Music Obsessions – March 2019

Music Obsessions

Time is flying by as we head into March and its time to share some more music that I’ve been listening to in the past month. I’m not sure that I have anything particularly new but then I’m still watching The Singer 2019 and that is charging up most of my playlist. Then that inspired to watch Super-Vocal then the other half is charged with this music. Then there’s the random song from movies and soundtracks and such. I do hope you enjoy! 🙂

Perfume – Jason Zhang

As my husband graciously puts it, this guy is like Chinese Charlie Puth. Well, like ten years Puth’s senior probably but the style of music definitely works in the same way. Especially as his song sparked the whole “perfume dance”. You will know what I mean when you watch the video. Its fairly entertaining. There’s a lot of serious music in this music obsessions so I decided to start off on a light and fun mood with this pick which has subconsciously playing in some variety show backgrounds until I heard the song.

She Is My Sin – Neil Gao 高天鹤

As one of three (I think) countertenors on Super Vocal, there is no doubt that this song shows off the perfect mash of modern music and operatic style as Neil Gao shows off his skills and his masterful control of his voice whether using his countertenor range or his normal vocal range. This performance is definitely one of the most unique in the show and showed off this new side of Neil Gao to be one of my faves.

超能守护神 Super Protector -TeamSpark

My Amazing Boyfriend 2 is my main TV series lately. Its so much fun to watch and those 6 episodes released per week truly make me so happy. With that said, the theme song isn’t quite as catchy as the the first but I still really like it a lot. It matches the vibe of the show so much.

雪花的快乐 The Happiness of Snowflakes – 黄子弘凡 Lars &方书剑Shujian Fang&梁朋杰 Pengjie Liang&张超Zhang Chao

The Greatest Show – 刘宪华Henry Lau&郑云龙Yunlong Zheng&张超Zhang Chao&方书剑ShuJian Fang&黄子弘凡Lars&梁朋杰Pengjie Liang

I couldn’t choose so I decided to just do a two in one deal. To be honest, I’d have done a 3 in 1 deal because its so fantastic. The 4 guys in Super-Vocal did two quartets together and they called themselves the 1975 group which was because their average age is 19.75 years old. This one was the latter one and I thought it was pretty good although the first one had more energy and a catchier song, still this one was more poetic. Its nice to see how they’re confidence changed from the first performance to the final one when they were joined by one of the judges, Henry Lau and their more experienced musical actor teammate, Yunlong Zheng. I haven’t watched The Greatest Showman yet (I know, shame on me), but I love the energy and confidence in this performance. Its one of my faves.

心脏 Heart – Super-Vocal Team

Last week’s The Singer 2019 was a nightmare for one of the members of this team and yet, the song they chose is from one of Chinese musicals. I’ve only heard it and never saw it. They do such a great job even with one having a huge flu or bronchitis or something. After watching the Super-Vocal show, I’m actually even more appreciative of their performances. Their voices are truly amazing. I think this quartet is absolutely fantastic.

As an extra…here’s a solo performance by Yunlong Zheng, probably one of my faves from the show:

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
Few more English songs than I though there was which is great!
What have you been listening to?

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TV Binge: The Inn 亲爱的客栈 (Season 2, 2018)

I’ve never watched the first season. Apparently there are a few changes, prominently the location and the employees and part-time celebrity employees and guests changed. This results in different dynamics and different challenges.

I’ve attached the playlist of the entire season below. You have to open and go back to the episode 1 probably but it should be mostly subtitled.

