All About Girls' Generation: Paradise In Phuket (South Korea 2011)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 10/16/11
Cast: Yoona, Taeyeon, Jessica, Sooyoung, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Seohyun, Tiffany

The ultimate DVD set for fans of Korean pop sensation Girls' Generation, featuring over twelve hours of footage from 2007 to the present. Curiously, the set is subtitled in English, which makes it even more enjoyable and accessible. I suspect they're laying the groundwork for an inevitable attempt to break into the American market, made evident by their first US release, "The Boys," later this year. With several members fluent in English, it will be interesting to see if they can pull it off. The collection revolves around the group's vacation in Phuket, Thailand, and includes a bunch of vintage bonus material, such as music videos, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and television appearances. It's almost the ultimate collection of videos, but it's sadly missing the Japanese versions of "Gee", "Genie", and "Run Devil Run" (which happen to be my favorites). At times the material gets a little too intimate, with awkward interview questions and the girls breaking into tears. But it really brings life and personality to what could otherwise be easily dismissed as soul-less producer pop and commercial image marketing.

Disc 1: Variety In Phuket - The girls arrive at their resort and are greeted with a treasure hunt. They split into three teams and race to solve clues and perform silly acts in order to recover something precious. It's actually quite entertaining, even though the girls are bewildered and annoyed at first. You get a really interesting display of personalities and group dynamics. Sunny takes the lead as the most energetic, charismatic, and strategic one of the bunch.

Disc 2: Free Time In Phuket - This disc follows each of the girls on their "day off", which pretty much boils down to each of them wandering around the resort and trying to find their way to the beach. Somewhat entertaining, but it becomes tiresome after a while when you keep seeing the same footage over and over. Seohyun makes a strong showing and is more animated than I've ever seen her. Her English is also superb. Hyoyeon proves to be the glue that keeps everyone together, with her silly antics and positive attitude.

Disc 3: Self Talk In Phuket - Here's where things start to get uncomfortable. This disc features individual sessions for each member as they video tape themselves giving shout-outs to each other, their families, and their fans. It gets fairly intimate and sometimes pretty blunt, but the girls' personalities and relationships seem genuine and consistent. I often wonder how much of this stuff is manufactured for the sake of entertainment and drama, but they seem honest and sincere. Yoona was the big surprise here, as she is the most articulate and well-spoken of the group. I have a newfound appreciation for her. The clips get more awkward the longer you watch, and several of the girls end up crying, which is never fun to see.

Disc 4: Music Video - This was the main reason I bought the set, and it does not disappoint. It features ALL of their Korean music videos and their numerous variations, including multiple dance versions and 3D versions of "Genie" and "Run Devil Run." (2D versions are also available) The only things missing are the Japanese versions of their videos, which are superior in my opinion. Arguably the most impressive video is the color dance version of "Gee", which is amazingly done in ONE TAKE. It took a few seconds for this to register with me, and as I contemplated it more, it really blew me away. More than anything, that proved to me that these girls are crazy talented and not to be taken lightly.

Disc 5: Making Film - A real treat for nostalgia buffs, this collects behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the group from various videos and photo shoots dating all the way back to their debut in 2007. It's fascinating to see how young they are, and how much they've grown and matured in such a short time. Again, an excellent window into the personalities that shape the group and their body of work.

Disc 6: SBS-TV Collection - A collection of live performances from various television talent and variety shows, going all the way back to 2007. Their debut performance of "Into The New World" was clearly lip-synced, but they sing everything else live, and are sometimes just a little bit off-key. Taeyeon continues to charm me with her radiant energy, soulful voice, and adorable smile, but I gained a new appreciation for how well Jessica and Tiffany can belt out lyrics in a live setting. Things really become uncomfortable when the girls get interviewed on a talk show and sensitive topics leave everyone in tears. I couldn't bear watching that and had to skip through it. They also talk about their growing number of older male fans, or "uncle fans," which of course hits way too close to home and makes me feel like a dirty old man.