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"Better Luck Tomorrow"

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"Better Luck Tomorrow"

Old 04-09-03, 01:10 AM
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"Better Luck Tomorrow"

This movie will be opening in limited release this Friday and its success there will determine if it makes a wide release...the director went into I think 6 credit cards in personal debt to make this movie, it's gotten great reviews, was a hot ticket at Sundance, and it deserves our support. A movie that takes risks and breaks stereotypes. Go see it!

Plot premise is this: (but it unfolds into something much much bigger)

From Paramount and MTV Films comes this story starring Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho and Karin Anna Cheung. Ben Manibag (Parry Shen) is a high-school junior determined to ramp up his grades, extracurricular stats and test scores so that every prestigious college will want him. He and his best friend Virgil (Jason Tobin) are kicking it in the backyard, catching some rays, when a cell phone goes off: not Benís, not Virgilís. The sound emanates loudly from under the grass. They dig frantically until they find it, beeping in the dirt, clutched in the hand of a corpse.

(Read Roger Ebert's comments below)





CHICAGO SUN TIMES
JANUARY 18, 2002


NO PLACE FOR POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN FILM
Roger Ebert


PARK CITY, Utah--The man in the audience was angry. "How could you," he
asked the director, his voice trembling with sincerity, "despite your
talented cast and great production values, make such a bleak, negative,
amoral film? What kind of a portrait is this of Asian Americans? Don't
you have a responsibility to paint a more positive and helpful portrait
of your community?"

Roger Ebert at BLT screening at Sundance.Justin Lin, whose "Better Luck
Tomorrow" had just played to an enthusiastic reception at the Sundance
Film Festival, replied that he had made the film he wanted to make, the
way he had wanted to make it. He felt it depicted a reality among
teenagers of any race.

I usually don't speak during the Q&A sessions after screenings, but I
couldn't restrain myself. I told the man I thought he was being
condescending: "You would never make a comment like that to a white
filmmaker."

I quoted Chris Eyre, the Native American filmmaker, who was on a panel
with me that afternoon. "For 100 years," he said, "American Indians
have played the same roles in movies. Either savages or spiritual
peoples who exist on some mystical plane. It is time to let us just
simply be people."

The same could be said of Asian-American characters, who are often
either martial-arts practitioners, exotic sexual prizes or winners of
the spelling bee. Justin Lin's film tells the story of a group of
bright, ambitious Asian high school kids who live in an affluent suburb
and have their sights set on Ivy League schools. The hero is a brain
who captains an academic decathlon team. Because he wants his college
application to look good, he also plays basketball, does community
service and belongs to half the clubs in school, in addition to getting
high grades.

Meanwhile, he and his friends drift into criminal activity--at first
selling cheat sheets, then dealing in drugs. Eventually they commit
murder. He considers turning himself in to the police, but "I couldn't
let one mistake get in the way of everything I'd worked for. I know the
difference between right and wrong, but I guess in the end, I really
wanted to go to a good college."

Amoral, yes. Shockingly. He seems to exist in a world of achievement
and ambition that operates entirely apart from moral values. Another
audience member drew a parallel with Enron executives who apparently
concealed the fact that their numbers didn't add up. Justin Lin said he
senses a moral disconnect in some of today's teenagers and wanted to
make a movie about it. His cast was all Asian-American because--well,
why not?

For years filmmakers have tiptoed around the sensibilities of some
ethnic groups, afraid to offend. Maybe the tiptoeing is the real
offense. Until Indians, Asians and African Americans are shown with the
same moral complexity as white characters, they are being short-
changed, stereotyped, closed off from the full range of human response.
Some Italian Americans are offended by "The Godfather," but isn't it
one of the best American movies of all time?

I thought about "Our America," which played here a few days ago. Ernest
Dickerson's wonderful film, based on fact, tells the story of two black
teenagers from a poverty-stricken Chicago public housing complex. Given
tape recorders by the local NPR station and asked to make a radio
documentary of their lives, they produce a result so powerful that they
become the youngest people ever to win a Peabody Award.

But they are attacked by power brokers within the black community. A
school official and a talk-show host say the portrait they painted was
too negative--that a white producer must have put words in their
mouths, in order to show only the bad side of the Ida B. Wells complex.
The kids are shaken; they respect these black adults, and question
themselves, but decide at last they told their own story in their own
words.