The Inn (Season 2, 2018)

The Inn

Network: Hunan TV

Boss: Wang Ke & Liu Tao
Full-Time Employees: Dylan Wang, Kido Ma, Philip Wu, Shen Yue
Part-Time Employees: Myolie Wu, Sean Chen, Tengri, Andy Yang, Bridgette Qiao, Jiang Zi Xin, Johnny Chen, Zhang Lingzhi, Angelica Lee, Cheng Xiao, Vega Li, Mao Buyi, Ziwen Wang

The Inn is a reality TV series that centers around businessman Wang Ke and his renowned actress wife Tao Liu who goes to a rural area of China to set up an inn for 20 days which will then be passed over to the government to help with tourism and economics in the beautiful secluded area perfect for citygoers to recharge and get in touch with nature. Its all part of their slogan of “creating beautiful life”. During the stay, various guests come and share their stories while renowned celebrities will also show up as part time workers. Of course, there are also celebrities there which are full time workers. This season’s set in Bai Lang Zhen is part of northern China near the border and started with three full time workers Meteor Garden 2018’s Dylan Wang, singer Philip Wu and Kido Ma and later is joined by Meteor Garden 2018’s Shen Yue. This is all an effort to not only help build the physical inn but also to set up a working business model with some prominent people in the town there to learn to manage after the team as left.

the inn 2

With that said, The Inn Season 2 is a stellar show. On one hand, it shows the struggles of building a business and the reality that the young employees learned that no task is easy to achieve. On the other hand, it looks also at the success of what they can bring with something like this where a lot of guests and part time employees through these human interactions shared their conflicts and difficulties and dilemmas and in some ways found their solution or untangled a bit of their thoughts as well. The heartwarming aspect of the show definitely takes a front seat here. While some criticisms did suggest that perhaps some of it is staged, I don’t think a lot of it is staged but rather that the after production of adding in little comments and such make it more charming and engaging and at times, funny. Considering the hours spent there and the amount of cameras, it was more an idea of what post-editing felt like was more entertaining for its audience plus it had to play a lot on things like the current trends, such as last year’s shipping of Meteor Garden’s Dylan Wang and Shen Yue and adding in things like Season 1’s My Little One Philip Wu making a comment that his dream girl would be something like Shen Yue as well as the addition of Kido Ma who eventually becomes the one that gets paired up with Shen Yue as we see their friendship getting a lot of mentions by the end.

the inn 2

One of the most valuable traits of The Inn is how it brings together this genuine sort of feeling. It has to do with how its guests are picked with very real every people such as being pressured to marry or being afraid of getting pregnant or not having sufficient amount of time for family because of work, etc. It emphasizes that the people that we meet every day whether just a passing moment can bring something new to our lives. As much as The Inn is an escape, its also a place to contemplate life and hopefully find some positive way to change or resolve some of their own problems. Everyday problems that people have. Even with the guests that show up, they all show a part of themselves that help out. With the young stars, it gives them a chance to experience this new side of things while the more mature guests share their intellect be it about marriage or loss and so on so forth. Its because there is so much to discover that makes this show so fun to watch. It feels genuinely like watching real people going through real things and at the same time, sharing thoughts and positive ways to resolve and just open up other people’s minds about different topics. It took me on a roller coaster of feelings full of funny laughing moments and some touching moments as well. I’m desperately looking forward to the next season. In the mean time, maybe I’ll go back and watch Season 1 and see how this reality show started in the first place.

Music Obsessions – February 2019

Music Obsessions

Welcome to this month’s Music Obsessions! The past month included a whole lot of Nicholas Tse and TV series theme songs and then the past 2 to 3 weeks have been all about the songs performed on The Singer 2019. It makes it a little hard to decide what really did stand out because of the sheer amount of music that I listen to on repeat. Just saying, its going to be heavy on The Singer 2019 because its the music I’ve been really into lately. Plus Chinese New Year is right around the corner so somehow Chinese music fits here really well.

Abyss 深淵 – Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒 feat. Jackson Wang 王嘉爾

I could choose a ton of Nicholas Tse’s older music which essentially has been going on repeat on my end but he recently dropped his newest single. Perhaps a new album is on the way at this pace. He has had a good few singles in the past year or so. Either way, I like this one well enough. Not my favorite but this one is pretty cool.

我比以前更寂寞 I Am Lonelier Than Before – 杨坤 Kun Yang

I’ve always heard of Kun Yang but never actually a lot of his music before but The Singer 2019 really made an impression with me when he did his first performance. It wasn’t as well received by the audience voters there but to me, I thought it really showed such a depth both his voice and just emotions and it had a good balance. I’ve been trying to check out more of his music but his three performances have all been so unique and awesome so I just decided to share the first one that impressed me.

