Sunday, August 22, 2010

TWS: Black & White 痞子英雄 (2009)

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I've just finished watching this drama; following much persuasion from my dear who gave the drama so much credit that I was curious and compelled to watch it for myself too.
(Dear has unusually very high expectations for his dramas/movies/books/food and therefore it just made me feel that this must be really good)

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The whole story of the drama and the theme of the black and white focused on our two main protagonists in the story; Chen Zai Tian (Vic Zhou) and Wu Ying Shiung (Mark Chao).
The title was named after Vic's character's nickname which was Pi Zhi; for someone who is sloppy and with that I-don't-care-attitude.

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The duo crossed paths when Pi Zhi was in the way of Ying Shiung nabbing the drug ring suspected to be involved in the highly dangerous drug "Dreamer". Pi Zhi's presence obstructed the arrest of the gang which went scot free and since then Ying Shiung aka Hero did not have a good impression of him.

It was much to Hero's displeasure when he found out that Pi Zhi has been transferred from the Northern district police station to his Southern district station. If that was not bad enough, Pi Zhi was placed in the same team as him in the Crimes unit and assigned as his partner in crime.

Hero warned Pi Zhi to stay away from him and was constantly annoyed by his working attitude and flirty behavior with women; especially towards a close friend of his; Lan Si Ying, a forensic expert in the lab.
However, the duo grew closer after a few cases and near-death-experiences. They even fell for the same girl; someone they were not supposed to even fall for; Chen Lin, the only daughter of the leader of country's highest profile and most prominent triad society.

Chen Lin initially thought she was in love with Hero; but realized that she was really falling for Pi Zhi when Hero revealed that Pi Zhi was the one who saved her from the crashing train incident.

The story continues to complicate further following the death/murder of the daughter of the Head of Northern District police station and then the appearances of several new characters; all seem to be secret agents belonging to the military, ex-military, and even Interpol as the root of the plot is slowly revealed in the twist of events.

I am wondering whether I should reveal the story here; I do not want to spoil it for those of you who have not watch it yet and are planning to watch it.

It had a really interesting and intriguing twist in the story; and though my dear was impressed by it, I did not find it really anything conspiring out of the ordinary as I started guessing the whole thing out by the 17th episode through all the various hints dropped in the conversations between the characters.

Anyway, it was all in all a different genre of storyline seen in a Taiwanese drama since a long long time; or was it since the Chinese X-Files craze.

Character Analysis
1. Mark Chao as Wu Ying Shiung/Hero
The typical law abiding and enforcer who follows every rule to the book. He was honest and disciplined and a man of much integrity. It was a pain to see him dealing with the fact when he did something righteous but yet wrong by the laws.

2. Vic Zhao as Pi Zhi/Chen Zai Tian
The total opposite of his partner, this was a total turnover in character as he was totally nonchalant in his attitude towards life and work. The only time he was serious was towards the love of his life but it was later revealed the reason he was behaving in the way he was. However, there was a serious side to him as he deals with conflicts and issues in his life.

3. Ivy Chen as Chen Lin
A feisty and strong-willed girl who earned the attention of two policemen despite being brought up in a triad environment and was constantly struggling to fight off the general perception of her being one of them. She did not meddle with her father's business in the triad but somehow ends up entangled in it despite her abstinence.

4. Janine Chang as Lan Si Ying
A demure and clear-headed girl who is serious with her work and she had a sad past. She was a great friend to have and had always had a thing for Hero who just treated her as a good friend and nothing more. There was just something classy and graceful about her, and it just didn't seem like her to be in the forensics. Did I mention she was my favorite here? =)

What I Like about the movie:
The mysterious twist and how everything seems to look so casual and then inter-connected throughout the remaining of the story to form the whole story.
It's like watching bits and pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together, and for crime/mystery lovers like me, this is really cool and interesting.

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I like the two main leads; they were really cool and so poised for their roles; especially Hero (Mark Chao).
It was also refreshing to see Vic Zhao in a totally different role/character from the previous introvert role in Meteor Garden.

