Archive for the ‘Destin Daniel Cretton’ Category

The Heart of the Dragon

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Chui-Wai Leung, Ben Kingsley, Meng’er Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Ruffalo, Florian Munteanu

Film rating: 7 out of 10

Running time: 2 hours and 12 minutes

The Glass Castle director Destin Daniel Cretton certainly landed a massive task in directing the Oriental fantasy film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings assembling a mostly Chinese cast with Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu in the lead role as Shang Chi and comedian, rapper and Golden Globe winner Akwafina (The Farewell) as his sidekick Katy.

While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings starts off promisingly with some thrilling action sequences on the streets of San Francisco followed by an equally brilliant fight sequence in an abandoned skyscraper in Macao in China, the rest of the CGI laden fantasy epic just eventually unravels into a simulacrum of the Tales of Narnia mixed with some strange dragon sequences which clearly resemble the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Then there is the problematic appearance of Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) popping up in such a crazy heavily laden special effects film. Does Ben Kingsley really need the money or did Marvel pay him an extraordinary fee to appear in this confusing martial arts fantasy epic which tries desperately to tag along to the more mainstream Avengers films? One wonders.

After the brilliance of Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, despite making an absolute fortune at the overseas box office, is not as well written or directed or even constituted as an action adventure fantasy.

This Marvel venture is certainly entertaining but at 2 hours and 12 minutes, the middle section of the film drags continuously as does the epic dragon battle sequence at the end which is a rehash of other similar Marvel films and nothing unique.

Despite the film industry being in turmoil since the global Pandemic, it is good to know that Marvel is trying to cover all their bases in terms of target markets but seriously Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings could have been so much better and taken inspiration from such superb martial arts films as director Ang Lee’s Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon especially considering it lured Bond star Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) to appear in this film too.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is entertaining and has already made its box office takings but as a film, this could have been absolutely brilliant but then again Marvel are just cashing in on the current cinematic trend and appealing to that massive target market in China which has the world’s largest cinema going population outside of India.

This action adventure fantasy gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. It’s fun but not amazing. Catch it in cinemas or on a streaming site in the future.

We Own The Stars

The Glass Castle

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Sarah Snook, Max Greenfield, Josh Caras, Iain Armitage, Sadie Sink, Brigette Lundy-Paine

Hawaiian director Destin Daniel Cretton’s cinematic adaptation of the bestselling novel by Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle is an emotional and intricate exploration of a dysfunctional family’s unconventional upbringing.

The Glass Castle stars Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (The People vs Larry Flynt, The Messenger) as the patriarch Rex Walls and Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams, The Impossible) as his wife Rose Mary. Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) stars as the grownup second daughter Jeanette who would eventually turn from gossip columnist writer to bestselling author of the novel from which the story is based.

Ella Anderson plays the younger version of Jeannette who has to deal with her poverty-stricken parents as they grow up in the backwater of West Virginia, often living in abandoned buildings and scrounging for food money.

At the film’s outset it is clear that Jeannette has a special bond with her heavy drinking, big dreaming and often delusional father Rex who keeps promising her and her siblings (two sisters and a brother) that he is going to build the family a glass castle from which they can glimpse the stars through.

As the narrative shifts between New York in 1989 and her poverty stricken upbringing in rural West Virginia, The Glass Castle intelligently explores the concepts of sustainable living, of living off the grid and repudiating the city driven Capitalist work ethic which defines contemporary America.

The mother Rose Mary is too busy painting to watch her children, never mind feed them while the father Rex is too busy drinking to actually get a proper a job to support his family. Woody Harrelson gives one of the best performances of his screen career as Rex Walls as he manipulates and misguides the family into believing that he has the capacity to actually take care of them.

Eventually the young Jeannette says to her siblings that they have to make their own plans to save up money and leave West Virginia for more lucrative work opportunities in New York.

Fast forward to 1989, where the older Jeannette, beautifully played with nuance and comprehensive emotional intelligence by Brie Larson who as a successful journalist on the verge of marrying her straitlaced accountant fiancée David played by Max Greenfield (The Big Short) suddenly has to contend with her parents squatting on the Lower East Side in an abandoned building.

Josh Caras, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker, Steve Jobs) play the other siblings Brian, Maureen and Lori.

The best scenes in The Glass Castle are between Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson and while the film is an emotional joyride, it does not give the parents any social accountability for the way they brought up their children through neglect and apparent starvation.

The Glass Castle is a fascinating exploration of familial responsibility or lack thereof and the emotional effects that irresponsible parents decision making can have on their unsuspecting children.

The drama gets a film rating of 8 out 10.

The highly underrated Woody Harrelson should received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Rex Walls in the upcoming 2018 Academy Awards.

The Glass Castle is recommended viewing for those that enjoy a tense, sometimes difficult family drama where the children are told to pick stars while they are starving on earth.

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