Crazy Rich Asians Book Review

16085481I had been itching to read this book since it first debuted in 2013. However, the itch was manageable, until I heard about the movie adaptation and the cast that was selected. I LOVE Gemma Chan and Constance Wu and really like Michelle Yeoh. When their casting was confirmed, I decided I couldn’t wait anymore and quickly conspired to get my hands on this book!

Fair warning here — I think my reaction to the book is heavily biased by the actors casted for the movie adaptation. During my read, I kept on picturing the actors as the characters, which obviously made me like the characters far more that I might have otherwise. Secondly, I’ve talked before about how diversity is important to me, and this book is great on that front! Not only is it written by an Asian, Kevin Kwan, but it mostly features Asian characters in an international setting. On top of that, I think this movie might be one of the first to feature an entirely Asian cast in a Hollywood feature. It just feels so amazing to me and I’m so incredibly excited! As a result, I think my perception of the book is higher than it might be otherwise as well — because I want the book and movie to do well, so I see it in a good light. Of course, this is speculation on my part that I cannot confirm as I am obviously a subjective individual. Anyways, let’s move onto the review now.

Basically, Crazy Rich Asians is about two main characters: NYU’s Economics Professor Rachel Chu, and her NYU History Professor boyfriend, Nick Young. Rachel and Nick come across as any other young couple in love, and that’s what Rachel thinks. However, it turns out that Nick is actually filthy rich — his family is one of the richest in Singapore, tracing their riches and genealogy from several hundred years ago. Nick doesn’t tell Rachel any of this, as he was brought up to never talk about his family’s wealth. As a result, Rachel only finds out when Nick invites Rachel to spend the summer with him in Singapore, as he performs as the best man in his best friend, Colin Khoo’s, wedding. Colin Khoo, it turns out, also belongs among the Singaporean Elite and his wedding to model Araminta Lee (another part of the Elite), is actually the talk of the year in Singapore! Rachel only finds this out when she actually goes to Singapore and her Singaporean best friend from college, Peik Lin, reveals this to her.

On top of dealing with the crazily rich, Rachel also faces resistance and sees first-hand (although she doesn’t always understand them), the politics in Nick’s family and their mixed reaction to her. The Singaporean Elite, it turns out, are obsessed with genealogy, and Rachel, being the daughter of a poor single mother from Mainland China, doesn’t pass their test. However, the younger squad, Nick, his beautiful cousin Astrid, his other cousins, Colin and Araminta all like Rachel enough — it’s their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers who are opposed to Rachel. On top of facing resistance from them, Rachel also faces bullying from Singaporean socialites who are jealous that she managed to land Nick.

The plot of the book is very simple. I’ve outlined most of it above — Rachel and Nick journey to Singapore, she meets his family, they are cold to her. Nick thinks its a success while Rachel is unsure. They both go to bachelor/bachelorette parties where they deal with their own issues — Rachel gets bullied really badly by the other bridesmaids as they are determined to break up her and Nick. Things continue to spiral, until eventually, Rachel and Nick break up because of his mother’s meddling. However, this is only the plot of Rachel and Nick’s story.

The book actually has around five main characters: Rachel, Nick, Nick’s beautiful cousin Astrid, Nick’s mother Eleanor, and Nick’s money obsessed cousin Eddie. Although all characters have scenes together, their separate stories also differ a bit. Astrid’s story deals with her marriage to middle-class army man turned businessman Michael Teo. Michael obviously doesn’t match up to Astrid’s family (her being super rich as well), but he works day and night and the two really love each other. At least that’s what Astrid thinks, until she starts suspecting that he’s having an affair. Things escalate to the point of Michael asking her for a divorce. However, it’s only through the intervention of Astrid’s ex-boyfriend, super-rich tech guru Charlie Wu, that their misunderstandings are cleared (there was no affair) and they reconcile. Sidenote — despite being super-rich himself, Astrid’s family also disapproved of her relationship with Charlie because his background wasn’t filled with riches — he was a new generation (?) rich person, thus pointing to their obsession with lineage. Eleanor’s POV actually provides a good example of this. Eleanor’s story mainly deals with her attempts at figuring out the relationship between her son and Rachel, ensuring that Nick stands to inherit most of his grandmother’s money, and trying to break up his relationship. Finally, Eddie’s story just deals with his anxiety at trying to impress the public with his riches and his anger at his family for being so cheap (in terms of spending their money).

However, it’s also interesting to note that the book doesn’t just deal with the POVs of the five main characters. Other characters POVs pop up often as well. For example, we got little insights in characters like Nick’s dad, Charlie Wu, Peik-Lin’s dad Wye-Mun, Eddie’s mother, etc. However, their insights typically relate to the five main characters, vs. their own problems. I actually thought this was quite smart of the author to do, because it makes the book more focused and easier to understand. Your attention remains cemented on thoughts of the main characters, vs. getting jumbled into the various lives of various characters.