I love the beautiful actresses playing the lead roles; Chen Lin was played by Ivy Chen Yi Han and the following is my favorite character; Lan Si Ying played by Janine Chang who was such a great picture of demure and purity.
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Watch out for her in the drama and you will see what I mean!

Another sexy lady who appeared in the later part of the series was this model-actress who played Lei Mu Sha by Sonia Sui.

What could have been better?
I think they should have developed the relationships better; instead of creating those trails of love.
Everyone liked someone who didn't love them in return; it's like no one was in a normal and romantic relationship which was reciprocal.

I was rather hoping for Hero and Si Ying to have a relationship; and it was sad to see Si Ying longing after him and trying to be that good friend next to him who supported him in everything he does and having to see him pine after Chen Lin who obviously loved Pi Zhi.
I guess towards the end Si Ying had also fallen for Pi Zhi and that was one funny part in the whole entire drama; I am not sure anyone else noticed.

Did everyone realized that all the men in the drama seems to be in love with Chen Lin and all the women in the drama seems to love Pi Zhi????

Nobody is having a normal relationship and it was just pining and pining after one another and watching the one they love, love someone else.
Arrrrggghhhh, something is seriously wrong with the scriptwriter (no offense)

If I had to pick what could be improved; well, create lovely couples who love each other.
I wanted Hero to fall for Si Ying; and Pi Zhi being together with Chen Lin.
How difficult can that be?

The I don't get it parts
How can Chen Lin get over Hero so soon and fall for Pi Zhi when she realized that Pi Zhi was the one who saved her? I mean, how could one just fall in and out of love like it was some kind of remote control or something?

How can Hero sleep with Mu Sha when he claimed to love Chen Lin so much? Or was this just another of those guy things?

For all that's worth, I really liked the flow of the drama though it did get cheesy and the flow did tend to get a bit of draggy at certain parts.
It was quite a different twist to the usual soppy Taiwanese love soaps and I enjoyed this with the cast and the whole plot.

Go watch it and see the Taiwanese police in a whole different light and be prepared to expect the unexpected! ;)

*Pictures/stills do not belong to me and are taken from the web and other websites for illustration purposes *

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

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Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer’s Productions
Distributed by : Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

Nicholas Cage – Balthazar Blake
Jay Baruchel – Dave Stutler
Teresa Palmer – Rebecca/Becky Barnes
Monica Belucci - Veronica
Alfred Molina – Maxim Horvath
Alice Krige – Morgana le Fay
James A. Stephens – Merlin
Toby Kebbell – Drake Stone
Jake Cherry – 10-year old Dave Stutler
Gregory Woo – Sun Lok

It started sometime in 740 A.D. where one of the greatest wizards/sorcerer of time lived; Merlin, who had three apprentices; Balthazar, Veronica and Horvath whom he trusted and taught all his arts and skills to.
As it was quoted, “He should have trusted only two”, as one of his apprentices; Horvath joined forces with an evil sorceress; Morgana who was intent on destroying Merlin.
During the power struggle, Morgana managed to stab Merlin and the injury left him fighting for his dear life in front of Balthazar and Veronica. Balthazar continues to battle Horvath; and Morgana was about to kill Balthazar when Veronica used her skills to morph Morgana’s soul into herself to prevent her from killing him. This soul unification was a dangerous one as Morgana was more powerful than her, and she starts to kill her from within.
Balthazar then summons and imprisons Morgana/Veronica’s spirit into the Grimhold; a wooden doll-like structure, and when he managed to trap Horvath as well, it the wooden doll had another layer on top of it.

Merlin, who was on the verge of dying, then gives Balthazar his last message and handed him a dragon ring which will find his future successor; the Prime Merlinean who is the destined one and is the one who will be able to defeat and vanquish Morgana.

Thus Balthazar begun his search which lasted for centuries; in the meantime, trapping more of Morgana’s followers (Morganans), and evil sorcerers who tried to release Morgana; creating successive layers on top of the doll.

Dave Stutler was a young 10-year old boy who was headed on a field trip to New York city, and it was when he was trying to attract the attention of his classmate Becky Barnes whom he had a crush on, that he ended up in an old antique store in an alley in the city.

