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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Aaron Takahashi

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

High school sucks so much that, honestly, sometimes you just have to make your own excitement.

Accomplished high school student Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything and it’s absolutely boring him to death. When your Asian, living in the suburbs of California, and doing so well in school, honestly, nothing else really excites you anymore. But you know what does? Not being able to actually win something over, or, in Ben’s case, not being able to win over his dream girl, Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung). It’s all Ben can ever think about, so eventually, he decides to strike up an unlikely friendship with trouble-seeking tough guy Daric (Roger Fan), where he starts doing all sorts of bad and illegal stuff, along with various other members of the so-called “gang”. Eventually, these illegal ventures start setting their sights toward Stephanie, and her rich boyfriend Steve (John Cho), who has a proposition for these guys that, if they’re able to succeed with the plan, may make them all rich. But for some reason, it may not go as planned, being that Steve and Ben don’t necessarily get along in the first place.

Yeah, fairs can kind of suck.

Better Luck Tomorrow is a surprising film for many reasons. One, first and foremost, because it presents a different, intelligent view of Asian Americans that we don’t ever actually get to see in American movies, or better yet, in American high school movies. See, a lot of the times, the constant cliche with Asians in films such as these is that they’re so book-smart, can’t speak a lick of English, and are mostly used as funny, side-characters to help guide us through this adventure of watching a white protagonist, struggle and get through high school. Of course, this is just a rough generalization of what we’re used to seeing, but if any John Hughes movie is proof, then yeah, Asians have it bad when it comes to high school movies.

And that’s why Better Luck Tomorrow is so interesting, because it turns that whole viewpoint on the side and for once, shows us Asian Americans who are just like the white protagonists in all of those other movies, except in this case, they’re far more real and raw. These kids here don’t just curse, but they drink, they smoke, they have sex, they get naked, they commit crimes, and hell, they could even care less about their grades. Co-writer/director Justin Lin has made quite the career for himself taking on the Fast and Furious franchise, but if anything, he shows us that he has a unique and smart voice that isn’t just something we’ve seen, or heard before.

Or even if we have, it’s way different than ever before.

Choose Harold. Especially if he has a sick-ass moped. 

And in that sense, yes, Better Luck Tomorrow is a smart film that, honestly, doesn’t get made as much as it should. But then, there’s this other side of the movie that’s actually more about the tone, the feel and the actual plot itself which, believe it or not, still works. Better Luck Tomorrow starts out as your typical coming-of-ager where the guy dreams of getting the girl, but slowly and surely, starts to show its true colors; things get dark, real quick, but you actually believe them. The movie could have easily fallen apart trying to take itself more seriously, but Lin keeps it altogether, showing us that sometimes, when you’re young and feel as if you have nothing left to lose, chances are, you’re going to make some pretty awful, life-altering decisions.

The movie isn’t as hokey as I make it sound, though. Lin knows better then to dive into sentimentality, or to get all caught up in the usual cheesiness that comes with coming-of-age high school tales. There’s a certain feel and look for realism that not only makes the movie oddly relatable, but in a way, rather sweet. We get to see and understand these characters for all that they are, not just who, or what they represent, and it makes us easier to identify with them as troubled, confused and bored kids, as opposed to a bunch of types.

Still, the moral of the story? Well, I’m not so sure and that’s probably the movie’s biggest issue.

It’s hard to figure out just why the ending left a sick taste in my mouth, but it probably has to do with the fact that it just sort of ends, and that’s it. Yes, it’s neat that no real lessons are learned, or even, thankfully, taught to us, but there’s still an odd feeling of something missing. It’s as if the story itself wasn’t over, but just that Lin either ran out of money, or lost some footage, somewhere out there in the world. Either way, it makes Better Luck Tomorrow, what is otherwise a very fun, insightful and rather interesting coming-of-ager, feel weird – as if there was more to be had, but we just didn’t get it.

Consensus: By putting its focus on characters we don’t get to see in the spotlight so much, Better Luck Tomorrow opens itself up to a whole new, interesting world and promises of ideas, but also shows us that oddly fun and compelling tales like these are universal, regardless of race.

8 / 10

Guess what? These kids could probably kick your ass. You just didn’t know it.

Photos Courtesy of: Entertainment Weekly, Decider, Tropics of Meta

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The Wedding Ringer (2015)

When “Shout” just doesn’t get them out of their seats, always depend on tiny, black men.

Jimmy (Kevin Hart) provides best man services to those who need ones the most. In this case, it’s groom-to-be Doug (Josh Gad) who is not only in serious need of a best man, but also needs a whole group of other groomsmen to help give his fiancee (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) the impression that he actually has friends. Jimmy agrees, although he doesn’t typically do what some people in the biz call, “the Golden Tux”. Meaning that rather than just being there for his wedding day, Jimmy will now have to show his face off to the whole family and be there for nearly a week with Doug as he goes through all sorts of pre-wedding shenanigans. Though this is supposed to be on a strictly professional-basis, Jimmy begins to realize that maybe Doug actually deserves a good buddy like Jimmy after all, even if that totally goes against his codes and ethics. However, there may be bigger problems on both of their hands as it seems like Doug’s all-too-perfect wedding may not actually go according to plan, due to certain disputes he and his bride-to-be have been having so frequently as of late.

