Thursday, December 5, 2013

TVB 46th Anniversary: My Predictions and Picks

That time of year has come again! Despite my rather unstable interest in TVB and its series these days (I've watched and actually completed maybe 5 this year), the anniversary season always makes me excited. With that, here is my annual post on my predictions and picks for the awards show!

Best Actor 



Predicted Winner: Chilam Cheung
Predicted Top 5: 
Chilam Cheung, Francis Ng, Kenneth Ma, Wayne Lai, Dayo Wong
Most Deserving:
 
Ruco Chan
P
ersonal Choice: Ruco Chan

The race for Best Actor this year has been an interesting one. Despite TVB's tendency to not like giving awards to "non-biological children", many of this year's hot choices have been non-managed artists, from Chilam to Francis to Dayo. While it was initially thought to be Kenneth's year, Chilam's popularity has surged since portraying "Captain Cool". TVB will likely give the award to him as an incentive to film more often. While I agree Chilam is charismatic and entertaining, I found his character to be highly overrated and poorly developed, going from a carefree playboy to a lovelorn, clingy man without much explanation. However, biases aside, the strongest and most intriguing male lead performance of the year has got to be Ruco as "Sam" in "Brother's Keeper." Although the series held some plot holes and Sam's development wasn't always completely logical, Ruco portrayed the complex character phenomenally. Heck, he deserves an award just for the scene where he hugs a blindfolded and kidnapped Linda from behind. You know an actor has true talent when he or she can show so much emotion through nothing but their eyes.

Best Actress 



Predicted Winner: Kristal Tin
Predicted Top 5: Kristal, Linda Chung, Joey Meng, Tavia Yeung, and Kate Tsui
Most Deserving: Kristal and Joey
Personal Choice: Joey

If TVB still has any sense of fairness and good judgement, they will not bestow the title of "TV Queen" to Linda, or at least not this year and for "Brother's Keeper." Linda is hardly the worst actress out there and has given decent performances, but "Rachel" is nowhere near her representative work. To award her for this role would be a huge joke simply because the character gave no room to Linda to actually show her acting. As for who I think is most deserving and like to see win, it's a very tough choice and close call between Joey and Kristal. If I had to choose, I would pick Joey for her deliciously evil and subtle, quiet, but scarily manipulative and cunning villain.

Favorite Male Character


Predicted Winner: Kenneth Ma
Most Deserving: Ruco Chan
Personal Choice: Ruco Chan

Kenneth will lose again, and receive this as consolation. Once again.

Favorite Female Character


Predicted Winner: Linda Chung
Most Deserving: Kristal Tin
Personal Choice: Kristal

In the case TVB is fair and really does give Kristal Best Actress, they will probably also want to give a consolation to Linda. However, if it's anyone who deserves a double win this year, it's Kristal. Though over the top at times, "Ah Ying" was indeed a meaty and lovable character who you couldn't help but root for.

Best Supporting Actor 


Predicted Winner: Edwin Siu
Predicted Top 2: Edwin, Him Law
Most Deserving: Edwin
Personal Choice: Edwin
Most notable snub: Vincent Wong in "A Change of Heart"

Other snubs: Max Cheung, Geoffrey Wong, and Glen Lee in "Come Home Love"

At a whooping 15 nominations, TVB has a tendency to nominate almost everyone, if not everyone, for an award, reducing the prestige of one. Yet, they manage to snub Vincent when he gives the strongest, most endearing, and natural performance of his career so far. Since Griselda Yeung received a surprise nomination, I would have also liked to see either Max, Geoffrey, or Glen receive one for their work on "Come Home Love" as well. And yet, Jason was nominated despite being heavily criticized for his unnatural performance in "Will Power." But I digress. TVB seems to really want to give Edwin a reward considering the presence of his name in every acting/character category, and if he takes home any award, I think it will be this one. While "A Great Way to Care 2" was not a huge hit amongst audiences, Edwin's star is continuing to shine brighter. He does not create as much buzz as actors like Him, but has improved immensely since his "Aqua Hero" days, possesses so much charm and affability, and injects honesty in his portrayals. I can only hope that TVB will finally recognize him for this on the night of the 16th. Since last year saw TVB only revealing the top 2 nominees, I'm thinking Him will be Edwin's biggest competitor.

Best Supporting Actress 




Predicted Winner: Elena Kong
Predicted Top 2: Elena, Mandy Wong
Most Deserving: Elena
Personal Choice: N/A


This is probably the most boring category this year. No one has emerged as a front runner and it was never a much talked about topic among the press. With that said, like every year as of late, Elena and Mandy each have a chance and have been delivering as always. I would say the odds are more in Elena's favor as she is nominated for "Triumph." While I'm not betting on this one, I would not mind her finally taking this award home at all. Despite initially being worried about how awkward she and Kenneth would be together and disliking the series overall, it ended up being one of the subplots I quite enjoyed. However, there is no one I am outright rooting for this year.

Most Improved Actor


Predicted Winner: Jason Chan
Most Deserving: Vincent Wong
Personal Choice: Vincent
Most Notable Snub: Lai Lok Yi

If there's someone whose odds are not in his favor, it's Vincent. This would not be his first nomination for this category, but I have been wholeheartedly rooting for him to nab it this year since "A Change of Heart." His name would be written all over the award if it was based solely on acting performance. Sadly, the lack of buzz for the otherwise great series gives him next to no chance. I can still cross my fingers. If he loses to anyone, I'd rather it be Him or Edwin (though the latter is overqualified). Yet, TVB still seems set on grooming Jason despite him making the least improvements of the five guys. I'm slightly surprised and very disappointed to not see Lai Lok Yi on the list. I thought that Lok Yi was a lost cause and would only continue be a decent but bland actor, but he has improved so much as the playful, humorous, and rather cocky but kind "John Ma" in "Come Home Love." To not give him recognition for this is disappointing.