Balthazar led him to put on the ring; which magically coiled around the boy’s finger, which signified that the successor had been found.
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Balthazar, was ready to heave a sigh of relief but when he left to get his book, Dave accidentally released Horvath from the Grimhold and during the struggle, Balthazar and Horvath were both imprisoned in an ancient dynasty urn containing the ashes of the emperor’s least favorite concubines. Dave, shocked by the whole incident and drama in front of his eyes, ran away and threw the Grimhold to the side of the street.

Ten years later, Dave had grown up to be a 20-year old physics undergraduate in New York University where he bumped into his old crush; Becky Barnes.
At the same time, Horvath and Balthazar were both released by an old couple in their apartment. They had bought the urn from a flea market; believing that it was a unique antique vase from China and unknowingly released Horvath and Balthazar.

Horvath and Balthazar both battled against time (and each other) to get to the Grimhold and Horvath was set on destroying the Prime Merlinean; while Balthazar wanted to train him to defeat Morgana and to succeed over Merlin.
Horvath got to Dave first but was intercepted by Balthazar who whisked him away, on a steel eagle initially perched on top of a building.

The chase continued for the Grimhold during which Dave refused to help Balthazar as he only wanted to lead a normal life and not one that is mythical and dangerous. Balthazar struck a deal with him whereby he will only need Dave’s help to locate the Grimhold and after that, he is free to do what he wants.
Dave agreed to the deal and soon, Balthazar tracked the location of the Grimhold using his own navigational system to Chinatown and finally gotten hold of the Grimhold while at the same time, accidentally releasing another evil sorcerer; a Morganian, Sun Lok.
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During the ensuing battle with this evil wizard on the streets of Chinatown, Dave used his ring and managed to defeat Sun Lok which ignited his interest in magic. He then agreed to learn magic and became Balthazar’s apprentice.
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He slacked once in a while and even tried to use magic to perform his cleaning up chore which backfired.
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However, as he slowly encountered obstacle by obstacle and learning the truth about his identity as the Chosen One to be the Prime Merlinean, he soon went against all odds to master magic and finally defeated Morgana and at the same time, reunited Veronica and Balthazar; his mentor who almost died.
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He also finally found his own happiness in his lady love, Becky.

What I liked about this movie is the fact that it is associated with Walt Disney? (Hehe, I am a Disney fan after all, ain’t I?) Okay, besides THAT, I liked how the story developed; a simple and generic plot which was quite typical but the flow and the action was not too much at the same time to make it overwhelming as an entertaining story. I also liked the fact that it was associated to Merlin; one of my favorite characters in the books I used to read, the most powerful wizard of all times.
Oh, the OST too, happened to be one of my favorite songs from One Republic!
“Those are old man shoes” says Dave when Balthazar told him to put on the shoes for better magical performances.
I also liked the apprentice of Horvath; who was a part-time magician.
Another interesting aspect of the movie was how they assimilated the concept of science; specifically Physics in explaining the course of magic. I guess it is also to the understanding of the younger generation who are now more intelligent and not as readily receptive towards the idea of magic or any unexplained matter exists without the backing up of science. It is a very scientific world these days, and I felt it was logical and not too ridiculous to make up the pulse of how magic works.
Also, did you realize that they are now focusing a lot on making nerdy, geeky or smart kids the heroes these days? That is a change.

What I disliked was that there should have been more scenes adapted from the actual kids’ book’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you know, the Mickey Mouse version. They did adapt the scene which was really well known, where he ordered the mops and the brooms to work themselves in cleaning the place up which backfired but I would have love to see more of how a mortal could do with the world of magic anyway.
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What could be better, definitely the lighting and the costumes! Haha, if you noticed, the whole drama seems to be a depiction or campaign of Earth Hour where it was mostly dark and also, the cast didn’t seem to have much to change into; it seems to be the same attire for the whole two hours.

There should also be more scenes on the funny apprentice of Horvath; he seemed to have too short of a screen time.
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It would have been more humor-packed had his clumsiness as the apprentice been focused as well.

