Samurai Gourmet Review

Samurai GourmetSamurai Gourmet (aka Mangaban Nobushi no Gurume/漫画版 野武士のグルメ) is a Japanese TV series commissioned by Netflix airing first in March 2017.

About

Kasumi Takeshi is a retired salaryman getting used to the routine of his second life. He has never had a beer at lunchtime during the week. He is trying to get acquainted with going out and eating alone.

The series is an adaptation of the very popular The Solitary Gourmet TV show. It’s also had a Chinese remake.

Cast

Takenaka Naoto (竹中直人) as Kasumi Takeshi
He is an actor, comedian, singer and director. He has been in many TV shows and directed about 6 movies. I don’t recall seeing him in any other productions.

Amayama Tetsuji (玉山鉄二) as Samurai
He is a model turned actor and has appeared in many TV shows, films and music videos. He is in Naked Director which is showing on Netflix as is Samurai Gourmet.

Summary

There are 12 episodes in the series of about 20 minutes in duration which makes it very watchable.

This is a very delightful relaxed TV series with nothing offensive or stressful going on in it. I would say it’s one of the best I’ve seen in 2021. Every person in the same age group can relate to this drama.

The stories are very simple, nothing complex, although drawing the views in to see where he is going to end up next. The main character gets excited by the simplest of food. It makes you think about the effort that goes into small business restaurants to bring their lovely creations to us.

This show is a must-watch and I give it a 5/5.

Where Can I Watch

This is only available on Netflix.

Trailer

2021-11-29T22:27:54+00:0029 November 2021|Review Japan|0 Comments

Raging Fire Review

Raging Fire ArticleRaging Fire (怒火·重案) is a movie from Hong Kong that was released in July 2021.

About

Several years ago a police officer and some of his colleagues were sent to prison. While in prison they become bitter and resentful. Upon their release, they set out to destroy anyone who has upset them in the past.

Cast

Donnie Yen (甄子丹)
One of Hong Kong’s most famous actors.
He is a very talented actor, martial artist, film director, producer, action choreographer, stuntman, and multiple-time world wushu tournament champion.

Nicholas Tse (謝霆鋒)
A Hong Kong singer who has a lengthy TV and movie career.

Benny Chan (陈木胜)
He was the screenwriter and director of the film. He passed away in 2020. At the end of the film, there was a tribute to him.

Summary

Actually, I didn’t really enjoy this film very much. I was too violent for me and there wasn’t a single character that I could warm up to. The movie started, they blew stuff up, the movie ended. So, I would say, if you enjoy lots of action then this is the movie for you.

I can appreciate there was a lot of work that went into the film, especially the special effects and set up the stunt scenes.

This was the first Hong Kong production I have seen that was made post-National Security Law came into effect. I noticed there were some Chinese based production companies involved in the production, like Tencent.

I’ve seen some movie sites list this as 1hr 30min in duration when in fact it’s actually 2hr 08min. I would rate it as 2/5.

Where To Watch

The movie is available on BluRay via sites like YesAsia.

Trailer

2021-11-29T22:10:06+00:0029 November 2021|Review Hong Kong|0 Comments

Age of The Legend Review

Age of The LegendAge of The Legend (英雄年代之九龙密钥) is a Chinese movie that was released by iQiyi this year, 2021.

About

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, a group of heroes get together to prevent the British and Japanese invasion of Guangzhou City. They are presented with numerous obstacles on the way that challenges them to reach their goal.

I suspect this might have been a “made for TV” movie rather than one that was released through the cinema. I can’t really know for sure.

Cast

Never heard or seen any of them before, but from what I could see the main character is of Taiwanese origin.

Adan (aka Gu Han Yun or 阿丹), from Taiwan, played the main character, not sure what the name of that character is. Age of The Legend looks like his first film role, he got his first break as a support role on Spicy Teacher back in 2000.

