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: Terminator Genisys

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer of sequels and review Terminator Genisys.

I am a kid of the 90s (I was born in late 90s), so I grew up watching Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mission Impossible on TV in the early 2000s. During this summer, we are getting sequels to all 3 of my childhood franchises. Jurassic World was normal (financially successful, a flop with the fans (review)). Sadly, Terminator Genisys is a double flop. So maybe Mission Impossible Rogue Nation will succeed in every aspect? We will find out in August. Anyway, let’s stay on topic and review the film which should be terminated.

Also, if you still plan to watch this film, don’t watch the trailer. The biggest twist and practically all cool action scenes are spoiled in the trailer.

IMDb summary: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

Timeline

The timeline of Terminator films was complicated without this 5th installment but Genisys decided to mess it up completely. Don’t think about this movie in terms of other films – it’s impossible to put it in a timeline, so that it would make sense. You can watch the original James Cameron’s films in order to understand the Easter Eggs but the T1 and T2 won’t help you to understand the plot of T5 at all. However, if you think about this film as stand alone one (a reboot, a new beginning and so forth), it doesn’t makes sense as well. It relies too heavily on the originals but tries too hard change everything and misses the mark. The multiverse and time travelling are tricky things to do and, while I applaud the creators’ efforts, the results are bad. I hope The Flash season 2 will deal better with multiverse.

Reboot

Some people say that this is the 5th film of the franchise, some think it’s a reboot. For me, it’s somewhere in-between. The movie’s plot is definitely different – they tried to do a mash-up of T1’s and T2’s plots with some unnecessary twists added. Basically, they wanted this film to be a new generation’s version of Judgement Day. I have no idea why they wished to remake a perfect movie, by making it worse.

In addition, if you treat this as a reboot, why do you cast the same actors? The Connors have always changed in between movies, so it’s okay to recast them for a reboot, but why keep Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character? I know he is iconic but if you want a fresh start, you have to leave everything behind, even your icons.

Acting/Character by character

Since I am a teenager/young adult, I should like younger actors more, but this time the old Arnold was the best one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/The Terminator – was the best character. His action scenes were the coolest – after all these years he still looks like a bad ass. His comedic timing was also great – the joke about smile worked for me.

Jason Clarke as John Connor was okay. Nothing too good but definitely not bad either. If his reveal wasn’t spoiled in the trailer, the movie would have been more enoyable and interesting for sure.  

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I am a fan of Clarke, I love her on Game Of Thrones but she is no Linda Hamilton. However, I warmed up to her by the end of the film, she won me over but it took some time.

P.S. The Clarkes were playing The Connors – I’ve only noticed that now.

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney has been getting a lot of work recently, but I still haven’t seen him in a role which he would truly make it his own. He was functional in Divergent and Insurgent (review), he didn’t stick to me in Unbroken (review), but I hope he will be awesome in Suicide Squad! (Have you seen the trailer?)

Courtney and Clarke really lacked chemistry at first, but they got there by the end of the film. Their pair and Arnold’s character made for an awesomely awkward trio.

Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 brought some diversity to the film but I still prefer Robert Patrick in the role. I also was surprised how quickly they defeated him, when it took them the whole T2 to do the same.

J. K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien wasn’t a character but a plot device. But J.K. Simmons, being the master of acting he is, was great in the role. His comedy was nice too.

Matt Smith had a small role, which I don’t wan to spoil. I have only seen a few episodes of the Doctor Who, but after seeing what Matt Smith can do with 5 lines, I’m maybe more interested to try my hand at Doctor Who one more time.Regarding this film, I’ll only say this – if Smith’s role was bigger, the film might have been much better. 

Effects

The CGI looked terrible in some places (young Arnold *facepalm*), but really good in others (John Connor’s robotic body). T-1000 looked cool too, but he looked the same 24 years ago, so that isn’t a big compliment. Action scenes were okay too, they actually were the best part of the film because they did not require any explanation. And when this movie tried to explain something, it starter to sink like a Titanic. Or even faster than a Titanic.

Screenplay

The screenplay was the worst part of the film. The plot made absolutely no sense. I tried to follow it so hard in the first 30 minutes but then just gave up. My dad was napping the whole movie, because he wasn’t able to follow the plot too and then simply did not know what was happening and was snoozing because of boredom. I don’t know if a screenplay by a Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier was really that bad already or did a studio altered it way too much. Kalogridis was an executive producer on Avatar and Lussier wrote a few horror movies, but both of them aren’t really established writers, so maybe that was the problem.

However, I will give them credit for introducing the theme of humanity’s dependence on technology. Genisys app looked like an interesting device but we only had tiny bits of information about it. If the film focused more on the actual technology and less time on time travel and family dynamics, it might have been a really great motion picture.

Directing 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor – he has only directed 5 movies, including Thor 2, which I liked but a lot of people had mixed reactions to it. However, Taylor directed a lot of TV shows, like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. To my mind, after this flop, he won’t be making any movies moving forward, but I hope that he will be able to get some work on TV.

All in all, I loved Arnold as the Terminator once more, the action and acting was tolerable, the plot lacked focus but wrapped itself up nicely, although, it made no sense to begin with.  I advise you not to waste your time on this film or if you do decide to see it – have very low expectations. Mine were too high. I believe that this film will be a huge box office flop and although 6th and 7th installments are slated for 2017 and 2018, I won’t believe that they will be happening, at least not with this creative team. Maybe if James Cameron had the rights back, we would actually get a good Terminator film in the 21st century.

Rate: 3.25/5 

Trailer: (spoiler-y) Terminator Genisys trailer

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