Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Great Way to Care 2 Review



Producer: Marco Law
Genre: Medical, crime
Cast: Alex Fong, Tavia Yeung, Yoyo Mung, Ben Wong, Edwin Siu, Ram Chiang

Plot:
Rape, murder, murder, murder. A typical crime investigation series, but with psychiatrists solving the cases instead of police, forensics or lawyers. This is a bloodier continuation of A Great Way to Care. The theme this time is “sane criminals pretending to be insane".

Review:
Watching A Great Way to Care 2 made me go back to watch the prequel and I must say the original was better. First thing to mention is how there was a bunch of reused actors, although that doesn't necessarily affect the entertainment value of the series. Recycled actors aside, there were a lot of similar cases, such as the religious cult, the schizophrenic (which has now been severely overused in police dramas), and the vigilante. The most important reason is because the original had a lot more focus on psychology. The sequel feels like a normal police investigation series. The first series had Alex Fong predicting the criminal’s next move or trying to elicit the truth from a suspect via psychological analysis. Here, Alex or the police solve cases by noticing clues that others have missed. In most cases, it was actually quite apparent that the criminal wasn't a psycho.

Comparing Tavia and Kate as the female leads in the first and second series, Tavia certainly had the more interesting character to work with. She was very impressive as the undercover prostitute and equally good as a crazy killer who took justice into her own hands. Alex Fong as male lead wasn't much different from the last series. At times, I find him to be a little slow-reacting, although maybe his character calls for that. I enjoyed his casual scenes with Yoyo Mung. Yoyo, though technically co-female lead, serves only as Alex’s love interest, and for the “daring” sperm donation request. I think she is at her best when she plays this type of loud-spoken independent character. Yoyo looks more compatible with Alex than Kate.

Why, oh why, does every sequel need to have a love triangle? Edwin Siu is arguably the real male focus of the show with plenty of screen-t. While I liked his witty, self-assured buck-toothed character, it was a drag to go through his love indecision. It was not helped by the fact that his partners were awful to watch. Aimee Chan still has very wooden expression and unexpressive speech, whether it is love scenes with Edwin or emotional scenes with her brother. Her Cantonese seems to be improving though. Or maybe it’s because Christine Kuo was worse. I can usually tolerate bad accents, but I honesty could not make out a lot of what she said. The Edwin-Aimee-Christine line took up too much screen-time that other relationships didn't get proper development. Namely, I wanted to see more of Tavia and Ben Wong because their relationship is actually important to her decisions in the end.

Other characters: Ben Wong actually had a huge personality change from the first series where he was extremely hot-tempered. This time, there is less spark in his character and performance. Ram Chiang doesn't have much to do in terms of solving cases and his relationship with Leanne Li was unnecessary because nothing happened in the end. Oscar Leung, Power Chan and Eric Li are mostly just sidekicks, but Oscar and Power manage to grab some attention with little habits. I liked Henry Lee’s character after he got friendly with the other doctors, especially that nosy look he has when trying to find out gossip.

In terms of case characters: Matthew Ko was not convincing as the religious cult leader and he smirks at all the wrong times. Pierre Ngo was a better cult leader in the original. Hugo Wong really let loose as a wild “Zeus”. Otto Chan did an admirable job as Aimee’s autistic brother; the way he communicates seems very real. The little scene in the end with his girlfriend was cute. Lee Yee Man tried too hard to look evil with the deathly stare.

All in all, the cases aren't the most unique or memorable, but it’s enough to keep the series moving at a good pace. Sequels rarely live up to original expectations, but at least this one didn't completely fall flat.

Rating: 4/5. Worth the time. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beauty at War Connection

Recall the post about the connection between The Confidant and Curse of the Royal Harem. Beauty At War (and the original War and Beauty) occurs in the time period immediately before Curse of the Royal Harem.

The Qianlong Emperor (乾隆) abdicated after 60 years on the throne because he did not want to exceed the 61 years of service of his grandfather, the Kangxi (康熙) Emperor. The retired Qianlong took the title Taishang Huang (太上皇), but still held de facto power for the next four years until his death.
-   Christine Ng is the concubine of Qianlong. Her character does not exist in real history.

The Jiaqing (嘉慶) Emperor, played by Yu Yang, assumes the throne after his father’s abdication. War and Beauty was set 15 years into his reign. Beauty at War takes place sometime later in his reign.  