On that note, let’s talk about some of the technical aspects of the book, namely the writing. Here’s the thing, the writing is nothing special. It doesn’t consist of fantastic pieces of prose or flowery writing. In fact, some of the dialogue felt clunky at times — meaning that you felt like the dialogue was specifically meant to be written vs. a character was actually saying it. However, what the book does have, is copious, and I mean copious amounts of description. Kevin Kwan has the tendency to go overboard when it comes to descriptions. He describes every single little detail. For example, when entering Peik-Lin’s house, he uses almost an entire page to describe the Versailles inspiring living room in their home. Additionally, this description isn’t just done for surrounding scenery, it’s done for everything; from the food the characters eat, to the clothes they wear, to the sights they see. To be honest, it does get a little annoying to read extensive descriptions because it sometimes feels never-ending. However, at the same time, I actually kind of enjoyed it. The sheer amount of imagery it conjures is ridiculous. Not to mention that the descriptions of the stuff itself are absurd in themselves. It really highlights just how crazy rich these people are.

Which brings me to another facet of the book – its humour. The book is incredibly funny. It’s not funny in the sense that it has many jokes or anything, but it’s funny in the characters it has. They all, aside from the some of the main ones, shamelessly gossip, backbite, and plot against others. It’s absurd, but also super funny! It’s downright ridiculous the way some of them act — but at the same time, it’s so entertaining to read! For example, during Araminta’s wedding day, as she was walking down the isle, all she could think of, was how Astrid couldn’t even be bothered to wear a new dress to her wedding. Of course my relaying of this scene completely downplays just how hilarious it was in the book. Plus, I also really enjoyed the culture showcased throughout the book. We get little hints as to what Singaporean culture consists of — apparently food is a hot topic, the word “lah” is used very often, and there is some casual racism involved towards Mainland Chinese people. We also get little scenes of old Chinese traditions. It’s fascinating to read! Additionally, the characters themselves are also interesting and cool — Astrid being one.

Yet, for all of its hilarious triumphs, the book does have its faults. For one thing, in terms of plot, there’s not a whole lot that really happens. It’s fairly predictable and things don’t always get resolved. Secondly, the reader doesn’t really build a deep connection with the characters. Their motivations aren’t always clear and they aren’t always very interesting. For example, I personally had a tough time with Nick sometimes, just because he could be so oblivious. Finally, the descriptions could get too much. At times, it felt like the descriptions were there to show off to the reader the characters wealth, vs. describe it to them (if that makes any sense).

My rating: read it to enjoy a fantastically hilarious book about the lives of the crazy rich asians (in Singapore)!

Quote of the Week

“Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”   —- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 

Clockwork Lives Book Review

51TmxyY28AL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_When I first laid eyes upon Clockwork Lives, I was stunned by the beautiful cover. It’s a delicious red with gold writing and alchemical symbols. In fact, the markings are sort of carved on the hardcover book itself. On top of that, the paper inside feels luxurious and is given a parchment-like look. In other words, it’s incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Yet, despite the instant high regard I had for the book’s cover, it did not translate to the content of the book for me.

Basically, Clockwork Lives about a woman named Marinda. She lives in the small town/city/village (?) of Lugtown caring for her ailing father, super mechanic, Arlen Peake. As her mother, Elitia, left the family when Marinda was very young, she and her father form an incredibly close relationship; despite the fact that Arlen has some oddities about him. When Arlen dies, Marinda inherits his sizeable estate. However, there’s a catch. In order to get full access to her inheritance, Arlen stipulated that Marinda must fill a red book (much like this one) with people’s life stories. Using some sort of alchemical magic, Arlen managed to make it so that once a drop of someone’s blood hit a page in the book, their story automatically wrote itself in the book. Marinda, who prefers living a quiet, regulated, and isolated life, is understandably very upset at this development. Nonetheless, determined to get her inheritance, she undertakes the task of filling the book with stories. However, to her dismay, it turns out that the length of people’s life stories varies. In other words, one person’s story might span ten pages, as did Arlen’s, while another person’s story might just be a paragraph. Determined to fill up her book as quickly as possible (which meant that she needed to get longer life stories — aka epic lives), she journeys to her father’s hometown, Crown City, after having limited success in Lugtown.

The rest of the book details a) Marinda’s past, i.e. the situation with her mother, b) the various stories Marinda manages to collect about different characters c) the journey of self-discovery and growth Marinda embarks upon and d) the universe the book takes place. On that last point, this book is actually a sequel to Clockwork Angels, written by the same authors. I actually haven’t read Clockwork Angels, so I don’t really know what it’s about. However, what I’ve been able to glean from reading Clockwork Lives, is that this book series takes place in a steampunk alternative universe. Marinda’s country, Albion, is ruled by a leader known as the Watchmaker who apparently brought peace (“stability”) to the region and is actually centuries old. The Watchmaker figured out a way to create gold, using alchemy, and hence ensured that Albion grew prosperously. As this book is mostly for and from Marinda’s point of view, you don’t really get a big backstory for the Watchmaker. However, there are definitely a few hints as to how not everything is as rosy as it seems. There’s implications that the Watchmaker has done some terrible things. I actually found this part quite interesting and yearned for a deeper explanation of the Watchmaker’s past and activities.

