Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sniper Standoff Promo Clips

Overview, Official Poster

Promo #1

Promo #2

Promo #3

Promo #4

AOD Promo

Extended Trailer

Famous Justice Bao Cases

Switching Wildcat for Crown Prince (狸貓換太子)

One day, Justice Bao comes across an old lady named Li who claimed to be the birth mother of the currently reigning Emperor Renzong. She explains that many years ago, she had been a palace maid and was impregnated with (the previous) Emperor Zhenzong’s child. However, the jealous Concubine Liu (now the Empress Dowager) bribed the eunuch Kwok and the midwife to substitute the baby for a wildcat. A maid, Kou Zhu, was ordered to drown the baby in the river, but she secretly bought the baby to the 8th imperial uncle’s mansion. Meanwhile, Emperor Zhenzong, believing that Li had delivered a bad omen, banished her to the cold palace. Concubine Liu ordered Kwok to set fire to the cold palace, but luckily, Li was able to escape. Later, Emperor Zhenzong, with no heirs of his own, adopted the 8th imperial uncle’s “son”, who, while unknown to him, was actually his real son. That prince would inherit the throne as Emperor Renzong.

After hearing this story, Justice Bao set up a hoax to trick Kwok into giving a confession. Justice Bao disguised himself as the god of death* and had the sister of Kou Zhu pretend to be the spirit of the maid. That night, they appeared before a drunken Kwok and threatened him with death if he did not atone for his hideous crime. An extremely superstitious person, Kwok immediately confessed to the conspiracy.
*A common folklore was that Justice Bao went to the underworld at night to pass judgment on the dead.

With evidence in hand, Justice Bao took Li to see Emperor Renzong. The Emperor was initially in disbelief that Empress Dowager Liu could be so cunning and evil, but the 8th imperial uncle stepped forward to confirm the story. Finally, Emperor Renzong recognized his birth mother with the proper title of Empress Dowager. Kwok was beheaded with the tiger-headed guillotine and Liu was given a white ribbon to commit suicide.

The Truth

In Always and Ever, the son of Emperor Renzong (KK Cheung) is switched for a wildcat, but in the traditional story, it is Renzong himself that gets switched.

Executing Chen Shimei (鍘美案)

Chen Shimei (陳世美) was a scholar living with his wife Qin Xianglian (秦香蓮) and two children. When it was time for the imperial examination, he had to leave his family behind and travel to the capital city to take the test. His years of studying paid off as Chen placed first in the examinations. As per custom, he was invited for a tour of the palace. It had been rumoured that the Empress Dowager wanted to find a husband for the princess, so when the Empress Dowager asked Chen about his family, he lied and said “My parents have died and I am unmarried.” The Empress Dowager was delighted and promptly arranged for Chen to marry the princess.

Meanwhile, Qin waited at home for three years without any news of her husband. Finally, she decided to go search for him. Arriving in the capital with her children, she quickly learned that Chen had become the new prince consort. She went to his mansion and requested to meet with him, but was rebuffed three times. Qin eventually managed to sneak into the house. When she saw Chen, she begged him to at least help his own children. Chen refused to even acknowledge that he knew them and kicked them out.

Chen became worried that his lies would be exposed, so he sent his servant to kill Qin and the children. The servant found them in an abandoned temple, but when he learned of the truth, he could not bear to kill them. Instead, he told Qin about Chen's orders to kill them and then committed suicide.

Angered by Chen’s heartlessness, Qin decided to expose his misdeeds. She went to Justice Bao, who was the only official who would agree to hear the case. Justice Bao asked Chen to appear in court to answer to the charges. Chen, confident that he would walk free because of his royal status, turned around and accused Qin of lying. But Qin was able to produce concrete evidence of Chen's crimes. Justice Bao sentenced him to death according to the law. When the Empress Dowager and princess heard of this, they rushed to the courtroom and tried everything they could to stop the execution. However, Justice Bao was unwavering and ordered the execution of the Prince Consort using the dragon-headed guillotine.

The Truth

Nowadays, the term "Chen Shimei" is used to refer to a heartless, unfaithful man.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Overview - Sniper Standoff

Michael Tse, a sniper, left the Special Duties Unit (SDU) over a particular incident, which strained his relationship to colleague and good friend Eddie Cheung.  Michael switched to selling yachts and also became the president of the gun club, but beneath the surface, he had dealings with the triads. Taking advantage of his connections to CIB Inspector Kate Tsui and SDU member Eliza Sam, his girlfriend, Michael is able to obtain knowledge of police operations against the triads. All the while, Eddie is in the dark about Michael’s activities until a string of homicide cases stir up his suspicions. Later, Michael deliberately gets close to Eddie’s girlfriend, Kathy Chow, and leads her to find out that Eddie has been the sniper who caused her to get shot in the head many years ago. The revelation sets the stage for a showdown between the two formerly sworn-brothers...

