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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

[O] CCTV's CNY Special 2015 : What was that?!

I watch CCTV's CNY special every year, that 4 hour plus program of dance-sketch-song routine and by its own incredibly high standards as compared with others, CCTV CNY special still rocks but comparing to itself I am left wondering what the heck I just watched. The format has changed; way too many songs segment, lesser dance/variety segment and sketches remain the same. And every time there is a variety segment, it would seem the aim is to test how many people they can fit into the small stage, albeit smaller than previous years and apparently someone missed the memo about colour clashing. You see, costume is white, graphic backdrop which is beautiful is unfortunately also white. Black costume? Black backdrop. Gold? Sea of yellow costumes. And you're like hunting for the people on the stage because the backdrop masked the costumes which is a pity because this year the costumes are simply stunning and a bit modernised whilst sticking to traditional values. Variety segment sometimes showcases amazing unknown (to us) talent but this year, the ethnic groups are lumped into a short segment and so you see very little of any use. Those amazing mask changing technique? Over in seconds. There must be some significance to the  beautiful lady (or could be man) in opera do doing some steps on the wooden chair and whilst I am enticed what he/she would do next, it was over. Sexy belly dancers? Seconds and she is done. There you have singers singing but they're holographics or whatever you call them. If this year's team is the future or the technology it is simply boring to adopt that approach. I kept waiting to see a sheep, goat dance routine like that amazing chicken dance from young child to elderly woman a few years' back, simply jaw droppingly amazing but this year, the only goat is a computer graphic which isn't even cute. Even the hosts seemed tired and unenthusiastic. One good point is less military presence but you feel if this is some change of format, they're not doing it right. The worst had to be the backdrop graphics drowning the performers on stage. And in the end you have confettis, but all graphic and I was like can't they afford some realm confetti?

You know what would be great for next year?

Follow the theme. If goat, show goat routine. Ditch the backdrop thing and go for props. Back to basics. And bring  back the variety show and invite significant important singers if from overseas. Andy Lau is ok but even he looked he was eager to leave, and he confessed as much. Karen Mok? And is that G.E.M? I don't know who but too many singing too little homage to the real performers.

I consider this the worst CCTV CNY show in recent memory. Tired, restless, difficult to see.

You know something is wrong when they invite I suppose 2 actors-action stars to perform as main stars in a group effort about kung fu.Relevance and modernising a show isn't about becoming the rest  but to continually challenge themselves for some unique, something why people faithfully switch on the TV every year to watch.

That is not this year.

So hoping next year new ideas, new year, new routine.

But one did up themselves. Those 2 or 3 performers where the woman do handstand or something on top of a guy. Got to see it to  believe it.

[Greetings] Happy CNY 2015

May this year truly be G.O.A.T* for everyone!! Peace and prosperity! Good health and safety! Fortune and luck! Most of all, love and be loved. A little appreciation for everyone.

*Greatest Of All Time

Monday, February 9, 2015

[O] Sound Of The Desert / Da Mo Yao / 大漠謠 [2014][China]

This is a collection of various commentaries and opinions about this series under one post. If you see this at the top, this means it is updated. For more under this post, do click the Read More button. I welcome your comments and your thoughts as well so do use Post A Comment and do indicate which episode you're talking about. Since this is a threaded comment system, you can reply directly to any given comments you wish to reply to. When this is done, I will move this to Reviews Database.

Based on
A book of the same Chinese title by Tong Hua who gave you Bu Bu Jing Xin

Original English title
Ballad Of The Desert

Mandarin, dubbed with English subtitles

The original names were mostly changed because China prohibits portrayal of real life historical characters in fictionalised settings. My opinion will be based on the original names.

