Tranquil Dreams Podcast #2: What’s Up 2021 Week 2

Time for the next Tranquil Dreams Podcast!

As you can tell, I’m still working out the whole recording and editing schedule so its getting published a little later than I’m hoping for.

This episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast, we take a look at Week 2 of 2021 for the next What’s Up weekly recap of what I’m currently reading, watching, playing and binging and the highlights of each segment along with a description of the new additions to the rundown and some impressions and thoughts.

Related Links:
Up The Creek Review
Z Storm Review

Music in this Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

The podcast is available on:
Anchor
Google Podcasts
Spotify
Breaker
Pocket Casts
RadioPublic

Hope you enjoyed the episode!

That’s it for this What’s Up!
What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?

Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Blog Tour: Up The Creek by Alissa Grosso (Review/Giveaway)

Up The Creek (Culver Creek #1)
By: Alissa Grosso

Expected Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

SYNOPSIS

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

Add to Goodreads

REVIEW

Being the first book for an upcoming series, Up the Creek sets a good foundation. Up The Creek is well-paced and executes the story back and forth between its characters. In this case, it involves 3 main characters: Caitlin Walker, her husband Lance Walker and the new detective in Culver Creek Sage Dorian, who has been hired to take a look at the cold case. As a thriller, it also is executed quite well to slowly give the reveal of what is the secret with Caitlin and Lance that links them to the disappearance of their child and the cold case. It also sets up the story so that the finale delivers a question that makes you think whether all this could have been avoided if one person’s decision had been different and whether some secrets are best exposed.

One of the best elements of Up The Creek is the character design/development. The three characters each have their own connection to the past that brings up some flashbacks and through various conversations with the new situation that comes up reveals their secrets little by little. With that said, the characters are fairly complexed and suitably so for a thriller. Caitlin’s secret is probably the easiest to piece together: the reason that she takes medication for her dreams and the quick reveal of her tendency for nightmares pieces together easily to see her deal. However, this ends up connecting to her young son Adam that eventually goes missing and no one truly knows who took him and what happened. Lance Walker is probably the character with the most secrets from what seems like every day habits to slowly see that he has a much stronger connection to the case. His character is actually rather fascinating as he unveils and everything comes into place. That leaves Sage Dorian which probably starts to feel like the balance for his part is a little smaller however he is a key part as he pulls the cold case with the new missing child case together. At a certain point at the end, it is fairly clear how it all pieces together however, there isn’t an issue for this character to draw the conclusions clearly. As a side note, while this isn’t mentioned but there seems to be one connection that probably will come into play at the end in future books as it may connect to Sage Dorian that wasn’t addressed.

As a first book of a series, Up The Creek leaves a lot to look forward to for future books set in Culver Creek. Already by the end, there still is the issue of Sage Dorian’s own family mystery that hasn’t been addressed yet and only mentioned that gives his character some foundation. Writing good thrillers are very difficult and something that I mention quite a bit. Up The Creek does a great job to make it both gripping and thrilling to watch from beginning to end with decent pacing and execution. Up The Creek is a great thriller and well worth a read.

Score: 4.5/5

Where to Buy
Amazon
iBooks
Barnes & Noble
Google
Indie Bound
Kobo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can find out more about her and her books at AlissaGrosso.com.

Website
Twitter
Facebook
BookBub

GIVEAWAY
$50 Amazon Gift Card (Open to Everyone) Ends January 16th
Enter Giveaway Here

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

January 11th
Reads & Reels (Guest Post)
I’m All About Books (Spotlight)
Jessica Belmont (Review)
@the.b00kreader (Review)

January 12th
Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight)
Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight)
What Emma Did Next (Review)
Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Review)

January 13th
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Books, Rambling, & Tea (Review)
@evelovesbooks_travel_art (Review)
Rambling Mads (Review)

January 14th
B is for Book Review (Spotlight)
Scarlett Readz & Runz (Spotlight)
Book Review Crew (Review)
Tranquil Dreams (Review)

