2019年1月25日 星期五

Some Other Movies From 2003

In 2003 I was living in Seattle and trying to get into graduate school.  I remember taking a few preparatory classes at a community college that year.  I might have also worked somewhere for a bit.  I don't remember.

The top 5 films of 2003 were The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Finding Nemo, The Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Bruce Almighty.  Of these blockbusters Finding Nemo is my favorite.

Critical favorites of 2003 included the above-mentioned Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River and Monster.  Of these movies I'm torn between Mystic River and Monster, which are both excellent films.

My other favorites of that year include City of God, Old School, A Mighty Wind, Down with Love, Cabin Fever, The Rundown, Kill Bill: Volume 1, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Pianist, Elf and Bad Santa.

Worst film?  Gotta be Gigli, hands down.  That movie is such a train wreck from start to finish.  It's so bad you kind of admire the cast and crew for seeing the damn thing through to its conclusion.

Some Good Ones

1. 2 Fast 2 Furious

One of the smartest things they did with this franchise was minimizing Tyrese's role in it.  Good-looking guy, but NOT a great actor.

This one's a lot "more to the point" than later installments.  Instead of trying to turn it into a heist movie, it's much more about racing cars and hot women.  Paul Walker and Tyrese are front and center, with only a hint of Vin Diesel in a flashback.  It's alright if you like this kind of thing.

But of course - movies being movies - you know that every single character in this one would be an asshole in real life, right?  Driving around in their ridiculous cars, risking other people's lives and destroying property, engaging in meaningless sexual encounters and all thinking they are so, so cool.  

I get it though.  I was twenty too, once upon a time...

Quote of the Day: [Tyrese] "It's a HOasis in here."

2. Bad Boys II

Sound and fury, signifying very little.  But if you want to turn of your brain for a couple hours it's a pretty good ride.  The chase across the bridge near the beginning was particularly well done, and the part in the funeral home is surprisingly funny.

I know I said that The Island and Pain and Gain were the only two Michael Bay movies I liked, but you know what?  Bad Boys II isn't bad at all.  Smith and Lawrence have (had?) great chemistry, and even though the ecstasy subplot doesn't make sense the action scenes are excellent.

Critics DESPISED this movie, by the way.

3. Secondhand Lions

Two senior guys (Robert Duvall and Michael Caine) take in a young boy (Haley Joel Osment).  It's very "Young Adult" but it's still an entertaining movie.  Josh Lucas, who appears as the adult version of Osment's character, was in Ang Lee's Hulk the same year.

4. Identity

Good thriller directed by James Mangold.  I feel like maybe I'd seen this before, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  The ending is kind of hard to buy into, and after learning about the killer's identity it's hard to stay involved in the movie, but all of the cast members give great performances.

5. Tears of the Sun

It's not Blood Diamond, it's not Beasts of No Nation, but Tears of the Sun is a somewhat entertaining war movie set in Nigeria.  Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci do the white savior thing, and a whole lot of shit gets shot or blown up.  Watchable for sure, but I'm just not buying the S.E.A.L.s' change of heart in the first act.

6. Love Actually

My brain is telling me this the most contrived piece of nonsense in the history of movies, but my eyes still tear up once the inevitable happy ending arrives.  Various Londoners learn to love again, with a cast that includes Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy.

...and that actress that plays Hugh Grant's love interest is freaking adorable.

7. Owning Mahowny

Think I might have seen this before.  Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.) stars as a banker with a gambling addiction.  It's a very understated movie, but definitely my favorite of the films discussed here.

Two That I'm Really Not Sure If I Liked Or Not

1. Grind

The purpose of this movie: skateboarding.  The plot of this movie: skateboarding.  The stars of this movie: skateboarders.  Oh, and there's a cross-country subplot that will only make sense to: skateboarders.  Critics hated it, but of course they did.

2. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde

On the minus side this movie is complete nonsense.  On the plus side the actress that plays Reese Witherspoon's mom (Jennifer Coolidge) is hilarious.

Fun Fact: Though set in Washington, D.C. this movie was shot in Salt Lake City UT, and Springfield IL.

One That's More Entertaining Than It Has Any Right To Be

1. Holes

If you explained the plot of this movie to someone they'd be like, "Yeah, that sounds dumb," but I found it strangely compelling.

Definitely one of the most "wtf" Disney movies of all time though.  Not as weird as The Black Hole, but definitely up there.  Some kids get sent to a juvenile detention center in the desert, where they're forced to dig holes.  Really.  That's about 90% of the plot, and it somehow works.

