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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

Laugh Riot Encore: Herman Yau’s TURNING POINT

Turning Ppint

What is the point of a prequel? Is it meant to flesh out the backstory of a popular character in order to understand how he or she came to be the hero or villain audiences have come to love? Or is it merely a crassly commercial move made to capitalize on the success of a character or series that has probably run its course, but just might have enough juice left to make a few bucks at the box office? I don’t think it’s necessarily an either/or proposition.

Still, there’s a tendency to roll one’s eyes at the mere mention of a prequel (a film trend that is already being supplanted in Hollywood by the reboot — see the back-to-basics Spider-Man 4 for evidence of that). Let’s call it “prequel fatigue.” After all, the most anticipated prequels, if not films of all time were Star Wars: Episodes I-III, which after all that fanfare, ended up disappointing both die-hard and casual fans alike. Of course, not all prequels are bad, but for every one Infernal Affairs 2, there are dozens of shoddy “origin” flicks like Hannibal Rising (Lecter was a samurai!) and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (Who needs Newman and Redford? We got the Greatest American Hero and the Substitute!).

Why do prequels often suck? Well, sometimes they tell us a story we already know, so there’s no dramatic tension. We’re basically just watching a movie go through the motions to reach a predetermined outcome. At least with Star Wars, there was a central mystery to be uncovered — what made Anakin Skywalker  turn to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader? And as we all found out, it was something we never anticipated: yep, mass genocide was a direct result of everybody calling him “Annie” all the time. But I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is that sometimes prequels just can’t live up to the originals.

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Laugh Riot, Part 2: Laughing Gor Boogaloo

 .EU 001

I did it! I completed all thirty episodes that comprise the TVB drama known as E.U. Is this a real “accomplishment” worthy of praise or a complete waste of time meriting nothing but scorn and pity? You decide.

I’m working on a review for the website, so for now, I’ll just shoot from the hip in terms of my general observations on the show.

At least at the beginning of the series, the limitations of television — both in terms of the show’s production values and perceived audience expectations — impact E.U. in ways that you’d NEVER see in a major Hong Kong film or American television show. These constraints make for some very “un-cinematic” heroes and villains. If you look at American television shows like Law and Order, CSI, 24, or NCIS, the characters retain a slightly larger-then-life feel. Not so in E.U. That obvious difference is something I’m really interested in talking about in a full review — as cool as Laughing Gor (Michael Tse) may be, he and his brethren aren’t Johnnie To/John Woo/Young and Dangerous-style gangsters. Further, the cops ain’t exactly Hard Boiled’s Tequilla Yuen or Infernal Affairs‘ Chan Wing-Yan either. The strangely  “ordinary” feel of all these characters is something I’m interested in analyzing.

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Laugh Riot: Watching TVB’S E.U.

 EU

When I visited Singapore in the summer of 2009, I was delighted to have the opportunity to watch English-subtitled Hong Kong movies in theaters. One of those films that I went to see during my trip abroad was Turning Point, a 2009 undercover cop flick helmed by the prolific and underrated director, Herman Yau. Mostly out of the loop when it comes to the day-to-day pop culture of Hong Kong, I was surprised as heck that Young and Dangerous veteran Michael Tse was featured prominently on the poster alongside Anthony Wong and Francis Ng. More surprising to me was that not only was it a starring role for Tse, but that Turning Point was created expressly for him — that is, his character was meant to be the film’s primary draw. How the heck did this happen?

Well, as many of you might know, Turning Point is a prequel/spin-off of a popular TVB show called E.U. (”Emergency Unit”). Michael Tse played a supporting role as Laughing Gor, a triad heavy who ended up stealing the show out from under the leads and becoming the most popular character in the process.

Upon learning this, I really wanted to see the original show, and while television and DVD stores in Singapore proved fruitless, I hit the jackpot in Genting, Malaysia, as one of the stores (in a casino, no less) had an official DVD set of the entire series. Running thirty episodes, I was a little skeptical that I would be able to muster the strength to start, let alone finish watching the series. After all, my previous commitments to certain Korean dramas have always been a chore even if I actually liked the shows in question. To be honest, shortened series like Dexter and Curb Your Enthusiasm are more my speed.

Well, I had some free time, and on a whim, I popped in the first disc (five episodes) and have been watching them on and off for the last few days. I don’t know when I’ll complete my viewing, but I’m definitely gearing up to write a full review once I finish the series. But until that time, I thought I might share some initial thoughts about the program that may eventually form the basis for a more formal critique of the show. Some of you may have seen Turning Point, but not E.U., so maybe I can help fill in some of the gaps.

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