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REVIEW: The Farewell Gets to the Heart of Being Asian-American

As much as I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians, the treatment of the film as a triumph of representation gave me pause. Sure, an all-Asian cast in a Hollywood production is something to celebrate, but the characters are obscenely wealthy and the audience-surrogate is well on her way to become a one-percenter. In short, they are hard to relate.

The infinitely more modest The Farewell is more successful at bring the Asian-American experience to the big screen. Not only that, it transcends culture clash shenanigans to depict the very real melancholy that accompanies immigrants through their entire lives. Trust me, I know.

There is a connecting vessel between Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell: Awkwafina. The rapper-turned-actor who played Constance Wu’s best friend in CRA delivers a compelling dramatic performance as Billi, a burnt-out millennial with more debts than prospects. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Farewell Gets to the Heart of Being Asian-American”

Sunday Matinee: The Leopard Man

At a time when streaming video is the dominant format for home video its awesome to see companies like Shout Factory, Kino, Criterion, Arrow and more putting out older awesome movies in high definition on Blu-ray.

If the big studios have zero interest in maintaining their library of films at least these companies will pick up the slack.
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Sunday Matinee: Raw Deal

Dennis O’Keefe is Joe Sullivan,a crook who is serving time for a robbery. He meets with Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt) in prison. Ann is Joe’s legal case worker and she wants him to reform. Joe has another visitor, Pat Regan (Claire Trevor), Joe’s girlfriend. She tells Joe that he’s being broken of prison that night.

Joe is prison because he’s taken the fall for his boss Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr). Rick though doesn’t want to share the $50,000 from the robbery and has now orchestrated the jail break hopping that Joe gets killed.
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Sunday Matinee: T-Men

Anthony Mann directed this film noir about two undercover treasury agents trying bust up a counterfeiting ring.

Dennis O’Keefe and Alfred Ryder star as two treasury agents who are assigned to go undercover and try and infiltrate a counterfeiting gang. They start in Detroit where they join local crime boss Carlo Vantucci’s gang. From there they get wind of big player named The Schemer who works out of Los Angeles. O’Keefe goes to L.A. while Ryder stays in Detroit.
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REVIEW: The Third Wife

There is a small but critical difference between well-thought-through films and movies too precious for their own good. The Third Wife, Ash Mayfair’s feature debut, is among the latter.

Inspired by country life in Vietnam during the 19thcentury, The Third Wife of the title is May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My), a 14-year old child who’s essentially sold to a landowner she doesn’t know. At the bottom of the household totem pole, May’s only option is to get pregnant and have a son. Hung, the husband —and most of Vietnamese society at the time— values boys over girls and polygamy is seen as a way to improve the odds.

Unbeknownst to Hung, serious drama is unfolding under his nose. His first wife is bent on presenting him with a son, never mind her health. Hung’s second wife, Xuan, is carrying an affair with her husband’s first-born son, a teenager whose coddled existence has kept him from coping with adversity. May herself provides the cherry on top by developing a crush on the coveted Xuan. The characters’ gender gives you a clue who pays for the indiscretions and who gets away scot-free. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Third Wife”

Sunday Matinee: The Hitch-Hiker

Ida Lupino started her career in 1930s as an actress but by the 1950s she changed gears and became a director. She became the first woman to direct a film noir with 1953 The Hitch-Hiker.

Loosely based on the true story of convicted serial killer Billy Cook, this tense thriller follows two men on a fishing trip who make the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker.
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Sunday Matinee: On Dangerous Ground

Robert Ryan is brutal cop who beats his suspects and finds himself in trouble with his superiors.

After ignoring a warning from his boss Ryan beats another suspect for information. The suspect threatens to sue the department and Ryan’s boss has had enough. He sends Ryan up North to help in the investigation of a murdered girl.
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Sunday Matinee: The Mysterious Island

There have been many adaptations of Jules Verne’s classic novel L’Île mystérieuse aka The Mysterious Island. The novel was originally a kind of sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways.

The original story had to do with five Americans fleeing the American Civil War and crashing on a mysterious island. They survive thanks to a mysterious benefactor and along the why meet one of the characters from In Search of the Castaways and fight off pirates before meeting their benefactor who turns out to be Captain Nemo who survived the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and has spent his old age on the island.
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REVIEW: Halston Remains Inscrutable

The thing that separates good documentaries from great ones is that the latter discover something about their subjects that wasn’t of public domain (Three Identical Strangers comes to mind). Halston is standard stuff, framed by one of the most ill-conceived gimmicks in the history of the genre, so much so it nearly derails a compelling story about the pitfalls of greed.

The rare couturier who kept an eye on the general public when crafting his designs, Roy Halston put America on the fashion map in the early 70’s. His skill was in the cut: Halston could make a dress out of a single, continuous piece of fabric, and favored simple, straight lines. But for all his skill with the scissors, he was quick to sell his name to bigger businesses, a practice that would end up costing him dearly. Continue reading “REVIEW: Halston Remains Inscrutable”

REVIEW: The Tomorrow Man Is a Bit Stale

About three years ago, a mediocre action flick made it to Canadian cinemas for no discernible reason. It was called Precious Cargo and featured noted muscle-head Mark-Paul Gosselaar. The former Saved by the Bell star had to go head-to-head against a villainous Bruce Willis, noticeably bored out of his mind. The movie was perfunctory and ended with a collection of bloopers (none of them funny), weird for a thriller. At least Willis got his paycheck.

What has Precious Cargo got to do with The Tomorrow Man? Both are labors of love by people too attached to material that’s not nearly as good as they believe it to be. If nothing else, there is a modicum of humanism in The Tomorrow Man thoroughly absent from the Gosselaar-Willis “romp”.

Written, directed and shot by Noble Jones —who has done videos for Taylor Swift and OneRepublic— The Tomorrow Man is the kind of movie you would take your parents to. At the center of the film is Ed (John Lithgow), a lonely retiree that spends his time in chatrooms and his money on a bomb shelter. Ed is not deranged but he is rigid and prone to rants (so, close). Continue reading “REVIEW: The Tomorrow Man Is a Bit Stale”