Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Double Feature: Operation Santa Drop (2020) & Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

I’m super behind on these Christmas reviews going out so I figured that I’d double down to get all of them out. Back to the double feature reviews, we’re in for a Netflix Original double feature for holiday films.

Hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas Eve and lets check out these two movies!

Operation Santa Drop (2020)

Director: Martin Wood

Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss’s behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. – IMDB

Operation Christmas Drop takes a tropic setting for Christmas, much like last year’s Holiday in the Wild (review). In this case, its about the Air Force base doing a good deed on their own means but the facility being on the verge of possibility defunded because of it. Its pretty much a holiday romantic comedy with a bigger cause at heart which has all the right intentions however also feels very familiar. Of course, if these types of movies are your cup of tea, its definitely going to work other than perhaps the computer animated gecko sitting on the wall that looks the most out of place. In the current state of pandemic across the world, it perhaps helps that this sort of destination is one to look forward to in the future when things get back to some form of normal.

Its hard to criticize Operation Christmas Drop. In many ways, the meaning of Christmas and the good deed makes this a rather feel good movie. However, putting it in the context of the romance at heart, it feels a little light. The chemistry is on and off between the two main leads and yet, the whole exploring the place and mostly the character Erica, played by Kat Graham does change her heart as she would have to for to movie to have to fight against her boss, the congresswoman played by Virginia Madsen. The charm is really in how it portrays the villagers and the people in it, plus the setting gives it a lot of extra points. The whole Christmas Drop scene might be the most fun to watch.

Operation Christmas Drop is an alright movie. Its pretty harmless overall and has a decent story to tell especially since its based on a true situation which it makes a point to highlight at the end of the movie. Nameless heroes are the best ones to talk about and possibly the most heartwarming stories. Its very fitting for a holiday film, even if it doesn’t hit all the notes for the romantic arc.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Director (and writer): David E. Talbert

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillip, Kieron L. Dyer

An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever. – IMDB

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a musical fantasy film. I’m all about Netflix putting together these musical films. I also caught up with The Prom shortly after this one but that’s for another post. While its not exactly a Christmas movie in the conventional way, it is one that’s full of magic: the magic of creation especially in terms of toy creations. Its about family and making peace. There’s a bit of silliness to the whole situation as well and some imagination elements but its a fun journey to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Jingle Jangle even if there are some small pacing issues perhaps and the story is rather predictable in where it will go. However, the musical numbers are really fun and I’m also a sucker for those big musical scenes which almost feels like flash mob. The music itself is good as well. The cast performs it very well. There are some memorable songs in the mix.

Perhaps one of the things that also stand out is that the cast is exceptional, at least to me. Forest Whitaker takes on the main inventor role Jeronicus that has lost his magic after his creation ideas are stolen from his apprentice and at the verge of losing his store that has now turned into a pawnshop, his granddaughter is sent over with the same type of inventive bone as him to warm his life up and also bring back his magic. With a new young boy that wants to be his apprentice in the mix and the postal service lady that wants to win his heart in the most entertaining way and so much personality, it also brings into the mix of Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, his apprentice that was actually mislead by Jeronicus’ invention Don Juan Diego who has so much of a human conscious that it doesn’t want to be replicated. Don Juan Diego is animated and voiced by Ricky Martin who does a fantastic job as well. Not to mention that the young stars including the main lead of the granddaughter Journey by Madalen Mills.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is really quite the fun spectacle. The magic and the music and the characters all are quite the charming. Not to mention the setting of the village is nice as well as the toy design that is in the making turns out to be this uber cute Wall-E-esque looking robot. There may be some flaws with this and it has some overacting here and there but then musicals always seem to have that sort of feeling to it and its those moments that blend well with the musical numbers and boosting the story elements.

