REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding) have been dating for over a year, and when it’s Nick’s best friend Colin’s (Chris Pang) wedding in Singapore, it’s the perfect chance for Rachel to meet Nick’s family and friends – what she doesn’t expect is for them all to be super rich and famous!

Based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy that’s big, bright and full of over the top characters and settings, and somehow it all works.

Singapore with all its people, buildings and food looks stunning. The film captures the extravagance of these characters lives, showing all the glitz and glamour but still being able to shine light, however briefly, on the characters more hidden sides – one of Nick’s cousins Astrid (Gemma Chan) has a subplot with her dissatisfied husband (Pierre Png) that’s heart-breaking.

Rachel and Nick are a believable couple as their chemistry is fantastic and they actually talk about the problems they encounter – though both of them don’t always understand what the other could face because of their relationship. Rachel’s main adversary is Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), Nick’s glamourous and reserved mother. She wants the best for her son and see’s Rachel as an outsider and a distraction, both because of Rachel’s status in class, and the fact she grew up in America. As Eleanor’s disapproval becomes more obvious, Rachel must decide whether to fight or give in to the almost insurmountable pressures she and Nick are under. While Eleanor is the villain to Rachel’s hero, the film never fully villainises her, instead being sure to show Eleanor’s side to things and making her sympathetic in her own way.

The whole cast is brilliant and while the romance is the main focus, the film showcases some brilliant relationships between women. There’s Rachel and her best friend from university Peik Lin (Awkwafina) who is hilarious and supportive, Astrid is one of the few members of her family to fully accept and like Rachel straight away, and Rachel and mother (Kheng Hua Tan) have one of the best mother-daughter relationships, and while her mother is from China, even she doesn’t quite get all the ins and outs of high Singapore society.

Crazy Rich Asians is a funny, romantic film with engaging characters you root for. Everything works, the opulence, the music and the cast. It’s a delightful film that’s pure escapism and there’s nothing wrong with that. 5/5.

You can read my review of the book here.

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READ THE WORLD – Albania: Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku

Translated by Ani Gjika.

A collection of poetry from Luljeta Lleshanaku examining the space between objects and people, how things balance together and the different human emotions.

I’m not someone who knows a lot about poetry, but I found a lot of Lleshanaku’s poems beautiful yet bleak. There’s a loneliness to a lot of them, when someone is the subject matter of a poem they often can’t connect with others and there’s a distance between the subject and what they’re doing. Many of the poems aren’t tied to one specific place or time, instead the “story” flows from different perspectives, almost always focusing on the mundane.

Most of the poems here were about a page long, but there were a few that almost played out like short stories – Homo Antarcticus and Water and Carbon are two examples of this. They are both sad, haunting poems about people who are at a distance from others, through they choice or not. I enjoyed the poems that were more like short stories rather than the page-long ones as they naturally had more depth to them.

The poems in this collection are quiet peculiar and haunting. Whether it’s because they have been translated into English or because they’re from an Albanian poet, they don’t quiet fit with what my preconceived notions of poetry are. It makes reading these poems an interesting experience and I could see myself going back and rereading some of them to see if they have a different affect on me.

This is my pick this month’s Monthly Motif “Read a book that has won a literary award, or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community” as Negative Space is the winner of the English PEN Award and Luljeta Lleshanaku received the 2009 Crystal Vilenica award for European poets.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Book List for a Class on Feminism

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. This week in honour of summer coming to an end and it soon being the start of the new school year, we can create our own reading list for a topic of our choice. I chose feminism as I think both fiction and non-fiction are a great way to get people talking about feminism and see how it can affect different people.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Moxie is all about a girl finding her voice and finding a sense of unity with the girls in her school, crossing the usual cliques, and learning to stand up for what she believes in.

Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin
Since reading Who Runs the World? I’ve thought about it fair bit and would give it a lower rating than I did when I read it, but I think it would be a good book to show the “extremes” of feminism and how if there’s no men, it probably wouldn’t be a utopia.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Besides being a great book, The Hate U Give would be a great book to look at the intersectionality of feminism and racism.

 

Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit
Got to have some non-fiction in a class on feminism. This is a short collection of essays and one of them is the origin of the term “mansplaining” so that would be an interesting thing to discuss.

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
The three main girls are all different, Rosina is a Mexican-American lesbian, Grace is fat, and Erin has Asperger’s, but they come together to try and change things as another girl was run out of town for accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape.

I think all these books would prompt good discussions about feminism. They offer different takes on feminism and a lot of them have strong, complex female characters who are trying to find their place in the world but are trying to make things a little bit better at the same time.

