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.

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?

Music Obsessions – March 2020

Welcome to March 2020! Its time to do a monthly roundup of music that’s been on my playlist! Its been quite a mixed bag and some of it is from various phases I’ve gone through and shows I’ve been watching and whatnot.

Just Let It Be – Dimash

A few years ago, I heard Dimash’s first performance on I am a Singer 2017 snippet and it was awesome! He sang this French song called S.O.S. Although there were pronunciation issues, his voice is amazing because of its range and control. I hadn’t realized that he had released music since then but then I found this song and its just awesome. Its nice to see him break out of his classic music and head into something that brings both this classical skills to something a little fast-paced and modern.

Amazing [Find Yourself Ending Theme] – 林世民 Shimin Lin

I just finished Find Yourself this past week and TV binge is coming up soon. A little backlog this year so it’ll happen soon. The ending theme for Find Yourself was unusually an English song, albeit a little language issues in the lyrics but the rhythm and the singing is pretty soothing. Because of that, then it played during the series, it actually matched a lot of the scenes well and this one kind of really grew on me over the process of watching the 40 episodes.

皮囊 Pi Nang – 蕭敬騰 Jam Hsiao

I can’t believe that I haven’t shared songs from Jam Hsiao sooner. This Taiwanese singer actually came to fame around the time that I had fallen out of Chinese music so he’s somewhat of a newer discovery. Jam Hsiao is part of The Singer 2020 this year and he has a killer voice with a wonderful grasp on the falsetto and higher pitches plus he likes fast, quirky and more hard rock style plus adding on his performances, it all works really well. This song is amazing. Honestly, it seems like a fun one to just sing to your heart’s content (even if its not going to be easy to sing).

《爸爸去哪儿》第五季主题曲MV
Dad Where Are We Going 5 Theme Song

I went back the past month to check out Season 5 of Dad Where Are We Going because of my recent wrapping up of Ashes of Love and my new obsession with the actor Alan Deng. In this reality show where celebrity dads take their young children on various trips to challenge and build their bond, Deng Lun takes on the trial dad where he takes care of a little girl who seems to have some social media fame. Its just incredibly cute and heartwarming to watch. This theme song is so cute that I can’t help to listen to it non-stop. Plus, almost all of these dads were celebrities that I grew up with: Jordan Chan (from Young and Dangerous series), Will Liu (Taiwanese singer where I went through a phase of loving his album), Wu Chun (from ex-Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit).

等爱 -[“海棠经雨胭脂透”片尾曲MV] – 邓伦 & 阿兰

Well, I did say that I’ve been looking up Alan Deng’s stuff so while I haven’t went on to other TV series yet but I did find that he has a talent for singing and this song for last year’s series Blossom in Heart is a beautiful duet that he does. It has some more harmonizing moments with the female singer Ah Lan, who I also do like her music. I’m still debating whether to watch this series since it seems to hit a few things I don’t like about TV series from the snippets here so we’ll see. However, this song has been playing on repeat! Love it!

That’s it for this Music Obsessions!
Its been a pretty solid month for music discoveries!
I actually had to make some decisions to not overload!

What have you been listening to?

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

Welcome to the official kick-off of this year’s ultimate decades blogathon hosted by myself and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, its the best time to talk about the movies that defined it. Whether its a favorite or one that shows off  an element that represented the decade, both movie choices are good. With a lot of movies to choose from between 2010 to 2019, there are endless possibility.

Kicking off the first two days is myself and my fantastic co-host, Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Starting this off on day 1 as I take a look at one of the biggest trends and changes in the movie landscape is the power of the rise of streaming services opening up a variety of movies, giving a platform for distribution and creation of independent and international titles that may otherwise have remained unknown or less accessible.

The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

The Wandering Earth

Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo

Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li, Man-Tat Ng, Jin Mai Jaho, Mike Kai Sui, Hongchen Li, Jingjing Qu, Yichi Zhang

As the sun is dying out, people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind. – IMDB

Loosely adapted from a novella of the same name by Li Cixin, The Wandering Earth is not only China’s third highest grossing film of all time but also the third highest non-English film of all time. Taking a change in landscape from the normal Chinese New Year movie release, The Wandering Earth is set on Chinese New Year but isn’t the normal happy movie but rather a high budget science fiction film.

