TV Shows

The King: Eternal Monarch

If evil men didn’t try to corrupt the world for their own selfish greed, then all the world would turn out to be a beautiful place of love, happiness and joy. Everyone has their own fate, their own destiny, and sometimes you haven’t yet reached the destination. This South Korean melodrama of fantasy, science fiction, romance and thriller is a wonderous tale of the aforementioned above. It starts with a humble beginning that spreads to become so much more, so much weaving of the tapestry of life, of people bound in ways they do not yet know and we, the audience, are along for the discovery and journey.

Mild Spoilers ahead

Lee Gon (Lee Min-ho) is the modern day King of the Kingdom of Corea who in his youth was injured by his half-uncle, Lee Lim (Lee Jung-jin), when the former assassinated his father and attempted to usurp the throne. Lee Lim wanted a magical flute for himself that was said to hold mystical powers that allowed one to travel between worlds. One day the King discovers two obelisks that allow travel to another reality, a parallel world. There he meets the woman he was destined to be with, and what unfolds is an epic romantic story. But, it’s not without its darker undertones, as Lee Lim, who survived the night of the assassination and has been in hiding in the parallel world, strives to take back what he believes should have rightfully been his – the magical flute. It was cut in two that fateful night, and the two halves are what allow both Lee Lim and Lee Gon to travel to a parallel world.

With each episode 70 minutes in length, as viewers, we are treated to a fully expanded world. Completely fleshed out characters that feel alive, and not caricatures of heroes or villains. Lee Lim, the evil half-uncle, is a greedy man who wishes to control time and space and be a ruler of all. While Lee Gon wishes to find his love and be with her forever as time will allow. He is just, fair, and has mercy for those that cross his path but for his enemies, he is ruthless and merciless as a King should be. There is no second chance for traitors, only a swift punishment. Detective Jung Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun) is Lee Gon’s destiny, and she is feisty and fierce, and brave when she has to be. She is kind, and beautiful, and Kim Go-eun’s performance deserves praise. I wept with her, and for her character, and I wished she’d succeed in her destiny; in both hers and Lee Gon’s fate, and I can happily say this story has a happy ending despite being fraught with danger, twists and turns.

The other characters in this story are equally human and flawed, and so full of life. The writer, Kim Eun-sook, did a great job with this series in creating these characters and their life’s events. The direction and editing did have some problems in that some scenes didn’t make sense or purpose despite the explanations towards the latter half of the show. But overall, it worked well. The music was fantastic and I’ve noticed in Korean shows that they often repeat the same songs in each episode during key moments. At first, it was a little odd but then it grew on you and touched your heart when you heard the music swell because then you’d be expecting what’s to come. The actors were all very convincing in each of their characters, some playing two due to doppelgangers with it being two parallel worlds, and nobody felt like a weak link. There was only the characters and not the men or women underneath.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire season of 16 episodes. I wholeheartedly recommend watching it if you’re in the mood for a sweeping tale of romance and fantasy. I hope you too will fall in love with the story of Lee Gon and Jung Tae-eul, and come out on the end feeling satisfied for experiencing this endearing and beautiful journey.

TV Shows

Vagabond (2019 TV Series)

Vagabond is a South Korean spy, crime, thriller, romance and action tv series starring Lee Seung-gi, Bae Suzy, with Shin Sung-rok and many others. The initial premise is when an airplane bound for Morocco goes down in mysterious circumstances, stuntman Cha Dal-gun (played by Lee Seung-gi) fights to unravel the truth surrounding the plane crash. He is forced to partner with a covert agent from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Go Hae-ri (played by Bae Suzy), and together they struggle against forces beyond their reckoning – corruption to the highest level.

Mild Spoilers to follow

What I really enjoyed was that the show goes full circle in its execution. It starts off with a scene in the desert, and then jumps to the story at hand. As you watch the entirety of it, you keep wondering the significance of that desert scene. And near the end of the final episode, that scene plays again and you realize the entire story was a showcase as to how the main character ended up there. The other strong points were the twists that occurred, and how it managed to build up its villains. The person who you think is the main bad guy is actually merely a pawn in the grand scheme of things, then when it moves up to the next level at play, even those individuals are merely pawns of something larger.

Every episode was nail-bitingly good, and kept you at the edge of your seat because you so strongly root for Cha Dal-gun and you want him to succeed. So each time he gets set back, you feel a little bit of angst because there’s a very real possibility he might not get what he desires. The bad guys are very good at what they do, at corrupting people or setting them up to be used as unwitting or witting pawns. It was like watching a game of chess with an amateur against a grandmaster but the grandmaster loses because the amateur acts in way you don’t expect him to because it’s dumb. And it’s that dumb move which gets him the victory yet the grandmaster knew it and saw it coming, but didn’t react because they didn’t expect their opponent to have the gall to do it. The grandmaster is not without fault either, they made a small and but critical error that allowed their opponent to seize victory – they underestimated them.

