Another week has gone by. A lot of last week was catching up, wrapping up, finalizing and then recharging and organizing. At the same time, as I had mentioned last time, I’m starting to get ready for next month’s marathon because I’ve learned from previous years that its not going to happen once the month starts so might as well start accumulating now, right? Yay to being organized..kind of…
Currently reading: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Finally getting back into a teensy bit of reading. I’ve had some really bad luck with reading on the bus lately as I always end up being next to someone talking on the phone loudly so its not easy to make progress. Either way, Fangirl is pretty fun so far even if I’m still really early in the book like 20% in or so.
Currently playing: Luna, Cat Force
While I took a little to get myself organized, I’ve been playing Cat Force the most on mobile. Its full of cats and its Match-3 puzzle game and then they meow when they get matched up. Its all kinds of cute and I’m about 50ish levels into it right now. If I know myself, I usually cap out on Match-3 puzzle games at the most at 100 levels if nothing significantly new happens.
I do have a few PC games that I have lined up to play after I finish Luna. We are restructuring Game Warp to get some new direction so that we can get back on track somewhat in time. However, I do have some written pieces to go up soon.
Its fairly obvious with this list that I’m starting to prepare for the Halloween Marathon at this point. Highlight franchise this year (a marathon structure that I didn’t do the past few years) is going to be the Living Dead franchise. Believe it or not, I’ve only seen Dawn of the Dead remake before out of the whole franchise so you know, catching up with that. There’s also other movies set up in between as you can see as well. It’ll be fun. Less festival coverage means more time to focus on doing a proper marathon this year. My awesome co-host did mention the whole 31 Days of Halloween or something, maybe I’ll do that as double features here and then use that as social media since I really just be promoting the blog better.
Chef’s Table: BBQ (Volume 1, 2020)
Go Ahead (2020)
Currently binging: Great Escape: Season 2, Love Signal 3, Handsome Siblings, Count Your Lucky Stars, Sing China 2020, Go Newbies, The Irresistible
I finally finished Go Ahead which let me tell you is my 2020 favorite series so far. Tops the list right away. Its a different kind of family story; the cast is incredible; the story is really good and it had me hooked from beginning to end. There’s a few moments that gets me every single time. Its really a treat. Of course, it had to be my highlight series. I’m super behind on TV binge posts for C-Dramas so it’ll come out at some point but I won’t make any promises about how soon. Although to be fair, Chef’s Table taking the BBQ themed path is pretty decent also. Chef’s Table and Ugly Delicious kind of all ride on each other a little. Its still a decent 4 episodes to go through as a docuseries.
On that note, most of the currently is pretty much the same. I’m taking a mini break from Handsome Siblings as its getting really annoying when its not about the actual siblings or younger cast. I couldn’t focus for more than one episode at a time so I decided to give myself a breather and just start something new which happens to be Count My Lucky Stars that I had wanted to start when it first aired in August which at 5 episodes in had me hooked at the 2nd episode. I do say that nostalgia plays a big part seeing as people complain about the female and male leads age difference in real life but they are the new and old version leads of Meteor Garden and the best parts of the new and old respectively. I fangirled over Jerry Yan when Meteor Garden came out and in his 40s, he’s a different kind of handsome right now. Okay..I’m starting to fangirl here so I’ll stop.
In terms of TV though, Great Escape: Season 2 only has one episode left and probably some finale episode or something as they sometimes have, I don’t know right now but its sad to see that end although the next episode is one to look forward to as its a crossover with Who’s the Murderer. Everything else is fairly early or just in catch-up phase at some point so that’s all. Things are definitely settling down on the TV front which is great so I can get back on some Netflix or Shudder series.
That’s it for this week’s recap! What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?
Another week is gone and Fantasia Festival is behind us now! All the content is up at this point even if there was a week delay in getting mostly everything done. Next week, things should show some signs of returning back to normal as I start sorting through the backlog and what needs to be done as well, start planning for next month’s Halloween Marathon!
Currently reading: Fangirl
I’m just going to confess right now that I did zero reading this week. None whatsoever. I was either watching movies for Fantasia or using every spare moment to write. I’ve also been going through some strange insomnia so it hasn’t helped the energy or productivity. Reading will resume as I do want to keep going with Fangirl once I’ve recharged my Kindle again.
Currently playing: Luna
The same for reading as gaming basically, which was pretty much expected. Luna is still the game that I’m going to return to very soon. I didn’t get much time for gaming.
I ended the last few days of Fantasia Festival powering through a lot of on demand films. It was a bit intense but all the films were pretty fun to watch. My favorites for the week had to go to A Witness Out of the Blue followed very closely with Chasing Dream. Both had their own style that was a lot of fun to watch. Both of the films, I’d gladly watch again if I had the chance (fingers crossed that Netflix might pick it up).
Talking about Fantasia coverage, I do have to to say, the only post that hasn’t gone up is for Fantasia shorts round-up. There were some impressive short films this year that I saw and no doubt the one from this week’s recap, Homo ErecTattoos was incredibly unique.