Summary

If nothing else this movie is good for a laugh but would take it with a pinch of salt.

The first thing I noticed was the accent of the British, they sounded spookily familiar to Russians. Many Russians play Caucasians in Chinese movies. Their accents and acting were slightly painful to watch.

The script was daft but oddly well presented. The CGI wasn’t great, such as the British ships and guns in the mountains.

The monk character was acted really well and was hilarious. There was an effeminate guy and of course, the script included how awful that person was, although was a hero of sorts as well. The main Japanese female character really did act evil, she was a good actress, although had to meet her demise eventually.

The fight sequences/choreography were really well-done with quite impressive camera work.

Overall, not a bad film for entertainment value, quite a few amusing moments I will never forget. I give it 7/10 and recommend everyone seeing it.

Where to Watch

This can be found on iQiyi and YouTube.

Trailer

2021-11-25T23:46:52+00:0025 November 2021|Review China|0 Comments

PFCD Political Adverts

The Washington DC-based organization Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) has been churning out political ads on MSNBC and elsewhere, who are they?

From their Twitter account, PFCD seems like a legitimate organization but that is until you see their advertising then you really question what they are up to. PFCD is a 501c4, nonprofit, not tax-exempt but more political in nature than a 501c3.

The Advert

I don’t want to embed their whole advert on my blog to help promote it but it can be viewed here.

Obviously, it’s very scripted using the same language that a for-profit company or right-wing politician would use, it’s most likely written by a pharmaceutical. The advert links the price of medication to health care wait times; there is no linkage, and this is why their ad is very misleading. Like many similar ads, its aim is to obtain an emotional reaction and is very loose on facts.

Like typical pharmaceutical adverts, it doesn’t give the full person name, so just an actress.
dorothy

PFCD says it was the “experience of a cancer patient” but there is no evidence that is the truth. The actress is senior which is the target audience they might be considering. They use the “crossed arms” body language for a reason.

It provides a phone number but doesn’t actually say what you are supposed to do with it. Is that the PFCD number? No, it’s the US Capitol switchboard. People could phone their representative to encourage them to do the opposite to what the advert suggests.

Strangely, none of the adverts appears on PFCD Twitter or Facebook feeds. However, people are communicating their displeasure with the organization across Twitter, and some on Facebook, which PFCD has not responded to.

It is typical behaviour of for-profit health care companies, pharmaceuticals and Republican politicians to lie about overseas health care systems in order to stoke fear about a similar being implemented in the US. The US runs a profit before people health care system so they are desperate that universal coverage should not happen there, can’t have all those billionaires losing so much money.

More About PFCD

This article by Rollcall outlines more about PFCD and the controversy around the advert, I got the following points from it:

  • PFCD shared an address with large Pharmaceutical companies
  • Lobbyists for PFCD also lobby for pharmaceuticals
  • The nonprofit does not disclose its funding
  • The adverts cost at least $5.3m [where did it get this funding from?]
  • Pharmaceuticals have spent $2.7m on similar advertising
  • Pharmaceuticals help launch PFCD [to create a nonprofit front for themselves?]
  • Many groups have distanced themselves from the PFCD ads
  • Pharmaceutical employees are listed on PFCD’s tax returns
  • PFCD has never reported any fundraising costs, does that suggest they are all funded by pharmaceuticals?

Nonprofits Working With For-Profits

Many nonprofits in the US have come under extreme scrutiny when they collaborate with for-profit health care companies and pharmaceuticals. It means they could lose their independent thinking and will kowtow to those they receive funding from. I experienced a similar incident in my career when an organization worked with a for-profit to produce scientific articles. There were calls for the nonprofit representative to resign also suggesting he should never work in the health care sector again. For-profits will write the outcomes before the research even starts.

Viewing the political adverts they are putting out, and given what Rollcall has outlined in its article, is PFCD compromised by pharmaceuticals? Has it been working for/with them all along? Has everything the organization communicated been written, influenced or paid for by pharmaceuticals? Can we trust anything that is sent out by this organization?

