Fantasia 2020: Detention (返校, 2019)

Detention (返校, 2019)

detention

Director (and co-writer): John Hsu

Cast: Gingle Wang, Chin-Hua Tseng, Meng-Po Fu, Cecilia Choi

Detention is an adaptation of independent video game of the same name developed by Red Candle Games which sets their story in Taiwan 1962 during the White Terror times when rules under martial law, all ideas considered dissendent is banned. In Tsuihua High School, two teachers have grouped together to create a secret underground literary club despite the close watch of the military police. Senior Fang wakes up alone in the classroom and realizes the school is no longer the same. As she searches for the teacher Zhang, she ends up joining up with a fellow student Wei. They can’t remember why they are at the school or how they got there but they continue their search. As they go further, they start encountering ghosts and monsters and their memory starts coming back as to what has happened.

Detention

Video game adaptations usually get a lot of harsh criticism. Detention is a unique premise. As a gamer, this game has been on my to-play list for a while and yet haven’t had time to give it a go yet. Going into this movie blind is a good idea though as the story unfolds like the layers of an onion. It flips between the present and the past from what goes on in Fang and Wei’s perspective respectively and separated neatly in chapters. How the other characters come into the equation and what happens with the military police and the underground club while having the mystery of why these ghosts and monsters are suddenly showing up and what has happened to this school. The story unfolds one layer at a time that adds helps build its intrigue as each side of the story has their own twist and their own secrets to reveal between young crushes, fighting for freedom and doing is what is right.

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Detention is heavily focused on the atmosphere. The school setting with the growing thunderstorm outside adds to the gloomy and dark atmosphere. Being set during the night creates the ambiance and also cleverly uses the lighting to its advantage. At one part, there is a play on the concept of reality and nightmare. As the story unravels, the different nightmare elements come into play using some horror tropes that actually are executed in an effective way. It has a fair share of jump scares which are mostly effective  but also manages to create a quiet and subtle environment that makes it more intense. Its because of these moments that the subtle sounds like repetitive clinking coin sounds or the off screen sound effects of something happening becomes more unnerving as its part of the unseen element. The monster reveal also doesn’t happen all in one shot and is slowly revealed from one scene to the next but when revealed has a good design as well. Kudos to some great visual cues used.

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Overall, Detention is a pretty good movie. As a video game adaptation, the story feels well-executed and paced really good. The atmosphere and tone is helped by the setting. Its story showcases a part of Taiwanese history while sharing a coming-of-age story as well as a little bit of romance in the background with themes of freedom and oppression. Everything is well balanced and the thrills of the story does happen as Fang and Wei slowly find back their own memories of how they got there. They are flawed in their own ways while also pulling in a family element that affects who they are as well. Full of twists and turns as well-constructed environment and atmosphere while delivering both subtle tension and effective jump scares, Detention is a great horror film taking its characters on a trip between reality, the past and nightmare to piece everything together.

Fantasia Festival 2020: I WeirDo (怪胎, 2020)

I WeirDo (怪胎, 2020)

I WeirDo

Director (and writer): Ming-Yi Liao

Cast: Nikki Hsieh, Austin Lin

This film is Asia’s first feature film shot on an iPhone, telling the story of two weirdos becoming a positive made by two negatives. – IMDB

In the current film landscape, unique romantic comedies are far and few. Most of the memorable ones in recent years have come out of streaming service with coming of age elements or the independent landscape. I WeirDo is one to add to that quirky romantic comedy/dramedy style coming out of Taiwan, somewhere that its cinema is much less known but thanks to Netflix, a lot more of Taiwanese cinema is landing in front of international audiences.

Written and directed by Ming-Yi Liao, the story revolved around two intensely obsessive-compulsive characters who end up meeting each other and falling in love. The cute moments of finding companionship in their “abnormality” breaks them each out of their own comfort zone to accept this less lonely way of living. Like most romantic comedies, things have to go a dramatic turn and for this one, OCD is a switch (it might not be in reality..I didn’t do any research) and one thing can switch it off and things can go back to normal but its different for everyone and in this case, falling in love is one of the pair’s triggers but becoming normal might be what pulls them apart. The film is less about the mental illness element of OCD but rather its about the definition of normal versus abnormal and the power and fragility of love itself as well as the power of companionship to have more courage to face the world outside. It also reminds us, despite the crazy times we’re living in now, that what we might consider normal is a challenge for others.