Official Poster for Sniper Standoff

Overview - Sniper Standoff
See trailer from CITV 2013 and FILMART

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Historical Context: Always and Ever Characters

Bao Zheng (包拯) was a government official during the Song Dynasty. He was well-known for his honesty and impartiality. He treated everyone who came before his court equally, regardless of their rank or connections. During his career, he impeached many corrupt officials, including his own uncle and that of an imperial concubine. He also implemented changes to make the court system more accessible to commoners. Though he was appointed to high offices, Bao Zheng lived a modest life. He observed filial principles closely, even delaying the start of his career to take care of his elderly parents.

Because of his honourable character, Bao Zheng was adored by the people. They gave him the nickname of “Clear Sky Bao” (包青天), which is to mean that the truth will come out as clear as the sky in any case investigated by him. His name is now synonymous with justice and integrity, the hallmarks of an ideal official. 

Justice Bao is often portrayed in popular culture with a black face and crescent birthmark. In the legends, he has three sets of guillotines, each adorned with the head of a different animal.

-          The dog-headed one was used on commoners
-          The tiger-headed one was used on government officials
-          The dragon-headed one was used on noblemen and royalty

Justice Bao had the authority to execute anyone without requiring the approval of the emperor. He also possesses a golden rod and sword, bestowed by the previous emperor, symbolizing his power to speak out against the emperor’s wrongdoings.

Related: Famous Justice Bao Cases

Emperor Renzong (宋仁宗) was the 4th emperor of the Song Dynasty. Succeeding his father at age 13, he stayed on the throne for 42 years – the longest of all Song emperors. His reign is generally regarded to be a prosperous era, but also the beginning of the Song Dynasty’s weakening.

Much of his reign was marked by peace, as Renzong agreed to peace treaties with neighboring states. Of course, peace came at a price. Because the Song court was required to pay large tributes to the other states, citizens were burdened with heavy taxes. Also, the government still had to pay the idle army, which accounted for 70% of tax revenues. To his credit, Renzong did not add to the state’s burden with lavish expenditures. For instance, he was once served crab for dinner, but upon hearing that a single crab cost $1000, he could not bring himself to eat it.

The Song dynasty was known to have tolerant policies towards scholars. This was particularly true under Renzong because of his personal interest in Confucianism. He set the precedent of combining the “Four Books” for learning. He also ordered that the imperial library be reorganized and catalogued. This open policy towards scholars allowed for literary and scientific development. Six of the Eight Great Poets of Tang and Song lived during this time. Many important inventions first appeared during Renzong’s reign, such as government-issued paper currency, formula for gunpowder, movable type and the compass.

Emperor Renzong died without an heir (his three sons all died young) and was succeeded by his cousin’s son. Emperor Renzong had been widely respected for his benevolent rule. Upon hearing news of his death, Song citizens wept openly in mourning. Even the Liao ruler paid tribute to him and built a memorial for Renzong. Years later, when the Jin invaded Song, they raided the tombs of the Song emperors, but left Renzong’s grave untouched because of their respect for him. Later generations will often learn about Renzong through the stories of Justice Bao. He is the prince referenced to in the case of “Switching Wildcat for Crown Prince” (狸貓換太子).

Princess Hing-Sau (慶壽公主) was the tenth daughter of Emperor Renzong. She was one of the longest-living princesses in Chinese history, living through seven emperors before her death at the age of 86. During the Jingkang Incident (靖康之難), the Jin invaded the Song capital and captured many members of the imperial family. However, the princess was able to evade capture because the Jin thought that a princess from so many generations ago* would surely be dead. With the establishment of the Southern Song Dynasty, Princess Hing-Sau moved south along with the royal court, where she spent the rest of her life.

*The Jingkang Incident occurred during the reign of Emperor Qinzong, who was the fifth emperor to take the throne after the princess’s father, Renzong. 

