Details

  • Last Online: 1 day ago
  • Gender: Female
  • Location: North Pole
  • Contribution Points: 82 LV2
  • Roles:
  • Join Date: November 7, 2018

Becky

North Pole

Becky

North Pole
Completed
Rattan
34 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Apr 9, 2021
30 of 30 episodes seen
Completed 6
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Probably one of the best cdramas in 2021...

I started watching Rattan purely for the scenic shots, did not have any expectations. Having seen Fairyland Lovers and a few other cdramas with fantasy stories in modern setting, I did not have high hopes that this would be good.... It has a much lower budget, 90 million yuan only, and it is only 30 eps, giving me the impression it is a 'lightweight' fantasy drama.

But Rattan has exceeded expectations and this might be in my list of Top 10 Dramas of 2021! It started off light and fluffy (due to the cinematography and initial slow pace), introducing us to the leads in a dramatic opening-- ML almost died in a car accident but his blood revived the FL, and in turn she brought him back to life. We watch the struggles due to personality differences between FL and ML, and FL's struggle to comprehend the new world while the story brings in a host of supporting characters. FL’s arrogant and domineering manner contrast with ML’s soft and submissive attitude was a refreshing watch! FYI, ML was not a submissive man! He did try to abandon FL initially, but when he realized he couldn’t, he then accepted her and became submissive. The chemistry between the leads were off the charts!! It was a smothering watch, like fire and ice. But in terms of plot, there wasn’t much in the initial eps, the focus was on the leads’ characterizations and the supporting characters. Some might be tempted to drop Rattan in the early eps, but if you are patient and persist until ep 9 or 10, the story gets more interesting. By ep 15 or so, the mysteries will draw you in so much, I won’t be surprised if you binge the remaining eps in one day. I watched this while it was still airing and took almost 2 weeks to watch ep 1 to 9. Thereafter, I consumed the remaining eps within a few days until the final 8 eps, where I had to wait patiently for its release….

What EXACTLY is the attraction of Rattan?
==Okay, some spoilers ahead, do not continue if you do not want to be spoiled==

- The scenic shots. The beautiful cinematography first draws you into the story. Director used a lot of wide-angled shots and zoom to show the beauty of nature and its gorgeous sets.

- FL’s cheongsams. She had at least 2 beautiful cheongsams and dresses per episode. And these dresses are not designed by some branded designer(s), but designed and tailored by the design director. Impressive considering the low budget.

- The story and mysteries. This is the MAIN reason I love this drama! Some supporting characters would go missing/die, and I was left wondering if they would be coming back or really gone?? As a fantasy mystery, it has its usual supporting characters with unknown back story. In the identity revelation of Dan Zhi Gang, I was really caught off-guard! Suspected a few possibilities but failed to guess his identity. And in Bai Ying vs Si Teng fight, I also failed to guess Si Teng’s real plan! In most dramas, we get some hint of ‘the truth’ or ‘the plan’ about 1 or 2 eps prior to it happening, but in Rattan, screenwriter and director kept me guessing, and most of the time my guesses turned out wrong, lol! There lies the master stroke of this drama, it keeps you guessing until it reveals the truth. And the truth is not so far-fetched, but it has been there right in front of you, just that you failed to see it…. Which makes it so interesting!

- The main couple’s chemistry ♥ I wish there were more eps, of them just cooking, reading and doing mundane activities. They look so adorable and sweet together!

Special mention on episodes 28 and 29 ♥
Director really blow my mind here! He turned the drama into horror without making it feel out of place, I look forward to him directing a horror drama in future!

Most fantasy dramas start off strong, with weak 2nd half and a rushed ending. Not in Rattan. It deceives you with the initial slow pace and beautiful scenery, plot and pace picks up and 'hit you in the guts' at the ending episodes. The finale of eps 25 to 30 + extra ep with alternate ending are worth re-watching **thumbs up**

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Bureau of Transformer
9 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Mar 9, 2021
24 of 24 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.5
Story 10
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

An unexpectedly entertaining drama with some thought-provoking topics

This is one of the most unknown, unexpected and under-mentioned dramas.... Although a cdrama reviewer has included this into her top 10 dramas of 2019 (WaWa Mei) and a colleague rec this too, I only watch this now (yr 2021). Was misled by that horrendous trailer that made it look like a slapstick comedy and failed to show this drama is more than comedy... That it has serious fantasy with decent CGI, and humane stories covering a wide range of life topics:-

1) What if you have a dream but your loved ones are against you pursuing this dream? What if you have the means to keep your family happy and pursue your dream?.... Yet after few years, you regret the decision and want to change again...?

2) What if you wish to die but you are an immortal? What can give you the courage to continue living? (parts of the dialogue here, can be applied to depression/suicide too)

3) What if you have the opportunity to do something you loved and dreamt of for years but screwed up when you had the chance? You spent your next years pining over that 1 lost chance.... How to solve your everlasting regret?

4) What if you have a dream but becos of your birth, you might never be able to achieve your dream... Then in a twist of fate, there was an error at your application and everyone thought you are of elite birth and so you got accepted for your dream job?....

5) What if your love is forbidden? Will you keep quiet and sacrifice the love, or take the chance?

6) What is true love? Can true love conquer all? Even if your loved one might change gender at a certain age....

etc, and more!

