K-Pop: Everglow ‘Return of the Girl’

Promotional photo of (from left) Heo Yoorim (Aisha), Jo Serim (Onda), Han Eunji (Mia), Wang Yiren (Yiren), Park Jiwon (E:U), and Kim Sihyeon (Sihyeon). Copyright goes to Yuehua Entertainment and Everglow.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Tomorrow is the final day of the BTS concert, and the first one for me! Yep, my sister and I will be there tomorrow! And I have been hyped this entire week, but I also have nothing to talk about regarding BTS since I’ve been trying to keep well away from spoilers. And also, I want to be positive going into it and there are some ARMYs who have been really making me angry. Going after other ARMYs or using the term ‘Baby ARMY’ as a bad thing just because some people don’t know the fan chants or because you can’t hear the fan chants is absolutely atrocious. We’re there to have fun, not put pressure on other people. Especially not after the year we just had. So, in the interest of not absolutely blowing up before the concert, I decided to focus on something positive for my night before concert post. Because yesterday one of my favorite K-Pop groups that deserves more recognition dropped an amazing mini album. Seriously, so many groups have comebacks planned for the next couple months and I am loving it! And while I was more of a fan of their last single, “FIRST”, more than this mini album, I really loved this one too! I feel like there’s so much to talk about here, so I’m going to actually get into it!

Pirate:

The title song of the album. To be completely honest, I was not sold at the teaser for this song that dropped a few days ago. The chorus felt cheesy and overly repetitive to me. I really needed to hear the chorus in the context of the song and I needed to listen to the song a few times before it all settled with me. This wasn’t a song like ATEEZ’s “Deja Vu” where I heard it once and was immediately in love with it. But this song did grow on me after every time I listened to it. Though I still do have some problems with the song. My sister and I listened to the song completely separately and both came back with the exact same initial feedback, which was that the song didn’t feel consistent. There’s the beat drop chorus that features the actual use of the word “pirate”, which feels like a completely different song from the “girls all over the world” portion which has more of the feel of a lighthearted power ballad. As always, I love the messages of their songs. They are one of the major female groups that consistently covers the topic of girl power, and their message that girls can be anything goes right up there with their other inspiration messages towards women in past songs. And while the song does come together more and get more understandable the more you listen to it, there still is that slight tonal discrepancy that doesn’t quite go away. But damn, I have never seen them give Aisha this much to work with. As always Mia and Sihyeon kill all the major vocal parts and Yiren and Onda still don’t seem to be getting too much. But I am surprised how much E:U and Aisha have switched in regards to lines in their singles. E:U really didn’t get much, and Aisha got a massive amount of lines here. I’ve noticed that ever since Sihyeon was made leader, E:U has been getting less focus and I wonder if that’s just coincidence.

Pirate MV:

I always love Everglow’s MVs for subverting the stereotypical girl group concept every single time they come out with an album. Instead of doing a more modern Ariana Grande concept or an overly girly-girl feeling one, they always do something insane. Lately they’ve been going for more sci-fi related concepts and I love them! Instead of doing any of the regular stuff, they spend this video on motorcycles in sci-fi landscapes, doing complicated choreography in all black, and messing around with medieval swords. You know, everything I could possibly want in an MV! Hell yeah, I want to see women with medieval swords in a sci-fi concept! Did they peek at my Christmas list? Anyways, as well as Aisha being given a major chunk of lines for the song, they also had her center for much of the video. I love to see a concept with Aisha center! Of course, Yiren was also centered for much of it and Mia got her own dance moments. We’re still not seeing much dance focus on Onda, which is a shame. But we haven’t seen many of the on-stage performances of this yet and their most prominent one was actually recently pushed back. From what we have seen, it doesn’t look much changed. But they all looked badass in this MV nonetheless. I love Onda’s orange hair in pigtails, Mia’s diamond sci-fi eyepatch was badass and a moment, Aisha on a motorcycle is a power move, Siheyon is always as graceful as her vocals and was giving woman president vibes holding that flag, E:U in that white dress with a bow and arrow is everything I’ve always wanted to be, and Yiren looked elegant in that giant pink dress! The girls were amazing, as usual.

Back Together:

This is the first song on the album, even though this isn’t the promoted single for the album. And there’s a good reason for this. The song is a heartfelt slow ballad about getting back together after everything that’s happened. It’s the welcoming song on the album because it feels like a hug from the girls rejoicing that in some way we can share this space again. This song is beautiful, touching, and hopeful and better than any other way they could have opened their album. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t flaws. Most of the flaws come from line distribution, as usual. Yiren, Onda, and E:U get maybe one line each in this song. This is mostly sung by Sihyeon and Mia with actually quite a lot of lines for Aisha as well. But it feels like this song was only sung by half the group, and that’s because it kind of was. I usually don’t try to point out line distribution as much as I used to, because the freak outs over BTS have gotten way too much and most other groups have actually been getting better at it. But Everglow is not a well established group quite yet and they still struggle from some extremely uneven line distribution. If it wasn’t this extreme, I wouldn’t be mentioning it. Yuehua Entertainment said a while ago that they were going to work more with Yiren and Onda on vocals. But if they have, they aren’t given enough lines in songs to show it. And, as I said before, E:U has been pushed into the background more and more lately. Mia, Sihyeon, and Aisha are amazing all-rounders and complete power houses. They are some of the strongest singers/rappers in the industry in my opinion right now. But it shouldn’t feel like they are the only three people in a six person group.

Don’t Speak:

This song is adorable and possibly my favorite song on the entire album. This is also the other song on this mini album that they’ve started doing actual performances for. And it’s super cute. This is also one of the most surprising on the album in terms of line distribution. Onda actually gets quite a bit in this song and Yiren gets some stuff too! E:U gets the least, but usually she gets more than Yiren and Onda. Still, it isn’t much. But this is one of the songs on the album with the most in the way of even line distribution. When it comes to performance for this song, both Yiren and Sihyeon are focused on most for the dance portion. Mia is also focused on a bit. But you don’t often see Sihyeon get this much when it comes to choreography and she killed it! Can I also say how much Mia’s lower register killed me in this song? The choreography is both adorable and has some hilarious interactions between the girls mixed in. I loved watching their performance and I love the sound of the song. But the message of the song here isn’t my favorite. It’s about falling for a bad boy type and though it’s pretty innocent, sometimes I get a little tired of the romanticizing of “bad boys”. But this song is so cute!!!

Nighty Night:

This is another one that took me a few listens to like, but I do really like it now! The chorus is addicting, as it switched between Mia and Aisha and Aisha’s sweeter vocals really solidify it as an ear worm. This song is one of their ones where most of the lines went to Mia. And I’m already seeing comments complaining about how many lines Mia gets and attacking Mia again. And I’m really annoyed by this now and not here for it. If you actually look at line distribution for literally every other song on the album there’s a pretty even emphasis on Mia, Sihyeon, and Aisha throughout. It is not Mia’s fault that she is getting focused on, nor is it Sihyeon or Aisha’s faults. They don’t decide line distribution anyways. We’re just not getting a lot for Onda, Yiren, and E:U. Onda and Yiren do get a couple lines each in this song, but E:U doesn’t even get a full line. Besides all of that, I do like this song as well. It really has a badass feel to it and it’s already stuck in my head! There’s not really a message to this song, it’s just a fun sci-fi chase song lyrically. Which sounds confusing, but that’s what it is. It’s fun!

Company:

This has another badass theme with a pretty great message. The song addresses everything from how women are trapped in societies meant to hold them back to people only valuing celebrities for their status. This is another one that focuses on Mia, Sihyeon, and Aisha again where the other three don’t get much. Musically this song can get a bit too repetitive to me, but I still like it though it isn’t one of my favorites on the album. I immediately downloaded this entire mini album as soon as I listened to it because there’s not one song on this album that I didn’t think was good. And though I may have more to say about some of the other songs, this one is still a highlight to me!

So, I think I can sum up my general thoughts on this album pretty simply. Every song was a bop. Mia, Sihyeon, and Aisha absolutely killed it. And Yuehua needs to stop treating Yiren, Onda, and E:U like they aren’t part of the group. When people told them to stop giving so many lines to Mia, they didn’t mean that they only had to even up the lines with Sihyeon and Aisha. And I’m still really sick of people singling out Mia with all of this anyways. But right now it feels a bit like E:U, Yiren, and Onda are back-up singers. They seem to be trusting Yiren more with choreography, but not much else is happening. I understand that Onda and Yiren are still working on vocals, but I think they sound great. And E:U is an amazing rapper, so I don’t know why they keep pushing her back. I want this group to feel like it’s a group of six rather than feeling like it’s a group of three. All that aside though, this mini album and comeback are amazing! They all look so happy and there’s not one song on this album that I dislike! They prove to me once again why I love them so much with every comeback! If you haven’t checked this one out, I highly recommend it! Everglow does not disappoint! And now I will go back to hyperventilating over the BTS concert!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Netflix Shows: ‘Cowboy Bebop’

Promotional image of Jet, Spike, Faye, Ed, and Ein from ‘Cowboy Bebop’. Copyright goes to Sunrise and Bandai.

