“The Farewell” stars Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, and Jiang Yongbo. Released on July 12, 2019, the film is about a family who schedules a wedding celebration in order to spend time with their diagnosed grandmother.
The film is written and directed by Lulu Wang, who also directed “Posthumous”. One of the most significant parts of life is the importance of family. Whether they share the same blood or not, the people who are close to you will always support you through the good times and the bad. There are many films throughout the years that depict the strong bond that families have, including the “Fast & Furious” films, but this latest addition to that list could prove to be the best of the bunch, not just story wise, but cultural wise as well. Ever since its release last month, I’ve been waiting for this drama to appear at my closest theater for quite a while, but alas, it got bombarded by sequels, remakes, and book-to-film adaptations. Luckily, it was playing at my second favorite cinema, so I was finally able to see what all the positive hype is about. I’m not familiar with the director’s other works, but I am familiar with the two actors that are in it: Awkwafina, who is known for starring in films like “Ocean’s 8” and “Crazy Rich Asians”, and Tzi Ma, who I only know from “Rush Hour” and “Rush Hour 3”. Those two were practically the main reasons why I wanted to see this film, but are they enough to make it as good as the critics say it was?
Based on Wang's real life experience with her own grandmother, the film deals with the complexities of the characters' emotions towards an unfortunate situation and represents family traditions from a Chinese perspective. Even though the film is rated PG (which is actually quite surprising to me), it doesn’t mean that it’s designed for young kids. It treats itself like a film that’s made for adults and filmmaking enthusiasts with its slow pacing and a complex story. The film also contains sequences where the characters speak Chinese with the English subtitles appearing at the bottom of the screen as a form of translation. If you’re not a fan of films with English subtitles, then this one might be a tough sell for you. From my personal point of view, I didn’t mind the English subtitles since it helped me understand what they were saying. All I really care about is the overall experience of the film. Granted, it might not appeal to everyone because of the story, but for those who appreciate the art of filmmaking, it’s a subtle and endearing film that pays respect to the family traditions and paints a well-balanced picture of a family coming together to spend what is possibly the last few days with a loved one. The story is obviously dialogue-driven with characters speaking English and Chinese. While it may sound boring to some people because of the lack of build-up, there’s actually a bigger picture behind it. What made this experience interesting to me was how people from a different culture handled something like this compared to how we deal with it in the United States. While we usually tell someone we love that they’re dying from an illness, people from the Chinese culture did something a little differently, which is not telling them. It sounds odd, but that’s what they do. What also made it absorbing, from my own personal opinion, was how the main character’s internal conflict with the two different cultural traditions affect her relationship with her family. Lulu Wang was able to portray those universally personal themes extremely well with her own visual style that’s filled with grace and passion and a screenplay that’s filled with honesty and emotion. Awkwafina expressed her dramatic side as Billi with brilliant results, which shows that she has a grand future ahead of her as an actress. Tzi Ma also did a great job with his performance as Billi’s father, who is one of the family members who discover their grandmother’s diagnosis. Based on what I’ve seen from him, I hope that he continues to get more roles like this that’ll introduce himself more to American audiences. The main highlight of the cast has to be Zhao Shuzhen as Nai Nai, Billi’s kindhearted grandmother. She’s the source that made the film’s blend of comedy and drama just as heartwarming as a family reunion without making it too sappy or too comical. I don’t know about you readers, but I’m willing to bet that she might get some awards recognition for her thought-provoking performance. What I also liked about the film was the cinematography and the musical score by Alex Weston. The cinematography is just gorgeous to witness as it captures the characters and backgrounds with sheer depth and delicacy, and the music has a nifty way at providing emotion for the sceneries.
Overall, “The Farewell” successfully portrays Lulu Wang’s remarkable talent both as a filmmaker and a screenwriter. Ranging from its incredible cast to its respectable screenplay, the film represents an investing and sincere portrayal of a family situation from a different cultural perspective. Again, it’s not going to impress a lot of people. Trust me, I took my sister to see it with me, and even though she enjoyed it, she thought it was boring. But I think it’ll admire people who are passionate for filmmaking and films about life. If it’s playing at a theater near you, I’d say give this one a shot.
