Dave Made a Maze (Review)

Dave Made a Maze

Dave Made A Maze
2017
Story by Steven Sears
Screenplay by Steven Sears and Bill Watterson
Directed by Bill Watterson

Dave Made A Maze
Sometimes life is a journey of frustration. Sometimes every direction you turn just ends up in the same dead ends, you feel like you are going no where and stuck in the same rut you’ve always been. Dave Made a Maze takes this and runs with it, throwing in some millennial angst to churn the butter. It isn’t just about a guy who made a maze out of cardboard. It’s about the passion of wanting to make your mark in the world and getting totally lost and overwhelmed while doing so. Dave Made a Maze is not for everyone, you’ll do better if you haven’t hit your 40s or if you spent years of your life wandering in an aimless haze, thinking you were destined for great things but never actually making or achieving those great things.

There is a lot of love with the design of Dave Made a Maze, it takes a lot of care to make things look so good at looking so cheap. The effects are crafty, like the whole thing is an Etsy project that began multiplying and mutating out of control. The walls are made of a million cardboard boxes sacrificed for the good of art. There are traps in the maze, the traps are lethal, people die, but their blood is an explosion of red strings and glitter. Like all good labyrinths, the layout is constantly shifting, this maze is growing, and there is a minotaur running around. At one point the characters become paper bag puppets, and there is a mysterious seductive vortex that looks suspiciously like a vagina.
Dave Made A Maze
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 27, 2017 at 7:16 am

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Drink Slay Love (Review)

Drink Slay Love

Drink Slay Love
2017
Screenplay by Eirene Donohue
Based on the novel by Sarah Beth Durst
Directed by Vanessa Parise

Drink Slay Love
A vampire novel about a vampire girl in high school that falls in love with a human, it’s Twilight in reverse! With a bunch of extra stuff thrown in to make the perfect YA fantasy novel. Combine that with a director that obviously knew the material needed to get some campy elements thanks to airing on Lifetime, and some actors delivering some neat performances (and a few skeletonizing the scenery every second they are on screen!), we get a surprisingly entertaining but incredibly cheesy flick with Drink Slay Love!

Vampire teen Pearl (Cierra Ramirez) is confident, way confident, so confident that life is but a bore as she’s so confident she’s already done it all. The invincibility of youth mixed with the actual invincibility of vampires. That all gets shattered like the mirrors that she can only vaguely see her reflection in (it’s complicated!) when she discovers she can survive in the sunshine! Sure, this happened right after a mysterious attack where she almost died but woke up fully healed at home. Suddenly a whole new world is open to her, but only her, the rest of her clan is still killable by the sun.

This coincides with the King of the Vampires deciding the family will host the 100 year huge party where everyone feeds the King their blood and then drinks his blood, which means everyone serves the King. Which isn’t all sorts of screwed up at all. To feed all the vampires coming for the party, Pearl is sent to school to recruit a whole host of victims, as vampires must be invited into houses and high school means she’ll be invited to slumber parties. Or would be if she wasn’t a goth girl. We all know she’s going to soon fall in love and the script gets flipped.
Drink Slay Love
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 22, 2017 at 8:09 pm

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Never Say Die (Review)

Never Say Die

aka 羞羞的铁拳 aka Xiu Xiu De Tie Quan
Never Say Die
2017
Directed by Yang Song and Chiyu Zhang
Never Say Die
A fun body swap comedy that throws any sort of sexual politics to the wayside in favor of lots of wacky antics, Never Say Die often runs into mo lei tau territory. That is fantastic, there just hasn’t been enough weird, fun stuff coming from Chinese cinema, and if they have to crib from Stephen Chow’s playbook to do it, fine with me. Never Say Die has been rewarded for being funny with some good box office returns (some of which might even be legitimate!), and gets the TarsTarkas.NET Seal of Approval! (Note: Seal of Approval does not contain actual seals.)

The film is merciless towards ultimate fighting, depicting it as an incredibly corrupt institution controlled by a family that profits off of the use and destruction of the other fighters, while promoting their son, Fight King Wu Liang (Xue Haowen) as the undefeated champion for years. Edison (Allen Ai Lun) is even introduced as being part of this machine, his first appearance is holding own on throwing a fight while demanding more money, and his character is coming off a suspension for giving bribes to the Fight King (for a match Edison lost and had his arm broken during) Later fighters are obviously bribed, including one who complains that the fighter won’t even try to attack them so they can fake lose.

Reporter Ma Xiao (Ma Li) is a no-nonsense sports reporter who will do whatever it takes to get her story, which is usually about how awful the various ultimate fighters are. Which is ironic, given that she is engaged to the Fight King himself! As Edison is announcing his big comeback for a rematch with the Fight King (provided he wins enough qualifying matches to do so), she harasses him at the press conference and then overhears him discussing with his manager, Ma Dong (Tian Yu), about how Ma Dong bribed enough fighters to take a dive to ensure a rematch. An attempt by Edison to retrieve Ma Xiao’s take with incriminating evidence results in the two switching bodies thanks to the power of accidentally kissing while falling in a swimming pool when lightning strikes. You know, the usual stuff. The fun then begins as they both walk several miles in each others shoes and realize things aren’t as simple as they first appear (or as I have described them above!)
Never Say Die
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 2, 2017 at 7:19 am

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Chasing the Dragon (Review)

Chasing the Dragon

aka 追龍 aka Chui Lung aka Zeoi Lung
Chasing the Dragon
2017
Written and directed by Wong Jing and Jason Kwan Chi-Yiu
Chasing the Dragon
A stellar performance from Donnie Yen elevates Chasing the Dragon to being a film that Hong Kong fans need to see. Yen gets to stretch his acting muscles underneath some early ridiculous wigs, and is joined by Andy Lau, who also spends some time doing actual acting while taking bribes and consolidating power. Wong Jing proves he can still put out some good stuff, and every time he does it just makes his bad movies even worse. If Wong Jing was consistent, he’d be the greatest filmmaker of all time. But then he wouldn’t really be Wong Jing, so I guess this will do.

