Friday, 13 April 2018

Dao Kaew Duen (2013) - Review

"Dao Kaew Duen" aka "the star circles the moon", is a lakorn that took me by surprise because I liked it more than I anticipated. It kind of reminded me of Sood Sanaeha with its urban feel and the lack of forced kissed, screams and too cartoonish antagonists. It is more of a light comedy with a build up in the romance.

What is this about:

Dao (Janie Tienphosuwan) is a photographer that really wants to start a family and have children, but she is very disappointed with her past experiences with her boyfriends. So, she decides that she wants to go through IVF, but she has to find the sperm donor. Jan (Aum Atichart Chumnanon) is a business man that has the reputation of one-date-man, but that is because his mother is always trying to fix him with women that clearly are not his taste. To avoid more such dates, he agrees with Dao to pretend that they are couple.

My review:

I am trying hard to think of any other lakorn that objectifies the man, even as less as here, but I can’t. this is as forward as lakorns can be and only for that I love it. It tackles a controversial topic, at least for the values of said society, of an unmarried mother, with sensitivity, humor and romance. You can't get better than that. 
Dao (Janie Tienphosuwan) is girl crush. She is autonomous, she is confident and loyal to her family and friends. She wants children because she wants to share the love with them and since she has money, she knows she can manage. Her conviction she supports with reason and is brave enough to pursue her dream. Love her. And hooray! A lakorn that admits that the female lead has boyfriends before the male lead! However, I have to say that it is quite apparent that she doesn’t want just a child, she wants the whole package, it’s just that she is tired of waiting for the right guy, since her previous boyfriends were assholes. 

Jan (Aum Atichart Chumnanon) is one of my favourite male leads, not just in lakorns, but in asian dramas in general. Yes, he is arrogant and doesn’t trust easily, but he is never rude or mean. He always keeps his manners and behaves with dignity. When he does a mistake it doesn’t take him long to apologise. Frankly, I don’t really find the actor very handsome, he is not my style, but here he sold his character so well, he gave this aura of gentleman that I fall in love with him alongside with Dao. This character in the wrong hands could have been boring and bland, but Aum’s gestures and way of caring himself brought more dimensions to the script. 
Very keen on dating ...

Love her!
My third favourite person in this lakorn is Jan’s cousin, Ying Nim. She is the ultimate shipper of this couple and we love her for that. She tries to bring them together and ease the misunderstandings between the fake-couple-soon-to-be-real-couple. She has her own storyline with the second lead that tries to win Dao over, but in the meantime fell for her. It was ok, but it took too much time until they both realized their feelings and do something about it. They did sell the cute, though.
The unholy union of ugly hair, makeup and overall style.
There are several antagonists that want to break Dao and Jan apart, for their own reasons. Didn’t care so much about them. Honestly, I have mostly forgotten about them, who they were and what they were doing. Anyway, they weren’t the focus of the story, so they can be skipped easily.
They started not liking each other very much, she wanted a sperm donor, he wanted to avoid his mother's arranged dates
The direction and the writing reminded me of my all time favourite lakorn Sood Sanaeha. The direction had a very urban feel, with many shots inside the city and the colours that were present. The writing was more interested in the characters than the plot, in a good way. Most of the characters acted according to their personalities and didn’t have lobotomies midway. Each one was right from their own point of view. Alas, in the final two episodes we had an abduction storyline that could have been easily omitted. Seems like there are certain things a lakorn cannot be without, otherwise it loses its identity. Another drawback is that this was filmed during the time the channel banned any kiss from its lakorns, so you will find next to zero skinship here. Finally, it was cut short one episode so the last one felt rushed.
Soon they warmed to each other

Why you should watch:

  • If you like romcoms
  • If you want something stressfree to watch
  • If you like winning characters
  • Nice direction and soundtrack

Why not to watch:

  • If you don’t like lakorns
  • If you don’t like romcoms
  • If you want more romance
  • Nothing groundbreaking

Final verdict:

9/10. Definitely in my top five lakorns. It would have been perfect if the last episode was not so rushed.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) - Review

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is one the classic bollywood movies that cemented the pairing of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. It looks older that it is, but it is quite enjoyable and entertaining. Plus, it has many iconic scenes that are reproduced in other movies and watching this adds to the meta factor when seeing other movies.