Fun Fact: The end credits state that this was Shia LaBeouf's first movie, but he'd been in several films before this one.

Some Bad Ones

1. Duplex

Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore buy a duplex in Brooklyn.  Little do they know that the old lady occupying the second floor of this duplex is going to be BIG trouble.  There's a funny gag involving vomit, but aside from that this movie misses the mark.  Danny Devito (of all people) directed this movie, and at times it bears some resemblance to Ruthless People.

2. Wrong Turn

"Almost heaven/West Virginia..."

A group of unusually photogenic people take the wrong road through the Appalachians.  It reminded me of Alexandre Aja's more recent The Hills Have Eyes remake, but it's pulling its punches and fails to approach the greatness of that movie.  The girl in the blue tank top is smokin' hot, but that's about all I can say for it.

3. I Capture the Castle

Hey, it's Henry Cavill.

Everyone in this movie - including Henry Cavill - is completely unlikable.  Whether it's the young girl mooning over love denied, or whether it's her sister the gold digger, or whether it's the two Americans who inherit land in the UK.  They're all unlikable, and the plot places them in the most contrived situations.

Fun Fact: Henry Cavill's next movie would be the straight-to-DVD Hellraiser: Hellworld.

4. The Order

Heath Ledger stars as a Catholic priest fighting the forces of evil...  or something.  Like the characters in I Capture the Castle, Ledger's character is completely uninteresting, and the nonsensical workings of his secret order aren't helping matters any.  After the demonic disco I found myself completely unable to take this movie seriously.

5. Open Range

Not to be confused with Open Season, which was a Sony Pictures Animation film released in 2006.  In Open Range Kevin Costner attempts to recreate that 'ol Dances with Wolves magic, but unfortunately both he and Robert Duvall fail to do so.  Spectacularly.  Critics loved it, but I found it crazy boring.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 2005
Some Other Movies From 2007
Lars von Trier's "Depression Trilogy" + "The House That Jack Built"
Some Other Movies From 2009

2019年1月18日 星期五

Some Other Movies From 2005

In 2005 I was living in Taichung 台中, on the other side of Taiwan.  For those who don't live in Taiwan, Taichung is a MUCH bigger city than Taitung 台東, the city where I now reside.

I have a very clear memory of seeing Peter Jackson's King Kong in the theater that year.  I can remember driving my older daughter down to the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi 新光三越 Department Store on Taichunggang Road 台中港路 (now known as Formosa Boulevard 台灣大道), and going to see it at the theater there.  My daughter was very little at the time, and the part where the guys get eaten by giant insects really freaked her out.

I don't remember much else from that year, aside from being very bored with teaching kindergarten.

The top 5 movies of 2005 were Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, War of the Worlds (great movie), and King Kong (also not bad).  2005 was also the year Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins came out.

Critical favorites of 2005 included Brokeback Mountain, Walk the Line (the Johnny Cash biopic), Cinderella Man, Syriana, and Crash.  Of these five films Syriana is definitely my favorite.

Some of my other favorites from 2005 are Constantine (a movie critics hated), The Jacket, Sin City (blew my mind), Unleashed, The 40-Year Old Virgin, Lord of War, Capote, North Country, Jarhead and Transamerica.  Of these movies, I've probably seen Sin City and Transamerica the most times.

My nominee for worst film?  I'd probably pick XxX: State of the Union.  I like Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious movies, but I always thought XxX was DUMB.

Some Good Ones

1. The Skeleton Key

It's NOT amazing, but it anticipates Get Out by more than a decade.  Kate Hudson stars as a nurse taking care of a dying man in a spooky old Southern house.  She discovers a secret room in the house (of course!), and things take a turn toward the supernatural from there.

2. Coach Carter

Samuel Jackson stars as a basketball coach in an inner-city high school.  It's an involving movie with a timely message.  The principal in the movie is a bit of a caricature, but other than that I have nothing bad to say about this film.  Too bad it was so overlooked in 2005.

3. The Longest Yard

F*%king Brian Bosworth is in this!  Reminds me that the Seahawks are playing the Cowboys tomorrow.  Hopefully by the time you read this they'll have secured that second Superbowl win.  Rams and Chiefs are tough this year, though.  We'll see...

