Friday, May 22, 2015

모래시계 (1995): 4회

So after three back to back episodes of flashbacks focusing on our three main characters, Taesu, Useok, and Hyerin, we finally get into the actual story, which primarily seems to revolve around two things: Taesu's gang matters and the love triangle developing between our three leads. The result is a bit more setup than anything else, but both Taesu and Useok get some character moments to keep the episode afloat.

Taesu's story is in the forefront as one of his lieutenants manipulates him and the rest of his gang into assaulting a casino that's connected with a major Seoul gangland player. Meanwhile, Useok deals with the corruption of the criminal justice system as he deals with the corrupt police, which shakes him and then later ends up having to make a choice between protecting Taesu and completing his major law exam. In all this, Taesu starts hanging out with Useok and Hyerin and develops an interest in Hyerin, with whom he spends a little time.

The story is mostly concerned with setting up future conflicts, so there's no a lot of meaty conflict going on, but we do get a moment with Taesu as he recognizes that he's being manipulated but opts not to throw his lieutenant under the bus or punish him and just rolls along. I think this speaks to his approach to his fate, previously having resigned to join the gang in the first place. Similarly, we get to see a little of the problems of Korean society under dictatorship (problem that remain even since) in the corruption of the police force, a corruption that even he benefits from as a law student. This clearly staggers his faith in changing the system.

I think the one thing that truly bothered me about this episode and I hope it's something that's unique to this episode is the director/producer's decision to include a series of scenes devoid of sync sound with the somewhat cheesy instrumental soundtrack pumped high. These segments are also filled with a touch of overacting, especially the first scene with Taesu chasing around a surly Useok, due to the near miming that Choe Minsu and Bak Sangwan participate in. It's not really clear why they opted to cut sync sounds altogether, but I found it distracting and it's not used consistently in the episode, occasionally cutting in some sync sound and while initially doing this for the friendly scenes, they also do it inconsistently in a gang scene too, leaving me wondering what they director or producer was thinking.

I know that every episode can't give equal attention to all three leads, but I kind of wished that Hyerin played a bigger role in this episode--especially since we got a full episode dedicated to her the episode before. In particular, I'd like to understand what's going on in her mind regarding Useok, because if we never go deeper into her own psychology, then her dedicated flashback episode gets wasted as she becomes an enigma for Useok and Taesu. At this point, the series is still early, so I'll let it slide with the hope that they get into it later.

However, I ultimately felt like this episode was lacking just a little as it doesn't really deliver that much story. I did appreciate that the episode opened up with a view of the pro-democracy protests again helping us sink into the period setting, although thematically, the impact of the setting appears to be mostly limited to Useok's story.

So while the episode is a bit slow and sometimes heavy-handed in its direction, I think it's got enough going on with it that I'm looking forward to what the series will make of its setup. 6/10


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

정글쥬스 (2002)

There is something about putting a pair of unfortunate criminals together that's inherently funny. Whether it's Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction or Turkish and Tommy from Snatch, and regardless of how inept or good they are, throwing them into the wheel of fortune and seeing them tumble about is usually amusing. This is the scenario we have with Jungle Juice, and the wacky antics and unfortunately situations that our foolish criminal duo find themselves in are pretty amusing, even if the logic stringing the story together starts cracking in the second half.

Our duo is made up of the petty thug and orphan Gitae (Jang Hyeok) and his soccer-loving hoodlum best friend Cheolsu (I Beomsu). They are a couple of local street punks that get by on theft and extortion, but desire for something more and they get it in the form of getting a shot at joining the local mafia. Unfortunately, the drug deal they get brought in on goes south and with their immediate boss, Minchseol (Son Changmin) out of the picture, the two of them get stuck with the need to pay for the product and lost money. This leads to a series of attempts to raise the cash that eventually leads the duo on a collision course with the mafia and the police and, with fools like these trying to get things done, everything goes wrong.

Jungle Juice does meander a little in the first and second acts and it doesn't set up the initial stakes very well, so it's not an especially compelling journey that Gitae and Cheolsu are undertaking here. That could have been tightened up. The second half of the film all hinges on a particular action being taken by Cheolsu and the consequences it creates. However, this is where the film's logic takes a detour from sound as it draws and brings back a minor character doing something he should have no idea about and no good reason to do. From there the film jumps the rails a few times in terms of believability, but, like Gitae and Cheolsu, just barely manages to keep it together. In the end, if you can buy a few minor, but still implausible, story issues, then Jungle Juice does kind of work as a loser buddy film.