TV Binge: The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

Director: Cha Chuen Yee

Cast: Rosy  Zhao, Ryan Ding, Zixin Zhou, Yinghao Sheng, Xin Zhao, Patrick Quan, Smile Wei, Minghao Chen, Yijia Wu, Shuyuan Liu

Chen Xiao Qian has dedicated her entire life to making her dream of becoming a well-respected screenwriter come true. Proud of the effort she put into creating this epic tale, Xiao Qian expects things on-set to go quickly and smoothly. But all her high-hopes are soon crushed as her script falls under the critical scrutiny of both the cast and crew. Hurt by the harshness of her peers, Xiao Qian vows to prove herself but things don’t go the way she planned. Mysteriously transported into the pages of her own story, Xiao Qian has now become the Third Princess, Chen Qian Qian, an insignificant side character with a horrible reputation and a short lifespan. Desperate to change her fate, Xiao Qian vows to do whatever it takes to ensure her survival. But the journey ahead won’t be easy, especially not after she catches the attention of both the arrogant and manipulative prince, Han Shuo, and the impossibly perfect Minister of Education, Pei Heng. Wandering through a world of her own making, Xiao Qian is desperate, not only to survive, but to keep her heart intact as she tries to find her way back home. Will her efforts be enough or will she be stuck in this story forever? – MyDramaList

Episodes: 24
Where to watch: Tencent Youtube Channel

Meshing modern and ancient or fantasy is always a fun way as it plays with the fish out of water tale that usually creates a lot of comedy along the way (and one of my favorite sort of stories). What makes The Romance of Tiger and Rose stand out is that it twists it a little more. In this case, modern day screenwriter Xiao Qian is the creator of the story that she falls into so she knows the characters and settings more than the characters and because of that, she becomes the changing factor, a fact that she needs to realize and embrace that her character that she embodies now, Qian Qian is becoming a main female lead and no longer the short-lived supporting character. As she finds a way to manipulate the story back on the course its suppose to take, its really a story about following your heart and embracing change, that no one can play God even if its her own script especially with the unknown factor of how she escapes back into the reality in the end.

Fantasy or Ancient China settings for Chinese TV dramas that I usually watch are big productions and very dramatic. The refreshing part for Tiger and Rose is that it falls in the romantic comedy sort of story. That alone is a nice change especially since the characters themselves and the cast are all very fun as well. Even the more serious characters have this sort of humor to them that gradually is revealed. Plus the story takes a secret plot gone wrong by a neighboring city that is opposite in beliefs of this one. Xiao Qian’s original story was focused on a love story much like Romeo and Juliet’s that breaks the tension between two countries of opposing values, Qianqian’s which is a matriarchy where men have no say or power and patriarchy where its vice versa and brings up a point that no extreme in either way is good but rather should strike an equality. This is obviously hidden between the lines as the story is focused on the romance between Tiger and Rose and plays on a thing that Chinese stories always say about being the main lead in your own story ( not sure if that’s just a Chinese drama thing).

The characters are quite fun. Ryan Ding and Rosy Zhao are hilarious together. They also can be quite sweet. It all starts off as schemes and gradually grows over time. They both take their roles in this over the top moments and it really helps add that sense of comedy and not forced since it fits into the tone of the story. Both characters have rather good chemistry and there’s an air of drama between them which adds depth tontheir characters especially since Rosy Zhao’s Qianqian takes this bad reputation character that she writes and changes it to an honorable character despite the fact that her takeover doesn’t transfer the character’s skills to her so she needs to justify why she can’t fight anymore for example. Ryan Ding is an interesting actor because he does mold well in the different elements here and feels more genuine. The chenistry between the two leads are good especially with how its developed and executed. The silly servants for each of them also almost steal the show because of how comedic and clueless they are as well as some of the supporting characters even if the second male lead does feel like more seriously written than it should be.

Running at 24 episodes, its the best length for most dramas. Its well-paced while still having a decent story that doesn’t lose focus of the story that needs to be told. The love story remains rather prominent but at the same time, its a story about “Rose” which is Qianqian’s character and its mostly from her point of view while still having moments of behind the scenes with other characters. That’s a little odd considering this is her story and its her that fell into her dream which is the only little bit that I think should have been reworked. However, it shows that this fictional world is moving away from her written path. Its a good balance of everything and while I’m initially wasn’t completely convinced about Rosy Zhao’s acting, this drama does fit her really well. I still think she can work on her crying a little more since it seems very unconvincing but at the same time, the drama is mostly comedy and its done in an entertaining way and its surprisingly bingeworthy because of it.

