Category Archives: movies

triple movie review

In one day I watched three movies on Netflix. Yes, there will be spoilers.

Star Wars: Rogue One

The Queen of Katwe

Philomena

Overall, I liked them even though there were things I didn’t like in each film. What I noticed was that each film has a female lead and the co-star was a non-romantic-interest male actor. Maybe Rogue One was somewhat romantic, but not enough to say it was so. There was a hug but no kiss, thank goodness. It would’ve ruined the movie.

Rogue One was really boring for most of the movie. It’s as if every SW movie must have the same scenes in it, repeating themselves in every film as long as they make a SW film. The best part was actually the last act of the movie (which was very not-SW like), with the principal cast of rebellion fighters. They brought a freshness with their different faces and skills. Even the robot was refreshing with his distinct personality. Yet why did almost everyone have to have a British accent? That seemed to distract me.

I actually liked how each of Jyn’s gang of rebels died in the film. It was heartless how everyone had to die, even Jyn and Cassian, truly tragic. It seemed like a hopeless movie for these characters. Oh, but then they get you in the end with the last shot of the movie with Leia saying “Hope,” as she holds the plans for the Death Star in her hands. In that sense it portrayed the brutality of war. However, this is SW, so it can’t ever get that tragic.

After seeing Rogue One, it did make me want to see the original SW trilogy again. How is it that those three old movies still seem fresh while every SW movie made afterwards seems derivative?

The Queen of Katwe is based on a true story of an African slum kid who becomes a chess champion. It’s a really sweet feel-good movie. There were many scenes where I just wanted to cry, maybe because I miss Africa and want to go back someday. The ironic thing is that the screenplay was written by a white American male telling the story of a Ugandan girl. The scenes sometime get confusing and bumpy with the time jumps in the beginning, which make it hard to get the viewer settled in. After that it gets better and you can just enjoy watching a story of a girl who shifts her place of belonging from where she was born to where she was born to be. That really is the best message of the movie.

Philomena is also based on a true story of an Irish-Catholic woman who searches for her son 50 years after the nuns who took care of her during her teenage pregnancy forced her to give him up for adoption. The news reporter who helps her is her non-romantic co-star and a pretty good foil for the Irishwoman, played by Judi Dench. It’s a British film, so it’s a lot more subtle in everything, from action to dialogue to climax and ending. Sometimes it really frustrates me, but I’m sure every British person is deep down frustrated by having to be so reserved.

The best part is the character contrasts of the Irish mom and the British reporter as Catholic vs Atheist and some of the discussion about religion is good but like most of the movie, it doesn’t get too deep into any topic. It mostly touches on the main themes so you can think about it without having to preach to you. Religion, God, adoption, family, what’s important, what you believe in, forgiveness, etc.

This post is now too long and so I’ll wrap up saying I ate some ramen today at a place that’s highly rated and popular, but after I tried it I had no idea why it was considered good. Overrated and overpriced. I only went there because the place I originally wanted to go to had shut down and I didn’t know it until I saw the empty restaurant and a couple legal notices on the door. A sad day for ramen. But tomorrow ramen will rise again.

feelings and random notes

Feelings: we have them whether or not we want to admit it. I have feelings. Ewww.

But here’s what I’m feeling today: I feel like a dam is about to burst. A river of good things are waiting to wash over my world, and I need it bad because my allergies are acting up with all the blooming plants and pollen blown about by the windy wind.

I watched the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” last night and it was alright. Maybe because I’m a little jaded or perhaps I’m more perceptive now than when I was a little kid watching the Disney animated film, but I found it hard to believe that Belle fell for the beast because he was a bookworm. Maybe she fell in love with his library of books.

action girls

While “Logan” was a great movie about two old mutants on a road trip for a little girl (a la “Little Miss Sunshine), the most interesting part was the little girl playing Laura/X-23. She was great and it was a little crazy to see her doing action scenes killing bad guys in a very violent way.

This reminds me back when the movie “Kick Ass” came out in 2010 and the best part was seeing 13-year old Chloe Grace Moretz do fight scenes and swear a lot. Back then it was quite controversial, and now apparently it’s “cool” and “amazing” to have a young girl do violent action movies and be assassins. Of course all the bad guys killed were not nice people. How is this much different than having an adolescent version of Black Widow in “The Avengers” or a Spanish-speaking version of Natalie Portman in “The Professional?” In a way, it’s all the same thing.

Another common thing is the chin. A nice, pointy, authoritative chin. Perhaps all child action stars need a nice pointy chin. They all have the same chin!!! Or close enough that it’s basically a rule now.

Future movie stars: young girls with pointy chins, light skin, playing very violent roles. Does that fulfill some men’s twisted fantasies? Or is it just a rule now?

Whatever the reason, it works. I’m also interested to see someone who doesn’t fit that mold and does some amazing acting.

