Friday, December 25, 2015

"Captain of Destiny" Review

I had originally dropped "Captain of Destiny" after five episodes on the first try, but after having a few friends tell me it gets better, I decided to give it another shot. Next thing I knew, I had binge watched the rest in four days.

After a slow and rough start that makes "Captain" seem like much more of a joke than it really turned out to be, it develops into one of the better and most entertaining series of the year. Unfortunately, by then, most viewers had already tuned out, as evidenced by its low ratings.

Cast-wise, it is easily understood why people were hesitant and turned off by the decision to cast Grace Chan as the female lead and Tony Hung as the titular "Cheung Po Tsai."

Grace can get very irritating as "Wong Tai-Mui" with her widening eyes and love for screaming her lines, particularly in the early episodes. She does tone down more as the series goes on and becomes much more bearable as the focus shifts more to Ruco Chan. Do I still think she has potential? Sure, but it was definitely too early for her to receive a lead role. I thought she was quite natural in "Raising the Bar," and although she has a stronger and more assertive character here, her acting seems to have even retrograded a bit. Wong Tai-Mui could still be likable overall, but I especially disliked her whenever she was so quick to think the worst of the 11th prince. I understand having hesitations, but how about not blatantly accusing someone of framing or murdering someone without getting any information first? Aren't you supposed to be a cop?

I am genuinely surprised by the criticism Tony received for his performance here, even though the harshest criticism was mostly directed towards Grace. As much as I like Tony as a host and ove
rall person, I had huge concerns for him coming into this series. However, I thoroughly enjoyed him as "Cheung Po Tsai" once we got past the silliness of the first few episodes. Tony was able to use his real-life playfulness and easygoing personality to play the titular character with humor and fun. His emotional scenes are unsurprisingly more raw, but the only scene I felt was particularly weak was one in the later part of the series where he confronts Ruco's character from jail. In the end, I'm not sad that Raymond Wong had to pull out of the series, but happy with the way things turned out for Tony. I'll probably receive some flack for this, but I finished this series thinking he did indeed deserve the Most Improved Actor award.

Ruco's role was increased to pick up the slack that came with casting less experienced actors such as Grace and Tony, and of course, he once again rises to the challenge. He nails the "stern but kind" role, where he was much more domineering and intimidating in the beginning before softening to become the passionate and intelligent 11th prince we loved. Timing-wise, I did think this was the right year for Ruco to win Best Actor. But even as the huge Ruco fan I am, even I must admit that solely performance-wise, this character was not a challenge for him and did not provide him with new material. I was however slightly surprised by his performance as the Bandit King, "Bowie." He needs to play another one of these baddie characters!

The rest of the cast performances are a mixed bag. Joel Chan and Mandy Wong may have been third supporting characters who didn't appear until almost halfway through the series, but they were both very entertaining and unpredictable, which is hard to come by with TVB's trite love trianKelly Fu's acting is still raw with a lot of room for improvement, but she surprisingly did not ever annoy me much. While she was overly naive and kept accidentally getting into trouble in the beginning, I came to appreciate her and Otto Chan's loyalty and confidence in Ruco, and how the three really became friends. Maggie Shiu was enjoyable and a reliable supporting actress as usual. Ocean Zhu's character was just plain weird and could have been eliminated. I ended up being most disappointed by Elaine Yiu's performance having already known she received the Best Supporting Actress award for it. She would just give her best resting bitch face and say her lines in a catty way, and I stared at the screen wondering "She won an acting award for this?"

"Captain of Destiny"'s largest problem lies in the disjointedness of its two storylines: the storyline between the pirates, and Ruco's palatial drama. Both have their distinct strengths, as the pirates' provided humor and lightheartedness, while Ruco's storyline balanced it out with more substantial drama. However, it makes the viewer feel like they're watching two completely different series and made for some awkward scene transitions. There could be a very serious scene involving Ruco and his military, and then we would transition into a scene where Grace was being chased around by the pirates in white "ghost" costumes. It is not until around 20 episodes in before Ruco even meets Tony and Grace.

