The Fundamentals of Caring: Review

Using time that could have been better applied towards studying for a Japanese exam I instead decided to watch The Fundamentals of Caring starring Paul Rudd and Craig Roberts in the lead roles with the addition of Selena Gomez later on in the story. I do wish that the film industry would retire the habit of using able-bodied people for the portrayal of disabled roles, but focusing on the story alone it was an enjoyable “overcoming adversity” tale.

Ben, played by Paul Rudd, comes on the scene as a writer who is dodging divorce papers and in need of work, which finds him in the position of a caregiver providing care for Trevor (Craig Roberts) who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Trevor is a very cynical and sarcastic character who sticks to routines with no risks and Ben is the person who is able to rattle him ultimately leading to a spontaneous road trip to see roadside American landmarks. Before this point, the viewer finds out that Ben is consumed with the loss of his child three years prior and this seems to be a reason that they develop a close bond.

As the movie progresses there is a nice character development that occurs with Ben starting to forgive himself for the unfortunate passing of his son and Trevor venturing out beyond the comforts of his home even encountering a love interest on the road in hitchhiker/runaway Dot, played by Selena Gomez.

There is great amusement in simple storytelling and this was exactly that, with humor and heartfelt moments this movie was successful in in telling the story of Ben and Trevor.

Leon: The Professional Review

Thus far, all my reviews have been on Netflix as is the one I am about to give , but unfortunately Léon: The Professional was removed recently as is the case with their licensing agreements. Nonetheless I highly recommend seeking this show out as it is a must watch, one of my favorite movies of all time.

This 1994 film directed by Luc Besson stars a young Natalie Portman as she makes her acting debut alongside veteran Jean Reno. Together they tell the story of Léon, an Italian hit man and protagonist of the story, who unwillingly befriends 12-year-old Mathilda after her family is murdered in a drug deal related attack.

Mathilda seeks refuge with Léon and quickly becomes captivated in his line of work hoping he will teach her his profession in order to seek revenge on the man who killed her family. Gary Oldman plays the man who becomes the antagonist over the course of the film and Oldman really knocks this role out of the park, exemplifying the villainous acting he has received widespread acclaim for. I love a good bad guy.

It’s easy to fall in love with the characters and see the impact this young girl has on Léon who has very much lived in solitude up until this point. There’s almost this romantic essence between the two that is very much not entirely appropriate, but without it I’m not sure if the movie would’ve had the same effect.

Really just watch it and be impressed by the simplicity with which a story can be told.

American Horror Story: Hotel Review

After watching American Horror Story: Freak Show, I was disappointed with an anticlimactic ending that felt as if Ryan Murphy ran out of ideas. That being said I had no inclination to tune into the next hotel –themed installment, but after seeing it come up on one of the endless Netflix categories, I decided to keep an open mind and gave it a watch.

For those who may not be familiar with the AHS formula, the seasons involve different plot lines and themes, but keep the same core group of actors with assorted variations. Hotel seemed in keeping with this mode although noticeably more star studded with the addition of Lady GaGa making her real acting debut as a leading character in the compelling role of Elizabeth a.k.a “The Countess”. And with her comes the returning heavy hitters including Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Denis O’Hare, Wes Bentley, Angela Bassett, and the like.

As a quick synopsis:

The story revolves around detective John Lowe, played by Wes Bentley, who is investigating a series of killings that have been committed and are somehow mysteriously connected with the ominous Hotel Cortez. Throughout this case he also deals with problems at home having a strained relationship with his wife and daughter after the disappearance of his son. This hotel has a mysterious presence that comes from the presence of certain residents in the Hotel and detective Lowe senses that these employees and residents know more than they let on.

It was slow going in the beginning, but with the arrival of the supporting characters the story starts to pick up. I appreciate American Horror Story for their story telling in how they give supporting storylines the ability to go beyond the normal parameters of what a side story is supposed to be. This is where Murphy and his team of writers are successful in that they allow these other characters to develop and provide captivating dialogues that get you invested in these characters without detracting from the main plot line.

The main story is compelling in its own right displaying the unpredictability that AHS is known for and Bentley doing a nice job as detective Lowe who eventually portrays psychological issues as the series progresses. Wasn’t the biggest fan of Lady Gaga, I’m not sure if her performance was Golden Globe worthy, but she did do a decent job as leading woman. Certainly though the big sellers are the lesser roles in the show who seem to shine the most at different times.

If you’re into psychological thrillers I definitely recommend the entire series, but I wouldn’t say Hotel was the best of all previous work.