TV Binge: Forget You Remember Love (忘记你记得爱情, 2020)

Forget You Remember Love (忘记你记得爱情, 2020)

Cast: Fair Xing, Garvey Jin, Cavan Wen, Xing Cheng Jiang, Joyce Zhao, Ming Na Yang, Alex Dong, Zheng Jun Li, Jurat Kutilai

A story between an ordinary girl who rescues a downtrodden CEO that has lost his memories, thus beginning a dreamy fairy tale. – MyDramaList

Where to watch: Tencent (Youtube Channel or App)

Forget You Remember Love is a remake of 2005 Taiwanese TV series Prince Turn To Frog (currently available on Netflix Canada, you would need to check your own area to see if its also available there). The original starred a popular cast lead by Joe Chen and Ming Dao. The 2nd female lead of the original actually plays a supporting role as the female lead’s stepmother in this Chinese remake. I can’t remember a whole lot of the original series so I can’t really compare the two but the course of events feels pretty similar but probably expanded on since the original was 31 episodes and this one is 38. Forget You Remember Love tells a rather common story especially when its remaking a storyline told in 2005, everything becomes less unique and much more predictable. In 2005, this type of storyline was quite the tale that brought chemistry and laughter and maybe even some tears so its a wonder to me whether the same ideas still work in the 2020 landscape. Speaking from my own view, some of it does work and then some of the really dramatic bits really do get a little frustrating. That’s the extent of comparing to the original that I will go.

Before we get ahead, lets do a more expansive recap of the story. Forget You Remember Love is a story about a small town girl Qianyu who saves a rich and cold CEO Junhao from drowning. They part ways with a pretty bad impression of each other to eventually meet again after he gets washed up after an accident with amnesia where she takes him in. For a few months (I think that’s what the timeline is), he stays with her family and helps out while the two fall in love but when his real life catches up, she means to bring him back when some power hungry people from his corporation plot to make him vanish causing him to have another accident that brings him memories back but forgetting the whole time that he stayed in the small village and his relationship with the Qianyu. For her village’s inn, Qianyu ends up having to work with him in order to save it and then causing him to fall in love with her again. Of course in the background, there’s Junhao’s fiancee and then the best friend that secretly crushes on his fiancee and then Qianyu also having a second male lead who helps her unconditionally causing a heavy case of the second male lead syndrome. There’s family and social class issues as well as revenge and dirty manipulation put into play. Like I said, pretty basic plotline for dramas especially for people like myself that have been watching TV dramas since the 2000s (or even before).

However, with that said, chemistry and character design can pull it through. I mean, I didn’t review Meteor Garden remake and even with its issues, that was a pretty successful remake overall (but I really should since my ambitious plan fell through). That’s where Forget You Remember Love might have some issues. First of all, the pacing creates some issues. Running at 38 episodes, there some major repetitive moments that drags on for much longer than it needs. The same issues keep coming up and the same reactions keep happening which creates more frustration than enjoyment at a certain point. With that said, there were some pretty great moments in the first half when amnesiac Junhao, now named Tong Hao is living with Qianyu that plays out really well. The happy and positive person that he becomes and the friendship turned to love that happens between them that wakes up this other side of him.

The key chemistry and fleshed out characters are Qianyu played by Fair Xing, an actress that I personally think is very natural when she acts, Garvey Jin as Junhao who really does give off a very opposite vibe in his normal life and amnesiac life and shows a change when he falls back in love with Qianyu. Its a fairly dynamic performances. Taichu as the second male lead played by Cavan Wen is also a charming and handsome guy who really maked you root for him but knows that he won’t get the girl. The direction for his character especially at the ending bits really adds so much to his character. Qianyu’s mother and and the people at the fishing village, mostly the prior is incredibly fun to watch. Her personality and the little bickerings adds a lot of laughter to the whole series. Where it falls into some fairly one dimensional characters does go to the fiancee Yunyi whose character is the most annoying as all she does is be sad, pretend everything’s okay and then lie about a situation which always backfires and it cycles between being sad and insecure over and over again. The same goes for the best friend character Ziqian who is a rather flat character until they give him a revenge plot.

