the cool thing about better luck tomorrow is that it's not an asian-american film. much has been made about how this movie has an all asian-american cast, but once you see the movie, the story could've easily been about any group of kids.

the basic premise of the movie is this: a group of overachieving honor roll students enter a life of crime that spirals out of control. the main character is ben manibag (parry shen, whom some of you might have seen in that classic movie the new guy), typical college-bound high school kid, perpetually studying for achievement tests, joins all the right clubs, volunteers as a spanish translator at the hospital, has an afterschool job working at a fast food joint, even earns a spot on the basketball team. his best friend virgil (jason tobin) is kind of this out-of-control horny troublemaker, but he's smart as well, just doesn't put in the effort like ben. virgil's older cousin han (sung kang) initially starts them onto the life of crime, swindling department stores by buying up merchandises then later returning the empty boxes. the theory seems sound: because they're such straight-laced students (at least ben is, virgil, and very much han, seem destined for criminality), nobody would ever suspect them. ben gets involved with daric (roger fan), the big man on campus, president of all the clubs, confident, charismatic, good-looking. he initially gets ben to make cheat sheets from stolen tests ($50/pop), but then daric hooks up with virgil and han and the four of them start moving onto bigger scores, including drug dealing and eventually murder (i didn't spoil anything for you, at the start of the movie we see the dead guy). ben's life is further complicated by his crush on stephanie, a girl in his biology class, who's dating this rich, arrogant, ivy-league-bound snob steve.

the movie is an interesting study on how seemingly good kids can go bad. on the surface, they couldn't be more normal, but bounded by conformity, by what's the right thing to do (study hard, get good grades) instead of what they want to do, underneath they're a seething swell of rebellion. ben lacks confidence, and can't help but to go along with what daric wants him to do, despite the fact that prior to meeting daric, ben was already a small time crook of his own. virgil is much like ben as well, except he hides his insecurities beneath a veneer of mock bravado. his cousin han is harder to read, and initially he seems like the worst of the bunch, but later during the movie you realize he's actually very thoughtful and isn't reckless like his younger cousin virgil. daric is an enigma as well, but he seems to understand how the system works, and he does what he does because he knows he can get away it. steve on the otherhand, who periodically interacts with ben ("i want you to take stephanie to the prom for me," he tells him), seems to have almost everything, yet he reveals to ben that he's not happy. maybe it would've been interesting to see how the social-economic differences between these two groups of disillusioned kids might've played out, or maybe not even include a "steve" character, because it adds another dimension to the film that wasn't explored enough.

this film reminded me of a lot of other movies about high school kids who commit murder and ends up hiding the truth, the classic one being heathers, but also the river's edge, and jawbreaker (jawbreaker was pretty much a tribute to heathers though). there's even one scene where the four kids are walking down the hall of their high school, and the camera goes dramatic with a slow-motion shot, a la heathers. another message i got out of the film is the effect that guns have on kids. guns empower them, instills confidence, hides weaknesses. early in the movie, daric draws a gun on a rowdy jock at a party (which instantly establishes their street cred the following school day as the news is whispered throughout the halls), and on the car ride back, virgil is both exhilarated and terrified of the experience, laughing estatically at first then bursting into tears later. it's a very powerful part of the movie, and after that event, it's like they've crosses the line into full criminality, and thus the descent into the eventual murder, sort of the ultimate transgression.

kids have problems, and sometimes these problems translate into violence against themselves and others. there are those kids who are perpetually picked on in school and one day they turn the table around and go on a rampage, a la columbine. you won't see a movie like that though, it hits too close to home, and parents and government groups would put up such an uproar. then there are the kids who turn to crime in order to fullfill some sort of need, and crimes are naturally illicit which begets violence, so as a result, there might be killings, but that's okay, that's within the context of criminals, and criminals are supposed to be bad. i'm not sure what's the point i'm trying to make, but i just thought i'd throw that one out.

the movie is also weird in that they seem to exist in this surreal world where there are no adults. i only noticed it after the movie. the one adult character i can remember was actually a cameo by jerry mathers as the biology teacher, which is ironic, because jerry mathers is famous for playing a child, aka the beaver.

