Haven’t done a straight up review in a long while, and since Crazy Rich Asians is #CulturallySignificant, it’s the perfect film for me to return with. Are these crazy rich Asians crazy good? The short answer is yes, the long answer is mostly yes. This film really succeeded as a story about an American confronting the disapproving mother of her boyfriend and navigating her way through what is basically the Singaporean aristocracy, but I’m not sure if it was a great romance. It was a fantastic film sure, but not for the reasons I feel like the advertisers were selling us.
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I recently finished watching Marvel’s: The Punisher, the Netflix TV series starring Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle, and boy did it surprise me. I’ve had my fill of Netflix Marvel shows less because of their quantity and more because of their quality as of late. Daredevil‘s second season disappointed me, and Iron Fist and The Defenders were met with critical failure. Still, if there was one good thing about Daredevil‘s second season, it was Bernthal’s Punisher, and seeing a show revolving around that character had its appeal for that alone. Make no mistake though, I did not have high expectations for a number of reasons.
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Finally got to see The Force Awakens, and I really enjoyed it. From the moment Jar Jar Binks unhoods himself to reveal a grizzled face and says “Meesa back” while looking directly at the camera, I knew I was in for a great time… Joking aside, this was a film that really wanted to let me know I was in good hands from the start. It was well-acted, had fun action sequences, and best of all, it had energy to it. The people in this film actually looked like they were having fun, and the series’ hugely missed banter is back with a vengeance. The biggest strength to this movie is what has always been Star Wars‘s greatest asset, and that’s in the characters and the connections they have with each other. The new characters in this film are all well realized and completely distinct in the face of other things that have appeared before in the franchise (although the same can’t be said about the film’s plot). My belief before watching it was that if they could just nail the characters, the rest would be gravy, and thankfully the film did that and more.
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Batman: Endgame acts as a conclusion to the story Scott Snyder started with Batman: Death of the Family. Both stories centre around Batman and Joker’s relationship, and both stories focus on the love and hatred shared between these two. From the very beginning, these two stories seemed to have the goal of redefining comic book’s greatest rivalry, with many commenting that they have done exactly that. I would argue however, that these stories (with Endgame in particular) clarified aspects of the relationship between the Batman and the Joker that have always existed, but shown more effectively than ever before. Never have these dynamics been as well connected as they have been in these stories.
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The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, the 1998 sequel to Disney’s The Lion King (something you may have heard about), was received poorly from critics. It happens to be another dreaded “Direct-to-DVD sequel” to a Disney film (a distinction that comes with the assumption that the product will be terrible), which probably gave a negative impression from the start, although the plot proved to be problematic as well. If the original Lion King was supposed to be a Disney retelling of Hamlet, this film would be its retelling of Shakespeare’s other supremely famous play, Romeo and Juliet. While its predecessor brought a fresh take on a timeless tale of fratricide, The Lion King 2 suffers from being highly derivative of other romantic stories. You have the outsider infiltrating our lead’s society for nefarious purposes only to end up falling in love with the person he was supposed to hurt and being forced between choosing between love and duty. There is nothing involving the romance between Simba’s daughter Kiara (Neve Campbell) and her boyfriend Kovu (Jason Marsden) that you won’t see coming, but the movie’s true strength lies in the story that is being told around them. Above all else, The Lion King II is a story about parenthood, and as a discussion on that subject this movie is very good.
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Scott Snyder’s Batman: Death of the Family is one of the most ambitious Batman stories I’ve ever read. It is one that seeks to make a definitive statement about Batman’s relationship with his arch-foe and it succeeds in doing so in a way that was never done before. The attention to detail and the obvious reverence Snyder has for the source material is palpable. The Joker is simultaneously at his most loving and deranged in this horror story as he takes Batman down memory lane and makes a serious effort in emphasizing why their relationship is so important, and why the one he has with his supposed family is the part of Bruce’s life that truly needs to be destroyed. The characterization of the Joker in particular is what proves to be both this story’s greatest strength and weakness.
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History and philosophy are convoluted and disorderly. Though people desperately try to order and categorize the major events that shape them into coherent categories and timelines, the truth is that it is not truly possible. This is because the fields of history and philosophy are focused primarily on the human beings first, and then their contributions, rather than other fields that focus on the contributions and briefly touch on the people behind them. Humans are not orderly, they contradict themselves, and more than anything else appear highly duplicitous, and as a result, so are the fields of history and philosophy. Writing a book exploring these two things, no matter how much effort one puts into making every element appear orderly and linear, will undoubtedly reveal cracks and anomalies that make the project not as seamless as one would like. Matthew Stewart’s The Courtier and the Heretic however, deals with the messiness of philosophical history in its own unique way. Rather than desperately attempting to stitch together pieces that may or may not fit one another, Stewart weaves the history of two philosophers into an engaging narrative that explores their histories, rather than a cold analysis that provides their details. The stories of Leibniz and Spinoza (the titular courtier and the heretic respectively), are told in great detail separately from one another until they eventually converge into one as their fated confrontation is discussed. The duality of their lives and the many differences between the two men that include their appearance, thought process, and integrity are made abundantly clear; with a central theme being the tension between their true beliefs along with the fear of being associated with them and how they dealt with that. Although the lens in which Stewart views the philosophers (Leibniz in particular) may feel a tad coloured with bias at times, and the level of focus on certain pieces of history may not be ideal, the human nature of this subject is properly accommodated in a compelling narrative that is both informative and interesting.
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