Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dramabeans' book launch!!

Available at:

In an entirely biased opinion, I will read anything that these ladies write (whether or not I like or agree with them is a different story), so when I learned that they were pushing out a book about their opinions on K-drama pop culture, I was pretty ecstatic.

So here it is, and so far, it's been pretty informative and lots of fun.  Available in e-book format only, here's a quick post update from them about the book itself: 

If K-dramas is also your thing, here is a link to their blog that I may or may not follow a little too religiously... sometimes... or almost every day... 

Friday, August 2, 2013

news: Drama Bites

Asian drama land has been a bit promising lately.  Not that it’s been completely down in the dumps, but if I’ve read about sixty books to the one (or maybe two) drama series I’ve watched in the past few months, then either I’m really just a professional book nerd (which I am, I don’t deny that) or drama land has been a bit bland since the year started.

Going back and trying to review the first half of this year, it seems like I’ve really averaged about one drama series (from South Korea) per month, if even that many.  And if my viewing stats on is any indication, I’ve really only watched two full drama series all year to completion, both from South Korea.

Hong Kong has long since dropped off of my radar (or well, let’s just say that I still pay some attention, but I’ve been avoiding them like the plague), and Taiwanese series are hit-or-miss for me since I finally grew out of all that “Idol Drama” stuff after immersing in it for so long.  Japanese dorama was really only a one time Ikuta Toma-sama fangirl phase...

In fact, aside from being oh so excited about a new book release, my wall of anticipatory drama series looks like child’s play.  The ratio comparison:  I’m anticipating the release air date of two drama series as compared to the eight books I’m looking forward to reading for the rest of the year.

Yea... I think drama viewing has been quite bland.

The last week, however, has proven to be a little different for me, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve burned out on books (pfft, as if that could happen!), or because there are actually some series that are catching my (overly snobbish) eyes... finally.  In total, I’ve been hooked to one K-drama that will be ending this week, and I’ve picked up several other dramas (both Hong Kong and Taiwan) which are in their debut weeks right now.  And I haven’t been excited about several Asian dramas all at once in a long time.

It may not sound like a big deal, but this is very big for me.

I mean, yes, I get excited about one or two series every so often, and they’re usually from South Korea and there are usually less than two.  All year, so far, it’s been like that, with Gu Family Book, with Flower Boy Next Door...  (which are the only two series I’ve actually watched ALL of...)

Anyway...  This is in no way a return to regular drama blogging for me.  I think I always try too hard to make things structured in my own logic that I get overwhelmed and start to sway.  Which explains the extended hiatus.  So I’m just going to treat this like my own personal blog now (which, technically, it is), and just chit-chat dramas, movies, and general entertainment industry galore and news whenever I feel like it.  Seems simple enough.

Moving along to the Drama Bites part:

Accordingly, I have listed three series I’m currently watching.  I usually only do this if I have the intention of continuing to watch the series.  Whether or not I finish them is something entirely different.  And as opposed to reading books, I can drop a drama series so quickly that you don’t even realize I’d even started watching at all.  (Books, I tend to try to give more of a chance and will very rarely drop unless I’m just really NOT getting into it and realize that I have no idea where the plot is going.)  In fact, I had never liked the idea of dropping drama series before and will trudge all the way until the end so that I don’t miss the opportunity for a series to get better and prove me wrong.  As a lot of other bloggers out there point out, I don’t go into a series expecting it to fail; I would rather go into a series hoping that it’s excellent.  But there’s nothing worse than always expecting a series to fail because things just aren’t up to standard anymore.

So I remain hopeful.  

Just as I continue to remain hopeful that one day I can revive my love for Hong Kong TVB’s productions.  I grew up with TVB and they are my life; I used to know all the pop culture surrounding everything that had to do with ANYTHING in TVB.  I knew all the actors and all their roles, I knew who was a newbie in improvement, I knew who attracted the best ratings, I knew whenever a newbie was being promoted heavily (as per TV politics).  But lately, I can’t even tell a newbie from someone who’s been acting for a full year in TVB productions and who is just a singer trying their luck as an actor... and vice versa.

So with Triumph in the Skies II, I really continue to hope that my love can soar (terrible pun intended, don'cha know) again.  The last time I even made mention of a series from TVB, it was Three Kingdoms RPG, and well... since I don’t blog as often anymore, let’s just say that that experience was a major heartbreak for me.  And I don’t like heartbreak when it comes to TVB because I love TVB so much that it hurts to be disappointed over and over again.  I had all my hopes set on that series because it was an interesting concept, and it starred my all-time favorite TVB artists of my generation: Raymond Lam and Tavia Yeung.  The disappointment still stings a bit.

I get my TVB sampling snippets from my parents whenever I’m randomly wandering around the living room.  My parents are still avid TVB fans, if only because it’s more preferential to them to watch drama series in their own native tongue.  They are of the “I hate having to read while watching television so I will sit through crappy dubbing as long as it’s in my language” camp.  I’m in the “I would rather see the series in its original glory and so would prefer subtitles” camp.  Besides, after you watch enough series in a foreign language, you start to pick up recycled phrases and a pretty hefty vocabulary, even if you can’t quite string together a proper complete sentence.

But nonetheless, I digress...

Whenever I see a TVB series that strikes me as potentially good, I read up on it and consider watching it.  But that’s really as far as it goes, because it doesn’t strike my fancy enough to actually take the time to watch it.  After all, there are so many drama series to watch and so many books to read and so little time to accomplish both that I’ve become pretty picky about my viewing standards.  Each episode of a series is approximately one hour long.  I’m sleeping at least six of the twenty four hours daily and I’m working for eight hours.  It takes half an hour for me to drive to and from work.  I need to filter out time to eat and shower and take care of household chores.