wandering earth 2

Set in a future where the sun has become a threat to Earth, the world has united into the United Earth Government and collectively has initiated The Wandering Earth Project, installing Earth Engines across the surface of the planet to propel Earth out of the Solar System 4.2 light years away to the Alpha Centauri to preserve human civilization. However, as they cross Jupiter, the gravitational pull of the bigger planet takes control of Earth and causes a possible collision while causing other side effects. As teams travel with their Lighter Cores to reignite the failed Earth Engines, the dangers that await them are numerous with the unexpected changes in the environment.

wandering earth

This premise alone of creating a future where Earth is being pushed in movement out of the solar system is unique to say the least and one that has so much room for exploration. The story uses its environment to its full potential as it shows off right from the get-go how the world has changed from its inhabitants living in various underground cities that have everything that you’d have when the world lived above ground to the current frozen above ground and its operations. The visuals of these are done with grandeur, showing off the technological advances in both this film but also in showing off slick cinematography and CGI used in the current Chinese filmmaking landscape which is pretty much  on par with the Hollywood blockbuster films at least delivers the same feeling, especially as the film’s story starts stepping into the dangerous elements.

wandering earth

The story is two-fold. On one hand, it takes place with the father and Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) who left at the initiation of the Wandering Earth Project 17 years ago and now is on the last day before retiring back to Earth but now is stuck on the space station. On the ground, his son, now a young man Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu), decides to take his grandfather’s driving access card to show his sister, DuoDuo (Jin Miao Jaho) the world above ground, unknowing getting caught up in the mess as they get caught along with their grandfather (Man-Tat Ng) in the midst of the Earth crumbling as the side effects of crossing through Jupiter and as they try to escape, get commissioned to help transport the rescue mission lead by Wang Lei (Guangjie Li).

Wandering Earth

The story here, while isn’t quite as fresh as its premise, managing to add some little comedic moments through some goofy elements and characters and adding in the expected Chinese drama, in this case, mostly within the family drama with the main characters as well as the hardships and loss of hope through the rescue mission and its possibility of failure. However, where the film shines is in its emphasis on keeping on track with the action and giving this movie in its science fiction a certain level of disaster film quality as well that keeps the film propelling forward. The movie runs for over 2 hours and while some of the slower dramatic moments might drag out a little, the film does focus heavily on the concept of being united and keeps itself focused on these everyday realistic characters but never let them be heroes but rather to let them fight for mankind’s survival together. There’s something so precious and touching about this story as it works up to its endgame and reveals a little more about the state of the United Earth Government and adds in the internationalism with the different languages and authorities working together that makes this future feel hopeful and even utopic.

wandering earth 5

The Wandering Earth might not be the best film of the decade (although it definitely is pretty close to at least the Top 20 for myself), but it does achieve a lot and defines a lot of the 2010s. While I would have loved to pick a movie that was also created by Netflix (or some other studio), the global distribution rights for Netflix shows off the change in landscape and how international films are more visible especially as they manage to reach platforms globally and become more accessible especially in the Chinese film market which has its many restrictions and is less openly advertised than other Asian films. As the world moves closer together, these channels give a chance to have access to more international films and especially, those that are as significant as The Wandering Earth with all the success its had in its own country. Its definitely worth a watch to see how far and competent Chinese film are especially great with one that is pretty much a sci-fi blockbuster.


You can check out the full archive of Ultimate 2010s blogathon posts as they go up, updated daily HERE.

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews to check out my co-host’s kick-off movie review!

TV Binge: All I Want For Love Is You (满满喜欢你, 2019)

All I Want For Love Is You (满满喜欢你, 2019)

all i want for love is you

Cast: Yu Han Liu, Zhao Hua Lu, Yin Jun Liu, Zhi Xun Xie, Yan Qing Sun, Xin Yu Han

A story full of laughs follows sanda fighter Gu Xiao Man and school genius Zuo An as they chase after love. Graduation is fast approaching for 3rd year high school student Gu Xiao Man. Unlike your average school girl, she is a sanda fighter who wins medals at the sport but not in class. Because she wants to continue to be schoolmates with her idol Zuo An, she decides to give the same effort to academics as she does to sanda. Her hard work combined with Zuo An’s efforts to be her personal teacher pays off and they get into the same university. There’s nothing sweeter than to have your crush crushing on you and their story continues on. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch with English subtitles

QUOTE/SCENE

STORY

All I Want For Love Is You is a simple love story. It starts off with neighbors where Gu Xiaoman likes her neighbor Zuo An. However, he is such a genius and she’s really just good at her martial arts that she feels like she will never be able to get his attention until one day, she accidentally rips his track pants and from then on, she catches his attention. Despite his cool exterior, he finds different ways to help her out to get to spend more time with her. However, they never truly find the timing or the courage to tell each other.