Rebecca Chan is Jiaqing’s (second) Empress in War and Beauty. One of her sons is the 4th prince, Mianxin (綿忻), portrayed by Joel Chan in COTRH.
-   Gigi Wong’s role in COTRH is the older version of Rebecca Chan’s role.
-   The 4th prince will be played by the actor Chris Lee in Beauty at War.

Sheren Tang correctly holds the title of Consort Yu (如妃) at the time of both series. She was posthumously named as Imperial Noble Consort Gongshun (恭順皇貴妃). She is the mother of Jiaqing’s fifth son, Mianyu (綿愉), which is child actor Pako Au in Beauty at War.
-   The 5th prince was born in the 19th year of Jiaqing. In Beauty at War, he is said to be seven years old, but in history, Jiaqing already died when the prince was six.
The 5th prince dies too early in BAW. In reality, he lives until the age of fifty.

In War and Beauty, the other concubines were named as Noble Ladies (). In reality, they all held different titles at the time setting of the drama (in the 15th year of Jiaqing).

Gigi Lai = Consort Hua (華妃). She married Jiaqing when he was a prince. She is the most senior concubine of the Consort rank, even higher than Consort Yu (Sheren Tang). She died in the 9th year of Jiaqing, which is before WAB.

Charmaine Sheh = Imperial Concubine Chun (淳嬪). She was the daughter of the head of the national library committee. [Note that her title shares the same character as Christine Ng’s character in BAW, but they are not the same person.]

Maggie Cheung = First Class Attendant An (安常在). Unlike the ending of WAB, she actually survives the Jiaqing Emperor and is elevated to the rank of Imperial Concubine (安嬪) by his successor.

At the end of WAB, there was an invasion of Forbidden City, which is the Eight Trigrams Uprising by members of the Tianli Sect. The future Daoguang (道光) Emperor (Sunny Chan in COTRH), a prince at that time, led the defensive efforts and personally killed two rebels with his musket. It is said that his heroic actions was one of the reasons why Jiaqing (Yu Yang) ultimately named Daoguang (Sunny) as his successor. 

Note: In BAW, a 6th prince was born to the Emperor, but in reality Jiaqing (Yu Yang) only had five sons.


See Gilded Chopsticks Connection for map before Qianlong



Relationship map continues with The Curse of the Royal Harem & The Confidant


Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Beauty at War" Theme Song

The theme song for Beauty at War is called "Red Sin" (紅孽), performed by Christine Ng with monologue from Moses Chan.




The sub-theme song is "Floating Rumours in Forbidden City" (紫禁飄謠), by Moses Chan and Christine Ng.




Related posts:
Overview - Beauty at War
Beauty at War Promo Clips


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reincarnations in A Great Way to Care 2

Oscar Leung - patient à doctor
  

Power Chan - patient à doctor
  

Lee Sing Cheung - patient à doctor
  


Otto Chan - patient à Aimee Chan's brother
  

Lau Kong - Kate Tsui's grandfather à priest/Tavia's adoptive father



Jimmy Au - murder victim à CID



Mary Hon - patient's mother à murderer



Yeung Ching Wah - CID à car mechanic/Tavia's childhood friend



Dia Yiu Ming - patient à wealthy heir



Chan Wing Chun - nurse à ex-arsonist



Andy Siu - former police officer à homeless man



Esther Wan - mother of victim à patient's wife



Joseph Yeung - school principal/pedophile à senior-level police (Tavia's superior)




Who else have you noticed in both series?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Miriam Yeung @ Hong Kong Film Awards


Congratulations to Miriam Yeung for winning her first ever Best Actress at the Hong Kong Film Awards! She won based on her role in Love in the Buff.

Miriam stars in the movie with Shawn Yue. After they got together in Love in a Puff, they break up in the sequel Love in the Buff. Coincidentally, their jobs bring them both to Beijing, where they meet again...

Her acceptance speech:


The movie theme song "No Destination Love" (沒有目的地愛了), by Miriam.



Comment: For those who don't know, my username "miriamfanz" is because of Miriam. So happy for her!! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Beauty At War Promo Clips

See Overview - Beauty At WarOfficial Poster for Beauty At War

Promo #1


Promo #2


Promo #3


Promo #4


Promo #5


Extended Trailer


Official Poster for Slow Boat Home



Comment: The structure they are climbing is the "Bun Tower" that is a traditional part of the Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The crew did filming at the actual event to have the most realistic footage.

