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Flash Movie Review: Better Days

WE HAD A LONG LIST OF items we needed for the beginning of the school year; but they really needed to give us instead, a list of things we should not do. For some of you, what I will be saying will make little sense to you and that is okay. It tells me your school years were good. The rest of you though, will know exactly what I am talking about. When I started school, unbeknownst to me, there was this preordained invisible list of what not to wear to avoid getting bullied. For example, never wear something that was homemade or even looked like it had been otherwise, it could set you up for a whole slew of name calling. Boys had a smaller pallet of colors to choose from for their clothing; so, wearing a shirt that was anything but a primary color could lead one to be cornered in a school hallway or worse, the boys’ bathroom. Glasses only got one so far from becoming a target unless the lens thickness was noticeable enough to earn the moniker “pop bottle eyes.” If a girl was going to wear a dress it had to be the length that fashion was dictating that season. Caught in a long dress that was out of fashion, would earn a girl the nickname of “Granny.” And pity the student who has acne or whose size stands out from the norm; they would be shunned by many of their fellow students.     THOSE THINGS VISIBLE TO THE HUMAN eye were not the only triggers that would get one bullied. There were many actions that would earn a snide remark or an unflattering nickname. It was ok to have a hobby, just don’t have it be a collection of weird stuff. Stamps and coins were on the border of being considered nerdy; however, if one collected old radios or postcards, they could be considered a loser. Any of these examples could warrant a slap in the head, a punch to the stomach, a shove, a hit with a projectile; and these were the milder reactions. A student who for some unknown reason elicits a stronger reaction could find themselves in the gymnasium’s locker room with a group of boys punching and slamming him into the lockers. The victim’s only hope is if a teacher might hear something and come investigate it. However, once the student leaves the school grounds, a whole new set of circumstances comes into play and it could feel like a life or death situation. This Oscar nominated film can show you what life can be like for some students.      PREPARING FOR THE NATIONAL TESTS WAS pressure enough for student Chen Nian, played by Dongyu Zhou (Us and Them, Soulmate), but being the target for a small group of bullying girls was making things worse. There had to be a way to make it better. With Jackson Yee (A Little Red Flower, Song of the Phoenix-TV) as Xiao Bei, Fang Yin (Walking Past the Future, Coffee or Tea?) as Zheng Yi, Ye Zhou (Word of Honor-TV) as Wei Lai and Jue Huang (Fallen City, Long Day’s Journey into Night) as Lao Yang; this film festival winning drama was one of the best movies I have seen the past year. Mixing a family drama with a crime romance made this an all engulfing experience for me. For personal reasons, it was also hard for me to see certain scenes. The directing and filming of this picture blended in a seamless, beautiful way. I was fascinated with the cultural aspect of the testing system depicted; it was intense. The 2 lead actors did an outstanding job with their characters because I felt they were the people they were portraying in the story. Nominated for best foreign film by the Academy Awards committee, I hope it wins. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.