Part of this is due to relatively good direction from Jo Minho), who had a solid handle on visual storytelling, even if his script is flawed, and he imbues the film with the kind of sometimes manic, but mostly dark comedic tone necessary to sell this kind of story. It's also helped by good performances from Jang Hyeok, I Beomsu, and Jeon Hyejin as their prostitute friend, Meg Ryan. Together, they and director Jo blend together a sense of freewheeling joy with the close calls deserved by the foolish characters into a rough, but still rather amusing framework. This is not the kind of thing you haven't seen before and done better by blokes like Guy Ritchie, but what's here is an acceptable Korean entry into that subgenre.

So despite the weaknesses with the story and its writing, I think Jungle Juice manages to still be movie of modest enjoyable and that's because of the good direction and acting managing to present a picture that still holds together enough of a framework to delivery comedy. And fans of watching fools get into crime can probably find a way to appreciate Jungle Juice for what it is, but I also wouldn't say that it's a must see either. 6/10


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

모래시계 (1995): 3회

The third episode of Sandglass is similar to the first two in that it's also a flashback episode, this time almost exclusively so. In the first episode we met the tough fighter Bak Taesu, then we met the straight arrow Gang Useok. Now the spotlight falls on our final lead, Yun Hyerin and we learn a lot about her that wasn't evident from what we saw in the last episode from Gang's perspective. This huge shift in perspective does make the revelations more interesting than perhaps the last two, but most of the episode still feels like it's setup for what's to come rather than being especially compelling in itself.

In this episode we actually get the first entirely linear flashback, getting exposed to Hyerin's family situation, which was hinted at in the last episode. In particular we find her as a child, the daughter of a casino owner (Bak Geunhyeong) and gangster, and watch as she undergoes a major tribulation due to her father. We also finally meet our last lead character, Baek Jaehui (I Jeongjae), who, when he shows up, already has a crush on Hyerin. We skip forward to her as a young college student, falling in with the democracy activists and how it breaks her already fragile relationship with her father.

One of the benefits of showing this flashback entirely linearly is that we really get to journey along with Hyerin as she gets increasingly disillusioned with the father she started off loving dearly and we also see where she gets her rascally persona from. That relationship being the focus of the episode really helps keep it a relatively tight one, even if the drama of the series remains suspended. The episode could have better foreshadowed the implications of this knowledge to what we've seen before, but standalone, it works except for one element:

The part where Hyerin falls in with the student democracy activists is so enormously undeveloped especially considering how huge of an impact her decision has on her relationship to her father. I would have loved to see a little more of her conversion and watched the tension in their relationship develop more directly, cutting some of the earlier gangster business since the impact of her situation there is more obvious.

This episode in particular seemed to borrow a little from The Godfather in its cinematography and even a little in its score, which isn't terribly subtle considering the gangster themes, but it was otherwise in keeping with the aesthetic of the other episodes. That we are still in backstory flashback mode hasn't entirely grown old yet perhaps because each episode has clearly been focused on exploring the backstory of each lead character and this episode resolves a lot of the mystery of Hyerin's character introduced in the last episode.

So I hope all the flashback episodes are done now and we can finally get into the actual story. But as it was, this was again a decent episode of Sandglass for what it was. 7/10


Monday, May 11, 2015

Three (2002)

The first horror anthology omnibus I remember watching was Twilight Zone: The Movie, which subsequently made me terrified of flying for a time. As I got braver in the later youth, I found myself less afraid and more curious and would absorb more horror films, including anthologies like Creepshow 2 (and a resulting terror of lakes) and then watching The Simpsons' halloween specials year after year. So when I found myself falling deeply into Korean cinema in the late 1990's, it was only natural that I watch the first horror anthology that I came across, which happened to be 2002's Three. (This film is often titled "Three Extremes II" in the Americas and Europe.)

