Archive for April 2009
No. Of Episodes
Louisa So - Yim Pui-Woo
Sunny Chan - Yin Leung
Crystal Tin - Kong Lai-Nga
Leila Tong - So Fei
Ben Wong - Cheung Chi-Hoi
Nancy Wu - Yip Chi-Shan
Jack Wu - Ma Hak
And many other women
You can get the summary, plot and everything else at Wikipedia. This Opinion concernes only with review of the series.
Forgive me for sniggering when I read at Wikipedia the following:-
The show has been compared to 1989's hit drama,Looking Back In Anger. 
I checked the source of that so called comparison, which is said to be a comparable one and it is from this review at TVB Musing which is hardly a journalistic review, but a review from TVB fans such as you and I.
I am not one for backhanded backstabbing comments of fellow amateur reviewers but this time, as a fan of the true classic, Looking Back In Anger, I must say this is one compliment too much for this poor attempt of a drama series.
To the younglings out there, yes I am really old since I have seen Looking Back In Anger when it was first released and has seen since it about 4 or 5 times, each time as if it was new. It is a classic; it has the classic struggle of a family torn apart by tragic circumstances, a brother being good and the other going really bad. The uneducated one gets to be rich because he was decent and good and the bad one decided to go all out to get what he wants, even murder. It has the heart wrenching story of 2 orphans raised by a kind but sulky woman whose life ended tragically and a love affair that will have you root for the wife and hate the woman whom the husband was once with. And it has the story of a difficult decision the older brother had to make so as to find an absolution with what his younger brother did. And most of all, until today, the ending is still hotly debated; did the wife died? Who was that woman walking into the churt to meet the hero of the story? It has also one of the best and most meaningful themesong every written and like the lyrics said; "All my life I have desired... and yet in the I realise all that I have lost are my own.." which reflects the contents of the series. It starred the bankable Felix Wong as the honest older brother, I think was the debut (or earlier performance) of a handsome but devilishly great Deric Wan as the younger bad brother as well as a very young Maggie Siu and the start of the often pairing of the golden on screen couple with Deric Wan, a young but formidable Carina Lau and the star of the series, the young actor, Gregory who is otherwise known as Shirley Yeung's boyfriend, who in his own right was an amazing young actor back in the days when storyline and characters drive a series and not gimmicks and silly antics that just because people are laughing doesn't mean it is funny. It is also the start of my extreme hatred of Cathy Chow who was the woman causing mayhem in the relationship between Carina and Felix, so much so it took me almost a decade, to even acknowledge that she is not the character she played. In so many levels Looking Back In Anger which also has the honours of one of the best english title as well as Chinese title (Yee Pat Yung Ching) is the perfect series of an era where story matters.
And so we return to this comparison. The writer did a good job in writing a comparison between these 2 series and whilst admittedly almost every sibling rivalry series have the same contents as per Looking Back In Anger much like Phoenix Rising did, Looking Back In Anger was executed beautifully as well as written poignantly whilst Phoenix Rising, which I shall be blunt is clumsy, badly written and in many ways simply suffers from arrested development.
I watched the earlier episodes, jump to the middle, catched some of the end and forgo the ending because by first quarter of the series, I decided I don't need to feel so dumbed down by one series.
It started well. You might wonder if it is a series about 3 siblings how come all of them have different names. They are all orphans, the oldest Kong was adopted by an elderly woman but not rich. The other 2 were adopted by rich families but Yim was I think an emotionally abused child so she grew up and killed the woman who raised but also taunted her because if I remember correctly the woman opposed her marriage to a very rich man, Cheung. She was later arrested, facing death but still in contact with her eldest sister, the kindly Kong who has a young son with a rising but married politician, Yin. In prison Yim met her youngest sister whom she couldn't recognise, So Fei, the motivater/counsellor. Jump forward, somehow Yim convinced Kong that Kong was dying of some incurable disease so silly Kong took Yim's place and confessed to a crime she didn't commit. Yim married her rich boyfriend and Kong later realised she was duped. Escaping from prison time and time again, Yin and So Fei tried their best to find evidence to safe her whilst Yim tried her best to keep Kong in prison whilst using Kong's son as somewhat a hostage. To cut the long story short, Kong was released, Yin acknowledged she is his lover and I think Yim died in the end, her face disfigured.
Frankly I didn't watch the last episode. I didn't quite care who died, how they died, when they died, why they died, as long as the series ends. I just simply wanted this awful series to end. Why?
Like I said, it started promising but when Kong went to prison for Yim, it became stupid. How many times can a prisoner escape from prison? Kong proved it that the prison was like a really strict hotel; you can just walk in and out of it. Once escape but captured and twice I think escaped only to return willingly. Everytime she tries to escape, someone will fall down or get hurt and she will stop and waste precious minutes of OUR time by asking "Are you ok? Are you alright?" whilst the fallen So Fei or somebody and even us will scream "GO! GO!!!!!!!" and she will softly with meek voice asks "Are you sure?". How about a slap on the face? Will you then go? Her indecisiveness caused by her excessive kindness was beyond irritating; it kills. It killed her adopted mom, even if she didn't push her but because everybody wanted so much to help her the "victim" everybody else gets hurt. She goes crazy and blah blah blah.
Drama isn't it? But empty drama. It amounts to absolutely nothing.
The prison settings seem more like a really strick vocational school. So called sadistic guards (by the way the sadistic guard is the real life father of Gregory, the boy I mentioned above) aren't sadistic enough. Just mean. The so called rivalry then united front of the prison sisterhood was silly at best. It felt juvenile, like young girls playing sand, if you know what I mean.