Another major problem the series has is its plot holes and sloppy writing, particularly when it came to the romantic storylines. I understand that romance was not the focus on the series nor should it have been, but since the writers decided to include it, they should have done a better job. Grace is shown clearly falling for both Tony and Ruco and mulling over her feelings for the two men, but then all of a sudden shows that she only loves Tony. Ruco is portrayed as heartbroken over Grace, and then all of a sudden expresses an interest in Kelly, who returns the interest. This isn't a messy love triangle. This is just bad writing, and it seems like the writers changed their minds midway through writing the script, but could not have been bothered to go back and make the revisions. With that said, to my genuine surprise, I quite liked Tony and Grace together, as their relationship was allowed to grow from friendship. Any love line involving Ruco though, was thrown together very haphazardly.

Perhaps the even bigger concern people had going into the series was not the cast, but the CGI effects. Although it could still be obvious what was CGI and what was not, the effects were definitely much better than expected and the battle scene was very well-done. The series may have had many flaws, but the visual effects ended up not being one of them.

Despite its weaknesses though, "Captain of Destiny" is one of the most entertaining series of the year. It can easily be binge-watched if you just make it past the first few episodes because it has good pacing and still has many elements a solid series should have, including some interesting characters, comedy, drama, a little action, and some romance (as haphazard as it was). With all the mediocre series this year, "Captain" should not be completely written off because of its less-experienced leads and rough beginning. It is still very much a grand production.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Friday, December 18, 2015

TVB 48th Anniversary Awards: Results + Comments

This is probably the most entertaining awards show TVB has had in a while. TVB really cheaped out this year by just using their own artists to present all the awards. Surprisingly, this was actually a great move because the banter between the actors was for the most part entertaining. This was probably because all these actors are colleagues and have all worked with each other at some point, so the humor and usual stalling before the announcement of the winner was a lot more natural.  In TVB's continued effort to try to prove they are fair, once again, there were no truly shocking winners.

Most Improved Actor and Actress: Tony Hung and Grace Chan

Although I normally hate when it takes them forever to present an award, the whole bit with the heart rate monitors was a lot of fun, and was my favorite part of the night. The build up to Most Improved Actor was especially fun and gave the audience so many funny and entertaining moments. My favorite moments (the best translations I could provide with my shoddy Cantonese):

Matt: (on why he chose Katy Kung to come up to the stage) Because she looks pretty tonight, and she normally doesn't.
*Katy gives a fake offended look*
Wong Cho Lam: I demand you to come up here!
Sammy Leung: I demand you to sit down!
WCL: I demand you to come up here and hit him!

WCL: Don't even need to ask, Jennifer Shum right?
Benjamin: *quietly and politely* Yes, please.

Priscilla: The most improved actor of the year is...Natalie Tong, the person next to her!

No surprises at all for either the male or female winner. I really was hoping Tracy or Rosina would win but knew Tracy's chances flew out the window when I realized she couldn't even make it to the ceremony. (Side note: Tracy has recently gone back to school full-time to earn a Master's, so I wouldn't be surprised if she had to miss the ceremony to study for or take finals. So relatable right?) With that said, I'm not about to riot over Grace's win or anything, but I do hope she stops screaming all her lines.

While I do think Tony's win is also premature, I think it is also worth commending that he has rose up to the challenge for his first two lead roles, both of which he stepped in last minute after the originally casted actors pulled out. This is a huge contrast to actresses such as Aimee Chan and Niki Chow who have almost always had tailor-made roles for them to help cover up their weaknesses. His acceptance speech was probably my favorite of the night and made me happy he won, even if I do think it's still a year too early. He was humble but humorous, and I especially loved when he thanked Ruco, "the brother he loves and hates," and not only thanking, but apologizing to his family and friends for not being able to spend time with them recently because he has been busy working. I'm also happy Priscilla presented the award to him, and in true Priscilla and Tony-style banter, refused to actually say his name.

Best Supporting Actor and Actress: Wai Ka Hung for "Lord of Shanghai" and Elaine Yiu for "Captain of Destiny"

This came extremely out of the blue for me since I did not watch "Lord of Shanghai," but you know it was definitely a deserving win when Wai Ka Hung got the biggest standing ovation of the night from his colleagues. It makes me happy when actors who have been working tirelessly at TVB for many years (in his case, over 20) earn recognition. I can't help but notice the people who receive the biggest and most wholehearted standing ovations and cheers at the awards are for actors who have been working for a very long time without recognition, such as Ram and Elena in recent years. In contrast, the applause for Grace was very calm and seemed more out of general courtesy. We can all agree that we should be mature and not petty, but it must hurt when you've been working hard for so long while seeing someone else near you have a picture perfect career and raise to the top...

