Movie Reviews

The Transfiguration (Review)

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
2016
Written and directed by Michael O’Shea
The Transfiguration
I got fists full of sweet, sweet cash and a break between classes and being sick to actually write, so it’s time to go to a bunch of films at the San Francisco International Film Festival! First up is the amazing vampire film, The Transfiguration!

The Transfiguration is about a disturbed teenager that is obsessed with vampires. Milo (Eric Ruffin) is not just obsessed, he lives and breathes vampires. Literally, as he’s started going out and stalking, killing, and drinking the blood of victims once a month. This isn’t a spoiler, he’s doing it in the opening scene. Exactly why he’s started doing this is slowly revealed as the film burns on. We learn more of Milo’s world view, his family tragedies and his harassment by local toughs.

There is no big bad vampire, the monsters are all in the mind, the demons that enslave us all. Milo lives with his adult brother, Lewis (Aaron Clifton Moten), both alone after their mother’s suicide. Lewis is perpetually on the couch watching television, not because he’s lazy but because he’s just been damaged by life. He used to roll with the gang, but left to go straight and spent time in the military in the Middle East, where he saw things that add to his haunting looks. He does care about his brother, but the only way he knows how to keep him out of trouble is dealing with the gang and the cops, and is completely in the dark about the blood drinking. Aaron Moten is amazing here, conveying someone with so much going on under the hood but still barely functioning because of all the past trauma.

Milo’s regular routine is thrown into a loop when Sophie (Chloe Levine) moves into the complex. Her parents are dead as well, and she’s living with an abusive grandfather. It’s damaged people finding themselves through each other. The more time Milo spends with Sophie, the less time he spends stalking prey and drinking their blood. But Milo knows he’s already gone to far, having a happy ending and normal life isn’t in the cards for him. But maybe he doesn’t have to be doomed to be all bad.
The Transfiguration
The film switches between the budding romantic film with Milo and Sophie and the dark and haunted world of Milo looking for prey, sometimes rapidly shifting gears in an uncomfortable manner. Milo is obviously uncomfortable about Sophie inserting herself into his life, but he also finds himself growing fond of her. And that begins to disturb him. The only topic that Milo is comfortable speaking about is the discussion of said vampire films. Milo rates the vampire films in term of how realistic they are, in that how accurate they are in depicting what he feels true, accurate vampires are. Sophie keeps trying to get him to read Twilight, and makes references to True Blood (which Milo dismisses as unrealistic!) Milo rattling on and on about them to Sophie begins to pull him out of what he is becoming.

Michael O’Shea’s vampire tale changes up the usual game. The vampires are just flavoring, Milo could be obsessed with any horror creature and acting out as them. The journey is Milo’s jump from embracing his vampire life to being offered a different path. The scenes of violence are brutal, but Milo finding himself gives a path of redemption. The Transfiguration is worth the buzz and worth checking out, just don’t expect the usual horror trapping.

(I’ll also put in a warning that they show real animals being killed in clips from the Faces of Death movies, so be warned if you are like me and not into that stuff!)

SFIFF 2017

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 26, 2017 at 9:52 pm

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Justice League Dark (Review)

Justice League Dark

Justice League Dark
2017
Story by J.M. DeMatteis and Ernie Altbacker
Screenplay by Ernie Altbacker
Directed by Jay Oliva

Justice League Dark
The animated world is in danger once again (stupid world, stop being in danger!) and only the Justice League can save them. No, not the normal Justice League, this is Justice League Dark! And Batman for some reason. That reason is money. Keep in mind this is Justice League Dark, not Justice League After Dark, that’s the porn version debuting on Cinemax next year! Just kidding. Or am I? Yes.

Now let’s get to an actual review and not string of consciousness awful jokes. Justice League Dark follows the loose continuity the animated films have had since they got rebooted with Flashpoint/Justice League: War, including voices (and Matt Ryan from the Constantine tv series voices John Constantine here!) This time the team isn’t able to handle the threat, as the threat is supernatural in nature, so we need a different kind of hero. Supernatural heroes for a supernatural threat. Mainly John Constantine (of Keanu Reeves movie fame) and Zatanna, the magician lady I’m vaguely familiar with. There are others heroes like Deadman, who I hadn’t really known much about, but a ghost as a super hero does make a certain amount of sense. Maybe Casper should stop being so friendly and start taking down crime syndicates! This time, the ghosts are busting YOU!
Justice League Dark
I enjoyed the change of focus of heroes despite Batman being included so he could grunt every time something spooky happens. (And he does, Gotham City must be showing a lot of Home Improvement reruns) Usually movies like this have a regular guy character who all the characters that are steeped into the universe can explain things too (and thus explain to the audience!), but as Batman already knows a lot of things, he doesn’t really fit that well in the role.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 23, 2017 at 7:53 am

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The Bride He Bought Online (Review)

The Bride He Bought Online

aka Flirting with Madness
The Bride He Bought Online Lifetime
2015
Written and directed by Christine Conradt

The Bride He Bought Online Lifetime

Good thing he never turned around to notice he was obviously being filmed


PRANKED!!! You got so pranked!