So in essence, I may be left with little less than four to six hours of drama series viewing time.  And that’s assuming that I actually feel like watching an episode at that moment.

There just aren’t enough hours in a day for everything I’d like to be doing.  Unless I’m hooked and I end up doing a marathon and get no sleep over it.

So what finally drew me back into a TVB series after so many years?  I’m going to be totally honest about this, but it was a rather superficial reason: In the second episode of Triumph in the Skies II, Chilam Cheung’s character Jayden Koo says the following line with all of his charm, smarm and witty delivery:  “I might be a pretty boy, but I’m not an idiot.”  And it wasn’t just the line itself, since the words are rather mundane.  It was the way in which Chilam delivered his line along with the perfect facial expression (even behind a freakin’ hot pair of shades) and the tone of voice that does it for me.  In that one line alone, I already pegged his character and fell in love with him.

I mean, it’s freakin’ Chilam Cheung (Julian Cheung for those of you not familiar with his Chinese name), and not only is he eternally baby-faced and handsome, but he’s never failed to be a good actor, in my eyes.  He’s of the older generation level of actors (which to me, means that I’ve been watching him since I was a tween back in the good ol’ days of Condor Heroes glory and the like, as opposed to the actors I started watching when I was in college who were more my age, such as Tavia and Raymond), and to be honest, sometimes these guys just do it right.

Anyway, I’m only three episodes into this series, but it seems promising so far and I intend to continue on.  The chemistry and witty banter between the characters (yes, I’m in it now for more than just Chilam’s smarmy charm alone) is so much fun and hilarity that I’ve been doing a lot of laughing out loud.  I haven’t done a lot of laughing out loud in a long time to certain drama series and I honestly appreciate a series with heart that can also make me laugh out loud due to witty banter.  

As an added bonus, one thing that Hong Kong definitely DOES do properly is their research and their attention to detail concerning their television drama series.  When they latch onto a specific profession or a genre as the central theme of a series, they put so much attention to detail into it that it isn’t outrageously obvious that the central theme is just there as a background.  No, in Hong Kong series, the central theme has enough footing to stand on its own and you don’t find yourself questioning the integrity too much, even if a few flaws tend to surface every so often; which is more than we can say about some other series’ (**coughcoughKdramacoughcough**) and their handle on certain professions in the drama world.  Because in K-dramas, even if I love the series, sometimes I still end up questioning the dramaverse background professional logic; but in TVB dramas, I don’t think I’ve ever truly had to question their dramaverse background professional logic as much.  In fact, Hong Kong is also known for their brief “informercial” material at the end of certain series that are based on some present-day issues, so we know they’ve put a lot of effort into making the series as realistic as possible without actually putting their writers and actors through the true professional training.

As an example:  I Can Hear Your Voice is a K-drama I’m obsessed with right now.  However, our professionals, the public defenders as well as the rest of the legal system makes me a little worried for South Korea as a country if THAT is how law enforcement really proceeds with their work.  I mean, a murderer who is only given ten years in prison?  Police officers who treat proper citizens like they’re the criminals and don’t take threats seriously and who lose their guns?  Criminal court cases that aren’t thoroughly investigated properly before going to court?  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a criminal case in real life that was completed within one day and I’m not sure I’ve seen criminal cases in court where the investigating detective wasn’t involved.

But I digress...  again...

As far as TVB goes, I’m still setting a probational eye on their productions.  But my parents have informed me of the series they think is where TVB “got their groove back”, called A Change of Heart starring Michael Miu, Bosco Wong, and Niki Chow.  And the premise sounds intriguing, and Niki and Bosco are both also two of my favorite TVB artists of my generation... so I’m considering.  Otherwise, that’s all there is right now.

As for the Taiwanese front, I’ve recently taken interest in two particular series.  I’ve always been on the lookout for something in the Idol Dramas arena that would catch my eye, cause something always does.  You can’t say no to an interesting, light, breezy rom-com even if you tried, and when all the right elements line up, I will most certainly cave and give the series a chance to entertain me.  Yes, I’m still extremely biased against Idol Dramas because they are exactly as they are depicted: Idol Dramas have always been light fare, showcasing beautiful people in beautiful romance stories, meant to hook the fangirls.  They recycle the same formulas (although I will argue that the love lines in Taiwanese dramas have thus far been more desirable than what I’ve been seeing in Korean dramas) with the same types of plot twists.

BUT, they are enjoyable in a lot of their stilted glory.  I watch them for fun, not for inspiration, but I become quite elated when I DO get inspiration.  And to be totally honest, with the exception of few, Taiwanese idol actors are some of the least natural actors I’ve come across.  I haven’t been able to pinpoint why, but sometimes I can’t quite take them seriously because they’re either too over exaggerated, or way under emotive.

I’ve picked up Just You starring Aaron Yan and Puff Kuo.  And yes, my main reason for picking up this series might be due to Aaron Yan.  I mean... Aaron Yan!  I love him.  He’s so cute and adorable, and now he’s all grown up out of his initial Fahrenheit, baby idol role.  But his small eyes and his small mouth... and his cuteness...  And now I’m gushing!  But I’m not going to deny that his acting is still a bit wooden at times and over-the-top at others, and all around a bit unnatural..  I mean, he’s as natural as the rest of the Taiwan acting standard; he’s decent enough to lead a series with great facial expressions every so often... but I’ve seen better.  He knows what he’s doing and he knows how to do it, and yet I still get the feeling that he’s too over-conscious about his own acting.  Like, you can actually see the gears turning in his mind trying to figure out how to look handsome and act well at the same time (which sometimes doesn’t mesh well).  

