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Great Sphinx of Giza

14 Jan

the sphinx

I was watching a documentary about the Great Sphinx of Giza on the History Channel two weeks ago and I was surprised to learn that the most mind-boggling thing about this miraculous structure is the general lack of knowledge about it.  Nobody knows when or why it was built, much less who built it and how it was done.  It has been in existence far beyond any retrieved records of it; some would even speculate that it’s been around even before any of the great pyramids were built.

The structure of it makes absolutely no sense, given how mathematically precise the pyramids are in comparison.  The Sphinx’s proportions are completely off; disregarding that it’s essentially a man’s head (the popular theory suggests Pharaoh Khafra) with a lion’s body, the Sphinx’s head is tiny compared to everything else.

The front paws are so long that they’re off frame!

The statue’s erosion show much more damage on the body than the head, which suggests that the head was probably much bigger and was re-sculpted from a lion’s head at one point to what we see now.  The erosion at its base make even less sense since it’s the type of damage that could only be done by extensive and prolong exposure to water, which makes me wonder whether or not the Sphinx was the centerpiece of a giant swimming since it is surrounded by walls — but then of course, the temples in front of it would be underwater as well, which is not practical at all.

This just the tip of the iceberg; there’s a lot more oddities about this statue that I won’t get into but you can look them up yourself if you like.  It’s just something I found fascinating, and wanted to share.

source: pinimg & flickr

Game of Thrones: The Rom-Com

20 Jun

Hilarious.

I’m currently in the middle of Storm of Swords right now and it is insane/jaw-dropping, depressing/heartbreaking, sassy/hilarious all at the same time.  It took me forever to get through the first two books; although, in my defense, the text is really tiny and my attempt at reading alongside the show has been quite abysmal to say the least.  I only started the first book maybe about three episodes into the second season and you know what — the show has ruined the books for me.  By ruined, I mean I keep getting the impulses to jump ahead to all the fun dialogues and POVs, skipping all the “boring” bits.  Now that I’ve read past the end of Season 2, I just can’t seem to put it down — hence, my lack of blog updates (sorry, it can’t be helped).

Someone once described the books as “crack on paper” and I’m incline to agree.  The author really goes out of his way in taking risks with these characters so no one is safe — I kind of love and hate that.  I also love/hate how to a non-reader: everyone on the show looks the same  (point #4 here); at least a dozen characters are introduced in every episode of the first season so it’s impossible to tell who’s important and who isn’t (especially since even the most disposable, minor characters are given names — sometimes even nicknames too);  and how it’s near impossible to remember everyone’s names, much less how they’re all related to one another (on a global scale) at first viewing of the show.

+ + + + + + + + + + + +

 On a semi-related note…

Of course, the above doesn’t mean much if you know nothing
(aha!  see what I did there?) about the show/books.

source: youtube & 9gag

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.

Well said Joey. Well said.

3 Dec

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