Sunday, November 25, 2012

"The Last Steep Ascent" Review (by Lynne)

The story behind it all
"The Last Steep Ascent" is based off of a true story of a couple who eloped to the mountains. The man is 10 years the woman's junior and to add onto that, she was also a widow with children. This was not accepted by society back then. Then up in the mountains, the man spent 50 years to carve a trail of steps for his wife. This is a truly inspirational love story that touches all it's readers.

TVB's remake, "The Last Steep Ascent"
No doubt Lee Tim Shing successfully brought back another couple that managed to make my heart ache for them again. It was indeed a touching love story between Sun Yuet (Maggie Cheung) and Miu Tin (Moses Chan), yet it didn't fulfill what I expected it to. Of course as a remake, I will forgive that, and won't link it to much of the original story.  Besides the idea of a younger man loving an older woman and the stone steps from the original, it's a typical TVB series.

So let's talk more about the series!

Maggie Cheung as Sun Yuet
There's a reason why Lee Tim Shing insisted to use Maggie Cheung for the role and nobody else, since she fitted into the role perfectly. She has the elegance that suits the pre-modern period and her eyes delivered the emotions of Sun Yuet perfectly, especially the scene in episode 19, where she walked away from Miu Tin. That scene teared me up there.

 As for the role of Sun Yuet, I like how she endured everything with a smile. I wouldn't describe her as a "strong/independent" woman though, as I feel that she's rather weak and trusts too easily. Overall, not the type that is career-minded or with the capability to resolve issues that I had initially suspected her to be, but rather an ordinary woman who only wants a simple life with children and a partner.  That's why I found it easy to connect to her character: not much complications.

Moses Chan as Miu Tin
Once again, not a role that shines or that interesting to watch as these characters are the typical main leads. What saved Miu Tin's character from becoming incredibly boring is his dedication and faithfulness and care for Sun Yuet that spanned for over 20 years. As for the portrayal by Moses Chan, it's the usual Moses Chan we see...nothing outstanding.

***Oh!  One scene that cracked me up:  Sun Yuet climbed up the hill in order to find Miu Tin.  And when she did...haha the expression on Moses face.  I know that it's suppose to be touching and all but I couldn't help but laugh!  Maybe it's just me?  Moses expression was really odd haha.

Miu Tin and Sun Yuet
Their relationship took a smoother turn than I had expected.  Of course there were obstacles, but they were not as "dramatic" since Sun Yuet got a loving mother-in-law behind her.  As far as the issue of age, it wasn't the talk among the people but rather an internal conflict within Sun Yuet's.  I am surprise that "society" didn't get more involved with this, since age difference like that between a man and a woman would have been a big deal right?  Not to mention she's from a well-known family, so things should've been more intense....leading into why they had decided to live in seclusion.  Let's just say, "The Last Steep Ascent" turned out much happier than I initially thought.

 Overall, I really enjoyed seeing them together.  Their relationship was bitter at times, but in the bitterness there was also some sweetness.

 ***In the original story, Moses character is ten years younger than Maggie's but the age difference is nowhere noticeable at all.  I personally think that they should've replaced Moses with someone else.  BUT then in one episode, Miu Tin said something related to that and it cracked me up.

Sun Yuet was wondering how the boy (Miu Tin) that she touched the teeth of on her wedding day grew up to be like, and was thinking of how old he may be now compared to her (she also kept on referring to what an "old" lady she was).  In reply to that,  Miu Tin told her that, maybe she's not as old as she thinks.  Since she lives in a wealthy family, he said that the guy may also look as old as her since he had to work on a farm...therefor aging more than he should (in terms of looks).

 So that's how TVB explained that!  I like how they put that part in though, because it does make sense when you think about it....?