Just... OMG!  So cute!

But still... Aaron... sigh...  

I don’t know who Puff Kuo is, but I’m sure to find out soon, though this series may possibly be one of the worst examples of good acting representation since it’s a standard rom-com and girls are always expected to be cutesy and over-the-top and loud and excited... as she is proving so far.  It just bugs me a little bit with the loud baby voice in a lot of the girls... though I suspect it’s a “thing” in Taiwan right now.  I will reserve other comments for after I’ve watched a few more episodes.

Also, what's up with that bowl cut-do?  O.o

The other series I’m considering picking up is Fabulous Boys, which is the Taiwanese remake of K-drama You’re Beautiful.  I’m conflicted.  You’re Beautiful was so much fun despite the standard rom-com stereotypes.  And I love Park Shin Hye!  And the best parts of You’re Beautiful had been the comedy, honestly.  And Taiwanese drama series tend to lack a distinct laugh-out-loud humor factor (with few exceptions) and instead end up being kind of tacky, half-assed humor.  And of the first few minutes of the first episode I watched so far, my first chuckle came about due to Park Shin Hye’s guest appearance as the girl in the church listening to loud music; and then her sad puppy declaration of “This isn’t how You’re Beautiful starts.  Hyung-nim...”  Again, I’ll reserve my criticism of the series for when I actually start watching it officially.

But until then, I’m just commenting as someone who is familiar with Jiro Wang acting (I’ve watched three of his series so far).  And to be honest, out of the four member boy band Fahrenheit, he has the best acting skills.  But that really isn’t saying much in terms of “in comparison with the rest of the acting community just in Taiwan alone”.  I mean, in his defense, he knows what he’s doing and he does it properly, much like his fellow group mate, Aaron.  He exhibits the emotions he requires and he becomes the character he’s playing -- unlike Aaron, I don’t see as much of the gears turning to calculate the best acting tacts.  But that’s pretty much it, because in the end, I really still only see his characters as “Jiro Wang playing such and such character”.  I’m not seeing the character by himself (something that an extremely talented actor is able to do is bring a character so much to life that you no longer see the actor anymore and sometimes forget that this guy also played so-and-so in that other drama series; awesome example: Chilam Cheung in Triumph in the Skies II who so thoroughly becomes Jayden Koo and brings Jayden Koo to life that I forget that he’s really Chilam Cheung).  And unfortunately, I haven’t gotten that vibe from Jiro yet.  Now, the girl, Su Li Wen, who gets to be our cross-dressing heroine seems rather promising (in fact a lot of the Taiwanese female artists seem more promising when paired with a really popular male idol) and I’m interested to see her take on Gao Mei Nan (Go Minam’s Taiwanese alter ego).

So... we’ll see how this goes.

Finally, in the K-drama front... well, I’ve always followed K-drama news ever since I first started watching them like an addiction.  So there’s really little news except for a brief shout out to Lee Jung Seok and the series he’s currently headlining, I Can Hear Your Voice (which I used in an example above).  This series is so seriously awesome that I have no words.  It’s almost over, and I can’t contain my excitement for the finale week since we’ve got conclusions and promises and reveals and an end to the ongoing conflict.

There are other series that seem promising, for instance I’m interested in Who Are You and Master’s Sun, both with the same premise of the female lead being able to see dead people.  This will be interesting, cause as much of a weenie as I am when it comes to horror, I love me a good ghost story... always!


Asian dramaland, here I return!

You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

news: Upcoming dramas and my current reality

My Anticipation

So I know I haven't really been on the Asian drama scene in a while. Well, I sort of have and sort of haven't. For one, I'm not pushing myself to blog regularly, only because it keeps me from being able to actually enjoy watching certain series without wondering what I want to write about it. I guess I'm really not cut out to be a drama series blogger, but I'll try to keep things going as long as I can. I just really like to write and I have opinions about certain series, scenes, celebs, actors, idols, etc... that I can't seem to NOT share.

For example, I actually have a LOT of opinion pieces written (as a rough draft, a final draft ready to be published, random thoughts on a piece of paper or WordPad file...). It's a matter of formalizing them to my standards so that they can be published for all to read.

It's just unfortunate that I have such anal perfect standards that it keeps me from publishing because I'm not sure it's good enough. Well, I know it hasn't kept me from posting some terrible articles in the past (look at me talking like I've been drama blogging forever), but I have my moments of spontaneous "I want to share with the world!" bloggings.

But anyway, it IS true that I haven't quite been in the Asian entertainment scene very much in the past couple weeks. While I have managed to view to completion some series (The King 2 Hearts, Rooftop Prince, Crime Squad, The Locked Room Murders, etc...) I have also stumbled across many series that I haven't been able to get into enough to finish (Kimchi Family, I Do I Do, Three Kingdoms RPG...). And while I've been at it, I've been watching American television series dated back to a 90s premiere (Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as well as American series that aren't that old (Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother). And surprisingly, reading books hasn't quite been my thing in the past month, which really bugs me since I have a Reading Challenge to finish within the next five months.

Aside from all of that, I have also had a lot of REAL LIFE situations come up that take precedence over silly little Asian entertainment obsessions... Yea. I'm a grown adult and real life DOES take priority and I can't ignore my responsibilities and duties. That's life, I guess; and that's why I like to indulge in the fictional world so much.