“Blinded by the Light” stars Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Dean-Charles Chapman, and Aaron Phagura. Released on August 14, 2019, the film is about a teenager who becomes inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s music.
The film is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who also directed films such as “Bhaji on the Beach”, “Bend It Like Beckham”, “Bride and Prejudice”, and “Viceroy’s House". It is based on the memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll by Sarfraz Manzoor. Like film, music displays many types of feelings that we can relate to, such as happy, sad, and love. Whether it’s pop, hip-hop, or even country, music always finds a way to bring people together and inspire them to get out there and enjoy life with its lyrics. One of the prime examples of this is the music by Bruce Springsteen. His lyrics reflect on personal themes that plenty of people have been facing today. Even though I haven’t heard any of his music, he sounds like a very inspiring artist. After experiencing the music from Elton John and The Beatles on the big screen this year, it makes sense that Hollywood would make something that involves Springsteen’s music. Similar to “Yesterday”, this latest drama doesn’t focus on the life of Springsteen. Instead, it uses some of Springsteen’s music to drive the purpose of its story. So far, this strategy was proven to be a success in terms of critical reception since its release at Sundance in January and in the United Kingdom about a week ago. But is it good enough to get American audiences to join in on the ride?
Inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, the film’s story centers on Javed Khan (Kalra), a British-Pakistani Muslim teenager who lives in Luton with his family. He dreams of becoming a writer and leave the troublesome world behind, but because of his father’s (Ghir) disapproval, his family’s cultural traditions, and the racists, it proved to be much harder than he thought. With the help of his friends and Bruce Springsteen’s music, he’ll discover the true meaning of finding one’s own voice. The film is a simplistic coming-of-age tale that deals with themes that involve culture, politics, and race, but it also represents how the power of music can inspire someone to find their own voice and appreciate the good things in life, such as love and dreams. These things may sound preachy on paper, but on the screen, they’re as poetic as Springsteen’s songs. Combined with Chadha’s unique sense of direction and a screenplay that seamlessly blends the inspirational themes with some music video-like sequences, “Blinded by the Light” is another feel-good experience that tugs on your heart strings and feels proud of itself for doing it. Viveik Kalra was magnificent in his role as Javed and Kulvinder Ghir delivered a satisfying and heartfelt performance as Javed’s father Malik. These two actors alone are what made the chemistry between Javed and Malik as connective as a real father-son relationship. This is one of the important parts of the film that didn’t come off as melodramatic or cheesy. Hayley Atwell also did pretty well as Ms. Clay, Javed’s school teacher who is inspired by his writing. The film does follow a similar pattern from the other coming-of-age films, which would make the ending a bit obvious for people who are familiar with the genre. However, the most important part of a coming-of-age movie is the journey towards the ending, and this film understands that. It’s a fun happy-go-lucky journey that sticks to the tone it’s going for, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and has a heart big enough to make me shed a tear that’s filled with inspiration and joyfulness.
Overall, “Blinded by the Light” is an inspiring and heart-warming tune that I wouldn’t mind listening to over and over again. With its brilliant cast, Chadha’s direction, and a well-written screenplay, the film successfully worked around its usual pattern to craft a joyful and satisfying addition to the list of important movies to watch during this day and age. It serves as a reminder to put your faith in your voice, your dream, and also your loved ones because these things will help you get through the rough challenges that are ahead of you. I would highly recommend this feel-good late-summer treat to everyone.
“Good Boys” stars Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Will Forte, Molly Gordon, Midori Francis, and Josh Caras. Released on August 16, 2019, the film has three boys embarking on a series of unusual misadventures.
