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Marvel Breaks Tradition with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

There is an authenticity to a film based on Chinese culture and mythology with most of the roles filled by Chinese actors. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is that film. Much like The Black Panther had an all African or African American cast.

The authenticity is one of the things I like most about the film. It just wouldn’t work well if there where a Korean or Japanese actor playing a role meant to be Chinese. Or a Caucasian portraying an Asian, which has been done throughout Hollywood’s history.

(L-R): Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

For example, David Carradine played Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970’s television series “Kung Fu.” Famously (or infamously depending on your point of view) the legendary Mickey Rooney portrayed a very stereotyped Japanese character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

By casting Awkwafina, Simu Liu, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Michelle Yeoh and other Chinese actors in principle and supporting roles, Marvel has broken an old Hollywood practice. Yet, it is not the only reason I enjoyed this film.

The fight scenes are a culmination of many films to come from Hong Kong in the last thirty years. Specifically, different fighting styles used in films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Rumble in the Bronx,” or a more recent Hong Kong epic, “Shadow” are all present in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

When Shang-Chi is first confronted by his father’s men while riding a bus, he fights in a way very similar to Jackie Chan in “Rumble in the Bronx.” He is quick and acrobatic, slipping in and out of broken windows to evade his enemies, or spinning around a bar for an unexpected attack.

Katy (Awkwafina) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021.

In a scene where Xu Wenwu (Leung) meets Li (Fala Chen) for the first time, the fighting is beautiful, powerful and seems as though they are dancing rather than battling one another. You get the impression they are making a deeper connection through their Kung Fu. It becomes clear with each attack, every counter, each is falling in love with the other.

In larger battles the fighting style becomes more warrior like. Precise and deadly.

Each of these styles are a treat to watch. More so if you have any Martial Arts experience.

I enjoyed the story most, but I have always been a fan of “the hero’s journey” it is a theme used in “Star Wars” “The Matrix” and even “Gladiator.” Famous novels have made use of that type of story telling and it makes sense to use it for this film.

We follow Shang-Chi, introduced to us as Shaun, a valet who works with his best friend, both content with doing as little as possible and singing Karaoke. Until Shaun is forced to confront his identity as Shang-Chi, his past and the legacy of Wenwu. Along the way, he and Katy each discover their destiny to become heroes.

(L-R): Katy (Awkwafina) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel truly hits the mark with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The fight scenes are exciting, the visuals and cinematography are fantastic and mesmerizing, the humor entertaining. This fan is not surprised the film has broken box office records for Labor Day weekend. Since opening, it has grossed $90 Million in the U.S. and Canada and $146.2 million worldwide according to IMDB and Box Office Mojo.

If you missed it this holiday weekend, check the film out this Friday or even on a discount night. It is well worth a family night at the movies, or a group outing with friends.


The Green Knight: A Cinema Masterpiece

Amidst the usual summer blockbusters, A24 Films presents us with “The Green Knight,” an epic, dark fantasy tale plucked from Arthurian legends.

The story of Sir Gawain; King Arthur’s nephew, is a brooding one. Here we have a young man living in the shadow of his Uncle, the heroic deeds of the Knights of the Round Table and his own desire to be more than he is, unable to see greatness within himself. A greatness even King Arthur sees in him.

Gawain’s opportunity to be a legend comes in the form of The Green Knight. A mystical creature brought forth to offer a challenge to any of Arthur’s knights. A challenge Gawain accepts thinking his moment had come, only to doom himself.

Dev Patel as Gawain
Photo by Eric Zachanowich / A24 Films/Eric Zachanowich / A24 Films

As compelling the story of Sir Gawain is, it isn’t the main reason I consider this film a masterpiece of cinema. I call it a masterpiece because of how the combination of cinematography, script, editing and directing comes together in this particular film.

The imagery alone was enough to have me fully immersed.

There are many examples of spectacular use of practical and natural light and the contrast between light and shadow throughout the film, but my favorite comes near the beginning with an establishing scene.

We see what can be described as a snapshot of medieval times. There are farm animals and a peasant gathered near a wall which separates the inner city from the village. In the background, we see a larger building. The sky is grey and foggy. Next, another snapshot of the setting. Our only clue time has passed is the animals and the peasant have moved and the taller building is smoldering. Another shot and the flames have gotten bigger. Yet another and the flames are higher still, the roof of the building almost completely engulfed. A man and a woman enter the shot, changing this static scene to one with movement. Something is happening here, perhaps these two are responsible for the fire as we see the man draw his sword to confront whomever is coming after them.

