FNC 2020: Moving On (2019) /Wisdom Tooth (2019)/The Thief’s Daughter (2019)

In an effort to wrap up the FNC 2020 coverage, the final reviews will be in multiple movies. The first is a trio of family dramas, each with their own angle and premise that makes them rather unique (and all three that I did enjoy) plus a focus on a female main character.

Moving On (2020)

Director (and writer): Yoon Dan-Bi

Cast: Choi Jung-Un, Yang Heung-Ju, Park Hyeon-Yeong, Park Seung-Jun

After her parents get divorced, Okju, her father and her little brother move in with a grandfather she barely knows. Life in the new family unit proves challenging for the already traumatized teenager. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

A lot of Moving On is about coping. Coping with change in a world that feels like everyone is trying to move on as nothing had happened before and dealing with the inner feelings of neglect and loneliness. That is what Okju is dealing with throughout but not only her has some issues, her father also has some tough decisions while her aunt who has moved into the home as well have her own issues. Everyone tries to act like nothing is wrong in fear of their grandfather knowing about all their issues as he also has his own health issues that they worry about. And yet, in all this, the little brother seems to be the one that has escaped all these feelings. He gets a lot of the attention but at the same time, seems less scarred by these effects.

Moving On is a subtle films that focus on everyday people going through everyday issues and as they stay together in this home, they get to know each other’s issues and what bothers them or lingers in their thoughts from the past and present. As the family connections come into play, they each have their form of conflict and struggles that craft these characters especially the main teenage girl Okju who spends a good part of the movie trying to seek attention despite her quiet personality from small things like fighting to have a room to herself and her personal space to getting the attention of a boy that she likes and even the little moments that she shares with her father and aunt that all makes her feel special for little short moments.

Its hard to explain Moving On that makes it not feel like its fairly mundane however, the best movies (arguably) are those that use an everyday life premise and create believable characters and relationships. In this case, its one about a family going through divorce, break-ups and a change in living situation. The subtlety of how its executed really does give a lot of focus on an outstanding premise and story, heavily focused on each of the characters, especially with Okju.

Wisdom Tooth (2019)

Director (and writer): Ming Liang

Cast: Xingchen Lyu, Jiajia Wang, Weishen Wang, Xiaoliang Wu

Gu Xi and her half-brother Gu Liang lead a hardscrabble life in a village in northern China, where they struggle to make ends meet. Their unusually intimate relationship takes on a new dimension with the arrival of the charismatic QingChang, daughter of a rich businessman.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Wrapped up in both a family drama featuring a close sibling relationship where the brother and sister’s life revolves solely around each other. However, as their lives take a turn for new opportunities, Gu Liang meets a new girl which opens up a mostly behind the scenes romance. Viewed mostly from the point of view of Gu Xi, she needs to adapt to a world where she isn’t the center of her brother’s world as an outgoing rich girl QingChang gets into the picture. Call it an unusual love triangle if you want but aside from the family/romance side, a fairly more subtle subplot lies in the little details of the dealings that Gu Liang and his best friend are involved in in the fish business as well as her boss’s issues due to her undocumented status.

One of the best elements of Wisdom Tooth is the link of Gu Xi’s wisdom tooth issue at the beginning that pulls back to it at the end as she finds back her way. At the same time, its the execution of the premise from the lighthearted sibling relationship at the beginning that defines them right away to its gradual addition of QingChang and the best friend which leads to a friendship between WingChang and Gu Xi as they try to bond together which all comes crashing down one day and she needs to make a huge decision. Set in the 1990s China backdrop and its cold weather in a part of a more northern China (I can’t remember the exact location) but the looming winter adds a lot to the setting and cinematography.

Aside from that, this story is heavily focused on its characters and the relationships between each of them. With that said, the entire cast does an outstanding job. The standout goes out to crafting the character of Gu Xi, played by Xingchen Lyu who is followed throughout as she starts to find herself by the end and her independence. At the same time, Gu Liang played by Xiaoliang Wu is also done really well. His struggle between his sister, his love relationship and his “career” is well-portrayed. The ending of the story is done in a fairly unique manner that I quite liked. If there was one little element that held the movie back, it would be the imbalance of how it treated the mixed genre of family drama, romance and crime thriller.

A Thief’s Daughter (La Hija de un Ladron, 2019)

Director (and co-writer): Belén Funes

Cast: Greta Fernandez, Eduard Fernandez, Alex Monner, Tomas Martin, Adela Silverstre

Her father is a convicted, her boyfriend rejects her, her brother is troublemaker, her baby needs money and she’s half-deaf of one ear. Bad times to be Sara. – IMDB

A Thief’s Daughter is a movie about coming to terms with what is the current situation and striving for a better day than settling for the life with a criminal. Sara, played by Gerta Fernandez is the central character as she moves through her various responsibilities as a mother, a girlfriend, a sister, an employee and as a daughter. The relationship between her and her father is the plot that constantly builds throughout the film. However, Sara’s life is a struggle in general. As she finds a more stable job to support her desire to get her younger brother’s custody, her relationship with her father is further worsened along with her brother’s attachment to their father. The feeling of loneliness is what gradually becomes more apparent as she ends up dealing with everything on her own, whether its her own doing or the better choice to keep away from the trouble.

