Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021) – An unprovoked attack forces Shang-Chi back to the dysfunctional family whom he once walked away from.
Shang-Chi has a lot to live up to. For starters, he isn’t as well known or talked about as the other Avengers. He has but a tenuous tie to the established Marvel cinematic universe, and a reputation to be built from scratch. There are quite some stereotypes to dispel, too, given Marvel’s history with Asian caricatures.
It is an astonishing feat for the Phase 4 film to come up tops in spite of this immense pressure of being a newcomer to an already massive franchise of 25 movies. More so, to make Shang-Chi a fan favourite in the overcrowded roster of heroes.
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Saying goodbye to the cinemas has been hard, even if it is only temporary. On the bright side, that means more time for books.
What I managed to read were excellent, though incidentally clouded in grey, which inspired a revisit of my favourite graphic novel series for much-needed cheer.
How We Disappeared (by Jing-Jing Lee, 2019)
He knew what the unsaid did to people. Ate away at them from the inside. He had told Wang Di nothing. Not until a few years into their marriage, following a rare day at the beach. After that, all he wanted to do was talk about the war. What he had done. Not done.
I have often wondered about the stories left untold as the number of war survivors dwindle with time. Inspired by author Lee Jing-Jing’s own family history, How We Disappeared is thus a remnant to be treasured. The novel recounts one of the darkest chapters of Singapore’s history, where the Japanese army had ruthlessly enslaved and murdered women.
Continue reading “Book Reviews: March 2020 Reads”
Avengers: Endgame (dir. The Russo Brothers, 2019) – With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.
Ten years in the making, Endgame delivers a moving culmination of a brilliantly constructed story.
Review (Warning: Spoilers!)
The very day after watching Avengers: Endgame, I penned down my thoughts and left it sitting in my drafts. I had been hesitant to post it, given how any new review would be rehashing the same few points on the Phase 3 conclusion.
But the franchise deserves every possible tribute for the writers and filmmakers, who have elevated the MCU films above the average superhero fare. Most of all with this 3-hour finale, where the Russo brothers have done it again.
The set pieces are nothing short of epic. Humour and tragedy hang in perfect balance, hitting the right notes for the most part. Above all, every original Avenger found a due end to their arc.
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Deadpool 2 (dir. David Leitch, 2018) – Deadpool puts together a special team of his own to protect a teenager with supernatural abilities from the time-travelling cyborg Cable.
Deadpool, or should I say Ryan Reynolds, returns with his signature humour and the welcome unexpected.
Rules are meant to be broken. Against Colossus’ objections, Deadpool follows the mantra ironically to a tee, urging us to expect the unexpected. And so any hope of a proper introduction to the anticipated X-Force is crushed, belied by the long standing tradition of the irreverent Regenerating Degenerate.
No superhero landings or last hope rescues. The best of the best make their entrance via routine job interviews, getting the job without so much as a try. Luck has it that Deadpool manages to get himself a solid team all the same. If only Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) need not make room for the new guys.
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Avengers: Infinity War (dir. The Russo Brothers, 2018) – The Avengers unite to defend against an all-powerful Thanos, set upon his misguided ways to salvage the universe.
Patience begets us heroes that need no introduction, such that characterisation may take a backseat to Marvel’s epic vision. Escapism at its best, ten years in the making.
Warning: Thanos demands you avoid all Infinity War reviews, until you have seen it.
There is no stopping Marvel. After a decade of build-up, the expansive universe has finally culminated in one of the biggest studio blockbusters in cinematic history. Sure enough that Avengers: Infinity War is far from the pioneers in crossovers. But scale is not its only impressive feat; there are few things more gratifying than to see a ten-year plan come into fruition with such apparent ease.
Kudos to directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who have yet again proven their flair for presenting intricate stories in accessible terms. What seemed like an inevitable mess turns tractable in their capable hands. As done before in The Winter Soldier (which remains my personal favourite), the pair admirably brings out the charm of each individual faction from an impossibly massive cast.
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Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2018) – T’Challa’s rising to the throne of Wakanda is met with opposition by a vengeful outsider, who challenges his claim to the crown.
Embodying cultural and political significance, Black Panther claws its way out of MCU’s formulaic plague.
The repute of Black Panther is, and will be for a time, inseparable from its notable majority cast of black actors. Such representation in the genre has been a long time coming. But what director Ryan Coogler has achieved goes beyond on-screen cultural progress. In a decade when superpowers continually call for walls and borders against refugees, his work also comes as a timely and thoughtful study in modern isolationism.
Black Panther follows the events of Civil War, as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) comes to terms with his father’s death and rises to the throne of Wakanda. Under his reign, Wakanda continues to watch the world from the shadows, hiding her people in the cloaked safety of their beautiful secret sanctuary.
The hardened stance of Wakanda takes forms in our world, where defectors gets no reprieve from countries desperately trying to keep them out. What T’Challa’s confidante W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) proclaims is striking in its familiarity, “You let the refugees in, they bring their problems with them and then Wakanda is like everywhere else.”
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