As of present, the only "most recent" Korean drama series I've been able to finish watching was Big, the romantic comedy body swap plot device created by the infamous Hong Sisters who are well know for their quirky rom-coms (Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho). And to be totally honest, it had been a while since I was able to follow a series so intently, because a lot of them have been kind of boring, while others I just started watching when they were already finished broadcasting, so I didn't have to wait for the next episode as I'd done with Big. But I may give a post about this one a lot later when I can collect all of my thoughts. But as a teaser, let's just say, some series are decently executed and you find yourself loving everything about them; then something goes horribly wrong with the script and, well... sometimes the quality of an ending can either make or break a good series.

Moving along into my next big watch... well, if flopped from the beginning. I should have known better than to expect anything too extraordinary out of Hong Kong's TVB. Three Kingdoms RPG has been on my radar since the very day that it was announced two years ago in preview presentations (as I have already mentioned again and again). I even wrote a first impression of it to emphasize my excitement... or rather, I guess my disappointment at what's taking place. After so long of anticipation, the series was a flop from the beginning... or maybe I'm too demanding because my parents seem to be enjoying it. What little snippets I've seen of it while walking through the living room while Mom and Dad are watching... well, none of it makes much sense to me. For one, our main character is able to use his cell phone to communicate with his sister through this space-time lapse thing. So we're fairly certain that there's some mystical, non-scientific explanation to this entire deal. But still, it doesn't seem to make any sense, even as far as the series' story line logic goes. It feels as if the writer/producer team just decided "This is going to be a possibility, but we won't give any explanations as to how cause we'll cover that later. It will be so because we say so." And thus, Sze-ma Shun is able to change history by using modern historical textbooks via communicating with his academically nerdy sister from the future. Um... what about repercussions about changing things for the future? Do you think that if you don't put your two-cents into the ordeal, things will will just screw over? So... no, the dramaverse of Three Kingdoms RPG isn't working very well for me.

On the other hand, I've found that I DO like the Hong Kong series Tiger Cubs, which gives focus on criminal investigation, crime thrills, and the Special Duties Unit of Hong Kong police, which is akin to a SWAT team in America. I have a first impression post in the works, so hopefully I can get that one written and posted soon. The series is coming into its last few weeks and I haven't quite gone back to watch it even though I'm certain I won't be disappointed too much.

My most recent Asian entertainment forays have actually been more into an area that I regret not having discovered an obsession for until now. I stumbled upon TVXQ a while back and thought that their music was really good. And at the time, the only thought that came into my mind was: "I guess I get why they're so popular." But no... that wasn't good enough. A few weeks ago, I finally TRULY discovered why the infamous and widely celebrated Dong Bang Shin Ki (aka DBSK, TVXQ, Tohoshinki, etc...) are so popular and are the Korean group with the largest fan base in the world.

As my sources have come up, these five guys began their career in 2003 as an A Capella group. So while they all have great voices and perform well on their CDs and the like, they can also perform live, acoustical, and still sound wonderful. And all I could think of was "Wow!"

It's only unfortunate that I only now know of them after their big split due to legal issues and the like. Currently three of the former TVXQ members have formed their own group called JYJ, and the remaining two members have had their comeback as a two person group, still going under the name TVXQ. It's fine and all for me since I never followed them from the beginning. So the split doesn't affect me as much as it does a lot of their other long time fans. I like them as a five-member group, and I still like them as two separate groups; and mostly, I also like them individually doing their own things.

So yea... my past couple of weeks have been wrapped in perusing the online communities about these guys, listening to all their music (together, apart and individually) and watching some variety programs they have been participating in. I have a large desktop wallpaper on my computer of Xiah Junsu (who has become my favorite of the members), but I've found that the rest of the group all have their own charms as well. Maybe, like the Lee Seung Gi article, I might write something as a tribute to them as well.


And now to explain the last item on my list: The opening picture for this blog. Here it is again:
Clicky for larger image... or just look at the one at the top.

This little picture could have been explained earlier, but I get carried away (as I always do). Basically, I have a couple K-Drama series I've been looking forward to. And courtesy of all Asian media blogs and websites, the hype is just getting higher every time I see more news about them. Those of you who follow Korean drama will know all four of these series. But for those who are as sporadic in K-drama viewing as I am (and I don't have posters or anything, but I'll include some links:

Faithis Lee Min Ho's (City Hunter, Boys Before Flowers) newest drama series. It is blurbed as a time-skipping, historical fantasy with an epic level mystic telling about it. For more information, click on the link to see all of Dramabeans' articles about it (and same goes for the rest of the series mentioned below.

Arang and the Magistrate stars Shin Mina and Lee Jun Ki (in his come back drama after army release!!) in a retelling of a classic Korean folktale about a ghost named Arang who haunts magistrates of a certain village in order to get someone to hear her story. In legend, Arang was the daughter of a magistrate who was murdered, but everyone, including her father, believed that she had run away with a man, bringing shame to her family. As Dramabeans mentions in news articles, there are some quirky new twists that are going to be incorporated that might make this series intriguing. For one, Arang will not remember why she is dead and so we've got ourselves a nice little mystery going on here. Fun stuff and exciting!

Nice Guy is Song Joong Ki's first ever main lead role in a drama series (he's been a main lead in films before and a rom-com at that!). However, I have my reserves about watching this series despite it also casting Moon Chae Won (Princess' Man, Brilliant Legacy) as the female lead opposite Song Joong Ki and Park Shi Yeon (Coffee House, My Girl) as the other main female lead. It's a melodrama; and if it's one thing I truly do not like, it's melodrama. I prefer my romances happy and funny or exciting and action packed. Crying vehicles that involve a lot of pain and suffering... really not my thing. Of so many rising young actors out in K-drama land, every time I think: "I can't wait to see this guy lead his own rom-com as the main character!" I end up getting him for a main character... but in a melodrama. Song Joong Ki gets Nice Guy and Yoo Seung Ho had gotten Operation Proposal (which was also categorized as a melodrama).

