Movie Review: Coming Home (2014)

Sometimes life is complicated.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Coming Home”.

Set during and after China’s cultural revolution, the story follows Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) and Feng Wanyu (Gong Li), a devoted loving couple who get separated when Lu Yanshi gets arrested and thrown into a labor camp. But when he returns years later, his beloved does not recognize him. So we follow the two as they deal with this situation. What we have here is a melodrama that could feel pandering and very dull in lesser hands, but thanks to a well constructed script in tandem with a confident and talented director, it manages to become quite a powerful tale that managed to rip out my fucking heart more than once. But it’s not just an emotional family drama, as it’s also a sociopolitical critique, which gave me an interesting look into a historical period I didn’t really know about. Blending all these elements makes for a really compelling story that has gained a spot in my heart.

The characters in this are flawed, layered, and overall simply fascinating to follow. Gong Li plays Feng Wanyu, the main lady in our story. She’s a bit split at first, because she wants to love her man, but also don’t want to be arrested for being associated with him due to the political climate of the era. And what we learn about her throughout the movie is quite interesting, especially when put contrasted against the other characters. And Gong Li is fantastic in the role. Next we have Chen Daoming as Lu Yanshi, the man sent away who later comes home (there’s your title reference, whoop-de-doo). He has a fantastic arc in this movie that is utterly compelling, and Chen Daoming is fantastic in the role. We also get Zhang Huiwen as the daughter of our two mains, who has an interesting dynamic with the two, with Zhang Huiwen giving a really good performance. So yeah, this is quite well acted.

The score for “Coming Home” was composed by Chen Qigang, who I think did a really good job with it. It’s not used too much throughout the movie, but when it shows up, it’s quite emotionally effective. It’s heavily based in strings like violins (and a little bit of cello), with the occasional bit of piano for good measure. And it makes for a sound that is as heartbreaking as the story.

Based on “The Criminal Lu Yanshi” by Yan Geling, the movie was directed by Zhang Yimou. And while I can’t say anything how this fares compared to the book, I’d still like to say that Zhang Yimou did an excellent job in the craft here. Based on the little I’ve seen from him before (namely “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”), he’s a very visual director. This movie isn’t without dialogue, but it often relies more on the subtle emotions of individual scenes rather than just blatantly expositing what the hell is going on in the characters’ skulls. What helps bring this to life even more is the cinematography by Zhao Xiaoding, which is absolutely beautiful, and helps sell the vibe of the movie incredibly well.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 81/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,3/10.

While the slow and deliberate pace of “Coming Home” might scare away some people, I found the movie to be a heartbreaking and engrossing drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and terrific directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Coming Home” is a 9,64/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Coming Home” is now completed.

Since we’re talking about Zhang Yimou, let’s put some pressure on distributors. I’ve been waiting for his latest movie, “Shadow” to come out here for quite a while. Where is it, yo? Gimme.

Series Review: Yellowstone – Season 2 (2019)

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first season of this show. And now the second one has come to an end over here. So I guess that means I should talk about it. So here we go.

Ladies and gents… “Yellowstone” season 2.

We once again follow rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) as he tries to protect his land from opposing forces, new and old. All the while his three kids (Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley) deal with a lot of personal issues of their own, while there’s also stuff going on with the people working for John. So now we have a more “Yellowstone”… in all the ways that entails. On one hand you do get a lot of that epic crime-drama that the show mostly sells itself on, and that shit is insanely compelling, always riding a line of grey morality perfectly, giving us some truly great tv at times. Buuuuuut then it also wallows a bit in family melodrama. At times that stuff doesn’t bother me, as there are points when it’s decently well handled. But then there are times when it sort of just drags the show down, and makes it kinda boring at times. I don’t need the crime-drama stuff all the time, but the family drama here isn’t always that great. So overall the story is pretty good. Flawed, but solid.

The characters here are flawed, layered, and quite interesting. Kevin Costner returns as John Dutton, the aging patriarch of this family. He has to come to terms with his own age a bit this season, at the same time as all this crazy shit happens around him, and it’s pretty interesting. And Costner is once again really good in the role. Luke Grimes returns as John’s son Kayce, a father who has to deal with some issues with his wife and son, while also having to manage his new role at his father’s ranch. And while I had slightly mixed feelings about him last season, he kinda grew to become my favorite this time around. And Grimes is really good in the role. Kelly Reilly returns as Beth, John’s take-no-nonsense daughter who often acts as a bit of a wild card, even if she is a bit more restrained this time around due to development from last season. And once again, she’s an interesting character, with Reilly giving a great performance. Wes Bentley plays Jamie, John’s lawyer son, and holy shit, he gets some actual development this season. They made Jamie interesting! And Bentley is great in the role, even if he still constantly scowls like someone shat in his backyard. Cole Hauser returns as Rip, the ranch hand/resident tough guy, and he’s once again great in the role. The stuff with returning antagonists Danny Huston and Gil Birminham is still solid. And new antagonist Neal McDonough, he’s pretty good. We of course also get supporting performances from people like Kelsey Asbille, Brecken Merrill, Jefferson White, Forrie J. Smith, Hugh Dillon, Ryan Bingham, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

As with season 1, the score for season 2 of “Yellowstone” was composed by Brian Tyler. And it was once again good. Tense, emotional, and fitting of the semi-western tone that the show goes for. It’s solid stuff that fits the various scenes it’s used in.  There’s of course also a lot of licensed music used throughout (especially from the band Whiskey Myers). And that music works well enough for the respective scenes they get used in.

The show was created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, with Sheridan staying on as writer for all the episodes, but let a bunch of other cool people handle directing. And the craft on display here is generally good. A lot of nice looking shots of the sweeping vistas, some decent looking shots for smaller moments. The directing often elevates the material here, which is what makes some of those melodramatic scenes I mentioned earlier a bit more tolerable. And the direction also helps make some scenes quite suspenseful when needed. ’tis a solidly crafted show.

This show/season has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating. On Metacritic it exists, but has no overall score. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,4/10.

Season 2 of “Yellowstone” reaches some great heights, but wallows enough in some melodramatic lows to still bring it down overall. It has a pretty good plot, really good characters, great performances, good music, and really good writing/directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 2 of “Yellowstone” is an 8,52/10. So while not perfect, it’s still certainly worth a watch.

My review of “Yellowstone” season 2 is now completed.

Cooooooostneeeeeer.