劉宇寧 Yuning Liu – 讓酒 (Tomb of the Sea Song)

Yuning Liu is someone recently on my radar even slightly before The Singer 2019 on Happy Camp. However, although he got beat out by ANU (which I will post some of their music next time), I felt like the version of the song he chose is fantastic so I went looking for some other songs and landed on this one, which isn’t a cover but a song in a TV series from last year (that I didn’t see but is on my radar). I really like the depth of his voice as well. There’s this nice pop vibe to it but also this husky rougher bits that really give it his own uniqueness.

我們 Us – 吳青峰 Tsing-Fong Wu

Playing both the MC of The Singer as well as a competitor is Taiwanese singer-songwriter. I hadn’t followed his music since his days as lead of Sodagreen, which is a little while back since it was at the tail end of when I was listening to Taiwanese music before falling out of it for a little bit. Hearing him now especially his version of Eason Chan’s Us is really good. I actually had never heard this song before but the lyrics is fantastic especially the fact that he connected with this song in a way that I can relate to and the lyrics that rings out to me: “My biggest regret is that your regrets is related to me.”

Your Love 你的愛情 – Escape Plan 逃跑計劃

Escape Plan is a Chinese indie rock band. Well, its obvious that they have talent but still, it seems perhaps that they are in the wrong competition or that indie rock is still too new in China. Its my personal opinion of course. It may be on the rise but they stuck with singing their own songs for the first two rounds which resulted in them being the first performers to leave the competition. Sad because I really like how this song turned out. Escape Plan is definitely on my radar especially when they made a comeback performance and covered Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man. Personally, I think they did good to stick to themselves and their style with their own music but if they did something mainstream like Bruno Mars for one of the performance, they might actually have stayed around longer. Who knows, right?

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

Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Ash is Purest White (2018)

The 47th Annual Festival du Nouveau Cinema has started in Montreal and will be around until October 14th. I’m not sure why I’ve never thought about joining into this one before but this year had specifically this film that I wanted to see so I took a look at the other movies and ended up joining in the fun.

Ash is Purest White has been making its festival route and maybe theatrical screenings in China. The word about it is almost all positive which has me incredibly excited and one of my top picks for this year’s Festival du Nouveau Festival.

Ash is Purest White (2018)

ash is purest white

Director (and writer): Zhangke Jia

Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Yi’nan Diao, Xiaogang Feng, Zheng Xu

A story of violent love within a time frame spanning from 2001 to 2017. – IMDB

Ash is Purest White is a movie that names itself as Jiang Hu Er Nu, which means in direct translation, Underworld’s Sons and Daughters. What seems like it is a crime and gangster movie quickly changes shape in its second and third acts.  Ash is Purest White is a slow-paced film that is essentially an epic romance that propels the life of a woman through a span of many years as she enters this world that she ends up being a part of because of her boyfriend. The story mainly revolves the perspective of Qiao, played by Tan Zhao where her boyfriend Bin, played by Fan Liao, only have scenes with her but rarely individual ones. At a runtime of over 2 hours, Ash is Purest White never feels like that despite its deliberate slow pace, in fact, it takes it time so that we get to know Qiao and her story and her emotions and especially  her strength and loyalty. Set in the beautiful outskirts of China in Datong in the Shanxi province, the cinematography also deserves a great nod as well as the fantastic soundtrack.

Ash is Purest White

With that said, the outstanding role here that definitely carries Ash is the Purest White is Tao Zhao. I’ve never seen her in anything else in my memory but she falls so beautifully into this role. Capturing her innocence and life in the early parts of the movie as she follows her boyfriend and supports him as he is the leader of his gang and fights off the opposing forces. There’s a loyalty and love here that binds them as individuals and makes their relationship strong. For a film to be carried by almost completely by one character is hard but Tao Zhao does it so fantastically. She has a strength to her character as she goes from her happiness of being under the protection of her boyfriend to when she stands up and sacrifices for him which changes her life around by then those things she learned from him becomes a circle and takes her to where she ends up years later when he needs her help. There is such a loyalty and commitment as well as regrets to their relationship that resounds.