Overall, Forget You Remember Love is an okay watch. The first half being a lot stronger than the second half. The main issue being that it drags out the ending a little more than it should. The plot is fairly basic as it is a remake however the main leads do have decent character arcs and chemistry making it a fun watch. The moments between female lead and first and second male leads being some of the best parts of the series while the fishing village parts and amnesia parts being the other standout parts.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

Holidate (2020)

Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell

Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other’s platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch real feelings along the way. – IMDB

Netflix earliest Christmas/holiday themed romantic comedy was Holiday, released at the end of October. Bearing the talented Emma Roberts who has done quite a few quirky movies in her filmography, Holidate holds a decent premise revolving around the concept of being single during the holidays and the judging eyes of family and friends for not having someone in their life or simply life choices in general. Entering into a holiday contract plus these two people together. While the premise itself is fairly unique using the holiday angle, the whole concept of contractual relationships and the flow of the romantic comedy offers nothing too refreshing.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly fresh nowadays and yet for those who like to watch it, a lot dwells on the chemistry between the main leads that at least give a reason to root for them. Here’s where some of the deepest issues do occur in the execution. The holiday premise causes the film to jump through the different holidays almost in montage speed giving them very little character build. The scenes that give these two characters the most backstory is in little pieces at the beginning for set-up before the contract, once or twice in the middle and then at the end, when they inevitably face up to their feelings. They have little moments like hooking up after a drunk rendez-vous or helping each other out of embarrassing situations or whatnot and yet, the connection between them is slightly lacking.

If we look at the comedy parts, that part might be a little more successful depending on what your comedy style is. For myself, some of the comedy does land. Embarrassing moments or some over the top bits are good. However, some of the over the top stuff mostly with Kristen Chenoweth’s character sometimes rides along the fine line between being funny and being too much. However, comedy is very subjective. In the comedy department though, Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey do land those moments fairly well.

With that said, Emma Roberts is a really good actress and with what she’s given here, her role is pretty fun. Holidate as a whole is a fairly lackluster and predictable sort of romantic comedy set up and yet, the premise here is fun. It makes sense that it didn’t go full Christmas movie selection since its more about the holidays than set solely during Christmas. Thing is, Holidate is somewhat of a middling viewing. If you enjoy romantic comedies, this one is okay and you can give it a shot. Its nothing super memorable but it has some fun and awkward moments.

FNC 2020: Sin La Habana (2020) & Poissonsexe (2020)

Its taken a while to wrap up the Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage but we’re in the final double feature. Both a romance in their own regards is a Canadian film, Sin La Habana and a French movie, Poissonsexe. Both having a romance wrapped up in highlighting a bigger plot and both carrying a different tone and atmosphere.

Sin La Habana (2020)

Director (and writer): Kaveh Nabatian

Cast: Yonah Acosta Gonzalez, Aki Yaghoubi, Evelyn Castroda O’Farrill, Julio Cesar Hong Oritz, Ahlam Gholami

Set in Cuba and Montreal, Sin La Habana tells the story of a love triangle that grows from a desire to find a better life in another country. A big plan for the main character Leonardo to find a better future in another country that can’t be found in a closed country in Cuba by charming a Montreal traveler Nasim into a relationship in the goal of having her bring him over and eventually get married to immigrate to Canada. When settled, he needs to find a way to bring his girlfriend Sara in Cuba to Montreal so that they can find a way to be together again. However, the issues are piled up when their relationship takes a turn for a more complex when the new country brings on its own problems, not only for Leonardo and Sara but also Nasim who being an immigrant herself has her own issues to deal with.

Looking at the issues of relationships, immigration, assimilating in a new country, Sin La Habana covers quite a few topics. Immigration and how its not as great as people imagine it plus the story of these great ploys at going to no lengths to achieve their goals for a better life to find that things don’t ever go as planned. One in the dark (kind of) and one that isn’t and yet dreams aren’t easier to achieve in another country, its something that is from within as Leonardo goes through from his first moments as a ballet dancer to a roundout point of trying to get a position in a dance group in Montreal. On the other side, Nasim’s character might seem a softer character at first but soon to realize that she knows exactly what is going on and stays cautious but she is fighting her own fight with her family and her future. These two’s story comes in the front that the love triange element falls in the backdrop along with the character of Sara after the Cuba side of things shifts over to the Montreal setting.

