Tag Archives: TVB-series

Men With No Shadows 不速之約

11 Oct

Heavily inspired/borrowed by the Japanese manga-turned-anime called Death Note, Raymond Lam plays the demon in 不速之約 (Men With No Shadows), who torments Bobby Au under unusual circumstances.  Bobby, upon realizing how unfulfilled his life is, pleaded relentlessly for a second chance to make things right — confessing his love to the woman of his dreams (Tavia Yeung), finishing his lifelong medical research to cure her extremely rare form of allergies, and getting a chance to ensure that everyone in his family is well off and taken care of after he’s gone.  Amused with such trivial concerns, the devil grants him a second chance at life; however, it doesn’t take long for Bobby to realize that the devil’s new-found generosity is not without consequences.

Thoughts & Review

There is only one word to describe Men With No Shadows: annoying.  TVB must really hate Raymond Lam — I don’t think any leading man of his fame and stature has ever, in the history of TVB, done so many consecutively terrible series.  I had to re-watch the last two episodes thrice because I kept falling asleep in the middle of them.  I am so disappointed because the ending feels like such a cop-out after how great the first half of this series is.

It makes me wonder whether or not TVB purposefully gives him terrible scripts to work with — because of his stature (pull in ratings for a bad series) or because somewhere along the way, he offended someone on top of the TVB pyramid.  Men With No Shadows proves that Raymond Lam can act when he’s not obsessively posing for the camera.  In fact, his role here allows him to show more emotional range then all the work he’s done in the past 2-3 years combined, but the script is wretched!  It’s such a waste of talent because the cast is fantastic.  Near the middle, it seems like everyone involved is simply doing the best they can with what they were given with.

The plot is painfully drawn out — full of clichés, plot holes, and pointless family drama that has nothing to do with the story.  I am so disappointed because we finally get to see Raymond in an evil role, yet the producers had to inject him with some humanity.  There are various aspects that are illogical, and the attempt to explain these incidents, although makes sense, completely voids the allure of the initial concept.

By the end of it, all the characters are so annoying that I just wanted to give up entirely.  The writers could have gone in so many interesting directions but they chose to box themselves in from the beginning and ruin everything.  Tavia’s and Power’s character has been reduced to nothing more than a victim and a puppet; Bobby is an angry, bitter weakling;  and Raymond is a sobbing mess.   Only in the last ten minutes of the finale does the show somewhat redeem itself, but even then it comes across as trite and typical of TVB’s happy endings.  There are a lot of serious, underlying issues that are never dealt with; everyone just took the easy way out and pointed fingers, blaming Raymond, when all he did was manipulate them with what was already there.

Conclusion

Overall, you’re not missing anything if you skip this one.  Men Without Shadows is worth watching if you are a fan of Raymond Lam but be warned, the overall themes and conflicts are banal at best.  You can avoid this if you are a fan of Bobby Au, Tavia Yeung or Power Chan since they’ve had significantly better roles in the past.  The only character who I consistently enjoyed watching is Sire Ma’s, but she needs to work on her delivery —  she sounds really whiny sometimes, especially when she’s suppose to be angry.  Those of you who love Death Note can steer clear of this as well — nothing can beat the original.

Grace Under Fire 女拳

4 May

I feel a bit conflicted about Grace Under Fire.  On one hand, the cast is fantastic and the character development is extremely well written; on the other hand, sometimes throughout the series, you can’t help but wonder where the plot is going and what the point of it all is.  I think this problem stems from the fact that the Chinese title for this series is terribly misleading.  In Chinese, “女拳” roughly translates to “Female Fist” so one would expect a lot of fight scenes with Liu Xuan (who plays the female protagonist), which is not the case at all.  Although screen-time is more or less evenly distributed between her, Kenneth Ma and Bosco Wong, her scenes are rather weak compared to her male counterparts.  Kenneth’s and Bosco’s scenes are always extremely prominent, memorable and emotionally driven.  In comparision, Xuan’s are less so hence she’s been reduced to somewhat of a side character until the last few episodes.

The Plot

Generally speaking, the plot centers on the Guangzhou’s political instability after World War I (1920s).  We start off with the introduction of Xuan and Kenneth’s characters who are both employees of a famous, upscale restaurant in Guangzhou.  It’s an honest job but Kenneth has always believed that there is more to life than refilling teapots and greeting customers.  Before long, they cross paths with Bosco’s character and befriend Fala Chen under unusual circumstances.