The other thing I really like about this drama:- there are no cold face, all powerful ML or Marysue FL!! In fact all the main female characters are smart, independent and very clear about their life goals... They have plans and objectives! Instead the ML is quite an aimless, happy-go-lucky man at the start of the drama.... and develop to be more mature and focused as the plot develops.

Excellent acting from the main cast, even a supporting female character (in point 1 listed above) puts in a tremendous performance! Fyi, when the actress sings for her role, that was her real voice too!! Beautiful and can both act and sing, swooning....

So why 0.5 point deduction? Plotholes. Quite a few and 1 mega plothole in the last episode (thanks to the good cinematography, i can turn a blind eye to that glaring plothole)... There are a few "filler episodes" too, which give it a bit of drag in the middle parts.

A really wonderful drama, love the scriptwriting and art direction!

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Miss S
9 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Sep 22, 2020
34 of 34 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 9.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 9.0

For those who love a mature and good detective drama (without much CP)

There have been quite alot of detective cdramas released recently, although I have not watched them all, yet this should be my favorite for 2020 ^_^ The main reason that I love it:-- it focuses more on the FL's life and murder cases, and less on the romance. The script and pacing are even throughout the drama, unlike some other detective cdramas where it ends in a cliffhanger (Detective L.... for hinting at a master villain throughout but nothing happen) or plot turns ridiculous at the end (When a Snail Falls in Love). The comedy is done well too, not too much, just at the appropriate moments. My fav comedy is in the 2nd last episode ;) which was quite unexpected as the story was very tensed at that point, yet the comedy was actually logical and required in order for the plot to move on.

My highest praise is for the sets and costumes!! The production team has put alot of thought into making this as believable and realistic as possible. The cars, costumes and setting of every room and hall are so 1940s Shanghai-style and GORGEOUS. Ironically though, ML looks better in the pink convertible than FL ;p You will love the murder at the dressmaker: for the beautiful dresses and designs. Although I do not like the murder of the painter case, that painting of the sleeping beauty is so artistic and beautiful, I have to agree it is "to kill for".

The cast put up an excellent performance. I especially love the FL: the way she walks and talks is so sophisticated and charming. True, Ma Yili does not look 'drop-dead gorgeous' here... as this is modeled after Miss Fisher, who is someone described as so beautiful and flirtatious. But in real life, attractive women might not always be the best looking. Miss Su's charm is in the way she carries herself (confidence), her world view and knowledge, and knowing what dresses suit her figure. I'm sure you know of at least 1 or 2 such friends, who are quite average looking but attracts opp sex like honey to bees because of her charisma.... Ma Yili / Miss Su is such. If this is not attractive to you, there is the ML, Gao Weiguang in 1940s coat and suit.

The negative point about the drama is the murder cases.... not all of the cases are good. Especially a few of the cases in the 1st half. After the great start (the first case), there are a few duds. You know the kind, over complicated murder plan with very unbelievable killer motivation. Thankfully there are some really good cases. I especially like the murder at the factory, and murder at the dressmaker. The killers' motivations in both cases were unexpected yet logical ;)

The other negative point of the drama, it lacks the X factor. In spite of the amazing cast, good script and beautiful cinematography, I actually pause a few days in between episodes in the first half (between ep 5 to 15). I have started on this drama after it was completed. I could have binge it, but it did not have that pull factor for me. Which is quite strange... considering I do rate this drama very highly. If you have watched this drama, and feel the same way, could you explain why? It is like drinking champagne: you enjoy it when drinking, but do not feel the desire to order it every time.

Finally if anyone is haunted by the ending theme song, I found it at youtube:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-65emeeFJZ4 窥望 by Sa Ji. And https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsihvx2KQT0 迷惑 by Ye Xuanqing If you understand Chinese, the lyrics in the songs describe the drama well.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
The World Between Us
8 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jan 18, 2021
10 of 10 episodes seen
Completed 3
Overall 9.5
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0
This review may contain spoilers

The world between us -- how different are you and I? Are we really that different?

I'm really starting to fall in love with Taiwan dramas.... Firstly, their drama titles are so meaningful. The Chinese and English titles do not have the same meaning. But when you combine both meanings together, you get a deeper understanding of what the drama is about. So this drama's Chinese title is 我们与恶的距离 which means "the distance between us and evil". English title "The World Between Us" tells us the drama would cover on some life issues, on what separates/ divides you and I, and we will see at least 2 POVs. When we combine both meanings together, it is really saying "What are the differences between you and I? Are we as innocent of wrong-doings (evil) as we thought?" There is a line in this drama: “ 到底什么是好人,什么是坏人,你有标准答案吗?" What defines a good person, what defines a bad person, is there a standard answer?

The basic premise of the plot: an on-going trial to decide the fate of a cinema mass-shooting murderer. The convicted murderer has refused psychiatric assessment, which his lawyer has been pursuing for. So the lawyer tried to reach out to the father of one of the victims (who is the CEO of a media company), and the murderer's parents, hoping to get their support to get the public to consider on the murderer's mental health and to get the parents to persuade the murderer to agree to psychiatric assessment. From there, it goes into the lives of these different groups of people:- the victims' families, the murderer's family, and the lawyer representing the murderer.

The life issues that this drama explores are:- 1) mental health sufferers and what are (some of) the obstacles that they face 2) the damage caused due to a sudden, senseless loss of a family member, and how to recover from this 3) what the family of a mass murderer has to deal with, and how they can move on from it 4) and the stress that the community lawyer and his family has to face, due to defending someone who is perceived to be ‘better off dead'.

