TV Binge: The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

Director: Cha Chuen Yee

Cast: Rosy  Zhao, Ryan Ding, Zixin Zhou, Yinghao Sheng, Xin Zhao, Patrick Quan, Smile Wei, Minghao Chen, Yijia Wu, Shuyuan Liu

Chen Xiao Qian has dedicated her entire life to making her dream of becoming a well-respected screenwriter come true. Proud of the effort she put into creating this epic tale, Xiao Qian expects things on-set to go quickly and smoothly. But all her high-hopes are soon crushed as her script falls under the critical scrutiny of both the cast and crew. Hurt by the harshness of her peers, Xiao Qian vows to prove herself but things don’t go the way she planned. Mysteriously transported into the pages of her own story, Xiao Qian has now become the Third Princess, Chen Qian Qian, an insignificant side character with a horrible reputation and a short lifespan. Desperate to change her fate, Xiao Qian vows to do whatever it takes to ensure her survival. But the journey ahead won’t be easy, especially not after she catches the attention of both the arrogant and manipulative prince, Han Shuo, and the impossibly perfect Minister of Education, Pei Heng. Wandering through a world of her own making, Xiao Qian is desperate, not only to survive, but to keep her heart intact as she tries to find her way back home. Will her efforts be enough or will she be stuck in this story forever? – MyDramaList

Episodes: 24
Where to watch: Tencent Youtube Channel

Meshing modern and ancient or fantasy is always a fun way as it plays with the fish out of water tale that usually creates a lot of comedy along the way (and one of my favorite sort of stories). What makes The Romance of Tiger and Rose stand out is that it twists it a little more. In this case, modern day screenwriter Xiao Qian is the creator of the story that she falls into so she knows the characters and settings more than the characters and because of that, she becomes the changing factor, a fact that she needs to realize and embrace that her character that she embodies now, Qian Qian is becoming a main female lead and no longer the short-lived supporting character. As she finds a way to manipulate the story back on the course its suppose to take, its really a story about following your heart and embracing change, that no one can play God even if its her own script especially with the unknown factor of how she escapes back into the reality in the end.

Fantasy or Ancient China settings for Chinese TV dramas that I usually watch are big productions and very dramatic. The refreshing part for Tiger and Rose is that it falls in the romantic comedy sort of story. That alone is a nice change especially since the characters themselves and the cast are all very fun as well. Even the more serious characters have this sort of humor to them that gradually is revealed. Plus the story takes a secret plot gone wrong by a neighboring city that is opposite in beliefs of this one. Xiao Qian’s original story was focused on a love story much like Romeo and Juliet’s that breaks the tension between two countries of opposing values, Qianqian’s which is a matriarchy where men have no say or power and patriarchy where its vice versa and brings up a point that no extreme in either way is good but rather should strike an equality. This is obviously hidden between the lines as the story is focused on the romance between Tiger and Rose and plays on a thing that Chinese stories always say about being the main lead in your own story ( not sure if that’s just a Chinese drama thing).

The characters are quite fun. Ryan Ding and Rosy Zhao are hilarious together. They also can be quite sweet. It all starts off as schemes and gradually grows over time. They both take their roles in this over the top moments and it really helps add that sense of comedy and not forced since it fits into the tone of the story. Both characters have rather good chemistry and there’s an air of drama between them which adds depth tontheir characters especially since Rosy Zhao’s Qianqian takes this bad reputation character that she writes and changes it to an honorable character despite the fact that her takeover doesn’t transfer the character’s skills to her so she needs to justify why she can’t fight anymore for example. Ryan Ding is an interesting actor because he does mold well in the different elements here and feels more genuine. The chenistry between the two leads are good especially with how its developed and executed. The silly servants for each of them also almost steal the show because of how comedic and clueless they are as well as some of the supporting characters even if the second male lead does feel like more seriously written than it should be.

Running at 24 episodes, its the best length for most dramas. Its well-paced while still having a decent story that doesn’t lose focus of the story that needs to be told. The love story remains rather prominent but at the same time, its a story about “Rose” which is Qianqian’s character and its mostly from her point of view while still having moments of behind the scenes with other characters. That’s a little odd considering this is her story and its her that fell into her dream which is the only little bit that I think should have been reworked. However, it shows that this fictional world is moving away from her written path. Its a good balance of everything and while I’m initially wasn’t completely convinced about Rosy Zhao’s acting, this drama does fit her really well. I still think she can work on her crying a little more since it seems very unconvincing but at the same time, the drama is mostly comedy and its done in an entertaining way and its surprisingly bingeworthy because of it.