The Chairman of PFCD is Kenneth Thorpe, he is also listed as working for Emory University in Georgia and on the Board of Directors at Sanara MedTech, I understand he is a shareholder. He was previously working with the Clinton administration. Since he could be influenced by pharmaceuticals at PFCD how is this affecting what he does, researches and teaches at the university?

Summary

If it wasn’t for their political and misleading advert I would never have heard of PFCD. I have many questions regarding this organization and wonder how many similar ones exist in the US allegedly doing the bidding of for-profits? Do members of the public believe these ads? Do they research to find out the real facts?

2021-11-25T22:17:30+00:0025 November 2021|USA|0 Comments

Heinz Sandwich Spread

HeinzHeinz Sandwich Spread has been around for as long as I can remember, way back into the 1960s, I thought I would try it again.

About

The ingredients are like a mix of salad cream and pickle relish. It’s difficult to describe the taste but it is very tangy. I won’t look too much in detail at the ingredients because I’m sure they would be bad for me.

It is most popular in the UK and The Netherlands, also in some other countries where ex-pats live. Here in Canada, it’s not available in general supermarkets but a general staple of many British stores.

I’m not sure about its history but I remember it from the early 1960s. In the UK it is quite cheap, more so than processed meat, so those on a low income might find this convenient for their budget. When I got my first home I had it for a while until I knew what my budget was going to be living in that property.

Other products that people would buy that are similar to this are Shipmans spread (or paste) range that they have. None of these products gets very good reviews as I think they are a product from yesteryear with a certain palette that goes along with them.

There is some more information on the product on the Heinz website. I have never seen the lower-calorie version they mention.

Serving Suggestion

Many people just put it in a sandwich as it is, but with some salad in between the slices of bread is better in my opinion. It is also good on some crackers like Ryvita. It doesn’t work on Ritz type crack for me. Keep in mind that it is a powerful and tangy flavour it can overpower other products. When putting Sandwich Spread on bread I don’t think you need butter on it, the flavour is hidden anyway.

Review

The price in Canada is over CAD $5.00 which doesn’t make it a cheap option to have on a regular basis.  In the UK though a jar is about £1.50 which is very reasonable since one of them could last a week. Sandwich Spread might be intolerable if not serving it with a variety of items, like salad inside, so whether it’s cost-effective in the long term could be questionable.

As I said above, the flavour is strong and tangy. If used sparingly in a sandwich, or other healthier type of bread or cracker, the taste can be great, and a little crunchy too. In this case, the spread would last a long time.

I worry about some of the ingredients which makes me think I shouldn’t overuse them. Back in the 1960s we rarely thought of these factors but people have become more self-aware of what is in the products they buy and where they have come from.

I’m not sure if you can make the spread yourself, or at least a healthier version, by mixing salad cream with vegetables and relish. The video below, from Texas A&M University, seems quite a healthy alternative to Sandwich Spread.

2021-11-05T22:56:49+00:005 November 2021|Food|0 Comments

The Digital Hunter Review

DigitalThe Digital Hunter aka The Unexpected Man (数字猎凶者) is a Chinese movie that was released on 27 September 2021.

About

Cheng Zheng, who works in the Bureau of Statistics, and a mathematical genius, helps the police solve a crime in which he was present at the scene. The culprits are caught but another mathematical genius Ding Ruobing threatens the city with bombs unless the police release one of the crooks from prison. In order to stop three bombs from going off in the city, Chen Zheng has to solve three extremely difficult equations. It is a race against time before many people are hurt.

Cast

Han Zhao plays Chen Xheng and twin brother Chen Mo. On some websites, this actor isn’t even listed. A couple of websites state he is more well known for Directing, but he has also been a writer and acted on the small and big screen.

