Double Feature: Little Big Women (2020) & Lost Girls and Love Hotels (2020)

Next double feature is here! I went ahead to check out two 2020 movies. The first is Netflix Taiwanese family drama Little Big Women followed with a drama thriller adapted from a book, Lost Girls & Love Hotels.

Let’s check it out!

Little Big Women (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Joseph Chen-Chieh Hsu

Cast: Shu-Fang Chen, Ying-Hsuan Hsieh, Vivian Hsu, Ke-Fang Sun, Buffy Chen, Ning Ding, Han Chang

Family members grapple with the passing of their estranged father and the remnants of the life he led during his absence. – IMDB

Based on the 2017 short film, Little Big Women tells the family picking up the pieces after the estranged father leaves as his life story gets brought back to life through their memories. Through the conversations of the family and the memories of his wife, what drove the man away slowly gets revealed by the end which causes family separation between other family members and why other members seem to have harsh judgement towards them. The father’s estrangement also causes a different change in each of his daughters as they also embrace their own life whether its married with a child or being single or hiding away secrets. Also, as the mother’s motives seem to be the most supported by her granddaughter. This Taiwanese family drama reminded me at the beginning a little of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman. Its quiet and slow-paced as the characters slowly reveal who they are and the roots of their issues with both their father and their mother. Being a quiet film, its not about a lot of fancy things and dials it all back down to the narrative itself. Death even with the most estranged people will bring about about personal and social issues: reflection, letting go of the past and of course, how society views the traditions of the whole ordeal.

Little Big Women isn’t too different from other family dramas outside from the emphasis on perhaps showing some of the culture in Taiwan regarding death whether its choosing the religion and what ritual to use or how the family structure changes. Sometimes, its the smallest things and yet, the significance is big to how others perceive it or even on a personal level. In this film, there’s a lot of narrative the evolves around the three daughters but at the same time, the mother has a lot also as she is the one that one of the daughters is trying to convince to fulfill her father’s wish and let the father’s girlfriend attend. The whole process of accepting her and making peace between the two actually comes to a very well-executed segment near the end that has probably one of the best scenes especially since the process throughout the film as she tries to find this lady lets her learn quite a bit about her through other people’s interpretation which makes the final talk so well-deserved.

At the same time, the daughters also have a big emphasis here. Each of them having their own moments and struggles. Its been a while since I’ve seen Vivian Hsu, who undoubtedly is probably one of the bigger names here (and I could be wrong as I’ve broken off of Taiwanese movies for quite a while) as she started her career fairly young (and made me want to rewatch 1997’s We’re No Bad Guys). There’s some pretty touching sequences between them especially when the father being estranged has different effects on them as their knowledge of their family changes with the different siblings. Family events are truly where all the family secrets come out and that is shown really well here as well.

Overall, Little Big Women is a family drama. Its nothing groundbreaking or shocking about the whole film. The narrative does build up these characters as they face the death of their estranged father and the process of preparing his funeral. The family secrets, the struggles, self-reflection, letting go: all these themes pop up in this film and as quiet as this film is, it does manage to pack quite the emotional punch by the end.

Lost Girls and Love Hotels (2020)

Director: William Olsson

Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Takehiro Hira, Carice van Houten, Andrew Rothney, Misuzu Kanno, Kate Easton

Haunted by her past, an English teacher explores love and dust with a dashing yakuza gangster in Tokyo. – IMDB

Adapted from the book of the same name and having the author also be the screenplay writer for Lost Girls & Love Hotels, this story almost feels a little like Lost in Translation except a little edgier and hardcore. Being an adaptation and one that I haven’t read the original source material, it feels like there’s a few things that seem to make its appearance that may have been overlooked when putting together this story. However, seeing that the author of the novel also acts as the screenplay writer here, it perhaps holds a good part of the essence of what is key to her story or at least we can only assume that. With that said, while the story execution feels at times a little disjointed as it hops from one scene to the next and some of it feeling like it loses its purpose a little for certain side characters like her friends, the cinematography is done really well. Capturing Japan on one hand while mostly capturing the sensual shots really well especially when talking about the lighting used in every scene that adds to the overall visuals and ambiance to elevate the passion between the two characters.

Lost Girls and Love Hotels is focused primarily on the journey of Margaret, played by Alexandra Daddario as she seems live a rather messy life as she starts off being a girl that seems to not quite seem to fit in her role in her day job and then seems to be falling in a sexcapade life at night full of boozy times at bars with her friends and hooking with men at love hotels. While not too familiar with Daddario filmography, it definitely feels like one of the more dramatic roles as her character is trying to escape from something on her mind and settling with being alone hence her trip to Japan. This film is where she is “reborn” as she meets this Yakuza gangster where she embraces her feelings for him while having an element of forbidden love. In some ways, what feels lacking here is the portrayal of Margaret’s desire of BDSM being her turn-on which could be where the thriller element of the story would appear however, its not shown nearly enough to make it have that effect that would inevitably lead to a very obvious foreshadowing at the beginning. Due to the lack of the character building for her as well except for some hints of what she is running away from, her character feels less authentic in some ways. The closest that she feels is the scene above when she starts talking about being alone.

