Archive | August 2014

Remakes That Need to Happen: Princess Bride Kdrama

UnknownMy initial reaction to The Princess Bride as kid wasn’t much different from that of the sick kid in the film who thinks his Grandpa is going to tell him a yawner of a story.  My younger brother, in elementary school at the time, loved this movie and thought we should watch it as a family after having seen it in class.  We were all suspicious, but rented the video anyway, and subsequently found ourselves rolling with laughter.  It was the funniest movie we’d ever seen, and I immediately decided that Westley was the man for me (funny, handsome sword fighters with immunities to Iocane powder are sadly in short supply).  Since then, my family has watched The Princess Bride countless times over the years, memorizing the fantastically quotable dialogue and still coming away amazed at the wonderful sword fights, the torture machine in the Pit of Despair, and the chilling scenes near the end where Inigo gets his man and Westley reclaims Buttercup for his own.  This movie is a genuine romantic comedy that is, well, actually funny and romantic without denigrating either.

As a longtime fan of the Rob Reiner film as well as the book by William Goldman, the idea of remaking the cult classic sounds lame.  And yet?  And yet, it would be fun to see the story explored again with a new cast and for modern audiences.  In recent years I have become a fan of Korean TV Dramas, or Kdramas, specifically the romantic comedies.  I think most of the themes and characters in these melodramas fit in line with the themes of The Princess Bride, specifically that there’s nothing like good friends and that love conquers all.  Being good at everything, Westley would fit right in with the “flower boys” in many dramas, as would Buttercup with her subtle snottiness and comic inability to act when the time calls for it.  Romantic comedies are almost always a battle of the sexes and both Kdramas and The Princess Bride play out that battle to that bitter…er, I mean happy end…of a head-spinning kiss.

Other reasons TPB would make a great Kdrama:  1. The book could get its due.  As fantastic as the Reiner film is, it doesn’t plumb the depths of the satire that Goldman wrote.  If Cary Elwes’ Westley seems arrogant in the film, he pales in comparison to the character in the book.  Buttercup and the other characters are just as ridiculous, but to great effect.  The trials Westley goes through are a bit more bizarre, the pit of despair, being more like consecutive circles of a hellish zoo.  A 20-episode treatment could be a whole lot of fun.

2. Revenge.  I still love Westley, but my favorite character is sword master Inigo Montoya.  His backstory is briefly told in the movie, but the book has a lot more, like his despair at being able to find a worthy opponent.  And his quest for revenge is a common tale highlighted again in many Asian movies from not only Korea, but Japan and China as well.  Inigo Montoya the samurai or Korean equivalent?  Yes, please.

3.  Talent.  Korea has hands down some of the best quality film and TV production out there.  Many of their TV shows are just really long movies.  Add to that the numerous talented writers, actors, and directors from all over Asia who participate in the Kdrama industry.  It would be fun and exciting to see that talent showcased in a remake of an American cult classic.  Hey, we remade Oldboy, so why not?

The End of the Story: Good wins.

Evil has a foothold. This is evident in the daily news stories from all parts of the world highlighting one atrocity after another. The beheading of journalist James Foley by ISIS (Islamic State) in Iraq is just another in a long list of disheartening news stories. Some days it seems like all the love has gone out of the world and that the love of most has grown cold.

The truth, however, is that evil doesn’t stand a chance against good. As a Christian, I already know the end of the story, and it’s that good wins. Love wins, hope wins, peace wins, joy wins. God created the human race knowing that we would turn to evil. The only explanation we have for why he did this is love. He wanted to create something to love. And if you read the Bible, you can see throughout history that although evil exists and although Satan is trying to take everyone down with him to hell, that evil has been used time and again to further God’s plan for Jesus to die on the cross, and after that time, to hasten the footsteps of those Christians spreading the message of the Gospel throughout the world.

In the light of day, a spot of darkness can scarcely be seen, but in darkness a spot of light shines brightly. This is how God works. We don’t always understand it, but the troubles and worries of this life often toughen us up to endure and conquer even worse troubles and worries. History repeats itself. Eugenics and anti-semitism are on the rise. People are exchanging freedom for the illusion of safety. Propaganda is more important than telling the truth. But these events have a purpose. Those who have studied history are waking up faster and faster to what’s happening around them. They are building a mindset to face what’s coming. They will be candles in the growing darkness and will frustrate the darkness as they continue to burn brighter and brighter the more the darkness accosts them. This is why evil can’t win, why it never wins.

God is love. God is holy, and as the creator of the universe, so much more powerful than the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. He uses everything, including evil, to fulfill his purposes. He is a long-term thinker in a way we can barely imagine. His goal is to shower us with love forever in a place outside of the time and space of this universe that He created. Satan’s goal is rather dumb in comparison. Satan has already lost. The place called hell was created first for satan and his followers. It is hell, because it is a place where God is not. It is a place of torment because in hell there exists no love, no mercy, and no relief. Satan’s goal is simply to take as many humans beings with him to this hell as possible. That’s it. That’s his only goal because that’s all that he has. And the most power he can have in this world is to be a prince of it, but never a king.