Its always nice to see Montreal as a location in movies as a personal little highlight for myself. Montreal is a diverse location but a harder place to fit in because of its language barrier as a French-speaking province in Canada along with the cold winters and it makes for a fitting location for this story. Sin La Habana talks about an issue and perhaps loopholes of the immigration system. A story that probably someone has heard of about one person or another or the news however its the characters that are crafted and their journey that gives Sin La Habana an interesting angle. They each have their good and bad character traits that make them believable and real people and each chasing some form of their own dream and life.

Poissonsexe (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Olivier Babinet

Cast:  Gustave Kervern, India Hair, Ellen Dorrit Peterson, Okinawa Valerie Guerard, Alexis Manenti

Daniel, a biologist studying the disappearance of fish, is haunted by paternity. It is by looking for a woman who could be the mother of his children that he will come across a strange fish and discover what he really lacks: love. – IMDB

Poissonsexe, called both as Fishlove or Fishsex on FNC site and IMDB respectively, is a peculiar little story. The characters are peculiar and they find a strange fish and altogether it has this unique take on the environment especially on a biological marine/aquatic side. Its about love and sex and babies but in the end, its also about these fairly lonely people who do the same things everyday and want to find companionship. A bit of a comedy and a little of drama pulls this story together in a charming way.

The story’s focal character is Daniel, played by Gustave Kervern. He is a rather routine and boring sort of fellow. He has everything planned out for an upcoming baby room without even having a girlfriend and then he gets set up by his friend for online dating. When he meets a woman who finds him parked on the beach, they end up finding a strange fish with legs. This brings their connection together and he slowly realizes that he wants love and not just a child. The whole movie is a little quirky and moments of comedy and awkwardness and yet it manages to find its own balance to make the whole thing fairly charming.

Other than the leading roles standing out, the little strange fish creature adds this almost psychedelic nature to it. Sometimes it feels like it overdoes some of it a little but then, it feels deliberate to make this fish have its own pull for Daniel. However, what is a big theme that pulls the story together is about the environment and how its being wasted away does to the smallest fish which grow extinct because they no longer can reproduce despite the best scientific effort. Yet what goes on this lab almost reflects the story line that Daniel’s character goes through right down to the most entertaining part which its finale.

Poissonsexe is a little odd and the strange fish is a quirky little addition and putting together the parallels of extending the next generation whether in the fish world or human world, the story is about love and feelings instead of the science. There are some disjointed moments and some supporting characters do feel a little one dimensional but its a lot of fun. French humor always seems to have this interesting charm when balanced well and this one definitely.has those charming elements. The love story is a fairly basic element here but what makes it different are the other elements all combined together.

Thats it for this double feature and it wraps up my FNC 2020 coverage! (FINALLY!) Hopefully there were some smaller films that caught your eye. These two were okay for me alhough Sin La Habana did win one of the festival awards.

FNC 2020: Moving On (2019) /Wisdom Tooth (2019)/The Thief’s Daughter (2019)

In an effort to wrap up the FNC 2020 coverage, the final reviews will be in multiple movies. The first is a trio of family dramas, each with their own angle and premise that makes them rather unique (and all three that I did enjoy) plus a focus on a female main character.

Moving On (2020)

Director (and writer): Yoon Dan-Bi

Cast: Choi Jung-Un, Yang Heung-Ju, Park Hyeon-Yeong, Park Seung-Jun

After her parents get divorced, Okju, her father and her little brother move in with a grandfather she barely knows. Life in the new family unit proves challenging for the already traumatized teenager. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

A lot of Moving On is about coping. Coping with change in a world that feels like everyone is trying to move on as nothing had happened before and dealing with the inner feelings of neglect and loneliness. That is what Okju is dealing with throughout but not only her has some issues, her father also has some tough decisions while her aunt who has moved into the home as well have her own issues. Everyone tries to act like nothing is wrong in fear of their grandfather knowing about all their issues as he also has his own health issues that they worry about. And yet, in all this, the little brother seems to be the one that has escaped all these feelings. He gets a lot of the attention but at the same time, seems less scarred by these effects.