Gagman (Season 1, 2020)
Little Forest (Season 1, 2020)
Currently binging: Great Escape: Season 2, Go Newbies, Go Ahead, Chef’s Table: BBQ, The Irresistible, Sing China 2020, Handsome Siblings, The Coming One:SuperBand, BLK946
I finally sat down to finish Little Forest which was a charming little show. Its always relaxing to watch little kids with celebrity adults in nature. Plus, I liked the celebrities involved so I had a fun little dynamic. However, highlight show that ended would be Gagman. That show was a treat every single week. I can’t say that I’m particularly happy with the rundown of the Gag6 (top 6 Gagman/Gagwoman winners) since I’m sure there are other people there that would be much more entertaining but its an alright mix of people.
Some of these shows have kind of fallen into the background right now as I only have a pair of eyes that I can’t watch movies and TV at the same time. I have some general shows that I always like to catch when they release like Great Escape 2 which should be ending soon along with the Master Version (which I never list here but its a show with the same escape room with little changes but a younger cast which are pretty much have their own set of intellectual skills).
Go Ahead is one of my favorite dramas this year and its nearing its final few episodes so I’ve been saving up the episodes so that I can binge it in one shot since if its anything like other series, the last 10 episodes will be a torture to have to watch one or two episodes and then wait for the next day’s to release. Because of that, I finally started Handsome Siblings which has been made so many times that its hard to wonder whether it’ll live up to the last one, which it took a little while to get into but I’m about halfway and its starting to get into a rhythm that I like. Aside from that, I keep forgetting to talk about BLK946 which is a show about trends and fashion/design while I’ve also started watching Sing China 2020 which is like American Idol but the Chinese version but hey Nicholas Tse is a judge/mentor so I’m a little late to the party but better late than never.
That’s it for this week’s recap! What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?
One more week of a whole lot stagnant activity to recap since its very one-sided. Something I do need to apologize for not having prepared more variety in advance. At least maybe you all for some good movies to look forward to in independent/genre cinema.
Currently reading: Fangirl
Super early in Fangirl. I needed a break from reading for blog tours and other commitments and read something from my own TBR pile. I’m fairly early in the book but so far its a pretty fun read. Looking forward to getting into this one more.
Currently playing: Luna
While I have been wanting to do a little bit of gaming, its still be rather stand still other than playing some mobile games, mostly puzzles or Find Out. Gaming will definitely be the priority once the watching section below calms down. I have a few games after Luna that I have lined up and we’re having some talk about restructuring Game Warp to get it up and running again more regularly.
Between podcast recording and getting some expiring rental as well as just some fillers in between to change the pace a little, its been mostly focused on Fantasia Film Festival coverage. I’m a little behind on reviews but its all going to wrap up within the few days following the end of Festival on September 2nd.
With that said, I watched some solid movies in Fantasia this week. I couldn’t decide whether I like The Paper Tigers or The Mortuary Collection more although I’ve only written the review for the former so thats why I used it for the poster. The Paper Tigers takes on a nice look action comedy take on Kung Fu and friendship whereas The Mortuary Collection is pretty everything I love about horror movies with a lot of style and a great collection of horror anthology stories spanning through different decades with the main story as the backdrop that all works really well together. Full review is coming up for The Mortuary Collection so I won’t talk too much about it now.
Rap Star (Season 1, 2020)
Currently binging: Go Ahead, The Irresistible, Go Newbies, BLK946, Great Escape: Season 2, Gagman, Street Dance of China 3, The Coming One: SuperBand, Little Forest
Listen Up or Rap Star, whichever the title is for this rap competition show was a treat and a half. It was one show that I caught at premiere time on Sunday at midnight every single week! I discovered some great Chinese up and rising rappers and discovered a ton of new songs. Its a little sad to see it end but then, the guy who won it was who I expected would win. Happy to hear them announce that Season 2 is already accepting applications now so thats going to happen and something to look forward to. I’m expecting some of the people from this season will probably show up again to give it a second shot.
In reality, Little Forest is already done as well but I just haven’t had time to finish the last 2 episodes so that’s something to work on. Great Escape: Season 2 and Gagman are all heading into their final episode in the coming weeks as well. Both of them that I’m loving a lot also. I’ve fallen a bit behind on Street Dance and The Coming One though. I pretty much exchanged it for The Irresistible which is really growing on me and Go Newbies which are celebrities learning how to drive and its wild. Still only one drama right now and that’s Go Ahead which is an awesome series. I gotta say that Huace really knows how to make Chinese dramas. They always are so awesome.
That’s it for this What’s Up! What have you been watching/playing/binging/reading?
Week 34 recap is here! Its been a crazy week and we still have one more week or so of Fantasia left! Let’s check it out!
Currently reading: Crackle and Fire
I’ve been working on reading Crackle and Fire lately. Its a first book of a new series called Angela Hardwicke Sci-Fi Mystery. Its pretty fun so far. Its set in this galactic futuristic world. It feels a little like Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series except with a science fiction world. I’m pretty happy with it so far as a debut. Still have a little bit to go before finishing up. Review is going up soon since its part of a blog tour.
Currently playing: Luna
I haven’t had time to do any gaming this past week. When I do, I’ll be picking up with Luna right afterwards. I don’t see myself getting back into gaming any time in the coming week but its one that I’m looking forward to finish soon.