On that note, I realized I forgot to talk about the format of the book. Each life story functions as a short story, thereby making this book seem like a collection of short stories. Each story is different (although quite a few of them connect!) and often has a different message (some have no messages at all). The interest level of the stories themselves also vary. I know I’ve talked before about how I don’t really like short stories because I find them lacking and prefer to read more fleshed out stories (aka The Hound of Death review). However, I actually really liked the short story format here. I think it worked really well for the book and that might actually have to do with the way the stories themselves were composed. As Arlen explained in the beginning of his story, it’s not the entirety of the life that matters, but the story that defines you/ you choose to tell. So in Arlen’s case, he wrote about how he grew to be the super mechanic he was vs. writing about his later life after he moved to Lugtown. It made for a really interesting reading experience.

In general, this was a decent enough read. I just felt like it was almost very middle-of-the-road. There were moments where Marinda’s growth and journey were incredibly inspiring. However, there were also moments where the book was just there. It’s hard to put into words, but I didn’t feel wowed by the book or anything. It was just a good enough read. The writing was decent, the plot was decent, and the implications of the book were also decent. The point of the book, or the way I understood it, was to encourage readers to live epic lives. It was to encourage readers to seek adventures, to take risks, to meet new people without fear. Again, a good and decent goal. Basically how I felt about this entire book: good and decent enough.

Sidenote — this book and the other books in this series were actually inspired by Canadian rockband Rush and their studio album named, Clockwork Angels. One of the co-authors of this book Neil Peart, is actually the drummer for Rush.

My rating: read it to enjoy some interesting short stories or as a good time pass read.

Ella Enchanted Book Review

24336Fun Fact: Ella Enchanted was among the first books I ever purchased for my own personal library decades ago. Also, a little embarrassed to admit this, but one of the biggest reasons I picked up this specific book, was because it had Anne Hathaway on the cover. I was/am a HUGE Princess Diaries fan and had watched her in its movie adaptation. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the movie, I did somehow, end up becoming a big fan of her. For some reason, Anne Hathaway appealed to my young self, as not only was she beautiful, but she came across as having spunk. And now that I think on it, I think this idea I had of her really affected the way I approached this book. The image I had of Anne Hathaway blended in with the characterization of Ella in the book, resulting in my forming an instant love for the spunky, strong, and smart Ella.

As I first read this book decades ago, you might be wondering why I decided to talk about it today; but there’s a reason for it. If you’ve been on my blog for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I actually haven’t reviewed any books in a long while. Aside from The Night Circus, it’s been almost five months since I reviewed one. And the reason for that, was that I had actually fallen out of love with reading. Or perhaps a better way to phrase it, would be to say that reading did not hold the same excitement for me anymore. I would pick up book and then put them down after reading two pages. It puzzled me and made me sad, as reading had been one way I defined myself for years. However, I just could not find it within me to complete a novel. Then randomly, I plucked Ella Enchanted from my personal book collection and began reading. Henceforth, almost magically, my love of reading returned! As such, I figured that I owed the book at least one review on my blog. So let us begin!

Basically, Ella Enchanted is an adaption of the Cinderella fairytale. However, in this story, she’s named Ella and doesn’t really become a scullery maid by choice. Unlike in the original fairytale, book Ella had been cursed. When she was born, a fairy gave Ella the “gift” of obedience, making it so that Ella had to obey whatever anyone said to her — including if they wanted to take advantage of her. As a result, her mother forbid her to tell of her curse to anyone. When Ella’s mother died (like in the fairytale), it was revealed that their family cook, Mandy, was also a fairy. However, she refused to reverse Ella’s “gift” out of fear that something could go wrong.

Similarly, Ella and Prince Charmont (aka Charming), don’t really first meet at a ball. Rather, they meet at her mother’s funeral and form an instant friendship (their families apparently knew each other in the book). However, their bond suffers as Ella’s father remarries and her step-mother send her off to finishing school in another country. Fed up of her step-sisters taking advantage of her curse (i.e. by commanding her to give them all her money or forcing her to miss meals by telling her to not eat), she decides to run away from school and find the fairy who cursed her in the first place. The rest of the book details Ella’s adventures after running away from finishing school, her attempts at removing her curse, and her friendship with Char.

As it’s Cinderella with a twist, the ending remains the same as the core — Ella and Charmont marry and live happily ever after. However, as it’s an adaptation, some things have been changed. One of the biggest and best changes, in my opinion, is that made of Ella’s character. While Cinderella was depicted as being kind and doing servitude quietly, Ella is feisty and determined. She’s headstrong, stubborn, and brave. Even though her curse causes her to lose her freedom (as she has to do whatever people tell her to do), she manages to find loopholes and assert her own will. It’s kind of inspiring to be honest. On top of that, she’s also incredibly talented with languages (it’s actually really cool!). She dabbles with speaking ogrese, elvish, etc.

Speaking of language, the world that Gail Carson Levine, the author of the book, manages to create is also really cool. Although the book focuses mainly on Ella and her exploits, we do get some hints as to how the magical world around her is. I’ve already mentioned the differing languages (there’s actually some pronunciations included!), but there’s also descriptions of the types of creatures, their personalities and customs, their way of living, etc. Plus, the fairy subplot that she includes is interesting as well. It really felt like the reader was on the journey with Ella, vs. just reading about how her adventures went. Levine writes in a way that is easy to read and understand. However, she also manages to include the themes of love, friendship, strength, and determination within her writing, in a way that doesn’t come across as preachy or too subtle.

