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?

My March Adventures!

Welcome to the March Adventures! March is a big month. Not so much for work (such a rare thing to say over here) in the beginning until the pandemic was announced and things took a flipside and changed the working situation and the general routine.  Not quite the way I expected my husband and I to turn a year older but hey, what can you do, right? On a happier note, as a lot of us have shifted our lives at home, I’m 34 today and celebrating in the beautiful confines of my home, still employed and healthy! In the state of things right now, its important to be grateful and appreciative for the things that we have!

Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Done!

Early March wrapped up the Ultimate 2010s Blogthon that I co-host with Drew’s Movie Reviews as we celebrated with our fantastic guest reviewers their favorite/most significant 2010s movies. You can find all the entries HERE.

Day Off

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I had a day off in early March after a 10.5 days work week to recuperate. The husband also had that day off so we ended up going to do some shopping since I needed to upgrade my skincare routine. You can see the new purchases. I had a birthday discount card so it was alright. We also had a lovely lunch at La Belle et la Boeuf eating some burgers.

Little did we know how things were going downhill after this date outing.

Kavala & Boulangerie Ange

Right before we had all the social distancing orders from the government, I did manage to have a few last hurrahs with friends.

Boulangerie Ange

The first was checking out the new bakery at a new condo district called Boulangerie Ange. We did pick up some bread, croissants and baguette while trying out their breakfast combo. Its pretty good and would definitely be something to check out later on when things get back to normal.

Kavala

We also managed to squeeze in another restaurant hangout with our Battle of Ingredients crew at a Greek tavern called Kavala. I was going to do a post on it but have decided to postpone it as its not like restaurants are currently open (other than takeout and delivery). Either way, it was a delicious place but I’ll talk more about it afterwards. On that note, Battle of Ingredients is, of course, on hold until further notice when things get back to normal.

Work Changes & New Routine

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After a week of nerve-wracking public commute to work with all kinds of preventative measures in the bus and sanitization and home cleaning, my boss figured out a way to let me work from home. Although, above is only immediate needs for the week or so and I do have to pop back into the office every week or so to grab new documents and drop off work done, its been a fairly quick adaptation to working at home although its somewhat changed my routine as I’ve needed to add in time for doing things I’d usually use for reading and walking to work as workout. Still, I can’t complain as I still have a job as we’re considered essential services when the province lockdown came into effect. As of writing this post, I have already gone back to pick up another crateful of documents to work on as we’ve outlined the goals for the next few weeks.

New Routines and Plans 

In lieu of the current state of events, I have already talked about new routines. While I’ve been trying my best to keep up with setting a new routine, mostly with better chore management during the week. I’m slowly finding more time to get in the other projects. You should be seeing more baking related posts (yes, Baking Through Disney should show up after a few little basic baking to get myself back on track to make sure I’m still good with the basics and organization. At the same time, I have an huge amount of backlog of double features and TV binges to write as well as a lot of  book commitments and blog tours to work on over the next little while. Content should be back on track as I know the last 2 weeks or so have been a little all over the place.

At the same time, Elwood and I have been working hard on getting ahead with both Game Warp and Movies and Tea podcast recording so remember to check out our wrap up for Season 3 as we look at Ang Lee and then our After Hours and Shark Week. You can check out Movies and Tea HERE and Game Warp HERE. More podcasts and written reviews/posts will coming up from myself at least as I start finding time to wrap up a few of them. In terms of gaming, I might actually start streaming soon as I kind of made a deal with myself that if I had the ability to work from home and had more time that I’d start doing that..just deciding on the game to stream right now.

Cute Kitty Pic

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That’s it for the March Adventures!

I’m going to assume right now that if things stay the way they are, I will have to be a little more creative with the April Adventures as its less adventures in the going out but more what I’ve been up to at home. I have some buried project ideas and whatnot that I want to find time to do so we will see.

On that note, feel free to share what you have been up to? Have you been confined to your homes as well?