Hey! Hallie here!

Plenty of people have already discussed the new Netflix live-action anime remake that was released a little over a week ago. But remaking an anime as infamous as ‘Cowboy Bebop’ begs plenty of attention, so I’m jumping in on this conversation as well. I’m not a long time fan of this series. I’m one of those people who was frequently told to watch ‘Cowboy Bebop’ by friends, but gave up on that goal when I couldn’t find it on any of the streaming services I can access. However, the promotional content for the live action remake caught my interest almost immediately, mainly because of the fun colors, cool costumes, and John Cho. So when I saw the original anime series drop on Netflix to help add to the hype of the new series, I realized I had no more excuses. I had to watch it. The series is really interesting and it’s very clear why so many people like it. The way it plays around with three very different genres and manages to blend them together seamlessly is ridiculously impressive. However, I wouldn’t say I’m now a huge fan of the series. So know going into this that this review is coming from someone who only recently watched the original and didn’t love it nearly as much as many others do. I’ll explain myself more later, but as for now, know that there will be SPOILERS ahead while I give my opinions on Netflix’s newest huge project.

What I Liked:

The Three Leads: I’ve seen various complaints hurled at all three of the main cast. I really have to say, I don’t agree with most of the critiques for these three. First off, John Cho is not too old to play Spike. I actually found him to be a pretty faithful adaptation of Spike. He’s aloof and cool with that hint of genuine empathy hidden behind it all. Plus a hilarious love of jumping into danger headfirst and leaving Jet exasperated. His dynamic with Jet doesn’t change at all either. Jet, as usual is the rational one in their friendship. Not to mention the fact that the real life ages of the actors have no bearing on the ages of the characters. Mustafa Shakir is an excellent Jet. I actually found him to be my favorite of the characters to watch. Jet’s storyline was never a major draw for me, but I felt that the focus on Jet was really well done and I enjoyed the added attachment to his daughter as well. Racism isn’t welcome here. I have some mixed feelings about Faye, but that isn’t Daniella Pineda’s fault. She plays an extremely badass Faye. I appreciated the avoidance of a lot of the more sexist parts of the original anime. Because, let’s be honest here, the character of Faye could get pretty sexist. She was the femme fatale, one of my least favorite female tropes to ever curse the screen for blatantly treating women like sexy objects. The moments where she’s meant to prove she’s more than the trope also don’t feel genuine when her breasts are abnormally large and half of Spike’s dialogue about her surrounds the “unreasonable” nature of women. None of this is present in the Faye of the series. My only complaint is that this series falls into the trap of avoiding femme fatale by writing out most of the feminine aspects of the character. Which doesn’t help things either. But overall, I feel this character took major strides the original didn’t.

The Atmosphere: This series does an excellent job of setting up the world of ‘Cowboy Bebop’. Every set feels like it came directly out of the anime and every new location is gorgeous to look at. Between the fun vibrant colors and the mix between Western streets and Sci-Fi establishments, it feels like a place you might actually want to visit. And the soundtrack. Yoko Kanno returns for this soundtrack and it’s just as addictive as it was in the original anime. I love how it contributes mostly to the Noir feel of the show. Say what you want about other aspects of the show, but it does a good job of creating the world anime fans came to love.

What I Disliked:

The Syndicate: The syndicate, and by extension Vicious, gets way too much time in the show. I didn’t really love Vicious in the original ‘Cowboy Bebop’. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had seen several villains like him before. But the show did an excellent job of making him seem intimidating by limiting his presence in the show. The remake feels like it returns to him every two seconds. He’s also not very fun to watch, and I feel like the fact that he’s still in a relationship with Julia drags both of their characters down. Most of the time it feels like Vicious is spending his screen time whining at her. Meanwhile, making her seem like she’s helpless to escape him isn’t the way I wanted Julia’s character to be expanded upon in this show. I wanted her epic escape and what she got up to afterwards. Not whatever this was. And yes, having her decide she wants to control the syndicate is cool. If the show had built up to that decision at all. But they didn’t, so I still left this show disappointed in her character. And please, I don’t ever want to hear the really silly names they came up with for everyone in the syndicate ever again. Fearless never happened. Can we move on?

The Side Characters: I found that a lot of the side characters were rewritten in mostly disappointing ways. The first character that comes to mind is Gren. Gren was horrendously written in the original anime. This was because their status as a nonbinary individual was made to be a freak accident rather than an actual exploration of what it’s like to be nonbinary. I really appreciated that they let go of that entire part of their plot, but in the process they also removed all of Gren’s plot relevance. They finally made Gren a better representation of nonbinary individuals only to push them aside. Katerina also comes to mind. One of the most tragic parts of the first episode of the original ‘Cowboy Bebop’ occurs when Katerina kills Asimov, realizing that she needs to end his tirade even though doing so will kill her and her dreams of living on Mars. In the new series, Asimov dies in a fight and Katerina cries over him before being killed, removing both most of her importance in the episode and the emotional weight she carries. This series really wanted to prove it was different from the original, but in doing so it mindlessly wrecked some of the plot points in the process.

I could also talk about how this series was too cartoony, but pretty much everyone has mentioned that and I don’t think it was the biggest problem here. I very much disliked their attempt at ‘Big Shot’, the bounty hunter show the main characters watch, but that was my biggest issue with the cartoony feel. As far as the Netflix series goes, I think it simply doesn’t capture what everyone liked about each episode of the original ‘Cowboy Bebop’. Every episode was short and full of stereotypes, but they also had a hidden brilliance that unfolded as each episode played out. There’s no well thought out brilliance hidden in the live acton remake’s episodes. Overall, I think Netflix just needs to stop adapting foreign shows for American audiences and just start promoting the original shows to American audiences instead. We could all benefit from watching and appreciating content from outside our country.

See You Space Cowboy,

Hallie

International Dramas: Hometown Cha Cha Cha

Screenshot of (left) Kim Seonho and (right) Shin Mina from ‘Hometown Cha Cha Cha’. Copyright goes to tvN and Studio Dragon.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’m back and currently avoiding any and all spoilers from the BTS concerts that will be happening in a few days! Which means I’m going to have to find more things to entertain me because Twitter and TikTok are full of spoilers. So that at least means that this drama review I promised you guys will be somewhat of a distraction for me! ‘Hometown Cha Cha Cha’ is definitely one of the most popular K-Dramas out right now. And I finally got around to watching it! One thing I’ll say right off the bat is that this is full of escapism. If that’s what you’re looking for right now, go ahead and watch it. It takes place in a really cute and small seaside town with such an adorable community feel that you’ll never want to leave. Before I even get into this review, I will say that I liked the show. So if you are at all interested in watching this show, go watch it now because this review will have MAJOR SPOILERS!!! You have been warned.

Summary: Hyejin, a dentist who loses her job after accusing her boss of charging patients too much and then becomes blacklisted, finds herself in a small seaside village where things immediately don’t go to plan. In the midst of one of the worst days of her life, she there meets Hong Dusik (more popularly known as Chief Hong), who is well known in the town and is good at pretty much everything. When she finds out the town is in need of a dentist, she realizes this may be her only chance at starting her own business and moves to the seaside town along with her best friend. While she and Chief Hong initially don’t get along, they slowly learn to rely on each other to help out the other members of the community. And possibly even fall in love.

The Good:

Male Lead- Chief Hong is my favorite character in the series and one of my favorite male leads I’ve ever seen in a K-Drama. And that’s saying something. What I like about him is how effortless and charming he is without feeling too unrealistic. Dusik is very likable from the moment you meet him and you can see why everyone else in the village likes him too. He’s very kindhearted and goes out of his way to look out for everyone, even the people he doesn’t necessarily like at first. He’s like a big brother to the entire town and also any and every stranger he happens to meet. This caring nature is not often explored in dramas; most dramas typically center on types that are bit more mysterious and introverted. And that’s fine too! But it’s always nice to see a main male lead that’s just outwardly kind to everyone he comes across. The story also focuses on mental health issues with this character in a way that I thought was very beneficial. They didn’t have him immediately solve his issues and actually showed him dealing with past trauma. He’s also absolutely hilarious. Finding a male lead this sweet is difficult, and I loved every moment this guy was on screen.