What books would you choose if you were running a class of feminism? I’m sure there are many great books I’ve forgotten.

REVIEW: Life Partners (2014)

Sasha (Leighton Meester) and Paige (Gilliam Jacobs) are best friends who are just a little co-dependent. Their relationship is tested when Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody) and has a serious boyfriend for the first time.

Life Partners is a great take on female friendship and the ups and downs of a friendship as you go through different life events. While the same age, Sasha and Paige are at different stages of their lives. When Paige meets Tim and starts to think about settling down, Sasha is still going out and dating girls who are younger than her and, more often than not, still live with their parents. And it’s not even their relationships that are different, it’s the career paths – Paige is a lawyer while Sasha has been a receptionist for years, so she can focus on her music. These are two very real and relatable women and their friendship is relatable too.

Both Sasha and Paige have their flaws and seeing them begin to recognise them and try to change or apologise, was lovely to see. The script is funny and heartfelt and allows these two female characters to be layered and their friendship is never stereotypical.

Meester and Jacobs have great chemistry, as do Jacobs and Brody, meaning that when Tim comes into the picture, you root for him because he makes Paige happy but can see how insecure he’s making Sasha at the same time. Life Partners has a great balance of romance, humour and drama that makes it feel very true to life.

Life Partners is a character-driven film about two young women and the pitfalls and confusion they encounter when trying to be adults. Their friendship is at the heart of this film and thanks to a great script and cast it’s a friendship and a story that just works. 5/5.

READ THE WORLD – Colombia: Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo

Translated by Charlotte Coombe

Fish Soup is a bind up of two novellas and a short stories collection. Waiting for a Hurricane follows a girl who’s desperate to leave her life and her country. Sexual Education is about a student who tries to keep to the strict doctrine of abstinence taught in her school. Worse Things is a collection of snapshots about different characters who are all in different states of turmoil.

Trigger warning for child abuse in Waiting for a Hurricane. The main character forms an unlikely friendship with an old fisherman from a young age. There’s one moment where it seems like his touching her under her underwear but it’s something she never minds and isn’t really mentioned again, and as it’s from a child’s perspective it takes a while for you to figure out what’s happening. She’s so desperate to leave her home on the Colombian coast that she loses touch with friends and family but never seems to find any real connections.

All the stories in Worse Things, and in the two novellas as well, are about people who are suffering in some way. None of them appear to be happy and nearly all of them are unreliable narrators. This makes it difficult to connect to these characters, especially in Worse Things as each snapshot is a matter of pages so you can never truly understand them. Some snapshots I’d have preferred to be longer as I found the characters and their situations interesting whereas I found others very frustrating.

In both Waiting for a Hurricane and Sexual Education, punctuation around speech isn’t used which can make reading these stories a little difficult to begin with as you get used to the style of them. The way the towns and overall settings of the stories were described was incredibly vivid and I could see the beauty of the country even though so many characters didn’t like their home or saw all the problems with it. Fish Soup is an interesting collection of work from Margarita García Robayo. It’s probably a good place to start but I unfortunately found it difficult to like and connect with the majority of the characters which lessened my enjoyment.

CREATOR INTERVIEW: Dave Morgan

Today I have something a bit different to share with you all. Meet Dave Morgan, a writer, director and RTS Award Winning producer, who is currently running a crowdfunding campaign for his spy web series Discretion. I asked him a few questions about the project, the team that are bringing it all together, and what it’s really like to crowdfund a project.

First of all, please introduce yourself and Discretion
Well, as your intro brilliantly stated, I’m Dave. Hello! I’m a writer, director, and Royal Television Society Award winning producer from Liverpool. I mainly work on independent short films and web series’, but I have also worked on much larger productions all over the country as well.

My new web series is called Discretion. It follows the story of Tom, an ill-prepared newly recruited MI5 agent on his first assignment that goes very wrong. Tom’s boss and the head of MI5, George, is called into an Inquiry where he leans that both of their jobs are on the line. But things are much worse than expected, Tom has disappeared, two terrorists have broken out of Belmarsh Prison, and Sophie, Tom’s partner at MI5, has no leads to finding them.

Where did you get the idea of Discretion from?
The idea spun out of my love for the James Bond and Jason Bourne films, as well as the TV series’ Spooks and 24. I had many different ideas for crime films that I wanted to write, but they all had quite similar characters and tones to the stories, so I decided to rewrite the outlines, unify the characters and universes of the films, and turn them into a TV series. And thus, Discretion was born.

