Crazy Rich Asians

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Rachel agrees to go with her boyfriend to meet his family in Singapore, not knowing the rich lifestyle and reputation they have there.

An all Asian cast is a great move for diversity in film when we need it, to help make everyone feel represented on screen. There’s some solid casting with an especially great turn from Michelle Yeoh, and the leads played by Constance Wu and Henry Golding are impressive as well. By having both Asian-American and Singaporean characters, the script has some interesting ideas about how different Asian cultures see each other and how their lives differ. Unfortunately, it’s not until the last act that the film realizes this, and the road there is a poorly directed and edited series of extended party scenes, unnecessary subplots, and an overabundance of pathetic supporting characters, especially an annoying role played by Awkwafina. Not much of the film focuses on the chemistry between these leads which is unfortuante because everything else is either repetitive (a 20-minute party scene dedicates most of its runtime simply to Rachel’s boyfriend introducing her to side characters that are useless and quickly forgotten about). Sometimes the dramatic moments feel unauthentic or too over-the-top to fit the rest of the film. The editing is all over the place and doesn’t know how to stay focused, and whenever the dialogue thinks it’s being funny, it’s actually insufferable. The movie compromises itself too much to please a wider audience simply looking for cool party aesthetics and happy moments instead of going for a profound journey for its main character. Just when the ending seems figured out, the ending feels like a cop out because the film is too afraid to take any risks. With the ideas this film had, it’s a pity the director made poor choices to focus less on the meaningful substance I’m sure they were aiming for. This is a step up for diversity in movies but not for mainstream comedy filmmaking. Keep in mind that the majority of audiences seemed to have loved this film, but I personally was not impressed by what I saw. If you want a film about what’s really important in the world today, I’d strongly recommend BlacKkKlansman.

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Searching

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This movie follows David Kim as he desperately searches for his missing daughter Margot. From that description it may sound like an ordinary mystery film, but there’s a catch: it’s told entirely through the perspective of a computer screen. This isn’t used simply as a gimmick but rather as a filmmaking tool to amplify the emotion and suspense. It’ll shatter your heart within the first five minutes of staring at a large computer screen projected in front of you, and FaceTime and text conversations are made interesting and thrilling. Though the concept is familiar, the plot is absolutely predictable and you can never tell what’s going to happen next. The way it builds up its conflict strongly pulls your interest and from there will find ways to always keep you guessing, as more shocking details are revealed that surprise the audience and put them on the edge of their seat. John Cho plays a loving father whose every action or reaction throughout his search for his daughter feels believable for what a father would do, and Cho displays range, emotion, and humanity in his leading performance. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone from their computer — even when we’re not directly looking at him, we always feel for David and understand how he’s feeling through the whole film. The format doesn’t limit the film’s opportunities and works perfectly throughout the entire runtime. There is never a dull moment that allows you to take a breath from this gripping mystery until the very end. As an audience member you always feel forced to look for clues and details and invited to embark on this father’s journey through his device. The writer has so much to say in this film and the script works on many thematic levels — It’s about a father’s love for his daughter, about how secretive kids choose to be from their parents, how different generations use technology, and how much a computer can tell you about a person and their life. There’s so much to be analyzed and so much the director wonderfully conveys in 100 minutes.

Searching is the original, creative, and enthralling thriller we need right now — it’s a shocking and unique thriller that will grip onto you and not let go until the very end.