Most Improved Actress


Predicted Winner: Eliza Sam
Most Deserving: Grace Wong, Cilla Lok
Personal Choice: Grace

Priscilla is a hot contender, but it just feels too weird to me for TVB to give a newcomer in their debut year the "Most Improved" award. How can someone improve if they have just started out? Eliza is a more likely choice, though she has improved the least. It was a pleasant surprise to see Grace on the list as though I had previously disliked her, I genuinely enjoyed her in "Awfully Lawful" and found her very endearing and much more natural. Cilla has also improved by heaps and bounds in the last two years and gone from cringe worthy to cute, comfortable, and confident onscreen. Unfortunately, her youthful and baby faced look has her type casted in the little sister roles and would be hard to promote, giving TVB little incentive to give it to her.

Best Drama

Predicted Winner: "Triumph in the Skies 2"
Most Deserving: "A Change of Heart", "Brother's Keeper"
Personal Choice: "A Change of Heart"

The "Best Drama" award is usually one of two things: Totally predicable, or one big "WTF" (Ala last year's "When Heaven Burns" win). If TVB returns to the predictable road, ratings hit (but hopelessly overrated) "Triumph in the Skies 2" will win. However, I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of this year's other ratings hit and black horse "Inbound Troubles" nabbing it either. I highly enjoyed "Brother's Keeper", but will choose "A Change of Heart" as my overall personal choice for its perfect mixture of multiple genres and the former had more plot inconsistencies.

This is my fifth consecutive year writing a predictions post! I wonder how accurate I will be this year. Comment with who you think will win and what your personal choices are!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"A Change of Heart" Review


With a solid cast ensemble, interesting premise and good pacing, "A Change of Heart" is one of the better quality TVB series in a long time. In fact, in what has been a year full of mostly lighthearted series or universally panned dramatic serials ("Bullet Brain" or "Beauty at War" ring a bell?), "Change" is the best drama series the quickly disintegrating TV station has managed to churn out before the anniversary awards season begins.

Although any series over 20 episodes tend to drag at some point, "A Change of Heart" keeps the filler material to a minimum. There were a few slower episodes and moments here and there, but overall the series does well in not throwing in scenes simply to hike up the time and its 30 episode count is justified and necessary to tell the whole story while providing entertainment.

While I had been hoping that TVB would venture into a more dark and grim tone with this series, I was pleasantly surprised at the mix of comedy and drama it gave. "Change" exhibited a story line much heavier and overarching than the typical series, but the script smartly decided to not have it weighed down by excessive intense drama and smoothly in some laughs and chuckles. Other than the script, this can be mostly attributed to the cast and characters.

Leading man Michael Miu once again shows that age is doing nothing to hinder his charisma. In the early episodes before "Fong Chi Lik" underwent the heart transplant surgery, Michael injected hilarity into the original loud-speaking, aggressive and temperamental character who would have been otherwise annoying.

Perhaps it is because "Yuet Shan" greatly mirrors the real life personality of Bosco Wong, as both are business-savy and playful with an eccentric fashion sense, but Bosco appears very comfortable, natural and likable here. While Yuet Shan was a bit irritating and seemed childish compared to older brother Yat Shan initially, he quickly filled the void. He ended up becoming a more realistic character with his own flaws, but still a good guy, only more fleshed out. Something eye raising though is that Yuet Shan seems completely different from the long haired, rugged and depressed version from flashbacks. At times, Bosco seems to be playing himself, so I don't have too much praise, but he still made Yuet Shan charismatic, easy to like and root for. What I never saw coming and still don't understand though, is how and when Yuet Shan started to fall in love with Siu Kat. Their relationship came out of the blue, and felt forced. I kept thinking I had missed a scene or entire episode.

Mandy Wong's portrayal of "Ha Sze Ka", or "Sze Ka Che", was nothing surprising given her previous range of performances. Like Michael, Mandy is yet another example of an actor keeping a character from being annoying. Ha Sze Ka was rather overwhelming at times, but for the most part, Mandy made her funny and fresh.

Vincent Wong truly shows he has come a long way in his portrayal of the caring and well-meaning doctor "Eason", who happens to have a love for investigating cases. Not only is Vincent natural, but he exhibits surprise comedic timing from his facial expressions to his overall conduct as Eason. What I love about Vincent and what probably keeps him from getting mass recognition though, is how subtle he can be as an actor. His acting is full of small details that can easily go unnoticed as opposed to moments that speak loud and obviously. If the anniversary awards were judged on acting performance alone, Vincent would have "Most Improved Actor" in the bag. Due to the series not making much noise and Vincent overall being a low key actor with little favor from TVB, it's unlikely. I believe he will one day get the recognition he deserves, but hope it's sooner rather than later. He is quietly one of the most hardworking young actors today, and really got into character as "Eason".

Elaine Yiu's "Ah Yan" often felt out of place with the gang of friends. Although stubborn to the point of being rather annoying at first, her character seemed to become a means of comic relief in the last few episodes. Seeing her emotional scenes though, I am saddened how she is still stuck playing minor supporting roles or guest spots after so many years at TVB. She was much more convincing and touching than Niki in these scenes.

Benjamin Yuen once again shows potential in a performance as semi-villain "Martin". He is still missing some charm, but shows more depth in this particular performance and character, though Martin and Sin Hang's affair felt rather contrived.

The weakest link of the cast ensemble though, is easily female lead Niki Chow. For once, the character was not one tailor made for her by TVB, resulting in probably her weakest performance to date. "Yuen Siu Gut" was already a hard to warm up to character on paper, and Niki did not do it any favors. She mostly came off as wooden and aloof. In certain scenes, she even made her appear crazy. While I do not dislike Niki, "Siu Kat" was overall a hard to like female protagonist whose portrayer failed to make her any better. The character also had probably the worst wardrobe for a female lead ever. Everything Siu Kat wore was ill-fitting and unflattering.

Siu Kat however, is made more likable in scenes with close circle of friends Yuet Shan, Eason, Sze Ka Che and Ah Yan. Their scenes together were warm, fun, and brought a layer of comedy that kept the series from being hard to digest. What was particularly refreshing about the series was the subtle relationships that emerged. While not completely unpredictable, for once it was not obvious who would end up with who, or at least not until the last few episodes. Viewers could have easily been tricked into believing Mandy and Vincent would become a couple from the earlier episodes, or Bosco and Mandy.