While not exactly groundbreaking character building for her or her love interest Kazu, played by Takehiro Hira, the scenes of them together does have okay chemistry, although it might be the cinematography and sex scene choreography that is done really well. Kazu’s body-long tattoo covering the backside of his body creates a really nice visual overall. Not to mention that Takehiro Hira does stand out in this film as he has a more quiet character that has a lot more mystery plus he has a rather charming sort of look. A lot of it is hidden between the lines through conversations or observation from Margaret. Its a little sad since these characters lack a little more depth in their portrayal in this adaptation. It makes me wonder whether the novel would have fleshed them out more than just their relationship and having a more hollow personality especially for Kazu whose dialogue seems to hold some depth which does eventually enlighten Margaret not before one decision pushes her into a downward slope of bad consequences.

Lost Girls and Love Hotels is a decent watch overall. It helps that its the type of movie that I generally enjoy where its a piece of someone’s life where there’s some type of self-discovery plus it adds in that whole passionate romance which always works for myself when done well. However, this film does lack character depth and perhaps some more thriller-esque moments as currently, it definitely feels more like a romance drama. Not exactly the same thing, right?

TV Binge: Detention (返校, 2020)

Detention (返校, 2020)

Director: I-Hsuan Su, Shiang-an Chuang, Yi Liu

Cast: Lingwei Li, Ning Han, Guanzhi Huang, Jack Yao, Teng-hung Hsia, David hao, Guanxu Luo, Kunda Wu, Serena Fang, Carol Cheng, Han Chang, Jui-hsueh Tsai, Chih-chien Lin

A tormented student uncovers unsettling secrets at her remote high school as betrayal and a paranormal encounter upend her life. – IMDB

Based on the 2017 point and click horror game of the same name developed by Taiwanese game developers as their debut game, Detention has gone on to a horror movie adaptation in 2019 (review) and followed last year with the release of their Netflix series based on the game but having a different story arc moving into the 90s and using the backdrop of the original source material to create a psychological horror drama.

Running at 8 episodes, Detention is an interesting blend as it starts off in the psychological horror territory and gradually retracts into a more drama-focused direction as the characters come into place while bringing in a sort of time loop element in its finale. Perhaps the best area that this could be considered is more of a gothic drama as nothing is going to really scare you a lot save for a few moments perhaps the opening episode having the most horror-esque scene. It does have a lot of themes revolving more touchy subjects with suicide and mental illness being a big one.

This adaptation, while taking its own liberation in the 90s, still manages to weave in the key plot points of the source material. That being said, the two girls whether its the ghost girl from the 70s, Rui Xin who wants some kind of revenge and is using her pendant to occupy a girl with her own unknown agenda and luring them in by fulfilling their wishes and then pushing them a certain extent versus this latest new to town girl, Yun Xiang with her mental illness and broken family actually draws a strong parallel between the two characters that gradually form the two characters and their dependency and connection as well. The two are probably the more intriguing characters as both the past and the present runs its own course. The focus on the present makes it interesting to see a lot of taboo situations happen whether with messing with spirits or the student-teacher relationship or even the warped values of Greenwood high School.

Other than the two female leads, there are some pretty good characters here and some situations that truly do make for some ethics and morals to come into play. The more villainous type of characters definitely do an impressive job. In reality, the story even has this weird focus of making these men into pretty much horrible people overall from the selfish principal to the controlling Inspector Bai down to the new teacher, Shen Hua. Even the neglectful father of Yun Xiang is pretty much a very unlikeable sort of character. They all do such a great job at making you mostly despise their actions overall. Putting the villains aside, there is one character of note and that is Yun Xiang’s schoolmate Wen Liang who may be pegged as a bad student in school but in reality is one of the more down to earth and genuine character in the whole scenario and truly looking out for Yun Xiang while also being a link to the spirit world and a character linked to the past scenario.

Playing with themes of revenge, school troubles, mental illness, student/teacher relationship, its brings in a lot of different elements that come into play through the 8 episodes. While the pacing isn’t exactly speedy, it still feels well-paced enough to keep things moving constantly and revealing the story gradually. The last 3 episodes add in a really good element that gives the series a nice twist that manages to pull the past and present situation together that definitely adds to the whole end game. Overall, an impressive little Taiwanese series that involves the supernatural but also shows the bad side of some people.