Nothing like film festival season to make it feel like my life is consumed with movies. Good thing is that its mostly pretty decent films this past week. I actually had a hard time choosing which movie to highlight between Sheep Without a Shepherd and The Oak Room. I was hoping to get the review for The Oak Room done before this post comes out but still stuck in some final editing so the review is coming out later today. Although, to be fair, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is also an awesome documentary also. With that said, my love for Black Fawn Films in general has me picking The Oak Room which was outstanding in a subtle way and very impressive. Still, three solid viewings. I have to mention that as a short film, Abracitos is really good also. It really got under my skin. Reviews for short films are grouped together in one post on the last day of coverage, which will be early September some time. As for now, enjoy some more Fantasia Festival coverage going up every day!
Super Nova Games 3 (2020)
Currently binging: Great Escape: Season 2, Little Forest, Go Ahead, The Irresistible, Rap Star, The Coming One: SuperBand, Street Dance of China 3, Gagman
Some of the TV is starting to hit is ending bits now with final rounds for some and some variety shows wrapping up as well. Probably a week or two before it reaches its finale. The only TV drama that I’m watching is Go Ahead which has one to two new episodes a day depending on the day of the week. Its a fun show and I look forward to those episodes every day.
I finally finished up Super Nova Games 3 which was a journey and a half. It came to three 10 hour day events or something. Its nice to see some of the new celebrities that I liked getting some success. Its pretty entertaining as background noise. I have this new desire to learn archery though. Odd, right? Its not the first time that I’ve thought about it and definitely one of the more engaging to watch. Although they did add e-sports as one of the categories and highlight two of these Chinese mobile games and also 3v3 Basketball. Pretty fun overall even if it was a little time-consuming.
That’s it for Week 34 recap! A lot of movies as expected with film festival coverage going on! One more week to go and things should get back to relative normalcy…I think!
What have you been watching/playing/reading/binging?
Its Week 33! Much like last week, this week was all about amassing content and preparing for whats coming up. Its rather busy but lots of fun. It also makes for a hard to talk about section in this post. So…I won’t talk about this week but rather whats coming up later this current week that you are reading this post. Fantasia International Film Festival’s virtual edition starts on August 20th!! Tranquil Dreams is accredited press so in the next two weeks, the main focus will be movie reviews and festival coverage. As mentioned last week, its going to make this week have a lot of things I can’t talk about but we will work it out. I am working on other content to layer in between all the movie reviews but I really can’t promise anything at the moment.
With that laid out, lets get back on track and look at Week 33’s recap.
Conscience by Jonathan Pongratz
Currently reading: Crackle and Fire
Honestly, I need to hunker down and do a lot more reading. The story that I finished reading is a short story so it was a fairly quick read. It was a recent reading commitment that I decided to prioritize since its an easier one to get through and start working on in advance. With that said, its a short story so I don’t want to talk too much about it until the actual review post goes up.
Currently playing: Luna
Sometimes I say things and then I realize that it might sound silly but I had time to game but didn’t find time to read. Still, Game Warp has beem in its lonely corner and I really want to get some content for it. It is why I am riding this surge of motivation and doing some gaming. I have two backlogged reviews to do including this one, The Bunker which is FMV game so its like watching an interactive movie. It was pretty fun and was mostly following a linear story and have some quick time events. Definitely one that I would have liked to play on PC instead of Playstation 4.
In terms of PC, I had started to play Luna, which seems to be a fairly short game. I love the art style in the game and its all really cute and has some creativity behind the story itself. Hoping to find some time to wrap this one up in the coming week.
While there are some great Fantasia titles here like I WeirDo and A Mermaid in Paris which is definitely worth a watch and you definitely should look into seeing it in Fantasia if you are in Canada (because I think the Festival is limited to Canadian audiences), I won’t talk about it since I don’t have the okay yet. My highlight of the week goes to the only movie not part of the pre-Festival prep or rewatch and that is The Lodge, a movie that I actually didn’t get a chance to see at last year’s Fantasia Festival. How great timing is, right? The Lodge’s review is up already so you can check that out in the link above. Its one that really does build and has a fantastic reveal.
Mr. Honesty (2020)
Currently binging: Great Escape: Season 2, Little Forest, Go Ahead, Super Nova Games, The Irresistible, Rap Star, The Coming One: SuperBand, Street Dance of China 3
While I won’t say that I particularly recommend Mr. Honesty, its the only series that I wrapped up this week. Its not exactly a bad series and not even that long but there’s some pacing issues and some dialogue that feels rather repetitive and dragged out in the second half. Some of the supporting characters are a tad frustrating. I’ll get around to the TV binge at some point. I’m really behind with these TV binges but I’m working hard on it this past while so hopefully get this one up sooner rather than later.
To be fair, Super Nova Games: Season 3 should be wrapped up since the final round competitions were underway but its like 8 hours split in 3 parts over 2 days or something so I’m still working through the Day 1 Final Round third part and haven’t even gotten to the Day 2 stuff. These are sport things so its not something that I normally binge but more filler material.
