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  1. Squid Game ‘Squid Game’ Is Now The #1 Show In 90 Different Countries - Forbes | Oct 3, 2021 - Posters English Title: Squid Game (literal title) Hangul Title: 오징어 게임 Also Known As: Round Six Genre: Thriller, Action, Adventure, Drama Director: Hwang Dong-Hyuk Writer: Hwang Dong-Hyuk Network: Netflix Official Website: Netflix Episodes: 9 Release Date: Sep 17, 2021 Aired On: Netflix Synopsis Netflix Round Six depicts a story of people who decide to become the players of a mysterious survival game that has a whopping 40-million-dollar prize at stake. Gi-hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, seems defeated by life after being fired from his job. He decides to join the survival game to win prize money. Sang-woo, played by Park Hae-soo, is Gi-hun’s childhood friend and he also joins the game as he gets in trouble at work despite all the hard work he has done to be where he is at now. The literal translation of Round Six’s Korean title is ‘Squid Game’ (오징어 게임), which is the street game Gi-hun and Sang-woo played together when they were young. It’s quite a physical game that only ends when there’s a final winner, much like the survival game they play now. It’s named as such because players are to draw different geometric shapes on the ground, which, as a whole, look like a squid.
  2. Space Sweepers aka 승리호 (Spaceship Victory) Director: Jo Sung Hee Written by: Jo Sung Hee, Yoon Seung Min, Yookang Seo Ae Release: February 5, 2021 Distribution: Netflix Cast: Song Joong Ki - Kim Tae Ho Kim Tae Ri - Captain Jang Jin Seon Kyu - Tiger Park Yoo Hae Jin - Bubs Richard Armitage - James Sullivan Kim Mu Yeol - Kang Hyon Woo Park Ye Rin - Dorothy / Kang Kkot Nim This movie struck me as a bit of a cross between a Star Wars movie and the US drama series Firefly, though there are elements which feel derivative from any number of space movies and dramas. It’s really the strength of its casting that makes this movie worth watching. In a post apocalyptic world, where space is the ultimate escape, our heros are a ragtag band of people who crew the ship Victory salvaging space junk for money. They are not quite a team, mostly keeping to themselves, especially their histories and emotions. Of course, it turns out that their back stories have them falling from various graces, but they are all now just trying to make a living and get by. Captain Jang played by Lee Tae Ri is a bit of an alcoholic when she's not working, keeping any intimacy or romantic intentions by men firmly in their place. Tiger Park played by Jin Seon Kyu is a bit of a savage person who would rather fight than smile, though he turns out to be a marshmallow inside under the right circumstances. Bubs voiced by Yoo Hae Jin is an android with an attitude who also happens to be a card sharp and is pondering taking on a human exterior. Tae Ho played by Song Joong Ki is a bit of a rascal desperate to raise some money in order to try to salvage his dead daughter’s body. Then they happen upon a child Dorothy/Kkot Nim played by Park Ye Rin during one of their salvages. Initially thinking that she was an explosive device rather than a child, they come to learn that instead she is a very special child. They initially try to deliver Kkot Nim to her father played by Kim Mu Yeol for the money he promises to pay them, but it turns out that the villains are also in pursuit of Kkot Nim, and everything goes wrong in the reunion attempt. It’s in caring for the child that the crew of Victory slowly open up to each other as well as to Kkot Nim. The primary villain is James Sullivan played by Richard Armitage who is seen as humanity’s savior without realizing that he’s also slowly further damaging Earth and is planning on destroying it completely. He also happens to be TH’s adoptive father, of sorts. This movie was definitely shot to be shown on a big screen. The space battles particularly needs a certain scale in order for it to be fully appreciated. Watching it on a small screen as I did, I feel that it lost some of its flavor. The multicultural, multi-linguistic approach is also interesting with the two dominant languages being the Korean spoken by the crew and English by most of the non-Korean characters, especially the villains, but with smidgeons of other languages in there as well. I appreciated the attempt, though it means that pretty much everyone who watches this will end up reading some subtitles. The movie also has a bit of a slow start as it opens with