Adam Sandler plays an ex-NFL quarterback convicted of... something, who is then sent to a federal prison that couldn't possibly exist in the real world.  I'm no fan of Sandler, but Chris Rock and Terry Crewes are pretty funny in this one.  Burt Reynolds also shows up to reprise his role from the original.  Definitely not excellent but it has its moments.

4. The Island

Michael Bay directed this movie about a dystopian future.  Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson starred.  This movie and Pain and Gain are the two Michael Bay movies I actually like.

...not that it's perfect.  McGregor and Johansson's characters overcome their conditioning WAY too easily, Djimon Hounsou's bounty hunters are incredibly inept, and that facility has to have the worst security ever.  It's a solid action movie, just don't think about the plot too hard.

Watching this movie in 2019, it's hard not to think about China.  With their "social credit system" and Xinjiang "happy camps," it's easy to imagine something like this taking place there.  Recent news surrounding their cloning program is also worrying.

Fun Fact: Despite earning over $162 million, this movie was considered a box office bomb.  It cost $126 million to produce.

5. Green Street Hooligans

Elijah Wood stars as an American who falls in with some London soccer hooligans.  It's a surprisingly good movie, even though the ending feels a bit contrived.  In some ways it reminded me a lot of 2016's Imperium.

Fun Fact #1: Lexi Alexander, the director of this film, also directed Punisher: War Zone.

Fun Fact #2: Elijah Wood did this film the same year as Sin City, and two years after the third Lord of the Rings.

6. Saw II

Say what you like about the Saw franchise, it seems a lot more self-aware than other horror properties.  I've seen all of them, I just get them confused.  Danny, the lesser Wahlberg, stars as a detective at the mercy of Jigsaw, and as you might expect a lot of people die in gruesome ways.

Some Bad Ones

1. Chaos

Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes and the longsuffering Ryan Phillippe star in this cops and robbers yawnfest.  I fell asleep halfway through, woke up half an hour later, and didn't feel like I'd missed a thing.  It was filmed relatively early in Statham's career (Transporter 2 also came out in 2005), so the script puts him on equal footing with Phillippe.  Snipes was convicted of tax evasion the year after.

This movie was direct-to-video, which in 2005 said a lot about its quality.  Franchise Pictures, which produced the film, released the disastrous Battlefield Earth in 2004.

2. Flightplan

Post-9/11 paranoia + a long flight + a missing child.  Jodie Foster stars, and even though she's great the bad guys' plan doesn't make a great deal of sense.  How is it that not a single person on the plane saw her daughter?  And wouldn't the video footage of mother and daughter passing through the airport have indicated some kind of plot?

3. The Greatest Game Ever Played

Remember Disney before they owned Marvel and Star Wars?  Disney, back when between every animated feature?  Back when the "off years" featured some historical sports drama, centered around some obscure event you never heard of?  This is that Disney.

Shia LeBeouf stars as an amateur golfer facing down a seasoned British professional in the U.S. Open.  They do their best to jazz it up with cgi, but it's still a movie about golf, and golf is only ever so interesting.  Points for trying though.

Fun Fact: This movie was directed by Bill "Game Over" Paxton, of Aliens fame.

4. Into the Blue

Damn Paul Walker's character can hold his breath a long time!  And damn Jessica Alba has a great big ass!  And damn this movie is boring!  If you're a dude (or a lesbian) Alba's ass will probably keep you going for the first half, but the second half is all talk talk talk SERIOUS ACTING talk talk talk and then random Thunderball-style fight.  When I think about it, Jessica Alba's level of FINE has kept a lot of sub-par movies going, from the second Fantastic Four right on up to whatever the last Transporter was.

5. Just Friends

Ryan Reynolds stars as Fat High School Ryan Reynolds.  Then Fat High School Ryan Reynolds gets rejected by his high school crush, and goes off to L.A. and becomes Hot Ryan Reynolds.  And then hilarity ensues when he meets his high school crush in a bar ten years later.  This movie has its moments, but Fat, Hot and Regular Ryan Reynolds have all been in way better movies.

Fun Fact: Reynolds mentions Regina, Canada in the first Deadpool.  That's where this movie was filmed.

6. Serenity

God damn this movie is TALKY.

Back in 2005, comic book geeks were probably wondering what it would be like if director Joss Whedon did - oh, I don't know - a film adaptation of The Avengers.  In 2019, anyone seeing this for the first time will probably wonder whether or not he put his hands on any of this film's female cast members, or whether or not the similarities between this movie and Guardians of the Galaxy were intentional or accidental.