Ash is Purest White

Don’t get me wrong though. As strong as Tao Zhao’s character is, Fan Liao’s Bin cannot be ignored. Even in his quiet expressions and his few words, he manages to show a lot of emotions. A sign of a great actor are in these skills. While his character might not be in a lot of the scenes in the second act for example. His character always has a presence in the other’s life and that is the power of this love story. However, there is something of a flip role as we see how both of their similar experiences has ended up with very different results. The debate in their character is what does “jianghu” does to them in some ways.

Overall, Ash is Purest White is a slow-paced romance that takes a fairly  unconventional route that brings about the loyalty, regrets of two people but their differences from what happens that changes them and also breaks them in some ways making them find and lose themselves respectively. There’s a perpetual aspect to their love even when they aren’t both on the screen. The story is crafted so delicately that it works to help us truly be bonded with these two characters. Even in two hours, it rarely feels like there are pacing issues but yet, every detail here is done to help the audience understand these characters and their experiences and think about it. There is a beauty and art here that is hard to ignore. Its one that might resounded to myself as I thought about it more and more.

TV Binge: The Chamber of Secrets Escape 密室逃脱:暗夜古宅 (Season 1, 2018)

Moving away from movies for today, we’re taking a look at a Chinese TV game show called The Chamber of Secrets Escape.

Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxeBkIJb4qE&list=PLUM8x224JrX9wa0S9MatA4vQ-6v8Qm_x6&index=10

The Chamber of Secrets Escape (Season 1, 2018)

the chamber of secrets escape

Host: Ma Ke

Cast/Guests: Danson Tang, You Ming Huang, Yi Xuan Zhou, Zhi Yuan Xia, Xi Yue Cao, Xiao Yu Lu, Wen Han Li, Mei Ren Wang, Han Yu Gao, Amelie Xu, Bo Wen Wang

This is an ancient style chamber escaping reality show which the celebrity guests are to use their wits to pass each checkpoint and also whether they show good teamwork or working together against the opposing team. – My Drama List

***I’m going to say sorry in advance that the show is only in Chinese. I have the urge to use the Youtube translate thing and do it but I currently don’t have the time to commit to that yet. ***

With a total of 10 episodes, this season is a quick and fast one to go through. The Chamber of Secrets Escape : The Dark Night is all about pitching a group of people into different elaborately built puzzles with different back stories and different goals and twists in the escape room game. The eliminated participants have to go run this corridor of darkness which literally is a 100 metre corridor where you are being chased by a dog. Its a race between getting to the ladder at the end to salvation. The winners of the show have a donation made in their names to a pre-selected school in the country.

The Chamber of Secrets Escape

The host himself is Ma Ke who does a nice sinister feeling as he welcomes the participants and leads them on the journey as a behind the scenes sort of puppet master. I think that was the feeling this started as and even in the first or second episode, it felt that way on how the game set the tone of how it was more about the psychological aspect of it as it talks about how when people are faced with dangerous situation how their human nature would react. Granted these are actors and celebrities, I do wonder whether there is some aspect of it staged beforehand and the environments are controlled as well but they do give them leeway to be fairly exciting. Its one of the reasons that makes this so much fun to dive into.

The Chamber of Secrets Escape

The puzzles here can be fairly hard to put together. At the same time, the show has a definite focus on the game show human nature and opposing and teamwork and trust emphasis that the viewers only get glimpses of the puzzles so it isn’t one to sit down and have time to figure out. However, this is a game show so the human relationships here are put as priority to add in drama and suspense. I do love how the show defines some of its main participants like Danson Tang and You Ming Huang, who are there for 9 of the 10 since the 10th episode changed all the familiar faces from before. The dynamic of three of the most frequent participants definitely breathed life into the show.

Overall, its a fun experience. As with some of the other game shows on this channel in the same family, its one that makes me want to participate in real life in some of these maps. Maybe not the zombie ones because even if I knew it was fake, it would still be creepy. The budget behind these sets and stories and puzzles look so great and its what brings these stories to life and creates the atmosphere.

