Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

I feel like CRA is more of an experience than just a film. On the surface of things, it’s a snapshot of a totally different way of life, one I could never comprehend nor have a slice of – but it’s so much more than that. And as a white woman, I will never fully understand what it feels like to watch a mainstream Hollywood movie with a purely Asian cast (without a white character in sight to save the day, no less). From the live-action Ghost in the Shell to the remake of Old Boy (and everything in-between), white-washing is a very real thing and it’s completely unacceptable – so you’re damn right this is important.

Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, the film adaptation takes place mainly in Singapore, when the handsome Nick Young (Henry Golding) takes his girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) to attend the wedding of his best friend – and to finally meet his family. What Rachel doesn’t know is that her beau is rich – crazy rich – and his family is practically royalty.

“I love you in Tomorrow Never Dies, Ma…”

But how will Nick’s super traditional mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) take his relationship though? After all, Rachel is more or less a peasant and could never be good enough for her favourite boy. So, despite smarts and a fantastic job, kind Rachel is subjected to a series of humiliations and branded a gold digger by Singapore’s elite – something she is completely unprepared for.

Luckily, she has her old college mate Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) on hand for support as well as lovely Astrid (Gemma Chan), who has her own cross to bear in the form of a cheating husband. What follows Rachel’s arrival in Singapore is a luscious battle of wits as she find the inner courage to challenge the behaviour of Eleanor Young, who is hellbent on sabotaging Nick’s relationship, whatever the cost.

I had such a good time with this movie. It’s gorgeous to look like, obviously – all breath-taking location shots and designer wardrobes but it’s sweet too – corny in places – but also genuinely moving when it wants to be. The traditional values of Nick’s family are touching, though the stubborn need to keep everything in check is hard to comprehend – and Eleanor’s disregard for her son’s happiness is frustrating. Will there be a happy ending for our lovers?

I went to see this with my friend Helen who visited Singapore this year and has been to a number of the places featured, including the huge hotel with the pool on the roof. This made it even more special to her – for me it was nice and feel-good. It made me laugh where it wanted me to – Awkwafina is a good comedic actress and very different as Peik Lin to her character in Ocean’s Eight.

Fashion: a walk in the park for this trio

It’s also great to see Gemma Chan in such a choice role. I’ve seen her in a few TV bits over the years and I think she’s an angel. She definitely gave me the most feels as nice girl Astrid, who has to hide her extravagances from her rags to riches husband, who cannot deal with her vast wealth. So much so that he has to bang someone else. Her pain is hard to bear but her R-E-S-P-E-C-T moment as the end is very satisfying.

I love the whole cast really, and it’s good to see familiar faces pop up. Michelle Yeoh’s brittle Eleanor is bloody marvellous and her head-to-head with Rachel is very powerful. As for the central romance, it’s fine of course, you’re rooting for them as they’re both so deserving of their happy ending – but it’s standard popcorn love and not the main pull of the film for me.

Just a nice low-key wedding, yo

I would love to live my life in this decadence for just one day. Can you even imagine?

My Rating

4/5.

The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman (2017)

Directed by: Michael Gracey
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson

IMDB Synopsis

Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

*Minor spoilers*

OMG!

I have to admit that I avoided this film until the very last minute because I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was something in Michelle William’s cheesy grin in the trailer or the fact I wasn’t in a ‘musical mood’ – but I had no intention of seeing it.

Then I changed my mind and booked a ticket to see it straight after work. It had been a head-fucky kind of week full of training and my friend Amy came with me. I cried all the way through it to the very end.

It’s just so – feel good. The songs are amazing, the choreography is stunning – Zac Efron is a total fox and there’s the most gorgeous bearded lady. Its message – that everybody should be proud of who they are, well it’s right up my street. I’ve now seen it twice at the cinema, and one of those was a sing-along version.

Colour me obsessed.

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TGS tells the rags to riches story of P.T Barnum (Jackman), the visionary and Original Circus G. Supported by his insanely chill wife, Charity (Williams) he first purchases an old curiosity museum that doesn’t set the world on fire – then turns it into something altogether more interesting.

While I wouldn’t call what he has a full on freak show, the F word is one that is thrown around a lot by the ever-increasing anti-circus picket line. Really what Barnum has is a collection of talented and unique individuals who have been rejected by society. Unfortunately, Barnum’s head is turned when he meets the regal opera singer Jenny Lind (Ferguson) and, finally accepted by high society, he begins to believe his own hype as a showbiz big wig.

BIG MISTAKE.

Running parallel to the rise and fall of Barnum’s big tent empire, is the challenging love story between well-to-do playwright Phillip Carlyle (Efron) and trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Anne is poor and black – and Posh Victorian NYC isn’t down with mixed-race relationships thankyouverymuch. Phillip therefore must make a serious decision about his future if he’s to be with the one he loves – and that’s after he’s made a life-changing decision about his career, too. There are a couple of scenes between the Zendaya and Efron that blew me away, particularly during their song Rewrite the Stars.

In addition, I love every scene containing the so-called freaks, particularly Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle). She’s electrifying. The talent recruitment montage is great and I love the Hugh Jackman/Zac Efron bar scene more than life.

Every single song on the soundtrack is gorgeous, particularly Jenny Lind’s Never Enough (actually sung by Rebecca Allred). Mostly, I just like that a musical with such a positive message can still draw a crowd, it feels old-school and fun.

The Academy may have turned a blind eye except for Best Achievement in Music for the anthem This is Me but that’s okay. As much as I love the Oscars, sometimes it’s word on the street that’s the best reward you can get.