January 15th
The Faerie Review (Spotlight)
Tsarina Press (Spotlight)
Books Teacup and Review (Spotlight)
@bookishkelly2020 (Review)

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Book Tours

Still the Water (2020)

Still the Water (2020)

Director (and writer): Susan Rodgers

Cast: Ry Barrett, Colin Price, Spencer Graham, Christina McInulty

The men in a broken family reunite many years after a domestic tragedy drives them apart. – IMDB

Still The Water is a fairly straightforward family drama. It tells the story of three brothers that have grown apart because of their past. This past is the mystery that carries the story forward for the most part as no one truly addresses it in full. As the pieces fall into place, the division between the brothers, especially the older two Nicky (Colin Price ) and Jordie (Ry Barrett) come into the play. A part of the division that is further emphasized because of the neighbor Abby (Christina McInulty) when Jordie comes back to town.

Set in the beautiful and rarely filmed Prince Edward Island, the setting itself adds a lot to the small town feeling and yet the beauty of the land that they are in. The film was at its best when it was about the family drama as they try to get through the past and reconcile while the present has its own challenges that is breaking one of them apart as well. The other bits with Abby seems more of a necessary stressor that feels like the character is almost there with too much of a purpose and the romantic elements there but never fleshed out enough to connect. With that said, there is plenty of family drama as the movie does focus on the brothers and their father a lot as well as the dynamic of Jordie come back and how he affects each of them a different way as well as the changes in him.

With that said, Still the Water is powered by its cast, most notably the two lead actors, Ry Barrett and Colin Price. For both, its a change in pace as these two actors frequented my own watch list in various horror films which never had this much drama. This film is a fairly quiet one and really shows off their acting skills as they both carry their role incredibly well. The dynamic in their performances do connect very well especially for Colin Price’s Nicky that goes through the most development throughout the film as his character almost breaks apart by the end. Ry Barrett’s character is the main lead in this story as most of it revolves around him, his coming back and the impact that it has with everyone and yet his character is a contrast since it is a lot more quiet despite the character’s beginning parts that show his anger management issues. Its also great when they almost use hockey, boat repair business (I think that’s what it is) and the lobster fishing as means that not only connect to the setting but as a means of how the two brothers express themselves.

Still the Water has some issues of story flow. However, it also adds in a nice soundtrack that matches well with the area and the tone of the film. At the same time, there is a nice addition of this mystery cat that never shows its face living at the house the Jordie temporarily stays which becomes almost a little fun moment of questioning when or whether the cat will show up. These little bits of detail do add to the overall film plus the family drama does piece itself together in a nice way especially as it carries itself with the mystery of what happens and building up to what happened at the end. Its a well thought-out execution for the storyline.

Overall, Still the Water is a decent family drama. The setting, the soundtrack and especially the two main leads adds a lot to the movie as a whole. The family drama is also done well in execution and pacing. Where the movie has its issues is in some of the flow especially with the romantic tangent. Still the Water is well worth a watch as a family drama especially since, without any spoilers, has an ending that I personally like quite a bit.

You can also listen to Movies and Tea movie discussion of Still the Water below:

Music Obsessions – January 2021

The first Music Obsessions of 2021! I do say that I had a few hard choices to make between what I was listening to more since there was some fun music this past month. Let’s check it out!

Ready Now – Lil Ghost

Out of ex-boy group Nine Percent, I do say that Lil Ghost was the one that has grown a lot in how I view his talent over the years after he left boy group competition Idol Producer. Lil Ghost Linkai Wang does have some good skills and some great producing skills and lyricist. His songs in the past while has really shown off a variety of styles and for him, Ready Now was one that I had dismissed when it first came out but lately, its one that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit especially with the ending bit where there’s a contrast of him whispering the lyrics.

