Crazy Rich Asians – Review

Vanessa and I saw this movie last Saturday – we both decided that based on the previews, it looked like a fun film and it was going to be funny.  Before I go on, I’ll confirm that yes, it WAS a good film, and it WAS funny.  We loved it.  

Online Backlash

One of the things I like to do after seeing a movie is to see what other people think of it.  So I headed to reddit’s /r/movies to check out what kind of reception it had…and nope Nope NOPE do not go there yourself, I do not recommend it.  To put it nicely, there was a lot of negative feedback.  

People were really hating on the film.  Thankfully it wasn’t because of its (mostly) all-Asian cast, it was because the film itself was in their opinion, lacklustre.  I will admit, it’s a basic fish-out-of-water romantic comedy in terms of plot.  Most of the beats you’d expect are there.  In that sense, I agree with them.  It was not a great film. 

But I thought the writing was clever, the jokes hit home, and the movie was paced well.  The music was fantastic (go listen to the soundtrack!), the camera work and shots were beautiful, and I felt drawn into the movie and we both related to a few different parts of it.  

To me, that makes a successful movie.  Oh, and the fact that it was an all-Asian cast had nothing to do with my enjoyment of the movie.  I think you could replace it with a “diverse” cast and write the same movie and it would have worked just as well.  The “Crazy Rich Asians” part of it was just the setting / window-dressing.  I am not Asian so this fact did not resonate as much with me as others, though.  

One of the other reasons I advise NOT going to check out the /r/movies discussion about Crazy Rich Asians is because some people are dismissing the movie because of the all-Asian cast.  Trust me, some of the worst people are on reddit.  

I liked it, OK?

Look, the bottom line here is – enjoy the movie for what you see on the screen.  Just like I would say for Black Panther, ignore the casting aspect of it and enjoy it for the story, the jokes, and the stunning visuals.  If you can’t get past who was cast in the movie, you’re not going to be able to stop and appreciate the artistry involved in it (and probably there are other issues you’re dealing with that maybe you should reflect upon).

Interesting Podcasts

I can’t remember the last time I did one of these, so that must mean it’s time to write one!  

Originally I was going to dedicate an entire post to Make Dad Read Comics; I would still like to do that, but I’m still feeling a little conflicted because I don’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that the titular Dad (Patrick Sr.) passed away in July.  I cannot share this podcast enough, and while it is sad that it won’t be continuing, the massive backlog of shows is well worth listening to for two reasons:

  1. The conversations Patrick and his Dad had are often hilarious and heartwarming.  It’s also great to hear the progression Dad makes from the beginning of the show to the end.  His understanding of comics was on display and it’s a real treat to listen to the shows where he really likes a book they read.
  2. You can learn about some new comics / books to read that may not have been on your radar.  I’m currently reading Black Monday Murders, which was the second to last episode they did together.  It’s fantastic.  Previous to that I read I Kill Giants.  Both of these books were highly rated by Patrick & Dad.  I just saw today that I also have Persepolis waiting for me at the library.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – I’ve talked about this podcast in the past, so I thought I would highlight a particular episode that I really enjoyed:  Episode 46 | Slot Machines.  The sound design in this episode was amazing.  The producers did a great job of replicating the casino sounds (there was even a moment where they layered in the various sounds of the casino one at a time, and ended up with what it actually sounds like at a casino).  It was fun to learn about some of the techniques they employ as well, and the history of slot machine music.  Very fun, I highly recommend it.  And it won’t leave you jaded about the slot machine industry.

The Big Story – this one is produced by Rogers Media (I work there, I have to mention that), and is a Mon-Fri (except holidays) daily show that covers the “big topics” (hence…the Big Story) of the day.  The episodes are about 20 minutes in length, and up until this week I’ve been listening to all of them.  They’ve been pretty interesting so far, but some topics I decided I can skip – I don’t need to be a completest here.