The Town- Like I said before, this show is great for escapism almost purely because of this town. It’s gorgeous. Between the beaches and the architecture, this is a place that anybody would never want to leave. Escapism into this town is half of why you watch this show in the first place.

Sub-Plot Romance- My favorite sub plot romance happens with the second lead. Which you don’t often see happen! Usually, once a second lead is spurned by the main female lead they just kind of mope around for the rest of the show and then start to learn to get over it by the end. This second lead is actually very adult and mature about his feelings through the entire show. When he figures out she doesn’t have feelings for him, he immediately backs off. And then he finally fully sees his coworker, who has been with him through all the major moments of his life and career. And one of my favorite things about her is her intelligence as well as her unwillingness to pine after him. She never begs him to notice her, she just waits until he’s smart enough to actually notice her worth. Though we never really see much of a full confirmation of this couple, we see all that we need to. They have finally learned to respect each other equally in a romantic way and I really want to see love story arcs that have more about respect in them.

The Kids- There are two kids in this show and they are seriously the cutest thing I have ever seen on any drama. Their friendship is wholesome, they are constantly there for each other, and any time one of them cries you are also bound to cry with them. So cute. Must protect.

The Community- The community shown in this show is so cute and tight knit. Some of the storylines here are also really touching as well. I specifically loved a storyline about pregnancy that highlighted just how difficult it is for women and how much men can sometimes take for granted. The stances the show took about seniors who often don’t receive care or can be forgotten, were also important. This show sought to create a close knit group of friends while also standing up for important issues. And I thought it was incredible how much the show was able to focus on, while still making everything feel connected.

K-Pop Group- This show depicts a K-Pop group filming a variety show and I loved how kind the show was towards the group and their fans. No one was portrayed as crazy or mean here. It was over-all a pretty respectful depiction. They even showed that the group had adult fans, which is really important when most K-Pop groups are accused of only having teenage girls as fans. Which is an argument that is so wrong on so many accounts that there’s almost too much to unpack there. Anyways, I have respect for the way this show treated K-Pop groups.

The Bad:

Female Lead- Trust me, I am also getting tired of how many times I’m not the biggest fan of a female lead in a K-Drama. But this time it was surprisingly not because she was a blank slate character. Because she actually had a character of her own. My issue with her was that she wasn’t relatable and often felt spoiled. And every time I thought the show was going to humble her, it never really did. Or at least didn’t do it successfully. She looks down on many people in the community throughout the series and she’s easy to be caught in a misunderstanding because of her complete lack of communication skills. She breaks up with Chief Hong because she’s angry that he won’t open up to her about his trauma. Even though they’ve only been dating for about two weeks at that point and it is very clear that he hasn’t even come to terms with his own trauma yet. The ultimatum she gives him with a time frame in which he should tell her about his trauma just feels cruel. Eventually she learns that forcing him to come out with his trauma is due to her lack of patience. But the narrative doesn’t really punish her for it, because he tells her pretty soon afterwards anyways. I didn’t at all hate her. She isn’t here because I hated her. There were some nice lessons about patience that I felt was relatable to me. Especially right now, I can seriously lack patience. And the way she helps some of the members of the community is sweet. But in the end, she never has a satisfying switch from spoiled to helpful. She’s just kinda both.

The Romance- Now, when I say this I’m not talking about the buildup of the romance. Because the friendship between the two leads is actually very cute. This is entirely about how they are as a couple. I’ve said in several past reviews that I absolutely love when a show really depicts how a couple is as a couple. They don’t keep breaking up their couple or finding drama, instead they show how this couple actually works romantically as a team in regular domestic situations. Because that stuff is important too! This drama still has soooo much drama, but they do take the time to show domesticity. Which I would usually like! But for some reason, this couple’s form of domesticity is Hyejin constantly talking in baby talk to Dusik. I understand that there are actual couples out there like this that exist. And if that’s what you like in a romantic relationship, go for it! I’m just not the biggest fan of the idea of the constant babying and cutesy talk. It gets a little annoying to me after a while. Sorry. I seriously have never seen a relationship depicted like this in a drama before, and now I’m pretty grateful for that.

Too Much Drama- I know this is a K-Drama, but they seriously went too far here. And not just with the whole “we met before” storylines, even though that does happen here more than once. I still really don’t understand why it’s important for K-Dramas to have their leads meet as kids. It’s weird. The fact that they “knew” each other as kids doesn’t matter, what matters is that they are in a relationship together now. But on top of that, the latter few episodes of this show kept throwing random tragic things in the backstory of Dusik. He is an orphan that lost his parents and his grandfather also died when he was pretty young. Yikes, but ok. He got into a weird freak car accident with his best friend when he got older and his friend also died. Ok? He also advised an older man to invest in stock that eventually plummeted, driving his family to ruin and driving both Dusik and the old man to serious depression and now he’s being confronted with this man’s grandson. What? Oh, and the second lead was also somehow related to his old best friend who died and his best friend’s wife blames him for the death, so now the second lead is also mad at him. Oh my god, where does it end???? This is starting to read like a soap opera. I think most K-Dramas still haven’t mastered the art of consistency in tone and a concise story. It’s weird to say that a drama has too much drama, but this is way too much. Some of this might have been ok, but they decided to really pack it on here for some reason.

The Community- They are also here too. Sometimes I liked them, but there were certain characters that I really didn’t care about or were really annoying. There was a divorced couple where I couldn’t stand the ex-husband and cringed every time he came on screen. And the main character’s friend really doesn’t have much in the way of her own arc except for a sexual assault storyline that wasn’t given nearly enough time for the writers to properly deal with it. Sometimes the brand of comedy with these characters was way over the top as well.

Like I’ve said in many reviews of mine before, the good versus the bad above probably gives off the wrong impression. I actually really liked this series and I definitely recommend it. It’s setting is lovely and it packs plenty of powerful stories as well. But it definitely isn’t a perfect watch and it covers so much that there will definitely be characters and storylines that you don’t care as much about. But, I think it balances so many storylines very well and I think many of the characters are lovable. You will at least fall in love with the town itself. It isn’t the most profound and astounding watch, but it is a cute watch all the same and I would say I liked my watch of it very much! Now I just have to hopefully find something else to watch so that I can avoid concert spoilers!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘Hawkeye” Episode 1 and 2 Review

Screenshot of Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner from the Disney+ show ‘Hawkeye’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios.

Hey! Hallie Here!

Happy Thanksgiving! For those of us who live in the US, we spent most of the day eating lots of food and trying to come up with things to be thankful for, which depending on your family might have been that you only have to do this once a year. Meanwhile, Marvel decided to gift us with the first few episodes of their Christmas-influenced show, ‘Hawkeye’. I wasn’t really sure how to feel about this show when it was first announced. Marvel Disney+ shows have been kind of hit or miss for me. ‘WandaVision’ is one of my favorite shows of all time, but ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ was shaky at parts and ‘Loki’ lost its footing in the last half. Not to mention the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Jeremy Renner. But regardless of their faults, none of the Marvel Disney+ shows have been truly awful and Kate Bishop is enough for me to make up for my disinterest in other aspects of the show. And now that I’ve watched the first two episodes, I can safely say the good is so far outweighing the bad. There’s a lot to unpack here, so here’s your SPOILER warning! I’ll be talking about these episodes in depth ahead, so come back to this after you’ve watched them!

What I Liked:

Kate Bishop: As I expected, she’s my favorite part of this show so far. I really enjoyed that the show opened with a means of tying Kate Bishop into the first ‘Avengers’ film. Her character, and this show in general, has extremely strong ties to New York. What better way to demonstrate that than to show her family living through the disastrous events of Loki’s attack on New York. As for the character herself, she shines in every scene. Her sarcasm and her quick wit are very fun, especially in interactions with her mother’s fiancee. She’s also extremely intelligent, which works well for a protagonist attempting to unfurl a murder plot surrounded by the criminal underbelly of New York. But aside from this, she’s very naive and definitely in over her head. Which is still extremely fun to watch. She wants to be heroic and she wants to impress those around her, but her privileged life has shielded her from expecting the consequences of her actions. In one of her very first scenes she’s nearly expelled from her college program because she destroys a bell tower in an effort to prove her archery skills. And this trait only intensifies when she unknowingly grabs the Ronin costume to fight off various masked assailants and save a dog, only to have an entire mafia group follow her and attempt to murder her immediately afterwards. These traits play really well off of Clint, who tries to instill in her some more rationality while she does her best to prove that an earnest desire to do good can go a long way. She’s definitely a protagonist I’m excited to continue following.