It is amazing how well the director and scriptwriters manage to pack in such heavy topics in just 10 episodes. The script is very well-written and plot developments are not exaggerated and with good pacing. The dialogues are natural and with the good acting, makes this a very convincing watch. Initially it felt like a documentary, but by ep 2 or so, you would be gripped into the story and couldn't care less if the cinematography is not as stylish as some other dramas.... I must praise the writing on the media work part: the setting, camera work and terminologies in the dialogues are very professional. I do not work in the media industry so I do not know how accurate was the portrayal, but it is enough to make me believe in the characters **thumbs up**

So why am I rating this only 9.5? Around ep 7 or 8, the pacing kind of slowdown a bit, there was some drag and a bromance scene that I felt was unnecessary, hence the 0.5 point deduction. It is a happy conclusion, everything works out for everyone. Although a bit too 'neat', it gives positive energy into an otherwise heavy theme.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Neko
8 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jan 10, 2021
6 of 6 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 9.0
This review may contain spoilers

Probably 1 of the best Asian dramas in 2020

Japanese filmmakers are really good at using small, simple moments to tell a story. No exaggeration (unless it is a comedy) and no over-abundance of subplots. This is minimalist filmmaking. Matsumoto Hana's recent works are really good, an actress-director to keep an eye on :)

Honestly, I have picked Neko to watch on a whim. I love cats and well, there is cat in the title ^^ But oh, do not be mistaken, this drama is not about cats. Rather, it is about how 2 lonely people met over a cat, how they became companions and fell in love with each other.....

The script is very honest. Right in ep 1, FL tells ML that she has brain tumor and is expected to die from it soon. He is homeless so she offered him to stay at her home, on condition that he does what a family member would-- FL is living alone and craves for companionship. Of course, they fell in love. You would watch them struggle with the love, she wasn't sure if to accept him as he would eventually be heartbroken, but he convinced her. Better to have loved and lost, than not love at all. But life is unpredictable.....

Neko is an excellent mini drama that is a role model for how with good script and cinematography, you can present loneliness, love, companionship, loss, sadness and recovery in a few short scenes. This drama is 6 episodes of 20 mins each, the length of a movie. But the production is right to make this into a drama, to present the different arcs and emotions, and give viewers time to absorb in what was shown. By the end of this drama, it would make you rethink about life and death.

I know the story seems too heavy (I suspect that is why the title is "Neko", to trick us into watching it, lol) but trust me, you would be very glad to spend 2 hours on this drama. We all love those lighthearted, idol romcoms or gritty mysteries dramas, but when such a good slice-of-life drama comes along, it deserves your time.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
The Long Ballad
18 people found this review helpful
by Becky
May 8, 2021
49 of 49 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 8.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers

The Long Ballad -- saved by its beautiful cast

The Long Ballad is a very entertaining drama. If you have never seen a Chinese historical, I would highly recommend you to watch this. But for those who have seen several historicals, The Long Ballad is an optional watch....

TLB has 4 leads-- Dilraba Dilmurat, Wu Lei, Zhao Lusi and Liu Yuning. They are young and beautiful actors. Especially for Dilraba, Wu Lei and Zhao Lusi, who have put in very remarkable performances in this drama (I have seen them in their previous dramas and there are notable improvements for all 3). I'm happy for Dilraba who finally has a strong FL character who does not have a tragic ending. Wu Lei had felt like the wrong choice for Ashile Sun, military general in the grasslands would not look like him, but his acting convinced me! Zhao Lusi's Leyan has very good character developments that kept me worried for her for a long while... which is good, otherwise I might have dropped the drama in the 20+ eps.

The director did a great job and kept the plot going at a good, fast pace almost for the whole drama. The good thing about The Long Ballad is, it has no drag, every episode is essential. Even when it cuts to Leyan's arc, the slower plot developments there still keep our attention as we worry for her.

My greatest, and only issue is on the script. The script feels like it is written for elementary school children. The simplicity of the plot really comes apart in the last arc, that last 7 eps where I have to watch at 1.5x speed else I be falling asleep. I like Dilraba a lot, and kept reminding myself, it is only 7 eps left, finish this for Dilraba.....

I must say the plot, the main plot, is really good. It has a lot of potential.... unfortunately screenwriter has simplified it to juvenile levels.

-- Change Ge was stabbed/shot at in her chest, near the heart area, several times in the drama. Even falling down from a great height into a river. Yet she survived. FL halo is over-used here. And because of this, no matter what danger that Chang Ge is in later, we do not feel anxious for her becos scriptwriter has made it very clear that she cannot die...

-- Chang Ge was able to command Gong Sun He's army in the battle against Ashile (she has only been taught in warfare by Masters, never been in a battle)... and that scheme that they used, flooding the enemy troops with water. That should take several days, weeks to arrange. How to setup that in one night....

-- Middle part is generally okay, or maybe I tried not to be 'too picky' and shut down my brain as I continue watching. But in the rescue of the Tang general from Ashile camp. It is unthinkable that such a clever Chang Ge would act so foolishly... and when the escape plan failed and Ashile soldiers were catching up with them (literally just a few metres away, on horses), the three had a lot of time to chat and even got Shi Ba (the general's most junior disciple) to acknowledge Chang Ge as her new master..... I was like, um folks, the soldiers are coming on fast horses, so can you get going??!

