Double Feature: Your Name. (2016) & The Guardian Brothers (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we are looking at two foreign animated films. The first is one that was previously reviewed as a part of the Ultimate 2010s Blogathon and originally posted over at my co-host Drew’s Movie Reviews’s blog for Your Name. The second is a Chinese animated film by Light Chaser Animation Studios called The Guardian Brothers (on Netflix, but called Little Door Gods everywhere else), which is their debut movie from the studio before getting to one of my favorite movies of 2019, White Snake (review).

Your Name. (2016)

your name

Director (and writer): Makoto Shinkai

Voice Cast (English ver.):  Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh, Kyle Hebert, Cassandra Morris, Ben Pronsky, Ray Chase, Laura Post, Glynis Ellis, Catie Harvey, Scott Williams

Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart? – IMDB

There’s no doubt that when we think of Japanese animated films, Studio Ghibli is the first one that gets the most recognition. Yet in the sea of Japanese anime, there’s a lot of smaller films with a lot of great ideas that are starting to appear on the international film market and Your Name is one that definitely had a lot of recognition when it was released. Adapted from director Makoto Shinkai’s novel of the same name which was published only one month prior to the film’s premiere, Your Name stands out because of all its elements being done very well: story full of reveals and twists, emotional moments, music score and of course, its rich animation.  

Your Name has incredibly rich animation. Each scene has a lot of intricate details. Whether its setting up how the sunlight beams through a scene or how the night sky and the comet and lights contrast in its night scenes, every scene is set up to look beautifully authentic, especially in its outdoors nature scene that almost looks like a realistic snapshot full of colors, instead of an animation. Paired with its music score by Radwimps which runs fittingly throughout all the scenes, especially during the montage moments between the two main leads and the little things that happen to go through time quickly, it adds so much to each scene and tone. 

The story here written by the director Makoto Shinkai is based on his own novel which makes it even more of a personal offering and easier to portray the film the way that he wants. Your Name carries a rather complex story packed with swapping bodies, time elements and a few surprises along the way. Its execution is possibly the most important element put to the test in order to make each of its reveals timed perfectly to make it have the most impact and Shinkai does it so masterfully that it manages to make each one unpredictable and pulls the story into another direction and packing in a lot of emotions and tugging some heartstrings as this is at the centre of it all, a love story by the end. At the same time, props to Shinkai who also starts off the story in a light and fun way of introducing these two characters, Taki and Mitsuha with their different backgrounds, locations and genders who learn to discover each other physically and emotionally, adding a lot of charm and humor. At the same time, every supporting character also has its own purpose in propelling the story forward and making sure that some conversations help explain the odd predicament that they find themselves in. 

Overall, Your Name is an outstanding animated film. While I only managed to listen to the English version and would have preferred to see the original Japanese version with English subtitles instead, the story doesn’t lose anything because it has some unique ideas and excels in so many elements that put together, it becomes a memorable movie experience. Yet again proving that 2010s brings forward an eye-opening offering of international films and expands into some unique ideas outside of the big American studios like Disney and Pixar offerings. 

The Guardian Brothers (小门神 , 2016)

  The Guardian Brothers

Directors: Gary Wang & Paulette Victor-Lifton

Voice Cast (Eng. Version): Dan Fogler, Edward Norton, Bella Thorne, Nicole Kidman, Mel Brooks, Meryl Streep, Steve French, Cristina Pucelli

There’s a crisis in the Chinese Spirit World — humans don’t believe in gods anymore! A Door God, facing unemployment, ventures into the human world to prove his worth, leading to unexpected encounters and transformations for humans and spirits alike. – IMDB

Much like its recent film offering, Light Chaser Animation Studios creates stories that play with certain Chinese beliefs, traditions as well as stories. In this one, it uses the belief of spiritual guardians  just like how American movies would use Santa Claus and the loss in belief, affect the future in the human world and pulling the two worlds together. At the same time, it also surrounds the story during Chinese New Year and a familiar tale of a creature called Nian that is the origins of why many Chinese New Year traditions are now used like firecrackers and such. Light Chaser Studios, using these source material, creates a rather fun story which is very much fittingly a fantasy comedy and has equal doses of both, while still managing to add some family drama in between of a mother and daughter relationship and carrying on their family restaurant against the more popular commercial restaurant.