Based On A True Story – I haven’t listened to any of the most recent episodes, but checked out A League Of Their Own and The Social Network.  The gist of this one is the host watches movies that are, well, based on a true story, and researches the true story behind them.  I’ve picked out a few movies I’ve seen and want to hear his take behind, and as I go through the list I realize that there are more I missed the first time and need to add.  The episodes are short and easily digestible (usually around the 30 minute mark) so they make for a fun break between my usual episode list.

What else have you got that I haven’t listed here?  Maybe I can check it out in 2-3 months when I’ve caught up on my 90+ shows 🙂 

Is It Star Trek? Fandom and Gatekeeping

But, Is It Star Trek?

Is discounting a piece of the Trek franchise for not following in the direct footsteps of TOS tantamount to gatekeeping?

That’s a question that immediately popped into my head when I saw a podcast title from Mission Log, “But, Is It Star Trek?”.  I find Mission Log (and similar podcasts) extremely entertaining to listen to, but sometimes I wonder about their mission.  On the surface, it’s a good one: 

Mission Log is a Roddenberry Entertainment podcast with the sole purpose of exploring the Star Trek universe one episode at a time. That’s right, this podcast will cover six different series and 30 seasons of television by journeying into every one of the 726 episodes with a single mission: to explore, debate and discuss one of the largest science fiction phenomena of all time, Star Trek.

http://www.missionlogpodcast.com/

For the most part I’m totally on board with them.  They are able to look at even some of the most terrible Star Trek episodes (Code of Honor, Move Along Home) and take something away from the episode.  But often, ever since they moved on from TOS, they ask the question: “But, is it Star Trek?”

What they mean with this question is to discover whether the story being told has a deeper meaning or message behind it other than just a fun SciFi story.  Can a story set in the Star Trek universe be considered Star Trek if it doesn’t address a social issue of some sort?  That is essentially what they’re asking.  

This is a big problem for Star Trek in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.

I think that if it says Star Trek and it’s an officially licensed property, then yes, it’s Star Trek.  Because if you’re arguing otherwise, you start getting into gatekeeping.  This is a big problem for Star Trek (and to a greater extent, Star Wars) in relation to the new series, Discovery.  It’s to a point where some fans consider Orville to be “more Star Trek” than Discovery.  

I think it’s fine to dislike a show.  Where it becomes a problem is if you try to prevent new people from discovering it.  That’s how it becomes gatekeeping.  It’s not up to the fans to determine what is or isn’t part of the franchise; while it is entertainment directed at a certain group of people, we have to accept that the fans aren’t in charge.  If they were, there would be a lot more problems with the story telling in general.  Let’s face it – fans are not the best group of people to write stories.  That’s why we have fan fiction.  

I will admit to not having listened to that particular podcast from Mission Log (“But, Is It Star Trek?”).  I have some faith that their conclusion is going to be in line with mine.  I just hope that people realize that there is an inherent danger in even asking the question, “Is It Star Trek?”  

Avengers Infinity War – Review (Spoilers)

I put “spoilers” in the title, but they’re probably pretty mild.  Honestly, I need to see this movie a second time to really take it in.  There’s a lot going on here.

I'm pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos' Gauntlet.
I’m pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos’ Gauntlet.

I liked the movie.  Quite a bit more than I expected to, honestly.  What I expected was a mostly coherent movie with all of the established movie characters on screen thrown together.  What we got instead was a very coherent movie with all of these characters on screen, but they were put together in a very logical manner.  What I thought worked very well for it was that it featured the cosmic players primarily (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Dr. Strange to an extent), with Earth’s heroes crossing over.

Essentially, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War was basically an Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War was basically a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  This makes sense to me, because the villain (Thanos) is cosmic in scale, so it follows that we would be dealing with characters that operate on a cosmic scale.  It’s rather interesting to me that Earth is only important in that two of the stones are there, but it’s not important enough that Thanos personally wants to go there until the very end (he sends his “children” to go get the stones).

Some pieces of the movie I didn’t completely like.  The part at the beginning with Vision trying to pass as a human in a relationship with Wanda was interesting, but I feel like we jumped quite a bit from his attempts at domesticity in Civil War to being in love with Wanda here in Infinity War.  I was told about a Vision comic book story line recently where he tries to start a family, so I guess that’s where this came from in the movie.  All of the other characters seemed to have made logical progresses, but this one was a big leap.