A Thief’s Daughter has relatively decent pacing. The different relationships she has all outlined and built upon throughout to give them all purpose and depth. Her father’s presence although not completely apparent, it appears with enough context to highlight their issues. Its a great work of the writing that gives this looming sense of dread that something bad could happen to Sara when her one good thing being finding a stable job at a school kitchen due to all the conflicts that happens to her throughout. In the end, it becomes a worry that hits her about whether she will be alone for the rest of her life, a rather heartbreaking revelation for Sara, a character that tries her best to do the right thing by everyone but rarely seems to get treated with the same about care from others. There’s a lot that’s done very well in A Thief’s Daughter. Its subtle and quiet but Sara’s character really does end up being rather powerful. Especially when faced with people that don’t seem to stick around her life and her father who she finally stands up to about her own feelings.

That’s it for this Festival du Nouveau Cinema features.
A good batch of family drama with central female characters overall which are all well worth a watch.

My October Adventures

In a blink of eye between 31 Days of Halloween and festival coverage, October wrapped up. Our partial lockdown has been extended for another potentially 28 days as Montreal hopes for the new cases/deaths number to decrease in the next month instead of the current constant. I’ve reverted in the middle of October to a partial work at home status which is kind of the best scenario that I could hope for. With that said, its been a fairly calm month as we kept to regional protocol and stayed home other than to pick-up the occasional food pick-up or grocery runs and mostly for work purposes. After a little glimpse at what’s going on personally, let’s see what I managed to muster up for this month’s adventures…its mostly recaps at this point. Let’s check it out!

Festival Du Nouveau Cinema 2020

Festival du Nouveau Cinema ran for the majority of the month. It was a wild ride as this festival always has deeper movies and takes a little more time to process which makes the writing process in a tad of a delay since I’m not going to lie that the movie choices started a little rocky. Still, I wanted to do a little something for it and here’s the rankings from best to worst (obviously in my opinion) of the 19 films that I watched based on my current feelings and memories of them:

  1. Topside
  2. My Salinger Year
  3. Red Post on Escher Street
  4. Caught in the Net
  5. Moving On
  6. La Hija de un Ladron
  7. Violation
  8. Undine
  9. Poissonsexe
  10. Wisdom Tooth
  11. Mum, Mum, Mum
  12. Cocoon
  13. The Book of Vision
  14. Drowsy City
  15. The Tremor
  16. The Cloud In Her Room
  17. Sin La Habana
  18. Kill It and Leave This Town
  19. Siberia

That’s the rankings. Half of the movies have been reviewed at this point and there will be the rest of the reviews going up in the coming week.

Halloween Marathon

This year was a little different as I aimed to do 31 Days of Halloween/Horror which overall worked out as I did mostly double features and then wrapped up the last few days with Blood in the Snow Festival coverage. There were some off days and I had fallen behind by one day with a week left and pulled it together to wrap up on October 31st. I consider that a win even though I didn’t count the TV Binge of The Haunting of Bly Manor as one of the days, which I probably should have. Out of all the movies, here’s the top picks that I saw in no specific order:

  • A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
  • Raw
  • Unfriended: Dark Web
  • #Alive
  • Trick ‘r Treat
  • Happy Death Day
  • For The Sake Of Vicious

You can find all the reviews and full list of this year’s and previous year’s Halloween marathon HERE!

Blood in the Snow Festival 2020

Blood in the Snow Festival 2020 started up at the end of October and is going on until November 7th. Different from Fantasia Festival and Festival du Nouveau Cinema, its showing on Super Channel and has a specific schedule for the different features and programs airing. You can find all the info for how to sign up for Super Channel and schedule on the festival’s site.

I’ll be covering everything here: shorts programs, features, pre-feature shorts and perhaps the Web Bites if I figure out a good way to do it.

Trying New Restaurants

1930 Shanghai

1930 Shanghai is a restaurant that specializes in Xiao Long Bao which is the Shanghai soup-filled dumplings. They are one of my favorite foods. This place makes decent ones. While they look the same here, I had one order of the normal pork -filled flavor and then had one where it was chicken and mushroom. Both were really good.

