Music Obsessions – September 2021

September is here! Next Music Obsessions is here as the first weekend arrives! This month has been a decent mix. Its mostly songs that I’ve found through different variety shows and TV series. Considering there’s a lot of variety shows I’m watching that are music-oriented, so its pretty fun overall.

我只能離開 I Can Only Leave – Renzhong Yan 顏人中

While I have my opinions on Chinese drama A Little Thing Called First Love and should get a TV binge out for it at some point this coming month, this song is really good. I always catch music by Renzhong Yan here and there but never can pinpoint his music specifically. However, I do like his voice overall. Its pretty unique. Plus, this song worked really well in the series in terms of the lyrics so it was a memorable one.

3189 – 焦迈奇 Maiqi Jiao

3189 is an absolutely unique song. The most random song ever if anything right from the lyrics to the music video itself. Something about getting sleep back and happiness and a bunch of odd things and yet, somehow there’s this very catchy element of all the conversation where it feels somehow relevant to what its about as it pulls in Mary Had A Little Lamb but a flipped version of it but its all about trying to go to sleep, counting sheep and stuff..at least that’s my interpretation but then its a little bit more and somehow I find some of it feels relatable. Its just really random and I like odd stuff so this is right up my alley.

With that said, I found this while watching the cover from the performance on “Call My By Fire” by one of my fave groups there with Jordan Chan, Michael Tse, Jerry Lamb, Julian Cheung, Edmond Leung, all big names in Hong Kong. Either way, you can find their performance here also which has a pretty fun twist to it.

The Oath of Love 余生,请多指教- Andy Yang 杨紫 & Sean Xiao 肖战
(Tencent TV series “The Oath of Love” Main Theme)

The Oath of Love finally is launching on Tencent in September. Consider me happy. Big fan of the two main leads who also sings this duet. This duet makes me anticipate the series even more as they seem to have fantastic chemistry. Maybe finally have a series that will follow the wonderful dynamic of the leads following Go Go Squid!. I’m getting carried away but nice sweet song overall.

再見,少年 Farewell, My Lad – 梁靜茹 Fish Leong
(“Farewell, My Lad” Main Theme)

I honestly think that Farewell, My Lad is the upcoming film that will be a family of stories that follows Better Days. I mean, look at the typography they use. Either way, just a small thought on this new Chinese film. I’m hoping that this film will be available. Big fan of Fish Leong. She’s probably one of my top 5 favorite female singers and this song is just so good. I do think the whole scenes from the film does fit the song a lot also.

Let’s Do This! – Cacien Team
(“Girls Like Us” Performance)

I usually don’t post up performances for any of the variety shows as their own part but most of my playlist right now is from performances from “Girls Like Us” Chinese female hip hop competition. Cacien’s group is very unique and the songs that they make is super positive. This performance is pretty good plus the song makes me feel happy so its a good one to wrap up this month’s music obsessions.

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

Music Obsessions – August 2021

It’s August and time for the next music obsessions! Plus, its a little break from all the film reviews lately as we jump into some of the music that I’ve discovered in the past month! Let’s go!

DNA – Panthepack

Jackson Wang’s Team Wang is definitely growing as it starts bringing in other artists and such starting with his promotion of Panthepack and their new song DNA for the past while. Of course, I’ve only heard it recently because of the new Tencent hiphop competition show Girls Like Us where he performs this song.

泊 Anchor – Corsak

Corsak has definitely been finding his groove lately. His last few songs have been very fun. Anchor is really relaxing to listen to and his vocals are pretty on point. There’s something really soothing about the whole song here from its lyrics to the tune itself that has a nice balance. Its a pretty meaningful song overall.

WULEI – Yanqi Zhang

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this one. I’m a big fan of the latest competition show Girls Like Us because it gives a highlight on the female hiphop artists in China especially as they are rather talented and gives them a voice. However, I’m also really happy that they got Yanqi Zhang, who is a former R1SE member and the trainee from Produce Camp 2019 that I liked right from his first preliminary stage as he is a fantastic hip hop artist with both his producing skills to his rapping skills, to host the public performances for the show. I think this performance really shows his abilities and I just really like it a ton.

Woman – Yico Zeng 曾轶可

I told you before that I’m a big fan of the show so other than Jackson Wang, I think the biggest discovery for myself is a Chinese female singer Yico Zeng who has a fantastic sort of style. I like this type of unique creative which takes a very different approach and her new song performed on the first episode as her entrance is called Woman which matches the show so much. The lyrics and the whole tune and rhythm is so different from the other mentors that are part of this show. Next mission is to start going through her discography. I’ll report back in the future with more of her songs, I’m almost positive.