4 stars           

Flash Movie Review: The Bravest

I WATCHED HIM DILIGENTLY AND DELIBERATELY outline each space that had the number 1 inside of it. My relative was using paint from a small container that was labeled with the same number 1. He first traced the outline of a space with the paint before filling it in. Once he completed all the number 1 spaces, he went on to doing the same thing to all the number 2 areas. It was my first time seeing someone paint by number. He had only gotten the paint kit as a birthday gift a couple of days ago; but to me, he looked like he was an expert painter. I sat and watched as the canvas in front of him took on more colors. To me it looked like the colored spaces were jigsaw pieces that were getting closer to completing the puzzle. Surprisingly, I started to recognize what he was drawing; it was a scene of Buckingham Palace with the Queen’s Guard out in front. There was a part of me that wished I had a paint by number kit because I would have liked to try a different way of painting. Most of my paintings were abstract or landscape scenes because I had a hard time drawing people; I wanted them to look real like a photograph. I was even a perfectionist back then.      I WOULD NOT SEE THE COMPLETED painting until my next visit to my relative’s house. My relative had done a great job of painting because there wasn’t a place where he drew over the line; everything looked exact and precise. If I had not known my relative used a paint by number kit to create the painting, I would have thought they had drawn it on a blank canvas. Don’t get me wrong, my relative did an amazing job; however, for me the painting did not look as realistic as I had expected. I guess I was hoping it would have appeared just as clear as a postcard or photograph, especially since there was no freeform sketching involved. Having gotten a camera for a birthday gift, I was very much into taking photos. Whether it was of people, landscapes or objects; I enjoyed setting up the framing for a photograph. I had thoughts of asking for a paint by number kit for my birthday; but, after seeing the final results I decided I did not really need it. Drawing from imagination and photography were better suited for me. When I saw this film festival winner, I had a similar reaction of disappointment.      A GROUP OF FIREMEN HAD THE battle of their lives on hand when a fire broke out at an oil refinery; a refinery that was situated too close to a major population center. With Xiaoming Huang (The Message, Ip Man 2) as Jiang Liwei, Jiang Du (Last Letter, Operation Red Sea) as Ma Weiguo, Zhuo Tan (Gone with the Light, Dying to Survive) as Li Fang, Zi Yang (Bodies at Rest, Ode to Joy-TV) as Wang Lu and Hao Ou (The Captain, The Left Ear) as Xu Xiaobin; this dramatic, action thriller had a typical storyline for this genre. There were many scenes with big pyrotechnic productions and blasts; however, I do not know if it was the dubbed English or not that made the acting come across cartoonish. The script was easy to figure out, though there were a few touching scenes that added a touch of newness to the oft used storyline. While I was viewing this film, I kept thinking the writers and producers were trying to get a Hollywood disaster picture wannabe. If you are one who can find entertainment in just seeing special effects and things blowing up, then you might be fine watching this picture. After I finished seeing this film, I wished I had found my old copy of The Towering Inferno. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles/dubbing.

1 ¾ stars      

Flash Movie Review: IP Man

HE WAS SUCH AN UNASSUMING INDIVIDUAL that I did not know he was the owner of the company. A fellow employee pointed him out to me one day; I thought they were playing a joke on me because I did not believe it. The owner was casually dressed in nondescript clothing. In other words, there were no fancy labels or names on anything, nor did he wear anything around his neck or wrist like a gold chain or expensive watch. Basically, there was nothing about this man’s appearance that defined his achievements. The product the company was selling was something he had invented. I thought that alone would have been enough reason for him to put on airs or display a sense of importance around the offices, but it was not. He acted like one of the employees of the company. When I think about it, the only time one would wonder what his position was in the company was during the holidays. He would receive a variety of thank you gifts from vendors; things like boxes of fruit, assorted cookies or other food-based products. Instead of keeping them for himself he was always opening the packages and placing them in the company kitchen for people to take for themselves.     AS MUCH AS THE OWNER WAS humble, there was one company salesman who had ego for days. Every day he was dressed in a suit, whether he had customer appointments of not. That alone would not have been a big deal; but he wore quite a few expensive accessories. I had counted at least 6 expensive watches he switched up every day, besides thick gold jewelry pieces on his other wrist. Whether you asked him for his opinion or not, he was the type of person who would always tell you what you should do. Even things that were just common sense, he had to make a point of telling you what was the “right” way to do it; at least right according to him. If a customer came into the offices, they usually assumed he was the owner based on his mannerisms and speech. He was full of himself as they say; I did my best to have only minimal interaction with him. From that job to all the others I have had I have learned those who “crow” the loudest usually know the least. Those who do not brag, or showoff tend to be the most knowledgeable. This certainly applies to the main character in this biographical film festival winning movie.      HAVING PRACTICED A LIFESTYLE OF NON-CONFRONTATION became a conflict for Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen (Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, Seven Swords) when Japanese forces invaded and took over his town. With resources scarce, he would have to find a way to survive. With Simon Yam (Election, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) as Quan, Lynn Xiong (Hotel Deluxe, My Sassy Girl 2) as Cheung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (The Handsome Suit, Railroad Tigers) as Miura and Siu-Wong Fan (Future X-Cops, Flying Swords of Dragon) as Jin; this action drama surprised me. For the genre it is in, this film’s focus was on the story and I found it interesting. It felt to me like a partial history lesson with its inclusion of the Japanese invasion of China back in the 1930s. The action scenes were beautifully choreographed, even when a bit of humor was interjected in some of them. It was unexpected to see a martial arts movie that was so story driven; I was drawn into the plight of Ip Man and his family. Also, the fact that this character was based on a true person (who in real life had Bruce Lee as a student) made this picture that more enjoyable. Seeing photos of the actual man at the end was an added treat. Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ¼ stars       

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