Two So Bad They're Kind of Good

1. The Family Stone

A woman goes to meet her boyfriend's family on Christmas.  The woman in question is cartoonishly conservative, and the family in question is cartoonishly liberal.  It gets implausible real fast, and I can't count how many better movies various cast members have appeared in.  I've never been a big Sarah Jessica Parker fan, but this one is bad even considering her filmography.

2. Stealth

Variations on a theme from WarGames.

Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, and Jamie Foxx star as pilots of cgi planes who have to track down another cgi plane piloted by itself.  It's straight cheese from beginning to end.  Tell me again - how is the end of this movie "happy?"  How did it NOT trigger World War III?

Fun Fact #1: This movie was one of the biggest bombs in movie history.

Fun Fact #2: Jamie Foxx appeared in this the year after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in Ray.

One I Didn't Even Bother With

1. Match Point

Didn't realize it was a Woody Allen movie until I saw the opening credits.  Turned it off right after.

Related Entries:

Some Other Movies From 2007
Lars von Trier's "Depression Trilogy" + "The House That Jack Built"
Some Other Movies From 2009
Superhero Movies From October 2018 Onward (3)

2019年1月3日 星期四

Some Other Movies From 2007

As we approach 2007 we also approach a time in which my life was different.  A little different, anyway.  In 2007 I was still teaching English in a local junior high school, and (I think) I was also teaching some English at the local university.  My daughters were 7 and 2, and I had only lived in my particular corner of Taiwan for about a year.

The top 5 movies of 2007 were Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and the first Transformers.  I might have seen Spider-Man 3 in the theater.  I'm not sure.

Critical favorites of that year included No Country for Old Men, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Atonement and There Will Be Blood.  I wasn't watching a lot of movies then, so I missed all of these films in theaters.

My favorite movies of 2007 are the above-mentioned No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Smokin' Aces, Zodiac, Blades of Glory, Ocean's Thirteen (incredibly underrated movie), Rescue Dawn (also underrated), Sunshine, Hot Rod (classic), Superbad, Eastern Promises, Gone Baby Gone and American Gangster (an all-time favorite).

I'd nominate either August Rush or Beowulf as the worst movie of that year.  August Rush is perhaps the sappiest movie ever, and Beowulf was a visually unappealing trainwreck from beginning to end.  Beowulf is also one of those movies where you hear about the concept and think: "Wait a second, why did anyone think this was a good idea?"

Some Good Ones

1. Alpha Dog

I always get my Cassavetes(es) confused.  In case you have the same problem, John Cassavetes is the "auteur" who directed A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria.  Nick is his brother, who directed John Q.  I got my hopes up when I saw "Cassavetes" in the opening credits, but then realized it was Nick Cassavetes, not John.

Even so this movie is pretty good, and features a lot of actors who would be much more famous later.  Emile "Speed Racer" Hirsch stars as a small-time drug dealer in California, with Ben Foster as his sometime rival.  I disliked the "true crime" elements in this movie, but on the whole it was nicely done, and Ben Foster is always interesting to watch.

Critics didn't love this movie however, and at times it bears too close a resemblance to better movies like Kids.  I thought it was alright though.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

At times this movie looks too much like a music video, and it goes on way too long.  Brad Pitt is at his best as Jesse James, and Casey Affleck is equally captivating as Robert Ford.  But between great scenes there's way too much travel by horseback, and conversations that lead nowhere.  If you like Westerns you'll find a lot to like in this movie, but I recommend finding a comfortable chair to watch it in.

If you ask me, Affleck's Oscar win for Manchester by the Sea came too late.  He should have won nine years earlier for this one.

3. Breach

PalmPilots, pagers and VHS players.  Yeah, 2007 was that long ago.

Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper star in this espionage thriller based on real events.  Cooper is delightfully hateful, and Phillippe plays the role he's replayed dozens of times.  I liked it, but the ending is kind of a foregone conclusion.

4. Atonement

I know I've read the book, but all I can remember is that it had an interesting premise that failed in the execution.

...so I'm going to go ahead and say the movie is better, even though I'm very hazy on the book.  James McAvoy stars as a young man working for a rich family, with Kiera Knightley as the object of his obsession.  Soairse Ronan, who starred in 2009's The Lovely Bones, is also featured.