對峙 Confrontation – Nicholas Tse
(‘Raging Fire’ Main Theme)

Raging Fire is hitting theatres at the end of August and its a movie that I’m absolutely looking forward to see since its Donnie Yen and Nicholas Tse. Anyone frequent here may know that I’m a mega fan of Nicholas Tse almost since his debut. He’s just gone through so much and worked so hard to create change and his latest songs have been all so meaningful. Either way, there’s not much to say about this one but it doubles as a trailer of the upcoming film.

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

TV Binge: Use For My Talent (我亲爱的小洁癖, 2021)

Use For My Talent (我亲爱的小洁癖, 2021)

Director: Cong Cai

Cast: Yue Shen, Jasper Liu, Yunfan Dai, Charles Lin, Yanan, Mengdi Su, Sirui Huang, Quan Tan, Ran Xiao

Because of his incomplete family, Gu Ren Qi has a closed up personality and mysophobia. Shuang Jiao used to have a happy family, but later lost her mother in a car accident, and became a slovenly person. The two became acquainted when Shuang Jiao becomes an employee in Gu Ren Qi’s cleaning company. The two became closer as they get to know each other. Under each other’s influence, they began to heal from their wounds. – MyDramaList

Watch on: Mango TV (Youtube & App) & Netflix

Use For My Talent is a Chinese adpatation of 2018 Korean series Clean With Passion For Now. Let’s just get this out of the way right now that I’m not a big fan of Korean series so I usually don’t go and watch them so I haven’t seen the original of this series. However, Use For My Talent landing on Netflix was such a treat although it does have Shen Yue who is on another Netflix series, Meteor Garden (a Mainland China modernized remake of the 2001 Taiwanese series both directed by the same director Angie Chai) and Jasper Liu in Taiwanese Netflix series Triad Princess and Korean/Taiwanese collaborated variety/travel show Twogether (review). These two main cast members are no doubt talented in their own regards and great to see them together especially as Jasper Liu seems to have moved his focus into Mainland Chinese series now and making a more frequent appearance.

Running at 24 episodes (my favorite length for these types of romantic comedy-drama series), Use For My Talent is a fun one to watch. There’s a good balance of humor, drama and romance that blends together to create this one. It does get a little peculiar in parts but the characters are done pretty well. Not only the main couple, Ren Qi and Shuang Jiao is fun to watch but the two other supporting/secondary couples are also very fun to watch and each having their own dynamic which gives a good variety. Plus, it takes time to look at mysophobia that Ren Qi has and dives into that angle to give it its own drama moments but also using it as some parts of humor especially when encountered with his polar opposite Shuang Jiao who opens up his eyes to slowly accepting the world and treatment to be able to get closer to her. I’m sure some of this stuff is either exaggerated or simplified for the drama’s purpose but it does expose an element of this phobia which leads to using the cleaning company while having a focus on how technology can’t necessarily replace the human element of some services.

Having touched on it a little before, the characters here are absolutely a treat. The main leads played by Shen Yue and Jasper Liu are really great. Shen Yue is probably one of my top favorite young actresses in the last few years as most of her series and roles have been both fun and believeable especially as she gradually moves into TV series set outside of the school setting. I’ve seen most of her shows (even if I never got around to the review). She has this natural and down to earth essence to her that makes her really believable in her roles and carries the emotions really well. The same applies for Use For My Talent where she plays as Shuang Jiao and the character is pretty decent. Funny how things turn around as this show adapts from a Korean series and earlier this year, Korea adapted a Chinese series that was her debut role in A Love So Beautiful (review). On the other hand, as popular as Jasper Liu is, I haven’t seen him outside of two variety shows but there’s something about him that is very charming and he does have pretty good acting skills as well. The chemistry between the two worked really well and came off fairly natural even by the end when he would do the very sappy/cringy sweet talk. It was hard to not cringe but also secretly like it just a little especially as it was a nod to a conversation from a prior part of the series.