Consider, in a different kind of film, Denzel Washington's astonishing
performance in "Training Day," where he plays a completely evil,
vicious, corrupt cop. A negative portrait? Yes. Should he have shown
the bright side, by playing a dedicated black cop? And denied us that
performance? If there can be a corrupt white cop in the movies, why not
a black one?

Morgan Freeman told me once that he liked to play villains in the
movies because they were often the most interesting characters. His
Oscar-nominated performance in "Street Smart" (1987), as a violent
pimp, launched his starring career. But often producers preferred to
have a white villain. James Woods, Tommy Lee Jones and Christopher
Walken got the juicy bad-guy roles, because Hollywood fears to portray
blacks in a negative way.

That kind of thinking is an artistic straitjacket, exiling minority
characters to a benevolent limbo. Denzel Washington may play a bad cop
in "Training Day," but he also represents a great black actor.
In "Skins," Chris Eyre shows alcoholism, poverty and despair on an
Indian reservation, but he also shows vibrant human characters both
good and bad, in a real world. If Justin Lin had made "Good Luck
Tomorrow" about white teenagers, no one would have batted an eye--and
his cast of gifted young Asian-American actors would have been denied
important roles.

One of the many qualities of the great film "Monster's Ball" is that it
avoids stereotypes about black-white relationships and shows two
characters who come together out of human need and desperation. Race is
the last thing on their minds. That movie, and "Better Luck
Tomorrow," "Skins" and "Our America," are pointed in the right
direction, toward films that celebrate the full range of their
characters without the emasculation of political correctness. If Justin
Lin had a responsibility to "his community," it was to make the best
film he possibly could.
http://www.betterlucktomorrow.com/

Last edited by UKingdom; 04-09-03 at 01:20 AM.
Old 04-09-03, 07:12 AM
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I saw the trailer and it looked pretty interesting but the MTV tag turned me off. I'll wait and see if it plays around here.
Old 04-09-03, 10:46 AM
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Do they drive ricers? If so I'm there! Nos
Old 04-09-03, 10:47 AM
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But in all seriousness, is the filmmaker from southern California? And UKingdom, since you're such a shill, can you list the theaters this will be playing at?

Edit: I answered my own question, it's OC all the way! This should be classic

Last edited by Pants; 04-09-03 at 10:55 AM.
Old 04-09-03, 11:00 AM
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Seems to be opening either this weekend or next depending on your location. I really want to see this myself. I saw the trailer in front of Cowboy Bebop and it looks pretty good. (minus that blasted mtv films logo) Below are all the locations off the website more theatres might be added in the future.
4/11/03
Irvine Spectrum, Orange County, CA
San Jose Camera Cinema Theater
Portland, OR - Fox Regal
AMC Century 14, Pacific ARCLIGHT Hollywood, & AMC 30 at the BLOCK, LOS ANGELES and ORANGE COUNTY
AMC 1000 VAN NESS (SF) & Shattuck Cinemas (Berkeley)
Angelika Film Center, AMC Empire 25 & Clearview Chelsea (NY)
Loews Cimeplex Theatres - Esquire Theater, & Century 12 Evanston and Century Cinearts 6 (Chicago)



04/18/03
Washington, DC - Dupont Loews
Arlington, VA - Shirlington Loews
Seattle, WA - Uptown Loews & Metro Landmark
San Jose, CA - Camera 7 Nybloom
San Diego, CA - Madstone & Mission Valley AMC
Tempe, AZ - Center Point Alamo
Miami, FL - Intracoastal ESP & Sunset AMC
Houston, TX - Studio AMC & Angelika City Cinema
Dallas, TX - Angelika City Cinema & Ft. Worth, TX - Hulen UA
Toronto - Carlton Loews & Vancouver - Granville Loews
Boston, MA - Copley Loews
Cambridge, MA - Harvard Square Loews
Atlanta, GA - Phipps AMC
Old 04-09-03, 11:12 AM
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I'm surprised some people are turned off by the fact that MTV is producing this film. Isn't this the same MTV that produced "Election"?
Old 04-09-03, 11:23 AM
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Originally posted by Simpson Purist
I'm surprised some people are turned off by the fact that MTV is producing this film. Isn't this the same MTV that produced "Election"?
You're dead right. Honestly people MTV produced probably the funniest movie of the last few years. What's the problem, they're just an extension of Paramount, I don't hear people piss their pants and say, "well it might be good, even though Paramount is releasing it"

Besides, it's a negative pick-up of an independent film. MTV had nothing to do with the films making, they just bought the finnished product.