I never really enjoyed Cinderella too much as she was always too passive of a heroine for me (especially in the Disney versions). However, this refashioning is one of my favourite adaptations ever. It changes Cinderella/ Ella from a meek character seeking her happily ever after to a brave one who becomes her own hero and goes after what she wants. Highly recommend this for young girls looking for a role model to emulate (or to parents who are looking for a role model for their kids).

My rating: read it to enjoy a modern, inspiring take on the Cinderella fairytale.

The Last King Movie Review

last_king_dvd_2d.jpgI put on The Last King/ Birkebeinerne on a whim. I just needed some background noise. However, when the film opened up with the allegation that it was in fact based upon some real life events, I knew that it would no longer just be background noise. I’m a huge history fan so my interest was fully piqued.

Basically, the background history is this: from around 1130-1240, Norway underwent a series of civil wars. Prior to this, Norway had often been ruled under a power-sharing agreement wherein 2 kings or so would agree to govern together. This was done so because Norway had vague kingship laws. As long as a pretender had a claim to the throne (regardless of his legitimate/ illegitimate status), they could partake in the sharing of power. However, over time, some kings broke their oaths (i.e. to not claim the throne until someone’s reign was over) or attempted to usurp all power. Inciting these power struggles, were the neighbouring kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark, who would periodically pledge their support to various leaders. As such, various civil wars began. It is important to note that the civil wars weren’t always between the same two groups, as agreements and alliances shifted. However, by 1177, a faction known as Birkebeiner (birchbark leggers), gained power and elected Sverre Sigurdsson (Sverre of Norway) as King in 1184. However, Sverre’s kingship wasn’t peaceful as a number of pretenders challenged his throne. By 1197, the Norwegian Catholic Church also fell into conflict with Sverre, and as a result, backed another faction: the Baglers. Unlike the Birkebeiner who were mostly made up of poorer peasants (hence their name – they could only afford birckbark to wrap their shoes), the Baglers consisted of the richer merchants, noblemen, and clergymen. Eventually, the Baglers and Birkebeiner emerged as the two main factions. Yet, despite the challenges, Sverre managed to hold onto power, until he died in 1202. His son Haakon Sverresson was made king after his death, but Haakon died in 1204, after less than 2 years on the throne. Desperate for a leader, the Birkebeiner put Inge Bardsson, a nobleman, on the throne. On the other hand, the Baglers saw this as the perfect opportunity to strengthen their claim to the throne and began fighting intensely. Amidst this struggle, it became known that Haakon Sverresson had actually fathered a son – thereby strengthening the claim of the Birkebeiner. However, the son, Haakon Haakonsson, was born within Bagler territory, thereby putting his life in danger as the Baglers were determined to kill him to strengthen their claim.

This is where the movie begins (1205/1206). Two Birkebeiner, Torstein (played by Kristofer Hivju) and Skjervald (played by Jakob Oftebro), manage to sneak into Bagler territory and pick up the infant Haakon Haakonsson and his mother. While enroute to a safehouse, they are spotted by Bagler troops. Hence, Torstein and Skjervald take the baby and flee, promising to deliver the child to safety. After a couple of cool skiing sequences (the birkebeiner carried the child while skiing in order to escape), they manage to find shelter for the night and deliver the child to the safehouse. Skjervald then decides to go home to his wife and child. Unfortunately, the Baglers get to his house and kill both his wife and child in their pursuit to find baby Haakon. Skjervald manages to escape and skis to the safehouse to warn Torstein and other Birkebeiner that the Baglers are still on their tail.

Meanwhile, back at the Birkebeiner stronghold, Nidaros, one of Haakon Sverresson’s loyal men, Inge (played by Thorbjorn Harr), is framed for his murder. Behind this conspiracy, is his younger brother, Gisle (played by Pal Sverre Hagen), who wants the throne for himself. It is shown that he indulged in an affair with Queen Margaret of Sweden, the widow of King Sverre, and convinced her to poison Haakon Sverresson. After administering the poison, she flees to Sweden, with the promise that Gisle will become king and then power will be theirs. However, Gisle betrays her and instead attempts to marry her daughter, Christina Sverresdatter (played by Thea Sofie Loch Naess), in order to secure his claim to the throne and gain the backing of the Birkebeiner. However, Christina is loyal to the throne (Birkebeiner) and Inge, so she attempts to betray Gisle and free Inge from jail. Unfortunately, she does not succeed.

Concurrently, the Birkebeiner ready themselves for battle to protect baby Haakon from the Baglers. Again, Torstein and Skjervald ski with the baby. The rest of the film deals with the two conflicts. Spoiler alert: Inge gets freed and reigns as regent for the young Haakon, who manages to reach Nidaros safely.

If you’re wary about watching this film without knowing about Norway’s history, I’d tell you to not worry. You actually don’t need to know the history behind the film in order to enjoy it. From a thematic point of view, the movie itself is very well made. Although it is historical in nature, the writers managed to adapt it to the big screen well as the story is (relatively) easy to follow onscreen. Of course you don’t get the nitty gritty details, such as who exactly the Baglers are, why the two (Baglers and Birkebeiner) are fighting, etc. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to know every single detail in order to enjoy the movie. Visually, it’s pretty cool to watch, especially the skiing action scenes (I’d probably call them the highlight of the movie). Plus, there are some nice emotional cute scenes with the baby. If anything, I’d say a prior knowledge of Norway’s history would probably allow you to appreciate the movie more, but again, I don’t think it’s necessary to know to enjoy.

