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Tuesday, December 30, 2008 - 10:19 PM
Memoirs of Gallen & Jessica - Episode 18, 20, 21


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Ivan and Rachel encounter at the orphanage.

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Hong makes Rachel think of the past while trying to court her.

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Rachel showed that she was disappointed when Ivan did not show up for lunch with his sister and her. Therefore, she didn't expect him to come this time around. She is surprised when his sister gives her a box and told her this was from Ivan. Rachel opens the box and finds that he's given her their guardian necklace and is hinting to her that he wants reconciliation...

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Rachel's stubbornness and her refusal to ignore her morals is the main characteristic that makes us love her character and her relationship with Ivan. If Rachel was blinded by love and dropped her principles, it would make their relationship wearisome.

Episode 19 gallery
Episode 21 Gallery

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Thursday, December 25, 2008 - 9:23 PM
Overview: A Step Into the Past


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Year Released: 2001
No. Episodes: 40 Episodes
Cast:
Louis Koo
Kong Wah
Raymond Lam
Jessica Hsuan
Sonija Kwok
Joyce Tang
Wong Wai
Kwok Fung
Michelle Saram

A Step Into the Past is TVB’s adaption of Huang Yi’s novel, “Xun Qin Ji.” The story speaks of Xiang Shaolong (Louis Koo) who loses his lover of 7 years (Sonija Kwok) to another man because of his lack of commitment. He was promised to be able to win his girlfriend back by proposing to her before she left him if he agreed to a scientific experiment. His mission was to witness the ascension of Emperor Ying Zheng by way of a time machine. Emperor Ying Zheng is credited for the Great Wall of China. Unfortunately the machine malfunctions and he is transferred three years earlier to the ancient times of the Warring States Era. There, Xiang Shaolong ventures on a journey and finds himself embroiled in critical historical events, falling out and in of love and playing a huge factor in China’s earlier history.

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Xiang Shaolong was forewarned before his journey that everything that he will do in the past will affect the present. If he did anything to change history, his existence will cease, and the future will disappear. Xiang Shaolong killed many people and he assisted Zhao Pan (Raymond Lam) who had no royalty blood in him to rise as Emperor Ying Zheng. One would think that Xiang Shaolong was changing history but somehow everything fell into place despite everything that he did. Past was trying to tell the viewers that, no matter what one does, history will always prevail and go onto its unaltered and predestined path.

Past is also trying to convey the message that the future and the past are linked together. At the start of the series, a high tech communicator was found at the site of the tomb of Emperor Ying Zheng. This communicator was given to Xiang Shaolong to help him transfer back to modern world once his mission was complete. Scientists were pondering why a high advanced technology was found at this site. The answer is since Xiang Shaolong decided to stay in the past; his piece of technology remained there until 2000 years later when it was found in the modern world. The past and the future are welded together.

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Xiang Shaolong played a significant figure who contributed to the rise of Emperor Ying Zheng. However, there was no mention of his name in history books. Xiang Shaolong wanted to leave Emperor Ying Zheng after he painfully realized that history will always continue onto its predestined fate. Therefore, Zhao Pan who is now Emperor Ying Zheng has become ruthless and cold. Xiang Shaolong created a monster who he no longer knew. Xiang Shaolong wanted nothing more than to leave the palace in peace. Ying Zheng who thought “if you’re not with me, you’re against me,” commands all his troops to kill Xiang Shaolong and anyone who knew of his true identity of Zhao Pan. Once he successfully conquered most of China, he burned all the books that told of Xiang Shaolong and buried everyone alive who mentioned his name. Therefore the name Xiang Shaolong was long forgotten. This is one of the many brilliancy in Step. Is its ability to weave history into the story!

One the many touching sub stories of Past is the story of Zhao Ya (Shirley Yim) and her son Zhao Pan. Zhao Ya is known as the whore of Qian. Her son was spoiled and would create trouble in the community. He often disrespected his mother and was ashamed of her reputation. When really, she was forced to do things against her will because a more powerful figure played by Waise Lee who taunted and threatened her. However, Xiang Shaolong came along and brought hope to her as she discovered her inner identity and worth of a woman. Xiang Shaolong became Zhao Pan’s sifu and by then, Xiang Shaolong taught Zhao Pan basic morals and changed him for the better. In her final moments, Zhao Pan finally realized his mother’s dignity as he witnesses her ultimate sacrifice.

