Review

BETTER LUCK TOMORROW review

Published at: Jan. 10, 2002, 4:26 p.m. CST by headgeek

The SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL is getting underway right now up in the cradle of the Winter Olympics… It starts a week early and frankly… I can’t imagine putting up with the insanity that would be SUNDANCE while the Olympic Hysteria was building up with all the security that fell in place, but for all the hassles plaguing Park City, Utah at this year’s fest… The ice and the snow, the plethora of black leather wearing Hollywoodites. There will be parties and drunken debauchery and by the time it is all said and done the same people that piss and moan every year will declare this year the worst year ever, no matter how good the films may be.

Personally I hate that I’m hobbling about right now and that I can’t take part in the craziness of the next 10-12 days. We’ll be depending on what you good folks are hearing up there in Park City. What did you see? How was it? Terrible? Great? What? Each and every year we cover this festival with the help of a good group of people that attend these screenings looking for the duds and the stars that will emerge from the festival.

Moriarty has already warned you off of THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS, John Robie warned you of the terrible PUMPKIN. We’ve been telling you about the hilarious freaking joy that is RUN RONNIE RUN. I’m about to tell you about a little film you’ve never heard of called BETTER LUCK TOMORROW.

The point of this, all of this is that Sundance is the start of the good Indie films that will be popping up throughout the rest of the year. As we do every year we’ll be seeking reports from you good folks at festivals around the globe. So we know what to hunt for, what not to miss. So we know about little films shot in the UK or THAILAND or HONG KONG or FRANCE or anywhere else on this globe. Also there’s all the homegrown flicks, the ones shot in the hopes of becoming one of those magical Indie darlings. Will there be great finds this year? Where’s the gold in Sundance? Well, if you are attending Sundance we’d love to hear from you!

Send your Sundance Reviews to Harry@AintItCool.Com and we’ll let the rest of the world know. We’re counting on you folks.

Now one of the great things about film festivals in general is just stumbling into a theater and finding a movie you’ve never heard of before. As Sundance approaches people with their films going begin sending me their tapes to take a look at, so right now at Geek Headquarters, we are in the process of beginning AICN-Dance, where the first film unfurled across my eyes tonight.

BETTER LUCK TOMORROW

Directed by Justin Lin, his second film.. the first was something called SHOPPING FOR FANGS, which has been being described as the strangest Asian film ever having something to do with a werewolf.

This time out, Justin has created a thriller, a crime thriller, an Asian teenage high school crime thriller romance thing.

I didn’t recognize a single actor in the film, but that didn’t stop me from feeling that everyone in the film was absolutely superb. It stars Parry Shen as a driven obsessive student determined to get a perfect score on his SAT and to get into a great school to become a Doctor ultimately. He has a very fixed pattern in his life. He goes to school, takes part in all manners of extra-curricular activities, adopts a beach, takes part in the mental decathlon and has been employee of the month at a HotDog stand in the mall for months. On the side he buys computer parts in a store, goes outside, puts all the parts in his friend’s car, goes back in later… fills the basket with the exact same equipment, then goes up to the counter as if he was returning the materials and get a refund. He does it, because sometimes a guy has to do something that isn’t for his college transcript. He’s a good kid at heart. He’s in love, infatuated and all around obsessed with Stephanie, a cute as a button cheerleader.

This Stephanie character is played by Karin Anna Chueng in her film debut. Folks, watch out for her. She isn’t just cute, she is also quite talented. The friendship she forms with Ben is a genuine joy to watch and the scene between the two of them at the ‘Formal dance’ was so nicely played.

Meanwhile, Ben falls in the ‘academic elite’ at school, specifically his fellow Asian over-achievers. The group is headed by Daric (played by Roger Fan (RUSH HOUR and CORKY ROMANO) who is Student Council President and head of the mental decathlon team. He seems like a big sweet lug of a guy, but he is running a cheat sheet service which supplies copies of test answers to students for a price. That isn’t a big part of the story… technically that is just the jumping off point. From there it expands into more out right criminal and dangerous ends.