Comon Restaurant

I’m usually not a huge fan of Fried Chicken nor do I tend to eat it a lot but my friend told me about this place and picked up some chicken. . Their take-out boxes for the chicken are in pizza boxes which is pretty creative. I ordered a Bibimbap which was pretty good but felt was a little overpriced for the size and the taste wasn’t anything too different from other places. The fried chicken is also pricier but it does taste really good. I ordered the Fried Chicken with Green Onions (pretty obvious) but unlike some other restaurants in Montreal, their chickens are all bone-in, which isn’t a huge problem since I like bone-in meats but definitely something that others might want to keep in mind if you want to try it out.

Cute Kitty Pic

That’s it for this weekly adventures!
What have you been up to? Any Halloween celebrations – simple or not?

FNC 2020: The Cloud in Her Room (她房间里的云, 2020)

The Cloud in Her Room (2020)

Director (and writer): Zheng Lu Xinyuan

Cast: Jin Jing, Dan Liu, Zhou Chen, Ye Hongming, Kangning Dong

Muzi, 22, returns to her hometown of Hangzhou. Her parents, now separated, have both moved on. She, in turn, hovers between past and present, flight and the eternal return.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

The Cloud in Her Room is generally the type of movies we all expect to see in Festival du Nouveau Cinema. Its absolutely arthouse. The movie is set in the current times in Hangzhou but shot completely in black and white along with some very interesting transition with close-ups of water, upside down swimming in the pool sequence and a negatives sort of filter of a building so on so forth. The setting itself also adds a lot of characters from her walks along the river to the residential area and its buildings and the different plances that she ventures alone or with others.

Its a slow-burn drama about a girl who returns home and the story floats between conversations with her mother, her father, her boyfriend and a barowner that she meets, her half-sister and the time she spends by herself wandering back to the family’s old apartment before her parents divorced. Another part is something like a documentary as there are interviews of the different people in her life or that she meets who talks about their view of relationships and how they came to this point in life. The concept of love, relationships and companionship and the unavoidable loneliness that she is coping with as everyone, especially her parents have moved on but she still hasn’t as she seems to be caught between the past and the present. We soon realize that in the present day, she’s remembering times of the past and what her past relationship meant to her as she was reconnecting with her each of her parents in their own lives.

While the film does float to the other characters in Muzi’s life in various conversations whether between her mother and her foreign boyfriends or her father and his new family, the central character is Muzi and she is one interesting subject. She is very flexible as she tries to blend with everyone and accepting to her mother’s more outward personality and her array of boyfriends. At the same time, her father has his own struggles with his family of his involvement and the whole discussion of not being a good father and in reality, realizing it himself when he asks whether she blames him for his decisions. At the same time, the most apparent relationship is the one with Yufei, a friend from school that has expanded further to something more intimate but never defined as boyfriend/girlfriend outwardly as he has issues with her personality and how she acts sometimes while he also has issues of his own from other relationships and really talking vaguely about what he wants from this before having a very memorable scene between them at the end.

The Cloud in Her Room isn’t for everyone. Its very slow-paced and almost feels like nothing much is happening except for the mundanity of Muzi’s life. Its full of subtle notes of watching a girl wander through her time and embracing her past and present and coming to terms with her life at this stage. Between the conversations and even the silent moments of observations and being in her own world, the movie crafts a rather deep character for Muzi and her life as well as the people in it. It sometimes feels random and disjointed but when the movie ends and giving it some thought (and I did a lot because this review took over a week to write up), it becomes a film that does carry some profound thoughts about relationships: family, love, friendship, companionship, etc.

*The Cloud in Her Room is currently screening on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and will be available until October 18th.*

Fantasia Festival 2020: Sheep Without a Shepherd (2019)

Sheep Without a Shepherd (2019)

sheep without a shepherd

Director: Sam Quah

Cast: Xiao Yang, Joan Chen, Audrey Hui, Tan Zhuo, Ming-Shuai Shih, Paul Chun

Desperate measures are taken by a man who tries to save his family from the dark side of the law, after they commit an unexpected crime. – IMDB

Sheep Without A Shepherd is Chinese thriller remake of Malayalam film, Drishyam. Having not seen the source material, this is a standalone viewing for myself which works very well as a whole. The concept of having an every day joe be caught in a situation to use his own detective and thriller film enthusiast knowledge to protect his family and create their own alibi in some ways have been seen before but the execution of this film is done incredibly well and the thriller itself is gripping and intense as it builds to the finale where its questionable whether he will get away with his plan and the little details that is done off-screen in the twist.