 

Mr.Happy: Review

“Almost everyone has found themselves depressed at a point or two. Maybe in the midst of the depression you thought about doing something drastic—something life-changing—something that might make you happy. That could be nice, but it’s scary to actually take the leap and do it. Well, what if there was a service that took care of all the hard stuff for you?”

This is the description provided to explain the premise behind the VICE short, Mr. Happy, starring hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper. Going into the short film you don’t really know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the story line and the honesty that was portrayed in the subject matter.

Without giving too much away, in a clean 23 minutes and some odd seconds, you see the thoughtful progression of a man who attempts to kill himself using various methods without success. He then turns online to seek resources for those who can’t seem to follow through and falls upon ,“Mr. Happy”, an online service allows you to choose the way you want to die and takes care of the rest.

To be so short, this film captures your attention and draws emotion enough so that you become invested in Chance’s character in the 20 minutes that you are introduced to him. A well produced film with a mind blowing twist.

Terrace House: Review

I have just concluded watching Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City parts 1 and 2 and I’m sad to see all of the housemates leave after spending an extended amount of time living and building relationships in the Tokyo residence. I’m surprised that my mom actually put me onto this show, but I’m very glad she did.

As a quick synopsis:

In the opening sequence of every episode one of the commentators Ehara Yukiko popularly known as “You”, explains that Terrace House is “…a show about six strangers, men and women, living together and we observe how they interact with each other…” “We”, being the six celebrity commentators who analyze each episode. These individuals come together, still pursuing their careers, schooling, etc. with the only change being they live in this house together day in and day out.

For a reality show of this nature, a standard timeframe would be anywhere from three to five months, but Terrace House whether due to popularity or otherwise had the season last 46 weeks, 6 weeks shy of a year. During this time individuals are freely allowed to leave whenever they please, and in turn they are quickly replaced. Since episodes are filmed weekly a cast member could be there 4 episodes and decide to leave for whatever reason and it makes you think they haven’t been there that long when in actuality they’ve been there for a month of filming. The rotations are so rapid that by the end none of the original cast remains.

Something else interesting you have to keep in mind is that this is a Japanese reality show so it’s very enlightening to see the stark differences between Japanese and American cultural norms. I think the biggest difference was in how the members handled conflicts, more often than not, arguments on American reality shows quickly lead to raised voices and sometimes physical altercations, which is severely opposite to how conflict goes down in Terrace House. Everyone in the cast is very direct about saying how they feel, but at the same time it’s done in a very respective and non-hostile manner meaning issues get resolved fairly quickly without any big commotion. I learned a lot in the ways of conflict resolution just from watching how they interacted with one another and expressed their discontent so cordially.

Besides general format differences, the show follows the same formula of young adults trying to find their path and finding love along the way. The age range is particularly wide to presumably reach a greater demographic with the youngest member being 18 and the oldest being 29 during the course of the series.

I enjoy watching the cast and their interactions, but what keeps the show entertaining during the dull moments would have to be the cast of commentators who appear and bring humor, personal anecdotes and wonderful dissections of actions and events that take place in the house. They are a selection of six public figures ranging from comedians to actors that each bring a personality and perspective that is fresh and insightful. They gel off each other well and the dynamic between them is one that is very genuine.

Terrace House is a nice refresher from the average reality show and I’ll be awaiting the arrival of Terrace House: Aloha State on Netflix that takes place in Oahu, Hawaii.

Many different elements make this show successful; my only warning would be to not get too attached to members since you never know when they’ll decide to leave, but if you’re willing to take that risk I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

12 Years Promise: Review

26 episodes and many wrist grabs later, I’ve concluded 12 Years Promise (also known as Wild Chives and Soy Bean Soup: 12 Years Reunion), a 2014 Korean drama focusing on the relationship and romantic hardships between Jang Gook played by Lee-So-yeoun and Yoo Joon-soo played by Namkoong Min.

As a quick synopsis:

After her father’s unfortunate passing Jang Gook is a new student at Daehan High School in Seoul after leaving Busan with her mother and younger brother to start fresh. They move in with Gook’s grandmother who is running a dumpling shop, which becomes the setting for many events later in the series. As school progresses Gook finds a love interest in Yoo Joon-soo, who is the long time one-sided love interest of Joo Dae-hae played by Lee Tae-im.

This triangle is a source of conflict as the story unfolds, but as Dae-hae plans to woo Joon-soo, Gook ends up getting pregnant leading to turmoil between friends and between the Jang and Yu households. A tragic event leads to Jang Gook’s abrupt dismissal to the U.S to become successful and Yu Joon-soo’s departure on a family trip leaving the couple separated without any goodbyes or explanation.

