Saturday, January 14, 2017

[Drama Review] High 5 Basketball High 5 制霸青春

I don't intend to say much about this at all, but to just record this surprise of a show.


If you're as much of a dramabuff as me you'd be able to list a couple of Taiwanese dramas that feature basketball as a theme.

My MVP Valentine

Hot Shot

Hooping Dulcinea
A couple of other attempts have also been made to feature other sports.

Swimming
Baseball
High Jump
But basketball remains the drama writer's favourite. Perhaps because it is one of Taiwan's favourite sports, and the schools take it extremely seriously.

Lists like this one were all around the sports complex I ran past when I was in Taipei last year:


But in Taiwanese dramas we like to see a good bromance. What's even better if we have an entire team of attractive boys learning to work with each other. Basketball offers the best basis (among most sports) which makes it the best sport to feature in Taiwanese dramas. 

Taken at face value, High 5 Basketball is not much different from dramas like My MVP Valentine. 

The story kicks off with a conflict between the captain of the Da Ren Basketball team and a new freshman. 

Left: brazen freshman Zhan Zhi Kai (SpeXial's Simon)
Right: basketball team captain Ke Wei Zhen (SpeXial's Wes)
And an ambitious basketball coach who soon decides to leave the team in pursuit of a HBL championship title. 

Basketball coach Zhang Bai Sheng (Lee Lee-Zen)
Fresh from a betrayal, the team is left with an assistant coach, who is really more of an older brother figure, and their new coach who was really all but a sports journalist.

Left: Assistant coach A-Ming (Going Kao Ying Hsuan)
Right: Sports journalist-turned-coach Lin Jia Lu (Janet)
They are soon introduced to a physical trainer, who is obviously in the story to add some conflict (and romance) to the coaching team. 

Physical trainer Si Bo Ran (Johnny Lu)
An on the side, of course, are two juniors, one of whom really really likes Zhan Zhi Kai, and the other somehow ends up being Ke Wei Zhen's training buddy.

Left: Zhan Zhi Kai fangirl Liu Xiao Hua (Cosmos Lin)
Right: TCM heiress Huang Ya Lun (Lyan Cheng)
(I'm cracking up at my descriptions above.)

The team comes out fresh from the opening round of the HBL championships to news that their coach was about to leave them to coach another team, specifically one that he believes gives him a stronger shot at getting the title. These are young, impressionable, idealistic boys and they end up heartbroken at this news. 

They take a long time to get over this.

Like a freaking long time.

In fact, it takes a slap for Ke Wei Zhen to finally wake up and realize that nothing is going to change.


And in between we have other drama, such as another team member being forced to choose piano over basketball, and Ke Wei Zhen's back injury. In addition to Janet's violin-playing skills, we are introduced to some super high-tech physiotherapy equipment. There's even a guest appearance from Chou Jun-San, a top basketball player from the 90s.

Lin Jia Lu's coaching style may be entirely different from Zhang Bai Sheng's, but she ends up working magic in terms of helping the team come together. Even the weakest members get to play, she says. 

Unlike most Taiwanese dramas the romance was really weak in this one. But I would say the couples looked really good together even if we didn't have much of them to watch.




The lack of a focus on romance in High 5 Basketball, however, speaks volumes about the production as a whole. Unlike the dramas listed above, High 5 Basketball isn't about selling a dream or the perfect life. Instead, it properly captures the essence of youth: with its ups and downs, tears and laughter.

Most importantly, High 5 Basketball was about going all out, but walking off court with no regrets even if it doesn't turn out your way. 


I am not saying that High 5 Basketball was a brilliant production, but it certainly was very impressive for its type. 

I like stories with a moral, but it cannot be too cheesy. High 5 Basketball was just that. Dream big, work hard, but it doesn't always have to turn out your way for a happy ending. 


I like dramas with good acting, but more so when it comes from everyone in the cast. High 5 Basketball had just that. I started watching this for Going Kao (who I last watched in Love or Spend), but I was drawn in further by the two SpeXial boys. Janet and Lyan Cheng were both pretty decent as well. 





I like dramas. 

Shinhwa in Heaven

AKA The Best of 2017, even if we're only half a month into the new year.

Shinhwa started the new year with a ultra sexy track named Touch.



While Touch is groundbreaking in its own right (bet you thought only girl bands were capable of releasing such titles) and impressive in terms of vocal performance, I'm enjoying another track off their 13th album.



Heaven is not just groundbreaking. It's freaking legendary.

When I first heard it (one evening when I finally grew bored of Shi Shi's Between album), I was stunned. I refused to move on to Track 2 (Touch) and the rest of the album because as the first track of the album, Heaven is just that good.

