Tuesday, November 06, 2007

American Gangster - 4 1/2 stars

Two Oscar winners - one, Russell Crowe, playing a Detective Richie Roberts with a personal life that's in shambles. Another, Denzel Washington, portraying a drug lord Frank Lucas who takes care of his people, family and his city. Who are you going to root for? You'll be surprise in this riveting crime drama that sets the bar for all crime dramas to follow. It is that good.

The beginning starts out a little slow but as Denzel Washington's drug empire builds and builds, so does the tension and the pressure of being on top. Crowe's the Detective that heads a narcotics division set on bringing in the big guys, not the street pushers. That is how the two cross paths and what follows is poetic waxing on the American dream where the line blurs between good and evil.

I want to say more but the more I say, the less you get to enjoy. Did I mention that it's based on a true story? Did I also mention that American Gangster got the biggest opening weekend for both actors? It's that good.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Meaning of Life


“We lost him, Doctor!”
“I tried my best, Nurse. I really did. There’s no more we could do for him now. Let’s pack it up. He’s in God’s hands now.”

“Where am I? Hey, I’m floating! My God, I’m floating! That’s me down there. Why are they leaving? Hey, help me! No, help him, no, help me! What do they pay you for? I’m not dead. I can’t be. I can’t die. What about my wife and kids? Who’s going to take care of them? Wait a minute here.”

“I’m floating away. I’m going towards that light…it seems to yearn for me. Can that light be a doorway to heaven? It must be. I’ve got to get to that light. Am I getting closer, well, I hope so. There’s a person in front of me. I didn’t notice them before. Mom, Dad! I miss you two so much. It’s been ten years. I know I should’ve phoned more, Mom. I’m sorry. Dad, you look great. You haven’t changed a bit. Just let me hold you guys. I haven’t hugged you for so long. Hold it…Mom, Dad, the plane crash? There were no survivors.”

“Son that was the past, now you have to go into the light.”
“Your Father and I love you very much David. Remember that always.”
“But Mom, I have so much to ask you.”
“Go into the light son.”
“Mom, Dad, don’t go! Wait! No. They’re gone. The light, I have to get to the light”

“This is odd. I feel at peace with myself, like I have no care in the world. It must be that light. Everywhere I look there’s darkness. Everywhere except that glowing light. There is darkness, but I feel peaceful and at the same time, anticipation. I’m awfully close to that light. I can almost touch it.”

“I see it, I see it! Keep pushing honey.”
“I’m pushing! I’m pushing!”
“I see a head, honey, I see a head!”
“Get it out of me. Get it out of me!”
“It’s out, the baby’s out! Honey, it’s a boy, a boy! Nurse, can I hold him? Oh, look at the baby, he’s so beautiful. He looks so peaceful. What should we call him?”
“How about David?”
“Yes, David. That’s perfect.”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Oceans 13 - 2 1/2 stars

You have to be a fan of the actors in Oceans 13 to like the film...that's the only way you're going to enjoy this film. I'm sorry. It's not a bad film. In fact the film is well made, well shot, well directed and well acted but the story sucks. It does. There's no way around it. One of the Ocean's boys gets taken by Al Pacino in a casino deal, so Ocean and the whole gang gets together to even the score. What do they do? They decide to rig every game in the casino in the players' favor. Impossible? Not for George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

Watching the movie the other night, I realized that Ocean's gang are a bunch of super-heroes. Nothing bad can happen to them, they perform amazing feats, get out of ridiculous jams and always wins in the end. What's the fun in that?

Maybe I'm just not a fan of this genre? It's not a huge genre to begin with. The actors seem to be too much into themselves. Clooney and Pitt are not interesting enough as actors to pull it off.

The only interesting thing about the film is the style. Director Steven Soderbergh uses split screens, bright primary colors and the zoom lens to give us a 70s style of film making that's rarely seen these days. The guy's quite an expert with the camera but maybe he should get a better script in place before getting the gang together for Oceans 14 - lets hope not.

A quick recap...

This is a short biography of my life up to now. I originally wrote this for a writing fellowship.

The first stories I remember telling began shortly after I arrived in America. I was seven years old and living in Philadelphia. In between old John Wayne Westerns and “I Love Lucy” episodes, I would devise ways for my chopsticks to defeat the soup bowls and take over the kitchen table. Incredibly resilient, the soup bowls would always return with the help of the utensils and quickly regain supremacy. My chopsticks were invariably beaten but never deterred. A few radical forks would usually join their side and turn the tide of the Kitchen Wars. I was by myself. I was entertained.

I started writing when I was in the 3rd grade in New York City. The teacher wanted the students to make up a story. Any story. My story was five sentences long and written in broken English. I was ashamed to hand it in and even worse, we had to read it out loud to the class. After I finished, a strange thing happened. They laughed. They loved it. I was hooked.

After the death of my mother to cancer, my father decided to open up a gambling casino in NYC. The fact that it was illegal seemed to encourage rather then detract him. Since I was too young to deal cards, I was shipped off to Connecticut to live with relatives. I was one of only two Asian kids in my new all American school. The other was my cousin King Loo, a name I couldn’t have made-up even if I tried.