Clint Barton: I can honestly say that I’m already liking this character much more than I anticipated. I never seemed to think the character of Clint was as boring as other people did. He was always the least focused on of the Avengers, but any time they did focus on him, his character felt more grounded and human than the others. Between his friendship with Natasha, the family that was established in ‘Age of Ultron’, and his care for Wanda and Pietro, nearly all of his main storylines were about his close personal relationships and his nonchalance about the superhero business. To me, that’s always worked in his favor. Clint feels like a real person I could encounter on the street. But that doesn’t make up for a lack of character development or the several controversies Renner has gotten into on his days off. However, this show gives us more to work with. First, the show gives him hearing aids! The character has had hearing aids in the comics for quite a bit of time now and that representation is extremely important. I’m grateful that this show finally decided to make that aspect of the character canon in the MCU. I also very much enjoyed the exploration of his trauma. Clint’s reaction to ‘Rodgers’ the musical, aside from the hilarious moment where he turned his hearing aids off, was gut wrenching. Even seeing an awful representation of Natasha on stage is still very raw for him, and it raises interesting questions about the way society handles trauma as well as the way society exploits it. The Ronin identity also brings up old trauma for him, and he pushes not only his family away, but Kate as well in an effort to deal with the problem on his own. His difficult life has most definitely turned him into a broken and cynical man, though Kate’s starting to get through to him. It was also nice to see him genuinely enjoy himself at the LARP event he attended. Despite everything, Clint’s still a really good guy who cares about people and it comes across.

Clint’s Family: I still see people tearing apart the idea of Clint’s family and I really don’t understand it. It might not be the most developed part of his character, but really, there isn’t much of his character that’s been fully developed anyways. In any case, his relationship with his kids feels genuine. I melted when he started signing with his youngest. I also really like that he doesn’t hide anything from his wife, Laura. While he is actively pushing his family away, he still apparently told his wife about the darkest part of his life and he feels it important to actively keep up that line of communication. So many shows would have him keeping the whole Ronin situation a secret, but all we see from Clint and Laura is mutual respect and understanding. I love that.

Echo: We’ve only seen one glimpse of her so far, but I’m already SO excited. Echo starts out in a pretty dark place in the comics, which seems to be what the show is going for as well, but she becomes a pretty amazing superhero in no time at all. And Alaqua Cox is actually Indigenous and deaf, which is incredibly important in accurately portraying this character. I can’t wait to see her journey in this show.

What I Don’t Like:

Kate’s Mother: I have no idea what’s going on with this character at all. I don’t know what her relationship with her daughter is supposed to be like. I don’t know if I’m supposed to like her or not. I don’t know if she’s supposed to be a victim or a villain. I have no ideas. When we first meet her she’s constantly fighting with her husband and doesn’t seem to know how to navigate her relationship with her daughter. Then, when Kate’s grown up, her mother lightly scolds her for destroying the bell tower before bantering back and forth with her about how proud she is of Kate and how much she loves her. But then, it’s revealed she got engaged without telling Kate. After that, she’s worried about Kate when the building they’re in explodes and when Kate’s apartment is attacked, but she doesn’t actually seem all that worried the very next day and doesn’t allow Kate to talk to her in private. Sometimes it feels like she cares about her creepy and obviously suspicious fiancee more than Kate, but others it feels like she cares about Kate more. And on top of all of that, we have no well established backstory on what their relationship was after Kate’s father died, making the relationship and the character more confusing. At this point it just feels inconsistent.

Ronin: It feels like the plot isn’t really taking what Clint did as Ronin very seriously. Yeah, he only went after criminals. But he seriously went on a murder rampage. There really isn’t any excuse for that. There’s no telling if they’ll go into the darker themes in this part of the storyline later, but for now it doesn’t feel entirely well handled.

‘Rodgers The Musical’: Really? You’re expecting me to believe a horribly written musical with high school-level costumes and no discernible budget made its way onto Broadway? AND was able to afford all those billboards around New York? What, did they spend all their money on marketing? (Also, imagine being an actor in the show and hearing the real Hawkeye was spotted in the crowd, only to be told later that he left halfway through. Ooof.)

Those are my thoughts so far! I’m very much enjoying the more lighthearted feel of this series. After the very serious content of the last few series, it’s nice to have something fun and Christmasy to put me in a better mood. I’m definitely eagerly anticipating what ‘Hawkeye’ will give us next. Especially with the promise of Yelena Belova coming as soon as the next episode, there’s a lot to be excited for.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

K-Pop: Monsta X ‘No Limit’ Release

Promotional image of Chae Hyungwon for the single ‘Rush Hour’. Copyright goes to Monsta X and Starship Entertainment.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I heavily debated what I was going to write today because there is so much going on right now. BTS hype is extremely high with the LA concert being this weekend and next week. I just finished watching one of the most popular K-Dramas right now; ‘Hometown Cha Cha Cha’. And, on top of all of this, Monsta X graced us with an amazing new single and mini album. So I’ll leave you with a promise of a K-Drama review next time and plenty of hype for BTS next week (I am not going to talk about the Grammys because I personally believe that it needs to die out), because Monsta X’s album drop is my current priority considering it’s already out. They are also my concert after BTS because I couldn’t get ATEEZ tickets which would have been in between the two concerts. (But seeing BTS and Monsta X in the next couple months is crazy enough for me.) As Kpop has broken into the mainstream media, groups like BTS and other younger groups like ATEEZ and TXT have been doing the best of most other K-Pop acts. Unfortunately, Monsta X isn’t as big as some other groups internationally which is a crime in my book. They are one of the most popular K-Pop groups in South Korea for a reason. You probably already realized by some of my past posts that I’m a huge Monsta X fan. And I seriously highly recommend them, their music is excellent. I feel like the release of this mini album is a huge reminder of what they are capable of. Especially because they completed this one member short. This album has some of my favorite vocal work and it’s just great in general. So, as usual, I’m going to go through this album piece by piece and talk about all the MVs and songs.

Rush Hour:

This is one of my favorite new releases from any group recently. Joohoney has been working on a lot of premiere singles lately and he’s really amazing at it. This is another one of his excellent songs and it packs just as much of a punch as a lot of his past work. The beat immediately kicks in right after IM’s entrance and you know that the song is going to be amazing as soon as it does. Between Kihyun’s amazing vocals for the chorus, the trade off between Hyungwon and Minhyuk, and the amazing rap breaks for both Joohoney and IM, this song is one of the most balanced and impressive singles I’ve seen in a while. It is also catchy as hell and will definitely get stuck in your head. I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since it came out. It replaced the spot in my head that had been reserved for ONEUS’s ‘No diggity’ for the last couple weeks. And ‘Rush Hour’ is one of those songs that shows that Monsta X is still in the game and ready to fight. In fact, that’s what the lyrics are about. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to this song yet, do it and watch it pull you into the fandom.

Rush Hour MV:

I’m going to start out by saying that this is some of my favorite choreography that I’ve seen from them. I also absolutely loved this concept. It goes between a western them and a racing theme, that go seamlessly together somehow even though you wouldn’t really expect it to. They pull it off amazingly though! The western theme takes up most of the choreographed parts of the MV while the racing theme goes for most of their individual shots. I just love their MVs in general. The suit and tie style of ‘Gambler’, the fifties murder mystery style of ‘Kiss or Death’, and the film tributes in ‘Love Killa’ all stick out in my head when I think of great MVs. Not even just in K-Pop, but in general. I have to say, it is weird to see an MV without Shownu, but I seriously want to commend the guys again for releasing all of this promotional stuff for their album and preparing for their world tour as a five piece. This MV felt like a declaration of a fresh start and between all their singular looks and their new hairstyles (Joohoney’s little buns in his hair were amazing), it feels fresh. If one group has MV concepts down, it’s Monsta X.

Autobahn:

This song is more of a mix of amazing vocals and club beats. It’s definitely one of those songs that would not feel out of place at a party and it’s one of theirs that goes for more of a suggestive feel. Both musically and with the lyrics. That is usually a trademark of Changkyun, IM, who did actually contribute on every aspect of this song. He’s always a master at arranging vocal parts too, so it’s no surprise that the vocal parts of this song stand out so much. What’s also cool about this song is how much it highlights Hyungwon and Minhyuk’s vocals. They almost have more vocal parts between them than Kihyun which you don’t often see. I love any chance to see all of the members of this group shine!

Ride with U:

Another more suggestive song, but this one is definitely more slow and calm and less sultry than Autobahn seems to be. And this one highlights Kihyuns vocals most in my opinion. Which are always gorgeous. Both IM and Joohoney helped with the lyrics, but this song has a little less of their help throughout. Still, it’s a great song overall and I like the more calming nature of it.