Fictional Characters

Zhan Zhao (展昭) serves as bodyguard to Bao Zheng. He is one of the heroes in the novel The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants (七俠五義). As a youth, he roamed the country and helped people in need. He rescued Bao Zheng four times. The grateful Justice Bao recommended Zhan Zhao to the emperor, who granted him the position of a fourth-rank imperial guard and the nickname “Royal Cat”.

Gongsun Ce (公孫策) is Bao Zheng's assistant. He is highly intelligent and knowledgable in many subject areas. Despite this, he did not want to be a government official as he despised their corruption. When he met the righteous Bao Zheng, he finally decided to take up the post of a sixth-ranking law clerk so that he could help Justice Bao solve cases. He often disguised himself as a medicine man or fortune teller to make investigations. He is the designer of Justice Bao's guillotines. 

Historical Context: Sung Wong Toi

Saturday, August 17, 2013

StarHub TVB Awards 2013

StarHub's annual TVB awards are back! Voting ends on September 25. Support your favourite artists here. These are my picks:

Favourite Actress

Kate Tsui. She has a sexy appeal.

Runner-up: Nancy Wu or Mandy Wong. Both are great actresses who should be promoted more.
Least Favourite: Fala Chen.
Notable Omissions: Sharon Chan was on last year’s list. I think Elena Kong deserves a mention.

Favourite Actor

Julian Cheung. So handsome! I wish he was in more dramas.

Runner-up: Ruco Chan. Because I met him. Twice :D
Least Favourite: Raymond Wong. Have never been fond of him. 
Notable Omissions: Michael Tse got kicked out from last year’s list, probably because he didn't renew his contract.

Favourite Female Character

Chan Ka Pik (Kate Tsui) was a very complex character and was well-played by Kate.

Runner-up: Summer Ha (Myolie Wu). She seems like a cold character, but is actually just very shy.
Least Favourite: Hmm… I’ll go with Ivana even though I watched very little of Inbound Troubles. Tries too hard to be cute.
Notable Omissions: Christine Ng’s character instead of Sheren’s Yue Fei?

Favourite Male Character

<3 Jayden! How can anyone resist the charming Captain Cool?

Runner-up: Captain Samuel Tong (Francis Ng)
Least Favourite: Cheung Po Tsai (Raymond Wong). Funky hair says it all.
Notable Omissions: Isaac Tong (Ron Ng) is quite likeable too.

Favourite On-Screen Couple

Ron & Myolie is cute to watch in TITS2.

Runner-up: Bosco & Niki were very comfortable with each other.
Least Favourite: Kenneth & Tavia just didn’t click in Three Kingdoms RPG.
Notable Omissions: I thought Ruco Chan & Selena Li had great chemistry in Slow Boat Home.

Favourite Drama

Tiger Cubs. My one and (so far) only 5/5 review.

Runner-up: The Confidant. I love historical dramas.
Least Favourite: Silver Spoon, Sterling Shackles. Yawn.
Notable Omissions: Highs and Lows had pretty high viewership.

Favourite Theme Song

Three Kingdoms RPG. Sung by Raymond Lam, enough said.

Runner-up: The Last Steep Ascent. Hubert has a knack for singing these soft melodies.
Least Favourite: Funny they didn’t put TITS2 theme song because that’s hands-down the worst. From the list, Seasons of Love due to Mag butchering the English verse. 
Notable Omissions: “Final Blessing” by Bosco Wong (A Change of Heart)

Favourite Variety Show Categories
Like last year, no pick since I didn’t watch most of variety shows.

Related: StarHub TVB Awards 2012

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Historical Context: Sung Wong Toi

The Sung Wong Toi (宋王臺) is a memorial dedicated to the last two Song Dynasty emperors. It is located in Kowloon, Hong Kong, where the two emperors had taken refuge before the demise of the dynasty. It was the only time a reigning emperor visited Hong Kong.

In the waning days of the Song Dynasty, the Mongolians invaded the Song capital, forcing the young Emperor Gong (宋恭帝) and his regent, the Grand Empress Dowager, to surrender. Loyal officials of the Song court fled south with the emperor’s two brothers. In Fuzhou, they crowned Emperor Gong’s elder brother as the new Emperor Duanzong (宋端宗).

From Fuzhou, the group continued their retreat southwards. They eventually arrived in Hong Kong, near the Kowloon area. They stayed for about half a year before having to flee from the Mongolian army again. As the group travelled aboard a ship en route to Guangdong, they encountered a typhoon. Emperor Duanzong fell from the ship and nearly drowned. Though he was saved, he got sick and later died from his illness.