Double Feature: Come To Daddy (2019) & Secrets In The Hot Spring (2018)

Its been a while since we’ve done a double feature but we’re back! Movie watching has really taken a big hit this year somehow (in comparison to previous years..at least with the first few months). This time’s pair-up is a horror comedy double as I look at 2019’s Come To Daddy and 2018’s Taiwanese film Secrets In The Hot Spring.

Let’s check it out!

Come To Daddy (2019)

Director: Ant Timpson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley

A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father. – IMDB

Suffice to say that in recent years, Elijah Wood has been getting involved in some interesting independent horror films especially with his company SpectreVision that has also put out some awesome horror films (psychedelic for the most part). Its hard to not be intrigued by anything that has his name attached to it. Come To Daddy was one that I avoided during the festival circuit because it would be accessible and no doubt, Come To Daddy is another intriguing one. The tone and pacing is a little odd at times with the first half being landing a lot better than the second half but always playing with some horror and slipping in some comedy breaks in between. The second half definitely seems like it loses a little steam after the “twist” is revealed which causes quite the change in atmosphere.

The cast and performances here are really great. Elijah Wood is fitting in this role Norval as a man in his thirties which has been with some privilege that ends up trying to get some kind of resolution from his estranged father who is not a very appealing person played incredibly well by Stephen McHattie. The dynamic and dialogue between these two characters creates this very entertaining and unsettling sort of atmosphere. Not to mention the whole character design of Elijah Wood’s character The side characters also have some weird moments and have little character reference points whether its a cop who believes that criminals have a certain type of eyes for example. However, there isn’t a big cast here so its not hard to follow.

To be fair, its hard to really talk about this too much without giving the twist away as that lays out a lot of the purpose of the film and the reason of why his estranged father reaches out to him years later, a question that the character also asks as a pivoting point despite everything that happens surrounding him. There are some minor illogical moments as well. Overall, its a fun little movie which was both odd and intriguing

Secrets in the Hot Spring (2018)

Director (and writer): Kuan-Hui Lin

Cast: Ting-hu Zhang, Sing Hom, He-Hsuan Lin, Mimi Chu, Kar-Ying Law, Chin Chi, Kai-Wei Chiu, Shu-yao Kuo

Three youngsters meet by accident at a mysterious hot springs hotel. There, they fall into an unforgettable adventure. It starts off scary but soon turns funny when they have to try and save a family. – IMDB

Secrets in the Hot Spring probably isn’t going to stand-out to anyone as they browse the horror or comedy or international films section however it is something of a fun little hidden gem. Diving into a part horror and part comedy balance for the most part, this Taiwanese film is downright silly and yet fittingly so. Of course, I must yet again reiterate that comedy is very suggestive and I feel like this type of humor might not be for everyone. The best way to probably determine for familiar Asian film viewers is the type of humor that Hong Kong veteran actor & actress, Kar-Ying Law and Mimi Chu brings as they are part of this film as the grandparents running the hot springs hotel. They really pull together the film with their performance. The three youngsters are played by less familiar faces (at least to myself as the current scene of Taiwanese actors in the recent decade is one that I have yet to dive into). The contrast in each of the youngster’s characters also balance out the their performances whether in dialogue or reaction. It’s pretty good choice in casting.

Perhaps what makes Secrets in the Hot Spring fun is that its conscious about how silly it is and embraces it using both horror tropes and some ridiculous reactions from the characters to make it work on many levels and be just a very simple entertainment. However the writing is fairly clever as it uses its horror and comedy blend to create the twist as well. There are some little jump scare moments but overall, its not a very scary experience so hardcore horror fans might be disappointed. What also adds to the simplicity is the small cast of 5 (or maybe 7) characters and a good use of the hot spring hotel setting as it uses the location really well bringing together the past for the main youngster character who is meant to be the future heir and slowly reveals his past and his reluctance. The big finale is a little cheesy but then its arguable that the story itself not taking itself seriously being the tone actually works together in general.

Another one where the twist is one that is well-executed and makes it rather fun and elevates itself from a bit of the Asian film melodrama. There is no doubt a little considering it has a portion of the family back story shared here. In some ways, I can’t say that this movie is particularly sophisticated but it sure was a fun time making it a little hard to evaluate whether its a good movie but it is an entertaining one that’s not completely mindless but the humor also is more physical and interaction between the characters than in its dialogue which doesn’t have as many translation issues also. Overall, Secrets in the Hot Spring is a fun film. Hardcore horror isn’t really a forte in Taiwanese films (in my limited experience) so its nice that they approach it with humor.