All I Want For Love Is You

All this is fairly similar plot line for these youth romance that runs from high school to university romance and following their dreams. There’s a lot of unrealistic things that happen here. That usually isn’t a problem since TV series are meant to have that magic to them that resolves issues making it hopeful and happy for the viewers as well. The story here has a good deal of fluff and it does also have some light-hearted moments. However, it does also have a lot of drama in order to create misunderstandings. There is two rivals, one who likes the girl and one who likes the guy, the former one is a lot more fun to watch than the latter.

The unique element done here that adds some fun comedic elements is that Gu Xiaoman dreams up these ancient China scenes where she plays this martial arts female hero and its all the fantasies that she has as she falls in love and then the misunderstandings which propel further into certain situations. Its a fun little mix-up to the story and gives this series a little more charm.

The story actually is fairly harmless and does a decent job at being an okay dose of light fluffy drama. The only issue that I can’t quite decide is a good or bad thing is how it decides to throw in some additional issues as the ending 2 episodes to give it a dramatic twist, which felt a little too contrived but at the same time, if that scene didn’t exist, the main female lead wouldn’t have been able to show her best acting skills throughout the entire series with a lot of depth. As of now, I’m still debating that point.

LENGTH/PACING

All I Want For Love Is You

Episodes: 32

Running at 32 episodes, there’s shouldn’t be pacing problems and yet, All I Want For Love Is You has that issue. One of the main issues is that the chase takes too long. The couple only get together after 80% of the series is done, which is absolutely crazy as it gets a little tiring and frustrating to watch them dance around their obvious feelings for each other and then go through various misunderstandings created by third parties. There is a good bit of stuff happening to these two main characters, whether its to do with school or friends or new acquaintances or love rivals and so on so forth. The question is whether its interesting enough to keep it fun. This series is aimed towards the youthful genre and usually its meant to more light and fluffy and yet this one seems to have a lot of drama and misunderstandings, making it a tad overdoing it at times. This series could easily have cut a few episodes to make a little more tight-knitted and paced better.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

All I Want For Love Is You is essentially a first love story and in many cases, finding their true love as their first love. With that said, this lies heavily not only on how the story sets up different plot points but also chemistry. Because this is a shorter series, there are less characters and pairings to look at.

Gu Xiaoman & Zuo An

all i want for love is you 3

The main couple here is Gu Xiaoman, played by Zhao Hua Lu and Zuo An played by Yu Han Lu. These two do have quite a good chemistry. Their acting skills are decent and their characters are structured to be more distant with Xiaoman being more shy but brave and Zuo An, the cooler introvert loner. Both their characters have their insecurities and their burdens which has time to develop and together, they change each other for the better. They just take  a little too long to actually get together. It builds up some good moments and they do have a decent chemistry. There’s an awkwardness between them and their first love reenactment that actually does work pretty well and the main development in character in terms of opening up definitely is in Zuo An who definitely is rather smart and sly to catch her in the most unexpected moment.

ChiYao La & Zhan Yue

all i want for love is you 5

The couple that starts off from dislike is the norm in most series. This time, its used for the secondary couple who actually are both best friends of Gu Xiaoman. These two are definitely the ones who break up the tension sometimes in the situation as they both have this silliness to them. Especially when they bicker. There are some pretty fun moments with these two. Although secondary male lead Zhan Yue, played by Yin Jun Liu, starts off as interested in childhood friend Gu Xiaoman and takes a slightly ambitious turn, the roles takes a nice turn with the help of the secondary female lead Chi Yao La, played by Yan Qing Sun. Just like the main couple, they spend most of the series as frenemies and as their friendship grows and their care for their best friend, they find motivation in each other to help each other reach their dreams together.