a voiceover of the world in decay in 2092, then cuts to Tae Ho trying to use some real rice versus molecular chemistry rice substitute as cash currency to get into what we later find out is a mortuary. It takes its time to build up the world and the crew, so it’s best to watch it when there are few interruptions. Once it gets going though, it becomes engaging as we see more of the crew interactions, especially once Kkot Nim is introduced into the mix. It helps that the adult cast are all veteran actors, so even when the plot starts to feel a bit derivative, they are still engaging and charsmatic. This is particularly important since there isn’t any romance in this movie. There is plenty of bromance, including with Captain Jang, and heaping doses of love of a father for his daughter, but no hint of a romantic flicker other than a crush by Captain Pierre on Captain Jang which is mostly played for laughs. The child actresses in this film are as impressive as Korean child actors tend to be. Both Park Ye Rin as Kkot Nim and Oh Ji Eun playing Tae Ho’s daughter Suni turn in solid, touching performances. It’s deftly directed by Jo Sung Hee (who also directed the Korean blockbuster The Werewolf Boy) who is very good at pulling out the emotions from his actors without going overboard, and manages to balance the comedy with the more serious plotlines and themes. Btw, there is a moment at the end where Captain Jang scoffs at her crewmates for their cheesiness which is a bit of a crack up as it makes a wry nod at cliched emotions and situations. I ultimately enjoyed watching this movie, and will even probably watch it again if I can find a bigger screen to watch it on. I’m not sure that it’s going to become a classic, but it is a lot of fun if you can stay with it. I’m hoping that there will be a sequel “Space Sweepers 2” once the pandemic is over. Space Sweepers is good enough that I would like to watch this cast interacting again. Plot: 7 Cast: 9 Production: 9 Rewatch: 8
  3. The hero of the piece, Wu Xie, is successor to a family of former tomb raiders-turned-archaeologists living in modern day China. Hence the spirit of adventure runs deep in his veins. At the start of the drama we catch him in aimless retirement with his best friend and fellow adventurer, Pangzi (Fatty) barely making ends meet from the proceeds of their antique business While the bored slovenly Wu Xie ponders the meaning of his existence, an archaeological-related gig comes up offering a much needed injection of funds. During this job an incident occurs which sees him in hospital where he is diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. Not long afterwards, as Fatty clears out the junk they’ve accumulated over the years, he discovers an old mobile phone and a series of secret text messages purportedly sent by Wu Xie’s third uncle, Wu Sanxing whose whereabouts to date are unknown. This galvanises Wu Xie into action and as a man at apparently death’s door, he has nothing to lose by embarking on another adventure in search of his favourite uncle and coming to grips with the latter’s obsession with the legendary Thunder City and its connection with the South Sea King. Reunion is the latest in a series of various iterations derived from the Tomb Raider/Grave Robber Chronicles universe modelled in some fashion after the Indiana Jones franchise. It’s high on adrenaline-pumping action and leap-out-of-the-dark shock factor. More importantly there are genuinely intriguing elements scattered all throughout. Prior knowledge of the universe isn’t really needed to understand the storyline in this production although for some it might add something to their knowledge of Wu Xie’s backstory. But honestly, everything that is needed to follow the drama is given here. The plot although revolves in some measure around the friendship of the Iron Triangle trio of Wu Xie (Zhu Yilong), Pangzi (Chen Minghao) and Zhang Qiling (Huang Junjie), it does incorporate a large ensemble cast (predominantly male) who bring various skill sets similar to a superhero team-up to the table. I was led to this because of Zhu Yilong, who wonderfully portrays the sensitive and intellectually agile Wu Xie but there are other attractions to be enjoyed from wandering in this world of mysteries, mayhem, monsters and murder. Located within the sci-fi fantasy genre, there are a number of good ideas at work here that underpin the world building even if the process of arriving at key moments takes an inordinate amount of time particularly