Double Feature: #Alive (2020) & The Bridge Curse (女鬼橋, 2020)

Next up in the Halloween movie marathon is an Asian film double feature with South Korean Netflix zombie film, #Alive paired with Taiwanese horror film, The Bridge Curse, both on Netflix fittingly for this themed month.

Let’s check it out!

#Alive (2020)

#

Director (and co-writer): Il Cho

Cast: Ah-In Yoo, Shin-Hye Park, Bae-soo Jeon, Hyun-Wook Lee

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. It is his story. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that there is no shortage of zombie movies out there. I mean, we’ve covered a ton of them here but after the success of Train to Busan, its hard to write-off what South Korean cinema has to offer. #Alive is a little different. In many ways, its about survival during the zombie apocalypse (which movie isn’t) but its more than that as its about two characters self-quarantined during this post-apocalypse. As much as there’s zombies, its about a guy and a girl both in their own apartments in the same complex surviving in their own way. Its a different angle because its also very character-oriented. #Alive is structured in a good progression from a focus on the guy and his survival to realizing he isn’t “alone” and then reuniting the characters to survival together. Its a little far-fetched in some scenes when they reunite and plays upon how lucky they are to beat a ton of zombies but it does work pretty well in terms of the tension and atmosphere.

In reality, there is where #Alive stands out and that’s the two characters. In reality, the zombies are a definite threat but they are less scary than the desperate situation that the two characters are caught in. With their wits and their own know-hows, they end up being quite a team of helping each other out and each having their own story and unknowingly saving each other in some subtle moments that clues in on their individual characters that the other doesn’t learn about. Zombie movies at this point are the best when they are entertaining to watch which #Alive is absolutely there. Sure, it doesn’t give anything new with the zombies or the post-apocalypse situation and maybe even the characters but the angle and the premise or making it more character-oriented and a lonely quarantine probably lands even better because its released during the current landscape in our own reality and at least made me question my own preparedness at home for whatever survival needs that I might be lacking.

The Bridge Curse (2020)

Director: Lester Hsi

Cast: JC Lin, Vera Yen, Summer Meng, Ning Chang, Ruby Zhan, Yi-hung Hsieh, Cheng Ko

University students, planning a bravery initiation test for their fellow classmates, choose a campus bridge rumored to be haunted by a vengeful female ghost. – IMDB

I’ve always been pretty skeptical about Chinese horror movies in general. As much as they try, it all turns out to be fairly generic and full of horror tropes. With that said, I’ve only started going through some horror stuff sporadically from Taiwan (prior it was mostly Hong Kong horror) and The Bridge Curse is one of those that recently landed on Netflix. The Bridge Curse has some strong vibes of Dreadout, the game and not the film adaptation, which was decent enough. Actually there are some scenes that almost replicate that of one or two cutscenes from the game. The Bridge Curse plays on a lore about a female ghost haunting a bridge where at midnight, the steps leading away from the bridge will mysteriously have one extra step and if the person walking the steps counts to the extra step and turns around then they will see the ghost and be haunted. The story itself is fairly generic and it does have some creepy moments but most of it is rather expected. Where it does fall flat is that the surprise in the finale is a bit lackluster and it has to do a lot with the execution. In some ways, it may have benefited from being either a full found footage film instead of bouncing back and forth between that and the normal film structure. It might actually have worked better as the former.

The Bridge Curse’s structure is a parallel of bouncing between the past where the university students perform this initiation set-up/demonstration for their juniors and the story progresses at the same time as the present where a reporter is on location investigating the details of it to get to the bottom of this Bridge Curse and whether there was something more to the case. The structure is pretty good as it pairs up the two parts from one side reaching a certain room and then bouncing back to the present being in that room. The pieces of clues that she finds and how she connects it together also works well logically.

As much as that, the university students has their own little issues and some of the parts and the dialogue is not scripted that good, making these characters a little empty as well. At the same time, the scares are all fairly predictable even if some of the execution did turn out a little creepy although the ghost reveal did happen a little too early and the scares at times happened a little too frequent which made it lose its effectiveness by the end.

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

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: You’re My Destiny (Fated to Love You/命中注定我愛你, 2008)

You’re My Destiny (命中注定我愛你, 2008)

fated to love you

Director: Ming Zhang Chen

Cast: Joe Chen, Ethan Juan, Baron Chen, Bianca Bai, Ai Zhen Tan, Bruce Chen, Jessica Song, Jack Na, Mei Xiu Lin

An ordinary girl marries a handsome heir after she became pregnant with his child from a one night stand. – IMDB

Updated Nov.15: Available on Netflix (Canada)

STORY

You're My Destiny

Back in 2008, You’re My Destiny was a big deal. I only remember because a lot of people were talking about it but I was in the phase of moving away from Taiwanese dramas so I never caught onto it until last year and recently rewatching it this year.