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Check out TV binge for previous 2 seasons below:

Season 1
Season 2

On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

on my block s3

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Paula Garces, Reggie Austin, Ada Luz Pla

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up right after the shocking ending of the four friends getting kidnapped off the streets, On My Block Season 3 starts off with them kidnapped to see Cuchillos, the head of the Santos, who end up thanking them for getting rid of The Prophets and then of course, just like expected, sending them on a much more dangerous task: finding Ricky who is probably not dead (contrary to what is believed). This mission is one that they not only have a time limit with some serious consequences if they don’t achieve it but at the same time, one that they must tackle without anyone else knowing but having to find somewhere to start despite their own arguments among themselves and get back together to face it together with the help of Spooky and Jasmine.

on my block

The writers of this show actually did a really great choice at this point as while the four friends, Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray), are all still our main set of characters, they decided to write in much more depth continuing on from Season 2 for Spooky (Julio Macias) and more importantly, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who turns out to be so much more than where she started in Season 1. Its knowing when their problems can’t be the only things in the picture that it gives the show a lot more boost with those two as it turns into a team of five tackling this with a little outside/family help from Spooky. There are still a lot of the familiar problems carrying forward between the four. Monse and Cesar are tackling their relationship and whether they should be together because of bad decisions and other factors as well as family issues; Ruby still has a lot of inner troubles from the trauma he experienced but in this one, he’s also realizing his problems has caused real financial problems for his parents while Jamal tackles girl problems and figuring out his priorities. While Monse used to be the glue for the group, surprisingly, everyone has some healing and Jasmine ends up really getting them straight on what’s more important and how to set their problems aside and work together, even if by the end, things don’t quite work out as intended, which will make Season 4 an interesting change in events for these characters, if it happens. The new group dynamic did give a good boost.

on my block season 3

Another great writing is really giving a lot of balance to the characters. Its a quick 8 episodes every season but getting to see equal doses of these characters for their own quirks and problems is the first step to lead to a realization that this group is not as solid as it used to be in Season 1 especially as they grow up and face more problems. In this one, this mission takes them on some crazy locations and meets some funny and at times, over the top, people that truly give this season a lot of charm. Its the process of this mission that makes more of a bang than how it ends, very in tune with how this show does manage to give it a humorous mostly because of not understanding the seriousness of the situation right from the first season. In that sense, the tone here is darker but still has that balance of light-hearted and awkward humor to make it a fun watch especially in the case of Jamal and Ruby who come together in this one a lot and really come up with some crazy ideas. Together they can make all kinds of bad logic work out in their minds that its okay and that is rather incredible despite things usually not going the way they expected.

On My Block S3

With that said, while the whole series does move fairly quickly and is overall, a fun trip with roles like Jamal, Jasmine, Ruby really having some shining moments as well as giving a lot more for Spooky to do that makes him such a deeper character that would be nice see further how it all plays out in the next season. While its not exactly a downfall, the more lackluster characters do go to Cesar and Monse mostly because they seem to always revolve in the same problems since end of Season 1 to this season and they  have the same struggles, which gives them less character development than before. With 8 episodes though, its definitely a bingeworthy show for fans of the show.

Double Feature: Dog Soldiers (2002) & Hell House LLC (2015)

Welcome to the next double feature! Something of a horror double feature as we start bouncing between Shudder and Netflix more (so more horror in the horizon..a lot more). The first to appear is a pairing of one movie that I’ve been wanting to watch the finally go on Shudder, Dog Soldiers and the second is a random choice by my husband, the first of three movies called Hell House LLC. Let’s check it out!

Dog Soldiers (2002)

Dog Soldiers

Director (and writer): Neil Marshall

Cast: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. – IMDB

Werewolf movies are rather hard to come by and its nice to see that here and there they do come up even if a lot of times, it sometimes still feels a bit lacking. Dog Soldiers has my praise for tackling this subgenre in horror films but at the same time, the movie itself is something of a slow-burn. It plays up on the unknown of who is hunting them and why this military team is at the location at the time and that takes a lot of time to build, probably longer than I’d have wanted.