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BlacKkKlansman

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The true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American detective who sets out to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Spike Lee returns to form with the most culturally relevant film of the year that’s also a unique and compelling story on its own. This insane true story is told with dark humor but also resonance by the end. John David Washington makes a name for himself as Stallworth who is charismatic but also courageous and warmhearted. Adam Driver also stands out as the Jewish officer who takes on the task of infiltrating the Klan using Stallworth’s name. Lee makes the writing humorous but also very dramatic and affecting at times, as well as some suspense when the undercover cops are trying to keep their identities concealed. All these reactions — laughs, emotion, and thrills — are all blended perfectly to create this powerful biopic that won’t lose your attention until the end. Even though a couple scenes are written out too long and could’ve used less screentime, the movie knows when to pace itself well and keep you guessing at what will happen next. Not only is the production great as well as the main cast and Lee’s stylish and memorable direction, but also the themes the movie has that apply to the past as well as the present. The final moments of the film will leave you shaken at the consequences of ignorant hate that is still seen today, and maybe we can take away a message from this film about how we should treat those of another race or ethnicity fairly. With BlacKkKlansman, Lee not only crafts a dark and humorous story that’s engaging throughout, but will also leave an impact with its depiction of the issues our country (and our world) still faces today. With this movie’s theme of showing how we must let go of our hate and treat everyone equally, Lee has achieved relevance on a level higher than any filmmaker this year. That is why BlacKkKlansman, though not the best film of the year, should be seen by all and not be missed while it’s on the big screen.

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Sorry to Bother You

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In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a universe of greed.

Sorry to Bother You marks the directorial debut of Boots Riley, who offers his unique voice to a world crowded with single-genre pictures meant to please a wider audience. Riley knows how to make a film his own and dive into many genres, like dark comedy and character-driven drama. He offers dialogue that doesn’t hold back on being extremely dark and bizarre yet humorous and entertaining. The movie gets so weird that eventually everyone will just have to sit back and enjoy whatever new ideas the director throws at you. This is a film that knows when it’s okay to move outside the lines of regular filmmaking and screenwriting, and try something new. Lakeith Stanfield was able to yell the titular phrase in the movie Get Out is now in the spotlight as the lead role of Cassius. He’s skilled, talented, and keeps the viewer into the film with his wide range that he brings into Cassius. Tessa Thompson once again proves herself as Cassius’ fiance Detroit and Armie Hammer has a phenomenal supporting role that’s hilarious and full of energy. The music is vivid and adds another layer to the film, and the writing is always unexpected and engaging. The movie knows when to be impactful, haunting, and thrilling but at the same time doesn’t take itself too seriously and still completely works on both aspects. While this movie is very unique, some may not like this movie or find the insane aspects to be laughable. It’s not a film for everyone, but thankfully my audience loved it so maybe you will too. Sometimes the ideas in different acts of the story don’t really act together to present a common goal or clearly feel interconnected, but I still enjoyed Sorry to Bother You from start to finish. It’s odd and nonsensical but presents itself as a deep story about people living in the modern world, and about the love, hate, hard work, and statements these people express every day.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

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Ethan Hunt and the IMF must race against time to prevent global chaos after a mission gone wrong.

What most action franchises are missing by the sixth installment is the jaw-dropping thrills, and wracking action sequences and the passion and dedication from a lead star that Tom Cruise still delivers after 22 years. Like expected from this series, the action is like nothing before, with realistic stunts requiring little to no computer generated effects that only a star like Cruise would be willing to pull off. Whether it’s on a motorcycle, helicopter, or jumping off a plane, Cruise’s love for authenticity pays off and every scene is not only shot unbelievably and must be watched on an enormous screen, but the suspense and incredible sound editing will keep you on the edge of your seat. Tom Cruise achieves what no action star would achieve, let alone at age 56, and not only does he leave a mark with his name in action history, but the writing for his character is better than it was before in the series. Henry Cavill is a great addition to the franchise who has notable chemistry with Cruise and a very well-written character. Simon Pegg is once again great comic relief, and Ving Rhames is a memorable supporting character who’s been in these movies for as long as Cruise has. Rebecca Ferguson is also a pleasing return from Rogue Nation and so is Alec Baldwin as the new secretary of the IMF.

Director Christopher McQuarrie, who returns from the previous installment, once again proves that he’s got a terrific realization of the scale and excitement of the Mission: Impossible franchise and delivers top-notch fights that will glue your eyes to the screen throughout the whole runtime, even though some moments don’t reach the heights of Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa or holding onto a plane in the previous movies. The story is filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing. However, my main problem with the film is also in the story — it often borrows too much from the 5th movie, Rogue Nation. For example, Solomon Lane returns after being the main villain from the last movie, but nothing new is done with his character to make his return feel necessary. However, the exciting action is what has made this series so much fun over so many years and is why fans of Cruise and the genre should not miss this one on the big screen.