The series doesn't release until May 13. Efficient work by the staff to have the poster done so early. 

Read Overview - Slow Boat Home.


Overview - Slow Boat Home

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A native Cheung Chau boy, Raymond Wong, has high ambitions, but little talent. He is disheartened when he loses his father’s (Elliot Ngok) seafood restaurant, but television director Aimee Chan is willing to endure the challenges with him. She stays by his side even after he crashes his boat and is confined to a wheelchair. Meanwhile, Selena Li suddenly quits her job and returns to Cheung Chau to help out with her mother’s (Susan Tse) vacation home business. It turns out that Selena is secretly working with outsiders to build a hotel empire on the island. Not only that, she also wants to have relations with Raymond, and tries ways to drive Aimee away. Ruco Chan, Selena’s boyfriend, finds her actions to be unbearable, putting him on the same boat as Aimee. Just as Aimee is about to give up on discovering about her past and return to USA, there is a sudden change in the vacation home acquisition project…

Comment: The plot doesn't sound appealing, but guaranteed sunshine and smiles all throughout. This is second of five dramas for Ruco and second of four for Aimee, so plenty more chances to see them if you decide to skip this one, which I probably will.

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Character Map:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Official Poster for Beauty At War



Comment: Notice the bird and the cage. I suppose it's an analogy for how the people in the palace wish to be freed from the cage that is Forbidden City. Pretty subtle.

So excited!!! I hope it will be as good as the original. The best thing about the original is the unpredictability and quick pace. I will have at least one Historical Context post, so look out for that!

Read Overview - Beauty At War


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Wayne Lai and Pierre Ngo - A Love Story

There was a cute scene in episode 1 of Bullet Brain where Wayne Lai reaches over to hold Pierre Ngo's hand. For those wondering... yep, they really do love each other.

神探高伦布

Their matchmaker? Lee Tim Sing, who saw qualities in both of them and decided to cast them together in several of his dramas.

Their love story

Unbeknownst to them, Wayne and Pierre's fate actually started in The Conqueror's Story, though they never shared a scene. Pierre was a young puppet ruler of the Chu state while Wayne defected to the Han state.

They had a brief encounter in Fantasy Hotel when they worked for the same travel agency. Wayne was a tour guide, while Pierre was just an unnamed worker in the office.

They finally met in Rosy Business but like most TVB love stories, they started off as enemies. Pierre was the eldest son of a rich merchant and he did not like Wayne, who was a lowly worker in the family business. Pierre tries to get rid of Wayne in many ways, including hiring someone to kill him. Luckily, Wayne survives.



Wayne doesn't hold it against Pierre and even saves his life in No Regrets. They become good buddies and help each other through the thick and thin of the war. Pierre willingly commits murder to prevent Wayne from doing so. Wayne makes an impassionate speech on the streets to free Pierre. Unfortunately, this happy couple is separated by a sudden bombing.



It turns out Pierre was kidnapped by a foreign state, causing Wayne to be banished (King Maker). Wayne rescues Pierre once again and they return to the imperial court. Wayne pulls out all stops to secure the throne for Pierre. But apparently Pierre is so traumatized by his experience that he makes another murder attempt on Wayne, only to have his plans are foiled by Wayne. In the end, Pierre realizes his dependence on Wayne and they rule the country together.



They finally get together in Bullet Brain. Although Pierre is shy to admit their relationship, the couple lovingly hold hands on the streets.



Their newfound romance will be tested as they fight to be known as the best detective. Here's hoping their love is strong enough to overcome the challenges...



Monday, April 08, 2013

"Bullet Brain" Theme Song

The theme song for Bullet Brain is called "My History" (我的歷史), but Edwin Siu.

Comment: This is Edwin's second consecutive theme song. Looks like he's really being promoted. Listen to "A Great Way to Care 2" Theme Song, also by Edwin. 

See Overview - Bullet Brain


Friday, April 05, 2013

Historical Context - The Yang Generals

The movie "Saving General Yang", starring Adam Cheng, Ekin Cheng and Raymond Lam, premiers on April 4th. The story about the Yang Generals is comprised from historical records and fictional pieces.

The Yang Generals (楊家將) are a legendary family renowned for their bravery and military prowess. They lived during the Northern Song Dynasty and steadfastly defended the borders against rivaling states.