Elaine is a decent actress who TVB has never really given good opportunities to, so it's a shame when she finally gets promoted and wins this award, it's for a year she underwhelmed and disappointed. All I can say is, I'm glad she didn't win for her screen time-hogging annoying character with the chronic stink-eye in "Raising the Bar." I hope TVB will give her more of a variety of roles instead of the cold, detached characters. I honestly wonder if TVB really wanted to give her this award, or they really couldn't think of anyone else.

My Favorite Male and Female Characters: Ruco Chan for "Captain of Destiny" and Kristal Tin for "Ghost of Relativity"

When Ruco's name was called, I honestly didn't know whether to feel happy for his win, or disappointed because I knew at that point he had lost the race for Best Actor. You can tell he must have felt conflicted too. He still gave a mature and eloquent speech and I'm sure he is grateful for his fans and for winning his first award, but there was still a visible sadness. But I will focus on the positive side instead and say, I'm so happy Ruco has finally won his first award in Hong Kong. Congratulations Ruco, but you'll always be my favorite. ;)

Kristal's win was not a surprise, and the fact that she has a "Been there, done that attitude" about Best Actress and was so supportive of her "Ghost" co-star meant she was a much better sport than usual winners of this award instead of giving the infamous "black face." She is definitely the most gifted comedic actress TVB has right now. Though, TVB really doesn't want to give this award to Linda huh?

Best Actor and Actress: Anthony Wong for "Lord of Shanghai" and Nancy Wu for "Ghost of Relativity"

If Ruco was going to lose Best Actor to anyone, I'm glad it was to a critically-acclaimed actor like Anthony and not a less experienced and unworthy actor. Once again, I did not watch "Lord" so I cannot personally comment. Although after this and Dayo's truly shocking 2013 win, I'm starting to think TVB is taking this whole "Let's prove to the audience we don't play favorites and are fair" a bit too seriously...

It was obvious Nancy was going to win Best Actress after Kristal won Favorite Character. I'm still a little annoyed she has gotten so much attention for one of her weaker performances. However, the genuinely dazed and shocked reaction Nancy gave before tearing up was truly touching. I also like that she acknowledged that her performance in "Ghost" left a lot of room for improvement. This win also means that Nancy has worked up from winning Most Improved in 2008, to Best Supporting Actress in 2013, to finally Best Actress this year. Is there anyone else who has done this? Now here's to hoping Nancy doesn't fall victim to the "becomes boring after getting promoted to lead actress" curse...

Best Drama: "Lord of Shanghai"

Deserved. Glad TVB didn't decide to give it to "Captain" or pull a completely BS move and give it to "Ghost."

Best Classic Drama: "The Greed of Man"

*breathes a sigh of relief TVB didn't give it to "Triumph in the Skies" or pull another BS move by giving it to "Brother's Keeper" to drum up anticipation for the sequel*

Best Theme Song: Jinny Ng's subtheme for "The Empress of China"

The one BS move TVB decided to make. This category has existed for two years, and Jinny has now won twice. Should we just rename it the Jinny Ng award next year? At least last year's win for the "Line Walker" subtheme made sense, but this was just clear favoritism.

And just for fun, other moments during the awards show I found noteworthy and funny:
  • Tavia, Nancy, and Sharon presenting Best Supporting Actress and stating how all the winners of this award had to play tragic roles, except for Elena who essentially just got to make out with Kenneth in her winning series.
  • Kristal seems like such a fun, goofy, and straightforward person and was hilarious when she presented. I loved when she was joking about how she has caused so many good things to happen to all her male co-stars. Also loved when Anthony told her they had actually worked together before, but she said she was so intimidated by him that she blocked it out of her memory. Then she proceeded to yell at him for being so preoccupied with talking to her when it was his acceptance speech.
  • Ruco and Wayne's banter was much more subtle than the others, but still funny and enjoyable. These two totally need to collaborate (and Wayne in a role where he doesn't just spend the whole time screaming). 
  • When Benz called out Ben, Kenny, and Evergreen, and for not greeting Dodo by calling them his "elders."
  • Everybody eating fried chicken, some people with gloves. This was obviously some promotional tactic (guessing KFC sponsors TVB), but it was still funny. I wonder if they got the idea from when Ellen ordered pizza at the Oscar's...
How do you feel about this year's winners? Were there any other moments you enjoyed from the awards show?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TVB 48th Anniversary Awards: My Predictions and Picks

It's that time of year again! And after employing a friend to hound me to write this post, it's finally done.