Should’ve Let Go過 – Jackson Wang 王嘉爾 & 林俊傑 JJ Lin

Who doesn’t want to collaborate with JJ Lin, right? Being a similar type of artist, Jackson Wang’s voice blends really well with JJ Lin’s voice. Its actually quite rare to see two men in a duet but somehow there is a different feeling of two men reflecting on their past love life that seems to work. This one is very relaxing to listen to.

仲夏满天心 Midsummer Full of Love – Yisa Yu 郁可唯
(“Midsummer Full of Love” Main Theme)

Midsummer Full of Love is a series that took me by surprise. It ended up being a lot better than I had expected and the soundtrack was also pretty good. The main theme here is sang by Yisa Yu who I personally love. She has this fantastic voice that works with so many genres plus some songs really show that control she has over how she sings. Sure, she’s had better songs than this one but seeing as I just finished binging this one over the holidays, this song has been one that I’ve been listening to a lot.

Di Da Di – Coco Lee

Coco Lee and Lil Ghost ends up on the list for their duet on Our Song 2. These two pair-up with some great end-results. Coco Lee’s blend of this song and Lil Ghost’s Ready Now is one of my faves and I’ll add that at the bottom as a bonus however, this did lead me to listen to Di Da Di which is a fantastic song. Coco Lee is definitely a wonderful singer that I sometimes forget about but nothing like a singing show to remind us of how great she is.

U – Jasper Liu

Compared to a lot of people, Jasper Liu is fairly new to me. I’ve only seen him in Twogether (review) before and haven’t gotten around to watching the 2 series available on Netflix of his. Its mostly because he showed up on the Taiwan series scene after I stopped watching it. Lately, he’s been popping on my radar especially since he used this song as his intro for this new Chinese variety show, When We Write Love Story. He does have a good voice and the song is pretty lighthearted and fun.

BONUS:
Di Da Di + Ready Now Medley (Our Song S2 performance) – Coco Lee & Lil Ghost

This is the song that I’ve been listening to the most. Top 5 song of this year’s Our Song for sure. The blend of the two songs brings out the essence of both. Its so much fun to listen to and the “chemistry” between the two is best shown in this performance.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
What have you been listening to lately?

Tranquil Dreams Podcast: Episode 1: Intro & What’s Up 2021: Week 1

Hey Everyone! As we approach the 10th blogiversary of Tranquil Dreams, its time to kick things into action with a new shift and that’s the official first episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast! I’m a little uncertain about how it all sounds and stuff since I criticize myself a lot and I’m not a fan of listening to my voice. Bear with me as I find the whole pace of solo podcasting and hopefully become a mildly entertaining host for the show! Its a fairly personal project since its going to be talking about things that I like.

Regardless, first episode will give a quick intro on what’s in store for Tranquil Dreams Podcast and the things that I will discuss and followed with the official move of What’s Up 2021 to podcast format with a recap of the first week. Episodes for What’s Up should go up every Friday at no set time (until I find a rhythm) then the goal is to get it out in the morning. Eventually hopefully moving to Thursday (fingers crossed). I haven’t edited in a long time so its taking longer than I imagined.

You can find the podcast on Anchor and Spotify as well as listening it via the player above.

With that said, links mentioned in podcast:
What’s Up 2020: Week 52
Game Warp Podcast: Life Is Strange
The Farewell Review

Music credits
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Thanks for listening! Hope you enjoy!

Double Feature: Halloween (2018) & Guns Akimbo (2019)

After taking 2 days off to regroup, we’re back with the first double feature of 2021. Its still the remaining movies not reviewed from last year’s viewing. This time, its a look at 2018’s sequel of Halloween paired with 2019’s Guns Akimbo. Let’s check it out!

Halloween (2018)

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Rhian Rees, Jefferson Hall

Laurie Strode confronts her long-time foe Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. – IMDB

The 11th movie of the Halloween franchise which has changed directors and had multiple versions of what its meant to be to finally get back to one that is set with Laurie Strode as a grandmother and mother who has grown estranged from her family because of her precautions towards Michael Myers and her past that has convinced her that as long as he is alive, it will never be safe however also having the means to fight back when needed.