As much as I enjoy loyal and warm friendships being portrayed on screen in place of overdone romantic love lines, at one point "Change" becomes distracted with this character development and focus. The series' emphasis is on the overall story and how the characters are intertwined, not purely on the characters themselves. While it made for an entertaining comedy-drama, it luckily gets itself back on track in the last 10 episodes.

Hands down the acting highlight of "A Change of Heart" is Joey Meng as villain "Tong Sin Hang". "Sin Hang" is one of TVB's best villains in a long time. Her slow transformation into evil is justified with a family background and series of personal hardships. Additionally, "Sin Hang" is quietly, almost silently manipulative, capable and powerful, making her that much scarier and intimidating than a typical obvious, almost cartoon-like villain. Joey gives it her all as the villain and it is evident in her chilling performance. She is definitely a contender for this year's Best Actress. Once again though, like with Vincent, the series failed to make much noise and Joey will probably be overlooked. Unfortunately, Sin Hang's character comes to a sloppy and unrealistic conclusion, reaching a peaceful ending without achieving even the slightest sign redemption.

The first 29 episodes of "Change" sees minimal inconsistencies, plot holes, and for the most part entertains and delivers. What saddens me is that hands down the worst written episode of the entire series is its last. Close to reaching a resolution, the writers threw in one of the most unbelievable plot twists. It ruined the dramatic, but overall still logical tone of the series. The climax is poorly written and highly unrealistic. However, I try not to let it ruin my overall positive impression. The ending overall is a decent one, with the characters getting the happy endings that they weren't far from and deserved.

Overall

"A Change of Heart" does what an entertaining drama should do. It keeps viewers guessing, wanting more, provides laughs as well as some twists and turns, and boosts characters and actors to like and connect with. Despite being 30 episodes long, it is able to sustain its momentum all through out the series and does not ever fall into the territory of being trite. Is it outstanding or groundbreaking? Definitely not. However, it has a solid main plot, series of subplots, and for the most part, a wonderful ensemble. It is the first TVB series of the year that I actually became invested into and closely followed, and the best series TVB has aired this year so far.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Till the World Ends" Episode 5

Raymond quickly grabbed a seat on the couch in the dance studio. He had been rehearsing choreography for his upcoming concert for the last four hours and was eager for a break. He had just started to let his eyes close when his manager Tammy came running in.

“Raymond, you have to be at a promotional event today at 6PM,” Tammy informed him.

“What?” Raymond quickly sat up in his seat. “You never toldme anything about an event today Tammy! I thought tonight was supposed to be my night off?”

“I know and I’m sorry, but this was a last minute arrangement and the more exposure you can get before your concert, the better,”she replied.

 “Alright. I guess I’ll have to miss dinner with my friends,” he sighed, and took out his cell phone to text Myolie to tell the others he won’t be able to make it tonight.

The promotional event wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Raymond sang two songs and proceeded to listen to the host drown on and on about the organization he runs, which honestly did not sound very reputable or well-meaning as he tried to make it. Afterwards, he went to get a cocktail and quietly snuck over to a less hectic side of the room. He always enjoyed singing, but he was almost always a little overwhelmed by the grandness of everything and just wanted a little quiet to himself.

"Hey, you were great up there," a female voice said. Raymond felt a tap on his arm and escaped from his trance to see a tall, curvaceous woman in her mid 20s in front of him. Her Cantonese was highly accented, but in kind of a cute way. Must be from Mainland, he thought.

"Thanks," he muttered out of obligation.

"You don't sound very enthusiastic now," she said playfully. "Anything wrong?"

"Oh sorry, I didn't mean to sound rude," Raymond replied, embarrassed. "I just wanted a little quiet, these events can be a little much," he said.

"I hear you, my feet are killing me," she said, reaching down to rub her ankle. She was wearing spiky 4-inch heels that actually looked like they could kill her.

"Why don't you just take them off?" Raymond asked her nicely.

She laughed, handling his comment as a friendly joke. "Right, because that would look so professional in front of all these people. Not to mention, who ever heard of a model who doesn't treat wearing heels like it's second nature?"

"No I'm serious," Raymond replied, and gently put one hand on her waist and moved her farther back in the room, then stood in front of her, mostly blocking her from other people's view. "Here, now you can give your feet a break without anyone noticing," he said with a mischievous smile.

"Thanks," she said, and laughed, with a smile as sweet as honey emerging on her face. "I'm Margaret, Margaret Zhao," she introduced, extending her hand to Raymond.

Raymond took her hand and shook it. "I'd introduce myself but..." he started.

"No introduction is needed," Margaret finished with a playful smile, and Raymond smiled back.

"Margaret, we have to go, the car's here!" called a middle aged woman, who approached them. She looked down at Margaret's feet in horror. "Why aren't you wearing your shoes?" she cried.

A look of shame washed over Margaret's face. "I'm sorry, Sandy," she said, and started to put back on her shoes. "I'll meet you in the car, just give me a minute!"

Sandy looked at Raymond and suddenly a phony smile came over her face. "Oh Raymond, it is so nice to meet you! I loved your performance" she said, then turned back to Margaret and her previous strict expression returned. "Two minutes," she said, then left.

"Sorry, my manager," Margaret explained to Raymond.

"She seems like a true pleasure," he replied with sarcasm.

"She's not so bad," she said. "Anyway, it was great meeting you."

"Same to you," Raymond smiled.

Margaret pulled a pen and old business card out of her clutch. "I don't usually do this," she started. "But if you ever want to give me a call," she started, then handed the card to Raymond, which she had written her number on.

"I will," he replied, taking the card and slipping it into his pocket.

"I should get going now, before my manager has a cow," she said.

"Have a good one," Raymond said, and waved to her as she started to walk away. Margaret waved back and gave him a wink as she left.

"Cute girl," he said to himself.

Tammy peered over his shoulder. "I don't have a good feeling about that girl..." she said warily.