I had no idea of what the story arch is at that point so it seemed rather abrupt when the plot suddenly converged into a retelling of the Wong Fei Hung Chronicles during his last few years and his fight against a murky government system.

The Actors in Character

  • Liu Xuan — Given the track record of TVB’s abysmal new and upcoming actresses, Xuan did a fantastic job with her role.  Even though this is her first time acting, she brings in a lot of grace and poise — something many other TVB actresses of  her age (eg. Kaki Leung) have yet to achieve.  Her character is so cute; she’s like a determined little eager beaver.  I love her character’s bravery and sense of righteousness.
  • John Chiang – I didn’t really like his portrayal of Wong Fei Hung, mostly because Jet Li’s version is so prominent in my mind.  Granted, it couldn’t have been easy following the footsteps of the dozen or so veterans of the industry who have also played one variation or another of Wong Fei Hung, such as Kwan Tak-Hing, Donnie Yuen, Vincent Zhao, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung.   As such, the producer for Grace Under Fire insisted John to “portray Wong Fei-Hung in a relaxing manner, greatly differentiating past portrayals in which most depict Wong Fei-hung as uptight and youthful”.  Don’t get me wrong, John played his part with a lot of strength and maturity; however, I was too distracted by how different his portrayal is from Jet Li’s to truly enjoy it.  I think I would love it more if his character had any other name than Wong Fei Hung because when you detach his acting from the expectations that come with his role, John did a pretty admirable job.
  • Kenneth Ma — If you are a fan of his, then you must watch this series.  His role in this is unlike any of the ones he’s played before.  Previously, he was always known as the handsome suave hero or the goofy/happy-go-lucky guy.  In Grace Under Fire, however, his character is a true opportunist in every regard.  No opportunity slips by unfulfilled; ever resource, means and measure is utilized to their highest extent.  When things don’t go the way he wants them to, he always finds a way to make it happen.  Highly ambitious, arrogant, and manipulative, he is not someone to mess with.  When he loves you, he will do so with every fiber of his being, but when he hates you… oh you’d better watch out.
  • Bosco Wong — Quiet, reserved, and thoughtfu, Bosco perfectly captures the essence of his role.  His character had a very difficult childhood mostly dedicated to caring for his ailing and cynical father, as such he became socially handicapped.  Gentle in nature, he has a hard time accepting that everyone in the world is as evil and cunning as his father believes them to be.  I think this role is another breakthrough for Bosco’s career.  I enjoy his serious roles much more than his silly, comedic ones.
  • Fala Chen —  Another good series for Fala.  She portrays a gold-digger with a heart of gold.  Despite her tough exterior she’s actually a very caring and compassionate person even though she has trouble expressing it sometimes.

Other notable actors include:

  • Power Chan — He’s so underrated!!
  • Oscar Leung — Love him.  It’s funny because he’s actually been with TVB for a long time, but he’s always been given really small unmemorable roles.  I think the most prominent part he’s played apart from this one was in Gun Metal Grey.  I really wish his role was bigger in Grace Under Fire because he has really good on-screen chemistry with Liu Xuan.
  • Eddie Kwan — I hated his character in The Gem of Life, but there’s no denying that he brings a lot of nuances and subtlety into his roles and Grace Under Fire is no exception.  He is an actor who makes use of every second he is on-screen whether he’s the focus of the shot or just in the background, thus he always stands out.  His character here is hands-down the most mysterious and intriguing one of all.
  •  Dominic Lam and Ngok Wah – You can’t go wrong with these two, but I feel like Ngok Wah’s character is really similar to his role in No Regrets.  I love Dominic Lam in the last half of the series though.  Some of the expressions he makes in the last few episodes are quite hilarious.

Trivia

  • Liu Xuan was actually an Olympic gold-medal gymnast before she changed career paths to pursue acting.
    • Xuan is also the singer to the series’ sub-theme song played during the credits.
  • Mok Kwai Lan (portrayed by Liu Xuan) is a non-fictional character who passed away in 1982.  (More info here but be warned, there are amples of spoilers)
  • To prepare for the role, John Chiang took martial arts training two months in advance of filming.  Martial arts practitioner and actor Gordon Liu agreed to help Chiang throughout the filming process.  John also requested for the director to add in more scenes that have him fight as he believed Wong Fei-hung should still be very capable of fighting despite his older age.
  • The plot has been altered since the previews first aired during TVB’s Sales Presentation.  At the time, Xuan’s character was depicted as a reckless and arrogant girl who charged into Wong Fei Hung’s school, and challenged him to a fight.  Presumably, she lost and became one of his disciples and eventually his wife.  Back then it was strictly a martial arts drama, and not a political one.

