Netflix List Blitz: ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG

FYI :Rules of the Netflix List Blitz

  1. I’ll watch and write about every movie currently on my list. Pretty simple first rule there.
  2. I’m not obligated to finish a movie. I can’t think of any movie I’ve ever seen that started off horribly for more than twenty minutes and then ended up being worth the watch. A slow start or lull is fine, but if I get a sense what I’m watching is truly bad–in a completely uninteresting way–I reserve the right to abandon flick.
  3. I’m only watching movies on my list, not television series. Bates Motel, you’ll have to wait.
  4. I’m going in order of the current state of the list. Which, for the purposes of any smattering of readers who may start following along, is going to make this list appear quite random.
  5. I’m strictly going to write what I feel. Some entries may be in depth, some may focus less on the movie itself than on some outside thoughts the movie planted in my head, and some may entries may be improbably brief. (Given my propensity for longwindedness, don’t bet too much on that last one.)


“I don’t have GPS on this phone.”

This is what Ruby–our leading lady–says to her unseen friends via said phone in the opening scene of Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. Her friends are trying to give her directions, you see, but Ruby, a Chinese-American toy designer from Los Angeles, is struggling to keep up with the directions they’re giving her as she’s not especially familiar with Hong Kong. Also, her phone doesn’t have GPS.

This movie was made in 2015. This young, successful woman has a modern smartphone and is traveling abroad in one of the world’s busiest and biggest cities / independent territories, and she has, perhaps for the unreasonable challenge of doing so, brought with her one of the only touchscreen phones on the planet that apparently doesn’t come equipped with GPS.

Note that she doesn’t say, “My phone’s GPS is being an asshole right now.” That I could believe. There are occasions when my phone goes haywire trying to pinpoint my location, or which direction I’m facing, or what part of town I’m on. I’m guessing many people could relate to that. Would it be a contrivance for Ruby’s phone to start acting up right when she needs it to guide her to where she needs to go? Sure, but it’s still more plausible than the idea that she’s out here in the world, in a foreign land with a layout she’s apparently quite ignorant of and made little effort to learn about (the place she’s trying to get to, Lan Kwai Fong, is apparently a fairly popular place in Hong Kong), with an iFone 6 – Sans GPS Edition.

At this point, a mere three minutes into its runtime, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong was already facing an uphill battle to win me over.

A handsome young American expat business-dude, Josh, overhears Ruby’s plight and instead of saying, “Your phone doesn’t have GPS? What kind of wild nonsense is that?”, he offers to walk her to the place where she’d meet her friends. So there’s our “meet cute” moment, brought to us courtesy of Ruby’s inexplicably inadequate phone purchasing decisions.

From there, the movie sort of condenses the plots of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Josh and Ruby roam the lovely city, chatting and getting to know one another, doing another couple the favor of taking their picture before getting their own picture taken in kind. Pleasant, budding romance stuff. This goes well until Josh reveals he actually has a girlfriend whom he’s very freshly unhappy with. As in, he left her back at a bar during her own birthday party because she was flirting with other dudes so he could basically get passive aggressive revenge by flirting with Ruby and getting drinks with her at another bar. Ruby, agitated but taking things better than you might imagine, jabs Josh before leaving him at the bar, saying, “I feel sorry for your girlfriend.”

To which Josh replies, “Oh yeah, well… none of would have happened if your phone wasn’t ludicrous bullshit!”

And I mean, yes, he’s a somewhat deceitful prick, but his logic there is pretty inarguable.

Cut to a year later, Josh–having quit his job to become a writer, freeing himself to be beardy and disheveled–runs into Ruby by chance on a ferry. She has now moved to Hong Kong for work. Josh is still with his girlfriend, and Ruby has a boyfriend of her own. So of course–of course–these two lovely people get all walkaround-flirty again. The Cantonese-fluent Josh helps Ruby not get screwed over by a mildly shady tailor making a suit for her boyfriend and Ruby is overly impressed that a guy who’s lived in and done business in Hong Kong for several years “speaks Chinese.” Ruby and Josh then have their fifth “Well, I should get going, bye / Wait, actually let’s stay together and hang out some more” moment in the film. We are barely thirty minutes in.

At this point, as silly as I’m finding much of this, and as much as the overly witty, too-cute and/or on-the-nose dialogue and too-earnest soundtrack is wearing on me, I’m actually starting to like these actors  enough to sort of root for these characters. Then again, as I believe I’ve mentioned before on another write-up, I’m kind of a romantic sucker. The idea of strolling about a beautiful big city and building on an attraction you feel to someone you barely know will always be appealing to me, even when it involves two characters being unfaithful pricks to their others waiting for them at home.

I feel it’s worth noting, though, that during one conversation, Ruby brings up a couple that works in her office. The man is white, the woman is Chinese, and they initially had a language barrier to overcome when they started dating, so they brought a translator–an actual human being, not an app–along on their first few dates. And as she describes this couple I’m thinking, “Why can’t I see that movie? That sounds like the quirky, feel good, interracial romantic comedy of the year!”