Sunday List: Stephen Chow Films, Ranked [updated regularly]

Stephen Chow was possibly the first actor to spark my love for cinema in general. Hong Kong cinema has changed quite a bit but most people associate it with action films from the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li for starters. There is an entire world of cinema to explore here. With that said, I have many actors and actresses that I’d love to explore.

Stephen Chow is the first up and honestly, in his extended filmography, I still have a long way to make this a complete list and will update it as I catch up and rewatch more of his films, both as an actor and/or director and some titles might even be rearranged. A few of the titles have been too many years since I’ve actually seen it and probably remember it and feel differently about it now. I’ll expand on the descriptions of the films to be updated gradually as well. Remember to check back for more Stephen Chow goodness!

1.Tricky Brains (1991)

tricky brains

My love for Tricky Brains runs very deep. There are a lot of absurd humor here. In fact, the star power behind this movie definitely brings together a culmination of what defines Stephen Chow’s career in the 90s. There is his comedic partner Man-Tat Ng who they have many fun and hilarious scenes together but also the incredibly talented Andy Lau joins in here. The ladies include many talents in the 90s which aren’t around much nowadays in the Hong Kong film industry but were familiar faces back then. Its a movie about hiring someone to do pranks in mostly a bad way to waiver the view of someone. Of course, pranks, no matter how they are will misfire or succeed and those are the best and most fun moments of Tricky Brains.

You can read my review here.

2.God of Gamblers II (1990)

god of gamblers 2

What happened to God of Gamblers, you ask? God of Gamblers is the sequel to what started out as a Chow Yun-Fat role. In fact, some would actually recognize God of Gamblers II as Knight of Gamblers which focuses on the talented Andy Lau who returns to Hong Kong  in secret after training with God of Gambler as we saw in the first movie. Their goal is to set up a charity casino however the revenge from the going on in the first movie is what causes him to be caught up. Stephen Chow reprises his role here from All for the Winner which started up as a parody film of God of Gamblers and earned him the title of Saint of Gamblers which he carries into this film and teams up with Andy Lau while of course still having Man-Tat Ng as his uncle. When the magical powers and the actually skilled gambling powers combine, hilarity ensues.

I will be reviewing the God of Gamblers franchise here very soon.

3.Justice, My Foot (1992)

justice my foot

Justice, My Foot! boasts a fantastic cast. As usual, he is partnered up with Man-Tat Ng however, this time, they play as opposing forces where he impersonates a talented lawyer and Man-Tat Ng, plays as a judge. Along with this pairing which comes up with some hilarious moments even as they investigate a murder, the material is very light-hearted here. Anita Mui plays his wife. This Hong Kong super diva plays very well into this comedic role who is both a strong and convincing lady. This movie was on Netflix for a while last year but unfortunately  has left it as this posts goes up.

4.All For The Winner (1990)

all for the winner

Pretty lady, Sharla Cheung and funny woman, Sandra Ng act together in this film that starts off as something of a parody film for Stephen Chow which gets his character the title of Saint of Gamblers and has special powers that he soon discovers can win him some big money as long as he follows the hidden rules. They try to exploit them as he reunites with his uncle in Hong Kong. There are some barriers to entry to this one mostly because it plays on the difference of Mainland Chinese versus Hong Kong Chinese and the etiquette and mannerism differences between the before 97 handover when Hong Kong was still a British colony. It also plays on a lot of puns and Chinese sayings that could get lost in translation or just lose its effectiveness in translation. However, this film was enough of a success to earn him a role that entered him for God of Gamblers 2 (which is #2 on this list).

5.All’s Well Ends Well (1992)

all's well ends well

All’s Well Ends Well is an entertaining film to say the list. It was released as a Chinese New Year celebration movie. Rightfully so, as it is a comedic affair that also does something of a parody film like reenacting scenes in famous Hollywood movies. You’ll recognize films like Ghost, Terminator and Pretty Woman for starters. Does it gain it a better entrance to a Western audience? Perhaps it can, mostly because there are a lot of unspoken humor just with its talented cast and their over the top reactions and expressions in each scene that makes the humor work. For myself, this is a movie I watched a child and still holds up incredibly well.