On that note, I started a new series last week called Go Ahead starring Wei Long Song, Seven Tan and Steven Zhang. It has a heavy focus on families even with no blood relation. Really great series so far. Well, so far is 11 episodes in so we’re just past the quarter series mark. Too early to say if it’ll fall apart but I’m hoping it stays good since it has a lot of potential.
I need to focus on Fantasia coverage so I won’t be starting anything else new for the next two weeks even if I have another two series sitting in the background that I want to watch.
That’s it for this Week 33 recap! What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?
Cast: Steven Zhang, Janice Wu, Lijie Zhou, Vincent Wei, Jiunuo Han, Lei Zhang, Ziling Ding, Bo Cao, Tianyu Qin, Xuanlin He, Yue Chu, Eman Zhang,
A speed skating girl crosses paths with the ice hockey god of their school. Despite starting off on the wrong foot, they start on a journey to chase after their dreams. – MyDramaList
Where to Watch: Youtube
Skate Into Love is the second series in the Honey Trilogy adapted from novel of the same name by Jiu Xiaoqi (the first was Ashes of Love. You can see my review HERE). Its essentially a sports and romance drama about a bunch of youths chasing after their ice sports dreams and trying to beat the impossible and get into the next Olympics in speed skating, hockey and figure skating. Chinese Olympians and professional athletes were hired in the production to choreograph the moves to keep it realistic as well as the cast had to take lessons to perform their own skating. Some things a tad over exaggerated like the scene above where if an arena’s partitions could break and shatter with a player checking another one. That’s just nitpicking obviously.
Its a breath of fresh air every once in a while to see series that is about something other than solely romance. In this one, its about chasing dreams while also showcasing the different successes ice sports have achieved over the years since they did cast some Olympians into the show as cameo roles and they had consultation to keep the series grounded and realistic. Chasing dreams and perseverance is a big backdrop here even if the characters do have their own little family dramas and complicated friendships and other competitions. There are love triangles and different romantic connections as well but it never loses focus that the premise revolves are these charming characters finding strength in each other whether as teammates in a hockey team or competing against each other as an anchor to be better or even finding the inner confidence to rekindle the love with a sport and balancing its importance and other elements in life.
Episodes: 40 Length of episodes: 35 mins
For 40 episodes, Skate Into Love manages to have a great pacing. It sets up where these athletes are at when the story starts especially with a focus on female main character Tang Xue and her speed skating dream that she had to give up because of an injury in high school and because of this, her family’s opposition to her choosing this career for something more steady career path. As she meets again her elementary school friend and current university hockey team leader Li Yu Bing and work through their past issues and gradually become friends and have romantic feelings for each other, she also encounters figure skating university athlete Yu Yan who she treats like a brother and defends him because of his more timid and introvert personality and breaks him out of his protected environment to show him the world that he is missing which leads him to be a love interest.
The story focuses on Tang Xue but as her friendships and teammates expands into those characters friends and dreams, it builds up on each of the tangent to help build up these characters properly along with the things that are important to them and the sacrifices they will do for their dream and for each other. Its about relationships, dreams and friendship. Like most dramas, life isn’t fair and is rather complicated and yet while staying in the realm of the focus of this story, it doesn’t forget to also create great moments between each of these characters and how they help each other to move forward and the struggles they have to work through their own inner struggles of being an athlete as well as the difficulties they face from outside influences. Each issue and success in the development is timed well and each character development and relationship build-up also blends well with the flow of the story to make these characters more likable. There are sweet and happy moments and there are sad and nerve-wrecking challenges, just like how life normally is.
The deal is that the show works through each of these three leads and their own ice sports focus and the path they need to take. The structure is set up very clearly and that’s why the pacing also works smooth.
Li Yu Bing (Steven Zhang) & Tang Xue (Janice Wu) & Yu Yan (LiJie Zhou)
I have to say that Janice Wu is one of my favorite Chinese actresses. Her acting skills is able to embody this strength in each of her character whether its the stubbornness or perseverance and also manages to give quite a bit of depth, just like layers that they peel back to see her character having a tough side but also a rather sweet and shy side when in love. There’s also this loyalty to her friends. That’s the charm of the character of Tang Xue that she portrays. Paired up with each of these male leads, it has a different dynamic. The difference in this story is that her love trajectory, other than her high school crush that shows up again to try to break up her and Li Yu Bing all the time out of jealousy (which I will talk about in a later section), her heart is loyal to her current love Li Yu Bing that starts like most dramas on an “enemy” stance which she never quite understands how it happens. When the childhood friendship blends with her present, it shows another side of her character. Steven Zhang and Janice Wu gradually starts off in a more comedic pranking each other sort of manner and eventually, their chemistry also grows throughout the series from sweet moments to a couple that you can root for because both of these characters may be flawed but have great characteristics that make them incredibly likable plus together they make each other better.
