Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Four Women Conflict ( Suo Qing Qiu 锁清秋)/Tian Di Bu Rong 天地不容

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This production from mainland China was originally titled Tian Di Bu Rong 天地不容 (literally translated as even the Heavens forbid); but currently is released with the new title of Suo Qing Qiu 锁清秋; which to me is a rather weird name as literally it does not really mean anything by 'Lock Clear Autumn'

Anyway, this 35-episodes drama is set in Shanghai (it is produced by Shanghai Television Station (SMG)) and is centered upon the stories of women back then during the particular period and their lives with the men around them.

Of course, the title revealed itself to focus on the stories of four women; in their different ways and background and how their lives come to intertwine with each other in the drama.
Women, as we know were not looked upon kindly; let alone highly in those period and this drama shows through the characters introduced how each struggle against the society to make their stand for their own; besides the misery faced in the process.

The cast boasts of a strong batch from mainland itself; including Ady An,Annie Yi,William Feng Shao Feng and also Hong Kong stars Rain Li and veteran Michelle Yim, which makes this a much anticipated drama.

The story starts with a young girl; Du Lan Yen, who after mourning after her beloved father's death was forced out of her luxurious life by her ruthless and cruel stepmother who intends to sell her off to a brothel. She was locked in the stables until the arranged date to send her to prostitution when she was rescued by a young servant boy who was also her childhood friend, Leng Yun.
In the bid to make the escape, Leng Yun held himself back to prevent the stepmother from pursuing her, while urging Lan Yen to run for her life during the blazing fire which they accidentally set during their escapade.

Fast forward to the future, Du Lan Yen has now grown up to be a young lady serving as a maid in the house of Zhou. She is the favorite maid cum assistant of the mistress, Mrs Zhou, maiden name Li Yue Er (Annie Yi) who dotes on her. This invoked the jealousy of another maid, Kuang Chun Ni (Deng Jia Jia) who plots to get rid of her, by spreading rumors of her to the mistress.
At the same time, Master Zhou Si An had his eyes set on Du Lan Yen who brushed off his advances but stirred suspicion and jealousy in his wife.
Mrs Zhou, then decided to marry Lan Yen off to a poor cosmetics seller, Lu Da You (Wilson Guo) who fell in love at first sight with Du Lan Yen at the temple when she was with her best friend, Su Xin He (Li Fei Er).

Lan Yen refused to marry Lu Da You; however, despite her struggle, Mrs Zhou forced her into the marriage. Zhou Shi An, knowing his wife's intentions still could not get over Lan Yen and plots to find his way to rape Lan Yen.
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He threatened Lu Da You, who let him rape his wife on their wedding night; stirring hatred in Lan Yen's heart for her scumbag of a husband.

The duo then became husband and wife in name only as Lan Yen continued to be raped by Zhou Shi An; to protect Da You's younger sister, Lu Wu Shuang (Xiao Yu Yu) from being raped by Zhou Shi An (as threatened by him).
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Lan Yen grows to hate Da You more and more, but yet, she helped him with his cosmetics business; in selling lipstick and color blushes in the market to support their living.

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In a chance meeting, she met up with Leng Yun(He Chengming), the big brother and childhood love whom she had been waiting all her life to be reunited with him. However, due to her married and 'dirty' status, she realized there is no longer hope to be with him ever again. Moreover, Leng Yun also happens to know Lu Da You who was his life saviour from the fire in the past.
Her best friend, Xin He, on the other hand, fell in love with Leng Yun and kept it a secret in her heart to avoid hurting her best friend.

At the same time, Mrs Zhou is grows suspicious of her husband and found out that he has been seeing Lan Yen even after the marriage. She was upset and sought comfort in her best friend, Jiang Yu Ping (Rain Lee) who was the rich widow of a medical hall's merchant.
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After her husband's death, she inherited all his properties and served as the guardian protector for her younger brother-in-law, Jiang Shao You (Zheng Guo Lin), and playful and good-for-nothing chap.
She also had an affair with the charming heir of their alliance medical hall; Shen Zhao Chong (William Feng Shao Feng) and constantly have their tryst at a hall behind a temple, where she pretends to pay homage twice a month (1st and 15th of the lunar month)

Seeing her best friend in distress, Jiang Yu Ping enlisted the help of the charming playboy, Shen Zhao Chong to seduce Du Lan Yen and then jilt her to avenge the suffering of her best friend. Zhao Chong agreed due to the benefits of their medical supplies to his own business and started his mission to capture Du Lan Yen's heart.

However, as he starts to know her better and knowing her predicament, he was touched by her kindness and beauty and starts to head over heels in love with her; much to the anger of Jiang Yu Ping who now becomes the possessive lover and instructs Zhao Chong to leave the damsel in distress.

Zhao Chong refused; and professed his love for Lan Yen and vows to take her out of this predicament. His persistent actions led to Lan Yen also falling deeply in love with him, and after a series of incidents where Lan Yen's affair with Zhou Shi An was revealed, Zhao Chong wants to take her away from her home. Free Image Hosting
In an accidental struggle, Lu Da You was killed and Lan Yen felt guilty as she suspected herself to be the killer.

Leng Yun was on good terms with the local law enforcers and as he sought out the truth of the murder, he found more signs leading to Da You's death which ruled out the stories and confessions from Lan Yen and Zhao Chong. However, the culprit was suspected to be Su Xin Hai (Qiao Zhen Yu), Xin He's brother, who was in a relationship with Wu Shuang (Da You's sister).
The cause was ruled to be the forbidden relationship by Lu Da You which caused Xin Hai to kill in a fit of fury. Xin Hai denied but amidst the confusion, as Wu Shuang persuaded him to surrender to the law, she kills him to avenge her brother's death and then killed herself to be with her lover.

This led to Xin He to stray away from Leng Yun, as she blamed him for the fate which befell her own brother. Xin He then became closer to Jiang Shao You, the young master whom she despised from the start. She was actually a maid in the Jiang household and was the favorite assistant of Jiang Yu Ping.

In a twist of fate, she fell in love with Shao You and married him to be the 2nd mistress in the Jiang household.