What is this about:

 Simran Singh (Kajol) is an Indian living in London with her family. She dreams of finding her ideal man, but her father has other plans, since he arranged a marriage with the son of his best friend back in India. As her last chance to living freely without responsibilities, Simran convinces her father to let her in a vacation around Europe. Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan) also lives in London and is a free spirited young man that decides to go with his friends to a vacation around Europe. In the train the two meet and Raj starts to flirt with Simran, who is annoyed in the beginning.

My review:

This is the movie, at least for me, that established the “boy meets girl in train station” cliché. To its credit, it is done right.  And I think because it is an old movie and it looks old, I am willing to forgive many things that I would hate in a contemporary movie. However, many scenes haven’t aged that well. But, it is charming. 

Simran Singh (Kajol) is a very romantic girl that dreams of the man that will make her heart melt. She is very disappointed that she has to marry a guy she has never met, but she is raised very traditionally and she will not refuse her father. Her last act of rebellion (before meeting Raj) is traveling and seeing the world, so that she can remember these memories later. But Raj changes everything. She dislikes him right away because he is opposite from her. Without her realizing her heart is moved by this person and she has soon fallen in love. Even though she is in love, she is still a traditional girl and holds her values close to her heart, a characteristic that marks her more dynamic and strong. Kajol is great at emoting her emotions, there is not a moment where you wonder what goes through her mind.

Raj Mahlotra (Shah Rukh Khan) is in many ways the opposite of Simran and in other ways he complements her. He was raised very differently, being free spirited and doing whatever he wants. His father is a big softie that cannot say no to his son if it makes him sad. On the other hand, he is very romantic deep down and when his heart is set, then nothing can change it. I could say that he is the classic “bad boy image but great softie inside” type. Shah Rukh Khan combines the romance with the comedy. However, the problem with his acting is that if you like it, you like it, if you don’t like it, you don’t. It took me a few movies to get used to his acting, I am not a fan, but now I can see the talent beneath the usual antics.

With Simran and Raj’s characters we can see the difference in their upbringing. Simran’s father is austere, strict and traditional. He hasn’t moved with the times and he doesn’t into account what his daughter feels. He thinks this is right, so everyone else should too. In the other end of the spectrum, Raj’s father is a cutie. He raised his son on his own, after his wife death. He has instilled his romantic way of thinking to his son and he is ready to help him in everything. 

As many bollywood movies, the movie is separated into two distinct parts by an intermission. The first part is the meeting and falling in love and the second part is the overcoming of difficulties. In both parts there are cringeworthy scenes. A lot. I eyerolled too many times. Nevertheless, I was enjoying myself the whole time.  
The music is so iconic that has been used in other movies too. It also feels old, but it is catchy at the same time. Once you hear it, you cannot forget it.  The direction is nothing too special and the cinematography also. The charm lies more on the funny dialogues and the performances of the actors.

Why you should watch:

  • Shah rukh Khan and Kajol pairing
  • Funny dialogues
  • Lots of romance
  • If you already like bollywood movies
  • Catchy soundtrack
  • Nice performances from most of the cast.

Why not to watch:

  • Too over the top
  • Looks old
  • High cringe factor
  • Storyline not special, hundreds of movies with similar story

Final verdict:

8/10. If you are a bollywood virgin, this is not for you. You will never come back and it is a shame. If you already like bollywood movies, it is a nice chance to see how they were back in the mid-90s.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Song huajai nee puer tur (2015) - Review

“Song huajai nee puer tur” aka “Two spirit’s love” is a thai lakorn that heard high praises and it turned out they were right. This is fluff at its best.

What is this about:

Khun Tharatorn (Mario Mauer) is a young businessman who is engaged with Champagne (Pat Napapa). However, due to an accident he occasionally loses his memory and he dreams of a girl in his sleeps, while he can control electricity and move things with his mind. Kewalin (Mint Chalida) works with her brother to repay their parents’ debt. In an accident Kewaling meets Tharatorn, but he doesn’t remember who he is and call himself Mek.

