Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)

Director: James Redford

A look at the life and work of author Amy Tan. – IMDB

Being best known as the author of 1989’s novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan has grown to become a fiction novelist who writes stories about Chinese immigrant stories and Chinese mother-daughter relationships along with their different experiences. This documentary recounts her biography as well as her writing career and how she came into writing and the inspirations behind the novels that she’s written. Using both old photos and videos as well as interviews with family members and other authors and publishers and interviews with Amy Tan herself, it forms a look at how her career started as well the inspirations from her real life as she learned more about her mother over the years of their dramatic relationship together as well as her past that crafted her into that the author that she is today. At the same time, it also pulls footage from The Joy Luck Club movie to draw certain relatable scenes.

Its hard to say whether a documentary like this is more appealing for those familiar with Amy Tan’s work and yet for myself, I’ve only ever read The Joy Luck Club and watched the film adaptation, making me not exactly knowledgeable about Amy Tan’s work either but doesn’t detract from the fact that her debut fiction novel which were quite revolutionary as a reading experience as it was relatable to a certain extent in terms of being a Chinese daughter and the relationship as well as having a family history that might seem like it was crafted as a film but actually may have been the reality for some people from the previous generations. That didn’t hinder the fact that this documentary shared much more than just her biography but through it also shared a person who found herself as an author and the consequences of her fame and the controversy of how people viewed her portrayal of both Chinese people, culture and how much of it felt like stereotypes that stemmed over the years.

What makes Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir quite a great watching experience perhaps is that Amy Tan herself is a fascinating person to watch. Her life experiences and her recounts of her relationship with her family to the discoveries that she makes as she dives into her mother’s recollection of her own experiences all opens up something new. She feels like such a down to earth person whether its her approach of how she started writing or being clear on how to not deviate from her path as an author and what she is writing. As the documentary dives between her family history and how each of these life elements come into play and how each of her published books come to view, its a great reminder that Amy Tan is much more than just her debut fiction novel The Joy Luck Club and that there’s so much more to discover.

Overall, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is quite a decent watch whether or not you are familiar to her work (in my opinion). Her experiences and her life is one that is full of drama and once the realization that a lot of her work is inspired by her mother’s life, it brings on a whole different meaning as she shares a bit of her own family’s history and experiences. A well-rounded documentary taking it on a biographical angle but also look at writing and the point of view of an author.

Double Feature: My Beautiful Broken Brain (2014) & Why Did You Kill Me? (2021)

Welcome to the next documentary double feature! Documentaries are definitely a little more frequently showing up here as I’ve been interested in checking out more of these especially the ones related to crimes and such. The first is 2014’s The Beautiful Broken Brain is not crime-related but a personal journey and the second is this year’s Why Did You Kill Me about a family’s journey to hunt down the killer of their family member after her death in a drive-by shooting.

Let’s check it out!

My Beautiful Broken Brain (2014)

Director: Sophie Robinson & Lotje Sodderland

MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN is 34 year old Lotje Sodderland’s personal voyage into the complexity, fragility and wonder of her own brain following a life changing hemorrhagic stroke. Regaining consciousness to an alien world – Lotje was thrown into a new existence of distorted reality where words held no meaning and where her sensory perception had changed beyond recognition. This a story of pioneering scientific research to see if her brain might recover – with outcomes that no one could have predicted. It is a film about hope, transformation and the limitless power of the human mind. – IMDB

Documentaries like My Beautiful Broken Brain is not usually my go to however, the premise of this documentary is quite fascinating to watch as it shows the sudden changes that can happen in terms of health to anyone and how her journey is different as she has to embrace a changed world and her path of recovery. For a documentary about a girl who loses quite a bit due to the hemorrhagic stroke, its actually executed in a fairly positive way and sends out a positive message about how we should view our own life whether its about hope or not taking things for granted.

The execution of the film is done a good portion with videos filmed by Lotje Sodderland which builds up on her personal journey through her own recovery from her own feelings and the different steps she takes in order to embrace this “distorted reality”. Its truly hard to imagine what she went through especially when the most basic abilities are striped away through on incident. The execution builds from the start of how Sodderland ends up the way she is described from herself and her family and the reality that she now faces, outlining the effects the stroke had on her brain. As she moves forward, she compares her world to David Lynch’s work and hence her will to document what has happened to her and the journey of her recovery to eventually meet him. In the world of medicine and science, there isn’t really a lot of guarantees especially facing anything with the brain and perhaps that’s the takeaway here as this is a never seen before (or at least rarely seen) especially hard to watch when it gets into the neurological experiment bit.

