First Impression Review: TV5′s Beki Boxer Lands Both Emotional and Comical Punches

Basic first week set-up spoilers.

TV5 continues its quest to gain ground on the two Philippine television behemoths. A couple of months into its “vertical programming” primetime scheduling format, TV5 still has a ways to go. But in the process of introducing its radical (for Philippine television) programming strategy, the network has been able to also introduce some creative and fresh programs.

The latest is the network’s charming and fun series Beki Boxer.

Described as a comedy with heart, Beki Boxer tells the story of Rocky, a young closeted gay man who is determined to win back his family’s honor and reputation by becoming a champion boxer.

While Rocky has always been more interested in the Miss Universe pageant and Barbies than GI Joes, he’s also always looked up to his father who was once a champion boxer himself. But one fight changed that all. Suspected of throwing the fight, Rocky’s father went from local hero to laughing stock overnight. And since then, their family’s been looked down upon and insulted. Continue reading

First Impression Review: A Lot of Potential in GMA’s Rhodora X

Basic first week spoilers.

Genuinely fresh and groundbreaking stories are hard to come by on Philippine television. But one of GMA Network’s newest dramas hopes to be one of those rarities.

Rhodora X starring Jennylyn Mercado aims to tell the story of the title character who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known previously and maybe more commonly as Multiple Personality Disorder.

Now this is definitely not the first time a Filipino soap opera has a medical condition at the center of its premise. And the dramas that have tackled such medical-related stories have been on both sides of the spectrum and everywhere in between. ABS-CBN’s Budoy about a young man with Angelman syndrome was well-intentioned on paper, but was instead pretentious and heavy handed. TV5′s Positive about a man diagnosed with AIDS balanced typical Pinoy suds with a daring and unflinching look at the effects of the disease on the main character and the people around him.

Rhodora X appears to be following more in Positive‘s footsteps by exploring the disorder and its effects in a suspense-thriller setting. At least, that’s the impression you get from the first week and the pre-show teasers. Continue reading

Good Ol’ Review: The Universal Appeal of tvN’s Answer Me 1994

Reply 1994

LOTS of spoilers.

So I am definitely late to the entire Reply/Answer Me hype, but finally managed to jump in last week. Instead of starting with 2012′s Answer Me 1997, I chose to watch the more recent Answer Me 1994 first.

One of my favorite things about Korean dramas is that their short, miniseries format allows for a wide variety of stories even if most fall into the same drama tropes. To find a few more original, risk taking or fresh concepts, the cable networks and the late night drama specials on the big three (or maybe just KBS?) are where to go.

tvN has been at the forefront of dramas that are both out of the box while still having mainstream appeal. And the Answer Me series certainly falls within that spectrum.

Another one of my favorite things about Korean dramas is when I stumble upon a drama that appears to be very Korean on the surface, yet ends up being very universal instead.

Answer Me 1994 is a perfect example. Continue reading

First Impression Review: Stunning Visuals Carry GMA’s Carmela Through First Week

Basic first week spoilers.

GMA Network was not afraid to break new ground last year with My Husband’s Lover. And they don’t appear to be backing down from controversial topics in 2014 with Carmela, a fictionalized “ripped from the headlines” version of the sensational story of the beating of accused rapist Vhong Navarro that’s currently dominating the airwav…

Huh? No? It’s not? Oh, oops.

Well, that would’ve been a ballsy show, yeah? But really, Carmela‘s first week was a little more typical. Which is a surprise considering the series is created by much acclaimed Suzette Doctolero (My Husband’s Lover, Amaya) and has been hyped as a fresh, exciting concept.

Carmela‘s subtitle, Ang Pinakamagandang Babae sa Mundong Ibabaw (The Most Beautiful Woman on the Face of the Earth), suggests a much more interesting story even if its first week did not. Continue reading

Review: Mamoru Hosada’s Breathtaking and Emotional Wolf Children

No spoilers.

The announcement of Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement surprised and saddened fans of excellent filmmaking as well as fans of Japanese animation. Many of Miyazaki’s own films and those under Studio Ghibli helped introduce Japanese animation to the world.

But even as Miyazaki has made what is likely his final film, there is still much to look forward to as a brand new generation of filmmakers look to continue the creativity and groundbreaking filmmaking Japanese animation has come to be known for. Mamoru Hosada’s Wolf Children is an excellent example. Continue reading

Review: KBS’ Charming and Poignant Waiting For Love

Waiting for Love KBS

SPOILER ALERT! Full discussion of the story, but there is fair warning.

After watching two KBS Drama Specials today, I decided to catch up with the two-episode drama special (though not under the Drama Special banner) Waiting For Love.

The two-parter stars BoA, Choi Daniel and ZE:A’s Siwan in a contemporary story about love and relationships.

Before we get to the spoilerific review of the special, how about watching both episodes right here. I absolutely recommend Waiting For Love, both for the charming and emotional story and the great performances by its lead cast.

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

*Spoilers begin!* Continue reading

Review: Your Noir and Came To Me and Became a Star Are Excellent, Engrossing Examples of the KBS Drama Special

Drama Special

SPOILER ALERT! Full discussion of the two drama specials, but there is fair warning after a little intro to both.