-- I really do not like the last arc.... the part when Chang Ge and Ke Dun were plotting and scheming against each other. Those tribal heads are much older than them, yet they can be sooo easily manipulated??!! Yes, the excuse is Ke Dun had held them hostage with their family members. But dear scriptwriter, they are GRASSLANDS TRIBAL HEADS, big macho men with their own brains and capable of independent thinking. It is not convincing that all of them become cowards because loved ones were held captive. They are MACHO men.... at least a few would want to stand up against Ke Dun even if at the risk of their families.

-- And that fire at the end. For such a big fire to start so quickly, Ke Dun would have poured fuel on the floor much earlier. The hall was enclosed (windows closed), so when Chang Ge entered, she should have smelled the fuel.... um, maybe Chang Ge had a nose block that day? cough cough.....

And the kiss scenes in the drama..... why even bother putting in romance if you want to be PG about the kisses?

China has produced much better historical dramas, with better attention on details and the plots. The Long Ballad is only a fun and entertaining watch, with a very beautiful and talented cast. Please ignore the script, and you can enjoy the drama fully.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
The Rebel
7 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jul 27, 2021
43 of 43 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 7.0
This review may contain spoilers

Excellent directing work: kept the suspenseful atmosphere throughout 43 eps

As a spy suspense thriller, The Rebel is outstanding in the art direction and cinematography, and the ACTING. This might be the best acted cdrama for the year! I have seen the director's most recent previous work-- Dream Detective. Although he is listed as screenwriter, I read in an article that he had went onsite and participated in the production. The similarity that I see in the art direction in Dream Detective and The Rebel-- very good nuanced shots of the emo scenes. This drama has frequent scenes of one character just sitting there, contemplating on the events and what to do next. And just like in Dream Detective, a lot of the characters' thoughts, love between the main leads were not expressed in words. The Rebel left it up to viewers if Chen Mo Qun ever knew who had instigated his downfall, if Lan Xin Jie ever loved Lin Nan Sheng, etc.. (ps: if you are intrigued and want to check out Dream Detective, please note this is still not subbed).

To be honest, up until the 20+ eps I thought this would be a 9.5 or 10 stars for me. Unfortunately, the script did not manage to hold up the story. The novel that this is adapted from is actually quite a short story, so 7 screenwriters are roped into the production to expand on the storyline and add in more scenes. Maybe they hired such a big team of screenwriters to ensure the details would be accurate per historical places and events but this also created an unevenness in the overall plot-- drama started off quite intelligent, and dipped into stupidity in the middle parts, and the ending..... the built-up to the ending was so strong, so good, but dip into predictability in the last ep -_-" In between, when some good supporting characters were going to die, the script gave special attention to their interactions with ML, but this only give viewers "red flag", as if telling me, yup he's going to die soon (and he did die quickly, in the same ep). Script is too predictable.

Characters are very well-written in this drama, and the developments and changes in their personas. Some of the most brilliant character developments..... The gradual changes in Lin Nan Sheng, Chen Mo Qun, Wang Shi An and Lin Xin Jie, how the events, environment and years slowly changed them are very well depicted. Kudos to the actors!!! Erm, notice how I did not mention on the FL, Zhu Yi Zhen. Although she went through a lot too, the free spirited, idealistic Zhu Yi Zhen at the beginning still look same to the Zhu Yi Zhen at the end, albeit she became more mature. Tong Yao is a very good actress, she had won awards! The problem is in the script, I guess production decided to make the FL role more like a tool to facilitate certain events. Such that the mistake she made at the beginning, she again made a similar mistake at the end (she was very bad at reading people). She was said to have attended military training, etc but we really don't see much development in her at all.

Soundtrack is really good! Do not skip the intro (don't worry, no spoiler in it)! Ending song is awesome too \o/ Overall however, The Rebel was a disappointment for me, had expected more.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Crossroad Bistro
8 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Aug 3, 2021
30 of 30 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.0

Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you'd get

Crossroad Bistro is a heartwarming and frustrating, funny and sad, very beautifully shot and somewhat disjointed drama. I get the feeling that this might be semi-autobiographical, like someone has penned down some personalities that he knows in real life, and some true life stories that he have witnessed or maybe even experienced. Some scenes do not really advanced the story or make any impact to the plot, but are in the drama, as if it is an ode to someone or in memory of a better time.... This is especially so with that song that keeps playing in the background. A song that is very wistful, recollecting on the past.

Crossroad Bistro isn't just one story, it is a collection of several stories. There would be a few times when you are watching this drama that you would fuss over the characters' decisions or events that happened, I would say, do not fuss over the details, instead look at the main point and moral of story that the drama is trying to tell you. From these, there is much to know and learn, as every event that happened, the storyteller is actually trying to convey an opinion on Life to us, the viewers. In some sense, this drama is like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Every event in the drama is like a mini story, each with a perspective on Life to share, a topic to let you discuss and think over. Such as are adventure seekers quite selfish? In the pursuit of adventure, the way they put their lives on the edge, is this being responsible to their families? Between personal happiness/success and being responsible to loved ones, which is more important?

I also like that it explored the love between man and woman in several different ways. We have the selfish jerk boyfriends, the devoted and loving boyfriend but the woman could not feel the spark (love) for, the love of a married couple, and a many years friendship that is quite confusing if it is an only friendship love or is there something more?