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At the same time, Du Lan Yen was facing objections from Zhao Chong's mother, Mrs Shen (maiden name: Yin Xi Hong played by Michelle Yim) but faced by the defiance of her own son, Xi Hong had no choice but to allow him to marry the widow into the family; thus making Lan Yen the third wife of Zhao Chong.
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Coincidentally, her old friend cum nemesis, Kuang Chun Ni was married into the family as the 2nd wife after a brief affair by mistake. However, Chun Ni was favored by Xi Hong; much to the chagrin of the first wife who was a selfish person who thought only of her own benefits.

She rejoiced at the presence of Lan Yen and formed a bond with her, using Lan Yen to threaten Chun Ni's position as Lan Yen was doted on by Zhao Chong; the master of the house. Free Image Hosting
Chun Ni then tried to get involved in the family business and impressed Xi Hong. Lan Yen was also helpful and was the mastermind behind most of Zhao Chong's decision.

Jiang Yu Ping was angered by the union of Lan Yen and Zhao Chong and plots to destroy their happiness. She started to open a medical hall opposite Zhao Chong's and drops her price by half of his price; to drive him into a huge loss. Chun Ni was smart to propose to drop the price as well, and then further introduce a new product which was then jeopardized by Yu Ping.
Slowly, Yu Ping lost her status among the villagers as rumours were spread about her medicine and she was driven out of the village; where she was thrown into poverty following her bankruptcy. Her house was burnt and she had to escape with Xin He and Shao You who was badly burnt.
As they put up shelter at an old temple, Xin He begged Yu Ping to allow her to get a doctor to tend to the burnt Shao You and while Xin He was on the way, Yu Ping wickedly strangled Shao You to death.

Yu Ping then plots revenge against Zhao Chong and tricked Xin He into the plot; which Lan Yen tried to break her best friend out of it as Xin He abodes hatred for Zhao Chong whom she believed to be the culprit responsible for the family's predicament.

At the same time, Zhao Chong realized the true story of his birth and that Xi Hong was not really her biological mother. He was in denial and refused to believe the true story about the nun in the temple who was his real mother. In the long attempt to clear the truth, Xi Hong realized that she was tricked by her dead husband and Zhao Chong was about to unite with his biological mother when she was killed in a fire which was the works of the Jiang Yu Ping.

Meanwhile, Lan Yen became a more spiteful person following the miscarriage of her first child and she starts to turn ruthless in her bid to survive in the political household.
Chun Ni, on the other hand, feels really guilty about the miscarriage and then became a nun at the end.

Zhao Chong, in a twist of misfortune, ends up supposedly dead, but he was actually in another place and he had lost his memory. Upon his coming to, he had to masquerade as the succeeding commander to avoid revolution towards the army forces in power. He soon found himself back to Lan Yen; and as he regained his memory, he had to leave his masquerading lifestyle.
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However, he was requested to help again and to aid the country in their mission which he turned down.
Lan Yen then ended her life as she knew that she was the main deterrent factor in his decision.

The drama ended with Zhao Chong resuming his position as the commander in chief and to set out to marry the general's daughter.

The drama was interesting; and not boring at all. In fact, I find their outfit ensemble along with their hairstyle a bit unusual and I couldn't help grimacing at the ugly hairstyle they have which seems to be plastered onto their head.
Besides the costumes, the character and storyline development was convincing and had me hooked onto the next plot to be revealed in the story.
Of course, it was lot of predictable plots which were re-used from other dramas but overall, it was still a fresh idea to focus on the lives of these women who, each in order to survive, have their own reasons of survival and love.

I liked the development of the female lead; Du Lan Yen who finally became ruthless after a lifetime of being pushed around like a puppet and thrown into misery after misery. She led a pretty sad life; in my opinion.

Ady An as Du Lan Yen
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She has a rather pleasant looking face; which made it all convincing as she plays the damsel in distress and the kind woman. However, I did notice that her expression was stuck when she had to turn ruthless; it's like she was not sure how to play evil.
Her character was really pitiful and Ady did a great job in expressing it through her acting; especially in her fear of Zhou Shi An.

Michelle Yim as Yin Xi Hong
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What more can I say of a veteran actress? She was all the bit a convincing mother who was possessive of her only son; even though she knew he was no hers to begin with. She was a confused woman who was thought to be evil; but then we realize that she had a pitiful past and also, she was tricked by her own husband who had an affair with another woman. The son she raised over the years; one she thought was not her own, turned out to be really her husband's son in flesh and blood. Despite her hatred for her husband, she could not help her own motherly feelings towards her only son.
Her kindness and compassion showed when she planned for Lan Yen's future after Zhao Chong's assumed death.
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Rain Lee as Jiang Yu Ping

I am not a fan of Rain Lee; and I have always felt that she is a rather 'wooden' kind of actress; one without much expression. In this drama, she has probably improved a little but I could not help noticing that she seems to be forcing that wicked look which seemed a little unnatural to me.
It was probably the make-up which made her brows look more wicked than the original.
She was definitely the most despised character here in the drama; never knowing when to give up and that things cannot be forced. She was also the root cause of all the turmoil in the drama.
Is she a good villain? I think it was okay; and it does make sense that a woman's fury can lead to so much trouble.

Deng Jia Jia as Kuang Chun Ni
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Next to Jiang Yu Ping, this is the 2nd most despised character in the drama. She was jealous of everything; and yet, it is understandable since she was quite pitiful, as she revealed her own feelings. In a way, her actions are more justifiable compared to Jiang Yu Ping. After all, beneath all that jealousy, she still had a conscience and a soft heart and she never intend to hurt anybody in a serious or fatal way.
I felt that this actress looked a bit similar to Ady An initially; but towards the middle of the drama, she is indeed different. She has that look to show that warm and cold character in her.

Annie Yi as Li Yue E
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This woman just had the same expression all the way!!
When she's happy, when she's sad, when she's angry, when she's calm, gosh, there is just not more expression to display how she feels.
She is supposed to play a woman who is distrustful of her own husband, and yet she constantly seems to be so despaired and confused in what she wants to do next. It is just not convincing and unmatchable to her character here!
I can't feel much for this woman either; whether she is pitiful or just pathetic!