Got me in chains:

One of my favorite parts of this song is the beat. It’s less clubby and a bit more funky. But the spilt between the different members is where this stands out. Both Joohoney and IM have lengthy raps in this song and it gives a lot of opportunity for its vocalists to belt. Hyungwon doesn’t get much in this song unfortunately. But both Kihyun and Minhyuk really give it their all. Including some high notes that I should have been expecting but entirely took me by surprise. What’s kind of funny about this song is that most fans expected this to be the most suggestive on this album by the name. But this song actually isn’t. This song is more about desperate longing, and man do the vocals get this sense of desperation across. This one is another that still has the influence of IM and Joohoney, but a little less than some of the other tracks.

Just love:

This is another IM pet project, and damn does it come across as one. There’s something about this song that feels a little like IM’s solo projects and you can tell that it has his stamp in every piece of it. This also has a lot of IM vocals, but it actually doesn’t have much rap. I think we all know by now that both IM and Joohoney are actually amazing vocalists. They don’t just rap. They’re amazing at all of it. Lyrically this also isn’t a very suggestive song, it’s a very pure song about love. The meaningfulness that Changkyun poured into this song comes out in every line and really it’s one of the sweetest love songs I’ve ever read looking at the lyrics. The song discusses loving today’s version of each other and standing by each other through everything with that in consideration. This is one of the slower songs on the album and one of my favorites lyrically.

Mercy:

Another vocal belting song that I love. Kihyun goes all out on this chorus and it’s everything. This is probably one of my favorite songs on the album because of how strong the vocals come across here. And also because of the rap in the middle, written by IM and Joohoney respectively. The song has a slower beat, though it doesn’t feel like a slow song and the rap almost feels like straight poetry. This effect is one that I really love but can be done oddly depending on the style of the rapper involved. But IM and Joohoney are such chameleons that I’m convinced they could do just about anything. You can’t argue that they aren’t some of the best rappers in the industry. Hyungwon’s lower register also stands out to me here. It’s just so good.

I got love:

This is a Joohoney pet project and this one also feels very much like something from him. It’s probably the most upbeat feeling song on the album. And this one is also a very pure love song. This one is just about being happy and it feels very domestic, probably because some of the lyrics are pretty domestic. This is another one that’s pretty split between everyone. Monsta X just tends to be good at that in general. Especially when Joohoney or IM are the main creators of the song. There’s plenty of rap in here too, but Joohoney also takes some of the chorus with Kihyun! Which is very sweet and only reinforces his influence on the song.

If this post hasn’t convinced you to check out Monsta X, I will once again ask you to please check them out. It is very difficult to dislike Monsta X in any capacity. They also have an incredible reputation in the industry for just being overall nice guys. If you’re wondering why I keep saying things like this, it’s because I really wish international fans wouldn’t take other K-Pop groups for granted. People overlook them even though their debut wasn’t that far off from BTS’s. Right now their world tour isn’t selling out and that in itself makes me upset. Because they deserve to have all of their venues completely sell out. They are a group that creates a lot of their own stuff, much like BTS. If you can buy a ticket I would seriously recommend it. I’ll be there and I really hope I’ll see a lot of you guys there as well!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

BTS: 2021 AMAs Performances and Wins

Screenshot of Kim Taehyung (V), Chris Martin, Will Champion, Jeon Jungkook, Park Jimin, and Min Yoongi (Suga) performing at the 2021 AMAs. All rights go to BTS and Coldplay.

Hey! Hallie here!

BTS has officially taken home three awards from this year’s AMAs! It’s no surprise that BTS has received so much attention given how much amazing content they’ve released this year alone. Their hard work and genuine love for their fans comes across in everything they do. If anyone deserves three AMAs, including the Artist of the Year award, it’s them. Along with these amazing wins we also got some incredible performances and funny moments throughout the night. Let’s dive into everything we saw tonight!

Performances:

We got to see two incredible performances involving BTS at this year’s AMAs. The first was “My Universe”, marking the first time BTS was actually able to perform the song with Coldplay! It was so nice to see this group perform live in front of a crowd with one another. They all looked like they were having so much fun, and both Coldplay and BTS seemed to feed each other’s energy. When Chris Martin was singing, the members of BTS were cheering him on. Whenever a member of BTS took the spotlight, Chris Martin blended in with the others, dancing with them and helping hype up the crowd. Given the more casual, but glam, outfit choices and the happiness radiating from the stage, the performance felt as though a group of friends got up on stage to throw a huge party. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the entire thing. After this performance, BTS closed out the show with their performance of “Butter”. Though I do dislike when American shows put BTS performances last in order to keep their massive fan base watching, I could forgive this instance slightly because it was BTS’s second performance of the night. We’re all familiar with the smooth choreography for “Butter” at this point, but I still want to praise how on point it was tonight. They looked confident and impressive while they were performing the song and, as usual, their dancing didn’t disrupt any of their amazing vocals. I also really loved the outfits for this particular performance of the song. They each wore suits of various designs with yellow colors that dipped more into gold coloring. The variation in their suit jackets in particular was extremely pleasing to the eye without making any one of them seem out of place. In other words, I could watch both of these performances over and over for the rest of my life.

Awards:

BTS won three awards during the award show. Two of these awards were a bit more unsurprising to me, though no less well deserved or impressive. One of those awards was the Favorite Pop Duo or Group award. BTS pretty consistently wins these awards at various award shows now, which is, of course, incredible. The other of these awards was the Favorite Pop Song award. This award had many more contenders that’s popularity might have rivaled “Butter”, but “Butter” was such a large release throughout the summer that I could very easily see it topping the others on this list. I’m very proud of the boys winning with “Butter” in particular because, of their English releases, it’s the song they were able to contribute to the most. Finally, they won the big award of the night, the Artist of the Year award. With names like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo on this list, I’m so proud that BTS pulled above all of their competitors for this year’s award and proved their global impact once again. In the acceptance speech, Namjoon reminisced about their first performance at the AMAs four years ago and the nervousness all of them felt while performing “DNA”. It’s amazing to see how far they’ve come. And, as always, Namjoon credits all of it to ARMY. He still feels as though BTS is a small boy group from Korea, and that humility caries into the thankfulness all of the members feel towards the fans who have helped them become global sensations. It’s really touching. Also in this speech, we saw Jungkook send out some words of encouragement before being carried away from the mic by Jin. What can we expect from BTS if not chaos? All of the members spoke at some point throughout the night, most trying their best to keep their speeches in English and, as always, I was impressed with all of their English progress. As a final touching thank you, the boys went on V-Live and sent out thank you notes to ARMY on social media. Jimin always makes me tear up when he bows.

The Harry Styles Concert:

This happened last night, but it was mentioned so many times during interviews tonight that I felt it was worth mentioning. J-Hope, Jimin, Taehyung, and Jungkook all attended a Harry Styles concert yesterday. Apparently there were many celebrities there, including Chris Evans, Selena Gomez, and Lizzo. The members of BTS spent most of their night dancing and singing with Lizzo right beside them and all of them very much enjoyed their time with her. However, constantly asking BTS about other celebrities has been a major issue at various award shows where the members were ignored or asked about American artists rather than themselves. Fortunately, this time around we saw interviewers manage to ask them about their time with Lizzo respectfully. Jimin and Taehyung even bashfully shared Lizzo’s particular crush on them. Some interviewers did fall into the trap of asking them about a future collaboration with her or something of the kind. But regardless, most interviewers were a lot more respectful of them than we’ve seen in the past and I was grateful for it. BTS has been challenging American media for a while and I’m glad to see interviewers growing as a result.