It’s kind of pathetic when you think about it. ISIS may rule the world someday, but that’s all they have, all they’ve got. They will rule the world and find no delight in it, no joy, no peace, and no prosperity. Their own deaths will gain them nothing, and many of their victims will be laughing as they step into heaven. Just like a candle shines in the darkness, so faith shines in an evil and depraved world. Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed is still saving faith. That’s all God needs to win, a tiny little speck of light that breaks the darkness. One spot of sin can damn us, but one spot of faith in salvation through Jesus saves us.

The truth of this world is that we are all living a grand story created by a being so just, so loving, and such a bright light that darkness doesn’t have a chance. And evil is merely a part of the plot, not the ending, not by a long shot. We have wonders waiting for us of which evil can scarcely conceive. Jesus is the ultimate prince on a white horse, riding to save us, the damsel who in no way can save herself from the dragon. Jesus slew the dragon a long time ago, and is now a king. All authority has been given to Him by His father the King, and He is just waiting for the time when He can take us, His bride, home to eternal bliss.

I am a huge Princess Bride fan, and my favorite scene is when Buttercup drives fear into Prince Humperdinck’s eyes, simply by telling him the truth: “You can’t hurt me. Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.” Love, the ultimate Good, wins. And that is the end of the story.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,who have been called according to His purpose.   Romans 8:28

 

If God is for us, who can be against us? –Romans 8:32

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  –Romans 8:38-39

 

In Search of a Good Mystery

UnknownIf you’re a reader, like me you may keep either a written or mental list of writers, series, or books that you’d someday like to try.  Longtime mystery author Ian Rankin has been on my list for about a year or two, now.  In fact, last year, I tried one of his stories not connected to his Inspector Rebus series and for whatever reason didn’t connect with it.  Rankin’s 18th novel in his Rebus series was available at my local library, and, as the mystery itself sounded intriguing, I decided to give him another shot even though I know almost nothing about the series.

Almost to my surprise, I enjoyed Standing in Another Man’s Grave.  Rankin slips information necessary from previous books in with newer material, and as a result, I felt like I was reading the beginning of a new Rebus series.  There’s something particularly comfortable about older codgerier (okay that’s not a word) detectives.  They have at their stage in life little desire to make themselves look good–their interest is the work.  Rebus is pretty typical of fictional detectives these days.  He’s unorthodox, doesn’t follow the rules, has several vices, and is smarter than almost everyone else in the book.  Rebus is so typical I thought I would be bored by him, exasperated even, but I was not.  Maybe it was the setting.  Having been to Scotland, including Edinburgh and Inverness, I could picture a lot of the places and roadways, and that’s always a bit exciting as a reader.  Maybe it was the fact it was a cold case.  Cold cases can often be more intriguing simply because the mystery of whodunnit has lingered for so many years.  (Incidentally, this is exactly why Zodiac is one of my favorite movies).  Maybe it was just the fact that Rebus is older.  Old detectives are pretty awesome, from Hercule Poirot to the Peculiar Crimes duo of Bryant and May.  And, let’s not forget Miss Marple.

This post is a shoutout to Mr. Rankin for having a storyline and hero engaging enough that even in his eighteenth installment, Rebus delivers and makes me want to read the series from the beginning.

Since so many readers are always in search of a good mystery, I offer a few series that I have enjoyed over the years in addition to this one:

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books.  (Short, comfortable reads often full of unexpected adventures)

Christopher Fowler’s Peculiar Crimes series starring John May and Arthur Bryant (A must for history buffs, especially)

Frank Tallis’ Vienna murder mystery series. (For those who like history and psychology.  The descriptions of food and music add a unique aspect as do many of the plots that revolve or hint at the future atrocities of the Third Reich)

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.  (Gaudy Night is the best one, but the series as a whole is outstanding and a good exploration of a upper class detective and his not so easily won lady love, Harriet Vane).

Anna Dean’s Dido Kent mysteries. (Mysteries set in Jane Austen’s world that kindly don’t involve Miss Austen whatsoever).

Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series. (Set in the UK, as with most of these, and also involving an upper class detective.  I enjoy the mysteries, but not so much Lynley’s complicated love life.  His partner, Barbara, is awesome.  She rankles against his poshness to great effect.)

City Hunter review

City-hunterEpisode one of City Hunter,  the Korean TV drama based on a Japanese manga, is one of the most intriguing and exciting setups I’ve ever seen for a show.  It sets the stage for political drama, a Monte Cristo-styled revenge, heroes who are loveably flawed, and a sweet romance.  The basic plot of the show is this: After a botched mission into North Korea, an army general named Lee Jin Pyo (Kim Sang-Joong) is out for revenge and kidnaps his best friend’s baby to be his instrument.  Jin Pyo is a patient man, he builds an empire and raises the boy, Lee Yoon-Sung (Lee Min-Ho), as his own for twenty-seven years, teaching him to be a ruthless killer.  Despite his upbringing, Yoon-Sung is a good person and heart and loves his adopted father.  He moves to Seoul, South Korea, and begins to execute Jin Pyo’s plan, taking five corrupt government officials down one by one in style.

