Descendants of the Sun TV Show Review

After years of urging from my sister and cousin, I decided to take the plunge and watch a K-drama (short for Korean drama). I had initially checked out a few scenes from a few K-dramas and found them super cliche and cringeworthy, so I tended to stay away from them. However, I’d heard some really great things about Descendants of the Sun (DotS) and with no other show to watch, I put it on. Because of my previous encounter with Korean dramas, I was actually pretty hesitant to begin watching. However, all my worries were eased within few minutes of starting the show. As a result, I’ve decided to review this show (with spoilers of course).

Briefly put, DotS is about the lives of two individuals (with some focus on other cast members), Korean Special Forces Captain Yoo Shi Jin and doctor Kang Mo Yeon. Shi Jin is a part of the ultra-exclusive Alpha force, whose missions are kept so secret, that the rest of the country barely knows they exist and each member goes into battle without dog-tags (so if they die in battle, their identities remain hidden). Despite the high-pressure environment, Shi Jin is an incredibly easy-going, fun-loving, funny guy, who is also coincidentally SUPER athletic and good-looking. Mo Yeon, on the other hand, is a gifted and hard-working cardiothoracic surgeon who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and do what she thinks is right. DotS is about how the two meet and come together, despite contrasting ideologies (in other words, fate brings them together).

The story begins with Shi Jin and his deputy leader (and also best friend), Seo Dae Young, freeing captured South Korean army men from a hostage situation begun by three North Korean soldiers. Of course the two men easily overpower and win, without any significant bloodshed. On their day off, the two are busy playing shooting games at carnivals (in their civilian attire of course) when the two witness and become part of a robbery. They catch the criminal and send him to the hospital (accidentally, because they are the good guys after all). The criminal, Kim Gi Boum, is actually a young kid who steals to support himself in his gang. Not able to afford the crazy hospital bills, he flees the hospital, and his attending doctor just happens to be the beautiful Kang Mo Yeon. As Gi Boum had stolen Dae Young’s phone, the two soldiers turn up in the hospital looking for him and the phone. They meet Mo Yeon who is incredibly suspicious over them and refuses to hand over the phone. Shi Jin is immediately smitten by her looks but after a few comical moments, the two men leave to go and find Gi Boum. They find Gi Boum being beaten up by his gang and end up rescuing him (it turns out at Dae Young was also a poor street gang kid once, who eventually ended up going to the army and completing his GED). Due to his beat up state, the two soldiers take Gi Boum back to the hospital where Mo Yeon’s suspicion grows and things escalate to the point where she threatens to call the police.

In the midst of these happenings, we’re introduced to another character, Yoon Myung Jo. The daughter of the Special Forces Commander, Myung Jo is an army surgeon who actually completed her residency alongside Mo Yeon (the two ladies also fought over a boy during that time so their relationship is initially quite strained). In order to get out of dating Shi Jin (her father wanted the two to hook up), she approaches Dae Young and in exchange for a favour, the two spread the rumour about them dating, in order to ward off Shi Jin. Eventually, the two begin dating for real and love each other. However, because of Dae Young’s less than stellar background and lower army position, her father objects to their relationship and in order keep his job, Dae Young breaks up with Myung Jo, devastating the both of them. However, despite this messy relationship, the two continue to love each other. For Myung Jo, this translates to her keeping tabs on Dae Young’s activities (super stalker-y LOL).

Anyways, back to the plot-line. Due to the missing phone situation, Myung Jo assumed that it was actually Dae Young who was in the hospital and so she comes to the hospital as well. She ends up verifying Shi Jin and Dae Young’s identities as Korean soldiers and leaves (Mo Yeon had refused to believe them). Taking his chance, Shi Jin asks her out and she agrees. However, their dates are continually interrupted by their jobs and the secretive nature of Shi Jin’s duties (Mo Yeon desperately wants to know what Shi Jin does on his missions/ where he goes but he can’t tell her due to the rules). Eventually, Mo Yeon breaks it off with Shi Jin due to their differing ideologies (she saves lives for a living, regardless of who it is, and he kills people to save lives) and the two go their separate ways.  Shi Jin is assigned to a peace-keeping mission in the fictional country of Urk and Mo Yeon advances in her career, becoming a professor and the face of the hospital where she works. Things progress, with the two losing contact due to their geological separation and break-up. However, when Mo Yeon turns down and attacks the hospital director, Han, for making sexual advances upon her, she is sent to Urk as a ‘volunteer’ doctor on the behalf of the hospital (basically she’s punished by the director).