Li Fei Er as Su Xin He
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This lady is a bit blind and confused, in my opinion. She was initially portrayed as a strong lady who knows what she wants in life and stands firm on her decisions. She was the total opposite of Du Lan Yen and is more independent. However, when she meets Leng Yun, she was facing a dilemma. She was in love; and yet she could not bring herself to betray her best friend. That's why I was surprised at how she believed her own best friend's affair with Zhou Shi An when she chanced upon their tryst in Da You's house. She was the one who denied her own best friend!
Then she hated Leng Yun for causing her brother's death and slowly she fell for Shao You. She was back to normal at that point, and then she went berserk again after his death and on the strings of Jiang Yu Ping as she plots revenge against Shen Zhao Chong.
Sometimes, her portrayal made me feel like Xin He does not even know what is her main aim in life.

Xiao Yu Yu as Lu Wu Shuang
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This young and immature girl stood by her elder brother faithfully; probably due to him being her only family member left. She was too blinded by their sibling love and was angered at her sister-in-law's infidelity towards her brother; without knowing the real reason. She was angered by her brother's objection towards her relationship with Xin Hai. She is just an impatient and brash person; who just killed the man he loved upon suspecting that he was responsible for her brother's death.
I guess it's a hard toss between sibling and the love of your life, huh?

The gentlemen
William Feng Shao Feng as Shen Zhao Chong
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A charming man to play this casanova in the drama; he really that the looks and that mischievous grin to play the role convincingly. He was really playful in the beginning and enjoyed his trysts with the widowed Jiang Yu Ping; behind his wife's back. However, when he was entrusted with the mission to seduce Du Lan Yen which he accepted willingly, he found himself in a confused state when he starts to fall for the girl. He then turned into a different person as we see how Zhao Chong matures and starts to think for others. He starts to be protective of Lan Yen and even defied his mother's wishes to marry her. I could feel his love; which was just romantic as he just dotes on his third wife. His love for her was just strong that it did not even waver amidst all the happenings in his life. It was sad that he witnessed how she took her own life for his good and for the country; and I was proud that he did not fall back after the sacrifice of Lan Yen.
This is the character that I truly liked in the drama; for his character went through a dramatic change throughout the episodes.

Mickey He Chengming as Leng Yun
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He loved and cared for Lan Yen his whole life; and he was initially like everyone else, believing in the rumours that she committed adultery with Zhou Shi An. After the truth is revealed, he found himself getting even more protective over her but yet he could break against the barrier to betray his life saviour, Lu Da You.
However, he still stayed by her side and refused to accept Xin He in his heart. When he is ready to be with Lan Yen, it was already too late as she had fallen for Zhao Chong. He was noble to stay by her side as a big brother and wished for their happiness. He cared for Xin He; and I think he himself was confused over his own feelings for Xin He.
I could see how much he cared for her when she was addicted to opium.
Somehow, this is another pitiful character and why is it that all the women he loved turned out to marry someone else? He took up Xin He as his responsibility and stayed with the girl who turned crazy at the end.

Wilson Guo as Lu Da You
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Despicable! Initially I pitied him as he had disabilities (speech and walking) but I was totally disgusted with his act in allowing Zhou Shi An to rape his own wife to protect his own sister.
Sure enough, he loved his own sister much more than anyone else, but to stand there and cup his ears when his wife was screaming during the rape is too much for a man! He is just plain selfish; he knew that Lan Yen did not love him and yet he just refused to let her go when she found Leng Yun and then when Zhao Chong wants to take her away.
I was not sorry that he died in the drama; as there is no nobility at all in this character!

Qiao Chen Yu as Su Xin Hai
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I did not see much from him except his love for Wu Shuang and his trying so hard to do something good to prove himself to the silly Lu Da You who looked down on him (as if Lu Da You has any great accomplishment in his life!)

Overall, it was a well-developed story and I find myself feeling the emotions experienced by most of the characters here. It was also a colorful and dramatic plot; and do watch it with an open heart; without any high expectations as this is after all, a usual soap opera type of drama.
Furthermore, this is all focused on the women and for the first time, the men are the accompanying characters =)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

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The sequel to highly-acclaimed anime turned movie; there were so much expectations from the fans in anticipating the continuation or more action in the following sequel.

I was not expecting much; after I viewed the trailer which seems to set it in a very slow-paced and boring mode. When it was released, there was a major hoo-ha (as usual) where everyone was rushing to the cinema to catch the robots in action once more on the big screen and came back, spilling out good reviews and favorable opinions on the sequel which had them all go ga-ga over the visual effects.

Everyone had that 'WOW' expression written all over them and movie reviews state that this was an exciting watch; with MEGA action and for some of the lewd viewers, the sequel also promised more scenes of the sexy Megan Fox.

I brushed away all the reviews and expectations and went to watch this sequel.

It is revealed that thousands of years before Optimus Prime and the other Transformers arrived on Earth, there was a race of ancient Transformers who scoured the universe looking for Energon sources. Known as the Dynasty of Primes, they used a weapon called the Sun Harvester to drain stars of their energy in order to convert it to Energon and power Cybertron's AllSpark. The Primes agreed that life-bearing worlds would be spared, but one brother, who was thereafter dubbed "The Fallen", constructed a Sun Harvester on Earth in 17,000 BCE. The remaining brothers thus sacrificed their bodies in order to hide the Matrix of Leadership —the key that activates the Sun Harvester— from The Fallen, who swore to seek revenge upon Earth once he found the key. (taken from Wikipedia)

The Autobots have formed an alliance with the humans through their military forces, forming a team known as NEST; with the objective to continue to wipe out the remaining Decepticons on earth.
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It started in Shanghai and the battle went on as the NEST continues to launch attacks on the hidden Decepticons; at the same time, minimizing the injuries and damaged to the living. However, as things would have it and knowing those heavy weight carried by the metallic robots, they caused much more damage than they knew it.
This led the China authorities to be angered and the National Security Advisor, Theodore Galloway was sent to put a halt onto the operations carried out by the NEST; much to the anger of the Autobots and the alliance commanders; Major William Lennox and Chief Master Sergeant Robert Epps.