My only complaint on the drama is:- the friendships between the 5 women are a bit unrealistic? It is possible to develop very close friendship in a short time, but maybe not to the extent that is shown in drama.... To become so close, you should be seeing each other every day or every other day, but one of the FLs is quite separated from the other 4, and when they all came together to support her, that part was a tad unbelievable. Still I love the 5 women friendships, the bond that they shared.

Love the musical performances and that poetry recital (with drinks)! And the peeks into acting and entertainment circle, that was fun! Not essential to plot but gave it so much color and life. An ode to better times and friends!

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
The Record of Strange Things
6 people found this review helpful
by Becky
May 8, 2022
36 of 36 episodes seen
Completed 1
Overall 9.0
Story 10
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 10

A mystery suspense story that has more twists than an ice cream twist

How good is the script in this drama? It is so good, even though the production quality is poor (and quite cheesy), even though the part-time actors could not hold up the acting (especially towards the end), this drama still gets a 8.1 at China's book and film rating site- Douban. And if I am to rate this drama on the story and script, and just on this aspect, I would rate it 15/10. Unfortunately we have to consider the other aspects of acting and production quality hence this is a 9/10 for me.

Unlike j and kdramas, cdramas seldom have a good and tight script. It does better at slice-of-life than in mystery suspense. Especially when there are battle of wits, it would usually lower the intelligence of the bad guys so it can show off how clever the leads are. And if there are plot twists, it only happens at the end of the drama, and usually just 1 or 2 plot twists. A few examples are Joy of Life, The Bad Kids, The Long Night. And these dramas, we would praise them for the scriptwriting, how well-written, how sincere is the production, etc.

The Record of Strange Things just blew all these out of the water. It show there are scriptwriters who can really put in the efforts to write a coherent, fast pace and intelligent script. A story where the leads and all characters have above average intelligence. No one has their intelligence watered down just so the story can reach a conclusion. And the battle of wits, especially in the 20+ eps are soooo goooood. Plot twists? There are so many in this drama I lost count! I remember at least 5 times that the story has fooled me! There was this ep, after I watched it, I decided to stop for that day, and post a comment online that it is understandable why the gang had made that mistake, that it is within normal human thinking not to check for that item..... Then I watched the next ep on the next day, and realized it was a trap setup by the gang. They haven't made a mistake at all..... Please note that I have said earlier, that the main cast are part-time actors, so it is not their great acting which fooled me, but the way the story was written that made me really believe that was true, I didn't smell a rat at all. And this is how it is, several times throughout, I would be "I think this is sus" but story shows me otherwise, then something else happens and I sus the same character again....

Yet I have been informed, this is still not the production team's best drama. Their best is the 3 seasons of Moral Peanuts, especially the season 3 which has a rating of 9.1 at douban. So yup, I should be starting at Moral Peanuts next.

It is quite sad that such a production team do not get the support it needs from investors. Because towards the end, the drama isn't as exciting, although story is still good and going strong, it felt like something is missing. Partly because of the acting, the actors could not express the urgency and desperation in the last arc. And partly because of poor production, the special efforts and venues that they use are too bare and maybe camera equipment too that made the last part suffered in storytelling. But overall, this would probably be the best drama of the year for me, if not at least 2nd or 3rd best. I highly recommend you check out this, if you don't mind the poorer production quality, the story is really fantastic, especially in the 20+ eps. Such fast pace and clever writing and art direction.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Royal Nirvana
6 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jul 7, 2021
60 of 60 episodes seen
Completed 2
Overall 9.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 10
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

The Crown Prince who Cared Too Much

===my review contains spoiler on the ending===

I am reminded of Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre-Dame as I was watching this drama. Quite a few parallels-- right from the start, we sense an air of tragedy; both have physical tortures and punishments aplenty; both are melancholically beautiful. I remember having the most difficult time reading Notre-Dame, on one hand I love the prose and writing style, on the other hand, the story was so awfully tragic. That is the same experience with Royal Nirvana.

I'm not sure if the production team was trying to be ironic when they gave the English title "Royal Nirvana", because there is nothing nirvana about the story. Its Chinese title makes more sense-- 鹤唳华亭 is a poetic expression that means recollection of the past, a past that was very unpredictable and treacherous. Yet the treacheries and scheming in this story isn't as good as in Nirvana in Fire, The Rise of Phoenixes, etc. It is however outstanding in its detailed characterizations of the main leads and supporting characters. And watching the characters 'face off' in tensed moments are very well done in Royal Nirvana! The scenes between Crown Prince and Emperor, between Crown Prince and Wenxi, are full of tensions and emotions. Their feelings that were at times suppressed and hidden behind their words and actions, and at times expressed so boldly that left me in shock. The attraction of Royal Nirvana is not in its story, but in the storytelling: the cinematography, the dialogues and the acting.

