Crazy Rich Asians

Year: 2018
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Ken Jeong, Awkwafina

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

It seems like after years in a romantic desert, we are finally having our thirst quenched by a geyser of rom-coms which are hitting cinemas and streaming in 2018. Netflix have been doing a particularly good job in this arena, but we’ve also had Love, Simon breaking boundaries in its own way and now Crazy Rich Asians is here to again challenge perceptions of who we get to see as being romantic heart-throbs on screen. The commercial and critical success of these films is so important (yes, the pressure on them is unfair) if we want to see more rom-coms being made and released, as well as films with diverse casts telling the stories of those who rarely get to see themselves represented on screen. This film provides universal themes told through the specificity of a particular culture and it balances this extremely well.

The “rich” part of the title means that this is one of the most sumptuous looking movies of the year – the glamour of the locations, sets and costumes cannot be overstated. The cast is absolutely huge, but it is packed to the rafters by impossibly beautiful and talented people. Newcomer Henry Golding is already heading to the top of many people’s Bond wish-lists after they’ve seen this movie. He plays Nick Young, who is dating economics professor Rachel Chu (‘Fresh Off The Boat’s Constance Wu) in New York City. Rachel is a second-generation immigrant who has never been to Asia before, whereas Nick is from Singapore (via boarding schools in England, hence his crisp accent). He persuades Rachel to join him on a trip to Singapore for spring break, so he can be the best man at his best friend’s wedding. Rachel agrees, but is also aware that this means she’ll be meeting Nick’s family for the first time. As Rachel soon discovers that they are flying to their destination in first class, she begins to question Nick and his family; her suspicions starting to raise that they might, in fact, be super-rich.

Nick has many cousins, including Astrid (the impossibly beautiful Gemma Chan) who is going through some marital problems with her husband Michael (Pierre Png). However, the main family member who is Rachel’s concern is Nick’s mother Eleanor (the sublime Michelle Yeoh). Eleanor has many plans for Nick and they do not include an Asian-American economics professor. There follow many shenanigans including a chaotic stag party with Colin (Chris Pang) and his crew including Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang) and an equally terrifying hen party, where Rachel meets a girl who may know more than is ideal of Nick’s past. Rachel finds two allies in Singapore – her friend Peik Lin (‘Ocean’s 8’s Awkwafina) and Nick’s cousin Oliver (Nico Santos), who help her with a scene fundamental to all good rom-coms; the makeover.

There are two pivotal scenes in Crazy Rich Asians which centre around activities that are important to Asian culture, which have multi-layered metaphorical meanings that will be significant to those from that culture. They are dramatic scenes that can be enjoyed on one level by everyone but which will have deeper meaning to people from Asian communities who can finally feel a connection with something so specific on screen. The two activities are dumpling-making, which takes place at the home of the matriarch of the family, Ah Ma (Lisa Lu). The second scene occurs near the finale and takes place over a game of mahjong, which is not unlike chess in terms of representing the shifting power and status of the players. The acting of Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh in this scene is phenomenal, as the power shifts between them and each gain the upper-hand at different times.

There are many heart-breaking scenes in this film and it may be a cliché, but it’s true in this case, it will make you both laugh and cry. Gemma Chan’s Astrid is one source of the heartache – it is fantastic to see Chan breakout internationally after her success on British television. Constance Wu also gives such a vulnerable, tender performance, as Rachel is met by hostility which is subtle at first, but then becomes much more blatant from Eleanor. Rachel looks like Nick’s family, but is viewed as an American and therefore an outsider who doesn’t belong there. She is seen as being a distraction from what they want for Nick, which is to return to Singapore and take over the family business.

There is a climactic wedding scene which takes the levels of rich to whole new crazy heights. This is an escapist fantasy which relies heavily on wealth porn, but it’s a sumptuous visual feast that it’s nice to succumb to for two hours and dream of a life of jet-setting luxury. The performances, particularly of the women (especially Wu, Yeoh and Chan) elevate Crazy Rich Asians above the usual rom-com fare. The men are hot and the women are heart-breaking and it’s an extremely enjoyable time at the cinema. I’m so excited that romantic movies are staging a comeback because they are very much my jam. Long may it continue.

FIONA’S RATING:

5

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Ocean’s Eight

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Poulson, Awkwafina

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

The ‘all-female reboot’ has been a controversial trend in recent movies, none more so than ‘Ghostbusters’, a film which I loved, after growing up with and being a huge fan of the originals. Although many have been mooted (let’s pray the female ‘Lord of the Flies’ never happens), only two high-profile examples have come to fruition, with ‘Ocean’s Eight‘ being the second. These reboots have been unpopular with some men (the ‘Ghostbusters ruined my childhood’ crowd) and also some women, who believe we should have new, original and risk-taking material for teams of women to star in, instead of rehashing male-dominated franchises. I fall somewhere in between; I have mostly found them fun, but my biggest issue is that they don’t have women directors or predominantly female crews. The female empowerment aspect feels somewhat empty without the women being behind, as well as in front of the camera.