Thoughts

Despite my criticism about the this series being horribly misnamed and Kaki Leung’s abysmal acting, Grace Under Fire is worth watching.   The plot is extremely character-driven so if you are a fan of Bosco and Kenneth then you will love this series.  Just be warned that there’s not a lot of build up to the romance but it doesn’t matter since that’s not really the focus of the show.  There aren’t a lot of fights, but for the ones that do take place, they are convincingly done (eg. no crazy wire-work, strength in the stances and the arms, quick fluid movements from the actors, effective cuts and edits, etc).  The ending is wrapped up a little too neatly for my liking  (especially since our heroine learned so much in such a short amount of time) but there is a specific scene at the end that’s quite shocking.  I don’t know how much of it is biographical versus fictional but for what it’s worth, Grace Under Fire is good entertainment.

7 Days In Life 隔離七日情

22 Feb

I’m so glad TVB decided to go through with making this series since it’s the one I’ve been looking forward to the most from last year’s Sales Presentation.  The concept of it is simple enough:  Hong Kong government regulations state that in event of  an H1N1 outbreak, everyone in contact with the source must be quarantined, as a precaution, for a minimum of 7 days and thus begins this highly amusing story.

To some, this may be a dream come true (how often does one get a chance to spend a week at a 5 star hotel for free with unlimited access to all its facilites?) while for other, it’s a complete nightmare (do employees of the hotel get paid for overtime; there must be some compensation for working 24/7, right?).  For a whole week a group of people with very distinct backgrounds must learn to live together and are forced to make some pretty life altering decisions concerning their relationships, career, family, friends, personal code of ethics and whatever ugly psychological baggage that they’re in denial of.

The Actors in Character

Given the complexity of the story, I can’t comment too much on the characters without spoiling the plot but I will tell you this: the best part about this series is that it never dwells on a character for too long because so many things are happening simultaneously inside and outside of the hotel.  It’s almost like reading a mystery novel or watching a game of Clue unravel before your eyes.  The interactions between the characters are highly amusing especially since they come from all walks of life.

Main Cast:

  • Steven Ma – Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that this is the first TVB series where he plays  a villain so that in itself is pretty refreshing. He pulls off the suave, flirtatious Casanova really well.
  • Sonija Kwok – She has gotten a lot better in terms of relaxing her voice — I think this is the most comfortable role I’ve seen her in.  The make-up and costume crew did a fantastic job because she looks absolutely gorgeous.
  • Bosco Wong – Acting-wise, he’s pretty consistent in all his series so there wasn’t really anything groundbreaking here but the way his character is introduced is absolutely fantastic.  He sang the theme song and has a surprisingly good voice.
  • Mimi Lo - I don’t know how anyone can be loud, obnoxious and endearing at the same time but she pulls it off beautifully.  Her character is one tough cookie; you really don’t want to mess with her.
  • Patrick Tang – Off the top of my head, I can’t name anything that he was previously in but I think this role is his most memorable yet.

Others (obviously, there are more actors but these are the ones who stood out the most):

  • Joyce Cheng - Charming as always.  She portrays an astute, compassionate and upbeat reporter who means well but somehow always lands herself into trouble.
  • Koni Lui – So naive and gullible… it’s almost tragic.
  • Eric Li - He played a ruthless villain in A Fistful of Stances so it’s nice to see him switch it up and play a two-faced sycophant this time around.
  • Lee Kwok Lun – (a.k.a. the loud, angry, mad-eyed villain from Beyond the Realm of Conscious)  He’s still loud and angry here but more frantic and frustrated because he is surrounded by idiots who can’t do anything right.
  • Gill Singh & Brian Thomas Burrell – Hurray for diversity!  You can’t expect everyone in the hotel to be Chinese; that’s just unrealistic!  Brian never disappoints but his character has a lot of personal issues to sort out here — poor guy.  As for Gill, his dancing is quite… unique; let’s just leave it at that.

The Pacing and Tone

I appreciate the fact that the style of this series is very consistent in the sense that the tone shifts according to which character the segment is focused on.  For instance, you can expect Steven and Sonija’s scenes to be more serious and suspenseful in comparison Lee Kwok Lun’s scenes which are over-the-top and highly exaggerated for comedic relief.  Overall, this series keeps you interested because something is revealed in every episode be it about a particular plot or a particular character, yet it doesn’t drag.  Admittedly, there are some corny bits sprinkled here and there — not to mention a certain turnout at the end is somewhat questionable — but overall, the script is well written.

