Category Archives: The Couch Potato Critiques

Drama Addiction Tell-All part 2: Japanese Drama Favorites

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Ain’t that poster so beautiful and quirky and symbolic and intriguing?

Yup, that’s pretty much how I’ll describe Japanese Drama in a nutshell. Truth be told, I have a very limited experience in watching Japanese shows in comparison to either Korean or Taiwanese, but I love it all the same. My rare Japanese drama discoveries are so often so addictive and fun to watch; they’re like precious little gems I find and chance upon once in a while.

Japanese Dramas are in average very short, spanning usually no more than fifteen episodes, but that actually has a lot of perks for someone like me who usually get tired after ten episodes running. This also makes for faster pace, which means every scene is direct to the point and every episode has a lot of action and substance. Personally, I like how J-dramas are so concise and compact and how faithful they are to the original premise of a story or plot. No fluff, no fillers, no dragging moments. If ever there are any, they still contribute to the bigger picture and premise. If not, it’s probably because the drama is episodic and is intentionally structured to be such.

Also, J-dramas can be quite extreme in nature. Light, breezy high school dramas are very cheerful, vibrant and at times can border on slapstick comedy, while on the other hand, psychological dramas are so much darker and off-beat, and are usually portrayed by eccentric characters. Like two sides of the same coin, each has their distinct charm and nuances, all of which, I find brilliant and unforgettable.  Read the rest of this entry

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Drama Addiction Tell-All part 1: Korean Drama Favorites

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I missed talking about things I love. It’s something I should do more often, I believe. This blog is already three years in the running, and I know that I kept everything simple by sticking with my structured theme of random poetry, mood-colored mixtapes, book-talk and the occasional film reviews. I can’t even remember when was the last time I blogged about a movie, which is ironic, because aside from being a corporate slave (read: going to work for cash), hoarding and reading books and sleeping, I pretty much do nothing in life besides watching flicks and shows.

Okay guys; brace yourselves for a much-shallower version of yours truly.

I’m a sucker for Asian dramas, see. And I can’t believe I’m just blogging about this for the first time, given how much I stayed up late downloading and watching these things in the last couple of years. I know, right? My girlfriends and my siblings are already well aware of how non-existent my social life is because of this stuff. So why talk about them? Why not?

Hence, a compilation of sorts to outline my favorite dramas of all time, because it’s essential (and not to mention, inevitable,) for every drama-lover to have one. Besides, I love lists. They make me feel coherent. A quick note though: my list would only consists of Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese dramas because I’m yet to discover sites wherein I could find subbed versions of other Asian dramas. I also limited my set to shows that I’ve finished in entirety, because wouldn’t you know, I actually have this ‘last-episode-syndrome’ where I totally give up watching dramas one episode before its finale. Yeah, it’s an annoying inexplicable quirk of mine. To cut the story short, these shows already earned additional brownie points on my book for the sole reason of my urge to watch them until the very end. And finally, I’m doing this in three parts, because it’s just too big of a mess to do everything in one monster post. I’m starting with Korean Dramas because it’s where everything started for me in the first place.

A funny YouTube commentator once said, “What do we get from Korean dramas aside from being dissatisfied with our own lives and raising our standards of the opposite sex so ridiculously high?” How true, how true. Haha. Read the rest of this entry

This cute will make you cry buckets: Hello Ghost, 2010

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If I were some chairperson to some prestigious award-giving body Jury, I swear I would’ve rallied for this film to bag three awards: 1) Best actor in a comedy/drama for Cha Tae-Hyun, a staple star of the Korean Box Office. Everyone knows him from the My Sassy Girl movie, of course, and I liked that movie, too. Come to think of it he’s never had a film I hated; I don’t know—he’s got an eye for good film projects, it seems. And you know what’s amazing? Cha Tae-Hyun keeps on getting better and better with each role through the years. I swooned a bit at My Sassy Girl, got emotionally won-over in Sad Movie, and man, Hello Ghost just sealed it for me and just made him my personal favourite actor, bar none.

