Blog

REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians Goes Beyond the Call of Duty

Constance Wu in Crazy Rich Asians.

While the Asian population in North America is grossly underrepresented in Hollywood, there are venues to access Korean, Chinese, Philippine and Japanese films: A fair number are available via Netflix and big titles often find their way into the multiplex or art-houses. In fact, if it wasn’t for general audiences’ ludicrous distaste for subtitles, every culture with a film industry would be within reach.

So, it’s not like Crazy Rich Asians needs to reinvent the whole film market. It may, however, change habits, improve representation, and help breach the divide between the average moviegoer and Asian cinema’s vast treasures.

Discarding external considerations, Crazy Rich Asians is a sudser on steroids, a full season of a soap opera concentrated in two hours. Well written too. Director Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2) takes full advantage of the setup and –even though the basic plot is light as a feather­– manages to imbue the characters with enough pathos to make them interesting.

The film revolves around Rachel (Constance Wu, Fresh of the Boat), an economics professor at NYU in a committed relationship with Nick (Henry Golding). Nick invites Rachel to attend a wedding in Singapore, an opportunity to introduce her to his family.

Unbeknownst to Rachel, Nick is the scion of one of the richest and most powerful families in the country. The matriarch, Eleanor (an imperious Michelle Yeoh), would like her son to return home and take over the family business, and Rachel seems to be standing in her way. Nastiness ensue.

Crazy Rich Asians’ mission statement comes to the fore in the opening minutes: A harried Eleanor is turned away from a snotty hotel in London. She makes a call and, moments later, she is the owner of the establishment. No snub will be tolerated.

The film is basically cotton candy. Everything is delish: The looks, the food, the real estate, the put downs. Michelle Yeoh towers over the rest of the cast, but everybody is up to task, particularly the comic reliefs (Awkwafina, The Daily Show’s Ronnie Chang, Ken Jeong). Constance Wu gets the hardest job of all as the lead: Balancing competing tones and make it look seamless. She struggles at times, but her innate likeability keeps the audience on her side.

There is a major B-plot involving Nick’s uber-fashionable cousin and her commoner husband, but I would be hard-pressed to say it matters to anybody else but readers of the original book.

While the dissection of family values in Chinese culture goes beyond the stereotypes, Crazy Rich Asians is not a film willing to sacrifice a good time for depth. Go for the luxury, stay for the killer one-liners. Three and a half planets.

Crazy Rich Asians is now playing, everywhere.

Sunday Matinee: The Mask Of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro turned 20 last month. The Martin Campbell film starred Antonio Banderas as a young man trained by the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) to pick up the masked mantle and fight corruption. While I’ve always preferred the 1940 Mark of Zorro, The Mask of Zorro is a fun, solid action film and Banderas is excellent.

In 1821 during the Mexican War of Independence, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), the corporate governor of Las Californias, is forced to flee back to Spain. Before he does though he goes to confront his archenemy Zorro who he finds out is really nobleman Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins). As they fight De la Vega’s wife Esperanza (Julieta Rosen) is killed and Zorro gives up, is arrested and imprisoned. Zorro’s infant daughter Elana is taken by Don Rafael and raised as his own.
Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: The Mask Of Zorro”

Sunday Matinee: Ninja III: The Combination

Today’s Sunday Matinee is the fun and terrible action movie Ninja III: The Domination.

The first two Ninja movies the first being Enter the Ninja, and the second being Revenge of the Ninja. The three movies are really stand alone movies and have nothing to do with each other. The only the really connection all three films is that all three star Sho Kosugi.
Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: Ninja III: The Combination”

Sunday Matinee: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

Getting released this week on Blu-ray from Arrow Films is this excellent but forgot 1988 New Zealand film from director Vincent Ward, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.

Set in the 14th century in a Cumbrian mountain village, the townsfolk are in a panic when they hear that the black plague is coming to them. Desperate to save themselves they listen to a young village boy who has visions, Griffin (Hamish McFarlane). His vision says that they must dig and travel to the farside of the world.
Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey”

Sunday Matinee: The House That Dripped Blood

Amicus Productions was a British film company that was around from the 1960s to the 1970s. They tried to compete with Hammmer Films and used several of the same actors.