Conclusion

On the surface, 7 Days in Life may seem like a wacky comedy about kidnappers and jewel thieves but it’s actually quite insightful about people and life in general.  Just when you think you have the characters all figured out, the show reveals something surprising about them.  Keep an open eye out for the details because no character is too minor, and keep in mind that certain things don’t happen as neatly as you would expect.

Review: Rosy Business 2/No Regrets 巾幗梟雄之義海豪情

29 Nov

Let me just start off by saying that I love the ending.  I don’t say this often since TVB is known to breeze through the endings but they really took the time to build up the emotions and to craft out the suspense for this one.  By the end of the finale, you feel like you’ve lived a lifetime  alongside these characters because it is pretty emotionally draining to watch — in a good way, of course.

I highly recommend this one for the fact that it’s very well executed.  I think one of the best things about it is the amount of casting that was involved — the neighbours, the pedestrians, the cops, the Japanese soldiers, the gang members, patients in the hospitals, nurses, the homeless, drug addicts… the list goes on.  The best part is that the show isn’t only focused on Sheren and Wayne — who are both phenomenal, by the way — but also on the people around them and how different events effected their lives.  As you see Sheren and Wayne’s relationship progress, you also see how a lot of the minor characters grow.  I love the fact that in contrast to most movies about WWII, this show is focused on how the normal every-day people living in the city see the war, as oppose to soldiers on the field.  They really took the time to cultivate society’s mentality during that time period — the thought that “No of course the Japanese aren’t going to attack Guangzhou,” and how no one took the bomb-shelter drills seriously until reality finally hits.

Another thing I really enjoyed is the make-up because in the very first episode alone, where they showed Sheren as an old lady, it’s not just her clothes and her white hair that make her look old; it’s the texture of her skin.  The deep set wrinkles, the age spots, the sagging muscles of her face… and did I mention her hands?  Just wow…

Anyways, that’s all I’m gonna say about this since I really want the series to speak for itself for those of you who are interested in TVB series but have not seen this one yet.  Just to warn you though, the show is pretty different from the trailer TVB aired during its Sales Presentation last year.  There’s a few scenes that I was looking forward to that never came up —  http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/ywyCRY5lOAs/

  • The scene where Sheren, looking dishevelled , is on her knees and looking up pleadingly at Wayne who has her at gunpoint.  In moment of internal debate, Wayne then turns around and  shoots the Japanese General.
  • Wayne drops the engagement ring at the sight of Sheren gleeful murdering of  the board of directors who disagree with her methods.

Despite the changes in plot and casting, this one is still definitely worth watching — full of memorable and powerful scenes, bittersweet ending, and a fantastic sequel to Rosy Business.

Is this one better than the first?  I think it is.  The intensity level of both series are very different — Rosy Business is more explosive and reckless, while No Regrets simmers and brews up to a boiling point.  I suppose the plot is somewhat predictable in some aspects but it’s how the characters react to the different scenarios in No Regrets that keeps you on your toes.

As for actors to look out for:

  • Pierre Ngo:  You hated him as the eldest son in Rosy Business, but you will love him in No Regrets.  I love his character’s growth as the show progresses.  He is such a fantastic actor; I really hope he gets TVB’s Breakout Artist Award this year because he is so underrated.  His character in NR is the complete opposite of the one he played in RB and yet he portrays it with such ease and dignity that you can’t help but root for him.
  • Evergreen Mak:  I think the only series where I’ve seen him play a villain prior to No Regrets is in Armed Reaction 3, which was back in 2001.  At the time, his performance was passable but this time around he really went all out.  His character is so obnoxious and irritating; he’s like a parasite or a cockroach that just won’t die!  I understand that the the protagonists are supposedly too good or above killing him, but really… it wouldn’t hurt to cripple the guy or something.  He switches sides faster than you can blink and committed treason so many times that I’ve lost count.  I’m a bit baffled though by how loyal his wife is and how obedient his subordinates are despite how self-centered, egotistical, cruel and cowardly he is.
  • Elliot Yue: Haha, such a boss. =D
  • Fala Chen and Raymond Wong:  Also underrated… terribly underrated.  I don’t understand why their status isn’t higher in terms of TVB actors; they are so professional at their craft.  Their storyline is so bittersweet and heartbreaking.  I love how the plot moves forward during the war through Fala’s journal entries.
  • Kara Hui: It’s ridiculous how convincing she is as an old lady.  She’s the only one in the entire cast to get the posture down pat.  I love  how her character’s always complaining about how poor her tenants are when everyone knows how much she loves them.
  • And of course, Sheren Tang and Wayne Lai: If they weren’t considered as A-list actors then, well they most definitely are now.  Although the dynamic of their relationship is not quite what I hoped for, it makes sense that it would end this way in context of the story.