TV Binge: Skate Into Love (冰糖炖雪梨, 2020)

Skate Into Love (冰糖炖雪梨, 2020)

Skate into Love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Steven Zhang, Janice Wu, Lijie Zhou, Vincent Wei, Jiunuo Han, Lei Zhang, Ziling Ding, Bo Cao, Tianyu Qin, Xuanlin He, Yue Chu, Eman Zhang,

A speed skating girl crosses paths with the ice hockey god of their school. Despite starting off on the wrong foot, they start on a journey to chase after their dreams. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Youtube

STORY

Skate Into Love is the second series in the Honey Trilogy adapted from novel of the same name by Jiu Xiaoqi (the first was Ashes of Love. You can see my review HERE). Its essentially a sports and romance drama about a bunch of youths chasing after their ice sports dreams and trying to beat the impossible and get into the next Olympics in speed skating, hockey and figure skating. Chinese Olympians and professional athletes were hired in the production to choreograph the moves to keep it realistic as well as the cast had to take lessons to perform their own skating. Some things a tad over exaggerated like the scene above where if an arena’s partitions could break and shatter with a player checking another one. That’s just nitpicking obviously.

Its a breath of fresh air every once in a while to see series that is about something other than solely romance. In this one, its about chasing dreams while also showcasing the different successes ice sports have achieved over the years since they did cast some Olympians into the show as cameo roles and they had consultation to keep the series grounded and realistic. Chasing dreams and perseverance is a big backdrop here even if the characters do have their own little family dramas and complicated friendships and other competitions. There are love triangles and different romantic connections as well but it never loses focus that the premise revolves are these charming characters finding strength in each other whether as teammates in a hockey team or competing against each other as an anchor to be better or even finding the inner confidence to rekindle the love with a sport and balancing its importance and other elements in life.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 40
Length of episodes: 35 mins

For 40 episodes, Skate Into Love manages to have a great pacing. It sets up where these athletes are at when the story starts especially with a focus on female main character Tang Xue and her speed skating dream that she had to give up because of an injury in high school and because of this, her family’s opposition to her choosing this career for something more steady career path. As she meets again her elementary school friend and current university hockey team leader Li Yu Bing and work through their past issues and gradually become friends and have romantic feelings for each other, she also encounters figure skating university athlete Yu Yan who she treats like a brother and defends him because of his more timid and introvert personality and breaks him out of his protected environment to show him the world that he is missing which leads him to be a love interest.

The story focuses on Tang Xue but as her friendships and teammates expands into those characters friends and dreams, it builds up on each of the tangent to help build up these characters properly along with the things that are important to them and the sacrifices they will do for their dream and for each other. Its about relationships, dreams and friendship. Like most dramas, life isn’t fair and is rather complicated and yet while staying in the realm of the focus of this story, it doesn’t forget to also create great moments between each of these characters and how they help each other to move forward and the struggles they have to work through their own inner struggles of being an athlete as well as the difficulties they face from outside influences. Each issue and success in the development is timed well and each character development and relationship build-up also blends well with the flow of the story to make these characters more likable. There are sweet and happy moments and there are sad and nerve-wrecking challenges, just like how life normally is.

The deal is that the show works through each of these three leads and their own ice sports focus and the path they need to take. The structure is set up very clearly and that’s why the pacing also works smooth.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Li Yu Bing (Steven Zhang) & Tang Xue (Janice Wu) & Yu Yan (LiJie Zhou)

I have to say that Janice Wu is one of my favorite Chinese actresses. Her acting skills is able to embody this strength in each of her character whether its the stubbornness or perseverance and also manages to give quite a bit of depth, just like layers that they peel back to see her character having a tough side but also a rather sweet and shy side when in love. There’s also this loyalty to her friends. That’s the charm of the character of Tang Xue that she portrays. Paired up with each of these male leads, it has a different dynamic. The difference in this story is that her love trajectory, other than her high school crush that shows up again to try to break up her and Li Yu Bing all the time out of jealousy (which I will talk about in a later section), her heart is loyal to her current love Li Yu Bing that starts like most dramas on an “enemy” stance which she never quite understands how it happens. When the childhood friendship blends with her present, it shows another side of her character. Steven Zhang and Janice Wu gradually starts off in a more comedic pranking each other sort of manner and eventually, their chemistry also grows throughout the series from sweet moments to a couple that you can root for because both of these characters may be flawed but have great characteristics that make them incredibly likable plus together they make each other better.