Amicus Productions main type of horror film was the anthology which they found some success with. They made seven anthology films, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Vault of Horror (1973) and From Beyond the Grave (1974). Today we’re looking at the recently released on bluray The House That Dripped Blood.
Continue reading “Sunday Matinee: The House That Dripped Blood”

REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp Is Marvel’s Amuse-Bouche

The solemnity of Avengers: Infinity War didn’t quite hit me until the first few minutes of the frothy Ant-Man and the Wasp. A sequel to 2015 Ant-Man (the one Edgar Wright got bumped from), this chapter leans heavily on the comedy and well-designed set-pieces based on… size proportion. The film stands by itself for far longer than expected –given certain events in the MCU– and the limited stakes are a welcome respite from Thanos’ idea of redistribution.

Probably because of the absence of drama behind the scenes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lot more cohesive than the first episode. Returning director Peyton Reed and a team of five scriptwriters fail to fully grasp the whole subatomic shrinking business, but your tolerance for science-speak is rewarded in different ways.

Following the events in Captain America: Civil War, the titular Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), has abandoned his career as a superhero and now endures a two-year house arrest sentence. Scott is willing to bide his time for his daughter, but is also fully aware his actions have forced his former companions –Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)– to go on the lam. Continue reading “REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp Is Marvel’s Amuse-Bouche”

Sunday Matinee: The Colossus Of Rhodes

Sergio Leone is known for making awesome westerns. A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West. He didn’t direct a lot of movies but his last few are consider to be classics. Leone’s first full credited feature film though (he had co-directed a couple things) was this sword and sandals epic The Colossus of Rhodes.

Set in 280 BC on the island of Rhodes where the kingdom has just finished building a giant statue, a colossal statue if you will to Apollo in the harbour to help protect against invasions. A Greek military soldier named Darios (Rory Calhoun) is visiting his uncle on the island and gets caught up in several plots.

It seems there are rebels on the island are planning on overthrowing the king Serse (Roberto Camardiel). The king’s second in command Thar (Conrado San Martín) is planning on overthrowing the king too but with the help of the Phoenicians. He’s smuggled an army onto the island and is trying to have men reading to take over the statue in order to let a large Phoenician fleet of ships in.

Meanwhile Darios is helping the rebels and the they plan on attack the statue to free the prisoners who are kept in a dungeon below the statue. Lots of fighting and getting captured ensue. The movie is pretty good for a swords and sandals flick. It isn’t classic Leone but it gave him a big break and let go on to direct A Fistful of Dollars.

REVIEW: Pope Francis Gets Real

Pope says hi.

Regardless of your feelings towards the Catholic Church, it’s fair to say Jorge Bergoglio encountered a challenging situation when he became Pope Francis in 2013: The institution was noticeably out of step with the world, congregations were dwindling, and the matter of widespread sexual abuse perpetrated by priests wasn’t being dealt with as much as swept under the carpet.

Francis revealed himself to be more of a revolutionary than anybody expected (sure, the transformation of the Church hasn’t been sweeping, but the man is inarguably an improvement). Director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) focuses precisely on the Pontiff’s main drives in Pope Francis: A Man of his Word, a documentary built around a couple of wide ranging interviews with the Argentinian Jesuit.

Wenders cares little about Francis’ upbringing or how he became the man he is today. His main concern is the Pope’s view of the world and what is he doing about it. The Pontiff’s modest lifestyle (for Vatican standards anyway) gives away his game: Poverty is the chip on his shoulders and hasn’t hesitated in calling out capitalism. He is also the first environmentalist Leader of the Church to date, a stance that has alienated many Conservative Catholics, particularly in the US. You don’t have to agree with the man, but one has to admire the consistency.

From a cinematic perspective, Wim Wenders gets his hands on some eye-popping footage. Unfortunately, his decision of creating cheesy interstitials with the life of St. Francis of Assisi (as if shot by Carl Dreyer in the 1920’s) fails to achieve the desired effect of linking both Francises through history.

Bergoglio comes across as affable, but doesn’t take much to discover gravitas under his welcoming demeanor. One could argue Wenders is too soft on Francis, particularly when dealing with the matter of children’s abuse at hands of clerics. As biased as it is, it provides enough insight on a man who sees monumental tasks ahead –refugees, climate change, ever expanding poverty– and his reaction is simply to roll up his sleeves and get to work, which is more than the other guy did (the German one, who quit). Three planets.

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word is now playing at the Roxy Theatre.