Liao Wei Wei (廖蔚蔚) as the wife of Chen Xheng. Evidently, she has taken part in numerous TV magic and reality shows. She has appeared in a few films and appears to have her first TV drama coming soon, called Ten Day Order.

Qi Zhi (齐志) as the police chief. He hasn’t appeared in many productions. He was in the 2020 Chinese TV show called The Moon Brightens For You.

Summary

Let’s start off by saying it wasn’t a masterpiece. It felt like a Made for TV drama rather than a Box Office film.

The story was pretty sound. I liked the idea a mathematician was tasked to save the day. There is an alleged disabled person in it. I love the scene where all the mathematicians jumped out of their classrooms, into cars, and raced to the police station; you have to see the scene to understand what I mean. There was a dramatic twist in the movie even though I kind of guessed what would happen right from the beginning. I’m not sure the media in China reacts the same way as in the movie, I expect that in the West.

There weren’t many special effects. The scene where someone was knocked over in the street was badly done, almost laughable, but I think the main focus was on the story.

The acting was ok. Just ok. Han Zhao’s scary moments were acted well.

If you have nothing else to watch I would say this movie is good to pass away the hours. I give it 7.5/10.

Where Can I Watch It

The movie is available on iQiyi but not sure if anyone else has procured it.

Trailer

2021-11-01T23:26:58+00:001 November 2021|Review China|0 Comments

LUCA The Beginning Review

L.U.C.A. The Beginning (루카: 더 비기닝) is a South Korean TV show that was broadcast on tvN between 1 Feb and 9 Mar 2021.

About

LUCA ran for 12 episodes of just over an hour each.

Ji Oh has superpowers but whenever he uses them most of his memories go away. He is chased by a mysterious sect who want to bring him home to perform further experiments in order to duplicate and clone his species.

A younger Ji Oh had spent a day in Gu Reum’s home but the day after her parents vanished. When Gu Reum grows up and becomes a detective she is determined to find out what happened to her family.

Cast

Even though the titles are familiar I’ve not seen any of the productions the actors have starred in.

Kim Rae Won (김래원) as Ji Oh
A popular actor mainly for TV rather than film work. He will be starring in a 2022 production called “The Police Station Next to Fire Station”.

Lee Da Hee (이다희) as Gu Reum
She is a model, singer, television and film actress. She is better known for her TV performances.

Kim Sung Oh (김성오) as Lee Son
A very popular actor starring in many TV and film productions, he also directed a movie called Warikkang.

Summary – Spoilers

Other people who have reviewed this drama are more or less in agreement that after episode 8 the storyline became much worse.

A group of mad scientists made Ji Oh in a laboratory, it was linked to a religious sect that used the followers to carry the clone babies until birth. A government agency was also linked to the experiments. They wanted to create a race of superior beings with the most powerful parts from animals. With Ji Oh on the run they wanted him back, to obtain his embryos. The sect would go to any length to get him back.

There was a soap opera element to this drama going on in the background. Woman meets super being, falls in love, has his baby, and so on. Then there is the action side where Ji Oh was being chased all the time and only narrowly escaping each time. The action sequences were done well, very good special effects. There would be most likely too much violence for many people in this show. Probably the lack of action and more romance put some people off the drama, after episode 8.

The ending is another story, it was a little bizarre, but left the series on a cliffhanger about a possible return. I think I was hoping for a happy ending but giving the way the script was going it was most likely impossible. I think it’s best to put this drama to sleep at this point. I did enjoy it though.

I will rate it 7/10. That is about average compared to everyone else.

The drama is available on WeTV and Viki. I don’t know what’s on WeTV but Viki procured “behind the scenes” footage which is just as interesting to watch as the drama itself.

Trailer

2021-10-29T22:18:47+00:0029 October 2021|Review South Korea|0 Comments

Escape from Mogadishu Review

Escape from Mogadishu ArticleEscape from Mogadishu (모가디슈) is a South Korean film released on 28 July 2021.