Of course the series isn’t just about them but also has some colorful characters. Another couple is RenQi’s assistant DongXian who is very slow and unromantic but ends up with a popular lifestyle streamer QianQian. They are a little fun to watch especially since DongXian’s character is rather hilarious overall but has a little bit of a sad backstory (like a lot of the main cast). Aside from them is ShuangJiao’s little brother JunJie who ends up chasing up her sister’s best friend Yan who has their own sweet moments. The process for both of these having a similar dynamic but pretty funny and entertaining. No series is complete without some sort of love triangle and that brings in Yunfan Dai’s character Lu Xian, a psychiatrist that recently returned to China for 2 purposes: one to repay a debt that ShuangJiao’s mom offered him at a young age (which leads him to falling for her) and the second to act as the consultant for RenQi’s phobia and hopefully control and cure him to a certain extent. His character is pretty decent as well. In most Chinese series, family is also a big part and here the two leads family can be considered opposites of each other and on one side very comedic in dynamic and on the other side, very strict and maybe a little intentionally frustrating.

If there was something to nitpick a little, it definitely would be regarding the choice of melodrama that they used to break the two apart which is an inevitable part of these series but how is always where it works or doesn’t. What they used is always a frustrating choice although props to the two leads for being able to create some genuine sad feelings for this break-up.

Overall, Use For My Talent is an absolute treat. In terms of pacing, comedy and romance, everything works really well. The ending is a little odd with the whole melodrama but thanks to well-connected characters, despite the situation set up, they still manage to carry through the heartwrenching breakup feeling between the two. Its a rather impressive one which highlights some of the talent in the Chinese market.

With all that said, next mission…catch up on Jasper Liu’s series. Anyone have suggestions from the Netflix available ones? Please let me know.

TV Binge: Love Scenery (良辰美景好时光, 2021)

Love Scenery (良辰美景好时光, 2021)

Director: Zoe Qin
Cast: Lulu Xu, Yi Lin, Bing Hu, Harry Hu, Danni Zhong, Yuwei Jiang, Ting Wang, Cheng Wang, Rong Wang, Zheng Zhong

Liang Chen is devoted to bringing good music works to the listeners, expressing the idea of being kind, real, and perfect. Lu Jing loves computer and big data research. He is highly recognized in the academic field through studying complicated human behavior and psychology, thus influencing the classmates around by his solid specialty literacy. They are strangers first but then brought together by big data and they become closer in the journey of pursuing dreams. – MyDramaList

Watch on: iQiyi

Love Scenery is a Chinese romance drama that rolls in very familiar territory. In the recent while, Chinese dramas have had two hot topics for story telling or adaptations: romances involving women older than their guy love interest and marriage before love/contractual marriage. Love Scenery falls in the former one where in reality the cast itself also has this age gap so it makes it all the more believable. Running at 31 episodes, the series does take a turn somewhere in the last 10 episodes or so that almost feels like its a bit forced and gets a little boring to watch, almost feeling like the characters become empty.

Looking at pacing and plot, Love Scenery starts off pretty strong with a popular female singer Liang Chen (Lulu Xu) and smart and handsome university student Lu Jing (Yi Lin) who is also a popular game streamer called Herman as his idolization of her ended up using one of her songs as for people who would lose the game and causing her to be invited to a streaming showcase. Because of this, she asks for help from her friend and unpopular actor Ruibin (Harry Hu) who gets fed up with her lacking gamer skills and refers her to Lu Jing, both hiding under their gaming profiles. The whole part of jumping in game and their interactions at the beginning leading to a lot of comedic and embarrassing moments are all pretty fun to watch. The game scenarios are brought to life and adding in how they figure out who each other are and then realizing the feelings for each other is a good progress. The bad gamer versus good gamer with their different priorities and silly situations all have a lot of comedic value and makes it a lot of fun. Plus these parts have a lot of action as they play a first person shooter so there’s a lot of fighting and gunfights and such which definitely adds to it. Even after they both individually figured out who each other are but trying to test or dodge the situation (depending on the character) has its fun moments.

Where the series starts falling apart has to do with the story progression and how the characters don’t seem to fall a little flat over after the whole romance happens or at least the acknowledgement that they do like each other with not only the age element but as a result, the celebrity and university student influence in the eyes of the public. There’s a lot of frustrating moments once that happens that makes the situation really drag on at parts. Not to mention that while the settings of romantic moments are done well, the two main characters chemistry are a little lacking for the most part. It might have to do with some of the acting is not too good especially when you consider that Yi Lin is a rather young actor and this role while somewhat fitting in some parts and draws some opposites from a previous series, Put Your Head On My Shoulder (review) which was his debut, this one had a lot more drama and it seems that capturing drama still feels like it falls a little short in terms of how he emotes. When he is doing the happy and youthful things, he captures that well but he lacks deeper emotions in general especially if he lacks chemistry with Lulu Xu. Its not saying that nothing lands as some of the scenes are designed to capture them well and builds up the atmosphere well enough.

