mindgames and shows them stuff that every sane person would lose their minds over. But it’s the strength of these character’s friendship that ultimately let’s them triumph….well at least for a short while that is. The childactors were very good in their roles. It sometimes surprises me how well some children can act, but at times I also think it’s quite disturbing how they don’t end up getting traumatised by the horrific scenes forced upon them.

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Awww…..young love.

It’s the films second act where the movie, or miniseries if you prefer, is losing some of it’s strength. The reunion of the group is heartfelt, and brings that feeling of genuine friendship back. The adult actors unfortunately do not give such strong performances as their child counterparts. Some of them overact a few times, but luckily this doesn’t really go so far that it ruins the experience. The late John Ritter is the one that honestly was the actor that impressed the most, and really had a character that I could relate to a lot. And it was nice to see him win back his childhood love. It’s the movies ending though that really hasn’t aged well. When Pennywise appears in his true form, we get a creature that you almost have to laugh at in the way it looks. Having seen this film quite a while back, I knew there was some type of monster that would make an appearance near the end. But I did not remember that it was made with some really crappy special effects. It’s a shame though, as this really does have an impact on the overall way you feel when the film’s end credits begin to roll.

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A 7 out of 10 score? Really…..you sure of that? Be very careful how you answer this…….

The 1990 version of It is a film that, having revisited it has left me with some mixed feelings. There are still quite a number of things in it that really work well, especially Pennywise and same genuinely scary scenes. However the weaker second act of the movie, did diminish the much stronger first half of the film. So whether or not you are going to enjoy this movie in the end all depends on the way you feel overall to watching older horror movies. I have always said that sometimes horror is more effective when you are showing less, especially when it comes down to special effects. That said, despite the letdown in the end, this is still quite the effective horrormovie, that is a lot of fun to watch for the most part. And you can add another point to the grade that I gave this film, if you are scared of clowns. That’s it for this review….beep, beep!

I give It a 7 out of 10 score.

Solomon’s Perjury, Korean Drama Series (2016)

We live in an age where social media plays a very important part in people’s lives. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and whatever else is out there, nearly everyone seems to have at least one of these, and more often than not, even more than one. It never fails to surprise me how easily some of the younger generation give highly personal glimpses in their day to day routines. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to play a judge here, as I always believe everyone has the right to decide what they wish to share on their own. But it’s the dangers that go along with it, that sometimes really scare me. What if something that you share falls into the wrong hands? Or even worse is used against you in a horrible way? And how about how easily some people’s opinions might be influenced by the power of a certain statement. I don’t think this social behaviour is any more apparent then in high school. Nearly every kid wants to be accepted by the popular ones, and as such belong to the group they hang out with. And usually they pretty much determine what happens in class. These underlying themes form the basics of the Korean dramaseries, Solomon’s Perjury.

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Nothing to see here, we are just hanging out.

On a cold winter morning in December, the lifeless body of highschool student Lee So-woo is found by one of his fellow classmates in front of school. The school and the police are convinced that he took his own life. But then a student comes forward claiming to have been a witness to his murder. The school is in an uproar and wants nothing to do with it, quickly dismissing the claim. Especially seeing as the suspect for the murder, the school bully Choi Woo-hyuk, is the son of a man that has always been very supportive of the school. But not everyone is so easily swayed. Go Seo-yon, the class president, wants to find out exactly what has happened to Lee So-woo and devises an ingenious plan to get to the bottom of things: a schooltrial. She takes on the role of prosecutor and together with a couple of other students she will stop at nothing to make sure justice will be served. But then a young man called Han Ji-hoon, who attends another school, steps up to act as the defense attorney for Choi. Just who is he? And why does he want to defend someone who has been causing so much pain to others? The answers to these questions, and many others, are about to be revealed……

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What are you looking at me for? 

