Monday, June 15, 2015

"Will Power" Review

After skipping the series when it aired in 2013, I recently went back to watch "Will Power" after reading some good reviews.

I originally didn't have an interest in watching "Will Power" because of leads Wayne Lai and Moses Chan, which sounds silly since they are TV Kings. I was tired of seeing Wayne in his usual yelling roles at the time and was never a fan of Moses save for a few enjoyable performances here and there. However, they both deliver superb performances here and anchor the series.

Wayne Lai was finally able to play a character here where he doesn't have to constantly be screaming since being promoted to leading actor. Wilson Yu is a very smart, sharp, and confident lawyer who can command attention in the courtroom while still overall being someone who is calm and mild-mannered (except when it comes to Sheila sometimes anyway), allowing Wayne to be much more at ease here. His personal life, particularly his health, is somewhat of a hot mess in the first third of the series, and he plays a convincing stroke victim before Wilson is able to move past his psychological obstacles and get back into the courtroom.

In pure comedies, Moses Chan easily becomes over the top and annoying (though I do suspect it is mostly under the command of the director and people behind the scenes), and in dramas, he can become boring. However, he excels at roles such as "Morris Lee" where his character gets to be comical, charming, light, and playful, while still showing that he's serious and can get the job done.

However, Wayne and Moses are better together than apart and play off each other very well. They will make you laugh out loud, particularly in the early scenes they share together with their rivalry, even if they do act childish. The banter they engage in later on remains hilarious, perhaps even more so because the audience knows these two lawyers have grown to greatly respect and even like each other despite what they may say. Although the ladies' characters here are a complete disappointment, the mens' behavior because of them or towards them could become pretty darn funny, showing how Wilson and Morris are serious lawyers, but silly and jealous little boys at heart when it comes to the women they love.

Unfortunately, similar praise cannot be said for the female leads. Christine Ng gets to sit and act all judge-like, and Fala Chen gets to box a little, but other than that, they are there mostly to serve as the love interests of our leading men. As a result, they perform adequately but simply do not have much material to work with. There was potential for us to witness Fala's "Eugene" become a better lawyer, but she was later moved to the sidelines. Wayne and Christine look compatible as husband and wife, while I enjoyed Fala and Moses much more as close friends, and thought they looked more like brother and sister when they became a couple.

Jason Chan's acting here remains rather unnatural, but he is helped by having a relatively likable character. Sire Ma does quite well in her street-smart role, but her performance becomes more unstable when "Nana" is raped, going from being strangely calm to overly hysterical from scene to scene.

The MVP award goes to Vincent Wong, whose "Gilbert Sung" may not be the main character, but certainly a central one that moves the story along. In his early days, Vincent always appeared incredibly unnatural when portraying characters who are pompous rich guys, perhaps because it is far away from his real-life personality. Yet, although he slightly overacts at times, Vincent is able to really step into the shoes of Gilbert, an arrogant, immature, pill-popping rapist who got by on his daddy's money. By the end of the series, I became convinced that Vincent was a jerk in real life like his character. Also, kudos to him for yet again taking so many slaps from a veteran like a pro.

The veterans in the series get the job done, as always. Chung King-Fai is convincing in his scenes as a much more manipulative character than he usually plays. However, I couldn't help but notice and be annoyed by scenes where he is watching trials in the background of the courtroom, and how he always wears an angry facial expression that makes him look like he's sucking on a sour lemon. Power Chan is endearing and sympathetic as the autistic but kindhearted "Sung Ka Cheung," but unfortunately does not have too much to do.

As a law drama, "Will Power" fares much better than TVB's last few efforts, and this is despite the fact that Christine, for whatever reason, is the judge on all the cases shown in the series despite being Wayne's ex-wife and Moses' ex-girlfriend. Conflict of interest may not exist in the universe of this series, but the probate cases are surprisingly quite interesting, and I was relieved that while the series incorporates a lot of humorous moments, the courtroom scenes were kept serious.