I also didn’t completely like Banner in this one.  I hope that there is a logical reasoning for sidelining the Hulk (I wonder if it’s possible they’re going to split him into two characters?  I think that’s a thing that happens in the comics) in part two of Infinity War.

One last nitpick – Infinity War seemed to undo a lot of what happened in Thor: Ragnarok.  In that movie, Thor discovers – he doesn’t really need the hammer.  He loses an eye.  In Infinity War, he regains an eye (comically stolen by Rocket) and gets a big axe.  Now that I think about it, looking at The Hulk and Thor specifically, a lot of Ragnarok’s work is reversed with Infinity War, for some reason.

Overall, I appreciate how Marvel has really widened the scope of its movies over the years since the first phase: we started with individual hero movies, with only secondary characters overlapping (Fury, Coulson), leading up to the big collaboration movie: The Avengers.  That was The Big Event movie.  While each individual film dealt with mostly Earth-bound villains, The Avengers was the first to open up the Earth to Space (well, technically I guess Thor did that first).

Then they slowly started building up the universe – crossing characters over in The Winter Soldier, and then the larger cast in Civil War.  There are still some isolated movies, like Black Panther and Ant-Man movies (and presumably, the upcoming Captain Marvel movie) but I don’t think there will be many more ‘primary character only’ movies with the OG Avengers.

I can’t think of much more interesting things to say about Infinity War without watching it again.  I highly recommend you listen to these podcasts, which go much more in-depth than I ever could:

And, I haven’t listened to it yet, but Make Dad Read Comics did an episode about the comic for which this movie is based on, The Infinity Gauntlet, if you’re interested in some background comic information.

 

One Shot Analysis – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I’m trying something new here – not sure if it’ll stick, which is why I’m trying it here and not immediately launching a new blog.

I had the idea, partially inspired by this thread on Twitter examining Empire Strikes Back shot-by-shot, to take a single shot from a movie and analyze it / write something about it.  This took me on a fun trail trying to figure out just how do people get still images from movies, anyway?  It led me to https://www.film-grab.com which is a fantastic resource, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

With that, here’s a scene from the first act of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Image courtesy https://www.film-grab.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s going on in this shot?

Interpreting it in a strict sense, Luke Skywalker is playing with a model spaceship while cleaning up a pair of droids.

In story terms, that’s pretty much the same answer.  This particular shot isn’t doing a lot, plot-wise.

What does it say about the characters?

About the droids, nothing.  C-3P0 is kind of just standing there in the oil bath, and R2-D2 is…watching?  He’s not doing a lot either, probably stewing about his mission being delayed.  I think that it says a lot about Luke Skywalker, on the other hand.

In this shot, Luke is pretty clearly playing around with a model ship while he does his chores.  I almost hate to admit it, but this is pretty much on the level of watching TV / movies while I’m folding the laundry.  Almost.  I think it’s probably closer to playing with toys when I was supposed to be cleaning my room when I was younger.

In this shot, we can see that Luke has no interest in the day-to-day life of the moisture farm.  I wouldn’t say he’s dreaming of adventure in space, exactly, but you can definitely see that his mind is in that spaceship in his hand, flying around with his friends.  (On a side note, it’s almost too bad that the podracing in The Phantom Menace wasn’t a little closer in nature to the T-16’s Luke flies.)

He has no sense of who he is in the larger galaxy at this point – if you put Luke as he is right here in the cockpit of the X-Wing at the end of the movie, there’s no doubt in my mind he’d be one of the casualties in the battle, and Yavin IV would be toast.

What do you see in this shot?  Anything I missed?

Logan (2017) – Review

I finally had the chance to see Logan, the 2017 film from James Mansgold.  This was a really good movie on its own, but also a great super hero movie entry in the X-Men series.