After much turbulence, Zhao Pan transforms into the relentless Emperor Ying Zheng by fate. He becomes a total different person. He is confronted by his mother’s tomb painting while hunting Xiang Shaolong and his men. This scene was harsh as Emperor Ying Zheng is confronted with his mother that sacrifice for him for his existence today. This painful reality reminded him of his past, as his innocent Zhao Pan. The ultimate punch of this scene is how he realizes that the Zhao Pan that exists within him is still there and that he had to force himself to wipe away this segment of his history forever.

The Ending.

The ending of Lao Ai (Kong Wah) and Lady Zhu Ji (Eileen Yeow) was a powerful scene. I always questioned if Lao Ai ever loved Lady Zhu Ji. Even till their death, I still question his love. I only think the sole reason he came back was for his baby. A silly mistake one would think as Emperor Ying Zheng was clearly going to harm his baby if he returned or not. Karma had to do with the death his child since he did kill another’s child because of his own selfishness. Nevertheless, this scene brought Xiang Shaolong to realize that Zhao Pan has died and Emperor Ying Zheng is a monster who he created. A very tragic scene and even I was moved to tears despite how despicable Lao Ai is.

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I think this is one of the first, if not the first time TVB has made an ending where our ancient hero marries two wives. I’m glad that I did not have to watch Xiang Shaolong be forced to pick just one. That would have been too typical and boring to watch.

I love the twist in the end when Xiang Shaolong’s child wanted to change his name to Han Yo. It’s a clever twist. The Conqueror’s Story tells of Han Yo and Lui Bang’s battles. Do watch it, it’s just as excellent as Past.


Performances
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Louis Koo was a true delight to watch. It was hilarious to see Xiang Shaolong trapped into the past as he adapts to the ancient ways. Then to watch as he is conflicted and torn between loves. Then see him finally come to the realization that history will always go onto its unaltered path and he finally accepts his destiny. It was hilarious watching Louis expose his modern culture to the ancient people. I laughed so hard whenever he used phrases like “thank you, toilet, shit..” I don’t know what it is about Louis, but he has chemistry with everyone he works with, men included! His chemistry with Jessica was already established before this but he also had good chemistry with Sonija and Joyce. He even has excellent chemistry with Raymond! His performance was stellar and he truly deserved his Best Actor award in 2001.

Jessica Hsuan as Wu Tingfang was excellent. It is a pity that Jessica contracted cholera and was hospitalized for a month, therefore she disappears in the middle of the series. Thankfully her disappearance did not affect the overall quality of Past or performance.

I thought Raymond Lam was fantastic minus the over glaring scenes. In my opinion, this is the peak of Raymond’s talent. Nowadays, Raymond’s acting seems to have hit the stop. Maybe his acting has come to a halt or maybe he’s been given roles that don’t challenge him. I’m tired of seeing the lovesick Raymond Lam. Anyway, Raymond delivered a delicious performance. I was very impressed.

Considering that Sonija Kwok was a newbie, I was satisfied with her performance. She appeared to be wooden but she did a good job with the purpose of her character and she did everything that needed to be done. Plus, she looked extremely beautiful.

Michelle Saram was a miscast as Princess Qian. She was supposed to be a beauty and innocent looking. But she doesn’t look Asian at all! She had no chemistry with Louis. Her death was probably one of the happiest moments in the series.

Kong Wah looked bored throughout the entire series. I don’t think Lao Ai challenged him. His character was a hypocrite and there are endless reasons to hate him. I couldn’t hate Lao Ai because Kong Wah made him pitiful. Even now, I don’t understand Lao Ai. Lao Ai is one of the most complex characters in TVB. He has so many layers, he is so unpredictable and he surprised me many, many times with his decisions. I come to not hate Lao Ai because of his powerful and tragic ending. I admit, it was heart wrenching to see the end of him, his love, and his child.


Verdict

A Step Into the Past is an excellent series. It is brilliant, exciting, clever and highly exciting. The cast was top notch and delivered wonderful performances. The script of Past is master piece of work of extreme brilliance. The script captivated me from the very first episode to the very end. Everything that happened in Past contributed to the series. There were no draggy scenes or unnecessary drama. Past explored every theme possible. Comedy and drama was successfully incorporated into the series. It is amazing that with such a grand cast, the producer successfully played and weaved every actor into the plot and did not put any of the actors’ talent to waste. Everyone suited their role perfectly. This classic is definitely not to be missed!