You’re My Destiny, which I remembered was called Fated to Love You is about an ordinary working class girl called Xin Yi Chen (a name that they emphasize is about as normal and regular as there are a ton of them in every location) who is what they would call a “sticky note girl”, who is a girl that just follows other people’s instructions and helps every way they can and doesn’t’ have a personality of her own. The set-up is that she goes on a cruise with her boyfriend to hopefully hold his heart but then due to all kinds of coincidences, she ends up meeting a the sole heir of a personal hygiene (most known for their natural soap) company Cun Xi who has been ditched by his girlfriend Anna and also through all kinds of coincidences, has a one night stand where she later finds out she gets pregnant and they are asked to get married. Can a baby bring together two people who don’t love each other?

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 39 episodes
Episode length: 40 minutes

39 episodes for any romantic comedy/drama series is always a bit on the long side. You’re My Destiny definitely feels like it runs a bit too long. It was much more fun before the whole separation, which while was needed the whole part in Shanghai went on probably a few episodes too long. The character development needed the shift but at the same time, the whole coming back together process in the portion after then took up a lot of time and felt like it dragged on for too long for the sake of adding in unnecessary drama, even though it did make the effort through it to take its time to address all the loose ends from Dylan (2nd male lead character) search for his sister and settling Cun Xi’s girlfriend situation as well as giving his assistant, his grandma and Xin Yi’s sisters all having some kind of wrap-up.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

As with most TV dramas, its all about the characters and their chemistry because that is what builds their ships. You’re My Destiny, where this is the original version, has some really nice characters. It has a lot to do with its cast. The ones that excel has to go to Joe Chen as the female lead as well as one of Baron Chen’s first roles as the second male lead as Dylan. Ethan Juan as the first male lead Cun Xi actually out of character design is the type of character that is hard to fight for because he treats Xin Yi really bad for the majority and is a rather selfish character, bad in communicating his feelings or even being honest with his feelings.

You're My Destiny

The first pairing to look at is the first female/male characters, Xin Yi and Cun Xi who has a fairly gradual development in their relationship especially as they get married due to an accidental pregnancy. However, it goes through a lot of bumps as it starts off with the anticipation of a divorce after the whole deed is done. Suffice to say all Cun Xi’s idea and the way he treats her makes it hard to root for his success in the second half of the series when it takes part when Xin Yi transforms herself into Elaine after a story plot transition. While parts of his resentment does make sense, its also a very spoiled character for Cun Xi that makes his character difficult to like, but elevates the other supporting characters like his grandmother or assistant that points these things out to him as he slowly (I mean really slowly) figures things out.

You're My Destiny

The next pairing is the rather one sided love of Dylan (played by Baron Chen) to Xin Yi which is brought together some kind of destiny as well. Dylan is the typical type of fantastic second male lead that feels very perfect both in his more mature approach to different dilemmas and being there for Xin Yi whenever she needs help and is neglected, as well as his willing to help her achieve her happiness regardless of his own and trying to make Xin Yi better. Everything that you’d want from a relationship for a lovable female lead like Xin Yi who feels very innocent but is somewhat bullied in her relationship. Call him her guardian angel or her ultimate support and backup but they were the relationship that we want to happen but of course, doesn’t.

There are some sweet moments between both of them regardless of the couples. Was there great chemistry between any of these pairings? They are some very good swoon-worthy ones. At the same time, some of the chemistry between the family relationship especially bringing in the element of Cun Xi’s grandmother who is the overdramatic and manipulative element that propels the story forward as well as Xin Yi’s family from her sister’s in-laws to her 2 sisters to her mother all adding quite a lot of comedic elements here. And well, there’s this somewhat square relationship so we can’t ignore Cun Xi’s actual girlfriend Anna who also wasn’t present enough but felt like she had a similar type of character to Cun Xi due to her selfishness and living by her choices and trying to play the pity card when things don’t go to her plans.

OVERALL

You’re My Destiny 2008 is the original version of this story made in Taiwan and holds the record for a highest average single episode rating. No doubt Joe Chen and its array of supporting cast with a lot of acting credits at the time of the airing that brought in a lot of its initial hype, this drama really shines because of her role as Chen Xin Yi. It brings out a type of girls and the chemistry works a lot because of her character development and the balance of comedy and romance. The series does do a change in between as the main couple separates and it can get frustrating watching now with the whole bad communication causing a lot of the issues here especially by the male lead that makes the story drag on at times. The series itself could definitely have benefited from wrapping up the last 10 episodes faster paced. Does it quite live up to its hype? I have to say that in the 2000s, there’s a lot of other series that probably delivered better especially on rewatchability. I rewatch this one mostly for Joe Chen and Baron Chen’s performances and the hilarious grandmother role that cracks me up all the time.