Kenny Wong as Cheung Kiu 

Cheung Kiu is just like his friend, Miu Tin, a guy who will whole-heartedly love one girl and would do anything for her.  At first, Cheung Kiu was rather hot-headed and I did not like that as it is a similar characteristic to Kenny's roles.  But of course, he's still a good guy and therefor is quite likable, especially how protective he was of Oi Tai.  I am not particularly a fan of Kenny's but I still like to watch him.

***Whenever I see Kenny, I think of Moses.  Whenever I see Moses, Kenny pops up!  Lols  They've had so many series together! 

Aimee Chan as Oi Tai 
Oi Tai is indeed a very, very tragic character and you can say that Aimee improved in here.  She gave a decent performance.  Still, even though she's improving in her emotional scenes, I don't think it's up to the level where such a tragic character like Oi Tai is meant to be at yet. 

Something else that I'd like to talk about is Oi Tai's miscarriage.  Her pregnancy is brought upon by the rapist, so I can understand why Oi Tai may should I put this...want to think of the baby too much?  So maybe that's why there was not much talk about the miscarriage?  Honestly, I really wished that TVB could've shown how Oi Tai felt about that miscarriage.  Afterall, it was still her baby....

Cheung Kiu and Oi Tai
I like the pair but their relationship seems more like friendship than anything else.  Still think that the person Cheung Kiu loves the most is his wife.  Overall though, I was very happy that they got a happy ending.

Edwin Siu as Sai Ho
Edwin plays the main antagonist of the series, who wanted to destroy Ho Ching Tong.  Surprisingly, Edwin did not have much screentime since the series was pretty focused on the couples (especially Cheung Kiu and Oi Tai).  Anyways, after this performance, I would love to see Edwin in another evil role.  He has this charming smile that he often shows in his sweet and nice roles, but he can also use them in this evil role!  Very nice!

  ***Yvonne Ho plays as Edwin's wife.  I really like the actress, but just found it odd how she played as Sai Ho's wife since she looked abit older than him.  Look wise, it's not Moses and Maggie who have the age difference, but Yvonne and Edwin.

Joel Chan as Boss Chai
I'll say that this role can represent as Joel's breakthrough role, as it was the most eye-catching of the whole cast!  Boss Chai is neither a good or bad guy, but likable in a sense because he's got a dictating yet loving personality.  When he cares about someone, he does not tell them because he wants "face".  That is his greatest fault, but I think his sense of "brotherhood" can make up for that.  Whenever Miu Tin was in trouble, Boss Chai was willing to let go of his pride to help him out and that's what very sweet of him.  Boss Chai can be arrogant, but towards the ones he cares about, he cares for them whole-heartedly.

  ****There are rumours of Joel taking a "break" from acting for awhile since he's getting married soon.  Such a pity, because I enjoy watching him onscreen alot....

Samantha Ko as Madame Yim
Madame Yim is Boss Chai's third wife.  Even though she still has to work on her crying scenes, Samantha definitely surprised me as Madame Yim.  Not to mention she also rocks her attire!  I like Madame Yim alot because she's not the "traditional" kind of woman you'd see, so we get to see the fun side of her, but at the same time she's not the kind of woman that goes after men for money.

Boss Chai and Madame Yim

They're going into my top 10 couple list of 2012!  Unlike the others, they're not so serious but rather funny though still sweet.  Then there's this mutual understanding between the two, making them an even lovlier couple.  As I stated before, Madame Yim likes to flirt but Boss Chai never gets mad, not because he doesn't care, but because he knew that it's her personality, and that she's faithful to him.  On the other hand, Madame Yim reads Boss Chai like a book, understanding when he's upset, etc.

I personally found them to be quite a touching pair, especially towards the end where they continued to support each other through the roughest time when Boss Chai went blind.  With Boss Chai's bad attitude at that time, I honestly wouldn't blame her for leaving, but she didn't.  She stood by him the whole time and endured his attitudes.  My eyes got teary when he finally gave her a ring and told her to be his wife (I'm guessing that she was just a mistress before?  I don't know, but don't care either.  Just know that it was a very sweet scene).

