Category Archives: Films

A Review: Crazy Rich Asians

*************************SPOILERS ALL AROUND**********************

This is a personal movie for me as a Korean American as well as someone immersed in Chinese culture for most of my life. I waited a year to finally watch this and it did not disappoint except for a few scenes where I almost lost it because my point of view is as someone who read the books and tried to turn my comparison switch off but couldn’t. And no, I wasn’t crying, you were…

Q) How do you introduce Asian culture in media to an ignorant international audience and make it entertaining?

A) Recipe:
– 1 Dash of Mean Girl spice
– 1 Pinch British accents
– 2 Tablespoons each of romance and comedy
– 3 Cups of glitzy scenery and costume porn
– 10 Gallons of family drama

Drizzle with sexy male leads et voila successful dish to impress the world and make history!

Basically Meet the Parents mixed in with Gatsy and Korean dramas rolled into a palatable pork bun of touching family relationships and frolicking romance. Its ambition is matched by its success and I couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful that Kevin Kwan helped usher in a new era with his comedically realistic work.

Personally, I only wanted 4 things: good pacing, good acting, Michelle Yeoh’s presence, and to feast my eyes on Harry Shum Jr. I got most of those; definitely sold me on Nick and Rachel’s love as well as Rachel’s interactions with her modern mother. I was even surprised in a good way with the invented character of Peik Lin who was too real in all her scenes. But I have to cry whyyyyyy did they cut down Charlie’s and Astrid’s story?!!! That was devastating and immoral!!! I read it was a deliberate move and the pragmatic part of me acknowledges there was hardly time to put in the side characters but I still felt ripped off.

The Sexy Asian Man
Hot fantasy with fit Asian bachelors. It’s been a damn long time coming.

That EXTRA Wedding
I mean, it was artisically unique and well shot but I was going wtf so cheesy. Obviously being rich doesn’t automatically give you taste. Let’s throw water down the aisle and have cheap fireflies in a low light jungle landscape. Add closeup shots framed with grass, gah eyesore. Maybe it was a joke or I just didn’t “get it”, but you do you #weddinghater

Accurate cultural points
1) Parents NEVER call just to ask how are you
2) Old guard Asians are shameless nosy gossips
3) That’s why their Asian American children hide everything from them
4) Dat dumpling lyfe
5) Yes, they LOVE free stuff
6) Asians respect authority and live with their family as long as possible, no sending to nursing home, as Eleanor points out
7) The nauseating attitude of the wealthy as splendidly summed up in the book:
“I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, controlling others with money, and ruining their lives over money. And if I marry you, there will be no escaping it, even if we live on the other side of the world”

The Ending
I was enjoying the ride until the Hollywood style airplane proposal. I read they didn’t go for an elaborate Christian Grey style billionnaire production for the moment, which is a relief. But then really, a flight chase?! Might I add there was no mahjong scene either- in the novel, Eleanor pretty much never interacts with Rachel one-on-one. So everything ends up wrapped up in a nice little bow! Oh so convenient that generations of Asian culture and ingrained snobbery is wiped out with a motherly change of heart. I’m really churning to see how they resolve the jagged plot points they mapped out but I trust them to do a good job, (while eating a bitter melon).

Overall, there is a lot of celebration to be had at present and a lot of hope for the future. Young girls and boys will now be represented and not be ashamed of being Asian. And that is the definition of a beautiful social movement.

A Review: The Greatest Showman

*******************SPOILERS ALL AROUND**********************

An entrepreneur starts what we know as the circus, going through ups and downs in mid 19th century America. I loved the soundtrack when I first saw this movie, the story not so much since there were so many characters and not many affecting scenes. Visually it was stunning, not only the sets and incredible costumes, but of course the delectable Wolverine who brings in Zac Efron for a double dose of hotness on a plate.

