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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Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad (Review)

Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad

Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad
2017
Story by Enrico C. Santos & Juvy G. Galamiton
Screenplay by Danno Kristoper C. Mariquit, Daisy G. Cayanan, & Jonathan James A. Albano
Directed by Bb. Joyce Bernal

Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad
Well, it looked like 2017 was going to end with me seeing The Shape of Water as my last film in the theaters for that year, but the local multiplex decided otherwise by opening a Filipino super hero comedy unannounced! Thus I finished out the year with Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad! After taking one look at the trailer and seeing Vice Ganda in a rainbow wig and lipstick Sailor Moon outfit battling a bunch of villains meant it became the most important movie to immediately see right now! It’s weird and makes references I haven’t watched enough Filipino cinema lately to get, but it was easy to follow, had a lot of colorful effects, and for a modern Filipino super hero comedy wasn’t half bad! It was worth running out to see, as how often am I going to get a chance to watch a film like this? The theater just gave up and listed Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad as Revenger Squad, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we’re sticking to authorial intent, baby!

Gandarra (Vice Ganda) is a famous superheroine and her super friends battle against the evil Mino, who has been trapped in a mirror since a prior battle with Gandarra. He can still speak and influence the outside world, where he mind controls a villain named Madman and plots to steal the magical lipstick from Gandarra, from which she draws her power. In their climatic battle, Madman is killed and Gandarra suffers a head injury, resulting in amnesia. The remaining heroes resolve to raise the orphan son of Madman, Chino, as a normal child so he’ll never know his father was evil, and they all live together, keeping their heroic past a secret from Chino and Gandarra. As an aside, Madman had seduced Gandarra’s sister, Cassandra (Pia Wurtzbach), who became the supervillainess Kweenie in response, plotting with Mino to track down Chino after he gains super powers on his 21st birthday.
Gandarrappido!: The Revenger Squad
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 2, 2018 at 6:29 pm

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Bleeding Steel (Review)

Bleeding Steel

aka 機器之血
Bleeding Steel
2017
Story by Leo Zhang Li-Jia
Screenplay by Cui Si-Wei and Erica Xia-Hou
Directed by Leo Zhang Li-Jia

Bleeding Steel
In the climax of Bleeding Steel, Jackie Chan battles goth cyborgs on a Star Destroyer in the futuristic world of 2020 to save his dead daughter who was revitalized with magic blood and a robot heart. That is just the tip of the iceberg here, folks! Moviepass has become a blessing, enabling me to go catch the various Asian flicks that sporadically appear unannounced at the local multiplex for a few days before vanishing into the ether. Chasing the Dragon, Never Say Die, and The Thousand Faces of Dunjia were all benefits of this, and when Bleeding Steel popped up in the listings while I was trying to find times for The Shape of Water, I knew merman love could wait a day! And thank goodness it did, because Bleeding Steel is one of the most bonkers films I have seen all year, it delights in being insane, continually going over the top and then continuing to climb and climb. I filled two pages of notes and then gave up because things were happening too fast to keep up with, and just enjoyed the ride!
Bleeding Steel
Jackie Chan is a super cop named Lin, who leaves his young daughter Xixi dying in the hospital (how many kids has Jackie buried in films now?) because he needs to lead the police escort of a mad scientist named Dr. James, who has switched sides and brought the magic biotech he was working on along with him. Despite there being around 50ish heavily armed police officers, that is not even slightly enough. The villain Andre appears (Callan Mulvey, from Captain America Winter Soldier and Batman v Superman) along with four goons dressed as Cobra B.A.T.S., armed with high powered weapons and a robot snake that plants bombs (and is never seen again or even acknowledged!) Andre is dressed like Emperor Palpatine, bald with pale white skin but his entire jaw is painted black (probably from chewing all the scenery!) He randomly fires grenades at the cops, and when a repeatedly shot Jackie Chan tries to run him over, Andre starts shoving the car! Jackie Chan does manage to blow up Andre, but Chan’s daughter dies alone, Jackie almost dies, every cop except Su (Erica Xia-Hou Qi-Yu) is dead, and the scientist is mortally wounded.
Bleeding Steel
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 24, 2017 at 4:28 pm

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The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (Review)

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia

aka 奇門遁甲 aka Qi Men Dun Jia
Thousand Faces of Dunjia
2017
Written by Tsui Hark
Directed by Yuen Woo-ping

Ni Ni Thousand Faces of Dunjia
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia isn’t just another martial arts film, it is a wuxia fantasy with science fiction elements, including alien invaders in search of weapons of ultimate power. It’s directed by Yuen Woo Ping,a remake of his 1982 The Miracle Fighters, except it is completely different, more of a remake in concept only. The script is by Tsui Hark, and it stars some great actors like Zhou Dongyu and Da Peng. The film should have worked, which makes the fact that it didn’t even more disappointing.

Ultimately The Thousand Faces of Dunjia falls into the same trap that has ensnared so many other Chinese films, it becomes as soulless as the big budget blockbusters it tries to live up to. In a weird example, the best scene in the entire movie is a mid-credits scene where they basically roast on some of the more ridiculous concepts that happened earlier. It’s the kind of heart and good-natured ribbing the rest of the film should have been filled with. There were some humorous scenes, but mostly slapstick style humor, nothing that is basically on the same level.

Despite the group of heroes being made up of a solid core of actors, the villains are largely CGI creatures. They mind control a few martial arts masters into their bidding, but it is largely just CG villains arguing with each other and vaguely working against the heroes. Basically the entire villain side of the film completely fails, and that sort of sucks. Of the CGI monsters, the initial fish monster is the most fun, largely because they designed it to look like a crazy stop motion creation running around. When the larger villains show up, one is made of a bunch of red tendrils while the other is like a gargoyle. One of the heroes also turns into a CGI character, a blue phoenix that is vaguely symbolic.
Zhou Dong-Yu Thousand Faces of Dunjia
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 21, 2017 at 6:57 am

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