My Conclusion/Verdict Go watch it if you are a Disney or Jerry Bruckheimer’s or a National Treasure or a fan of magical worlds! It is entertaining and I laughed at their jokes (though no one else in the cinema did). I think it was really simple and just light-hearted to lift the stress from your mind!
Furthermore, if you are a skeptic and a firm science disciple, you would be intrigued by the way they explain magic and of course, the Tesla Circle =)

Rating: 7 out of 10

TVB: Burning Flame 3 烈火雄心3(2009)

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No. of episodes: 32

Wong Hei - Chung Yau Seng
Kevin Cheng - Rex Cheuk Pak Yue
Myolie Wu - Ko Wai Ying
Bosco Wong - Encore Fong Lei On
Aimee Chan - Easy Yung Siu Yee
Stephen Wong - Ko Ho Nam (Ying's brother)
Elaine Yiu - Cheuk Man (Rex's sister)
Ruco Chan - Kelvin Pang Chi Bun

Supporting Cast
Angelina Lo - Poon Yuk Hung/Rex's Mom
Rebecca Chan - Queenie Sum Yut Wah (Encore's Mum)
Chow Chung - Sum Yat/Sunday (Encore's Grandfather and Queenie's father)
Ha Peng - Ying and Nam's grandmother
Leanne Li - Kristy
Rachel Kan - June Ho Yee Ching
Kong Hon - Chung Yiu Kan (Seng's father)
Yee Chi Yuen - Chung Yau Fu (Seng's younger brother)
Joey Mak - Ko Yan Ying (Ying's youngest sister)
Sam Chan - Law Hak Ming (Fireman)

This is the third installation following the first two prequels on the same theme; focusing on the courageous fire-fighters whom we often overlook as the unsung heroes.

Chung Yau Seng (Wong Hei) aimed to fulfill his father’s dream; for him to graduate from university with a degree and he works hard despite being unable to make it into the university and ended up as a paramedic attached to a fire station.
He met Cheuk Pak Yue (Kevin Cheng), also known as Rex who was a team lead in the fire department and in an incident where Rex spoke up in justice on his behalf, the two became best friends.
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Rex helped him to get into the fire training academy and this realized his father’s dream for him to be a university graduate. Seng worked hard and it was in no time that he was soon promoted to be a team lead himself and assigned to work in the same district/department as Rex.
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Conflict arose between the best friends when Rex realized they had both fallen for the same girl; Ko Wai Ying (Myolie Wu) and although Rex had met her first and was about to pursue her, he gave up for the sake of his best friend, Seng who seemed to be smitten with her.

However, Seng soon start to get jealous of Rex’s attention on his girlfriend and accused him of trying to steal his girlfriend and the two soon drifted apart.

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Seng rescued a young man, Fong Lei On/Encore (Bosco Wong) who had no aim in his life and in a bid to avoid his mother’s suggestion to fly off to Canada to further his studies, he decided to enroll in the fire department.
He soon graduated from the academy and joined Seng’s team; at the same time joining in the mounting tension between the two teams which originated from the rift between Seng and Rex.

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Things got worse when Ying breaks up with Seng who blamed it on Rex and in a fire-fighting mission, Seng refused to listen to Rex’s orders and ended up almost killing himself.
Fortunately, the young girl; the victim was saved in time but Seng fell down which resulted in his comatose state for a few months.
Ying regretted her decision and stayed by his side, taking care of him and nursing him to full health, praying for the day that he would wake up.
Unknown to Seng’s team of firemen, Rex concealed the truth of the accident by pretending he lost his memory and it resulted in all of them, led by Encore to accuse Rex and Ying of adultery and the wrong they had done on Seng to lead to his state.
When the truth was revealed, everyone apologized to Rex and Encore even became an ardent follower/subordinate in the team.
Rex and Ying slowly developed feelings for each other, to the approval of Seng’s father who wished for them to be happy.
Just when their relationship start to blossom, Seng miraculously woke up and though he lost part of his memory, everyone helped him to slowly regain his memories.
Rex and Ying tried to hide their relationship to avoid aggravating him, but Seng soon remembered Ying as his girlfriend and tried to get intimate with her again. When Seng finally remembered his conflict with Rex, the couple revealed the truth which Seng had a hard time accepting and tried to win her back.
In his haste to race against their car, Seng ended up in another major car accident where he lost his leg.
He ended up more melancholic than ever when he lost his job at the same time and his appeal to join the admin team in the fire department was also rejected due to the nature of the car accident not work-related.