Add in the equation of Yu Yan, his character lives in a closed world that expands because he meets Tang Xue. Lijie Zhou does a good job also in taking on this role. His character has the cute and timid title of a “little sheep” because he is rather naive and doesn’t know much about the world around him, lacks decisiveness and is controlled by his mother in order to push him to be a successful figure skater. As his character grows, he loses his focus and ends up struggling through an inner battle and things spiral out of control. His story is one that focuses on friendship and support network in a sport that is a very lonely fight that maybe doesn’t need to be that lonely. A solid second male lead that I enjoyed watching. He wasn’t frustrating but at the same time, he was a naive character to say the least that went through a phase of growing up from experiencing a lot of first times that “normal” young adults at his age would have if his world wasn’t revolving around strict training.

The dynamic between these three character is also a huge anchor in Skate Into Love and it works well together.

Sports Team and Teammates

With sports series, its important to talk about teams and teammates dynamic. Coming from Montreal, hockey is in the blood of everyone here so Skate Into Love having a focus on a university hockey team is a big part of the attraction to the series alone. The team here is actually focused heavily on three of the characters: Li Yu Bing who plays the captain, his best buddies and roommates, Jiang Shi Jia (Bo Cao) and goalie Deng Jian Guo (Zihe Jin). The hockey team dynamic is actually rather fun since they go through the phase of transition between leaving university team to moving to a professional team and contemplating their future.

Speed skating team where Tang Xue is also shares a huge focus on dynamic. The other character that hasn’t been mentioned yet would be a girl who has a crush and great friends with Li Yu Bing who is the champion speed skater in their team that she chooses to pick as the goal to beat in order to boost her own time in order to stay on the team. Its a group effort of working together even if speed skating is a solo sport. They find a different friendship dynamic which progresses throughout the series.

Teammates and sport shows heavily focuses on sportmanship and thats the great dynamic that these characters are able to show. Its a different kind of chemistry between these friends and teammates.

Liao Zhenyu (Tianyu Qin) & Xia Menghuan (Xuanlin He)

The happy fountain goes to the supporting roles of Tang Xue’s best friends. One from high school who ends up sharing the information of Tang Xue’s loyalty and personality and the other is her university roommate. These two get together fairly quickly as a couple. They act both as friends support system as well as the comedy and happy elements in this series. Their relationship and how these two interact is very sweet and cute. At the same time, these two characters do stand out since it helps sooth over some of the more dramatic parts.

Bian Cheng (Vincent Wei) & Zhou Ran (Yue Chu)

Love interests and characters that get more and more extreme in their negative emotions are usually the frustrating elements of any TV series. I do say that some of this does occur. Bian Cheng and Zhou Ran both have their own revelations to get through and they bond because of their own warped desires that end up showing their selfish natures instead of truly loving the people they are trying to get while setting up situations to break up Tang Xue and Li Yu Bing. These two go through quite the vengeful trail that becomes frustrating because its stemmed from a lot of unnecessary emotions that they just get stuck in most of the time and they don’t see losing themselves in the process and losing sight of their value, making themselves having some unpleasant consequences in the end. Definitely not my favorite characters but they are necessary to create friction in a series that is fairly fun to watch in general.

OVERALL

Skate Into Love is an outstanding Chinese drama. Its not only because it focuses on youths chasing their dreams and making their own sacrifices and trials and tribulations and all the sweat and fatigue that goes into being a professional athlete. In any series, its about balance and Skate Into Love has a good view of this. It has a lot to do with director Yui Bun Chu who really has a great eye of how each scene is portrayed. Moving away from Ashes of Love which is a more dramatic and fantasy love story and taking on the second separate story which is more sweet and light-hearted but with a very meaningful sport series element, its executed very well. Whether its the characters and dialogue or balancing between drama, comedy and sweet romance, everything is very on point. Its a ton of fun to watch and one that is incredibly bingeworthy.

With that said, Yui Bun Chu is also helming the final series in this Honey trilogy which seems like it will group back all four leads of Ashes of Love and Skate Into Love to create another story set more in the fantasy realm again. Its one to look forward to for sure.

MAIN THEME

What’s Up 2020: Week 6

In a blink of eye (or at least it feels that way), we’re looking at Week 6 that has passed us by. As we get into February and things are still quite busy and probably won’t stop for the rest of this month at least, other things are moving along fairly okay. Let’s see whats up.

READING

when stars are bright

Currently reading: When Stars Are Bright by Amber R. Duell

Nearing the halfway point with this current read, When Stars Are Bright is a rather interesting novel set in the 1930s. It says that its a Thumbelina retelling but I don’t really know since I don’t quite know that fairy tale in the first place. Probably should do some research at some point on that. However, I can say that this book is a decent read and it’ll be interesting to see where the character will go from this point.