Helena Law as Granny Ho
I've been wondering why Helena Law came back to TVB (starting in The Hippocratic Crush)?  For whatever reason though, it's TVB's fortune to have a veteran like her back!  She pulled off the role of Granny Ho effortlessly, and was great in her emotional scenes.  As for Granny Ho, she's also a great and fun character to watch onscreen!  Unlike the usual arrogant mother-in-laws we see, Granny Ho was very understanding and considerate towards her daughter-in-law, Sun Yuet.  I admire her complete trust for Sun Yuet despite the negative rumours, and the interactions the two shared.  If only I could have a mother-in-law like Granny Ho, I would be very happy.

***The scene where Granny Ho asked Sun Yuet to leave.
I think this was one of the most touching scenes of the story, and I'm glad that the two got to share this one last scene together.

After the family got back their business (thanks to Miu Tin), Granny Ho decided to pass on the business to her son-in-law (Matt Yeung) and move out to live with her son (Benjamin Yuen) at a different place.  She did all that though because of Sun Yuet.  Granny Ho wanted Sun Yuet to go live a life she wanted (with Miu Tin) and be happy.  The most touching part of the speech was when she told Sun Yuet to take her children with her too.  It's obvious that Granny Ho loves her grandchildren alot, but at the same time...she knew that they had to be with their mother (Sun Yuet).  It as heart breaking to see her leave Sun Yuet and the grand children.  Despite how much she loved them, she was willing to let go in order for Sun Yuet to find true happiness.
Sze Hang's POV
I'm glad that the later generation (Sun Yuet's kids) got a say in what they think of their parents' relationship.  I thought it was really cute how Sze Hang (little Raymond Wong) complained how his "parents" (Miu Tin and Sun Yuet) always looked lovingly at each other.  "I mean...what is there to look at?" -Sze Hang

Then there's how Sze Hang grew up (Raymond Wong appears as a guest star).  Like his "dad" (Miu Tin), he thought he could love one woman for his entire life but instead his relationships failed one after another.  That's when he realized how hard it was to keep on loving someone.

I particularly like these scenes very much because they reflected on how loving someone is not as simple as one may think.
The Ending
What Miu Tin said to Sun Yuet before he died was touching, but the scene could've been better if Moses actually sounded like a dying man.  Honestly, his voice was the same as the other scenes he was in...

This series was nice to watch, even though you may have to be a bit patient with it.  Recommended for fans of Maggie Cheung, Law Lan, Joel Chan and Samantha Ko.  Maybe Edwin Siu's fans too since you get to see an evil side of him, but I thought there were just too little screentime of him.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Song Review: Pakho Chau's "Death Row/斬立決"

Pakho Chau impresses listeners while touching on their emotions and bringing their attention to an important social issue with his single "Death Row/斬立決".

"Death Row" is a commentary on one of today's most problematic social issues: bullying (more specifically, cyberbullying).  The lyrics compares and makes a metaphor out of a victim of bullying and someone on death row.  They're shunned from society, and not given the chance to "repent", even though they did nothing wrong.  The chorus paints the picture of an execution, and how people gather to watch the victim die, without shame and without making a move to stop it.  The lyrics paint heart breaking imagery and inform of the horrors of the effects of cyberbullying while the haunting melody leaves you feeling conflicted.  Pakho's deep voice allows the song to be sung with power and raw emotion.

The music video illustrates the metaphor used in the song.  Its concept is in a more artistic direction with simple expression.  The video is shot in black and white with a bleak setting.  Taking place in an empty room, Pakho is shown getting poisoned by an apple, and waking up to be on death row.  He is then executed (off camera and through angle shots) and lies in the arms of a masked and tattooed woman as flower petals fall around him.  There is a dominant use of unique and dark masks and other head pieces, which probably hint at more symbolism.  Also, there is an additional scene after the song ends where Pakho is shown eating the same apple, but this time is not poisoned by it, showing he has received a second chance to live his life.  The music video is executed very well.  Though simplistic and a bit frightening, it carries a lot of meaning.