Raymond jumped at the sight of Tammy behind him. "When did you get there?" he shouted.

"Keep your voice down! You're so jumpy," Tammy said.

"How many times have I told you not to do that to me?" he whispered, then took out his card to show to Tammy. "She gave me her number," he said happily.

Tammy looked at the card and rolled her eyes. "Are you still a teenager or something?" she asked.

Raymond put the card back into his pocket without responding.

"Beware of her though, those Mainland models usually come with a whole lot of trouble," Tammy said.

"Yeah, yeah," Raymond said.

"I mean it! We don't need some girl walking into your life and putting your career in jeopardy," Tammy  warned.

"She's just a girl I met who gave me her number, I'm not running away and eloping with her or anything!" Raymond argued.

His eyes drifted over to the table at the other side of the room. "Ooo, chocolate fountain," he said, putting his hands together in an excited fashion and leaving Tammy by herself.

Tammy rolled her eyes again. "Such a child," she muttered, then laughed. Her thoughts drifted back to Margaret again. "I don't have a good feeling about this..." she said.


**********


Earlier that same day, Ron was wrapping up another day working at the gym. “Alright, now do twenty sets of those,” Ron told Dan, one of his clients. It was his last personal training session of the day. He went to get his water bottle from his bag when he noticed Vincent on one of the weight lifting machines in the corner of his eye.
Ron patted Dan on the back after he finished his set and said “Great, that’s it for the day. I’ll see you on Tuesday,” then went over to where Vincent was.
“Hey, haven’t seen you around here before,” Ron said as he approached him.
Vincent looked up from his concentration. “Hey. Yeah, I just joined this gym, I used to go to the one a block away. You work here?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m a personal trainer here,” Ron replied. An awkward silence took over for a short moment.
“I’m sorry about barging in on you and Fala yesterday night,” Ron apologized.
Vincent looked up again in surprise. “Oh, it’s fine. You didn’t barge in on anything,” he said.

Ron scrunched his eyebrows. “Really? Then why did Fala grab me by the shirt collar yesterday and yelled at me for interrupting the moment?” he said.
Vincent laughed imagining her doing such a thing, then asked “She did?”
“Alright, let’s not beat around the bush. Fala told me what you said to her before I came in last night,” Ron bluntly said. “I can tell you like her buddy, and she seems to have a thing for you too.”
“She does?” Vincent asked.
“Yes. And I’m telling you now you can’t do much better than a girl like Fala. If you’re serious about courting her, hurry up and make your move already,” Ron said.
Vincent became quiet. “Okay, since we’re being blunt, I have a question for you, and I want you to answer me honestly,” he proposed.
“What is it?” Ron asked.
“Are you and Fala more than friends?” Vincent questioned, seriously.
“Easy question, no,” Ron said.

“And do you have any feelings for her?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong, I love her to death, but as a friend, a sister, and sometimes she acts like my mother,” Ron shared, and realized what was holding back Vincent.

“If you’re worried about me, don’t be,” Ron continued. “If anything else was going to happen between us, it would've happened by now. Fala is the greatest friend I could ask for, but we know way too much about each other to ever even stomach the idea of being more than friends,” he laughed.

Vincent laughed, and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Reassured yet?” Ron asked him, and Vincent nodded.


“So, while we’re on the subject of Fala...What is it you like about her?” Ron tried to pry, sitting down on a machine opposite Vincent.

Vincent laughed nervously. “Uh...She’s just amazing,” he began. “She’s smart, funny, witty and beautiful,” he said. “And the best part is she doesn’t even realize just how awesome she is.”

“Yes, that is true,” Ron honestly answered, then rolled his eyes. “Unless you’re me and she constantly reminds you about how lucky you are to have them as a friend,” he said.

“Are you serious about her?” Ron asked him in a serious tone.

“Of course!” Vincent exclaimed.
“Good. Just remember one thing though,” Ron said.

“Yes?”

“If you break her heart, I’ll break you,” Ron said with a straight face.
“Alright then,” Vincent said. “Don’t worry, I don’t ever intend on breaking her heart.”

Ron’s face formed into his typical goofy expression again. “Good, I’ll see you around then. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you a lot more often from now on,” he said, and playfully and lightly slapped him on the arm. Then, he started to poke Vincent’s arm.

“Hm, nice biceps,” he said.

“Um, thanks,” Vincent said with an awkward laugh, and Ron started to walk away.

“Hey, thanks for clearing it up with me!” Vincent called after him, to which Ron turned around and simply gave him a smile and a thumbs up sign.


**********

After another delicious home cooked meal courtesy of Myolie with some help from everyone, Kate sat at the kitchen counter punching numbers into a calculator. Edwin came over to sit down next to her. "What are you calculating there?" he asked.

Kate exhaled an exasperated sigh. "Even with mine and Myolie's savings, we don't have enough money for a substantial initial investment," she said.

Myolie looked up from the dishes and said "I still have some money left over, but I'm hesitant about pulling out all of my savings." 

Ron, bored, came over to offer to help do the dishes to have Myolie slap his hand away. "You'll only make it dirtier," she claimed. Ron looked at Bosco, who was drying dishes beside Myolie, and put up his hands in defeat. Bosco laughed and shrugged.

"Oh, that reminds me," Bosco said, putting the dish he was drying down and going over to his messenger bag on the couch. He pulled out a check from the pocket and set it down in front of Kate.

"I am investing into Little Sweet Things," he said. Kate picked up the check in surprise, and Myolie scurried over to look at it.

Kate started to hand it back to Bosco. "Bosco, we can't take this," she said.

Bosco set it back down. "Yes you can," he replied.

"No, we can't," she resisted again.

"I insist," he said.

Myolie snatched the check and slipped it into his back pocket. "Bosco, I appreciate this but you don't have to do this," she said.

"I am an interested businessman who thinks Little Sweet Things has potential and is worth investing into, okay?" Bosco said, opening Myolie's hand and putting the check into them. Myolie and Kate still looked hesitant.