The chemistry between the leads is entertaining and you root for them to have a future together. You smile at their antics and your heart grows fondly at them getting closer. Everyone did a great job, and I didn’t feel that any actor or actress was a weak link. They were all believable and at times ruthless in their character’s manners or appearance. You truly disliked the villains and that is the best kind of acting. You don’t see the person underneath, only the character they are portraying.

The faults I had with it were that the gun fights were underwhelming and lacking. Often times, they were quite unbelievable because with the sheer amount of firepower offered, the good guys should all be dead. Too much missing a shot, or cars that can withstand hundreds of bullets and still be fully drivable without any problems. A lot of scenes of guns fired indoors and nobody batting an eye at the sound. What was good to see was a proper sniper sequence with them sighting the shot/adjusting it before firing and actually not aiming directly at the target but slightly off to the side. The hand to hand combat was excellent and never did I feel that the characters were superhuman when they fought. They took appropriate damage and acted as one should following an injury. The driving was very well done and never had a case of “how did that lower powered car somehow catch up?”

Overall, I thoroughly loved the show. I enjoyed the story and its depiction of real events regarding corruption and power, on how the world operates. I loved the chemistry between the leads and I’d recommend watching the show even despite the open ending. Perhaps Netflix will be kind enough to allow a second season despite it not yet being confirmed as renewed.

Movies

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

Written and directed by: Jim Cummings
Starring: Jim Cummings as John Marshall, Riki Lindhome as Officer Julia Robinson, Robert Forster as Sheriff Hadley, Chloe East as Jenna Marshall, with Jimmy Tatro as PJ Palfrey, and others.

An idiosyncratic black comedy that toes the line between horror and thriller that delivers a tale that is quite good. When murders start occurring in the small town of Snow Hollow, Utah, local police are stumped as to the identity of the killer. Local reports suggest a canine, or wolf, is responsible, with rumors circulating that is the work of the Wolfman. Local deputy, and son of the Sheriff, John Marshall is adamant it is nothing less than the work of a man. What follows is a poignant story of an alcoholic who tries to care for his teenage daughter, while circumnavigating the stress of his job as a police officer, and the mockery that comes with it. Mockery in no small part due to the inadequacy of the police in apprehending the killer.

The cinematography of the sleepy town is beautiful, with snow capped mountains and desolate, sparse trees. What little forest there is, is often used to great effect to help invoke feelings of paranoia and fear. It is at once haunting as there is also humour to be found in many situations. Like poking fun at a cop’s tendency to shoot when startled, or even mild corruption when it comes to a father’s dealings with his daughter’s boyfriend. It wrestles with the notion that women have been having to deal with men trying to kill them since the middle ages, and the fear that comes with that.

It was marvelously acted by Jim Cummings as the alcoholic father and deputy, and his mannerisms and quirks kept me enthralled throughout. I wish to see more his work throughout the upcoming years. The supporting cast also did a great job in their roles, from the grieving boyfriend of a murdered woman to the partner (Julia) of the deputy, John. Robert Forster did great, in his final role, as the aging Sheriff dealing with health concerns in his old age while trying to keep at his job.

Overall, it was an entertaining ride with a satisfying conclusion. I recommend it for a watch, and I hope writer/actor/director Jim Cummings keeps his projects coming.

Movies

Law Abiding Citizen

Massive Spoilers Below

If you’ve not seen this movie yet, please avoid reading this review.

This movie opens with a family man, Gerard Butler, chatting with his young daughter while someone is knocking at the door. He opens it, without seeing who it is, and gets assaulted, tied up, and stabbed. His wife also gets assaulted, tied up and stabbed, and raped. His daughter gets taken away from his sight before he passes out from his injuries. With this set up in mind, the viewer is predisposed to have sympathy for Gerard Butler’s character, Clyde. Such a crime should not go unpunished. However, not a mere 5 minutes later we hear that the system is imperfect and that some justice is better than no justice at all. We, the viewers, can tell that Clyde is not gonna like that information at all. Who would after witnessing such devastation of their family? The lawyer, Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx, is as part of the problem as the criminals themselves because he’d rather push for a sentence he can get than to mess up his 96% conviction rate. Even if that sentence is but a tap on the wrist. I once heard that lawyers are supposed to be seekers of the truth, and the truth is what your client believes. Therefore, it is in your best interest to create the narrative that makes your clients truth plausible. The quick meeting between Nick and Clyde demonstrated that Nick has no interest in creating such a narrative, he is quick to shoot down any truth of Clyde. His sole interest is his own personal gain, and to me, the worst kind of lawyer; the type that gives rise to jokes about their profession as being blood suckers.

