Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What I am not watching now..

After 'Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi', I haven't been watching any drama. Well, the lack of time was one, but also, there really wasn't anything that interest me.

'New Heart', a medical drama (this genre is quite 'in' at the moment) which replaced 'Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi/ Legend' starring the rather cute Ji Sung (who just finished his military service, and was last seen in 'Save the Last Dance for Me') and Kim Min Jung ('Fashion 70's') is supposed to be rather good...but still I don't feel quite drawn to it enough to watch. It has one of the higher ratings at the moment and I believe there are plans to to extend it from 20 to 24 episodes. Maybe it's because I don't quite see the chemistry between the 2 leads. Btw, Lee Ji Hoon (last seen in 'Hello! Miss') also made an appearance for a few episodes.

'Hong Gil Dong' replaced 'In Soo is Pretty'. With Kang Ji Hwan (last seen in the 'Capital Scandal') as the male lead, it should have gotten me pretty excited but I caught glimpses of it...and it's err... a little weird. This is a fusion/ historical drama (but apparently based on real historical figures). How weird? has Kang Ji Hwan wearing sunglasses in the drama. It also starred Sung Yu Ri, whom I wasn't too impressed with in the 'The Snow Queen' with Hyun Bin. But you know what, I think the tomboyish type of character is very trendy now...judging from the popularity of Yoon Eun Hye in 'Coffee Prince Shop No 1' and Lee Ji Ah in 'Tae Wang Sa Shin Gi'. Seems Sung Yu Ri has been receiving rather good comments about her acting in this drama.

Jang Hyuk and Lee Da Hae teamed up in 'Robbers', which replaced 'Lobbyist'. Unfortunately, the ratings hasn't been good. I'm not sure why as it seems Jang Hyuk (last seen in the critically acclaimed 'Thank You') is putting in a great performance as usual. And Lee Da Hae shed her cutsie image in 'Hello! Miss' (thank goodness!) to portray a young widow with a daughter. But haiyah...even Jang Hyuk couldn't entice me to watch this. Maybe I want a change from the usual heart breaking, heart wrenching drama.

One of the most anticipated drama this year, 'Bad Love' starred Kwon Sang Woo and Lee Yo Won. It was the comeback drama for Kwon Sang Woo after the bombed 'Sad Sonata', (not to mention having had lots of bad luck and bad press in the last year), all his fans were eagerly waiting for this drama. And with Lee Yo Won (who was good in 'Surgeon Bong Dal Hee'), the drama was bound to be a runaway hit right? Wrong! It has been languishing in low ratings for most of the episodes, mostly below 10%. Sigh... I blame it on the writer. Seriously, this is meant to be a tissue box drama right from the start, but as somone on soompi said, we just don't feel for the characters. Btw, I feel kinda of sorry for Kim Sung Soo. I think he's rather good looking and his acting isn't too bad (I've seen worse in some leads) but he rarely has the chance to be the lead and I think they are going to kill off his character in this I think I'm going to give this a miss. Ok..maybe I'll watch the last episode.

Of course, there are 2 on-going and going and going dramas- 'Lee San' and 'King and I'. Both are looooong historical dramas (actually, there are many historical dramas showing now, and there will be more to come judging from the many announcements). 'Lee San' has the dimplicious Lee Seo Jin and 'King and I' has the experiencd Oh Man Sook.

And no...I'm not watching either of them.

So, besides waiting for new dramas, what does that leave me? Well, one drama or sitcom has caught my eye and attention.

'Unstoppable Marriage'.

I've never tried a sitcom before as they are typically long, with an episode everyday. 'Unstoppable Marriage' is already at Episode 60 (but each episode is only about 30 minutes). It stars the charismatic Seo Do Young (last seen in 'Spring Waltz') and Kim Dong Wook (the very funny my Chan in 'Coffee Prince Shop No 1'). But I glanced through a few episodes and it's made me laugh. is a sitcom so it is greatly exaggerated and it actually has a laugh soundtrack...which is so American. But, hey, me thinks me want to laugh for now instead of going through all these weepy shows.