6.From Beijing With Love (1994)
7.The Mermaid (2016) Review
8.Look Out, Officer (1990)
9.Love on Delivery (1994)
10.Shaolin Soccer (2001)
11.Flirting Scholar (1993)
12.Royal Tramp (1992)
13.Hail the Judge (1994)
14.God of Cookery (1996) Review
15.Fight Back to School (1991)
16.God of Gamblers III (1991)
17.Forbidden City Cop (1996)
18.A Chinese Odyssey Part I: Pandora’s Box (1995)
19.A Chinese Odyssey Part II: Cinderella (1995)
20.The Tricky Master (1999)
21.Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
22.The Lucky Guy (1998)
23.King of Beggars (1992)
24.Sixty Million Dollar Man (1995)
25.Lawyer Lawyer (1997)
26.Mad Monk (1993)
27.CJ7 (2008)
28.King of Comedy (1999)

Not seen:

  • Bo fung hon ji (1988)
  • Faithfully Yours (1988)
  • Dragon Fight (1989)
  • Just Heroes (1989)
  • Liu Mang Chai Po (1989)
  • Love is Love (1990)
  • Lung Fung Restaurant (1990)
  • The Unmatchable Match (1990)
  • Curry & Pepper (1990)
  • Sleazy Dizzy (1990)
  • When Fortune Smiles (1990)
  • Triad Story (1990)
  • Yi Ben Man Hua: Chuang Tian Ya (1990)
  • Legend of the Dragon (1991)
  • Fists of Fury 1991
  • The Magnificent Scoundrels (1991)
  • Fists of Fury 1991 II (1992)
  • Fight Back to School 2 (1992)
  • Fight Back to School 3 (1993)
  • Out of the Dark (1995)
  • All’s Well, Ends Well (1997)

Do you know Stephen Chow? 
What other actors do you want me to rank their filmography?

Restaurant: Mon ChiCha Bistro

Finally some new restaurant visits to share. This first one was somewhere in mid-July when my best friend joined me for Fantasia Festival and we had a double movie date for Napping Princes and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. We ended up walking by this restaurant called Mon ChiCha Bistro, which peaked out interest and we ended up going in there for a quick lunch in between the movies.

Mon ChiCha Bistro

mon chicha

Decor

Mon ChiCha Bistro

Halogen lights don’t work well on camera however the setup and seating for the restaurant is pretty cool and trendy.

Food

There is a more Asian Fusion menu however due to our time constraints and preferences, we stuck with a more traditional Chinese menu.

mon chicha bistro

Something you should know about me is that I’m super traditional and simple when I go for Chinese foods most of the time. Whenever given the choice at a new restaurant or too many choices or whatever factor, my fallback is always automatically Fried Rice or Wonton Noodles.  I actually haven’t had Wonton Noodles in forever for so many reasons. Regardless, this one was pretty good. There was something different about the wonton noodles, more accurately how they made the wontons which I liked a lot. It gave it a really nice texture and distinct taste. It was also a very generous portion for the price.

mon chicha bistro

They recommended to us their in-house specialty, which is a soy sauce chicken. Its a very simple everyday meal. Actually, my mom makes a super delicious one. Usually when my mom does something well, its hard for restaurants to even compare. My mom doesn’t read the blog so its the truth. This one was pretty good also. The wonton noodles filled me up quite a bit so I didn’t eat a lot of this dish.

mon chicha bistro

My best friend had the Fried Sauce Noodles which is a Beijing specialty. She has a fond love for it and a craving from what I gathered during our conversation. However, we didn’t discuss how she felt about this as we were in a rush to leave for the movies and had to eat the meal quickly.

The more traditional portion is really just a side. If you check out their website, its a lot more of the asian fusion sort of food. I’d definitely be interested in heading back to see what else they serve for their mainstream clients. Maybe there will be a second post when and if I get a chance to go again.