The only big negative for the film, in my point of view, is that the film is not completely historically accurate. First off, from what I’ve been able to gather, Inge and other Birkebeiner actually did not know about Haakon Haakonsson’s existence until after Inge had been chosen to be the next king. So movie-Inge declaring himself to be regent until Haakon came of age is wrong. Secondly, Inge is never really framed for Haakon Sverresson’s murder. Suspicion falls upon Margaret of Sweden who actually does fail a trial and flees to Sweden. Inge is chosen to become the next Birkebeiner King. So movie-Inge being jailed is wrong. Thirdly, the character of Gisle doesn’t really exist in history. Inge did have a younger brother, but his name was Skule and he actually was the ruler of Norway, but after Inge’s death and he technically functioned as Haakon’s regent rather than Inge. So the whole plot of Gisle attempting to usurp power by framing Inge – no idea where that came from. On top of that, Gisle is implied to be a secret Bagler and is semi-supported by the Bagler’s as well. Given that information, it seems like Gisle’s character was partially inspired by the real life Bagler king, Philip Simonssen. Which is interesting, because the real life Christina Sverresdatter actually married Philip Simonssen. All of which implies that Gisle is a made up character, representing Skule and Philip together? I mean, if I squint, I can see why the writers chose to do that. However, as a history lover, I’m not impressed with it. Nonetheless, it’s a decent enough movie.

My rating: watch it if you’re a history lover, knowledgeable of Norwegian history, and/or if you want to watch cool skiing sequences.

 

My Little Baby Korean TV Show Review

My-Little-Baby-Poster1There’s just something about Korean dramas that makes them so addicting. Maybe it’s the actors? Or the story? Or the special effects? I’m not quite sure. Whatever it is, whenever I find a good k-drama, I tend to go crazy and just binge-watch it. Which is kind of out of character for me, because I’m not much of a binge-watcher. Yet, despite my adoration for k-dramas, I find it so difficult to find good ones. If you remember, I talked about how it was so difficult for me to find good K-dramas in my Falling for Innocence review. Sadly, things have not changed much and after watching that show, my expectations were even higher. So it was difficult for me to find one that I enjoyed. I sampled so many dramas, only to end up disappointed. Hence when I chanced upon My Little Baby, I didn’t expect much. Yet to my surprise, I ended up quite enjoying My Little Baby, to the point where the binge-watching returned!

Basically, My Little Baby is about police detective Cha Jung-Han (played by Oh Ji-ho) who is suddenly thrust into the role of a parent. Prior to the show beginning, Jung Han was a bachelor dedicated to fighting crime and devoting his entire time to his career. However, with the sudden death of his sister and brother-in-law, along with his brother-in-law’s mother’s waiving her parental rights, Jung-Han is forced to take responsibility for his sister’s 6 month old baby girl, Eun Ae. Since he focused entirely on his career, Jung-Han has absolutely no idea how to care for a baby. So he decides to take some time off work to get the hang of raising his niece. His friend and former police trainee/ current coffee cafe owner, Yoon Min (played by Kim Min-jae), moves in with him to help him out. The two move into a community for young children and the show deals with the struggles Jung-Han faces while raising Eun-Ae and living at the community.

At the community, it turns out that the administrator is actually Jung-Han’s former corporal officer, Jo Ji-Young (played by Jung Soo-Young). The two share bad blood because four years ago, on a police stakeout, Jung-Han had to actually deliver her baby. Jung-Han is upset that he had to witness Ji-Young in such an intimate way (he had told her to stay home due to her pregnancy), as is Ji-Young. Worried that Jung-Han will blurt out their shared past to the other mothers who live in the community, she conspires to make Jung-Han’s life miserable so he moves out of the community. On top of that, also in the community, is Jung-Han’s first girlfriend and first love, Han Ye-Seul (played by Lee Soo-Kyung). However, now she’s the secretly divorced (no one in the community knows except for her, her sister and Jung-Han), single mother of a four year old boy. Jung-Han attempts to rekindle their romantic relationship, while trying to gauge her feelings and dodging Ji-Young malicious machinations.

Supporting all these characters, are some other mothers from the community, 40 year old first time mother Yoon-Sook (played by Go Soo-Hee) and 20 year old first time mother Kim Bo-Mi (played by Joo Sae-Byuk). They, along with Ji-Young, form the core trio of the community mothers and are the main ones Jung-Han interacts with. In the process, they also end up becoming good friends to Jung-Han, especially Yoon-Sook. Also in the main credits is Nam Ji-Hyun, and she plays the role of Ye-Seul’s sister and the baby yoga teacher of the baby yoga class the mothers and Jung-Han attend. She actually doesn’t feature in the show that heavily so I’m not quite sure why she’s in the main credits.