My favorite scene besides the breathtaking Rewrite the Stars number, was the suspenseful premiere of Jenny Lind. The snobby audience was putting Barnum down who has never actually heard her sing up to this point when he presents her. Then the orchestra starts up and Jenny appears alone on the stage. She sings with a rich lovely voice and Barnum stands starstruck in the wings, his gaping in tears is everything. Jenny receives a standing ovation and the critic resists but finally gets up to applaud. Jenny gives Barnum hopeful looks during and after her performance. Charity sees what’s going on and knows there is trouble ahead. Phillip holds hands with Anne and he drops it when he fears his parents’ scrutiny.
So much goes on in this concert, not to mention the song itself was sweeping and powerful. Like the circus shows, Jenny’s singing is inauthentic in that it is dubbed, fitting with the theme of the movie.

Cue the lights, bring on the choreography, and all those show tunes!

PT Barnum
A tailor’s son who pursues his dreams with a heart to better his family’s situation. Disregarding the cost to himself or others he cons his way to riches. His ideas earn him fame in equal parts adoration and violent hate. He is a study of an oily businessman who takes salesmanship and exploitation to a whole new level but pretty much gets away with everything at the end. It’s ironic how he hates being put down by his father-in-law but rejects his performers mixing in with the fancy after party. Still, it’s hard to dislike him when he has all the nicest selection of top hats and coats this side of the Atlantic.

Charity Barnum
The better half who always accepts and supports her husband in all that he does no matter the circumstances. I really admire her for rolling with a positive attitude (leaning on saint-like) handling manual labor to keep up a household as equally molding into her original upper crust status. The way she stays with him when he goes off only in love with himself, must take a lot out of a person.

Phillip Carlyle
A respectable but miserable playwright who falls in with Barnum as a junior partner, I mean, overcompensated apprentice. He struggles with leaving his station and forbidden love with Anne, a black trapeze artist. His chemistry with Barnum is off the charts!

Jenny Lind
Easily the most fascinating character in the movie, a picture of elegance and grace. She partners with Barnum and brings legitimacy to counter his reputation as a purveyor of immoral, distasteful shows. It’s obvious she wanted Barnum from the start but I have no idea what she hoped to accomplish when he was tied to his family. Even so, I don’t blame her going for Hugh, I mean I totally would.

Magical Moments
– A million dreams from two kids writing long distance letters
– Barnum creating a wishing machine for his daughter’s birthday on the fly
– Recruiting exotic locals for the new museum
– Barnum making good on his promise giving Caroline ballet slippers
– Barnum bringing his family to their new house by zebra drawn carriage
– Barnum and Phillip slinging back shots and dancing together ❤
– Queen Victoria and the oddities from America
– Jenny giving a toast to save the mood of the after party
– Mr. Bennett’s exchanges with Barnum
– Phillip investing in the circus again

Humbug Quotes
– Men suffer more from imagining too little than too much
– Mr Barnum, I can’t just run off and join the circus
– God, I hope she can sing.
– You really are better on the page, Mr. Bennett, hard as it is to believe.
– Comfort, the enemy of progress
– It’s hard to understand wealth and privilege when you’re born into it
– Napoleon didn’t have a 60 piece orchestra
– Mind you, I wouldn’t call it art, but putting people of all kinds on the stage with you, all colors, shapes, sizes, presenting them as equals. Another critic would have called it a celebration of humanity.
– You know Barnum, when I first met you I had an inheritance, acclaim, an invitation to every party in town. And now thanks to you all that’s gone. All that’s left is friendship, love, and work that i adore. You brought joy into my life. (just kiss already!)

Peanut for Thoughts
– For some reason I love Mr. Bennett, the theater critic.
– I don’t acknowledge Zendaya as an actress (snap, I said it). She can definitely dance and wows me with her singing voice but seriously, I can do a better job at emoting. Why people make such a big deal about her overall, I have no clue.
– People who bring up the historical inaccuracy need to be consistent and put down Hamilton
– I could never have the courage to be in a relationship where class and culture differ as much as the one portrayed in this movie
– Love, love, love seeing the business aspect of the circus, the large posters and half pricing for a negative article was brilliance incarnate
– In the beginning, Barnum says the sun can’t stop the show, when circuses typically perform during the day, but the interesting change at the end is they say walls can’t stop them instead when they move to a tent, shapow!
– Read a review wishing the story was about the star-crossed lovers and Barnum as the villain, uh, go watch Water for Elephants, dear

The Greatest Debate: Did PT have feelings for Jenny?
Totally – He was tempted by her beauty and talent. She can relate to him as an illegitimate daughter feeling like an outcast in society. He cared about her because of her sweetness and willingness to partner with him.
Humbug – He only appreciated her amazing skill and ability to boost his credit to the upper crust audience. When she got closer to him, his emotions didn’t waver for an instant. His loyalty to his family surpassed any potential with another woman.

