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It's really hard to talk about The Handmaiden without spoilers, but I'll try. It's based off of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, which was set in Victorian England's criminal underground. There's plot twists galore, some of it a little too off for me to buy it, and the second half kind of falters. But it was a pretty engaging book overall from what I remember of it. I actually think I like the movie a lot better, even though it's now set in Korea around the turn of the century, and there's a bunch of stuff that passes me by like the Korean/Japanese identity/hatred issues. It's also way weirder than the book. The actresses who play the protagonists are awesome, the scenery is stunning, and it's very unsentimental. It's currently free on Amazon Prime if you have it.

The Last Tycoon is available on Hulu, and it's in Mandarin. (The trailer is in Cantonese.) So...this is what I think happened. Wong Jing, the director, watched Inglorious Basterds. And he thought, this is great, but it needs something more. Like...a triad boss with a heart of gold and a tragic, doomed love story. Like LoveHKFilms asks, are you really a mobster if you eschew drugs, gambling, and prostitution in your business operations? Features Chow Yun Fat and Sammo Hung, being way better actors than this movie actually is. It's also soooo sappy, and each battle set piece is so epically drawn out.

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Don't Breathe

I don't normally watch scary movies, and I was only able to watch this one while also surfing the Internet. This movie is pretty sparse, and tight. It's about three young burglars in Detroit with not much of a future for them deciding to rob an Iraq war veteran who lives alone in an abandoned neighborhood and get more than they bargained for. I kind of question them casting three white kids in a movie set in in poverty-stricken Detroit, but whatever. Anyway, the main actress is pretty phenomenal. There's not much dialog, but what little she does say has a sort of weight to it. I wish horror/thriller movies would try to figure out a way to not make their characters do stupid things, like JUST FUCKING LEAVE AND DON'T LOOK BACK or MAKE SURE THE GUY IS DEAD before you leave, but otherwise it was pretty good.

Hidden Figures

I LOVE THIS MOVIE. EVERYBODY GO SEE THIS MOVIE. I totally bought the book after watching this with my husband. I love it for so many reasons: three smart black women, just doing what they do, "there's more than one way to fight", the camaraderie, the eloquent way they portrayed both macro and micro aggressions, their relationships with the men in their lives - not letting them get away with sexism and also, the men just do the chores WITH the women, and also, Octavia Spencer's character not letting Kirsten Dunst's character off the hook in the end. Seriously, this movie is good in so many ways. 

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about was Kevin Costner's character. 
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These are chick flicks:

Julie & Julia, based on the book of the same name:

Paper Heart, by Charlyne Yi, real life girlfriend of Michael Cera:

Post Grad, stars Alexis Bledel (former Gilmore Girl) as someone who just graduated and trying to find herself:

Apr. 30th, 2009 09:53 am

a dilemma

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Mark owes me a chick flick.

Fortunately for him, there are no good chick flicks in theaters right now, unless you count Obsessed (and I don't) or Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which looks dumb.

Any recommendations for chick flicks on DVD that we can rent? I like things like 10 Things I Hate About You (still one of my favorites ever) and Ever After: A Cinderella Story.
Apr. 9th, 2009 06:53 am


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I am kind of ambivalent about spoilers. Just so you're forewarned, this post is full of them and THERE ARE NO CUTS.

Sometimes I will go out of my way to avoid spoilers for certain shows I like. Unfortunately, I love the Internet, and the Internet loves all my favorite shows. I accept that one of the hazards of going on the Internet is finding out information about media I haven't consumed yet, even if I don't go out of my way looking for it. This is how I got spoiled for Sarah Connor even though I haven't watched the last two episodes.

So Kal Penn is taking a job with the Obama administration. Congratulations to him! But! He left the TV show House in a pretty spectacular way, by killing himself. NPR reported on this without including a spoiler alert, and they got earfuls from angry listeners who'd recorded the episode on their TiVo but hadn't watched it yet.

To which my reaction is, what fucking babies!

I wonder, how many of these people ever bothered to complain about anything else on NPR? The economy's going to pieces. Global warming is real. We have a black president now just finishing up his first European tour. Republicans are the minority now. Still assholes.

But I guess none of that compares to people's entitlement NOT to know something about a show.

The whole focus on spoilers bugs me because at some point in order to talk about a show, a book, or a movie in any significant way, you have to discuss what's actually in said media. Spoilers ruin plot points in the story but without that particular plot point the story does not exist.

It makes me want to go and buy that T-shirt with all the spoilers on it:

He's the DEAD person!
Luke is the father.
Romeo and Juliet die.
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No spoiler cuts, because these movies are over 20 years old.