I’m going to be honest: this one hit close to home. In a big way. It brought back some pretty unpleasant memories from my own days as a highschool student. Having been on the receiving end of bullying for a lot of years, I know what it can do to someone’s state of mind. And how much you at certain points would love to take revenge on the people that caused you pain. I am not a hateful person, and always try at least to see the good in people. But there have certainly been points during my schooldays where I wished some very unpleasant things would happen to my tormentors. And that’s what I really liked about this show, as it not only looked at bullying, but also what might drive someone to become a bully. And is it really fair to blame everything on that person? As such this is not an easy series to watch, as it not only deals with that, but also with the equally tough subject of suicide. But why did I continue watching it then? Because it never becomes too heavy and it really is an incredibly good series with some stunning performances.

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Yep, that is a broken window. Looking at their faces it’s almost as if they have never seen one before. 

The storyline for this is quite unique. The idea of a schooltrial is something I have never seen before and you would think that this might just be very laughable. It’s not. It’s every bit as compelling as a real courtroom drama, and the story has some very nice twists and turns. It soon becomes much more than just finding out whether or not Lee So-woo has committed suicide or not. There is a lot more to the story, but of course I’m not going to head into spoiler territory so I will just leave it at that. The acting in this drama is quite impressive, and besides a few moments of overacting by some of the supporting cast, really is one of the other reasons that this series works so well. Kim Hyun-soo plays the role of Go Seo-yon and really is the driving force of this show. She is both charming and very serious at the same time, and is utterly convincing as the prosecutor. She is one of those characters that is determined to find out the truth, and will never give up no matter what.

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Yep that is a door. Wow, these people really haven’t seen anything have they?

But equally impressive is Jang Dong-yoon who plays Han Ji-hoon. As an audience you know more about him than the other characters in the series, but at the same time you don’t quite know exactly what drives him. And it was really interesting to see when the reveal came to see what his real motives were at the end. Overall this show impressed the hell out of me. The overall themes and the way they were executed made this a very compelling watch. Let me be clear that this is not an action series. It really is a legal drama, and while there are certainly some tense moments, this series is more of slow burner. It is driven by the incredible verbal exchanges by the two main leads, and there are moments in the show that you don’t exactly know who to root for. As you want both of them to win. Be aware that the themes in the show can be tough to watch, especially if like me, you might have had similar experiences. But in the end it’s presented in such a great way that I am truly glad that I have watched it. This concludes my review for the third drama for my Korean Dramas theme month. If you want to watch this show you can watch it for free on the legal streaming website Viki.

I give Solomon’s Perjury a 9 out of 10 score.

Black, Korean Dramaseries (2017)

There is a question that many people wonder about. What happens when we die? Will we simply cease to exist? Will we somehow be reborn, enter Heaven or maybe even Hell? No matter what you believe in, I don’t think it’s a question that we will ever get an answer to until the moment arrives. Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one am pretty happy to postpone that moment for as long as I can. It’s not that I fear death, but I am pretty happy with living right now thank you very much. But we all check out at some point, that’s pretty much the only certainty we have in life. (Oh yeah, and taxes but I always tend to forget that one for some reason). Well, I can hear you thinking right now: “This is a very cheerful subject:NOT! I’m going to move on and check out something else”. Well, if you do you are going to miss out on a review for the best Korean drama series that I have seen so far in my life. So please bare with me just a little bit longer okay?

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My name is Black…..erm, no that’s it, just Black. 

 

In Black we meet up with Kang Ha-ram a young woman who has always had a very special ability ever since she was a child. When she looks at people she sometimes sees dark shadows forming behind them. These shadows are always the signs that the death of that person is very near. Ha-ram hasn’t been happy with this power at all, and the only way she can avoid it, is by wearing sunglasses. One day she crosses paths with police officer Han Moo-gang who she is stunned to recognise as a boy from her childhood, one was always very kind to her. She has not seen him in almost 20 years, but it appears that he has really changed. He doesn’t seem at all like the kindhearted young boy who she remembers, but instead has turned into a very coldhearted insensitive man. And she would be right, as Moo-gang has not only changed but is now possessed by a Grim Reaper. But this is not the only problem that Ha-rang is going to face. When a body is found, certain events are set in motion that will uncover a very dark secret and conspiracy that has been buried for a very long time. And certain people will stop at nothing to prevent that secret from rising to the surface…..even it means killing everyone in their path.