At the same time, we see Shia LaBeouf reprising his role as Sam Whitwicky and he was getting ready to go to college and was going through an emotional farewell with his mother when he found a small bit of the Allspark left in his jacket. He then entrusted this bit of metal to his girlfriend, Mikaela (Megan Fox) before leaving for college.
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He bade farewell to Bumblebee; claiming that he cannot bring the robot to college.
Before he left, there was a battle as Bumblebee destroys the little spawned Decepticons running out following the discovery of the Allspark; causing damage to his house.

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As Sam arrives in college, he was outraged to find that Bumbleebee has trailed him all the way there during one of the fraternity parties thrown on campus.
He was also taken aback to find a rather looney roommate who claims to be the founder of an alien conspiracy website who kept persuading him to work for him. At the same time, Sam also had to fend off the sexual advances of Alice; a coursemate who seems to be interested in him.
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As he continues to communicate with Mikaela who has found a little Decepticon, Wheelie, which trailed her for that bit of AllSpark, she managed to tame the robot after burning one of its eye and decided to leave for Philadelphia to meet up with her boyfriend.
Sam found himself having visions of weird characters and symbols appearing before him; causing him in a trance-like state and as he tries frantically to write them all down over the wall and everywhere.
It was then that Alice came onto him again; right in the middle of Mikaela's arrival and then turning into a Decepticon Pretender, Alice pursued Sam and Mikaela who tried to escape but to no avail as Sam ends up in the Decepticons' hands.

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Decepticon Soundwave taps onto the NEST's satellite to find out the location of Megatron and managed to get the information on that remaining bit of Allspark as well. They launched into their rescue mode to revive their leader; who is then reunited with Starscream and his master, The Fallen.
The Fallen instructs Megatron to locate Sam Whitwicky; whom he claims hold the information to the site of the Matrix Leadership hidden by his dead brothers.

In the Decepticons' hands, Sam was about to be killed to obtain the Cybertronian language in his head when the Bumblebee and Optimus Prime broke in to rescue him from the evil Decepticons' hands. However, in the ensuing battle, Optimus Prime was killed and he urged Sam to run for his life in his dying breath.

Following Prime's death, the Fallen is resurrected and Megatron starts to attack the planet earth. The Fallen then threatens mankind to surrender Sam Whitwicky or suffer an endless attack from the Decepticons. Lost and no where to go, Leo suggested to Sam to look up "RoboWarrior" who may be able to shed some light on the strange characters in Sam's head.
RoboWarrior turns out to be former Sector Seven agent Simmons; who was currently running his mother's restaurant. He was reluctant to help initially; however, upon much persuasion, he gets involved and provided information to Sam, Mikaela and Leo that the Transformers clan has been on Earth for a very long time and their language has been left on all the ruins of the world through the pictures he produced to them.
He then suggested that they enlist a help of a robot; or a Decepticon who can assist them on the right person to provide them with the information and Mikaela produced Decepticon Wheelie from her bag.

Decepticon Wheelie then leads them to the Smithsonian Institute where they found JetFire. As Wheelie convinces Sam to put the bit of AllSpark to revive Jetfire, Mikaela screams in angst when she found the logo of Decepticon marked on Jetfire.
However, Jetfire turned out to be a frustrated robot and he revealed himself to have switched to the Autobots due to his profound admiration for the Primes.
His revelation then led them to the land of Egypt; to the pyramids where the Matrix of Leadership is hidden.

With the clues they have, they stumbled upon the tomb of the Primes and it was through the heated argument of Mudflap and Skids which brought them to the Matrix; which crumbled into dust at Sam's hands.
Sam was in despair as he lost the only aid available to revive Optimus Prime; however, he did not give up hope as he frantically collects the dust from the Matrix and contacts Major Lennox to ship the body of Optimus Prime to Egypt for him to revive the leader of the Autobots.

Major Lennox tricked Galloway mid-flight and successfully shipped Optimus Prime to Egypt; which at the same time attracted most of the Decepticons on pursuit as they engaged in a huge battle at the desert.
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The Decepticons held Sam's parents hostage and was rescued by the Autobots. In his desperate rush towards Optimus, Sam was killed in the blast.

In his out-of body experience, Sam was revived by the dead Primes; who told him that the Matrix of Leadership is not to be found physically but to be earned and Sam has proved that through his noble deed in trying to help Optimus Prime and he is sent back to life.

When Optimus Prime is revived, the battle starts between the Autobots and Decepticons.
The Fallen managed to steal the Matrix and revived the Sun Harvester; but was destroyed by Optimus Prime who killed the Fallen; while Megatron escaped, vowing revenge.

I presume there will definitely be a sequel!

I find the sequel introduced too many new robots; and for fans with basic knowledge like mine, we just watch it for entertainment purpose without cracking our head to figure out which is which. The hardcore fans, on the other hand, will be racing through their memory to recall the robots based on their shape and style; figuring their names.

I must say that the effects are still stunning; and I've read in the papers that the programmers and the folks behind the effects almost blew up their PC while working on this. It is no surprise; especially to those of us who came from the field of IT. Judging from the visual effects which includes transformation, transmorphing, etc, this involves multiple calculations in rendering and also programming to ensure it slides at the perfect angle to produce a realistic and smooth effect.
I am in so much awe of their works that I felt I should not be saying much about the movie, but as an honest reviewer and a blogger, I just wanted to share my thoughts on this mega blockbuster which blew most minds away (no pun intended)

The producers seem to be in too much of a hurry to bring in so many robots at the same time; confusing all the audience (as I have stated above).
Besides, the colors were all similar and you just can't differentiate who's who anymore. It's just like watching something without any value, that's the disappointing part.

Notable cast/characters:
1. Shia LeBouf, once again, did a great job here especially when he went into the trance mode; mumbling and picturing all the Cybertronian symbols. No easy feat, but achieved by our actor here.