Blade Runner: Director's Cut, or at the very least, A cut that was not the original theatrical release. No voiceover in this one. I actually don't remember the movie that much, so watching this was like seeing it for the first time. One of the interesting things about watching it was seeing the seeds being planted for things like Battlestar. Sentient robots with homicidal emotions! "Skinjobs"! Edward James Olmos! It was really good, though some parts dragged, like the unicorn dream, which didn't really make much sense.

The Heroic Trio, a Hong Kong female superhero movie. Man, I wish the Netflix discs had Cantonese subtitles. The dialog was so painful to listen to. Maybe next time I should just mute it. This movie stars Anita Mui (sadly passed), Michelle Yeoh (back when she was Michelle Khan), and Maggie Cheung as three superhero women fighting an evil eunuch who wants to take over the world. This movie is ultimate cheese - even the superhero costumes look pretty ghetto, like they just took some bedding and wrapped themselves with it. It feels like the entire movie is set in one giant warehouse - inexplicably, the hospital is also the nursery where babies are being inadequately protected by the bumbling Hong Kong police force. Plots make no sense. Anthony Wong was unrecognizable as a killing monster, but that's cause he didn't have any speaking lines. At one point the women's mode of transportation are horses, even though they live in the present. Science fiction is mixed with Chinese historical fantasy - there's a plot revolving around a scientifically invented invisible cloak, which the villain wants so he can rule the world. How he rules the world from a sewer is anyone's guess.

If I were 10 I would have loved this movie. As it is, I'm just amused and completely baffled by it.
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One of the best things about Los Angeles is the Arclight. It's movie-going for adults. There's assigned seating, so if you show up five minutes before the show starts, you're not scrambling to find a seat for you or dealing with people who throw jackets on a whole row saving them for people who never come. There are no advertisements. There are, at most, three or four movie trailers, and every time before a movie starts, one of the ushers asks people in a nice voice to turn off their cell phones. They also have popcorn with real butter. Since we've started going here, we haven't watched movies anywhere else but on our TV.

Anyway, they also offer over 21 screenings where you can order alcohol to go with your movie, and being a member has a few perks, including seeing some special screenings, such as Gonzo, a documentary about the life and works of Hunter S. Thompson. (There was a short Q&A with the producer afterwards.) His life is mostly told through the people who knew him reading his works. It works, because his writing is very, very good.

One of the most interesting things I learned in this movie was that Thompson taught himself to write by copying out The Great Gatsby over and over again. Now that's dedication to craft.

The documentary mostly focuses on Thompson's early career, where he did his strongest writing and went through the craziness of the sixties and seventies. It's fun to see footage of Thompson interspersed with Depp's interpretation of him in the movie Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and fascinating to see how very little was exaggerated about Thompson's persona, and how he eventually became a prisoner of that persona and his fame. Listening to him complain about the American elections is like deja vu - the exact same sentences could be used to describe the system today, and it's depressing to realize how relevant his writing still is.

At the same time, he was also an insufferable, infantile, humorless bastard who let his ego and his selfishness get the best of him. It seems that he hit his peak with his work in the seventies, and never recovered that same level of greatness - the drugs and booze and failed marriage may have all had something to do with it. Or maybe it was just him.

The documentary is great at capturing his personality, helped along by plenty of original footage of him on the campaign trail, talking to the press in wigs, and making funny statements to TV show hosts. He was all about the "freaks", and that's definitely something we could use more of.

One of the things I hated about watching this movie was watching him type. I wanted his typewriter, but I wanted to yell at him to learn to type. He would slowly dab at the typewriter with one finger, and it drove me mad! I wonder how the hell he managed to bang out sixty page tomes for his assignments at that slow speed.

Anyway, this documentary's enjoying limited release in 25 theaters across the country July 4th weekend. I recommend it if you're a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, or if you really like hearing good writing being read aloud by Johnny Depp.
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I was looking forward to seeing Ab-normal Beauty, because it's an indie-ish Cantonese film directed by Oxide Pang, who's been kind of famous lately for films like The Eye. There will be spoilers for this review because I can't believe how dumb this movie is, yet the movie is so highly acclaimed. Don't rent this thing.

I thought Ab-normal Beauty was going to be a thriller and kind of scary. There was also a big fuss made because the two female main characters are lesbians played by real-life sisters Race and Rosanne Wong. In real-life they are also the musical duo 2R, which seems to be famous for "not being the squeaky-clean Twins" (though the Twins, in addition to being tone-deaf, are not so squeaky-clean anymore due to the Edison Chen scandal).

Instead, Ab-normal Beauty is a beautifully-shot movie revolving around cliche after offensive cliche. Race plays Jiney, a "great-by-standards-of-the-movie" photographer who one day becomes obsessed with taking pictures of death. Such obsession is deemed bad luck by Rosanne, who plays Jas, and she becomes increasingly concerned, as Jiney's obsession spirals out of control. (So Jiney is discovering she's kind of a goth. So what?) It turns out that Jiney's obsession is all about the trauma of a rape by her cousin that happened to her as a child, and her mom didn't believe her, and, also, that's why she's a LESBIAN NOW and WON'T EVER LIKE BOYS.