Having a little drama and a story that catches up and brings the story back to the original 1978 storyline with Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween brings it all back with a Michael Myers and Laurie Strode 40 years after the incident and Myers still going to find her. As the story looks at Laurie Strode’s family situation and the current situation of Michael Myers, it also focuses on crime podcasters that end up triggering some part of Myers that causes him to go rogue.

At this point, Halloween seems to really be for the fans that have stuck around since the beginning, enduring its many sequels along with all the randomness and nonsensical story directions. Halloween 2018 is a great attempt at reviving the series especially as its a solid story as a whole. Sure, the story focuses on the family drama between Laurie Strode and her daughter, played by Judy Greer who faults her mother for giving her a traumatic childhood full of defense lessons and harsh upbringing perhaps of what she feels is paranoia and yet, that part did become a little nonsensical and frustrating in its own regards. What does make up for it is in the second half when the danger is undeniable and how the family will face it.

Michael Myers is a fantastic horror icon. One that truly shows the inhuman side of a monster that makes for a talk about whether he is human considering he seems to be indestructible. 2018’s Halloween brings all that back to perspective. No more reasons of why he does it or adding in unnecessary side story and just executing it as a slasher, one that gives once the victim a chance to fight back. Its not exactly scary or horrific as a movie but its still a thrilling and fun movie.

Guns Akimbo (2019)

Director (and writer): Jason Lei Howden

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Ned Dennehy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Grant Bowler, Edwin Wright, Milo Cawthorne

A guy relies on his newly-acquired gladiator skills to save his ex-girlfriend from kidnappers. – IMDB

Guns Akimbo feels very similar to other movies in its own realm like Nerve or even Ready Player One. Movies with worlds rooted in a live game with rather extreme results. Its over the top and ridiculous. And yet, Guns Akimbo has this satisfying feeling to the adrenaline rush and its one that puts this main character, Miles who is a nobody at work find some empowerment by being a troll online, you know, the current day keyboard warrior that anyone with any presence online dislikes. He messes with the wrong people and they make his life hell by attaching guns to his hands and sending him on a deadly mission. With that said, it is ridiculous as a whole and there are movies in the same realm that definitely does a better job in terms of creativity and pacing, making this one probably a fairly forgettable experience looking back at it right now.

However, Guns Akimbo has a few things going for it. It has this not so serious tone. The characters seem to all just enjoy doing their over the top thing. Daniel Radcliffe is pretty fun to watch and probably one of the much more entertaining roles that he’s been in post-Harry Potter, but I could be wrong since I haven’t been really keeping track (side note: if you do have other movies to recommend of his, let me know in the comments below). The biggest motivation has to be watching Samara Weaving taking on another one of these over the top adrenaline rush movies and making it her own by creating yet another similar character but still unique in her own way. Its always a joy to watch her take on these characters and embody the character so well.

Thing is, Guns Akimbo has a lot of action and yet somehow, there seems to be a lot of time without action as well. There is this imbalance in execution of the movie as a whole. Its a little confusing on whether its trying to be more than just a mindless high octane movie. In some ways, the humor at the beginning goes to this character Miles getting extreme consequences for being an internet troll and then ends up having to run away, which is a great premise with tons of potential and the bickering between Miles and Nix also becomes quite a highlight moment. The story does lose itself a little on what its trying to achieve. Sure, this isn’t a movie meant for analysis and yet, I can’t help but feel while I was watching it that it doesn’t quite hit that extremity or high octane that it should have.

Overall, Guns Akimbo is very much like watching a video game come to life. Its fairly action-packed and Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving are fantastic in this. The tone and execution is a little imbalanced with what it wants to deliver and what it actually delivers perhaps. However, as a mindless entertainment sort of deal, it feels fun enough. There are definitely other similar movies that do a better job but there are still some worthwhile elements.

