Fresh Off the Boat: Breaking Chains (Review)

 CONSTANCE WU, IAN CHEN, RANDALL PARK, FORREST WHEELER, HUDSON YANG, LUCILLE SOONG

Fresh Off the Boat “Breaking Chains” starts down at the Cattlemen’s Ranch Steakhouse. The whole Huang family are watching the Olympics. As the rest of the family cheers for their country’s sports heroes, Jessica arrives draped in the national flag of Nigeria. She supports the runner from that country because she is, Jessica says, the best and that is her homeland.

The opening of this episode features Ian Chen doing his best Ken Jeong impression, “Kerri Strug for Li-i-ife!” Grandma Huang brags that Carl Lewis got frisky with her when he visited Taipei and the day is a resounding success.

Later Jessica and Louis come home to find the house in a mess. Jessica grumbles that a little help would be appreciated. Eddie and his gang talk about being “upperclassmen” in the eighth grade and Emery is about to start Eddie’s school. Evan is upset that Emery will not be riding the school bus with him now.

Louis hires a housecleaner to help Jessica and she is outraged. Emery’s first day at Abraham Lincoln Middle School is tainted when he learns that Eddie has been making up cultural rules that he is expected to follow.

Evan is in mourning and refuses to allow anyone else sit where Emery sat on the school bus.  Jessica yells at Louis for getting her a “cleaning tutor” and he yells back that “It’s a gift!” Finally she agrees to let Mary clean one room.

Meanwhile at the school Emery learns that the gym teacher is the Romanian gold medal winner Bogdan Dragomir (Daniel Cudmore). He learns that Eddie told the teacher that Chinese kids cannot take showers at school. 

MELANIE HUTSELL
Mary

Emery snaps and tells Dragomir that Eddie lied. Later Eddie has to used the circular shower in the gym.  Mary leaves early and Jessica takes her home but charges her for gas.

Eddie and Emery are both furious with each other. Eddie explains how miserable he was when he first started middle school. Emery reveals he wants to do all the things that Eddie does not; eating green beans, joining after school activities and taking showers.

Emery complains to Evan about Eddie ruining his first day at middle school and the littlest Huang rips a strip off of his big brother. Eddie now feels guilty and signs Emery up for Karate. He agrees to back off on everything but Harvest Day.

Louis tricks Jessica into coming down to the steakhouse so Grandma Huang can let Mary in to clean the house. Jessica is so angry that she puts Mary, Grandma Huang and Louis at the top of her list. “Although I do admire your trickery,” she says before storming out.

When Mary finishes cleaning the house is spotless and even one of the Jessica’s mice has been touched up with modeling paint.  Despite this, Jessica  wants to clean the house herself so she feels needed.

Evan finally comes to terms with Emery being in middle school. He changes seats to sit with “Walnuts” and leaves a shrine for Emery on their old seat.

PRODUCTION SETS AND PROPS
Emery bus shrine

This week was a return to business as usual in the Huang household. The Huang kids are still top of their game and the sequences between the three are highlights of the episode.

Constance Wu continues to nail it as Jessica and Lucille Soong is the unsung hero of this cast. Randall Park is the peripheral glue that hold the whole thing together.

Kudos to the Boys II Men sequence and Constance’s “you’re on the top of my list.

This is simply the best comedy offering on Tuesday night’s full stop. Tune in and catch the latest episode of Fresh Off the Boat. Be prepared to fall in love with this family.

Cast:

Fresh Off the Boat: Coming From America – Ghost (Review)

 RANDALL PARK, KEN JEONG

Fresh Off the Boat comes blasting out of the gate with a season three premiere that takes up where the season two finale ended.  Louis and his family have come from America to attend Gene’s wedding and to get Grandma Huang back.

Taking place in Taiwan, the episode features a brilliant look at those who left home to make their fortune.  Returning home, as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, is not really possible and when we do, according to the show, we wish we had not.

Fresh Off the Boat starts with a comic turn as the Huang’s enter the country via customs at the airport. When asked the purpose of his visit, Louis gives a recap of last season’s finale. The officer says he will stamp “visiting relatives.”

Jessica is more to the point.

Jessica: “I’m here on business. I need to get $200 back from my brother-in-law who wronged me.”

Customs official: “Great. We can just check that box.”

Jessica: “You have a box for that? I’m home.”

(The punch line is that there is indeed a box on the form that says Brother-in-law who wronged me. There are also seven more “wronged Me” boxes that can be ticked.)

While Randall is there to attend the wedding, Jessica is ready to take on the markets and walk down memory lane. Believing she can fit right back in, Jessica is in her element or at least she thinks she is.