So I guess I may start on it tonight. Good thing Chinese New Year is coming and I should have some free time to catch up. ^^

So what are you watching?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Le Grand Chef (식객)

Cast: Kim Kang Wo (Sung Chan, 성찬), Lee Ha Na (Jin Su, 진수), Im Won Hee (Bong Ju, 봉주), Jeong Eun Pyo (Ho Song, 호성), Kim Sang Ho (Wu Chung Gor, 우중거)

Official Korean site
Festive Film
Thread on soompi

'Le Grand Chef' was one of the top movies in Korea last year, a little bit suprising because there wasn't any big cast but not so unexpected because it was based on a manhwa. The author, Heo Yeong Man had another of his manhwa, 'Tazza: The High Rollers' being filmed into a movie earlier that was also a hit, so there was some expectation for this movie. I feel that there's another reason for the success in Korea but I shall come to that later.


The descendent of a Japanese general wants to return the knife of the last royal chef to Korea. A cooking contest was held, so that the best chef, the true 'master' of the royal culinary could be chosen.

Sung Chan (Kim Kang Woo), lives in the countryside, growing and selling his own vegetables, and doing a roaring good trade as he banters and flirts with the ajumas, who buys his top quality products. He is also a fantastic cook, who could have become the top chef in Korea except for an incident. His rival, Bong Ju (Im Won Hee) the owner of an expensive restaurant/ cooking school is determind to win the contest to prove once and for all, that only he, Bong Ju deserves the 'Best Chef' title.

And of course, you need a female element...which comes in the form of Jin Su (Lee Ha Na), a bubbly, energetic reporter, who is all out to lend her support for Sung Chan.

The movie also has what I consider some of the more interesting supporting characters in most movies. For example, you have Ho Song, Sung Chan's village friend (with his cute children and formidable wife) and Corporal Wu (the ex army chef), who is supposedly Bong Ju's assistant, but is really more interested in searching for the perfect ramyeon. And one shouldn't forget Sung Chan's whimsical, Alzheimer stricken grandfather.

The contests had to go through a few rounds like poultry, fish, beef etc. One of the round even had the contestants seraching for the best charcoal. Of course, all these rounds are just to show how good and how much hardship Sung Chan has to go through to win and what a mean, despicable person Bong Ju is.

And so within the 2 hours so so, we are treated to some rather fantastic cooking, intersped with very human aspects like tears and laughter, that makes food such a personal experience, which can truely warm the hearts and sould and stomach, if done with passion.

I must admit that the first few minutes of the movie totally shocked me...maybe because I hadn't expect the movie to open this way. I'm not sure if the movie goers were just as shocked but then, I cook only vegetables at home as hubby is a vegetarian, so I've absolutely no experience in slaughtering live animals...and I don't think I really want to either.

But please don't be mistaken, it wasn't gross or anything, in fact it was expertly done.

And the food filmed in the movie for the contest was absolutely exquisite. It really reminded me of the royal food that I had tasted during my 2004 trip. And those of you who have 'Dae Jang Geum', would kow what I'm talking about.

But you know what, despite knowing that these food takes great skills to prepare and probably taste doesn't make me hungry. What made me hungry?

Sung Chan preparing lunch for Jin Su for the first time, Corporal Wu having the steaming hot ramyeon, Sung Chan and Jin Su having BBQ pork in Sung Chan's friend's shop..... In other words, the food of everydaylife and normal citizens. In some way, I'm quite correct in my the final twist to the cooking contest is linked to an everyday, normal soup that is known to all Koreans.

There were 2 moments in the movie that brought a little tear to my was the story of the charcoal maker and the other...Sung Chan's cow. I think I can quite safely say almost everyone in the audience will feel something at that final scene of the cow...walking sadly, all alone into slaughterhouse. Btw, Kim Kang Woo said that he needed almost a month to make friends with Seung Sun, the cow (yes, the cow does have a name!). And the poor thing apparently lost about 30kg on the day of filming because it really thought it was going to end up on the dining table.