I love the cinematography, the wide-angled view and 180° camera panning helped to pull me into the story. At times I felt as if I was there, an invisible soul standing at a corner watching the story unfolds. And the dialogues....Royal Nirvana has some of the best lines I've ever heard in a historical cdrama. The writer is very clever (and creative) in the use of simple words, arranging them in such a manner that made some of the lines so meaningful and unforgettable. The acting, hmmm. I know most viewers complain on Luo Jin's portrayal of the Crown Prince. For me however, I think he was right. This Crown Prince cared a lot, he cared too much for those that he loved and even those that he hated. He could never make a strong and firm stand for himself, and in the midst of trying to protect everyone, his path and objectives got very unclear. For such a character, it is not enough to portray him with sad eyes and a frown, he needed to cry. The whole cast put in a phenomenal performance, special mention on the Emperor, it is such a 'joy' when he is on screen. Although he is the most hated character, his acting is so naunced, it is an enjoyment to watch him. Lu Wenxi... oh my, every time her tiny frame showed up, I almost stop breathing because most of the tragedy and tortures were focused on her. When Crown Prince was with Wenxi, the onscreen chemistry was sizzling. I'm not sure if it was the director's artistic direction or the acting (maybe both), when these 2 were on screen together in the later parts, the undercurrent desires and sexual tensions could have melted my screen...

In case you have not watched this drama and is hesitating because the ML sounds like such a kill-joy, FL is very strong. Lu Wenxi-- an innocent lass who had merely wanted to follow her heart and be with the man that she loved, how she had to grow up and be brave in a short period of time. And how she exacted her revenge plan deserved standing ovation. It was such a checkmate move! She had not only thought through how each of the characters would react, she planned and made sure which ever move that they made, they would eventually end up where she wanted them to be. In comparison, ML spent most of the time in a reactive state, only reacting to the events that happened and not taking a pro-active lead. To some extent, his teacher and mentor had to take some responsibility for this. ML had went on the dark side early on in the story, he did an underhanded move to entrap his enemies. However his plan was not fail-safe, and when his teacher was sacrificed to protect him (and lectured him on integrity before he died), he vowed never to resort to underhanded means and never to put others in danger... which was really quite foolish, sigh.

So why am I rating this drama only 9? I am usually very generous and often give 9.5 and 10. That 1 missing point is because I'm really not convinced that this story had to be so tragic (this is also the reason why Hunchback of Notre-Dame is less well-known)... Due to censorship issues, a great chunk of about 10+ episodes were edited off at the end. Since it was edited off, couldn't they have given this a happy ending? Stop the story at the point when Wenxi had completed her revenge and Crown Prince made her his concubine. But it didn't and instead gave us a confusing ending, hinting that "more stuffs happened" but we couldn't show you. Maybe the director had planned for the Special and wanted to give an abstract ending so that viewers would still be interested to continue with the story in the Special. But such an ending was quite anti-climax and shallow, spoiling the emotionally rich and intense drama.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Fights Break Sphere
6 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Apr 13, 2021
45 of 45 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 10
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0

Watch Fights Break Sphere for the story

I deliberated a long time over 8.5 or 9.... Finally decided on 8.5 becos the camera work and production quality affected my watching experience quite a lot. If the props and costumes quality was better, or the camera men were more experienced and know to shoot at angles that would not make the props look so fake, this drama would have been a 9.5 or even 10 for me.

This is an idol-led drama, with a really young cast and it was before Wu Lei and Xiao Zhan were such hot property. It didn't have much budget or good camera men so the watching experience feels like I'm at a school stage play at times.... But the story!! The story is GOOD! One of the best wuxia plots in recent times! And the screenwriters are quite respectful of the work, the changes it made from the original did not take too much away from the story. The drama is free from usual tropes, at least I haven't spotted any.... I don't consider the bro-sis romance to be a trope as this is in the original book.

If you like a good wuxia drama without much romance, Fights Break Sphere is a strong contender. Wu Lei fits the ML role well, and he puts in a commandable performance! I'm quite excited to see how he would develop in acting as he mature, like 10 years later? For a 17 yo to put in such a credible performance, he would probably be mind-blowing when he is 28.

And you have members of XNine in supporting roles, including uber hot Xiao Zhan! And a really pretty FL who unfortunately couldn't act well, but that is okay, won't distract you too much. I really like Li Qin's cameo here! She has such good chemistry with Wu Lei, it is unbelievable they are 9 years apart in age. Her CP with Wu Lei is more sizzling than the FL with Wu Lei.... Haha.

This is a fun watch with a very good, engaging story. I do not know if there'd be a season 2, but the ending is good enough for me. There is the donghua version too! You can continue the story in its animated version.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
The Victims' Game
8 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jan 15, 2021
8 of 8 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 10
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Production's dedication and heart for the story shines through the drama...

I miss the old days' dramas/movies that focus on telling a story without having to consider the censorship, investors' ROI, etc.. I thought that is lost in the current times of commercialism and instant success. The Victims' Game gave me hope there is still a place in Asia where director and scriptwriter can focus on how to tell a story, how to do it in the most effective way... Maybe it had to restrain itself in some scenes, but what it has achieved in the final product is worth commending on.

The Victims' Game is a Taiwan drama produced in collaboration with Netflix, and it is like the older sibling of 13 Reasons Why. 13 Reasons Why targets teenagers and school bullying; The Victims' Game targets adults, specifically adults dealing with past traumas and present devastating circumstances.

I reserve my highest praise for the props and settings. Production really spent time into making the story as realistic as possible, all the dead bodies and blood look very real. And that helps to pull me into the world that it has built, 1st half of the drama felt like I was watching a reality show or documentary. The dual-language of Mandarin and Hokkien, the cussing, the smoking, and (I think) all the actors' spoke their own lines? Most of the dialogues sounded like it was recorded on set. The acting was a bit uneven, but the essential cast, the core of the story, put in a brilliant performance! I especially appreciate the casting of Moon Lee... she has still some baby fat on her (face) and that added to the realism she is a teenager.