Sheep Without a Shepherd also hones a stellar cast. With a supporting role as a neighbor and family friend by Paul Chun and Philip Keung plays the politician father of Suchat who is the boy that was accidentally killed, two actors of different calibre in Hong Kong but very much veterans of the Asian film industry, the latter having made quite the appearances in the recent decade in a lot of films of this genre. Joan Chen has a much bigger role as the police chief Laoorn who happens to also be the mother of Suchat and has quite the presence as she starts from desperation to anger to despair which leads her to make some questionable choices. Playing opposite her is the father and husband protecting his family is Xiao Yang in the role of Weijie Li. He takes on a big role which is mostly subtle in nature as he keeps his cool while using his knowledge from films to create an alibi for the family. Finally, Taiwanese actor Ming-Shuai Shih plays the hotheaded cop Sangkun who in others hands would be typically be over the top and yet, there’s something very strong of how he balances his character to be one that is more grounded and fitting to this corrupt/bad cop sort of character. In reality, each of these characters, whether the younger actresses playing the daughters to the main characters are written and played with a great balance and some depth to keep them moving the story along.

Sheep Without A Shepherd is a gripping story and its thanks to a tight-paced execution. Its watching both sides of the story parallel to each other from a desperate mother and the police station versus the family that needs to scramble to create their alibi and the mystery behind how their alibi works within the time frame that we know is incorrect. The audience knows partially what it is but the depth of the mystery dives a lot further and still manages to have some tricks to pull out. Because of the wrong that was done by Suchat and the layout of how the movie already shows the corrupt authority power in this Thailand area, it gives a blurry line between right and wrong. On one hand, its easy to back the father protecting his family and its successful in the audience siding with him and hoping that he and his family gets away with it because they are the weaker position in this whole situation and yet, accidental murder is still a crime so where do you draw the line, right? Talking more technical, Sheep Without a Shepherd also has some great visuals in the whole cinematography. It uses its camera to deliver the power roles and one of the most powerful scenes with Joan Chen towering over the young daughter makes her feel almost like a monster. There’s appropriate use of situation with how it films the rain and the gloomy shadow over each of these scenes.

Sheep With A Shepherd is a outstanding gripping thriller. It has a lot of tense moments between whether the family’s alibi with get them through and whether the other members of the family will all do their own part with the rushed training. At the same time, it clashes with the police side of the story which is portrayed in an unjust way where everything seems to be out of line. However, all this leads to a bigger element of societal issues of power, authority and leadership that gets brought into the story. There’s a lot of moving parts. Most of the time, its fairly subtle and there are a lot of details. Having the family’s main alibi being built on the knowledge and inspiration from South Korean thriller Montage and having constant movie mentions always gives its a little bit of a fun film buff twist as well. There’s a lot to love about Sheep Without a Shepherd whether its the thriller elements, the cinematography or the outstanding performances from its cast.

TV Binge: Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

unrequited love2019

Cast: Zhao Shun Ran, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhang Yi Chi, Rain Shen, Chen Meng Qin, Zhang Zhe Hao, Yuan Bai Zi Hui, Esther Chen, He Mei Xuan, Huang Shi Chao, Li Jin Zhe

A story revolving around two students, Huai Nan and Luo Zhi, who immediately hit it off when they meet in university, but a message from an ex complicates things. Furthermore, Huai Nan discovers that Luo Zhi has been harboring a secret crush on him since their younger days. Luo Zhi has been caught in a one-sided love with Huai Nan for over ten years as she acts in a monodrama of her own creation. Her feelings towards Huai Nan are complicated, fueled by an honest admiration for his excellence but also tainted with jealousy and hatred. While following Sheng Huai Nan, Luo Zhi is also admitted to the best university. Her one-sided love finally gets a new chapter when the two start getting close to each other, but reality hits hard and they undergo many trials. Will they finally be together? Who took Luo Zhi’s diary? Which one will prevail – love or family? – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Netflix

STORY

Unrequited love 1

Unrequited Love is a story about secret high school crush by a introvert student who then becomes friends with her crush in university. She has to decide how to approach this to catch his attention through her knowledge of him. Unrequited Love has a solid story that is based on novel of the same name by Bayue Changan. What makes this story standout is that both of these characters have stronger personalities. Its about misunderstanding, persistence and courage to own up to feelings and letting yourself be vulnerable.

The story is rather melodramatic since unrequited love is almost always an upward trek of unfruitful outcomes but this story gives them a chance. At the same time, the story isn’t just about them but also the friendships and family around them and the influences and choices that each of these make that may make them question their approach to love for each other. What I like about it is that its not all about them. In fact, every couple or secret admirer or relationship has their own struggles and show a different type of relationship, one-sided or not and with different basis of what draws them to each other.

LENGTH/PACING

unrequited love 3

Episodes: 24
Length of episode: 35 mins (approx.)