Of course they're all best-friends.

Of course they’re all best-friends.

For the second year in-a-row, on MLK weekend, Kevin Hart has a movie opening and that’s neither a good, or bad thing. More or less, it’s just a thing that allows one of the funnier talents working in Hollywood today, to constantly take up junk scripts and movies that don’t serve any other purpose to him other than to just allow for him to star in it, act like his lovable, goofy-self, and just reel in the dough. It worked with Ride Along, and from what it seems like, it’ll most likely work with the Wedding Ringer.

But for all the crap it gets thrown at it, Ride Along was a tad bit of a better movie, if only because it actually had a few big laughs to remember. Everything else about it was rubbish, or at least quite close to it, but when I got to revieiwing it and I thought long and hard, I remembered that there were a few moments where I actually laughed quite heartily. Less of that had to do with the script, and more of just Hart’s seemingly improvised antics, but theyu were laughs nonetheless. When a comedy is able to make me do that, then it definitely deserves some consideration from me – especially with a January one, no less.

However, that kind of movie isn’t the Wedding Ringer, although it tries very, very hard.

And honestly, that’s a damn shame because, on paper, everything about this movie should work. Kevin Hart’s normally funny with anything he touches; Josh Gad, when given the chance to do so, can be occasionally funny; Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting is great-looking, but is also actually quite funny, even if she is still being apart of that grating show I will not speak of here and now; and the premise, as crazy as it may seem, does have some appeal to it in that it contains both a wedding. and partying. So yeah, seriously, what’s not to like?

For one, the movie just isn’t all that funny. There were maybe a few moments I maybe chuckled or at least thought I did, but overall, they came and went as they pleased and I didn’t think about them long after. Heck, even if I wanted to, I probably wouldn’t have remembered them in the first place; I just would have remembered that I chuckled and that was about it.

Secondly, the movie wastes its talented-cast. Hart, as expected, does get a few moments off the ground by just adding a huge amount of energy that may not have been needed, but is at least worth the effort because it has people laughing. However, that’s the extent of his appeal in here. The character he’s playing is already thinly-done as is, and then, once we’re introduced to his back-story and why he does what he does, in this case, act like a groom’s best-friend, it doesn’t really do much for him, or the movie as a whole. Sure, it’s nice to see that the movie’s at least trying on some level, but it doesn’t add anything special – it’s just uninteresting depth that hardly goes anywhere.

Notice how I didn't include Whitney Cummings at all in this review because NO.

Notice how I didn’t include Whitney Cummings at all in this review because NO.

Same goes for Gad’s character who has a bit more of sustainable depth surrounding him and his character, but is ultimately, just the kind of geek you see in these types of comedies, who they then try to shape, shift and change in so many which ways, that he becomes a whoring, blowing, and unabashed dick. Which would have been fine had the movie already introduced him as such, but as it turns out, the guy was actually quite sweet and lovable.

Actually, Gad and Hart both try here, more often than they probably ought to. Their chemistry may sometimes seem awkward and off-putting, but actually works when the movie focuses on how them two may, or may not, eventually end up become something of friends outside of this whole predicament. But honestly, this is just me grasping at straws here, because while the movie likes to think it’s really developing these characters and giving some heft to their interactions together, it’s just giving them even more painful-to-watch scenarios as they fall down, get hit with something, and come close to almost dying, only to then get right back up and continue to party on.

If only real life was actually like that.

But while Gad and Hart aren’t given much to do here, which is a shame, it’s even more of a shame that highly-talented supporting cast that they have on-display here aren’t really given much of a substance to do either. Cuoco-Sweeting (hate calling her that, but whatever) is initially sympathetic as the eventual-bride, but then, out of nowhere, we start to see her become more and more of an ego-maniacal a-hole and it not only seems like a manipulative way at creating some sort of conflict for the movie to then have a resolution for, but doesn’t really make sense for the way her and her character’s been acting for the past hour or so. And trust me, don’t even get me started on the fact that the likes of Cloris Leachman, Mimi Rodgers, Affion Crockett, Ken Howard (who actually has some funny moments as an old school racist and bigot), Jorge Garcia (yes, Hurley), and even, of all people, Olivia Thirlby. Why Thirlby would even bother taking up this kind of script is beyond me, but the fact that she doesn’t get anything more interesting to do than just sit around and be initially cautious of Jimmy and his whole act, just makes me think there may have been more going on behind-the-scenes with her.

Probably money. Poor girl.

Consensus: Despite the effort by mostly everyone, the Wedding Ringer just doesn’t give them enough to do, or even enough to make the audience actually laugh more than a handful of times.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The B&W connection, baby. How it so deserves something better; something not in January.

The B&W connection, baby. How it so deserves something better; something not in January.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images