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Some people just hate missing the bus. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear, and this is very, very important. Do not, I repeat not drop this show after watching the first two episodes. I almost did this, and am eternally grateful that I did not. When this series starts you will be very confused. What exactly is this series trying to be? Is it a police drama, a supernatural mystery, or, and this is what I feared the most, a slapstick comedy? The first two episodes were a mess and the “comedy” was so cringeworthy that I very nearly gave up. But man, am I glad that I did not. Black is a show that by the time you start with episode 3 is almost impossible to turn off. The story it tells is tense, gripping, emotional and will have you in tears, on the edge of your seat, as well as laughing all at the same time. It’s a rollercoaster ride that will never let up. The best element in this series is how it draws you the viewer into the storyline trying to figure out how all the puzzlepieces fit together. And just when you think you have figured it all out, it throws another twist at you, and you have to start from scratch again.

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Sometimes you just want to sit down on the sidewalk. I always do that every day. 

There is a huge cast of actors, and as such it’s impossible to cover them all. I will instead focus on the two leads, but suffice it to say that every single actor involved in this series is great. No matter how small their parts were. And no, that is not me just saying so, just to get this over and done with in a quick way. Actor Song Seung-heon plays the part of the Grim Reaper possessed cop Moo-gang. His acting is superb and I love the way how his character evolved throughout the series. He can tackle basically everything, from actionscenes, to anger, to comedy to drama, everything he does is believable. His precense just lights up the screen everywhere he appears. But his chemistry with lead actress Go Ara, who plays the role of Ha-ram is also a huge part of what makes this series work so well. And speaking of her, you will completely fall in love with the character she portrays. Ha-ram is a feisty woman, who always has some very snappy comebacks, but is also very caring and emotional at the same time. This series is really her story, and that’s why it is important to have an actress who can carry that part. Go Ara really gets the job done, and then some.

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The new generation of Pokemon balls had also found it’s way into the afterlife. 

Black is a series that blends many elements together and that’s why it can be enjoyed by a pretty large number of people. Even though the show has supernatural elements, it never let’s these elements take the upper hand. Above all this is a solid and very cleverly written murder mystery, with a touch of action and suspense and the occasional humor thrown into the mix. And of course there is also some romance, but this only adds to the strength of the series instead of diminishing it. So in case you haven’t yet noticed, I absolutely loved this show. The only reason I haven’t given it the perfect 10/10 score is that the first two episodes just felt out of place. And seriously, I was very close to dropping it, something I almost never do. But the rest of this Korean drama series is so fantastic, that I have all but forgotten about that. If you have yet to watch your first K-drama series, this might be the one to start with. I guarantee that you will not regret this. So, this concludes my review for the second series for the Korean Drama theme month. What’s up next you ask? I haven’t yet quite decided, but rest assured there is one more series review to come. Thank you for reading!

I give Black a 9 out of 10 score.

The Sky Crawlers, Japanese (animated) movie (2008)

In a little over two months I’m going to turn 42. Even though I don’t consider myself old in any way, it has been quite a while since I left my childhood behind me (although I still feel like a kid pretty much every day). While being an adult certainly has had it’s ups and downs, I could also say the same about when I was a kid. But I honestly have no real complaints about my childhood. In fact it was a time where I really had much less to worry about, then I sometimes do right now. But would I have wanted to stay a kid forever? Hell to the no. While the prospect of eternal life might sound appealing, in no way would I want to spent it as a teenager. So why am I talking about all this? Last year I bought a movie I have been wanting to see for quite a long time. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed director of the original Ghost in the Shell movie, The Sky Crawlers is a film that deals with the subject of kids. But kids that never age…

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Hmm…..drinking and smoking isn’t very good for your health, you know that right?

