75 Films From Asia: SHOPLIFTERS (2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is a perfectly crafted film that plays a tune with your heartstrings that you never want to end.

CREDIT: GAGA Pictures

So if you were betting that I wouldn’t give out a five star in the first five movies I review for this challenge, then sadly today you lost, my friends. I don’t think I could even prepare myself for this movie. I wanted to watch this one not just because it won the Palme d’Or, but I’ve been recommended to watch Kore-eda’s work multiple times. I have to say that this did not disappoint in the slightest.

Shoplifters (2018) features a group of outsiders all banded together by their misfit qualities take into their home a little girl, which sets off a wide array of events and secrets surrounding the “family.” The film has its various twists and turns, which makes you learn to love this obscure family. You spend so much time with each character that makes it hard to say goodbye to some of them. Kor-eda does such a great job of making you care for these characters that when you find out the reason why they are together, it is hard to hold onto your prior feelings about them.

Kor-eda also includes necessary conversations in social class structures and classism. Why is it that the family has to shoplift to survive? Why do some of the family members have to resort to sex work as a means of making money? Overall, do any of these things make these strangers any less of a family than those of us bound by blood? The analysis included in this film is powerful and one that I will keep in mind when discussing some of the best movies from this challenge.

Shoplifters (2018) is available to watch on Hulu. Catch up on the rest of this challenge by visiting my Letterboxd or the google doc that includes all the films that I am covering. I implore every single person reading this review to watch this film, you will absolutely not regret it.

‘The King of Staten Island’: A comforting but somber effort from Judd Apatow

Though the film has its flaws, this newest directorial effort from Judd Apatow is a great look into Pete Davidson’s life.

CREDIT: Universal Pictures

This newest film from Judd Apatow is a semi-autobiographical look into Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live, Trainwreck) and the several struggles in his life. Whether it starts with his suicide attempt or his rocky relationship with his mother’s new boyfriend, according to Davidson this covers 75% of his life. The film also stars Marissa Tomei, Bill Burr, Maude Apatow, and Bel Powley who all do great jobs in their performances. The film is also co-written by Davidson so it adds a form of a personal touch when approaching this film.

As always Apatow does a great job at blending comedy and drama in this film that has truly created his style of writing and directing. What I appreciate the most from the film is the way that it commentators on how one can maneuver mental illness. The film is always vocal that Scott suffers from mental illness but he is always trying to find a way out of his mind. Even though the commentary is not subtle as some might hope, this is a movie that has to be loud about its subject matter to challenge the stigma of mental health. Now, this does not make the film perfect as I have noticed with a lot of Apatow’s work, the pacing is very off that the runtime could use some trimming. Other than that, there is a lot to appreciate from The King of Staten Island (2020) that could make it one of the best of this terrible year we know as 2020.

I am not sure if as of this moment this movie could boost Davidson’s career but I have a feeling it will. Judd Apatow is no stranger to putting comedic actors on the map with his films as seen with his work with Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, and Jonah Hill. Along with rich visuals that truly emphasize Staten Island and bring a sort of authenticity to the film, The King of Staten Island is one to watch this year. Do not sleep on this movie and share some laughs or some very caring moments as you consume this movie. Even though this is not a perfect movie it thoroughly gets its message across to its audience.

Watch The King of Staten Island on video on demand anywhere you can rent movies.

Sympathy for the Devil

an opinion on josh trank’s “capone”

This piece comes a little late, but so does everything for 2020 apparently. It has been a long time since I’ve come to sit in front of my keyboard and take up the mantle of “Cinema Reviewer,” but I felt the need to come to the defense of Josh Trank and his latest endeavor, “CAPONE” also known as “FONZO”. It seems other reviewers have not put 2015’s “Fantastic Four” behind them and still hold somewhat of a grudge when Trank’s name is brought up.

When movie audiences hear the name Al Capone, what they envision in their mind is the ruthless gangster; a criminal mastermind who ran the Chicago underworld in the 1920’s and 30’s. Maybe even Robert De Niro’s portrayal in “The Untouchables” where he wears a tuxedo and beats people to death with a baseball bat. Josh Trank’s “CAPONE” is no “The Untouchables”. It’s what happens after the glitz and glamour; where the violence and drama become silent; where old gangsters go to retire, to get old, and to fade away.