In Urk, the two, Shi Jin and Mo Yeon, meet again and become closer. They go on a number of adventures together and face off together in various dangerous situations (literally, it’s like the danger never ends LOL). They face active mines, earthquakes, dangerous political situations, health scares and even a gun/ child trafficker. Through each encounter, their love for each other grows stronger and eventually, the two begin dating again. The show ends with happy ending for all the characters, well kind off; that’s all I’ll say for now because a lot of other stuff happens in the middle.

In terms of story, I actually found the story to be a sort of mixed bag. There were some really good mature moments that definitely helped steer the show away from being cringe-worthy. For example, I actually really enjoyed how forthcoming the two leads were when it came to their relationship, at least initially. Mo Yeon practically begged Shi Jin to tell her what he did career-wise, but he straight up told her that he couldn’t and wouldn’t, but that he still desperately wanted to be with her. Same with Mo Yeon, she was steadfast regarding her principles and let him know that no matter how much she liked him, she couldn’t deal with their differing ideologies. I think it’s so rare for tv couples to have these sort of conversations right out of the box and be so honest with each other. And it wasn’t just them, the other side characters had some really great moments too.

That said, despite the refreshing, mature conversations, there were also a lot of contrived and cliche moments that took away from the show. One extremely visible example of this, is the dangerous situations the two leads continually faced. I mean, I understand two or three dangerous situations, but in this show, we had around five/six dangerous situations, all happening within the span of two-ish months. It just felt so contrived, you could literally tell that the writers were just brainstorming dangerous situations to put the leads in so their relationship could be tested. Similarly, the medical aspect of the show left a lot to be wanting. I’m no medical expert. However (LOL), a lot of my cousins are studying to be doctors and I have seen a lot of medical dramas, so I like to think I have some sort of knowledge about medicine and treating people. So whenever the medical sequences popped up on screen, I’d find myself confused at some of their story-lines and actions. And it wasn’t just the medical aspect that was illogical, there were other awkward story-lines as well. If anything, I’d probably have to say that the storyline (and maybe music) were the weakest link of the show.

A lot of moments dragged on and some story-lines didn’t have the emotional impact they were supposed to. For example, one of the doctors, Lee Chi Hoon goes into this sort of personal breakdown regarding his career choice because he backed out of helping a patient in order to save his life. I read another review where the reviewer mentioned that this storyline could’ve been a really good look at the vulnerability of being a doctor and it really surprised me because I didn’t even think of that. The entire time I was watching the character’s arc, I was incredibly bored because I had no idea why the writers were spending so much time on such a boring plot. However, as the other reviewer pointed out, the arc was supposed to be impactful and insightful, but it just fell flat and weak. I felt like that was the case for much of the story-line. Some of it was really great and fun to watch while other moments dragged on and were too cliche.

What propped up the show, in my opinion, was lead actor Song Joong-ki and the bromance between his character and Dae Young, played by Jin Goo. Joong-ki is INCREDIBLY good-looking in this show and brings so much COOLNESS to his character. When the show first started, I actually felt that he looked a little girly, but as the show went on, I literally could not stop staring at him. He infused such depth into Captain Yoon Shi Jin and made him so charming, likeable and just plain amazing. Shi Jin was an honourable and responsible soldier who didn’t shy away from making though decisions and firmly took responsibility for his actions. He just came across as such a great, stand-up guy. It was super easy to understand why Mo Yeon fell for him. And the bromance between the two male leads was adorable. Their friendship was characterized with deep trust, loyalty and respect for each other. When Dae Young was suffering post his break-up, Shi Jin tried to make him feel better. Similarly, when Shi Jin was punished for taking a decision, Dae Young assured him that he trusted and believed in Shi Jin’s judgement. It was really wonderful to see such a supportive, encouraging partnership. Of course, it also helped that their characters were incredibly hilarious together (Here’s a gif-set of them together). Similarly, Jin Goo is a pretty strong actor (he did a WONDERFUL job making the outwardly tough Dae Young actually be this soft, sweet marshmellow on the inside) and when combined with Joong-ki spectacular acting skills, the results were great and entertaining as expected.