Heaven is not just title track-worthy. It should be that one song they're known for.

Like TVXQ!'s Love in the Ice, which Heaven actually reminds me very much of. Thank goodness they decided to perform it for comeback stage. Because way too many bands choose the wrong song to perform for comeback stage.

Every band has this one song in which the lead vocalists are outshone, and Heaven is this one song for Shinhwa. Everyone knows I love Shin Hyesung. But even though his voice is perfect/technique is flawless as always, check out Minwoo stealing the show.









Thank you for existing. And for your unchanging commitment to music.



Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The best of 2016 (continued)

At the end of September I did a list of all my favourite K-pop releases of 2016. In it I said that it was such a pathetic year for K-pop, the list was superbly easy to compile. The rest of 2016 wasn't too surprising, but we had more good songs in the last 3 months of the year than we did in the first 9.

8. B.A.P - Skydive



Skydive wasn't B.A.P's first comeback after their hiatus, but it was definitely the best one even if it sold the worst. I didn't like the MV (it's 10min long...) so I'm sharing this epic performance instead, and it was a shame that Bang Yong Guk sat out of their promotions, but I really enjoyed the song, choreography, vocal performance and rest of the Noir album.

9. SHINee - Tell Me What To Do



Also their best release in a long time, Tell Me What To Do was the first SHINee song I had on loop since Sherlock! Unfortunately the choreography was really weird and messy and ruined all their live performances.

10. BTS - Blood Sweat & Tears (or BDNM like I call it)



BTS was always on the rise but they hit complete jackpot with this release! I'm super happy for them but at the same time I have to admit this is my least favourite of their comebacks. The performances weren't as good as their previous stuff (some parts of the performances never ever sound live, like Jimin's opening line) and some of the outfits were super weird. Nevertheless, it's a good song even though I never ever had it on loop.

11. MAMAMOO - Decalcomanie 



Again I didn't enjoy the MV so I'm sharing their comeback stage instead. I loved how they rock the cross-dressing thing so much this comeback (super fitting for handsome Moonbyul) but what I enjoyed even more was the choreography.

12. BTOB - Pray (I'll Be Your Man)



No one understands the excitement I felt when I heard that BTOB was finally returning with a dance track. while Pray (I'll Be Your Man) was no where as much of an intense dance track as their previous stuff (think Wow and Thriller), it was reminiscent of their debut stuff like Insane and Irresistible Lips, and by all standards much faster paced than the ballads they've been promoting. Pray (I'll Be Your Man) was one of my favouite songs of 2016.

13. BTS V and Jin - It's Definitely You



I'll save my comments on Hwarang for another time because I haven't watched enough of it to say much, but I absolutely love this contribution V and Jin made to the OST. I feel like they don't use the track often enough in the show, but it's really addictive.

14. B1A4 - Good Timing



A Lie got me quite excited as well because it was released after a long time of not having anything from B1A4 and because it sounds so them, but unfortunately the choreography was really bad for it.

Good Timing has a really weird choreography as well but in my opinion the song makes up for it because it's so catchy and happy.

15. Shinhwa - We



I admit I laughed when I saw that they did yet another something titled We. Are they not done with this We thing? They released an entire album titled We in 2015! But We is not only my favourite song of K-pop's 2016. It might just be my favourite Shinhwa song altogether. I also heard this a lot in Seoul, so I think people generally like it since it sounds upbeat and festive. If only they promoted it!

16. EXO - For Life



EXO's annual contribution to warming our hearts during the winter months. This is probably not as good as 2015's, but I still like it very much. I like it all the more this year because it suddenly feels like EXO is the underdog to the top star that Bangtan is now.

*

That's all for K-pop! C-pop surprised us with a couple of great releases in 2016. The following are albums that I paid a bit more attention to. Please click on the album covers for the relevant Spotify links!

1. William Wei 韋禮安 - It All Started From An Intro (硬戳)


It All Started From An Intro didn't come as that big of a surprise because we heard most tracks in separate releases through movies/drama/concert OSTs, but it is always nice having this voice to listen to on my long journeys in between Bristol and London.

This album even features a song he wrote with his phone as inspiration, but my favourite has got to be If We Meet Again:



2. Nana Lee 李千娜 - Be Honest (說實話)


This is my first time listening to Nana Lee (even though I've said before that I like her very much as an actress and celebrity) and I admit I only sought her out on Spotify because I wanted to listen to the songs she did for the Better Man OST.

There are too many tracks from this album I really like, but I love the lyrics of the title track.