The English version of The Guardian Brothers is packed with a great cast. Right off the bat, Meryl Streep has a unique voice that I’ve always loved and she does a stellar job as the narrator which carries the story really well. The brothers are voiced by Dan Fogler and Edward Norton who fittingly also has one who is more funny and the other much more serious respectively. While Bella Thorne definitely does show up in a lot of different movies more and more and her voicing the role of a little girl, Rain really has its own fun. I talked about her roles a little when I reviewed Midnight Sun (review) and yet again, it is wonderful to see her take on something other than the norm and further breaks her out of this acting box that she was stuck in for a while. Of course, it does help that Nicole Kidman is casted to voice her mother. Of course, I can’t leave this without talking about the villain or just the evil corporate businessman voiced by Mel Brooks, which really is present but more as hurdles and gets whats coming to him as with most animated films aimed towards children (maybe not too young as some darker elements here and there) do to emphasize the importance of being good.

If there was anything to criticize for this one, it might be just the pacing and at times the execution feels like the story jumps around a little too much that pads out what could be a fairly straight forward story. However, the animation is really colorful and imaginative. It manages to grab a good color palette suitable to the atmosphere and what is going on. Its a nice offering and one that is incredibly suitable for Chinese New Year (which was actually when I first watched it not knowing that it was a Chinese New Year movie).

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these animated films?

What’s Up 2020: Week 13

Moving right along now into Week 13 of 2020! This week’s recap was the first official week of self-isolation. While life didn’t change much except for moving work to my home office and its been a whole more of deliberately staying at home, the good thing is that writing is definitely more on track and I’ve found more time to do other things in these different categories. On the positive side of things, we’re progressing!

READING

Blackthorn

Currently reading: Blackthorn

Blackthorn is moving forward FINALLY! I’m finding time to read again, although not quite as much as before. However, I’m definitely hitting the meat of the story as I hit almost halfway. I do plan on finishing it soon as I have another book to start reading very soon in preparation for the next blog tour.

PLAYING

where the water tastes like wine

Currently playing: Demon’s Tilt, I Love Hue, I Love Hue 2, Happy Color, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Definitely moving forward with a lot more games this week. Still mostly focused on mobile for relaxation and then checking out other games on Xbox Game Pass for PC. I’m debating to keep it a little longer than the three months since I have a few other games to check out that might take some time to finish like Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Guacamelee 2! As for this week, I started up Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, an indie game that is really narrative and part choice-based to direct the story in a different way. I just realized that the game is fairly long (like 10 hours) and I’m only like an hour into it so I still have some gaming to give more thoughts on it. On another note, I’m trying to use this time to get more gaming posts up. First line of business is the revival of Mobile Games Roundup!

WATCHING

aliens

  • A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
  • The Guardian Brothers (2016)
  • Aliens (1986, rewatch)
  • Alien 3 (1992, rewatch)

A ton of rewatches this week and really only one new watch. I had postponed The Guardian Brothers so long that I felt like I wanted to rewatch it to get a review out. We’re really ahead for Movies and Tea recordings so you can kind of guess who we chose for Season 5 seeing as I went ahead to revisit some Alien movies. The husband actually did watch all the first 4 but I actually fell asleep (because of fatigue and not the movie’s problem) for Alien and then I’m not a fan of Alien Resurrection so, no surprise, I actually dozed off also. Either way, it helped to catch the little details. I’m actually surprised that I haven’t reviewed the Alien franchise yet. I had thought that I did so I might be doing a Sunday Lists posts to rank the movies thus far!

BINGING

The Circle Brazil

  • The Circle Brazil (Season 1, 2020)

Currently binging: Skate Into Love, Me To Us, Youth is You 2, The Singer 2020, J-Style Trip

Lots of TV back on the radar now. Three Week Event of The Circle Brazil wrapped up and its still such a great concept as a show. With different countries and different players, the game changes and its a refreshing way to see the outcome. Its great since The Circle France is around the corner and what’s even better is that now I can watch it with more ease as I understand French!