Pakho Chau's "Death Row" is a fantastic song for all the reasons above.  Due to heavy content, it does also leave you feeling depressed and conflicted.  Overall, it is one of the year's best, with well written lyrics, a melody that sticks with you, raising awareness of one of the problems of society, and leaving a lasting impact even after the song has stopped playing.

Song Review: Hyuna's "Ice Cream"

HyunA makes a hot comeback with her new mini album "Melting". The album consist of five songs and the title track "Ice Cream." This new hit song has reached 20 million views on YouTube in just 10 days. Although this song has reached popularity and broken a record by receiving the most views in the quickest amount of time by a K-pop artist, I honestly did not like it. 

The song:

The song is very upbeat, and I admit it is catchy, but it's was not the song that I would like to listen to. It has meaningless lyrics, not to mention the word "cream" is overused. Throughout the whole song is basically mostly a girl talking about how great she is, comparing herself to ice cream, and how she can "Melt you down like Ice cream". I don't mind that it has those type of lyrics, it's just the lack of verses. As I looked deeper into the lyrics, I realized that this song has a lot of repetition. I feel like she only says five sentences throughout the whole song. 

The MV:

I am not going to lie, I think the MV really fits the song because like the lyrics it's meaningless.  In other words it doesn't really make any sense. The first thing you see in the MV is "Gangnam Style"'s PSY walking up to a very big and colorful ice cream truck. He walks in, gets a vanilla ice cream, and starts to devour it. That's when you spot HyunA yelling at him for eating her ice cream. 

There is some kind of protest going on. The people are holding up signs that says "Ha Ha Ha" and "Batman he is gone" during the protest, while she is driving her big ice cream truck she runs over a clown. Then they cheer and all the guys runs towards her. 

Spraying people with liquid ice cream? I don't know what to say. 

The bubble bath scene was not needed. 

I don't even know what this scene has to do with the song.  Nothing to do with ice cream.

The dance to this MV follows along the same line as her dance in "Bubble Pop." I don't mind the whole sexy dancing, but she could have thought of something else. This dance has that whole "get on the floor" and a lot of "body movements".


This song is upbeat and any upbeat song to me is catchy. The first time I heard this song was going to be released, I thought of something cute, fun, and sweet like ice cream, but my guess was way off. Even though I was very very wrong the song and dance didn't surprise me at all. It was most likely expected. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Ghetto Justice" Review (By Iris)

"Ghetto Justice" unexpectedly became the sleeper hit of the year when it was released in 2011, becoming a critical and fan favorite.  Since then, many people had anticipated the sequel, including myself.

"Ghetto Justice 2" was set up very nicely.  It was one of the few sequels that truly felt like a continuation from the original.  All the principle cast members had returned, the ones who did not were heard from and had explained absences (Eddie Kwan and Joyce Tang), and the new characters (Raymond Cho, JJ Jia, and Crystal Li) were introduced well.

It all goes downhill from there though. The cases were weak, forgetful, and overall just uninteresting.  They failed to command attention, and with the excessive family related cases settled out of court, it strayed from the fact "Ghetto Justice" is a law series.  There were no captivating court scenes here.  Even the cases that had potential, such as the building collapse, were written poorly and ended abruptly. 

The heart and soul of "Ghetto Justice", embodied in the character of Law Ba made infamous by Kevin Cheng, lost his touch.  His ego seems to have inflated since the original, making him go from lovably cocky to just plain obnoxious at times.  His laziness and playfulness has elevated, and the brilliant lawyer failed to be exhibited much.  All of the subtle characteristics and flaws that made him special and likable in the first one were unnecessarily magnified.  He's still a likable enough character, but just not the same Law Ba that the audience came to love.

Myolie Wu delivers a repeat performance.  She reprises the role and shows small improvements, but doesn't present anything too new or impressive.  She and Kevin still have a great amount of chemistry together, and appear very natural.