In some ways, My Beautiful Broken Brain reminded me in premise of 2005’s Japanese TV series 1 Litre of Tears that was based on the true story of Aya Kito who suffered a rare brain degenerative disease and had documented it in her own diary. Where that one brings forth a lot of sorrow, My Beautiful Broken Brain has a lot of heart-wrenching moments but it makes the supposedly successes truly shine through. Its a little scary to watch that the senses and abilities that we use everyday is diminished to being unrecognizable. Overall, The Beautiful Broken Brain is decently executed and offers up a lot of information and a very personal journey that shares both a positive message about hope but also reminds us how lucky we all are to be able to do everyday things like reading and writing.

Why Did You Kill Me? (2021)

Director: Fredrick Munk

The line between justice and revenge blurs when a devastated family uses social media to track down the people who killed 24-year-old Crystal Theobald. – IMDB

Social media and technology has been a huge basis on how crimes are solved on a lot of the recent Netflix crime documentaries. In some ways, perhaps Why Did You Kill Me feels a little lesser in terms of the depth of the case itself as it somehow loses the depth of the topics that it can go. This one focuses primarily on the case on hand and following the footsteps of finding who is involved and why it happened. It also is one of the few where for the most part, the ending is relatively resolved and not exactly some form of call for action.

Why Did You Kill Me takes the angle of a family that wants to find the killer and using the help of a young cousin on Myspace to reach out to different gang members of the suspected gang involved and finding the clues to narrow down who it is and what happened after showing signs of not trusting the police. As much as the documentary is about solving the crime, its more about the line between justice and revenge.

Between interviews and crime scene restructures with minimized scenes, the whole crime is shown in a good detail as it goes from its suspect to exploring the involvement of family members and their own backstory. The crime documentary starts off rather solid because it focuses on the whole early days of Myspace and how eventually it turned into a very extreme way of using the victim’s picture to build the online profile which does end up attracting the person involved. The whole investigation circles around a lot of the same motions and that’s where the pacing of the documentary does feel sometimes like it lacks the content as a full length feature. Its not saying that this case isn’t worth shining light on as the final note on justice and revenge is pretty decent.

Double Feature: Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021) & Don’t F*ck With Cats (2019)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a little different as I get the reviews for documentary mini-series out of the way. Being mini-series, it technically should be in its own segment as TV binges but Letterboxd categorized them as movies so here we are! The first is Crime Scene: The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel which is rather new as its a 2021 Netflix documentary and the other is Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting Down an Internet Killer from 2019, also a Netflix documentary. Let’s check it out!

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel (Mini-series, 2021)

College student and tourist Elisa Lam vanishes, leaving behind all of her possessions in her hotel room. The Cecil Hotel grows in infamy. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea*

Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel is a 2021 American docu-series about the vanishing and death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel. Separated into 4 episodes, it takes a look at the beginning, progression and finale of Elisa Lam’s vanishing and what happens. At the same time, its not only about the mystery but also about the investigation process and the involvement of web sleuths after the elevator surveillance tape was released online as well as the history of the Cecil Hotel from its early days until the present.

The documentary itself definitely has some good and bad elements. On one hand, the history of the Cecil Hotel and the area that it resides it adds a lot of knowledge. As the case builds from the one event, it digs up the horrors of the hotel and the dangerous people that lived there and how the hotel ended up with these residents. Through the interviews of the past manager, the past residents and the investigators of the case, it adds in a lot of perspective that feels like tangents to the mystery the the documentary focuses around but actually gives it a lot of foundation.

The mystery itself is done well enough. In some ways, it actually feels like the historical information about the hotel actually sometimes outshines the case itself mostly because the case itself uses a narrator as a voice-over reading Elisa Lam’s online entries and thoughts and plays it out in a blurry image while also adding in some of the real footage from the news and the investigation. The case is rather mysterious especially with the elevator surveillance tape that gets released and web sleuths who try to decipher this footage and all the questions that it raises. Ever since Don’t F*ck With Cats docu-series was released, web sleuths seems to be a hot commodity to add into mysteries, perhaps more pushed forward by the fact that Unsolved Mysteries have been revived on Netflix as well.

