Searching (Review)

Searching

Searching
2018
Written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty

Searching
It’s San Francisco International Film Festival time again, and TarsTarkas.NET is back with more SFIFF reviews thanks to our powerful influence to buy tickets! First up is what was my favorite of the films I saw this year, a film that is visualized entirely using computer screens and surveillance videos. Searching utilizes its visual gimmick very well in telling the story of a father looking for his missing daughter. We go down a deep dive of building a story around a family that has a large digital footprint, learn about their hopes and loses (including the mother dying of cancer), and come to modern day with father David Kim (John Cho) and daughter Margot (Michelle La), both still a mess after the death of their wife/mother, Pamela (Sara Sohn).

Margot is in high school and off at a study group, which she tells her father via facetime will go on all night. He gently reminds her again that she forgot to take out the trash before calling it a night. He misses a few calls from her overnight, and awakens in the morning to be annoyed that she still hasn’t taken out the trash and thinks she left early for school. During work he starts getting worried that she isn’t responding to his texts, thinking she is mad at him, but soon realizes she left her school laptop at home and never arrived at school. Thus begins a frantic search to find out where she went, what happened to her, and what has been going on in her life while both of them have been too saddened by Pamela’s death to stay connected. Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) becomes David’s point of contact with the police, and the two start trying to construct a timeline of where Margot was and what she likes to do, with David realizing with increasing horror he doesn’t know anything about Margot’s life any more.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 23, 2018 at 7:39 am

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Goldbuster (Review)

Goldbuster

aka 妖鈴鈴 aka Yao Ling Ling
Goldbuster
2017
Written by Cha Muchun, Wong Yee-Hing, Zhou Yunhai
Directed by Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu

Goldbuster
Despite the movie being called Goldbuster, no ghosts are defeated by beating them with a gold bar. Sorry to disappoint. The directorial debut of comedian Sandra Ng tries to invoke the spirit of Hong Kong comedies past, and nearly succeeds with some good sequences and plot (and genre!) twists. It doesn’t quite come all the way together into a satisfying result, but there are enough bits of goodness floating around in the soup to give you some nice slurps.

The complete transformation of China in the past 20 years where cities are constantly churning out new high rises and modern developments haven’t been without a cost. There are plenty of scandals with land deals, holdout tenants, holdout owners, nail houses that are just build around and stripped of all amenities. Goldbuster jumps right into this with the last few tenants in an apartment building scheduled to be demolished refuse to leave.

The tenants include a widowed doctor who wishes that the ghost of his dead wife would appear so he could apologize for misdiagnosing her, and his young son who hasn’t spoken since she died. There is also a camgirl and failed actress who constantly wears bright outfits that stand out from the dull tones all around her. There are a pair of former Triads who have been hiding out from people trying to kill them for so long they’ve grown old and forgotten (and one believes he is some sort of deep cover cop), and there is a husband and wife who mismanaged their personal businesses and have nothing left. They’ve formed sort of a family by having nowhere else to go.
Goldbuster
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 30, 2018 at 7:25 am

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Mistress Hunter (Review)

Mistress Hunter

Mistress Hunter
2018
Written by Bryan Dick
Directed by Penelope Buitenhuis

Mistress Hunter
If you ever wondered what we would get if Pulp Fiction‘s Winston Wolfe was lending his skills to the Lifetime Movies-verse, then Mistress Hunter is for you! It might also be seen as Taken by way of Lifetime movies, as the Mistress Hunter has a special set of skills, namely getting revenge on cheating husbands, in that she helps gather evidence for a divorce and breaks up the cheating couple in the process. She also has a secret office, uses a fake name, and communicates with the wronged wife via randomly encountering her on the street while dressed in different costumes. That’s just the premise for the normal story before all the inevitable betrayals, twists, and murders happen! This is the kind of bonkers Lifetime stuff I love, it’s the standard betrayed by a man story on steroids with a great hook that it doesn’t lean so heavily on that the story is compromised.

Jackie (Lauralee Bell) is your typical housewife in the fancy burbs with a young daughter and a bankster husband, Karl (Martin Copping), who has an eye that has wandered all over a side chick named Beth (Chloe Brooks). Jackie gets suspicious due to Karl being very bad at covering his tracks (the ol’ “Busy at work” but not actually at work thing!) and becomes a wreck. Her friend Valerie (Lauren Plaxco) recommends to her a woman she heard of called the Mistress Hunter, who handles these situations. And then the film gets sensational!
Mistress Hunter
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 27, 2018 at 3:25 pm

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On the Beach at Night Alone (Review)

On the Beach at Night Alone

aka 밤의 해변에서 혼자 aka Bamui Haebyeoneseo Honja
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
2017
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
Hong Sang-soo has gone into overdrive, releasing three films in 2017. While you’d worry that this might lead to a reduction in quality, On the Beach at Night Alone shows that this is not the case. There is still plenty amazing in these smaller productions even as they threaten to be released at a pace where it will be hard to keep up! Luckily, good ol’ 4Star Theater still shows these, so I hoofed it over (aka drove) for a late night screening.