i think it's an interesting movie, a lot of fuel for thought, not so deep that it's hard to digest intellectually, it's a nice film to watch and discuss later. i'd recommend it if you find the story appealing.

so there i was, alone in theatre room 5 of the loews cineplex in harvard square. i was there to watch the $6 matinee of better luck tomorrow. on a rainy day, what better activity than to be watching a movie? i had some of my leftover beef barley soup for breakfast along with a glass of milk and two slices of homemade pound cake. i walked to harvard square in the rain, the temperature was in the 50's (cool) but the humidity was such that it felt warm. the theatre was silent exchange the hum of some hidden generator. i could've sat anywhere, but i picked a seat in the middle behind a broken chair covered in a black plastic bag. funny, despite the fact that there was nobody else, i instinctively sat so that i could have an unobstructed view. at 12:15pm i heard the door behind me close and the projectionist started rolling the pre-movie slide show of theatre ads reminding you of their value-ladened gift certificates and refreshing concession stand snacks. the lights dimmed and three trailers rolled out, the tombraider sequel, italian job, and terminator 3. the italian job looks interesting, looks like a very modern ensemble heist movie. the other two movies were just summertime fluff. the lights dimmed some more and then the movie started. i scooched down and draped my legs over the back of the chair in front of me, getting comfortable.

after the movie i went back home, the rain earlier had stopped. i got a call from julie asking me if i wanted to go running (her back mostly healed) after she finishes assembling her new weber grille. i said sure, and an hour later i ran the one mile from my place to davis square. i felt some pain in my right knee, and immediately thought maybe it was something i did from all the biking i've been doing, and i had to stop a few times to stretch it out. when i got to julie's place, she was very proud to show me her new grille. while sitting out on the front steps waiting for julie to get ready, i saw laurie's friend jess driving down the street; we waved to each other as she went by.

we ran from her place to tufts university, cutting across the campus. in powderhouse square we ran into a fat man who screamed at me when we went by, "what the f*ck are you laughing at?!" without making any eye contact, in that special way crazy people talk to others. julie, who didn't hear what he said, give him a friendly "hi." i was able to give julie a quick tour of what some of the tufts buildings are, pointing out houston hall, my place of residence during my freshman and junior year of college. from there we ran to west medford, to eric beacom's house, which i was surprised to see how close it was to my friend manny's place. over the mystic river bridge, julie and i saw the coolest house right along the bank of the river, with bay windows overlooking the river.

eric wasn't home (nobody answered when we rang his doorbell), so we ran back out to route 16 in the direction of davis square. the hot topic of our run was, "what the hell are all these flowering trees called?" i said they were dogwood, julie said they were ash, we decided to find out when we got back to civilization. i also remarked how scratched up she was, from her periodic runs through the woods, which probably means no future as a model. we got to davis square right when people were coming home from work. the place is starting to feel like harvard square, with a congregration of punks and bohemian types loitering around. i got some chai tea ice cream from denise's, the lesbian with attitude behind the counter burped loudly as she was getting my change, then jokingly blamed her friend out back. chai tea ice cream tastes and looks just like green tea ice cream, although after julie had a bite, she said it didn't have any flavor. she opted for a smoothie instead at some smoothie shop across the street. we sat outside reading the boston phoenix, looking at what's playing at the independent film festival here in boston this weekend. perhaps ice cream and smoothie were the smartest of snacks, as the both of us felt cold afterwards. i was also suffering from a cramp, which could've also had something to do with the potato chips i ate before i left my house to come running. we ran back to julie's place, but not before getting some menus from namaskar, that new indian restaurant in davis square. while julie went home, i still had another mile to run back to cambridge, stopping only when i cramped up.

i reheated the rest of my beef barley soup for dinner, watching the red sox game against the kansas city royals, before switching over to the celtics-pacers game, the celtics winning it with a commanding performance and advancing into the second round of the playoffs to face the new jersey nets, who beat the celtics last season to advance into the championship finals. it's going to be exciting, the nets are the celtics' biggest hurdle in the east, even though this is only the second round, if the celtics can beat them, they have an excellent chance of going to the finals.