Overall, "Will Power" is a much more mature series than TVB's usual offerings these days. There's plenty of laughs and chuckles to go around, but there's no fooling around when these lawyers get to work, and thankfully, no overly messy relationships. The main characters here, for the most part, actually act like adults. For once, the scriptwriters decided to avoid a love triangle between the two leads, and the only "love triangle" in the series involves Wayne and Patrick Tang pining over Christine, but the handling of this situation is done decently with no immature fighting.

The series is appropriately paced, funny, and interesting, making this 32-episode drama an entertaining one that takes little effort to finish. The female leads leave much to be desired, but are mostly balanced out by our dynamic male leads. Not bad, TVB. Not bad at all.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Happy 6th Anniversary, TVB Interaction! What's changed in 6 years...

TVB Interaction turns 6 years old today! Happy 6th Anniversary TVB Interaction! I had first started watching TVB the summer of 2008 and this blog was first created on June 13, 2009. To celebrate 6 years on the web (some years more active than others), I wanted to reflect back on how things have changed with TVB, my relationship with it, and my own life since I first got sucked into the world of TVB. I apologize in advance if it gets more boring going down.

So over the last 6 years, what has changed...

...with TVB?

Oh how I miss that adorable face.
If the TVB fan in me in 2008 saw what it is like now, it would've started screaming "Where is everyone?!" The most obvious change over the last 7 years is the major exodus of artists (and that's an understatement). The young leading actors I saw when first getting into this fandom have since left or look like they're about to do so. Sammul Chan and Raymond Lam were my favorite actors when I first started watching TVB series, and not long after Sammul left, and Raymond started boring me with his idol roles before finally parting ways with the station last year. The familiar faces I came to love and recognize left or significantly reduced their work load with TVB, including Charmaine, Steven, Fala, and soon, Myolie. Now we're seeing TVB trying to take chances and quickly giving newbie actors leading roles as the cast of series get increasingly weaker.

However, a good thing that has happened over the years is that all four of the actors who started out in supporting roles I took a great liking to and pegged as potential stars ultimately became lead actors.

Guys, it's Ruco with a puppy. *dies from the cuteness*
Ruco Chan, who I first noticed in a slew of small semi-villain supporting roles in 2009 such as "The Threshold of a Persona" and "Burning Flame 3" and still remains my favorite, may have meandered in the entertainment industry for a long time before rejoining TVB, but quickly hit the big time starring in 2011's "The Other Truth."

Raymond Wong also experienced a breakthrough after 2009's "Sweetness in the Salt," going on to costar with Ruco in "The Other Truth," a casting move that literally had me jumping for joy when it was first announced.

Edwin Siu quietly returned to TVB in 2008 after a music career cut short and stint in China with likable small supporting roles such as "Ken" in "Forensic Heroes 3" before impressing people with his comedic timing as the adorable "Ah Yap" in 2012's "Daddy Good Deeds."

It is not Vincent, it's Gilbert, the pill-popping, arrogant, rich heir
begging for a shovel to the head (Oh wait that's exactly what he got).
Finally, I first started liking Vincent Wong in 2010's "Gun Metal Grey," more for his affability and likability than his acting skill. By 2012, I noticed how natural he had become in "Tiger Cubs." I was officially sold on the fact that Vincent is a genuinely talented actor who could add subtle touches after 2013's "A Change of Heart" and hoped TVB would promote him more. I recently watched him as a villain in "Will Power" and was impressed and taken aback by how convincing he was as "Gilbert" in contrast to his previous performances as spoiled rich guys where he looked unnatural and uncomfortable. After a second lead role in last year's "Tomorrow is Another Day," Vincent is now also receiving lead roles in upcoming series.

Four actors who I pegged as potential stars that came true! *pats self on back* Louis Cheung also kind of counts, but the audience was smart in seeing his acting talent very quickly and he shot up the ranks to leads in a year due to the current lack of leading actors. Now either my eye is now not working, or there are currently no new actors with a lot of potential...