"How about you take this as a rather pricey early joint birthday present for the both of you," he proposed.

"My birthday was last month, Bosco," Kate replied.

"Just take it," he said, setting it down one more time.

"Just take it guys!" Ron said from the couch. "Don't act like such traditional Asians and accept it, he's not giving away an arm and a leg. I'd invest too if I weren't broke," he joked. "Me too, but I'm a reporter, I don't make much money," Fala quipped.

Kate put her hands up in surrender. "Thank you very much for your investment and interest in Little Sweet Things, Bosco," she said, as if she had just finished making a business transaction.

Ella clapped her hands together. "Hooray, Little Sweet Things is back into business!" she said.

"Thank you," Myolie whispered to Bosco.

"Of course, sweetie," he said, and put his arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek while Myolie smiled sweetly.

"Alright, can we not make me want to throw up guys?" Fala joked.

"You're just jealous that's not you and Vincent yet," Ron said, poking her.

Ella's eyes lit up. "Who's Vincent?" she asked excitedly.

"He's just this guy at work," Fala tried to reply casually.

"Who has the hots for our girl right here," Ron finished for her. Fala hit him with one of the couch cushions.

"What? I'm just telling the truth!" he yelped.

Bosco came over and sat down on the couch beside them. "Someone's interested in our Fala?" he asked, intrigued.

"Okay, fine. I give up on you nosy people. Vincent and I were working on a story for the magazine and were getting along really well. He was about to tell me that he liked me and then Ron over here with his tiny bladder interrupted us before the poor guy could finish!" Fala exclaimed.

"I don't have a tiny bladder," Ron muttered.

"Do you like him too?" Ella asked curiously. Fala shrugged.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. "How about you get the door instead of interrogate me?" Fala teased Ella, who promptly got up to open it to see Raymond.

"Raymond, you made it after all!" Ella exclaimed.

Raymond smiled. "Yeah, I know I missed dinner but I figured since I still had some free time I should stop by and see my favorite people," he said.

"I thought your favorite people were those screaming female fans," Ron joked.

"Well, you guys are a close second," Raymond joked back. "So what are we talking about?" he asked, taking a seat on the recliner chair.

"Oh nothing, Fala was just telling us about her new love interest," Ron said.

"Oh, juicy," Raymond said. "Fill me in." Ella bent over to tell him what Fala just told them.

"Enough about me," Fala started in an effort to divert the attention away from yourself. "Meet any cute girls lately Mr. Superstar?" she asked.

"Actually, funny you should mention that," he replied.

"You player, you really did meet someone!" Ron said, pointing his finger at him. Raymond pushed his finger away.

"Her name's Margaret Zhao," Raymond said. "She's a model I met at the promotional event I went to today; she gave me her number." Ella felt her stomach sink after he said that.
Edwin searched her name on his tablet. "Is this her?" he asked, handing it to Raymond.

Raymond looked at the picture Edwin had pulled up. "Yeah that's her," he confirmed.

Ron snatched the tablet from Raymond. "Wow, sexy lady!" he said. "Mainland chick?"

"Yeah, why do people keep asking me that? Tammy said the same thing," Raymond said.

Fala peered over. "She has plastic surgery written all over her!" she said, and handed it to Ella.

The picture was of a voluptuous looking young Chinese woman, but like Fala said, it was evident that she had a lot of work done.

"Really, you guys Google her and criticize her looks?" Raymond asked.

"We're in a technological age and you just make it easier being in the public eye," Edwin replied.

"Well, she's a sweet and nice girl," Raymond argued.

"We're not saying she's not," Ron said. "But...I don't know. You should be careful. I heard those Mainland models can be a lot of trouble."

Raymond made an exasperated look. "You too?"

Kate came over and sat down on the floor beside Raymond. "Oh come on guys, let's be happy for Ray for finding a girl he likes," she said.

"Thank you," he said.

"But Ron's right, you should be careful. Not just because of the stereotypical notion that Mainland girls are trouble, but just because you've never been in an actual relationship since entering the industry. Dating's going to be different now," she warned.

"I understand, but guys, I know what I'm doing," Raymond said.

Ella looked down at the tablet at the picture of the girl who had just caught Raymond's eye in slight jealousy.

========================================================

Comments: Two episodes in two days! New record, haha! A longer episode than normally, but it didn't feel right to end it anywhere else and I wanted to be able to focus on more than one subplot this time around and have all the characters together again. It looks like love is about to blossom for both Fala and Raymond! However, one of these relationships will turn out to be a sticky situation. Perhaps Raymond should really listen to his friends and Tammy. *hint hint*

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Till the World Ends" Episode 4

HK Lifestyle magazine had just distributed this month's issue, and Fala sat at her desk twirling her pen deep in thought about what she should write next.  She had already written a fashion critique, a movie review, an editorial about the excessive technology use of today's generation and more.  She was experiencing what every writer dreaded most: writer's block.  Vincent sat across the room at his desk scratching his head trying to churn out ideas as well.

"Fala, Vincent, can you two see me in my office please?" said their boss Maggie Jie (cameo by Maggie Cheung) said from the door of her office, breaking their train of thought and evoking curiosity.  What did she want with them?

Inside Maggie's office, Fala and Vincent sat down with their backs straight a sense of self-awareness.

"I have good news," Maggie announced.  Fala and Vincent let out a simultaneous sigh of relief and relaxed their shoulders a little, making the atmosphere much less tense.

Fala's ears almost immediately perked up.  "Are we getting a promotion?" she asked with curious excitement.  Vincent chuckled at her bluntness.

"Don't get ahead of yourself there Fala, it's not that good news today," Maggie laughed.

Fala's face turned to one of disappointment so quickly Vincent had to hold back his laughter.

"I had a meeting with the CEO Mrs. Chan over the weekend, and she has been very happy with how HK Lifestyle has been doing lately.  She especially had a lot of praise for you two and thinks you are our best writers.  The pieces you write are fan favorites!" she exclaimed.

"That's fantastic!  Praise from the big boss," Vincent said.

