Thursday, October 24, 2013

Basketball Episode 1

I am so excited to review my first drama here at Crazy Ahjummas!  There were three dramas starting this week and it was hard to choose which one to do.  Reply 1994 I adore so far but I dont feel I know enough about the 90's Korean pop culture to really do it justice.  Empress Qi is one that I have been waiting for for months, however it is 50 episodes.  And there is nothing worse then writing for 50 episodes about political shenanigans.  So my final option was Basketball which I have been interested in since I saw the beautifully done stills and trailers.  It has all of my favorite things in a historical drama.  Cool historical background ...... check.   Amazing cinematography and wardrobes........  Check.   Cool action sequences ........  check, check, check.  And of course the most important thing for a kdrama fan, HOT GUYS!!!!  CHECK!!!!  And after watching episode 1,  I was not disappointed.

A Unique Intro:
I like the feel of the drama right off the bat.  Rather then jump into your standard drama intro the writers got the actual members of the Olympic basketball team to come and tell their experiences about growing up in 1940's Korea.  The poverty, the stress if being Korean of being occupied by Japan during the start of WWII.  It grounds the history of the drama for those who are unaware of how extreme this time period was.

 The Setup:
The show then flashes us away from the serious and throws us into an exciting basketball scene with cameo's from Lee Jung Jin (Runaway Plan B, 100 Year Inheritance) and Oh Ji HO ( Chuno, Couple or Trouble).  This style of basketball has more in common with a ultimate fighter match (while holding a ball) then will any basketball I have ever scene.  Brutal, physical, and fast this style of ball was played in the back alleyways and organized by a slightly less then honest group of bookies.  Check out one of the shows teaser trailers below so you can truly understand, because my words can not do this justice.  

Our Hero:

It is at this street game that we are introduced to our super intense hot headed hotty (still have to think of a nickname for him.  If you have suggestions put them in the comments!).

The typical poor boy (and by poor I mean does not own shoes in the middle of winter poor) earns money by selling cigarettes and alcohol on the streets.  He stares wide eyed at the violent game of basketball and all the money being flashed around.  I guess gambling is illegal then as well since just as the obvious favorite player gets knocked out on the court, a squad of cops rushes in on a raid resulting in the bookies rushing away with a huge pile of cash.  We find out that Kang San is the local nice guy who all the locals (by locals I mean the poor Koreans) are rooting for.  He is a basketball prodigy and the favorite to be scouted for the Seoul's basketball team.  But the school he attends treats him like trash because of his poverty.  We see a classroom of Korean students from various stages of wealth.  The wealthiest in crisp school uniforms while the poorest of the students are garbed in dirty clothing layered against the cold weather.  None of them even own shoes, just woven reads braided and wrapped around their feet.    And of course this being Korea the poor students are treated horribly.  Verbally abused and beaten by the head teacher (played by Jo Hee Bong - the Korean Eddie Murphy since he plays lots of different characters in this drama) for not having payed thier tuition.  Two of the three kids grovel and apologize but our hero just stares the teacher down saying nothing....

Already loving his character and his amazing charismatic glares, smiles, and pretty much any other expression that comes across his face. 

Seems the only reason he has not quit the school where he is treated so poorly is because he has hopes of being scouted for his basketball skills. He has one more day to go before all the scouts come to check out the school team. 

And since we know by now how Korea works in dramas is it any surprise when the next day during the scouting expo we see the head teacher (principal??) work against Kang San telling the scout lies in order to get a different student scouted.  Turns out the rich mother of the student was generous in her bribes leading to our poor hotty getting shafted to the side even though he was obviously the star player.

Our Heroine:

Enter our heroine. An obviously wealthy girl who is a reporter........ or at least the equivalent to a Korean Dear Abby. As she spouts out romantic ideas about class and money not mattering when faced with true love. 

Her BFF who is sitting next to her knitting (first time I think I have seen knitting used in a kdrama) tells her that her idea of true love is a bunch of nonsense.  That the only thing a women should be looking for is a man with money and security.  Then she tilts her head and says  that that kind of romance just leads to the couple starving to death together which she guesses could be romantic.  Our ditzy princess just tosses her perfectly coiffed head and declares that money does not matter and that she has seen tons of examples of those type of relationships working in US movies.....  PHTTTTT.....  Seriously this girl is a twit and she already has me rolling my eyes.  It is a good thing I am not watching this show for the romance because at this point I am not a fan of our vapid heroine. Lets hope that she got her job as an "ace" reporter because of nepotism since that is the only way I am going to believe she is working there. 