For this docu-series, where it does falls short is that it never really pinpoints a solid direction in execution and sometimes feels like it wants to touch on too many different issues from online bullying, mental illness, Cecil Hotel, who is at fault, etc. All these issues are big things to talk about and yet, the big points of mental illness, which should have been the focus didn’t have as much time to dive into, since that should have been the big takeaway from this one. However, at the end of the day, for those unfamiliar with Elisa Lam’s case and the Cecil Hotel, it is a rather fascinating one in terms of the information that it offers.

Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (Mini-series, 2019)

A group of online justice seekers track down a guy who posted a video of himself killing kittens. – IMDB

Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer is a 4 episode mini docu-series on Netflix that highlights the trek of web sleuths tracing down a kitten killer after releasing a brutal video which leads to a bigger case which involved the killing of young man filmed and released to the public as well. Its hard to talk about Don’t F*ck With Cats being the main reason that it follows a case that is tracked down to a killer located in Montreal, a city that I personally grew up in. The places this killer frequented and lived are areas familiar to myself and for that, its one of the reasons that makes this documentary probably one that hits a lot harder especially the unsettling feeling that unspeakable things could be happening all around us and no one ever really knows. I’m not naive to believe that that isn’t that case, but watching something like this definitely brings that out.

With that said, Don’t F*ck With Cats on one hand is well-executed as a documentary. It starts off focusing heavily on web sleuths and the power of the Internet that pretty much using the right avenues, you can probably track down anything. Other than the very disturbing video of the kitten killings, the web sleuths part actually is an entertaining and intriguing as the community comes together but also leads up to a conclusive thought at the end that gives the viewers a final question to ponder on whether they were the push that caused the killer to elevate to bigger crimes. I’m getting ahead of myself but the idea of this hunt moving between the Internet killers and how it tracks from a single video to eventually being able to pinpoint a location by the end and eventually provide information to the police to hopefully help with their investigation is a fascinating sort of journey as it also parallels with the inevitable focus on the crimes of Luka Magnotta. There are also uses of videos from when the investigation was going on and such which always adds to documentaries.

To be honest, Don’t F*ck With Cats is a really good documentary. On one hand, its one to definitely watch as its focus on web sleuths and the power of Internet is quite intriguing and triumphant for the most part for what they were able to discover however, on the other hand, its also a disturbing case and one that should be highlighted but then as Luka Magnotta is still alive, it almost seems unfair to bring him that spotlight given the information even though the show does make a good point to give space for friends of his human victim to talk about this person whose life was ended so young. In some ways, while the case revolves around the killer and proves how the Internet is a powerful tool when used correctly. The biggest takeaway is that the Internet is great in some ways and also horrible in other ways. The openness of it brings on its own consequences and in the end, that message is shown clearly giving the documentary a good amount to ponder on.

FNC 2020: Caught in the Net (2020)

Caught in the Net (2020)

Directors: Vit Klusak & Barbora Chalupova

Three adult actresses posing as 12-year-old girls, three fake bedrooms, three cameras, three chat boxes with fake profiles. A social experiment on the sexual abuse of young people online conducted live on camera. An investigative documentary that plays out like a thriller as it probes how the sexual predators who live closer than you might think relentlessly manipulate their young victims. – FNC 2020

Caught in the Net is a Czech documentary about online sexual predators. The documentary starts off by showing how it chooses its three actresses who are all of age but looks younger and can pass as twelve year olds. From that process moving to how the set is created with their three rooms as well as the recording and monitoring of the activity right outside and how they bring some of their own younger pictures and create this fake profile for the three to interact with men who reach out to them. The have a specific code of conduct that was shown right before the online interaction started indicating that they could not initiate anything, in general. Its pretty much an experiment of seeing sexual predator behaviour which over the course of the 10 days of online interactions definitely felt like it truly was a scarring experience, and rightfully so because as much as the images and videos were genitalia was blurred out, its not hard to know what is going on. As it moved to extreme territories with blackmail, paying for their pictures (and more) and eventually, physical meeting at a spot, the documentary covers every phase.