2021 Upcoming Plans

It’s 2021!! Happy New Year everyone! Hope everyone has found their own way to celebrate. The beginning of the new year means that its time to get back to some plans for this coming year and some changes in projects, etc. I needed an extra day to figure some little things out since I hadn’t quite decided on everything yet. This time around, I’ll share some projects for the blog and some more personal little goals to get back some good lifestyle habits. Let’s take this section by section!

BOOKS

  • 2021 Goodreads Challenge: 30 books

I’ve had a hard time reading the past few years and most of the time when I set the 30 books reading, I don’t get there but I really do want to read more, despite having some different types of projects this year and may result in less time. Either way, its a challenge that I’m up for. Plus, between blog tours (which I might participate a little less in this year depending on what I’m interested in), TBR of my own both in physical books and Kindle books.

MOVIES

Movies is more of a free flow sort of deal. I do want to dive into a focus on Chinese cinema whether from Mainland China or Hong Kong or Taiwan. However, I do know that that angle is for my own interest so I do have quite a bit to get through whether on Shudder or Netflix which is my main source of movie matching other than the random cheap rental that I pick up or the movie selections for Movies and Tea which is getting into Season 7 production soon with a director that definitely will bring on some interesting discussion for their retrospective. Seeing as we’re really ahead, I’m going to keep it a secret for now. However, last year I didn’t even reach 300 movies logged on Letterboxd so if I manage to get 300 or more movies watched this year, I would be quite pleased.

As for structure, I am keeping to the double feature format unless its a newly released Netflix film or even Shudder exclusive. I will try to get on top of that much more this coming year since I don’t foresee theatre releases or visits to happen anytime soon in Montreal.

Other than the normal themed months below:

  • February 1st – 14th : Valentine’s Romance
  • October: Halloween Horror
  • December 1st-25th: Holiday Films

I was unsuccessful at doing the themed months of other genres/subgenres during random months last year but that is a goal that I would like to do. As for what themes? I have a few in mind.

TV

As I watch much more TV (which is probably why movies had a drop last year), I’ve been giving this segment a lot of thought. I will still be doing TV binges however with a much more relaxed structure. I already started it at the end of the year. While I love the structure that I had for Chinese dramas for analysis of plot, pacing, characters and the overall view, it also became this long arduous post that took a long time to put together. Less division and more just free writing for future TV binges, much like the non Chinese drama TV binges that I do as some series really don’t have that much to write about.

However, what has been on my mind for TV is something will be a bigger change/addition to this post and that’s the next section…

TRANQUIL DREAMS PODCAST

Its a solo podcast! I don’t know how I’ll do talking to myself about anything but it has been something that I’ve been thinking about structure, title and content since the beginning of the pandemic last year (probably even longer). My thoughts years ago when this idea first started was a Youtube Channel but I just don’t have time to edit video and audio since it takes a ton of time so here we are. Podcasts do not limit the length because its audio and I’ll have it on a format that people can download. Its going to be another learning curve since right now, my fantastic co-host takes care of all the audio for the other 2 podcasts.

I know the name isn’t exactly inspirational but its connected to the blog originally wanted it to be about only Chinese dramas as an English review and introduction so that people can find the ones that are readily available on Youtube or Netflix (only those with English subtitles, of course). However, the reason for Tranquil Drams Podcast is that it opens up for a few little ideas I’ve had to move here also hopefully.

  • What’s Up segment will be moved completely over on a weekly basis. If it gets a little too heavy to produce, I might change it to biweekly frequency.
  • TV Binges will be moved here. Some less chat worthy will be in written formats (or maybe I’ll do both). Regardless, some series like big productions or Netflix gives me a lot to talk about and its hard to get it all down.
  • A segment that I wanted to revive since last year is Sunday Lists so maybe in podcast format will give me boost considering I have probably 2 or 3 already partially drafted.
  • A new segment as a new goal for the podcast which was how the Youtube idea started is an Adaptations versus Source Material comparison. This is kind of a maybe as I’m not sure how things will look in the coming year mostly on the real life side of things.