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Skyscraper

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Dwayne Johnson stars as a former FBI agent who must save his family from a group of terrorists on a skyscraper in China.

Skyscraper feels like the least unique or memorable thing the studio could go for — the plot feels the exact same as Die Hard and there’s nothing about The Rock’s character to distinguish him from every other role he’s ever played. Even the action often feels effortless and tiring when they could have at least put thought into that aspect. The villainous characters feel cliched and flat while none of the heroes feel interesting either, and the only thing clever about the lead is his backstory. The Rock always gives it his all but continues to find himself in the same recycled role these last few years, and this one is unfortunately no exception for his character. Every move the script makes is predictable and done many times before. Nothing is invented to make the film stick out or feel different from any action film set on a large building or in real-time, and the dialogue and writing are mostly weak and bland. The CG-structure of the skyscraper feels visually engaging in a few shots that should be experienced on the largest screen possible, but that’s about as much as the film has to offer that will keep you amused.

Skyscraper is a dull, generic action movie with nothing to offer other than a few cool visuals, and the only excuse for it to be made is so that kids don’t have to watch Die Hard.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Scott Lang, now under house arrest after helping Captain America protect Bucky Barnes from the law in Captain America: Civil War, he is approached once again by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym, who present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sequel that has the great laughs and entertainment that has always made the MCU great, but doesn’t learn from some of its predecessor’s mistakes and fails to stand out from the rest of the Marvel universe. However, the bright tone delivers a fun 2 hours that will please fans of comic-book movies and action films. Paul Rudd delivers a charismatic performance as Scott, who’s not only a great hero but a loving father, and Evangeline Lilly finally suits up and does a much better job than she did in the last film. Michael Douglas is also a welcome return as Hank Pym, and you can count on Michael Pena to make you crack up in every scene he’s in. The humor is memorable and well-written (which isn’t a surprise when it comes to Marvel films as they always nail their comedy wonderfully) and the action isn’t unforgettable but is able to be fun and engaging enough to entertain.

Ant-Man was a fun and lighthearted action flick from Marvel but I feel it lacked anything to make it deep or unique — and this sequel unfortunately has that same problem. We don’t get enough new depth to Scott and the only thing that felt emotional is the plot involving someone from Hank and Hope’s past. I don’t feel like this movie or its predecessor added anything new or outstanding to the MCU, which I feel every Marvel movie has been able to do in the last 4 years except these two. These films feel like great surface-level action comedies, but lack the humanity, creativity, and ambition I’ve seen in every film in this universe since The Winter Soldier — I’m used to seeing each Marvel movie have fleshed out characters and rare directing and writing that feel different from other franchises — and usually we see the main hero learning a life lesson or having an emotional arc that you can only find in these movies. However, Peyton Reed doesn’t really dig under the surface for Scott and make the story feel meaningful or resonant like Black Panther and Infinity War. It feels fun and holds its ground but doesn’t have as many important themes that have made me love the other MCU movies. The villain has a good backstory and motive but this character’s conflict with the heroes didn’t feel as enticing as it could’ve been and the well-realized plot takes a few detours with unnecessary side characters or events. We dive deep into the Quantum Realm and the science behind it, as well as the history of the Pym family, but not very much into these character’s souls and emotions like many Marvel movies have done to make us think and look back for so long.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is another fun and appealing Marvel action movie, but doesn’t reach the standards many Marvel Studios films have set so high, and doesn’t feel as blod and delightful as other installments. It’s got nice action and memorable laughs but the script doesn’t feel as well-realized and profound as it could have been and this cinematic universe has seen much brighter stars. However, all Marvel fans like me will have a good enough time to be worth the ticket, and also stay for a great post-credits scene as always.

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