Add in the equation of Yu Yan, his character lives in a closed world that expands because he meets Tang Xue. Lijie Zhou does a good job also in taking on this role. His character has the cute and timid title of a “little sheep” because he is rather naive and doesn’t know much about the world around him, lacks decisiveness and is controlled by his mother in order to push him to be a successful figure skater. As his character grows, he loses his focus and ends up struggling through an inner battle and things spiral out of control. His story is one that focuses on friendship and support network in a sport that is a very lonely fight that maybe doesn’t need to be that lonely. A solid second male lead that I enjoyed watching. He wasn’t frustrating but at the same time, he was a naive character to say the least that went through a phase of growing up from experiencing a lot of first times that “normal” young adults at his age would have if his world wasn’t revolving around strict training.
The dynamic between these three character is also a huge anchor in Skate Into Love and it works well together.
Sports Team and Teammates
With sports series, its important to talk about teams and teammates dynamic. Coming from Montreal, hockey is in the blood of everyone here so Skate Into Love having a focus on a university hockey team is a big part of the attraction to the series alone. The team here is actually focused heavily on three of the characters: Li Yu Bing who plays the captain, his best buddies and roommates, Jiang Shi Jia (Bo Cao) and goalie Deng Jian Guo (Zihe Jin). The hockey team dynamic is actually rather fun since they go through the phase of transition between leaving university team to moving to a professional team and contemplating their future.
Speed skating team where Tang Xue is also shares a huge focus on dynamic. The other character that hasn’t been mentioned yet would be a girl who has a crush and great friends with Li Yu Bing who is the champion speed skater in their team that she chooses to pick as the goal to beat in order to boost her own time in order to stay on the team. Its a group effort of working together even if speed skating is a solo sport. They find a different friendship dynamic which progresses throughout the series.
Teammates and sport shows heavily focuses on sportmanship and thats the great dynamic that these characters are able to show. Its a different kind of chemistry between these friends and teammates.
The happy fountain goes to the supporting roles of Tang Xue’s best friends. One from high school who ends up sharing the information of Tang Xue’s loyalty and personality and the other is her university roommate. These two get together fairly quickly as a couple. They act both as friends support system as well as the comedy and happy elements in this series. Their relationship and how these two interact is very sweet and cute. At the same time, these two characters do stand out since it helps sooth over some of the more dramatic parts.
Bian Cheng (Vincent Wei) & Zhou Ran (Yue Chu)
Love interests and characters that get more and more extreme in their negative emotions are usually the frustrating elements of any TV series. I do say that some of this does occur. Bian Cheng and Zhou Ran both have their own revelations to get through and they bond because of their own warped desires that end up showing their selfish natures instead of truly loving the people they are trying to get while setting up situations to break up Tang Xue and Li Yu Bing. These two go through quite the vengeful trail that becomes frustrating because its stemmed from a lot of unnecessary emotions that they just get stuck in most of the time and they don’t see losing themselves in the process and losing sight of their value, making themselves having some unpleasant consequences in the end. Definitely not my favorite characters but they are necessary to create friction in a series that is fairly fun to watch in general.
Skate Into Love is an outstanding Chinese drama. Its not only because it focuses on youths chasing their dreams and making their own sacrifices and trials and tribulations and all the sweat and fatigue that goes into being a professional athlete. In any series, its about balance and Skate Into Love has a good view of this. It has a lot to do with director Yui Bun Chu who really has a great eye of how each scene is portrayed. Moving away from Ashes of Love which is a more dramatic and fantasy love story and taking on the second separate story which is more sweet and light-hearted but with a very meaningful sport series element, its executed very well. Whether its the characters and dialogue or balancing between drama, comedy and sweet romance, everything is very on point. Its a ton of fun to watch and one that is incredibly bingeworthy.
With that said, Yui Bun Chu is also helming the final series in this Honey trilogy which seems like it will group back all four leads of Ashes of Love and Skate Into Love to create another story set more in the fantasy realm again. Its one to look forward to for sure.
Week 32 is here! I have an announcement about some changes starting next week although I feel like since I’ve started working on some of the stuff, its going to be hard to not talk about it in this What’s Up! I’ll mention it a little later in this post briefly and talk more about it next week once I have a better idea of what I’ve got planned and manage to get done.
With that said, lets just jump right in!
Currently reading: Crackle and Fire
I’m having a writer’s block with getting book reviews out this year in general so I’m stuck on the previous book’s review. I can’t seem to edit it to something that I’m happy with so that’s why its not out yet. Because of that, I literally just downloaded this book to my e-reader and haven’t really started but its at 1% because I have it opened. Nothing much to say about it right now but I’ll share more later on.
Currently playing: Luna
Like I said last week (and the first time it feels like things are going as planned this year), I pushed forward and got in some refreshing gaming time. I apparently needed it more than I had thought that I did. It recharged my brain and broke a bit of the writer’s block. I finished up Gorogoa (not 100% achievement) and it was a rather innovative experience and one that I had a lot of fun playing. It had some mind-boggling bits. Moving the pieces around and creating a new path and such is really cool. Its almost like a step further than similar games like Framed, but actually pieces them together to create another image at times and it always seems to have another trick up its sleeve and needs some strong sense of coordination to put together the screens. Either way, I will be working on a review to go up on Game Warp soon.