There are several flashbacks to that one incident of trauma, and eventually she gets her courage to tell her mom what really happened, which is a technique that I could have sworn happened several times in SailorMoon. You think the movie is over, but no.

Then she gets stalked and kidnapped by some guy in S&M fetish gear who in the context of the movie was there for all of five seconds, so when the reveal happens, you're wondering who the hell he is. Of course, Jas has died by the hands of the fetish guy because she's a LESBIAN with no trauma.

Oh, and the whole sisters-who-play-lovers thing was so overplayed. I couldn't tell for most of the movie that they were supposed to be dating, because they were affectionate with each other in the way that girls in Hong Kong and China are generally affectionate with each other - holding hands, hugging, etc. (When I was in China, this kind of weirded me out, but by now I've gotten used to it.) They didn't even kiss in the movie at all, and the only indication of anything other than sisterly affection is when Jas gets jealous of Jiney for hanging out with a guy who has a crush on her.

Anyway, most reviews of the movie I've seen indicate that they like the first 2/3 of the movie, where Jiney confronts her demons, and get confused and offended by the last part, which they feel is kind of exploitative. Whereas I think the last part is the only part where anything interesting happens. This should have been a full-on ghost story or a full-on stalker/kidnapper story. As a result, neither story is actually compelling.
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TCM to Present RACE AND HOLLYWOOD: ASIAN IMAGES IN FILM for the month of June.

So far I've set the TiVo to record: Shanghai Express, Charlie Chan at the Circus, and Charlie Chan in Honolulu.

The last week is weak, though. Rush Hour 2? Joy Luck Club? Mr. Baseball? Isn't that a movie about Tom Selleck?
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  •  Crash - Not the recent one, the David Cronenberg one about people who fetishize car accidents. James Spader is in it, so we had to watch. This is one completely skeezy movie, and one where I missed half the dialog because I couldn't hear it even though we turned it up really loud. It's hard to like this movie, but I don't think I'd call it bad. It is definitely completely ridiculous. Also, it includes James Spader doing another dude!
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I liked the original movies. This one was half an hour too long, corny even by Indiana Jones standards, and overly referential to the previous movies. Nevertheless, Cate Blanchett was awesome as the Russian spy, and the part with the killer ants was appropriately disgusting. Shia LaBeouf (will he get a real name already) was okay in it, though occasionally irritating.
  • Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - I think the Chronicles of Narnia series suffers from 1. the awesomeness of the Lord of the Rings movies, and 2. weaker stories in general. I read the Narnia series only recently, and they really don't hold up that well compared to Lord of the Rings. There's too many plot points that don't make sense - like, why are these kids so special? And doesn't it suck that the whole reason for their existence in Narnia is so they can learn some lessons to bring with them to the outside world? The CG could have been better, the acting was decent, and plotwise if you think about it, it doesn't really make sense. We also find out that the two oldest kids are not going back to Narnia, but it's a much better reason than the one in the book where Susan doesn't get to go back because she's discovered boys.
  • College Road Trip - My niece wanted to see it. She has been raised on the Disney Channel; it is true. So she is used to this kind of "humor" and "emoting". Raven-Symone acts for about five seconds, but the rest of the time she's screeching and yelling all her lines. Martin Lawrence is so, so sad. The last part was even more stupid than I thought possible.
  • The Grace Lee Project - Mark laughed his ass off when I told him about this. The director, one Grace Lee, sets out to find out who all the other Grace Lees are, and if they conform to the stereotypes of being "quiet", "soft-spoken", "gets good grades", "good Christian", "good girl", etc. And a lot of them do, but there's more to them than just that. There are a range of Grace Lees, from the Korean lesbian  to the hardcore Christian girl to an adopted woman who took in her friend and kids who were being abused. It's an amusing hour of ruminating on the Asian-American identity.
  • Baby Mama - Mildly funny and predictable. The whole surrogacy plot resolution was such a cop-out and it just made me feel like the writers thought the whole thing was too "icky" to deal with in reality. Surprise great performances by Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver, though. (Am I the only one who thinks she looks like the older version of Summer Glau?)
Apr. 29th, 2008 08:00 am


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West Bank Story is a short musical comedy about an unlikely couple who fall in love despite the fact that Fatima is Palestinian and David is an Israeli soldier and their families own competing falafel stands that are right next to each other. As you can tell from the title, it riffs off of West Side Story.

It is so cute!