The movie may indeed suck, but not because of MTV's involvement.
Old 04-09-03, 07:01 PM
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Definitely. Don't let the MTV monikor fool you. I think Justin Lin was seriously in need of money and thought that not only would this help distribute the film but also help advertise the movie to young people.

Last edited by UKingdom; 04-09-03 at 11:48 PM.
Old 04-09-03, 10:35 PM
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Originally posted by UKingdom
Definitely. Don't let the MTV monikor fool you. I think Justin Lin was seriously in need of money and thought that not only would this help distribute the film but also help advertise the money to young people.
Like I said, the actual trailer didn't look very MTVish, but the tag at the end was a little disturbing ;p I'll definitely check it out if it reaches Chapel Hill -- dunno if it will or not.
Old 04-10-03, 09:45 AM
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I saw the 'festival' cut of this film a month ago and I was at the least very underwhelmed by this film. It's great to see an US indie film feature a Chinese-American cast, but the story just seems to meander in so many directions that the flow and narrative structure is extremely disjointed. I really wanted to like and recommend this film, and since I know that the final theatrical cut might differ substantially from the version I saw, I cant. The screening I attended Lin took questions and answers afterward and it was very interesting to hear what he had to say about the film.
Old 04-10-03, 12:07 PM
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Can't be as bad as Hundred Percent. I'll see it and support it if I like it.
Old 04-11-03, 12:25 AM
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Opens tomorrow in select cities! Critics overall have been giving favorable reviews!
Old 04-11-03, 10:21 AM
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I'm going this afternoon, but in all honesty this doesn't look very good. Critics give low budget movies a lot of liberty because they're such a grass-roots effort, but most of the time they really stink.
Old 04-11-03, 10:35 AM
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While it won't stop me from seeing it, I'm wary of any film that markets its characters with one-word descriptions (also see the trailer for Spun).
Old 04-11-03, 03:47 PM
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82% on rottentomatoes is pretty good...
Old 04-11-03, 11:00 PM
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Did anyone see this yet? The rottentomatoes.com site has been updated...83% percent of critics give it the thumbs up!
Old 04-12-03, 08:21 PM
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I just got back from seeing it and I enjoyed it quite a bit - the ending just kind of happened and didn't seem too well thought-out, but that's not good or bad.

The best way to describe it would be to say that's is kind of like Goodfellas, only with over-achieving So-Cal Asian-American high school kids instead of Italian/Irish mob guys from '60s/'70s New York. But it's not at all a rip-off or anything like that.
Old 04-13-03, 10:55 PM
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I thought it looked really interesting. I hope it comes to theaters around me soon, I'm always down to support budding filmmakers.
Old 04-13-03, 10:56 PM
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The reviews have been great, it opens here next Friday...until then, any other reactions?

According to CNN....
In limited release, the low-budget "Better Luck Tomorrow" had a huge first weekend, grossing $398,489 in just 13 theaters for an average of $30,653. Directed by Justin Lin, the film features a cast of unknowns in the story of straight-A, Asian-American teens who, bored with their suburban lives, slide into petty crimes that lead to violence.

MTV Films acquired the movie at last year's Sundance Film Festival, feeling its fresh faces, dark humor, eclectic music and ambivalent ending would appeal to the network's youthful audience.

Asian-Americans made up a bit more than half the audience, but the filmmakers hope it can cross over to a wider crowd as the movie expands to more theaters over the next two weekends.

"These kids could be anybody," said Van Toffler, MTV president. "It's silly to underestimate the eclectic moviegoing tastes of our demographic. The cast doesn't have to look or feel like them for them to want to see it."
Old 04-14-03, 05:08 AM
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Just saw the last showing at the block here in AMC. About 90% of the audience were asian teens, theatre was close to selling out. I'd give the movie a C+.

Pros
-first half was good
-Looked good for a low budget movie
-MILF dude (crowd went wild when he made is first appearance)

Con
-2nd half was crap
-some actors looked too old for their roles
-copied too much of Scorsese's work (took me out of the movie)
-one shot was too long, got me dizzy (care to guess, which one?)

