(image credit: scanned by DTLCT)

I have to say that I’ve never been scared of Aaron Kwok in my life, considering he’s one of my favorite singers and actors. But this time, I was very freaked out, to say the least, because of this movie.

The story started out as a typical psychological, murder mystery. It had us going throughout that Aaron’s character, Ling Kwong, must have done it–but just lost his memory. The typical, over-killed plot, right? WRONG! He wasn’t really the murderer in the end–as the title had implied since the beginning and the details had let on throughout. He wasn’t exactly the killer behind it all yet he might as well be. Not because there was no evidence to prove his innocence. That was partially it and the reason why he’d been driven to insanity eventually. The actual event that made him became the murderer was killing his long-time friend and partner in the police force, who was portrayed by Eddie Cheung.

What made this movie worth watching for me was seeing Aaron in a completely different role. He was still a cop–as for some previous movies/ TV series–but wasn’t just a typical charming cop with a sense of humor. Maybe because it was suitable that there was no humor because of the intensity throughout the movie. (Duh, right? I KNOW!) This time, it was different because like I mentioned, there were lots of clues leading us to believe he was indeed the murderer. Not to mention how he kept denying it but Tai (portrayed by Chen Kuan Tai) was so scared of him when he woke up. It made sense that he was the killer. But that was another element to mislead us into thinking there was no hope for Kwong. Kwong would eventually pay for his crime, especially after having killed his long-time friend. Yet he was actually paying for a different crime altogether and the most coincidental thing was he didn’t commit either one of the crimes. The first was the serial killer they’d been seeking for all these months. What was the second one? The crime of unfaithfulness was committed by his father years and years ago. Was this like the saying, “What the father owes, the son will have to repay”? Because seriously, that was what happened in this case because his half-brother was out for revenge and he was caught in it all, knowing he couldn’t change anything after he landed in prison at the end of the movie…except wait. Wait for a day when he finally got out and have another opportunity or bulletproof plan to seek revenge.

The second reason why it was worth watching for me was seeing this collaboration between Aaron and Eddie. I don’t know if they’d worked together before–possibly yes. But it was interesting seeing how they teamed up for this one. Their friendship seemed genuine and solid yet it proved that it did not pass the test. Mostly because Kwong had gone bonkers. Even if it wasn’t totally his fault because he wasn’t in the right of mind but I felt that was the biggest mistake he made that landed him in a no-win situation in the end. If Eddie’s character had survived, there might have been more to look forward to. Sure, there would be delays yet more clues would reveal itself and there would be an ally for the final battle with the little devil (literally).

One other thing that made me want to watch this movie was seeing Janine Chang. YES, not a good reason to watch something since it could be misleading. Yet I didn’t mind this time after checking out the plot already. (At least the basic summary.) She had limited screen time but it was all right since the focus was supposed to be on Kwong and his journey to finding out the truth. At first, she was like the rest of them, thinking that Kwong had lost it, but later was convinced by Kwong to watch out for the half-brother. If she’d been more careful, she would’ve survived. But I guess that wasn’t the point because that little devil was definitely careful and manipulative all along. Her death was the cruelest compared to the others–possibly because we got to know her character somewhat as a sweet, caring wife. Randomness-wise, she made an interesting pairing with Aaron. I thought it wouldn’t work but they were quite in sync with one another.

There was also Chin Ka Lok’s brief appearance as one of the cops. His more important role in this film was the action choreographer, which proved quite convincing. The music also played a big part in helping this film achieve its eerie effects.

Recommended? If you’re looking for something to scare you half to death at night, watch it. Watch it at night! It’s scarier. And if you’re willing to give it a try, that is.

Liao Zhai 2

(Uploaded by: chiffon168)

Ending Theme Versions:

Featuring Luo Sha Hai Shi and Yan Zhi: Here

Featuring Yi Ning and Fen Die: Here

Featuring Lian Xiang and Yi Qian: Here

I said that I would do an overall analysis on this one so here goes. I thought this set of stories was quite lacking compared to part 1. Don’t say ‘Duh’ ’cause honestly, it wasn’t a whole story to be on the same scale with the whole ‘sequel’ thing. YES, it was a sequel, BUT because it was not just one story and then this was following it in that matter to be counted that way. It would be more accurate to say that this was another set of stories that followed the previous set of stories. I remember not watching only one story from the last one ’cause I already watched another adaptation elsewhere hence not watching it because it was basically the same with a different cast. However, this one was quite fresh with the set of stories but some of them seriously failed to capture the main points and let it drag on so it was quite disappointing. I will list the order of the stories to which I feel it deserved its place and then provide the reason as to why.