KBS Drama Specials continue to present some of Korean television’s best and most unique stories. And two recent Drama Specials are excellent examples of that fact.

Now since my review will pretty much spoil both stories, I will say right now that both are well worth your time. And you can watch them both right now thanks to KBS World posting every Drama Special episode on their official YouTube.

The first drama is Your Noir starring 2PM’s Chansung as Hyung Joo, a new recruit in an “organized crime” gang whose boss wants to bring down a pesky prosecutor by finding clear proof of the prosecutor’s abuse of his wife. Turns out, the prosecutor’s wife (Chae Jung Ahn) is Hyung Joo’s former high school teacher who he had feelings for.

The second drama is Came To Me and Became a Star starring Kim Ji Suk and Jung So Min as two 20-somethings who are struggling to make a living and must live in a youth hostel. After getting paired up at a blind date meeting party, they start dating but hide from each other the fact that they are practically dirt poor.

*Spoilers begin now!* Continue reading

Good Ol’ Review: tvN’s Who Are You is Perfectly Fine, But Could Have Been Something More

Moderate spoilers.

There have been some excellent Korean dramas this year. Some of them have been very ambitious (Nine) while others tense and dramatic (Shark, That Winter the Wind Blows).

Which is why I enjoyed tvN’s Who Are You. It was a light romantic drama with a mini-procedural aspect, a little bit of suspense and a touch of the supernatural.

But while it was a perfectly fine 16 episodes, I still wish it was something more. Continue reading

First Impression Review: TV5 Goes Dark and Mature with Positive and For Love or Money

Moderate spoilers.

TV5 has long had their foot in the door, but can’t seem to make their way inside what has become a duopoly between ABS-CBN and GMA Network. They hope to take another step into that inner circle with their new weekly dramas Positive and For Love or Money.

Yes, weekly. I’ve believed that for TV5 to really distinguish itself from the others, it needs to try something different with their programming line-up. They tried, to reasonable success with Wil Time Big Time as counter-programming to news and soaps in the evenings. They expanded by airing their own daily dramas opposite their rivals’ newscasts (to less success). But I think trying out weekly programs, like American television, or even trying a twice a week drama schedule like Korea would help the network set itself apart. They give it a try with these two new dramas.

But aside from their odd (for the Philippines) airing pattern, both Positive and For Love or Money take a much darker and mature tone to their stories that is certainly different from anything the other networks are currently offering. Continue reading

First Impression Review: NBC’s Visually Stunning Dracula Needs a Little More Bite

Moderate premiere spoilers.

Yes, I went there.

But it’s really the perfect way to describe NBC’s “reimagining” of Dracula. The 10 episode limited series is visually stunning and Jonathan Rhys Meyers is quite a looker himself of course (as is the rest of the cast), but the story leaves much to be desired. Without that “bite,” there isn’t much to get excited about or engaged in. At least in the first episode. Continue reading

First Impression Review: GMA’s Ambitious Genesis Has Potential

Basic set-up spoilers.

The plot of GMA’s sci-fi post-apocalyptic drama series Genesis is incredibly ambitious and legitimately fascinating. But as its premiere week showed, the limitations of Philippine production companies and TV networks can hinder even the most noble of efforts. Continue reading

Hindsight Review: GMA’s My Husband’s Lover Opens the Door

No Spoilers.

GMA Network raised plenty of eyebrows with their groundbreaking, but controversial drama My Husband’s Lover. Having wrapped up its much talked about run last week, the series’ influence and impact may not yet be truly felt. That’s because its biggest and maybe most important accomplishment will be how it opened the door to countless possibilities in Philippine entertainment and the greater Filipino culture. Continue reading

Review: KBS’ Poignant and Charming Adolescence Medley

Adolescence Medley

Basic minor spoilers.

Another KBS Drama Special, another winner. The recently concluded four-part miniseries Adolescence Medley (사춘기 메들리) joins the growing list of excellent stories presented under the Drama Special banner.

Also known as Puberty Medley internationally, the series was a poignant, nostalgic and charming coming of age story. Continue reading

Hindsight Review: KBS’ Shark is an Absorbing and Emotionally Compelling Journey

KBS Shark

Huge finale spoilers!
For the non-spoilery First Impression Review, click here.

Ending exactly the way it started, the final episodes of KBS’ Shark (Don’t Look Back: The Legend of Orpheus) showed off the talents of its strong cast and glided through a script filled with “quiet tension, emotion, mystery and thrills.”

Visually beautiful and emotionally gripping, Shark‘s finale mostly wrapped up what was a fully engrossing and ultimately tragic journey of a man hellbent on revenge.

It was a painful journey for everyone involved, but most especially for our tragic hero, Yi Soo. It wasn’t necessarily an action-packed, shoot em’ up, fistfight-type of finale. There were no last minute stabbings on roofs (That Winter!) or last minute cars ramming into phone booths (Nine Time Travels!).

But Shark‘s finale was able to carry just as much dramatic and emotional weight and heft with a simmering, though never boiling over, string of events that would culminate in what would be a heartfelt, but tragic ending. Continue reading