PLAYING

life is strange 2

  • Life is Strange 2

Currently playing: Overcooked 2, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

As we get back into gear for Game Warp Podcast, the next game is Life is Strange 2 on our list of games to review. Life is Strange and games from Dontnod Entertainment has been a staple in the podcast gaming roster so the episode should come out soon-ish so I won’t talk too much about it. This is a different game from its previous games set in the same universe, some things done better and some things not quite at par.

With that said, I’ve been on a gaming kick as I picked up the deal for $1 Game Pass for 3 months for PC and am getting ready to look at some of those games. Before that, this weekend, I finally decided to start up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which has some unique mechanics that needs some getting used to. I literally started the game not too long but I don’t think its a long game so will have to find time to wrap that up at some point.

WATCHING

La La Land

  • La La Land (2016, Review)
  • Bumblebee (2018)
  • In My Dreams (2014, Review)

A quiet week of movie watching as I got caught up in having a hard time to decide what romance to watch for Valentine’s Day marathon as romance in movies just wasn’t really feeling it. Landed on La La Land, which was a surprisingly fun movie for  Oscar fodder and then the husband chose Bumblebee as the weekend movie (along with a few other ones on Shudder that I fell asleep so I’m not including it here), which was a ton of fun as well.

BINGING

Find Yourself

Currently binging: Who’s The Murderer 5, Eternal Love of Dream, Where Are We Going Dad? 5, The Singer 2020, Find Yourself, The Little One 2

I’m watching and started watching too many things that I’m starting to forget things here and there. Luckily, one of them will be ending next week and I have a few that is just updating on weekly basis and then, one for viewing in between as its an older season. Ending series which will wrap up in a week is Who’s The Murderer 5 which has been a fun and wild ride with some nice boosts in the quality of their cases. Eternal Love of Dream and Find Yourself is currently dramas that are playing that I’m watching via Youtube and Netflix respectively. They are updated weekly about 6 episodes or something. As for variety shows, The Little One 2 and The Singer 2020 literally just started with one new episode a week. Finally, Where Are We Going Dad? 5 is the older variety show that I’m watching just because its cute and fun. I’m not going to lie that everything I’m watching right now is pretty decent. My fave does go to Find Yourself which has started off really strong, but I’m a bit worried might lose its steam a little if the main couple has the fate that I’m thinking they will have. Hoping really hard that it doesn’t get frustrating…

That’s it for the Week 6 recap!
What have you been watching/reading/playing/binging?

What’s Up: Week 45

Tranquil Dreams (47)

Another week has gone by and we are into second last month. As things calm down a little, its slowly getting the projects back on track.

READING

Proximity

Currently reading: Proximity, Legends of the Exiles

Moving along with Proximity nowadays. Legends of the Exiles was put on the backdrop for now just because of re-evaluating upcoming blog tours and prioritizing what needs to be done. Both of them are still on my reading list right now and hopefully will be done. Proximity is a lot of fun to read so I’m definitely hoping to find a lot more time to just sit down and focus on finishing it up and see where the story goes.

PLAYING

Cube Escape: Theatre

  • Cube Escape: Theatre
  • Cube Escape: The Cave

Currently playing: Cube Escape: Paradox

I’m working through the last few games in the Cube Escape series to wrap up the Game Warp second half of reviews. Its really coming along in this second playthrough of the Cube Escape games as the story is piecing together really nicely and I’m seeing it all in a better picture. Cube Escape: Paradox is currently a first playthrough and its proving to be much longer with two chapters and I’m only on Chapter 1 right now and also much harder than its predecessors.

WATCHING

Eat Drink Man Woman

  • The Wedding Banquet (1993)
  • Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
  • My Teacher, My Obsession (2018)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995, Rewatch) Review

The main focus of this past week has been primarily the new season of Movies and Tea as we dive into non other than Ang Lee. We have had quite a few recording sessions for it so with wrapping up Father Knows Best Trilogy and then Sense and Sensibility prep, its taken up most of my viewing schedule.

No worries though, Blood in the Snow Festival is just around the corner and I’m doing some remote coverage so that’s coming up very soon as I need to work out the review schedule.

BINGING

Bromance

  • Bromance (2015)
  • Soft Memory (2019)

Currently binging: Lipstick Prince (Season 2), When I Grow Up, Viva La Romance (Season 3), Wait, My Youth (2019)

A productive week in TV binging for sure as I properly finished binge watching Bromance which was a ton of fun and really  got me incredibly involved by the end of it although I kind of guessed the ending (which really isn’t too hard as it was fairly obvious at a certain point). At the same time, Tencent’s Soft Memory also wrapped up. Bromance definitely has my heart as the series that really built up to something a lot of fun, plus there was a lot of romance and comedy and Megan Lai and Baron Chen really sold their roles really well. Either way, the TV Binge post will come up eventually. I’m stopping to make promises when as I have so many of those piling up. I did start up Wait, My Youth (called My Youth when it first aired on  whichever channel on Youtube that I can’t remember right now) and that’s been a lot of fun.