Shot with an iPhone, this film is fairly experimental. There is a certain meta element as the narrator shifts from the beginning with main guy Po-Ching (Austin Lin) who narrates a good half of the film until he goes back to normal and it switches over to main girl Chen Ching (Nikki Hsieh). A lot of times they talk to the camera and narrate their story and what is going on. In that sense, it lessens their dialogue communication but leaves it mostly to their own actions. The cute elements are mostly in the first half as we see them challenging each other to their own limits to break out of their comfort zone and finding ways to spend more time together and the second half sees them transitioning into a life together and the third act is when things unravel. The execution is spot-on as the tone change is gradual and smooth. At the same time, the characters are very unique in their own quirky ways. They change each other naturally as they spend more time together. From the moment they meet, its already a lot of awkward chemistry going on that makes it hard to not look at their interaction. Kudos to Nikki Hsieh and Austin Lin for pulling off these performances including some fantastic outfits especially their giant raincoat and protective gloves and masks. Everything is thought out in detail and their outfits contrast each other. There’s something so awesome about Chen Ching’s big yellow raincoat with her sneakers look.

I WeirDo isn’t just a quirky romantic comedy. The build-up and the change in tone and the swapping of narrative voice as well as the character development all combines to be an impressive film. Especially in the thrid act when it pulls a surprising twist which is visually appealing and then wraps up the film with space for contemplation. I WeirDo is different in the sea of romantic comedies and its one that comes highly recommended.

TV Binge: Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)

We’re back for another TV Binge!

I’m not going to lie. This one has been sitting in backlog for a long time. I just always had something more important, well, like the Halloween marathon in October and then NaNoWriMo came by and I put a lot of TV binges on hold. Regardless, I mentioned this before when I did my other Taiwanese series write-up, but they hold a special place in my heart. Now that Netflix carries more and more of them. I just can’t help and rightfully binge watch them. Because if you are a Taiwanese drama fan, you know that when you can binge-watch it, you will. It is the only way to watch it.

The next one is Easy Fortune Happy Life. I’ve never even heard of this one before but that is because in 2009, I had basically fallen out of Taiwanese series completely. The reason of why I chose to watch this one is mostly because I know the cast in it for the most part and I like them quite a bit. Good enough reason for me usually.

Let’s check it out!

Easy Fortune Happy Life (2009)

Easy Fortune Happy Life

Director: Liu Jun Jie

Cast: Joe Chen, Roy Qiu, Cheng Long Lan, Jocelyn Wang, Qiang Ding, Zi Xian Chen, Xiu Jie Kai, Dong Zhi Cheng, Wang Juan, Hsia Ching Ting

Love spans generations in this tale of the one of who got away. Huang Chun Xiang saves the life of a young hunter by treating him with herbal medicine. Despite years of waiting for him and eventually raising her own family, Chun Xiang never loses faith that he will return. Chance brings the man — now elderly and the founder of a successful pharmaceuticals company — and her granddaughter Xie Fu An (Chen Qiao En) together. Struck by her uncanny appearance to Chun Xiang, he swears to give away his fortune to the man who marries her. However, his grandson Yan Da Feng (Lan Cheng Long) is none too happy about the possibility of losing his fortune, but soon learns you just can’t fight fate. – Drama Fever

Taiwan series are obsessed with Cinderella story. It is probably because it can have a lot of fun twists to inject into it. Everyone likes the down to earth girl who meets a rich guy and falls into fortune. Easy Fortune Happy Life turns this around a little. Fu An is a kind and down to earth country girl who is actually quite naive to the evil in the world. When she meets this family, the audience knows how horrible this family is and particularly greedy and selfish. We learn that this is the fault of the grandfather who is almost on his death bed and also realizes that his family is no longer one that cares because of the way he has taught them and how he runs his business and treats others. Suddenly, Fu An is not only Cinderella but one with power. While she doesn’t know that she is the key to the inheritance and is being wooed by Yan Da Feng, she holds more power than she actually realizes. We all know how this story is going to go. Easy Fortune Happy Life can only be criticized as being way too predictable but then, in the most heartwarming way, it still manages to strike a chord and tug a little at those heartstrings as we see the truthfulness of Fu An and how she has genuinely changed Yan Da Feng. Full credit goes to Joe Chen and Cheng Long Lan that bring these two characters to life in their contrasting personality.