Hu Ge as Mo Xun (Meng Ximo)
Cecilia Liu as Xin Yue (Jin Yu)
Eddie Peng as Wei Wu Ji
Han Dong as Li Ji
Fala Chen as Qin Xiang
Kristal Tin as Hong Gu
Qin Hao as Wu Wei Li
Shi Xiaoqun as Princess Pingyang
Maggie Cheung Ho-yee as Wei Zifu
Lu Liang as Emperor Wu of Han
Wu Zhuohan as Wei Qing
Zhang Xiang as Li Yannian
Qin Yong as Lu Guangli
Wu Ying as Wei Shao'er
Liu Shuailiang as Wei Kang
Xu Sa as Fang Ru
Luo Mi as Xin Yan

The Series
The book

Until Episode 17 and some of 18

I don't know. On the one hand I cheered when Qubing (should I start using Wuji??) basically wrapped up a naked Xiao Yue and carried her away, on the other hand I wonder, do women really like these sort of boyfriends who are so controlling? I mean Qubing is controlling in his own way and for an independent woman like Xiao Yue, it doesn't make sense that she enjoys that sort of control. Like 50 Shades Of Gray. On paper, oh women love to be whipped by handsome young billionaire. But in real life? No way!

I don't know.

But I cheer for Qubing. And I like how Qubing just told Jiu Yeh straight in the face, "You have missed the boat" which is so true. Poor Jiu Yeh, frantically looking for Xiao Yue who is having this flirtatious thingy going on with Qubing. And I do mean very flirtatious like bathing time lar, sleeping holding hands lar, he on top of her lar, if this was a Hindi movie, they would be running around the mountains rolling on top of one another and smiling as they sing some catchy tune.

I actually expected Xiao Yue to stand up naked from the bathtub when Qubing challenged her. Pity. So she is NOT that progressive. Would have love to see his shocked expression at her daring because I expect her to be that daring.

Oh, some war scenes, Xiao Yue refuses to let go of her 2 pigeons and a young man dies because of that, or so she thinks. Don't blame the pigeons man!! The young man had no chance anyway. When you go into war for revenge, you basically have the word "DEAD MEAT" on your forehead. I expected him to die anyway. So I suppose Xiao Yue will roast the pigeons now? So bye bye Jiu Yeh, I don't love you anymore?

Oh oh I forgot! Qubing did something sly. I mean he did a lot of sly stuff with Xiao Yue but this one, he knew Jiu Yeh was looking for Xiao Yue but never told her. However why should he worry? Xiao Yue already dreamed about him dying when she was told the one she loved the most will die and it was Qubing, not Jiu Yeh. I thought that scene from earlier episode was such a sellout. I know I know deep down inside of her passionate heart she already has the hots for Qubing the sexy beast (he did take off his shirt for a bathing scene when realism demands that he takes off his pants as well!!!! At least a blurred butt shot?), so that scene shows that but to show it at that point was such a slap to Jiu Yeh. Come on she has plenty of time to feel sexually attracted to Qubing so why do it so early? Why not let her pure love remain at that point?

So you may wonder, for a usually boring dead looking Cecilia Liu, how she fared against the flirty Eddie Peng? Well, a lot of flirtation and she seems more receptive but overall, not enough. She is just an upgraded version of Ruoxi and Eddie is just a more released version of 4th prince. A better actress would have just oh ... make it all so sexy.

So far, except for Cecilia Liu who doesn't deserve to be a lead in this series or any series whatsoever, all are ok. Hu Ge has his own beauty but I still feel he is a complete miscast. Still annoyed with his wimpy Jiu Yeh. But Eddie Peng is a revelation. He is scary, sexy, controlling and yet giving as Wuji aka Qubing. How can any woman not want him? Do you feel like ripping Jiu Yeh's clothes? Even if he is played by Wallace Huo? Nope. I feel like standing far apart, observing, admiring, like a beautiful museum piece of such value. With Qubing, that feeling is a direct opposite; still good but you know, more animalistic.

I have said and shall maintain the book as in this series, this is China's 50 Shades Of Grey minus the whipping but you got some bondage in here. 

Until Episode 15
Wow. 5 episodes and mostly on Fala and her errr,,,, I really am not sure what is her purpose and of course Xin Yue and her 1000th love confession to Jiu Yeh and his 999th rejection.