When I first heard about the cast of ‘Ocean’s Eight‘, I couldn’t help but get excited. As each name was announced and added to the impressive roster, the anticipation built. Then on-set photos were released, revealing the ultra-cool costuming, especially of Cate Blanchett’s character in her velvet suits and scarves. The press tour has blessed us even further in terms of spectacular outfits and great humour, chemistry and flirtations between the cast members. With a cast clearly having this much fun, making and promoting a film, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love.

The film begins with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) blagging her way out of jail and immediately returning to her old criminal ways, which clearly run in the family. She contacts her old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), with whom she certainly shares a history, which seems both professional and personal. Debbie has spent her jail time (including deliberately landing herself in solitary) planning an elaborate heist (it wouldn’t be an Oceans film without one) and sets about assembling the team she needs. Key to the plan is fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), who Debbie recruits to dress film star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) for the event of the year – the Met Gala Ball. She wants Rose to pretend that she simply must have a 150-million dollar necklace from the vaults of Cartier to adorn the neck of Daphne and then the team can steal it. Further members of the team include diamond expert and forger Amita (Mindy Kaling), pickpocket Constance (Awkwafina), multi-talented suburban Mum Tammy (my favourite; Sarah Paulson) and lastly, in an inspired piece of casting, hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna).

The sparkling and in some cases, sizzling chemistry between the cast is definitely the main strength of this film. There is undeniable tension between Bullock and Blanchett especially, although the plot does hinge around revenge against Bullock’s ex-boyfriend (played by The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage). The glamour of the Met Ball is obviously a big selling point, including an abundance of celebrity cameos. The outfits, coupled with the actual exhibition of crown jewels makes for an impossibly beautiful backdrop and you cannot help but be sucked in by it. There is lots of humour, with Hathaway being particularly great as the spoiled film star who hasn’t eaten for days. Flavours of the familiar score from the original films are featured throughout, along with the trademark split-screen style.

Look, I don’t know what else to tell you. I watched this film in a gorgeous setting, with a cocktail, quality savoury snacks and a good friend. That may have prejudiced me in favour of this film, but so what? It’s meant to be an easy-going, fun, enjoyable ride for women (especially) to enjoy on a Friday night (as we did) and that’s exactly what it is. I really hope Rihanna continues making movies in exactly the vein of this and ‘Valerian‘ because it’s Rihanna and she does what the f**k she wants. As for the continuation of the ‘female reboot’ trend? It’s hard to say at this stage if I’m for or against. I certainly am here for films with amazing ensemble casts of incredible women. If they are new, original and have women directors, all the better.

FIONA’S RATING:

3

 

 

The Heist Begins In The First Trailer For ‘Ocean’s 8’

“In Summer 2018, the tide will turn as Debbie Ocean attempts to pull off the heist of the century at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala. Her first stop is to assemble the perfect crew: Lou; Nine Ball; Amita; Constance; Rose; Daphne Kluger; and Tammy.”

Directed by: Gary Ross

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter

Release Date: June 22nd, 2018

First Official Ocean’s Eight Photo and Synopsis Released

‘Ocean’s Eight’ is an all-female spin-off to Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney’s 2001 ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ trilogy. The spin-off is set to focus on Debbie Ocean, the cousin of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) as she attempts to pull off a heist at a “star-studded annual Met Gala”. 

Debbie Ocean enlists the help of  Lou (Cate Blanchett); Nine Ball (Rihanna); Amita (Mindy Kaling); Constance (Awkwafina); Rose ( Helena Bonham Carter); Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway); and Tammy (Sarah Paulson) who all feature in the first picture released from Warner Bros. (below)

Also set to join the star-studded cast are Damian Lewis, Richard Armitage, Olivia Munn, Katie Holmes, James Corden, Kim Kardashian West, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and Matt Damon is even rumoured to be reprising his role as Linus Caldwell, who we met in the trilogy. 

The synopsis Warner Bros. release with the picture is: 

“In Summer 2018, the tide will turn as (L-r) Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) attempts to pull off the heist of the century at New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala. Her first stop is to assemble the perfect crew: Lou (Cate Blanchett); Nine Ball (Rihanna); Amita (Mindy Kaling); Constance (Awkwafina); Rose ( Helena Bonham Carter); Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway); and Tammy (Sarah Paulson)”

Are you ready for Ocean and the ladies to hit the screen? Are you looking forward to this female-led spin off?

‘Ocean’s Eight’ currently doesn’t have a UK release date, but it scheduled to release on 8th June 2018 in the USA.

Written by Tom Sheffield