Why have you chosen to tell Discretion as a web series?
The reason we’ve gone with a web series is because that’s where most of an audience is now; Online. The BBC recently moved one of their channels online because of that exact reason. It’s where our audience is.

Espionage is also moving into a very digital age, so we’re trying to keep in line with that.

Who are you working with to bring this story to life?
We have an amazing crew lined up for the series including myself, Neal McAndrew, a lifelong friend of mine who is co-writing and co-producing the series with me. We have James Pearson of Pearson Casting who is our Casting Director, James Llyal who is one of our Cinematographers on the series, and Matthew Hirons who is our script editor. That’s just to name a few, we’ll have more big announcements in the coming months so keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

We all believe passionately that independent talent and independent film and TV for that matter, is something that needs to be pushed and promoted in the industry. So that is what we are doing with Discretion. We’re getting a group of really talented people on board and showing their skills to the world.

Neal McAndrew (left) and Dave Morgan (centre) on set

Why did you choose to crowdfund the project and what’s your aim with the campaign?
Most people assume that if you go to crowdfunding then you’re desperate for the money, but that’s definitely not the case with Discretion. The reason we’ve chosen to crowdfund the budget for the series is to raise awareness for Independent filmmakers and Independent films and series’.

The big leagues of the film world are dominated by remakes/reboots, sequels, and things we’ve seen hundreds of times before. What I want to do with my company, DLM Media, is look to first time Writers & Directors and find brand new, fresh talent in the industry and get some really new ideas on screen. Discretion is the perfect example of what we can achieve through crowdfunding with the help of likeminded people who also support Independent films.

When it comes to crowdfunding, what are the most surprising or difficult things you’ve encountered?
By far, one of the most difficult things about crowdfunding is getting people to give their hard-earned cash to a stranger on the internet, in that it is only becoming more and more difficult with the amount of people who are turning to crowdfunding.

There are many challenges to crowdfunding, but, personally, I find that getting people to just take a few minutes and look at the crowdfunding page is the most difficult. You really have to tap into your communities that the film represents. And when you’re a brand-new company, with a new, original idea, that is very difficult to do.

Where can people learn more about Discretion and follow your campaign?
The best places to go to are the Indiegogo page, our Twitter and Facebook pages, and of course our official website (www.discretionws.com).

The Indiegogo page is the best place to look for what you can get out of the series and what you can do to help us. We have some amazing perks on offer and a chance to spend some truly personal time with the cast and crew over dinner, on set, and during the table read. There’s also the opportunity to be in the film yourself!

My favourite perk has to be the film stills. I will personally be choosing 2 stills from each episode, printing them onto celluloid, and presenting them in a framed collage with information about the series and an exclusive “collection number”. These will never be on sale anywhere else in the world so now is the time to get your hands on one!

Thank you to Dave for taking the time to talk about Discretion. Make sure you check out the Indiegogo page and follow Discretion on social media so you can keep up to date with the journey to bring Discretion to screen.

REVIEW: Chi-Raq (2015)

Fed up with the violence on the streets of her city due to the rivalry between the Spartans led by her boyfriend Demetrius (Nick Cannon) and the Trojans led by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) rallies the Spartans’ and the Trojans’ lovers to withhold sex until there is peace.

Directed by Spike Lee, Chi-Raq is a modern-day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. Whether because of its ancient Greek play roots, or because it’s a musical, the dialogue in Chi-raq has a rhythm to it and often rhymes. In terms of dialogue it reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in a way, but Chi-Raq is still its own unique thing.

Chi-Raq offers commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, with names of real people who have been murdered being mentioned throughout, and Americas’ obsession with guns in general. While all the characters are affected by gun violence in some way, it is Jennifer Hudson’s Irene who is at the centre of it all when her young child is killed. She’s in mourning but with the help of Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) she takes part in their own protest against the killing of innocent bystanders.

Besides the broader social commentary, Chi-Raq also has some brilliant female characters and shows off the power of solidarity between women which was fantastic. The heart and soul of Chi-Raq is Lysistrata. She’s funny, strong and determined. She unifies people in a way that no one could’ve expected and Teyonah Parris is magnificent.

Everything about Chi-Raq is big and bold and very stylish. The music and songs are catchy, and the dance routines are often over the top but everything about it works so well. It’s message is obvious but it also manages to be a film that’s fun and full of characters with depth.

Chi-Raq is striking and as about as subtle as a brick to the face but with some incredible performances, especially by its female leads, it’s a funny yet powerful film. 5/5.