There are some decent scenes and yet, while the script tries to give all the characters something more, its main players do dial down to 4 of the characters especially when they end up trapped in the house. The two military exercise leaders of sorts is Sean Pertwee’s character Sergeant Wells and Kevin McKidd’s character Private Cooper who takes over when Wells ends up injured rather seriously. The next two is a woman who lives in the area and knows of these odd events happening played by Emma Cleasby as a character of Megan who gives them a lot of the information as she saves them from the wilderness  while the last is a Captain who won’t talk about what happened but was involved in the last attack that killed his team pretty much.

Dog Soldiers itself has a decent premise. The story its trying to tell and the way they want to add in the twists and answer all those mysteries. Even some of the attack scenes and werewolf designs, despite its budget, still works alright. The biggest issue here dials down to execution where the first half seems to lag a little and when the reveal happens and things get serious (even though there were attack scenes and other scenes before that), it seems a little late in the game making the second half definitely stronger than the first.

Hell House LLC (2015)

Hell House LLC

Director (and writer): Stephen Cognetti

Cast: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Jared Hacker, Ryan Jennifer Jones

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened. – IMDB

Found footage films are always a somewhat interesting horror genre to see. They usually all reliant on the execution and finding how to create the right atmosphere. With Hell House LLC, its the first in what is now a 3 movie franchise. We’ll be looking at the other 2 later on as a double feature. This is an independent movie and yet somehow, found footage films are usually still very good with a smaller budget. This first movie does a great job in its execution and especially in using its cameras and background to have this lurking horror atmosphere. There are a few little jumpscares here and there but they are also very effective.

What does shine here is in the premise of looking back at this documentary that five crew members have joined together for their next haunted house tour in this abandoned hotel called Abaddon Hotel located in a small town . It shows the entire lead-up through the surveillance cameras and other filming cameras that document the whole making-of up to the night of the malfunction. It uses its lighting and darkness pretty well and also builds a decent lore with the story of the hotel and its previous hotel owner. It all makes sense but lacks enough information to keep it a mystery and how these characters one by one change in their own ways and it becomes a question of whether its because of the hotel and whatever seems to be haunting it or just the haunted house weighing down on them for other reasons. 

Overall, Hell House LLC is a strong found footage film. It has enough of a creepy factor and helps itself by having all these mysterious stories and how it brings in different horror elements in the background. There’s a change in the characters as well as the entire haunted house deal making it have a lot of opportunities to play with these suitable horror elements to appear amidst the haunted house props that also play well with the whole premise. Its one location makes Abaddon Hotel a worthy horror setting. Its definitely worth a watch if you  haven’t seen it yet!

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

TV Binge: Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

Ashes of Love (香蜜沉沉烬如霜, 2018)

ashes of love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Andy Yang, Allen Deng, Leo Luo, Adonis Liao, Zhi Yuan Xia, Faye Wang, Ting Wei Zhou, Yukee Chen, Kathy Chow, Bella Du, Yang Peng, Run Jun Wang, Zhong Hua He

In ancient times, the Flower Goddess dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for 10,000 years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi. 4,000 years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, Xu Feng, was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for 100 years, Xu Feng gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Someone close to them wants to use those feelings for their own benefit. – MyDramaList

Where to watch with English subtitles (as at March 25, 2020): Netflix Canada & Youtube

QUOTE/SCENE

Jing Mi: That one’s so ugly. Why did you bring it here also?
Phoenix: I feel that one is the most beautiful of all the Phoenix lanterns, because it contains our memory.
Jing Mi: This is the memory of Saint Girl and King Yi. [pause] What a beautiful view!  It’ll be great if we can drink some self-made osmanthus wine. In fact, before I descended to the mortal world, I buried some osmanthus wine I made here.
Phoenix: I dug it out several days ago. Let’s try  your wine today. [next scene] The wine you made is indeed savory and mellow.
Jing Mi: I must have some skills amongst the six realms. Why are you staring at me like that?
Phoenix: Its great that I don’t have to look at you through the veil.
Jing Mi: Isn’t it beautiful?