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My Rating

5/5.

It’s only late February and already two 5 Star films on the blog. See the second one here.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones

IMDB Synopsis

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

*Minor spoilers*

Hype is a dangerous thing, as Andy used to say – or something along those lines. But it is – and I’m not sure this beautiful, whimsical fairy tale quite lives up to it much as it pains me to say.

Elisa and Zelda are cleaners at a top secret government laboratory. They’ve been friends for years, comfortable and happy together in their familiar routine. Elisa lives alone, in a crumbling tenement block where she also adheres to her own rituals, everything just so. She also lives next door to her BFF, closeted Giles, a struggling commercial artist who she likes to take care of.

One day Elisa (Hawkins) and Zelda (Spencer) become inadvertently involved in some secretive goings on that change all of their lives forever. There are goodies and baddies here, spies and monsters – but above all there is love and sometimes that’s all you need. Am I right?

The Shape of Water is lovely. Certain segments are pure magic and the performances are really something. That Sally Hawkins can convey so much without uttering a word is sensational. I’ve had a soft spot for her since she played Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky. Octavia is also flawless and the women’s chemistry is touching.

Shannon is text book Michael Shannon and I liked it, though I found I was less impressed that I usually am. Perhaps because he can play a role like this with his eyes closed – or because I’ve seen him do it so many times before? In direct contrast, the nervous babbling of Giles (Jenkins) works so well. He’s a coward who takes a giant leap of faith because he loves his friend, he is flawed and he is understanding – and Richard Jenkins is adorbs too.

The story itself isn’t that complex and I’m not going to go into it too much. I think if you’re reading this you already have a gist of what it’s all about. I came into the viewing knowing not much about the plot which may have helped me – I just wanted to be wowed.

My issue is with the pacing, with the length of the film and with some of the more talky elements. I wanted to spend more time with Amphibian Man, marveling at his perfect fishy butt. We get a lot of fish man action, don’t get me wrong but I wanted less old white Russians sitting around tables discussing him and more HIM.

Fish Face for the record is beautiful (and opens quite the discussion about whether one would do it with a fish under the same circumstances). The monster work is brilliant in terms of makeup and aesthetic, while Doug Jones’ lanky (yet graceful) presence is as good as ever.

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Oh, and the opening scene is pure Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It could have been ripped directly from Delicatessen – which is a good thing, I’m not adverse to a little (or a lot of) homage. I was also pleasantly surprised that although this is all about the love story, it’s also pretty hot. For all the whimsy, it’s also sexy and there’s a distinct darkness too.

All in all, this experience was strong but not exceptional.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Directed by: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

IMDB Synopsis

Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.

*Spoilers*

I’m going to crack on with this review without ranting about the central relationship too much. Take it as read that I hate the control element (in and out of the red room) and I find it difficult to watch (but not enough to avoid the films altogether clearly). It’s not clever or cute, it’s just straight up abuse.

We follow on from the events of Fifty Shades Darker (2016) as Christian and Anastasia tie the knot after their whirlwind romance. The wedding is a lavish yet tasteful affair (obvs) and the couple enjoy a cheeky little Parisian honeymoon shortly thereafter.

Things piss me off ten minutes into their newlywed montage when Christian gets shitty because Ana takes off her bikini top ON THE BEACH. His concern that everybody will be staring at his wife’s tits greatly flatters her, considering there are hundreds of equally fit women in the vicinity but whatever.

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Even though Christian acts like a buffoon, this is not the reason their trip is cut short, oh no. Ana’s stalker is back and causing mischief back in Seattle.

Oh my!

Back on home turf things are far from smooth sailing for the Greys but there’s always time for a quick rut. While the couple deal with the mystery of their stalker buddy and what the fuck he wants, they also argue about having kids and Anastasia’s general wilfulness. Get it girl.

How though, seriously do you marry a man without knowing his stance on having children first, Ana? I mean, it seems like kind of an important thing. Just me?

The sex itself seems hotter than before but it’s still repetitive af. Like, there’s not really that much variety. In fact genuinely the sexiest scene in the movie is the one in which Ana finally gets to drive the car home – and she gets to out drive the person tailing them.

My main beef with the film is this, in no particular order:

  • Why is Christian always so mad at Ana? (Rhetorical question). They’ve spent at least 50% of their relationship in a fight. It’s exhausting to watch, imagine being in it.
  • When Ana almost gets kidnapped and her husband victim shames her.
  • The scene when Christian Grey’s housekeeper tells Ana it’s time she starts thinking about how she’s going to run the house. Isn’t that your job, bitch? Also, she has a full-time job, why aren’t you saying the same thing to Mister Grey?
  • Christian Grey being all jealous about other men looking at Ana and yet still hiring THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN to be her personal bodyguard?
  • While we’re on the subject of Smithers or whatever, is he the worst security detail of all time? “Meet me in the library” wasn’t even a particularly inspired red herring and yet…
  • Rita Ora. Bore off, love.

The story line is ridiculously contrived, half-arsed and plain stupid but I didn’t hate this movie as much as I thought I would. There’s a butt-plug scene that’s quite amusing and I’d be lying if I said I’m not a sucker for Anastasia’s luxury upgrade. Her wardrobe is TDF!

It’s all very predictable and convenient but Foley ties it up nicely with a skip down memory lane. I almost got emotional until I remembered I don’t really care and I hate Christian.

PS. If I got ‘punished’ every time I rolled my eyes in a day, I wouldn’t be able to walk straight.

My Rating

2/5.