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Adam Cheng as Yang Ye
The patriarch figure is Yang Ye (楊業), who had the nickname “Invincible Yang”. He was originally serving under another state until his warlord surrendered to the Song Dynasty. Yang Ye then pledged his loyalty to Emperor Taizong of Song (宋太宗). Yang Ye was immediately tasked with defending against attacks from the neighbouring Liao Dynasty. Yang Ye and general Pan Mei (潘美) scored a huge victory by flanking the Liao army from the front and rear. After that battle, the Liao army reportedly retreated immediately whenever they saw Yang Ye’s flag.

Later, the Emperor appointed Yang Ye and Pan Mei to lead an expedition to attack the Liao.  While initially successful, they were soon met with the main enemy force. Yang Ye knew the chances of winning were slim, but another general, Wang Shen (王侁), taunted him for being cowardly and disloyal. Against his better judgement, Yang Ye decided to go into battle. He instructed Pan Mei and Wang Shen to send reinforcements to a nearby valley. Yang Ye fought gallantly, but still lost the battle as expected. However, when he retreated into the valley, there were no reinforcements waiting for him. He was captured alive, but refused to surrender and as a show of his loyalty, starved himself to death.

Wu Chun as Yang Yanzhao (6th son)
Yang Ye had seven sons. The most distinguished son was Yang Yanzhao (楊延昭). He is commonly portrayed as the 6th son in fiction, but is believed to be either the 1st or 2nd son in reality.  He took over the army after his father’s death. Like his father, he was an extremely brilliant military man. In one battle where he was besieged by the Liao army, he told his men to pour water on the city’s walls, which soon froze into ice due to the cold weather. The Liao were forced to retreat since it was impossible to scale the slippery walls. In a later campaign, Yang Yanzhao believed there was an opportunity to decisively defeat the Liao, but Emperor Zhenzong (宋真宗) opted to sign a peace treaty instead. Yang Yanzhao remained stationed at the borders until his death.

Yang Wenguang (楊文廣), the son of Yang Yanzhao, is the next generation of Yang generals. With the peace treaty, the Song and Liao dynasties remained at peace for the 30 years. However, the Song court soon had to deal with the upstart Western Xia state. Yang Wenguang carried the family legacy by successfully defending against Western Xia attacks. He died just as the relationship with the Liaos began to deteriorate and the Song court had to prepare for war once again. 


Fictional Tales

梁家仁
Bryan Leung as Pan Renmei
The main antagonist in the fictional tales is Pan Renmei (潘仁美), a character based on Yang Ye’s colleague, Pan Mei. Pan Renmei was extremely jealous of Yang Ye’s accomplishments and was even more aggravated when his son was killed in a fight by Yang Ye’s 7th son. Thus, he plotted with the Liao to besiege the Yangs and the Emperor at a place called Golden Beach. To save the Emperor, Yang Ye’s eldest son dressed up as the Emperor to fool the Liao while the real Emperor escaped. Yang Ye’s eldest three sons were killed in the ensuing battle. The 4th son was captured and later married a Liao princess. The 5th son escaped to a monastery to become a monk.

Ekin Cheng as 1st son
Meanwhile, Yang Ye and his 6th and 7th sons retreated to Twin Wolves Mountain. Yang Ye sent his 7th son to ask Pen Renmei for help, but instead, Pen Remei shot the 7th son to death with arrows.  Facing imminent defeat, Yang Ye saw the headstone of a Han Dynasty general, Li Ling (李陵). He remembered that Li Ling had defected to the enemy, which caused the execution of his family members. Refusing to follow in Li Ling’s footsteps, Yang Ye committed suicide by bashing his head on the stone.


Raymond Lam as 5th son
The 6th son, Yang Yanzhao, was the only one to survive the battle at Golden Beach. Returning to the Song court, he was enraged to find that Pan Renmei got away with only light punishment for his treasonous act. Yang Yanzhao took matters into his own hands and killed Pan Renmei to avenge his father and brothers.

In fiction, Yang Wenguang is portrayed as Yang Yanzhao’s grandson (instead of his son, as per history). The inserted generation is Yang Zongbao (楊宗保) and his wife Mu Guiying (穆桂英). Certain historical records support the existence of a Yang Zongbao, but as a female and of the same generation as Yang Wenguang. Mu Guiying is thought to be Yang Wenguang’s wife in reality, not his mother.