Now, Three isn't an exclusively Korean film as it's actual an international collaboration featuring three short films from South Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong. I was initially attracted to it because one of the featured shorts, "Memories", was written and directed by Gim Jiun, whose The Foul King I had recently seen and loved, but when the end credits rolled, I found the experience a mixed bag, elevated by the last short, "Going Home", by Peter Ho-Sun Chan.


Gim Jiun's "Memories" opens the omnibus and follows a man (Jeong Boseok), whose wife has vanished, suffering from memory loss and strange visions. Meanwhile, a woman (Gim Hyesu) wakes up in the middle of the street with no memory and only a dry cleaning receipt to go on and begins trying to find out what she can from following the information on the receipt.

The film's story is surprisingly predictable and lacking substance and appears to mostly exist as a means of delivering visual imagery. Admittedly, Gim Jiun does show some impressive chops when it comes to using the visual language of Asian horror, from the eerie opening and on, even if some of the scare tactics are rather standard. Unfortunately, I don't think strong visual delivery overcomes the barest of stories that "Memories" presents. So while it's effective at providing a few chills and scares, "Memories" ends up getting a bit tedious towards the end.

The Wheel

The middle act is courtesy of Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr and is the nadir of the three. Visually and in story, The Wheel is the most cliched of the shorts, relying on rather dated scare tactics and filling the story with so much unnecessary exposition while simultaneously stripping it of any logic whatsoever, resulting in an exercise in unscary frustration.

"The Wheel" opens with a title that explains that a lowly performing group was jealous of a group of puppeteers because the latter were favored with wealth and admiration and it's implied that they stole their puppets. However, the puppets were cursed, bonded to their original masters, and anyone else that would dare use them would suffer tragedy. So we open with the death of a woman and her child and the troupe's master puppeteer Tao (Komgrich Yuttiyong) being haunted by the ghosts of his dead wife and child and terrified. Eventually he passes and the jealous master of the dance troupe, Tong (Pongsanart Vinsiri) plots to steal the puppets for himself despite the warnings of the curse from Tao's pupil, Gaan (Suwinit Panjamawat). Of course, none of this goes well for the members of the troupe.

Neither does it go well for the movie, which does things like introducing characters in one scene only to kill them off in the next scene without any consequence. The film even ends on a character that is introduced only in the last act and there is no consistency, meaning, or method to how the curse of the puppets operate. What's more, the visual presentation is pretty dated and as much as it interested me to see life in what appears to be a Thai performance troupe, it didn't help that all the ostensible scares made little sense at all. Sometimes the shadows of the puppets torment characters, sometimes ghosts of the dead (in a way similar to Dark Forest of Death--but even less sensibly), sometimes no one is seen doing anything and characters sleeping quarters are set on fire or they go into trances and hang themselves.

And I suppose in a throwback kind of way, some of this might be scary for some viewers, but there's just so little driving or motivating the story and so little development or work with the characters, that there is never a sense of stakes so you simply don't care what happens. I didn't. And all the exposition at the top of the short, in the exchange between Gaan and Tong, never needed to be said as it's information we could infer and never has any impact, making pretty much the whole viewing an exercise in either boredom or frustration. This is somehow weaker than "Memories" and "Memories" is pretty weak.

Going Home

Peter Ho-Sun Chan's "Going Home" closes the omnibus and although it runs a bit slowly and loses sight of one of its plot points, it might alone be interesting enough to recommend a viewing of the whole of Three.

The short has down-on-his-luck cop Wai (Eric Tsang) moving into a dilapidated apartment complex with his son Cheung (Li Ting-Fung). Cheung encounters the mysterious little girl (Lau Tsz-Wing) and vanishes with her to play. This leads Wai to investigate her father, Yu (Leon Lai), the only other resident of the apartment only to discover that things are not what they seem with Yu.

While the short starts out a bit slow and Cheung is honestly neglected overall. Despite originally picking Cheung is as the protagonist, "Going Home" pivots on Wai after putting him on a bus for most of the short and, even after the business between Wai and Yu is resolved, the short fails to address Cheung's disappearance with Wai as Wai is dealing with the twist.