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong is passable fare. I’ve certainly seen better, and I’ve seen much worse. The acting is fine, and the views are often lovely. Our characters are brought together in a contrived in a careless, unnecessary way that gives you an early heads up as to value placed on the writing in this movie, but if you’re into this sort of romantic flick, it’s not a waste of time.

Up Next: A (presumably) significant change-up with the film adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s Cold in July

Continue Reading

Netflix List Blitz: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

FYI :Rules of the Netflix List Blitz

  1. I’ll watch and write about every movie currently on my list. Pretty simple first rule there.
  2. I’m not obligated to finish a movie. I can’t think of any movie I’ve ever seen that started off horribly for more than twenty minutes and then ended up being worth the watch. A slow start or lull is fine, but if I get a sense what I’m watching is truly bad–in a completely uninteresting way–I reserve the right to abandon flick.
  3. I’m only watching movies on my list, not television series. Bates Motel, you’ll have to wait.
  4. I’m going in order of the current state of the list. Which, for the purposes of any smattering of readers who may start following along, is going to make this list appear quite random.
  5. I’m strictly going to write what I feel. Some entries may be in depth, some may focus less on the movie itself than on some outside thoughts the movie planted in my head, and some may entries may be improbably brief. (Given my propensity for longwindedness, don’t bet too much on that last one.)


I try to take an inclusive approach to stories some may consider to be on the fringe of the horror genre. There is an unfortunate history of stories being labeled as thrillers or supernatural thrillers solely because they’ve been deemed “too good” for horror. There is an equally unfortunate history of horror fans excluding stories that they feel aren’t “really” horror stories, because, well, pick a reason. Not bloody enough (even though John Carpenter’s Halloween is practically blood free), not “scary” enough (even though scary is entirely subjective), has too much drama / comedy / tragedy, so on and so forth. I try to reject such exclusive approaches to genre fare because I feel it diminishes the genre, robbing it of some great movies for biased, shortsighted reasons.

I say all of this now because A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is considered by many to be one of the finer horror films to come out in recent years. And it is indeed a fine film. It doesn’t strike me, however, as a horror story.

The press release for the film labeled it a “vampire western.” Yes, I know, “Death of the Author” suggests that the people actually behind the making of the film (or, in this case, perhaps just the publicity) aren’t necessarily the authorities on what the film is or what it means. One of these days I’ll probably get into my many qualms with “Death of the Author” on here, but just because I don’t subscribe to that particular essay (or the “interpretation” of it that people who seemingly haven’t read the essay have taken to in recent years), I don’t believe that the Author Knows Best either. Despite what Ana Lily Amirpour may say of her film, it doesn’t strike me as much of a “western”.

Various people slapped a lot descriptors on this film, and the word “strange” or something synonymous shows up in several reviews. Maybe that makes me strange, because the film I watched wasn’t nearly as odd as I expected it to be. Vampirism aside, this would be a relatively straight-forward, well made crime drama. But, of course, you can’t simply set a vampire aside.

This is the story of a painfully lonely, distant woman whose condition understandably leaves her disconnected and bored with the world. She occupies her time listening to music by herself, scaring random little kids because it’s something to do, and maybe skateboarding down the street because hell, why not. That, and eating people.

Described that way, the vampirism could certainly be seen as a gimmick. She could suffer from a lot of other real world afflictions that would render her a lonely, distant, bored person. One of the great things about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is that the vampirism is treated as intrinsic to the character. Sure, it doubles as a metaphor for, well, whatever any viewer wants it to be a metaphor of at any given time, but for this character, her condition is meaningful to her. You couldn’t swap the vampirism out for clinical depression, for instance, without fundamentally altering the character. She’s not a vampire that’s really something else. She’s a vampire, and she’s also a person with a personality. She’s a valuable, worthwile lead character, in short. As is the young man she encounters and builds an uncertain relationship.

The young man has reasons to feel disconnected as well. He is wanting, he is struggling, he is also alone, and he is burdened by a heroin addicted father whose drug-related debts help kick off the story. The father’s pusher has taken the son’s prized car to cover the aforementioned debts. The son knows the exact number of days he worked and saved to be able to buy the car, and then in one night it’s taken from him through no fault of his own. He in turn resorts to theft to try to pay off what his father owes and buy his precious car back. Unbeknownst to him until he arrives, the pusher has encountered our vampire and met with a fate befitting a coked-up gangster-pimp who tried to seduce a supernatural bloodsucker.