Running at 24 episodes with normal episode lengths, Unrequited Love has a good pacing and execution as a whole. The frustration from all the melodrama is rather short in compared to if it was longer and dragged out. Every event moves through quickly from love to loss to misunderstandings to crushes, friends, school and family. Normally, dramas that take a long time to get their main characters together is somewhat of a drag, surprisingly, this one isn’t and a lot of it has to do with how these characters develop over the course of the series (but that’s further discussion in the next section). Series running at the 20+ episodes works the best because the story progresses fairly quickly. Here it starts off playing between the past and present between Luo Zhi’s observations and Huai Nan’s side of things. As the viewers, we get to see where their misunderstandings happen and start to see how as they become friends and care more for each other, their relationship and personality also changes for the better. The story is unique because of the unrequited love element but its done best because of the characters, which takes me to the next part.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Luo Zhi & Huai Nan

unrequited love 4

As a couple, Luo Zhi and Huai Nan are quite a good pairing. They are both more along the lines of living in their own world and then using their own ways to catch each other’s attention. Essentially their story is about communication, confidence and trust. What cam be frustrating is their lack of communication which leads to them getting into arguments as they always assume or guess.

As individual characters, Luo Zhi is more of a unique female lead. She is more stubborn (its a good thing) about what she wants as we see her find her value. She also has the most development from her high school days of hiding in the backdrop and just looking from afar, her university days starts off that way but ends up giving her switch around where she stands up for herself. One of the best parts is when her high school past that she is trying to keep secret is revealed and used against her and Huai Nan doesn’t believe her or the person that he has grown to know and also insisting for Huai Nan to confirm his feelings for her and not always have him want the confirmation that she likes him. It might seem like a petty difference but its little details that give Luo Zhi her standout points.

Jiang BaiLi/ Ge Bi/ Gu ZhiYe/Chen MoHan

unrequited love4

Baili and Ge Bi are a different type of relationship and unrequited love as right from the start, its very one-sided. Baili does everything for Ge Bi but his heart just isn’t there and in the end, it lingers in the realm of questions whether its a regret or not for him. Much like the previous pairing, the entrance of the other love interest characters is what stimulates and pushes Baili to face those issues and move forward. Her character is one that balances Luo Zhi because she’s a more extrovert and caring character and one that is easy to love. There is a naivety to her personality as well as her directness. Her character finds revelation and ends up changing the outlook for Gu ZhiYe, an older guy who pursues her for ulterior motives but (of course) ends up falling for her which also has issues when all the schemes come to life. Their

Ding ShuiJing & Luo Yang

unrequited love3

Luo Zhi’s high school friend, Ding ShuiJing in some twist of events ends up meeting Luo Zhi’s cousin Luo Yang who is already in a long-term stable relationship but they connect because of their idealistic views and art. ShuiJing’s love is also another version of unrequited as she likes Luo Yang enough to move anywhere to see him but he isn’t ready to give up on his stability and the image to family and responsibility to the current relationship.  Their romance is slightly tedious to watch, just like ShuiJing’s character design which is not bad in comparison to Luo Yang’s but she also plays the part of Luo Zhi’s friend who forcibly believes that she is her best friend when the other doesn’t really admit to it and because of this, ends up creating another issue. This pairing is not the most fun to watch but they also is the sub-sub relationship so in the spectrum of the series, it doesn’t have too much effect.

Friends & Family

unrequited love 2

The best elements in Chinese drama is that they have a good focus on outside elements. In this case, Huai Nan’s is mostly with his 5 other roommates. They live in a huge dorm and each one of them, while not all equally a lot of screen time or backstory, altogether are rather entertaining. Of the five, his best friend is MingRui who is the bridge of how Luo Zhi meets Huai Nan but also goes through a lot of unrequited love of his own as timing is his worst enemy. However, much like a lot of other characters by the actor Zhang Yi Chi portraying him, he has somewhat of a comedic relief for the most part. While Luo Zhi’s friendships are a lot simpler with roommate BaiLi, high school friend ShuiJing and university friend Mingrui being her own rocks that she confides in to various levels. BaiLi being the one that has the most story and development.

Family plays a big part between Huai Nan and Luo Zhi’s relationship and that’s meant to be a twist at the end that if you watch Luo Zhi’s few interactions with her mom, its easy to see where its going fairly quickly.

OVERALL

Unrequited Love is something of a forgotten child or maybe more a neglected child in the world of Chinese drama. Its considered something of a failure which I think is rather harsh since it didn’t seem like a whole lot of promotion of given to it in the first place and then this year, we’re expected to get a second adaptation with a more popular set of cast, bumping down any traction from this one and creating a big confusion between this and the upcoming version.

In reality, Unrequited Love does a good job and does have a good cast even if they aren’t as popular, but its rather expected as China produces a lot of TV series and also promotes a lot of new series with new young actors. Its a bit sad that this series didn’t get the amount of exposure it should have considering it did hit Netflix as a Netflix Series and isn’t available on Youtube. Its characters are designed and developed really well and in the scope of 24 episodes, the pacing is great. There are some rather dramatic parts but then, its nothing compared to some of the other series that I’ve seen. Plus, the female characters are done really well and not as typical (in my opinion).