But anyway, the other series listed on my "I'm looking forward to this" list is Ma Boy which I just saw on Dramabeans today. It sounds interesting enough and it's only 3 episodes long about a guy cross-dressing as a girl. Yes, if you are tired of the girl cross-dressing as guy cliche (something I've never gotten tired of), then there's some fun to be had here with a role reversal.


Anyway, this news post got a bit long (as they always do). I'm hoping to get back into a more regular blogging routine, but I promise nothing. I've been making notes and editing articles and the like, but I just don't know how dedicated I can make myself. I have phases and unless the Asian drama blogging phase brings me back into that first "giddy drama viewing" attitude, I'm not sure if I can promise two or three posts a month even.

Here's to hopes with all the new anticipated series that I've got lined up. Otherwise, you know I'm probably just watching some old-school American series or the newest season of How I Met Your Mother (which premiers on September 24).


This is my current desktop wallie!  :D :D!!!
Excuse me as I become less than professional....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

first impression: Three Kingdoms RPG (Hong Kong)

First of all, I think I’ve seen plenty of time-travel drama series lately to realize that the mechanism for time-travel is really hard to grasp in each series. The only storyline in which I can one-hundred percent agree with the time-travel mechanism is TVB’s A Step Into the Past. At the very least, in this particular storyline, we aren’t dealing with some strange mystical magic that causes the main character to time leap for “some writer/producer given reason that still needs a lot of explanation.”

A Step Into the Past involves futuristic technology wherein our main character is asked to return to the past, take a simple picture, and then return to his present-day. We make use of scientific methods to force the time-travel storyline. Sure, the fact that this technology was tested on HIM of all people is highly for story progression reasons, but it still makes more sense than a mystical, magical explanation. In this case, Hang Xiao Long (main character of A Step Into the Past glorified by Louis Koo) being sent back in time by some rich man and his team of specialized scientists propels the story, then further stabilizes it by instigating that our time-machine instrumentation still has some imperfect kinks (a more realistic gesture) when he is sent three years earlier into the time period that everyone was hoping he’d land in. When his time-machine remote’s battery dies, he realizes that he’ll probably have to wait three years to get to the correct time frame while he tries to figure out how to make his remote time machine work again. And so the adventure begins and we all end up loving it (save for a few cliched and blocky moments in his journey).

Thus far, I’ve been watching time-leapers go from the Korean Joseon time period into modern society. The mechanics of that time-leaping is still undeterminable, usually some sort of magical sleight of the heavens, or the like... I haven’t finished watching Queen In-Hyun’s Man, so I really don’t know if they talk about the time-traveling mechanism; but I know for sure that in Rooftop Prince, the time-leaping isn’t even really explained, but is blown off with an indirect explanation: That this was a decree of fate.

Operation Proposal (which I also haven’t finished watching) makes use of a human conduit who creates the opportunity for our main hero to leap into the near history of his younger high school life topped with a lot of non-explanation save for the word “miracle”. On some levels, it works, but on others, it’s still a little sketchy.

Other time-traveling series I haven’t quite bothered with: Time Slip Dr. Jin, Bu Bu Jing Xing, Palace... etc...

Coming back to Three Kingdoms RPG, I had been looking forward to this series for a LONG time (BIG emphasis on the word “LONG”). We were talking about combining an obsessed gamer as the main lead with the historical Three Kingdoms MMO that he loves playing so much and a time leap back to that exact era. In essence (if games are as historically accurate as gamers believe them to be), then throwing this guy into the time period he plays with regularly would be kind of awesome. After all, he gets to show off his strategic gaming skills in a real life situation (and in this case, he gets to meet his most revered idol, Chu Kot Leung of historical infamy). I was always a fan of A Step Into the Past, and to be honest, if TVB sticks with their normal chops, then the storyline of Three Kingdoms RPG could be a good one.

And then we also combine Raymond Lam, Tavia Yeung, and Kenneth Ma into one setting and I’ve got all my favorite cast members in place (well, at least two of them).

And so we step into Three Kingdoms RPG with a lot of hype (at least on my part) and expectation. Kenneth Ma is the main character who gets sent back in time to the Three Kingdoms era and meets his revered idol Chu Kot Leung (Raymond Lam) and shares a romance with a character role played by Tavia Yeung. And technically, this is the only summary anyone can really dig up at this point. What the main reason for his time-travelling is, I’m not sure anyone knows yet. At least in A Step Into the Past, Hang Xiao Long’s time jump was due to human means, although the fact that he landed three years prior to the target time and ends up needing to “make history or cease to exist” when things in history seem to go wrong tells us that there may have been some sort of heavenly interference in his initial mission.

The first episode of Three Kingdoms RPG took me 40 minutes to actually start enjoying. This is actually a first for a TVB series. Typically, TVB is really good at hyping up the introduction and then giving you a great impression from Day 1 of broadcast. The first episode for most TVB series is usually the best one. If it’s one thing that TVB knows how to do, it’s hooking the viewer with that very first episode as well as doing their research wonderfully for the series to take off without a hitch.

Okay, so they did their job... they just did it kind of half-assed.

I will admit that TVB has a good idea of what its viewers like to see. And thus, they know that we don’t like to spend too much time dragging on with build-up. So I expected that by the end of the first episode, we would be time-leaping to the past with our main lead, which is accomplished quickly. Unfortunately, all of the build-up for our main lead, Sze-ma Shun (Kenneth Ma) was so agonizing to watch that I almost gave up. I mean, this is the first episode. I should not be rolling my eyes and “meandering” through it while playing Minesweeper. My attention should be completely focused on the storyline and its opening (though for its benefit, the opening sequence had a good theme sung by Raymond and the first few frames depicting the actual Three Kingdoms RPG game was pretty neat). For TVB, this was actually a little disappointing, because even with series that I have no intention of watching because it sounds stupid, the first episode is STILL a hook-line-and-sinker type.