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

What’s Up 2019: Week 42

Tranquil Dreams (1)

Another week as passed. Festival du Nouveau Cinema is now behind us and having a sudden drop of a little remote coverage for Toronto After Dark (which is ongoing currently) for short films, we’re still in a heavy watching action. Of course, Toronto After Dark also is mostly horror films so that fits with the Halloween marathon. A lot of other stuff was going on at the same time so lets see what happened!

READING

Hope

  • Hope by Terry Tyler (Review)

Currently reading: Murder of Montague Falls

Slowly getting back into the reading vibe! There’s a few blog tours coming up and other reading commitments. I was pretty close to deadline for Hope but it all worked out and actually was a really nice thrilling read. Right now, I’m in the first of 3 novellas in the Murder of Montague Falls novel. So far, its pretty neat and very matching to the Halloween horror sort of vibe so thats coming up as well.

PLAYING

cube escape: Harvey's Box

  • Cube Escape: Seasons
  • Cube Escape: The Lake
  • Cube Escape: Arles
  • Cube Escape: Harvey’s Box

I’ve been revisiting the Cube Escape series in an attempt to review them. The best way I’ve figured out is to just go at it through the Mobile Games Round-ups which keeps them fairly contained, almost capsule reviews, style and still share some of them in case some of you haven’t checked it out and are looking for something fun. At the same time, I also wanted to play their latest one which I happened to have backed on Kickstarter and never got around to playing so I wanted to replay it from the beginning to piece together the story again. Four games in so far (Cube Escape series) but there’s still a good deal of not only Cube Escape but also the full games on Steam.

WATCHING

Mickey and the Bear

Festival du Nouveau Cinema 2019 Films:

  • Sole (2019, Review)
  • J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (2019, Review)
  • Mickey and the Bear (2019, Review)
  • A White, White Day (2019, Review)
  • Dirty God (2019)

Toronto After Dark Short Films:

  • Turbo Killer (2016 short, Review)
  • Far Horizon (2019, Review)
  • Flip (2019, Review)
  • We Three Queens (2019 short, Review)
  • Eyes Open (2019 short, Review)
  • Make Me A Sandwich (2019 short, Review)
  • International Shorts After Dark: Maggie May, Puzzle, Eject, La Noria, Your Last Day On Earth, Place

Crazy long list this time! Its why I decided to separate them by full features and short films and which festival they belong to. In terms of Festival du Nouveau Cinema, the story that touched me the most is Mickey and the Bear! Hands down, the one that hit me the hardest and it being a directorial debut really shows the power of new eyes in cinema coming up on the scene to look out for. At the same time, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps and Sole are two that I liked a lot also. The former will be landing on Netflix as an Original film so that’s pretty exciting (especially if you like French animation).

As for short films, my fave probably would go to We Three Queens for the holiday horror element that hasn’t been looked at before (at least I haven’t seen it), Turbo Killer for its exciting visually stunning, fantastic music video style creative sci-fi story and well as for horror drama-ish with tons of creativity, La Noria takes that one without any doubt.

BINGING

dream space 2

  • Well-Intended Love (2019)
  • Dream Space 2 (2019)

Currently binging: Soft Memory, When I Grow Up, Relation Ship, Creepshow

Feeling quite nice nowadays as the whole TV binging thing has been much more toned down at a normal level. I wrapped up Well-Intended Love, which I felt was a few episodes too long and really did lack a lot of the whole chemistry and whatnot that I would have liked. I didn’t really hate it but just slightly indifferent about it, I guess. We’ll see where Season 2 goes, I suppose as that’s in filming now. However, my choice goes to Dream Space 2 which definitely had its up and downs. Its not quite as entertaining as the other shows of the same style (or even its first season) but I had some participants that I was really liking a lot so hoping that their whole leaving the show together will result in some happy ending in the future.

As for currently binging, I let the husband choose the next show to binge together and he went for Creepshow on Shudder. We’re three episodes in, which is 6 stories and I have to say that while its relatively fun to watch, its a lot of hit and miss but I think it all dials down to what type of horror you enjoy more of.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
Its been a crazy busy week with one more of the same to go as well as wrapping up the final few bits of Halloween month!
What have you been reading/watching/binging/playing?