Moving On is a subtle films that focus on everyday people going through everyday issues and as they stay together in this home, they get to know each other’s issues and what bothers them or lingers in their thoughts from the past and present. As the family connections come into play, they each have their form of conflict and struggles that craft these characters especially the main teenage girl Okju who spends a good part of the movie trying to seek attention despite her quiet personality from small things like fighting to have a room to herself and her personal space to getting the attention of a boy that she likes and even the little moments that she shares with her father and aunt that all makes her feel special for little short moments.

Its hard to explain Moving On that makes it not feel like its fairly mundane however, the best movies (arguably) are those that use an everyday life premise and create believable characters and relationships. In this case, its one about a family going through divorce, break-ups and a change in living situation. The subtlety of how its executed really does give a lot of focus on an outstanding premise and story, heavily focused on each of the characters, especially with Okju.

Wisdom Tooth (2019)

Director (and writer): Ming Liang

Cast: Xingchen Lyu, Jiajia Wang, Weishen Wang, Xiaoliang Wu

Gu Xi and her half-brother Gu Liang lead a hardscrabble life in a village in northern China, where they struggle to make ends meet. Their unusually intimate relationship takes on a new dimension with the arrival of the charismatic QingChang, daughter of a rich businessman.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Wrapped up in both a family drama featuring a close sibling relationship where the brother and sister’s life revolves solely around each other. However, as their lives take a turn for new opportunities, Gu Liang meets a new girl which opens up a mostly behind the scenes romance. Viewed mostly from the point of view of Gu Xi, she needs to adapt to a world where she isn’t the center of her brother’s world as an outgoing rich girl QingChang gets into the picture. Call it an unusual love triangle if you want but aside from the family/romance side, a fairly more subtle subplot lies in the little details of the dealings that Gu Liang and his best friend are involved in in the fish business as well as her boss’s issues due to her undocumented status.

One of the best elements of Wisdom Tooth is the link of Gu Xi’s wisdom tooth issue at the beginning that pulls back to it at the end as she finds back her way. At the same time, its the execution of the premise from the lighthearted sibling relationship at the beginning that defines them right away to its gradual addition of QingChang and the best friend which leads to a friendship between WingChang and Gu Xi as they try to bond together which all comes crashing down one day and she needs to make a huge decision. Set in the 1990s China backdrop and its cold weather in a part of a more northern China (I can’t remember the exact location) but the looming winter adds a lot to the setting and cinematography.

Aside from that, this story is heavily focused on its characters and the relationships between each of them. With that said, the entire cast does an outstanding job. The standout goes out to crafting the character of Gu Xi, played by Xingchen Lyu who is followed throughout as she starts to find herself by the end and her independence. At the same time, Gu Liang played by Xiaoliang Wu is also done really well. His struggle between his sister, his love relationship and his “career” is well-portrayed. The ending of the story is done in a fairly unique manner that I quite liked. If there was one little element that held the movie back, it would be the imbalance of how it treated the mixed genre of family drama, romance and crime thriller.

A Thief’s Daughter (La Hija de un Ladron, 2019)

Director (and co-writer): Belén Funes

Cast: Greta Fernandez, Eduard Fernandez, Alex Monner, Tomas Martin, Adela Silverstre

Her father is a convicted, her boyfriend rejects her, her brother is troublemaker, her baby needs money and she’s half-deaf of one ear. Bad times to be Sara. – IMDB

A Thief’s Daughter is a movie about coming to terms with what is the current situation and striving for a better day than settling for the life with a criminal. Sara, played by Gerta Fernandez is the central character as she moves through her various responsibilities as a mother, a girlfriend, a sister, an employee and as a daughter. The relationship between her and her father is the plot that constantly builds throughout the film. However, Sara’s life is a struggle in general. As she finds a more stable job to support her desire to get her younger brother’s custody, her relationship with her father is further worsened along with her brother’s attachment to their father. The feeling of loneliness is what gradually becomes more apparent as she ends up dealing with everything on her own, whether its her own doing or the better choice to keep away from the trouble.