"Yes, and we thought that for this issue you and Fala could collaborate on an op-ed piece for the magazine that presents both the female and male perspective of young Hong Kongers.  With the unique writing style and talent you two have, it could be something cutting edge, insightful, yet humorous that the readers would love!" Maggie said.

Fala nodded in acknowledgement, thinking about the possibilities.  "What would we have to write about?" she asked.  Next to her, Vincent tried to contain his surprise and excitement.

"That is up to you two to decide, I just want to approve the idea first," Maggie replied. "So do I have your word?" she asked.

Fala and Vincent looked at each other and simultaneously said "Of course!" Who could pass up such a great opportunity?

"Perfect, I'll let Mrs. Chan know," Maggie said, picking up the phone. She signaled them out of her office.

After exiting Maggie's office, Fala turned to Vincent and extended her hand out. "Here's to a good collaboration! But be careful of pushing my buttons," she said in a mock serious voice.

Vincent laughed and shook her hand. "I'll watch my back," he said. "Shall we start brainstorming then?"

Fala nodded and went to pull up the seat of her desk towards Vincent's as he sat down because, according to her, his desk "is in the ideal position, at the center of everything," whatever that meant. To this, Vincent just chuckled.

Fala and Vincent worked together, for the most part, in harmony. Sure, there was your typical bickering. Vincent teased her about some of her weird habits, like unintentionally clicking her pen repeatedly while deep in thought and she punched him in the arm in protest to only end up turning red, realizing he was right. She would attempt to make fun of him back but much to her displeasure, only made a fool of herself in the end. Not that Vincent actually thought she was a fool of course.

Fast forward two weeks later on a Friday evening, and the final draft of their op-ed piece, which was on what people are attracted to in the opposite sex and their take on the reasoning behind it, was due on Monday morning. However, there were still final revisions and finishing touches that had to be made.

Everybody was gathering their belongings and getting ready to leave for the weekend. Fala picked up her bag and went over to Vincent's desk. "Hey, instead of trying to work this out online, do you want to just come over to my place to finish?" she asked.

"Your place?" Vincent asked, a little startled. Although they had been getting along very well, their relationship had still been confined to the office and some online exchanges here and there up until that moment.

"Is that a problem?" Fala asked. Noticing the expression on his face, she added with a smile, "Don't worry, I don't have any creepy things hanging around my apartment or anything. Well, except for Ron when he comes over. Other than that I apparently have one of the neatest apartments ever."

"No, no it's not," he laughed. "I was just a little surprised, that's all. Um, so do you want to meet tonight or...?" he asked.

"Tonight is fine by me, unless you're too tired and want to meet tomorrow," Fala said.

"Alright, I can do tonight. Just give me your address and I'll swing by my place real quick and meet you there," Vincent said.

"Sounds good," she said and looked around for a post-it or piece of scratch paper to write her address on. "Are you kidding me, how can an office for a magazine be out of paper so often?" she asked, annoyingly.

Vincent looked around noticing the sudden disappearance of paper. "Of all things this place doesn't have enough of," he said with a chuckle.

Fala took a pen from her desk and picked up Vincent's hand and wrote her address on his hand, taking him by surprise. He could feel his heart suddenly beating a little faster and smiled a bit goofily. Oh crap, I hope I'm not turning red... he thought to himself.

"Are you okay? You're not worried I'm going to give you skin cancer by writing on your hand are you?" she asked, pulling him out of his momentary trance.

"Oh no, sorry, I was just thinking about something," Vincent replied, embarrassed.

Fala rolled her eyes at him and laughed. "I'll see you in a bit!" she said, leaving him to his embarrassed self.

**********

Ring, ring!

Fala opened her door later that night to see Vincent, who had changed from his semiformal work clothes to a more casual t-shirt and jeans. His hair was a little ruffled as always, but he looked more comfortable and actually quite attractive. However, something else seemed a little different. She wrinkled her nose. "Are you wearing cologne?" she asked.

"Yeah...too much?" Vincent replied, shyly. 

"No, it's just...since when do you wear cologne?" Fala asked, amused. 

"Oh, no particular reason," Vincent said, trying to keep his cool. "I figured since it's just us this time and not another 10 people around us I shouldn't risk smelling or else you'd think I have B.O."

Fala burst out laughing at the cute comment. "Well, don't stand there like the tall pole you are, come in so we can finish this thing," she said, signaling him to come in.

Two hours and many leftover cupcakes made by Myolie later, they finally finished their op-ed piece. 

"It's finally complete!" Fala said, throwing her arms up in the air in accomplishment. 

"This is a great piece," Vincent said. "I don't think I've ever gotten a chance to tell you this, but I really do think you're an amazing writer."

"Thanks," Fala smiled. "You know, you aren't so bad yourself. I'm sure all your female readers swoon at you with your little sensitive, understanding but humorous perspective," she said, to which he blushed.

Instead of wrapping up and calling it a day immediately though, they continued to chat. For some reason, Fala got this very sweet and at ease feeling around Vincent. She wasn't sure why he always seemed to have a goofy and embarrassed smile on around her though.

"Now, we wrote an entire piece on what we think people are attracted to in the opposite sex, but I still don't know what you are attracted to in a girl," Fala said, playfully. "So whose your ideal girl?" she nudged him with her foot from across the couch they were both sitting on.

"Hm..." Vincent looked into space thoughtfully. "My ideal girl...has to be smart of course. Someone who I can talk to and isn't afraid to be herself. She has to be genuine, sweet, funny, and beautiful inside and out," he said.

"That's asking for a little much isn't it?" Fala asked. "Not that I don't know some great girls, but..."

Vincent looked at her and something in him finally decided to do something about his irritatingly fast beating heart. "It wouldn't hurt if she had adorable dimples and was an amazing writer with a killer style too," he added. 

Taken aback, Fala put a hand to her face and felt her dimples. "Wait, are you talking about..." she started. Vincent bit his lip waiting for a reaction.