I TiVoed it on the Sundance Channel. I didn't really have any expectations for it, and I actually thought it was a documentary or something serious. It was a really pleasant surprise - the songs are funny, everyone sings really well, and it has a hopeful, simple message. People may criticize it for being too simplistic and unrealistic, and I'm sure at one point people are going to say it's biased in favor of the Israelis, or the Palestinians, but the truth is, both sides get about the same amount of screen time, and are portrayed pretty sympathetically. And the casting is pretty careful, too - all are professional actors in American television and movies, so I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for them.

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay - I laughed, but I prefer the first one. After I watched this one, I later realized that a bunch of the jokes were a rehash from the first one. They added a love interest for Kumar, and one of the nerdiest, silliest, poems ever. Some of the scenes were great, like when they get lost and find a bunch of black people playing basketball and they get scared of them and run off, when they're only trying to help them. The bag of marijuana is back and anatomically correct. The love interests are mostly still bland and don't do much for the story. Most of the jokes with Rob Corddry fell a little flat, even though I like him, because it felt like they were trying too hard.
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I love Wikiquote.

More fake non-fiction
- Bringing Down the House is a book that we actually own. Mark read it and really liked it; I got halfway through it and got distracted, so I can't really tell you if it's good reading or not. I found this article interesting in light of the minor uproar over the movie "21", in which a white lead was cast and a couple of Asian tokens were added in to support the cast. There's even a group on Facebook asking people to boycott the movie.

It makes me wonder how much of this claim was actually true, that's been cited all over the place to support the contention that Hollywood was being intentionally biased in their casting for the movie: "Second, according to the non-fiction book, the team’s Asian ethnicities were central to the plot and their ability to gamble huge amounts of money without notice."

If a lot of the stuff in the book never happened and was only added to make it "more readable", then what's to stop him from lying about everything else?
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I loved the opening sequence with the parkour guy. And yes, I totally fell for David Craig by the end even if at first I thought he was kind of ugly.

Although I have one question:

If James Bond is supposed to be the epitome of masculinity, why does he order a vodka martini? Everyone knows real martinis are made with gin.

I think one of the reasons I never really got into the James Bond movies that much is because the girls always die. If not in the present movie, then in the sequel. This one was no different. And for the most part, with maybe the exception of Michelle Yeoh, they are totally useless.

I leave you with the motorcycle stunt scene Yeoh did for Supercop:

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Fellini's Satyricon?

One of the weirdest movies I've seen. And Mark makes me watch David Lynch stuff.
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We spent the whole weekend packing. We have some stuff left out for things such as cooking, but overall, the majority is done. Some things I learned: 1. I have even more books and magazines than I thought, 2. we both have a lot of random stuff that doesn't really fit anywhere, 3. moving companies give out very poor-quality tape. In the meantime, during a break from packing, we sat down to watch The Host, a Korean version of Godzilla, and dude, it is infinitely better than Cloverfield. It's charming, funny, heartbreaking, with dysfunctional but lovable characters. It's even got political commentary that isn't annoyingly shoved in your face. Rent it!

(Note: Yay Obama!)

Meanwhile, here's some pretty stuff to check out:

Rust Belt
makes jewelry sourced from re-purposed materials. Environmentally friendly and pretty!
Crybabys Boutique sells some really cute fabric.
Paul & Joe have some lovely desktop wallpaper.
This ring pistol is very cool.

(All taken from NotCot.)
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Juno - It was a very cute movie! I didn't know this at first, but it was directed by Jason Reitman, who also directed and wrote the very funny and scathing Thank You for Smoking. There's been kind of a backlash against it for being too precious and too quirky, but who cares? It was funny and well-written, the actors were great and the movie entertained me and wasn't 3 hours long. I love the soundtrack. (Slightly geeky note: Ellen Page was in X-Men 3 as Kitty Pryde.)

We got a whole bunch of DVDs for Christmas, and I've been slowly savoring them.

The Pixar Shorts - I've always loved the Pixar shorts that they've shown with the feature films. One of the special features is a documentary about the history of Pixar and how it came up with the various shorts. John Lasseter is there from the beginning as the animator, and it's amazing to see what they came up with based on really limited resources. Re-watching the shorts, I'm just delighted again and again, not just by the great, natural-looking animation - most of it's aged pretty well -  the little stories they depict are so moving and so full of life and genuine emotion. I'd pay to watch these in a theater again, any time.

Knocked Up - We actually got this for someone for Christmas, but found out that somebody else had got him the same thing, so I kept this for ourselves. I'd forgotten how hilarious this is. There are a ton of bonus features and footage. My favorite is Dr. Kuni Goes Wild (warning: graphic language about pregnancy):

Dr. Kuni is played by Ken Jeong, who is also a real doctor, which makes the scene even funnier. (I tried searching for the video in Google and Youtube, but no dice. Hmm...I wonder if they pulled it...)
Aug. 16th, 2007 09:18 pm


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Jet Li vs. Jason Statham

Cannot wait.
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