It’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so I figured I’d stock the week’s letter with some AAPI films that cover a breadth of genre but are also watchable, accessible, and thought provoking. I didn’t want to load up the newsletter with Crazy Rich Asians, the Rush Hour trilogy (now on HBO Max), or super obscure films.
And of course, I can’t recommend Minari enough. And if you want to spend $30 on Disney+ Premium to watch a Southeastern Asian amalgamation in Princess form, Raya and the Last Dragon is there. It’s actually good, just not $30 good. In July it comes out on normal Disney+.
New or noteworthy…
At a glance, The Mitchells vs. The Machines may seem like a zany family animated flick but is actually an incredibly deep, emotional journey on one family (as they navigate through a zany robots-take-over-the-world plot). Voice performances from Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobsen, Olivia Colman and Eric Andre ground the film in human and exaggerated ways, as needed, while the writing and sensibilities are spot on for kids and adults alike. From the team who brought you Into The Spiderverse and The Lego Movie, it’s no surprise that The Mitchells is a hit. Trailer. 114 mins. Watch on Netflix.
AAPI films that cover the spectrum…
Legendary director Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 is like its predecessor in that it’s steeped in temptation, desire, and incredible melancholy. Gorgeously rendered, the lead performances from Tony Leung, Gong Li, and Ziyi Zhang are sumptuous and serve as a more than worthy successor to the iconic In the Mood For Love (which you should also watch, on HBO Max). Trailer. 127 mins. Watch on Amazon Prime.
This Taiwanese film made it on the newsletter earlier in the year, but it’s a monumental epic, a long familial saga with devastating ripples. Set as a family goes through cascading tribulations, A Sun shows what depths that a father, a mother, and a brother go through as the events unfold in breathtaking and heartbreaking fashion. Trailer. 156 mins. Watch if on Netflix.
While it does paint with a somewhat broad brush for Polynesian and Pacific Islander cultures, it does manage to both work as a Disney formulaic film as much as a cultural highlight. With lead performance from The Rock, Rachel House, and newcomer Auli'i Cravalho, the film has all the requisite heart and emotion one has come to expect from the Disney machine. Just don’t discount it as animated schlock. Trailer. 113 mins. Watch it on Disney+ now.
A true hidden gem, One Cut of the Dead is one of the most ingenius and fun films I’ve seen in a decade. The low-budget love letter to filmmaking is set as a oner of a zombie film being made, that then is attacked by actual zombies. The first 30 minutes seem slow and boring, but it sets up what the film’s real conceit is. The Japanese import is *chef’s kiss*. Trailer. 96 mins. Stream on Shudder (free trial) or rent on Amazon Prime ($2.99).
One of the most influential films of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is hailed as masterpiece. Clocking in at 3.5 hours, the 1954 film has contains groundbreaking cinematography, editing and charismatic performances. Influencing films like The Magnificent Seven, Star Wars, Mad Max Fury Road, Lord of the Rings, Django Unchained, The Three Amigos… the list goes on. If you’re in the mood for classic cinema, look no further. Trailer. 208 mins. Watch on HBO Max.
For your YA fix.
Need a YA fantasy fix? Then Look no further than Netflix’s big budget show, Shadow and Bone. Set in a far off land that resembles a WWI-era Russia, it features people called grisha who can do magic (although it’s not magic, it’s science there). The protagonist Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) fulfills a destiny that she is to become the fabled sun summoner fighting against General Kirigan (Westworld’s Ben Barnes). Blending elements from the groundbreaking Grishaverse book series by Leigh Bardugo, the show is fun, dramatic enough and features insane production value, meaning it’ll be back for a season two. Trailer. Watch on Netflix.
For last week’s recommendations, check it out here.