The action in City Hunter is outstanding, many of the moves unexpected, and this is where both Lee Min-Ho and his character really carry the show.  Kim Sang-Joong is no slouch either as “the General”  and throughout the show is the perfect antagonist to Lee’s protagonist.  As much as the show is about bringing dishonest politicians (but I repeat myself) to justice, the heart of the story is the relationship between adopted father and son.

City Hunter has several supporting characters, one of them being an eager government prosecutor played by Lee Joon-Hyuk, who goes from being an enemy of Yoon-Sung to a collaborator in his plan to reveal the crimes to the public.  Joon-Hyuk gives an outstanding performance as does Hwang Sun-Hee who plays his character’s love interest, a gentle veterinarian.  City Hunter is a bit of a Robin Hood character and Bae Man-Duk (Kim Sang-Ho) is the perfect Little John.  He’s a sweet-hearted gambler with a motherly side and a dangerous addiction to the Home Shopping channel.  Bae is my favorite character in the series and I don’t think he’s used enough.

As with any superhero or masked man, City Hunter is not allowed to fall in love for fear that it would compromise him.  Of course he begins falling in love years before his plan will even be executed.  Kim Na-Na is a good foil for Lee Yoon-Sung.  She never quite buys his cover story maybe because she herself has had a tough life and has had to take care of herself, sometimes lying to do so.  Park Min-Young as Kim Na-Na won me over by the end of the show, but many times I thought she appeared too young and childish next to Lee Min-Ho, who, although also young carries many of his scenes in a much more mature fashion.  Kim Na-Na is also the worst body guard on the planet and it strains credulity that she would have even been considered to work at the Blue House, she’s that inept.  Perhaps it was a writing problem.  In any case, Park Min-Young did the best she could, and again, did win me over by the end.

Aside from the politicians under siege, most of the minor characters could really have been done without, including the hero’s mother, who is kept around mainly to reveal a twist at the end.  The twist wasn’t really necessary from the hero’s perspective––Lee Yoon-Sung would have been conflicted either way––but it does reveal just how single-minded and tortured the General Jin Pyo is.

The show uses the fact that Jin Pyo made zillions of dollars being a drug dealer in the Golden Triangle to full advantage, from elaborate house locations, to the sometimes silly fashions that Yoon-Sung sports.  The high-class lifestyle enhances the rather fluffy romantic comedy humor running throughout, the best of that being the scenes where the female body guards teach judo to the IT members of the Blue House (S. Korea’s White House) security team.  (Yoon-Sung’s cover is that of an MIT grad from America who has returned to his home country to settle down.)

All in all, City Hunter is a great watch, but slow in parts and could have done with more action, as that is definitely its strength.  The ending is fantastic, with standout performances all around, and the resolution is left fittingly vague.  The storyline raises questions about bringing officials to justice and whether their faults are totally their own or more of a symptom of a government system in which no one’s hands are clean.  All of the characters, whether working in government or not are all wonderfully, humanly flawed.  The hero, although mostly pure of heart, is a drug dealer’s son.  He dreams of living a normal life, not of saving the world.  For the General, his revenge justifies all the means he uses to meet it out.  The big question is this:  Is the revenge worse than the initial crime?  It’s never really answered and left open to the viewer.  The City Hunter does both good and harm by the end of the series.

On a side note, as an American, I found it amusing that privatizing health care was posed as being such a bad thing when they clearly showed over and over again just how corrupt government was.  In my experience, the more involvement government has in something, the more it costs all around.  People often think of any government money as “free” and take liberties with that money that would never take if a private enterprise was running the show.  This cavalier attitude is what drives prices up and up.  College tuition is a prime example.  Without the large cushion of government loans, colleges and universities would be forced to set tuition at a more competitive price or risk going out of business.  That’s my opinion, anyway.  The main point of City Hunter for me was that government needs to be held to account in every area it runs or influences.  No one should be above the law, no matter how honorable their intentions may be.  This is why a free press and reporters who are skeptics and not groupies of government officials are so important.  The first step in stopping corruption is exposing it.

Coming Soon, a TfD commercial.

Trolls for Dust

Happy Friday, everyone.  I am excited to tell you that my siblings and I have been working on a Trolls for Dust, Season One commercial.  Everything about this self-publishing process has been a wonderful learning experience.  A little background on the actresses: For over twenty years my six siblings and I have been making movies, often oddball kung-fu plots usually thought up by one of my brothers.  This is the first time I got to direct and be behind the camera, which I loved because I’m a terrible actress.  🙂

This clip is just of us practicing and playing around with the coin props that feature heavily in Season One.  It will be a few weeks before the full, edited version is online.  Happy watching.  –Pixie

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