And the melody of the last track.



3. Shi Shi 孫盛希 - Between


I took a long time getting into Shi Shi's voice, and I think I'm only really listening to this because she's done so many OSTs over the past year - most of Between is actually made up of her OST contributions (I'm currently watching V-Focus which is amazing only for two reasons: KK the robot and the OST). But the songs are nice to listen to even though I'm undecided about her voice.

I like all the tracks from the V-Focus OST, but 微笑帶過 is epic.



4. Jay Chou 周杰倫 - Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories (周杰倫的床邊故事)


Talking about this breaks my heart a little because I failed to get tickets to his first-ever London gig, but I'm proud to include Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories in this list because it's actually the first time in several years that I'm listening to Jay Chou. I might be a fan and all, but his last few albums were quite bad compared to his older stuff. Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories redeems it a little. As an ode to his then-newborn daughter, too, it's nice to know that he's openly embracing his new role as a husband and father. Hopefully he'll score a couple of nominations and/or awards at next year's Golden Melody Awards.

It's hard to pick my favourite song out of this album, so I'll pick my favourite MV instead. Like I said, most of the MVs were filmed in Europe when he was there for his wedding (possibly even before the songs were produced), so it isn't too difficult to see that this is the best of the lot.



5. Eric Chou 周興哲 - What Love Has Taught Us (愛, 教會我們的事)


I featured this in my one and only album feature on this blog last year, so that speaks volumes. I raved over the title track then, so I'll share a different song this time. The lyrics are nothing much to sing about, but I like the beat in Let it Go.



6. Nick Chou/NICKTHEREAL 周湯豪 - REAL


Lies. I didn't listen to NICKTHEREAL's album at all. I couldn't survive most of the tracks because I don't listen to this genre at all. But those who do seem to think it's pretty high quality, so I give him credit for that. I did listen to what several others loved, though, a.k.a. the theme song (and possibly best part) of Swimming Battle, 帥到分手. It's my favourite C-pop release of 2016 and I love everything from the beat to the MV, but I absolutely adore the lyrics. Pay close attention - you'd need a working knowledge of Chinese and Chinese/Hokkien curse words to understand it.



7. Hebe Tien 田馥甄 - Day By Day (日常)


Coming fresh from the success of 小幸運 (which truly should have won Song of the Year at 2016's Golden Melody Awards), it felt strange that Hebe Tien didn't seem to enjoy much attention for this album. She has a great voice though and it shows best through her solo stuff, so I was looking forward to this. While the album isn't legendary, it does include a couple of really interesting songs that no one else would do. Heck, there's even a song about needing to eat the right food for biological health.

Again there are too many tracks off this album that I like, but I have a clear favourite here.



*

I'm sure there were lots of other albums and songs I didn't feature because this isn't my profession and like everyone else I'm pretty selective. Let me know what songs and albums made up your 2016! 

Monday, January 02, 2017

TWENTY SEVENTEEN!!!

I can't believe it's officially been ten year since I was in CJ. (That's a point I'm making because my closest friends today are still those who were with me in that light blue uniform, getting emotional over one-sided heartbreaks and struggling to pass KI.)

We celebrated 10 years of friendship last year but this being the mid-point between 2016-17 makes it officially 10 years. I think!

Congratulations to us all, SHG. Thank you all for being there every step of the way. Sometimes I feel like some of us have been through a lot together, but above all I am grateful that we are still friends and that we still make a lot of effort to meet up.

On the same note, 2016 was the year in which I reconnected with a couple of old friends. I also bid goodbye to one at the start of the year, but by December we were talking and hanging out again, because I attended a party with the same clique but without that person and it felt damn weird.

I guess in that sense, that's personal development!


More personal development! At the end of 2015 I moved into a flat (after the Colston Street fire) with three very awesome people that I actually managed to befriend! We also managed to win Cleanest Kitchen... an accolade that now sounds like a joke because my current flat is apparently home to the Dirtiest Kitchen.

Towards the middle of the year I signed on with Soompi for 6 months. You know all about it because you read them all here.


Unlike in 2015 I spent a whole month of the summer break in Bristol because I got an internship at a small-ish firm that specialized in family/education law and pro bono/legal aid cases. While I have mixed feelings about the internship, it did build up my confidence in talking to people.


I also did a teeny weeny bit of traveling within the UK (just. a. bit.) - I did a day trip to Brighton which was quite underwhelming, but on hindsight quite ok for a chill summer trip out. A million times better than Bath, which always gets mentioned with Brighton I don't know why.