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Want to know more about this series? Click here.

Rosy Business 2 / No Regrets 巾幗梟雄之義海豪情

19 Oct

Evil, cunning, conniving, callous, ruthless, blood-thirsty, and just an overall cold-hearted (well, you get the idea) —  such is the character that Sheren Tang portrays in TVB’s most highly anticipated anniversary series ever, Rosy Business 2/No Regrets 巾幗梟雄之義海豪情. But wait… how can someone so vicious and so morally bankrupt become  so respected, loved, and  admired by so many people at deathbed?  Is that old lady in the coffin, surrounded by weeping faces really the same woman who single handedly turned all of Guangzhou upside down by becoming the most powerful drug lord of her time?  That’s what the public both in the show and watching the show would like to know.

After last year’s release of Rosy Business, TVB fanatics everywhere have been impatiently awaiting for its sequel.  To say that the first episode did not disappoint is an understatement because it is phenomenal.  Right off the bat, we get a glimpse of what’s to come through Sheren’s memories as she recalls bits of pieces of her past.  Some memories are shown with love and fondness, others with pain, disdain and overwhelming regret — each memory giving viewers a tease of who she is as a person, and all the while giving us an even bigger question mark as to who she really is.

The setting of the show is perfectly presented: quick, thorough, and straight-to-the-point.  The characters are introduced in such a way that makes viewers feel like they already know them.  The subtleties of each characters are amazing — the strength in their dialogue, their eye contact, their posture and gestures, and the clothing… Oh!!  did I mention the clothes??  It’s only the first episode and I’m already drooling over Sheren’s powersuits:

My grandmother use to have a jacket that looks just like this one. It might be even the same pattern 0___o;;

The men of No Regrets

 

I really, really hope it lives up to all the hype.  It’s starting out so strong, it’d be terrible for it to plummet downhill…

 

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English title:No Regrets
Also known as:Rosy Business IIRosy Business: No Regrets
Chinese title: 巾幗梟雄之義海豪情 (Cantonese: Kan Kwok Hiu Hung Chi Yee Hoi Ho Ching) (Mandarin: Jin Guo Xiao Xiong Zhi Yi Hai Hao Qing)
Genre: Drama | Romance | War | Organized crime
Production company: TVB
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Episode count: 32
Producer: Lee Tim-shing
Editor(s): Cheung Wah-biu, Chan Ching-yee
Director: Luk Tin-wah, Chan Yiu-chuen, Ng Kuen-ching, etc.
Writer: Mak Sai-lung, Yeung Shut-yee, Shek Hoi-ting, etc.

SYNOPSIS:

Guangzhou is in a state of political turmoil in the 1930s. Gangsters are on a rampage and opium trading becomes rampant. As they watch the illicit profits from opium trading escalate, the government forms the Anti-Smoking Bureau under the guise of suppressing opium, but the bureau is under the influence of CHENG LONG-KWAN (Elliot Yue), the gang’s kingpin. His eldest daughter CHENG KAU-MUI (Sheren Tang) who is an unscrupulous person soon returns from Shanghai to reap the rewards. MUI meticulously plans her every move.

On the other hand, LAU SING (Wayne Lai) is the leader of the Criminal Investigation Team. He has worked hard all his life to ensure an easy trail for his family, especially for his bed-ridden younger sister LAU CHING (Fala Chen). Despite his hot temper, he values friendship and brotherhood more than anything else. Once, he almost sacrificed his life to help his timid teammate, TONG KAT (Pierre Ngo).

It is fated that MUI and SING should meet each other and survive many calamities. It is also fated that both are fierce contenders who will never give in, although mutual understanding and affection slowly grows between them.
Meanwhile, the Japanese army invades China and Guangzhou falls into the hands of the Japanese. MUI enters the darkest time in her life when her aunt CHENG LONG-HEI (Susan Tse) frames her.