Love Interests: Sun Anning and Shen Chen Yang

all i want for love is you 4

Both Gu Xiaoman and Zuo An have their hurdles in their getting together. Gu Xiaoman as mentioned before starts off in high school with Zhan Yue liking her and trying to stop her from being with Zuo An (along with all the other girls who liked the school genius). However, the one who definitely made a bigger impact is Shen Chen Yang, a rather eccentric character as he has a pig as his pet but of course, also has a little deeper to his story as he hopelessly falls in love with Gu Xiaoman and of course is all quite unrequited because Gu Xiaoman only ever likes one person. He acts like the childish, attention grabbing sort of guy and a bit of a clown but has quite the character that creates an impression.

On the other hand, Zuo An’s childhood friend Sun Anning, played by Xin Yu Han, is a girl that likes him a lot and expects to be with him. Her story becomes a manipulative story of the usual variety where she acts a certain way but under that elegant and friendly exterior isn’t really what you’d expect. You can say that she does a good job because her character is very annoying and something of a mean girl with her two little minions at her side in some shots but then, she was just slightly frustrating to watch.

OVERALL

All I Want For Love Is You is a harmless series. It doesn’t do a whole lot to make itself stand out as the story itself isn’t unique enough. Its cast is young and they do decent in the chemistry department with what they have but as much as these characters are rather fluffy and lighthearted and its quite the romantic comedy style, they do add in a few dramatic twists to give it some substance. Its a fairly average viewing experience but one that will fulfill that quick dose of cute youthful romantic comedy story. It just seems to run around the chase a little too much for its own good, creating more drama than is needed and puffs itself up more than necessary. Still, they do manage some nice moments but in the long run, its not something that really is one to revisit.

Trailer
(because I can’t find any music videos)

Music Obsessions – February 2020

Welcome to February 2020! Its time for the Music Obsessions to kick off this month! I usually take February as a love song expose of sorts but somehow this time, this time is a bit of a mix. The starting and ending song are more up-beat but nothing related to love however, the middle stuff is all about love stories as they are all theme from movies or TV shows. Let’s take a look!

Daydreamer 白日夢想家 – Vision Wei 魏晨

If there’s anything that I love from discovering the amazing Who’s The Murderer, its how it adds in so many great celebrity investigators and the best one that I’ve found is Vision Wei who is great in the variety show but at the same time, it gave me the motivation to look up his music and so far, this one is absolutely fave. Its upbeat and fun and the video isn’t is done really well. Its one that makes me all happy and a great way to kick off this Music Obsessions.

A Kind Of Sorrow 有一種悲傷 – A-Lin

I haven’t seen the actual movie, More Than Blue that this song is for. I am hoping to watch it at some point as it looks really good. A-Lin is a phenomenal singer with great vocals. Her voice is just exceptional and emotional. I love listening to her music and this one is no different.

天地無霜 (Ashes of Love Main Theme) – Andy Yang 楊紫 & Allen Deng 鄧倫

I’ve already expressed my obsession with Ashes of Love. This TV series really is amazing. I’m working on the TV binge but at the same time, the main theme is this wonderful duet from the main leads who are not actual singers but actually do a great job. Its captivating whenever this song appears in the series as well. At the same time, there is a solo version for just Allen Deng which is equally great. Allen Deng is my biggest discovery from the show and I’ve been finding traces of his musical talent and not just his acting talent. For fun, here is the solo version:

Don’t Cry 不哭 – Rocket Girls 101 Sunnee 火箭少女101 楊芸晴

I’m not a huge fan of Rocket Girls 101 in general. They have some okay songs but I can’t say that I’m completely behind their music but individually, some of the members are very good as they branch off to do their own things. My fave vocalist in the group does go to Sunnee who is unique in herself and as I look up more of her music after watching her participating in Masked Singer China, its definitely had some great finds. My fave goes out to this promotional song for the movie version of Cry Me A Sad River. I haven’t seen the movie but the TV series was one of my top series of 2019.

Blah Blah & WYTB – NEXT (Zhejiang New Year’s 2020 Gala Performance)

Ending it off on a high note, I wanted to open with NEXT as its more upbeat. I might have shared WYTB and maybe a snippet of Blah Blah before but Blah Blah is one of my favorite songs from this group. I think Yuehua Entertainment really found gold with putting this group together as a part of them definitely have the idol stars. Of course, it helps that they got a great gig with having a reality show for Mango TV called Master in the House that shared a bit of who each of them are and their aspirations, giving each of them a chance to learn from some great musicians and celebrities in the music industry. They are all very well-rounded and I can see great things in the future for them. They are only like 1.5 years since the creation of the group so still lots of time to get even better.

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