BCB Movie Review: Revenge of the Green Dragons

Over the weekend I finally convinced myself to fork out $9.99 (highway robbery!) to watch Revenge of the Green Dragons on DirectTV, to follow-up on our Trailer Parkin’ post, and also because: AZNs. With mullets.

While the trailer looked promising, especially since it’s directed by Andrew Lau of the glorious Infernal Affairs… I found Revenge of the Green Dragons kinda meh…mixed with a little huh? and a healthy dose of blue balls (on my part).

Ergo, to this last point, the ROTGD trailer promised some steamy AZN-on-AZN rooftop sex scenes. Behold:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 4.25.04 PMHowever, these scenes were absent in the actual film; instead we got some tepid, PG-rated fully-clothed kiddie smooches:

kissBOO I say, BOO! For WHY were the smex scenes taken out, leaving us with CRUMBS? Do they think AMERICA CAN’T HANDLE IT?!? Again, since every single ad for 21 & Over schticked up Justin Chon in a brassiere and teddy bear merkin, than I better damn well see him get it in in ROTGfrigginD. False advertising! Injustice!

ROTGD was also kind of a mess, messaging-wise. It seemed to attempt several bold statements on “illegal immigration”, racism, and the promise and hypocrisy of the American Dream, but I couldn’t quite figure out what those statements were. It was incoherent at best, and came off borderline anti-immigrant at worst: fear the invading, violent, money-crazed yellow hordes!

Madame snake head, who makes her riches off trafficking and exploiting Chinese immigrants, dramatically pronounces “It’s what this country’s built on…the American Dream!” A Chinese cop (played by MC Jin. Hell YAS) admonishes a white colleague for the fuzz’s disregard for brown lives (gee, so much has changed). “Also — fun fact! — did you know there are lots of Chinese languages, officer? Cantonese, Shanghainese, Fukienese…Hello? Are you listening to meeee…….” Jin should have just launched into “Learn Chinese” and then peeled off on the back of DMX’s bike screaming the Ruff Ryders Anthem (seriously, somebody hire me as a screenwriter). Similarly, the Green Dragons make a point to only kill each other — never Gwai-los — in order to fly under the enforcement radar (except the one time they smoke a white guy bitching out a restaurant owner about MSG in his food. Very satisfying).

At times, ROTGD came off as an exploitation flick, what with the slow-mo rape scene and beating the shit out of little kids in cringe-inducingly creative ways. It doesn’t leave much sympathy for any of the characters and makes every single Asian dude except the protagonist look like scum of the earth. But, I’m willing to overlook alla that cuz, matching  jackets!

There’s also some magnificently cornball lines like, “There’s a storm coming detective, I don’t know of any umbrella that’s gonna keep this city dry. Umbrella-ella-ella.” (Sike. But I wish).

However, there were some bright spots — Kevin Wu aka KevJumba of YouTube fame — surprisingly gave the strongest performance — with a close runner up to his perm-mullet, which deserves its own Oscar nom:

kevhairThe classic ‘do, seen on such folks as Tuan Anh, my uncle, and probably your uncle too. This hairstyle is a national treasure and should be counted amongst the greatest contributions immigrants have made to this country.

Other hair wins go to Leonard Wu as Chen I Chung, who is obviously a dead ringer for Down-Lo Mein from Notorious MSG. Yo D-Lo, bitch stole your look! Also, why aren’t you returning my DMs?!

Don't ask how long it took me to make this.

                                      Don’t even ask how much time I spent making this.

Finally, and most importantly, Harry Shum Jr. didn’t take his shirt off. Even once. I am VERY disappoint. I had to console myself by googling Tony Leung pics.

So, I don’t think ROTGD is a serious contender to dethrone Better Luck Tomorrow by any stretch, but it’s still pretty remarkable in terms of a plot that centers around an Asian American narrative and it’s all-Asian lead cast. Worth checking out for the tats n gats alone.


2012 LA Asian Pacific Film Festival


Southern California’s Largest Asian Film Festival Runs May 10 – 20, 2012, Will Present 188 Films From Over 20 Countries Featuring World Premieres, Sneak Previews; Showcasing Documentaries and Narratives Focusing on the Voices of Asian Americans and Asian Peoples from Around the World.