From Junior High through High School I found myself desperately trying to adjust to my new surroundings. This was also the time when girls became interesting. However, in a town full of white faces and colored eyes, my natural tan became more of a novelty then a desirable trait in a boyfriend. Overlooked by the opposite sex, I went back to what came naturally -- telling stories.

Due to my rather dubious upbringing, my grasp of what was morally acceptable and socially prudent was sketchy to say the least. This worked to the advantage of my readers, as my naughty and criminal exploits of JJ and Tyrone became the must read for my fellow students at Kelly Junior High. I was in training.

By the age of 17 I had already logged 10 years for my relatives in their Chinese restaurant. My family considered this to be a notable achievement. I on the other hand was tired of smelling like Kung Pao Chicken. With that in mind and a bourgeoning love for writing, I approached my relatives with a proposition. I was willing to continue working 12-hour shifts in their restaurant but I had one stipulation – I wanted to get paid. I asked for 20 dollars a day. It was the summer of my senior year and I had begun to worry about saving for college. Although my request seemed simple enough, I had underestimated the full rigidity of the Chinese bureaucratic machine. My request came back “denied,” with no hopes of an appeal.

My pay was the room and board they provided – a simple truth that I could not argue with. Despite my love for Dim Sum, the thought of another 10 years in the restaurant business was more then I could stomach. With 50 dollars in my pocket I walked out of the Golden Star Chinese restaurant and out of their lives. I was free.

Some people have grand and amazing plans when they finally escape abusive relatives. My plan was to hitchhike to the warmest place I could think of – California. You could sleep in the park when it’s warm out, and drink fresh orange juice from the water fountains; that was my thinking.

Don Wilson, my best friend at the time, found me on the streets of Connecticut with my arm outstretched and my thumb pointed to the sky. I told him of my plans; he told me I was crazy, convincing me to stay just one night at his parent’s house before I left on my journey.

These are the snap decisions that at the time seem so insignificant to us – in hindsight we see them for what they truly are.

Wishes do come true. I’m not sure whether it was because my relatives were Chinese or because they ran a culinary sweatshop, but we never celebrated Christmas or Birthdays. However, that never stopped me from making wishes. My 10 year-old mind reasoned that if I asked for it enough, and if “it” didn’t pertain to money or toys, then somebody upstairs would have to eventually give into my silent pleadings. I didn’t realize that when I accepted Don’s invitation seven years later, all those late night vigils had finally been answered.

Don was the middle child of 3 boys – all of whom had been adopted into a working class, Irish-Protestant family. With the open heart of Richard and Patricia Wilson I soon became the 4th boy in the family. My journey was postponed. I got my wish. I was home.

The tale is almost at an end. Believe it or not, I did make it to college, with the support of my adopted parents. I decided to major in English and work towards a teaching degree. At the start of my third year, I took up a playwriting class as an elective. The Instructor told us to write whatever we wanted. I wrote about my life, my experiences. She found my work to be interesting and passed it along to her friend, the Head of the theatre department. One thing led to another and my play opened Off-Broadway on May 11, 1997 in New York City. The same city I arrived 17 years earlier from China. The circle was complete. I found my muse.

And the rest of my life, gravy…

Friday, November 02, 2007

Casino Royale - 3 1/2 Stars

The big question was can Daniel Craig fill the shoes of Sean Connery and Pierce Bronson? Well, Sean Connery is the first and original, so you can't really replace that. Pierce Bronson was a smooth guy but you can't ever imagine him fighting anyone - for real at least. Especially with the way he runs. If you don't remember, check out the films and his arm action...it's worth the rental.

Daniel Craig is one bad Mofo. He was one bad Mofo in the "Layer Cake", where he plays a mafia guy caught in the middle of a double cross between another mafia head and the police. Craig is pretty much the same character here. After seeing the movie, it becomes apparent that Daniel Craig was a very good choice for the role cause he's done it already. The trick is what he's going to do with the character in future films.

The movie has plenty of action and plenty of babes and plenty of No-Limit poker. My one gripe about the action is in the beginning. While it was awesome, it wasn't really necessity. Action is great when it comes out of the story and the characters. Action is stupid and boring when it's for action sake. When you're running away from someone, the last thing you do is go up...cause going up traps you. Well, that's what the villain does in the opening sequence.

Otherwise, the movie's a nice romp through the deconstruction of the bond character and paints a nice picture of how Bond, James Bond came to be. A very enjoyable movie worth seeing in the theaters.

3 1/2 Stars

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Borat - 4 stars

Borat is a very funny movie. Not the greatest movie ever or even the best movie of the year or even the funniest movie of the year. It's a very good movie. If you liked the Ali G Show, you'll love this.

I compare it to "Jackass" but for your mind. Where "Jackass" does crazy physical stunts, Borat does crazy mental stunts. Now anyone with very little IQ can pull off Jackass style stunts but to do what Sacha Cohen does in Borat takes alot of balls, concentration, and training.

If you're a man, you'll like this movie. If you're a woman, you'll like this movie but hate yourself for it. Regardless, be prepared to laugh...alot.

Very Nice.

4 Stars