**As an extra thought, I honestly don’t see how a new cast will breathe new life into this story especially knowing who the cast is. It might get more traction because of the male lead’s popularity. But its updated to air in September 2020 on Mango TV so that’s right around the corner so maybe it will surprise me.**

Music Obsessions – June 2020

In a blink of an eye, 2020 has entered June. I guess being home on lockdown has been quite the discovery as I got to catch up on some music, mostly as I was more on top with TV series and variety shows and whatnot as well as some new music.

Empty Space  – Theo 朱正廷 ft. Boogie 

Its always exciting to see Theo release new music. So far, the last few singles have been really good and shows a diverse style that he has been able to grasp from ballads to cute to energetic music. Its always nice to see the Nine Percent crew getting together so here, Boogie joins him to do a little rap portion. Its a really nice song and very uplifting.

别人家的小孩 Other Family’s Children – 创造101 Yamy组 Produce 101 Team Yamy ft. 王一博 Yibo Wang

I’ve been searching up some music from Yibo Wang lately because of not being able to let go of The Untamed. He seems to fit into this mold but then when he is on stage, there is this different person that pops up that I find is fairly fun and charming. One of the really fun songs was a recap back in Produce 101 (that I didn’t watch in 2018, I think) and he was one of the instructors that got to participate in this song with the trainees. Its a super fun song.

Eternal Love 貳叁 – Kris Wu 吳亦凡

I’m using this one as this is the performance that I saw on Produce Camp 2020 that made me like the song and the actual MV is a 15 minutes short film, which I’m not sure anyone has time for so I’ve put it below as well in case you want to check it out:

Back to this song by Kris Wu, I’m not going to lie that I wasn’t too sure about Kris Wu before since I didn’t listen to EXO-M and didn’t quite know of him other than the pretty and cool face in XXX: The Return of Xander (review). However, he was the surprise mentor in Produce Camp 2020 for the first performances and I realized that he actually wrote both the lyrics and music for this song and its a nice blend of traditional Chinese music fused into modern pop music and it turns so great especially since he has a pretty good voice as well. Impressive! Kris Wu is on my radar now!

Lover 情人 – 蔡徐坤组 KUN & Youth With You 2 Trainees
(Collab Stage performance)

A lot of performance videos this time around. Deal is, Love from Kun Cai hasn’t been released yet but its a new song that he decided to use for the collab stage with the trainees of Youth With You 2 and its one of my favorite songs from KUN and also one of my fave performance in Youth With You 2. Really sexy and stylish!

Not Spring, Love or Cherry  Blossoms – High4, IU

I don’t share a lot of Korean music here but after hearing the Chinese version of it in one of the shows, I went to look for the original and this song is so cute and romantic. It actually makes me super happy to listen to it.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
June is here and while the world is not too great right now with everything going on, consider this my slice of safe haven!

Music Obsessions – May 2020

Welcome to the May Music Obsessions! April was a month of intense need for music and because of staying home for everything, music was a constant. There was a lot of new discoveries whether it was via TV or variety shows. Let’s check it out!

彩色的黑 Colorful Black-吉克雋逸 Jike Junyi

The Singer 2020 introduced one of the challengers Jike Junyi also called Summer. She is rather unique in the music scene in China. Her voice is pretty nice and she has this really big strong female lead in her music that mostly isn’t about love songs (at least the ones I’ve heard so far) but more about strength and chasing dreams and you know, positive things. This song is by far one of my favorites of hers that she also did perform on The Singer 2020. I usually listen to her The Singer 2020 version more but this is the actual music video so I figured it was better to use it here. You can find her The Singer 2020 version HERE.

我想 I Want- 余佳運 Jia Yun Yu

Another song that was performed on The Singer 2020 in a mash-up by Tia Ray who does a great version of it and honestly is one that I listen to more. The original  here by Jia Yun Yu is also really good. The lyrics itself and the rhythm has this really sweet and carefree love story enveloped in it. Sweet love songs are such a rarity that sometimes its really nice to have these upbeat songs.

Running Wild (feat. PollyAnna) – Yves V & Futuristic Polar Bears

One of my college friends was running live Instagram DJ session in March to April during this quarantine period and he played this song. I’ve never heard this one before but its really fun. We all need a little Electronic music every once in a while. At least I do.

致我们甜甜的小美满 The Love Equations – 刘人语 Renyu Liu
(“The Love Equations” Promotional  Theme)

If you’ve been following What’s Up, the last few weeks have been all about The Love Equations which is a really fun and cute series. The promotional theme song is sang by the female lead of the series, Renyu Liu who (I believe) got her fame from the Produce 101 series on Tencent. The song reflects the series and the tone of the series pretty much. I’m a big fan of these short 24 episodes series in the whole sister collection with A Love So Beautiful and Put Your Head On My Shoulder (both on Netflix and Youtube). They are just showers of joy and happiness and sweet romance with a little bit of bitter here and there. The song just makes me smile and probably why I like listening to it so much.

