Archive | June 2014

The Great Doctor (Faith) 신의 — review

Poster-the-great-doctor-aka-faith-32029441-680-1000If you have not experienced the awesomeness of K-drama, or Korean TV dramas, I highly recommend giving them a view.  The set up is a bit different than American TV shows, the episodes are an hour or more long, and there’s usually only one “season” or anywhere from 16-30 episodes in each drama.  Given that the stories have a definite end point instead of yearly “will they or won’t they” renewals and extra seasons, the writing, acting and storytelling are stellar and don’t suffer from consecutive seasons that become more mediocre after each year.

The Great Doctor or Faith is a historical drama and romance set in the 1300s during a time when Korea or Goryeo is under the heavy thumb of the neighboring Chinese Yuan dynasty.  The young king is returning with a new queen to his homeland after years of living as a hostage in China.  The king and queen are being transported by a small group of royal guards called Woodalchi.  They are led by weary warrior Choi Young who has been serving for royals for many years.  They are attacked during the journey and the new queen is wounded.  Only a powerful surgeon can heal her, and one of the king’s advisors suggests going to a place he knows of with a magic gateway to heaven where a famous ancient doctor is said to have gone.

The gateway still exists and Choi Young is sent on a quest to heaven to find the great doctor.  “Heaven” is actually modern day Seoul as the “gate” turns out to be a wormhole bending time and space.  In a happy coincidence, Choi Young enters the future in direct vicinity of a plastic surgeons convention and kidnaps a surgeon named Yoo Eun-Soo after giving her a practical test to gauge her surgical abilities.  The show could have easily just run with the fish-out-of-water theme that it plays up in the first few episodes, but the writers smartly kept that to a minimum and focused more on the drama surrounding the king and queen and how the two protagonists deal with that and begin falling for each other.

From the first episode to the last, the production of The Great Doctor is a stellar, movie-quality experience.  The story drags a little at the end, but it’s mostly character driven with plenty of action.  If you don’t like the characters at the beginning, they will feel like old friends by the 24th episode.  There aren’t many special effects, but what is shown doesn’t look too corny.  The magic in the world is left partly unexplained, but the character and action more than make up for that.

Much of the series reminded me of the book series Outlander in which a WW2 nurse gets sent back to ancient Scotland and falls for a younger warrior.  Except this version is far more charming and romantic and doesn’t rely on sadism as a way of furthering the plot.

At first I thought Yoo Eun-Soo played by Kim Hee-Seon was annoying and acted a bit childishly for her age, but Kim won me over especially in the second half of the series as her character begins to bloom under the love of Choi Young.  Young is played by the popular and easy on the eyes Li Min-Ho who came to fame from the comedy series Boys Over Flowers (if you love high school shows and comedies do not pass Go, do not collect $200, but go directly the Kdrama app where you can watch the series for free).  His character is my favorite simply because I enjoy exploring the plight of the “faithful servant.”  He’s killed hundreds, possibly thousands of soldiers and others all at the request of the kings that he serves and his soul (Seoul, ha, ha!  Okay, I’ll stop being so punny) hurts because of it.  He’s damaged in a way that I cannot comprehend, but that I’m sure many of those who are soldiers and good at it can.

Like most shows and films The Great Doctor wasn’t easily made.  It suffered from production delays and the lack of a lead actor after the first and second choices for Choi Young fell through.  Li Min-Ho stepped up to the plate and did a decent job.  He’s a bit younger than the age the role calls for, but Li is believable as the captain of the royal warriors because he commands wonderful screen presence…and he’s tall. 🙂  Okay, all the warriors are tall (at least to me, I’m 5’3″– okay 5’2 and 1/2″), but Li was a good choice as he’s an expert at sporting a sort of bored “I’m cool” expression well-suited to a warrior who has probably seen every atrocity under the sun.  Also, the King Gongmin played impressively by Ryu Deok-Hwan is tiny!  At least, he appears that way in this production.  Ryu does a great job portraying someone who simultaneously has a lot of power and no power and who struggles with it constantly.  The king’s personal struggles with power over his own life mirror that of his best warrior, Choi Young, and their relationship is in a way more interesting than that between Young and the “great doctor from heaven.”  Also, the king and queen’s relationship is sweet.

I love romances, and the love story in this is wonderful with lots of funny moments and many touching, endearing ones.  By the end you just want to shout out the Jerry McGuire line: “You complete me!”  Yoo Eun-Soo fills the ache in Choi Young’s heart and vice versa.

One more shout out, and that’s to the soundtrack people.  The main theme is especially addicting and reminded me somewhat of the Pirates of the Caribbean music.

You may ask yourself…

I love writing and I LOVE stories. Just saying.

Trolls for Dust

…just how is the first draft of TfD, Season Two coming along?

Answer: Scene by scene, line by line, and day by day.

At Vale TV Studios:

Eva Peters is having an identity crisis and Hezzy Lyon is being brainwashed.

Calvin Bender wakes up with nightmares while Michael Abner puts the moves on Harmony Honeydew.

P.I. Ken Friendle is on the hunt for Tippa Andrews who is soon to meet his mysterious benefactor.