Yan Zhi – I can’t believe this had become my favorite and also earned the first spot. I was really, really surprised that the story was soooo good. Possibly because it stood out from the rest so it seemed really good to me in the end. Because I thought it was average at first but analyzing it more later, it was the only one that I seemed to write an in-depth summary about. It actually had a good theme, a solid story, and was not dragging at all. Things kept happening to drive the plot forward, not letting it dwell on one or another thing for too long. There were frustrating parts, but it soon passed and gave way for other things. It was also my first time watching Cecilia Han Xue and really liked her in here. My second time watching Yan Kuan and really liked his performance, feeling he deserved this lead role.

Lian Xiang – Though I felt the story was strange with them at times and I thought I wouldn’t like the way how things were with them but I finally understand why it must to be that way. One thing drove the other forward and many events were unavoidable. I actually felt that their chemistry wasn’t bad. I actually accepted the ending though it was not a happy one. It did not have to be that way. A possibly typical battle between good versus evil but it was all right. At least it did not drag out to the point of unbearable. There were also enough actions going on to drive the plot forward, keeping it mysterious with providing us with pieces of the puzzle slowly until the end.

Ying Ning – The story became somewhat dragging and repetitive toward the middle and somewhat in the ending parts but I forgave them because somehow the story still made sense. I actually liked the chemistry between June and Zhao Yi–like I said in the other review. It was really cute between them at first and then there was some bitterness. Not too bad at all.

Fen Die – What made this one standing fourth though it was supposed to be one of my most anticipated was its stupidity with dragging on and on about believing too much what the dreams were implying. YES, it could be true and could hint at the future. BUT I felt Fen Die relied so deeply on the dreams to tell her things or let her decide that it was way too pathetic for me to endure. Eddie and Esther still had great chemistry but the story was a bit weak to endure. Not to mention how the ending was a bit weak–to say the least. Though it was a happy ending and it did show how Wang Feng was able to see through their true love and let go but it was too much of a rush.

Yi Qian – Kind of refreshing idea like I said in the other review with the reversed role of letting the girl accepting the guy. However, the plot became sort of weak in the later parts. Though there were some comedic moments, it could not make up for the ending. Too fast and too ‘whatever’  to forgive.

Luo Sha Hai Shi – It was way too obvious from the individual review that I didn’t like it. Or more like I was really disappointed in it. Regardless of how it became so tragic (as most Liao Zhai stories should be) near the end, I could not make myself move it up from the list. It was too dragging to endure. Not to mention though it was a happy ending, it was just too much of a disappointment with the plot and characterization as I said before in the other review.

Just to end this on a positive note, I really liked the ending theme song used for this part. Does that even count? LOL! The song is called “White Fox“, which really suited this kind of theme with the mystical settings.

Seriously though, it would be nice to collect and watch and skip around and then snap some caps to do nice wallpapers or other types of graphics with since the costumes were nice–for the most part. And the scenery was equally mesmerizing. If only they had worked more on the plot development because like I said before, there were a lot of good ideas yet wasted with repetitive scenes or draggy formulas. So recommended or not? If you’re curious, go ahead and hunt for it to watch. Or you could be collecting because you like the artist mentioned. BUT I wouldn’t recommend it for the plot. The good thing is I saw on YesAsia you could buy the stories separately so you could try it out for yourself without having to buy the whole set of stories.

Liao Zhai 2: Luo Sha Hai Shi

(image credit: as marked)