STORY

ashes of love phoenix jingmi

Ashes of Love is essentially a love story and its where it thrives at its best. Much like the structure of 2017’s Eternal Love (review) and background, this one is set a little different  in the actual fairy world where this one has six realms however, the Sky realm is still the highest one (as it usually is) and the story resides in these different deity/fairy ranging from flowers to nocturnal creatures to celestial creatures and all kinds of animals and even inanimate objects. In terms of creativity, the story is full of them and that is one of the many highlights of this one and can bring so much fun to this as it makes for some leaps of beliefs but in a fantasy world like this one, its more about learning about it first. And that is a lot of the charm especially as it starts off fairly light-hearted and fun.

The realms here are really where the many past dilemmas have ignited from the past generation between the Floral Goddess, Heavenly Emperor, Water Immortal and all the other people linked to them. Its created essentially what happens to Jing Mi to have been given the Unfeeling Pill when she was born to prevent her from meeting her curse of love with the first 10,000 years of her life, which ends up being the catalyst of all the events that end up happening as misunderstandings happen as the truth unfolds. But that said, each of these realms of the three focused on among the six is different in its own way and has its own traits reflective of the place but yet still has their own good and evil characters.

ashes of love war

At the end of all this, between war and feuds and misunderstandings and realm battles for power, it all dials down to the romance and the love triangle between Jing Mi, Phoenix and Runyu instigated by jealousy and unfairness on one end and then creating revenge and hatred, making things worsen. Its all a story of the basic philosophy and belief in Chinese that what is meant to happen will happen regardless of how you plan on changing its course, that act alone is also destined to happen. Also goes along with you reap what you sow at the end of the day especially as what is given off from one generation can affect its next. Its all very common plot points and themes in ancient Chinese fantasy TV series as Eternal Love has about the same kind of plot point (as an example since its the other one in the same genre). What does work here is that once you get past those similar plot points and embrace what they do different in building this new world and its characters, Ashes of Love has a stronger bond with its love story and leads (for myself) whereas in comparison, Eternal Love is entertaining well-rounded but perhaps didn’t quite connect as much in terms of the main leads and their love story. I don’t mean to compare but I did watch them almost back to back.

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Before we jump to pacing, I need to mention that the costume designs here are really nice. There’s a lot of thought of each one from the Birds Realm to the colorful Flower Realm to the dark Demon realms outfits as as well as the gold and white and more royalty colors in the Heavenly Realm. Its one of the elements that make me love watching Chinese Fantasy TV series. The costumes and the hair ornaments and hair styles are just so beautiful! While I’m talking about this, I do have to mention that when they do close-ups of the props, fake flowers and such, it is pretty apparent, maybe one of the lesser elements of this series. But then, I guarantee you that there is one “sex” scene in this (its public TV so nothing explicit) and its filmed so poetically and beautiful that I was really impressed by the whole thing especially when you remember the true forms of the leads on hand.

LENGTH/PACING

ashes of love jingmi

Episodes: 63
Episode length: 40-45 mins approx.

Its incredible how long Chinese TV series are sometimes especially these big production Chinese fantasy ones. Ashes of Love is surprisingly long at 63 episodes and yet, the script is done so well that the story progresses in phases that gives time for each stage of these characters to grow and develop individually and together in their different relationships, friendships, family, brothers, etc. It doesn’t take a break from this other than maybe the secondary couple from the demon realm which ends up being a rather touching story as well by the end.

Looking at the phase, the first part (as I mentioned) before is about the meeting between Phoenix and Jing Mi and her introduction from the Flower Realm to the Heaven Realm and gradually the reveal of her true identity as well as her growing relationship in their few hundred years as the helper and disciple of Phoenix. As her true identity gets revealed, it jumps into the next phase of the story where it shares about the past and the characters involved and what actually happened, throwing the hatred of the Heavenly Empress and her desire to split up Jing Mi and Phoenix while Phoenix’s brother, Runyu gets pulled into the mix and he learns about his mother and it builds on his revenge and his plot slowly conspire. Things gets more messy here as this also get intermitted with Jing Mi’s mission to become an immortal by going to the Mortal Realm to experience the suffering of mortal life to gain knowledge where she ends up connecting with her feelings more as a turn of events takes Phoenix to have a rather intense romance. Finally, the third phase appears after all the plots of phase 2 unravels and Jing Mi unexpectedly breaks the Unfeeling Pill’s effects and realizes her real feelings and makes up for her mistakes to Phoenix. That turns into the most painful, emotional and heartbreaking moments of search and hopelessness and this last part is just such a ode of how the beginning builds up its characters and relationships so well that this part ends up working a lot. (I mean, I bawled my eyes out a ton in the last 8-10 episodes or something)