I must also mention on the storytelling.... The storytelling, how it tackles the topic of suicide.... sure, there are some typical tropes and clichés in the plot, but the storytelling is so effective and powerful that those tropey scenes made me cried the hardest.... I usually pay attention to plot holes, but for this drama, I hadn't notice any. Too tired out from absorbing the stories that the drama has packed into a short 8 hours.

The script might appear to be frivolous in its treatment of the victims... we do not know much about the victims' stories. Not sure if it is the intention of the production to hold back on their stories for 2nd season development, or--- if the intended audience is people with suicidal thoughts? Then this manner of storytelling is very appropriate. The details and realism in the dead bodies, how they died and their last moments and thoughts, the grief of the people that they left behind.... these are details that would matter to someone who is suicidal. Such scenes and dialogues have a "wake up" effect on those who are in pain and suicidal (but do not have medical conditions). The realism of death is a good "wake up" call. Not lengthy stories about others' pain, how they reach the suicidal stage.... That said, I do not understand the relevance of including in society topics of employment abuse, elderly abuse at nursing home? That felt extra and unnecessary...

Special mention on the scene between Hsu Hai-Yin and Li Ya-Chun in the last episode. That scene was the production's message to viewers, the suicide prevention message. But the dialogues are so good, I didn't felt I was being lectured on. The ending might have been quite light-handed (everything ties up too neatly), but after such a heavy 7 episodes, it is quite a relief and felt appropriate. Looking forward to its season 2 in 2022.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Trinity of Shadows
5 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Oct 26, 2021
15 of 15 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.5
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers

The ending is not as simple as it seems

When I initially finished this, I have rated it 7. Plot developed too slowly and that weird ending, is so laughable I was thinking there should be a season 2-- Trinity of Shadows: Revenge of the Ghost. And it can be supernatural horror..... ^^"

But now that I realized what the story is actually about, I increased my rating to 8.5

It is still not perfect becos 1) drama is too long, the pacing could have been tighter. 2) for a plot twist, this is so not obvious that about 50% of viewers would have missed it! In this age of instant gratifications and abundant dramas, a script that is too mind boggling.... few would take the time to ponder and understand that ending -_-"

----MAJOR SPOILERS----

Well, that ending stuck in my head... Felt like there were some details that I have missed. Is the ending really so stupid? So I went to Douban (I understand Chinese) to read what others wrote on the drama, and saw a post on the ending, a different point of view that made perfect sense!

I shan't say what it is but let's recap over the story--

At drama start, it had hinted at serial murders, that FL's father was not the actual murderer but covering for someone. And that the murderer was still free, and might be back to killing prostitutes in the same manner. Then as plot develops, we know that is not true....

Then in ep 13, Dong revealed who was the murderer. And becos of his words and the developments we thought, yes, that is the truth!! But think about it, Dong wasn't there when the murder happened, he had only assumed what had happened....

We, the viewers, are led on by Dong's assumption but what if he was wrong?

Think about it, if she was the murderer, there's some details that don't fit logical human behaviour:-

Why did he willingly sacrificed himself to cover up for her? And why did she run away? Since he sacrificed himself, shouldn't she had stayed back to take care of her?

The only rational reasoning is, both of them were not motivated to sacrifice or ran due to guilt, both their actions were in fact motivated out of fear. The shock and fear on what really happened....

Yang realized the truth at the end too. Which is why we saw that last scene, them moving back into the house.....

I thought I was watching an investigative mystery but it is actually a psychological thriller with a creepy, horrifying ending.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Once Upon a Time in Lingjian Mountain
5 people found this review helpful
by Becky
May 26, 2021
37 of 37 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 10
Story 10
Acting/Cast 10
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

My favorite wuxia-fantasy chinese drama

This is a belated review-- I saw Once Upon a Time in Lingjian Mountain back in Dec 2019. Unlike most viewers, I fell in love with the drama within the first 5 mins of ep 1. It was that simple-- a funny conversation between Wang Wu and Feng Yin (Head of the Lingjian Sect) and I was sold. With most dramas I need a few eps, but for Lingjian it took only 5 mins and 我入坑了。 Because of this I have also seen My Unicorn Girl (by the same director), that was not as charming. I guess having 2 experienced actors in the opening scene with really fantastic comedy lines made a difference :) And I was tickled how the very handsome Roger Kwok (Feng Yin) look like an Uncle here.

To be honest, the next few episodes are a bit flat (the back and forth between the Old Man and Zhu Qin in the quest to find Wang Lu was a highlight though). The RPG part of the quest although refreshing, was a bit uninteresting as it drags. But the story picks up again when Wang Lu was accepted into Lingjian Sect and became Wang Wu's disciple. With Wang Wu in the scenes, the drama brightens up a lot!! The S&M part of Wang Lu's training was so hilarious and fun that quite a few period dramas copied this (the recently ended Court Lady is an example, hack it even has the same ML Xu Kai undergoing the same S&M training).

And as Wang Lu goes through various quests in alternate realities, illusions and more RPG situations-- the drama is a fantastic dreamland of wonders and fun! Supported by an amazing cast of actors, Ling Jian should be that comedy drama which you MUST watch.