Roughly 10 minutes into the movie, the time skips ahead 10 years. Nick is at breakfast with his 10 year old daughter, and his wife reminds him of her cello recital. He says he can’t make it because he has to work, and his daughter says she understands because he locks up bad guys to keep his family safe. Her dad does not do that, he helps keep turning the gears of the prisons so that he may profit in return. He is not altruistic, nor selfless. The justice that he got for Clyde’s family was to let a rapist and a murderer provide false evidence and testimony against his partner who will now get the death penalty. An innocent man, for the crimes accused, will now die. He is not entirely innocent because he helped the real bad guy commit his crimes. Yet the system is content with that. The point of the justice system is to get judged by your peers, but Nick thinks himself above that, and 10 years ago, he made the decision of who should be punished.

That real bad guy, Darby, gets his due justice at the hands of Clyde. Who kidnaps him, and keeps him awake with medication, while strapped to a table rigged with a mirror to show him everything that’s about to be done. Clyde systematically cuts off his limbs and appendages as revenge. Morally, do I agree with his action? Yes, I do, because the system failed him and he acted with what he felt was appropriate. Ethically, Clyde has become the monster he hunts. And in turn, deserves to be judged by his peers.

Clyde is the bad guy now. He demonstrated that when he sent the video of his revenge porn torture to Nick’s family. I understand wanting Nick to pay, but bringing his family into this heinous world is what turned him from vigilante to monster. I lost my sympathy for him then. This is a movie with no likeable characters. It’s a light shone on the failure of the American justice system. Nick’s ego is what caused all of this in the first place. And for that action, he’s the antagonist. The protagonist, Clyde, is a villain with a tragic origin. I enjoy this twist on the typical formula.

Clyde brutally kills his cellmate with a piece of bone from a steak, and at this point, the rest of the audience is fully aware he’s a villain. Yet he’s still our protagonist, no matter how fucked up he is. Clyde let them know exactly what time to deliver his demands so that the lawyer he kidnapped would still be alive if the system worked. But the Warden is corrupt, power went to his head in being in charge of others, and decided that Clyde will get his meal when he says so. As a result, the lawyer is dead. “Everyone must be held accountable for their actions.” These words are the driving point of this movie. It’s revealed that Clyde is a killer for the defense department, he’s the guy you go to when you want someone dead that you couldn’t reach: a natural tactician, and a think tank type brain. A tinkerer that can come up with all sorts of devices to achieve death.

He kills the judge from his bail hearing with a modified cell phone. When Nick visits him in jail, Clyde says what I already stated at the beginning: that Nick does his lawyer job in the way that best serves him. Not his clients. Himself. Nick counteracts by saying it doesn’t work to blow up the system. But that’s the thing, that’s the only way to change the system. You have to tear it down completely and utterly, and from its ashes, create a new system. Otherwise, the system will adapt to your attempts at change. It will make you think that your outcry had some effect, and while in actuality that system has become stronger because you are now a part of it. Even if you don’t realize it. And it is because of this message why that the creators and producers of this movie could not continue with their intended ending. Why they went with the ending that they did. The system got to them, and they were afraid to promote the idea of disturbing the status quo. Clyde has to lose despite being our protagonist.

After going through with his promise that he will kill everyone should he not be released by 6am and all charges dropped, Nick sees him at the prison, but outside its walls. He promptly proceeds to assault him multiple times, typical of an antagonist who’s annoyed at the protagonist. Yet this man is supposed to be a defender of justice, and here he is blatantly breaking the law. Clyde reacts by saying that if Nick had bothered to even try, and not had his ego in the way, then none of this would have happened. And now Clyde is going to bring the whole “corrupt temple down on his head”. That would be an epic ending, but the makers of this movie are cowards. No need to mince words, that is what they are. This movie could have had a powerful message, like Joker, but they cowered to their financers and that did not happen. They were terrified of the repercussions this might weave with individuals watching.

“Put an armed cop on every corner.” Yes, that’s a brilliant idea. And to what end? To show people the city’s secure. See, in any other rational mind, that would not have that effect. A force that only serves the interests of the status quo would not inspire confidence in me. In fact, not unlike current political events in the United States.

Nick discovers some crucial piece of evidence, and true to his character, he breaks the law again by breaking into a property owned by Clyde. “Fuck his civil rights” – that’s whole reason this mess started! The irony is thick on this one. I’m amazed at how thick headed and stubborn Nick is. But then again that’s the point, Nick is the system personified. He’s meant to keep Clyde down, while failing to realize that his own actions brought around everything. This is also why Nick wins in the end. As much as Clyde tried to change the entire structure, it let him cause chaos until it realized that Clyde could in fact win, and that’s why he must lose. The system does not fight fairly. It’ll adapt however it must to survive, even at the cost of supposed laws. As the Mayor in the movie says, “I don’t care what laws we have to bend.”