My review:

This lakorn has a lot of things in its plate, from telekinisis, dissociative identity disorder to past lives and incarnation. If I was to explain how all these are connected, I would write a lengthy essay that wouldn’t help anyone. In paper and in principle this should be a hot mess and shouldn’t work.  At all. But I heard so many good reviews that I was really intrigued to see how this could be a good lakorn. Against my expectations I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kewalin (Mint Chalida) is a young girl that has to work with her brother to pay off their parents’ debt. She is a tomboy, feisty and cute. She has a very moral sense and she will speak her mind. As much I love her, I have to confess that there are a lot in her character that are cliché and a bi annoying. But she is definitely on the better spectrum of female leads. What impressed me was the actress. The first time I saw Mint was in “Pathapee Leh Ruk” where she was anything but impressive. There she was wooden and seemed like she was reading her lines, rather than acting. After a 180o turn, she is natural and has many expressions on her face. Hooray! Her effort really paid off. 
As Tharatorn

Tharatorn (Mario Mauer) is more of a typical rich man that is used to get his way. He could care less for his supposed fiancé, but he isn’t rude to her. Actually, he isn’t rude, just arrogant, but not always. His saving grace is his sense of humor and his love for his little sister. Mek is the most loyal and courageous. He is like a child that has no idea what is going on and he is the cutest. The pairing of  Mek’s personality and Mario’s cheeks is irresistible. This is the first lakorn I see with Mario Mauer and he has impressed me so much that I will look for his other works. He played three different characters (when you watch the lakorn you will understand) and it was always evident who he was, from the body language to his voice. Kudos to him.
And as Mek
Champagne (Pat Napapa) is the evil female lead. I knew from the first moment that she was evil solely from her hairstyle to wardrobe. I liked that she wasn’t from the first episode the antagonist, but she was given a reason for her actions (this isn’t the norm with lakorns). We learned that she was adopted and treated like dirt by her father that wanted to marry her off with Tharatorn only for business. She was even sweet and pitiful in the first episodes. Her path to the dark force (hehe) was slow and more satisfying. 
Anima (Jin Glawgao) is Thartorn’s little sister, aka the shipper between Tharatorn and Kew. I loved her, she was so sweet and cute. Also, her relationship with Tharatorn was a highlight. In various movies or dramas I sometimes catch myself thinking “oh yes, they are siblings”. Here I always felt that these are family and warmed my heart.
Korn (Panjan Kawin) is Kewalin’s big brother and he acts like one. Similarly to the other sibling pair, I would always feel them as brother and sister that look out for each other even though they argue most of the times. His love story with Anima is both sweet and cute and they were cute as buttons together. 
Thanon (Kratoom) is the main villain of the story. In the first episode I didn’t actually notice him. He is cartoonish and cannot be taken seriously, but the actor was obviously enjoying himself, so I didn’t mind him. plus, he got what he deserved in the end. 
The gang, aka Kewalin and Korn’s friends, are super funny. In most lakorn I skip scenes with second leads that are too ridiculous. I don’t know what happened this time because I loved them. I literally laughed out loud with them. And it was nice to see their bond as friends throughout the lakorn.

The directing wasn’t anything interesting, but the writing felt fresh. It had many unrelated things and somehow it made them click together. I am honestly unable to pinpoint what was the factor that made everything work. Was it the different storyline, the slow reveal of each element, the actors having fun? Maybe it’s all of them together.
Loved these costumes
Because it dealt with past lives, the lakorn had several scenes in the past, especially in the latter episodes. I have never seen period lakorns so these scenes were interesting to me, as well as the clothing and styling of the actors during them.
For me the two best aspects of this lakorn that will make your time worth are the physical comedy and the romance. We have plenty of both. All the actors, except the bad guys, deliver the humor not with just the dialogue but with their facial expressions and body language. And the romance, once it started it never lost focus. And once Tharatorn realized he has feelings for Kewalin he becomes so much nicer. Not that he was bad before, but he clearly needed someone that would not freak out with the whole incarnation thing. It’s hard to fault him.

Why you should watch:

  • Fluff, fluff and again fluff.
  • We have romance and we have humor.
  •  Great chemistry between the leads.
  • The relationships between the siblings and friends are very strong.
  • If you are bored with the typical lakorns.
  • Fresh writing and dialogue.

Why not to watch:

  • If you don’t like lakorns.
  • If you don’t like romance.
  • If this too all over the place for you.