I dread the rest of the series because I don’t know if things will just get worse; but then I also anticipate watching the rest of the series because maybe TVB’s writing and production man-power was placed in the rest of the story and things will get better. Maybe that expositional build-up was simply a quick hash together to get the main lead where he needs to be. But then the production staff is really going to have to put in beyond 100% effort to make up for it in the long run. Especially explaining the time travel mechanism which already didn’t make any sense.

For the first 40 minutes of this episode, I found that I absolutely do NOT like our main character already. He’s a game obsessed lazy layabout who feels like he’s entitled to luxury just because... well... just because. He doesn’t even have a good reason for being a bad son who has no stable career at his age (which I’m assuming is somewhere nearing his thirties, because, let’s face it, there is no way that Kenneth Ma is getting away with being an early twenties), spends all of his days playing MMOs, online chatting with several web-girlfriends, and just being a pain in the ass to his family. He’s fortunate that, at the very least, his little sister (played by Cilla Kung) seems to think he’s a decent human being. I feel sorry for her already, because she’s either going to figure out that he’s a leeching worm and disown him which will break her heart, or she’s going to forever idolize him for some unknown reason other than the fact that he’s her big brother.

I’m not saying that Sze-ma Shun is a bad person. On the contrary, I’m sure he IS a decent human being underneath all of his lazy, good-for-nothing immaturity. At the very least, he won’t leave a stranded stranger to die on the side of a mountain, and he values his friendships. He’s not the type who will go out and commit illegal acts even for his own benefits. But let’s face it, he’s a thirty year old man stuck in a sixteen year old mindset. He thinks he should be entitled to being a lazy teenage boy when, at his age, he really should be getting a job, making his own money, and at least NOT giving his family any grief.

But this might be the standard immature asshole to noble hero trope as our character plot device. Sze-ma Shun, through time-leaping backwards into the Three Kingdoms era, learns the values of family, ambition, and maturity before he gets catapulted back into his own time. So this, my friends, is more than likely a lovely TVB-ified story of one man-child’s growth in character. I see nothing less happening because TVB is predictable.

The entire first episode of this series had been a little hard for me to swallow, probably because Sze-ma Shun is made out to be such a spoiled brat. I welcome the fact that he’s got SOME appreciation for history through his gaming, and the fact that he values his friends and the code of brotherhood honor (this will all come in handy for his convenient time-leap back into an era where brothership is extremely significant; especially during war). At least he’s got something he can play off of. I mean, we can’t ALL be Hang Xiao Long and start off as the genius warrior who just keeps getting smarter and stronger as the show progresses. (Also, Louis Koo is a much better actor than Kenneth Ma, by all standards).

So here’s a quick run-down:

Sze-ma Shun gets into fights regularly with his father who tells him he needs to work to earn money while the guy practically scolds his father for not straight out just giving him money. Sze-ma Shun spends his days slacking off from work, treating his friends to his father’s restaurants good food, and works as an extra on filming sets (you know, the type who play a random citizen or soldier and die in multiple frames but no one ever notices the same guy playing different roles who appear for a whole of two seconds). Sze-ma Shun has slacker friends as well and together, they spend their time playing video games, slacking off together, ogling girls' and their legs, and making trouble like putting sticky rat capture glue on an expensive car after breaking into it and finding a little packet of illegal substance. And then this is where we find the value of Sze-ma Shun’s friends who both point fingers at him dealing in the illegal while getting themselves off the hook. And believe me, I don’t feel sorry at all for the rat bastard, though I kind of wish he was being punished for his own wrong-doings rather than being framed for something some other asshole in the present did.

Basically, if Sze-ma Shun’s entire progression is to become a better man, then he has A LOT of work to do; otherwise, I may not be able to relate with his plight at all.

Finally, while on the set of an historical drama and/or movie playing the role of a soldier who probably dies after his scene is over, that freak storm hits Hong Kong and magical stuff happens. Due to being framed for possession of illegal substance and obstruction of justice, Sze-ma Shun runs away from the police who are trying to arrest him and ends up in some mountainous cavern where our time-traveling mysticism takes affect with some shoddy CGI (and some shoddier acting from Kenneth Ma where I wince and cry at the same time, because, Dude, I know you can do better than that!). The last five minutes of the series shows Sze-ma Shun walking around thinking that he's still in filming set when he runs across others in historical garb and speaking in historical tones (and he's still in his historical soldier get-up as well). And when people are killed and an army rushes passed his line of vision on the trails below, he finally realizes that he's probably not in modern-day Hong Kong anymore.

Clearly, the series has a direction. It just had no idea how to get us there without pleading that we give into a full-out suspension of disbelief at all costs. We have a despicable main lead who is being over-acted to death by someone who knows better what acting should look like; and then there are shoddy CGI and really cruddy magical components at play. I'm not sure I'll be able to get over the magic bubble thing being a time warp portal. But I'll persevere...

Fortunately, there’s also Raymond Lam who is more than likely the other main male lead (as per typical TVB standards, they wouldn’t cast this guy aside for the other one so easily; and also, his character is the first to be presented in the opening theme sequence which usually means that he's the true main character). He will make his role bearable, at the least, and maybe now that we're in the proper era of the series' setting, the story will take off with better pacing.

