Friday, February 20, 2015

"Officer Geomancer" Review

Series aired in TVB's "death slot" over the holidays are not always bad. In fact, they can be pretty darn entertaining, and "Officer Geomancer" is an example of this.

With TVB's recycling of onscreen pairings, you will be hard pressed to find a more refreshing pairing in the last year or so than Johnson Lee and Joey Meng. Although I like both actors, I will admit I did not expect anything much from this pair. However, the two have so much romantic and sweet chemistry, and play off each other extremely well.

Always a charming and funny supporting actor, Johnson thankfully does not lose these qualities as a lead. I had my reservations on how he would fare in holding up a series on his own shoulders, but was pleasantly surprised at the results. He brings over the qualities that make him an enjoyable actor to watch, which is perhaps more impressive here as he plays a more humble and grounded yet still playful character than his usual more flirty and upbeat ones. Would I mind seeing him in more leading roles? As long as the character is likable, definitely not.

After seeing Joey in a weak and timid role in "Come On, Cousin," it is a relief to see her in a strong role again. With her acting capabilities and tall, fit stature, it's no surprise she is able to both look and naturally act the part of a madam, unlike certain female actresses (I won't name names), while also giving her some vulnerability and sweetness.

The two's interactions are filled with tension and chemistry, and some of their moments are so funny yet sweet and cute at the same time. One of my favorite scenes is when Johnson foresees him and Joey getting into a car accident, so he brings along a helmet to wear when riding with her, then seeing the car chase is about come to a screeching halt, proceeds to put the helmet onto her head right before they crash.

As a procedural drama though, "Officer Geomancer" falls somewhere between average and below average. Most of the cases are not overly boring, but also not very engaging, and the incorporation of the geomancy themes often just felt odd. The cases operate better as background to the development of its lead characters and supporting ones.

While Johnson and Joey were the refreshing couple, the stand out of the supporting cast and most refreshing performance is easily Harriet Yeung. Initially very loud and over the top when "Che Gwai Mei" first made her entrance, I was relieved to see Harriet, as well as the character, quickly toned it down to instead become the upbeat, enthusiastic, passionate reporter, and loyal friend. She was natural, funny, and very fun to watch.

Although Oscar Leung does best at street smart, loud-mouthed roles, "Leung Sing Kau," who is always referred to as "Blabbermouth," really exhausts Oscar's specialty, to the point he becomes annoying. Blabbermouth is one of those people who you can only deal with in small doses. However, his friendship and scenes with Harriet could be quite entertaining and sweet, which would make him a lot easier to watch.

The supporting characters that are incredibly puzzling are Tit Leung Chi and Roy, played by Rebecca Zhu and William Chak. It was a nice change to see Rebecca in a tomboyish role, which resulted in some cute and amusing scenes.  However, the characters are written so sloppily and the storyline so rushed that viewers fail to pinpoint any instance where Leung Chi started to develop feelings for Blabbermouth and later Roy. Roy was incredibly underdeveloped with many inconsistencies, particularly how he dresses and acts with dorky and shy mannerisms, which completely disappear whenever he is at the boxing club. Viewers simply could never tell where Leung Chi's feelings came from, which made the love square come off as strange. William is a decent and very affable actor who is also easy on the eyes, so I hated seeing him wasted here and hope to see him in heavier roles with more screen time soon.

While most of the cases are neither hit or misses, the "plot twist" storyline with Yung Jai was just bizarre and completely unrealistic and where the series crashes and burns, and the series gets some serious points docked for this. I saw this twist coming by the last few episodes, but was wishing I had been wrong all the way until its end.

"Officer Geomancer" has little to offer as a procedural drama, but then again, so do most procedurals from TVB these days. What makes it a swift and entertaining watch is the great chemistry between Johnson and Joey, which sees them in scenes that range from funny to cute to playful to sweet to full of angst. Start this because you're bored and looking for a way to kill the time, and finish it because the chemistry between these two are undeniable.