The film begins with Ben and his best friend talking in the backyard of a house… Seemingly sunning themselves when a cel phone rings. You see one check their phone, then the other his… It is neither of theirs. Suddenly they look at each other, dive out of the lawn furniture and start scurrying through the backyard on their hands and knees…. The ringing getting closer and closer. Suddenly they begin digging, they have a phone, and we see a shot of a hand in dirt… bloody with a worm crawling across it. Then we flashback to 6 months prior.

This sets things up perfectly. You know that everything Ben is up to will lead to this body in the backyard. Whose body is it? Why is it there? How did it get there? When did it get there?

Like Hitchcock’s ticking picnic table bomb, that body haunts every scene in the movie leading up to… Well, you’ll just have to see it yourself

This is a damn fine little film. It isn’t BLOW YOU AWAY fantastic, but I’ll be damned it if ain’t a fine film. It is nice to see a teenage flick that isn’t about ‘the white kids’ in America. That isn’t just another empty shallow romance flick. This is a damn fine film.

If you are at SUNDANCE, know that this is one to check out! It is definitely worth seeing! And this Justin Lin, well he’s definitely a director that has talent and ability, he warrants a pair of eyes on his moves.

And folks, SUNDANCE starts today… Let’s see them reports coming in!!!

Readers Talkback

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  • Jan. 10, 2002, 4:50 p.m. CST

    Run Ronnie Run will be GENIUS!

    by The Colonel

    Mr. Show is the best sketch comedy show EVER! "Larry is my name, insurance is my game...rrrraping was another game of mine!" "It was a bash...or a MASH!" "He was called that because he said everything one time..'Man this suit STINKS!'" LONG LIVE BOB AND DAVID!!

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 5:19 p.m. CST

    Thanks Harry...

    by godotney

    ...even though you said nothing of the cinematography. Long story short, I know the cinematographer, Patrice Cochet, and while I've yet to see this film, I'm glad you liked it.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 6:59 p.m. CST

    Could it be?

    by rabid_republican

    Harry, for as much as people trash you as some kind of shill, I delight in your trashing of Sundance. I hope this is true bitterness over the attitudes of some of these MENSA members who produce and criticize this tripe and not just resentment for not being invited to one of their parties. BTW, "Better Luck Tomorrow" sounds intricate and smart. Hope I have the opportunity to see it.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 11:29 p.m. CST

    well, your an intelligent young lad christopher.

    by quamb

    suppose you think every non-american-white film should be racially subtexted and titled? the world is a better place without people like yourself.

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 6:50 a.m. CST

    christopher- in reply.

    by quamb

    I personally must say that I'm rather naive in this issue, though your post came across as another dick of a talkbacker trying to be the funny guy. Simple as that. As I wrote the post, I was thinking "sure, he wasn't being serious or nothen" though then thought "but man I'm sick of these talkback jerks". I too can't stand people who take the whole 'racism' (or even 'sexism' for that matter) issue to extreme levels- ie a classic example was a TV ad from last year set on an island with a couple of Jamaican guys laughing at the poor white dudes rubbing on sunscreen/cream/lotion.... it was banned, though it was all in good fun and in no way did myself or anyone I know of find it offensive. Anyhow, soz if I took it the wrong way- its just hard not to here at AICN!

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 11:41 a.m. CST

    being chinese myself...

    by max sterling

    i thought "chinese boyz-n-the hood" was pretty funny. that wasn't offensive in the slightest. this movie sounds worth watching to me purely from the plot. it is really nice to see an entire cast of asian-american actors in a movie where the theme isn't about identity. not that there isn't a place or even a need for that, it's just asian-americans can do more to show something abt our lives besides struggling tou nderstand our identity as a minority.

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 5:16 p.m. CST

    if anyone is interested...

    by mod29

    www.betterlucktomorrow.com I hope that this film doesn't get hurt by Orange County... another movie based in orange county (obviously)

  • Jan. 12, 2002, 7:59 a.m. CST

    CHRISTOPHER

    by AggregateScore

    You've got to be kidding me. I assumed the Talk back order was a glitch in the system. HARRY, IF YOU ARE DOING THIS DELIBERATELY PLEASE STOP. It is impossible to get any coherent line of argument if you can't tell which came after which. Aaaaaaaaaggggghhhh!

  • Jan. 13, 2002, 8:41 a.m. CST

    One question

    by Roann

    Where did the dead guy find a cell phone battery that lasts for 6 months?