"Ghetto Justice 2" wins the award for bringing in the most unnecessary plot device for its story ever: the love triangle.  The sequel saw challenges for Law Ba and Wong Sze Fu through Law Ba's ex-wife Lynette, played by Christine Kuo, who somehow managed to remain unknown to any of the other characters for so long.  The idea already seemed bad in theory, and its execution was no better.  Lynette was irritating, and almost singlehandedly makes the series a long draggy, mess.  There were some redeeming traits in the character, such as her wish to truly help people as a doctor, but her foolish love for Law Ba masks her potential likability.  Christine gives a mediocre performance with jumbled Cantonese and unnatural crying scenes, but the scene where she challenges Myolie to fight for Kevin showed she can be pretty fierce. 

Between the weak cases and overall storyline, the decline in Law Ba's level of likability, and the addition of Lynette, it was the supporting cast that kept me watching (that, and I didn't want to just drop the series since I enjoyed the original so much).

"Ah Dan" (Sam Lee) was already likable in the original, and continues to be.  In fact, I held a higher appreciation of the character of Ah Dan and Sam's subtle yet real portrayal of him this time around.  He is kindhearted and concerned of the well being of society to a fault, but has a tendency to neglect family.  Regardless of how small the appearance, it was also great that Sharon Chan was able to make a cameo as Ching Ching through the form of Ah Dan's memory and mind. 

I had major doubts of the pairing of Sam Lee and JJ Jia, but they turned out to be the pair I enjoyed watching most, from their initial dislike and misconceptions of each other, to their friendship and mutual understanding, to their eventual realization of their love of each other.  At first, JJ Jia's character Ah Sum seemed like she'd be very annoying, but she turned out to be a sweet, kind, caring, but smart girl.  JJ performed quite well, bringing out the heart and wisdom in Ah Sum.  She knew to remember the memories forever, but not let the past keep her from being happy in the present and future.  Her unwavering care of Ah Dan and willingness to help him through thick and thin was touching, particularly when she steered him to learn to accept his mother's death and mend his relationship with his father.  It was a plot line that could have been draggy to watch, but one of few things that were executed well in the series. 

Jazz Lam reprises his endearing performance as the adorable and gentlemanly MJ with ease, and it continues to shock me how he emerged into the character so naturally with his record of playing more rough and immature, younger characters.  Raymond Cho as "Leung Bao" was an appropriate replacement for Eddie Kwan, and had no trouble filling the void left in Law Ba's gang of friends.  Crystal Li did not have much development or screen time to work with as "Grace", but was very likable and shows potential as well as a certain aura of sweetness and intelligence to her.  However, the oddest character and casting decision was Elena Kong, who is pictured on the poster and initially appears to be a main cast member.  Her character had potential for development and another storyline.  Yet, she disappears after her divorce case and is never heard from again.

"Ghetto Justice 2" is deceiving.  It looks the same and as good as the original the outside with the return of its original cast and smooth entrance of new characters, but it's not.  The overall vision and point of the series did not mirror up to the first one.  It tried to expand on what made the original so beloved, but along the way ruined itself.  The sequel holds little novelty and things to praise about, but is full of weak and sloppy writing.  Perhaps it would have been better if the original producer Tong Kei Ming had returned, as he was replaced by newly promoted producer Joe Chan after announcing retirement.


"Ghetto Justice 2" feels more like a chore to watch than a pleasure, and definitely does not live up to the hype or the original.  With the exception of Christine Kuo, the series does boost solid acting.  However, the point that good acting can not save a bad script has been made and beaten to death by TVB a thousand times over, and "Ghetto Justice 2" is just another example.  The story is not engaging and sloppily written and should not be linked to the original.  There were some entertaining moments and I enjoyed watching the cast (mostly Sam and JJ), but the bad and weak outweighs the good.  Now that this review is written and done, I can now pretend there was never a sequel made for "Ghetto Justice".

Rating: 2 stars