OTHER RANDOM SEGMENTS

Most segments have no change other than the ones mentioned above:

  • [changes] What’s Up: moved to podcast format (see above if you skipped it)
  • My Monthly Adventures: I will keep this in written format however with the pandemic still going on, its more of a place to put together what’s been released on my other projects and such.
  • [changes] Battle of Ingredients: in hiatus. We didn’t address it last year at all but with the pandemic, we have no choice but to put this project on hiatus for obvious reasons.
  • Music Obsessions: Still on monthly basis. Not a lot of views but I do love putting together this post.
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon: Production meeting has already happened and confirmed to happen. Announcement post coming up once we iron out some little details.

PERSONAL GOALS

It sure feels like I’ve stopped sharing my personal goals over the last few years. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown lazy with some of it. Here we are again and it will be a complete balancing act. I made the decision that regardless of anything that when I set time aside from something, I will do it. Work is a huge factor to why a lot of things get postponed but I need remember that its not my entire life. With that said, main goal for next year is mostly exercise related:

  • Workout: 2-3 times a week and gradually increase to 3-4 times a week
    • Indoors during the winter (bodyweights, weights, yoga, cardio)
    • Outdoors running (hopefully by April)
    • Hiking more often
  • Eat healthier and more balanced meals: This year, we’ve lowered drinking alcohol in general to once or twice a month and its been a pretty good feeling. Its more to eat more fruits since I always forget to keep the fruits and vegetables daily intake as well as hydration on par.
  • Start Streaming: I’ve been thinking about streaming games for a good while. The hesitation is pretty much the same as for solo podcasts where I have to talk to myself. Its mostly for fun and not exactly to promote anything. I started teaming up on voice chat with one of my friends on a weekly basis during his stream to experience horror games together on Monday. You can check out his channel HERE as he streams about 5 – 7 times a week playing three to four different games. I’m having a lot of fun with it and its been something that I’ve been wanting to do more and more. I’m slowly fixing up the info and such on the channel to get it ready gradually. Hopefully a little later in January, it will be up and running. I’m not quite as ambitious as my friend so I’m going for once or twice a week playing mostly indie games which are more focused on narrative but no limits as I just want to get through all the games I’ve bought and haven’t played on Steam.
  • Buy a new sofa, office chair (and maybe bicycle): being first time homeowners, we were lucky to get a lot of second hand relatively decent quality furniture from family to help us get through the first few years of paying the mortgage but as much as I do like the sofa, it needs to be changed before it damages our backs. The same applies for a new office chair. Working from home more has worn it out more than it already has from my cat and its not great to have a squeaky office chair especially for podcast recording. As for a bicycle, considering everyone in Montreal swept the stores of them last year because of the pandemic, I’m hoping that I finally find one this year that isn’t going to break the bank.

Upcoming plans post are rather bland to read overall and I did try to keep this not so lengthy, but hey, look at this length. If there’s something you find is missing, well, its probably either cut or indefinitely in hiatus or its something that I’ve moved to Instagram content (which I need to do better also). If you have any suggestions for movie themed months or what topics for the podcast, etc, let me know in the comments as well.

This is it for the 2021 plans!
As usual, the goal is not procrastinate as much and stick to the tentative schedule!
Happy 2021 everyone and all the best in this coming year (hopefully things will get back to some form of normalcy gradually pandemic-wise)!
As always, stay safe!

My December Adventures: Best Films, Movies, Books of 2020 Watched Recap

Happy New Year’s Eve, my friends!

