Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

Archive for the tag “5 arrow”

TV Series Review: Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sungkyunkwan Scandal
TV Series (20 episodes, complete and available free on Hulu.com)
Korean historical drama starring Park Yuchun, Park Min Young, Song Joong-Ki, and Yoo Ah In.

It’s K-drama time again! And this time, it’s a historical drama about a girl living as a boy so she can attend an elite university at a time when women could be killed for such an offense. There’s humor, rooftop flying, swordfights, an archery competition, and lovely characters. The elaborate costumes may look a little funny to Western eyes, but beautiful fabrics are still beautiful, and since this is one historical drama with a happy ending, romance fans should queue it up on Hulu pronto.

L-R: Geul-Oh, Lee Sun Joon, Kim Yoon Hee, and Yeo-Rim

The Premise

It’s the 1790s in the kingdom of Joseon (Korea), and women aren’t allowed to have jobs or go to school. Clever, self-taught Kim Yoon Hee (played by Park Min Young) disguises herself as her sickly younger brother, Kim Yoon Shik, and takes odd writing and copying jobs  to support her brother and widowed mother. She is so desperate for work that she compromises her principles and takes an assignment helping would-be scholars (only successful scholars can become high-ranking court officials) cheat on their university entrance exams. When exceptionally bright exam-taker and nobleman’s son Lee Sun Joon (Park Yuchun) catches Yoon Hee in the act, he realizes this “boy” has talent. Instead of turning Yoon Hee in, he “blackmails” her into taking the test as herself. Yoon Hee passes with flying colors, and suddenly she’s attending a great university as no girl could ever dream, knowing they’ll cut her head off if she’s caught. Meanwhile, there are political intrigues running rampant, plots to hatch, and ideals to follow–and there are those who suspect this small, pretty boy is not a boy at all.

Geul-Oh and Yeo-Rim

The Pain

The guys and Yoon Hee all walk around wearing mesh versions of pilgrim hats. With beads hanging from the brim.  But that appears to be historically accurate for yangban, or noblemen, so you just have to accustom yourself to that costume detail and move on. As the hero character, Lee Sun Joon is kind of stiff and hard to like in the first few episodes, but as the series goes on, that becomes part of his charm.

The Payoff

No impossibly far away plot device, yay! No scheming hell-bitch, yay!** I adored all three of Yoon Hee’s best guy friends in the series: Yeo-Rim (played by Song Joong-Ki) is slippery, charming, and funny; Geul-Oh (Yoo Ah In) is the wild child of the bunch, the best fighter and the most tortured soul; and finally Lee Sun Joon, who shows adequate fighting skill in one scene, but who really displays his heroic qualities through the dramatic and brilliant application of his brain.

Kim Yoon Hee and Lee Sun Joon

Yoon Hee is a truly likeable heroine. She’s smart, she’s got a spine of steel, and she has real motivations and fears you can’t help but understand. The main kiss scene is a good one and the ending is truly one of the best, most satisfying endings I’ve seen in any J-drama or K-drama, so from beginning to end, I wholeheartedly give this romance five arrows.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 arrows

**see my review of You’re Beautiful for my rant on both of those.

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Book Review: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride
S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
By William Goldman

You’ve seen the movie, oh, about a thousand times, so reading the book seems pointless. Do it anyway.

The Premise

This is like trying to write the premise of Star Wars. True love, Buttercup and Westley, Prince Humperdink, the Cliffs of Insanity, the man in black, Fezzik the Giant, Inigo Montoya, “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” “As you wish!”, Rodents of Unusual Size, the Fire Swamp, Miracle Max, the six-fingered man, the Dread Pirate Roberts, and happily ever after. Imagine watching the movie, but getting more of it, because the experience of reading the book is just like watching the movie—complete with asides by the author, who claims to have first heard the story as a little boy.

The Pain

I wouldn’t go so far as saying the book is better than the movie. There are some jokes that work much better as visuals, but where those fall flat, Goldman has plenty more zingers that just never made the cut to the screen. You could say the pace is not as tight because the author takes the time to go back and give Fezzik’s story, and Inigo’s story, as well as more details behind the other characters. Anyone who wants to be a novelist or a screenwriter should read this book because you can clearly see what parts Goldman cut (he adapted it for the screenplay as well) and why, and how it was tightened, and how they made some scenes work when they had to cut lots of expository information to fit it all into the movie. Both the book and the movie work brilliantly, so this, my friends, is how it’s done.

The Payoff

I used to scoff at the idea of having a favorite book—there are so many I love!—but after reading The Princess Bride, this is officially my favorite book. There’s more of Westley and Buttercup’s romance in the book than there was in the movie (not a lot more, but a little!). I read slowly, savoring every turn of phrase because I was having too much fun experiencing it for the first time. The adventure is both old and new. It has everything, and it’s told in such a delightfully satiric and warm-hearted vein that I know I’ll want to read it again. And again. And probably read it to my children one day.