As for currently watching, J-Style Trip released its next episode with guest star JJ Lin exploring Singapore in a 2 part trip. The first part is whats available and pretty fun since I’ve liked JJ Lin as a musician as well and fits so well since he had just did a live online concert with friends for his birthday. I finally got started with Me to Us and I love it SO MUCH! Not hard to since I can’t help but fangirl over Nicholas Tse who in his late 30s is still AWESOME! So much style on stage! As for Skate Into Love, this series is one of my most anticipated this year since I like Janice Wu as an actress in TV series and she was pretty quiet in 2019 and so far, its been really fun! Its supposed to be the part 2 of a trilogy following Ashes of Love (review). Plus, its only 40 episodes, which is fairly modest for Chinese dramas.

That’s it for Week 13’s recap! 
What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?

My March Adventures!

Welcome to the March Adventures! March is a big month. Not so much for work (such a rare thing to say over here) in the beginning until the pandemic was announced and things took a flipside and changed the working situation and the general routine.  Not quite the way I expected my husband and I to turn a year older but hey, what can you do, right? On a happier note, as a lot of us have shifted our lives at home, I’m 34 today and celebrating in the beautiful confines of my home, still employed and healthy! In the state of things right now, its important to be grateful and appreciative for the things that we have!

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Done!

Early March wrapped up the Ultimate 2010s Blogthon that I co-host with Drew’s Movie Reviews as we celebrated with our fantastic guest reviewers their favorite/most significant 2010s movies. You can find all the entries HERE.

Day Off

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I had a day off in early March after a 10.5 days work week to recuperate. The husband also had that day off so we ended up going to do some shopping since I needed to upgrade my skincare routine. You can see the new purchases. I had a birthday discount card so it was alright. We also had a lovely lunch at La Belle et la Boeuf eating some burgers.

Little did we know how things were going downhill after this date outing.

Kavala & Boulangerie Ange

Right before we had all the social distancing orders from the government, I did manage to have a few last hurrahs with friends.

Boulangerie Ange

The first was checking out the new bakery at a new condo district called Boulangerie Ange. We did pick up some bread, croissants and baguette while trying out their breakfast combo. Its pretty good and would definitely be something to check out later on when things get back to normal.

Kavala

We also managed to squeeze in another restaurant hangout with our Battle of Ingredients crew at a Greek tavern called Kavala. I was going to do a post on it but have decided to postpone it as its not like restaurants are currently open (other than takeout and delivery). Either way, it was a delicious place but I’ll talk more about it afterwards. On that note, Battle of Ingredients is, of course, on hold until further notice when things get back to normal.

Work Changes & New Routine

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After a week of nerve-wracking public commute to work with all kinds of preventative measures in the bus and sanitization and home cleaning, my boss figured out a way to let me work from home. Although, above is only immediate needs for the week or so and I do have to pop back into the office every week or so to grab new documents and drop off work done, its been a fairly quick adaptation to working at home although its somewhat changed my routine as I’ve needed to add in time for doing things I’d usually use for reading and walking to work as workout. Still, I can’t complain as I still have a job as we’re considered essential services when the province lockdown came into effect. As of writing this post, I have already gone back to pick up another crateful of documents to work on as we’ve outlined the goals for the next few weeks.

New Routines and Plans 

In lieu of the current state of events, I have already talked about new routines. While I’ve been trying my best to keep up with setting a new routine, mostly with better chore management during the week. I’m slowly finding more time to get in the other projects. You should be seeing more baking related posts (yes, Baking Through Disney should show up after a few little basic baking to get myself back on track to make sure I’m still good with the basics and organization. At the same time, I have an huge amount of backlog of double features and TV binges to write as well as a lot of  book commitments and blog tours to work on over the next little while. Content should be back on track as I know the last 2 weeks or so have been a little all over the place.

At the same time, Elwood and I have been working hard on getting ahead with both Game Warp and Movies and Tea podcast recording so remember to check out our wrap up for Season 3 as we look at Ang Lee and then our After Hours and Shark Week. You can check out Movies and Tea HERE and Game Warp HERE. More podcasts and written reviews/posts will coming up from myself at least as I start finding time to wrap up a few of them. In terms of gaming, I might actually start streaming soon as I kind of made a deal with myself that if I had the ability to work from home and had more time that I’d start doing that..just deciding on the game to stream right now.

Cute Kitty Pic

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That’s it for the March Adventures!