As our holiday lockdown continues, we’re keeping very much to ourselves and waiting for our virtual game night with the normal NYE crew, I’m taking a little time to relax and put together the last post of 2020! Suffice to say that My December Adventures is less adventures and much more a recap of the year to the current highlights of the blog. Let’s go!

Holidays Marathon

The only thing to highlight for December is that the Holidays Marathon happened. It was fairly well planned but not as well executed! However, it still happened and its all updated on the page HERE.

2020 Recap

Its time for the recap of this year and where we’re at now. I want to skip through stats in general this year as its something that I’ve looked at fairly little although I am happy that in 2020 in terms of views did go up compared to the past year or two (at least from a quick glance).

Top 5 post published in 2020

  1. TV Binge: Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花, 2017)
  2. Announcement: Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! Sign Up Now!
  3. TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)
  4. TV Binge: Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)
  5. Hiking: La Boucle du Mont des Trois-Lacs (Brompton, QC)

Honestly, I’m a little surprised that the TV Binges for the Chinese dramas are ranking top posts for what I released this year. Some posts that I put a lot of heart into so I’m glad that they did top the list. I did 3 of these thinking that it was just for my own liking and not thinking anyone would be too interested. The Top 10 all time is not anything from this year but some older posts.

Books: I had set a goal of 25 books for the Goodreads Challenge and ended up reading 26 books.

According to My Year in Books on Goodreads, I read 5,129 pages with an average rating of 4.1 stars (which is fairly high).

While the ratings might change if I were to go back to look, the books that have made an impression:

  • Buried In My Past by Eva McKenzie
  • Blackthorn by Terry Tyler
  • Undead Ultra by Camille Picott
  • Conscience by Jonathan Pongratz
  • The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Movies: According to Letterboxd, I watched 267 movies this year. I know that I did watch a whole bunch of short films that weren’t on the list and some festival films as well. So its definitely a little more than that number.

My top movies watched in 2020 (doesn’t have to be released in 2020):

  • The Farewell
  • One Cut of the Dead
  • Sheep Without a Shepherd
  • The Crossing
  • The Oak Room

TV: With over 15 TV binges sitting in backlog from this year alone, I have some work ahead of me. However, here is the list of 8 TV series that I saw this year (not all aired in 2020):

I’ve been focusing on Chinese dramas lately and because of that, it will bring in some changes for 2021. However, as we wrap up 2020 , I just couldn’t choose 5 so that’s how we’re at 8. And that isn’t even mentioning some of the variety shows that I watch which is a huge amount as well.

I’m sure all of you have better things than to sit around reading my recap on the year (despite the pandemic situation) so a much shorter post than previous years. By the way, this post published marks the 300th post published this year. The only little stats that I want to share. Its definitely not the best years in terms of posts but in terms of views, I think its been very good. Plus, I can’t remember the number of followers last year but I’ve past the 3000 followers mark so its pretty awesome!

With that said, that’s it for the December Adventures and 2020 recap!
I have some small changes for 2021 that I’ll announce tomorrow!

Double Feature: The Crossing (2018) & Mank (2020)

The last double feature for 2020 is here! Today is a big day like previous years so this is the first post, a little different since I usually just have that one post for the annual wrap-up which will be the adventures post coming up a little later. This pairing was a little tough but I had to review Mank at some point (since the David Fincher season for Movies and Tea still has a way to go before we get to that episode) and I’ve paired it up with probably one of my favorite discoveries this year and that’s 2018’s The Crossing.

Let’s check it out!

The Crossing (过春天, 2018)

Director (and writer): Xue Bai

Cast: Yao Huang, Sunny Sun, Carmen Soup, Elena Kong, Hongjie Ni, Kai Chi Liu

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

The Crossing is a 2018 coming of age drama about a 16 year old student Peipei (Yao Huang) who makes plans with her best friend Jo (Carmen Coup) to go to Japan during Christmas break but struggling to raise funds due to her living situation, she ends up getting caught up with her best friend’s boyfriend Hao (Sunny Sun) who works for a lady Hua (Elena Kong) who is the business of smuggling iPhones across to Mainland China. Being someone who lives in Shenzhen but goes to school in Hong Kong, Peipei crosses the border everyday unsuspectingly making her a great asset to their operation while being able to make lots of money for her Japan trip so that she can finally see snow. However, when she realizes that the operation is more than just phones and Hao has other plans and she has a growing connection with Hao, things start to fall out of her control.