Overall, this year’s AMAs was pretty great. BTS performed at their best, were comfortable enough to goof around and enjoy themselves, and delivered some truly touching acceptance speeches. As an ARMY, I’m very proud of everything they accomplished tonight. Despite some of the controversies they’ve already faced, I’m glad they’re having so much fun in the US. I hope all of that continues all the way through their concert. As for the controversies, don’t expect to see them addressed here. We’re not here for fan wars. We’re here to let BTS enjoy themselves and to praise their amazing work! Let’s keep in mind that, as fans, our main goal is to wish them a fun and fulfilling trip!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

International Dramas: Touch Your Heart

Promotional photo of (left) Lee Dongwook and (right) Yoo Inna. Copyright goes to Rakuten Viki and tvN.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I am back into the K-Drama watch list and this was the one that was first recommended to me on Netflix. So, I decided to give it a shot! The drama was seemingly made because of the drama ‘Goblin’ and its popularity. Though I haven’t watched ‘Goblin’, mostly because it isn’t on Netflix, I have heard a lot about it. The two leads in this drama specifically are the same actors who played the side plot romance couple in that show. And from what I know about ‘Goblin’, I know that most people were unhappy with the way the side-plot romance ended. So, in the hopes of assuaging some of the fans they decided to make a drama starring the two. Most people are still hoping for a second season, but they were all fairly happy with the idea of this drama. As I have never watched ‘Goblin’, my opinion of this drama is very unbiased in regards to that. But I did find the purpose for the drama being made very interesting and you can certainly tell that the actors have chemistry! And two actors who are great working alongside each other usually make for a great drama! But, to be honest, their chemistry can’t save everything. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Summary: Famous actress Oh Yoonseo finds herself jobless and blacklisted after being involved in a scandal even though she is found innocent. Eventually she finds herself a role in a law drama, but the only way she can be involved is if she agrees to study her role by working at an actual law firm. She soon finds herself working as the secretary for an awkward and seemingly cold attorney named Kwon Jungrok who wants nothing to do with her. But he may just be more soft-hearted than she takes him for.

The Good:

Female Lead: A lot of times in dramas I find that the female lead isn’t given much plot for herself outside of the main romance. This drama doesn’t suffer from that at all. This is also one of those rare dramas where the female lead doesn’t suffer from blank slate syndrome. She has her own well developed character without it ever feeling like a self-insert. But for the most part, her personal arc revolves around her learning responsibility rather than her romance. While she begins the series viewing the job as something fun with no responsibility, she eventually decides to become the best she possibly can be at it. And she definitely does. Because of Jungrok’s personality, it is often Yoonseo who appeals to his clients on a more personal level. And seeing her become just as useful to his work as he is, is everything I want from female characters in dramas.

Male Lead: Jungrok is both adorable and interesting. Though he’s considered the star of the law firm he works at, the rest of the employees don’t seem to understand why he’s so successful with his clients. Mostly because he’s known for his more stand-offish personality. But as you see his work style when Yoonseo becomes his secretary, you realize that his popularity does have to do with his kindness just as much as his sense of justice. And his unexpected kindness is focused on by the series much more than any sense of mysteriousness. I personally prefer my male leads to be more kind than mysterious. I also loved his seemingly realistic awkwardness. It wasn’t blown out of proportion or made to be something for him to overcome. It was just an endearing part of the character that made him even more enjoyable to watch.

Main Couple: Definitely the best part of this drama was what everyone was expecting it to be. The chemistry. And really the main couple in general. Their relationship is entirely based off of trust and doesn’t actually grow until both the individuals grow as people. All of the moments with this couple are wholesome. One of my favorite things about them is that this couple demonstrates consent in some of the best ways. This is one of the few couples in a drama where the guy makes sure he has consent before he kisses the female lead. Which was great! The show also depicts the couple treating work professionally even after they get together, though they are still working together in a close capacity. The over-all respect that this couple has for each other comes across in so many ways. This couple is what makes the drama good. And there’s no second lead, so no love triangles means we can focus more on them as a couple!

The Bad:

The Side Characters: When I said that the couple is what makes this drama good, I really wasn’t kidding. I can’t think of one other character that I genuinely like. Junrok has a best friend who is likable, but he feels so incredibly disconnected from the story that he doesn’t feel like he has a purpose. And all of the people at the law firm were either not focused on enough or extremely annoying. Just for comparison, ‘Vincenzo’ has a similar cast of wacky side characters in the building tenants and I also accused them of being occasionally annoying in my review for that drama. But they served a purpose in the growth of the main character and they weren’t always incredibly bad. Specifically the boss character at the law firm in this drama was awful. I was so annoyed with him by the end of the drama that I started skipping through his scenes. If you want to see a character with comically extreme vanity that never gets better and always results in him acting like everyone else is beneath him, I guess this character is for you. His lack of decency just got to me and the drama refusing to acknowledge it as anything other than funny made it even worse.

Side Plot Romance One: This is yet another drama with two side plot romances and, as you probably already figured out, I didn’t actually like either of them. The first was between Jungrok’s two college friends, who weren’t bad because they were dislikable. They were bad because their plot had nothing to do with anything else in the drama. Occasionally Jungrok would hang out with them when he was sad, but we could have just as easily watched him brood alone. The show tried to show their importance by having them be Prosecution in a few major cases, but they never really found out anything that the main characters didn’t. They just felt like a weird break from the story.

Side Plot Romance Two: This was between two of the more obnoxious characters at the law firm. One of them was like the even more clueless version of Gaston from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the other one was just creepy. They both start out the series absolutely hating each other and by the end they were suddenly together. Even though they weren’t developed nearly enough for that and it seemed like the writers were attempting to give the audience every reason why they would never work out. I just didn’t enjoy any part of this. I don’t think their romance was even supposed to be cute, because it was only ever portrayed for comedy. Even the writers didn’t take this relationship seriously.

The Cases: The cases at first seemed like they were pretty serial. There was about one case per episode and if it was more plot relevant it might take up two episodes. Which was a structure I originally thought was pretty smart. About half way through the show (predictably, after the couple got together) the writers seemed to have no idea what to do with the plot anymore. So they would randomly bring back old cases or throw in a weird trope-y case that would automatically be solved for no apparent reason. There was a stalker storyline that had no backbone in the plot and was solved after Jungrok punched Yoonseo’s assailant once. My least favorite case, however, was one involving domestic violence. A woman was accused of murdering her husband though many were arguing it should be lightly sentenced because she was being abused and it was likely self defense. Reasonable, right? They then introduce this odd plot twist where she didn’t actually kill him, it was actually a very sweet autistic man that she knew who was trying to defend her. Though the autistic man was still shown in a very negative light. Films and shows need to stop presenting people dealing with mental issues as dangerous. It’s an awful stereotype that needs to die. But then they bring this case back almost ten episodes later for no reason because they realize the autistic man is actually innocent. The woman actually did kill her husband with the help of a different accomplice and it was all premeditated because she wanted the insurance money. Are you kidding me? First you try to show people with autism in a negative light and then switch to victims of domestic violence? If they would have stuck to the simple case structure it seemed like they were leading up to at the very beginning, they wouldn’t have made such questionable moral decisions in a show that’s mostly supposed to be lighthearted anyways. My guess is they couldn’t make a decision on what exactly they wanted the tone of the show to be.

I would have absolutely loved to say that I loved this drama. And I actually really really liked the main couple! My issues were literally anything that wasn’t the main two characters or them as a couple. The plot and the other characters were where the writing crushed the show for me. Over-all, I wouldn’t say that the show was bad. It had some great moments and definitely some very cute moments. But I wouldn’t say that the show was good either, because the writers couldn’t decide on a tone for the plot. If you’re interested in giving this show a watch because you like the premise of an actress falling for an attorney or because you liked these characters in ‘Goblin’, I would say go for it. It isn’t a bad watch. But if you’re going into this looking for a good plot to really draw you in, definitely look elsewhere. Personally, I may return to a couple scenes from this drama, but it isn’t one I would include on a rewatch list.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Netflix Shows: The ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Live-Action Series So Far

Promotional image of Appa, Sokka, Katara, Aang, and Momo from ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. Copyright goes to Nickelodeon.

Hey! Hallie here!

We haven’t really talked about ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ much on this blog but that’s definitely not because we don’t adore the series. It’s undebatably one of the best animated series of all time. I think about how much I love Toph on a regular basis. And if you’ve kept up with this fandom at all you know that the idea of a live action remake has been a heavily debated one. The series already had a live action remake in the form of a 2010 film that most fans will glare at you for even mentioning. Trust me, it isn’t an overreaction. Because of this horrifically awful adaptation, most were skeptical when it was announced that Netflix was going to attempt an entire live action series for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. A lot has changed since this project was first announced, and there’s plenty of reasons to be skeptical just as there are plenty of reasons to be excited. So let’s look at what this series has going for it and what could potentially cause this whole thing to fall apart.

The Creators:

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are the creators behind the original ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and were originally set to be executive producers on the live action series as well. This was a major comfort for many fans, who felt as though the major issue with the film was the director’s (M. Night Shyamalan) refusal to include them in the story creating process. However, last year Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko announced that they were leaving the project due to creative differences. And they didn’t seem to believe these differences were small. They went as far as to say that whatever version of the show ended up being created, it would not be the show they intended to make. That’s a pretty condemning sentiment. It also stirred up quite a bit of rumors as fans started to speculate what these creative differences could have been. Many fans spread the idea that the cast was going to be white-washed again, similar to the way it was in the 2010 film, and that once the cast was announced the fans would boycott Netflix. In the very least it’s safe to say this particular theory isn’t all that realistic now that we have some of the cast confirmed. But I’ll get to that in a second. With the creators gone, the role of show runner has been given to Albert Kim. This isn’t an immediate comfort for the fans hoping for someone they can trust to take over. Albert Kim hasn’t done a ton of projects and his most recent work, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, doesn’t exactly align with ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’. However, choosing someone who isn’t as well known is no crime. Kim is a passionate fan of the series who has promised an authentic take on the source material while simultaneously making the story feel more connected than the thirty-minute episodes did originally. He’s also joined by a diverse selection of producers whose unique outlooks could definitely benefit the series.