...with my relationship with TVB?
As we all know, the TVB blogosphere has greatly quieted down. There were still many blogs that emerged after MetalAZNWarrior's TVB Musings signed off the web. Now, you can count the remaining active blogs on one hand, and it's sad. The TVB fandom isn't what it once was. Thankfully, there's still Twitter for those of us who want to share our thoughts on the series we're watching but don't have the time or motivation to write full-length blog posts.

John Cho is too good to be playing the
token Asian guy in your Hollywood movie.
I'm not as into TVB as I used to be, and I don't watch as many series a year as I used to, but I don't think I'll ever completely stop watching their dramas, even if it comes down to watching just one or two a year. First off, as long as my favorite actors are around, I'll be checking out the dramas of theirs that interest me. The second is a sentimental attachment and the connection to Asian culture and community it and this blog gave me. I also like being able to hearing Cantonese (and can understand a whole lot more since 2008).

However, a different reason to appreciate TVB that I've developed in the last few years as I've become more and more into American TV, is being able to see Hong Kong actors play such a wide array of roles. Sure, they can be subject to typecasts, but those typecasts aren't structured by racial stereotypes the way it is in Hollywood where the under representation and misrepresentation is rampant. Just ask Korean American actor John Cho, who has experienced racism in Hollywood, and was asked to do an accent for 2002's "Big Fat Liar" (he refused). There is a reason why some popular Asian actors, such as Taiwan's Mark Chao, have declined opportunities to appear in Hollywood movies. While American TV shows overall tend to have better writing, it's still satisfying to shut off the TV, get on my laptop, and watch Asians killing it in a diverse range of roles (possible since the whole cast is Asian).

...with me?
I'm still here aren't I? Despite the many random and long breaks I take, I have continually returned to blog for TVB Interaction even if it's just to cover the anniversary awards for a month because I still enjoy it. At the beginning of the year, I tried to give myself a quota where I would write a blog post once a month, whether on TVB Interaction or AE Experience, and that lasted for that whole first month. However, I will continue to write (knowing me, probably in spurts of multiple blog posts published closely together and taking year-long breaks) until the day I decide I don't enjoy doing it anymore. For those times in between, I am still on Twitter sharing (and venting) thoughts on TVB matters.
In honor of my reflection on the last 6 years today,
here's a picture I took of the reflecting pool during my senior prom.

I started TVB Interaction when I was in 8th grade, and I've now finished my first year of college in D.C. I'm majoring in psychology and intend on going to law school.

I've also become an even more avid fan of television. Movies just don't do it for me since I love following a set of characters and seeing them grow over episodes and seasons. My favorite TV dramas are "Once Upon a Time" and "Nashville," but my biggest love is definitely sitcoms that make me laugh out loud and relax after a long day. The 90s classic "Boy Meets World" along with "30 Rock" and "How I Met Your Mother" are my ultimate favorites and watching episodes of them during breaks from studying were definitely how I managed to stay sane during finals. If you like TVB and any of these shows, you should definitely comment or tweet at me (or request to follow me on Twitter if you aren't already since I leave my account protected).

I hope you've managed to read to this point, and if you have, don't be a stranger and leave a comment, whether it's about your own relationship with TVB over the years, or just to say "hi" and say you're still around blogging or tweeting. As random as my updates can be, I hope you keep checking back at TVB Interaction for another 6 years.

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Eye in the Sky" Review

The time seems to have passed for me to write a review on this series (I was already pretty late in starting and finishing it), but it's summer and I've got a lot of free time and no other TVB series from this year that I've watched.

"Eye in the Sky" becomes yet another series that generated moderate Best Actor buzz for lead Ruco Chan but is ultimately too weak of a series on its own to do Ruco any real chance (see 2013's "Brother's Keeper" and 2014's "Ruse of Engagement"). The series picks up quickly, and the first ten or so episodes are intriguing and appropriately paced. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), "Eye" could not have lost momentum any faster than it did once Kevin's character found out Ruco is his long-lost twin. The plot fizzles, then crashes and burns as we go around in twists and turns I can no longer remember since I was on the fence about writing this review for so long for the remaining two thirds of the series.