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Leads: Jing Mi & Phoenix

ashes of love phoenix jingmi 1

Ashes of Love takes a lot of time and attention on building these two characters. Its great because the focus never quite leaves them even when they are apart and doing their own thing. There’s a lot of factors that work here. The first is that its not dubbed voices and the actual actors are voicing these characters because both Andy Yang and Allen Deng are really talented actors and in their respective roles as Jing Mi and Xu Feng (aka Phoenix, as I keep referring to him), they are incredibly convincing and hard to not ship them, to be honest. These two characters are strong individually as they both have their own family, relationship and realm issues to deal with and consider in all their choices and their own secrets to uncover. Its what makes their love story so heartbreaking and bittersweet altogether because each of their own issues and it all comes down to Jing Mi and the Unfeeling Pill that stops her from realizing her own feelings until its too late which makes their relationship take a very heartbreaking turn of events. The chemistry between these two characters are fantastic especially in some scenes of how the director uses close-ups to the dialogue around them where they both are able to act with their eyes and interpret some genuine feelings without saying anything.

Brothers & Family Feud: Phoenix & Run Yu

ashes brothers

All royalty has their own conflicts and Phoenix’s family is the Heaven realm’s family which creates all kinds of crazy as the Heaven Emperor reveals to be a rather unloyal man where his past creates the Empress’s hate and jealousy making a lot of issues become unfair to the older son, Runyu the Night Immortal. What starts off as a rather good brother relationship despite the parent issues ends up turning sour as Runyu’s character ends up having a subtle villain type of change full of plot and schemes, creating this character that flips from the nice guy at the beginning.

Love Interests, Villains & Other Characters of Interest

Love Interests for Jing Mi is mostly Runyu as well as some other characters that don’t really have too much to mention however the main villains of the series is one, the Heaven Empress, aka Phoenix’s mother (as mentioned before because of jealousy) and the second is Phoenix’s “cousin”/crush who likes him a lot and believes she is the one destined for him and does increasingly evil acts. The two villains in the end are the main cause of Phoenix’s “demise”. Everything comes in full circle in Chinese philosophy and nothing proves it quite like how TV series stories work. You can’t say these two villains don’t do a great job. Empress is portrayed by 90s Hong Kong TV actress Kathy Chow who does a fantastic job that its hard to not dislike the character much like Faye Wang as the love interest who plays on the more annoying side of things.

Of course, the more fun additions do go to the Green Snake and the other colorful character of the Flower Realm just like the Moon Immortal (Phoenix’s uncle) who are comedic but in desperate times, knowledgeable and contribute to the dilemma in their own ways. There’s a lot of characters in Ashes of Love so its hard to talk about all of it.

OVERALL

ashes phoenix

Ashes of Love is a really great series. Its one that takes its sweet time to move through its different story levels to gradually connect with each of these characters as they develop and learn about the different secrete in their life, especially with the main female character, Jing Mi. The magical elements and this new world and the possibilities gives it the space to believe in all the twists and turns and thats because its already given it such a creativity to begin with which also sparks some deeper thoughts on how certain plot points would work but never quite doubt its possibility, leaving space for the audience to draw their own conclusions. The different worlds have beautiful CG effects that make them unique as well as their own kingdom and rules as well as different worlds and their feuds with each other.

Aside from all that is crafting these characters that work so well on their own in complexity. Having 63 episodes to do it definitely feels like it would be a drag but it isn’t most of the time because these characters need it and its because of that, it makes especially Jing Mi and Phoenix’s story so much more emotional to watch whether its happy moments to the extremely heartbreaking moments. Fantastic series that makes me want to watch and rewatch and notice those little story plot details more.

MAIN THEME

Double Feature: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a rather female character driven combo with the Barden Bellas final hurrah in Pitch Perfect 3 and Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants. It seems like a decent pairing, don’t you think?