The Hookup:

It seems that back in the 1939 instead of idols they had their basketball stars who are arriving home to a swarm of fans!  The Basketball team (which I am guessing is the basketball team of Seoul, although it might be the the team for all of Korea) are the best of the best, and they obviously know it waving to a huge crowd and dressed in their finest.   However even among the team there is the #1 star. Newbie actor Jung Dong Hyun plays Min Chi Hi , the Michael Jordan of Korean Bball.  Rich, handsome, and talented he takes all of the adoration as his due.  But not everyone loves him, a poor youth starts yelling obscenities at the team calling them the "poster boys for the Japanese dogs".  When he/she (not sure under all the dirt) starts to throw fruit at the players the crowd starts to push and stampede which of course results in our Ditsy princess (yup still rolling my eyes) to fall on top of our Hot Headed Hero and as he gazes up at her he is instantly smitten. 

 Glad to know their love is deep and based on something as important as she is pretty. All I could think during this scene is wouldn't her white clothes get dirty if he was really a street rat.   LOL 

The Evil Ahjussi's:

Not planning on focusing much on the older ahjussi's. Just assume that they exist and are going around doing secret deals in Japanese style restaurants, ruining the poor class by beating them, and taking away their homes and money.  Oh and of course kicking kittens since they are just a bunch of meanies.

Yup, I called it !

It seems our pouting princess got her reporter job from her father and also was told she was about to get fired.  So what is a little princess going to do?.......... go complain to Daddy of course.  She literally stomps into her fathers factory as he is giving a "rousing" (if only there was a sarcasm font) speech to his factory workers.  It becomes obvious that daddy dearest is one of those evil ahjussi's, as he tells all his factory workers how they should be working longer hours so they to can become contributing members to society like himself.  Of course it would be more believable if they all were not freezing and obviously ill as they stand silently coughing into their hands.   During her dad's spiel we see our heroine learn (from one of her dads secretaries)  that the reason she was fired was because her father has “other plans” for her.   How much you want to bet those other plans are marriage to some well established family to make him more important.  And I truly love how such an enlightened women does not even seem to notice all the poor ill employees that her dad is bossing around.  

You would think that she would be searching for her poor prince charming among all these workers.  LOL 

The Street Thug Bookies:

We have a group of local bookies/thugs/all around poor guys making a dishonest living who are interested in our hero.  We caught a glimpse of them in the opening scene but now we see that the ringleader of the street ball games is bribing the police to do a raid if their man starts to lose.  Our intense hero threatens to expose his scheme if he does not pay him for helping him the other day and buying the alcohol jug that had been broken in the raid  And knowing Kang San's basketball reputation the head bookie offeres him a job playing in the Bball games.  

Kang San declines saying “why would I ruin his life doing something so low” and stalks off after collecting his money. And of course you know those words are going to come back and bite him and sure enough the next day he finds out that the scouts decided to go with a different kid dashing his chances of getting out of the gutter.

Life Truly Sucks: 

So our not so young hero (he's 24,  it just took him a long time to graduate) goes to the scout to beg for another chance since he sees this as his only way out of the squalor for him and his mom. The scout (another mini evil ajhussi) gets shifty eyed and tells him he should give up basketball since poor people have no right to play a gentleman's sport.... OUCH... and at that moment Hong Ki's (the student who took the spot on the team) mother arrives obviously handing the scout a thank you bribe for putting her son on the team... DOUBLE OUCH. Sucks to be poor in Korea.

If life did not totally suck enough he arrives home to find the repo men taking the few meager items (some small trunks and blankets from their shanty tent) because of his late school tuition payments. It always amazes me when I watch dramas from this era, the lack of humanity so many of the people expressed. Seriously who takes the blankets away from the beggars that are so poor they cannot afford shoes.  This just makes our Hot Headed Hotty even more angry and you can see him mentally trying to push his anger inside so he does not deck any of the repo men. 

This prompts his sweet poor mom to take a food box to the head teacher begging him to treat her son well and that they would pay for the school as soon as possible. And as you can guess our wonderful dishonest jerk of a teacher uses that moment to heap mounds of verbal abuse on her head causing Kang San to get more and more angry until he explodes punching the teacher. The teacher pulls out his sword (seriously what school has the teachers carrying around swords) on the kid threatening to end his pathetic existence. Slapping her son, the mom falls to her knees begging forgiveness. A more subdued yet still pissed, Kang San follows suite glaring at the ground.  

I would just like to take this minute and thank the casting kdrama gods for getting a lead who can really shine when glaring. And since that is his main look, it is a good thing he is really really really good at it!

Following the school encounter we see the son and mom walking home together (can I tell you how beautiful the bridge is in this scene) where she gives him a very desperate talk about enduring well. And how if you endure in life things will just work out in the end. It is truly sad since you can tell from both of their expressions that neither truly believes this. 

 But in a truly touching moment Kang San bends down so he can give his mom a piggy back ride keeping her feet out of the snow. He tells her that he is proud that she is his mother and and continues home both with tears in their eyes. However in his head he tells himself he just cant live like that. Which of course brings us back to our street ball court where he asks how much money they will pay him to play.

And the Action Begins!!!!