Despite a slow start that fumbles around before it gets focused, Chasing the Dragon becomes a pretty good crime drama. Yen plays Crippled Ho, who is based on real gangster Ng Sek-ho (his story was previously told in 1991’s To Be Number One, of which this is a sort of remake, though I’m confused on if it is an actual official remake or just similar.) Andy Lau plays his Lee Rock character from the Lee Rock series (which was based on real life corrupt policeman Lui Lok), which makes this one of those weird films that is a remake but also a reboot but also based on real life. You know, something very easy to classify!

Crippled Ho begins as an illegal immigrant from the mainland who turns to fighting with street gangs for easy cash, and soon catches the eye of up and coming policeman Lee Rock. Fate binds them together through series of ups and downs of both characters as they begin flexing their muscles in controlling the various criminal elements in a very corrupt Hong Kong. Lee Rock has learned that just being the honest cop sort of sucks when everyone else is on the take, while Crippled Ho is forced towards crime by the same system that keeps the Hong Kong people down, Mainlanders even below them, and the corrupt and brutal British on top.
Chasing the Dragon
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2017 at 7:06 am

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This Is Not What I Expected (Review)

This Is Not What I Expected

aka 喜欢你
This Is Not What I Expected
2017
Written by Yuan Li and Yimeng Xu
Based on the book Finally I Get You by Lan Bai Se
Directed by Derek Hui Wang-Yu

This Is Not What I Expected
You better eat before you sit down to watch This Is Not What I Expected, because the lavish and constant footage of the porniest of food porn is enough to send any viewer’s stomach rumbling (spoiler alert, even the main characters have growling stomachs in the final scene!) From the opening shot of a steak on the grill to the intricately timed details for the perfect instant ramen bowl, the food becomes the media the rest of the romantic comedy is built around.

Let’s just ignore the implausibility of parts of the plot (that’s par for the course in a romantic comedy!) and just focus on the chemistry of the leads, the infusion of the plot elements, and whether the male character goes into stalker creeper mode. Things do get a bit messed up later on down the line, but it is nothing an extra line or two couldn’t have fixed. This is Derek Hui’s feature debut, usually spending time as an editor (Wu Xia, Man of Tai Chi). He does a some neat sequences and montages that give it a visual edge over the average romantic comedy, but it also made me greedy for more.

Gu Shengnan (Zhou Dong-Yu – Under the Hawthorn Tree) is introduced scratching rude words into the hood of a car, revenge on her friend’s cheating boyfriend (her friend Xu Zhaodi is played by model Ming Xi) It turns out to be the wrong car, belonging to billionaire investor Lu Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro – K-20: Legend of the Mask), who after some convincing promises not to call the police if she gets the hood repaired at his preferred shop before a certain time. Her life isn’t going well, as her boss who is also her secret boyfriend dumps her, and she feels her chef job is going nowhere. Gu Shengnan is 29, while in the US there is pressure for ladies to marry before they are 30, in China it is even worse where 29 is considered by many to be so old the women are a lost cause.
This Is Not What I Expected
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 20, 2017 at 7:19 am

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Our Time Will Come (Review)

Our Time Will Come

aka 明月幾時有
Our Time Will Come
2017
Written by Ho Kei-Ping
Directed by Ann Hui On-Wah

Our Time Will Come
Next up on the SFFilm Hong Kong series was Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui’s latest film about the resistance movement to Japanese occupation, specifically about real life characters in the Hong Kong area. Though events are fictionalized, they were real people. This era of history is fascinating and I’m always glad when more films come along that show more of the history of resisting Japanese occupation. Add in the fact that Ann Hui directed and this was a must-see for me!

Our Time Will Come begins with the rescue of hundreds of public intellectuals – scholars, actors, directors, poets – by the resistance movement. It weaves that into the recruitment of Fong Lan (Zhou Xun) into the movement by Blackie Lau (Eddie Peng Yu-Yen), a fighter notorious enough to have a large price on his head and brazen enough to attack a room full of people bragging that they will hunt him down.

Fong Lan lives with her mother, Fong Tze (Deannie Yip Tak-Han), who rents out rooms at a cheaper price, including two occupants who were a poet and his wife. They were part of the group being evacuated, and due to the Japanese closing in Blackie Lau asks Fong Lan to help them get to the boat. Fong Lan was a former teacher before the school was closed and the building turned into an administration office for the Japanese, her former boyfriend Kam-Wing (Wallace Huo Chien-Hua) still works there. They break up early in the film when he tries to impulsively propose but also claims to be leaving. Though he doesn’t leave, he does smuggle out information to the resistance army (while dealing with a Japanese intendant who threatens violence, such as to shoot him if he doesn’t come up with poems on the spot that use vocal tricks.)
Our Time Will Come
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 18, 2017 at 7:37 am

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