Kevin Cheng does both outgoing, laid back and cocky type characters ("Ghetto Justice") and the quiet, cool, introverted ones well, but when acting alongside Ruco, it quickly becomes apparent that Ruco is the more versatile and natural actor. Although I got a kick out of the scene in the first episode where "Szeto Shun" saves Tavia Yeung's character, catches a criminal, then calmly proceeds to whip out his phone and finish his sudoku puzzle, Kevin's character still left much to be desired. In particular, I totally missed the part where Kevin started to fall for Tavia... Oh wait, the script just neglected to show that. Doh.

Tavia fell out of favor with me a long time ago, and not only did this series and character "Jan" do nothing to
help that, it possibly made it worse. The nerdy glasses and bad wardrobe of the character were the least of my problems. She was supposed to be this very clever and sneaky private investigator but scenes of her following people she was investigating showed otherwise. Also, she was WHINY. She's a grown woman, but for over 18 months after sleeping with Ruco's character (who she thought was Kevin), she moped around and half-assed her work? I don't have complaints for Tavia's performance. I just have complaints that she received such a terrible character that didn't flatter her at all. 

Ruco does all that he can with what he's given in "Cheng Nik Hang," like he does with all his performances. For this reason, I was still able to sympathize with Ah Nik and see how his spite emerged from such a tough past instead of hating him the last few episodes. By then, I had gotten fed up with his stubbornness and his increased blindness and inability to see things from another perspective. And yet, until the last two episodes, his behavior still mostly made sense. Episodes 19 and 20 throw any hint of rationality the series had left to the dogs by turning Lik from an insecure, hurt person driven to act with manipulation and spite into a ridiculous cartoonish, mentally unstable, drug-injecting villain. Notice the character also undergoes a drastic wardrobe change these last two episodes that sees Ruco going from wearing lots of colored plaid shirts with t-shirts to lots of grungy black and gray pieces. Because TVB clearly thinks we're idiots and we have to SEE a physical change in appearance to know Ruco's a full-on villain now. Ruco draws sympathy from the audience until a certain point with his performance, and is able to bring his creep on in the finale. He deserves praise for being able to do quite a bit with a sloppily written character, but I'm still waiting for a series after "The Other Truth" where he is able to be boosted by a strong script and character, instead of trying to lift up a lackluster one.

Despite loving Ruco and Tavia in "The Other Truth," I dreaded seeing them here. In fact, I think "Eye" can just be summed up as the series where I kept yelling at the screen "Why do two such attractive and cool guys (until Ruco lost his marbles) like such a plain and annoying girl?!" for 20 episodes. But I rest my case. 

While a flirty womanizer, Tony Hung as "Terry" ends up becoming the voice of reason in the second half of the series, constantly trying to talk some sense into Ah Nik. By the end of the series, he is the only character I liked and cared for and I kept worrying he'd die when Ah Nik begged Terry to help him one last time. Since I'm used to seeing Tony playing more dorky characters, I couldn't help but laugh in the scenes Tony was trying to be suave and flirty, where he came off as trying too hard. However, he's still very likable and more natural in other scenes, particularly in playful friendship scenes with Ruco.

Samantha Ko has the least to work with of all the characters but "Ah Ling"'s upbeat and youthful personality was a nice and welcome contrast to Jan's mopey one. She and Tony make a cute couple, but their relationship was unimportant and unnecessary to the overall story other than to give the guy who has supported and put up with Ah Nik's increasing nonsense over the years a happy ending.

Vivian Yeo seems to be the new go to girl for these mastermind, hit man type roles, which at the least is an interesting thing to be typecast in. She can certainly look cold and detached.

I'm sick of saying this for TVB series these days, but it had potential and could have been so much better. Instead it became increasingly unrealistic, draggy, and prone to driving around in circles. It's yet another typical case of the cast not being able to save a bad script (and certainly not with the characters they had).

Rating: 3 stars