TRIVIA:

  • No Regrets is an anniversary drama. (TVB anniversary dramas are big-production dramas that air at the end of the year.)
  • Leo Ku sings the theme song, called “Yee Hoi Ho Ching” (義海豪情; ”lit.” “Righteous Sea, Lofty Passion”). It is the same Chinese title for No Regrets.
  • The drama consists of the same cast as Rosy Business. It is roughly considered a spin-off, although the themes and characters in No Regrets are very different compared to Rosy BusinessNo Regrets has much darker themes.
  • Kiki Sheung, Ron Ng, and Suki Chui, who portrayed major characters in Rosy Business, did not return for No Regrets. Instead, Raymond Wong and Fala Chen were added to the cast.
  • Sheren Tang and Wayne Lai switched roles. In Rosy Business, Sheren’s character (the fourth wife) was the protector of Wayne’s character (Chai Kau). In No Regrets, Wayne becomes the protector of Sheren. Pierre Ngo, who portrayed a villainous character in Rosy Business, will portray a foil of that character in No Regrets.
  • The drama takes place in Canton (present-day Guangzhou, China) during World War II. The drama deals with the opium trade, underground triads, and Japanese occupation.


TRAILERS:
Teaser 1: http://www.tudou.com…iew/9IpN01PEOhU
Teaser 2: http://www.tudou.com…iew/b0ffUaDVlKE
Teaser 3: http://www.tudou.com…iew/CY6le2JuBIQ
Teaser 4: http://www.tudou.com…iew/BWIj41h57i0
Teaser 5: http://www.tudou.com…iew/sXXXn-1Bj74

STARRING:
Sheren Tang as Cheng Kau-mui (aka Miss Kau)
Wayne Lai as Lau Sing
Raymond Wong as Yeung Yeung
Fala Chen as Lau Ching
Pierre Ngo as Tong Kat (aka Pai Kwat Jai)
Elliot Ngok as Cheng Long-kwan
Susan Tse as Cheng Long-hei
Kara Hui as Ng Lai-sim
Nancy Wu as Ma Lai-wah
Henry Lee as Wong Luk
Kelvin Leung as Che Wing-on
Kwok Fung as Cheng Long-hung
Ben Wong as Cheng Siu-hong
Elena Kong as Chiu Tung-nei
Evergreen Mak as Leung Fei-fan
King Kong as Mukaiyama Tetsuya

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For the series review of No Regrets, click here.

Growing Through Life 摘星之旅

18 Sep

Now that I have finally watched this through to the end, I can say with a clear conscience that this is a terrible series in nearly every regard.  I should have guessed that this would be the turnout since my first impression upon watching the theme song clip — shown at the beginning of each episode — is that everything about it reminds me of The Drive of Life 歲月風雲 including the tone, to the music and the way that it’s presented….  The similarities don’t just end there.  In fact, half the cast here is from TDoL (Damian Lau, Raymond Lam, Toby Leung, Power Chan, Felix Lok…); both series are about “multinational” companies based in Mainland China; and they both fail miserably at depicting life of the “rich and powerful”.

While I gave up watching TDoL after about 7 or 8 episodes, Growing Through Life had me hooked in believing that things will get more interesting.  Did I get what I hoped for, you ask?  Somewhat — it took over 2 weeks to really get into the meat of the story, and even then it was mediocre at best.  With clichés flying from every direction, it’s hard to watch this without rolling my eyes at every single episode.  The characters are just too predictable!!  I usually watch TVB series with an open-mind but I could see where the storyline is going from miles away.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how my family and I kept ourselves entertained throughout this entire snorefest: we pointed at the screen and made fun of the “acting”, mocked and laughed at the characters who cried or died (we just couldn’t take any of them seriously except for Cecilia Yip — she’s plays such a convincing crazy/suspicious/jealous/vengeful woman), picked out flaws of the lighting and cinematography, criticized the sets, and made wild guesses at what would happen next (we were right every single time).

The Actors in Character

To be fair, I sympathized with Raymond Lam and Bosco Wong‘s character but there was just something about their acting that was horribly posed and unnatural.  They just didn’t have any feeling or emotional connection to their roles; they were simply actors reciting lines from a script.   As for their female counterparts, they weren’t any better.  In fact, they were worst — Toby Leung is sleep-walking (with a blank, dead stare in her eyes) and spewing out her lines one word at a time, all the while sounding mousy, whiny and out of breath as though she can’t get enough oxygen in her lungs (no, it was never mentioned that she’s asthmatic so I’m attributing this all to her “acting”);  Zhao Ziqi does an admirable job (it’s her voice actor who really shines, I  found out later that it’s Mimi Lo) but her character is too much of a preacher to be truly likeable; Vionn Song is another reciter but while Toby just seems lazy, Vionn seems too be playing it too safe with minimal reactions and gestures even when she’s on her crazy vengeance mode, and yes… she too is a whiner (the huffy-spoiled-rich-teen kind, not Toby’s wailing-like-a-cry-baby kind).