Exactly in which time frame The Sky Crawlers takes place is very hard to describe. Suffice it to say that it’s an alternate timeline where the world seems to be at peace, but as usual the human race can’t live completely without war. In order to release these tensions, private companies enlist fighter pilots that take to the skies and fight each other in real aerial combat engagements. The Rostock Corporation is one of these companies and has just lost three of their pilots at the hands of the ace pilot “The Teacher” that works for rival company Lautern. Shortly thereafter Yuichi Kannami arrives at the Rostock base having just been assigned there. Yuichi is a Kildren, a genetically engineered humanoid that will never grow beyond adolescence. The only thing he lives for is going up in his plane and fighting in these wars. It’s also just about the only thing that can get him killed. The base commander, Suito Kusanagi, herself also a Kildren, is shrouded in mystery. There are rumors flying around the base that she shot Yuichi’s predecessor. But no one knows what happened for sure. Yuichi’s own relationship with Suito is beginning to grow however. But the shadow of war, and the uncertainties of his own existence are beginning to take it’s toll on the mind of young Yuichi…

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I wish I owned a plane like that. It would beat walking to work.

The Sky Crawlers is a movie that is pretty hard to review. A challenge has never stopped me before though, so I am not about to do so now. This movie is a completely different movie than I expected it to be. If you think this is a full on action film, where the focus lies on aerial combat, you had better look someplace else. This two hour long movie has about 15 minutes of scenes like that, but that’s just about it. But it really has to be said, these scenes are breathtaking to look at. Brought in crystal clear 3D the dogfights between the incredibly beautifully designed fighter-planes are amazing to behold. They are tense, dangerous and the sounds that accompany them put you pretty much right in the middle of them, as if you were there yourself. But this being a Mamoru Oshii film, the story has many more layers to it than you might expect the first time that you see it. It’s one of those stories that really gets you to think about stuff, and those usually are the best kinds of tales.

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I think it might be a good idea to take cover. Just an idea, mind you.

This is, I’m not going to lie, a pretty bleak and depressing film. We are dealing with kids here that never grow old, and whose only purpose in life seems to be fighting wars. The time in between fights is spent in bars, or visiting prostitutes, but in no way do their lives ever seem to have a small spark of happyness. The two main characters, Yuichi and Suito are therefore very hard to grow attached to. Even though they seem to develop feelings for each other, that relationship is only causing grief, which is depicted in sometimes very sad scenes. I have always said that it’s hard to like a film, when you don’t care for what happens to the main characters. But here, it seems to really support the story and the vibe that the director is going for. This is also a very slow film. Most of the time is spent on the ground and trying to really bring the deeper underlying storylines to the front, but I can also understand that this might try the patience of some viewers.

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I did say the planes were very cool did I not?

A big reason for me to buy this movie, besides it being directed by Oshii, is that the music for it was composed by Kenji Kawaii. I wrote a post about this man’s brilliance last year (if you have missed that one you can find it right here), and he again manages to compose an absolutely breathtaking score. The main theme for the film is especially beautiful and I have included it below for your listening pleasure. So what did I think of this movie? As I mentioned in the beginning this is a very hard film to review. While I respect and also understand what Oshii is trying to do here, some moments in the movie felt pretty longwinded. It will also not make you a really happy camper so to speak. But I really can’t help but saying, this is still a very beautiful film. The story will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled (and do keep watching, because there is a very important after credits scene), and both the animation and music are absolutely amazing. If you don’t mind slow films, and are able to handle movies that feature a quite depressing atmosphere, this one is worth checking out.

I give The Sky Crawlers a 8 out of 10 score.