MAIN THEME

Other info related to You’re My Destiny, there are two remakes of this series: the first is a Korean remake in 2014 called You Are My Destiny and the second is a Thailand remake in 2017 called You’re My Destiny. 

Music Obsession: November 2019

 

Music Obsessions (17)

Its hard to imagine that I survived the crazy that was October and in a blur, we have arrived in November. Surprisingly, I find some really fun music to get through all of the crazy which is great because music is what keeps me alive in my downtime. I’m just going to jump right in. Some of this was found through some of the little events I went to during the past month, others are just randomly in Youtube when I had time to peruse my subscribed channels.

Let’s check it out!

Flip – Theo 朱正廷

Its no surprise that out of the nine members of Nine Percent, well, the ex-Nine Percent now, my favorite member ever since the Idol Producer show is Theo. He is a fantastic dancer and even when I watched him in the different variety and reality shows, he just has a great personality, so I’m happy to see him finally coming out with his own EP.

Senkyaku Banrai 千客万来 – Daoko & Miyavi (‘Diner’ Main Theme)

I watched Diner during Festival du Nouveau Cinema. You can find the review HERE. Its one of my top 5 films of the festival which pretty much tops the movies and a part of its style has to go to its great soundtrack. While I couldn’t find a ton of the music, I did find its main theme and its very awesome music video. The video is full of energy and a fantastic bridge part that just elevates the entire song even more. Its great!

Bomba – UNINE

As Nine Percent disbands to their separate path, 2019’s group to come out is UNINE from Season 2 of Idol Producer. While I didn’t finish the show and now its locked for iQiyi subscribers only (which I’ll get back to eventually), UNINE is a group that I’m seeing their members show up in different reality and variety shows lately so I looked a little more into their music. I can’t say that I think the members are as talented as Nine Percent but UNINE does have a nice balance of talent and Bomba is a pretty fun song while I was looking up their songs. Plus, they are just a few months old as a group so they still have time to put out more stuff.

Call of Heroes 危城 – Shin 信

We are going back a few years now to 2017 as I rediscover this song which I’ve never actually added onto my Favorite playlist on Youtube. Shin is a really great singer and as I watch him and his daughter in the Chinese variety show When I Grow Up currently, its actually made me want to revisit his music as he is incredibly talented. One of my favorite songs from him, other than the song that put him on the map, is this one.  A lot of high energy music this time but I’ve always been a fan of songs with the traditional Chinese music sort of flair mixed into it.

帥到分手 –周湯豪 Nick Chou

So..I fell out of the Taiwanese music scene for a while and as I start diving back in to catch up TV series and movies and such, I’m also obviously getting back to music and the most random find which just appeared on my Youtube suggestions was this song. Don’t know this singer, never heard of this song but it looked fun so I checked it out and its been just playing on repeat. I do have to say that some angles of him looks like Jackson Wang and his style reminds a lot of Alan Kuo. Apparently, I’ve missed some good stuff. I’m not sure if its the lyrics or the tune or the energy but its really good and once I catch up with some other stuff, I’ll be going back to hunt down more of Nick Chou’s songs.

都是你害的 All You Did – 畢書盡 Bii

In the whole Taiwanese drama catch-up phase and after a really fun conversation with my good friend visiting from out of town, I ended up FINALLY starting up Bromance which made me want to rediscover Bii who plays a supporting role in the drama. Bii actually is a pretty decent actor but he is a phenomenal singer. He writes his own songs and you can see the growth he has had from the first time that I listened to his music to now, which I have a pick of his for next month probably.

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

Valentine’s Double Feature: Secret (2007) & The Space Between Us (2017)

Its been a while since I’ve continued on the Valentine’s Netflix Alphabet marathon! Its getting dangerously close to the end of the month and I still have a good few movies to get through. At this point, it might spill into the beginning of March. Either way, I said that I’d finish it so I will. Due to the missing X selection later on, I have chosen to do two S selections! This is the last change to the alphabet marathon. Surprisingly though, these two are both teen romances and have some unique-ish idea/concept.

Let’s check it out!