I won't say much except to say the book's Jiu Yeh came across as someone you feel for, someone you will love to love and hard to hate. But the series' Jiu Yeh doesn't translate well in the transition and he comes across as incredibly meek, weak and indecisive. And when he was decisive, you will probably cheer when Qubing found Xiao Yue. Qubing complained that Xiao Yue fell for Jiu Yeh because he found her first when she was in distress. Not true. She already was smitten when in the desert. Now that Xiao Yue's heart was once again broken by Jiu Yeh's rejection (no less than 3 times), she ran away and Qubing found her first and so a renaissance of her emotions I suppose. Her love for Jiu Yeh was always pure, with the way they DO NOT touch one another except when she is crying or she was teasing him to affix the earring for her. As for Qubing, if there is any indication, when he found her first the 2nd time, she was naked in a bathtub. For me Jiu Yeh was her first love, her puppy love, her crush that crushed her totally (even if the series doesn't quite show that) but Qubing? Qubing was her sexual awakening. If Jiu Yeh makes her feel girly, Qubing makes her feel womanly and will make her into his woman. Pure sex. Of course there's love but you know what I mean.

I will say GO QUBING! I am sick of Jiu Yeh for his rejection for reasons I do  not know why. His legs? Nope. His connection to and possibly possible death at the hands of the emperor? Not sure. His impotence? Since he asked her what she wanted and she wanted big family and he looked stricken. I don't know.

I also forgot if this was in the novel; was Jiu Yeh the nephew of the Emperor?! Once scene shows the Emperor calling him his nephew.

As for Fala, aka Xiang Furen, she complained bitterly how Wei Zifu seemed so nice and kind and that was because everybody did the dirty work for her even before she thought of it. True though, Xiang Furen had no connection. How she could climb up? Now before you start guessing, it would be years, in  historical sense because Wei Zifu was toppled since when Qubing died, Weis were still in power. So this series will show only the start and you won't see the end. It will probably show Xiang Furen becoming power hungry and is later left alone to do her battle with Zifu.

Anyway Jiu Yeh, you're such a wimp.

Got different version ah?
I didn't know there was different version? Like longer and shorter version? I only thought and hoped for international version means names unchanged and China version means bastardised. Interesting. I also notice some dialogues don't match the lips BUT every lines by Kristal Tin matches. She has the most perfect dubber for her face. She should hire that dubber as her sole professional dubbing voice in China from now on.

Until Episode 10
The whole "Why won't he love me back?" dilemma continues. The entire so called love affair between Jiu Yeh and Xin Yue is so pure. I mean Jiu yeh is perpetually in white, and her reaction to his everything is asexual, it is just pureness personified. She made a lot of effort to understand him, to get close to him. What does he like to read? Why does he like to read that? What is he doing? What is he thinking? What is in his heart? Am I in his heart? Why he treats me so well if he doesn't feel anything for me? If he feels anything for me why does he avoid me whenever I feel I came close enough?

Ahhhh why why why. I also don't know why. Maybe it's his inferiority complex, his inability to walk which may also be an issue about impotence for all I know. His complicated life of funding the freedom fighters (to the desert people)/terrorists (to the Hans). He has a lot in his mind, other than his disability. However he is learning to walk again.

On the other hand Qubing is forever not just teasing her. No that's beyond teasing. It is flirting. She flirts back even if Cecilia Liu manages to pour cold water over the very flirty banter. I mean that guy was going all out and although her character is sorta shy when it comes to sex and such stuff, I feel when she replied back it was devoid of any flirtation, just a reply from an annoyed woman. I feel that is just totally wasting poor Eddie's effort. She should flirt back. I saw some pictures of her in hot water spring with him, obviously having sex in broad day light and in  public so it is daring even by today's standard and she looked... she wished she was somewhere else. Sigh...

I feel Da Mo Yao is a very sexual book if you ask me. If I remember correctly  we have a couple unmarried and sexually active. Qubing obviously enjoys her physically and she loved him and also because he is a rather good lover, something Jiu Yeh does not give me the same impression. I just feel for all the so called flirting which will translate to sexual tension, I see dear Cecilia not really participating in it naturally.

Where was I? Ahh yeah Jiu Yeh is pureness personified, Qubing is passion personified. Both good men, but very different people.

Anyway Qubing is off to a victorious war, Xin Yue continued her quest to get close to Jiu Yeh's heart, Jiu Yeh continues to play coy and dear Xiang Furen as she is known is now in palace, very favoured just I suppose a few months on and unseen by us. I have had enough to Xin Yue asking all the questions without any answers. I want to see how our future villain is coping sleeping with the enemy. Still not sure why Xin Yue never ask her what is her objective although she did say she wanted to confront the emperor why kill her family BUT I suppose that got lost in plot development because one scene obviously did in the last few episodes; where Qubing demanded to see Fala's face, saw it and then dismissed her and Xin Yue asked why was he so rude to her and he said if she wants to know go have a walk with him and next thing we know, Xin Yue is busy playing with her pigeons, Qubing forgotten and the question as to why Qubing was so rude was never to be answered.