Logan is based on the Old Man Logan comic books, and is set in 2029 – when mutants are all but extinct (at the start of the movie there are only three we know about: Logan, Charles Xavier, and Calliban).  Oh, and the funniest bit is that Logan is an uber driver, rolling around in a limo.  I thought that was great.

What follows in the movie is not your standard superhero movie plot to save the world from impending doom; instead it’s actually a pretty personal story (for Logan / Wolverine) and about a journey from point A to point B.  Stuff happens along the way, both good and bad.  I have to say that this is probably the best Marvel movie I’ve seen since Captain America: Winter Soldier.

A lot of the buzz about this movie was that it was rated R; the rating comes for mainly the graphic violence and some language.  I think that this movie would have worked without the graphic nature of the violent scenes, but at the same time – Wolverine is a very violent character, so including it seemed to help make the movie fit more with his character.  That said – the action scenes that included most of the violence were shot quick (though not in a blur, like some movies – it was very easy to follow along on the screen), and wasn’t “shocking” the way that violence like this can be (I’m thinking of Game of Thrones, or even one of the more recent episodes of Star Trek: Discovery).

What I think is the greatest move in this was creating a realistic future setting.  It’s only set in 2029 – so just 12 years from when it was released (2017).  It sounds like it’s far away, but it’s not – and the technology reflects it.  Cell phones are recognizable as cell phones, and there are some projections that make sense – driver-less transport trucks, for example.  Beyond that, it was a relate-able world.

Contrast this to a movie like Minority Report; that one was set in 2054, at the time 52 years ahead of the release date (2002).  Apparently they hired some consultants to brainstorm what technological advances we’d see in 50 years, and they came up with a world that mostly operates the same, but with hyper-inflated technology (the cars they were using were a bit much).  Yeah, some of the technology they showed has surfaced in the last 16 years, but watching that movie recently makes me feel like it’s closer to the 60’s vision of the future in The Jetsons.  Suffice it to say I think Logan’s vision of the (near) future is a good portrayal, and one I think you can extrapolate from.

I thought it was also interesting to note that cell phones were used in some plot points in the movie (minor bits), but were not integral to any of the major events in the movie.  I bring this up only because some people think cell phones have ruined movies – that a lot of scenarios can be solved by the main character simply being able to relay information via cell phone.  There were no plot contrivances in this movie that negated the use of a cell phone, it was simply a plot that didn’t need to rely on communication to get out of jams.  I just wanted to point out that it’s possible to do that.

I think Patrick Stewart really stole the show as Xavier.  It was Logan’s movie, but Xavier shined in this.  I’m glad that the trailers didn’t give too much away, because the movie definitely didn’t unfold the way I thought it would based on some of the scenes they showed, and what I knew going in about his character.

Solid movie overall.  I highly recommend it; and you definitely don’t need to have seen the other X-Men movies to follow along.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (IMDB) was a bit of a surprise movie for me.  It showed up in several podcasts I listen to – one of which was The Adam Sandcast (Apple Podcasts), so my first thought that this was another Adam Sandler Netflix low-effort vehicle.

But then I saw it pop up on Filmspotting (Filmspotting.net).  At the time, I had no clue that this was a film directed by Noah Baumbach, so this was my first clue that The Meyerowitz Stories had some pedigree behind it.  Filmspotting usually thumbs its nose at the Adam Sandler Netflix films, so to give it some attention came out of the blue for me.

Seeing it on one of the longer running film review podcasts sealed the deal – I was going to watch the movie anyway, but I made a concerted effort to watch it sooner than later so I could properly enjoy the podcasts.  My next wave of surprise was at how good the movie was.

I’d have to say that Dustin Hoffman’s elder, partially dysfunctional Harold Meyerowitz was my favourite part of the movie.  The next favourite part was that you could see pieces of him in each of his three children (played by Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel).  I thought it was great how you could tell that these were his kids in terms of personality, if not looks.

The story is rather straightforward, so not much to write home about there.  It’s more about the characters in the movie and how they react to what’s going on.  It was nice to see Sandler give a bit more of a nuanced performance than his comedy stylings, though you could see bits of his comedy dip into the role (in a good way).

