Roman J Israel Esq. (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Roman J Israel Esq. is a Civil Rights lawyer whose been fighting the good fight for decades. He’s brilliant with legal minutia, but terrible with people. Which is probably why, at his two person law firm, his partner makes all the court appearances, and he does all the behind-the-scenes research. But what happens when his partner dies, and he’s left with no money, and no real connections? Well, he finds himself going to work for a big evil law firm, and engaging in some less-than-savory practices to survive. Will there be any repercussions? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

If you know me in real life, you know that Denzel Washington is my favorite actor of all time. The dude is a maverick. He can take on any role–from a corrupt LAPD detective, to an alcoholic pilot, to a Civil Rights Leader, to an officer on a submarine–make it his own, and deliver an Oscar-worthy performance. And he’s not too shabby as a director as well. Just look at Fences, and you’ll see what I mean. So whenever I hear he’s got a new movie coming out, I’m hooked. I’m there. Doesn’t matter what it is–literally, the dude has been in every genre, from action, to drama, to sci-fi, to horror–I’ll go see it, as long as he’s there. That’s why I paid to watch Roman J Israel Esq.; Denzel Washington. Because, I’ll tell you, the trailers didn’t look that interesting, and word on the internet wasn’t leaving me too excited. Still, I decided to give it a chance. Maybe I’d be wrong. Maybe it’d be good. And now, having seen it, all I can say is… Meh.

Starting out with the positives; Denzel Washington. He’s terrific. I know that’s pretty much a-given, but, the man really is at the top of his game, all the time. His character is totally different from Malcolm X, Trip, Captain Whittaker, Alonzo Harris, or any of the other people I’ve seen him portray, and I genuinely bought him in the role. Really all the actors in this movie–Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo–do great jobs. And the film looks and sounds great. It’s a competently-crafted movie.

Beyond that, though, I can’t really recommend this movie. It’s extremely slow, and boring. The main plot– Roman revealing a criminal’s location to a mob in exchange for some money–doesn’t come about until  40 minutes in, and there are a ton of scenes, like Roman getting robbed, or him coming across a seemingly dead homeless man, that never get brought up again, and have no impact on the larger story at all. The film is also very inconsistent with regards to Colin Farell’s character; one minute, he’s the devil incarnate, the next minute, he wants to fight the good fight. It really threw me off, and took me out of the picture.

So, in the end, despite some good production values, and Denzel Washington, I can’t recommend this movie to you all. It’s just kind of boring.


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The name, And Views Are My Game.

Once upon a time, the Western was king of American cinema. Films like The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid, and A Fist Full Of Dollars thrilled audiences with their epic scope, riveting action, and tough as nails protagonists. An entire generation of American movie-goers grew up with bar brawls, gun fights and stage coach robberies as their primary means of escape. But, as time went on, the Western began to fall out of fashion. Perhaps it was due to an increase in the cost of production. Perhaps it was born out of people’s changing sensibilities. Whatever the case, the Western became a thing of the past, and, for years, very few filmmakers dared touch it. There were exceptions, of course, like in the 90s, when Westerns like Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves became huge hits, even winning Best Picture at the Oscars. But these films were as much deconstructions of the Western genre as they were examples of it. It wasn’t until more recently with films like True Grit and Django Unchained that directors tried to make traditional, true-blue westerns again. This year’s remake of The Magnificent Seven is another attempt to shoot some life back into the long-dormant Western genre. And, having just seen the film myself, I can tell you, they just might be able to with this picture.

A remake of the 1960s Western, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven tells the story of a small town being oppressed by a group of bandits. Fed up with their squalid living conditions, the townsfolk hire a group of gunslingers, led by Denzel Washington, to liberate them. As the seven train and interact with the local community, they grow closer, not just to each other, but with the people they’re defending. In the end, they must stand against the full force of the bandits and their army, and hopefully drive them off for good. This is a story that’s been told a million times before, even in kids movies–seriously, A Bug’s Life is a remake of Seven Samurai–but that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, or well-done,and this version of The Magnificent Seven is both.

You’ve got an all-star cast giving their A-game, and some very impressive production values in this film. Not only that, the movie moves very quickly. There are no wasted scenes in this picture, and when the time comes for big, Western-style action,it’s handled very well. There are two absolutely awesome gunfights, one towards the middle, and one at the climax, that took my breath away. They were intense. They were engaging. Everything was clear. Nothing was shaky. If nothing else, this movie is entertaining. And, as i said, the performances given by the seven lead actors–Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-Hun, Manuel-Garcia Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeir–are very good. Their chemistry is real, and their dynamic is engaging. If you just want to go to the movies, and have a good time, this is the film for you. It’s entertaining, undemanding, and unoffensive.

That being said, I did have problems with the movie. For starters, the villain is very weak. He’s your typical evil businessman who simply wants to get rich and oppress people. There’s never a scene where he’s given some humanity, or where he’s allowed to do anything besides act evil. Which is fine. He works for the film, and for the Western genre, which isn’t famed for it’s groundbreaking character development. But, still, all my writing professors tell me that the best villains are the ones that you can kind of get behind–the Joker in The Dark Knight comes to mind when I hear this–and I honestly couldn’t ever get behind The Magnificent Seven’s big bad. To tell you the truth, nothing about him really stood out, besides the actor portraying him’s extremely slimy performance. On top of this, you don’t really get to know any of the heroes that well either. As I sated earlier, this film is very fast-paced, which, again, for the vibe the director was going for–fun, mindless action–works just fine. But when you compare it to the original Seven Samurai, which is almost four hours long, and which spends at least an hour and a half of screen time to developing the various villagers and samurai’s relationships and backstories, this version comes off as kind of hollow. There’s one scene in Seven Samurai where the samurai and a villager, Rikichi, go to ambush the bandits’ camp. They set the camp on fire, but, at the last moment, see Rikichi’s wife, whom it was hinted at earlier in the story was taken away. She looks utterly broken at having been used as the bandits’ sexual plaything, and when she locks eyes with her husband, she is so ashamed that she jumps into the fire, rather than face him again. There’s no dialogue in this scene, but it’s extremely powerful. It still haunts me to this day. There wasn’t anything like that in this version of The Magnificent Seven. Which, like I said, is fine. This film’s tone is considerably more light-hearted and fun, and the movie itself is a lot more action-heavy. Still, it didn’t move me in anyway, and I honestly don’t think I’ll remember it for years and years.

But, all in all, the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven is well-acted, competently-crafted, and very entertaining. So, I would recommend you all watch it. It’s a 7.5 out of 10. Give it a look.

List Of Awesome Asian-American Films

If you follow my blog, then you know that the inclusion and representation of Asians in mainstream media is something that’s very important to me. I’ve written at great length here about the limited roles that are available for Asian actors, and discussed the stereotypes that exist, and are still spread about us, in the West. But what I might not have mentioned is that, for all the bad that’s out there with regards to representation, there is also some good. There are films out there, made by Asians and non-Asian alike, that show us as nuanced, well-rounded individuals, and that tell our stories with respect and care. A few of them have even become critically and financially successful, and today, I’d like to share them with you all. Now, keep in mind, this list is entirely opinion based, and the films I discuss here are not being ordered from best to worst, or vice versa. Some are comedies. Some are dramas. Some are new. Some are old. Whatever their genre or time period, what’s consistent about each of them is that they tell the Asian American story with the level of respect and complexity that it deserves, and I truly believe that you all would enjoy yourselves if you gave them a look. With that said, let’s dive right in to my top 10 list of Awesome Asian-American films! Continue reading