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Dead Pigs (Review)

Dead Pigs

Dead Pigs movie
2018
Written and directed by Cathy Yan

TarsTarkas.NET returns for one last CAAMFest 2018 movie review! Even before Cathy Yan got tapped for Birds of Prey I was interested in seeing Dead Pigs, as it was getting some great buzz and people I trust on Twitter were thrilled with it. It’s a story of modern China as it goes through the growing pains of leaping forward to superpower status at light speed. It’s also five different interconnected narratives that are part of a larger picture of unintended consequences and reveal a lifestyle of walls of deception being put up to fake achievements that just haven’t quite happened yet. Pieces with multiple characters and stories can be complicated and sometimes just don’t work at all, but Yan has managed to weave together the parts into a wonderful tapestry, and I hope this is just the beginning of an amazing narrative career.

Old Wang (Yang Hao-Yu) is a pig farmer but his pigs start dying. The bigger problem is he borrowed a bunch of money to invest and got swindled by a fly by night operator. The pigs were his collateral and now the triads he borrowed the money from are angry. His sister Candy Wang (Vivian Wu Jun-Mei) women powered business with mantras and slogans and networking but lives alone with her dog in the house she grew up in. Right now it is a nail house, the last house standing where a modern development project is going in, and she refuses to leave. The desolate location is offset by the house’s bright colors and whimsical decorations, but all of which look quaint compared to the modern new architecture and design going up everywhere else.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 27, 2018 at 8:08 am

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Lifetime breaks out the Girl in the Bunker!

Girl in the bunker Lifetime

As long as creeps keep kidnapping women and hiding them in weird locations, Lifetime will be there to have movie event nights with both a new Original Movie plus a documentary based on the true events! It’s a double rating bonanza and this time our creep is the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth Shoaf in 2006. Girl in the Bunker is her story and will be followed by Elizabeth Shoaf: The Girl in a Bunker, where Elizabeth herself details her account! Julia Lalonde plays Elizabeth Shoaf, with ET star Henry Thomas as the kidnapper Vinson Filyaw, and Moira Kelly as Elizabeth’s mother. Girl in the Bunker is written and directed by Stephen Kemp (Who did the prior Lifetime film event Girl in the Box)

Based on the true story of Elizabeth Shoaf, who was abducted in 2006 and held captive in a hidden underground bunker. The film will be followed at 10 PM by the docu-special Elizabeth Shoaf: The Girl in a Bunker, which recounts the terrifying true story in Shoaf’s own words) While walking home from the school bus stop, a man dressed as sheriff’s deputy handcuffs Elizabeth (Lalonde) for marijuana possession and marches her deep into the woods against her protests and places her in an underground bunker. Elizabeth’s sudden disappearance sparks a massive police search with hundreds of volunteers and officers fanning through miles of dense woodland while helicopters circled overhead. At the mercy of a dangerous and psychologically unhinged captor, Vinson Filyaw (Thomas), a fugitive sexual predator, Elizabeth realizes that in order to survive, she must take matters into her own hands and gradually begins to win his trust as she plots her escape. Kelly portrays Elizabeth’s mother Madeline.

Girl in the Bunker premieres Monday, May 28th on Lifetime!

via Lifetime

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 26, 2018 at 7:23 pm

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Unlovable (Review)

Unlovable

Unlovable
2018
Written by Charlene deGuzman, Sarah Adina Smith, and Mark Duplass
Directed by Suzi Yoonessi

We’re back again with the second of the three 2018 CAAMfest screenings, this time we’re covering Unlovable, another film that’s written by the lead actress and filled with plenty of raw emotions on screen.

Charlene deGuzman is Joy, who seems like a nice young girl except for the part where she’s trying to kill herself during the opening as her life is a mess. She fails, thank goodness (it’s not one of those movies, where a dead actress is narrating everything!), but we learn that she suffers from sex and love addiction. For those not too familiar with these things, it seems like something that would be very hot, but in reality it is people compulsively going on binges with whoever is available, even if they are the most unappealing people you can imagine. Joy generally stops by the bar, gets beyond wasted, and soon is all over whoever she can get her hands on. That’s a problem because she’s in a relationship and her binges are also making it hard for her to get to work on time.