Clapboard Jungle (2020)
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
On Chesil Beach (2017)
Let’s touch on the announcement I started with. Seeing as its in the watching section, I think most of already guessed the general idea of what it will be. I’ve been approved accredited press for Fantasia 2020 for this year’s virtual edition so I’m going to say that this week’s recap and next week’s is going to be heavily focused on things that I can’t talk about until Fantasia starts.
With that said, we’re moving forward. Can’t talk about two of them yet so automatically my choice goes to the surprisingly good 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. It was a movie that I had on my anticipated list in 2016 (if I remember correctly, or honorable mention or something) but never got around to watching it until its about to leave Netflix so I had no choice. A bit hesitant to watch it since things are bad around the world and I’m not a big fan on these type of movies. However, it was a rather surprising watch that I enjoyed quite a bit.
Currently binging: Great Escape 2, Little Forest, The Irresistible, Mr. Honesty, Gagman, Super Nova Games 3, The Coming One: SuperBand, Street Dance of China 3, Rap Star
The world of variety shows is mostly my life right now. Nothing new added to the list. My faves that always catch when it has the live premiere is Great Escape: Season 2 and Rap Star (or Listen Up…they seemed to have changed the name halfway). A ton of fun to watch. Great Escape: Season 2 really stepped up their game and every escape room and story is very entertaining. They just had a zombie-esque style one mixed with sci-fi elements which was rather intense. Rap Star is nearing the end as they just had their top 10 pick and heading in the next few weeks and lost a few contestants that I liked. The other show which is like a competitive game show between old and new generation celebrities called The Irresistible is also rather fun but its only 2 episodes in so still need to see how that goes.
Although two dramas just started that I’ve been waiting for so I am trying to finish up Mr. Honesty so that I can move on to hopefully better things. Its the final few episodes and feels like its a drag and feels like I see the twist they will have. I have too many unfinished series at this point so I just want to tough it out.
That’s it for this week’s What’s Up! What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?
Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo
Guest Judges: Fortune Feimster, Naya Rivera, Justin Willman, Tyler Posey, Garcelle Beauvais, Ron Ben-Israel
A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB
Season 3 of Sugar Rush is pretty much the same as the previous seasons. They run in the general same structure of having 4 teams and 3 rounds which leads to two rounds of elimination and 2 final teams battling it out in the final round and saving up time for their final rounds. Season 3 is titled Extra Sweet. This adds in the new element of ingredients requirement matching with the theme of the episode. For each rounds, there is a different shelf of certain items that have a minimum required of items to incorporate into the dessert to elevate the theme that that round whether its cupcake, confection or cake.
Its nice to see that Sugar Rush is changing up its formula a little. Sugar Rush has a decent concept and it runs at only six episodes a season, which makes it fairly binge-able as long as you are into this type of baking reality competition series. Its a serious and professional baking competition so its good in smaller doses (I usually watch an episode or two and stop). They find some fairly good guest judges. In this case, they had a few judges that was previously on Nailed It!, I believe and then also adds (sadly) the last reality show appearance for Naya Rivera. They all are rather fun and give some decent feedback for the most part about the desserts. The “Extra Sweet” addition to this season does add a little challenge and it usually can see how daring the teams are and their creativity.
Sugar Rush is at its third season. If baking reality competition series are your thing, this one is pretty good. I don’t think its quite as bingeable because its a lot more of a serious baking competition but I do enjoy the interaction of the judges, Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo as well as most of the guest judges here. They had some nice fancy baked creations that was quite fun to watch. The time element feels like the tension from the first few seasons has worn itself down where that’s no longer something that feels like its not doable. All the competitors just make it work 100% of the time and things that happen is more technical issues that they run out of time to fix. Its still fairly entertaining to watch overall.
Sugar High (2020)
Host: Hunter March
Judges: Jackie Sorkin, Rebecca DeAngelis, Stéphane Tréand
Contestants compete in two rounds of sugar sculpting challenges for a prize of $10,000. – IMDB
Sugar High is a one episode spin-off of Sugar Rush except with a focus on sugar sculptures and sugar confections. With that said, other than the host Hunter March remaining the same, the judges have all changed who are knowledgeable about this area of expertise.
Sugar High is separated into two rounds. The first round is about making confections to fit the criteria set out. Its meant to be a feast for the mouth and the eyes in many ways. The second round is about making these beautiful sculptures that also fit another set of criteria. In this case, it was the height, which is a challenge for desserts as we know from Sugar Rush challenges but with sugar sculptures, its even more fragile.
Its only one episode. I’m not sure whether this is just testing the waters to see how many people will be interested and the feedback or just a one off deal to add some variety to show off sugar work. I honestly think its like watching an art work come to life which is a nice change in pace. Sugar work is something that doesn’t seem to have that much emphasis but from this one episode, it seems like there’s quite a bit to discover and learn. Different way to work with sugar and the challenges that comes with working with something that sensitive to heat and craftsmanship. One episode isn’t enough to say much but I’d be down to at least watch a few more episodes of this.