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Monday, December 15, 2008 - 11:08 PM
Gem of Life: Episodes 1 - 20


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Episodes 1 -20

I was anticipating Gem since the sale presentation clip was released last year. TVB shocked us with the amount of sexual scenes and violence but it also promised us breathtaking sceneries, exquisite accessories, and a splendid cast.

I can’t say I’m blown away from Gem yet but I can’t say Gem is disappointing either. At the moment, Gem is above average. I hope it does not keep up this way. I want it to start picking up and amaze me with a great story. Gem seems to have no storyline right now. Everything is just happening and seems to serve no purpose. While I find Gem to be lack lusting in the story area, something still interests me and compels me into the series.

The Gem of Life revolves around the lives of three sisters with distinct personalities. Jessica (Ada Choi) believes in superficiality/money. Sylvia (Maggie Shiu) believes in independence/career. While Constance (Gigi Lai) believes in goodness/love.

Jessica is one of the draw in factors of Gem. Her story is the most interesting. While Jessica is superficial, the writers added more layers into her character. Such as her willingness to put up an act for her ex husband, her sincerely caring for her family etc. I find Jessica realistic and I like her despite her lies, cheats and tricks. And to add in, Ada is doing fantastic and has a lot more to offer us!

I was biased by the pairing of Ada Choi (Jessica) and Elliot Yue (Martin) because of the age gap. Now I am happy with the pairing. I have a rough idea what will happen in later episodes. I’m assured that Ada will have a very exciting story coming up. She will definitely shine with what her character with go through. Martin also as a lot more to tell us than we know. I can’t wait to see Ada and Elliot showcase their talent later on. Martin complements Jessica. He brings out the best in Jessica. Although Jessica set up tricks to attract him, she has genuinely fallen in love with him. He’s bound to find out about it and I wonder how they will reconcile.

Sylvia is the hard headed, career driven, rational, super woman which Maggie always plays. Maggie nails her performance. I hated how they made her ex-husband into a cheater. I would have liked it if TVB left out the cheating part and had him divorce her because of the lack of communication. The cheating was totally unnecessary and was just added to make him at fault and not Sylvia.

Sylvia and Calvin make a fun couple – I can't wait to see their development. Sylvia learned of Calvin’s past and her perspective on his character has changed. I think she likes him.

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I dislike Constance. She does things that make me go “Huh?” For example, she hops onto a stranger’s boat and shows no awkwardness without pants on. Isn’t it cold since you’re in the water? I just find Constance very fake with her inconsistencies. She makes a big fuss and cries about nearly every unfortunate thing that happens - it makes me go arghhh.

Constance and Terrance (Moses Chan) are developing ever so slowly. What is the hold up? Get a move on already Terrance!

I am intrigued by Bowie Lam’s Calvin. He has depth and there is still much we have to uncover from him. He appears to be a flamboyant and filthy rich business man who doesn’t care an ounce about moral or ethics. But under all that, he’s a very complex man with a past that we still need to discover. One of my most favourite scene in Gem so far is his chat with Sunny (Kenny Wong) in the noodle shop. Calvin is not a total jerk. He became relentless because of the dog-eat-dog society out there.

Episode 10.
Sunny: Fish and meat are not suitable for me.
Calvin: What do you mean not suitable for you? Doesn’t everyone want meat and fish for dinner every day? Eating this simple is good for you, is it?
Sunny: I thought you were full from the last meal.
Calvin: I never allow myself to eat too much (that’s funny because I see him eating something in every scene :P)