About

The movie is based on a true story. “Escape from Mogadishu” tells the story of personnel of the South and North Korean embassies attempting to escape Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

In 1991, a civil war broke out in Mogadishu. The South Korean embassy’s staff and their families became isolated. One night, a group from the North Korean embassy knocks on their door asking for help.

Cast

I haven’t heard of any of the actors in this film.

Kim Yoon Seok (김윤석) plays Han Shin Sung, the South Korean Ambassador
He has appeared in mostly movies but is also a screenwriter and director.

Heo Joon Ho (허준호) plays Rim Yong Soo, the North Korean Ambassador
It looks as though his big-screen career started in 1992, and the small screen in 1993. He has appeared in many productions. Other members of his family are well-known actors as well.

All the actors did an outstanding job with this movie.

Summary – Spoilers

This was an outstanding and memorable movie.

I have to start out by saying, even though it’s based on a true story it is more “inspired by events”. The former South Korean Ambassador talked about this period in time, read about it here.

The movie cost ₩24 billion (South Korean Won) which at today’s rate (25th October 2021) is equal to GBP £14,796,900 / USD $20,362,600. From what I understand it’s made USD $29m at the box office to date. The film was delayed by about a year due to the COVID pandemic. There is an IMAX version of the film as well. The film was shot in Morocco in the second half of 2019.

I was particularly interested in the movie because a work colleague of mine was posted to Mogadishu in the 1980s, she was a Personal Assistant with the British diplomatic service. Her life there was pretty good, she had her own three-bedroom house on the beach and staff to look after her since they were cheap to hire. Hiring staff also meant putting income into the local economy where those people may not have had a job otherwise.

There was a certain vastness about the movie, it really felt as though you were taken into a city. The devastation on the streets and children carrying guns added to the realistic representation of the movie.

This was generally about the relationship between South and North Korea. When the North Korean mission comes under attack they only have one choice but to ask the South Korean’s for assistance. Both the Ambassadors, staff and families had one thing in common, to escape the city, so the two sides called a truce and worked together to figure out how they were going to get out of the country. Both the South and North had built up a relationship through their common adversities.

Parts of the film were incredibly powerful as there were some continuing tensions but how each side protected each other to achieve their common goal. It reminded me of the Christmas truce between British and German soldiers in 1914 during the 1st World War [read more (via Imperial War Museum UK].

I’ve been unable to find out information on the side actors in this film, the ones who played the Somali people. Some of them had significant roles so it would have been nice to know who they are.

There was some CGI in the movie, although at first glance it was hard to tell. The dogs were most definitely CGI. Whether some of the town was CGI I would have no idea.

I would give this movie 9/10. It’s one of those “must-see” films that wasn’t over-hyped.

Trailer

2021-10-28T23:07:21+00:0028 October 2021|Review South Korea|0 Comments

The Story of Ming Lan Partial Review

I was actually looking forward to watching The Story of Ming Lan, a highly popular Chinese series broadcast in 2018, but gave up after episode 4.

About

Ming Lan’s mother dies at an early age and is raised by her paternal Grandmother and in order to survive the family uses methods to hide her genius. She then meets Gu Ting Ye, the second son of a rich marquis household who is supposed to be the heir to a fortune and a title. Both of them work together to correct the injustices against them.

Cast

Having watched Guardian, which I will review soon, I discovered this show by looking up actor Zhu Yi Long.

Some of the other cast members look familiar but haven’t spent time digging into them.

Summary

The first two episodes were dull as dishwater. The third episode gave me some hope that this would turn into an exciting series. Episode 4 continued along the same vein as 1 and 2.

The first four episodes were centred around wives and concubines who were constantly moaning and nagging throughout most of the episodes. In fact, most of the adults were completely deadbeat, useless and dysfunctional leaving the younger characters to pick up the mess. I got the feeling this was how the drama was going to continue. The relationship between wives and concubines may have been that way but it didn’t work well when it hit my brain.