I'll be frank: This year sucked. I had a hard time getting this post done because I couldn't even come up with all my predictions for a while. Try as I might, I did end up putting down quite a few "N/A's" because I just couldn't think of any predictions or picks, and didn't want to just put down something random (granted, that's what TVB seemed to do). It didn't help I only watched 8 series this year because I was just so disinterested in TVB's offerings this year and later became so busy with my semester. But, a tradition is a tradition! Fun fact: This is now the seventh consecutive year I am writing an anniversary awards predictions post! 

Click here for the full nominations list.

Best Actor

Top 5: Kevin Cheng, Ruco Chan, Anthony Wong, Wayne Lai, and Kent Tong
Predicted Winner: Ruco 
Most Deserving: Ruco
Personal Choice: Ruco 

After being the quiet contender almost every year since "The Other Truth," Ruco has finally emerged as the actor with the most buzz. He has now won Best Actor in Malaysia and Singapore, which is a good indicator he'll finally be able to take the award home in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I stopped watching "Captain of Destiny" after a few episodes so I can't specifically comment on his performance. Of course, I've only heard great things about it, because after all, it's Ruco. I do wish he had been in a stronger series where he wasn't the one thing making it worthwhile so I had watched it and been more excited, but I may go back and give "Captain" another try during break, or at least watch some of his scenes. 

Anthony has also received considerable buzz, but TVB has nothing to gain from giving him the award. Then again, not that they gained anything by giving Dayo the award 2 years ago. However, Anthony has straightforwardly said he will not film more with TVB just because he wins the award. For once, I want TVB to listen to the business voice in their head. TVB. reward your most valuable asset right now in light of all the siu sangs and fa dans flocking away from your studios like they have the plague and the newer generation being nowhere near ready to take over.  

I wish I was more excited for Ruco right now, but I'm sure I will be once I see my favorite finally standing up at the podium giving a lovely acceptance speech. :) Don't let me down (for the 989,482th time), TVB!

Best Actress

Top 5: Liza Wang, Linda Chung, Kristal Tin, Nancy Wu, and Alice Chan
Predicted Winner: Liza
Most Deserving: N/A
Personal Choice: N/A

I'm hoping that if I put Liza down as my prediction, it'll come true instead of Kristal or Nancy winning. After the joke that was Kristal and Nancy both winning Best Actress in Malaysia, who knows what will go down that night though. Although it sounds like Liza did not have an exceptional or breakthrough performance in "Limelight Years," I'd much rather her win for yet another consistent performance in a little-watched but generally well-received and modest "Limelight Years" then Kristal for a consistent performance for the silliness that was "Ghost of Relativity." Nancy is an even worse choice. I love Nancy and think she is a wonderful actress, but this was weaker than her typical performance. Her character did not give her much to work with. Kristal at least was able to display more comedic talent. Unfortunately, Nancy probably has the largest chance just on the grounds she's yet to receive the award. Overall, no female delivered a mind-blowing (or even somewhat fresh and above lukewarm, really) leading performance this year.

My Favorite Male Character

Top 5: Kevin Cheung, Louis Cheung, Ruco Chan, Tony Hung, and Anthony Wong
Predicted Winner: Tony
Most Deserving: Ruco
Personal Choice: Vincent Wong
Snub: Johnson Lee for "Officer Geomancer"

If Ruco wins Best Actor, he may either be yet another person to pull a double win, or Tony will receive the award. Either is fine by me, but I think it will be Tony's titular "Cheung Po Tsai" since the favorite character awards are still half determined by TVB's call and half by fan votes. I really did not watch many series this year but if I had to pick a favorite male character, it'd probably be Vincent in "Brick Slaves" because he was a comical, sweet, nice, and caring guy, but still knew to set limits to his niceness and when to put his foot down. 