As the crowds are cheering for the next death match..........oops I mean basketball game, we see Kang San step into the basketball ring. Minus many layers of clothing (oh thank you kdrama gods for letting us gaze at him without all the bulky coats) and with a brand new pair of shoes he politely bows to all the crowd and his opponent (imagine your basic local cable semi pro wrestler and you have the image of this guy). Cocky and telling him that he will try not to beat him to badly the current street pro prepares to teach Kang San a lesson and promptly is trounced on the first basket. Enraged we have a series of brutal beating moves leaving our guy with possible cracked ribs and very artfully sweaty. But having natural talent for the game Kang San recovers and with a series of flashy moves wins the game. And I love how he goes back into a nice polite boy by bowing to everyone again.

Merry Christmas to All (Unless you are Poor):

Switching to the rich side of town we see our ditsy princess Choi Shin Young (yup I know it took me a while to use her real name since I just dont like her), surrounded by catty friends for the annual richy rich Christmas party. Her frenemies are obsessed with telling our heroine about the gossip surrounding  her upcoming arranged marriage (Yup I am on a roll on guessing this characters storyline).

 My favorite part is when they start accusing her of being a feminist they talk about how it is good that she finally came to her senses.  Makes me laugh since she is not really showing a lot of feminist characteristics other then carrying around a camera for her “job” in her fancy high designer dress.

Out on the town themselves after their successful gambling haul. We see Kang San and his new friends hanging out in the “rich area” which is filled with fancy shops and arrogant Koreans/Japanese who of course look down on the grubby street kids/men/gang??  ( Not sure what to call them since they are all ages but imagine a mismatched bunch of poorly clothed guys walking down a posh boutique street and you get the idea).  And being the awesomely hot hotheaded youth that he is Kang San, when insulted by one of the star basketball players (wearing what reminds me of a matador suit) gets close to hitting the jerk.  He is pulled off by his friends but cant let it go and chases him down to the very same richy rich Christmas party that our Heroine is at.  Blocked at the door by his evil teachers doppelganger he is told that only people in suits can enter these hallowed halls (ie the local fancy hotel). When he tries to push past the doorman we have this hilarious scene where his new boss pulls him back glances over at some rich guys walking past in their uniforms and I swear he wiggles his eyebrows. 
 Next thing we know our boy and the three ahjussi thugs are walking down the hotel hall decked out in their new outfits gazing at everything in awe. They enter the ballroom to find the rich jerk about to slap our ditsy heroine who had verbally offended him by wanting to interview a different basketball star.  Just as the jerk is about to hit Shin Young our hero grabs the jerks arm looking super gallant as he stands up for his future loves honor. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Eh...:

So I love the action sequences in this drama.  I am a huge fan of action dramas and I was very happily surprised at how amazing the basketball choreographed scenes were.   This director is known for his great action scenes (Runaway Plan B, Chuno) so I expect we will be seeing many more in the future.  Also give huge props for the cinematography.  They took the sets that were built for Bridal Mask and really made them their own creating a larger and more grand world in which our characters live in.  The way they were able to really make you see and feel the poverty that the people were living was amazing.  I am more used to dramas showing poverty as "oh they are all poor be sad everyone" and then having the sets and costumes be just simpler versions of the stars outfits.  But this drama really drilled in the poverty.  From the lack of shoes to the single set of clothing in the middle of winter.  You truly felt their desperation.  I hope that the detail and feel of the drama continue for the whole show.  It has already been shot half way through so it should still be quiet a while till we are in live shoots so, crossing fingers, this should mean we will continue to have top notch quality

So Tvn has slowly been expanding its drama broadcasting in this past year.  For the first time they are airing double primetime dramas in a week (basketball, and Reply 1994) and I for one am so happy.  This station is known for really focusing on great writing and looking outside the box for its  scripts.  It also tends to hire new or almost new actors that have yet to really make it big.  Out of our 3 main characters only our hero Kang San played by Do Ji Han ( the awesome prosecutor and son of evil ahjussi's in Incarnation of Money) has had any type of experience.  The other two leads Lee Elijah (our ditsy princess) & Jung Dong Hyun (our rich star basketball player) are both unknowns and this is their first drama.  Do Ji Han I absolutely love.  Have to really enjoy a guy that has a great smile and an amazing "I want to kill you" look.  And I have high hopes for his nemesis Jung Dong Hyun who we will see more of in episode 2.  Unfortunately my feelings for Lee Elijah are not as complimentary.  I am not sure if it is how her character is written or her acting but something just really turns me off about her character.  Other then looking pretty she does not really bring much to the plot.  All of her supposed strong personality traits just fall flat and I just wonder if there are any thoughts inside her head.  Maybe I will be surprised and she will become the amazing character they are trying to convince me she is, however for now I remain skeptical.  

Hope to see you back for my review of  Episode 2!!!


No comments:

Post a Comment

We love comments! Just please remember to keep it clean and keep it nice or you won't survive the moderation round.