After the latest round causes her to get dumped and thrown out by her boyfriend, she goes to a 12 step program (it is stated that she’s tried this several times before but it has never stuck) She strikes up a friendship with a woman named Maddie (Melissa Leo), but she refuses to be her sponsor. Only after another binge where Joy wakes up in the morning after a bachelor party where the polaroids reveal quite a lot went on with quite a few people (and one of them gives her a wad of cash), Maddie agrees to sponsor her and put her up in her grandmother’s shed. She must completely detox which means no drinking, sex, texting, sexting, masturbating, or generally any physical contact for 30 days. That proves to be a lot harder than it sounds for poor Joy.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 24, 2018 at 8:57 am

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White Rabbit (Review)

White Rabbit

White Rabbit
2018
Written by Vivian Bang and Daryl Wein
Directed by Daryl Wein

Hey, 2018 CAAMfest arrived and thanks to the magic of not having any shows at the “still run by the harassment-enabling Tim League” Alamo Drafthouse, tickets were purchased as a reward! (A reward for thee and me, of course! But mostly me.) Up first is what turned out to be my personal favorite of the three movies I went to, White Rabbit!

We first meet Sophia (Vivian Bang) already in character, dressed in a white with with face paint and a white jumpsuit, speaking into a microphone at an actual Whole Foods. She talks with an obvious Asian accent and recounts a classic immigrants journey in America, as customers pay confused attention. The real Sophia doesn’t have an accent nor is she the struggling mother who bought a store with her family after years of toil. She’s a single artist in LA who lives in a tiny apartment and is constantly creating outsider art for a small amount of views. Sophia survives by doing odd jobs on Taskrabbit, which leads to a few interesting encounters.

Sophia’s commitment to making her art is a blessing and a curse. As we find out from her meeting with an ex-girlfriend, Sophia treats her art as the highest priority and everything else second, including anyone she is in a relationship with and even Sophia herself. A meeting with a man who liked her work on YouTube soon turns awkward when he realizes she isn’t an immigrant with an accent and the powerful female role he envisions her in just isn’t powerful enough in his mind if she’s not speaking with an accent. He then manages to turn her obvious and vocal discomfort to somehow be all about him (the role was played by the director and collaborator Daryl Wein in a wonderfully accurate picture of certain types of supposed allies!)
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 22, 2018 at 9:34 am

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Sinbad Alibaba and Aladdin (Review)

Sinbad Alibaba and Aladdin

aka Sinbad Alibaba Aur Aladin
Sindbad Ali Baba Aladdin movie
1965
Scenario and dialogue by Tabish Sultanpuri
Directed by Prem Narayan Arora (as P. N. Arora)


All India Pictures brings us Sindbad Alibaba and Aladdin! It’s got big stars, it has big effects, it has big costumes, it has big musical numbers, and it has a big not-Godzilla! Okay, maybe a few of the stars were past their prime and the Bootleg Godzilla looks goofy and isn’t in the film nearly as much as it should be, but still, there is a lot to love.

(I’m going to spell “Sinbad” both ways in this article, so deal with it!)
Sindbad Ali Baba Aladdin movie
Give whoever was in charge of the special effects a raise as they went right to the source, enlisting Keiji Kawakami and Seishiro Ishi from Tsuburaya special effects. That might be about as close as we’ll get to an actual Indian Godzilla film unless the long-lost Gogola is uncovered somewhere!

Sindbad Alibaba and Aladdin only seems available in unsubtitled vcds of what look like VHS rips with gigantic video company logos. Meemsab had Ultra Video Company, while my copy has Kamal Video plastered on the top left. Kamal Video also had a brief musical logo in the beginning featuring some soft jazz saxophone that would be at home in an early 90s softcore sex scene. They even forgot to cut out the logo of the VHS company that they got the VHS tapes they used to make this vcd from near the end of the film. Oops! Now we know why the watermarks keep getting bigger, they are covering other watermarks!
Sindbad Ali Baba Aladdin movie