Award number 2: The only film which had me bawling madly. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that ten minutes later after the film ended, I’m still crying my heart and eyes out. And all floodgates of tears still broke loose when I watched it the second, third and fourth time. Because it’s awesome like that. Come see the film and if you’re not moved, sue me. And finally—dare I say it? BEST. ENDING.EVER.  Read the rest of this entry

All kinds of Adorkable: Little Manhattan, 2005

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I don’t really care how much hardcore you are about films, (I, shamelessly pretending to regard myself as one, notwithstanding) but the truth is: it can such be a headache to rate movies based on how substantially good they are versus how much you really enjoy them. True, it gets tiring to overanalyze sometimes that you just wanted to shove your cranky-critic self in the backseat so that your wide-eyed couchpotato heart could take the front row and enjoy despite the cinematic flaws. I admit I have strong bouts of childish lapses more than I’m willing to admit, but that’s because I’m drawn towards memories, and I love it when a film genuinely makes me remember. Nostalgia, I heard, is the clingy mistress of growing up.

And oh cheesecakes, nostalgia abounds a-plenty in the 2005 film, Little Manhattan.

Little Manhattan, 2005

Its candy-flavored plot of puppy loves and first heartbreaks is wonderfully directed/acted with witty, precocious and dead-straight relatable overtones, as if someone stole my grade-school diary and made a movie out of it. The embarrassment, the goosebumps, the inevitable blushing and the thump thump of hearts—it’s all here. And if you’re thinking this movie is kiddie-sized, I hate to break it to you, but you have no idea how wrong you are.

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Because a movie can sometimes hurt you: Poetry, 2010

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I’d let you in on an inside joke my couch potato girlfriends and I used to frequently snicker about: whenever we’re recommending and exchanging odd, never-heard-of films, the first thing we usually ask each other is: “Anong genre nito?” (What’s the genre of this one?) And if, like us, you happen to be a fan of movies with eccentric, artsy-fartsy themes, you’ll understand why it’s just plain hard to label this sort of movies under just one category. So when we’re not certain of the right classification, we’ll simply smile and say…”Uh…Life?” And then we’ll laugh, like our laughter’s the code for saying, “Okay, I get it.” Because really, there will always be these rare masterpieces that’ll be too stubborn, or perhaps too powerful, that they defy and transcend definition; Very much like this next film I chose to review next.

Poetry, 2010

See, I’ve been waiting for the right Korean movie to blog about, and it also happened that I’ve been hearing lots of buzz for last year’s acclaimed director Lee Chan Dong’s film, Poetry, lauded by top critics worldwide as a nearly-perfect film. And seriously, how could I pass up on a movie entitled Poetry? So even without the slightest hint on what the plot’s about, I jumped on the soonest possible chance to see it. I say, if you dare use that beautiful, sacred word as a film title, you should live up to its greatness. And you know what? The movie did.

How a sheer simple movie can be this strong still leaves me baffled. It’s intimate and intense all at once, and it’s inexplicable how the scenes could speak or scream to your heart despite it being laden with rich, stirring silences. With plenty of powerful subtexts, I might as well make my life easier by saying this movie is about life, but I know more than anything else that it goes beyond that generic label. Poetry is a piercing, honest tale of death and its so many disguises; how it hides under the skin of the mundane or thinly veils itself with the sometimes monumental.

Brace yourself because this will leave you breathless and shattered, will leave your mind dancing in gibberish until all of what’s left is your very self, wondering how something beautiful can be so tragic…and how something tragic can be so beautiful, too.  Read the rest of this entry

Vintage will always be sexy: Dorian Gray, 2009

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Dorian Gray, 2009

The movie in five words: Too much beauty is dangerous.

This film had been the last amongst the string of films my girlfriends and I saw during our extensive sleepovers/couchpotato-fest last December and oh boy, what an awkward experience! Haha. We’ve gone from mild swooning, to shock-fuelled shrieking, to breathless pausing and rewinding, to hugging the walls, nearly wrecking the screen and jumping like crazy all over the place. Oh Ben Barnes, why?

Needless to say, the movie’s got knockout production design, eyecandy visuals and a hotter-than-life lead actor for bait—we were automatically sold, banking solely on those factors (Please pardon our occasional shallowness, thank you.) and we’re glad the movie dug deeper than that: Dorian Gray, a remake of the controversial 1945 film A picture of Dorian Gray based on Oscar Wilde’s novel of the same name, so vividly encapsulated themes of vanity, corruption, lust and greed into one life-sized exposition: the tale of an innocent, charming lad’s misguided voyage towards the edge of himself; and of the hell-bent fact of life that loving someone way too much is always with a price—especially when that someone is your very own self.