I REALLY liked how Baumbach plays with the screen; many times characters will be cut off mid-sentence, and often characters will pop in and out of the frame during a scene.  I won’t try to delve too deeply into analyzing the use of these cuts and framing devices, but I feel like it helped to serve the nature of some of the characters.

I definitely recommend this one.  It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, it’s just A Movie.  Has me thinking it’s about time I re-visit a few other “artsy” films I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast Recommendation: Filmspotting #651

I’m about a week behind, but just recommending the 651st episode of FilmSpotting: American Made / Top 5 Tom Cruise Performances

I find myself skipping FilmSpotting more than I used to (they’re just really long – I don’t always have time to listen to them apart from Massacre Theatre), but this was a really good episode.  Great discussion, and you’ll probably get a long list of movies you need to watch out of this.

New on Netflix in October (Canada)

I was a holdout of Netflix for a long time, but with the demise of Shomi last November, I finally bit the bullet.  Most months I don’t even pay for it out of pocket money, using cash earned through SwagBucks.  So I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Here’s the full list I’m reading from, courtesy of MobileSyrup.  Go ahead and click, I’ll wait for you to come back for my highlights.   Note that this list is for Canada only – I have no idea what’s coming in other regions.

My List

First and foremost, Stranger Things 2 is at the top of my list, coming October 27th – just in time for Halloween!  The trailer for it looks pretty sweet, too; you can find that on YouTube.

Goosebumps – I don’t think this movie got very good reviews, but in keeping with the Halloween theme for October I think it’s worth a watch and worthy of going onto My List.

Wheelman’s description makes it seem very much like it’s a B movie dressed up with some moderately high production value.  I don’t know, it sounds like it could be worth watching on a Saturday afternoon.

That’s about it for my list of new things to watch; but apparently after October 9th, Mad Max: Fury Road is going by the wayside.  I’ll have to find some time to watch that one, since I still haven’t gotten around to it.  Interestingly, Fellowship of the Ring is leaving Netflix, but NOT The Two Towers or Return of the King.

Historical Inaccuracies in Hidden Figures

I missed the boat when Hidden Figures was first in theatres, and finally caught up with it when I picked up the Blu-Ray in July.  I really liked the movie!  The cast was really good, and even though I recognized a lot of the bigger names, they took a back seat to the persona of the characters they were playing.

One of the bigger nitpicks in this movie – and 2012’s Argo – is that it’s historically inaccurate.  Critics of the film complain that in Hidden Figures, it’s silly to show Katherine Johnson racing the clock to complete some calculations so that John Glenn’s historic flight can take place.  Other complaints were that the issue of segregated bathrooms was partially invented by the movie to create a challenge.

I’m okay with all of that.  I am aware that I am watching a movie, which has to contain certain elements in order to function as a movie.  I feel that the purpose of movies such as this are to show people an overview of what happened – as long as they are sticking mostly to the facts of the life they’re telling, it’s understandable they take some liberties.  One of the functions – at least that’s my belief – is that they jump start curiosity and get people to look up the full story.

That’s exactly what I do, almost every time I watch a movie based on actual events.  I look up what really happened.  I don’t mind learning about several inaccuracies along the way.  It’s only really a problem if the movie creates falsehoods that obscure the real story.  In writing that, I realize that technically Hidden Figures and Argo create some falsehoods – but the difference is that they do so to raise tension for a story, but are still telling the underlying truth.

I can think of similar movies that probably have many historical inaccuracies, but still work.  Apollo 13, for one.  42.  The Blind Side.  Moneyball.  Coach Carter.  The Martian.  (I kid).  If you look up the events they’re based on, you often find paragraphs that go something like, “In the movie, this event happened, but in reality…”

Why is this a problem?  A lot of these movies are made for a dual purpose – entertainment as well as education.  But in order to get made, they need to bring in money, so they need to bend the truth a little bit in order to be successful.

There will always be little embellishments of the truth in movies based on true events – life is never as perfect as a 3-act movie will have you believe.  Just sit back, enjoy it, and then relish in the fun of reading about the true events afterward.