On the contrary, in terms of romance, the secondary leads between Ruibin (Harry Hu) and a lonely actress Shanshan Ma (Danni Zhong) is a lot more fun especially as the chase is one that lasts the whole way and her character has a lot to discover in terms why she is the way that she is and gradually opens up. The two are a lot more enjoyable as there’s a lot of silliness going on especially for the character of Ruibin, who always does the wrong things or timing with good intentions especially in his chase for Shanshan.

Of course, the story is more than just romance. Its also about chasing your dreams. For the university student bits, its about moving forward as he goes through university, joining competitions. The focus isn’t really there as its more on Liang Chen as she tries to change her style from the romantic ballad style singer to taking a chance and switching to being a rock singer and going back to her roots despite the challenges and risks of it all. These parts are decent since the soundtrack is pretty good. Although, once things start slowing down in the last bits, the challenges seem to be a little rinse and repeat and nothing extremely exciting.

Overall, Love Scenery started out really strong and eventually fell short the further it went along as the pacing, story and characters starting feeling a little emptier the further that it went along. The main issue probably being that 31 episodes was a few episodes too many for the story that it wanted to tell and sometimes it hit the melodrama moments a little too hard. If it had kept up with the beginning half’s pacing and tone, the series would have been a lot of fun. In a nutshell, not bad but not great.

Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Director: Derek Tsang

Cast: Dongyu Zhou, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin, Ye Zhou, Yue Wu, Jue Huang, Yifan Zhang, Xinyi Zhang, Xuanming Gao, Xintong Xie

A bullied teenage girl forms an unlikely friendship with a mysterious young man who protects her from her assailants, all while she copes with the pressures of her final examinations. – IMDB

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

Perhaps one of the more surprising titles to be nominated in the best International feature category at the upcoming Oscars is 2019’s Chinese romantic crime film, Better Days. Better Days is based on a Chinese YA novel called In His Youth, In Her Beauty. Faced with difficulty to release due to censorship in China, Better Days focuses on school bullying while looking at the stressful and demanding environment of preparing for the National Exam which determines the future of a student and where they end up in university while also looking at the reality of family situations in China. It takes a snapshot of Chinese society, call it a social commentary if you will but the movie does end with a discussion of the progress that’s been made with the different ministry departments of creating laws to protect against school bullying. With that said, the movie rather lengthy running at 2 hours 15 minutes, which is structured fairly well as it starts off right away highlighting the school issue and building up those tensions while moving to a second act which is focused on the relationship between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei as he protects her in the shadows. A lot of their relationship is built through actions more than words which thanks to a good direction of director Derek Tsang makes it work. Making the third act one that tugs at heartstrings despite all that’s happening and question the morals of who is right and wrong as well as bringing up how much teens believe in the adults surrounding them and how much they can help.

Talking about the director, Derek Tsang brings in some interesting direction choices whether its how he uses the lighting or moving through a montage of how time passes or just how he chooses to use the cinematography and camera pans to structure the scene to create a great effect and capture what he wants and leaving some mystery, its done pretty well. Of course, the other surprise for most familiar with Chinese pop culture is seeing Jackson Yee do rather well in his role as Xiao Bei especially since he started out at a young age in a youth boy band TF Boys. Taking up this powerful role and delivering on a decent level and especially being able to act at the pace of Dongyu Zhou who is a much more seasoned actress with a lot of great and diverse roles under her belt, a few of them previously Friday Film Club picks, Us and Them and This Is Not What I Expected. Being the central role here, Chen Nian under Dongyu Zhou is done incredibly well. She is able to bring it to a good level of tension and connection especially with a character that doesn’t say a lot and the ability to play a high school senior while being in her mid-20s and making it believable to follow her devastating experience but still in all the bad still wanting to “protect the world” and points out how no one’s taught them about how to be an adult. The most touching line in the movie between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei when he says: “It’s a deal. You protect the world. I’ll protect you.”

Sure, Better Days has its issues especially for those not too familiar with Chinese films, it might bring in the elements of losing traction and shifting focus of the film and having some melodramatic moments as it loves to bring romance in any type of film. However, what Better Days does remind me a lot of is a 2004 Taiwanese series called The Outsiders (currently on Netflix if you want to check it out) which has a similar romantic arc. While it might not be for everyone, Better Days has its heart at the right place, shares an important topic of teen bullying in China and what has been done so far while also having a decent crime story to wrap up the whole thing. Definitely one to check out if you get a chance!

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)

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.**