Its no doubt that Caught in the Net is meant to trigger some very negative feelings about these online predators. However, its also a bit of an education for people who don’t realize how these young girls are treated. Other than looking at selected conversations and interactions, they did bring in experts like sexologists, psychiatrists and lawyers which brought in the extra knowledge of what these actions were. These actresses are all of age so they have their own judgement but they also offer their view on the situation and the men that they interact with. It reflects on the effects these interactions could have on future perspectives of themselves, relationships as well as sex. While it is reflective of Czech laws, aside from the details, it does reflect on a knowledge of how illegal any of these actions are from these predators. It also expands on what the nature of pedophilia beyond what the general view of it is. All these things give this documentary a well-rounded sense as they also bring in people who deal with girls who have suffered from these situations like Crisis Line directors and such. Aside from exploring the predator psyche, it also explores why twelve year olds would accept this in the first place.

Caught in the Net is truly a shocking experience. Even if before you start the documentary up, its already expected, watching the online interactions and the different men and how some of them tell their own experiences, its a grueling experience to go through. What is shown is filtered quite a bit especially since the documentary ends explaining that these three girls over 10 days had over 2400 men contact them as well as some of the highlighted men having personal meetings with them. Even for the actresses, it starts feeling very personal especially when faced with men who have turned around and posted their pictures on social media to threaten her as well as having one central men that popped up on all three girls interactions who was known by one of the crew.

Overall, Caught in the Net is a very well-executed and thorough documentary. It was eye-opening and shocking and covered all bases from the young girls (even if it was actresses) to having thought of different outcomes to selecting a few men that seemed the most intriguing of the conversations to focus on while also have a very important moment happen where after all the bad men, there’s always one saving grace. The men are all blurred out and their private parts are all blurred out and yet, it still delivers its content with knowledge on the side of law and psychiatry. At the end, Caught in the Net does make a point to address that online predators don’t only target girls but boys and give a note to parents and also was asked to give in the content to police to revise. It really is killing two birds with one stone.

*Caught in the Net is showing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*



Fantasia Festival 2020: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Director: David Darg, Price James

Actor David Arquette attempts a rocky return to the sport that stalled his promising Hollywood career. – IMDB

You Cannot Kill David Arquette doesn’t seem like the typical film that I’d review here. First, I have minimal knowledge and interest with professional wrestling and never quite understood the appeal and second, let’s face it, documentaries aren’t exactly what I usually watch over here. But, David Arquette is an interesting focus point to talk about and especially in terms of his career or what he says caused its stall for the past decade. From the moment, you start up You Cannot Kill David Arquette, its an intense moment with wrestler Ken Anderson being angry about Arquette winning the WCW title in 2000 and it goes straight to wrestling fans making videos on Youtube about the sour taste it has left behind up to the present.

While David Arquette (to myself) is best known in his Scream role which stands out the most, the documentary gives us a layout of how his career started and what lead him to the point of winning the title to promote an upcoming film. However, the approach here is two-fold. On one hand, its about David Arquette as a person, a celebrity and a wrestling fan who is looking to get the rightful respect from a community that he love. On the other hand, its about a deep dive into the hard path of being a wrestler and how there are no shortcuts, no matter who you are. Its a look at his life behind the scenes from his home situation, both his physical and mental issues that he has to deal with and its what leads him on this rather unsuitable personal journey. There are interviews with his wife, his ex-wife and his family like Patricia Arquette that talks about him as a person and this seemingly ridiculous and unreasonable choice which is one that feels like its not good for his current physical situation. However, much like the title of this documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is really about him taking control of his life in some ways. Its a look at David Arquette and also a reality check to show respect for the wrestling profession and the immense training that goes into it as well as the show that it is.

Call this a little education for myself and a look at this personal journey for David Arquette as he decides to make a rather dangerous decision after recovering from a heart attack to train to be a professional wrestler going from backyard matches to Mexico to a death match and more. That death match was some intense stuff. This journey is rather heart pounding and a heart wrenching in reality. For someone who had zero knowledge or interest in wrestling and didn’t particularly have a huge research of David Arquette, it definitely was an experience and makes you appreciate the professional wrestling sport a little more for what it is and understand it while also having this newfound respect for David Arquette since as crazy as the decision is at his physical state and age, its a courageous decision. Eye-opening and engaging; You Cannot Kill David Arquette is an awesome documentary.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Director: Justin McConnell

Following five years in the life and career of an independent filmmaker, supported by dozens of interviews, posing one question: how does an indie filmmaker survive in the current film business? – IMDB

Independent films might not exactly be on the radar for a lot of normal filmgoers but with the success of more and more of them, there are more people that are interested in looking up more of these low-budget independent films being produced. However, more than what gets to the front of the general public and released and distributed is all the hard work of getting one made. Justin McConnell takes us on his personal and arduous journey of getting a film made in Clapboard Jungle while calling this as a subtitle, Surviving the Independent Film Business.

