Written and directed by Angie Wong
Back in the 1980s, much of the MDMA in the Bay Area came from a surprising source – a college student making it herself. The story is even largely true, with certain events and people amalgamated together and switched around for dramatic effect. But Angie Wang is real, she did make drugs while at Stanford, and survived to write and directed this autobiographical tale called Cardinal X
Angie Wang (Annie Q.) travels from New Jersey to not-Stanford to begin college, and her wild side lets her live a fun life. She immediately bonds with her roommate and they are soon partying it up at night and taking classes all day. There is trouble behind the scenes, her dad can’t afford the tuition, and Angie can’t escape flashbacks to tragic events in her life such as family discord and sexual assaults. Angie is smart, and quickly sees a need for a supplier in MDMA in the local party scene, and thanks to a new job as a lab assistant and a loophole in the law, she’s soon manufacturing a pile of pills to bring in extra money. We all know this is going to spiral out of control, so hang on for the ride!
Angie sees herself as broken, beyond the rape and assaults, her mother left her with her father when she was young, and her father was always working and emotionally distant. He is constantly worried about money. Angie internalizes the bad things that happened to her in life and her wild party behavior, thinking she’s too flawed to be with anyone normal. Nice guy Tommy (Scott Keiji Takeda) befriends her during the first few weeks of school, and she even spends part of a holiday with his normal, happy family. It’s just too much, she thinks she can’t have that life, that she’s too messed up to deserve it, and quickly leaves. That’s why Angie connects so well with her roommate, Jeanine (Francesca Eastwood), she appears to come from a nice, upper class family, but that hides her mom’s drinking and non-stop insults, causing her to escape via chemical means, as well as cutting and bulimia.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Screenplay by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker
Directed by Rick Morales
I was super excited to hear about Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders when it was announced that Adam West and Burt Ward would be reprising their roles from the 1960s series, even more so with Julie Newmar also around as Catwoman. As you have probably guessed from the large amount of campy super hero flicks TarsTarkas.NET has covered over the years, the television series that inspired many of them is a big deal, so any thing that means more of the cool magic that it was is great. It turned out better than I imagined, it’s one of the best animated films DC has put out, and they have put out a few good ones! (and a few….not so good ones!)
The film is jam packed with the flavor of the original series – wild alliteration, pop-up word balloons during action scenes, random labels on object, Robin declaring “Holy ______” every few seconds, all sorts of random bat gadgets, Batman and Robin figuring out the most obscure Riddler clues in the universe, and the ever-present incompetent police force. There are cameos from almost the entire era, really the only thing missing was Batgirl.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s quiet evening at home is interrupted with the big four villains – Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin – hijack a television show just so they can leave a Riddler clue behind. From that, Batman and robin deduce that the criminals are out to steal a duplicating ray, while Catwoman schemes to turn Batman just slightly evil so they can be united in love. But her plan fails and after one thing leads to another suddenly everyone is fighting in outer space to stop the villain’s schemes of duplicating more Earths so each one can control a Gotham City.
aka 아가씨 aka Agassi
Written by Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung
Based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Directed by Park Chan-wook
If you aren’t a fan of Park Chan-wook by now, I’m not sure what it will take to convince you to get out and see The Handmaiden. But if you are one of the millions of his fans around the globe, you know that Park Chan-wook is a force of awesomeness in the movie community, and The Handmaiden continues that tradition of awesome movies from an awesome guy. Basically, run, don’t walk, to the theaters and check out a wonderful psychological thriller. There is a trio of amazing performances by Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, and newcomer Kim Tae-ri. Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith is moved to 1930s occupied Korea, where it still manages to work in a culture of repression and male dominance.
Kim Min-hee is heiress Lady Hideko. Hideko is isolated and lorded over by her cruel uncle, Kouzuki, who covets her money and title. Her mother died in childbirth, and her aunt was found hanging in a tree when she was a child. Hideko never leaves the family estate and her only contact with outsiders is a weekly reading of erotic literature to exclusive guests. If you are familiar with the concept of that literature, some of it is ridiculous, basically the dime store erotic trash novels peppered with flowery poetry and filled with imagery that at times stretches believability that the writers have even interacted with people who have sex. Hideko’s Uncle Kouzuki has designs on becoming a Japanese nobleman despite being neither of those things and Hideko’s money and title his avenue to obtain them. Kouzuki rejects his Korean heritage in an admiration for the occupying Japanese, but his true passion is rare books, specifically the aforementioned erotic literature.