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Rex and Ying were patient and as he realized that Rex played a major role in getting him a chance to work in the fire department, he slowly accepted their relationship and gave them his blessings. However, deep down inside, he was struggling to accept the fact that Ying was no longer his girlfriend and he start to have suicidal thoughts.

Ying broke up with Rex when she learnt of his suicide attempt; leaving Rex devastated. Seng, upon realizing the real reason of their break-up amended things and helped them to get back together with each other.

Characters Analysis
1. Chung Yau Seng by Wong Hei
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This is a very strong-willed and stubborn character; who believed in everything he thinks is right. I think there was a connection to how he was always trying to please his father since his childhood and not allowing himself to fail his father’s expectations. I felt that he was doing everything only to please his own father; as he loved and respected the man who raised him and depended on him but it was this small thing which made the rigid man he was. He blamed everyone but himself and he liked to have everything under his control. He even had to tell his girlfriend what to do or not to do; and he still could not understand the reason she left him.
It was painful to watch him being so persistent on everything and it was a great slap to his face when he finally could not have it his way.

2. Rex Cheuk Pak Yue by Kevin Cheng
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This is another son trying to fulfill what his dad had left behind and forced to shoulder the responsibility and mature earlier when his dad died in a fire. He used to be a carefree and relaxed guy who took his own time in his life ambitions and all that changed when he lost his dad; his role model and he was forced to take his life into a different perspective.
He joined the fire department to fulfill his father’s wish for him to become a fireman and he succeeded with his excellent academic results and performance at work; promoting himself to being a senior team lead in a short time. Unlike his best friend, he was more of a giving person but he was also revealed to have a protective and harsh side when it comes to protecting his loved ones. Although he painstakingly gave up on Ying, when he finally won her heart, he also showed his persistent side when he refused to give in to his best friend this time as he knew Ying truly loved him.

3. Ko Wai Ying by Myolie Wu
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To me, this was a rather weak character who cannot seem to make her own decision. She is constantly succumbing to everyone’s wishes against her own wishes; which was particularly true with her boyfriend, Seng. She loved to play the piano but was disapproved by Seng who thought it was a waste of time. Refusing to anger Seng, she decided to give up on her dreams but was persuaded by her grandmother to hold on to what she believed. When she realized she was not happy at all in the relationship, she followed her grandmother’s advice and broke up with Seng. She constantly fall to her own emotions and guilt; which can be seen when she tried to break up with Rex even though she loved him because of Seng’s attempted suicide. She cannot even admit she loved Rex when he was about to get back with Kristy.
As a woman, she was truly a symbol of weakness, and I didn’t really like how she cannot just stand there and defend herself for at least once. I find her unworthy of two such brave men’s attention.

4. Encore Fong Lei On by Bosco Wong
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This young man started as a very playful and carefree person who believed in having fun and taking life one step at a time. When he was accused of arson and betrayed by his friend, he realized his mother’s disappointment and her hopes in him. He decided to pick up on his own life, and he was inspired by Seng, who had saved his life twice, and he joined the fire department. He was also a little stubborn like his mentor, and a little childish. He still enjoyed having fun and was shallow as he could not bring himself to believe that he liked a tomboy policewoman whom he had conflict with. He thought of their one-night stand as an accident and think her looks were unworthy of his love. It was when he realized he was losing her that he realized she was the one he really cared for and spend his whole lifetime with. He slowly mature and grew up along the drama and he even became the one to advise his own mentor not to be too persistent with his decisions in life.