My utlra favorite parts of the drama are:

1) When Wang Wu was held captive by Hai Tian Kuo. The shenanigans that Wang Wu got into in order to escape was hilarious and showcased her great acting skills ❤

2) The boyband performance of Wang Lu, Hai Yun Fan and Wen Bao. Initially I found this part very cringe and didn't like it. But on subsequent rewatch of the drama, I start to accept the craziness of the boyband and enjoyed it more.

3) When Feng Ling fell in love with Ouyang Shang. It did a parody of rom-coms -- the accidental meet in the rain, the female impersonation as male in order to enroll into a school, the fall into his arms, etc. were very well done and fun

In conclusion, good comedy becomes GREAT when you have a cast of capable actors with great comic timing and willing to sacrifice their image for the story. Sandrine Pinna was not worried that she'd look ugly in the scenes, but just went ahead and act according to script. And Xu Kai made a sacrifice to dress up as female in one scene! Do check for the behind the scenes for that as there are more that was shot but due to censorship, they were eventually axed in the final edit.

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?
Completed
Fate
6 people found this review helpful
by Becky
Jul 21, 2021
40 of 40 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

A most unexpected piece of brilliant screenplay

Up until the last episode, I thought I've be rating this drama either 6 or 7, but that last episode turned everything around. In fact, I'm thinking I would have to do a re-watch of the drama.... If you are not a deep thinker and just watch this drama as a rom-com, you would see this as a soap opera story and the ending as silly and nonsensical. If you are a deep thinker like me, you might realize the additional psychological implications that this drama has been hiding until the last scene. I'm seeing so much hints now, even the poster is suspicious.... isn't it weird that Xia Ran Ran is dressed in complete white while the rest of cast are in black? I need to talk to the director or scriptwriter!!

I like the start of the drama-- a spoilt rich girl with a sad past, was alone in England and had been partying wildly, so she ran out of cash and called home to ask for funds. She was denied and did not have money to pay the apartment rent. Then police received a tip and went to her apartment and discovered illegal drugs, so she was arrested. She did not have anyone she knew in England who could help her, except for the stranger whose mobile number she had thought was her mother’s. She called again and begged for his help. He felt sorry for her and went down to the police station and bailed her out. Without money and her identifications (police withheld this due to the investigations), she had no choice but to stay with this strange man. When she reached his home however, she was surprised that he was staying at the same address that her mother had given her. But where was her mother? And why was this stranger holding the mobile number and staying at the place where her mother should have been? The next sequence of events cleverly turned towards rom-com cliches—labour contract, aloof ML and cute-as-button FL, wild girl turned hardworking student in order to plan a revenge when FL returned to China…. Making me completely forgetting that initial mysterious setup.

And this is one aspect of the brilliance in the screenplay, how it set us up with a mysterious beginning then buried the mystery with rom-com and other developments until the last 10 episodes where the mystery was revealed. And the revelation is well done too, giving little stray crumbs to viewers to guess at the truth, yet not giving us enough to know the full story until screenplay was ready to reveal the truth.

The whole cast acted very well, special mention on Liu Xiao Zhen who played Dan Juan, FL’s sissy BFF. Except for Li Yi Tong…. I find her acting to be quite underwhelming and somewhat disconnected from the drama. BUT my opinion on her acting did a 180° change when I saw the ending….

Throughout the drama, Xia Ran Ran (Li Yi Tong) would occasionally talk to herself and have fantastical daydreams. I have thought these are adorable scenes that director puts in to add more cuteness…. BUT my opinion on this did a 180° change when I saw the ending….

It is a happy ending— everything turns up rosy for Xia Ran Ran, and she married Shao Mingzhe in beautiful fairytale-like wedding. BUT in the wedding scene, there is an exact same sequence that had appeared in the initial 10 eps, in one of Xia Ran Ran’s daydreams…. This very weird ending plus the above 2 points that I have mentioned led me to think that the screenwriter wanted to imply that the last episode is a fantasy of Xia Ran Ran, that she had chosen to live in a fantasized perfect world then face the reality…. The reality would be: she lost the tender, bank retracted back the loan support, they had to sell their home and properties to pay back the bank and maybe barely survived until police completed their investigations and returned the embezzled funds to Company.... Xiang An and Su Mo never reconciled and neither did Ran Ran and Su Mo..... As for Shao Mingzhe, Ran Ran could not be with him due to his mother's objection and she didn't want to sour their mother-son relationship....

Which in a way is logical, considering the amount of bullshit that happened to her, a normal woman would have slipped into deep depression. Instead she fantasized the perfect, fairytale ending to run away from her bitter and lonely reality.... Xia Ran Ran have maintained a cheerful optimism throughout the drama, she was so cheerful that she felt disconnected with reality, which bring me back to the point about how underwhelming Li Yi Tong had played Xia Ran Ran. On hindsight, this style of acting is exactly required to portray someone with depression and PTSD. I had a friend who had a bad car accident shortly after she received her driver’s license, and when we met her just after the accident, my first words were “wow, you somehow looked younger by a few years….” That’s what unexpected shock can do to a person, you might be crying and in shock internally but appearance-wise, you look younger and actually happy.

And this is why I am so impressed with the screenplay. You can interpret this drama 2 ways—a light-hearted rom-com with the perfect ending, or the sad story of a depressed woman who chose to live in a made-believe fantasy at the end….

Read More

Was this review helpful to you?