Minari / 미나리 (2020) – Movie Mini-Review

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Watching Minari” Cedar Park, 2021

Last night we watched the film Minari / 미나리. I was really looking forward to this movie because of all the glowing reviews, and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t connect with it on the level that many others did, mainly because my childhood experience was much different than any of the characters in the movie. It also makes sense because there are probably many nuances in the film that only people of Korean descent would identify with (Korea is not part of my multi-ethnic background).

I thought the family dynamic was interesting and realistic – not over-the-top, but typical of a slice-of-life story, which I enjoy. My favorite character was grandma, and I would have liked to learn more about her story. The rest of the family seemed one-dimensional compared to her. It felt like her age and history shaped her character to a greater extent and there was a lot of mystery to her motivations, whereas the others’ motivations seemed straightforward.

In short, I thought Minari was a good, but unremarkable, movie. As always, YMMV.

My rating of Minari / 미나리 is 7.5 out of 10.

Shout out to the JACL for making tickets to Minari available to members!

2021 Movies & Books

Here’s my 2021 list of books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, with my rating of how much I liked it, in parentheses (out of 10).

To see other years’ lists, click on the “List Love” menu in the top navigation.

Books

Movies and Dorama

Last Year’s Books & Movies

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/90 sec, ISO3200
“Just Hangin” Cedar Park, 2021

I don’t consider myself an avid movie-watcher, but since we got rid of our cable/satellite television a few years back, my tv-time has been spent on Netflix watching feature films and short tv series. I keep a list of the movies I watch, and in 2020 I watched 49, which is a pretty big number for me. Perhaps the pandemic has skewed the number a bit higher, but probably not by much since I also like to go to the theater and those outings have been stopped of course. Besides knowing the total count, it’s fun to look back at the years to see what I watched.

On the same page I keep track of the books I’ve read throughout the year, but I also participate in the yearly reading challenge on Goodreads. For 2020 I set a goal of 20 books to read, and I ended up finishing 35. I’m particularly proud of that! One thing that made my year of reading special was that I started reading audiobooks. What a fantastic way to read!

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Today’s photo is a snapshot of one of my desk “residents”. I have three of the Pinky:St figures, but this one is my favorite.

Mulan: Rise of a Warrior 花木蘭 (2009) – Movie Review

Today I watched the 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior / 花木蘭 starring Zhao Wei. I read some good things about this telling of the Mulan story and I like Zhao Wei so I was really looking forward to it.

The story of Mulan is one that most of us are familiar with, but in this version, the plot focuses more on her time as a general in the army, and the romance between her and a fellow soldier who also rises to become a leader. I found this spin on the story somewhat interesting, but I felt they didn’t spend enough time developing the relationship, and kind of left it to the imagination. Lots of tears were shed on-screen, but that emotion didn’t quite connect with me. I often get teary-eyed when watching movies, but not for this one.

Of course, the tale of Mulan has to have a lot of fighting in it, and this movie has its share of battle scenes, however, I was a little disappointed in the quality of them. I guess I was expecting a more epic feel along the lines of Lord of the Rings or Avengers, but that was not to be. I’m sure the budget for Mulan was only a fraction of those blockbusters, so it’s understandable. The fighting here is pretty much all live-action actors and extras as far as I could tell and nothing special or memorable in the martial arts world. It makes sense though since the focus of the story is on Mulan’s emotional struggles rather than the physical battles.

The overall look of the movie is washed-out and gloomy (in contrast to the vibrant colors of the live-action Disney version) and not pretty to look at which is kind of a bummer, because I’ve seen movies where dark and depressing can look slick, polished, and amazing, such as in Shadow 影. I’m pretty sure a touch of CGI could have given Mulan: Rise of a Warrior that extra boost visually that it needed.

On the other hand, you could say the movie had an authentic, historical feel to it (although having a white character in the opening shot was an odd choice). Contributing to the authentic feel were the costumes and armor. I loved looking at them and although I am no expert, they felt accurate to the time… as if I were looking at the real armor from a museum. The colors were muted and not flashy at all. I didn’t once feel like this aspect of the movie was unrealistic. And the clothes that the characters wore in Mulan’s rural village at the beginning of the movie seemed authentic as well. It really establishes that this isn’t a fantasy world, but part of history, even if Mulan was most likely a fictional character.

If you want to watch a wartime romance movie, Mulan: Rise of a Warrior might just be for you. Just don’t expect anything super-epic, which is a shame since the story of Mulan I think deserves that kind of scope. Still, it’s a good re-telling of the story and worth a watch.

My rating of Mulan: Rise of a Warrior is 7 out of 10.

Watching Paris, Texas

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO3200
“Nastassja and Harry Dean” Cedar Park, 2020

What a great movie… I can’t believe I haven’t seen Paris, Texas before. Harry Dean Stanton is fantastic in it. What I love about it is that the characters are normal. There’s no gimmick here. I was always on edge that there was going to be some sort of disturbing scene, but that never came. And when I was watching the credits, I was thinking about how amazing it was that a movie can be so engaging without the violence, action, or intense characters that so many of today’s movies rely on.