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. – IMDB

Pitch Perfect 3 has really just been riding on the success of its first film (review) but for myself, it feels pretty much like the Step Up franchise. In Pitch Perfect’s case, its all about the acappella musical elements and the charming cast of Bellas that come with it. Pitch Perfect 3 is a farewell movie and while the story itself is rather disposable as its yet another competition that they need to try to win but this time, its a little different because its about finding closure for all of the main players: Becca, Chloe, Amber, Amy as they move on with their lives from this family to each seeing those problems that make them who they are. Its a bit messy and brushed over quickly for all those involved, mostly because for most of them they never had tackled personal problems for these characters.

Looking at the cast here, which retains itself from the Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2 (review) but as they exit their lives after university and the many struggles of finding their own identity and purpose after their success, each have their own path right from the start and of course, their own issues that make them want to go on this final hurrah for them to compete again together. In many ways, Becca has gone full circle from the beginning to the end of this film where she finally finds success in what she wanted at the start in some form but now its her loyalty to the Bellas that holds her back, a bit of a reverse situation. Bellas is a wonderful little group of friends as they are unique in their different ways and different backgrounds, nothing more apparent than in this one, even if it does piece it together oddly.

Of course, aside from the Bellas, we still have the supporting characters including the staple characters of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins characters who have that additional comedic relief. On top of that adding in some other talent from DJ Khaled playing himself and a few side characters with Matt Lanter as the Bellas military guide and something of a bodyguard. The other groups competing for that one spot include Ruby Rose playing the lead singer of Evermoist. I remember that year, Ruby Rose ended up in three different movie sequels which was pretty fantastic as I love her style even if the Bellas were the main focus here. Of course, you also had John Lithgow sporting an Australian accent as Amy’s dad who “isn’t a very nice man”(quoting the line she uses to describe him).

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is quite a mixed basket but the musical elements are still there if you like these movies. The Bellas are still quite fun to watch and they get themselves into some serious trouble and Amy really steps up. At the same time, Its the right time to wrap this whole thing up and they do it really well in the credits with what looks like bloopers and extras from the production of the three movies together which is a nice path down memory lane.

What A Girl Wants (2003)

what a girl wants

Director: Dennie Gordon

Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole

An American teenager learns that her father is a wealthy British politician running for office. Although she is eager to find him, she realizes it could cause a scandal and cost him the election. – IMDB

If you put together a dash of Mamma Mia (review) and then adds in a dose of The Princess Diaries, you will get something like What A Girl Wants but maybe a little less refined. Rightfully so because this was movie before Lovewrecked (review) earlier than the movie that I knew Amanda Bynes from, She’s All That. However, it does feel that Amanda Bynes always has that same type of character that she played really well in the 2000s teen movies that just seemed to work for her. Along with that, she did have Colin Firth playing her father with does boost this movie a little despite its rather run of the mill story.

With that said, Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who ends up reaching out to his British wealthy politician father who doesn’t know he exists. While she doesn’t want to lose her unique personality and herself in this new world, she soon realizes that to exist in her father’s world, she may have to in this part fish out of water story as well with adapting to some of the British terms and upper class etiquette. Colin Firth playing her father actually is an opposite type of character who is more reserved and contains his feelings and affection as well but soon also shows the side of him that Daphne’s mother loved, especially as the whole secret of who broke apart her parents in the first place comes to light and a few secret motives, that are actually quite obvious reveals itself.

There’s not a whole lot to say about What A Girl Wants. For people who like Amanada Bynes, this should fit the bill as its an earlier roles of more popular roles like She’s The Man but its still very much her style of humor and acting. At the same time, there are some very predictable moments and the script isn’t that great but it has some fun moments and Amanda Bynes’ character Daphne has some good empowering characteristics that I did like. Some good, some bad, I’d say its somewhere in the middle: pretty much one to save for a rainy day.