The last five minutes of the first episode is what actually got my excitement all hyped up finally, bringing me back to where I’ve been standing all this time about Three Kingdoms RPG. Sze-ma Shun, by some strange force of nature (literally some freak storm approaching Hong Kong and what looks like magical force field bubbles and some terrible directing and acting conveyance), somehow gets sent back into the Three Kingdoms era. We don’t know how or why this happened, but it does, and as far as time-traveling series goes, I would bet big bucks that the time-travel mechanism will be left in the dust as the series progresses. TVB’s aim is to get the hero where he needs to be, no matter how tacky or unbelievable. Explanations will either take place a lot later on after we quit caring about the whys and the hows, or they will never be addressed again.

But anyway, I’m excited because the adventure is now about to begin. I expected no less of TVB, but I had at least expected to be able to relate with the main guy from the beginning. I guess that plot point will just have to be addressed later. I also expected a little more from Kenneth Ma as well, but it seems like he’s in that “the director needs over-extreme comedic acting exaggerations NOW” mode; which is painful coming from him when you know (and I repeat again and again) he can do better.

For the meantime, I look forward to seeing my beloved Raymond Lam in his revered Chu Kot Leung role -- a man who was known throughout China as the best war strategist... well, EVER. And then once Sze-ma Shun learns how to man up and mature, I expect some good old lovey-dovey bromance to take place. Ever since their last series together (The Four), I’ve missed seeing some of these young TVB stars gather in one series to present their bromantic awesomeness-es. (Okay, enough of the fangirl-ing.)

As far as cast goes, I’ve been a little wary of Kenneth Ma taking center-stage next to Raymond Lam. For one, Ray is going to outshine Kenneth Ma no matter what; no questions. Kenneth Ma isn’t a terrible actor or anything, but he’s also not the most natural either. He has his moments. He settles into his characters really well, and he conveys emotions decently. But sometimes, he tends to flatline it and I’m forced to ask myself “Does this situation suddenly feel like he’s trying too hard to convey his character’s feelings?” In other words, if I have to ask that question, then the answer is most likely a big fat “Yes.”

A lot of TVB actors and actresses have a tendency to overdo their acting a little bit under certain circumstances (especially comedic situations). I don’t know if this is something to do with the directing or maybe a misconception of what is acceptable as a form of acting. But even the best of the best have had their flaws, and the ones who manage to break out of that mold usually end up leaving TVB in pursuit of movie roles (others just get lucky that I can still suspend my disbelief that he or she is in character). Kenneth Ma has his bumpy moments when he can get so into character that I appreciate his rapport with his role, but then sometimes he falls out of sync and I’m shown that he’s just some actor doing his job.

Oh... but it would appear that he is definitely in character this time around. Unfortunately, the agony of his character is probably part of directing and writing flaws. Too tacky, too fake, and too much... so I hope the atmosphere of the series tones him down a little bit now that he’s done his time leap.

I’ve gone and watched a couple other series from TVB recently, and Three Kingdoms RPG is the big one I’ve been anticipating. So maybe my love for this little station’s productions will be rekindled soon. It’s not like TVB has dropped off of my radar; I just wish that they would return to their former glory from back in the 90s to SOME of the early 2000s productions. Or maybe my ranges have just expanded way too much now that I’ve included Korean dramas, Taiwanese dramas and Japanese doramas into my scope.

We will see how this works out as I have my eye on two other TVB productions that are currently airing as well. On the other hand, there are a slew of Korean dramas that are about to premiere in the next month and I don’t know if I have that kind of time to try appreciating everything.

As far as Three Kingdoms RPG goes, it seems like the next episode is really where the story’s adventure will begin. The first episode spent its entirety building up our main character to be the lazy, immature sleaze bag we will learn to either hate or love, depending on his development. Not much to go off of, but maybe by the third or fourth episode, I’ll have an idea where this series is heading.

Monday, April 30, 2012

news: I'm back... well... sort of...

A sincere bow and apology conveyed through Bo the Chicken

And we won't know for how long this will last; however, my desire to continue blogging is quite strong. I'm just going to take it easy because I completely overwhelmed myself. I admit that I went into K-Drama overload like a crack addict and overdosed a little (or a LOT) and so I needed a holiday (or rehab). I sincerely apologize for going absent for so long and I understand that I may have lost the few readers I DID end up procuring. So if you're reading this, thank you so very much for staying with me and having faith that I would return.

For the past month (or two? three?) I actually spent reading books. It was actually pretty nice and kind of refreshing. For some of my book reviews, hop on over to my personal blog (which is slowly becoming a book blog).

After that, I then discovered something interesting: I hadn't completely given up on TVB yet. Well, to be fair, I don't think I ever assumed that I'd given up on TVB (my mother ship). I just started becoming disappointed in them and the fact that I couldn't even finish one series since 2010. But lo and behold, I picked up a medical drama starring my favorite Hong Kong actress in TVB (not depicted in the photo above) and watched the series until its disastrous, bitter end. I may or may not include a short review of the series as well as a separate post about the ending that hadn't quite satisfied, but at the same time wasn't at all THAT horrible (terminal illnesses and couple curtain calls and all included).

Following, I decided to indulge in some recent Hong Kong series from TVB that I had actually enjoyed (questionable endings and all). The thing about TVB series is that they aren't perfect and even if the series have great build-ups, awesome acting and attention to detail, there is always a point where the series will turn for the worst -- usually either half-way through when the writers get into a "writing blockade" or nearing the end where a "trend-setting funk" takes over. And so either the series doesn't know where its going, or the series decides to head straight into angsty K-Drama territory on weed wherein it involves the right elements, but is executed completely (and unnecessarily) wrong.

But I digress.