If Oscar managed to get nominated for yet another repetitive loud-mouthed and gangster-like role though, Johnson totally should've been able to grab a nomination for the same series as well. 

My Favorite Female Character

Top 5: Grace Chan, Kristal Tin, Nancy Wu, Liza Wang, Linda Chung
Predicted Winner: Grace
Most Deserving: N/A
Personal Choice: Priscilla Wong
Wtf? Vivien Yeo

My money's on Grace though the overall response to her character (though more specifically Grace's performance) has been negative. Priscilla's character in "Madam Cutie on Duty" was probably my favorite of the year because she actually made me laugh (and not in a "she's so stupid" way). She was sassy, fun, and her initial mocking of housewives to only realize she was slowly morphing into one herself and learning to appreciate them was very entertaining. But uh...what is Vivien's "Ghost of Relativity" character doing here? Why is this stupid series getting so many nominations??

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Winner: Joel Chan 
Most Deserving: Joel
Personal Choice: N/A
Snub: Geoffrey Wong for "Come Home Love"

This category was disappointing for me because the supporting actor category, for as long as I can remember, has always been very tight. Even if there weren't many exceptional performances, there were many solid choices. And yet this year's list looks haphazardly thrown together. Quite a few of these actors are nominated for minor supporting roles. Again, I haven't watched enough series to make my own choice and none of the series I've seen possessed any award-worthy supporting performances. I'm going to go with Joel for my prediction since I have heard good things about his character and performance there and have previously thought he's a pretty decent actor too. I'm not sure what TVB thinks of him or if they have intentions to further promote him, but if they do, this would be a good chance. 

I guess TVB didn't want to nominate any more actors from "Come Home Love" since the indirect sequel is currently airing, but that still doesn't make sense to me since the original didn't finish airing until the midway through the year. Since this list seems to have so many fillers anyway, I would've liked to see Geoffrey Wong be nominated for portraying "Damon" in the sitcom, as the actor never fails to make me laugh and is one of my favorites to watch. To the best of my memory, Lau Dan and Griselda Yeung were the only ones ever nominated. 

Best Supporting Actress  

Predicted Winner: N/A
Most Deserving: N/A
Personal Choice: N/A
Wtf? Elena
Snub: Rosina Lam (Lin Xia Wei) 

This is definitely the weakest category this year, which resulted in my sad (lack of) predictions and choices here. All of these actresses either gave weak or ordinary performances, or are otherwise likable actresses nominated for very small and irritating roles (ahem, Vivien and Celine). 

I don't even have Elena to fall back on again this year because she's nominated for a guest role in "Raising the Bar." For a good minute I couldn't even remember her being in the series. She was not a notable guest star, she was just a judge that was friends with Ben, Ram, Timothy who maybe what, had 3 or 4 casual conversations with them? 

I did not watch "Momentary Lapse in Reason," but I had pegged Rosina as a strong contender for this award months ago after being surprised by all the praise about her performance and how she was more impressive than Tavia (though, that's not saying much these days due to her boring characters). And then the nominations list came out and she was nominated for Best Actress instead. I don't understand how TVB categories people sometimes. So thanks TVB, for taking away the one damn prediction I had for this category. I surrender. I've got absolutely nothing, which is why there's a big fat question mark instead of a picture here. I just hope Elaine Yiu does not take home the award.

Most Improved Actor

Predicted Winner: Tony Hung
Most Deserving: Matt Yeung
Personal Choice: Matt
Snub: Lai Lok Yi

It's good to still see pretty decent competition in both Most Improved categories. With the exposure he's received this year and a high-profile role and series under his belt, it's hard seeing this award go to anyone besides Tony. I've liked Tony since his debut last year and will not mind if he wins, but do feel like solely acting wise, it's too premature and I would ideally prefer him to win next year. However, my gut tells me Tony will be winning this year, and Benjamin Yuen the next year (Yes, I already have a prediction for next year). 