I think for many a person, they did not go in expecting what they saw in this movie. They went expecting an action movie where Capone puts his enemies down with a Thompson Submachine Gun and makes those who owe him debts eat through a straw. Those who already knew the story of Al Capone’s last years, I believe, had better expectations on what they were about to see on the screen. For those unaware, Al Capone’s last years were basically spent in what could be called medical retirement. Released from prison (his charges being that of tax evasion) early, at the age of 48, due to the complications of the late stages of syphilis which he apparently had since the age of 15. These complications included that of neurosyphilis which affects the nervous system, coordination, and can cause dementia.

So, instead of a tough talking villain, we have been shown the face of a man who is literally dying in front of us. Well, not just any man, but that of the legendary outlaw/criminal Al Capone who has been made a larger than life figure in our history and media thanks to multiple movies, books, and television shows (including that one where Geraldo Rivera’s career was destroyed and he can now only get a gig on Fox News of all places, but I will let you all research that one on your own time).

With this in mind, it is very easy to see just what Josh Trank and Tom Hardy (I can’t believe it took me this long to mention Tom Hardy in this) have accomplished. They took one of the most legendary historical figures and shone a light onto his last years and just how much of an ordinary human he was and how death is always the great equalizer. If “The Untouchables” was showcasing the climax of Capone’s legend, then “CAPONE” is it’s lowest depths, where he crawls slowly to that awaiting grave. Trank does not falter and does not shy away from showing the fragility of Capone, putting Tom Hardy in frame to drool over himself, smoke a carrot like Bugs Bunny, scream as his possessions are being sold off, and even shitting his silk drawers.

I personally think “CAPONE” is a marvelous insight into the final years of one of the most legendary and vile humans to walk the face of this earth. Al Capone doesn’t deserve our sympathy, but Josh Trank’s brilliance in storytelling and Tom Hardy’s gift of acting helps to rip it from us. ~ YoungYoda

75 Films From Asia: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)

Wong Kar-wai crafts an incredibly intimate film that depicts accurately what loneliness and heartbreak feels like.

CREDIT: Block 2 Pictures

We have reached Hong Kong, and when I began drafting the films for this challenge I was excited to watch some work from a specific director from Hong Kong. I was told this director was incredibly important in not just Hong Kong Cinema but cinema in general. I knew I had to watch something from the legendary Wong Kar-wai soon. Now, I will not lie and say this was my first film from Kar-wai, because I watched Chungking Express (1994) for a class project beforehand. Even though I had watched one piece from his work before absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the glorious film that is In The Mood For Love (2000).

Filled with rich stylized sets and profound dialogue, In The Mood For Love (2000) is a carefully sensual forbidden love story that refuses to let go until the credits roll. The story follows two people who develop feelings for each other after they discover that their spouses are having a love affair. What comes after in this masterpiece is beautiful, saddening, but so exquisite to consume. Loneliness and heartbreak are depicted carefully inside of a world that cannot allow these two to properly fall in love with each other. Wong Kar-wai is a director who approaches his work with such tender care but is still able to bring in his style to the forefront. Every single minute of this movie was eye-opening and I never wanted to stop watching it. I am so excited to watch more of his work throughout this challenge and fall in love with it as I fell in love with this picture.

As always feel free to follow along with the challenge on my Letterboxd list for mini-reviews, this column for more in-depth reviews, or find the rest of the films that I am going to watch on this google doc.

75 Films From Asia: MIRAI (2018)

Miirai (2018) is Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece as it encompasses incredible storytelling with beautiful animation and themes of childhood, innocence, and parenthood.

CREDIT: Studio Chizu

Continuing on with my 75 Films From Asia challenge I have once again stopped at the country of Japan to watch and review Mamoru Hosoda’s Academy Award-nominated masterpiece film, Mirai (2018). The film follows a child navigating the arrival of his baby sister as he grows jealous of her. He takes a journey through the various important people in his family tree as he tries to understand his unjust feelings toward his sister, Mirai. On the other hand, the film does not only focus on Kun and Mirai’s relationship but also his Father as he tries to be a stay at home dad.

The film is monumentally stylized by Hosoda’s exquisite animation style along with an incredible musical score. The story is well written and finds itself creeping into your heart with every person Kun meets from his family. Also, the father’s journey to further understand how to be a better father and partner is so well represented. Of course, there is humor in the journey but it all is wrapped up in the heart of the film. I truly believe that this is Mamoru Hosoda’s masterpiece and it will be further appreciated in the “future.”

As always you can keep up with my journey through this movie challenge by reading my reviews, but you can also take a look at the list of films by checking out this google doc or following along on my Letterboxd.