I’m going to assume right now that if things stay the way they are, I will have to be a little more creative with the April Adventures as its less adventures in the going out but more what I’ve been up to at home. I have some buried project ideas and whatnot that I want to find time to do so we will see.

On that note, feel free to share what you have been up to? Have you been confined to your homes as well?

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Check out TV binge for previous 2 seasons below:

Season 1
Season 2

On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

on my block s3

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Paula Garces, Reggie Austin, Ada Luz Pla

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up right after the shocking ending of the four friends getting kidnapped off the streets, On My Block Season 3 starts off with them kidnapped to see Cuchillos, the head of the Santos, who end up thanking them for getting rid of The Prophets and then of course, just like expected, sending them on a much more dangerous task: finding Ricky who is probably not dead (contrary to what is believed). This mission is one that they not only have a time limit with some serious consequences if they don’t achieve it but at the same time, one that they must tackle without anyone else knowing but having to find somewhere to start despite their own arguments among themselves and get back together to face it together with the help of Spooky and Jasmine.

on my block

The writers of this show actually did a really great choice at this point as while the four friends, Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray), are all still our main set of characters, they decided to write in much more depth continuing on from Season 2 for Spooky (Julio Macias) and more importantly, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who turns out to be so much more than where she started in Season 1. Its knowing when their problems can’t be the only things in the picture that it gives the show a lot more boost with those two as it turns into a team of five tackling this with a little outside/family help from Spooky. There are still a lot of the familiar problems carrying forward between the four. Monse and Cesar are tackling their relationship and whether they should be together because of bad decisions and other factors as well as family issues; Ruby still has a lot of inner troubles from the trauma he experienced but in this one, he’s also realizing his problems has caused real financial problems for his parents while Jamal tackles girl problems and figuring out his priorities. While Monse used to be the glue for the group, surprisingly, everyone has some healing and Jasmine ends up really getting them straight on what’s more important and how to set their problems aside and work together, even if by the end, things don’t quite work out as intended, which will make Season 4 an interesting change in events for these characters, if it happens. The new group dynamic did give a good boost.

on my block season 3

Another great writing is really giving a lot of balance to the characters. Its a quick 8 episodes every season but getting to see equal doses of these characters for their own quirks and problems is the first step to lead to a realization that this group is not as solid as it used to be in Season 1 especially as they grow up and face more problems. In this one, this mission takes them on some crazy locations and meets some funny and at times, over the top, people that truly give this season a lot of charm. Its the process of this mission that makes more of a bang than how it ends, very in tune with how this show does manage to give it a humorous mostly because of not understanding the seriousness of the situation right from the first season. In that sense, the tone here is darker but still has that balance of light-hearted and awkward humor to make it a fun watch especially in the case of Jamal and Ruby who come together in this one a lot and really come up with some crazy ideas. Together they can make all kinds of bad logic work out in their minds that its okay and that is rather incredible despite things usually not going the way they expected.

On My Block S3

With that said, while the whole series does move fairly quickly and is overall, a fun trip with roles like Jamal, Jasmine, Ruby really having some shining moments as well as giving a lot more for Spooky to do that makes him such a deeper character that would be nice see further how it all plays out in the next season. While its not exactly a downfall, the more lackluster characters do go to Cesar and Monse mostly because they seem to always revolve in the same problems since end of Season 1 to this season and they  have the same struggles, which gives them less character development than before. With 8 episodes though, its definitely a bingeworthy show for fans of the show.

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

ashes of love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Andy Yang, Allen Deng, Leo Luo, Adonis Liao, Zhi Yuan Xia, Faye Wang, Ting Wei Zhou, Yukee Chen, Kathy Chow, Bella Du, Yang Peng, Run Jun Wang, Zhong Hua He

In ancient times, the Flower Goddess dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for 10,000 years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi. 4,000 years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, Xu Feng, was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for 100 years, Xu Feng gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Someone close to them wants to use those feelings for their own benefit. – MyDramaList

Where to watch with English subtitles (as at March 25, 2020): Netflix Canada & Youtube

QUOTE/SCENE

Jing Mi: That one’s so ugly. Why did you bring it here also?
Phoenix: I feel that one is the most beautiful of all the Phoenix lanterns, because it contains our memory.
Jing Mi: This is the memory of Saint Girl and King Yi. [pause] What a beautiful view!  It’ll be great if we can drink some self-made osmanthus wine. In fact, before I descended to the mortal world, I buried some osmanthus wine I made here.
Phoenix: I dug it out several days ago. Let’s try  your wine today. [next scene] The wine you made is indeed savory and mellow.
Jing Mi: I must have some skills amongst the six realms. Why are you staring at me like that?
Phoenix: Its great that I don’t have to look at you through the veil.
Jing Mi: Isn’t it beautiful?