The best (or rather worst) part is, none of the couples actually seem like a couple.  Yes, there are an abundance of cute/sweet couple-y scenes for Raymond and Ziqi but I never got the impression that they’re actually in love.  Ziqi/Mimi did a fantastic job at acting in love when her character was admiring Raymond from afar but when she actually got together with Raymond, it just fell flat.  Actually, I noticed that happening a lot with Raymond’s acting… I don’t know if he’s in a rut but he can’t seem to depict the romantic aspect of any series convincingly (the chemistry just isn’t there) but he’s brilliant at playing a son in any type of family situation.

As for Bosco, he also lacks chemistry with Tobey but his character only married her for money and power so his detached attitude is forgivable.  He hated Vionn because of her snobbery; he did have a crush on Ziqi but she only had eyes for Raymond…  As for his breakdown, he didn’t take the psycho, angry, self-conflicted, paranoid murderer aspect as far as he could have; he played it so safe that it was boring.

The Pacing, the Lighting, the Sound and the Ambiance

My biggest complaint throughout this show though is the pacing and the sets.  I can’t remember who it involved but there was a scene where two of the characters were eating at a restaurant and it unraveled as such:  A is speaking to B; A pauses to put food in his mouth, chews pensively with his eyes lowered and face etched into a permanent frown as though chewing is the most difficult thing to do in the world, swallows, drinks a sip of water, looks up and continues talking to B, and the entire process repeats again.  My goodness…. this scene went on for the longest time.  It was completely absurd!!  The entire series is filled with pointless pauses and moments like this; 30 episodes is way too long, it could have easily been condensed to 20 eps (and even then I’m being generous).

The lighting was also horribly done.  I don’t know if it’s an attempt to conserve energy but these people do not like to turn on the lights at night; they prefer to do everything in the dark (read/type/brood/sulk/eat/watch TV/talk…).  If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought that this series is a horror movie or something.  In addition, there were also so many scenes where the light-source was all wrong, such as the one where Raymond was speaking to Damien on the balcony.  The sun was setting in the background but both actors’ face were brightly lit, making it evident that there is a spotlight on them while the scene is being shot.

The lack of noise is also unnerving.  In any office environment, we should be hearing the murmuring of conversations, the whirring of fax machines and photocopiers, the ringing of telephones, the rustling of papers, the clicking of mouses and the clacking of keyboards being used.  But alas… this was not the case in here.   Everything was just… silent.

And lastly, I find it highly amusing that the restaurants that the main characters go to for lunch and dinner were always completely empty.  The characters were always the only customers there, and the waiters/staff were practically non-existent.   The same thing applies for when they were walking on a street or taking a stroll in the park.

The Sets

As for the sets, it was implied throughout the entire series that Raymond and Damien’s family is extremely wealthy but it never came across as believable.

Damien’s Office — While it is true that Damien’s office is huge (the size of 2-3 rooms at least), it was also really empty.  There were no shelves or drawers, the walls are bare, and most of all, there were no furniture except for the his desk and a conference table all the way across the room.  (Did I mention the exterior shot of the office headquarters is actually Sheraton Hotel?  The flag is a dead giveaway.)

Damien’s House – His house is so huge (supposedly) that he has an elevator.  The problem is that it doesn’t look very lived-in.  I’ve seen IKEA showrooms that look more lived-in than this set.  Everything in his house looks placed and impersonal.  Yes, there are a few photographs here and there but like his office, his house is just bare.  I also find it hard to believe that they would live in such a house when there’s  only a grand total of 3 people in his family, including himself.

Raymond’s House – Again, also a huge house but everything in it is so impersonal.  His house is as dead as a tomb since he became the sole occupant after his mother passed away.

Conclusion

Overall, Growing Through Life is a complete waste of time, especially since its only message is that parents are willing to sacrifice everything for the well-being of their children.  I actually got chills when Damien proclaimed “There is no dad in this world who would give up on their own son,” but they really did not need 30 episodes to get that message across.  They had to explicitly spell it out for the viewers because there was so much pointless drama in the way.  In fact, they even created a short animation clip in the last few minutes of the finally to tell a story about a man and his son — the gist of it is that they are walking along a beach, and the son looks behind him notices that whenever he encounters any type of hardship, there is only one set of footprints in the sand; the father then replies that the reason behind this is that he is carrying the boy in times of turmoil.