That said, the payoff with the twist at the film's end is so strong and even a touch affecting that it manages to overcome the excessive time spent noodling with Cheung and characterization flaw around Wai's concern for Cheung at the end of the short. Sure, for an entry in a horror trilogy, "Going Home" kind of doesn't fit the bill. It has supernatural elements frequently found in horror films, but none of its actually horrific or even really scary in any way. In that sense, its inclusion against the other two actual horror entries does seem a bit incongruent, but it so outshines the other two disappointing segments that it helps finish the overall experience on a positive foot. It might have served better on its own or perhaps its only as enjoyable as it is because it immediately follows the weakest segment of the film. But if there's any reason to see three, "Going Home" is it.


I don't know if that's quite enough to sell Three on the whole. I think that "Memories" style-over-substance does work at times, but it's still an empty piece and "The Wheel" is just a mess overall, although those with no exposure to Thai movies will at least get some of that. "Going Home" is good, and makes Three interesting, but in digital age, if it's available to watch alone, that might be better as it's not really a compliment to say that "Going Home" is good simply because it washes away the weak showing earlier in the feature.

In the end, I think that "Going Home" is probably enough to make Three a passable experience if you do end up watching it. If you're looking for good horror, this might be a pass, but the supernatural drama of "Going Home" is interesting. "Memories" and even "The Wheel" does offer some scares and horrific imagery and fans of the respective directors might be curious, but I think the two shorts are disappointing--although you can see some of Gim Jiun's excellent Tale of Two Sisters in "Memories", the later feature is leagues beyond the taste demonstrated in Three. So watch it for "Going Home" if you're going to watch it, but with two thirds of the movie being disappointing, passing on Three is certainly understandable too. 6/10


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

화산고 (2001)

Back in 2004, I remember seeing promos running for Volcano High on MTV and I thought it was so cool that a Korean film had made it onto an American mainstream channel--except when I looked closer, I noticed that the film was dubbed and chopped into a different beast. Knowing from having followed at the time that 2001's Volcano High was actually a bit of a box office hit, that it wasn't playing in its original form was disappointing, so I ignored its run on MTV and didn't bother with the American DVD, which contained that same edit. However, I recently came across a copy of the original Korean version and decided to check it out. And while it has some interesting aesthetic elements, I have to say that the movie was a bit of a mess and I'm left wondering if the MTV version could be an improvement.

Volcano High is kind of based on Asian high school comics and captures much of that vibe. In this case, we start with Gim Gyeongsu (Jang Hyeok), a student who has been eight times expelled from schools for violence, arriving at his ninth chance, the titular Volcano High. He arrives into a tenuous environment where the afterschool clubs violently compete for dominance and are just barely held in check by top student and fighter Song Hangnim (Gwon Sang-u).

Song Hangnim is granted access by the principal (Yun Munsik) to a secret manuscript which confers upon its reader extra powerful martial arts techniques, a manuscript that is desired by all, but especially by wrestling team captain Jang Ryang (Gim Suro) as it would give him the power to truly rule the school. However, when Jang Ryang plan is successful, chaos erupts throughout the school leading vice principal (Byeon Huibong) to clamp down by bringing in elite teachers with experience in subduing the most violent of students. And as much as Gyeongsu is hoping to keep his head down and avoid another expulsion, his developing relationship with the students of Volcano High and his attraction to kendo captain Yu Chaei (Sin Mina) is threatening to drag him and his incredible natural power into the fight.

That's a whole lot of plot and the film fails to manage it all, frequently underdeveloping both plots and characters and constantly skipping around moments that motivate both and then throwing in more than a few completely extraneous scenes that don't really serve the story. I honestly could not tell you what purpose a quarter of the scenes in the film served, other than dizzying up the narrative with unnecessary details and complications. The biggest structural flaw in the film is that narrative is really divided into two by the story of the school teams vying for power and the arrival of the Zod-like team of superteachers suppressing the students. The film really tries hard to pivot on Jang Ryang, but the character never gets the proper conflict or credibility to support the twist on his character and the other characters' attitudes toward him, to motivate the final act.

What's more, there are so many characters that get put on a bus or are underutilized, like Hangnim and the matter of the secret manuscript doesn't make a lick of sense with the manuscript only showing up in name when it's needed to drive conflict. However, if Jang Ryang can become top of the school without it, it simply doesn't make sense for him to care about it once he becomes dominant. As such, it's poorly woven into the story. And the story is just poorly woven in general.