STORY

ashes of love phoenix jingmi

Ashes of Love is essentially a love story and its where it thrives at its best. Much like the structure of 2017’s Eternal Love (review) and background, this one is set a little different  in the actual fairy world where this one has six realms however, the Sky realm is still the highest one (as it usually is) and the story resides in these different deity/fairy ranging from flowers to nocturnal creatures to celestial creatures and all kinds of animals and even inanimate objects. In terms of creativity, the story is full of them and that is one of the many highlights of this one and can bring so much fun to this as it makes for some leaps of beliefs but in a fantasy world like this one, its more about learning about it first. And that is a lot of the charm especially as it starts off fairly light-hearted and fun.

The realms here are really where the many past dilemmas have ignited from the past generation between the Floral Goddess, Heavenly Emperor, Water Immortal and all the other people linked to them. Its created essentially what happens to Jing Mi to have been given the Unfeeling Pill when she was born to prevent her from meeting her curse of love with the first 10,000 years of her life, which ends up being the catalyst of all the events that end up happening as misunderstandings happen as the truth unfolds. But that said, each of these realms of the three focused on among the six is different in its own way and has its own traits reflective of the place but yet still has their own good and evil characters.

ashes of love war

At the end of all this, between war and feuds and misunderstandings and realm battles for power, it all dials down to the romance and the love triangle between Jing Mi, Phoenix and Runyu instigated by jealousy and unfairness on one end and then creating revenge and hatred, making things worsen. Its all a story of the basic philosophy and belief in Chinese that what is meant to happen will happen regardless of how you plan on changing its course, that act alone is also destined to happen. Also goes along with you reap what you sow at the end of the day especially as what is given off from one generation can affect its next. Its all very common plot points and themes in ancient Chinese fantasy TV series as Eternal Love has about the same kind of plot point (as an example since its the other one in the same genre). What does work here is that once you get past those similar plot points and embrace what they do different in building this new world and its characters, Ashes of Love has a stronger bond with its love story and leads (for myself) whereas in comparison, Eternal Love is entertaining well-rounded but perhaps didn’t quite connect as much in terms of the main leads and their love story. I don’t mean to compare but I did watch them almost back to back.

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Before we jump to pacing, I need to mention that the costume designs here are really nice. There’s a lot of thought of each one from the Birds Realm to the colorful Flower Realm to the dark Demon realms outfits as as well as the gold and white and more royalty colors in the Heavenly Realm. Its one of the elements that make me love watching Chinese Fantasy TV series. The costumes and the hair ornaments and hair styles are just so beautiful! While I’m talking about this, I do have to mention that when they do close-ups of the props, fake flowers and such, it is pretty apparent, maybe one of the lesser elements of this series. But then, I guarantee you that there is one “sex” scene in this (its public TV so nothing explicit) and its filmed so poetically and beautiful that I was really impressed by the whole thing especially when you remember the true forms of the leads on hand.

LENGTH/PACING

ashes of love jingmi

Episodes: 63
Episode length: 40-45 mins approx.

Its incredible how long Chinese TV series are sometimes especially these big production Chinese fantasy ones. Ashes of Love is surprisingly long at 63 episodes and yet, the script is done so well that the story progresses in phases that gives time for each stage of these characters to grow and develop individually and together in their different relationships, friendships, family, brothers, etc. It doesn’t take a break from this other than maybe the secondary couple from the demon realm which ends up being a rather touching story as well by the end.