The good outweighs the bad because the first half was so interesting. After that it went straight to crap.
Old 04-14-03, 08:18 AM
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Originally posted by matrixrok9
-MILF dude
Who?
Old 04-14-03, 09:38 AM
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Originally posted by matrixrok9


Pros
-first half was good
-Looked good for a low budget movie
-MILF dude (crowd went wild when he made is first appearance)
*I thought he looked familiar

Con
-2nd half was crap
*while not as good as the first half - calling it crap is a bit harsh - the movie just went where it had to go.
-some actors looked too old for their roles
*yes - but at least the lead guy looked perfect for his role.
-copied too much of Scorsese's work (took me out of the movie)
* I tought while it was similar, it wasn't too much of a copy, unlike Blow.
-one shot was too long, got me dizzy (care to guess, which one?)
*I think that was the POINT of the shot - to make you feel queesy and nausious, just like the characters - therefore it worked.

Old 04-14-03, 10:48 AM
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All right I saw it and all I can say is I'm conflicted. On a technical and competency level this is bar-none one of the worst movies I've ever seen. The cast of Clerks were 100x better actors than these kids. Their readings are strained and the scenes are cut so poorly by the editor. The editor could have shortened the heads and tails of every shot in the film, lost nothing, and made the film 15 minutes shorter. VERY BADLY edited!

The lighting was good for the budget, the music was abysmal (it must have been whatever they could get for free), the sound mix was sloppy. And Iím NOT holding it to too high a standard, I've seen zero budget movies that were a LOT more professional (look at George Washington).

The GOOD thing about Better Luck Tomorrow is its script, and it is certainly what caused the controversy. What I don't understand is why all the critics' coverage of the Sundance controversy danced around the issue. THIS FILM IS SO DAMN CONSERVATIVE. This is the kind of script that gives liberals bowel obstructions. I love it! Let me start by saying the dialogue AND structure of the script was DREADFULL. All ripped off from Goodfellas (just like Menace II Society), and the words coming out of these actors mouths just didn't work. But what the screenplay SAYS is probably enough for me to recommend that you see it just to here the message.

H'wood has made a lot of anti-social films. From Bonnie and Clyde to True Romance they had one thing in common. The central anti-heroes are disillusioned by the conservative world around them. The anti-heroes become torches of freedom from the perils of middle class conformity. This film rips all that s*** up! First, it gets its little digs in at coffeehouse hippies, rude c*** sales girls, and those despicable Best Buy employees. That's a nice bit of lashing out at the popular "jobs" of so many lost young 20-somethings who this film's characters and its director clearly loathe. It also has a wonderful dig at the reprehensible anti-smoking laws in California. These characters like to smoke, drink, and f***, with no PC apologies. But it saves its most vicious dig for affirmative action, where the lead character, in no uncertain terms, makes it clear that, by playing the race card in his name, another kid is a trader to his race. This filmís characters have contempt for contemporary Californian liberalism that rewards stupidity and lack of ambition. In its savage finger pointing at contemporary lily-white p***y society, this film reminds me of the films of Sam Peckinpah. Itís a shame it couldnít have been a better film.

Worst of all NO RICERS!!!! (But that's sort of the point, the film pierces your expectation of OC Asian teens. They drive a '65 mustang and another kid drives a vintage motorcycle)

Last edited by Pants; 04-14-03 at 12:57 PM.
Old 04-14-03, 01:17 PM
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From IMDb:
Taking everyone by surprise were the sensational results for the Asian-American art film Better Luck Tomorrow, which opened in 13 theaters in four cities and took in nearly $400,000, or about $31,000 per theater. The film, picked up at Sundance by MTV Films for $500,000, had been heavily promoted on MTV and the Internet. Although it stars a group of unknown Asian-American actors, "these kids could be anybody," MTV President Van Toffler told the AP. It's silly to underestimate the eclectic moviegoing tastes of our demographic."
I will add that where I saw the film (Irvine Spectrum 21) the 3:00 show was in a small corner theater of this enormous multiplex. It must have sold out because they booted Phone Booth and moved the 5:00 to the biggest auditorium in the place. I was pretty impressed. I think B.O. will drop off due to bad word of mouth because it isn't very good. The girls sitting behind me clearly didn't like it and were confused throughout the whole film (even though it's totally straitforward).
Old 04-14-03, 01:18 PM
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I wouldn't criticize the acting of the movie - after all, the point wasn't to win any oscars. The actors did a great job of portraying Asian American lifestyle and behavior. Perhaps some people have standards when viewing actors, but in this kind of movie, criticism should be made on how accurately the movie portrays the character's lives instead of how good their performances were.

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