On that note, I actually didn’t find the chemistry between Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, who played Mo Yeon, to be particularly outstanding. I mean, the two looked decent and acted decently across each other, but there wasn’t any of that sort magnetic pull between the two. If anything, I sometimes felt that Goo and Kim Ji-won, who played Myung Jo, actually had better chemistry and a more compelling story-line at times too. The two deeply loved each other and struggled to find their way back to each other, with the two of them trying to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of the other. I felt like their storyline was also less contrived, despite having the more cliche plot-line. Again, the story-line really was a mixed bag. However, despite the uneven story-line, there were some really entertaining characters in the show. I’ve already raved about Shi Jin and Dae Young to an extent, but even the side characters were great. I particularly enjoyed the comical moments enacted by Lee Seung-joon, who played senior doctor Song. His character was so vain but enjoyable, especially in his scenes with the other doctors. Speaking of whom, the interactions between the hospital doctors in Urk were really enjoyable, they all shared a nice camaraderie which made for a nice watching experience. I find myself to be a sucker for fun friend relationships and the distinct group relationships between the doctors and soldiers were something that appealed to me and delivered in content.

Similarly, I definitely have to rave about the quality of film-making for this show. It was shot so beautifully and wonderfully. The fictional country of Urk was filmed in Greece so you can imagine how beautiful all the scenes of Urk/ Greece are. And there were quite a few artistic shots that I particularly enjoyed. For example, the show begins with this look at the night sky with the stars glowing, with the camera slowly zooming back to show that our glimpse of the night sky is actually from a hole within a soldier’s helmet (symbolism!!). I’m not really describing it well, but it was definitely something that took me off guard and elicited a positive reaction from me when I first watched it. I heard somewhere (although I’m not completely sure) that the show had a budget of a few million (?) and it’s definitely visible throughout the cinamatography. I’m a really visual person so I think the cinamatography was a big positive for me and definitely elevated the show.

So all in all, I think DotS was a pretty good introductory K-drama. While it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty enjoyable. It has definitely set a high bar for other k-dramas, but because my initial watching experience was so positive, I’m going to continue (or at least attempt to continue) this k-drama watching spree of mine.

My rating: Watch it for the hotness that is Song Joong-ki, the bromance, and cinamatography. Don’t expect much from the story-line, but still be prepared to desire to enter the world of k-dramas!

 

***also, if any of you manage to get to the end, I sincerely thank you. I know this piece really isn’t one of my bests and it definitely took a long time for me to write and get it out. The writer’s block was insane.

 

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Views on Twilight series

So my blog tag-line states that I’ll be posting my views and reviews here. While I’ve definitely posted quite a few reviews (and even some quotes), I haven’t really posted any views. So without further ado, let’s begin. Word of caution, these ‘views’ I’ll be posting will vary in format and topic. On that note, today’s topic is the Twilight book series, written by Stephenie Meyer (again — super spoilery so beware) and will take the form of a view with a review.

When Twilight first came out in 2005, I didn’t really know about it. I know it apparently made The New York Times Bestseller List, but since I don’t follow it religiously, I had no idea the book existed. My introduction to Twilight only began after the movies had begun filming and the hysteria that would soon overwhelm was just starting. It was literally by sheer chance that I picked up the book in Chapters. And to be honest, I’m not ashamed (at least not anymore LOL) to admit that I really, really enjoyed the book. I was an impressionable teenager and Bella’s story seemed so romantic and Edward seemed so lovely. Together, their love story was exactly what made my angst-y teenage heart melt. My like of the series was further fuelled when my best friend also read them and got into it. There’s nothing like having a friend to share in your obsessions and so Twilight became ours. She fuelled my adoration for the book, while I fuelled hers. And then the movie came out.