Easy Fortune Happy Life

While our main couple’s story is a lot of fun to watch, their story sometimes gets a little dragged out and maybe at times repetitive. The only way this is stopped is with some great supporting characters. I’m going to admit (and I probably have a thousand times before) that I love supporting characters in Taiwanese series. Actually, they might be my favorite because they usually are the ones that prove to be the most well-crafted and just perfect in so many ways. In this case, I almost fell in love in Roy Qiu’s character of Han Dong Jie who plays an orphan guy who pretty much runs a loan shark business for the Big Boss but is trying to be as legit as possible. Right from the get go, we know that he is actually quite gentle and if anything, he can put a good front no matter what happens and very early, he becomes the protection that Fu An has. Actually, he is labelled as the guardian angel. This is the first time I’ve seen Roy Qiu and just the character design, from his physical appearance (like clothing, hairstyle) to his personality and the development of the character from the beginning until the end, I just love so very much. I connected with his character so much that I think his character made me care more about Fu An than if this character wasn’t there. Actually, he has a few other series on Netflix and I’m going to watch those soon-ish.

Easy Fortune Happy Life

Roy Qiu is great but then, this story still needs comedy. It is a romantic comedy series after all. And no one does that better than the silly cast in the background that sometimes helps ease away the overly dramatic moments. The little brother of Fu An, the silly sister and brother in law of Yan Da Feng, the right hand man of Han Dong Jie and the Village Chief in Fu An’s village where she came from and even the grandfather played a huge part in having those moments. While they do contribute to it at times, a lot of times, the silliness and pure stupidity of these characters and their decisions and even the dialogue they are given can be a little excessively stupid in a WTF moment but at the same time, it is hard to not laugh.

With that said, Easy Fortune Happy Life might not be perfect but it has a lot of perfectly fun characters. The cast itself is the winning factor of this series. The story is predictable, just like what Id say about a lot of romantic comedies (Hollywood in particular), but it is how you twist the scenario that adds a little more flair and character to the story itself. For that, even at its lengthy and repetitive bits here and there, I still found that I liked this one a good bit. I’m not running back to rewatch it any time soon but I won’t hold off the possibility of watching it again (even if its just to see Roy Qiu’s Han Dong Jie again).

Toronto Food Frenzy! :)

I’m sure most of you know that I’m a foodie and well, I love eating Chinese food but eating Chinese food in Montreal is really complicated and difficult, not to mention full of MSG and unhealthy.  So, when I get to the awesome city of Toronto, I go all out and try to eat as much as I can! This time with my best friend, we really went completely random and just chose restaurants that we went by or heard of before.

First stop was upon arrival at Pacific Mall on Friday where we got our lunch at one of the fast food kiosks there.  Even these are quite impressive.  I tend to always go to  the same one.

With our meal we get Chicken Ginseng Soup (or Soy milk or soft drinks).  I had my favorite there, Yang Zhou Fried Rice.

Chicken Ginseng Soup

Chicken Ginseng Soup

Yang Zhou Fried Rice

Yang Zhou Fried Rice

I have this unexplainable love for Yang Zhou Fried Rice.  When in doubt, I always pick it.  My best friend chose the Lohan style Vegetable Chow Mein. Sorry for the blur….

Pacific Mall Markham

Lo Han style Vegetable Chow Mein

At night, after a really awesome horror movie, Rigor Mortis at TIFF (review HERE), we ate dinner back at First Markham Place and we chose Congee Wong. The crazy cold weather in Toronto had made us almost feeling sick so we thought some congee would be good.  Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the congee but we did have two dishes to accompany it.

