Tuesday, April 04, 2017

[drama review] 我瞞結婚了 Married But Available

It's one of those dramas you kinda know won't be good but you watch it anyway because you're a sucker for the cast.



Starring Tony Hung and Priscilla Wong, who have paired up so many times since making their debut as hosts of a travelogue and Raymond Wong, whom we haven't seen in a long time, Married But Available was a stupid tale of how a couple decided to get married on a whim but found themselves forced to hide it from their colleagues. Because nobody knows they are married, colleagues and acquaintances from a long time ago start finding their way into their relationship.


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Stupid doesn't even cut it. It's unrealistic and pathetic compared to the other dramas we've seen this trio in. Like Swipe. Tap. Love.. I gave STL a pretty weak review back in 2014, but looking back it was a pretty decent drama I probably wouldn't mind watching again.

Back to the cast. I was first annoyed that Tony Hung was playing the male lead and Raymond Wong the second. Why? Because Raymond Wong is freaking established compared to Tony Hung and after STL I would kill to watch Raymond Wong and Priscilla Wong play a couple again. Do I want to watch Tony Hung and Priscilla Wong play a couple - knowing their real-life relationship?




Not really.

Do I want to watch Raymond Wong as the irritating second male lead considering the last time I saw him he was an unforgivable jerk in Overachievers? (He did make a cameo in Every Step You Take, but that barely counts.)

Definitely not.

We also have Priscilla Wong and Alice Chan crossing swords again, mere months after Two Steps from Heaven. And Kelly Fu, who was actually also in STL! But nobody remembers she was in there - I do however remember that I just watched her a couple of weeks ago in Burning Hands. If she's gunning to steal Most Improved from the likes of Moon Lau and Sisley Choi I'd say she's almost there or there already. (These days it feels like TVB's left with nobody so we keep watching the same faces. The side characters in this are also people we see in every other drama these days, like C Kwan and Jacquelin Chng.)

But there were two members of the cast I was extremely happy to watch. One of them was Hugo Goh, who is most famous for being a rapist in Brothers' Keeper II and an abusive father in Burning Hands. This role of his' was mildly comedic and very amicable.


The other is Joseph Lee Kwok Lun, who is a familiar face to anyone who watches TVB. Except he's usually so cruelly evil that nobody likes him. Here he played an extremely compelling village chief. Irritating, but very adorable. He's definitely a strong contender for Best Supporting this year.


If you think I'm going on too much about the cast and not telling you much about the story it's because there wasn't much of a story to begin with. The biggest question was whether Priscilla Wong would end up with Raymond Wong or Tony Hung and even that question wasn't very important anymore once Tony Hung slept with Kelly Fu.

Told you stupid doesn't even cut it!

The ending is even more ridiculous. But you have to watch it to know because even though I've already revealed a huge spoiler here, it's so ridiculous that you should watch it for yourself.

I am going to rave about the theme song, though, because I love it.



The MV is a little awkward since Stephanie Ho x Fred Cheng don't quite make a handsome couple. But the two are individually awesome, particularly Fred Cheng who is all the rage now (he did the closing theme for the currently airing Gallen Lo drama Provocateur, for which he is also the impressive second male lead, and also for the new Kenneth Ma drama Mind Hunter).


All in all, I'm surprised I even survived this drama. But truth be told, I only survived it cos I barely watched any of it. Each episode took me about 10min. Conclusion: don't waste your time. I'm currently watching Provocateur and I'd admit it's super draggy and predictable, but at least the story is a bit more sensible. The cast is pretty impressive too.

And if you've given up on TVB altogether, Taiwan's got a pretty decent line-up of late.

There's Just For You starring Jolin Chien, Patrick Lee, Vera Yen and Esther Huang on weekdays (I absolutely adore Jolin and will watch anything with him in it these days - he's amazing as usual and finally playing male lead; the Patrick Lee and Esther Huang couple is also rather interesting to watch), and The Perfect Match starring Ivy Shao, Wu Kang Ren, Ben Wu and Lawrence Liu,on Fridays (yes, the thought of Wu Kang Ren in a sugar-coated SETTV drama is weird af. The tabloids think he's back to repay the favour - since he did make it big after SETTV cast him in Autumn's Concerto several years ago - while he claimed he's back to 'fight a war' against the lack of resources in the industry now). There is also The Masked Lover starring Weber Yang, Deyn Li and Peter Kuan, and an upcoming Vidol drama The Man From Future starring the nation's younger brother Derek Chang and Lyan Cheng.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

[Drama review] 在一起,就好 Stand By Me

One of those dramas I clicked on when I was distracted and unwilling to study. I think I managed 11 episodes in 3 hours, because it was that boring.


I'm not going to lie - I pressed on because I found the lead actor Hans Chung hot. Not cute, not handsome, but hot.


But I'm also not going to pretend and sing praises of his acting cos he was incredibly bad at some points. It didn't help that the Du Wei Ting character was really stupid as well.

Like several other Taiwanese dramas these days, the saving grace was the chemistry between the cast - and the very strong female lead, Pets Tseng.


Like Nana Lee and Queen Wei, Pets Tseng is one of those names I know because it appears on YouTube. Like Nana Lee and Queen Wei, Pets Tseng was a contestant on the second season of One Million Star. But unlike Nana Lee I never knew Pets Tseng was also an actress, and unlike Queen Wei she's a really decent actress and singer.

I feel like it's a good thing all these people get acting opportunities because if not people like me will never know of their prowess. I really liked Pets Tseng's portrayal of Han Xiao Qi in Stand By Me, and I really liked her contribution to the soundtrack as well.



I think Stand By Me was a refreshing watch because the cast was so unheard of and the only face I found really familiar was Ian Chen. It was a good thing that he was in it because after I grew sick of Hans Chung (good looks just cannot make up for bad acting I'm afraid) he was the one I looked forward to watching.


Zhang Ding Fang was such a likable 'other guy' that I wished she ended up with him... yeah, it's that type. But what's probably more important for Ian Chen's career is the fact that the theme song is probably the best thing he has ever released.



Stand By Me follows the life of a survivor of the 921 earthquake, who is awfully passionate about TV production. She finds herself a job in a TV station that not only carried several secrets regarding the death of her parents, but was also the subject of serious politicking and underhanded business practices. It therefore raised questions about the role and responsibilities of a news agency/media outlet. Which is very, very timely; and interestingly not the only media-related drama Taiwan has produced of late.


But apart from having an interesting historical element and all, Stand By Me had an awfully weak story which dealt very poorly with issues like PTSD. I get that production funding is going to come from product placement, but what kind of message are you trying to send by making VR the solution to her claustrophobia?


I'm really into these two because of this show, though, so I'm still glad they made it. But even if you have all the time and patience in the world I still feel like there are better things to watch.

Like V-Focus, which is more or less on the same subject, also has a male lead that can't really act (but is better than Hans Chung), also has a strong OST but has very good acting and chemistry from the rest of the cast and decent scripting / story.

Or Tiger Mom Blues, which is probably the most meaningful and realistic drama TVB has ever produced in three years (or more).


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.