The kids are all excited to visit but hate the heat and the mosquitos.  Louis  is shocked to learn that Gene is doing very well in Taiwan.  His brother’s fiancée  is a beautiful actress, the wedding venue  is The Grand Hotel and his apartment is a penthouse.

WEI NING HSU
WEI NING HSU as Margaret

Not only is Randall confused but he is very jealous of his brother’s success.   Eddie is paranoid that his girlfriend will leave him if he does not fax her everyday. Evan falls in love with the idea of year-round school and Emery is eaten alive by mosquitos.

Jessica’s vist gets off to a great start as she picks Gene’s pocket to get her $200 back.

Gene:  “I’m sorry. Uh, that’s my wallet.”

Jessica: “You owe me $200.”

Gene: “Oh, that’s a lot more than $200.”

Jessica: “Give up the dance, Gene. The song is over.”

As the visit progresses, and the wedding date approaches, Jessica learns that moving away has left her “out of practice.”  She also learns that everyone in Taiwan is obsessed with the movie Ghost.  (The 1990 American “Patrick Swayze” film and not the 2010 South Korean/Japanese remake.)

Louis allows his jealousy to boil over but things get worked out before the big day. Jessica points out that Gene is successful due to his connections and that Louis worked on his own to succeed.

They talk about moving back and staying in Taiwan but Jessica tells Louis that he will miss America. He says that she will miss Taiwan. Louis then realizes that he and Jessica  are Sam and Molly from Ghost.

There were many comic moments in “Coming From America” but the highlight had to be the market scene.  Eddie’s knock-off sneakers and Evan’s pencil box were very funny.  The scene with the video of how Margaret and  Gene met was a close second.

(As usual Jessica put a comic cap on the scene with her “Why was the pot already painted?”)

CONSTANCE WU, IAN CHEN, HUDSON YANG, FORREST WHEELER
Jessica and the kids on the way to eat.

Just as funny was Evan’s discovery of Taiwanese teachers and how they treat their students. (Smack!)

Ken Jeong reprised his role as Gene and like the rest of the cast, killed it. Constance Wu still rules the comic roost in this show and the kids of Fresh Off the Boat  continue to knock it out of the park.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesdays on ABC. Tune in and see what the Huang’s get up to next.

Cast:

Guest starring  Ken Jeong as Gene Huang and Wei Ning Hsu as Margaret.

Amigo Undead (2015): Randall Park Playing it Straight (Review)

Randall Park, Steve Agee om Amigo Undead

“Amigo Undead” was co-written and directed by Ryan Nagata (the other scribe on the film was George Edelman) and it stars Randall Park (The Interview, Fresh Off the Boat), Steve AgeeMichael McCaffertyEd Galvez and David Clennon (who played Palmer on “The Thing” amongst many other roles) has a cameo as a religious military zealot.   It is an interesting variation on the zombie craze in cinema and fairly entertaining.  

Park who plays Kevin is the adoptive brother of Agee’s Norm. Norm  is a slacker whose friends include a drug dealer and the postman from Norm’s neighborhood. Another friend is Jovan (Galvez) a Mexican Illegal who works for Norm in the construction business.

On his birthday, Norm invites Kevin out to celebrate on his new property, which is  piece of desert in the middle of nowhere.  At the celebration, Jovan chokes on a hotdog and when the Heimlich maneuver fails, Wayne (McCafferty) accidentally shoots the man.

The group decide to bury Jovan who refuses to die or stay buried.

The plot hinges around a cursed bit of land and a group of grown buffoons who use their knowledge of various movies (like Home Alone, Terminator, et al) to combat the returning, and  increasingly deadly Jovan.

Park plays his part of the  adopted Asian sibling of  six foot three  underachiever Norm perfectly straight and it works. However the rest of the characters all appear to be in a state of arrested development.

With emotional levels far below their years, the men all have more in common with teen boys than grown men.  Granted their testosterone is not in overabundance but their reasoning power is totally on par with the average male teenager.

The comedy is a tad hit and miss. Park does well with the script and Galvez is, at turns, funny and quite frightening as the “zombie.”

Clennon is really quite good as the military nutcase who bands briefly with the men to fight off the zombie. “Come on boys, let’s tug one for Jesus.”

The film ends with the quasi successful Kevin (Park) enlisting the help of two Native American craft merchants.

“Amigo Undead” features a lot of comic gore. Perhaps the funniest bit in the movie is a scene where Norm starts to gag at the visceral carnage.  Sadly the downplaying of some roles combined with the over the top delivery of others makes for an uneven feature that is neither that funny or that scary.

At 84 minutes the film is not overly long and worth a look if the viewer is a Randall Park fan.  The movie is neither fish nor fowl as it does not have enough comedy to make it truly funny. Nor does the movie  have enough gore or violence to make it truly a horror film.