2. John Turturro, who was Agent Simmons; he was definitely hilarious!

3. John Benjamin Hickey, who was the annoying Theodore Galloway. You can't like him that much, but you can't hate him all the same as he was just doing his job.

4. Why is it that I feel that Megan Fox is only portrayed as a sex symbol and the companion of Sam Whitwicky?
She was also portrayed as those damsel in distress who waits on her boyfriend while he is at college. As far as I remember, Mikaela was also a spunky girl back then in the prequel, please bring her back!

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There's also more romance in this sequel; and again, Sam became the guy who refused to utter "I Love You" to Mikaela, the girl of his dreams? I thought he was in love with her all the while in Part 1?
Is this another case of guys who just treat the girls differently once they have won their hearts?

Whatever, that is not the matter at question and I believe it just an extra plot to garner attention of those Transformers hardcore fans; or Megan Fox hardcore fans.

Is this a much better installation compared to the first? I think this one is not too bad either; definitely more action and visual effects and for Megan Fox fans, yes, a lot more of Megan Fox too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Red Cliff 赤壁 (Part 1 and 2)

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Three Kingdoms is as much a roar of a classic as it is a factual part in China's history. While the west pore over the great Homer's Odyssey, the east have the Three Kingdoms to boast of.
The period of the Three Kingdoms (before, during and after) have always been an important mark in China's history; where the kingdom was separated into three parts (Northland, West and the Southland) and was under the warring stage at the point.

The most significant event in the history; a turning point is the battle at the Red Cliff where the three forces meet at war for a full-force and amazing battle of the century, and this is particularly the event which is much talked about and impressed all of the fans of this favorite Chinese historical classic.
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It is this excitement which captivated those who have decided to capture it on film; re-enacting and bringing to life the huge battle which saw the beginning of the three kingdoms.

Director John Woo is involved in this mega blockbuster which was estimated to boast of a huge budget of over USD$80 billion; making it the most expensive Asian film ever to market.
However, it was definitely an epic of a movie and after watching it, I highly recommend it to the fans who would love to get a bit of action after reading it on sheafs of paper all these years.
A word of caution though; the movie is not entirely based on the historical facts and there are major fictional events included in the storyline.

Part 1 started off with the battle between Cao Cao's troops and Liu Bei's army at Xinye; where Liu Bei suffered a great loss due to his kindness towards the Xinye's folks whom he protected. Due to his compassion, he lost most of his soldiers in the battle. We see Zhang Fei, Guan Yu and Zhao Zilong (zi: Zhao Yun) fighting with their utmost might while Liu Bei continuously reminds his warriors to ensure the safety of the refugees.
His Chief Strategist, Zhu-Ge Liang was seen frowning and had to order for the retreat of the army due to them being outnumbered by the enemy. Zilong only managed to rescue Liu Bei's son while both his wives perished in the war.

This defeat caused a great loss of men in Liu Bei's army and at his wit's end, Zhu-Ge Liang (zi: Kong Ming) proposed to form an alliance with the Southland; Sun Quan to wedge the war against the traitor Cao Cao. He set forth on his diplomatic mission to the South and was led by Lu Su, Sun Quan's advisor to Sun Quan himself.
However, Sun Quan was hesitant due to the split voices of his court ministers and Lu Su recommended Zhu-ge Liang to seek the support of Zhou Yu; the Grand Viceroy of the kingdom. Zhu-ge did so, and through his chance encounter, Zhou Yu gave his answer through his music.
Sun Quan was then convinced by Zhou Yu and his sister, Sun Shangxiang during the tiger hunt; following the arrival of the letter from Cao Cao, for him to surrender.

Sun Quan then decided to wedge the war, against all protests as he refused to surrender to Cao Cao. His message was sent clear through his return of a white piece of paper to Cao Cao who then killed Sun Quan's messenger in a fit of rage.
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Cao Cao enlisted the newcomers from Jingzhou; Cai Mao and Zhang Yun (both from the Southland, and were rebels) to lead his naval army in the upcoming war against the two kingdoms.

After the formation of the alliance, Liu Bei and Sun Quan soon called for a meeting to discuss on their strategies to take on Cao Cao's troops. Sun Shangxiang led the enemy by a light cavalry unit to the actual battle site; on which Zhu-Ge Liang has arranged his Eight-Trigrams Formation. Cao's troop fell into the trap and suffered a great setback from this battle where the alliance's army emerged victorious.

However, Cao Cao was not discouraged by the loss and was determined to take on Red Cliff. While his troop celebrates through a grand banquet, Zhu-Ge Liang and Zhou Yu hatches up a plan for the upcoming war.
The film ends with Zhu-Ge Liang sending off a pigeon to Cao Cao's site followed by Zhou Yu setting fire to the miniature ships on the make-up model of the war site.

Part 2:
The sequel begins with the pigeon (sent by Zhu-Ge Liang in Part 1) landing in the hands of Sun Shangxiang who was disguised as part of Cao Cao's troop and was the appointed spy for the kingdom. She sent the information she obtained on the troop to Zhu-Ge Liang; a communication which the duo maintained through the white pigeon.
Cao Cao's army was threatened by an outbreak of typhoid; which killed a vast number of his soldiers and infected many of those who was in contact with the infected ones. Zhou Yu and Zhu-Ge Liang got the wind up of this through Sun Shangxiang's message, and despite the persuasion of the commanders (likes of Guan Yu, Zhang Fei) to launch attack at this desirable time when the enemy is weak, Zhou Yu refused to move forward as he deems this as an unfair play at war.

Anxious over the high number of casualties, Cao Cao then decides to send the dead bodies of the affected soldiers (who were supposed to be cremated to end the spread of the disease) to the alliance army's camp, despite the protest of his advisor.
Zhu-Ge Liang realized the intention of Cao Cao after testing on one of the corpses and warned all the soldiers to stay away from the dead bodies. Liu Bei decides to leave the alliance at this moment; claiming to protect his own people from the deadly disease and also the losing end of their outnumbered army.Zhu-Ge Liang stayed on to help to nurse the sick at Sun Quan's camp. Xiao Qiao, Zhou Yu's wife was upset to see the great loss of soldiers over the outbreak and starts eavesdropping on the strategist's discussion.