We can only imagine the outcome of that scene because the camera moves, revealing the window we’ve been peering through. As the camera dolly’s backward, we are introduced to Sir Gawain whose face we can just make out because of the highlights on his profile and shoulder. The rest in soft shadows cast by the morning light.

Yes, the pacing is slow, but it is deliberate. A testament to Director David Lowery’s dedication to telling the story without rushing it. There are no hyperactive action sequences or quick pans. Every scene, every piece of dialogue is integral to the story and Lowery knows this.

Dev Patel and Sean Harris King lends his sword to Gawain © 2021 – A24

Lowery’s mastery of his craft is also evident in the performances of his actors. The most notable of these is Dev Patel as Gawain and Sean Harris as King.

Patel’s performance as Gawain is both energetic and natural. He never oversells the emotion of his character. It is his embodiment of Gawain which further immerses the audience in the journey the young knight must take to face the inevitable consequence of his own actions.

Harris is equally captivating as King. He gives us a wearied Arthur-we all know he’s King Arthur, yet his official role is simply King- time has caught up to the once and future king, no longer a young man uniting all of Britain with Excalibur held high. Yet, in his performance, Harris appears a wearied, world-worn King who is still nothing short of legendary, who does not take pride for himself, but champions his companions; the men who’ve fought with him and stood by his side. He shows us an aged King filled with compassion for his nephew, wanting Gawain to find the greatness within himself.

It is the combination of the elements I’ve described, along with a decisive editing style from Lowery and unparalleled cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo which cements “The Green Knight” as a masterpiece in my mind. The film is mesmerizing, captivating, artistic and moving all at once. If you haven’t seen it yet, might I suggest you make a trip to your local theatre and treat yourself to a cinematic event.


Papillon: A Review



nOO9pELNGcT9zWaH3rW4Qs4J5lVHow many times will a man attempt to escape from an island prison in spite of the fact that with the first attempt, he will be placed in solitary confinement for two years and each subsequent attempt will earn him an additional year added to the initial amount of time? In the film Papillon, released in 1973 and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, the title character makes three attempts. According to those who made the film, which was based on the book; the actual number was nine. Do the math. Papillon spent a majority of his life sentence in solitary confinement.


True, there is some of that spent in relative freedom and that is shown in the film, but the most interesting aspect of this film is not the attempts themselves, but the extent to which Papillon, portrayed by Steve McQueen plans each escape only for the majority of them to fail and land him right back where he was trying to leave in the first place.


So then; why, after a multitude of failed escapes would he continue a seemingly fruitless endeavor? It could be that he has nothing better do, or he enjoys the challenge. The latter is in fact how McQueen portrays his character. Indeed, each plan of flight from the inescapable prison becomes more and more elaborate. From making an all out run for it, to filling a burlap bag with coconuts as a makeshift raft and jumping into the sea from a cliff.


A long the way, Papillon conspires with compatriots and sympathizers to his predicament. After all, Papillon’s single motivation is the fact that he is an innocent man wrongly accused of murder. By all means, this would be a reason for anyone of us to have the inclination to abdicate from captivity. Papillon’s apparent innocence is the cause for his fellow inmates commiseration to the idea of liberation.


Not only fellow prisoners, but even some conscripted to enforce the resolute confinement of the penitentiary appear willing to aide our would be escapist. Perchance they find it amusing and only do so for entertainment amidst the melancholy of their daily routine. This penchant for insincere support is illustrated in a scene where Papillon, Luis Dega-a part specifically created for Dustin Hoffman-and one other convict arrive at a location where a boat and supplies are said to be placed, only to discover that said provisions are either fake or in such ill repair as to be ineffective.


As if by grace a new ally emerges to accommodate Papillon and his companions with a better means of transport and the trio eludes capture. At least until they reach land fall. The flight to freedom turns into a blunder as they almost literally stumble upon a group of police from another country who are escorting a prisoner of their own. The situation worsens when Papillon hurls an ax at the men, resulting in one guards death. Luis Dega is wounded and can’t run away and the third member of their tiny troupe is wounded by gunfire, leaving Papillon to his own devices. Especially once the prisoner belonging to the new set of guards mets a savage demise.