MJ in the movies

I recently watched “The Lego Batman Movie” and a theme for Batman’s character was based on a Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror,” which was cute and nostalgic for the parents of their kids watching the movie. I wanted to see the movie because “The Lego Movie” was so “awesome” and needed to escape reality for a couple hours.

One of the trailers before the Lego Batman movie was for “Despicable Me 3,” which seemed to be drab, until the villain was revealed to be a living piece of ’80’s nostalgia and was introduced to MJ’s iconic hit, “Bad” (the album also includes “Man in the Mirror”). Is this coincidence? Is this a conspiracy? Who knows, but let’s just imagine what might have happened…

The writers for each movie, perhaps they are close buddies and huge Michael Jackson fans. Perhaps they grew up listening to his songs and wanting to be as bad as the King of Pop, but were too nerdy, had no dance skills, or lived in a podunk town where Michael Jackson’s music was too “urban.”

Years pass, they are now succcessful Hollywood screenwriters and they meet up to talk about random stuff. They are brunching in a hot restaurant, where it’s more about being seen than about the quality of the food. Lots of talking, not much eating (what a waste of food).

They talk about their respective scripts in progress, both animation movies with male protagonists who have dark, not-totally-good-guy pasts/personalities. They need to liven up the moodiness so it can be appealing to children and appease the parents of the children with positive stories about superheroes.

They talk about music, they talk about MJ, they talk about the album of the decade. They talk about the songs, the lyrics. Hey, why not make my uber-moody-introspective character live out the lyrics to “Man in the Mirror?” Why hasn’t anyone done that yet? I’ll do that!

“Wow, what if I could incorporate the song “Bad,” into one of my characters? Since you’re doing the protagonist in Batman, I can do the antagonist with Balthazar Bratt!” and we totally won’t be copying each other!”

“Yeah, what a great idea! We can both use Michael Jackson songs in our movies and totally introduce him to a new generation of kids who have never heard his awesome music. Perhaps they’ll ignore the part of his life that was embroiled in child abuse allegations and just focus on the music.”

Yeah, it’s been so long (at least in today’s sense of history having a very short shelf life) that I think many people have forgotten about the scandal and remember the music. I love both those songs (and many others), yet the taint of these great memories made it somewhat bittersweet to see them incorporated into two major feature films, especially animated films aimed at children. Did any studio executive not think about this?

Well, the fact that nobody has really made a fuss about the “Lego Batman” movie means that the rest of the world didn’t think about it or didn’t care.

I’ll be watching this sequel when it comes out, mostly for the ’80’s music, which also includes Phil Collins…

mixing it up

I’ve been reading lots of cooking blogs and also read an article about blogging about movies. So maybe I’ll do that: post a cooking/food post or write about a movie or TV show in more detail.

I found a couple cooking blogs that are great but they tend to misuse the word “Korean” when describing a dish. I know it could be many reasons why they use the word: maybe they are ignorant about real Korean cooking ingredients; maybe they think it’s Korean because it has a red spicy sauce. Maybe they just use the word because Korean food is trendy and they want hits on their blog. Or, like many other cuisines, it’s becoming bastardized and anything with soy sauce-marinated beef or a meat made with a red spicy sauce will be considered Korean. What a pity.

But I bet their recipes taste real good.

And just in case you didn’t know: Sriracha is NOT Korean. It’s Vietnamese. So don’t call your recipe Korean. You can’t claim ignorance anymore, but will be guilty of abusing a culinary trend instead.

Brooklyn and Hamlet

Over the weekend I saw a film (Brooklyn) and a play (Hamlet) and while my expectations were low and high for each show respectively, they ended up being reversed by the time the actors took the bow.

The film, set in Ireland and Brooklyn, NY, was beautifully made, with great costumes and strong but subtle acting. The story, about a young woman immigrating to the U.S. alone, didn’t seem thrilling to me, so I lacked interest in watching it, even though there was a Q&A with the lead actress, director, and producer afterwards.

However, the story starts quickly, with the young daughter leaving her mother and older sister behind in Ireland, where she had no prospects for a future. By the end of the film I was all wrapped up in her story, wondering how it would end. Would it be cheesy or tragic? It ended up being the “right” ending, and I felt like I could identify with her and her struggles of identity and what is considered “home.”

One particular detail I liked about the film was having the native New Yorkers speak with their distinct accents. The NY accent today isn’t very distinct like it was back then, so it was a nice touch to add to the authentic feel of the time period of the 1950s.

In stark contrast, the Hamlet I saw via the National Theatre Live screening had no distinct setting of time. That was the most obvious thing that stood out to me; so much so that it became unsettling, and, in the end, extremely irritating.

Shakespearean dialogue mashed up with elaborate stage pieces, fancy suits, Victorian style coats, military uniforms, hoodies, jeans, sneakers, and a flannel shirt made a visually inconsistent, incoherent statement.

I wanted to be blown away by this play, I really did. And yet I have to admit that I wasn’t. The one very good thing I will say is that it made me think about what I did and didn’t like, and this interpretation challenged me. But I still didn’t like it.