The Cast:

I have yet to see anyone frustrated at this cast. It’s a really excellent cast so far, though we still don’t know the entire cast at this point in time. Aang will be played by Gordon Cormier, a young actor who’s been in various interesting projects, such as Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. Katara is being played by Kiawentiio, who took part in Netflix’s ‘Anne with an E’. Sokka will be Ian Ousley, who many know from ’13 Reasons Why’. Zuko is being portrayed by Dallas Liu, who was recently seen in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. As of right now, these are the major roles announced for the younger characters in the show. And all of these announcements are really exciting. We see no white-washing here. Instead, we have a mix of Asian and Indigenous actors who are the right ages to be playing such young characters. All of them are also excellent actors with some really impressive roles under their belts. As for the adult characters, Daniel Dae Kim is Fire Lord Ozai. Need I say more? He’s perfect and an icon in his own right. We also have Ken Leung as Commander Zhao, Kay Siu Lim as Gyatso, and, quite importantly, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh. Most people know Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa from ‘Kim’s Convenience’, a show that also included the likes of Simu Liu. Though we don’t have the entire cast, and I’m still eagerly waiting for a Toph announcement, this cast has me very excited. Everyone involved so far is more than suited to their roles and very capable of portraying them.

Why Remake Something Already Great?:

This seems to be the question on most people’s minds. Fans already like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ as it is. They like it so much, in fact, that when an unconfirmed report that Katara would be older than Sokka in the new series began to spread, fans were outraged. Though this may seem inconsequential, many felt the age change would ruin their dynamic. This rumor has remained unconfirmed, and looking at the cast it seems like it’s untrue. Ian Ousley is a few years older than Kiawentiio and does look it, making it unlikely they’ll try to make him seem younger than she is. Still, these concerns, along with concerns that the series won’t be different enough, are valid. Feeling as though there’s no reason for a live action remake has become a feeling many audiences are familiar with given Hollywood’s recent obsession with them. But Albert Kim has commented that he’s trying to address these feelings while creating the show. He himself wondered what purpose there would be in making ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ a live action series when he was first approached about the project. But because he’s aware of this, he’s reassured fans that he’s trying to strike a balance. He will be changing enough to make the story interesting in its own right and to fit with today’s medium of storytelling a bit better, but will not change anything simply for the sake of changing things. It’s a complicated task but I’d like to take his word on it. Unfortunately, we won’t know anything for certain until the show is released.

That’s really all we know so far. What we know about the story is a synopsis that pretty clearly matches the story of the animated series. So nothing new to discuss there. We also don’t really know when the series will be released. IMDB still seems to be promising a late 2022 release date, but it’s important to keep your expectations in check considering that filming for the show only just began. Either way, I’d like to remain optimistic. I was certainly skeptical for a while, but the new show runner’s devotion to the source material, and this cast in particular, managed to reel me back in. Here’s to hoping the show deserves my recaptured attention.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Book Adaptations: ‘Cursed Child’ Should Not Be a Movie

Screenshot of Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. Copyright goes to Warner Bros.

Hi! It’s Annie!

As many of you probably already know, it was recently the twentieth anniversary of the first ‘Harry Potter’ film. And on this occasion of many articles celebrating the books and films, the director of the first two Potter films, Chris Columbus, came out and said that he really wanted to tackle a new project. This project being ‘Cursed Child’. For the few of you who don’t know, ‘Cursed Child’ is a two part play that began on the West End in London and eventually was published to massive queues outside of bookshops everywhere as a script. The story follows the children of the original characters as they go back in time and try to prevent a series of catastrophic things from happening. The fact that Chris Columbus is trying to push this into a movie format received mostly mixed reactions, most bearing on the side of quirked eyebrows. Why, you may ask? Because ‘Cursed Child’ is absolutely absurd. I know that sounds rich coming from a franchise about wizards and witches, but ‘Cursed Child’ was not good as a play or a script. At all. And I’m really not afraid to say this. Some people who have seen the two part play say that it is much better in a play format, just because of how many effects the theatre can do justice. But I don’t think anyone is going to argue that ‘Cursed Child’ is an amazing canonical continuation of the story. While I have come to accept that this may be good live at the theatre; as someone who has read the script I can definitely say that it will probably be awful in every other adaptation. Here are just a few of the reasons why.

Harry Himself:

One of the major complaints about this play is that most, if not all, of the characters are out of character. And you’ll see me go over a few characters because of this. But one of the biggest offenses has to be that the title character of the original series himself is out of character. Harry is not a good father. In fact, in ‘Cursed Child’ he’s not even supposed to be a good father. He has a penchant for ignoring his children, especially when they really need him, and putting pressure on them to be as great as he was. Which literally doesn’t make any sense. Harry is a child who grew up in an abusive household where his caretakers more often than not pretended as though he didn’t exist. So you’re telling me that Harry would not want to make his children have a childhood as far from that as possible? It doesn’t make any sense. Especially when you then consider that Harry always viewed him having to fight Voldemort at his age in a negative light. There is no way that Harry would put any of the pressures on Albus that he does in this. And the fact that Harry grew up to be a bad father in this version is both awful and heartbreaking. There is really no explaining this away. The writers of this play decided to mess up the title character of the franchise to fuel a storyline that barely even goes with anything previous. It’s pretty sad when Draco is ten times the man Harry is.

Hermione (and Ron):

Literally everything about Hermione crushed me. Firstly, when we meet Hermione in this show she is now the Minister for Magic. There are several reasons why this is completely ridiculous. Firstly, in the seventh book Rufus Scrimgeour, a notoriously bad Minister, tells Hermione that she would be good at his job should she want it. She tells him very clearly that she would never want that job. And it isn’t because this was somehow foreshadowing her eventual position. If you look at the original ‘Harry Potter’ books, there’s a lot of rightful warnings against politicians (among all the horrible things Rowling also wrote). Politicians in this world are almost never viewed in a good light and Rowling warns time and time again against the dangers of power. So Hermione becoming the Minister for Magic, is against much of what Hermione stood for in the original books and films. But this isn’t even the least of it. How Hermione is portrayed in the rest of the play is, to me, downright insulting. Scorpius and Albus go back to a version of time where the only very prominent change to Hermione is that she never married Ron. This simple change results in her being a professor at Hogwarts instead of the Minister for Magic. Which, in my eyes, is definitely not a bad thing and something I would much prefer. But Ron being married to someone else makes her even worse to her students than Snape was for some reason. She becomes incredibly awful and rude and she spends half her time pining after Ron. Even though Hermione was never rude even before she was romantically interested in Ron. Way to tell women everywhere that one of the most revered literary feminist icons really does need a man. I have made it pretty clear that I’m not a huge fan of Hermione and Ron as a couple in the first place. I personally view the Golden trio as having a sibling dynamic. But this goes beyond whether or not you like Hermione and Ron as a couple. This implies that all of Hermione’s successes in her career and even in being a good person are contingent on a man and on her marriage. This idea is so sexist, I could cry.

General Absurdity:

As I’ve said before, it’s a little rich to point out absurdity in a franchise that is about magic and witches and wizards. But there are still rules that are created within that world. Rules that are broken several times throughout this screenplay. On one occasion, Scorpius and Albus decide that they are going to leave the Hogwarts Express while the train is still in motion. Alright, fine. However, when they get to the top of the train the tiny trolley witch who sells candy suddenly becomes a Hogwarts spy armed with explosives. What are the explosives? Some of the candy on the trolley cart. Is it just me, or does this sound more like a parody than something actually serious? The fact that this was written in complete seriousness makes me a little bit nauseous. Who thought of this? If I’m going to watch a Potter parody I would much rather watch ‘Potter Puppet Pals’. That’s not where it ends. The entire series is contingent on time turners which are revealed to have a list of new powers we’ve never discussed. And for some reason, Albus and Scorpius attempting to interfere in Cedric Diggory’s death eventually makes Cedric a Death Eater. Not only is this a pretty poor way to honor the Cedric from the books who was just a child when he dies for no apparent reason; this is also extremely unrealistic considering the canonical character. And don’t make me think about the fact that Voldemort has a child, because that’s disturbing in every way possible. Even in the realm of magic, nothing in this entire story makes any sense. And that’s less to do with the magical world of ‘Harry Potter’ and more to do with the complete lack of character integrity.