Like ever.

I will have to wait until Sunday for the next 5 episodes. So until then, I shall be like Jiu Yeh, questions asked, no answers given, just be silent and coy.

Until Episode 9
I just realised this series is called Sound Of The Desert and I kept thinking it was Song Of The Desert since the original title is Ballad Of The Desert and music plays a big part in this series.


I am convinced Cecilia Liu is the luckiest actress in the world. She is not an exceptional beauty, she is at best can be considered pretty but plain, she doesn't possess the most bodacious figure, you can say she is flat, her personality is none, her acting abilities has improved from zero to passable and she manages to act the same in every character she ever plays and yet here she is, the lead in another stellar production by Tangren. What did she do to gain Tangren's favour? Why do they favour her so?

She improved a lot since Bu Bu Jing Xin but her improvement is slight. I find no difference in her interpretation of Xinyue and Ruoxi except she was worse as Ruoxi as her Ruoxi was supposed to be 25 trapped in the body of a 16 year old and she acted she was 13. She looked terrible in some scenes, maybe she was sick. She could really cry and even when she is not crying she looks like she is on the verge of tears. She can't do intimate scenes well without cringing and believe me, let's not talk about passion and sexy, because she is neither.

But why is she the lead yet again? She is like the worst in the sea of bests. I don't mean to say she is god awful but she is just perfectly ordinary. And my god, she is dull. On screen she is dull and off screen, her most sexiest and most daring moment will be marrying the sexy beast called Nicky Wu who is much older than she is. But other than that, oh lord she is so boring.

And to illustrate her inconsistency, she can read and write Chinese and yet doesn't know how to use chopsticks. I was like huh? She can compose music and choreograph a dance and play politics and yet... she doesn't know how to use chopsticks?!

Anyway so far this series is captivating me because however dull and boring and mediocre she is, Cecilia Liu has the greatest luck of being in the prettiest productions surrounded by people more competent she will ever be.

I have read the translation of the book Da Mo Yao, a fan translated book and I kinda enjoyed it. In the book I loved Meng Jiu or Jiu Yeh because he was so tragic. I disliked Huo Qubing because he came across as a stalker, a creep and a strong character.

Surprisingly in this series, at episode 9, I find myself liking Qubing.


Let it be known Tangren need not change the historical names for international release and yet they did and so the final act is done; they have sold their soul to the devil needlessly. I am very very very annoyed. I shall still call the historical characters by their real name. I hated Qubing's name, Wei Wuji, which sounds like a ciplak name from Jinyong's Wuxia series.


I really like this Qubing because he comes across as playful and mischievous, touchy feely and quite rude but quite endearing like a naughty man child with a hot body, not yet stalker like but is stalking our heroine. He doesn't come across as strong personality like in the book. It helps Eddie Peng is sex on legs with big doe eyes. Ahhhhh.... and yet Cecilia manages to look beyond all that and look terribly dull. Come on! Surely even Xin Yue will take another look at this demi god before her? No?

Anyway the one I really loved in the book was Jiu Yeh and the way the book described him was something like Xinyue first saw him and to her he was the most beautiful man she has ever laid eyes on, so pure, so beautiful and yet to sad, so melancholic, so troubled but by what? She was immediately drawn to his beauty which I do remember something about changing of seasons is affected by him or something to that. Can't remember much except how god smacking beautiful he was. And immediately I thought of Wallace Huo, the Emperor of HDTV. It is vital to have that contrast with Qubing because Qubing was in war and was a soldier all his life and so he was probably rough and manly looking and scarred and such and Jiu Yeh, the learned man who spent his time with books and pursuit of knowledge supposedly looked so perfectly flawless in everything must look polished and just perfect. Wallace turned down this series and Huge wanted this role and he got it. Huge is a good actor, he is also a handsome man in a weird sort of way. But he isn't Jiu Yeh. He can look sad and thoughtful and preoccupied and shy and all that but if you wanna talk about natural melancholic look if there is such a word, Wallace Huo fits the description perfectly. And Wallace is also naturally fair with flawless complexion and he is a beautiful man. So yeah, Huge, a miscast. But like I said he is a good actor. It could be because he was a miscast that I felt drawn to Eddie's Qubing who was perfectly cast.