His younger brother, now the only remaining descendant of the royal line, was promptly crowned as Emperor Bing (宋帝昺). But his reign was brief as the pressure from the Mongolians became insurmountable. Less than a year into his reign, the Song army was annihilated in the Battle of Yamen. Knowing that all was lost, the Prime Minister carried the young Emperor on his shoulders and jumped from a cliff to officially end the Song Dynasty.

Afterwards, local residents engraved the words “Song Wong Toi” (宋王臺) on a large rock atop the “Sacred Hill” to commemorate the two emperors. Apparently, they purposely used the character 「王」 (meaning “king”) instead of 「皇」 (meaning “emperor”) to avoid angering the new rulers of the Yuan Dynasty.

There are two stories as to why the particular rock was chosen for the memorial. The first version was because the rock was a favourite resting spot of the emperor during his time in Kowloon. The second version tells of a time when the emperor was running away from the Mongolians. With seemingly nowhere to go, the rock opened up in a nick of time to allow the emperor to hide inside.

The current memorial is only 1/3 of its original size because it had been partially destroyed during World War II. Fortunately, the inscription of the three characters remained in one piece. It was moved from its original spot to a nearby memorial garden. 

Related Posts:
Overview - Always and Ever
Historical Context - Always and Ever Characters 
Famous Justice Bao Cases

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Three Lifetimes of Fate - Bobby Au-Yeung & Esther Kwan

The golden couple of Bobby Au-Yeung and Esther Kwan will soon be reunited on-screen in Always and Ever. But it turns out they have already been through three lifetimes of fate...

1. Their first collaboration was in Taming of the Princess (醉打金枝), which won them the Most Comedic Pairing award. Esther was a spoiled princess who sneaked out of the palace and met Bobby, a restaurant owner.

2. They join together again to bring more laughter to the audience in A Recipe for the Heart (美味天王). Bobby is a master chef who trains Esther to become a chef so that she can manage her family's restaurant.

3. Armed Reaction (陀槍師姐) is their most memorable collaboration. Esther is a strong-willed policewomen who is able to recover from her divorce with the support of Bobby, a fellow police officer.

They were also in The Legendary Four Aces together, but was not paired as a couple. Esther was paired with her then-boyfriend (now husband) Nick Cheung. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Two Hugs, Two Outcomes

When a relationship is broken, sometimes it can never be fixed again. 
One can only lament that some things are not meant to be.

But if you are lucky enough to receive the chance to start anew, be sure to cherish the opportunity.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Full Castle Scene from Triumph in the Skies II

The Hong Kong version had some shots cut from the scene of Chilam and Fala in the castle. Here is the overseas version, which kept those scenes.

Honestly, no substantial difference, just a few more seconds of Chilam's hands running all over Fala's bareback...

"Always and Ever" Theme Song

The theme song is sung by Shirley Kwan, named "Purely Coincidence" (實屬巧合)

The sub-theme song "Unexpected" (意想不到) is sung by Pierre Ngo.

See Overview & Promo Clips

Thursday, August 01, 2013

TVB Trends: May-December Relationships

Old enough to be her dad? Age disparity obviously isn't a problem for these TVB lovers...

John Chiang & Liu Xuan in Grace Under Fire - 32 years

Elliot Ngok & Ada Choi in Gem of Life - 31 years

Damien Lau & Tavia Yeung in Silver Spoon Sterling Shackles - 30 years

Pal Sinn & Grace Wong in Awfully Lawful - 27 years

Wayne Lai & Sire Ma in Bullet Brain - 23 years

Francis Ng & Fala Chen in Triumph in the Skies II - 21 years

Francis Ng & Myolie Wu in Triumph in the Skies - 18 years

Wayne Lai & Natalie Tong in Bullet Brain - 17 years

Frankie Lam & Linda Chung in Forensic Heroes - 17 years

Alex Fong & Kate Tsui in A Great Way to Care - 16 years

Yvonne Lam & Tsui Wing in Come Home Love - 15 years


Lawrence Ng & Tracy Chu in The Hippocratic Crush II - 24 years

Dayo Wong & Kate Tsui in My Prime Lady - 19 years

Michael Tse & Eliza Sam in Sniper Standoff - 17 years

Joe Ma & Linda Chung in Tiger Cubs II - 16 years

Wayne Lai & Myolie Wu in No Reserve - 15 years

What other odd couples have you seen?

Another TVB Trend - Rape Scenes