Movie Reviews

Babysplitters (Review)

Babysplitters

Babysplitters
2019
Written and directed by Sam Friedlander
Babysplitters
The final flick of the 2019 CAAMFest evening was Babysplitters, complete with actors Danny Pudi, Emily C. Chang, and writer/director Sam Friedlander in attendance. It was also the best film of the night! Babysplitters is about a modern American couple trying to weigh their aging biological clocks, desires to have children, yet apprehension of giving up their free time and lack of savings. It’s like a laundry list of all the reasons why people claim Millennials aren’t having kids.

Jeff and Sarah Penaras (Danny Pudi and Emily C. Chang) are getting older and making excuses for why they aren’t with kids yet. Jeff is stuck at a great paying job he hates, while meter-maid Sarah spends her time getting into arguments with angry parkers. Their social circle has dwindled as their friends all have kids and disappear, to the point where their only regular hangout partners are fellow childless couple Don and Taylor Small (Eddie Alfano and Maiara Walsh). Jeff comes up with an idea about a startup that lets people split babies. We’re not going King Solomon on this baby, it’s more like a time share. This idea starts to grow on him, and mix one part a couple with reservations and one part a couple with a medical impossibility to have a baby, and you got yourself a baby sharing arrangement!
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 15, 2019 at 9:03 am

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Go Back To China (Review)

Go Back To China

Go Back To China movie
2019
Written and directed by Emily Ting
Go Back To China movie
Next up on the 2019 CAAMFest slamfest of movies is Go Back To China, a movie about someone who goes back to China. Hold on, because we also have unexpected Richard Ng! Go Back To China has homespun indie cred and delivers a well-trod story (spoiled girl learns responsibility) with new and exciting settings and characters. The film is at its best when Sasha Li (Anna Akana) is still in fish out of water mode, but it unfortunately fails to stick the landing and just sort of ends, which is a darn shame considering the potential it had.

Spoiled trust fund kid Sasha Li can’t get a job and is blowing through her money on parties and shopping, until she is blackmailed by her father Teddy (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) to return to China to help out at his toy factory, or she’ll be cut off from the rest of the money. Once there, Sasha has to adjust to both a new culture (she was raised in California) and dealing with her cranky father and her many half-siblings. She has an older half-sister, Carol (Lynn Chen – Saving Face), who already had to go back to China and work with dad, as well as two younger siblings from her dad’s next upgrade wife (since divorced, and dad now has a live-in girlfriend with whom he has an “arrangement” with that is the same age as Sasha)

The different aged family members even becomes a plot point, as they both have their own layers of resentment for the families that they were replaced by but also see the same new families get replaced in turn and the kids get filled with the same resentment. Sasha and Carol spar due to both seeing the other as the favored daughter, Carol longing for Sasha’s freedoms while Sasha seeing Carol as just a goody-goody who does whatever dad wants. Teddy shows he still hasn’t learned to be a real father yet when he upsets the next generation of his kids, leading his daughters to have to lead in picking up the mess. As someone with disappointing family members, this is sadly truer than it ever has to be.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 13, 2019 at 11:56 am

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The Dragon Painter (Review)

The Dragon Painter

The Dragon Painter
1919
Written by Richard Schayer (as E. Richard Schayer)
Based on the Novel by Mary McNeil Fenollosa
Directed by William Worthington

The Dragon Painter
It’s CAAMFest time again, so Tars must chart out a bunch of film he wants to see vs. the actual amount of real world time that he has to go to see the films. This year there was a few Sophie’s Choices among films playing at similar times where I was unable to go to the other shows, so in the end I ended up with three screenings, all in one day! So I’ll make sure all three reviews get put up in one week! First up is 1919’s The Dragon Painter, a silent film presented with a live score!

The Dragon Painter was a production of Haworth Pictures Corporation, which box office star Sessue Hayakawa formed with actor/director William Worthington (hence the name of the company!) This is an important piece of film history, as the big deal is we have Japanese characters being played by Japanese actors, and they aren’t playing stereotypical villain characters, which was the style of the time (and partily how Sessue Hayakawa gained fame!) Hayakawa’s life was amazing, and deserves more focus than just the intro paragraphs of a review of one of his film.

It is easy to see in The Dragon Painter why Hayakawa was so popular, he’s a fountain of pure talent. He begins as a manic madman named Tatsu, obsessed with painting the landscapes, which he claims are paintings of his lady love, a princess who was turned into a dragon by the gods 1000 years earlier. He sleeps in the wilderness and the local villagers largely avoid him (the few who try to cause trouble are easily shook when he threatens them) This is all presented straight, and Hayakawa both sells that a man would live in the wilderness and be obsessed with a dragon princess with a compulsion to paint, but that this is an actual person with the emotional turmoil that the scenario in his mind is causing him painted all over his face.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 11, 2019 at 6:55 pm

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Review)

March of Godzilla 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla King of the Monsters
2019
Story by Max Borenstein, Michael Dougherty, & Zach Shields
Screenplay by Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields
Directed by Michael Dougherty

Godzilla King of the Monsters
Roaring into theaters is Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the follow up to 2014’s American Godzilla that stays in the same universe but ditches most of the cast. It’s now a few years later, the world knows about monsters, and the Monarch group is besieged by people who want to kill the monsters and people who want to set them all free.