And Sandra Vale’s  trying not to be her own personal rain cloud while managing police, press, nosy shareholders and irritable mad scientists.

Don’t even get me started on what The Writers, McGee, Beth, and Daniels have been up to! They are driving head show director Jin Yang nuts!  Silly string…it’s a long story.

And “back at the ranch,” I mean Whisper Parish:

Sassy Birch is squatting in Bunny Sweet’s apartment and doing that whole…

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The Next Harry Potter–Part 3 of 3

3. The Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt

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This is an older series from the 1990s, but it’s a beautiful, fantasy-type world without magic, and has been one of my favorite series since high school.  The themes and story lines in the books are geared towards an older Young Adult audience.  The novels are all loosely connected and set in a fictional “Kingdom” and the countries that surround it.  The world is medieval, with kings, earls, puppeteers, and so on.

The first of the series, Jackaroo, has a “Robin Hood” plot involving a heroic figure who steals from the rich to give to the poor.  Although an engaging story, it’s my least favorite in the series.  My two favorites are On Fortune’s Wheel and The Wings of a Falcon.  The first is a typical romance/adventure where girl meets boy, girl falls for boy who doesn’t at first care for her, etc., but it’s not a love easily won, and therein lies the story’s strength.

The Wings of a Falcon involves the quest of a young man looking for peace.  He starts out as a slave imprisoned on an island and breaks free, taking another boy with him.  The book is full of action, some romance, a tragic yet happy ending, and has an epic scope built for the big screen.  With names like Oriel, Griff, and Beryl, it fits nicely into a fantasy genre, but again, without the use of magic as a trope.

The standout here is Voigt’s writing, which is notable because one doesn’t note it while reading.  One can become completely involved in the story, and that is the point.  No ridiculous metaphors (I have to battle this in my own writing), or effusive descriptions, just good, clean storytelling.  Modern YA is plagued by “purple prose” possibly because so many of us are going the self-publishing route, but professional writer that Voigt is, she has none of those problems.

Why this could be the next Harry Potter: The stories in the series can appeal to both teens and adults.  The “Kingdom” world is adaptable to the screen and invites the possibility of many more stories set in the same world.  The settings evoke the romance of nature, from woods, to mountains, to sea.  The heroes/heroines in the stories are sometimes childish due to their age, but they are “young adults,” with the emphasis falling on “adults.”  The Kingdom world is closer in gravity and themes to The Lord of the Rings and the later Harry Potter books, and is also not a true “series” as the novels take place in some cases generations apart.  Still, the tales offer much “scope for the imagination,” as Anne of Green Gables (I’d love to see this series remade!) would say.

Thanks for reading.  –Pixie Beldona

The Next Harry Potter–Part 2 of 3

2. Monster Blood Tattoo.

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This series is a big reason why I miss Borders.  If it hadn’t been at Borders I would have missed out on D.M. Cornish’s incredible world, for the new “American” series title and artwork are not nearly as dynamic as the first cover and title that caught my eye.  I fell in love with MBT upon reading the first book, The Foundling, and was sad to see it was months before I saw it on the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble.  One of Borders biggest strengths, in my opinion, was that they had a lot of awesomeness waiting to be discovered on their shelves.

Monster Blood Tattoo is the rightful name of this series, but for some reason it was deemed that Americans are too sensitive or something for this title, so it was changed to the bland The Foundling’s Tale.  For me it will ever and always be Monster Blood Tattoo, and I will hereafter refer to the series as MBT.  Australian author and illustrator D.M. Cornish spent some fifteen plus years creating the world of the Half-Continent.  Think Napoleanic-era empire crossed with monsters and monster hunters.  The result is as epic and as Tolkien’s Middle Earth with the addition of wonderful hand-drawn portraits of the characters.  Add the lengthy, fascinating appendices, and it’s a veritable role-playing game waiting for geekdom.

The Foundling’s Tale as a name isn’t so far off, at least for the first three books (I am hoping there will be more), as it follows an orphan boy with a girl’s name, a kid who wants to be a monster fighter but ends up being a lamplighter on the emperor’s highway.  Much like Harry Potter, Rossamünd has to continually reassess his view of world and the people and/or creatures in it.  At times he’s just plain dumb, but then he’s a kid.  The best character in the series is bonafide monster hunter Europe the “Branden Rose.”  She’s one of those hard shell-soft core people for whom Rossamünd presents a dilemma.  He insists on seeing the, well, “human” side of monsters, whereas Europe has grown up seeing them as threats only.  She’s even had her organs surgically altered so she can fight the monsters with lightening.  Interestingly, in the Half-Continent the majority of the monster hunters are women.

Why this could be The Next Harry Potter:  Despite its rather simplistic plot at times, the series has great depth and great potential.  Cornish has built a vast world meant to be explored in its minutest detail.  The world and story can appeal to a wide audience, both kids and adults, and would easily adapt to the screen.  The biggest challenge would be the terminology, as Cornish uses quite a few made up words much like HP or LOTR, but a talented screen writer would be able to incorporate these no problem. The series also boasts a wealth of interesting characters, both humans and monsters, political and social commentary, and the important theme that people and creatures be judged not merely for what they are, but for what they do and how they act.

Up next time:  The Kingdom