Cast: Zhao Shun Ran, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhang Yi Chi, Rain Shen, Chen Meng Qin, Zhang Zhe Hao, Yuan Bai Zi Hui, Esther Chen, He Mei Xuan, Huang Shi Chao, Li Jin Zhe
A story revolving around two students, Huai Nan and Luo Zhi, who immediately hit it off when they meet in university, but a message from an ex complicates things. Furthermore, Huai Nan discovers that Luo Zhi has been harboring a secret crush on him since their younger days. Luo Zhi has been caught in a one-sided love with Huai Nan for over ten years as she acts in a monodrama of her own creation. Her feelings towards Huai Nan are complicated, fueled by an honest admiration for his excellence but also tainted with jealousy and hatred. While following Sheng Huai Nan, Luo Zhi is also admitted to the best university. Her one-sided love finally gets a new chapter when the two start getting close to each other, but reality hits hard and they undergo many trials. Will they finally be together? Who took Luo Zhi’s diary? Which one will prevail – love or family? – MyDramaList
Where to Watch: Netflix
Unrequited Love is a story about secret high school crush by a introvert student who then becomes friends with her crush in university. She has to decide how to approach this to catch his attention through her knowledge of him. Unrequited Love has a solid story that is based on novel of the same name by Bayue Changan. What makes this story standout is that both of these characters have stronger personalities. Its about misunderstanding, persistence and courage to own up to feelings and letting yourself be vulnerable.
The story is rather melodramatic since unrequited love is almost always an upward trek of unfruitful outcomes but this story gives them a chance. At the same time, the story isn’t just about them but also the friendships and family around them and the influences and choices that each of these make that may make them question their approach to love for each other. What I like about it is that its not all about them. In fact, every couple or secret admirer or relationship has their own struggles and show a different type of relationship, one-sided or not and with different basis of what draws them to each other.
Length of episode: 35 mins (approx.)
Running at 24 episodes with normal episode lengths, Unrequited Love has a good pacing and execution as a whole. The frustration from all the melodrama is rather short in compared to if it was longer and dragged out. Every event moves through quickly from love to loss to misunderstandings to crushes, friends, school and family. Normally, dramas that take a long time to get their main characters together is somewhat of a drag, surprisingly, this one isn’t and a lot of it has to do with how these characters develop over the course of the series (but that’s further discussion in the next section). Series running at the 20+ episodes works the best because the story progresses fairly quickly. Here it starts off playing between the past and present between Luo Zhi’s observations and Huai Nan’s side of things. As the viewers, we get to see where their misunderstandings happen and start to see how as they become friends and care more for each other, their relationship and personality also changes for the better. The story is unique because of the unrequited love element but its done best because of the characters, which takes me to the next part.
Luo Zhi & Huai Nan
As a couple, Luo Zhi and Huai Nan are quite a good pairing. They are both more along the lines of living in their own world and then using their own ways to catch each other’s attention. Essentially their story is about communication, confidence and trust. What cam be frustrating is their lack of communication which leads to them getting into arguments as they always assume or guess.
As individual characters, Luo Zhi is more of a unique female lead. She is more stubborn (its a good thing) about what she wants as we see her find her value. She also has the most development from her high school days of hiding in the backdrop and just looking from afar, her university days starts off that way but ends up giving her switch around where she stands up for herself. One of the best parts is when her high school past that she is trying to keep secret is revealed and used against her and Huai Nan doesn’t believe her or the person that he has grown to know and also insisting for Huai Nan to confirm his feelings for her and not always have him want the confirmation that she likes him. It might seem like a petty difference but its little details that give Luo Zhi her standout points.
Jiang BaiLi/ Ge Bi/ Gu ZhiYe/Chen MoHan
Baili and Ge Bi are a different type of relationship and unrequited love as right from the start, its very one-sided. Baili does everything for Ge Bi but his heart just isn’t there and in the end, it lingers in the realm of questions whether its a regret or not for him. Much like the previous pairing, the entrance of the other love interest characters is what stimulates and pushes Baili to face those issues and move forward. Her character is one that balances Luo Zhi because she’s a more extrovert and caring character and one that is easy to love. There is a naivety to her personality as well as her directness. Her character finds revelation and ends up changing the outlook for Gu ZhiYe, an older guy who pursues her for ulterior motives but (of course) ends up falling for her which also has issues when all the schemes come to life. Their
Ding ShuiJing & Luo Yang
Luo Zhi’s high school friend, Ding ShuiJing in some twist of events ends up meeting Luo Zhi’s cousin Luo Yang who is already in a long-term stable relationship but they connect because of their idealistic views and art. ShuiJing’s love is also another version of unrequited as she likes Luo Yang enough to move anywhere to see him but he isn’t ready to give up on his stability and the image to family and responsibility to the current relationship. Their romance is slightly tedious to watch, just like ShuiJing’s character design which is not bad in comparison to Luo Yang’s but she also plays the part of Luo Zhi’s friend who forcibly believes that she is her best friend when the other doesn’t really admit to it and because of this, ends up creating another issue. This pairing is not the most fun to watch but they also is the sub-sub relationship so in the spectrum of the series, it doesn’t have too much effect.