A Thief’s Daughter has relatively decent pacing. The different relationships she has all outlined and built upon throughout to give them all purpose and depth. Her father’s presence although not completely apparent, it appears with enough context to highlight their issues. Its a great work of the writing that gives this looming sense of dread that something bad could happen to Sara when her one good thing being finding a stable job at a school kitchen due to all the conflicts that happens to her throughout. In the end, it becomes a worry that hits her about whether she will be alone for the rest of her life, a rather heartbreaking revelation for Sara, a character that tries her best to do the right thing by everyone but rarely seems to get treated with the same about care from others. There’s a lot that’s done very well in A Thief’s Daughter. Its subtle and quiet but Sara’s character really does end up being rather powerful. Especially when faced with people that don’t seem to stick around her life and her father who she finally stands up to about her own feelings.

That’s it for this Festival du Nouveau Cinema features.
A good batch of family drama with central female characters overall which are all well worth a watch.

Double Feature: The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) & Skyscraper (2018)

Welcome to the next double feature! I have to say that I may have given up on the alphabet format but I don’t think anyone else was really following that anyways…always get stuck at Q. Either way, next pairing are two movies I saw as breathers in between Fantasia screenings. The first is The Kissing Booth 2 (which I’m still wondering why I saw since I didn’t like the first one) and the second is Skyscraper which has Dwayne Johnson which is almost guaranteed a nice mindless entertainment movie night. Not exactly the typical sort of pairing but it is what it is.

Let’s check it out!

The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Vince Marcello

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Molly Ringwald, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Meganne Young, Stephen Jennings

In the sequel to 2018’s THE KISSING BOOTH, high school senior Elle juggles a long-distance relationship with her dreamy boyfriend Noah, college applications, and a new friendship with a handsome classmate that could change everything. – IMDB

Following the events of The Kissing Booth (review), The Kissing Booth 2 resumes after a summer of Elle and Noah being together and they have to part ways because of Noah having to go to Harvard. Between juggling her emotions for Noah not being there, keeping herself busy, spending time with her best friend (and his girlfriend) and then trying to find money to fund possibly college in Boston without burdening her family and keeping her own secrets, Elle has quite a lot on her plate. Not only from Elle’s angle, The Kissing Booth 2 also focuses a little on Noah and Lee’s side. The Kissing Booth 2 is probably exactly as I’d expected it would go seeing as I still am wondering why I started it in the first place since I didn’t really enjoy the first one and not a huge fan of Elle’s character setup.

The whole world of The Kissing Booth 2 just always seem to have this missing thing that they aren’t hitting. This one tries to cover a lot of ground with different supporting characters and more conflicts. Its about friends and relationships and planning for the future. I just sometimes have this hard time believing that these characters and how they talk are teenagers in high school in this current day and age. Its a predictable sort of story and to be honest, this film was more enjoyable than the first because of one element and that’s the Second Lead Syndrome where I thought the new character and Elle’s new friend and dance partner that has some sparks, Marco portrayed by Taylor Zakhar Perez was fun and one of the better characters of this whole story. There seemed to be some good chemistry between the two of them especially in the dance competition part which was a lot of fun to watch overall. But then I have this deep love for Dance Dance Revolution so the whole Dance Mania competition was a highlight.

The Kissing Booth 2 is really nothing to call home about. I’d love to see Taylor Zakhar Perez in something else although it was announced that The Kissing Booth 3 is happening and was filmed back to back or something and just to finish this thing up, I’ll probably still check it out and cross my fingers that maybe the 2nd lead will get the girl (which probably won’t happen) but then I’m getting ahead of myself at this point. If you liked The Kissing Booth then you might like the sequel, if you didn’t, then maybe you are like me and found some joy with the second male lead and the dance competition.

Skyscraper (2018)

Skyscraper

Director (and writer): Rawson Marshall Thurber

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hannah Quinlivan

A security expert must infiltrate a burning skyscraper, 225 stories above ground, when his family is trapped inside by criminals. – IMDB

Dwayne Johnson is definitely one of those actors that makes some fun and entertaining sort of action movies packed with one liners and just altogether a straightforward good time. The stories sometimes don’t have a ton of depth and are fairly predictable but if you already know what to expect then its almost always a decent little action romp. With that said, Skyscraper fits the bill of exactly what to expect. Set in a rather fictional Hong Kong (to anyone who knows the city well enough) in a fictional tall skyscraper, it might break the reality just a tad on that front as well as how ridiculously over the top a few of the action sequences are. For frequenters of Fast and the Furious franchise who has just been packed with these over the top unrealistic moments that people like to make Youtube videos to debunk how accurate it can be, Skyscraper is a usual deal especially when Dwayne Johnson’s character goes to jump off a crane to another building, there’s some strange physics going on there.