The supporting characters were interesting as well and I especially like Corporal Wu in his fervent search for that perfect ramyeon that he tasted once in his life. I blogged about ramyeon previously here and watching the ramyeon scene, I came to the same conclusion...I've got to get myself one of those metal small pot. And just what is the perfect ramyeon? Hehe! Go watch the movie. I had ramyeon after the movie...but it doesn't seemed to taste as good as it looked in the movie leh.

As for the main leads, they did a good job..actually, I can really see traces of manhwa in them...with Sung Chan being down-to-earth and good looking and Bong Ju having this slicked-back hair and a constant sneer on his face. The only thing is...Jin Su's role could have been meatier but I guess the writer wasn't too concerned about the female participation in the storyline.

Oh...I did mention earlier that there was probably another reason why it did well in Korea- the nationalistic touch. You have a Japanese returning the all symbolic knife to atone for his ancestors' sins (which is linked to the last emperor of Chosun), the royal cooking and then the final competition which was held on National Day... It's as nationalistic as it gets without being too serious. was an enjoyable movie...with one unexpected twist to the story, some humour and a nice happy ending....^^ *Warning: this movie could either make you hungry or stay off fish and beef for awhile....hehehe!

Im Won Hee, has appeared in many movies ...the most notable being in the 2005 movie, 'Crying Fist'. He was last seen in Kang Dong Wan's movie, 'M'.

Lee Ha Na was last seen in the strange drama, 'Merri, Daegu, Defence and Attack Battle' with Ji Hyun Wu...and believe was a strange drama.

Kim Kang Woo could very well be the next acclaimed actor as he has just won the best actor for his role in the movie, 'The Railroad' in the 25th Torino Film Festival in Italy last December. The storyline certainly sounds interesting and I think I'm going to get it. His latest movie is 'Rainbow Eyes', which started screening in Korea on 27th December. Not sure how it is doing but must say he looks pretty good, especially on that motobike. hehehe!

Btw, from all accounts that I've gathered so far, Kim Kang Woo is a very nice, obliging, polite guy. My teacher (who has been the translator for many Korean artistes including Shinhwa, Bae Yong Joon and Rain), who was his translator, was full of praise for him. And he looks really good fact much better in real life than in reel life. I believed he has gained a few fans in Singapore after this trip..hehe!

Credit: Singapore KTO

One last note...interestingly, there will be a drama version coming on air soon. It will star Kim Rae Won and Nam Sang Mi.

Jos has also done a review on her blog for this movie

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tae Wang's army journey- Day 3: Part 1

Not counting the last few days when we were on our own extended stay, Hanhwa Resort turned out to be the only hotel that we stayed for 2 nights. And like the other resorts that are out of town area, the rooms are big and roomy, with kitchenete, a small dining area and a little hall included. There were also 2 bedrooms, so the place is big enough for at least 3 people to share.

Both Lynn and I decided to sleep together in one room...and kept the other room for our lugguage. Hehe!

Breakfast was ok...think we were all still recovering from our BBQ Black Pork and karaoke session the previous night. Some of the other girls like Alicia, Kelly, Jessica and Joannie stayed up late to finish the poster. Thanks girls!

We had a leisurely enough breakfast..the food was alright...a bit of mixture between Korean and Western food. I don't know how the conversation started but I do think we've all watched too many K dramas. ^^ Remember the egg cracking session in 'My Girl' and 'Lovers in Paris'? Well, Aliaica decided she JUST had to try to see how it's like....1,2,3,GO!

Soon, Mgr An was chasing us to hurry up with our breakfast as we had a long day ahead of us. We would be visiting the major filmsite for TWSSG.

Along the way to the filmsite (or Southern Park), we saw this....

Aren't they pretty? Our guide, Lily told us that they were called 'lu wei'. They were really, really pretty and we spent quite a while taking photos there.