As fate would have it, with an identity left behind, Gook returns to Seoul 12 years later as Jang Dal-rae upon being scouted by the HK department store, an upscale shopping locale that also happens to be the employer of Joon-soo. She seems familiar, but a confrontation with her aunt shuts down any notion that this could be the Gook he once new and all the while she is battling not letting the past repeat itself with every cold encounter she has with Joon-soo.

There is a great development of character that goes on, with family dynamics playing a large role in many of the disputes. Over roughly hour-long episodes, you get to see how this relationship evolves when they’re young, and in the years after their separation. Every episode had me eager to see what became of their romance.

Unfortunately, it had a rather abrupt ending with some of the smaller plots leaving many unanswered questions and conflicts left unresolved, but all in all it was still an enjoyable series. Great cast and plot, Jang Gook and Yoo Joon-soo forever.

Zootopia: Review

After vaguely hearing about Zootopia in the spring of this year, I was surprised, but excited to see it in the trending bank on Netflix and immediately had to watch to see what the buzz was about. Upon first glance it may seem like the typical animal based Disney movie, but quickly unfolds to reveal several layers of awareness on topics that reflect current issues going on in today’s society.

The story revolves around a rabbit, Judy Hopps voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who aspires to become a police officer and change the world. In the beginning sequences you assume the story will take the traditional route of the heroine fulfilling her dreams tackling whatever obstacles lay in her path, which it does for a little bit, but once she reaches her goal, you get to see some of the underlying messages that come about as the plot develops.

The next key character, voiced by Jason Bateman, is a fox named Nick Wilde, who is essential in moving the story forward. Officer Hopps has preconceived ideas about foxes due to generalizations and assumptions made on the entire species, but through her interactions with Wilde her perceptions start to change. Here is where we start to see references extending outside the realm of fiction and touching on issues of race relations and stereotypes in the real world.

Zootopia is an incredibly relevant and timely movie depicting real issues in a sincere way and on terms where young people stand to benefit from watching. A must watch for all ages.

Video Dissection/ A$AP Rocky L$D (LOVE x $EX x DREAMS)

A$AP Rocky’s “L$D” directed by Dexter Navy and co-directed by A$AP Rocky is a cinematic masterpiece clocking in at five minutes twenty-seven seconds, narrating a story of Love, $ex, and Dreams through a dynamic range of visuals and eclectic sound.

Many elements contribute to the psychedelic feel of the video, with the lighting being a major player in the tone of the story. The lights are bright and all encompassing, drowning out many of the scenes and being one of the biggest pulls that draw interest. The “Enter the Void”-esque environment is coupled with complex video shots that make the entire video flow, but not overwhelming.

Just as a taste, because it really is hard to experience this without seeing it firsthand, in the opening, the video starts with a red ambiance and a tight shot above the artist’s face as he is on his back and then slowly spins and starts to draw back to see the landscape. From there it transitions to a scene where he is walking in some non descript back alley in Japan, but there are intermittent sections of the scene where it speeds up/slows down and then reverts back to the regular pace, which is subtle but still is an interesting visual point. He then gets into a taxi and at this point the camera is still behind him, but as the door closes the attention of the camera goes to the back taillight, which is pulsing a vibrant red orange, and then disappears into the light and enters a transition that opens in the bright contains of a fire displayed on a TV set in the back of a van.

We’re taught that panning is not to be used in our news videos because it isn’t a natural eye movement, but for this video it was a successful strategy alongside the pacing of the shots utilized in order to show the setting at the different locations where the lights and signage are a focal point in everyday life and addresses the culture aspect as well. It creates a lot of interest and they do it without having the effect of sensory overload. You may get a little discombobulated, but it seems to be to the effect that they intend with the topics dealing with something as vivid and transient as drug usage with the combination of love and sex.

About midway through, the mood changes as the song switches to one of the harder songs on the “AT.LONG.LA$T.A$AP” album and this scene is also one of the longer ones with Rocky rapping into a cracked mirror with the lights flickering in this gold/beige lit room with chandeliers hanging above him and it really is just a cool technique and the final product is very dope, but before you get comfortable it transitions back to the chill confines of the original setting and closes out on a balcony awash in the bright lights of the city.

As if the song wasn’t good enough, the video only raised the appeal and added a story to the words. This is the culmination of the mastery of video to make something look so simple and visually stimulating altogether. A must watch.