From there the story is a slow burn, dark and patient and compelling. It never really tries to be frightening or even unsettling, though. In fact, it feels thoroughly disinterested in affecting or exploring fear. There is the one scene, where the vampire menaces the child, that might be considered tense or disturbing to some, but it feels apparent early on that it’s just a scene of a bored woman taking part in halfhearted bullying to make herself feel better–or just feel something–and to kill some time. It also plants the seed for a plot development later to come. But it’s not in any way interested in being frightful, and doesn’t need to be. All of this takes me back to my initial thought on this matter, as to whether or not it’s a horror story. Ultimately that shouldn’t matter much, except I do love my preferred genre, and I love for it to be able to claim good stories for itself. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is very good. But does a grim, dour tale featuring a vampire automatically make it a horror story? Doesn’t it need to be at least somewhat invested in attempting to horrify?

Well, I obviously don’t have the authority to give more than my opinion, rather than definitive “answers” to those questions. And in my opinion, while a story can absolutely be a horror drama, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has no evident aspirations toward being a horror story. But you won’t find me trying to correct anyone who wants to put such a quality movie in the horror genre. I would, after all, rather be inclusive.

Up Next: Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong

Continue Reading

Netflix List Blitz: RAMS

FYI :Rules of the Netflix List Blitz

  1. I’ll watch and write about every movie currently on my list. Pretty simple first rule there.
  2. I’m not obligated to finish a movie. I can’t think of any movie I’ve ever seen that started off horribly for more than twenty minutes and then ended up being worth the watch. A slow start or lull is fine, but if I get a sense what I’m watching is truly bad–in a completely uninteresting way–I reserve the right to abandon flick.
  3. I’m only watching movies on my list, not television series. Bates Motel, you’ll have to wait.
  4. I’m going in order of the current state of the list. Which, for the purposes of any smattering of readers who may start following along, is going to make this list appear quite random.
  5. I’m strictly going to write what I feel. Some entries may be in depth, some may focus less on the movie itself than on some outside thoughts the movie planted in my head, and some may entries may be improbably brief. (Given my propensity for longwindedness, don’t bet too much on that last one.)


I used to joke that if Netflix was a store that sold household goods and you bought kitchen knives from them, the clerk would ask at checkout if you’d like to get stabbed. “Because of your interest in knives.” In short, their recommendation system had some flaws.

It’s improved somewhat over time, but it’s still imperfect. You still get some ridiculous “related” recommendations, particularly when it comes to movies or filmmakers currently not on the service (Blood and Black Lace isn’t currently available for streaming, but Black Mirror and Blacklist are apparently related, because we know all Black-titled movies look alike).

I write all of this because I’m not sure how the film Rams ended up on my list. Obviously I added it, but I can’t imagine why. Netflix’s personalized rating system gives it 4.5 stars, which means that it thinks it’s the kind of movie I would love, but the provided premise doesn’t move me one way or the other: “Two estranged sheep-farming brothers must re-open dialogue with each other if they want to save their herds.”Doesn’t sound like something I’d go out of my way to watch or avoid. I’d never heard of the film before, I’m completely unfamiliar with its Icelandic cast and director. Nordic farmer family feuds and reconciliations aren’t a subject I’m actively into. To come clean here, Rams almost made me cheat on the basic rules of this Netflix List Blitz just three entries into the series.

I primarily write horror stories, and generally read a lot of horror fiction, crime novels and historical accounts, but I’m also a sucker for a good relationship story, or even a sappy relationship story, sometimes. Love Jones is one of my favorite movies and I have a huge soft spot for improbable romance road trip indy flick Take Me Home. On the platonic side of things, I really like the quirky relationship-building of The Life Aquatic, the core friendship in Swingers sustains the film, the ending of The Straight Story breaks and warms my heart every time, and Fried Green Tomatoes hits me right in the limbic system. So while I’m at a loss for what might have made me add Rams to my queue (if I had to hazard a guess, wine is probably to blame), it’s not as if it had no chance of entertaining or engaging me.

So how did I like the film? Well… well enough. The premise alone is somewhat quirky, but also a bit darker than what Netlfix offers. One of the estranged brothers, Kiddi, is not in the best place mentally, which is emotionally taxing on the other brother, Gummi. The film has jokes, but overall it has a darker sense of humor than I expected, as well. In fact, it has a darker, bleaker everything than I initially expected. Visually, it’s deliberately wan, even during some gorgeous wide shots of the Icelandic countryside. And, similar to The Straight Story, there are overriding conflicts with regret and time itself, acting as an unstoppable tag team. While the former can be managed, the latter always gets the win. Some movies just make this more apparent than others. As for how apparent Rams makes it, well, I did say the movie was bleaker than expected…

Some day down the road, I think I’ll give Rams another viewing to see if I like it more than I do now. As it stands, it’s a solid film, and I don’t regret the time I spent on it, but for the most part it didn’t do much for me. But once upon a time, I felt the same way about The Life Aquatic before re-watching it and discovering a new favorite, and Rams has planted just enough promise in my head on first watch for me to think that maybe I just didn’t come into it in the right mood.

Up Next: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Continue Reading