This film is in theaters as I publish this, but it’s the kind of movie that is easy to classify. If you loved the first one, you will love this. If you love giant monsters fighting each other but were disappointed by the lack of monsters in the first one, you’ll probably love this one, as there is lots of monster action. If you want a movie with a good story and don’t care about giant monsters, go see Booksmart or something. Godzilla and other monsters smash stuff up! The humans do questionable things in between being boring! It’s a couple of allegories, some more intentional than others. No reason to get all worked up at the RottenTomatoes score like some people were, this isn’t a movie for everyone, it’s a movie for people who like giant monsters smashing things!

And everything after this paragraph is…..

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!!!
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 2, 2019 at 8:44 pm

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Magnificent Warriors (Review)

Magnificent Warriors

aka 中華戰士 aka Zhong hua zhan shi aka Dynamite Fighters aka Yes, Madam 3
Magnificent warriors
1987
Written by Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by David Chung Chi-Man

Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is a required Michelle Yeoh film to watch. There is so much energy and joy here as she gleefully beats the tar out of dozens of people while cracking whips, flying planes, and firing guns. She’s a pure pulp action hero who runs guns for rebels, flies her own plane, dogfights fighters despite being outmatched, goes on secret missions, does her job, helps inspire the people to fight, and stands tall against impossible odds.

Yeoh easily outshines costars Derek Yee and Richard Ng and the entire film is built around her mission against the invading Japanese. I don’t mean to cut Richard Ng short, he does hold his own as a live-action cartoon drifter con man who bumbles into all the action. Ng’s unnamed Drifter comes complete with his own cartoonish theme music that completely contrasts with the rest of the film’s adventury score, which totally works for hammering in the point that his character is a completely different archetype plopped into this mayhem. Together Ng and Yeoh overshadow Derek Yee so much that despite his character being a James Bond analogue he can barely keep up with them (and it stands out even more with Yeoh moving on to being an actual Bond girl!) Yee was from a prominent entertainment family and would eventually move into producing and directing and based on his output he seems to have found a good fit, several of his films being acclaimed as classics.
Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is one of the Hong Kong films I rented from the late, lamented Le Video in San Francisco, I was working through Yeoh’s filmography (shockingly, most of her movies weren’t available in video stores in the Midwest!) and this one was amazing enough I watched it twice and ended up with a DVD myself soon after. It also begot my love for Richard Ng, as he popped up in some of the films I rented in rapid succession but was first memorable here.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm

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Perfect Game (Review)

Perfect Game

aka 完全な遊戯 aka Kanzenna Yugi
Perfect Game
1958
Based on the short story by Shintarô Ishihara
Screenplay by Yoshio Shirasaka
Directed by Toshio Masuda

Perfect Game
This time we are beep-beep backing the truck up to 1958, where the Nikkatsu flicks were more disaffected youth culture than the thrillers and borderless action the genre will evolve into soon enough. Perfect Game still has plenty of strong characters, bad choices, and dangerous situations even with the slow leisurely pace the film begins it’s scheme setup with. The protagonists are introduced, their want of fast and easy money and willingness to bend the rules (past the breaking point!) to get said money. Like many youth they also think themselves invincible, the next score just being another quick job that will never have any bad repercussions. But if that were the case, then we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we? The fact that the protagonists all come from affluent families but still succumb to the temptations of their excesses makes this a solid Sun Tribe feature.
Perfect Game
I love Nikkatsu’s films but I have to do them in spurts as you can only take so much bleak ruination of tragic endings before you want to watch Godzilla punch some monsters or Captain America punch some monsters (or Nazis, same thing!) Director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Red Pier) turns what could have easily been an ordinary film into a memorable tragic tale thanks to strong characters and skillfully constructed scenes that highlight the buildups to tragedy as the characters compromise their values more and more.

We got ourselves a quartet of young college students who want a bit of excitement in their lives, and gambling away the meager allowance their parents give them just ain’t cutting it. Mastermind Toda (Yasukiyo Umeno) is a straight-faced liar and owes his girlfriend Meiko (Mari Shiraki – Underworld Beauty) – the Mama of a hostess club – a large sum of money. There is also Soji Oki (Akira Kobayashi – in so many films he has a tag), who is usually called So-chan, he is the pretty one that makes the girls swoon. Jiro Akitani (Shirô Yanase) lies to both of his parents about his money issues but can manipulate his successful father into coughing up dough as needed. And finally Toshio, who I’m struggling to remember anything significant about beyond just being part of the gang. Sorry, buddy, get a personality!
Perfect Game
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 7, 2019 at 12:19 pm

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