Movie reviews: Crazy Rich Asians and Searching

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the reviews of TWO films that are equally just important as Black Panther was/is! Today, we are discussing Asian representation in Crazy Rich Asians and Searching.

IMDb summaries:

Crazy Rich Asians: This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.

Searching: After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her.

Acting

Even though I usually start my reviews by discussing the writing of the film(s), I thought that these two movies warranted that we discuss the acting and the casting first. While Black Panther was a first big-brand film with a predominately black cast, Crazy Rich Asians was the first American mainstream film with an overall Asian cast (as the title suggests). More importantly, the film showcased the diversity within the Asian community by casting actors that were from or descendant from a plethora of countries: Taiwan, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, The Phillippines, and Singapore. The cast consisted of Constance Wu and Henry Golding (A Simple Favor) as the superb lead couple, and Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina (who was also recently in Ocean’s 8), Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, and Ronny Chieng among others in the supporting roles. Could more Asian identities/actors have been included? Yes. Did they have space for that in the film? Maybe. Did Crazy Rich Asians begin a process of change in Hollywood through which more Asian identities could be portrayed by Asian actors? I really hope so!

Searching didn’t have an Asian-only cast – it had a better thing – a blindly casted Asian lead – a lead that was Asian but his race never once came into play, played superbly by John Cho (of American Pie and Star Trek films).

What I loved even more than these two film’s (and their casts’) separately was the fact that the actors from the two films were so supportive of one another, especially Henry Golding and John Cho. Their mutual cross-promotion was one of the reasons why I put these two reviews together!

Writing

Crazy Rich Asians was a book adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name by screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim. Searching was an original screenplay by Aneesh Chaganty (who also directed) and Sev Ohanian. Both of these films took well known Hollywood tropes and genres – romcom and thriller, respectively – and made them feel brand new!

In Crazy Rich Asians, the romantic plotlines and the Cinderella-like tale were not as cliche as I was expecting them to be. The story also had more depth and sophistication than I was expecting. Some great ideas about the differences between Asian experiences (as a native and an immigrant/old culture vs new culture) were also expressed and added layers to the story.

Searching had a great showcase of father’s love and determination. On the flip side, it also showed the negative side of a parent’s love and how that love and ‘everything for one’s child’ attitude might be quite damaging. The end reveal of the plot was quite surprising and I don’t know if it worked completely. Nevertheless, it allowed the movie to look at a couple of more issues – toxic masculinity and obsessive relationships.

Directing

John M.Chu (of Step Up and Now You See Me 2) directed Crazy Rich Asians, while Aneesh Chaganty helmed Searching (both directors are also of Asian descent!). Chu handled the world building of Singapore beautifully (the glamour of the culture itself + rich setting made for a neat world to vicariously live in for the audiences a.k.a. me) and also nailed the pacing and the comedic timing of the film. My one critique was that the movie might have been a touch too long.

Chaganty and cinematographer Juan Sebastian Baron made Searching unique by having so much of that film be portrayed with screens on the cinema screen: the opening montage was just brilliant. I never thought that the movie portrayed through social media and technology (screens within the screen) could be so compelling and intense.

In short, Crazy Rich Asians and Searching were two films that not only did a lot in terms of representing an underappreciated group of actors and audiences but were just great movies in general!

Rate: both at 4.5/5

Trailers: Crazy Rich Asians trailer | Searching trailer

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Movie review: Star Trek Beyond

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to another blockbuster review of this summer! This time, we’re talking about a film which I was really excited about and couldn’t wait to see – Star Trek Beyond! So, let’s go!

IMDb summary: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

Star Trek Reboot

I am not familiar with the original Star Trek films or the various TV shows, however, I have seen the rebooted movie and its sequel numerous times and absolutely loved it. I even think that Star Trek was the first space-opera type of a franchise that I fell in love with – yes, that means that Star Wars came in 2nd. I might not know all the references and Easter Eggs but I don’t think that you need that knowledge to enjoy the new movies. J.J.Abrams’s direction for franchise made it extremely accessible. I kinda wished that Abrams would have returned to direct the 3rd film, but I kept an open mind and really wanted to see what would Justin Lin do with the property. The casting choices, since the first film in 2009 were also great. I was really happy to find out that Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joined the cast for Beyond.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writing

Star Trek Beyond was written by a TV scriptwriter Doug Jung and a member of U.S.S. Enterprise crew himself – Simon Pegg a.k.a Montgomery Scott. Pegg has some writing experience – he co-wrote Edgar Wright’s Ice Cream Trilogy – Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy also know as the satirical look at British life or the best comedic franchise ever. Overall, I did enjoy the story of Beyond and loved the different aspects of it, especially the jokes. However, some ideas seemed really cliche.