Suddenly, there was a rapid knock at the door. "Sorry, I need to get that," Fala said to Vincent and got up. Ron was on the opposite side of the door, still knocking when Fala opened it. She caught his hand, which apparently didn't realize the door was no longer there quick enough.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Ng?" she asked in a mocking tone, slightly annoyed at the interruption.

"I need to borrow your bathroom," Ron said.

"Are you kidding me?" Fala asked in disbelief.

"Well I was on my way home and I suddenly really needed to pee, and you happened to be close by so I thought I'd make a pit stop here!" he said.

"The gas station's close by too, I don't see you going there for a pit stop," Fala replied.

"Yeah but gas station restrooms are gross and your bathroom always smells like lavender," he said cheekily.

Fala rolled her eyes and opened the door for Ron to come in. Ron started to quickly run towards the direction of her bathroom when he noticed Vincent sitting on the couch, who had been watching the friend's exchange in slight discomfort, feeling as if he was the intruder.

"Hi...Vincent right?" Ron greeted in surprise.

"Yeah, Ron right?" Vincent replied awkwardly.

"Yeah..." Ron said. He turned to Fala and whispered "What's he doing here?"

Fala pinched his arm and he jumped backward in pain. "Didn't I tell you I was working on a story with Vincent?" she said, annoyed.

"Yes, yes you did, I just went blank for a second," Ron said, catching his mistake just barely in time. Fala scowled at him. "I listen to you, I swear!" Ron defended himself.

"It's nice to see you again man," he nodded to Vincent. "Anyway, nature's calling," Ron said and quickly darted to the bathroom and out of sight.

"I'm really sorry about that," Fala said to Vincent, embarrassed.

"It's fine," Vincent gave her a reassuring smile and pretended to playfully shrug it off, though a knot had started to twist inside his stomach watching the banter in front of him. He started to gather his stuff and got up.

"You're leaving?" Fala asked, disappointed.

"Yeah, it's getting late and we're all done here. Goodnight, I'll see you at work on Monday," he said, gently patting her on the side of the arm.

"Goodnight," she said quietly and closed the door for him, then walked towards the bathroom and barged through the door.

Ron looked up from washing his hands alarmed. "Hey you don't knock?! I could have still been half naked!" he protested.

"Why did you have to come in and ruin the moment?" Fala yelled, exasperated.

"What moment?" Ron said, blankly.

"He was telling me he..." Fala started, then trailed off.

"Telling you what?" he asked, then it came to him. "Oh, he really does like you!" he said.

"What? You know and you didn't tell me?" Fala said, grabbing her friend by the collar of his shirt. "How do you even know?"

"Please, it was obvious from the way he was looking at you when I came to give you lunch the other day," he said, then started to smile in a sly way. "Wow, somebody's worked up. Does Fala have a crush on someone?"

Fala's grasp of his shirt softened, as did her facial expression. She quickly realized how much her face was giving it away and wiped the smile off her face. "He's not so bad," she brushed it off.

Ron raised his finger and playfully pointed it at Fala. "Aw, somebody does have a crush," he said, then looked down. "Uh...can you let go of me now? Or do you want to take off my shirt or something?" he joked.

Fala looked down and realized she still hadn't let go of his shirt. "You're crazy," she said, letting go.

"Hey, I say that if my best friend catches a guy's eye, he must have good taste," he said to her, playfully putting his arm around her.

"Why thank you," Fala said. "That's the smartest and most sane thing you've said this entire time," she said.

"He also sure has a ton of patience to get through that whole facade of annoying to really get to know you," he added, mockingly.

"Ha, I could say the same about anyone who gets to know you!" she said back.

"Well, what can I say, we're special people," Ron stated. "I'll have to do some digging to see how this Vincent is though," he said to her.

"Don't scare him away again," she muttered.

"Alright, I'll try my best Ms. Longwinded," he rolled his eyes, then looked around. "Say, I know we are pretty weird, but why are we having this conversation in the bathroom?" he asked.

Fala looked around. "Hey, I needed to pick a bone with you right away. It's not my fault you had to answer nature's calling," she said, then turned to walk away. "I'm going to bed, you can see yourself out. Goodnight!" she said.

==================================================

Comments: I'm back after over a half-year hiatus from "Till the World Ends"! Apologizes it's a little slow and doesn't involve many characters. It took one whole episode to properly introduce Vincent's character, but I hope people like him because he'll be around for a while. The other characters will be back next episode and I'm looking forward to writing for them again. Hope not everyone has completely forgotten about this fic and will keep reading! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Slow Boat Home" Review


"Slow Boat Home" had promoted itself to be a refreshing youth-oriented and romantic lighthearted comedy. While the first half of the series did manage to be quite enjoyable and deliver many laughs, a closer look and one can easily tell that it quickly morphed into another typical TVB family drama. Although quite funny in its earlier episodes, it became yet another series with poorly written story lines weeded together and love stories that lacked a romantic factor that turned it lackluster and draggy.

The four leads all deliver, but the development and outline of their characters was sloppy.

Raymond Wong is solid as always and delivers as "Cheung Bo Jai". The character would have easily become annoying with his obnoxiousness in the early episodes, but instead Raymond made him quite hilarious. Yet, Cheung Bo Jai found himself primarily pining after Bo Bo (portrayed by Aimee Chan) and caught in the middle of family drama, lacking his own direction in life. Although he has a dream of owning his own boat, not much is ever done with this subplot until - you guessed it - he buys himself a huge yacht in the last episode.

Aimee Chan is surprisingly pleasant and very likable as "Bo Bo". She is charming and appears very comfortable onscreen due to the tailor made role and casual atmosphere. However, it is actually her character that puzzles me the most with her odd actions and behavior. She so readily settled down into life at Cheung Chau and gave up her career as a director that it was simply bizarre. I find it hard to believe Bo Bo would not return to New York when she could, had such a good attitude about working as a waitress when she was formerly a director, and so easily gave up on looking for her father (the reason she came to Cheung Chau) after learning it is not Mui Kei (portrayed by Ngok Wah).