The main story-line itself, if you can guess from the write-up, is actually quite sweet. Jung-Han is a pretty loveable character (or maybe it’s the actor LOL) and is a really decent guy. He’s willing to forgo his reputation in order to secure what is best for Eun-Ae, but also sticks to his principles. On top of that, he’s literally so dense when it comes to raising a child/ understanding the ways of parenting, that’s it’s actually hilarious. In fact, the entire show itself is super sweet and light-hearted. It does briefly delve into some serious problems, such as a father hiding his job demotion from his wife and struggling to provide for his family, but those problems aren’t really part of the main plot or really focused upon for a long time. For example, for the prior example, it was the main point for one of the mom’s for an episode or two, but after that, it’s just mentioned in passing remarks by other characters. Similarly, the show also touches upon the difficulties of parenting and being mothers. However, again, the difficulties aren’t really elaborated upon and are sort of *solved* by the time the episode(s) end.

However, I don’t think that this is detrimental for the show because it’s still quite enjoyable. I think this is a show to just enjoy for what it is. It’s light-hearted, sweet, and funny. Nothing more and nothing less. The only real negative point I can think of for the drama, is that it’s actually quite unrealistic. To give you an example, there’s a whole subplot of how Eun-Ae’s step-grandmother attempted to usurp Eun-Ae from Jung-Han in an effort to get her custody and therefore be privy to the large fortune Eun-Ae is set to inherit.  I mean, it’s so obviously a manufactured story-line for drama and completely unrealistic. Yet, since the show is so light-hearted, this conflict isn’t terribly dramatic and is still sprinkled with moments of comedy. Similarly, some of the action sequences were hilariously fake as well. However, they were easy enough to ignore because there wasn’t too many of them.

That said, the show is definitely uncomfortable to watch at first, because of the baby playing Eun-Ae. When the show begins, Jung-Han is obviously supposed to be unfamiliar with handling a baby, so I guess the actor was doing his job. However, the poor little girl playing Eun-Ae seemed to be terrified in the initial episodes. All she did, was cry and look scared. I felt so horrible for her, it actually did mar some of the viewing experience. However, as the show went on, she was more smiley (because I assume she got more comfortable with the actors and with filming in general) and the viewing experience was consistently enjoyable. Yet even then, part of me still felt bad for the little girl.

Moving on, let’s talk about the acting and characters. I’m not really familiar with Oh Ji-ho or his acting, but I really, really enjoyed him in this drama. He acted quite well and is super good looking. In fact, I have a small suspicion that his good looks made me feel far more favourable to his character’s actions than I would have been otherwise. He has the most adorable dimpled smile. Plus he had fantastic chemistry with his onscreen roomie, played by Kim Min-jae. While Ji-ho is good-looking in the popular “tall, dark, and handsome” trope, Min-jae is good-looking in the cute, well-dressed and witty way (I don’t know, is there a specific description for a guy like that?).Together, not only did the two play off of each other, but they also existed as foils. While Jung-Han is clueless (especially in regards to raising a baby and some social manners LOL), Yoon-Min is incredibly smart and resilient with everyday life things (Jung-Han is a good detective though). Lee Soo-Kyung is also quite good as Jung-Han’s girlfriend Ye-Seul. She actually brought this really cute charm to Ye-Seul. What’s also quite hilarious, is that she’s almost as naive and clueless as Jung-Han (LOL). She falls victim to pranks easily and isn’t as obsessed with being a mom as the other women in the community are, as she is busy being a working mother. However, she never plays the working mother as too harsh or strict. She really just comes across as any other mom trying to raise a kid alone, while still an incredibly sweet (if not judgemental sometimes) person.

On that topic, the whole mommy community in the show was a little intense. There was actually a subplot about how the mommy community literally had nothing else to do besides bring their babies everywhere and gossip with other mothers (LOL). The community depiction itself is also pretty unrealistic (or at least I think so). Yet, despite that, they were still generally enjoyable to watch and all three main mothers had distinct personality traits. That said, I will say that Ji-Young’s character could get a little too mean and annoying. She actually served as the main antagonist for most of the show and while she wasn’t exactly evil, she could be incredibly spiteful and selfish. Thankfully, she was balanced out by Yoon-Sook, who was incredibly sweet and good-natured (aside from complaining about how much her butt hurt because of childbirth LOL). In general, the acting was pretty solid across the board.

Cinematography was also good for this show (again, pretty convinced that this is a staple of all Korean dramas, regardless of content quality) as was directing (a lot of tricky camera shots to convince the viewers!).

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light-hearted, sweet and funny show about child-rearing, friendship and love.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Movie Review

47980728Movies about depression are always iffy for me. A lot of the time, I either find them too optimistic or I find them too dramatic. Maybe I haven’t seen enough of them. That’s why I was a little hesitant to begin It’s Kind of a Funny Story, as I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Basically, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (IKoaFS), is about high school teenager Craig (played by Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into the psych ward due to his fear of him committing suicide. However, the teen ward is closed for renovations, so he is instead admitted to the adult psych ward. In the adult psych ward, he meets with a number of people and forms bonds with them. There’s his mentor, dealing with his own problems, Bobby (played by Zach Galifianakis), the nice and pretty Noelle who struggles with self-harm (played by Emma Roberts), his bed-ridden roommate Muqtata (played by Bernard White), and his psychiatrist Dr. Minerva (played by Viola Davis). Craig stays in the ward for about a week and the film deals with his life. Although, the supporting characters do get some great work to do, particularly Bobby.