What was Lost
A tragic fact of this movie is how it portrays historical days gone by. The circus will never be what it was, a spectacle of trained animals, most likely abused to perform their tricks. Not to mention the display of “freaks”, I mean in this day and age that kind of thing don’t fly. The political correctness of society took away the classic circus from my childhood, replaced by French acrobats and motorcyclists.

Grand Themes
– The circus is home to the outcasts if you were born this way
– If you have talent and a dream, go for it
– Choose being there for your family over ambition
– Choose saving Zac Efron in a fire over your family
– Break free and come alive if you are feeling trapped in a role
– Don’t put all your money into a proposition with a Swedish nightingale
– Dare to move beyond what roles society puts you in
– Being typical or conventional all the time will be your death, risk it all for freedom!

5 Terrible Tropes

Usually I’m insufficiently hateful or verbose enough to tear apart a book or movie.  I tend to cover media in fan-girl mode, that’s why they’re “A” Reviews.   But not all tropes are rainbows and butterflies.  If you’re a writer or filmmaker who utilizes these, I’m begging you, cool it!

Eye Open
No, I’m not ready for a close up.  For some reason they like to shove a camera into a person’s face for emotional effect or something. I especially hate it when someone who was peacefully sleeping wakes up violently.  My vote: maintaining a healthy distance hurts no one.
Ahhh!: Catching Fire, Resident Evil, Avatar, Breaking Dawn, The Matrix

Fourth date marriage
Accidentally in love, then bam, they’re at the altar.  The average time it takes to fall head over heels with your soulmate is 3 days in movie time, and that might be generous.  Why is romance so often cheap and careless?
Happily Whatever: While You Were Sleeping, Hitch, Romeo + Juliet, The Proposal, Shrek, most Disney and Nicholas Sparks stories

Framing device
Narrator: “This is a story about…and then this happened…and then the end”
Me: No thanks, for adding nothing interesting at all. 
Unnecessarily setting up scenes that switch back and forth to the storyteller the whole time.  Unlike using significant minor flashbacks that would be far more efficient they decide to throw in inane details and useless extra characters throughout the entire film, testing my patience.
GTFO: Titanic, The Notebook, Forrest Gump, Great Gatsby, Water for Elephants, Ever After, The Princess Bride, Life of Pi

In medias res
Argh, is it too much to ask for stories to be told in its proper chronological format? I have such a grudge for its lack of order plus that it’s become ultra trendy. My friends practically stop the DVD and run for cover whenever there’s a prelude cutting to an earlier scene and I would scream, “NO!!! This is out of context!!!”
1) hacked and unartistic
2) useless the story
3) insults the viewer
4) completely overdone
5) distracting and choppy
Oh bother: Inception, Miss Potter, The Illusionist, The Help, Mrs Winterbourne, Moulin Rouge
Well played exceptions: The Prestige, Crash, Memento

You lied to me?! All this was to get that woman’s money? – Anastasia
Holding a secret or feeding into a misunderstanding.  I’m too lazy to keep up a false cover so I’m not keen to enjoy an entire premise where a “hero” is caught up in a lie.  It may be they are trying for humorous consequences or drama but I just feel like when it hits the fan there’s just destruction and betrayal, not entertainment, in its wake.  It’s one thing if the duplicity was given as a sophisticated double cross or by a evil manipulator with an end game. Sometimes it can be done well, in the style of Shakespearean comedies but unsuccessful investments otherwise.  Usually they involve an harmless reporter or a bet, which is less than riveting.
Wtf: Rango, Brave, Just Go With It, Something Borrowed, She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Hitch, Dan in Real Life, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Never Been Kissed
It’s for a good cause exceptions: 21 Jump Street, Ever After

What do I know, my taste runs the same as the average vampire-loving teenager anyway. There’s no accounting why certain themes push our buttons.   Let’s just agree that we all like stupid things. Counter list coming soon!



A Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

*spoilers all around*

I was really into the animated Spider-Man series as a kid.  He is extremely relatable dealing with angsty youthful struggles we all have in life.  He also comes with a street attitude uncommon in other superhero figures. Plus, he thinks/talks to himself a lot to work things out, so I peg him as a fellow introvert.

(side note on the Sam Raimi series: When I went to the theater to see the first one with Tobey Maguire I was immediately disappointed – they ruined the Spider-Man I knew.  The writing was so bland and the characters flat I didn’t care what happened to them.  No chemistry between Peter and Mary Jane.  It REALLY bothered me that the webs came out of Peter’s body.  There were a handful of scenes in each of the installments that worked and the visuals were top notch yet ultimately I would say I found them watchable but unsatisfying.)

Anyway, for this feature, let’s get the bad stuff out there first…

Weak points
I thought the whole movie didn’t really flow.  There were a lot of revelations and developments that were crammed in and didn’t add much to the story.  Pace could be a lot quicker.  Not a fan of the blaring fanfare for intro and outro, it should be strings, not trumpets (dang it, I have to admit, the first trilogy did a better job with that).

I had to say that out of love, now on to the amazing portions…

Lesson 1: Be kind to “invisible people” (or force them to go to therapy)
Does anyone think I matter?  Am I needed?  I just want people to see me.
I would say Max/Electro’s story is unforeign to most people.  He was rejected and ignored even though he was a brilliant engineer.  He was alone and obsessed over anyone who gave him attention.  Therefore, given power, he will seek revenge and murder a ton in search of fame.  I thought I was jaded to conspiracy but was quite disturbed how his records and death were erased as a cover up to raise Oscorp’s stock. No one can complain about their birthday after seeing Max electrocuted, dunked, and bitten savagely by electric eels!

Lesson 2: “It’s complicated” is only acceptable when the stakes are life and death.  Everyone else should just picture the future with them/ without them and decide which is better.   
Peter and Gwen were such a match! I loved their science session when she lectured him about combating the electrical fields from his web.  When he wrote the I love you message it was a death sentence for sure.  He warned her and did everything he could to keep her out of danger but it was her choice to risk it all.  They loved and respected each other fully and you know it’s not meant to be but still can’t help but get torn up over his loss.

Lesson 3: Nerdy/ brainy is the new sexy indeed. 
I was wary watching the first film last year but Andrew did a fine job doing what Spider-Man does best – snarky snark snark.  He sold it well and I never developed such a crush on Spider-Man until recently.  Intelligent skinny Peter who devotes himself to making the world better (with that perfect hair every morning) is definitely my kind of guy. Emo well dressed pretty boy Harry with those piercing blues, not bad either. It was so sad that he thought everyone just wanted money from him!

Leftover Questions: So is Felicia going to be Black Cat? Is Peter going to show his aunt the video exposing the truth about his dad and Oscorp (or anyone else for that matter?) Would skipping stones with someone be considered as cheating on your S.O.?

Cool Spidey-scenes

  • Peter dipping Gwen for a big kiss at their graduation, woohoo
  • A+ on effects and voice for Electro
  • Peter & Harry go on a bromantic date
  • Peter’s acrobatic diversion to help Gwen escape, hot!
  • Slow mo strategically saving the people on the stairs who were about to be electrocuted
  • Harry going through files on his glass desk/computer, high tech!
  • Peter conducting experiments with the web material and batteries (all for nothing, he should have just called Gwen, haha)
  • Spider-Man cosplaying with a helmet to hose down the baddie and high fiving the firefighter team, win
  • Harry successfully breaking into Ravencroft with only a taser, whaaat
  • The part with Gwen was falling was artistic and extraordinary
  • Peter walking completely besotted toward Gwen through traffic, sigh