Matt has steadily improved over the years to become a solid actor. He has been nominated for this award several times over the last few years and always been a strong but unfortunately quiet contender. Similar to Vincent before his win two years ago, there has always been someone generating more noise than Matt. Last year it was Louis, and this year it's Tony, though I do think he stands a better chance this year. Even if he doesn't win, which is likely, I do hope TVB continues to promote Matt more instead of sticking him with the cheating boyfriend roles.

Lai Lok Yi's acting has vastly improved just portraying "John Ma" over the course of "Come Home Love's" three year run. I remember him being quite unnatural in the character and coming off like he was trying too hard, but by middle of the impossibly long sitcom, Lok Yi really became John Ma to me. It disappoints me that of the three chances he had to be nominated for this award over CHL's run, TVB still passed up the last chance. The real test for him now though, is how he will fare playing different characters...

Most Improved Actress

Predicted Winner: Tracy Chu
Most Deserving: Rosina Lam 
Personal Choice: Tracy

TVB probably favors Grace more and at the very least, giving this award to her this year makes more sense than last year when she first debuted. With how dead set they are on promoting Grace, I wouldn't be surprised if she won. I won't be extremely pleased though because I was not impressed with Grace's acting in what I saw of "Captain," and it was obvious she is not ready to be a lead actress yet. 

I also wouldn't be surprised (and would be extremely relieved) if the award went to Rosina or Tracy. I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here and go with my gut by saying I think Tracy will get it. She won in both Singapore and Malaysia. I can't personally comment on Rosina's performance, but will take people's word for it that she gave a breakthrough performance. In which case, it would be a shame to see her go home empty handed. I'm still personally rooting for Tracy though, who absolutely lit up the screen in "The Fixer" in the second half of the series with her upbeat energy and charm as "Duck Duck."

Best Series

Top 5: "Captain of Destiny," "Lord of Shanghai," "Ghost of Relativity," "Eye in the Sky," "Raising the Bar"
Predicted Winner: "Captain of Destiny"
Most Deserving: N/A
Personal Choice: N/A

I don't think TVB does a top 5 for Best Series anymore, but I'll go for it anyway. In an otherwise very quiet year where some of the anniversary series managed to finish airing with next to no media attention, it can't be denied "Captain of Destiny" was the most buzzed about series, even if it was mostly criticism. Perhaps TVB may also go the critically acclaimed route instead and give it to "Lord of Shanghai." "Ghost of Relativity" had the highest ratings and for whatever reason was very popular, so it's almost guaranteed a top 5 slot as well. "Eye in the Sky" also garnered a moderate amount of buzz, if not just for Kevin and Ruco. To round out the top 5, I picked "Raising the Bar" simply because I recall it receiving more attention, particularly for the titular four females, when it aired despite it having an early time slot. I don't have a favorite series this year though, or even one I think I clearly enjoyed above the others.

Most Popular Series Song

Top 3: Alfred Hui and Hubert Wu's theme for "Eye in the Sky," Fred Cheng's theme for "Captain of Destiny," and Joey Yung's theme for "The Empress of China"
Predicted Winner: Fred's theme for "Captain of Destiny"
Most Deserving: Alfred and Hubert's theme for "Eye in the Sky"
Personal Choice: Stephanie Ho's theme song for "Raising the Bar"

As far as I know, I believe the three I listed were the most popular theme songs of the year, but the winner isn't as obvious this year as it was last year. Which is a good thing, because that means no songs were looped over and over again on end! Looking at you, "Line Walker." I personally prefer Alfred and Hubert's theme for "Eye" over Fred's as it was a dynamic duet fitting for the series' more suspenseful genre. However, my overall personal favorite was Stephanie's theme for "Raising the Bar" because it was so fun, catchy, and happy, and most of all it was reminiscent of older lighthearted TVB series. The nostalgia factor was on high for that song, or at least it was for me.

Most Popular Classic Series

Predicted Winner: "Triumph in the Skies"
Most Deserving: "The Greed of Man"
Personal Choice: "War of the Genders"

How did TVB come up with these nominations? Why are "Brother's Keeper" and "Lives of Omission" here? This category already seems like BS, which probably means the oh so overrated "Triumph" will win, though it should definitely be the prolific "The Greed of Man." I'll always have a soft spot for "War of the Genders" though!

So what are everyone else's predictions and personal choices? How many series did everyone even manage to finish this year? Please feel free to comment and discuss!