This was, of course, my most anticipated story among all in here, considering how I’m a major fan of Eric and while following the shooting of it, it seemed quite intriguing. It was really, really, really disappointing on all parts with characterization, plot, and possibly acting. I’ll start with acting first. Michelle was better with tragic scenes or when she didn’t try to act playful and young. ‘Cause she went quite overboard that I was cringing from time to time seeing her trying too hard. What happened? Maybe she was trying to do it for this role BUT her experiment failed. It was better that she just didn’t do those exaggerations and just act normal. Eric, on the other hand, I felt he brought out his character well though his character wasn’t perfect. That was the nice way to put it though since I really hated the wishy-wahsy nature of his character. It made everything so frustrating to watch, plus Michelle’s exaggeration. As for the plot, it was minimal but what made it worse was the way it was written with trying to drive the plot forward. The wishy-washy thing with Eric’s character and not being able to decide on anything made the plot even worse ’cause the progress was so lagging. I liked the refreshing chemistry between Eric and both girls and sometimes, I would prefer Eric with Cheung Sai than Michelle for some reason. BUT of course, I wouldn’t mind either. Just that the characters need to improve. I did not blame Cheung Sai’s character for pushing Eric at times and even bring out the hammer, wanting Michelle to leave. ‘Cause Eric was so undecided and wanted both girls–OR probably he was confused. Then later when he realized who he liked, he couldn’t let go of Cheung Sai. So that was a mess all right. Like I said above, draggy. I wish they focused more on the fairy matters and the fighting. I don’t know.

Why am I so harsh on it? I expected A LOT more than this. A LOT!

To switch gears, was I the only one who thought that Eric’s outfits seemed like ten times better than Michelle’s? OR were they trying to create a dragon-like image for her? I don’t know. I thought they could have done better. I liked both of Eric’s outfits, the blue flowery one and the green one with the leaves. Those were really nice. That was about it.

As for the ending? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry because I thought it would have an equally tragic ending as the other ones–aka not letting Ma Ji and Xiao Qiao end up together. But then it turned out differently. Though it was a happy ending, I swear it didn’t make up for the poor plot and characterization throughout. The moral sucked major time also. What the heck was that? It was like they needed a villain at the end so they made it like Qing He was in the wrong and tried to convince her. It was pathetic because the message of living a happy life was not backed up properly. What would anyone do if they were misled and felt like they were cheated and robbed? SO do I agree with the ending? Yes on the finding happiness and what one wanted the most. And that Ma Ji was finally able to realize how all of those statuses didn’t matter and having witnessed how that one Zhao dude went crazy over his lost chance and how he’d lost his fortune because he didn’t win. BUT it did not make up for anything. I didn’t care if Ma Ji and Xiao Qiao weren’t perfect. But I felt it was going in the wrong direction with how they made Qing He out to be the villain. She was hurt and was fighting back, that was all.

Favorite character? Must be Xu Biao portrayed by Guo Ding Wen. I know, I know. He could be considered the evil disciple who tried to chase Xiao Qiao (Michelle) down and helping his master with the dragon hunting task. YET he was very clear as to where he stood on the whole thing. Xiao Qiao saved him so he gave Ma Ji (Eric) some information to help Xiao Qiao in running away. Then he drew the line with them after the scores were already settled. I didn’t blame him for acting on his master’s orders either because he had done all he could to repay Xiao Qiao. Not to mention the memorable ending. I swear he totally made up for everything in the end because he was the one to save the day with helping Ma Ji rescue Xiao Qiao. It was good to know he had a background story also–and it wasn’t draggy at all. Just a summary of his character through his own story-telling but it made a lot of sense. It was WAY better than dragging it out and dramatizing everything like how they did with the rest of the story. Another reason I didn’t know why they were able to pull this off but dragged out the other things for so long.

Most pitiful character? Qing He. I know, people usually lean toward the main couple after they were together, etc and went through a lot of trials together already. And not to mention how she was hunting Xiao Qiao down near the end too. But I honestly felt sorry for her. It wasn’t her fault that she was misled into believing that Ma Ji honestly loved her and yet he abandoned her just like that. She seemed spoiled OR whatever with her attitude at times. But I could totally sympathize with her. Just because she was from a wealthy family didn’t mean she didn’t have feelings. Yes, sounded too much like ‘poor rich girl’ but I didn’t think she deserved to be misled, used–among other things. And so what if she was thinking like the others who thought about marriage, status, and all those riches? So what if she didn’t ‘love’ him correctly like some of us might want to criticize her for? IF Ma Ji hadn’t made all those promises in the first place, she wouldn’t have sunk so slow. OR if she was the one making the despicable moves, then she would deserve the outcome. So, it didn’t matter if she was being stubborn clinging onto someone who didn’t love her. Take it that she was throwing a tantrum or was just mad for being tossed around and being misled. Not trying to take her side on purpose, but I honestly felt like why was it always right for the so-called ‘good people’ to get mad at others BUT the so-called ‘villains’ can’t? LAME-O! I swear Cheung Sai brought the character out very well, making it believable but I thought Qing He should be pitied more than being hated. (I swear Xiao Qiao had no right to yell at her either. Though it wasn’t her fault Ma Ji loved her BUT she had no right to scold Qing He for turning into that hateful being.) AND let’s not even forget that Qing He did tell Ma Ji to leave her, not to pity her anymore when she knew she was really sick YET he kept insisting that he really loved her AND promise to take care of her for the rest of her life (or be by her side for the rest of her life)–even if she couldn’t live for so long. SO, who was the one that drove Qing He to insanity? HELLO!