When we reached there at about 9+ in the morning, there were already quite a few busloads there. I had 'visited' it in 2007...from afar......very they were not opened to the public yet. In fact, I think they hadn't even finished building the sets when I came by then. This is the entrance:

The filmsite/ park is rather big, so be prepared to spend a couple of hours exploring it. Of course, it would be better if you have watched the drama already, coz then you will get all excited upon seeing the familiar spots...just like Kelly, Jessica and I did. ^^ Mgr An explained the various important spots (eg- the place where he was injured)the first before giving us to explore on our own. Hehe! He did made a slip-up on one part though and Kelly corrected him. But I guess this slip-up was due to the fact that the script probably changed too many times.

Anyway, here goes...see if you recognised any of them and for added interest, let's play a little game....see if you could answer my questions correctly.

The gambling table-

TWSSG Q1- Lee Ji Ah, as the grown up Suzini, appeared in this scene only once, which scene was that?

Gambling Den-

I was initially very confused as I thought DD (BYJ) was sitting somewhere else. You know all these places looked almost alike but there is slight difference. hehe! It was like looking for the right lamp post in Chun Cheon for Winter Sonata. Luckily Mgr An told us the right one.
TWSSG Q2- What was the significance between Dam Deok and Suzini in this scene?

Public House- Actually, I'm not sure if it was called Public House...but you can see why I was confused between this part and the one above. Quite similar right?

TWSSG Q3- Why was Suzini jumping out of the place in a hurry?

The throne- Cannot sit! Unless you're the King...hahaha! The throne is actually quite big but didn't look very comfortable. Well, being a King is never comfortable.

I have to say, I don't dig this King's look very much...much prefer him in military uniform.
TWSSG Q4- Did Dam Deok ever sit on the throne?

Of course the Tae Wang army must take photo in front of our King's throne lah.

The royal jade pond?- Not sure what do you call this...but there was some water in the pond? Stream? I wanted so much to take a photo with clear view but hor...there is forever someone in front of the throne...

Poor Dam Deok never really wanted to be King...he was 'forced' into it. Sigh..
TWSSG Q5- What was he doing in the hall all alone? Hint:- He had just became King.

The assembly hall steps- This was of significance to it was the setting of many scenes between Dam Deok and Suzini. Hehe! I was standing for quite a few minutes, trying to figure out exactly which steps they were sitting.

The drinking bottle- And why am I taking a photo of this? Because my King drank from it. Wahahaha!

I think whenever Dam Deok and Suzini are in this hall, they would always be drinking. I would consider it as their dating ground. Hehe! But this scene was probably one of the more romantic scene.
TWSSG Q6a- Which scene was this and TWSSG Q6b- name one other drinking scene where Suzini was using the same bottle.

The library-

Dam Deok placed a lot of emphasis on the library and had requested the Geo Mul villagers to set up their base here. There were lots of stationery here and even the picture of a ship. We were wondering if it was the picture of the ship he had 'borrowed' from Heok Gae, the big teddy bear. ^^
TWSSG Q7- Why did the Geo Mul villagers seemed worried?

The royal bed- Almost everyone I know went to lie on the bed. At least you can say you were on the same bed as BYJ. Wahahaha! The bed wasn't soft at all but then I think BYJ doesn't like soft beds anyway.

TWSSG Q8- Why couldn't Dam Deok sleep?

The cart- I wished I had sat on it..alamak...wasted chance..

This cart was really used many times...but I'm not sure how strong it really is. I would have loved to try it out. Would have been so fun riding with a horse pulling it. Maybe they should include a joy ride within the park?
TWSSG Q9- Name at least 2 occassions when this cart was used

Palace steps- Kelly and I were discussing if this was the steps that he sat on....hehe! Told you all the photos we took are related to him... There's a rather big stream running underneath the steps and there are even little fish sculptures inside...very nice...But we didn't really get to see this in the drama..coz the emphasis was of course on the cast...

TWSSG Q10- How many times did Ho Gae and Dam Deok meet here?

A view of the palace grounds..