Rating:

5 out of 5 arrows

TV Show Review: Farscape (1999-2004)

Farscape
TV Show (4 seasons, plus a 3 hour miniseries to wrap it all up)
Starring Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Virginia Hey, Anthony Simcoe, Gigi Edgley, Wayne Pygram, and the Jim Henson Creature Shop)

For anyone who looks back to the days of the original Star Wars with longing–swashbuckling adventure, quotable dialogue, and a crackling romance among the stars–please do yourself a favor and check out Farscape. There’s a wonderful inventiveness about this series that takes all our jaded ideas about space stories and throws them out the air lock. Science fiction need not be relentlessly depressing to be compelling (hear that Battlestar Galactica?). Bring on Harvey!

The Premise

American astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) gets sucked through a wormhole and shot into really, really deep space. A shipful of escaped convicts captures him, but before long, they decide he won’t be much help in their mission to clear their names. As intelligent, funny, and attractive as Crichton might be to the rest of us, his shipmates decide humans must be a hopelessly substandard species. No one shares that opinion more than Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), the hard-as-nails warrior chick from a genetically engineered species. She’s their enemy until her own people brand her as irreversibly contaminated by contact with the convicts. With Crichton grappling with the unimagined wonders around him, and Aeryn despising him and everyone else on board Moya (think giant, space-going whale-like creature with convenient accommodations for passengers), the adventure begins.

The Pain

Although the entire series benefits from its overarching storyline, there are a few random episodes that do nothing to forward the story, and are even a little boring. Also, bear with the antagonist in the first few episodes–a far, far better villain shows up at the end of season one. Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) is on par with Darth Vader–and actually, he’s better.


The Payoff

Chemistry: John and Aeryn has it. Their roller-coaster romance takes a nice long time developing (thanks to Aeryn’s genetic programming to avoid love at all costs), suffers some soap-operaish melodrama halfway through Season 3 and early in Season 4, but gets back on track in plenty of time to finish strong. Cheer, laugh, skip a heartbeat...it’s all fair game for this fearless series.

Rating:

5 out of 5 arrows

Book Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Novel by Lauren Willig
A contemporary/historical romance and alternate history spy novel

Time to talk about one of my favorite authors. Lauren Willig is who I want to be when I grow up. Of course, the fact that she has a Harvard Law degree and I…do not… might put a bit of a damper on my emulation plans. Eh, well my point remains: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and its sequels are awesome incarnate.

The Premise

In modern day London, American grad student Eloise Kelly desperately needs sources for her thesis on flower-named spies during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Everyone knows the Scarlet Pimpernel was a real spy, and they also know the identity of the Purple Gentian, his protégé—but Eloise really wants to discover the identity of the Pink Carnation, the most mysterious spy of all.

She becomes the luckiest grad student in history when she meets up with a direct descendant of the Purple Gentian. Even better, the old lady gives her permission to read the family papers—papers no academic has ever seen before. And never will, if her hostile-but-handsome grandson has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile in 1803, the Purple Gentian a.k.a. Richard Selwick is happily wreaking havoc in Paris when wannabe spy Amy forces her way into his life. Amy sucks at espionage. Suddenly, Richard has his hands full, carrying out missions for the crown while keeping Amy away from danger—and that includes himself.

The Pain

The book switches back and forth between the modern and historical timelines every few chapters. This would be intolerable if one storyline sucked, but fortunately they’re both good, so as you read it’s like “No! I don’t want to leave Richard and Amy!” and then a few chapters later it’s like “No! I don’t want to leave Eloise and Colin!” and so on.  Mildly annoying, but I can’t imagine the story being told in any other way.

The Payoff

This thing is funny. And hot romantic. And really well written. And she knows her history. And aw heck, why don’t I just squeal like the little fangirl I am.

There, done. Aren’t you glad you couldn’t hear me?

Rating:

5 out of 5 arrows

The other books in the Pink Carnation series are great, too. In order:
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Masque of the Black Tulip
The Deception of the Emerald Ring
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (coming in October 2010)

Miniseries Review: North and South (2004)

North and South
BBC Miniseries, 235 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)

based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

From the way people describe this story, you’d think it was called Pride and Prejudice and the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. To a certain extent, that’s an accurate pigeonhole. The romance is of the “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him, oh crap I love him!” variety—one of my personalfavorites—and instead of satirizing society (Jane Austen’s forte), Elizabeth Gaskell goes after issues of social conscience, contrasting the stark differences between pastoral, agrarian southern England and the bustling, hardscrabble mill towns transforming the north of England in the 1840’s.

The Premise

When spirited middle-class southerner Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) has to move with her family to Milton, a sooty, every-man-for-himself northern city that’s nothing like the beautiful village she’s known all her life, she hates everything about it. The city’s dirty air hurts her mother’s health and the people are pushy and hard. To her, attractive mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the North, and when she befriends one of his workers, a girl whose health has been damaged in the mills, Margaret knows exactly who to blame. If you’re wondering how The Man could possibly be a sympathetic hero, all I can say is Gaskell knows her romance.

The Pain

A drab gray palette suffuses nearly every bit of the movie. You keep expecting spring to arrive, and with it some color, or flowers, or something, but it would seem that there are no beautiful days in the North.

The Payoff

Is John Thornton. He’s full of restrained passion and out-smolders Darcy, if you can imagine that. I highly recommend.

5 out of 5 Arrows

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