Rating: 3 stars

"Madam Cutie on Duty" Review

Before I started "Madam Cutie on Duty," I thought the series would go in either one of two different directions: It would be an enjoyable lighthearted drama, or a very lame and unfunny one. The selection of scenes from the theme video seemed to make it point towards the latter. Thankfully, after a more over the top premiere episode, "Madam Cutie" becomes yet another funny and fun series that is very entertaining.

Although the series has a likable supporting cast consisting of faces like Mandy Wong, Kaki Leung, Rachel Kan, and Raymond Cho, it is romantic leads Priscilla Wong and Edwin Siu who make it worth watching. 

Priscilla and Edwin met filming this series, but what is surprising to hear is that the two did not even befriend each other until after filming completed, and would typically go into their respective corners when the cameras stopped rolling. This does not show at all on screen, as the two looked completely comfortable with each other and evoke playful chemistry while their characters bickered, and sweetness as they started to become friends and care for one another. Without this chemistry between the leads, "Madam Cutie" would have been a complete bust.

On her own, Priscilla is able to prove critics who say her acting is one-note wrong. Here, she has plenty of room to show audiences her comedic talent and timing and delivers as "Fa Ping." She is endearing, cute, and at often times laugh-out-loud funny without becoming too exaggerated. The moments where she notices herself morphing more and more into a housewife were probably the most comical. I hope to see her in more comedic roles such as this.

Edwin does not shine as much on his own as his female lead, but is still likable as "Law Dai Shu" and it is nice to be able to see him finally taking on a lead role. He delivers solidly with what he is given, but the script does not provide him with anything he has not done before. My major complaint is that while it was appropriate for the character, I constantly wanted to brush Edwin's messy hair.

Although not a star-studded trio besides for Mandy Wong, the three housewives Priscilla befriends are great. While Mandy's screen time significantly decreases in the last few episodes, it is obvious that she has got these housewife roles down pat. Instead of being loud-mouthed and obnoxious, her character is much more soft-spoken yet still clever here, and she plays it effortlessly and with cuteness. Kaki Leung has vastly improved since her debut in "E.U." and is quite likable to watch now. It was a pleasure to see Rachel Kan in a larger role, and she proved to be quite amusing at times, particularly with her superstitions, all the while being sympathetic. The sweetest part though was seeing Fa Ping genuinely growing closer and caring about the housewives and developing a real friendship with them.

The subplots of the supporting characters themselves are watchable enough, but are not as interesting and entertaining as the main storyline of Priscilla and Edwin living and working together to investigate the case. However, I did enjoy Rachel's storyline with her son, and how he gradually matured and came to appreciate her.

Unfortunately, the series is not without some weak links that bring the series down from being the most easy and light fun it can be. Lee Yee Man gives the most annoying performance as well as the creepiest. Many of the older cast member's characters were a drag to watch too. How many more times is TVB going to make Rosanne Lui play the mean and spiteful mother-in-law and Mary Hon the mother who abandons her kids? Susan Tse's character is also rather irritating, and I would much rather either see her in more kindhearted mother or clever villain roles again. The worst storyline though is the return of Mary as Dai Shu's mother in the last few episodes of the series, which seemed like more of an excuse to give Edwin some emotional scenes and push Dai Shu and Fa Ping closer together. It is TVB at their usual with the overdramatic and soapy family drama. Luckily though, the series bounces right back for a hilarious final episode that sees the housewives defending themselves (and winning!) against gangsters with pots and pans and ketchup bottles. 

Overall, while there are some less than stellar points, "Madam Cutie on Duty" is yet another easy and enjoyable watch from TVB, while also being funnier than most lighthearted series. Leads Priscilla and Edwin are what make the series a delight to watch, but Mandy, Kaki, and Rachel shine at their own certain moments as well.

Rating: 3.5 stars