The nagging and moaning took up quite a bit of episode 4 that I actually fell asleep during it. Since this is a 73 episode series I just couldn’t justify my time attempting to get through it.

However, other people do give it positive reviews so don’t be put off by me, go and check it out for yourself should this sound like a show you would be interested in. Since I didn’t see all the episodes I won’t rate it.

Trailer

2021-10-19T21:12:02+00:0019 October 2021|Review China|0 Comments

1921 Movie Review

1921With a little trepidation, I saw the Chinese movie 1921 which outlines the early days of the Chinese Communist Party.

About

The movie was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, it premiered on 1 July 2021, and as far as I can tell has pocketed US$76.4m at the box office. Filming started on 1 July 2020 until 5 November the same year. Two actors were removed from the cast for related scandals.

It chronicles the events just prior to the creation of the CCP and the events that followed in particular the revolutionary leaders that bought this about.

Cast

There was a lot of actors in this movie, Chinese and some western too. Most of the western actors were in extra’s type roles with the exception of two.

Following are the Chinese actors I recognized:

Wang Ren Jun (王仁君) playing Mao Ze Dong
We have just started watching the TV Show “The Story of Ming Lan” and he is in that.

Turbo Liu (刘昊然) playing Liu Ren Jing
We’ve seen him in the films Detective Chinatown and My People, My Country, and TV Series Nirvana in Fire second season. A very popular actor with multiple films in the works.

Tian Yu (田雨) playing Cheng Zi Qing
We’ve seen this actor in the film The Legend of the Demon Cat and the TV series Joy of Life.

Zhang Ruo Yun (张若昀) playing Liu Shao Qi
He was also in the Joy of Life TV series, the actor that was kind of annoying by the end of that series.

Johnny Bai (白宇) playing Cai He Sen
We just saw him in the Guardian TV Series.

Zhu Yi Long (朱一龙) playing Zhou En Lai
We also saw him in the Guardian TV Series. He is a lead character in the TV Series The Story of Ming Lan that we have just started watching.

Ni Da Hong (倪大宏) playing Huang Jin Rong
We saw him the Netflix sponsored show The Rise of the Phoenixes. He appears to be in many TV shows, several each year.

Suffice to say, they stuffed as many well-known actors as they could in this film.

Summary

I wouldn’t rate this film very highly.

The cast was extremely impressive with a lot of well-known actors and actresses. Maybe the actors wanted to be in the film because it might be watched time and time again as a historical piece. Maybe the production company wanted to stuff in as many well-known people as possible to ensure its success and investment. So, during the movie, I spent most of my time “spotting the celebrity”.

The cinematography was alright, nothing special. There were a lot of overseas references but certainly, that was not Paris where they filmed, I am sure I’ve seen that set in other Chinese productions this time with a CGI Eiffel Tower. The car chase was the best scene, live-action wasn’t the main focus of the film though. The scenes of crowded people were good. Not sure whether they restored old footage or created new ones for some momentary “at war” clips. For the short interval they appeared on screen I am thinking they were just restored.

The storyline was boring and quite cringe-worthy. There were many political references I had seen in other movies, that was nothing new. They introduced a huge number of people and had no idea who they were or what they did back in that era. They had their names on screen so I could look them up but I will most likely not have the time, but good for those who want to use it as a springboard to learn more about that part of Chinese history. Towards the end there was a lengthy focus on Mao and a little girl, it was very cheesy, like elements of a propaganda film, or worshipping a God, which made me screech in mutant agony inside my brain.

So I see many are rating this online at around 7.5 out of 10. I will rate it as 5, and I am being generous. I am being generous as the film was shot during the peak of the COVID pandemic and it must have been difficult to produce at that time. I don’t regret seeing it but I wouldn’t want to sit through it again.

Trailer

2021-10-19T17:01:47+00:0019 October 2021|Review China|0 Comments