Kim Tae-ri plays Sook-hee, a gifted pickpocket and thief embedded as a handmaiden whose job it is to help convince Hideko to fall for the fake Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo — Assassination). Fujiwara has a knack for making forgeries and is just the thing Hideko’s creepy uncle needs, as he can’t bear to part with any of his rare books, but is perfectly fine with selling off faked replicas of them. This gives Fujiwara the access he needs to scope out Lady Hideko and enact his plan of seduction and asset seizure, enabled by Sook-hee as Hideko’s new handmaiden. And then it is seduction time.
Youth of the Beast
aka 野獣の青春 aka Yaju no Seishun aka Wild Youth
Written by Ichiro Ikeda and Tadaki Yamazaki
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
A random stranger coming to town to pit two rival groups against each other is a classic story done well in a variety of genres, and with Youth of the Beast we get the story set in the swinging 1960s yakuza beat, with director Seijun Suzuki determined to make the visuals by themselves a grand spectacle. Joe Shishido and his cheeks take their usual place as a Suzuki lead, as Shishido’s Joji Mizuno waltzes in to lead the sides to their collective dooms.
so what makes Youth of the Beast worth watching like similar tales Yojimbo, Red Harvest, Django, A Fistful of Dollars, or even The Warrior and the Sorceress? Aside from the story being well told again, there is the great Seijun Suzuki visuals. Suzuki starts showing off his boredom with the nonstop yakuza films by tossing in a bunch of visual flair. He must have had fun, because his films only seemed to escalate from here. Youth of the Beast opens with a bleak black and white scene of solemn police investigating a double suicide, a cop and a woman, the only point of color (and life) being a red flower. This sharply contrasts with the vibrant color and exciting city life full of laughing girls, violent fights at the drop of a hat, and a jazzy soundtrack that immediately follows, as Joji Mizuno beats through some Nomoto yakuza thugs to rob their money and blow it at their club.
The energetic club is full of life, sin, and sound, while the Nomoto yakuza bosses who control it observe though soundproof one way mirrors, giving the mirth a surreal quality. Mizuno’s ease of dispatching the thugs gains the interest of the boss, and after a bit of interrogation and some display of weapons skills, he’s on their team. Then just as quickly, Mizuno is ratting everything out to the boss of the rival Sanko gang. As he’s out for revenge against the groups that ruined his life, breaking them apart piece by piece becomes a fun game.
Song of the Thin Man
Screenplay by Steve Fisher and Nat Perrin
Story by Stanley Roberts
Additional dialogue by James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane
Directed by Edward Buzzell
Song of the Thin Man puts Nick and Nora in the secret world of jazz club singers in New York. It’s also a sort of pun, as this is the swan song of the series. Some of the charm is still there, William Powell and Myrna Loy can’t not be charming when together in a room. The film spends too much time on the jazz atmosphere to trust the actors to carry scenes. It can get a bit tedious when there is yet another jazz scene, yet another instance of Clinker using weird slang, and yet another instance of Nick and Nora trying to fit in and absorbing the language. The outside scenes where other things happen become breaths of fresh air, but there isn’t enough in this ecosystem to make it stand out.
We again get a new creative crew for this Thin Man entry. The direction is by Edward Buzzell, who had previously directed the Marx Brothers’ film At the Circus Stanley Roberts came up with the story, and Steve Fisher and Nat Perrin handle the script, with additional dialogue thanks to James O’Hanlon and Harry Crane (are they who came up with all the goofy slang?) Once again Nick and Nora become inserted in a more generic plot, something that could even be used as a plot for a comedy mystery tv show episode. Did Monk ever hang around with musicians? A large amount of writers is usually a bad sign for a film.
While this team realized they can’t ignore the Nick Jr. character, they don’t do one of the reoccurring gags of the series, the procession of former criminals Nick Charles knows because he busted them long ago. They’ve all been replaced by the jazz musicians, which don’t quite have the same stereotypical wackiness that nicknamed criminal types bring to the table. One weird thing is despite this entire entry being about jazz and musicians, almost every one is white. The lack of black jazz musicians in 1940s New York City is the most unbelievable thing about this entry, and I’m including the ridiculous jazz slang in the unbelievable things list.
Categories: Good, Movie Reviews Tags: Asta, Bess Flowers, Bruce Cowling, Connie Gilchrist, Dashiell Hammett, Dean Stockwell, Don Taylor, Edward Buzzell, Gloria Grahame, Harry Crane, James O'Hanlon, Jayne Meadows, Keenan Wynn, Leon Ames, Marie Windsor, Movies gone to the dogs, Myrna Loy, Nat Perrin, Patricia Morison, Phillip Reed, Ralph Morgan, Stanley Roberts, Steve Fisher, Thin Man, William Bishop, William Powell