This is all fine and dandy, but if the boy is looking at the footprints he left behind then how could he not know that is father was carrying him?  Did he fall off a cliff, banged his head and got amnesia like Damien’s character did (yes, it really happened =____=)??  I only found out after browsing a few forums that the story is actually suppose to be about God (which would make more sense) but TVB had replaced Man with child, and the Lord with dad.  See the original story for yourself here.

All in all, you’re not missing anything if you skip this.  In fact, I urge you to skip this series.   Unless, of course, you like to criticize and make fun of of what is happening before your eyes — in which case, this one is  hoot and a half (just fast-forward through all the boring eating scenes, and self-reflecting scenes).

Why is TVB so friggin’ addictive??

27 Mar

I realize that I’ve been seriously neglecting this blog lately, but that’s only because 鐵馬尋橋 (A Fistful of Stances) is so addictive. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: TVB is evil. With so many good series out, how is anyone suppose to get any work done? I started watching 秋香怒點唐伯虎 (In the Eye of the Beholder) as well, but didn’t go beyond the first episode. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but there’s just something about Myolie Wu as an actress that I don’t like. It apparently gets better though with the introduction of Fala Chan’s character, so I’m just gonna collect all the eps and watch them all in one shot.

Come to think of it, I still haven’t watched the last 2 eps of 아이리스 (IRIS) either… I accidentally deleted the subtitles to episode 19 and haven’t gotten around to finding it.

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[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT]

I’m kinda depressed… think I accidentally ruined it for myself when I was browsing through Youtube for extended scenes >___<. Really not looking forward to watching T.O.P.’s character die… I can’t believe he killed the hacker girl, urgh!!  They were so cute together…

[/SPOILER]

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But anyways, back to A Fistful of Stances… I think Tavia is quickly becoming one of my favorite TVB actress… I absolutely could not stand her prior to 宮心計 (Beyond The Realm Of Conscience) but now, she’s definitely a force to be reckoned with now.  Initially, I wasn’t going to watch this because of Kevin Cheung (great eye-candy, horrible actor) but he actually goes beyond his usual two facial expression (smiling and the same weird contorted expression that he uses to show any sort of negative emotion — eg. sad/angry/upset/etc… it’s all the same for him), but here… omgosh… he actually screams with rage/anguish, and cries with emotion that I’ve never seen in him before; it’s like he’s actually human and not a cyborg robot xD.

My mom and I are still debating over which character Raymond Lam was suppose to be.  He was in the trailer for the original sales presentation released at the beginning of 2009, but I think he decided to quit acting — at least for the time being — to focus on his family business.  I initially thought that he got replaced by Kevin but it wouldn’t make sense since it would be a anachronism given that he’s suppose to be Tavia’s character’s husband… but now that we find out he’s actually playing two characters of two different generations, I’m not so sure anymore…

My mom still believes that it’s Kenneth Ma who replaced Raymond — which I guess can be the case — but then who the heck is the guy who’s fighting with him against his mom??  It’s just confusing…

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[POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT]

Unless… that guy could be the father… maybe his dad didn’t die.  I think what happened was that Kenneth accidentally shot his best friend, and Dominic Lam’s character threatened to expose Kevin as a murderer if he insisted on arresting Dominic.  Kevin’s character probably couldn’t stand the guilt of it and couldn’t bring himself to go back home as though nothing happened so he chose to let Dominic’s character walk free and decided to hide away in guilt all these years…

[/SPOILER]

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On the other hand, it could be that the entire script’s been changed since Raymond dropped out of it.  The whole tone of the series looks different, especially if you compare the trailer above with the new one:

The old one looks more like it’s a martial arts series that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while the new one takes on a more dramatic and serious tone.

Regardless, I really hope the series doesn’t take a turn for the worst like what happened with 太極 (The Master of Tai Chi).  Everything was absolutely spectacular with that one (cinematography, scenery, actors…) but the storyline was complete and utter crap.  It was nothing but a downward spiral of one disappointment after another and by the end of it, I was ready to strangle all the characters (Melissa for being so accommodating and selfless; Vincent for being so ignorant, clueless, and spineless when it comes to his love life; Myolie and Selena for being so incredibly selfish and self-centered; and most of all, Raymond for being so ridiculously infatuated/obsessed/”in love” with a character as manipulative as Myolie.)

It seems like A Fistful of Stances is mix of The Master of Tai Chi (for the whole “underdog becomes king of fighter” storyline) and Moonlight Resonance (for the whole “strength in  family unity”).  But then again, that’s just me. =P

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