The film features the directorial debut of Gene Stupnitsky, who is known for co-writing “The Office”, “Year One”, and “Bad Teacher” with Lee Eisenberg. There are some people in the world who were introduced to some pretty dirty stuff when they were younger, and it can often lead to some awkward situations if they take them the wrong way. This film, in particular, resembles that situation. It may sound like a film for kids based on the child actors that starred in it, but from the looks of the poster, it is anything but a film for kids. Seriously, take a good look at this poster for yourself and then ask me if this looks like something parents should take their kids to. The most obvious reason as to why I was looking forward to this adult-rated comedy is the involvement of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who were pretty successful with writing and producing their adult comedies so far even though some of them weren’t exactly that good. Will this one continue their healthy streak? Let’s find out.
If you watched the other films from producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, you'll know that this film has plenty of adult-rated material that isn't suitable for people under the age of 16. Ranging from the adult language to the amount of jokes that relate to sex and drugs, "Good Boys" has pretty much everything it needs to deliver a raunchy late-summer treat for the adults. But does that mean it's worth a watch? Well, for people who want a tolerable R-rated comedy with lots of laughs and a solid amount of heart, I would say yes. Not only did this film succeed in delivering some big WTH laughs, but it also delivered a thoughtful coming-of-age tale about friendship. Its mixture of adult humor and heart can be a bit off putting at times, which will depend on how much you prefer this type of humor, but it managed to make me laugh and smile all the way through, regardless. The three young main actors (Tremblay, Williams, and Noon) provided some fantastic chemistry together from the beginning to the very end. Whether it's for the funny parts or for the not-so-funny parts, these boys put on one heck of a show for me. The director has been known for writing some pretty unusual pieces of comedy, and seeing him display them in "Good Boys" from his own vision was something that I was looking forward to ever since I first saw the trailers. All I could say about his directorial debut is that he did a solid job at making this work. The R-rated humor was nothing but pure hilarity and chaos, which is typical for an adult comedy from Rogen and Goldberg. There were so many parts in the film where I just did nothing but laughed my butt off, with most of them being the main characters’ reactions to certain things like porn. I think what made it work for me was how relatable these jokes were. It’s pretty much the experience of people doing some troubling things to accomplish something they want to accomplish when they’re in middle school. It’s sort of like “Superbad”, but with tweens. My only concern with its humor is that it’s not going to please everyone, especially those who are not fans of young kids cursing every few minutes or so. If you don’t like this type of humor, my only advice to you is to watch either “Dora” or “Angry Birds” instead. In terms of its flaws, I already mentioned that the balance between humor and heart is far from perfect. The main reason why, in my personal opinion, was the direction they took for Tremblay's character, Max, and his father (Forte). At first, I thought the relationship between the two characters was about to go somewhere and the film would have it resolved on a good note near its conclusion. Turns out, the film made a sudden U-turn in the third act by not resolving this element at all and have it end with a mean-spirited joke that’s more hurtful than funny. To me, it’s the worst thing people could do in comedies like this. I mean, they’re OK as long as they’re funny, but if they’re more mean than hilarious, then that could spell trouble.
Overall, in terms of the humor and the cast, “Good Boys” is a good time at the movies, even though it might not impress people who aren’t fans of this type of comedy. The cast was fantastic, the humor was full of non-stop hilarity, and the story was suitable enough to be as thoughtful as its message. I had a lot of fun with this film and, based on my experience, I think anyone who just want a good laugh will have fun with it as well. It’s a satisfying adult comedy that has the right amount of crass and heart to liven up the dog days of summer.
“The Angry Birds Movie 2” stars Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, and Leslie Jones. Released on August 13, 2019, the film has Red and his friends embarking on a new adventure.