MAY 10 – 20, 2012

Friday Fuckery: The Hangover Part II Review

I caught The Hangover Part II this past weekend, and as to be expected from any bro-code comedy set in Bangkok, it’s chock full o’ delightful Asian-related wit and wisdom.

Child prostitution joke? Check. Thai ladyboy hookers? It went there. THERE. As in, you see errrrryything. And there’s a healthy dose of  nekkid ass nekkid shots of Thai strippers in the ending credits, to make sure you get your $11 bucks worth of exotic muffs ‘n’ weiners ‘n’ such (including the fabled ping-pong ball trick).

And Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is back with a vengeance — his opening scene consists of full frontal nudity showcasing his nubbin, which the bros had mistaken for some sort of worm.

What also put a burr in my ass was the role of Stu’s (Ed Helms) fiancee Lauren (Jamie Chung), who stood around like a pretty young thing, alternately keeping her head down and her mouth shut in the presence of her father or gazing with unconditional adoration at Stu, who she outranks 10:1 on the hotness meter. And even though Stu has a pesky penchant for hooking up with strippers — she’s cool with that, because that’s what real love is! Apparently these spiritless, ornamental  qualities qualify Lauren as an “angel” in the eyes of the bros, with a “solid rack for an Asian”. Pure romance.

Another bland plot device was Lauren’s overachieving (but attractive!) brother Teddy (Mason Lee), who is missing for most of the movie. When he does get some screen time, he is humbly putting up with the antics and abuse of the bros, which eventually lead to a missing finger. But he’s cool with that, because the wolfpack showed him how breaking out of his model minority cage to become shitfaced and free of spirit is so worth it.

Oh and Lauren’s dad is presented as an overbearing asshole who dotes on his only son because he goes to Stanford and plays the cello. Too bad about that chopped off finger.

But most of all, Hangover II just wasn’t  funny. Running almost two hours long, there was lots of random boring dialogue that struggled to revive the heyday of the first movie and convince the viewer what a hoot we’re all having. Remember that one time in Vegas and all those crazy things that happened at the last bachelor party? This is totally just like that! What a wild bunch of dudes these are, right? And you get to be in on it! Fun times, right? Right Bros??

Sorry, I probably would have had a better time at Kung Fu Panda 2.

Vincent Who?

Earlier this week, I attended a screening of Vincent Who? in South Seattle. Even though I knew a bit about the Vincent Chin incident, I’m so glad that I went — the film was amazingly worthwhile and really illuminated the impact this tragic hate crime had on mobilizing the pan-Asian movement.

Vincent Chin was a Chinese American from Detroit,  murdered in 1982 by two white autoworkers who mistook who him for Japanese. Disgruntled by layoffs caused by what they perceived as a Japanese takeover of the auto industry, they followed Vincent out of a club and beat him with a baseball bat, cracking his skull. At 27, Vincent had recently gotten engaged, and was the only son of Lily Chin.  His last words before slipping into a fatal coma were, “It’s not fair.”

Lily Chin, mother of Vincent and leading activist

Vincent’s attackers literally got away with murder, given a fine of $3,000 and 3 years of probation, serving not a single day of jail time. Outraged, Asian American community members organized and protested, making it the first case regarding an Asian American to receive national attention, and laying the historic and unprecedented groundwork for pan-Asian and multiracial coalitions.

The documentary, made on the 25th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s death, examines the lasting legacy of his case and shows heart-wrenching footage of family members, as well as interviews with activists who were mobilized, politicized, or otherwise influenced by the hate crime and subsequent lack of justice…leaders like Helen Zia (author of Asian American Dreams), Eun Sook Lee (National Korean American Service & Education Consortium), Doua Thor (Southeast Asia Resource Action Center), Corky Lee (photojournalist), Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man), and Eric Nakamura (Giant Robot).

Curtis Chin, producer and family friend to the Chins (Curtis also co-founded the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and APAs for Progress), came up from L.A. for a post-film discussion. Curtis has been presenting Vincent Who? across the country, partly as an activist recruitment tool, and is approaching his 200th screening.