Cao Cao's army is also suffering from seasickness due to the new environment to fight battle on the ship and the naval commanders-in-chief, Cai Mao and Zhang Yun proposed to interlock the vessels together to minimize the movement of the ships and lessen the possibility of the seasickness. At the same time, Zhu-Ge Liang and Zhou Yu worked on a plan to obtain 100,000 arrows and to eliminate Cai Mao and Zhang Yun, their biggest threats as the duo are familiar with the naval base.
The two strategists appointed each other to the task and agreed that whoever fails shall succumb to military judgement.
Zhou Yu provided 10 days to Zhu-Ge Liang to obtain the 100,000 arrows to which the latter asked for 3 days only.
At the same time, Cao Cao sends Jiang Gan to persuade Zhou Yu to surrender but Zhou Yu tricks him instead into believing that Cai Mao and Zhang Yun are actually in the plot with the Eastern Wu alliance and are set to betray Cao Cao.

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Simultaneously, Zhu-Ge Liang's brilliant plan in setting out with a small number of ships filled with scarecrows made of straw in the thick fog to arouse the suspicion of the enemy who shot arrows to scare them away, came back victorious and deepened the suspicion of Cao Cao towards the two naval commanders who was ordered to be put to death at once when he saw the floating boat from the Eastern Wu filled with straw-made scarecrows. His advisor reminded him of their naval capabilities; and Cao Cao realized he has been tricked.
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Sun Shangxiang left Cao Cao's camp to rejoin her own army; and shared the map of Cao Cao's vanguard and his vessels' arrangement.
Her bit of information on the vessels which were tied together gave Zhou Yu the idea to set fire and burn all the vessels.
However, the disadvantage is the direction of the wind; which could cause their plan to backfire. Zhu-Ge Liang then predicted that the wind should change to the South-East wind which is to their advantage sometime in the midnight to the early hours of the morning.
The only setback is whether they can put off Cao Cao's pursuit until then.

Xiao Qiao then set out on her own to Cao Cao's army; leaving a letter for Zhou Yu that she is determined to do her bit for her people. She sets out alone; with the intention to cause the delay in Cao Cao's attack; using the weapon of her beauty and the fact that Cao Cao is enthralled by her charms.

Zhou Yu was worried over his wife and was comforted by his army; who celebrated the festival of the Winter Solstice and vowed victory in the upcoming war.
He rejected Sun Quan's proposal to change their strategy in order to rescue his wife from Cao Cao's hand and proceeded to wait calmly for the great battle.

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Meanwhile, Xiao Qiao was greeted warmly by Cao Cao who was only too glad to see her, and she mesmerized him by her soft and gentle ways. She held him back by her tea-ceremony when he was getting ready for the battle to buy more time for the change of the wind.
The army waited for the whole night for the change of the wind; and when it finally changed, Zhou Yu commanded his naval army to sail at full speed towards Cao Cao's vessels and set them on fire.
The South-East wind aided in the rapid spread of the fire; which set all the interlocked vessels in a mass fire at once and killed the soldiers who were frantically trying to separate the vessels.
As the fire spreads to the vanguard, Zhu-Ge Liang and Zhou Yu has the armies from Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei and Zilong on the stand to attack them from the different gates.
It turned out that Liu Bei's departure during the disease outbreak was a deliberate play staged by Zhou Yu to boost the confidence of Cao Cao.

Gan Xing led the troops towards the vanguard and died while trying to break the barricade of Cao Cao's vanguard to allow Zhou Yu's troops to join Liu Bei's army. Cao Cao suffered a great loss; and met Zhou Yu at each other's sword's tip while Cao Cao commanded Xiahou Jun to push Xiao Qiao off. Zilong managed to interrupt and killed Xiahou Jun while Zhou Yu let Cao Cao off.

The movie ended with Zhou Yu and Zhu-Ge Liang parting ways; that they shall continue to serve their masters.

My opinion:
I loved the beautiful choreography of the war and the cinematography effects which made the movie so enjoyable and not in the least boring.
It was a masterpiece; and it was the battle of Red Cliff to life!

A few glaring things shown in the movie to point out though; Part 2 was definitely way out of the historical facts.
1. Sun Shangxiang was never the spy in Cao Cao's army and communicating with Zhu-Ge Liang via a pigeon.

2. Xiao Qiao definitely did not present herself to Cao Cao's army alone; and never did play a role in halting the battle to win the time for the change of the wind.

3. The idea of setting fire to the interlocked vessels was provided by Pang Tong; also known as the Young Phoenix and is the equal of Zhu-Ge Liang. Sadly, they omitted such a brilliant character in this movie; a case of over-budget perhaps?

4. Gan Xing is actually the character Gan Ning in the history; Gan Xing was actually the father of Gan Ning and ceased to exist during the period of Red Cliff.

5. Cao Cao's action of sending the infected dead bodies to the enemy's camp is questionable; as some claimed it did not exist in history/novel.

6. Cao Cao is interested in both Da Qiao and Xiao Qiao; but in the movie, he is shown to only harbor lust/love feelings for Xiao Qiao. Da Qiao is supposed to be Sun Quan's wife.

7. Huang Gai should be featured in the film as he was the one who was sent in disguise by the Eastern Wu alliance following their ploy in banishing him; and he was to go to Cao Cao to propose the idea of interlocking the vessels (not Cai Mao and Zhang Yun as shown in the movie).

There are too many misalignment from the actual storyline in the movie that it is disappointing.
True, the whole film was done in a magnificent way but I feel they should have toed the line as this is not just a famous epic we are looking at, but it is also history!
Furthermore, this is an outrageous change to the facts or even the novel especially to the hardcore fans of the Three Kingdoms saga.

I was told that they probably did so to justify harmony and eliminate the element of discrimination since this is an international film; which is why they used a Japanese for the role of Gan Xing and then they changed the part to Sun Shangxiang and Xiao Qiao's contribution to the success of the war for fear of feminist's attack.

Oh well, I think this is a bit absurd because it IS history and history has shown us that women were discriminated all this while; there is no denying that. Whether we like it or not, women were never honored and to have women given an opportunity to do such a role is impossible back then!