At this point in the film, we are certain that Papillon has accomplished his goal. After some time passes, another bungle by the antagonist leads the Frenchman straight into the waiting jaws of the Spanish police who ship him to the French prison from which he had gone AWOL. Maybe this will finally convince the man that avoiding his prison time just is not going to happen. For the third time escape is thwarted and our upstart hero is thrust back into solitary and when we see him again, he’s an old man.


One would think that being old would slow such a man as Papillon down. Not likely. Instead he continues his quest for freedom despite being reunited with Louis, whom he had thought to be dead. It is here that we see just how calculating Papillon is as he studies the tide patterns of the small and very dangerous cove near his dwelling quarters and discovers an incredibly risky chance at freedom-if he can only manage to elude the inevitability of being dashed across the rocks below. We will live this bit a mystery as to persuade those reading this to view Papillon.


Although Papillon appears to be a sprawling drama, it is in truth a comedy of errors. This is evident by the number of failures Papillon endures in spite of-perhaps in mockery- of his apparent cleverness, reducing him in those moments to a blunderer. One may feel sad for the man who continuously beats feet for the wide open world, refusing to stay in his cage, but will find the absurdity of it all worth a few chuckles minimum.


Whether it is to see Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in roles that seem unlikely in contrast to their repertoire, the immaculate cinematography, or to simply view a classic film, Papillon is a cinematic adventure, which merits inspection.


Don Jon: A Film About Finding Fulfillment

ImageIf you are familiar with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or JGL as he is popularly known; then you are more familiar with him as an actor rather than a writer/director. Don Jon is his directorial debut. In addition to directing this film, he is the star, writer and producer. Surely, tackling four positions says a lot about Gordon-Levitt’s talent , not to mention his dedication.

That dedication bleeds through on screen with the actor/director’s character Jon, who the actor portrays as convincingly as he has other parts in other movies like The Dark Knight Rises, or Looper. Never the less, Gordon-Levitt’s acting, nor the superb acting of the remaining cast, which  includes; Tony Danza, Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore is the focus of this article.

Instead, the topic of import here is the message that Joseph Gordon-Levitt means to convey as writer/director. The reality of this film is palpable and rings so true one has to wonder if the story is not based on someone from Gordon-Levitt’s life, or at least someone he knows. Perhaps the characters and the specific story within Don Jon are fictitious, but the issues and problems the lead character faces are very real.

Here we have a young man whose priorities are: His body, the myriad of women he beds, his apartment, his car and porn. The latter appears to bring him more satisfaction and fulfillment than the second item in the list. This of course, is to his detriment, because he eventually finds himself in a relationship with a woman he “loves” yet he still does not find fulfillment with her.

Don Jon is not so much a comment on how pornography keeps men from finding satisfaction in their relationship, but rather that when it comes to men who think they get more out of looking at pornography, or sleeping with a new woman every day/week, than they do when in an actual relationship, are missing the big picture.

When Esther (Julianne Moore) asks Jon what it is that he gets from looking at pornography that he doesn’t from a relationship, his reply is pretty enlightening. “I can just lose myself in it.” he says. In that single sentence the root of the problem for Jon is revealed. Enjoying his internet activity more than being with a woman is not the problem. It is where his focus lies.

There in we find the message Joseph Gordon-Levitt  wants to convey. Men and women often go from one person to another not solely because of a habit they have or just because of an addiction. Instead, they lose sight of where their focus should be due to the habits, addictions or even fears that get in the way of the things that are important. Such as losing oneself in another person whether it be a lover, friend, spouse, or family.

What makes Don Jon a successful film, is that it does not seek to embellish on real topics by making them fantastical or improbable, but takes a real issue and portrays it in a straight forward and objective fashion. We cannot hide from what happens on screen. It forces the viewer to observe their own life and how they approach relationships and what it is that they focus on in order to find fulfillment.


Out For Coffee

This is my own version of the deli scene from When Harry Met Sally. The setting is outside a coffee shop and instead of eating sandwiches, Harry and Sally are enjoying some coffee.



Because I am in school for a film degree, it is only natural that I will make a few short films. This is one that I wrote, directed, filmed and edited. It is an artistic film about the transformation a young woman goes through during a bath after a very rough day.

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