The hallmarks of Hong Sang-soo are all over the place. The long takes with dialogue driven scenes and minimal set up at locations. The film is divided into two parts, a shorter Part 1 takes place in Germany, while the longer Part 2 is back in Korea upon Young-hee’s return. There is also something weird going on, a mysterious guy who no one can see but seems to be around. Of course he represents something. It’s no mystery why his films drive the art house critics wild. Hong Sang-soo has become so prolific recently that I’ve begun to slip catching up with his work. That’s entirely my fault, but real world business conspiring with Hong Sang-soo pumping out a ton of neat films becomes yet another thing that I need to catch up on once I’m done studying

The entire film is built on Kim Min-hee being as awesome as possible. It’s great to see her again, and to be honest I was more interested in watching her again after The Handmaiden than caring that Hong Sang-soo was directing. Sure, I knew the rumors that they had an affair (later confirmed, and basically the basis for part of the story here), but weird things like can often lead to even better performances. And they do, Kim Min-hee owns this movie’s bones, Young-hee becoming one of the most complete and complex female characters of the year. Despite the airs of one who is contemplative of her situation and recovering from a scandal that forced her to seek a vacation away from it all, she is her own person and busts the expected attitude of a star upside its head. She is confrontational, openly admitting that she is destructive, describing herself as a a bomb. She knows she is going to cause scenes, because her life is let so full that she just can’t help it. It is who she is, she just marches in and causes a scene no matter where she ends up. Even her attempts to be good and find herself just end in herself being there all along and doing what it pleases.
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 12, 2018 at 7:46 am

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Hanson and the Beast (Review)

Hanson and the Beast

aka 二代妖精 aka Er Dai Yao Qing
Hanson and the Beast
2017
Written by Xiao Yang and Guo Yiwen
Directed by Xiao Yang

Hanson and the Beast
A tale as old as time in Chinese cinema is humans and fairies hooking up, and Hanson and the Beast is the latest incarnation of that situation. To try to switch things up, Hanson throws in a bunch of economic anxiety and racial oppression being used as a tool of power by a corrupt official. The result is a big budget effects film that seems like it has a lot to say, even as there is an obvious point where they ran out of money and the themes are mostly simplistic when looked at with any depth. That being said, Hanson and the Beast manages to be enjoyable in a sweet way and I ended up coming out of it liking it a lot more than I thought I would. Somehow this cynical soul is growing soft as he hits middle age. Must be popcorn poisoning or something!

Hanson Yuan Shuai (Feng Shaofeng) is a broke zookeeper (we learn he was bamboozled out of money trying to get a film financed and the resulting drama caused his dad to have a mental breakdown) trying to get rich quick through an arranged relationship deal. He has a gang of tryhard Triads trying to shake him down for the $2 million he owes them, and to top it all off, now a crazy woman is stalking him. Except she’s not crazy, she’s just weird, and believes she is a fox that he saved as a child from some bullies. Of course she actually is, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie! She’s Bai Xianchu (Liu Yifei – The Forbidden Kingdom, The Four) and her reveal as a fox fairy causes Yuan Shuai to freak out and run down the road screaming in his underwear.
Hanson and the Beast
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 5, 2018 at 7:06 am

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Kung Fu Yoga (Review)

Kung Fu Yoga

aka 功夫瑜伽 aka Gong Fu Yu Jia
Kung Fu Yoga
2017
Written by directed by Stanley Tong
Kung Fu Yoga
Jackie Chan is still a legend, and though he’s running past retirement age, he’s still out there punching bad guys in the face. We get plenty of action in Kung Fu Yoga, a sprawling archeological adventure that spans the whole of Asia while not forgetting to be fun on the way. Fans of CGI lion puking will be especially pleased with Kung Fu Yoga. In an era where Chinese blockbusters can be hit or miss, Kung Fu Yoga delivers a win, even though at first glance you would wonder if it could.
Kung Fu Yoga
Jackie Chan is Jack, the famous Chinese archeologist who is one of the best archeologists anywhere, even though he will repeatedly point out that he’s just one guy and there are many good archeologists in China. Jack is humble, see, but he’s popular enough that the mysterious Ashmita (Disha Patani) has brought an ancient map from her family’s archives that might point the way to the lost treasure of a Chinese army that went to India. We see parts of this flashback in the opening sequence in Playstation-3-o-vision, as CGI Jackie Chan, Aarif Lee, and Sonu Sood battle amidst elephants and nameless troops. Jack and his grad students – Xiaoguang (Zhang Yixing) and Noumin (played by famous yoga practitioner Miya Muqi) snag the son of Jack’s old archeology bud, Jones Lee (Aarif Lee Chi-Ting, and his name is far from the only Indiana Jones reference in the film!) to go treasure hunting! Also Eric Tsang is briefly there because his character owns an oil refinery company that can break through ice. Science and industry, synergizing together!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 8, 2018 at 9:35 am

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