5. Easy Yung Siu Yee by Aimee Chan
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This is a strong-willed and independent lady who also seemed rather clumsy when it comes to performing her duties as a policewoman on patrol. She dreams of joining the CID team and works hard to achieve it. Although she started off on the wrong track with Encore, she soon fell helplessly in love with him and it was this time that we see her feminine side as she tries to win his affections. It was also refreshing to see how a childish and defiant policewoman tried to compromise to keep her family together.

6. Ko Ho Nam by Stephen Wong
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This young man was a very bitter character; someone who believed only in his own dreams and was cross with others for trying to interfere with his life. When his dreams come crashing down and left him with debts to settle, he was forced to join the medical team in the fire department as a condition to pay off his debts which Seng helped. He was unhappy with his work and was constantly complaining; secretly detesting Seng and conspired to break him and his sister up, thinking he is not good enough for his own sister.
His grandmother’s death and Seng’s accident confirmed his own theories that he could never help anyone as it was all fated and decided by God himself. Just when he was about to give up on his job, in a sailing trip which he was dragged along by his sister, he ended up rescuing a pregnant woman and delivering her baby on the boat and this incident forced him to look at life at a totally different perspective. He believed in hope and it was then that he started taking his job seriously; believing in the good and miracles he could bring to others. He worked hard and continued to pursue his job to the next level; with his intention to help people. I liked to see how this character developed from a bitter person to be a much kinder and understanding person.

7. Cheuk Man by Elaine Yiu
The sister of Rex, she was constantly pursuing fun and attention from the opposite sex. When she was pursued by Kelvin; her brother’s evil superior, she thought she was on top of the world until she realized that he was married and was just toying around with her. She grew up and mature and developed a friendship with Nam, whom she declared she will never fall in love with because he just was not her ‘type’. There was not much insight into this character, but there was slow development and change from the initial person she was to become a better person.

8. Kelvin Pang Chi Bun by Ruco Chan
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This is probably the villain of the drama; the superior newly assigned to the fire department and had conflict with Rex due to his pursuit of Rex’s sister. He ultimately transferred Rex out of the brigade and landed him in the admin tasks; to inspect the fire equipment and to inspect fire sites. Eventually, he lost the favor of the Superintendent of the fire department who transferred him away when they realized he was not a team player.

What I Liked
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The team spirit and discipline in this fire brigade and how every decision could affect a life.
It was inspiring to see how hard these people fought; risking their lives for the lives of others.
It was also educational to learn that teamwork is not only important here but vital for the survival of the team and the victims in their cases.
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As their Superintendent was quoted as saying to Rex and Seng, “I cannot tolerate rifts in the team; when there is rift and misunderstanding which are not resolved, there will not be teamwork. Either you guys work it out or face termination!”
It was so true; looking at how they enter each fire site with risk and if they are unable to work with each other, how can they save lives?
The best example was when Seng refused to follow Rex’s orders because of their personal conflict and Seng ended up in a coma.
It was a fortunate thing they saved the real victim and not losing the little girl’s life instead.
All the fire scenes were so real, and I just felt so touched watching how these brave men walked into each fire site; not knowing whether they would come out alive or not and yet braving it all for the sake of others trapped in the building. It was heart-wrenching when I watched those explosions and see how these firemen could have died.
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What I Disliked
Nothing really; I think this drama did not fail much of the expectations and I found it as inspiring, if not more dramatic compared to its earlier two predecessors. It was a great storyline and I liked how the story brought out the true values relevant to our real life.

What could have improve
As mentioned above, nothing much, but I would definitely like to see more training sessions and how they are like at their own dorms or their meeting sessions which were not portrayed much here.
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My Verdict
I was wrong to think that this was another generic and boring drama because it totally blew me away with the whole storyline and the touching, not to mention inspiring elements in the story.
I say, Go watch this, it is really educational and it will teach us to appreciate these unsung heroes even more. It will also help to create the awareness to be more mindful of the sirens and the emergencies, or how every second which may be just a ticking of the clock to you may mean a life or death decision in an emergency.
You'd definitely never look at a fireman the same way again; but with much more respect and awe!

Rating: 9.5 out of 10!