Things I loved:

  1. The expansion of the universe – we got to see some more species of aliens and actually explored the deep space. We also got to see a new(old) ship and a new station.
  2. The references to the original continuity in the death of Ambassador Spock and that photo of the original cast.
  3. The fact that they had the guts to completely destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise – one of two most recognizable fictional ships in the world, other being the Millennium Falcon – in the first act.
  4. The villain with some genuine character development – Elba’s character had an actual motive to be angry at Federation. He also seemed pretty scary and efficient with that life-prolonging technology. I also liked the concept that his character introduced into the film – people born during the times of war will never be calm during peace.
  5. The different pairs of characters: Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, Spock and Bones, and Scotty and newly introduced Jaylah – the ending suggests that we will see more of her and I can’t wait to get more of her backstory. Bones’s and Spock’s duo was my favorite pair – loved their back and forth banter that was actually quite serious (‘ Fear of death is illogical. Fear of death is what keeps us alive.’) and the jokes (‘You gave her radioactive jewelry?’).
  6. The main idea of the film – strength comes from unity – was also nice, but, sadly, it sounds kinda ironical in today’s world.
  7. The dedications at the end. I liked that they dedicated the film to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and I also liked the different forms of dedication. Nimoy’s mention seemed official, so as to show respect for his long career and to acknowledge his importance to the Star Trek lore, while Yelchin’s dedication was more friend-like and simple, yet equally emotional.

Things that could have been improved:

  1. Beyond villain’s plan was very similar/ exactly the same as the plan of the Admiral in Into Darkness – they both wanted to start a war.
  2. The tiny ships acted liked bees and resembled a cloud – while it definitely looked cool it has been done numerous times and felt too repetitive.
  3. The solution how to destroy the bee ships with musical frequencies was kinda cheesy. However, Star Trek used to be a much less serious and more camp-y franchise in the previous century, so maybe it was a nod to that.

In general, I feel that Beyond had the simplest story of the new franchise because it didn’t create an alternative universe, like the 1st film did, or dealt with iconic characters, like Khan (2nd film). At the same time, it was a fine story on its own and, while some of the developments were kinda cliche, the others were really neat and unpredictable. However, if this narrative was done outside of the Star Trek brand, I don’t think that it would have turned out as good as this one did.

Directing

Justin Lin, of the Fast and the Furious franchise, directed the film and did a good job. Although, I did miss Abrams’s lens flares, I really liked the visuals that Lin created for Beyond. I loved the massive scale of the deep space and the architecture of Yorktown. The action was also exciting and energetic. As I have said, the tiny ships did look cool and were efficient in their job. The space CGI was breathtaking and flawless, but a few sequences of the ground could have been improved a bit more. Some of the motorcycle shots looked really fake. The ending montage, which showed the Enterprise being rebuild, accompanied with the traditional monolog, delivered by the whole crew, was a really nice way to end the picture. I would like to praise the make-up department for impeccable prosthetics for Elba’s character. The design of Boutella’s character was really cool as well but I wished it looked more alien because now she kinda seemed like a human with white and black foundation.

Acting

The whole cast did an amazing job. Chris Pine (Jack Rayn, Z for Zachariah, Into the Woods, The Finest Hours) shined once again as Captain James T. Kirk, can’t wait to see him in Wonder Woman since the comic-con trailer looks awesome. Zachary Quinto (Hitman) was perfectly logical with some tiny burst of emotion as Commander Spock, later this year he will appear in SnowdenKarl Urban (LOTR, Dredd ) was great as Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy, MD, and I’m looking forward to Urban joining the MCU.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) appeared as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, while Simon Pegg (Mission Impossible films) portrayed the Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott and both delivered nice performances. John Cho was amazing Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu and had quite an important supporting role, which I enjoyed. Seeing Anton Yelchin as annoying yet sweet Pavel Chekov was a really bittersweet moment. His sudden passing really shocked me and made me appreciate life a bit more.

The newcomers: Idris Elba (Prometheus, MCU, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Bastille DayBeasts of No Nation) as Krall and Sofia Boutella (Kingsman, upcoming The Mummy reboot) as Jaylah were also good. Elba was believable and threatening as a villain, while the inclusion of Boutella’s character opened a lot of possibilities.

In short, Star Trek Beyond was simple, yet fun and exciting addition to the Star Trek universe. The acting was great, the action exciting and the writing – amazing for the most part. I definitely recommend it to all the nerds who read my blog.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

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