Chinese Poached Chicken at Congee Wong

Chinese Poached Chicken at Congee Wong

Enoki Mushroom with Pea Tips

Enoki Mushroom with Pea Tips

They were really delicious.  I’m a huge fan of Pea Tips veggies.  These were made so good! The congee was also really good thats why I didn’t even take a picture and it was already gone.

After a good night sleep at the hotel, we went out for brunch/dim sum at Ding Tai Fung Restaurant, a chain restaurant famous in Taiwan (I believe).  Its a bit more pricey than most restaurants but they made awesome cuisine.  I hadn’t eaten there in almost 10 years.

Warm Soy Milk

Warm Soy Milk

Steamed Soup-Filled Dumpling

Steamed Soup-Filled Dumpling

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings (I think)

Pan-Fried Chive Dumplings (I think)

Shrimp Fried Rice

Fried Rice with Shrimp and Eggs

You can’t get any more feeling like living in Asia than drinking some authentic soy milk, not the stuff out of cartons in the supermarkets.  Plus, this place makes some of the best Steamed Soup-Filled Dumplings I’ve ever tasted (the other place is Asian Legend that I’ve mentioned before a while back).  Our trial was the glutinous rice dumplings.  They were good but just not too tasty, coming from me, thats actually saying a lot because I’m used to eating everything low sodium, low oil, etc.  The fried rice was really to help us feel more filled to go for our shopping day 🙂

That evening, after our shopping, we decided to finish up the leftovers from the previous meals and also grabbed hot dog (for me) and hamburger (for my best friend) at Five Guys to complement everything. We also dropped by a Chinese herbal tea/dessert place called Pun Cao Tong Herbal to grab some deserts.  No pictures of those though…we had a bit of an accident and after the clean up, we just sat back to finish the movie (review going up later) we were watching and eat.  However, here was our very hotel room picnic style dinner setup:

Leftovers with Five Guys at the hotel room

Leftovers with Five Guys at the hotel room

For dessert, my best friend chose Stewed Egg White with Black Sesame Paste.  I chose my favorite Black Sesame Paste (that was also the culprit of the mess).  We also both had bought some Herbal Jelly to take home.

Typing this up just made me miss Toronto food so much. Although I do have something pretty huge planned in the baking department thats somewhat of a fusion.

This trip really helped me get back all the blogging motivation because right now, I’ve started about 10 drafts for the coming week and two ideas churning in my mind that I’m working on 🙂 Definitely back on track and it feels great!

Happy Wednesday! 🙂

You Are The Apple Of My Eye (2011)

I’ve always been in love with Hong Kong movies as most of you already know.  This year, I’ve been watching a few Taiwanese flicks.  I do enjoy to watch a lot of Taiwanese dramas and most of my favorite singers are from Taiwan.  I guess its not too surprising that watching full-length movies was the next step!  If you don’t know, I used to read a lot of Chinese books as well, and this movie You Are the Apple of my Eye is based on the source material by Giddens Ko who makes his directorial debut also.

Here’s the trailer to start things off:

you are the apple of my eye posterDirector: Giddens Ko

Cast: Zhendong Ke, Michelle Chen, Shao-Wen Hao, Owodog, Chang-Tsien Tsai, Sheng-yu Yen, Wan Wan

This is a semi-autobiographical story about the author’s first crush throughout high school which grew as he started seeing the good in her and in turn influencing him to be a hardworking person to impress her. Almost everyone can relate to having crush in school.  In this case, the author in his high school days, Ching-Teng Ko along with his four best friends,  Kuo-Sheng Tsao, Ming-Ho Hsieh, Ying-Hung Liao, Bo-Chun Hsu, who are all different in their own way but all  followed the biggest crush of their life Chia-Yi Shen, the smartest and prettiest girl of their class, throughout junior and senior high.  Ching-Teng never saw what his other friends did until one day he stands up for her to take the blame from the teacher and gets punished and unknowingly gets Chia-yi to notice him and gradually, he starts seeing her beauty and falls for her also.