Looking at the phase, the first part (as I mentioned) before is about the meeting between Phoenix and Jing Mi and her introduction from the Flower Realm to the Heaven Realm and gradually the reveal of her true identity as well as her growing relationship in their few hundred years as the helper and disciple of Phoenix. As her true identity gets revealed, it jumps into the next phase of the story where it shares about the past and the characters involved and what actually happened, throwing the hatred of the Heavenly Empress and her desire to split up Jing Mi and Phoenix while Phoenix’s brother, Runyu gets pulled into the mix and he learns about his mother and it builds on his revenge and his plot slowly conspire. Things gets more messy here as this also get intermitted with Jing Mi’s mission to become an immortal by going to the Mortal Realm to experience the suffering of mortal life to gain knowledge where she ends up connecting with her feelings more as a turn of events takes Phoenix to have a rather intense romance. Finally, the third phase appears after all the plots of phase 2 unravels and Jing Mi unexpectedly breaks the Unfeeling Pill’s effects and realizes her real feelings and makes up for her mistakes to Phoenix. That turns into the most painful, emotional and heartbreaking moments of search and hopelessness and this last part is just such a ode of how the beginning builds up its characters and relationships so well that this part ends up working a lot. (I mean, I bawled my eyes out a ton in the last 8-10 episodes or something)

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Leads: Jing Mi & Phoenix

ashes of love phoenix jingmi 1

Ashes of Love takes a lot of time and attention on building these two characters. Its great because the focus never quite leaves them even when they are apart and doing their own thing. There’s a lot of factors that work here. The first is that its not dubbed voices and the actual actors are voicing these characters because both Andy Yang and Allen Deng are really talented actors and in their respective roles as Jing Mi and Xu Feng (aka Phoenix, as I keep referring to him), they are incredibly convincing and hard to not ship them, to be honest. These two characters are strong individually as they both have their own family, relationship and realm issues to deal with and consider in all their choices and their own secrets to uncover. Its what makes their love story so heartbreaking and bittersweet altogether because each of their own issues and it all comes down to Jing Mi and the Unfeeling Pill that stops her from realizing her own feelings until its too late which makes their relationship take a very heartbreaking turn of events. The chemistry between these two characters are fantastic especially in some scenes of how the director uses close-ups to the dialogue around them where they both are able to act with their eyes and interpret some genuine feelings without saying anything.

Brothers & Family Feud: Phoenix & Run Yu

ashes brothers

All royalty has their own conflicts and Phoenix’s family is the Heaven realm’s family which creates all kinds of crazy as the Heaven Emperor reveals to be a rather unloyal man where his past creates the Empress’s hate and jealousy making a lot of issues become unfair to the older son, Runyu the Night Immortal. What starts off as a rather good brother relationship despite the parent issues ends up turning sour as Runyu’s character ends up having a subtle villain type of change full of plot and schemes, creating this character that flips from the nice guy at the beginning.

Love Interests, Villains & Other Characters of Interest

Love Interests for Jing Mi is mostly Runyu as well as some other characters that don’t really have too much to mention however the main villains of the series is one, the Heaven Empress, aka Phoenix’s mother (as mentioned before because of jealousy) and the second is Phoenix’s “cousin”/crush who likes him a lot and believes she is the one destined for him and does increasingly evil acts. The two villains in the end are the main cause of Phoenix’s “demise”. Everything comes in full circle in Chinese philosophy and nothing proves it quite like how TV series stories work. You can’t say these two villains don’t do a great job. Empress is portrayed by 90s Hong Kong TV actress Kathy Chow who does a fantastic job that its hard to not dislike the character much like Faye Wang as the love interest who plays on the more annoying side of things.

Of course, the more fun additions do go to the Green Snake and the other colorful character of the Flower Realm just like the Moon Immortal (Phoenix’s uncle) who are comedic but in desperate times, knowledgeable and contribute to the dilemma in their own ways. There’s a lot of characters in Ashes of Love so its hard to talk about all of it.

OVERALL

ashes phoenix

Ashes of Love is a really great series. Its one that takes its sweet time to move through its different story levels to gradually connect with each of these characters as they develop and learn about the different secrete in their life, especially with the main female character, Jing Mi. The magical elements and this new world and the possibilities gives it the space to believe in all the twists and turns and thats because its already given it such a creativity to begin with which also sparks some deeper thoughts on how certain plot points would work but never quite doubt its possibility, leaving space for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The different worlds have beautiful CG effects that make them unique as well as their own kingdom and rules as well as different worlds and their feuds with each other.