Secret (2007)

Director (and writer): Jay Chou

Cast: Jay Chou, Lun-Mei Kwai, Anthony Wong, Kai-Syuan Tzeng, Ming-Ming Su, Devon Song

Ye Xiang Lun, a talented piano player is a new student at the prestigious Tamkang School. On his first day, he meets Lu Xiao Yu, a pretty girl playing a mysterious piece of music. – IMDB

Jay Chou’s directorial debut sees him both as the writer of the original story and also acting in the film. From Initial D, its already not high expectations in the Jay Chou acting but Jay Chou is a creative individual and a very musical person so its no surprise to see that he has injected a musical element to this story. The pity of this film goes to Netflix categorizing its subgenre that ruins the twist of the story making it much easier to guess. The ending is somewhat of a headscratcher and feels a bit flawed from what the whole logic behind the situation was, the story itself had its charm. The first is the setting that its done, bordered by water, the school grounds and the more classical building. The second is its characters, including Jay Chou who wrote in a character that truly matches himself. Its probably the perk of being the writer of the original story.

secret 2007

On the off-chance that you aren’t watching this through Netflix, I’m going to keep this spoiler free as much as possible. While this movie seems a lot like your average teen movie with the female character having some ailment, there is a much more light-hearted sort of appeal to this mostly with its added twist. Using music as a medium is a really nice touch here. With the subgenre that it tackles, there are some little logic issues and flaws but it also has this fantasy element that adds a little something extra.

As I mentioned before, Jay Chou writes a character very suitable for himself therefore he does a decent job. Its really his romantic interest, Lun-Mei Kwai that takes a lot of credit here. Her personality reflects Xiao Yu’s character a whole lot whether its her little movements or when she’s happy or sad. The chemistry between them spark up some nice little moments that make us truly root for this pairing. However, in a movie full of young actors and actresses, there is no doubt that Anthony  Wong stands out the most playing the father of Jay Chou’s character. He has this vibrancy and his character while seemingly not very significant in the beginning, ramps up quite the significance by the end.

The Space Between Us (2017)

the space between us

Director: Peter Chelsom

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be. – IMDB

I’m not exactly understanding all the hate that this movie seems to get via the different site that I’ve looked at. To be honest, this movie is right up my alley. For one, it has an incredible cast, at least I’m a big fan of everyone here. Then it has this whole sci-fi premise of space and Earth. The idea behind the story is pretty nice as well. There are some glaring similarities to a lot of other movies, the one that I thought of first was Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (Review), an animated film that I love a whole lot. To see competent young actor and actress like Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson take over this pairing just warmed my heart because they are both constantly on my radar.

With that said, the music here is fantastic. The story here is a bit thin on the character development side of things and focuses on some cheesy teen romance thing, which worked for me because somehow these two have a good bit of chemistry and some really nice scenes. Plus, the whole fish of water thing always makes me feel incredibly entertained especially how they wrote up Asa Butterfield’s character even if he falls into those tropes of having some weakness to him but the fact that its because he’s born on another planet really makes it unique in its own way.

On top of that, you get Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino in this film who truly add quite a bit to the film in their roles. Its quite the adventure to see the whole chase from one thing to the next. There is romance but also a great deal of adventure that is where the bonding of the characters happen. Britt Robertson does play a very similar role to a few roles she’s done where she is a teen that doesn’t fit into the life that she is from. The key question here that is asked is “What is your favorite thing about Earth?” I think its a valid movie that uses this story to ask a deeper question about appreciating the things that we have around us that we take for granted. There are many layers to the story. Sure, it has its faults and there’s a ton of cheese and its fairly predictable but there’s also a lot of fun and adventurous moments here that work. Plus, it doesn’t take the normal teen romance type of bittersweet ending so I’m all for that.

That’s it for this double S feature for Valentine’s romance!
Both movies that have flaws but that I found a lot of enjoyment from!
Have you seen Secret or The Space Between Us?

Valentine’s Marathon & TV Binge: What is Love (2012)

Happy Valentine’s Day! We made it here sadly with very little posts so you will see tomorrow that I will most probably be extending the marathon throughout the month. The stars really didn’t align for us this month with the PC issues and such. However, we will deal with the blog stuff later.

Today, I have lined up such a fitting TV Binge to add into the Valentine’s Marathon and that 2012 Taiwanese drama, What is Love. I just wrapped it up over the weekend and maybe I will even start doing a ranking of Taiwanese series soon. There is an incredibly small amount of photos for this show online since I am working with a computer that can’t read Chinese so I went back to the series to screenshot some pictures. Hopefully you will like it. I apologize if the quality isn’t that great in advance.

Lets check it out!