The casting was not too bad either; and in a way I am kind of glad that Tony Leung did not take on the role of Zhu-Ge Liang because he did a great job in playing Zhou Yu!
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Furthermore, Takeshi Kaneshiro is definitely a much better Zhu-Ge Liang; so suave, calm and collected and just the Zhu-Ge Liang one would definitely have in mind when they read the book =)

There are a few characters whom they should have changed; it is not for the bad performance, rather their appearance just does not fit the description/image of the actual character.

1.Cao Cao, played by Zhang Fengyi, just seemed too mild-looking to play the conniving and smart Prime Minister told in history. The initial casting of Ken Watanabe for this role was foiled due to his nationality as a Japanese and had fans complaining that Cao Cao is a notable historical figure in the Chinese history and should be played by a Japanese.
I personally feel that even Ken Watanabe may not be able to bring out the true character of Cao Cao.

2. Guan Yu by Ba Shen Ba Bu is also not the right; as this actor looks too mild and too kind to play the courageous and loyal warlord.

3. Zhao Zilong/Zhao Yun by Jia Hongwei is not a bad choice to me; but some claimed that he is too plump and mature for the young warlord in the book.

4. Zhang Fei was played to life by Zhan Jinsheng! The only thing is the height of the actor; I remembered that Zhang Fei is at a towering height :)

5. Xiao Qiao, played by newcomer Lin Chi-Ling was said to be too old as the actual girl in history is only in her early twenties compared to the 30-something actress.
I personally feel Lin Chi-Ling has that exotic and demure oriental style to play Xiao Qiao and she does not look her age at all, so people, give her a break!

Favorite Character/Cast
1. Zhu-Ge Liang of course!! He is already my favorite character in the book all the way and Takeshi Kaneshiro is also one of my favorite actor!
Takeshi just have the right stature and looks for this role; just perfect!!
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2. Zhou Yu is another admirable character, and I particularly like Tony Leung who has that determined and wise look on his face. Too bad Tony is a great deal older than the young warlord; but setting aside the age, I think Tony did a notable performance in playing Zhou Yu!
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3. Zhang Fei by Zhan JinSheng; need I say more?

4. Xiao Qiao by Lin Chi-Ling
Demure and lovely!
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5. Sun Shangxiang by Zhao Wei
As usual, Zhao Wei has that boyish, fearless and calm character to play this rebellious and brave young princess. Zhao Wei is also my favorite actress :)
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Favorite Scenes
1. Zhu-Ge Liang meets Zhou Yu; and commented on the outdated Goose formation of Gan Xing.

2. Zhang Fei requests for Zhu-Ge Liang's help to bring support in the battle at Xinye and was surprised to see Zhu-Ge Liang returning alone again

3. Zhou Yu and Zhu-Ge Liang's music session

4. Zhu-Ge Liang's arrow acquisition in the fog (it is also my FAVORITE in the book!) Smart smart move of the smart man!

5. All the battle scenes; awesome choreography

6. The Eight Trigrams formation; amazing!

7. The fire battle in part 2

8. Zhu-Ge Liang was offering to help the horse give birth and Zhou Yu turned to him and said, "You are also knowledgeable in this?"

9. All the scenes with Zhu-Ge Liang in it

10. All the scenes with Zhu-Ge Liang AND Zhou Yu

Interesting Part
1. Is it me or did anyone else find Zhang Zhen (who played Sun Quan) looks like Daniel Wu???
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2. How did Xiao Qiao go to Cao Cao's army and is unhurt? Cao Cao claims to dream of her day and night and did not even touch her when she is there alone?
Furthermore, when they are attacked and suffered a great loss, they did not link it to Xiao Qiao immediately???

3. Sun Shangxiang spied on the army for so long and sent pigeons frequently and nobody realized it? When she was trying to escape, how come it is so easy when Cao Cao's army outnumbered her?

4. Part 1 and Part 2 were filmed at the same time; and they decided to release the first part for character development and also, they could not finish editing in time to release both!

Anyway, regardless of all the glitches mentioned, I still find this an enjoyable movie and definitely one to watch for all hardcore fans.
It is great to see the action; and for those who are not avid readers/fans of this epic, go watch it for the effects and you will find yourself interested in the facts and fiction of the story!
It has definitely made it to my favorite movies list; and I liked both parts equally!

Disclaimer: Images are taken from web and only for illustration purpose and does not belong to me.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's a Long Way Home 家有嬌妻 (1984)

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I remembered watching this sweet and light-hearted drama when I was very young. My mum used to record and keep a set of the drama for the purpose of watching it again and again.

The plot of the entire story is very simple; and they focus on how a couple who married young. They have known each other since young and were very much in love.
The series start with the couple who could not bear to be apart with each other; where we see a very young Tony Leung Chiu Wai matched with an equally pretty sweet Yammie Lam Kit Ying.

Yaw Kar Kei and Poon Ching Man knew each other since they were kids and were sweethearts all the way until college.
They were inseparable from each other; and when Ka Kei obtained his results, he was elated and the duo was eager to celebrate until Ching Man's family broke the news to her that they have successfully obtained their immigration visa to Canada where she is to further her studies for the next three years.

Although it was heart-breaking to both at the time, they have decided to act their age and accept the fact that they are about to be apart from each other for only three years; and it is for their future.
Both set a probationary period where they will not see each other for a week.

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Initially all went well; but due to their close relationship, they found difficulty to spend time with other friends (or even find any enjoyable activity with anyone since they have enjoyed each other's company). They are unable to stay away from each other and they finally broke the period by meeting each other and that was when they have decided that they want to get married.

Both parents obliged; despite Ching Man's parents stating that she is too young.
However, they loved their daughter too much and could not bear to see her unhappy and therefore, they agreed to the marriage.

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(Image taken from - credits to the original owner. Image do not belong to me or my site; and it is only for illustration)

After their wedding, the young couple moved into Kar Kei's family villa in the suburb district. Kar Kei had to look for a job to start supporting the family while Ching Man was to stay at home to be a full-time homemaker as Kar Kei was not agreeable to her being exposed to the public working world (strong male chauvinism!)

