Shazam! (2019)

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Everyone dreams of being a superhero. But what does it take to actually become one? Well, in the case of Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster kid looking for his mom, all it takes is uttering a single word: Shazam! Doing so transforms him into a grown man, with flight, super strength, hyper speed, and the ability to shoot lightning from his fingers. And yet this grown-up version of Billy retains his childlike mind, so, naturally, he does all the things a teenager with superpowers would actually do. Namely, show off for girls and make money. But he’ll have to grow up fast because there’s a villain on the loose, and he’s looking to take Billy’s powers, and use them for things far less innocent and fun. Can Billy and his foster family stop him in time? Watch the movie to find out. Continue reading

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First Man (2018)

Most of the time when I write a review, I start off with a synopsis of the work I’m discussing. But since the film I’m critiquing, First Man, is about the Apollo 11 Moon landing, an event that literally everyone on Earth knows about, I figured it’d be better to just save myself some time and launch into my thoughts on the filmmaking. Because, trust me, I have quite a few. Continue reading

Hope

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

The words “rape movie” and “heart-warming” don’t typically mesh well together. And yet, somehow, Lee Joon-ik’s Hope, a film about an 8-year-old girl named So-won getting raped and beaten, manages to be uplifting, rather than depressing. The reason it is able to is simple; it does not show the rape. People talk about it, and we see the victim after the event all bloody and bruised, but there is absolutely no onscreen violence in this film. Instead, the movie focuses on how a victim and her family can recover and rebuild after such a horrible calamity. It shows the protagonist undergoing therapy, both mental and physical, it shows the stages of grief, guilt and gradual acceptance that her community progresses through, and it shows the acts of kindness that people show her to make her feel whole again. It is a beautiful movie about kindness, love, and healing, and it truly surprised me.

Now, before I go on, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I hate rape. I hate it more than murder. I hate it more than torture. To me, rape is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. You’re taking something that is fundamentally positive, sex, the act by which new life is created, and through which couples can make each other happy, and perverting it. You’re making it violent. You’re destroying something that is as sacred as life itself. And it sickens me that my country has decided to elect a man who brags–BRAGS–about raping and sexually assaulting women. Words cannot describe how disgusted and ashamed I feel. Rape victims in America are already treated terribly enough, with people often claiming that they “asked for it,” and politicians doing everything they can to eliminate access to women’s health care. But now, more than ever, I feel like rape victims will face an uphill battle to get the assistance and recognition they need. Because if a man who openly brags about raping people can get elected president, what’s to stop every sick pervert out there from openly indulging in their depraved, violent fantasies?

Rape in film is also something that I detest. As a screenwriter, I give myself certain rules while penning a script. One is no rape, or violence towards women. That rule came about after I realized that a shockingly high number of films use rape as a plot device to motivate male heroes to action. Death Wish, A Time To Kill, Gran Torino, Last House On The Left, I Saw The Devil, The Equalizer, all these films use the rape of a female character to convince male protagonists to fight the villains who hurt these women. And while it is usually cathartic to see the rapists get their just desserts, a disturbingly common trend in all these films is to disregard the victims’ trauma. Very rarely do we, the audience, get to see these victims experiencing PTSD, going through therapy, or having emotional and social problems. More often than not, they get raped, the hero sees them all beat up and hurt, he goes on a killing spree, and maybe, at the end, we get one shot of the victim in the hospital, or smiling and acting happy again. But that’s not how it happens. Killing a rapist doesn’t instantly make their victim feel better. In many, if not all cases, the victims are emotionally and psychologically scarred, and they are fundamentally changed for the rest of their lives.

That’s why I like Hope so much. It doesn’t write off the victim’s trauma. It explores it. Literally the entire film is about So-won, her family, her friends and the community at large confronting what happened to her, and trying to heal. It shows her experiencing PTSD. It shows her going through therapy. It shows her having emotional and social problems, especially with her father. It doesn’t reduce her to the level of “male character’s possession that was damaged and now needs to be avenged.” No. She is a person, with thoughts, and interests and feelings, and she is trying to recover from a horrific event. And I love the movie for that. It treats its subject matter with the maturity and respect it deserves.

So, even if you hate seeing rape in movies, as I do, I really think you should give Hope a look. It’s well-acted, well-written, and it treats its source material with the respect it deserves. It’s an 8 out of 10.

A Picture Of You (Film Review)

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

We don’t like to think about it, but everyone, even our closest family members, keep secrets from us. Especially when it comes to sex. Various directors have sought to tackle this topic, and one that, in my opinion, has done so rather well, is JP Chan, whom wrote and directed the subject of today’s post, A Picture Of You. The story of two estranged siblings, Jen and Kyle, clearing out their deceased mother’s house, and discovering some rather raunchy pictures of her, the movie is touching, poignant, and exceptionally well-acted. This latter fact is especially important. See, small indie films like this tend to have miniscule budgets, and therefore depend on their actors to carry the story and make it interesting. Jo Mei and Andrew Pang, whom portray Jen and Kyle respectively, do absolutely superb jobs, showing a wide range of emotions, and really capturing the pain that these people are going through, while remaining very subtle and realistic with their performances. The subtlety and realism are key because, I might not like to admit it but,very often, Asian-American films like The Joy Luck Club and White Frog tend to have slightly over-the top stories and acting. Not here. This film is a perfect work of realism. What I mean by that is, there are no coincidences in the story, no unessential elements, every major character has an ark, every plot thread is tied up by the end of the movie, and there is an obligatory scene where the pro and antagonists confront each other before the climax. These five elements are the defining features of realism, and this film certainly contains all of them. For this reason, as well as the touching story and stellar acting, I would highly recommend this movie to you all. It’s just become available on Netflix, and I would urge you to sit down and watch it.

But, before any of you accuse me of grading this film on a curve because it was written, directed by, and starring Asian people, I would like to make it clear that I do have problems with this movie. For starters, it suffers from what I like to call Return Of The King syndrome. This is when a movie has false endings, points where you think the filmmakers are about to wrap up, but then they decide to keep the story going for another few minutes. I don’t like it when directors do this but, to be fair, the false ending in A Picture Of You doesn’t really detract from the rest of the film, and since it’s not nearly as long as Return Of The King, you don’t really feel like it’s dragging on unnecessarily. The second major problem I had with this movie is that, for a film that’s been advertised as a comedy-drama, with emphasis being placed on comedy, it’s not really that funny. Oh sure, there are jokes sprinkled throughout the story, and I did get a few good chuckles in towards the end, but, for the most part, I thought the humor was a bit awkward. Like, the two main characters, Jen and Kyle, are Chinese-American, and there are several points where they try to make jokes about race and racism that just feel awkward. It’s not even that these jokes are offensive or anything, they just feel kind of forced. When you watch them, you just kind of roll your eyes and say, “Really? Was that necessary?” But, all that said, I don’t really feel like the lack of humor was that big an issue. Yes, this film is supposed to be a comedy drama, and it isn’t that funny, but the drama is so well-handled, the story is so engaging, and the acting is so good, that you can honestly forgive the lack of laughter.

So, again, I would highly recommend this film. It’s touching without being super sappy, it’s well-acted without being melodramatic, and even though it isn’t that funny, it’s still enjoyable as a drama. For that reason, I have decided to give A Picture Of You an 8 out of 10. Like I said before, it’s streaming on Netflix right now. Don’t hesitate to watch it!