It's a very good film and was nominated for a lot of Oscars that year.  I'm a little surprised I hadn't seen it earlier.

5. Rush Hour 3

To be perfectly honest, the real reason I liked this movie is probably the 12.5 hour Lars von Trier marathon I did/subjected myself to recently.  After movies like Antichrist, Melancholia, and Nymphomaniac some traditional American buddy cop silliness was in order.  I was, in other words, looking for something DUMB and Rush Hour 3 fit the bill perfectly.

Surprisingly, Chris Tucker's parts in this movie are still funny.  Jackie Chan has been in better films, but in this one he does a serviceable job playing the straight man.  Brett Ratner directed, so don't expect any kind of depth.  If nothing else it's a pleasant way to pass a couple hours, even though the Paris setting is an afterthought and the ending makes little sense.

Fun Fact #1: Chris Tucker made a ton of money on this movie.

Fun Fact #2: That French police inspector that Tucker and Chan punch out is none other than Roman Polanski.

6. Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard)

Driven by post-9/11 paranoia, Bruce "Yippee-Kai-Yay" Willis and Justin Long race to stop an evil hacker from destroying... America?  In action movie terms it's better than Rush Hour 3, but it's no Gladiator.

And whatever happened to Justin Long?  And Maggie Q, for that matter?  Wikipedia tells me that Justin Long is appearing in movies you probably haven't heard of, and Maggie Q has most recently appeared in the Divergent film series.

7. Reno 911: Miami

Anyone else remember this show?  The movie's still funny, and a lot of people who were more famous later show up in it.  The Rock, Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd, and even Paul Reubens.  It looks very low budget and critics at the time didn't love it, but I'd say it was one of the funnier comedies that year.

8. Eagle vs Shark

Taika Waititi directed this New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite.  It's not laugh-out-loud funny, but if you liked Hunt for the Wilderpeople you'll also like this one.

9. Freedom Writers

It's heavy handed and it has that "white savior thing" going on, but Hillary Swank is great as usual.  In my opinion Hillary Swank should be in every other movie.

In this one Swank plays a high school English teacher trying to reach students in Long Beach, California.  It all drags on WAY too long, but the first half is good and if you can put the racial/identity politics of the present day to one side you'll probably enjoy most of it.  I'm weird of course, but I think it would make a good double feature with Samuel Jackson's 187, a much darker movie that shows the toll this kind of work takes on teachers.

10. Into the Wild

Probably my favorite of the movies listed here.  Similar in some respects to the more recent Wild, this Sean Penn-directed movie features Emile Hirsch (him again!) as a young man bent on leaving civilization behind.  Where Wild focuses on the protagonist overcoming substance addiction and reconciling herself to personal relationships, Into the Wild is more about one person's attempt to attain freedom from societal constraints.  It owes more to Thoreau and Jack Kerouac, and even though both Wild and Into the Wild are memorable films I found Into the Wild to be the more philosophically weighty of the two.

Fun Fact #1: If you squint real hard you can see Zach Gallifianakis dispensing hunting advice in South Dakota.

Fun Fact #2: Emile Hirsch is set to appear in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a movie about the Manson Family Murders.

11. Hot Fuzz

Not as hysterically funny as I was led to believe, but it has its moments.  Simon Pegg stars as a policeman in a small English village.  It parodies many American action movie tropes.

Fun Fact: The actor who plays the village priest was also the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

One That I Might Not Like Just Because I Was Never Into Bob Dylan

11. I'm Not There

Art or artifice?  As much as I liked Velvet Goldmine, and as much as I share director Todd Haynes' love of late 70s art films, I just wasn't feeling this one.  It meanders all over the place, though I suppose it's trying to make some point about the elusive nature of Bob Dylan's personality.  The overall effect is that of an empty vessel, or more specifically of a movie without a main character.  Critics loved it, but I have to say it veers toward pretentiousness.

Fun Fact: this was Heath Ledger's movie before The Dark Knight.  Both he and Christian Bale appear in I'm Not There as different versions of Bob Dylan.

Some Bad Ones

1. Pathfinder

Equal parts Conan the Barbarian and First Blood, Karl Urban stars as a Viking raised by Native Americans.  It's needlessly violent, and the Vikings are completely one-dimensional.  Delving into the cultures involved would have made this movie more interesting, but as it is it's standard swords-and-sandals fare.

2. No Reservations

Hard not to compare this to Jon Favreau's Chef, which I also saw for the first time recently.  Chef is just an all around much better movie.