For those interested in making their own independent film business, this might be a good starting point as McConnell not only shows his experience and the different routes he goes on to look for funding from investors but also interviews a lot of different key people involved in the independent film business from film festival administrators to fellow independent film directors and producers and more including some bigger names like George A. Romero and Guillermo Del Toro. Due to the span of this documentary, a few of these interviewees have already left this world however they did leave some great insight on this topic. The strength in this documentary does mainly go towards these various interviews spanning on the different hurdles that the independent film business brings along from its audience feedback in this current social media landscape and online accessibility addressing the keyboard warriors and their lack of respect. At the same time, also looking at the importance of social connections and the avenues to present a film concept like lookbooks as one example. Its rather educational and eye-opening to hear people in the business give their little insight and advice from their own experiences.

However, to say that McConnell’s journey isn’t interesting would be inaccurate. If anything, his journey proves to be one that might be a warning that perseverance is an important element as well as learning along the way. He starts off with one initial project and ends up creating multiple along the way from short films to getting another entirely different movie funded, Lifechanger (review) to add to his own portfolio. McConnell as the subject might not be such an interesting character to follow but he is representative of the everyday person chasing after a dream/passion but it shows a journey of growth as he expands his horizon by talking about the different avenues to present his project and the know-how from finances to creative elements that go into this process and on the social front such as presenting at the Frontieres Market and more.

Overall, Clapboard Jungle is a decent documentary that highlights the obstacles of being a filmmaker while giving both outside perspective and personal experience as a parallel. Its a rather educational sort of documentary and one that might make people reconsider the path of being a filmmaker or on the other hand, as an audience, how we should offer perspective and opinions on what might have been someone’s life for many years. However, the documentary does go a little in circles of things not going the right way so the beginning drags a little bit before things start moving forward. On a more personal level, perhaps its the fact that I’ve seen Lifechanger and enjoyed it quite a bit that seeing this documentary and McConnell’s journey feels much more fascinating. Especially as press and blogger that cover a few genre festivals throughout the year that show even more how much work has gone behind these projects that we see at these festivals and even more legitimate that its part of this year’s Fantasia Festival 2020.

TV Binge: Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

twogether

Cast: Jasper Liu, Seung-gi Lee

Paired together for an unforgettable trip across Asia, stars Lee Seung Gi and Jasper Liu become buddies as they connect with fans and local cultures. – IMDB

For fans of Jasper Liu and Seung-Gi Lee, both stars now having their own Netflix Original series, this pair-up for the travel reality show with a little bit of challenges and games added in is a fairly fun adventure. Essentially, the concept is that these two go to different Asian countries, they land at night and choose which location to go that their fan from that country has recommended. At each location, if they beat their challenge, they get a clue which narrows down the location of where the fan lives. As they move through one location to the next, its a strategy to see where to go to maximize their time since before a certain time if they don’t find their fan, they need to catch the plane to the next location. Most of the fans don’t know that they are going to find them so its a surprise and the other surprise is that, they don’t know whose fan it is.

In the current world of when this is released, we can only find travel on Netflix. Yet again, a show that releases at a good time. To be fair, the travel element is there as a unique backdrop for the reality game show element. There is some education on the different places they visit and the landmarks in those countries from a local. However, the game show element is where the show has the most fun as the show’s structure: challenges, travel allowance budget and language barriers between the two at the beginning, plus any Asian game show viewers knows that the director/crew always has it out for the people involved to make things harder.

To be fair, I’m not a Jasper Liu or Seung-gi Lee fan mostly because I haven’t watched anything of theirs (but Jasper Liu’s Triad Princess is on my to-watch list). Call this Netflix’s big scheme to give their show some extra promotion, which it probably is but it worked for me since I definitely did bump up my priority to watch their works. Its mostly entertaining in a very Korean variety show style with the comments made in post-editing to the scene (at least from my memory since its been more than a decade that I haven’t watched Korean shows). These two get together well and they both are fairly chill people who have a lot of fun with each of their challenges. At the same time, this is a good concept to have and more places should implement it (when this whole pandemic hopefully/eventually ends) to give fans an opportunity to meet their idols. There are some moments that it is rather touching to watch. Especially with the global presence of Netflix, its great to see that shows like this has an outlet to combine these stars from different countries together and in reality, its really cross-promotion but still achieves its entertainment element while promoting some of these beautiful locations in Asia.