Somewhere amongst all these rooms and places, there is a cafe. But hor...all of us had absolutely no time to try it out. Sigh...Those of you who are going there in the future, let me know how it is like.

Fortress? Battle discussion scene? I couldn't remember where this set was used...maybe someone can enlighten me. But I do recall seeing the crates in various scenes.

TWSSG Q11- Which scene was this? Hint: CG effect was used. And this was the only only scene I remembered where the setting was used

From the cafe to the fortress...

Geo Mul village- The Geo Mul village isn't very big and looked more mystical in the drama because of the CG effects. Yes, the well was there but there wasn't any magical cane coming out of the well. We took a peep and saw quite a few coins at the bottom of the well. Maybe they should have put a couple of tortoises instead?

TWSSG Q12- Can you spot the CG effects?

The baby cot-

TWSSG Q13- Who was in the baby cot? This is a no-brainer question...

Yon Gar Ryeo's house- This is part of Yon Gar Ryeo's house, which was full of beautiful nice furniture and rather big too. I remember reading one of the article saying that PD Kim wanted the house to be big and luxurious to reflect his standing. Yon Gar Ryeo was also real historical figure though I'm not sure if he really married the King's sister...Btw, I loved Park Sang Won's portrayal of Yon Gar Ryeo and thought it was a pity that he wasn't nominated for any awards.

Small stone bridge- This is outside the palace already...

Besides Dam Deok (BYJ), another guy that drew alot of attention was Philip Lee...^^ Think he captured quite a few hearts in TWSSG.
TWSSG Q14- Who was Cheo Ro waiting for?

Main stone bridge-

I remember when I first saw this on on my computer (it wasn't Dam Deok crossing the bridge)...the scene was really grand... but of course..lots of CG effects were used...Still the camera angle was really good.
TWSSG Q15- When did this scene first appear?

Many of the small ornaments and accessories used were also on displayed. They really put alot of effort into this drama..

The sedan- I can only remember one scene where this sedan was used....too bad I didn't see this or I would have sat in it. Reminds me of those marriage sedan of olden days..hehe!

TWSSG Q16- Who sat in this sedan?

And why am taking photo of this empty lot? Because according to Mgr An, this was where all the production buses/ vehicles were parked. So all the costumes changes would be here..and I believe they also ate here...^^

Market place- Besides the place where the young Suzini was most familiar with, young Dam Deok also frequently escaped here from the cold, friendless palace. I do wish they had actual stores selling things or even a coffeshop...

The tarven- Like I said, the place is really big I just didn't have enough time to see everything...including this....would have been nice if they serve soju...preferably from the same type of bottle that Dam Deok drank from..hehe!

TWSSG Q17- What happened here?

Fight with Dae Jang Ro- Of course, this was a most important place, not just because it was a deciding turning point in the fight between Dam Deok and Hwa Cheon but also where BYJ was hurt...

TWSSG Q18- Which part of BYJ was hurt? And if you don't know the answer to this....

Finally...I really, really like this....there's a big of majestic feel to it..

The Jeju filmset is rather big and it would take a while to tour the place, I reckon maybe at least 2 hours. But if you have not watched TWSSG, then it may not hold much meaning for the normal visitors. Maybe the authorities taking care of the place could add in additional interests like shows during the weekend or have the market place come alive during the weekend...this would really be very, very interesting...with people selling wares and food. Of course, I'm not saying there weren't any such places but they weren't very many and not very prominent. But you girls may want to check out the small stall selling the 'Dragon's candy'.....*wink!*

Also, take note that many of the rooms are actually quite dim. This is to give a authentic feel to the place as that era didn't have electricity. But it does mean you should arm yourself with a good camera.

Sorry, this post is loaded with pictures....that's why it has to be divided into 3 parts as there are lots of photos. My apologies to those who ahve slow internet access.

I will give the answers to the 18 questions (or what I know anyway) in my next part...but I maybe wrong in my answers or there may be more than one correct welcome participation from everyone.