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A Flashback on the Old-School: Orange County, 2002

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Orange County, 2002

Doing a review of something memorable I’ve watched in my childhood has been on my pile of to-do lists for quite some time, thanks to my uber-procrastinator self. The 90’s as well as the earlier parts of the 2nd millennium is an interesting era for cinema, and although a number of films immediately came to my mind, I just knew that this one movie is the first one I’m going to write about.

It was during the late summer of 2002 when I was 11 years young that I got to see the MTV Films-produced high school comedy, “Orange County”, starred by Colin Hanks alongside Jack Black. Looking back, the movie isn’t really too intellectual to be Oscar-worthy, nor too artsy-fartsy to be screened in Cannes. It’s mediocre in so many ways but somehow, I found it unforgettable. Maybe it’s the unlikely premise of a writer-wannabe so mismatched against the backdrop of a beach community and a dysfunctional family he grew up in. Or maybe it’s the thick summery feel of this movie’s production design erstwhile tackling that universal theme of finding your niche and following your dreams. Or maybe it’s the viral, cooler-than-thou soundtrack. Or how Jack Black steals the show with his comedic genius.

Or perhaps it’s that brief Eureka Moment I shared and identified with Colin Hank’s character during the first few minutes of the film, in a scene where he just finished reading the book that changed his life for the 52nd time and the dream finally hit his head, enlightening him to utter: “I want to be a writer.”

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Sweet that’s good for the heart: Hello Stranger, 2010

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Hello Stranger, 2010

What makes Backpack Romance-Comedies so fun to watch is its vibrancy in camouflaging into so many things all at once—we get a love story, a free travel-pass, cultural know-how’s, picture-perfect sceneries, gastronomic do’s and don’ts, a dash of drama and tons of cute—jumbled altogether in one movie.

The 2010 Thai Film, Hello Stranger (Kuan Meun Ho), effortlessly joins the list of good films under this genre. It’s a light and breezy watch, well-acted by its charmingly offbeat characters and is hitting all the right notes in a classic boy-meets-girl-in-a-chance-encounter story set in Korea. Like a roundtrip ticket, I knew very well I’m bound for one heck of a crazy ride and I hopped in, anyways, and didn’t regret it. Hello Stranger refreshingly rekindles how some of the most heartbreaking things in life can be some of the most heart-warming memories, too.

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This is how a movie killed me: Kokuhaku (Confessions), 2010

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Kokuhaku (Confessions), 2010

Before I go into juicy detail, (yes, there will be graphic spoilers ahead, you are forewarned) let me dish out a few guilty film confessions myself: 1.) I am forever infatuated with psychological thrillers 2.) A layered narrative split into multiple points of view will never fail to win me over 3.) I have a thing for precocious child actors and 4. ) I pay ridiculous amount of attention to cinematography and the use of colors.

Having said all of these, perhaps you could already guess what I’m about to say about this particular movie, and perhaps you guessed right: Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kokuhaku, a 2010 part-revenge, part-coming of age film, just about killed me all through-out and guess what? I bloody loved every second of it.

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Soarin’ High-Superb: Kite Runner, 2007

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The Kite Runner, 2007

The best films, at least for me, are those that greet you gently without getting your hopes up too high, but kick you by delightful surprise somewhere in the middle, carefully making sure of the promise that there wouldn’t be an ending without you being swept off your feet, awestruck by its unpredictable delivery.

Kite Runner, a film about a friendship set in Afghanistan circa the 70’s, is definitely one of those brilliant movies that meekly but stealthily deliver a memorable cinematic experience you’re not even expecting from its opening credits. (Honestly, the first time I tried to watch it, I was put off by the overwhelmingly Afghan opening credits, and as jaded as I am, I thought this is just another war film cloaked in a cutesy title. Thank Heavens, I gave it a second chance and boy was I glad to be proven wrong.) Big thanks to my best friend Cherry for recommending this one. :p

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