Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Thoughts on Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

BirdmanFrom filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) comes this dark comedy about a past his prime actor trying to prove himself.  Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a former Hollywood movie star, who was famous two decades ago for playing a superhero named “Birdman.”  Riggan is trying to prove himself as a serious actor by directing and starring in a theatrical adaptation of Raymond Carver's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," which is produced by his friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) and co-stars self-absorbed Broadway actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) and first-time actress Lesley (Naomi Watts), with Riggan’s recovering drug addict of a daughter Sam (Emma Stone) acting as an assistant.  As the play goes through a disastrous series of previews leading to opening night, Riggan finds himself constantly taunted by his Birdman alter-ego.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Thoughts on Dumb and Dumber To

DumbandDumberToJim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reunite with the Farrelly Brothers for this sequel to the 1994 hit comedy Dumb and Dumber.  Lloyd (Carrey) reunites with Harry (Daniels) after spending two decades in a care home, as part of an extended gag.  Harry tells Lloyd that he needs to have a kidney transplant and that they need to find a donor.  By pure happenstance, Harry finds a postcard (dated 1991) from his ex-girlfriend Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) saying that she is pregnant.  Harry and Lloyd find out from Fraida that her daughter, named Penny (Rachel Melvin), was given up for adoption.  Harry and Lloyd then sets off on a cross-country road to find Penny, so she could be Harry’s donor.

Along with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask, the original Dumb and Dumber was one of the three 1994 comedies that helped to propel Jim Carrey to superstardom.  That said, it can be safe to say that nobody was particularly asking for a sequel, especially after the somewhat disastrous 2003 prequel Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.  Of course, that film was a pure cash-in, which had the involvement of neither the Farrelly Brothers nor Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, all of whom are back for this twenty years later follow-up.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reel Asian 2014: Wrap-Up

reelasian2014

This year was my second year covering the Reel Asian Film Festival.  Altogether, I ended seeing 16 features, which is exactly double the number of films I saw at the festival last year.  One thing I noticed from this year’s Reel Asian line-up was the number of documentaries that were part of the line-up, with me seeing no less than five over the course of the festival.  I look forward to continuing to covering the festival in the years to come.

Here are my Top 5 Films of the festival

Reel Asian 2014: Monsoon Shootout

MonsoonShootout

Adi (Vijay Varma) is a rookie police officer in Mumbai, who is assigned by his superior officer Khan (Neeraj Kabi) to help seek out an axe-wielding hit man named Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who is working for a gangster known as the Slum Lord.  On one extremely rainy night, Adi chases down Shiva and corners him in an alley.  Adi is now left with the decision whether or not to shoot Shiva, though it quickly turns out that all actions have their consequences.

Reel Asian 2014: Brahmin Bulls

BrahminBulls

Sid Sharma (Sendhil Ramamurthy) is a man at the crossroads of his life, as his marriage falls apart and his career as an architect doesn’t go as planned.  One day, Sid is visited by his estranged father Ashok (Roshan Seth), who has traveled from Boston to Los Angeles for a conference, which happens to have Ashok’s former flame Helen West (Mary Steenburgen) as a speaker.  Over the course of the next few days, Sid and Ashok slowly begin to mend their differences.

Reel Asian 2014: Overheard 3

Overheard3

For decades, development in Hong Kong’s New Territories were kept stable by the Ding House Policy, which allowed Dings (male heirs) to build houses on premium free land. However, according to Uncle To (Kenneth Tsang), this policy is a waste of land and he begins plans with the Luk brothers, headed by Keung (Sean Lau), to build a series of high rises.  Jau (Louis Koo), who has just spent five years in prison for performing a hit for Uncle To and the Luks, works with a hacker named Joe (Daniel Wu) and Uncle To’s daughter Yu (Michelle Ye) to spy on the Luks and take them down.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Reel Asian 2014: Manny

Manny

Over the course of his two decade long career, Manny Pacquiao has become known as one of the greatest boxers of all time.  Born in 1978, at a time when the Philippines were at civil war, Manny entered the world of boxing at the age of 16, as a way to improve the quality of life for his family.  After moving to the United States, Manny would be go on to become the first and only boxer to win eight world titles in eight different weight classes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reel Asian 2014: Award Winners

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At an award’s ceremony on Sunday, November 9, the award winners of juried feature and short film prizes for the 2014 edition of the Reel Asian Film Festival were announced:

  • The Fasken Martineau Best Feature Film or Video Award went to Manshin: The Thousand Spirits.
  • The CHCH Best Canadian Film or Video Award went to 90Days
  • The National Bank Best First Feature Film Award went to Fandry
  • The Animation Award went to Rainy Days
  • The Air Canada Best Short Film or Video Award went to 90Days, Woman in Fragments, The Home Promised, The Busy Young Psychic, and Mooncake
  • The WIFT-T Award went to 100 Crushes: The Tie

Still to be announced is the Menkes Audience Award, which will be announced following the completion of the festival on Tuesday, November 18.

Reel Asian 2014: Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits

Manshin

Kim Keum-hwa is one of the greatest shamans in Korea.  Through the use of documentary footage and dramatizations, Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits use’s Kim’s life story as the backdrop for this exploration of the world of shamanism.  Kim’s life was a hard one marked by oppression, during both the Korean War and New Community Movement in the 70s.  Despite modern Koreans maintaining a dual attitude towards shamanism, it still continues to thrive today.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reel Asian 2014: KANO

KANO

KANO is the baseball team at Kagi Agriculture and Forestry Public School in 1931 Taiwan.  Having never scored in a game, the team is taken up by new coach Hyôtarô Kondô (Masatoshi Nagase), who makes it his immediate goal to lead the team to the Koshien high school baseball championship in Japan.  With a multiethnic team consisting of native Taiwanese, Hun, and Japanese players, KANO undergoes a strict training regimen under coach Kondô, with the team learning to work together and never give up.