The film features the directorial debut of Thurop Van Orman, who is known for creating “The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack”, and it is a sequel to the 2016 animated film, “The Angry Birds Movie”. Hollywood has gotten lucky with their video game based films this year with the release of “Detective Pikachu”, a fun and lovable adventure that’s respectful to the source material it’s based on. Now, we have ourselves another game-based motion picture that is hoping to continue that fortunate trend, and it stars a trio of flightless birds who have anger issues. Yep, we are now living in a world where a movie based on the “Angry Birds” games gets its own sequel, while others like “Tomb Raider” get jack squat. “The Angry Birds Movie” wasn’t exactly a masterpiece when it comes to critical reception. However, audiences liked it enough for Hollywood to move forward with a follow-up because no one listens to what the critics say anyway. As an adult, I can understand that the film adaptation of “Angry Birds” was undeniably flawed from its predictable plot to its kid-friendly humor. Nevertheless, for a movie that’s aimed towards kids, it did well in displaying the colorful world of the source material and teaching young kids about anger. I didn’t love “The Angry Birds Movie”, but I didn’t hate it, either. To me, it had enough tolerable moments to make it at least enjoyable. I wasn’t too worried about this animated sequel because I knew what I was getting myself into based on my experience with its predecessor, but will audiences feel the same way as well?
Set after the events of the first film, the story has the residents of Bird Island, including Red (Sudeikis) and his friends Chuck (Gad) and Bomb (McBride), at an all-out prank war with the piggies from Piggy Island, lead by their leader Leonard (Hader). When their feud is interrupted by a mysterious third island who shoots giant ice balls, the birds and the pigs are going to have to settle their differences in order to save their homes from the island’s leader, Zeta (Jones), who plans on occupying the islands for her own purposes. Much like its predecessor, the sequel contains plenty of energetic moments and visual humor that you would normally see in a kids cartoon, which would make it an easy target for the young ones. It also has an easy-to-follow storyline that portrays the importance of friendship and teamwork. Based on those assumptions alone, "The Angry Birds Movie 2" is pretty much what you would expect from a cartoonish sequel about flightless birds. If you like the first film, you might like this one as well. If not, then this film will make you want to get shot out of a giant ice cannon. From my personal point of view, it was surprisingly just as enjoyable as the first film, although it still has some familiar flaws that prevented it from soaring beyond its expectations. When it comes to the plot, "The Angry Birds Movie 2" is no "Godfather Part II". While the story has some pretty entertaining scenes that will please young kids and some adults who happen to like its predecessor, its execution fell flat on its face after the first act due to some predictable plot elements and the lack of strong characters. One of the elements that disappointed me the most was the cooperation between Red and Leonard. They completely wasted the opportunity to fully explore the relationship between the two rivals. Instead, they just used this plot element for the sake of representing more kid-friendly humor from the pigs. There's also a side plot that has the Hatchlings getting themselves into some absurd situations while attempting to rescue the eggs. It's weirdly adorable, but based on how it was structured onscreen, it should've been made as a short film for the home media release. Other than that, the story has a good amount of tolerability and fun to overcome these noticeable mistakes. The entire main cast reprised their roles from the first “Angry Birds” film, ranging from Sudeikis as Red to Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, with a chunk load of newbies joining in on the fun, including Jones as Zeta, Rachel Bloom as Chuck’s sister Silver, and “Crazy Rich Asians” star Awkwafina as Courtney, one of Leonard’s pigs who assist the main characters. As usual, they did a terrific job at bringing the energy and finesse into their respective characters, especially Sudeikis, Gad, and McBride. I also have to admit that Leslie Jones was very entertaining as the film’s main antagonist. Based on her performance in this film, I hope that we get to see more of her in the near future. Another thing I would like to mention is the film’s humor, which consists of visual gags and cartoonish slapstick. It’s idiotic to a fault, but it’s actually a bit of an improvement over its predecessor’s use of humor, in my honest opinion. Thurop Van Orman was able to balance this type of humor with the film’s tolerable story without sending the entire project down to the deepest level of inexcusable mindless fluff. Some of the jokes didn’t quite work as well as others, but it got me laughing most of the time, so I’m not complaining. The animation works well in portraying the colorful and frenetic world of “Angry Birds” as well as the character designs. It’s not as groundbreaking as the animation from “Toy Story 4”, but if the animators’ job was to create a style that matches the antics of a slapstick cartoon and the colors of the source material, then consider that a job well done.