曲尽陈情 Song Ends With Chen Qing -肖战 Sean Xiao
(Wei WuXian Character Theme Song for “The Untamed”)

I finally got around to binging The Untamed. Call it a fight for Sean Xiao who got a lot of unjustified garbage since March until recently. I wanted to see what the big fuss was also and well, I totally get it because I love Sean Xiao even more. An all around great actor and singer. He gives off huge “boy next door” vibes. Other than fangirling over him, the point is that The Untamed has an amazing soundtrack and I decided to choose his Untamed character theme for Wei WuXian sang by himself. The Untamed is some uncharted territory executed really well and a lot has to do with his character. I love ancient times series for the soundtrack a ton as it uses some Chinese instruments.

想見你想見你想見你 Miss You 3000 – 八三夭 831

Surprisingly, I didn’t find this song because of TV series. I actually found it because it was chosen as one of the songs for Youth With You 2 and one of my favorite performances. I actually listen to the Youth With You version more than this one. You can find that below:

The song is pretty nice in both versions but one of my favorite trainees from Youth With You that I think has to end up being in the final 9 girl group for Youth With You is Xin Liu. She is unique and so well-rounded in both dancing, singing and rap. This group of a few girls that I think have some great potential to be in the final ending. I’m just hoping that it happens as I hope.

That’s it for this Music Obsessions! A lot of new finds!
I’m trying to listen to more female singers again and get back to practicing singing.
You can see why partially in my last Adventures post HERE.

What have you been listening to?

What’s Up 2020: Week 16

Welcome to Week 16 of 2020! Self-isolation has been going on for a month or so. Its been quite an experience. I can’t say that I’ve been able to do a whole lot of things different from usual since work has been quite busy and its all about getting through April. Week 16 was a lot of wanting to do something but not being able to because of work overtime or home things.

READING

Undead Ultra

Currently reading: Undead Ultra

Still reading Undead Ultra and I can tell you that I’ve moved forward very very little. The time to read wasn’t quite as much as I’d like but I am aiming to finish the book soon. Its not a particularly long novel but I just need to sit down to do it.

PLAYING

doors awakening

  • Doors: Awakening

Currently playing: Concrete Genie, Happy Color, Bounce That Bird, Color Spots

I’ve been working on a lot of Game Warp stuff lately. Concrete Genie is our upcoming game of the month so its one that I’ve been playing through in preparation for the next recording. As for the other games, Doors: Awakening is a game very similar to other puzzle games published from Snapbreak and its part of the Google Play Indie Games Festival Finalists along with Bounce That Bird and Color Spots and a whole bunch of free games that I’ve been playing through for a little capsule reviews, something like a Mobile Game Roundup.

WATCHING

The Farewell

  • The Game (1997)
  • The Farewell (2019)
  • Black Mountain Side (2014)
  • Berlin Syndrome (2017)

I have a ton of movie reviews lined up to write so all of these are currently in line to be written. This week’s highlight goes to The Farewell which I finally got around to seeing thanks to a cheap rental. Its a great film. The story and characters and whatnot all make for a great watch. Other movies in here are for Movies and Tea recording (you can guess which one yourself). Black Mountain Side is a movie on Shudder which I personally don’t recommend but apparently some people on Letterboxd seem to like it more than I did. While on the other hand, Berlin Syndrome ended up being surprisingly decent and Teresa Palmer acts in her own Australian accent instead of playing an American so that was quite a surprise as well.

BINGING

breakfast lunch and dinner

  • Find Yourself (rewatch 2020)
  • Too Hot to Handle (Season 1, 2020) Review
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Season 1, 2019)

Currently binging: Me to Us, The Singer 2020, The Love Equations, J-Style Trip, Youth With You 2, The Untamed

As usual, with a lot of work, TV is the most abundant thing since I like binge-watching on my spare time the most. Plus, TV means a lot of times that I can multitask and that was exactly what I needed. After some though, I decided to watch Too Hot to Handle and it was something that fit into my current mindset so I even finished up a review so you can read my thoughts there. I did a rewatch for Find Yourself which I’m working on a review right now and then wrapped up Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner which was a decent structure as a documentary series. While I like the Ugly Delicious style of docuseries, I like this one a lot too.