Director Gim Taegyun comes to Volcano High after making a couple romantic comedies that I really didn't like, The Adventures of Mrs. Park and Shall We Kiss and while Volcano High is wholly different in concept, it retains much of the flaws in story execution of those past two films. Director Gim never manages to hone in on the story enough to make sense of anything going on and follow linear causality, instead just having things happen and then trying to drive the whole film on visuals.

And the one and probably only sustaining element of Volcano High is its aesthetics. The production and art design is actually quite interesting, with the highly stylized school sets and wardrobe for the students, helping to accentuate its straight-from-the-pages-of-a-manhwa feel. What's more is that the film gets a kind of high contrast visual treatment, which is at least a little interesting, although occasionally suffers from looking like the cinematographer didn't know what he was doing. And although the computer generated images are a touch dated now, they still look comparatively decent and the fight sequences look good, even if they are so long that they actually bored me, especially the final one that never seemed like it would end in that annoying manhwa/manga filler kind of way.

Volcano High is the cinema debut of both Jang Hyeok and Sin Mina and contains performances by several solid actors and they do all right, especially the duo of Sin Mina and her lieutenant Gong Hyojin, but those performances aren't enough to buoy the film.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot going on in Volcano High that is interesting and if it had been expanded out into an actual manhwa or a television series, might have even worked quite well as it would have given the characters room to develop and change as well as give the plot much more time to pivot. But this Volcano High is neither a manhwa or a television series. Instead it's a barely coherent excuse for a display of decent visual pageantry, if coherent at all. Don't get me wrong, someone can probably successfully adapt a high school manhwa series into a feature film or create an original that captures the fun of those series, but Volcano High isn't that film. Instead, it's an intolerable mess of story and direction flaws, one that I cannot recommend except for those that are willing to overlook all that for the aesthetics or their favorite actors. 4/10


Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

It seems like every summer, the big two superhero comics publishers arrange some kind of mega-all-comics-spanning event that brings together the heroes, and even villains, of their respective universes. We saw this successfully done for the first time in cinema in 2012's The Avengers and since then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone off to replicate what Marvel has been doing in the comics in their films. Over the last couple years, we saw the heroes from The Avengers handle respective troubles in Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And now, in 2015, we are treated to another world threatening event that brings the team back together in Age of Ultron. It's kind of more of the same, with all the attendant strengths and weaknesses.

This threat in particular is Ultron (James Spader), an artificial life form created by Tony "Iron Man" Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Bruce "The Hulk" Banner (Mark Ruffalo) from the artificial intelligence contained in Loki's staff to be such a powerful force of defense against world-spanning threats. Of course, this artificial life form turns out to determine the Avengers and humanity in general as the greatest threat to themselves, and with the help of the embittered Hydra-enhanced twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), he sets off to take down the Avengers, who are themselves threatened by an internal rift in ideology.

This is a huge movie. The size of the principal cast alone dwarfs other movies, including the last Avengers film as several of the supporting characters from individual characters' films show up in Age of Ultron. Accordingly, the film's story gets very bogged down trying to service all of the characters and even at almost two an a half hours, it doesn't entirely succeed.

Tony Stark in particular seems to be ignoring the events of Iron Man 3, where he kind of gave up being Iron Man and gets back in the suit, seemingly still having failed to recover from the alien invasion of earth in Avengers. It really doesn't quite feel like enough of a reason for Stark to blindly create Ultron out of an alien intelligence, but I suppose villains are needed. Ultron itself is not an especially interesting villain either, and not only because he's predictable, but because his motivation is a touch lacking, but I give credit to Whedon and Spader for at least giving him more memorable a character than anticipated. What's more, his grand scheme was ultimately pretty lacking--it just wasn't very creative and it felt by-the-numbers.

Age of Ultron does at least give each character a few more moments than the first Avengers film, but it still seems little more than gloss or setup for the following films. But at least some of the smaller players, like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), get some humanizing moments. It's a bit short of making the stakes in Age of Ultron feel meaningful, but at least the guys and gal without movies get to be more than just random agents.