  • Jan. 13, 2002, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Harry dude, go get that test talkback thingee from Frodo_Lives,

    by Lenny Nero

    K, dude? You would please a whole lot of people, and he says at his test site that it won't be a problem for him to put the system into AICN.

  • Jan. 14, 2002, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Has anyone else heard that Ted Demme died?

    by Monster Rain

    I'm sure other people know this by now, but I was shocked to hear about it. Apparently he was brought to the hospital in full cardiac arrest.

  • Jan. 14, 2002, 12:26 p.m. CST

    A Plea to AICN

    by Klam Bake

    Dear Sirs, I understand the need to advertise and I even forgive the "pop-ups" that frequent this site. But please, this latest one is beyond annoying. Those poor little engineers with nothing better to do than to devise "pop-ups" that can't be closed by any normal means are really pathetic. Please AICN I beg you to ditch these "force fed" ads and grow some respect for your audience. Thanx

  • Jan. 14, 2002, 1:01 p.m. CST

    racism

    by Daegor

    "Wasn't aware that I was being particularly racist... Comment: Which is kind of hard to allege in this instance, as I am of the non-white persuasion myself." So what are you saing Christopher? That only white people are racist? C'mon now

  • Jan. 15, 2002, 5:39 p.m. CST

    You know Harry's made it when...

    by Dr. Sid Schaefer

    ...you see Web banners sporting the "for your consideration" tagline! For a second, I could've sworn I was leafing through a copy of Variety or some other trade mag...

  • Jan. 16, 2002, 5:14 a.m. CST

    Bloody Sunday

    by elbastardo

    Anyone been to see this yet at Sundance...? its not released here in the UK until the 20th of Jan and I'd love to hear a review from someone in the US. It concerns the shooting of 28 people in my home town of Derry in 1972 by the British Army, 14 people died most teenage boys, all innocent... Cheers....

  • April 13, 2003, 12:39 p.m. CST

    good film

    by sokitome

    I was able to see better luck tomorrow at a special screening and it is very good. I may be biased being asian but it provides a much needed new look for asians in america. I think many non asians will be surprised and entertained by this filim

  • April 13, 2003, 3:53 p.m. CST

    "never heard of"

    by Tsunami3G

    Wow! A film Harry called "You've never heard of" that I actually heard of! That's a first. :-) I caught the trailer to it at SPUN and it looks damn good! I'll have to check out this review after I see it for myself. Avoid them spoilers!

  • April 13, 2003, 6:02 p.m. CST

    if anybody saw it

    by MiltonWaddams

    parry shen was the asian kid in d.j. qualls band in that smash comedy hit 'the new guy'. i'm glad he's doing bigger and better things. not neccisarily bigger, in this case.

  • April 13, 2003, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Quest for Length is pure genius.

    by Alcamaeon

    And Bree Turner is HOTTTTT. I'd spend another 5min of my life just to see her again. Nice job guys.

  • April 13, 2003, 10:34 p.m. CST

    MTV FILMS picked this up... I'm impressed.

    by jennababe

    It's refreshing to see that MTV had the guts to pick this film up. Sure MTV hasn't had the biggest and most respectful films in past years, but at least they recognize that their audience in this day and age isn't just white America and black Hip-Hop. As Roger Ebert himself proclaimed at the premiere at Sundance, "Asian Americans in film can be whatever the hell they wanna be." (You can see a clip of that on their betterlucktomorrow website by the way) I never thought I'd have so much respect for that fat bastard.

  • April 13, 2003, 11 p.m. CST

    PUMPKIN was funny as hell.

    by Ronnie_Dobbs

    I guess some people just didn't understand that it was supposed to be bad, making fun of Hollywood-uplifting-movie conventions, etc. Oh, well. DANGEROUS LIVES wasn't bad, either, though certainly not A-list material; a lot better than some of the movies Harry's raved about, though (xXx, anyone?). But RUN, RONNIE, RUN must be released at all costs. Mirimax is only hurting themselves, in terms of credibility, by releasing every vomit-inducing Freddie Prinze, Jr. movie that comes out, while sitting on this certain masterpiece. Fuck you, Weinstein.

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