Thats it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

What’s Up 2020: Week 11

Week 11, friends! Last week was a bit of a crazy phase that hit everywhere, I’d wager. We all know what’s going on around the world and I’d like to keep this space a little safe haven away from it. Whether you joined into the toilet paper shopping or grocery stocking up in preparation, it was all a crazy development of events when the week ended. More time at home over the weekend gave us a chance to catch up on TV, movies and gaming and well, surprisingly, a very slow blogging week. It has been a long time that I’ve taken so many days off.

READING

Blackthorn

Currently reading: Blackthorn

I’m going to say that reading hasn’t quite gotten the attention that I’d like mostly because I’m trying to not touch too much of my devices when out and about, especially on the bus. I’m in one of the few businesses that haven’t gotten to stay home from work. Either way, final thing is I need to find time to catch up on some reading and it didn’t go quite as quickly as I’d like. Blackthorn is intriguing so far.

PLAYING

i love hue

Currently playing: I Love Hue, Demon’s Tilt

Playing some really quick games lately. I still am on the I Love Hue mobile game that I like to play to calm down. There’s a lot to calm down about especially since our situation is possibly the minority currently so its all a bit nuts. Lots of things to chill out about as there’s also been a lot on my mind. I’ve also gone to check out Demon’s Tilt which is a pinball game on Xbox Game Pass. I like winning at these things so its addictive in that sense where one game never is one game, more like ten. Good thing is I’m somewhat getting better..yay! Both games are pretty fun in their own ways.

WATCHING

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal

  • Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal (Interactive 2020, Review)
  • Child’s Play (1988)
  • Child’s Play 2 (1990)
  • Child’s Play 3 (1991)
  • Child’s Play (2019)
  • Paradise Hills (rewatch 2019, Review)

While everyone (in Netflix Canada, at least, seemed to be on a Contagion film watching phase, I guess to see whether we are living a movie, we spent this weekend watching Child’s Play. Sure its not the entire franchise but we watched what we could (except for Cult of Chucky which didn’t seem to correlate to any of the others anyways..but I might be wrong). Its all because I had rented the remake and wanted to finally catch up with Child’s Play, which had been in line for Halloween theme so we’ll be doing those earlier and I’ll fill in the missing movies from the franchise later.

Aside from a rewatch of Paradise Hills for Movies and Tea, the fun movie of the week went to Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or  Not to Steal, which is the latest interactive game/movie on Netflix, more geared towards children and people who like the new series, I suppose, which I’m in neither category but still liked it a lot.

BINGING

ugly delicious

  • Ugly Delicious (Season 2, 2020)
  • Unrequited Love (2019)
  • On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Currently binging: The Circle Brazil, The Singer 2020, Youth is You 2, Me To Us

Netflix’s new TV series was really landing hard last week when it had Wednesday which released the 3 week event for The Circle Brazil with its first week and then Ugly Delicious Season 2 landed with a mere 4 episodes which was pretty quick to binge and then wrapped up the week with Season 3 of On My Block which was as usual, 8 episodes. On top of that, I finished up Unrequited Love which is a pretty decent series although it seems a lot of people didn’t think so which is why this year, they are releasing a  remake of it with new casting. Its only been a year so I find that kind of crazy and maybe a little ridiculous because Yitian Hu is heading right back into a role similar to his in A Love So Beautiful (review). We’ll see since there isn’t a release date yet.

While all three of the completed series could have been picked as a highlight, Ugly Delicious was half the length of its previous season and yet, I really enjoyed all 4 episodes and the depth and message each of them wanted to deliver and I learned quite a bit from all of the episodes.

On the currently binging side of things, a lot of new things there. Youth is You 2 started on iQiYi app (with english subtitles). I liked the first season when it was called Idol Producer and produced the now disbanded Nine Percent and never finished Youth is You which created UNINE. Its still preliminary ratings but there are some pretty talented girls if not memorable and unique as well. While I’m hoping to catch up with the new series as I only watched the prologue episode for Me To Us which has Nicholas Tse (fangirl here!), Jam Hsiao and Karry Wang (from TF Boys) grouping together to create a band with talented artists from all over China. It looks really fun but then, it all depends how they execute this show.

That’s it for Week 11 of What’s Up!
This recaps last week but this week, I’m sure everyone has been up to more if you are part of any quarantine process (I’m not so let me know what you are up to). What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?