What I liked about the film, was how relatable Craig was. Craig was an incredibly anxious, stressed out, depressed and suicidal teenager. He felt like an outsider among his peers, his friends, and even with his family. The pressure of performing well in school, of thinking of about his future in terms of academics, or even asking out a girl, all seemed to mount on him, until he had difficulty coping. Although I’m not a teenager anymore, I could definitely relate to Craig. In fact, a couple of times, I had to do a double take because some of the things he said/ thought actually reminded me of when I was still in school. He feels like an incredibly realistic character.

I also really enjoyed the take on depression this movie had. Although Craig’s story-line left a lot to be desired, I liked how it was contrasted with others. Craig’s storyline actually slightly related to one of my annoyances about movies about depression. Craig stayed in the psychiatric ward for a total of five days and left the facility feeling happier and less depressed than before. According to his final voiceover, it taught him a lot about his life, about the things he had that he could look forward too. While it’s a good message, I also felt that it was a tad too optimistic. I wish the movie had maybe pointed out how his meds were also a reason why he felt better (it was implied slightly), rather than him just learning to be appreciative for the things he had in life.

That said, the other takes on depression in this film were fantastic. One of them was Craig’s roommate Muqtata. Although we weren’t ever given a backstory for Muqtata, he spent most of his time at the facility in bed. He was too depressed to even get out of bed. He did attempt to walk out of his room, once or twice. However, he’d always lose his nerve and go back to bed. It was only through Craig’s interference (he brought music that Muqtata liked), that Muqtata finally found something to get him out of his bed/ room. I thought it was nice of the writers to show how depression effects people differently. In Craig’s case, it manifested as anxiety and eventually evolved to fuel his suicidal tendencies. With Muqtata, on the other hand, it manifested as a debilitating melancholy that made it difficult for him to even get out of bed.

The other take on depression, was Craig’s mentor, Bobby. Like Muqtata, we weren’t given a backstory for Bobby. However, we did see the effect Bobby’s depression had on his family, the depth of his depression, and his struggle to get better. In fact, I think Bobby’s story was actually the most emotional of them all (it probably also helps that Zach Galifianakis acted really well). Despite Bobby’s easygoing demeanour and his attempts to help Craig with his depression, Bobby himself suffered keenly from depression; having attempted to commit suicide six times before. We were also shown the struggles Bobby went through, with finding housing after his release from the facility, with finding a job to support himself, and with his wife’s constant belittling of him and attempts at eliminating his daughter’s relationship with him. It’s an incredibly depressing, but also realistic look at the way depression can really seem to take over your life. It’s not just about dealing with it in facilities, it also affects your everyday life. Plus, it doesn’t always end with a happy ending. In one of my favourite moments, during Craig’s last night at the facility, he throws a pizza party for everyone. Bobby refrains from participating, despite the fact that he is also being released the next day. The audience is shown that Bobby was unsuccessful in landing a job and securing housing. Although it isn’t necessarily spelled out or even explicit, the next morning, when Craig asks for Bobby (just to see him one last time), it’s implied that Bobby killed himself. Although it’s incredibly sad, the movie handles it really well, just hinting at it and showing how depression isn’t just a simple issue; its complex.

On that note, the movie does have some unlikeable elements. There’s this semi-love-triangle thing that happens between Craig, Noelle, and Craig’s former crush, Nia. Although thankfully this story-line isn’t stretched too far, I also felt it was sort of unnecessary? I just wasn’t a fan and didn’t see its need. I’e already mentioned how I didn’t like how the movie was seemingly so optimistic towards depression recovery. It only hints at struggles (through Bobby for example) rather than providing an in depth look at them. I also thought it was a little odd how Craig seemed to be so incredibly talented at drawing and singing when he claimed to not be. It wasn’t bad per se, but just odd. Actually, while talking about that, I liked the animations in the movie when depicting Craig’s maps. I thought they were cool.

Anyways, moving onto the acting. If it’s not clear, the acting was pretty good across the board. All the actors were believable. I’d say a special mention probably goes to Zach Galifianakis, just because of how great his Bobby was. But then again, he is a good actor; it just gets hard to remember that because of how many comedies he chooses to do. Also, I think props also go to Keir Gilchrist who makes Craig so relatable. I haven’t really seen him in other things before, but he was really good in the movie and managed to carry most of it on his shoulders. Similarly, directing was great as well. Also, this is probably not the best place to mention it (my bad in not planning out this review better), but this movie was actually based upon the book of the same name, written by Ned Vizzini, who actually spent a few days in a psychiatric facility. So it’s actually semi-autobiographical I believe. Unfortunately, Ned died in 2013 after his own intense battle with depression.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a light but good look at the way depression can manifest itself differently in people, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Quote of the Week

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. Although it has not quite turned out to be everything I imagined it would be, it’s still pretty cool and I’m still quite proud of myself. I’m also pretty thankful to all of those who read my posts, commented on them, or even followed me. Y’all are awesome.

In order to mark the one year anniversary, I’ve decided to share one of my favourite quotes on this blog. I hope it brightens your life as it has mine.

So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.”    — Jorge Luis Borges

The Wave Movie Review

92a84ca10642fc94a905a44af57a1c8eI feel like everyone likes a good disaster movie. In my experience, it’s been the single type of film that people watch without fussing. So when my family sat down to do a movie night and I recognized The Wave, after hearing good things about it, I figured it would be a good bet. And, turned out, it was. So let’s get into the review.