The movie ends with Clyde killing himself with his own bomb that they moved under his cell bed. In doing so, they’ve made a mockery of the entire movie and completely undermined any message it might have had. All it did was show viewers that you can’t beat the system, not even allowed in a fantasy. Yet Joker did it, only took 10 years. The final notes are that Nick sees his daughter’s cello recital and that the antagonist wins. The director F. Gary Gray is another cog in the propaganda machine of Hollywood. He bends over to studios and his financers, and instead of being brave and telling us a powerful story of man beating the system, he’d rather showcase that nothing can win. No amount of intellect or planning will allow them to lose. The status quo must always be maintained.

The acting was phenomenal by both parties involved, and the supporting cast was great. Overall, I don’t recommend this movie because it’s like having a case of blue balls so to speak. It offers such a great premise with an incredible possible message that it squandered away and gives no resolution. In the final 15 minutes, it abruptly flipped who the protagonist was to be the antagonist. And the antagonist became the protagonist. It’s just an infuriating movie.

Movies

Death Wish (2018)

When I saw this movie had surfaced on Netflix, I instantly remembered having seen it but I couldn’t quite remember the plot. As soon as I started watching, I remembered why I enjoyed this movie. And that is because it is an apparent revenge porn, for a lack of a better phrase. It’s vigilantism against the perceived wrongs. In the case of the main character, Dr. Paul Kersey, played by Bruce Willis, it’s making sure that criminals have consequences for their actions. It’s a social commentary on the American justice system and on how ineffective police are. As one of the characters in the movie says, police show up after a crime has been commited. They don’t prevent crimes. Only a man willing to defend his family can keep them safe, you have to do things yourself.

With all the issues that are currently being faced in the US and around the world regarding police, I feel this movie is contemporary but I would change it to better suit modern times. The way I’d change it is one that some might call me insane, and probably, nay, most definitely wouldn’t ever get made. I’d change it so that Paul’s family was murdered by a pair of cops responding to a call and being the trigger happy individuals that they are, it ends disastrous for his family. Meanwhile I’d have the other cops covering up this incident and the detective that Paul talks to tries to paint some criminals as the perpetrators. So because Paul is mislead, innocent (well not so innocent, still criminals) individuals end up on the wrong end of his gun.

The problem with such a fantasy is how would you end it? If you’re making a point against the failure of the police system, Paul can’t just summarily execute two cops. I mean he could, and that would be some cathartic revenge porn for a lot of people who are fed up hearing about cops shooting people in the back or in their own homes. These movies are a slippery slope. What I believe this movie is, is not gun porn nor is it revenge porn. It is showing how a man would react to having his family killed and maimed. Then getting fed up with the ineptitude of the police. In a way, it’s almost like the Punisher.

I didn’t watch this movie because I thought it was good, I watched it because it is satisfying. After hearing about so much injustice in the world, it’s cathartic to watch someone dole out their own special brand of justice even if it’s as simple as shooting with a gun. Criminals get their due comeuppance and our hero survives at the end, all is well. It’s why people enjoy subreddits such as justice served. Alas, the real criminals can’t be swiftly dealt with. Most of the criminals are products of their environments, of a lack of education. Of inept government services that merely want to maintain a status quo, the status quo. Those at the top, they are the real criminals. And no movie will be made like Death Wish in which they get their due diligence. The most we will get is that of the criminals they want gone, of how stories should be told so long as nothing upsets the status quo.

In regards to the acting, Bruce Willis tried somewhat here in contrast to his usual of just phoning it in for a paycheck. I can see he had fun with it, and his character came across as anguished. Vincent D’Onofrio as Paul’s brother, did quite well with what little had to work with. He played the angry uncle well. Camila Morrone as the daughter felt a little stiff and out of water, and turned out this was her first time acting in a feature film. Given that, pretty good for a first try. Elizabeth Shue as Paul’s wife was great for the little time she had as well, portraying fear for herself and her child during armed burglary. Lastly, Dean Norris as the detective in charge of investigation for Paul’s family was adequate as well. There was nothing special here needed, just someone that looks and acts the part of an older detective.

Closing thoughts, Eli Roth did a pretty good job with what he had to work with given that this movie is a remake of a series of movies and a book. His trademark bit of gore makes a couple appearances but thankfully nothing over the top, and actually went along with that catharsis for revenge. The villains were nothing special and simply pieces for the plot, no standouts here. I recommend watching this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it.