Streaming on Showtime and  Amazon  “Amigo Undead” (aka ” The Many Lives of Jovan Cornejo”) is a solid 3 star film. The higher ranking is down to  Randall Park with his straighter than straight comic delivery. The film is amusing without being truly funny, except in one or two spots, but is not so bad that one should avoid it.

 

Fresh Off the Boat: Ken Jeong and Chris Rock (Review)

FORREST WHEELER, LUCILLE SOONG, HUDSON YANG, IAN CHEN, KEN JEONG, CONSTANCE WU, RANDALL PARK

“Fresh Off the Boat” finished its second season on a high. Ken Jeong turns up as Louis’ estranged brother Gene and Eddie is obsessed with seeing the newest Chris Rock comedy offering “Bring the Pain.”  Eddie’s girlfriend Alison (Isabella Alexander) is off to camp in 14 days time and he is desperate to see the Chris Rock concert on HBO and spend the rest of his summer with Alison. 

At the start of the season finale Eddie tires to talk Evan and Emery into watching the comedy special on the free HBO preview. They refuse, preferring to watch a math detective program instead.  The boys get into  a fight and Louis tells them off.  Jessica tells Louis that his brother in on the phone and he reacts angrily.

There are three battles going on in this episode.  On top of the reveal of how Louis got to America, Eddie is fighting his brothers to watch Chris Rock, Jessica fights to pay  Gene (Ken Jeong) back the $200 that he loaned her years ago and the two adult Huang brothers are fighting to sort out a years long estrangement.

In “Bring the Pain” we are introduced to  Chinese “polite-fights” which, according to Eddie, can get “hella intense.” Eddie  tries to outsmart his brothers, who have been made deputy moms,  only to lose out to his  math detective siblings.  The eldest Huang brother tapes the Chris Rock show on VHS and the two boys tape a message over it and an episode of Mamma’s Family.

Evan: “Those hayseeds.”

The storyline reveal, which is held till the very end of the episode, is that Gene (Jeong) and Louis (Randall Park) were told by their father at the hot springs that only one of them could go to America.  Both men begin a “Chinese polite-fight” when Louis caves in and agrees to go. Leaving Gene behind in Taiwan.  Gene’s life has been a long unsuccessful fight to find a career.

KEN JEONG
The blow up…

Gene arrives and tries to rebuild burnt bridges only to have everything go pear shaped.  After a huge argument with Louis, Gene packs his bags, dis-invites Louis and his family to the wedding and takes Grandma Huang with him.

Jessica (hopeful): “Forever?”

In the neighborhood, everyone has seen seen Chris Rock except Eddie. Going outside he sees his posse members silently sitting on lawn chairs . They all agree that the concert was life changing. Alison rushes up, she is dying to tell one of Chris’ jokes from the concert.

Alison:”You know what the good side of crack is?”

Eddie: “No! I haven’t seen it yet! Let Chris tell me!”

Alison: “Eddie, I thought you said you’d watch it.”

After a moment Trent butts into their conversation:

Trent: “Eddie… here’s the thing. We all want Alison to say the punchline to the crack joke. Alison wants to say the punchline to the crack joke. So you can either stay or scoot. In five, four, three, two, one.”

Eddie bolts.

Gene turns out to be funny.  He does impressions and honestly wants to “bury the hatchet” with his brother, who he asks to be his best man.  Things go well until he breaks the piano and refuses to pay for it.  Gene leaves with Grandma.

The Huang family are now headed to Taiwan to fix things.

Jessica continues to live in her own version of America and she reveals to us that, unlike Louis, she loves being an adult.  Speaking of Jessica, the best line of the evening reveals loads about her and Louis as a couple. She reacts oddly, but not for her as it is about a ring, to Gene’s news of the wedding ring. Gene turns to Louis and says, “Is she okay?”

Louis: “I never know”

Ken Jeong blended in effortlessly with the “Fresh Off the Boat”  cast and easily had the best gags on the show.  “No it is not a Tumi,” his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, goes right over Jessica’s head, but not ours.

Isabella Alexander was excellent in this episode, “We only have 13 days left!” The rest of the posse were also spot on this week with kudos going to Trevor Larcom as the Cleveland Browns loving Trent and Dash Williams as Brian “I wasn’t ready.” 

In terms of drama, that fight (not a polite one) between Louis and Gene was impressive. Both men looked upset, but Ken Jeong dug deep and conveyed anger, betrayal, hurt and regret.  Emmy anyone?

FORREST WHEELER, IAN CHEN, HUDSON YANG
Brother’s three watching Chris Rock on TV…

Ian Chen, Forrest Wheeler and Hudson Yang continue to act their little cotton socks off and help to make this show what it is.