Sinbad (Pradeep Kumar) – Sinbad is the heroic type in this film, while Aladdin and Alibaba both play the goofy sidekicks who are actually co-leads. Pradeep Kumar started acting in Bengali films and had moved to Hindu films by the 1950s, where he found success as a lead for a few years. By the 60s his star had begun to fade and he was doing more B-level movies like this one. By the late 60s he had turned to character acting and some good roles through the 80s. He died in 2001.
Alibaba (Master Baghwan) – One of the two comedic members of the trio, Alibaba is sort of in between the heroic role and the comedic role. He sort of gets a girl with the mysterious Jungle Girl, but she’s barely in the film. Bhagwan Dada was a working class son who dreamed of movies, eventually making his own low budget stunt films during the silent era of the 1930s. He moved on from that to starring in pictures in the 40s, by the 50s he was producing mainstream pictures and had early success (and spent his money accordingly), but eventually a string of failures caused him to have to sell his enormous mansion and seven cars (one for each day of the week), and by the 1960s he was doing B-level pictures like this one. He died in 2002.
Aladdin (Agha) – Aladdin is the other comedic member of the trio, but he’s the one who both Sinbad and Alibaba consider to be their comedic sidekick, hence him getting abandoned while drunk and sold into slavery. Whoops! But at least he does find a genie to love and save the day. Agha was a comedic actor who styled himself after Bob Hope’s comedy (very evident here!) He first got roles in the 30s and was very active from the 30s to the 50s. By the 60s he had started to slow down a bit, though he still had time to do some B-level movies like this one. He died in 1992.
Princess Jameela (Sayeeda Khan) – Sinbad’s love and the daughter of the Sultan, problem is everyone wants the princess either as a marriage partner for power or for lust reasons, so she’s constantly getting saved by Sinbad. Sayeeda Khan lived a tragic life, she got her career doing lower grade movies usually in supporting roles with occasional larger ones like this, but never broke into the big time. In 1990 her and her daughter Namrata were murdered (and her 20 year old son, actor Kamal Sadanah, wounded) by her filmmaker husband, Brij Sadanah, before he killed himself.
Genie (Helen) – Aladdin falls in love with the lovely lady of the lamp, Genie, who grants wishes to whoever controls the lamp. She also has a sense of humor, putting people in goofy situations. A great help to the heroes. Helen also pops up in Trip To Moon and Return of Mr. Superman
Bootleg Godzilla (Himself) – Totally not Godzilla shows up to shoot flames and try to make friends only to get stabbed in the eye because people sometimes just aren’t worth the effort. But let’s not blame poor Bootleg Godzilla, it isn’t his fault mankind has issues…

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 7, 2018 at 7:18 am

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Manhunt (Review)

Manhunt

aka 追捕
Manhunt
2017
Script by Lip Wang-Fung, Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, and James Yuen Sai-Sang
Based on the book Kimiyo Funno no Kawa wo Watari by Juko Nishimura
Directed by John Woo

Manhunt
John Woo returns to the world of action cinema to show us that he still….uh…he still can make a movie? With some action scenes? That’s about it, because Manhunt is decisively not in the tradition of classic John Woo action and is more in the tradition of ridiculous scenes wrapped around an overly complicated plot. So basically it’s like a benchwarmer Hong Kong action flick. It isn’t terrible, but it’s like Gordon Ramsey making you waffles and they taste worse than McDonalds. Part of the problem might be that this is a big coproduction between China and NetFlix, packed with a great cast who get parts that are either wasted or follow trajectories that we already know their outcome. Tragically, some of theme don’t even get to ham it up before they buy the farm!

Lawyer Du Qiu (Zhang Han-Yu) , the best lawyer in all of Japan, is leaving his cushy job at a pharmaceutical mega-conglomerate for another position. But the pharmaceutical company is up to no good, and before Du Qiu can move to Bel Air, he’s framed for murder and is on the run! Don’t worry, there is also a super duper detective named Satoshi Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama ), who is hot on Du Qiu’s trail despite figuring out that Du Qiu is innocent and there is a bigger story at play. Hey, he’s still got to do his job! Du Qui and Yamura’s disagreement on whether Du should be sitting in a cell while they sort out what is what causes the crux of a lot of action sequences, as Du Qui manages to escape large police pursuits again and again. Toss in a mysterious woman (Stephy Qi Wei as Mayumi) whose almost husband used to work for the villainous megacorp (and was later killed on their wedding day after losing a big case thanks do Du when he tried to stop what was going on) and Ha Jiwon and John Woo’s daughter Angeles Woo as two female assassins who randomly show up to shoot everyone (when Ha Jiwon and Du aren’t talking about old movies), and you got a film that can’t find its focus. This is before it suddenly goes all Marvel. But more on that is spoiling things…
Manhunt
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 26, 2018 at 7:43 am

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