The one I was most excited to see was Fala Chen and she didn't disappoint. She looked so elegant and pretty and aloof. TVB has never quite fully utilised her aloofness to great effect but in this series, her aloofness is her character. See Fala as TVB never knew how to present her; the morose, solemn, aloof, cold but beautiful, elegant, sophisticated future Consort Li.

Then I found out Maggie Cheung (Hor Yee) will be in this series as Wei Zifu and since I just finished another Wei Zifu series, I was happy with the connection. Her appearance was memorable. In Episode 8 or 9 I think, a few words but mostly just an introduction. Before that we are informed the Emperor is bored with his empress who to him is like a whithered flower and so Fala was being introduced as the next hot candidate by Xinyue and Princess Pingyang, both hoping to gain more favour with the emperor. Joke is Pingyang is the wife of the brother of the empress, so you can see how the husband feels. No one ever thought Fala will ever threaten the empress' position since the empress was aided by no less than 4 famous and powerful family members within the government and the emperor loved her dearly even if he doesn't find her sexually alluring anymore. Anyway Xinyue was gungho about it until the day came and in came the empress whose reputation far exceeded her even if she was very popular. She was a famous beauty once and Maggie may looked older but you can see her beautiful luminous skin even if wrinkled would have bewitched the emperor so to speak. Maggie was glowing in this scene. Anyway Xinyue saw her and she thought to herself that the Empress was like so beautiful, she understood why the emperor wanted to find another Wei Zifu and it did cross her mind the irony that Fala was being introduced in the same way in the same household by the same person to the emperor like how the empress was many years ago. And she concluded "How can the empress be described as a whithered flower? She is still the most beautiful graceful empress everyone knew" and that was when Xinyue felt immense guilt; that she may have helped to hurt the empress. Indeed the empress actually looked hurt but had to smile and here is where Maggie was simply splendid. Anyway even Qubing said if it wasn't Fala it could have been another woman so he didn't blame Xinyue.

Blame the emperor; lusty old man.

BUT WAIT! He ain't no old man! He is supposed to be 35 or 36 then, so that makes Zifu early 30s. My god, already a whithered flower? I thought the emperor met Lady Li in his late 50s? The timeline changed? Why not just say the emperor was in his 40s and Zifu is 40? That would make more sense much like how Ada Choi's empress was in Empresses In The Palace. I don't know who is the actor but I think it was deliberate to find someone with bad skin and not so good looking. That ain't Raymond Lam for sure!

Anyway so far so good. Up until ep 9, all I can say is...

1. OMG. The costumes, the hair, the head accessories... OMG.So beautiful. Made me wanna grow long hair and do the Han style with the hair accessories that didn't look like helmet hair. May I repeat the costumes again? I don't mean the car crash that is Xinyue's desert look but Princess Pingyang and Jiu Yeh's costumes, wow! 

2. OMG. The set decoration. Not sure how accurate but OMG, looks great.

3. The casting, OMG, except for Cecilia, and to some lesser extent Huge, it has been exemplary. You will see familiar faces from BBJX.

4. The dubbing, OMG. The one who benefits the most is Kristal Tin. Taking away her real voice, replacing it with a superbly dubbed voice that just fits her so perfectly, you can now appreciate how animated her performance was. It helps she delivered her lines in mandarin and the lips movement moved in perfect sync with the dubber who was simply excellent.  You will also hear familiar voices from BBJX.

5, The CGI though is not OMG since I know it is CGI BUT way better than TVB's Form 3 CGI level. Tangren's CGI is University level.

6. The wolves aren't wolves but the cutest huge dogs ever. So cute. Why not just CGI the wolves?

7. The classical music in this series is superb but the themesong is not.

8. The make up is fantastic. And if Cecilia can still look puffy eyed, red nosed and sickly, it just shows she must have looked worse before the make up. I especially like Huge's pink lip balm. So much make up on the man. Least make up may be Eddie but maybe a lot of spray tan.

Ok, just 8.

Are you watching Sound Of The Desert? What do you think, so far at episode 9?