I think the weakest part of Age of Ultron is shared with its predecessor: excessive and relatively boring action sequences. Writer-director Joss Whedon, perhaps at the behest of Marvel and Disney puts in several major battle sequences, which are all relatively long. Like the last one, there are lots of predictably placed, but kind of hard to believe feats of teamwork as the Avengers lay the beatdown on their hordes of foes, but until the final battle, there are never any felt stakes to the battles, which results in the actual action being kind of boring. Even most of the extras survive the city-leveling fights and they aren't shot in a particularly interesting way, just a flurry of images of baddies being disposed of. Yes, the earth's fate hangs in the balance, but since we know the Avengers are going to win and hardly lose anything in the process, it can be kind of like watching paint dry.

However, regardless of how on-rails the story and the action is, Whedon fortunately spices it up with his casual and irreverent sense of humor, ranging from the silliness of Monty Python-esque objections to casual home-owner banter in the middle of world-destroying combat. The levity added is welcome in the face of typical on-so-serious cataclysmic blockbuster plot that its presence actually helps keep the would-be boring sequences from falling into outright boredom.

In the end, Age of Ultron ends up kind of being exactly what you'd expect from an Avengers sequel and not a drop more. There's nothing surprising here and the film, like those major summer comics crossover events, acts more like a bridge to the individual movies. What Age of Ultron had to do is pretty much an impossible task to do excellently. It simply has way too many masters to serve, from roadmapping the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to giving attention to its enormous cast of characters, to trying to actually stuff all that into some semblance of an engaging story. I think Age of Ultron might have been able to pull it off if it were split into two films, but as it is, what Age was able to accomplish given what it was trying to do is still kind of impressive.

So, Age of Ultron is truly a sequel to the first Avengers film. And if you liked that previous film, you will most likely enjoy Age of Ultron. Despite all my misgivings, even I still managed to enjoy myself. 7/10


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

모래시계 (1995): 2회

Whereas the first episode of Sandglass was all about our main protagonist Taesu and his backstory in flashback, for the second episode we change perspective and end up following his childhood buddy Useok through a series of flashbacks too. In particular we get to learn about a particular episode in Useok's childhood, his father (Gim Inmun), as well as learning about Useok and Hyerin's relationship. Again, due to the fact that the episode is primarily retrospective, there's not a great deal of drama, but these flashbacks aren't quite as melodramatic as Taesu's, so that's nice.

Basically, the episode bounces around the timeline, but we see how Useok and Hyerin meet and how Useok's kind-hearted semi-paternalism both attracts and frustrates Hyerin. We also see that he's quite serious about school and then learn his childhood backstory leading him to become who he is. Specifically, we watch him grow up under his pro-democracy idealist landowner father, who, under pressure from developers who bribe the police to lean on him, ends up selling his land despite Useok finding a witness to clear his father's name. His father tells him to become a judge or a prosecutor and that explains why he opts to continue his studies where all the other students strike and engage in pro-democracy demonstrations, of which Hyerin is a part of. We see that Hyerin is a little short on cash and Useok hands over his job to her and this endears him to her, but they conflict over his paternalism and his decision to study instead of join the demonstrators.

And that's it. Like with the last episode, Sandglass really takes advantage of the time period and isn't really afraid, at least for a broadcast television show, to show the time period for what it was, where democracy advocates rallied against an oppressive dictatorship and the rampant corruption of government tied to industry. This is all interesting background for the film, although I wonder just how much it will play into the greater story at hand, which I foresee involving a love triangle with the three leads as well as the kind of conflict between friends going on opposite paths that we see in many gangster dramas.

The contrast between Taesu's and Useok's stories is nice though and each character gets a pretty well filled out backstory, even if it's a bit tedious to watch it all in flashback and a little confusing with all the jumps in time. Everything is clearly foreshadowed here, so we know about both the love triangle and the upcoming conflict, but I think the show does a good job of not tipping its hand too much so far.

As such, I think this is an acceptable episode, especially at the top of the series as it gets a lot of setup out of the way. With both of these characters' stories out of way, I wonder whether we're going to spend the next episode flashing back for Hyerin or we'll finally start moving forward. The episode is still nothing I would call special since even in 1995, these kinds of melodramas and crime stories were common in film and--I'm guessing--television too. However, the show is doing something that's a bit unprecedented for broadcast television both with content and scale, so it remains interesting enough to want to see what happens next. 7/10