Friends & Family
The best elements in Chinese drama is that they have a good focus on outside elements. In this case, Huai Nan’s is mostly with his 5 other roommates. They live in a huge dorm and each one of them, while not all equally a lot of screen time or backstory, altogether are rather entertaining. Of the five, his best friend is MingRui who is the bridge of how Luo Zhi meets Huai Nan but also goes through a lot of unrequited love of his own as timing is his worst enemy. However, much like a lot of other characters by the actor Zhang Yi Chi portraying him, he has somewhat of a comedic relief for the most part. While Luo Zhi’s friendships are a lot simpler with roommate BaiLi, high school friend ShuiJing and university friend Mingrui being her own rocks that she confides in to various levels. BaiLi being the one that has the most story and development.
Family plays a big part between Huai Nan and Luo Zhi’s relationship and that’s meant to be a twist at the end that if you watch Luo Zhi’s few interactions with her mom, its easy to see where its going fairly quickly.
Unrequited Love is something of a forgotten child or maybe more a neglected child in the world of Chinese drama. Its considered something of a failure which I think is rather harsh since it didn’t seem like a whole lot of promotion of given to it in the first place and then this year, we’re expected to get a second adaptation with a more popular set of cast, bumping down any traction from this one and creating a big confusion between this and the upcoming version.
In reality, Unrequited Love does a good job and does have a good cast even if they aren’t as popular, but its rather expected as China produces a lot of TV series and also promotes a lot of new series with new young actors. Its a bit sad that this series didn’t get the amount of exposure it should have considering it did hit Netflix as a Netflix Series and isn’t available on Youtube. Its characters are designed and developed really well and in the scope of 24 episodes, the pacing is great. There are some rather dramatic parts but then, its nothing compared to some of the other series that I’ve seen. Plus, the female characters are done really well and not as typical (in my opinion).
**As an extra thought, I honestly don’t see how a new cast will breathe new life into this story especially knowing who the cast is. It might get more traction because of the male lead’s popularity. But its updated to air in September 2020 on Mango TV so that’s right around the corner so maybe it will surprise me.**
Week 31 is something of an in between week. I wrapped up a lot of things and then ended up being in the middle of deciding other things so its been a lot of nothing as I look over this week in the different categories below. I’m also trying to clear out and organize my to-do list and actually set up a list of backlog that I haven’t done yet so that I can start working on it so doing anything here is a little bit on hold as I did some housekeeping.
And Then They Vanish: Collected Stories by D.H. Schleicher
Currently reading: *Still deciding… leaning towards Fangirl or The Girl on the Train*
With that said, I finished up the collected stories by D.H. Schleicher which was a really fun read. I’m working on the review for the book as this goes up and should be there in a few days at most so I won’t talk too much about it right now. Some really nice ideas and premise in a bunch of stories about different people vanishing.
Currently playing: Gorogoa, Find Out
To be fair, I didn’t play anything this week other than mobile game Find Out every once in a while. Its been my filler games for the last few weeks. However, the game in progress is Gorogoa and I’m working on wrapping that one up so that I can move on to the next game. I don’t like games sitting in limbo for too long. My crappy memory makes me forget where I was when I stopped.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011 rewatch)
The Platform (2019)
Little Women (2019)
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Peninsula (2020 screener)
Lupin the 3rd: The Castle of Caglistro (1979 rewatch)
A couple of rewatches paired with a random title, two rentals near expiring and then a screener this week definitely makes for some fun movie watching time. A lot of the movies were pretty good. The Platform was a good dystopian movie in the veins of something like Snowpiercer with a heavy message about social class. Sonic the Hedgehog is pretty much a children-oriented video game adaptation. Its not as good as Detective Pikachu but Jim Carey does his thing and Ben Schwartz voices a good Sonic so it a fun enough time. I’m not going to talk about rewatches or the screener (since that has embargo so review coming up very soon for that..maybe even this afternoon).
The highlight of this week is goes to Little Women for various reasons. One, I love Saoirse Ronan and her roles are great. Really should do a Sunday List for her (unless I forgot that I already did…). Second, its a good adaptation that takes a bystander look at how the story came to be and has a little bit of a story in a story deal which is pretty nice.
Sugar Rush Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020)
Currently binging: Great Escape 2, Little Forest, The Irresistible, Mr. Honesty, Gagman, Super Nova Games 3, The Coming One: SuperBand, Street Dance of China 3, Rap Star
I love food competition shows. If you’ve been hanging out here, you know that I devour those series literally. Sugar Rush Extra Sweet released on July 31st and less than 24 hours and I was done. There are some changes so I will do quick little TV binge for it.
A lot of the same going on for the currently binging except for 2 new additions. The first is finally starting a new drama series called Mr. Honesty. It started off a little iffy and this series has the hated revenge plot from the supporting cast that makes very little sense so makes the supporting male lead a tad annoying. However, the two main leads are pretty fun. Could have better chemistry but it fits into their roles so I have a feeling it will improve further down the road. Fingers crosses. Other than that, Mango TV’s new game show The Irresistible has a ton of celebrities that I like and the first episode was pretty entertaining.
As an ending note to follow-up the beginning blurb, things will wind down as I clear things off my to-do list as virtual Fantasia Festival starts ina few weeks and I will be covering it. It feels good to get back to some kind of norm of previous summers. I miss it more than I had thought I would.
That’s it for this What’s Up recap! What have you been reading/watching/playing/binging?