Final verdict:

9.5/10. The editing and the villain could have been better, but otherwise this is great! Highly recommended.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Dropped like a hot potato - Roy Marn (2011)

Usually if I don’t particularly like a lakorn, I skip the annoying scenes and keep a strict diet of scenes with the leads. But this was truly dropped only after four episodes. Either this was that boring or my resilience is significantly shortened over the years. 

I had heard really good reviews about this lakorn, that it had elements different to lakorns. From the reviews and the synopsis I honestly thought this was a drama. So my first surprise was with the opening theme that was too happy and resembled more that of a rom com. 

They certainly didn't want to get married
I have to confess that it starts with a bang – metaphorical. Our hero, Mark, and heroin, Bee, are forced to get married because the real bride has escaped. Bee’s uncle has orchestrated the whole thing due to debts – I was a bit confused about them – and for the debts to be repaid there must be a marriage between the two families. Uncle’s logic has so many plot holes like cottage cheese. Then the lakorn proceeds to explain how things came to be. 
After the strong start the story seemed to drag. At first it felt nice to establish the characters and show us their personalities, rather than tells us about them. But an episode could pass – a lakorn episode is one and a half hour long – and almost nothing happens. And I wasn’t attracted to the leads. Mark was a nice person but wasn’t anything interesting, while Bee was tending to get annoying more often than not. This couple is supposed to be koojins, which could be loosely translated to love team, meaning they work better as a pairing. I never any sort of chemistry between them, even in their first pairing. 
This haircut didn't warm up to me
This looked like a nice lakorn in paper, but for me it was boring and wouldn’t really recommend it.

Pasion de amor (2015) - Review

This is my very first pinoy teleseries and I was excited to watch it since it was a remake of the very popular and one of my all time favorite latin soap operas, passion de gavilanes. So, how did this remake fare against the “original”? (passion de gavilanes was also a remake but it is the most popular version till today).

What is this about:

After their parents died, Juan, the eldest brother of the Samonte family, tries to provide the best for his younger siblings, Oscar, Franco and Olivia. The brothers find out that Olivia is seeing an older and wealthy man, Bernardo Elizondo, and they try to convince her to stop seeing him. when Bernardo’s wife, Gabriela, finds out about the affair, she hires men to kill Bernardo and Olivia. After Olivia was raped and murdered the Samonte brothers swear to find the responsible and bring them to justice. So, they infiltrate the Elizondo house as workers where they meet the mother Gabriela and her three daughters Norma, Sari and Jamie.

My review:

Unfortunately this remake pales in comparison. I was thinking why is that, because both versions have their fare share of ridiculousness and eye rolling moments (more on that later). So, I realized that it is the actors that make all the difference. The 2004 version has a stellar cast for the main roles that sold the romance and sold all the ridiculous plot twists the writers thought. In this 2015 version most of the actors are vividly limited and they can’t hold the weight of the story.

Let’s start with the Elizondo family.
I love her hair in this drama
Norma (Arci Munoz) is the eldest daughter of the family and in many occasions the pillar that strengthens the family. She is, like the other versions, raped a few years prior to her upcoming marriage. That has resulted in her keeping things to herself as well as secrets from her family and more importantly from her sisters. She is a bit too perfect and one dimensional and I am talking about one of the most interesting characters in the series, so go figure. The actress is one of the two most capable actors in the series – the other one is Juan, more on him later. Despite the paper thin character and craziness of the plot, she maintained her connection with the audience. 
Sari (Ellen Adama) is the second daughter and the more independent one. She had a different attitude around men than Norma, who is afraid of them. She is treating it more like a game and she is the least romantic of the sisters. She is as capable as Norma in business, which is a source of jealousy from her part for Norma as she always seems perfect. The actress is not bad, but she is not good either. Certain emotions she can emote better than other, but I didn’t really care about her, character and actress alike.
I even forgot to take a snapshot of Jamie - shows how much I cared about her.
Jamie (Coleen Garcia) is the third child and the sweet diplomat of the family. She tries to get independent but fails most of the time and she needs to get rescued. There is not much about her character. The worst part is the actress. I am sorry but she has no acting skills. She can look cute and sweet, but this is not acting and it shows in more dramatic situations. 
Gabriela (Tereza Loyzaga) is the mother of the Elizondo girls and this is the biggest change character-wise comparing to the other versions. I was surprised. In other versions, Gabriela is a lonely woman that has neglected herself and feels betrayed by her husband’s affair. Her only concern is her daughters and her hatred for the Reyes brothers. She made several bad decisions, but deep down she is a good woman that loves her family. Here, Gabriela is a cruel and murderous woman that cares only for herself. This is not a spoiler, in the first few episodes her villainess is right in front of us. The actress is not very good, but her character was enough to hate her, so I didn’t care that much.