Its really hard to talk about movies likes these. On one hand, for serious moviegoers, its very obvious that there are a ton of flaws whether in shallow plot or some computer effects or even how some events flow and how certain scenes are structured. Its not going to be some award-winning movie. On the other hand, if you go by the standpoint of having exactly what is expected and for the mindless entertainment and some fun Dwayne Johnson moments, this is fairly harmless especially when a lot of his skyscraper moments involve duct tape, a common every day man trick which does keep the movie grounded a little more than expected.

Not to mention, Dwayne Johnson is accompanied by a supporting role by Neve Campbell who plays his wife in the movie. She actually has quite a useful point to make and actually speaks some decent Cantonese line. I always praise actors/actresses who are given these foreign lines and get it right on point. Although, that is definitely more of a personal thing. With that said, there are some good characters here plus I do usually enjoy Chin Han’s roles. Overall, Skyscraper was plain and simple a fun time. I acknowledge all the issues with it but at the same time, it was exactly what I needed when I chose to watch it.


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

Fantasia Festival 2020: A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

A Mermaid in Paris (Une Sirène à Paris, 2020)

a mermaid in paris

Director (and co-writer): Mathias Malzieu

Cast: Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marilyn Lima, Rossy de Palma, Tcheky Karyo, Romane Bohringer, Alexis Michalik

A man rescues a mermaid in Paris and slowly falls in love with her. – IMDB

Being a huge fan of Mathias Malzieu debut feature film Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (review), A Mermaid in Paris was a must-watch. It would be interesting to see how Mathias Malzieu would approach doing a live-action film knowing the imagination that he is capable of. This fantasy romantic melodrama is an outstanding effort by Malzieu once again proving that his unique eye for the visuals as well as the use of an older era of fashion and fantastical color palette all blends incredibly well together with his creative imagination that all comes to life in such an appealing way.

A Mermaid in Paris

Being a musician before stepping into the director’s chair, Malzieu also uses soundtrack in a strong way to build up the character of the film. He injects Piaf’s song as well as other song choices to pair with the times. In this case, he also plays on the mermaids and the myth of the mesmerizingly deadly songs of the sirens. This builds up the romantic storyline of Gaspard, a man who falls in love easily and has had his heart broken so much he feels that he has no more love to give and struggling to hold onto his family’s business that holds memories of his mother and a place for performances, who saves a mermaid Lula (Marilyn Lima) who he is immune to her song. Their romantic connection grows gradually throughout the film and Lula becomes a character that wants to get back to sea soon but also has the fish out of water story element, that I’m a big fan of as it brings in a comedic element. The chemistry between Gaspard and Lula is undeniably beautiful.

A Mermaid in Paris

The comedic element is enhanced by a stellar performance of Rossy de Palma playing Gaspard’s neighbor Rossy in a second collaboration with Malzieu. Rossy is a unique character who guides both of them in her rather whacky ways but also plays as an assist. All the happy things here with romance and comedy has to be paired with some drama and adding in a threat to balance out all of this is a revenge story from the girlfriend of one of Lula’s victims. If there’s anything, this character Milena is a bit frustrating at times however she has her purpose.

A Mermaid in Paris is a cinematic treat. The rich color palette paired with the fantasy elements; the mermaid myth playing along on the romantic infatuation that creeps up between them to a surprising twist; the wonderful performances from the cast and the colorful characters: all comes together to create this beautiful experience. On top of that, Malzieu doesn’t even forget to give a nod to the animation style using the characters in this previous film in one of the scenes as a background element. There’s so much to love with Malzieu’s filming style and his seemingly love for telling stories about the life-threatening dangers of falling in love. Its a unique way of telling love stories and its this vision paired with his imagination that makes his films so fun to dive into.