In essence, The Wave is about just that, a huge tsunami wave in Norway. Apparently, the Akernes crevasse is due for an avalanche sometime soon, and it is expected that this avalanche will trigger a huge tsunami wave. This wave is expected to hit a few closeby cities, such as Geiranger, where this movie takes place. This event actually hasn’t happened yet, so this movie is sort of a guess as to how it will happen/ what it’ll be like.

Anyways, the movie focuses on geologist Kristian (played by Kristoffer Joner). After working in Geiranger, on the Akernes crevasse for years, he decides to take a job in Stavanger, Norway and move his family. His wife Idun (played by Ane Dahl Torp) seems to be the only one excited, as Kristian, his son Sondre (played by Hoff Oftebro) and young daughter Julia (played by Edith Haagenrud-Sande), are not as happy. During his retirement party, some of the sensors monitoring the crevasse show groundwater disappearing. Kristian is worried but his coworkers (who are all also working on the crevasse), assure him that everything is fine and that he can leave free of worry. However, Kristian is still worried and feels that the groundwater disappearing is the beginning sign of the avalanche. While driving to the ferry with his kids to go to Stavanger, he has an epiphany and instead drives to his old workplace. There, he explains his theory of how groundwater doesn’t disappear and how instead it’s moving through the rocks. Which also implies that the rocks themselves are shifting and thereby an avalanche is upcoming. His coworkers refuse to believe him but he flies to the crevasse with a coworker, and it turns out that their wires have broken. By this time, Kristian is convinced that the avalanche is coming, along with a tsunami, and that the town must be evacuated. His boss, Arvid (played by Fridtjov Saheim), is not as convinced, although he agrees to closely monitor the mountain 24/7.

Meanwhile, after getting tired of waiting for their father, his kids call their mother. Idun has a few days of work left (she works in a hotel), so she didn’t leave for the ferry with them. When she finds out that Kristian never took the ferry and instead is at his old workplace, she is angry and has the kids come to the hotel she works at. When Kristian arrives at the hotel, Idun and Sondre are still quite angry at him and decide to stay overnight in the hotel, instead of going back to their house. His daughter Julia, however, agrees to go back to their old empty home with him and spend one last night there. As Julia sleeps during the night, Sondre feels bored and wanders to the hotel basement to skateboard and puts on his headphones. During the night, Arvid and another coworker sense some problems with the sensors and go to the crevasse. Over there, the rocks begin shifting, thereby signifying that the tsunami is nigh. Similarly, after doing further research, Kristian also realizes this and quickly calls his coworkers to let them know. During this time, Arvid actually ends up dying because of the shifting rocks and one of their coworkers finally sounds out the tsunami alarm. At first, the people of Geiranger are confused, but then they quickly start evacuating and attempting to get to high ground. However, at the hotel, because of his headphones, Sondre doesn’t hear the alarm and does not show up at the hotel evacuation bus. Idun gets worried and leaves the bus to look for him in the hotel. Kristian also realizes that his wife and son are in danger, so after securing Julia’s safety, he goes to rescue them. The rest of the movie deals with their survival.

The movie itself is actually quite interesting and has fantastic visuals. Norway is an absolutely beautiful place and the movie definitely takes advantage of this by adding in some great landscape shots. Similarly, the tsunami is filmed in a decent manner as well. It’s not the imposing and impressive display that was in The Impossible, but it is decent and enjoyable enough. That said, I would’ve probably liked some more scenes of destruction, but that’s just my personal opinion and doesn’t really reflect badly on the movie.

Additionally, coming to the acting, it was decent as well. Kristoffer Joner is a fantastic actor and I actually have seen him in some other things, so I wasn’t too surprised. A large portion of the movie focuses on him and he manages to hold the audience’s attention. Ane Dahl Torp was also quite good as Idun. The only actor I was iffy about, was Hoff Oftebro, and I think it might have something to do with his character.

On that note, I thought Sondre’s character was SO unlikeable. Seriously. First he’s upset with his dad for moving them across the country. Which okay, makes sense. But still, Julia was so much younger and she acted more mature than him. Secondly, it was because of his idiotic need to skateboard with headphones that his mother and some guests missed the bus. In fact, he’s actually indirectly responsible for the death of around 3 (or even more if you count the hotel guests who had to wait for him initially) people. On top of that, he is just so whiny when it comes to survival. His parents have to literally coax him to hold on for a little longer and his father almost dies trying to rescue him. The only redeeming scene he has I guess, is when he saves his father. But even that is marred for me by the fact that the reason his father basically died was because he gave his oxygen to Sondre. I just found him so unlikeable and annoying. I think part of the reason why was because of Hoff Oftebro. Sondre’s actions would’ve been more palatable if he was around 12 years of age or so. However, Hoff looks like he’s around 18 and so instead of feeling sympathy for his character, I just felt annoyed. Like grow up man. Plus, Hoff just looked snobby and whiny through the movie that I had a difficult time connecting with his character. Honestly, he was probably the worst part of the movie for me.

My rating: watch it to enjoy a decent disaster film and to enjoy Norway’s great visuals.