In No Reservations Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as an ambitious chef, with Aaron Eckhart as her love interest/sometime rival.  It was marketed as a rom-com, but it's too dark in places and Zeta-Jones and Eckhart have zero onscreen chemistry.  Yes, Zeta-Jones is as beautiful as always, but that fact alone isn't enough to carry a whole movie.

3. Georgia Rule

Three generations of women come to terms in small town Idaho.  Jane Fonda stars with Lindsay Lohan and Dermot Mulroney.  It's not terrible, but the people in it talk like they're in a play, and one gets the feeling that by this point Lindsay Lohan was just playing herself.  August: Osage County is in many ways similar to this movie, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend that movie over this one.

Fun Fact: Felicity Huffman, who plays Lohan's mother in this movie, was the star of Transamerica, a movie in which she was excellent.  And no, she's not really a man.  Nor was she a man at the time of filming.  A woman.  The whole time.  That was a prosthetic penis.

4. Hostel: Part II

Torture porn!  As horror directors go, I always thought Eli Roth was immensely overrated.  I liked Cabin Fever, but I can't say he did anything consistent after that.

The thing about this movie, as with most American horror movies, is there's a line it won't cross.  Rape, for example.  It's fine to torture people to death, but no rape.  It says a lot about an audience, a director, and a culture when you can show a guy getting emasculated but rape is off the table.

...not that anyone watching Hostel: Part II is going to be that concerned about whether it is, in less relative terms, a good movie.  So instead I'll offer the most damning criticism: on a scale of "Disney" to Grotesque - "Disney" being a 0 and Grotesque being a 10 - I'd rate this movie a 3.  It takes FOREVER to get going, and the inevitable scene in the dungeon is less that 15 minutes long.  In other words don't waste your time.

Related Entries:

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2019年1月2日 星期三

"China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan (2015)

"When I feel you are ready, I will introduce you to Hong Kong's most exclusive church, which you are to begin attending on a regular basis.  Before you protest, please not that this is one of the cornerstones to my methodology of social rehabilitation.  Your true spiritual affiliations do not concern me - it does not matter to me if you are Taoist, Daoist, Buddhist, or worship Meryl Streep - but it is absolutely essential that you become a regular praying, tithing, communion-taking, hands-in-the-air-waving, Bible-study-fellowship-attending member of this church.  (This has the added bonus of ensuring that you will be qualified for burial at the most coveted Christian cemetery on Hong Kong Island, rather than having to suffer the eternal humiliation of being interred at one of those lesser cemeteries on the Kowloon side.)"

For a biographical introduction to Kevin Kwan please refer to the entry for Crazy Rich AsiansChina Rich Girlfriend is the second book in the series, followed by Rich People Problems, which I've also read.  More background to this book can be found in those entries.

In China Rich Girlfriend Nick and Rachel are about to get married in California, and the same cast of characters is dealing with various personal crises and attempting to realize various ambitions.  Shortly after her wedding, Rachel discovers she has family in China that she was previously unaware of, and her attempt to become better acquainted with this family forms the backbone of China Rich Girlfriend.

It's an entertaining book but it's all over the place.  Even the title is an indication of this state of disarray.  Is the "China rich girlfriend" Rachel?  Or Kitty Pong, former TV star?  Or Colette, the spoiled socialite?  It's never clear in the book, and the back and forth between these three characters often threatens to overwhelm the novel.  To put it another way, China Rich Girlfriend could have done with some editing.

I also found the author's depictions of China less than convincing.  He's on firm footing when he writes about Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, but the further he gets from those three places the more the settings used in his novels seem like backgrounds or props.  There's no real feeling for those places.  It's all just names and secondhand trivia.

This said, China Rich Girlfriend is definitely the funniest of the three books, and I would recommend it for this reason alone.  There's a scene in the Hong Kong church mentioned above that had me laughing out loud.

One thing though - and this is curious for a series of books attempting to encompass all of Asia - why is there no mention of Japan or South Korea in any of them?  The author namedrops SO many places, but in all three books not a single mention of Japan or South Korea.  I could understand the omission of Myanmar or Vietnam, but no Japan?  No South Korea?

Related Entries:

"Rich People Problems" by Kevin Kwan (2017)
"Crazy Rich Asians" by Kevin Kwan (2013)
"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)
"Mission of Gravity" by Hal Clement (1954)