Movie Reviews

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.
The Dragon Painter
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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!!!!!!!
Godzilla King of the Monsters
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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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Atomic Shark (Review)

Atomic Shark

aka Saltwater
Atomic Shark
2016
Written by Scott Foy, Griff Furst, and Jack Snyder
Directed by A.B. Stone

Atomic Shark
Atomic Shark is a pretty darn good SyFy shark flick, but the problem is, it was so close to being among the best that I’m angry it missed the boat! But I guess no one can live up to Ghost Shark, so we got to just accept the fact that you are good and fun, but not the new classic we were hoping for! Once again Tars is digging through his archive of shark films taped off of SyFy that he hasn’t gotten around to watching. This time the shark is glowing red hot because it has been mutated to become nuclear reactor! That gives this shark a unique look, and combine that with Atomic Shark throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the film to add flavor, and you got yourself some fun shark chomping!
Atomic Shark
We got burnt fish popping up on shores, environmental coverups, government coverups, a sunken soviet sub leaking radiation, and the shark is a bomb (though a glowing red from the heat shark that’s a bomb, not a shark with a literal bomb strapped to it like the posters seemed to suggest!) that without sea water it will overheat and explode all over the place. And it will probably explode if you shoot it! So that makes the plans to take it down a bit complicated. Luckily the plucky lifeguards and their cadre of friends and fellow shark-stopping enthusiasts are up to the challenge, even if the shark won’t be the only red stuff in the water (it’s blood, blood in the water is the other thing I am talking about here)
Atomic Shark
Old newsreel dialogue, footage of cold war atomic bomb information, and even Dr. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Hindu Bagavad Gita “Now i am death, the destroyer of worlds”, plays we see a shark swimming through the ocean. It’s a crash course in setting the tone along with some of the great monster movies that use environmental tragedy as the foundation for their creatures’ destructive power. Atomic Shark takes a deep dive into the meta-textual with hashtags, emojis, and instragram filters on screen, yelp reviews of restaurants, the film becoming even more widescreen during an epic confrontation between a lifeguard and the atomic shark, and dramatic music playing that cuts out every time Gina blows out the lighter from the enraged documentary lady but comes right back once the lighter is re-lit. Atomic Shark even has it’s own surf theme song, and it’s own rap song and video! I’ve tried looking up A.B. Stone, the credited director, and that seems a pseudonym, so there may have been some things going on behind the scenes (or it is just someone at a specific production company who is smart enough to avoid all social media!)
Atomic Shark
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 16, 2019 at 11:20 am

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Ozark Sharks (Review)

Ozark Sharks

aka Summer Shark Attack
Ozark Sharks
2016
Written by Marcy Holland and Greg Mitchell
Directed by Misty Talley

Ozark Sharks

Gender reveal videos just get weirder and weirder…


2019 is a year of getting stuff done. And one of the things i have is a bunch of recordings of SyFy shark movies from the past few years that I haven’t watched and reviewed, so that’s getting done! Especially since the era of SyFy showing shark movies is probably dead, this makes it the perfect time to strike, when the iron has cooled to room temperature and the blacksmith is watching episodes of Friends on NetFlix.

Ozark Sharks is from way back in 2016, when SyFy was promoting Sharknado 4: The One With a Sharknado. Sharks get into the Ozarks lake system due to movie magic, people get chomped, and more people seek revenge on the sharks! At this point all the shark movies needed a gimmick, and this one is the Arkansas setting and regional colloquialisms that brings. The film doesn’t even give a plausible explanation of where the sharks came from, it’s just a problem the people have to deal with. They can only wonder why the weird thing is going on, but never learn. And sometimes life is like that, there are problems that you just gotta take care of, regardless of how they happened. More films need to make the conscious decision to not explain anything and just go with it!

Ozark Sharks

VVest side!


Ozark Sharks has some more elements in its favor. The main character Molly (Allisyn Ashley Arm) is a bookish goth teen who is a far cry from the usual actresses who model in their spare time as leads you often see in these things. Her family is on vacation to the Ozarks, the favorite location of their grandmother (Sharon Garrison) to go when she was a child. So they pack in her college aged brother Harrison (Dave Davis), Mom (Laura Cayouette) and Dad (Michael Papajohn), and Grandma, and head off for vacation. Stowing along is Molly’s boyfriend Curtis (Ross Britz), who is Bill to Harrison’s Ted.
Ozark Sharks

Hawkeye is an amateur!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 19, 2019 at 10:42 am

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