you are the apple of my eye chiayi and ching teng

Just to make this clear, although I don’t know the difference it would make.  I did read Giddens Ko novels BUT, I read two of his twisted horror ones only.  I do have one of his romance ones that I started but never finished yet and I haven’t read this particular one although I intend on getting to it eventually.  He is an incredibly talented author and as a director, I have to say he does a pretty good job at making this romantic drama-comedy appealing for the audience.  The only thing is that maybe some of the humor is very `”Taiwanese” comedy and its something that you get a bit more if you watch Taiwanese drama.  Even for me, there was parts I was a bit weirded out in the beginning.  Plus, it was a really close look at adolescent boys in high school and the fascination over sex and masturbation and the extremity of it and all. (I see weird search terms getting to this already…)

you are the apple of my eye ching teng ko

I have never watched these young actors before.  They did a really great job at this and just pulling us into the story gradually.  At the beginning, I felt this story a bit all over the place but as the story progressed, it turned from the necessary absurdity to a very sweet youthful and cute story of unrelentless pursuit for love.  Michelle Chen is a very charismatic and pretty actress and fits right in the role.  Her chemistry with Zhendong Ke was actually part of what drove this movie to be cute.  It pulled me right into this romance flick.

you are the apple of my eye chiayi shen

The comic relief has to be the young actors who play with Zhendong Ke as his best friends.  Every time the whole group was together, they reflected high school and how the days of being young was.  The days of not really having a lot of worry about but your life and then how they learn more about love, friendship and thinking about their future as they make the transition in life to the next step.

you are the apple of my eye best friends group

This flick is really entertaining and heartwarming and just totally awesome.  As awkward as some of the humor was, it does reach out and pull the audience into the story.  Its fun and really sweet for some parts of it as well.  A nice little trip back to high school and although I never was the popular and smart girl with lots of guys running after me, its youthful energy won my heart! You remember (500) Days of Summer? It made me feel a bit like that! Give this one a chance if it crosses your path! 🙂

A Word A Week Photo Challenge:Island

This week’s word from Sue at A Word In Your Ear’s dictionary is ISLAND.  It got me thinking about how many islands I have been on other than the one I live or should I say work on.  Montreal is an island which is why we are surrounded by close to crumbling bridges.  A problem that stresses me out since I live on the island.  But we are not talking about that, my point being, I have been quite a few islands.  They are all around the same areas in the world but still, here we go on a little Island adventure.  But before that, I’d like to urge you to go check out Sue’s beautiful challenge HERE.  If you’d like to take part in this challenge or see other wonderful entries, just click the link.

First up:

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Vancouver Island at Mile 0

Very beautiful view looking out onto from Mile 0! Canada is a beautiful country, full of hidden treasures.

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Vancouver :Granville Island

Technically, its not an island from what I heard.  Its just part of the name, but it is surrounded by water

taiwan

Taiwan

A beautiful location but I’m not exactly sure where this is..perhaps Fisherman’s Wharf?

Its been a long time and Taiwan is an island so its beautiful looking out any location

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On the surrounding waters of Hong Kong

I am not ON that boat but I am on another boat.

In 2009 when I went back, I went out to try to seeing the endangered pink dolphins and this was on the way.

Giant Buddha at Lantau Island

Giant Buddha at Lantau Island

Hong Kong is surrounded by outlying islands and this is a famous landmark on Lantau Island

Lamma Island

Lamma Island

I did an extensive post back in November on my Hong Kong trip and 3 parts dedicated to this wonderful Lamma Island

You can find here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Macau

Macau

Looking out on the waters of Macau at night was just beautiful.

My old camera didn’t do a great job at capturing its actual beauty but still, its amazing.

Montreal

Montreal

For the final stop, I take you back home to the island of Montreal, intertwined with the waterways of St. Lawrence River.

These waters are from exactly there looking out of Old Montreal.

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Ceilings are the answer to this.  Cielings and exterior walls of buildings are very geometric.  With lines and similar shapes that piece it together.  Architecture is a good example of geometry as you will see for a few of my pictures.

 

 

A cieling in the library of Alexandria

The spiraling stairs in a pagoda in Taiwan

This is one of my favorite dome-like ceilings.  Its the ceiling in the entrance of Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls.

While looking at the Niagara Falls picture, I got this one.  Aren’t ferris wheels quite geometric as well?

I think they are! So here’s one of the Skywheel in Niagara Falls.