The Crossing is a solid directorial debut for Chinese female director Bai Xue. Its a slow-burn, quiet and subtle sort of film that explores youth from a fresh angle. It looks at the straightforward desires of being young and not caring about other things but being single-minded focused on certain goals while also looking at the relationship of youth and money. At the same time, it looks at the landscape and situation between the border of Shenzhen as a connection of Mainland China and Hong Kong and the smuggling situation. Whether its the characters and their relationships, a lot of it is between the lines and discovered through Peipei’s observation as the movie is shot from her point of view. There is a good shift and development from her character and Hao from the beginning to the final moment.

One of the standout point of the film is in its arthouse style of cinematography playing a lot with lighting and focusing on sounds and choosing a decent soundtrack and pairs well with the scene playing out. Not to mention there’s this great scene of tapping cell phones to their body that is much sexier than it should ever be. The dialogue also is well-written and matches to their young characters and the more young adult characters Hao. However, there is some great veterans here like Elena Kong and Hongjie Ni (playing Peipei’s mother) in supporting roles.

I probably should note that The Crossing isn’t an easy movie to find. I’ve only found it on the Tencent app/viewer after depleting all other possibilities (with English subtitles for those interested). Maybe its been distributed in other countries but at least for Canada, I haven’t found it anywhere else. However, if you do find it, this one is a hidden gem.

Mank (2020)

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Tom Burke

1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane (1941). – IMDB

My Mank review will be a little different from others. For someone like myself who hasn’t seen Citizen Kane or know of the screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, Mank is less of a biopic and more of simply a film for exactly what it is. With that said, it saves all the comparisons that others might have. Mank is also a very different film in David Fincher’s filmography. Visually stylistic along with some beautiful outfits set in a black and white film, Mank does deliver on style alone as well as the quick dialogue between the characters also delivering a much wordier film than usual in Fincher’s films but perhaps it had a lot to do to keeping the essence of the screenplay written by his late father, Jack Fincher.

One of the standout elements of the films definitely does go to the cast that embodies these characters. Can you call them characters if it is based on real people? I don’t know but you get what I mean. They definitely do come to life as Gary Oldman delivers a stellar performance as Herman J. Mankiewicz surrounded by an array of people whirling in and out of his life running on the past and present, cleverly portrayed with timestamps whenever it hops from one place to the next. Other than Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried’s portrayal of Marion Davies is absolutely charming particularly the one scene where Marion and Mank has a walk in the garden. Marion is married to Hearst which becomes a rather big topic as Hearst does have an interesting character that creates some contrast and incredibly well done by Charles Dance even if the role is a little more in the backdrops. Of course, there are other roles by Lily Collins as the secretary typing up Mank’s screenplay and Joseph Cross playing Charles Lederer and the list goes on. Because of the heavey dialogue, the characters play a huge part in the movie’s enjoyability and for the most part the quick conversations do add quite a bit.

With that said, Mank is a tad on the long side. It almost feels like it could be cut down a little bit to give it a tighter execution. Very rare movies make me feel like its worth over 2 hours of watch time without it wearing on its pacing a little (but that is definitely my own issue). There is no doubt that Mank has great production value and the movie itself has a lot of charming elements and there’s something much deeper here. I do wonder whether watching Citizen Kane and having a greater knowledge of the source material and what the biopic revolves around would make it a more or less enjoyable experience. As of now, as a standalone piece without any comparisons, its definitely one that I would recommend seeing as its pros almost outweigh its cons.