And there were too much soft spoken women in here.
Kong is soft spoken, of course because she is kind you see. So is So Fei, soft spoken and went to prison to save Kong who was like crawling instead of running when escaping from prison. Then there was Yin Leung, the boyfriend of Kong, married of course and rising politician. Useless. Said he will use his whatever powers to get her out, something like pardon or whatever and guess what? Couldn't even control his own wife. The only woman with a bit of personality of the 360 degrees turn, Yim but I suppose she was already selfish pretending to be generous.
The only bit of shocking stuff was a highly suggestive (sexually) scene between Yim and her husband naked in a bath tub (Ben Wong looks tanned and good I must say) but yet Yim is just pure evil for well being pure evil. I suppose you call that survival instinct. You don't relate to any of the characters, you don't feel motivated to even know them beyond the surface and whatever they do or say is just not memorable at all.
And then you have unrelated characters. Many but I will just name one given a good amount of screentime for no good reason. Nancy Wu's Yip, heavily pregnant, died in childbirth, sparking a riot in the prison which once again used by Kong to escape for the 3rd time after being back in prison for less than a day. Yip seems to be introduced for no reason whatsover. Her character is used for the plot but has not much connection to the characters and I did not feel for her death because she was so quiet even if sulking quiet. It was like a character to fill some scenes. And if such a character's purpose is as such, you know this series has very little to tell.
Life lessons? Don't be so gullible? Don't be an idiot? Screw your sisters over? Let yourself be screwed over?
The scene where Yim was tortured and forced to sign a confession for a crime she did do was uncomfortable to watch. She did kill the old woman of course but to put glasses in her rice, not allowing her to go to toilet and eventually drugging her so that she was too weak to fight Yin who used her fingers and placed them on the ink to put on the confession was a bit too much. If you have such strong evidence, get her the usual way. Of course people back then are corrupt but I must say Yim who has a rich but not very powerful husband could actually cause such havoc on Yin, rich and powerful was really over the top. Yin was pretty useless and if forging a confession is the best way he can do to help his girlfriend, to me he is one useless guy. And she didn't even have to hang for it! She just got into jail for like 3 years or so, came out and still wanted revenge. Oh yeah, the husband lied in court for her because she was pregnant she said. Was she? Don't know, didn't see the last episode.
This series went from promising to nowhere at all.
The acting was worse.
Sunny Chan was frantic but seems almost childish as the rising politician. Not forthright, not stern but very helpless in many scenes.
Louisa So was the decent one in here and even then her character is one dimensional mainly because the series paid too much attention on the boring kindly Kong and her prison breaks and everybody trying to clear her name instead of convicting Yim. But Louisa So is very pretty in here. That era's dresses suits her.
Leila Tong is boring. So she is up and coming, so she is rising but like Kenneth Ma, I look at her and I feel like sleeping. She can't carry a series on her own and thank God she hasn't yet but performance wise, I get very irritated with her soft spoken character more than the actress herself. I suppose she is limited by her character's one sided story. Because I really don't know So Fei, So Fei's entire existence seems to serve only Kong and to go against Yim. If you didn't tell me I didn't even know they were sisters since they all look different and indifferent to one another. There's no genuine affection between Kong and So Fei at all.
But the worst is reserved for Crystal Tin, wife of the actor whose name I forgotten but met back in the days of ATV. She was from ATV, in fact she was pretty famous in ATV although I never liked her. Here she is soft spoken kindly and of course naive, gullible and oh so nice. You want to slap Kong Lai Nga at least twice but most of all, I feel Crystal Tin was terrible. She wasn't acting; she wasn't even smiling most of the series. Her face was expressionless, her tone toneless and her body language was that of nothing significantly similar to what her character went through which was hell to say the least. If to act nice and kindly you have to have a soft spoken voice and downcast eyes, my god everybody can do this role justice. She simply bulldozed the role into a forgetabble performance and please I don't want to see her again anytime soon. There was no spark, even in anger there was no defiance in her eyes. It was simply just another acting job and for that I crucify her.
But hey when the story is that inadequate what more can you do?
Yes, the story. Let's go back to the comparison and let me just end this short opinion with my very own opinion; to compare this series with Looking Back In Anger is like comparing the Yangtze river and our own Gombak river, the San Francisco bridge with our Penang bridge and the Great Wall Of China with any of our super highway. You can't compare. All useful in their own ways but no comparison at all. So this story may be efficient to some for its delivery of the story which I disagree since I will say it delivered nothing but for some it does the job. But doing the job doesn't mean it is up there, with accolades for something so mediocre, something so below standard. Is mediocrity the new standard of excellence these days?
Come on my friends, your time deserves better treatment.
Avoid this pure mess and just go to your favourite TVB rental shop, or any Speedy videos and BUY Looking Back In Anger, the best sibling rivalry show in recent memory. The scene of the mother being forced to be hanged will make you cry and the scene where Deric the brother begged his brother Felix to help him will have you pity him for that one second and then you will agree with Felix; tough love is the only way to show how much you love your sibling who has done too many wrong that there's no point in trying to do right by helping your sibling. It doesn't just show the story, it serves you emotions and is memorable even if it was what? 20 years ago?
Or whatever your choice may be, just don't go near this Phoenix Rising. As you all know, Phoenix will burst into flames and be born again, and they repeat this process again and again and again. That is how you will feel deep down inside when watching this series; you burst into flames with anger and be born again to anger and burst again and born again... why torture yourself? Your blood pressure can't handle that kind of stress.
This series is 20 episodes too long.
Avoid at all cost.