Scorpius and Draco:

For all the bad, which is by far most of the book, I did want to point out some good. Albus isn’t much of a likable character, but Scorpius definitely is. And Harry and Draco also trade hands on who is a likable character in this story. Draco gets a redemption arc, though I don’t think there’s enough leading up to it. Scorpius as a character is absolutely precious. He’s nerdy and extremely sweet. I think he’s more of a Hufflepuff, but I digress. What sucks more for them is that they have been placed in a story where everything else is so distorted that nothing seems realistic. Including their kindness and character development. I can’t believe I’m saying this about Draco, but both of these characters deserved so much better than the story around them.

These are just a few of my complaints with this awful screenplay. I didn’t even mention the uselessness of Ginny or the complete lack of Neville or Luna. Luna is one of my favorite characters in the franchise and she’s barely mentioned and Neville is even killed off in a piece of this story. I would have loved for them to show LGBTQ+ representation with Albus and Scorpius but, much like the rest of ‘Harry Potter’, nothing is ever confirmed. Many people who read and hated the screenplay saw the actual play and loved it. But many of those people also confirmed that it should never be canon. And really, there’s no part of this that I want to see brought to life after reading it myself. Especially not on screen. I personally have chosen to not listen to anything Rowling wrote outside of the books, and some of the stuff in the books to boot. Such as the death of Fred which you can’t convince me actually happened. But I’m less inclined to believe this than even any of that. Rowling has done enough to the ‘Harry Potter’ fandom already. We don’t need this on top of everything else to make it worse.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

Marvel: ‘Shang-Chi’ Review

Screenshot of Meng’er Zhan and Simu Liu from ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Pictures and Marvel Studios.

Hey! Hallie here!

‘Shang-Chi’ is finally on Disney+ and that means that those of us who missed it while it was in theaters can finally watch it! I’m extremely glad that a large amount of fans decided to go to the theater to see this film, but due to some concerns regarding the place I live and the current state of the world, I couldn’t see it when it came out. But now I’ve seen it and I can confidently say that it deserves all the hype! It’s a gorgeous movie with excellent characters, plot, and fight choreography. Before I go in depth about what I thought about this movie though, here’s your SPOILER warning. If you haven’t seen this movie, do that right now and come back to this post later. I promise it’s worth it.

What I Liked:

Shang-Chi: When everyone came out of this movie talking about how amazing Shang-Chi is as a new main character for the MCU, I was extremely excited to see what he was like. He didn’t disappoint. In an MCU where we’ve seen a mix of main characters who have huge egos and major moral issues, (Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Stephen Strange) and heroes who have large amounts of morality and insane leadership skills (Steve Rodgers, Thor, T’Challa), it’s nice to see characters who reflect the audience a bit better. Shang-Chi is definitely one of those characters. He’s extremely kind and capable but his incredible martial arts skills don’t immediately give him confidence. He doesn’t really know what’s going on for most of the movie and his past makes him question his own actions at every turn. He gets through most plot points by simply trying to be the best person he can be. That’s exactly what makes him so charming. When his father starts to track him down again after many years, his goal isn’t to go after his father, or even to stay away from him. His goal is to find his sister and make sure she’s alright. When he reunites with his father, who was basically abusive to him growing up, Shang-Chi isn’t combative. Despite having seen his mother die before his eyes, he hears his father’s crazy theory out and battles with the fact that he still cares for him. Even when Shang-Chi is pushed to the point of nearly embracing the assassin his father made him, when he finally faces his father, he confesses that he just wants his dad to be there for his family. His story isn’t one of a righteous battle between good and evil. It’s about confronting his past trauma, accepting all aspects of himself, and becoming more confident because of it.

Xu Wenwu: Marvel has a horrible history of making villains who are completely irrelevant and mostly unimportant to the hero. Xu Wenwu instantly broke away from that once he was introduced as Shang-Chi’s father. But this fact wasn’t the only thing that made Xu Wenwu interesting. As the movie unfolds, it reveals just how complicated of a man Wenwu is. Wenwu starts out the movie as an immortal conquerer who essentially tortured his son into an assassin. But it’s revealed that he made every effort to change his ways when he married Shang-Chi’s mother. He put aside his horrific past to make a real attempt at being a good husband and father. It was his wife’s death, and the guilt that brought, that made him decide to turn back to his previously shady ways. But even throughout the movie, it’s his wife who is his major motivation. An evil being makes him believe that his wife is still alive and he is unwilling to let her go. It surprisingly has nothing to do with the evil organization he runs. Not only that, but Wenwu sacrifices himself for Shang-Chi at the end of the movie, revealing that his love for his family never left by giving his son the Ten Rings. We’ve seen some pretty solid villains in the MCU recently and Wenwu is one of them.

Xialing: What a badass. She’s better at fighting than Shang-Chi, and the plot proves it by both making her kick our hero’s ass and save a giant dragon at the end of the film. She also took the trauma from both her father’s indifference and Shang-Chi abandoning her in order to build herself up. She builds her own empire off of a fighting ring and proves that she can control just as much power as her father does. I do have some issues with the way this character was treated, and I’ll get to that later, but I ultimately loved this character and wanted to see more of her.

Shang-Chi and Katy’s Friendship: These two genuinely felt like real friends. Their banter bounced pleasantly off of each other, simultaneously demonstrating their familiarity with one another and providing amusing dialogue. They also worked well as a team. Shang-Chi was more capable of protecting the both of them and getting them out of frightening situations, but Katy kept him grounded and thinking in crisis situations. Katy also provided support whenever Shang-Chi needed it, reminding him that he was right to feel hurt because of his past. And through it all, the two were never forced into a strange romantic relationship. Their friendship was wholesome and I’m so glad the movie didn’t feel the need to mess it up.

The Fight Choreography: Don’t get me wrong, I like a good MCU fight scene. But sometimes it gets frustrating to see so many fight scenes centering on CGI suits and superheroes. Shang-Chi changes all of that. The real martial arts used in each fight scene feel impactful and exciting. Something about the intimacy of this fight style put me at the edge of my seat in every scene. This film has by far the best fight choreography in the entire MCU. And the CGI effects were only used to amplify their movements and add some gorgeous colors to each sequence. This movie is gorgeous on its own, but it never looks more beautiful than it does when a fight scene comes along.

What I Disliked:

Xialing and Katy’s Development: I liked both of these characters, Xialing especially, but both of them seemed to get the short end of the stick in this film. Katy’s outsider position to Shang-Chi’s family drama made her obsolete for some of the movie. When it came time to finally address her character development at the end of the film, it felt rushed and not entirely satisfying. Her problems with her family at the beginning of the film were tied to her feelings of aimlessness, which was briefly addressed towards the end of the film but never wound up resolved. She learned how to use a bow and arrow, but what that did to give her a direction I’m not certain. Especially because she stayed out of most of the final battle all together until her “big” and only contribution at taking down the giant monster. Katy wasn’t a slate of nothing, but she was never developed well enough to draw audience interest away from those who were more involved with the main plot. As for Xialing, she was involved with the main plot and proved to be a very interesting character. But the movie used the fact that her father mostly ignored her to take her out of many major family drama scenes. And the feelings of abandonment she harbored from when Shang-Chi never returned to her was solved in one line with no real scene to pull the two characters together and resolve her trauma. In fact, the end credits scene revealed her as the new leader of the Ten Rings, apparently unaffected by her brother’s influence at all. More work needed to go into both of these characters.

The Ending: After an entire movie about Shang-Chi coming to accept the past he buried and the family he left behind, it was a bit bewildering that the movie would end with his return to San Fransisco. What about his aunt? Why didn’t he stay with his sister to deal with the organization his father left behind? Why would he just abandon it all again? It didn’t feel like they put a lot of thought into the wrap up of the movie.

Trevor: I don’t dislike Trevor, but considering the fact that Shang-Chi viewed an entire map to his mother’s village right before meeting Trevor, I still have no clue why they needed him to take them there. The plot sometimes didn’t seem to know why he was there either. He was only briefly shown playing dead during the final battle and he was nowhere in sight during the epilogue. Why was he in this film?

Those are my thoughts on ‘Shang-Chi’! Though I did have some issues with the movie, I enjoyed it immensely. I can’t wait to see these characters pop up more in the MCU. I also really want to see the director pair Katy and Xialing together. With ‘The Eternals’ opening up a new door for LGBTQ+ characters in the MCU, we can hope!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie