Posted in *Recommended, Documentary, Video

Inside These Walls

Inside these Walls was broadcast on CBC back in October, 2016 but I only just discovered this recently. It’s a documentary about an estranged father who has been imprisoned in China for his pro-democracy beliefs and the turmoil it has caused for his family in Montreal. Here’s the description from CBC.

“Wang Bingzhang, founder of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement, has spent the last fourteen years in a Chinese prison for the crime of political activism. Although he once abandoned them to pursue his political beliefs, his ex-wife and children campaign tirelessly for his release. Inside These Walls captures the complex range of emotions of a family bound together in struggle and hope.”

If you’re in Canada, you can watch it here.

Otherwise, you can watch this Ted talk by Wang’s daughter Ti-Anna.

Posted in *Recommended, Reviews, Theater, TV

Kim’s Convenience: Stage Play review [Recommended]

This is a review of Kim’s Convenience the theater play (very minor spoilers) but will also briefly mention some elements of the TV show for comparison, which I saw first. The play opened this past Wednesday and continues its engagement until March 19 in Montreal at the Segal Centre. It’s produced by Soulpepper, created & written by Ins Choi and directed by Weyni Mengesha with set & costume design by Ken Mackenzie.

Also as an aside, the theater play will make its US debut this July in New York!

KimsConvenienceProgramTicketThe play starts off with Mr. Kim aka Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) walking into the store. If you’ve seen the TV show, he’s the familiar genial Appa with his jokes and accent but I would say there’s a bit more to him in the play, which is not restricted by TV rules. Much of the first act is comedy as he and his daughter Janet (Rosie Simon) clash and argue over various topics. There is early mention of a Walmart arriving soon and an offer to buy the convenience store from a customer. This is more background info as the main theme of the play is intergenerational conflict between parents and their adult children. Mrs. Kim aka Umma (Jean Yoon) appears from time to time often humming a tune. The fourth member of the family, Jung (Richard Lee), is however not around the store at all, having left the store/home many years previously due to a past incident.

One of the first arguments begins when Appa asks Janet to call 911 about an illegally parked Honda because it’s a Japanese car and he holds a grudge against Japan due to its past history of occupation of Korea. Later on when a customer with a Carribean accent comes into the store there’s an amusing confusion of different accents which leads into some race issues. Appa tries to “educate” Janet on which combinations of race, gender, sexuality will mean a customer is likely to steal. Some of these jokes will be familiar to TV show watchers but there are some differences. In fact, I find they work better in the play because unlike the TV show which tries to stretch some of these jokes into themes for an entire episode, they’re maybe one or two liners in the play.

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Posted in *Recommended, Art & Animation, Reviews

New Super-Man – Issues 1-6 review

newsuper-man1New Super-Man is a comic book about a Chinese Superman. The original Superman, Clark Kent aka Kal-El, is still around so this one’s not a replacement but understandably the idea of making an “insert race here” version of an iconic superhero is a controversial one. The only reason I even considered buying this was because of the writer that was hired for this series. His name is Gene Luen Yang who is an award-winning writer & cartoonist who wrote American Born Chinese, a graphic novel that achieved much success. It is also one of my favorite graphic novels ever. Even Mr. Yang himself initially rejected the job of writing a Chinese Superman but after some further thought he came to realize some of the storytelling potential. Issues 1-6 comprise the first story arc titled, “Made in China.” How did the team, which includes artist Viktor Bogdanovic, behind New Super-Man do? First, I’ll write a brief plot summary of the issues, which will contain some spoilers (but no major ones) and then proceed with my impressions.

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Posted in *Recommended, Uncategorized, Video

Christine Law – founder of Floranthropie

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Here’s a nice interview in French (from October 2016) with Christine Law, founder of Floranthropie. You can donate money via their Chuffed campaign or on their website.

For those who don’t understand French, I’ve provided a translation of it in English below (not line by line but more of a summary).

There are many ways to help ease the isolation felt by senior citizens. Christine Law chose to give them flowers, obtained from marriages and corporate events, which she rearranges into nice bouquets. This is essentially the mission of Floranthropie.