Overall, “The Angry Birds Movie 2” offers the same type of energy and slapstick as its predecessor, for better or for worse. Its story and characters weren’t convincing enough to rise itself above the first film, but it somehow succeeds in slingshotting its way out of Hollywood’s pit of mediocre sequels thanks to its star-studded cast, its bright and colorful animation, and some tolerable cartoonish humor. Like how I felt towards “The Angry Birds Movie” three years ago, I feel that the sequel wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a total bust, either. I would probably recommend this one to people who enjoyed its predecessor. As for those who are familiar with the games it’s based on, I would leave that up to them.
“Brian Banks” stars Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, and Melanie Liburd. Released on August 9, 2019, the film is about a high school football player who is falsely accused of committing rape.
The film is directed by Tom Shadyac, who also directed films such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, “Liar Liar”, “Patch Adams”, and “Bruce Almighty”. Like each and every one of us, the justice system has its share of flaws. The members of the justice system deliver punishments to people who deserve to be punished, but there are also times where they give out punishments to those who don’t deserve them. I’m talking about people who claimed they did nothing wrong, yet they get the boot anyway based on what the justice system believed. It’s one of the most frustrating things that we’re dealing with in this day and age. There are two quotes in mind that define people who are convicted of their crimes: “Innocent until proven guilty” and “guilty until proven innocent”. The film I’ll be talking about represents the latter. Truth be told, I had to choose between seeing this or seeing “The Kitchen” because those were the only two films that I haven’t seen yet. After countless hours of speculation, I decided to see the former since I thought that it might not stay in theaters for more than two weeks. Did I make the right choice? Let’s find out.
The film does depict Banks and his time in prison as an innocent man, but the majority of the story is him fighting for his own freedom after he was released from prison, with the events that lead him behind bars being shown as flashbacks. The most important thing about films that deal with events like this is crafting a story that honors both the real-life situation it's based on and the emotional core behind it. While the latter had a few rough edges that prevented it from scoring a ton of touchdowns, the film managed to surprise me by providing a well-crafted and heartfelt depiction of the flawed justice system as well as one's will to let go of the past and fight for their own brighter future. Sure, it does have the look of a made-for-television film like the ones on Lifetime, but there were actually a ton of tolerable moments that prevented it from feeling like one. It’s not too sappy, it’s not too obnoxious. It’s an investing feel-good drama that shows off the filmmakers’ honest effort in respecting Banks’ real-life story. If there are a couple of things that made the story flawed for me, it’s that it can be pretty predictable for people who experienced this event themselves (which is highly unavoidable) and there were a couple of details that were left unexplored, such as the ones involving the woman who falsely accused Banks. Other than that, the film did a nice job at making the plot well-paced and engaging without the need to include unnecessary details. Tom Shadyac has been known for helming films that have fantasy and comedy elements, so it was quite surprising to see him direct a drama that’s based on real events. Thankfully, he was able to pull it off by delivering the same amount of heart and soul that made most of his other films successful in the first place. The cast delivered some very convincing performances, but the main star of the film is Aldis Hodge as the title character. Hodge was given the opportunity to embody Banks as a caring, yet broken, man whose dream to play in the NFL was shattered because of the false accusation, and from what I saw onscreen, he didn’t disappoint. He definitely proved to me that he’s passionate enough to play a role like this in terms of expressing the personality and mannerisms of his character. Greg Kinnear and Sherri Shepherd also had some pretty good moments as Justin Brooks and Leomia, respectively.
Overall, “Brian Banks” may not be as powerful or complex as its themes, but it’s still an inspiring fact-based drama that’s full of heart and compassion. Despite its issues with its storytelling, the film is anchored by a talented cast (most notably Hodge) and Shadyac’s direction. I wasn’t expecting myself to like it that much based on the trailers I’ve seen, but luckily, it was able to prove me wrong. If you’re in a mood for some inspiration or if you’re familiar with the events that happened to Banks, it’s worth checking out.