Producer Curtis Chin

Vincent Who? opens by asking contemporary Asian American college students if they know who Vincent Chin is…dozens of them have no idea. Curtis feels that if we as an Asian American community do not know our own history, then we cannot fully realize our power and potential. He presents the film to not only illustrate a pivotal time in our history, but to re-emphasize a vision of what a pan-Asian and progressive community can be.

Given the current reality of ethnic studies being banned in Arizona and efforts to erase Cesar Chavez from Texas textbooks, this message is all the more relevant and urgent. And as far as hate crimes, they are no thing of the past. Vincent Who? draws parallels to attacks on Muslim Americans and those perceived as Muslim after 9/11. Violence against Latinos and Asians also continues, as anti-immigrant scapegoating grows about “illegals” taking our jobs or employment being outsourced to China.

Do we have to wait until the next tragedy to become more galvanized, or can we continue to cultivate a united, progressive movement, believing that our own politicized actions — no matter how small, do matter? In the documentary, Tanzila Ahmed, of the blog Sepia Mutiny, stressed the significance of everything we do being a political act, whether it’s reading political blogs or engaging in direct advocacy.

Vincent Who? was powerful and inspiring, and just might renew your commitment to social justice work and your belief in our ability, and the necessity, to make change happen. I can’t recommend enough attending a local screening — check out the schedule here, or even organize your own. And you can get a copy of the film and Vincent Chin T-shirts here at Blacklava, to help tell Vincent’s story and expand his legacy, along with our own collective power.

Asian American International Film Fest: She, A Chinese

Mei Li (Lu Huang), the 20-year-old protaganist of She, A Chinese, has never been more than five miles from her village in rural China. Mei spends her days working at a local billiards joint, listening to rock music, and indulging her fascination with all things urban and Western. Pretty and rebellious, she garners plenty of attention from local men. Her mother’s solution is to either make Mei a farmer or marry her off to a nice-but-unattractive government official, which leads Mei to hightail it for the big city of Shenzen.

Once there, she struggles to get by working jobs both above and under the table, and falls in love with a rough but endearing hit man (Wei Yi Bo). But a bad turn of events leads Mei to London, where she takes more unpleasant gigs to survive — like holding signs for a Chinese buffet (wearing a panda costume) —  to standing topless and humiliated in front of an anatomy class while the professor draws organs on her bare skin.

Mei eventually propels herself into the arms (or clutches) of a number of London men. She first marries a widowed Englishman over thrice her age (Geoffrey Huntings), whom she comes to resent. Then she shacks up with a Muslim curry shop owner (Chris Ryman) with a penchant for “Oriental girl love DVDs.” Despite her incredible capacity for endurance and the bold methods she employs for survival, Mei remains in a position of limited power and compromise, as her well-being is primarily dependent upon these men.

She, A Chinese was adapted from Xiaolu Guo’s novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, and based partly on Guo’s experience as a visiting scholar in London. Through following Mei’s personal transformation as she traverses continents, the film captures her desperation and desires, as well as the predicament and struggles of immigrants in urban environments.

While I feared the film would go down the road of “white knight saves Asian woman from Asian men and life of oppressive poverty,” it becomes clear that after her one love in China, these men never achieve a level of emotional significance for Mei. Her inability to improve her circumstances despite her skill at entangling men in her life — men who initially appear caring but ultimately fail to provide the safety, security, or happiness she seeks is FUCKING DEPRESSING. But at least it’s not romanticized, and I appreciate this stark depiction which is likely more true-to-life than your typical fairy tale romance, rags-to-riches archetype.

A cross-post with Hyphen

BCB Movie Review: Karate Kid

Oh hey there! By this point, are you tired of hearing all the flap about what a crap fiesta The Karate Kid remake is? I don’t know about you, but I don’t even need to see it to be convinced: TWO THUMBS DOOOWWWN!  Welp, since there’s nothing I can possibly add to the dialogue, I will just leave you with this:

And also, this:

Yes, unconditional regard can be unhealthy. For your eyeballs.

Christ almighty the Pinkett-Smith kids look obnoxious. Somebody gong that child’s outfit, please. Or um, shoko it. Whatever.

Quick! Name ten things that aren’t Jackie Chan! Harder than it looks, eh smartass?

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pic via Dlisted