I remember being so incredibly angry when the first movie came out in 2008. I felt like I was ripped off. The movie, for those of you that have seen it, was just something else. It was filmed by this indie filmmaker who was obsessed with random moving camera angles (there’s literally a scene where the camera is pointed toward some trees at an upward angle and it’s just spinning LOL), cool blue tones (there wasn’t a single warm tone in the entire movie tbh), random musical intervals (scenes with just music and nothing else), and of course, those crazy close-up face shots (where the actors try painfully hard to act LOL). If you can’t tell by my tone, the movie was a mess. Sidenote – I actually re-watched the movie recently and found that I didn’t mind it as much (of course this experience was also made better by my siblings joining me and making snide remarks and witty comments during each scene and thus fashioning the movie into some sort of satirical piece rather than the angst-filled, serious love story it was supposed to be LOL). Not only was the direction weird, but the acting, my god the acting was just atrocious. I’ve written about Kristen Stewart and her lack of acting chops on this site before, so I’ll skip her here. But it wasn’t just her acting that was off, Robert Pattinson was hilariously bad too. All he did was grimace like he was in pain, or at least try to make it look like he was grimacing in pain LOL. The two leads were so incredibly one dimensional and flat in their acting, my teenage self was mortified. The side characters were 100x more engaging, and it’s actually telling that Anna Kendrick, who was on screen for maybe 20 mins max, made such an impact, that it led to her getting more movies and critical acclaim. But even if you take acting aside, the casting itself, in terms of looks was so weird too.

The Cullens are described as being these perfect, too-beautiful-to-be-real sort of people and so when it came to the movie, I was really excited to see who was who. The only people who I felt sort of embodied their characters, were Kellan Lutz as Emmett and Ashley Greene as Alice (although her tallness was really distracting; Alice is supposed to be barely 5 ft and Ashley Greene was almost as tall as her co-stars, and the hair was pretty bad too). Okay, if I want to be kind, I can maybe also justify casting Jackson Rathbone as Jasper, but that’s it. Peter Facinelli as Carlisle and Elizabeth Reaser as Esme did not work. They both tried to make it work with their acting, for which I will give them props, but looks-wise, they didn’t fit, especially not in the way their characters were described in the books. The worst casting of all though, was Nikki Reed as Rosalie. Let me put it this way, in the books, Rosalie was described as being as pale as ice with super icy blonde hair and a tall, imposing height and presence. Nikki Reed, is tan with brown hair and is super, super tiny. I mean, she’s actually really pretty, but the way she was made up in the movie, with makeup to make her look lighter, her hair dyed blonde, and wearing triple times the platform heel to look taller, was just bad and wrong. They did her so dirty. I mean, how difficult was it to just cast some tall looking blonde, or at least any sort of tall person? Alas, it’s useless to talk about these things now because the movies have finished. However, as the author of Twilight is still alive and could potentially write more books (remember JKR always said she’d never visit HP again but she did!), I think it’s still worthwhile to talk about the books.

I already mentioned how I enjoyed the initial love story between Bella and Edward. I think what also facilitated my quick positive reaction to Twilight was the writing. Many people have commented on this before, saying that Stephenie Meyer isn’t the most brilliant or original writer. And to be honest, maybe she’s not. But I think it kinda works for her in Twilight. Because the books are written in such a simplistic manner, it makes them very easy to understand. Sure you don’t get the pleasure that derives from reading beautiful, poetic, flowery language, but at the same time, it also doesn’t necessarily take away from the reading experience. Not all books have to be very touching or beautiful to read. Sometimes, even fluff books can be enjoyable; and a fluff book is exactly what I consider Twilight. It’s simple with a relatively uncomplicated plot. And like I said earlier, it works for Twilight. But I think it was also this very thing that ended up making the other books in the series less enjoyable. Because the writing was so simplistic, when Stephenie Meyer attempted to increase the drama and add more angst and complications to the plot, it kinda fell flat. A lot of times, writers can make certain scenes or situations sound a lot more emotional/ excitable than they really are. I think Cynthia Ozick’s book, Heir to a Glimmering World, is a good example of that. Those of you who have read my review on her book probably know that I wasn’t a big fan of the book at all. But, since she’s such a good writer, she was able to infuse depth and create a rich reading experience in quite a few scenes that were drab otherwise. However, within the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer didn’t possess that talent, or if she did, she didn’t display it. As a result, once the reader stepped back from the book and stopped to think about it, the two main characters and their love story actually got really annoying and stale eventually. As the Twilight series continued on, that’s exactly what happened to my friend and I. We grew really annoyed with Bella and Edward and ended up discarding our adoration for the series.