Aside from all that is crafting these characters that work so well on their own in complexity. Having 63 episodes to do it definitely feels like it would be a drag but it isn’t most of the time because these characters need it and its because of that, it makes especially Jing Mi and Phoenix’s story so much more emotional to watch whether its happy moments to the extremely heartbreaking moments. Fantastic series that makes me want to watch and rewatch and notice those little story plot details more.

MAIN THEME

What’s Up 2020: Week 12

Week 12 everyone! I’m guessing everyone is starting to settle into having more time at home. Last week, aka this week that we’re covering right now, was my last week having to commute to work and under a lot of stress of how to make as many preventative measure as possible so that actually affected a lot of writing. However, I did try to stay on track with doing as much as I can. Next week will definitely bring some difference hopefully as work shifts home.

READING

Blackthorn

Currently reading: Blackthorn

As I’ve mentioned before, most of my reading is done via commute. Due to the preventative measures during commute, I actually stopped touching my devices on the bus so hence, no reading was done. Blackthorn is still on my mind and as this goes up, I’m back to reading. However, absolutely no reading progress last week. I’ll talk more about it in next week’s update!

PLAYING

Demon's Tilt

Currently playing: Demon’s Tilt, I Love Hue

Not too much of change in the gaming department either! I actually have been pretty obsessed with these two games. Pinball games just bring out the challenger in me apparently and I keep wanting to beat the game and beat my own high score. I’m actually improving in it which is pretty nice. Hopefully that I don’t peak at a certain point, but that tends to happen. We will see as I do also need to move on and play something else.

At the same time, I Love Hue is perfect for downtime. While I’m still loving this one, I realized that they recently released a sequel called I Love Hue Too and I can’t wait to try it out! I’ll report back next week to talk about it once I give it a go.

WATCHING

blair witch project

  • The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  • Blair Witch (2016)
  • Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

Unknowingly, we ended up watching all horror movies this weekend. The one thing that was unexpected was finally catching up (for both myself and my husband) to the very talked about The Blair Witch Project when it was first released and probably put found footage films on the map back then. I still remember hearing all kinds of talk about it back then about the shaky camcorder style and such. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person who hasn’t caught up with this one. While I can’t say that I’m completely enthralled by it, there are quite a few things that I did like about this one.

Of course, this was all lead by my husband’s random choice to start 2016’s Blair Witch thinking it was 1999’s Blair Witch Project so we just decided to rent the first and check both of it out. Of course, we also decided to continue on with the Hell House LLC franchise onto the second movie, which isn’t as good as the first one.

BINGING

restaurants on the edge

  • Restaurants on the Edge (Season 1, 2020)

Currently binging: The Singer 2020, Youth is You 2, The Circle Brazil, Skate Into Love, J-Style Trip

TV binging is just all kinds of new things that updated daily or weekly with one to four episodes depending on the series. The Singer 2020, Youth is You 2 are both variety shows from Mango TV and iQiyi that I watch via their international apps. I’ve been watching those the past while so nothing new there. Still very fun. The Circle Brazil aired its 2nd week of its 3 week event (so it will all wrap up next time) and you can see the difference of the competitive vibe in this one compared to the US version. I’m going to talk about it once the whole thing ends. Its definitely a fun concept. J-Style Trip is also a new Taiwanese variety show with Jay Chou and his buddies exploring the world. Suitable for now as a lot of us are sitting at home. Its pretty fun especially since the first episode is was Jam Hsiao, a musician that I’ve really been loving the past few months, but its only updated one episode per week. Good things come in small doses, I guess, and makes us appreciate it more. Finally, a series I’ve been waiting for to start finally aired called Skate Into Love and its update daily and 5 episode in and I LOVE it!!

We switched things up a bit this time and talked about the currently binging before what I finished. Restaurants on the Edge is a Netflix series about making over restaurants. Its something of a Queer Eye concept but targeted at restaurants around the world as the three hosts help with making over the interior design, food as well as bringing in the culture for the owners and the vibe of the restaurant. Its really nice because it may be a makeover but its so much more than that, which is what I appreciate about the show and I’ll talk about it more in the TV binge. Working on that soon..but as usual, the TV binge is piling up right now.

That’s it for this What’s Up 2020 for Week 12!
What are you reading/playing/watching/binging?