in the first season. The drama is divided into two continuous seasons. The first season is divided into two main arcs which sees Wu Xie and Co. gallivanting off to the South Sea region in search of the secrets behind the enigmatic thunder code that in all likelihood fuelled Third Uncle's fixation. Wu Xie and his second uncle, Wu Er'bai are initially forced to work with each other to gain access to relevant sites and deal with an assortment of villains with differing goals. In the second arc Wu Xie is sent packing back to home turf where he traverses into the underbelly of a mysterious storage facility known as Warehouse 11 to retrace his third uncle’s steps. Here he is aided and abetted by the intrepid Bai Haotian (Rachel Mao), who knows the warehouse like the back of her hand and serves as his tour guide while he solves long-standing mysteries while playing cat and mouse with the director and his dangerous minions. The Warehouse 11 arc resembles an RPG video game with levelling up and increased difficulty features. The second season picks up where the first leaves off. Wu Xie is forced to leave the warehouse with Xiao Bai in tow thinking that he is finished with the place. Both are disciplined for transgressing regulations in an off-limits zone. No obstacles do much to deter his quest for answers especially with the loyal Fatty, Zhang Qiling and Xiao Bai by his side to ensure that he stays alive long enough to achieve his goals. There’s more travelling back and forth which sees Wu Xie back at Warehouse 11 to put the final touches on all the mysteries that have plagued him and his companions for months. While there’s much to like about it, the show does suffer from pacing and editing issues. There’s certainly a correlation between the two in part due to the censorship measures that C dramas are subject to. The problems are far more noticeable in the first season where the pacing is dragged out largely by unnecessary romance plot lines that involve Blind Guy (Baron Chen) and Mute Girl (Maggie Huang). Except for Xiao Bai, I can’t say I was too enamoured with the vast majority of women depicted here. I understand the reason for their inclusion into the storyline to some degree but their antics often serve to annoy and frustrate rather than enhance enjoyment. I adored the camaraderie amongst most of the male cast and it’s understandable why there’s so much love for Wu Xie. Not only is he a modern day Dee Renjie, his “leave-no-one-behind” philosophy ensures that his crew will give up their lives for his sake at the drop of a hat. Whatever respect he gets is earned with blood, sweat and tears. I also enjoyed Xiao Bai’s inclusion into the final adventures. She may be young but she pulls her weight and listens to advice to act or to hold back. Of all the females here she is the one most developed to fit in with the kind of life that is par for the course for men like Wu Xie. I was rooting for her and Wu Xie to end up together all throughout and despite Wu Xie’s seeming indifference, it seems to me there’s some indication at the end that the show leaves room for more development on that front. At the end of the day, Reunion, at its core, is a morality tale about obsession and greed. As Wu Xie and Third Uncle both conclude at different times, one shouldn’t be obsessed to the point of missing or being blind to what one already has around them. Gratitude and contentment keep an avid risk-taker from complete self-destruction. It’s not just a didactic for the avaricious and murderous villains but for the well-intentioned, insatiable adventurer for whom the next big mystery can be a drug that will lead to nowhere and lifelong loneliness. For the most part the roles are well-cast but the performances are a mixed bag. Most are adequate to the task and the standouts would be Zhu Yilong who gives flesh to Wu Xie and Chen Minghao as the ridiculously talkative but often funny Fatty. Their chemistry is undoubtedly great. Huang Junjie is better here as the stoic, reticent Zhang Qiling than I've seen him. I also really liked the versatile Rachel Mao as Xiao Bai. She captured all the different aspect of the character perfectly. Her dynamic with Wu Xie and Fatty is one of the highlights of the second season. Story/Plot: 9 Acting/Cast: 8 Storytelling: 7 Production Values: 9 Rewatch Value: 6.5 (I wouldn’t mind revisiting certain portions especially in season two but I fast forwarded through a lot of the first season) Overall: 8
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