That said, I still cannot bring myself to say that the series was trash or bad or whatever. Despite her lackluster characters, I think Stephanie Meyer really did create some interesting side characters with fascinating back stories. I mean, take the Cullens for example (since I was discussing them earlier anyway). Carlisle is a vampire who has no problems being near humans with blood and has never drank it. Just in terms of like logical application (LOL okay bending the rules a little), how would one even go about accomplishing that? How much personal development would someone like Carlisle, who spent his human life thinking of vampires as evil and trying to kill them, need to go through in order to become what he is now? Or, if you prefer action to mental trauma, think of Jasper and his experience in fighting through Vampire wars. That’s a story just begging to be told (think of the logistics of having to train newborns and then direct them in battle and improvise battle strategies). Think of Alice and her experience as being psychic in the early 1900s, being imprisoned in an insane asylum and befriending a vampire. And finally, think of Rosalie and her backstory. I actually found Rosalie’s story to be really cool and even though her acting bit in the Eclipse movie was really short, I think it was one of the best parts of the entire movie. She literally choreographed the murder of her rapists and did it in the most dramatic and theatrical way ever. That’s literally brilliant LOL. And on that topic, imagine hearing their stories from their own mouths, aka through their mental narration. How incredibly interesting would that be? I bet Rosalie’s narration would be a hoot and Emmett’s narration would be just downright hilarious. Jasper’s would probably be both, bitingly sarcastic with humour thrown in.

And the interesting side characters aren’t just limited to the Cullens. Despite its mixed reception, Breaking Dawn is actually one of my favourite books in the series just because of the numerous side characters it introduces. I had so much fun imagining each distinct character and fashioning out little backstories for them. There’s Nahuel and his vampire father and life as a vampire hybrid. There’s the Amazonian coven and their exclusive lifestyle. There’s Leah and her experience as the first ever female werewolf. There’s Benjamin with the ability to actually manipulate his physical surroundings. There’s Vladimir and Stefan with their vendetta and past with the Volturi. There’s the Volturi’s themselves and their rise to power. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many wonderful hints to the amazing backstories of the compelling side characters. I find them all so creative, with so much more potential and vitality than Edward and Bella (and even Jacob). And that’s why I can’t label the series as being trashy or just horrible (although I will say that the series has some real critiques), because there’s so much potential. My hope is that one day, Stephenie Meyer will go back and visit her Twilight universe again. But instead of sticking with her main trio, she’ll bring forth a new perspective and expand on some of the characters she introduced. And even if she doesn’t do that, it’s okay because there’s so many talented fanfiction writers who have taken her hints about the side characters, recognized their potential, and have crafted wonderfully beautiful stories about them.

In sum: Despite its simplistic writing style and horrible movie adaptations, the Twilight series has an incredibly interesting world with some fascinating characters whose amazing backstories just waiting to be told.

Quote of the Week

I choose to write because it’s perfect for me. It’s an escape, a place I can go to hide. It’s a friend, when I feel out casted from everyone else. It’s a journal, when the only story I can tell is my own. It’s a book, when I need to be somewhere else. It’s control, when I feel so out of control. It’s healing, when everything seems pretty messed up. And it’s fun, when life is just flat-out boring.”     —Alysha Speer 

 

Murder on the Orient Express Book Review

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for being so awol these past couple of days/ weeks. Turns out, I no longer have as much free time on my hands and as a result, my reading and writing hobbies have really taken a back seat. Hence, this entry itself will probably read quite choppily and awkwardly as it’s definitely been some time since I wrote something. As such, I’d like to offer my apologies in the beginning of this post and just say that I will not begrudge any of you if you comment on how horrible this review it. With that out of the way, let’s begin is super spoiler-y review (hint – I actually give away everything LOL).

As some of you may know, I have a friend who adores Agatha Christie, so I’ve been slowly going through some of Agatha Christie’s books on the insistence of my friend. While I have found some books of hers to be absolutely wonderfully charming (recommend Endless Night to EVERYONE), there are some that I do not like quite as much. This book falls in the middle of that spectrum, but I suppose that actually also might be my fault. As one of her more well known and celebrated books, I had expected Murder on the Orient Express to blow my mind and leave me amazed. And when I didn’t get that reaction, I was left a little confused and humdrum.

Briefly put, the book revolves around a murder committed on the Orient Express (surprise, surprise LOL). Midway through the journey, the train gets stuck in snow, and amid the stalling, the dead body of a passenger is found. Luckily, famous detective Hercule Poirot in also on the train, and he spends the book trying to and successfully finding out who murdered the victim. Spoiler alert – it was a joint effort by all 12-13 people on the train coach. It turns out that the dead passenger, Cassetti/ Ratchet, was a horrible man who had kidnapped a young heiress, Daisy Armstrong, in exchange for money. After receiving the money, it was discovered that he had actually killed Daisy and never meant to exchange her back in the first place. However, he managed to evade justice and left the country (USA) with the money and changed his name. As he was a horrible man, most people who came into contact with him weren’t big fans of him and some could even sense the evil coming from him, like Poirot. On his second (?) day on the train, Cassetti approaches Poirot and offeres him a job. Apparently, Cassetti had been receiving threats and felt his life was in danger, so he asked Poirot to figure out who was after him. However, due to the evil vibe Poirot could sense from Cassetti, Poirot declines to take on the case. The next day, Cassetti is found dead and the director of the train, M. Bouc, also a friend of Poirot, enlists in Poirot’s help to find the murderer aboard the train (remember the train had gotten stuck in snow). The rest of the book is about how Poirot comes to the the conclusion of who the murderer was.

In terms of the mystery, the book is actually pretty solid. Agatha Christie leaves quite a few red herrings around and makes it incredibly difficult to guess who the murderer could be. I myself felt like I went around in more than a few circles trying to figure out who murdered Cassetti. So I’d definitely rate the book highly when it came to the suspense. Similarly, the characters are actually quite enjoyable to read as well. I know I’ve ragged on Poirot in the past, severely disliking his pompous personality, but I gotta say, I actually didn’t mind him in this book so much. Maybe it’s because he was with friends so he was on good behaviour or because there was no Hastings around to focus Poirot’s rudeness, but I actually found Poirot to be very well behaved and likeable. Now don’t get me wrong, he was still pompous, but that pomposity was toned down here. Instead of getting a prideful vibe from him, I got more of an fascinated vibe. In other words, in the previous books, I always got the feeling that Poirot was incredibly proud of his ability to solve cases and that pride was what kept him going. In this book however, I got the feeling that Poirot was instead being fuelled by his curiosity rather than his pride; he genuinely liked the puzzle of trying to find a murderer on a stalled train. Either way, I really quite enjoyed reading the book. Similarly, when it came to the technical details, the book performed very well. The writing was easy to read as always and the plot was laid out in a manner that felt organic and yet still produced more mystery as the book went on.

Some of you might be wondering why after all these praises, I did not find the book to be an absolutely wonderful reading experience. And that, my friends, is due to the focus in the book. I know the book revolved around Poirot as he is Agatha Christie’s main character and hence resolved around the murder that was committed, but somehow, after the conclusion was revealed, I found myself increasingly drawn to the murderers themselves. How did they all manage to meet and plan the murder? Who came up with each idea? How did they all come into contact with each other after so many years? Why wait so many years to commit the murder in the first place? What were their discussions like after Poirot took on the case? I just found myself really into the planning and strategizing of the murderers rather than the case. I mean, the entire case is so damn interesting. The way Poirot solved it was amazing in itself, but the way it all came together, albeit behind the scenes, also seems incredible to me. I really wish Agatha Christie had focused on explaining the murderers planning and processes. I think I would’ve been more engrossed in the book then.

My ratingread it for the Agatha Christie style and to experience an interesting mystery that you have no hopes of solving before Poirot (LOL).