As a huge fan of Ruco Chan, I become giddy every time I start a new series with him as lead. Now, this giddiness literally lasted all through out "The Other Truth", yet wore off for me here after just a
few episodes. Why? "Fit Wing" offers absolutely no challenge to Ruco's acting skills and range, and didn't present much more substance than that of a fool blinded by love.

Selena Li is given more of an acting challenge with "Heidi", who goes from greedy to good to being even more greedy than before and finally back to well, volunteer work doing, no make up wearing good. She does what she can with the role and it's nice to see her exercising her abilities a bit, but Heidi's character changes were abrupt and poorly done.

As said above, the love stories lack actual romance. Ruco and Selena share so much sweet and genuine chemistry, yet Fit Wing and Heidi's relationship was a constant back and forth with Heidi's regression, hurting and using Ruco as well as his loved ones time and time again, only to end with him forgiving her. And then the cycle repeats again. And again. Their relationship was dysfunctional and kept suffering the same setbacks. I feel teased that two such lovable and endearing onscreen love interests were given such a terrible love line.

Raymond and Aimee's line fared better. They were entertaining during their take as the classic bickering rivals turned couple, but I failed to see when Aimee started to return Raymond's feelings for her. Although they were fun together and shared chemistry, they too lacked romance.

However, "Slow Boat Home"'s most significant setback is how disconnected from each other the four main characters are. At first, the series seemed to tell two completely different stories, with one taking place in Cheung Chau and one in Hong Kong. Although this improved when Ruco and Selena's characters relocated back to Cheung Chau, it still couldn't hide the fact that the four were very much disconnected and lacked cohesion.

Friendship was a theme that would have been enjoyable to see develop, but the bonds beyond the two couples was not explored. Aimee and Ruco do not even share a scene together until almost halfway into the series, and Raymond and Selena had almost no interactions despite being childhood friends. It focused almost solely on the two couples and unnecessary family drama.

The most enjoyable aspect of the series though, was the bromance friendship between Raymond, Ruco and Matt Yeung. The three guys appeared very comfortable together and their friendship looked realistic, resulting in fun and warm scenes. However, these scenes were limited, particularly with Matt's minimal screen time and once again, disconnection to the group overall. Poor "Chuen So Kei" was constantly lost about what was going on between the four and almost consistently the last to find out.

Easily the most refreshing thing about "Slow Boat Home" is its location filming in Cheung Chau. It was a breath of fresh air to not see the same boring sets and filming sites yet again and instead see the natural beauty of this small town. Of course, this alone was not able to keep "Slow Boat Home" entertaining and fresh.

What becomes most evident about halfway through the series is that there is no actual point to it. There is no central story line, and just a bunch of poorly written story lines weeded together while the two main couples were pushed apart and back again and again. Not only does it become mixed with trite family drama, but allows itself to fall victim to cliched and random story lines like Oceane Zhu's and Elaine Yiu's. These subplots added nothing to the overall story (whatever that was) and seemed like they were simply included to drag out the series length. In addition, Lee Yee Man's character can probably go down as the most annoying character of the year.


Here's a fun fact: when the series was first proposed, it was supposed to have a music theme and showcase the musical talents of the cast. Ruco and Aimee were to play together on the guitar and piano respectively. Sadly, what showed up in the final script was Ruco strumming random guitar chords two or three times and no use of music as a theme. This is disappointing as it could have helped make "Slow Boat Home" more refreshing, particularly with its musically inclined cast (Ruco can play guitar and sing, Aimee can play piano, Selena can sing and compose and plays the piano, and Cilla was originally a singer). My guess is TVB backed out of this original concept to ease and simplify the filming and production process, since they love taking the easy way out. I would have loved to see music incorporated into this series.

Overall, "Slow Boat Home" is a series that starts off funny and entertaining, but its humor quickly wears off and goes down the trite family drama route traveled a hundred too many times by TVB series. All four leads are strong and likable, but either poor or inconsistent characterization keeps them from being utilized to full potential. If it weren't for the large amount of free time I have on my hands these days and the main cast, I would probably have dropped it by the last five episodes. There was plenty potential, and marketed as a youth-oriented romantic comedy, it had the opportunity to be something fresh. As most TVB series these days though, it is once again wasted potential.

Rating: 2.5 stars


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vote for and help Thanh aka MetalAZNWarrior win funds for his wedding!


Remember a blogger named Thanh, better known as MetalAZNWarrior?  Remember spending hours reading his blog TVB Musings and getting inspired to write because of it like me?  Well, he hasn't forgotten us and and wants our help!

He is getting married soon (anyone remember another great blogger? Nhi or Tkn Portrait ring a bell?), and has entered a contest with David's Bridal to win funds for his wedding.  Please read his marriage proposal story and vote for him everyday here: http://bit.ly/VLM0Gb.  Wasn't his proposal so creative and romantic? :)  Help him make his and Nhi's dream wedding come true!

Now that I've voted and told my readers to vote, I'm going to relive memories (and potentially find inspiration again) by rereading my mentor/"si fu"'s old posts on web.archive.org.  :P

Don't forget to vote!!

Love,
Iris

Monday, January 7, 2013

New banner and layout! Featuring Matthew Ko and STEPSTAGE


After having my 3 year anniversary layout gracing TVB Interaction since, well, my 3 year anniversary back in June, I thought it was time for a new look!

This time I featured Matthew Ko and his recently opened performing arts school "STEPSTAGE". For those who don't know, during the downtime Matthew had from his leg injury, he took the time to make a dream he had come true: start a performing arts training school for young children. This made me like and respect him a lot more as an artist and a person. He seems very bright and ambitious, and looks so adorable and comfortable around the children. I found a lot of cute pictures lying around, so I decided to make a banner out of them! The phrase "The arts are meant to be passed down..." is supposed to show how Matthew thinks of the arts as enrichment and should be exposed to children at a young age. Since the banner revolves around a youthful theme with Matthew and the little students, I decided to pick more fun and whimsical fonts and colors to go with it.

For the first time I'm using one of the new Blogger templates for a change. It looks refreshing, in my opinion. If I still prefer my old template though, I have the HTML code of it saved. What do you guys think?