Then the family came and we went to Eastern Europe which may just have been one of the most epic family holidays we've ever gone on.

Schloß Schönbrunn 
Sound of Music Tour, Salzburg
Old Town Square, Prague
That nasty airbnb in Budapest
Tourist police station, Budapest
We got burgled!!!


In August I did another internship which ended up being the best experience I ever had in a workplace. The work was so challenging but at the same time so much fun. It solidified my interest in the field and practice area, but now getting in is proving as tough as getting into law school in the first place.
Inwangsan
Made a last minute super-rash decision to join Steffi on her trip to Seoul and we did a lot of things for the first time including hiking on Inwangsan! It wasn't too difficult although it did involve a little bit of scrambling on my part (because I'm short), but the view was pretty good and it was a comfortable climb with not many people. The only people we shared the mountain with were black-attired army recruits. Very Descendants of the Sun. Very.

Mini Octopus Stew
Stumbled upon this mini octopus stew/stirfry place which was absolutely amazing. AMAZING!!! I am very glad we didn't manage to find the chicken restaurant we initially wanted to find.

That's all for the good. On the bad, school made me feel suicidal towards the end of 2016. I lost count of the number of times I cried myself to sleep or while doing tutorials because I just felt so unable to do well no matter how hard I tried. I can only say while I am really lucky to be able to do all this, I feel like I've unknowingly managed to screw myself over by getting myself in such an annoying situation.

...

On the other hand, my 2016 resolution list makes me feel like I didn't achieve any of it at all! How terrible. I'm going to make a more reasonable and achievable one this time.
(1) Keep up with school and do the best I can so I can graduate with no regrets even if I end up with no job - this I managed to do over the last few months so hopefully I will continue it into the new year. I want to keep up with readings, be better prepared for tutorials and do more mock papers.

(2) Lead a healthier life because a good diet and exercise regime is key to a good mood and a more productive life. I think. More 還債餐s (1-2x a week), more runs (8km/week), less meals outside (weekends only) and less non-fruit snacking. And most importantly, sleep before 12 every night!

The last one is a little tougher! I want to be more confident and stop worrying about rejection so much because I need a job. So (3) stop worrying so much and apply for the things I want to apply for.

Here's to 2017! Good luck to me and all of us in the same situation. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 TVB's Anniversary Awards 萬千星輝頒獎典禮2016

For like the first time I wasn't traveling when TVB held their Anniversary Awards. I didn't think there would be a way to watch it live because Hola hasn't been working for TVB Live. (I found out too late that TVB live streams such stuff on TVB Anywhere, which I hope I remember for next year.)

The drama that everyone raved about (the one that I didn't watch cannot appreciate) - A Fist Within Four Walls - ended up walking away with most of the awards last night.

Including Best Drama:
Best Actor:
Ruco Chan
Best Actress:
Nancy Wu

Most Popular Male Character:
Benjamin Yuen

Most Popular Female Character:
Grace Wong
Best Theme Song:



A handful of other awards also went to actors and actresses who starred in A Fist Within Four Walls.

Most Improved Male Artist:
Jonathan Cheung
Professional Actor Award:
(Apparently I have no idea how to translate such awards LOL)
Ng Ka Lok

I hate it when things like that happen (i.e. when a drama I didn't watch like sweeps up all the important awards) because I'll feel like I missed out have weird taste. All the nomination clips made me feel like I should really watch A Fist Within Four Walls in its entirety, so I think I'll find time to catch up on it but while I've made five attempts to watch it I just find it insanely boring.

The top 5 nominees for Most Popular Female Character were Joyce Tang (House of Spirits), Nancy Wu (A Fist Within Four Walls), Natalie Tong (Speed of Life), Grace Wong (A Fist Within Four Walls), Tracy Chu (Over Run Over).

I have little doubt that Grace Wong is a formidable actress - she should've won Most Improved a couple of years ago when she was nominated; and I think if the comments on Facebook were anything to go by, many people thought she should've got Best Supporting Actress. But I think what people often overlook is that the Most Popular Character award is for the one we liked the best, not the one who did well. The comments made it seem like a lot of people loved Grace Wong's character, and that alone says it all about her winning.

(PS: I'm missing Koni Lui though...)

On the other hand, he really questionable one was Most Popular Male Character. The final 5 nominees were Ruco Chan (A Fist Within Four Walls), Vincent Wong (Over Run Over), Bobby Auyeung (House of Spirits), Benjamin Yuen (A Fist Within Four Walls) and Louis Cheung (Two Steps From Heaven).