What is Love (2012)

What is Love poster

Cast: Chris Wu, Jade Chou, Duncan Lai, King Chin, Kimi Hsia, Gina Lim

Thirty-two-year-old Li Yi Hua (Jade Chou) is longing for a romantic relationship and wants to marry a good man. Along comes Bai Zong You (Chris Wu), who breaks women’s hearts with one-night stands. Bai Zong You sets his sights on wooing Li Yi Hua next. What she doesn’t know is that she might have true feels for him. – Wikipedia

I’d like to think that I am fairly picky when I watch Taiwanese series mostly because I have been watching them a long time and with it, comes the expectations that there are so many better ones and hoping to find ones that truly find a nice balance of romance and comedy depending on the story they deliver. Of course, I have also fallen out of the loop for a while since I stopped watching them for a few years until they started appearing on Netflix last year. These series fall into their own tropes but they also have some nice silly bits that usually help with the story. I went into What Is Love having no knowledge of what the story is about and a little bit skeptical on how this would turn out. Let me tell you, it was definitely a very pleasant surprise. There are many plot points here that break the normal perception of what these characters would act and somewhat flips the typical story on its head a little. Plus, it creates a lovely balance of romance drama and romance comedy as well as comedic breaks with both its dialogue and its characters. At the same time, the story never forgets that when the journey of love includes a lot of factors, be it your best friends, your family and all kinds of elements and these characters play a decent role in how these two main characters approach their decisions.

On top of that, this is a completely new cast to myself. The only person here that I wanted to watch was Chris Wu (aka Kangren Wu) who is the main male role Bai Zong-You who was in Autumn’s Concerto which I loved quite a bit as well. You can check out the TV Binge here. In that one, he played the supporting male character which was the total opposite of this role. I have to say, while I liked that role, this role was really fun and matched his handsome and charming appearance.

What I Loved:

  • The Songs and Opening Theme Clip: I usually don’t talk a ton about music around here except for the music obsessions segment but I thought this opening clip was adorable, especially that surf board balancing part. Not just the opening theme clip was really nice but the songs were all very fitting to whatever scene they were playing in.
  • Chris Wu & Jade Chou: Chris Wu (aka Wu Kangren) plays Bai Zong-You, the playboy who becomes mesmerized by the challenge of proving his love to Jade Chou’s character, Li Yi-Hua. A lot of the “romance” is in the beginning because the course of the film is about them both realizing what is love. They are at the opposite spectrums in many sense. However, consider the chase and the enlightening moments for Bai Zong-You being the really great parts, whether he does it through revenge or plotting or slowly finding the way to approach his love interest and acknowledge love with her. At the other end, Li Yi-Hua is one of those rare characters in Asian TV series that really shows a strong sense of a woman that acknowledges her loneliness but will not compromise her love for someone who is undeserving no matter how much pain she feels in having to go through the heartbreak. what is love
  • The Guys: One of the best points of the series is its ability to create a balance of characters. Even if you look at these guys here who are best friends. They have varying personalities as well and their own lessons to learn. Each of them fit somewhere else in how they see love and a lot of the humor is in their silliness. This links heavily to the next point that I liked. 

What is Love

  • The Ladies: Just like the guys, the ladies here are quite fun to watch. Our main character of course has already been talked about before, but her best friends are equally diverse in personality from Xiao Lu on the left who plays a young divorcee with a kid who is really silly to the opposite, Lan Jun who plays the mature friend who reasons and sees through a lot of the bullshit.

What is Love

  • Love Interest: I’ve always been the type that finds it funny how the supporting character that you know the main character won’t end up with is always very perfect and deserving to be loved. Taiwanese series loves to do that and this one honestly gives Yi Hua a worthy man in Shao Qian (played by Duncan Lai). He’s quite the gentleman. what is love

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Too Many Flashbacks: One of the biggest pet peeves I have with TV series, especially of the Korean and sometimes Taiwanese nature is their love for flashbacks. I get flashbacks especially when it helps elevate an emotion but when you get the same flashback every episode just to emphasize on a character’s hooked onto this moment, its okay to drop a few of those.
  • Lengthy Episodes: While this didn’t really turn me off so much as its inconvenient to find a place to stop watching, the 1.5 hour long episodes are quite abnormal to me. I wasn’t sure if it was just a Netflix choice but as I was researching the show, it seems it was aired with that episode length, a little baffling in my mind but what do I know. Since this was quite binge-worthy, I didn’t quite mind the lengthy episode since the power of the pause button and Netflix saves my spot whenever I take a break.

what is love

Overall, What is Love was quite the pleasant surprise. It delivered a really fun story. Not only did it give a rather strong female character with a lot of personality, it also gave an array of cast that were unique in their own way but impacted the story as well to create a nice balance. Taiwanese TV series like these are romantic comedy affairs but somethings it forgets to find that balance and while there were some odd ends here and there that went a little overboard, this one achieved that balance really well. It always remembered to toss in some funny moments to never let the drama last way too long. Plus, just like Yi-Hua needed to learn to accept a playboy and Bai Zong-You had to gain her trust, we saw both sides of the story and was able to at least feel like he could be trusted also. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of “What is Love” because it differs in so many ways and isn’t always just romantic and this one does tackle all of it. There is no formula but at least, its a really fun journey thats us on a nice ride as the characters all figure out their version of love and thats pretty awesome in my book.

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).