So I wouldn’t even recommend this one for Eric fans. Unless you want to see for yourself. And we all know I have a weird point of view so my accounts can’t really be trusted at times.

Memorable Sad Endings: Part II

Coincidentally or not so coincidentally, the second one I want to discuss also involves Wallace Huo. Fans might still remember the tragic story of Gui Hai Yi Dao (歸海一刀) and Shang Guan Hai Tang (上官海棠). They went through so much together yet was not able to stay together because we all know that she died at the end–well near the end.

Although Hai Tang’s death was done beautifully, it was also too frustrating. It was just too much and heart-wrecking to see Yi Dao discovering her body and then confirming her death after checking for the last time. He’d done it slowly and calmly yet the pain in his eyes was unmistakable. Then he said, “Hai Tang, Yi Dao is here. No one could harm you anymore. Don’t be afraid.” (I started crying about then. The scene was just too much.) But then it was slightly ruined because someone had to speak up in a fake rant to score some points with the three guys.

Luckily, it was brought back to focus with Yi Dao carrying Hai Tang’s body on his back, walking out into the rain. He finally broke through at last and cried out her name–with much pain in his voice. Raindrops were falling down his face mixed in with his tears. (It sounded dramatic but it was nicely done.)

Then the funeral was just sad although it seemed a tad subtle with everyone looking so calm, especially Yi Dao. But it said a lot with Yi Dao’s eyes looking so haunting.

The theme song sang by Wallace “Your Number One” was playing in the background the whole time since the part where Yi Dao discovered Hai Tang’s body. It was a big contribution to the scene played out. Though the song aimed at the majority of the characters in their valuing love overpower, I thought it emphasized Yi Dao and Hai Tang’s story the most since he was the most caring toward Hai Tang and was the most hurt from lost love than anyone. In fact, the song fitted perfectly with the Tian Ya – Hai Tang – Yi Dao triangle, especially the phrase: “What’s the difference between him and me?” The comparison between the two guys since Tian Ya and Yi Dao did not get along that well at the beginning, but it was only because of Yi Dao’s stubborn nature. Another phrase that was worth mentioning was, “It doesn’t matter who is the world’s number one, I only want to be number one in your heart.” Though Yi Dao seemed cold-blooded on the surface, he valued love more than anything. His caring toward Hai Tang showed a lot. He only wanted to protect her yet he no longer could.

I must admit it was my very first series of Wallace and I was really taken by his acting and also the story between him and Michelle as Yi Dao and Hai Tang in there. Both had great chemistry and did very well portraying their characters. It was too bad they did not have too many scenes together.

Even though I finally accepted that she died and that was that, I–like some others–am still pissed off at the ending. There was no reason for her to die except that it led to others becoming more active in exposing the other parts of the plot. There were still other ways for it to work out. So they wanted a tragic ending or wanted to pave another dramatic event in Yi Dao’s life but that was too much. Hasn’t he gone through enough? Making it cheesy with everyone living happily ever after would be too much but killing off one of the main leads? Those things do happen but there were other alternatives around it. Enough about that.

After watching several series of Wallace’s fate, I’m convinced that either one of the leads has to die or separate in his series. (Wu Shi Lang is different since that’s basically a comedy. Those TW dramas do not count either.) I also have to come to the conclusion that Wong Jing (Wang Xing) is messed up in so many ways that he likes to kill the majority of the cast just for kicks. (Luckily he was only one of the ones writing the script or if he was the only one, everyone would end up dying in this series already.)

Anyway, still one of the most memorable couples of ancient series.

*All images were captured by DTLCT