TV Binge: Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

unsolved mysteries

Immersive, character-driven stories are rooted in the experiences of ordinary people who have lived the unthinkable. Families, detectives and journalists hope viewers hold the clues to solving these mysteries. – IMDB

Some revivals are incredibly welcome! Unsolved Mysteries is definitely one of those. Netflix has picked up a true gem with this one. Whether people are watching this because of nostalgia of the original show and looking forward to see what they do now or just finding out about it with this show because its on Netflix, anyone who enjoys this type of cold case will be intrigued by all the six cases presented in Season 1.

There’s a good variety in its case selections. There is an international case, a more familiar mystery like UFO and then a few different intriguing cases of missing people whether its the situation or the suspect. The setup of each one goes into detail from the witnesses to the family and friends involved. Each case is pieced together in the form of a timeline after a general introduction of the case at hand which feels thorough investigation and research has been done. There’s a lot of re-evaluation from the current information, knowledge, deduction at the time. Whether its missing pieces of the puzzle to figure out what actually happened  to missing key pieces of evidence that could lead to the suspected killers, each unsolved mystery has its own element of suspense. Its one thing to watch thrillers, suspense and mystery in a movie but Unsolved Mysteries brings up the fact of all these real life mysteries that hasn’t been solved which is a rather chilling feeling.

I don’t want to put any spoilers here so I’m going to avoid going into too much detail. While all the cases have incredible discussion value and for some, its initiated its reopening of cases and a lot of tips sent in online as well as forums where people are sharing their theories and investigations online which is a great way of motivating the general public to join into this. Its a very Zodiac sort of deal where sometimes the people outside of the case might have their own views and understandings. Whether the cases eventually get cracked or not, its definitely brought a few of these into a different light. When talking about specific cases, the one that was interesting to watch but not exactly a lot of further discussion value (for myself) would be the Berkshires UFO episode. The one that definitely got me the most was the first one, Mystery on the Rooftop for its cryptic evidence and the sheer amount of unanswered questions. The international case, The House of Terror has its value and shows the power of Netflix, diving into the international content and expanding its areas of investigation. Other than these ones, its seriously a lot of mind-boggling cases that stirs up a lot of deeper thinking of its possibilities that make Unsolved Mysteries so intriguing.

There’s so much to love about the revival of Unsolved Mysteries. Its executed well and Netflix has the international streaming platform and reach that can expand the possibilities and variety of cold case to investigate. I’m definitely looking forward to another season.

 

Double Feature: Kidnap (2017) & Killer Legends (2014)

Next up, we’re heading into our K double feature! I’m going to say that this one was a touch one to pair up since selections were limited.  Let’s check it out!

Kidnap (2017)

Kidnap

Director: Luis Prieto

Cast: Halle Berry, Sage Correa, Chris McGinn, Lew Temple, Jason George

A mother stops at nothing to recover her kidnapped son. – IMDB

Feeling a lot like The Call (review) in terms of its thriller style, Halle Berry stars in this thriller about a recently divorced mother who is truly quite the lady as she doesn’t give a second thought and chases after the kidnappers who have taken her son. There’s a lot of really unbelievable bits in this one. Just like how her rather rundown minivan is in a car chase with an 80s Mustang GT or something along those lines (although I’m not car expert so what do I know?). While her actions might feel more instinctive and acting on the moment so some of it makes you feel like its passable in the believable element but then you have these kidnappers who are a little odd as they reveal themselves at some point and it just doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do in the whole scheme of things especially seeing as the plot takes a turn to lay out who these two are albeit a rather shallow back story. Its main focus is on a mother retrieving her kidnapped son against all odds.

I’m honestly not hating on Kidnap. Sure, some plot points are hard to get behind. There are some stupid decisions and it did get a little boring to watching Halle Berry on a constant car chase that takes up a good part of the film, mostly in panic and fear. It feels a little shallow in terms of content. However, it knows what it wants to be and there is some growth in Halle Berry’s character throughout the whole ordeal (as it should with something so traumatic as chasing down kidnappers and doing things most normal mothers wouldn’t be doing). It has a few thrills and redeeming moments but also seems like the plot is too straightforward and doesn’t go deep enough to be a fun thriller as the reveal itself fell a little flat as well.