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Sunny: I’m not talking about your business, I mean your meal.
Calvin: What’s the difference? Everyone is like this. When you have no money and you’re starving, you steal from others. I constantly tell myself not to eat too much. I have to steal others’ dishes. For this reason, I’m on top and you’re at the bottom.
Sunny: During the two years when we were chefs, you used to always come over to my place for dinner.
Calvin: Who are you kidding? I never ate at your place!
Sunny: During those two years when we worked together, you had no place to go to during the holidays. We used to take turns inviting you over for dinner. I’m bringing this up not because I want something from you. I just wanted you to know, from the start, no one put emphasis on who’s on top of the world or who’s at the bottom. The only person, who puts great emphasis on this, is you.
Calvin: Have I ever told you why I never went home for the holidays?
Sunny: I asked but you wouldn’t answer.
Calvin: If your mom was working as a prostitute to make money to keep the food on the table, would you tell anyone? I don’t want to care about status but truth is, there’s always someone on the top and there are those who are at the bottom. Once you had a taste of being poor, you will do anything to make money. Once you earn the money, you’ll use your wit to earn even more. This is how I am, why would I not care?
Sunny: With no past, there is not future. Do you remember your birthday?
Calvin: I don’t remember.
Sunny: But I do. It was yesterday. I remember you were over at my house once and you told my mother that it was your birthday. She cooked up a feast for you. If I remember correctly, you told me you were full and very happy that day.
Calvin: Why do you remember these things? I don’t even remember myself! Why do you have to bring it up?
Sunny: I remember everything that my friends tells me.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008 - 12:06 AM
TVB 2009 Presentation and Upcoming Dramas


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English Title: Rouge Merchant
Producer: Lee Tim Shing (The Conqueror’s Story, Safe Guards)
Cast: Wayne Lai, Sheren Tang, Ron Ng, Kiki Sheung, Elliot Yue, Nancy Wu, Suki Tsui

Everything about Rouge looks fantastic. I like Wayne and Sheren. Wayne has a meaty character to play with. His character will go through a lot of turbulences. To watch his character grow through phases of good and bad will indeed be interesting! I love Lee Tim Shing who produced the upcoming Salt Traders (Steven Ma, Tavia Yeung etc.) I anticipate Rouge Merchant and Salt Traders greatly. Since he is a pure genius at producing ancient classics, I hope he can deliver another one for us.

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English Title: Palace Scheme
Producer: Miu Siu Ching
Cast: Moses Chan, Charmaine Sheh, Kevin Cheng, Susanna Kwan, Michelle Yim, Tavia Yeung, Selena Li, Raymond Wong

It’s been way to long since I've seen Moses in an ancient series, mind you, as an emperor! Palace is dubbed the Hong Kong’s version of Jewel in the Palace. Naturally, the females will dominate the screen and Moses will have little to do. I don’t mind because I find that Moses looks dashing as an emperor so I would like to see him in emperor attire. Tavia looks like she will have a breakthrough role as a villainous. Her popularity has soared since Moonlight Resonance. If TVB doesn’t cut her screen time as they usually do, she might just strike gold with this drama. The cast looks great, the costumes looks glamorous, and the script seems compelling – I look forward to it.


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English Title: D.I.E. II
Producer: Kwan Wing Chung (War of In Laws, When a Dog Loves a Cat, To Grow With Love)
Cast: Roger Kwok, Sonija Kwok, Derek Kwok, Nancy Wu, Macy Chan, Rain Lau, Mimi Lo, Stephen Huynh, Kwok Fung, Suet Nay, Edwin Siu

I was devastated when I found out this project was given to Producer Kwan. He is awful. D.I.E. was a cute and charming series. I enjoyed it a lot. I’m still going to watch this sequel for the cast. Just look at the list! It’s fantastic! I’m a bit disappointed that Margie Tsang’s character will be written off. But I love how Edwin Siu is added to the sequel. I love him in When Easterly Flowers Shine on the Sunny West. He is adorable and cute. I think I'm almost a fan. I will definitely be keeping tabs on his upcoming series. He has loads of charisma and potential. I’m digressing... I like the concept of Roger’s baby having a connection with him. Sonija and Roger = chemistry. Even though the possibility of this sequel turning out to be rubbish is likely, I will watch for the cast.