With his bachelor's degree in his hand and facing the competition from tons of other graduates which include his own coursemates, he found it a hard time to find a decent job.
Worried over their financial situation, Ching Man confided in her cousin, Ann Siew Kei Kuan (Carol Cheng) who was a renowned architect in her firm.
Ann decided to help Kar Kei by recommending him to her boss; however, the latter declined her offer and insisted on being independent in searching for his job.
This sparked off a small argument among the couple and Ching Man explained her worries about their finances if Kar Kei does not get a job soon.
Kar Kei softened and took up Ann's offer and went for the interview.

Kar Kei was hired and was due to report to Ray Lui Leong Wai (forgot his character name). Ray was actually a playboy and on Kar Kei's first day of reporting to work, he accidentally disturbed his little rendezvous in the elevator and Ray started to harbour hatred towards him.
When he learns that Kar Kei reports to him, he started to play tricks on the poor boy; sending him on errands and objecting to his ideas.

Kar Kei was under a huge pressure to perform well; instigating more petty arguments at home with his wife when she complains to him of trivial matters.
He contemplated resigning from his job but decided to stay on to fight back and prove his capability, as advised by Ann.

Meanwhile, Ray was feeling insecure with Ann's performance and in their struggle to win the favor of the boss to secure the promotion, Ray decided to pretend to court Ann to make her concentrate on her romance and forget about her work.
It succeeded and Ann soon lost her chance for promotion and starts to really fall for Ray. She was devastated and furious when she found out about the truth after the guilt-ridden Ray decided to confess to her and she swore him off forever, leaving for a long vacation overseas.

During her absence, Ray was chided and beated by Kar Kei who felt angered by his actions towards Ann as well. Ray secretly helped Kar Kei in his career, to compensate for his misdoings to the poor Ann.
Kar Kei climbed up the corporate ladder through his performance in the projects assigned to him.

At the same time, Ray came across an exotic and exciting woman by the name of Flora (Carrie Ng Kar Lai) who was actually one of the heiress to a famous and wealthy family and was frustrated with the family feud with her elder brothers who wanted her approval to sell the old ancestral mansion to which she refused.
Ray was attracted to her; but Flora turned him down.

Ray soon realized that he had also fallen for Ann when he saw her again after she returned from her trip.
Ann has transformed from an old-fashioned spinster to a trendy and attractive career woman and was approached by a famous architectural company to rejoin their crew.
She accepted the offer and was surprised to meet Ray in the same company.
Ray tried to approach her and she kept their meetings to strictly business. However, slowly, the duo found true love with each other and finally confessed to each other.
They were hitched shortly after and became a loving couple; with Ray quitting his old philandering ways.

Ray and Ann went for their honeymoon trip and the lonely Kar Kei tagged along since Ching Man had gone to Canada to visit her parents and brother.
Ray and Ann left early due to some commitments and Kar Kei stayed back, where he met Flora.
Their brief meeting bloomed into a friendship where they were both mutually attracted to each other.

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Their attraction soon launched into an affair; which Kar Kei kept hidden from his wife, Ching Man who started becoming suspicious when Kar Kei occasionally surprised her with luxurious gifts.

On one of her window-shopping trips, she chanced upon the adulterous couple in Flora's antiques shop whom she had gotten acquainted with Flora earlier.
She was devastated and hurt, but she held back the confrontation with her husband and worked to improve herself.
She cooked meals to have Kar Kei back at home; but was disappointed with his various excuses when he came home late at night.

She finally confided in Ann; who set to work things right. Ann confronted Kar Kei and told him about Ching Man's discovery and her emotions; causing the latter to be conscious of his own guilt.
He promised Ching Man that he will end the affair with Flora; but kept returning and lying to Ching Man.

When Ray found out that his lover was Flora, he warned Kar Kei and confronted Flora at the same time; warning her to stay away from Kar Kei.
The final straw came when Kar Kei promised to have dinner with Ching Man and did not come home and the latter packed her bags and left the house.

Kar Kei was with Flora and when he found out that Ching Man had left him, he made up his mind to be with Flora, arranging for his lover to move in with him.

Their romance did not last long; when Flora whose free-willed and adventurous ways annoyed Kar Kei to no end when he came home after a long day's work to no dinner and playing in the rain.
They argued and Flora decided to leave him; stating her loss of interest in a boring man like him.

At the same time, Ching Man was arranging to migrate to Canada and had gotten her visa; when Ann and Ray informed Kar Kei after Ching Man revealed to Ann that she still had feelings for Kar Kei.

On the day when Ching Man was due to fly off to Canada, Kar Kei appeared in the car to drive her to airport and begged her to stay.
The couple reunited with each other again; and it was a happy ending!

Personally, I loved how Yammie Lam looked...she was just so sweet and lovely as the innocent and kind-hearted Ching Man.
I think her character has done a good job as a homey wife and in no way should Kar Kei treat her like that.

I laughed when I saw how young Tony Leung was in this drama and how their fashion was like back then.
His character was despicable; seriously, not just because I was consumed by my emotions and let me analyze why he had no reason (at ALL) to treat her the way he did in the drama:
1. He asked Ching Man to let go of her studies and her future and her own family by staying back to marry him and she was left all alone in HK because she loved him!
2. He did not even allow her to work and to do what she liked; it was all to his liking and his own opinion without regarding her thoughts and emotions
3. He lost his temper at her when he was stressed at work and blamed her for it??? That's so unreasonable! What had she done, apart from cooking and cleaning up the house and not even losing her temper?
4. He cheated on her and still lost his temper at her!
5. She did not even confront or showed her anger at him when she found out about his affair with Flora

To be frank, I don't think Kar Kei deserved Ching Man at all....she was definitely TOO GOOD for him!

As for Ann and Ray, I think they are also a lovely couple and I loved how the two of them had gone through the tribulations and transformed and mature along the way.
They are definitely one of the best couple in this drama!

I love this drama; I think I have watched it more than 2-3 times....not enough to beat my record for A Taste of Bachelorhood, I think :P