As someone who has zero recollection of Benjamin Yuen's character being a real hit with the audience, I have to say this award surprised me. My favourite two are in there (Bobby Auyeung and Louis Cheung) but even if my fellow TVB fans liked them less, they definitely seemed to love Vincent Wong a lot more than they liked Benjamin Yuen this year. The outcome for this award was very strange, regardless of acting/production. But if there is a silver lining to this it must have been watching Benjamin Yuen thank his ex-girlfriend openly. I still feel sad they broke up. Damn.

(PS: Louis Cheung though...)

There's nothing much I can say about the rest of the awards that went to A Fist Within Four Walls because I thought they were ridiculously predictable. I'm a little surprised that Liu Kai Chi (Law Dis Order) didn't even make it to Top 5 for Best Actor - because Bosco Wong (Two Steps From Heaven) did and LKC was so much better. On the girls' side Priscilla Wong (Two Steps From Heaven) deservingly made Top 5. But you know that things are so much more legit on the guys' side because even Tracy Chu (Over Run Over) made Top 5 for Best Actress. Nancy Wu literally had no competition this year.

We knew Jonathan Cheung was going to get Most Improved, but I'm glad they also found some way to honour Ng Ka Lok this year because he's been consistently awesome to watch on TV and he did incredibly well in A Fist Within Four Walls. I know because I keep getting stuck on ep 4 and that's the ep that opens with a major scene of his'.

On to other awards!

Most Improved Female Artist:

Ali Lee
I've loved watching Ali Lee since I first saw her in 2014's Overachievers. This year, she was one of several highlights in Fashion War. She wasn't the one to watch in Law Dis Order, but that's only because that drama was really more about the guys.

I didn't expect Ali Lee to get it even though she had an illustrious year. I thought it would go to Katy Kung, who was nothing short of impressive in Two Steps From Heaven, or Moon Lau, who seemed to be in every drama this year. But you know, as long as its not Tracy Chu, I'm ok.

Most Popular Collaboration:
Vincent Wong & Tracy Chu: Over Run Over
I truthfully cannot see what's so great about Over Run Over but ok, if people like it, I respect it. (This entire awards category was a joke anyway.)

Best Supporting Actor:
Raymond Cho: Short End of the Stick
I really thought he'd miss out on this because Short End of the Stick aired so early on in the year, but I'm glad this was a category only staff of TVB could vote in, and that everyone seemed really keen for Raymond Cho to get it. This was super deserving, even though top 3 were all entirely deserving (Hugo Goh for Brothers Keeper II, Raymond Cho for Short End of the Stick and 6Wing for Two Steps from Heaven). The differentiating factor may just have been the fact that Raymond Cho has waited so long for some recognition, and that he seems to have a really big fanbase even within TVB.

I'm also going to tell you that I googled Hugo Goh after calling him "that evil guy in Brothers Keeper II" in my nominations review and found out he's Singaporean.

Best Supporting Actress:

Katy Kung; Two Steps from Heaven
I sort of guessed this was going to happen when I saw that Most Improved Female Artist went to Ali Lee. I was pretty sure Katy Kung wasn't going to go home empty-handed, but right now I'm even more impressed with Bosco Wong's ability to foretell the result of such awards. I think this was entirely deserving as well, but her thank you speech was also ridiculously emotional and painful to watch.

A lot of people don't like Katy Kung and don't think she should've won this but even though competition was great and I would've rooted for Joyce Tang/Lin Xiawei otherwise, Katy Kung was truly impressive in Two Steps from Heaven.

Best Variety Show:
I Love HK
As expected. Check out the clips I added later to my nominations review.



The best part of the show is never really the awards. It's the loyalty between the guys and chemistry between the award presenters. I liked having Edwin Siu and Tony Hung/ Priscilla Wong and Natalie Tong make snide remarks about each other's other half and it was funny watching Frankie Lam and Jessica Hsuan (who gave Grace Wong a visible peck on the cheek).

But my favourite might just have been watching Edwin Siu, Wayne Lai and the rest give Raymond Cho his award. The host got the Top 3's co-stars (Krystal Tin and Grace Chan for Hugo Goh, Wayne Lai and Edwin Siu for Raymond Cho, and Alice Chan and Priscilla Wong for 6Wing) to come up and say a few words about their co-star nominee.


Best friend Edwin Siu said "it's already good enough that Raymond Cho made it to Top 3" and long-time colleague Wayne Lai said "please don't think you'd definitely get this one".

But he did, and there was nobody else we'd rather see him receive this award from.

Keep the bromance alive guys!



Other highlights of the evening include watching Wayne Lai force Sheren Tang to come back!