I think I maybe watched three TVB series before I ended up leaving town for vacation and couldn't seem to get back into that "reminiscing" stance anymore. So I spent another day or two in that floating "I don't know what I wanna do" period until I stumbled across the Taiwanese Drama savior to my boredom as well as renewed interest.

Ti Amo Chocolate, which I will talk about in more detail after I finish watching the series, had the elements for my cure-all of all things entertainment: cross-dressing girl as boy, let the romantic comedy and sticky situations ensue! There is nothing that grabs my attention more than this particular cliche and to be totally honest, I don't know why I love this plot device so much, but I do and there's no changing that. Yes, I was a wee bit more excited that I am willing to admit, but upon the viewing of episode number one, I think I hooked myself just for the sake of the girl-disguised-as-boy basis (which doesn't always work, but is usually one of the best attractions -- I will refrain from bad-mouthing such series as Taiwanese Drama called Boy and Girl). If anything, I may or may not throw in a first impression post soon even though I'm probably already half-way through the series. But who cares, really?

Ti Amo Chocolate gave me that flare I had for beautiful men, romantic comedies, and all things fluffy all over again. Or maybe I just needed a reprieve from angsty K-Drama tropes for a while.

And so my new obsession? Vanness Wu, Wu Jian Hau. He's so lovely that I just want to squeal. And the funny thing is, he's not particularly THAT good looking, but he's got some sort of charm about him that MAKES him extremely attractive. I don't know what it is (Eyes? Style? Onscreen charm? It might be the eyes, really.), but it's there and I love it!

And so on with the romantic comedies of Taiwanese Idol Drama galore. I finally managed to finish Love Keeps Going (painfully) and jumped back into the Skip Beat! wagon, finishing that series with a bit of amusement and some hard laughter that I never thought I could find in the comedy of Skip Beat!. It was quite shocking actually, especially after I totally dismissed Taiwanese Idol Drama's penchant for comedy in the first impression post of Skip Beat!, saying that they just don't know how to do comedy correctly and saying that it all just ends up being awkward and tacky. SOMEONE must have been listening.

I have plans to also watch Material Queen (90% because of Vanness Wu; 10% because of romantic comedy faithfulness). I may or may not continue hovering the Taiwanese Idol Drama scene.

I managed to marathon Autumn's Concerto, picking it up 80% because of Vanness Wu and 20% because of the story, which is started to change ratios to somewhere more around 50% story after the story started to pick up a bit more half-way through the series. Watching this series is a total shock to myself, because if I had to place a label, I would call this series a melodrama with all the right cliches, executed quite reasonably. I'm not saying they're the best tropes nor is the story line really that great. But I like where the story is going and I like the pacing and the developments (despite how predictable a lot of it is), and there's this sincere feel to it that just makes it hard to stop watching. It also doesn't help much that the entire basis of the series has already been laid out in the summaries found anywhere as well as from the short cut-scenes for commercial breaks, and so while watching this series, you know exactly what's going to happen from day one until the end. HOWEVER, you still direly want to know how it gets there because you get to watch two people fall in love, separate through angsty cliches and then reunite somehow.

I'm enjoying it a LOT. It's a sweet love story with a LOT of feel. And I usually DON'T like melodramas. Or maybe I'm a clost melo-romance fan. Hard to say.

More on that series after I finally finish it, however.

I have no definite plans for the moment right after posting this particular news article. I have the desire to simply write the short reviews (the intro info pieces) for everything I've been watching lately. Alongside those will also be the less "spoiler" friendly discussions (which I call discussions even though I'm the only one doing the discussing of) of those series. Such articles may or may not end up being posted:

Dream High 2 -- thoughts and final verdict -- wherein I will be doing a LOT of criticizing and will explain why I ultimately dropped this series for good.

The Hippocratic Crush -- thoughts and intro info -- I just feel like I have some things to say about this one.

Ti Amo Chocolate -- first impression and final verdict -- because I can.

Ode to Vanness Wu -- this might just be a squealy picture-fest as well as the officially banner changing ceremony wherein this blog's banner finally gets a new look after I come around to creating a new look.

As for the rest of those Korean Dramas that I had started and haven't quite finished yet, well, just to be sure no one is disappointed in me, I DO have a desire to finish those series. I'm still recovering from my K-drama overdose and will just have to take things slowly. It's not that I don't want to finish them, it's just that I don't know where to start. And now with some really good looking new series out in a winning line (Lee Seung Gi as a prince in The King 2 Hearts; a quirky time-traveling romance piece that seems to be making quite the hit) as well as others that are coming into the light soon (Gong Yoo's comeback in a Hong Sisters' production anyone?; Lee Jun Ki's comeback with the lovely Shin Min Ah in a historic setting?; Song Joong Ki and Moon Chae Won, together, as a main couple?), I'm almost afraid that I might go into overload again and have to take an even longer holiday to recover.

On top of that, TVB is finally ushering out the one series I've been anticipating since the first time I saw the promotion clips, Return to Three Kingdoms, which has been renamed Three Kingdoms RPG (which works with the series' basis, but still sounds tacky no matter how hard you try to make it work, to be totally honest). But given the premise of the series, my two favorite TVB stars Raymond Lam and Tavia Yeung, as well as one actor who grows on me if his character is agreeable... I've been in this tent for a long time coming already.

But anyway, life in the Asian Drama world is thus and I really DO hope that I can continue to enjoy as well as share my thoughts while I'm at it. It would be pretty awesome to be able to continue blogging and watching drama series as well. There are also some really nice Korean movies I'm interested in partaking in too. Blogging movies, however, has always been a bit hard for me depending on how I manage to NOT spoil anything (since I plan on having NO intro info posts for movies at all).