KCON 2015 – LA

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What an amazing weekend! Thank you KCON LA for upping your game and listening to your fans.

First off, they finally booked an INDOOR venue with actual bathrooms that had toilet paper and running water. The LA Convention Center has plenty of individual rooms for panels in addition to large arenas for merch booths.  And, if you know where to park downtown you can get away with free street parking for the day.

Saturday I had to work during the day so I couldn’t make the convention portion, but luckily I made it to the concert. The first night was definitely the better night with Super Junior headlining a fantastic lineup which included my personal favorite, SISTAR.
kcon-concert-lineupThe Staples Center has a stage that’s surrounded by the audience on all sides. It looks amazing, although when a band’s choreo limits them to facing one side, you’re relegated to a back peformance. Luckily, most of the bands made use of the space and gave love to each audience section.
20150801_204656Sunday, I made it to the convention around noon and went to the DramaFever panel. They talked about the process of licensing kdramas and how that usually involves soju because Korean clients expect a wine&dine business deal. Their top rec for a must-see kdrama right now is Oh My Ghostess.

Along with DF, another company I would love to work for is MNet. Someday ….
20150802_153429-1After panels, I met up with Veejay HanNa and Producer Kristine from KPOP-TV. Here we are with GOT7.
20150803_013226Also snagged a pic with YouTube sensation Professor Oh!
canvasHere we are trying to get close to more Hallyu stars.

20150802_171222Depending on the type of tickets you purchased, you also get fan engagement opportunities. I went to Red Velvet and Shinhwa’s event. Unless you wait in line 2-3 hours ahead of time, you won’t get very close to them, but everything’s projected onto big screens. I hope next year they have stadium seating for the fan engagements so you’re not just staring at a sea of heads and phones.
20150802_142920In terms of food, there were a couple booths that gave out samples. We ended up eating at Smashburger at L.A. Live since the lines for overpriced food truck meals were too long. You can’t help but get hungry after staring at yummy displays like this:
20150802_172553There were lots of cool merch booths. I was mainly interested in the beauty products and was thrilled to get free make-up samples along with the rest of my swag!
20150803_003129Second concert night was headlined by OG kpop stars Shinhwa. I really enjoyed Red Velvet’s performance too.
My concert buddy Alice rocked out with me. I think I got a little teary towards the end because I was so happy to be surrounded by hundreds of like-minded kpop fans.

The night was still young after the concert so I got food at BCD Tofu with some friends. And as luck would have it, one of Super Junior’s members walked out just as we were about to get seated. We were too shy to ask for a photo, but I’m pretty sure we sat in the booth he was just in. =)
20150802_232242Next year is going to be amaaaazzing!!!!
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Gangnam Blues

Gangnam

Gangnam Blues (also titled Gangnam 1970) is a gorey gangster noir. Fans of Lee Min Ho will be pleased that he’s grown out of his cheesy chaebol loverboy roles, and into a full fledged movie star.

This dark period piece takes place during the politically corrupt 1970’s. Hard to believe that Gangnam – the Beverly Hills of Seoul, used to be farmland forty years ago. All those fancy stores and high-rises were built by greed and bloodshed. Lee Min Ho plays Kim Jong-dae, an orphan who makes his living picking up garbage. His fellow “ragmen” and bro-for-life is Baek Yong-ki (Kim Rae-won). After their shanty is destroyed, the two decide to join a local gang, but are split up after a bloody raid goes south.
54674-292615-326x235Jong-dae is accepted into Bossman Kang’s family. There is a limited love interest with Kang’s daughter Sun-hye (AOA’s Seol Hyun) but it doesn’t go too far since Jong-dae keeps getting drawn into the gangster’s life.
gangnam_1970cBossman Kang desperately wants to live a normal life for the sake of his daughter. He disbands his gang and takes out a loan to start a laundromat, but goes further into debt. Jong-dae joins another gang to make more money, and is eventually reunited with Yong-ki, who has joined a rival gang. Yeah, there are a bunch of gangs in this movie and it’s kinda hard to keep track of them all.  When they have full-on fights where everybody’s wearing the same black suit. I wonder how they know who to punch.

Since this is a period piece, most of the women are in traditional roles. Sun-hye is the obedient wife and daughter. Most of the gangsters’ girlfriends are onscreen mainly for sex appeal. And yes, there is a lot of sex. Quite a bit of nudity and fornication, which surprised me since I’m so used to k-dramas where you don’t see the main couple kiss until five episodes in. The one lady in power is a conniving Madame (Kim Ji-su). She introduces Jong-dae to the real estate game and uses him to help cheat gullible farmers out of their land.
53296-286445Gangnam Blues is dark and gritty. However, the plotline is at times formulaic and confusing. I honestly don’t think this movie would’ve held my attention without Lee Min Ho’s charisma. It’s the third installation in director Yu Ha’s “street series” trilogy. You’d think the third time would be the charm.

*Spoiler Alert* You can see the ending a mile away. Apparently Lee Min Ho is such a huge star in China, that an alternate ending for his character was shot for the Chinese version.

Bottom line for Gangnam Blues – watch it if you’re a Lee Min Ho fan and want to support him. You won’t be disappointed by his acting. The cinematography in this film is quite beautiful and the attention to historical detail is amazing.  Just don’t expect to be blown away.

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Gangnam Blues

Grade: B

Pros: Excellent acting all-around, especially from Lee Min Ho. A great way to watch history come alive in a quality period piece where everything from the cars to the slacks are spot-on 1970’s. An engaging storyline that is predictable but intriguing. Solid soundtrack.

Cons: Run-of-the-mill fight scenes. A plethora of gangsters and corrupt politicians that you won’t get emotionally attached to. A conventional story arc.