The idea came to Christine from having lived with her grandparents until high school. Her parents who were immigrants who didn’t speak English or French and had 4 girls (Christine is the youngest) and it was hard for them. Unfortunately, her grandmother had an accident and passed away. In the last years of her grandfather’s life, she sensed the solitude in his life. At every supper, he would teach her a Chinese proverb. There was one that he repeated often and the general meaning of it was that it is important to respect parents to have a long life.

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Posted in *Recommended, Reviews, TV

Kim’s Convenience – Season 1, Episodes 3-4

I haven’t been timely with my episode reviews but I often post short thoughts on twitter on the same day as the episode. Here are my extended thoughts.

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Ddong Chim

A very good improvement over previous episodes. Since this review was actually written after seeing episode 8, I can say this is the funniest episode thus far plus I learned something about another culture! Granted it wasn’t the type of thing I expect to learn about on a TV show. That thing is ddong chim, which translates roughly to poop needle. It’s also described as a Korean wedgie where one person pokes another person in their anus with their pointed fingers. Yeah it sounds gross but apparently it’s a popular prank to do among Korean kids and some other Asian cultures. When recently promoted assistant manager Jung does a ddong chim to his buddy Kimchee at work, it leads to some uncomfortable questions from his boss Shannon. Easily the most awkward and funny exchange between the two.

There’s also a subplot with Appa and Janet’s friend, Gerald. Appa asks Gerald to take his photo instead of Janet, who is quite bothered by this. We get to see the “don’t touch wall” of photos and some funny exchanges between Appa and Umma. The resolution ends with a great line from Janet in response to Gerald in front of the “don’t touch wall.”

This is probably the first episode that focuses more on Jung and Kimchee who tend to be separated from the rest of the Kim family in most episodes. It’s nice to see them more and Kimchee is somewhat less annoying. In fact, I hope Kimchee gets his revenge in a future episode. Now for episode 4…

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Posted in *Recommended, Film Screenings, Trailers, Video

The Handmaiden in cinemas now!

The Handmaiden opened on Friday October 28, 2016. It is currently playing in multiple cinemas in Montreal at both Cineplex Forum and Cinema du Parc in English. It’s playing in French at Cinema Beaubien. I’ve seen it and it’s great with its twists. It’s definitely best to go into the movie knowing nothing about the story. There are a few fairly explicit sex scenes and a gruesome torture scene. Park Chan-Wook is an amazing director and the cast are equally up to the task.

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Posted in *Recommended, Reviews, TV

Second Jen – Season 1, Episodes 1-2

secondjen-s1ep1-e1-couchsurfing

Couch Surfing

The story starts off with Mo proposing to Jen that they get an apartment together much to Jen’s surprise. More surprising to me is Mo jumping on Jen’s bed with her dirty boots (that trope always bugs me but that’s TV for you). After that they have dinner with Jen’s parents and brother where Jen reveals her plans to her mom who is not pleased by them. I’m still wondering whether anyone has ever asked for money for new shoelaces, how poor is Jen’s brother? They find an apartment and are introduced to their male neighbors who are the other main characters of this show. A bit of a romance gets an obvious start here.

I enjoyed the first episode quite a bit. It may not be super laugh out loud funny but I got some good chuckles. My initial reaction to Jen’s mom was that she was kind of a stereotypical caricature but when she’s at her best she reminds me of Arrested Development’s Lucille with her amusing, passive aggressive remarks. I have to say calling her daughter too skinny didn’t seem believable at all. The relationship between the girls Jen & Mo is really strong. There are definitely some good zingers, which often fly by very quickly due to the rapid fire banter between the girls, which is very entertaining. I particularly like the the inventive selfie segues. The acting is good although sometimes it seems characters are a bit too fast in their line delivery, which makes it feel “rehearsed” and more exaggerated. However, sometimes the exaggeration does work nicely to add a bit of absurdity to the realism. I suspect it takes a bit of time to find that perfect balance. I think it gets it right more often than not. Favorite line of episode 1, “I’m hot Asian Bambi.” Read on for my thoughts on episode 2…

Continue reading “Second Jen – Season 1, Episodes 1-2”