Moving on with the Samonte family. 
Juan (Jake Cuenca) is the oldest brother and father figure after their parents died. He takes his role more seriously than he should but it is understandable considering his story. He is very loyal to his family and every single time he put his family first, which sometimes is a disadvantage. However, he is not always honest with his brothers, since he is the older brother, he must protect them even by keeping things secret from them. The actor is one of the most capable actors – see Norma above. Every emotion he was feeling, he was expressing it through his eyes. Sometimes he was overacting, as everyone in those life or death situations, but he was convincing and a welcome break from the rest of the cast that couldn’t act. On a more superficial note, I hated his hair. I hated it. Why would he have this particular hair when he looks so much better with shorter?
 Oscar is the second child and the mischievous one. He is the most ambitious and cold hearted. He treats relationships like a game, like Sari, and either he takes things too seriously or not seriously enough. The actor is too limited to show any convincing emotion.
By the way, this basketball game was shown while a spanish guitar was playing a romantic melody as a background. They definitely took fanservicing to another level
Franco (Joseph Marco) is the third brother. In the beginning he is the more romantic and more protected one of the brothers. He is kind hearted and has a sense of honor and justice. The actor is again limited but for one reason I put him below Norma and Juan. He showed progress. Nothing spectacular, but he did. From the middle of the series where his character gained more confidence, it was like he was gaining confidence too. At least he became better.
Olivia (Ingid dela Paz) is the youngest child and the little sister that the brothers look out for. She is not aware of the dangers and is very naïve, because she was very protected by her brothers. She is the catalyst that starts the whole story so she is more like a plot devise than character. In every version I watched I wondered again and again why she would have an affair with a married man that could be her father. Yes, I understand that she long for a father figure but she could have found someone without children or not so old. But then, there wouldn’t be a story. And her story is really tragic making me wondering what I was watching, a family drama or a melodrama (some will same it’s the same thing).
The three couples between the Elizondo and the Samonte family are ultimately the driving force of the story – whatever the remake is. They are the core of the story and the emotional pull. Here, sadly, Norma and Juan’s pairing work. Obviously, this is the pairing with the best actors who can convince us that they are in love, they feel betrayed, and they are in conflict. Sari and Oscar are sometimes charming and most of the time uninteresting. But, Jamie and Franco are the most anemic couple. The chemistry between them was nowhere to be found and he was a better character without her.

It is hard to say if this teleserie did a good job as a remake. In beginning there were only a few changes in the plot – except the one where Gabriela is the main villain – but as the series was progressing it was departing from the source material. In the end it is a completely different story with the same basic premise. I like the remakes which add more layers and different aspect to an already beloved story. When it moves in completely different directions, I don’t really consider it as a remake. But this is my opinion.

As a standalone drama it is much easier to express my feelings. This is not a good drama, nor does it fall in the category too-bad-it’s-good. Firstly, it had a mother that was laughing histerically when torturing innocent or not people, a guy that has a long obsession with a woman and kidnaps her in a remote island so he can rape her (I know! This is supposed to be a daily series!), a long lost son who loves deadly poisonous spiders and is drug lord. This is clearly ridiculous. However, if you don’t have solid actors that can sell the craziness, it is advisable not to take yourself too seriously. Make fun of it. Be a cult classic. Secondly, it was too LONG. 295 episodes, with each episode 20-25 minutes long! It took me months to finish it and at some point it was background noise, since some episodes were dragging. So, no, this is not a good drama.

Why you should watch:

  • If you like pinoy teleseries.
  • If you want to see every remake of passion de gavilanes.
  • If you like the actors.
  • If over the top, but not funny, melodramas is something you enjoy.

Why not watch:

  • If you have something better to do with your life.
  • If over the top, but not funny, melodramas is not something you enjoy.
  • If you look for solid acting, directing and writing.
  • If you don’t like dramas with many episodes.

Final verdict:

5/10. I should have rated it lower but it introduced me to these two actors who I will follow, so there is a plus.