Killer Legends (2014)

killer legends

Director (and writer): Joshua Zeman

Delving into our collective nightmares, this horror-documentary investigates the origins of our most terrifying urban legends and the true stories that may have inspired them. – IMDB

I don’t watch a lot of documentaries and honestly, when I do, sometimes I’m not sure that I’ve reviewed a whole lot of it. Killer Legends is something of an educational research documentary. It takes four urban legends that have been rather popularized through horror movies and takes a dive into cases where those types of serial killers had occurred in real life. Most of them dive back to decades ago well before movies were made from them but Joshua Zeman and researcher Rachel Mills heads to the different cities where these cases happened and revisits the locations of the murders based on case files as well as talks to the residents to see their thoughts on those long ago cases and how many people actually still remember it and who they thought were the suspects on these (mostly) unsolved mysteries, as some of them have caught a killer but also speculations that there were uncertainties.

Seeing as I’m not one to go deep diving on the Internet for information on this topic and looking up cases from decades ago and such, this documentary was pretty good. Each of the four urban legends are ones that I’ve heard of and have seen movies related to it in one form or another. There were real life case file pictures added into the research and makes things more real and the whole set up of how the research and killer profile was pretty interesting (seeing as I was a big fan of Criminal Minds). The one that probably is the most intriguing is The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs section while the most surprising might go to the urban legends behind the Candyman with the real life case connection. The other two stories is the Hookman which definitely feels more familiar (with recent viewings of Zodiac and I Know What You Did Last Summer) which was a fairly creepy look as its the one case that haunts the town of Texarkana and remains unsolved which is always chilling to hear about, and finally wrapping up the Killer Clown urban legend which wraps up the cautionary tale behind this whole documentary and with this, giving it the purpose.

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the two running this whole documentary as the conversation feels not as smooth as it should be but the people they choose to interview and the information that they gather and put together does add a little substance to these urban legends and what they mean to the people who lived through the times and in the cities that they occurred. Its not about solving these mysteries but rather taking a second look at the info available and piecing it together and they do a decent job on achieving that through the course of the documentary and the four urban legends which makes it well worth a watch.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

 

TV Binge: Ugly Delicious (Season 1, 2018)

Ugly Delicious (Season 1, 2018)

Ugly Delicious

Cast: David Chang, Peter Meehan, Aziz Ansari, David Choe, Jonathan  Gold

Chef David Chang travels around the world tasting food from different cultures. – IMDB

Ugly Delicious is an eight episode documentary series that follows David Chang and company as he explores a different type of food and hunts down for the best ones while at the same time, using the different views and approaches to make food to look at the narrow or open mindedness and the cultural prejudices and views that are linked with it. It pulls in a social commentary about how different societal themes like politics and such can also be pulled into the various discussions.

Ugly Delicious requires its audience to have an open mind because a lot of this refers to food brought over by immigrants and how its changed as its traversed the world into different cultures, challenging sometimes what you might think of certain things one way but how they may be viewed a completely different way. Its not only seeing great food that is a draw but also the depth that the series brings.  It manages to talk about the origins of that sort of food and the meaning behind it and then look at how different countries have their own interpretations.

Over the eight episodes, they take the audience through pizza, tacos, homecooking, shrimp & crawfish, BBQ, Fried Chicken, Fried Rice and finally a battle of the stuffed pasta vs. dumplings. There’s much to learn throughout the series while seeing some wonderful takes on food. That was the initial draw for me before I started it but to be honest, the whole history and origins and the extension of how food in America and how its viewed by the world actually became something that make it a very thought-provoking experience. Its not in whether you agree or not but sometimes to see a certain way of how food can bring together the world to understand each other better and see other cultures through a different way. For that, I love a lot of the episodes: BBQ had one of the most hilarious bits while the first and final episode made me think a lot about the similarities and seeing things in a different way while obviously, the dive into Fried Rice and Chinese cuisine as well as the homecooking one hit home a little more for myself and I connected with that a lot whereas some of the most creative episodes went to Fried Chicken but turned around to see the value of traditional cooking versus the more modern twists on Shrimp and Crawfish and BBQ.

Ugly Delicious is a thought-provoking docuseries that is done very well. A lot of it has to do with the food and culture that they dive into and the guests invited there. While David Chang might seem a little pretentious in some thoughts, I really liked how in his own ways, he managed to keep things very honest and still show his passion for different cuisines. Its going to be great to see what they do in Season 2, (which has been confirmed but no date announced yet).