Currently binging is really not that different. The Singer 2020 is about to end as they wrap up the semi-finals and head into the finals in the coming week. J-Style Trip is my filler show since it only has one episode a week and it blends well with Me To Us that updates one episode a week on the weekend. I’m enjoying everything that I’m binging right now actually and its just a matter of choosing which I want to watch and which to watch over the course of the following week although my weekend mornings are watching the premieres on Youtube for The Love Equations so I binge those 4 episodes released over the weekend a lot. That series is so fun. On the other hand, I finally started The Untamed which was a HUGE deal last year and I can see why as I binged 10 episodes in one day and if I kept this pace, it’ll be done in no time, even at 50 episodes total. Lots of great TV to watch and catch up with!

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

Music Obsessions – April 2020

April is upon us! 2020 is going by crazy fast and spring is already here! The world’s a bit crazy right now but its why music is so important! At least for myself, I have coincidentally been watching a lot of music-related variety shows, making this Music Obsessions a little more padded than normal. I just can’t choose and really want to share it all! Its different music genres and a little slow and a little fast as well to give it a little balance. Hopefully you will like it!

GOOD NIGHT – Lil Ghost 小鬼

We start off with something fun and light. Lil Ghost (Linkai Wang) previously a member of Nine Percent, released this song back in 2018 however, I only caught this because of variety show Our Song. Lil Ghost is one of the most talented young rappers in the Chinese music landscape that really has a lot of potential and while I might not have seen it so much in Idol Producer, the many variety shows that he’s been in really shows off his personality as well as his talent. At least on-screen, he brings a lot of positive vibes and that’s really great.

Half Moon Serenade 月半小夜曲 – Hacken Lee 李克勤 & Charlie Zhou 周深 (“Our Song” performance)

Hacken Lee and Charlie Zhou’s every single performance in Our Song was all my favorite so it all comes down to which song I love personally a lot and my favorite song of Hacken Lee (definitely in top 5 singles) goes to Half Moon Serenade and they do a fantastic job here. Its how their voices play off each other really well and also how they manage to pair together so well.

Remaining Years 餘年 – Sean Xiao 肖戰

Sean Xiao has been through a rather ridiculous situation in my opinion early in March, right when I started checking out his stuff, peaked by interest after Who’s The Murderer and then his stellar performances in Our Song and my interest in checking out The Untamed eventually (but haven’t yet). I ended up finding this song that I’ve put on repeat a whole lot. He is a very talented singer who started out in a boy group XNINE but ended up pursuing an acting career nowadays but he still has really good voice. Remaining Years is a song in last year’s series Joy of Life (that I also didn’t see but my mom is currently watching) and its really the song and how it sounds that I find has a hard element to learn how to sing.

The Younger Me 少年 – Wakin Chau 周華健

Wakin Chau is more like my parents music but I grew up as a little girl listening to him and knowing a lot of his song in the 80s and 90s. So many memory songs and he has a unique voice that you can just recognize right away. His latest album took him years to put together and the lyrics here (while not written by him) is incredibly meaningful and kind of grabs me everytime. I’ll translate the Chorus and ending verse:

Some people we don’t see again, Some dreams have been forgotten
I sing every song to keep the happiness
Some roads are hard to walk, Some pains take a lifetime to heal
I can still smile and live

Sometimes its too late to settle, The years have passed before your soul
Fortunately there is a little faith, Accompanying us to go through everyday
Don’t forget your heart’s younger self, The wild and brave younger self at the start

100 Ways – Jackson Wang

Adding an English song to the mix! Jackson Wang makes some pretty fantastic music videos. While I can’t say that I love a lot of his music, mostly because I’m pretty picky with his style of music. However, 100 Ways is definitely my fave so far and the one that I’ve replayed the most. Its upbeat and fun. The lyrics is a tad repetitive but the whole song’s rhythm and beat just works so catchy!

我说了算(I Have the Final Say) – Nicholas Tse, Jam Hsiao & Karry Wang
(Me to Us performance)

Me to Us is a great variety show that has really only started. Putting together Nicholas Tse, Jam Hsiao and Karry Wang, the former two who I know more than the latter. Nicholas Tse wrote this song for the first performance of Me To Us as they all sing it together. Its just all kinds of awesome. I can’t fangirl over the fact that I just thought back that its been 20 years that I’ve been a fan of Nicholas Tse and his performance is every bit as fantastic now than when I first heard his songs in 2000 (maybe even 1999). Not to mention, this song is so fun and powerfully rock!

When I Met You當遇見你  – Yuning Liu 劉宇寧
(Ending Theme “Skate Into Love”)

I kind of debated whether to put this here since I might end up using this video as a part of the TV binge when I finish Skate Into Love but you know what, I truly have been lately the most obsessed with this one. I have shared a few of Yuning Liu’s songs before and this one is also really cute and romantic and fits this series a lot. There’s some great singing going on here from Yuning Liu as well.

That’s it for this (longer than usual) Music Obsessions!
What have you been listening to on repeat?

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?