Admittedly, “Fresh Off the Boat” was not an instantaneous favorite. Even  having Ray Wise and Chelsey Crisp as next door neighbors did not push the show automatically into favorite status.  It took  a few episodes and a brilliant cast to make it  a show not to be missed.

“Bring the Pain” was an excellent example of why the show works.  1990s topical relevance (HBO and Chris Rock and the Lethal Weapon mullet), a great guest star (Ken Jeong) and younger actors who get better with each episode.  A great end to a great season. Hurry back “Fresh Off the Boat.”

Fresh Off the Boat: Week in Review – Team Jessie-Lou (Review)

Fresh Off the Boat: Week in Review reveals that in Grandma Huang’s day, the men made the money and killed the spiders. That when the word lice is uttered, everyone takes one step back. Team Jessie-Lou fall apart but get back together and Eddie not only saves the day but learns that “being homeless” is no big deal. Two of the Huang children bring lice home.

RANDALL PARK, CONSTANCE WU

Fresh Off the Boat: Week in Review reveals that in Grandma Huang’s day, the men made the money and killed the spiders. That when the word lice is uttered, everyone takes one step back. Team Jessie-Lou falls apart but gets back together and Eddie not only saves the day but learns that “being homeless” is no big deal. Two of the Huang children bring lice home.

We also learn, according to Jessica, that lice are the “pedophiles of the insect world.”

Before the oldest Huang son is ejected out of the house for being lice infected,  Eddie and his friends discuss the upcoming  student faculty basketball game; the winning team gets pizza. In class later, Eddie talks smack with his teacher Mr G (Al Madrigal). The teacher tells Eddie if he gets a basket  against him, that Eddie will have no homework for the rest of the year. 

Eddie responds that if he does not score, the teacher can give him double homework. His schoolmates are horrified.  Jessie and Louis are shocked that  Eddie has lice (We didn’t come to this country so our son could get lice,  says an annoyed Louis). Later Evan comes home infected as well.  Both boys are evicted from the family home until the lice are gone.

Comic Moments:

Jessica yelling at Trent:

“Wait, no, Big Red, keep your distance! Eddie is DISEASED!”

 

Evan telling his parents that he has lice and stretching his arms out for a hug, “Bao bao.” The next shot has the littlest Huang outside with Eddie.  Jessica places her hand, which is made into Vulcan palms through the window.

Louis and Jessica covered from head to toe to treat Eddie and Evan.

Emery not getting lice and saying, “Wait. How come I don’t have lice? I mean, how do you not want to be up in this?” He follows this with a self-satisfied slow-motion hair flip.

Eddie flinging his towel into the  crowd at the gym and their horrified reaction to it.

Jessica’s  “Louis.”

Grandma Huang watching Jerry Springer and chanting “Jer-ry, Jer-ry.”

Jessica admiring the team name that Louis has made up for their team, Jessie-Lou.

Jessica: “Sounds like a country girl who’s has sex too early.”

Louis and Jessica hugging, even though she has gotten lice from Eddie. As the couple embrace she says:

Jessica: “Louis, I just want you to know that if you get lice, I’m putting you outside with Eddie.”

Louis (sighing): “I know. I’ve always known.”

Overall Thoughts:

Not having watched the first season, except via binging after the fact, it took some time to really get into Fresh Off the Boat and its “based on real people” characters and storylines. However…

The performances of the actors, the writing and the chemistry between the players makes this a brilliant,  funny and addictive show to watch.

Park and Wu are perfect together and how can one not adore Constance Wu’s Jessica? The scene where Louis has worked out four minutes of “alone time” is cute and funny.

Louis: “And, uh, ooh, here I made a note that Wednesday afternoon, you and I have the whole house to ourselves… for four minutes.”

Jessica: (Giggling) ” Louis.”

Louis: “And you know I only need two.”

Jessica: (Giggling)  “Louis.”

Louis: “Shall I pencil you in… twice?”

Jessica: “Oh, Louis.”

Later on the day of the “four minutes” there is more romance and Jessica “Oh Louis-ing” again until Eddie returns with the news he has lice.

Everyone clicked in this episode. Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen as the Huang kids were spot on (Ian Chen’s little gasp/scream at the sight of his stuffed toys in the box was brilliant) and Hudson just rocked it in this episode.

HUDSON YANG, AL MADRIGAL
HUDSON YANG, AL MADRIGAL

Even the school friends of Eddie’s were a delight. The smack talking sequence with the teacher was hysterical as was Eddie’s saving the day and announcing he has superpowers while eating the victory pizza.

Fresh Off the Boat continues to deliver the laughs and is another addictive comedy. The show airs  Tuesdays on ABC.

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