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English Title: The Grand Entrepreneurs
Producer: Chong Wai Kin & Tommy Leung Ka Shu (Golden Faith)
Cast: Gallen Lo, Ray Lui, Kenix Kwok, Anita Yeun, Krystal Tin, Jamie Chik, Joe Ma, Kenneth Ma, Nancy Sit, Toby Leung, Benz Hui

I was wrong when I said Gallen will probably not return to TVB after When A Dog Loves a Cat. :P Entrepreneurs boasts fine actors from TVB’s powerhouse with the two male leaves as Ray Lui and Gallen Lo. The cast seem to be getting along very well. Chemistry and love are already radiating through the photos! I’m pleased with the pairings. I think Gallen will have wonderful chemistry with Anita! Gallen had it easy with his first series since his return to TVB, now he has a more challenging (or not so challenging, since he already proved that he can be a very good villain :P ) role to test his abilities. Ray Lui is very charismatic and be assured that he will deliver a delicious performance! I hope Producer Leung can deliver another classic drama.


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English Title: Superwoman
Producer: Chik Kei Yei (Secret of the Heart, At the Threshold of an Era, War and Beauty, Dance of Passion, Gem of Life)
Cast: Ada Choi, Moses Chan, Raymond Cho, Kenny Wong

Chik Kei Yei is known for his dramatic series. I am surprised that he’s filming a comedy this time. It looks too silly for me. Finally Moses and Ada are collaborating directly together. I almost chocked on my drink when I saw Moses with white hair and Ada in a geeky business suit and a huge bum. I’m going to give this series the benefit of the doubt. I prefer Ada in dramatic roles but comedy seems to gain her more success. I have this feeling that this series will be popular (in Hong Kong at least) and will be beneficial for her (career-wise).


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English Title: The Ultimate Test of Conscience
Producer: Chik Kei Yi
Cast: Nick Cheung, Bowie Lam, Moses Chan, Charmaine Sheh, Sheren Tang, Louise Lee, Maggie Siu, Kate Tsui

Talk about a stellar cast! TVB are wise with their decisions lately. Another Chik Kei Yi production. Nick Cheung inspired my Strike Gold Performance after I read about his comeback. Like I’ve said, Nick is charismatic and he has a likeable vibe that surrounds him. Because of his likeable aura, I always finish his series and movies even when his characters don't challenge him or his series have no substance. Bowie made it to my good list since his wonderful performance in Gem of Life. Moses looks so cool. The female cast look great as well. The concept of the story is interesting and new - I'm intrigued.


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English Title: Burning Flame III
Producer: Amy Wong Sum Wai (Burning Flame I, II, Hard Fate, Yummy Yummy, Under the Canopy of Love)
Cast: Wong Hei, Kevin Cheng, Myolie Wu, Bosco Wong, Stephen Wong, Matthew Ko, Aimee Chan, Elaine Yiu

If you recall, I had high hopes for Burning Flame III. Words can’t describe how disappointed I became afterwards. This third instalment is a continuation of Wong Hei’s story and more suffering he will encounter. Wong Hei hasn’t been given any good roles since his comeback. His characters have been either forgettable or downright annoying. I want him to be given a role to showcase his acting and I feel Burning Flame will do that for him since Burning Flame is his most well known role. But I hate the cast. I’ve stated before that I will stay as far as can from Myolie’s upcoming dramas. Looks like I will have to reconsider this series. It’s not just Myolie, I’m not fond of Mathew, Amie or Elaine. I hate the idea of Myolie having a love triangle with Wong Hei and Kevin. I’m neutral about Kevin and Bosco but even they are not all that great despite the fact that I find them likeable. So far the script looks like a snoozer. The attraction of this series doesn't seem to be the chemistry among the cast, a touching storyline or characterizations (that the first installment had.) But it looks more like typical love triangles and predictable subplots, disputes at the workforce and cases firefighters have to encounter. I think I will watch the first few episodes and go on from there.

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Welcome to sere.visions.com. This space is a record of my feelings and visions on the world of TVB and other random goodness. Enjoy your visit!

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Armed Reaction III (2001) A Step Into the Past (2001) At the Threshold of an Era I (1999) At the Threshold of an Era II (2000) Burning Flame I (1998) Country Spirit (2002) Demi Gods Semi Devils (1997) Detective Investigation Files IV (1998) E.U.(2009) Golden Faith (2002) Happy Ever After (1998) Journey to the West (1996) Last One Standing (2008) Looking Back in Anger (1988) Old Time Buddy (1997) Perish in the Name of Love (2003) Plain Love II (1999) Secret Battle of the Majesty (ATV) Secret of the Heart (1998) The Conqueror's Story (2004) Where the Legend Begins (2003)
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