Tears for Noodles (Film Thoughts: Ramen Teh)

CJ2-Keyart‘Ramen Teh,’ just like last year’s mega hit ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ mostly centers around the Asian experience of Chinese people living in Singapore. But just like the ramen soup dish, the story has both Chinese and Japanese elements. Directed by Eric Khoo, the film is about a young man Masato (Takumi Saito) who searches for answers in his familial history. He goes to Singapore because he wants to learn how to cook bak kut teh, but really, he is searching for what happened to his family. His father passed away cold and unhappy, unable to move on from his wife’s early passing. Their family moved from Singapore to Japan when he was young, and he only has his mother’s diary (written in Cantonese, which he doesn’t understand) as a clue.  The movie rolls smoothly, with every reveal at the right place, and you cannot help but get engrossed with these characters. It showcases Singapore pretty well, not just the ‘rich areas’ which was the focus of that ‘other’ movie. And foodies will have a field day with the rich and colorful dishes they make here. Your eyes will be inf or a feast.

And I really liked this film a lot. Sure it’s a bit on the sentimental side, but I am a very sentimental dude. I won’t lie that as Masato reminisces about his deceased parents I couldn’t help but think of mine. This is certainly better than ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ in representing this specific culture, and I wish this movie reaches even a tenth of that film’s audience. It deserves it.

Musicals Adjacent (Movie Thoughts: Bathtubs Over Broadway/Emo The Musical)

large_Bathtubs_POSTERI was introduced to industrial musicals when I started collecting show music. I knew some composers did them to pa the bills, but I was mostly disinterested in them. I preferred listening to the flop shows who actually made it on Broadway. Still, it is great to see that Dava Whisenant has made a documentary partly about them. ‘Bathtubs over Broadway’ is more about Steve Young, a writer who used to work for David Letterman, and his obsession with collecting them. He has a very distinct point of view about it – basically looking for comedy where you least expect it. I would have used a different lens, probably focusing more on how composers and directors juxtaposed these shows versus the real shows they were creating (Susan Stroman touched upon that briefly during her interview) but don’t get me wrong, I found a lot of positive things in the film, it just isn’t totally for me.

71Gz4yrGEWL._SY445_I thought ‘Emo The Musical’ wasn’t for me, either, but anything with the word ‘musical’ will certainly get my attention. Neil Trifett wrote and directed the film, and peppered it with some of the most generic songs that all sound like they were too witty for their own good. I hate to even say that this film is not really a musical by its strictest definition. I was mostly bored by this, if I have to be honest and the best thing I can say about it is that it has a great message.

So This Is Us (Film Thoughts: Us)

large_us-poster-2019 (1)I had been dreading the moment. My friends wanted to see ‘Us,’ and I…don’t. I had never been a fan of horror movies, and as much of a film buff as I am, I can count the number of times I have seen one. But they were persistent, enough so that they bought the tickets before I could say no. So, for better or worse, there I was, on a late Friday night screening of the film.

Well, I am happy to report that it wasn’t a traumatic experience for me. And to be honest, it wasn’t really a scary film the way one would classically define ‘scary.’ It tells of a horrific tale. for sure, and that’s where the horror is. It’s quite smart, and I am sure there were a lot of references that went over my head. But, all in all, it is a film that will make one think and ponder,

Did I like it? Enough. But, I am still not its target market, and I don’t think I  would ever want to watch the film again. And it boasts of a great dual performance from Lupita Nyong’o although I don’t know if I agree with some of her artistic choices. Still I respect those choices. Will I ever want to see a Jordan Peele film again? Probably, I would be curious enough, though it would probably depend on the project.  Did this film add value to my Friday night? For sure, it beat jut scrolling my Instagram feed.

Undrowsy Chaperone (Film Thoughts: The Chaperone)

NZL_287754R1Sometimes something small and slight can be appealing. ‘The Chaperone,’ in scale, seems tiny compared to a lot of other movies, but its intimacy works well for it. Sure, you can probably get as good entertainment on PBS (wait, this was distributed by PBS) but I left a theater with a grin on my face, and on a Wednesday night, I could do much worse.

It’s set in 1922, and a young woman, Louis Brooks gets a dancing scholarship to New York City. But she needs a chaperone, and Norma (Elizabeth McGiovern) volunteers to go with her. We find out why later as we discover she has been going through some personal turmoil and uses this opportunity to escape. The screenplay has a lto of things going on – missing birth parents, gay affair, prohibition, just to name three – but it is all treated in a nice genteel manner.  McGovern is fine as the fuddy-duddy Midwesterner in the big city, but the real star here is Haley Lu Richardson as Brooks. In her hands, you can see how and why Brooks became a huge star. (This story is fictional, of course)  So all in all, this is really fine, and some people may take issue with the film’s plentiful shortcomings, but I like it enough to recommend. On a night when you want to relax and see something very pleasant, this would fill the ticket nicely.

Seeing Red (Movie Thoughts: Red Joan)

Red-Joan-movie-teaser-posterThere are a lot of great things in ‘Red Joan,’ but all in all the film doesn’t really make a great impression.  There’s of course Dame Judi Dench in the title role,  which is based on the real life person Melita Norwood, who was found to have been a Russian spy during the mid century, and had been living in a London suburb when she was arrested.  But the  screenplay, by Lindsay Shapero isn’t really too interesting, it lacks melodrama and/or intelligence to make the story soar. While I wasn’t totally bored, I was not too engrossed with it either and if not for the performances (by Dench and Sophie Cookson, who plays the young Joan) I would have probably dozed off.

Bluer (Movie Thoughts: Out Of Blue)

hE8Gg6FUtZmERm4V1zUUP3a4wTXSometimes a murder mystery movie is not really about the murder mystery. That is certainly true about Carol Morley’s ‘Out Of Blue.’  Patricia Clarkson stars as Mike Hoolihan who is investigating the myrder of a scientist (Mamie Gummer) from a prominent family. About halfway through the film, the crime is ‘solved,’ but there are more questions –  not really about the murder, but about life in general – black holes, existence, particles of dust are mentioned. And I am tuned out by then. This is an odd film, and it is weighed down by its own pretensions. Clarkson still gives a good committed performance, as she is the mind of the film. If only it had more heart.

Do You Believe in Love After War (Movie Thoughts: The Aftermath)

p15592224_p_v7_aaJames Kent’s ‘The Aftermath’ is described as a romantic-drama so of course I was drawn to it right away. Plus, I liked its cast: Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgard are two of the most beautiful actors to look at so I know visually i will not be bored.  And the film all in all is classy and elegant. It felt like I was watching a modern supersized version of Masterpiece Theater so everything goes down smoothly. And that is enough to make you forget about the silly screenplay, riddled with melodrama that most times do not make sense. But it hardly matters, because Knightley and Skarsgard more than sell it  – their romance manages to be hot and scorching, their chemistry pulsating even if you really do not understand how and why their characters got together. Set in Hamburg after the Second World War, the film looks beautiful even in ruins that you are instantly swept in by everything, and you think there is depth in the shallow screenplay. I enjoyed myself immensely, even succumbing to the romance at hand. Sure, this film has been done better, but for nowadays, this works.