Lifetime brings us an amazing tale of pranking gone wrong, internet danger, guy who goes nuts, and teen girls stuffed in trunks! The Bride He Bought Online is pure, concentrated Lifetime amazement that raises the bar for their original movies. It’s not really that much of a surprise, for not only is this a Lifetime movies superstar writer Christine Conradt script, she also directs it! Conradt clearly knew she had to up her game, and blasted past that goal and then some! We can only hope this is the beginning of a new level of awesome flicks!

The Bride He Bought Online Lifetime

How dare you have a basic sense of human decency, what’s wrong with you???


It’s high school, and our trio of main girls are concerned with what everyone in high school is concerned with, views on their secret pranking website! Wait, huh? We’ve entered the world of internet prank videos, a genre that has flourished on YouTube despite the fact most of them are terrible and/or totally fake. But, sure, whatever you want to watch is your business, TarsTarkas.NET can’t really judge based on some of the films we’ve reviewed!

Avery Lindstrom (Anne Winters) is the nice girl who is so done with pranking and is thinking about her future, she also serves as a bookend narrator. Mandy Kim (Lauren Gaw) once was overweight and unpopular, but is now part of the cool squad and desperately wants to stay there. She is starting to have some moral objections to the non-stop pranks, but let’s Kaley push her around. Kaley Mack (Annalisa Cochrane) is attractive, popular, and is the driving force behind the secret prank website. She’s the reason the other two are popular at school, and schemes up the latest and greatest pranks in her quest for social media love.

“We need content. Content equals followers.” – Mandy
“And followers equals?” -Avery
“Everything!” – Kaley

The Bride He Bought Online Lifetime

Look, I’m beyond pranks now that I’m wearing a beanie


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 20, 2017 at 7:58 am

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Cardinal X (Review)

Cardinal X

Cardinal X
2017
Written and directed by Angie Wong
Cardinal X
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.
Cardinal X
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 11, 2017 at 6:59 pm

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Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (Review)

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
2016
Screenplay by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker
Directed by Rick Morales

Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
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.
Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
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.
Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 15, 2017 at 7:33 am

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The Fate of Lee Khan (Review)

The Fate of Lee Khan

aka 迎春閣之風波 aka Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo
The Fate of Lee Khan
1973
Written by King Hu and Wong Chung
Directed by King Hu

The Fate of Lee Khan
King Hu’s works are amazing, and he is one of the most influential artists in martial arts film history. That being said, The Fate of Lee Khan was made after Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, and the biggest flaw is it just doesn’t live up to those classics. It is a good story, full of intrigue and great choreography. But it just feels smaller scale and lacks some of the smaller character moments that a smaller story should have. Lee Khan just doesn’t seem as dangerous as he should be considering he is supposed to be this big ultimate villain. The best way to describe him would be as the mediocre villain of the second film in a super hero series who bridges the gap before the more memorable villain in the third film.

The word is The Fate of Lee Khan was one of two productions of King Hu’s under his company, Gam Chuen (the other was The Valiant Ones). The films were to be distributed by Golden Harvest, who would gain the rights to Lee Khan while Hu would own The Valiant Ones. As usual, Hu’s films fell behind in filming, Lee Khan was barely finished by 1973, while The Valiant Ones wasn’t completed until 1975, and Gam Chuen then petered out.
The Fate of Lee Khan
It is a time when the Mongols have overstayed their welcome and General Zhu leads an army to fight them, spies are rife and everyone is paranoid. Lee Khan is a local overseer of two provinces and prince of the royal family, with his sister Lee Wan-Er as his loyal assistant. He found a member of General Zhu’s army to sell out and leaves to personally receive a map of battle plans. But this leads to opportunity and intrigue at a local inn, as these matters often do…

Madam Wan Ren-Mi (Li Li-Hua) – Runs the Ying Chun Inn, where Lee Khan is rumored to be staying at when meeting with a traitor that works for rebels. Is friends with benefits of the local governor Magistrate Ha Ra-Ku (Wu Jia-Xiang). Hires the waitresses who are all members of the rebellion, as is she.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) – Leaves the safety of his palace to personally receive a map of the battle plans of the rebel general (the spy would only deliver to him personally) The map is legit but it is also an opportunity to attack Lee Khan out of the safety of his palace and numerous guards Tien Feng excelled at authoritative villainous roles in the 50s-80s, appearing in films such as Black Falcon, One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance of a Snowgirl, King Boxer, Fist of Fury, By the 90s he had reduced his screen appearances, though still managed to appear in Green Snake and Sex and Zen.
Lee Wan-Er (Hsu Feng) – The sister of Lee Khan. Deadly villainess in her own right, including much more of a violent streak of wanting others to die for their crimes than Lee Khan. She seems to be the only person he cares about besides himself.
Black Peony (Angela Mao Ying) – Waitress dressed in black clothes. A former infamous pickpocket, Black Peony has mended her ways (sort of) by helping the Chinese resistance to the Mongol rule, and becomes a waitress at the Ying Chun Inn. I think she’s the only waitress whose character gets a name spoken on screen. Had her character been born rich, she’d probably be robbing from her rich friends and distributing it to the poor while wearing a super hero mask. For more Angela Mao films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Blue Waitress (Helen Ma Hoi-Lun) – A former bandit whose past makes her a poor choice as a waitress, but a good choice for someone you need in a fight. For more Helen Ma films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Red Waitress (Woo Gam) – A former street performer who now works for the rebels, she is adept with dealing with customers who have naughty hands than the other girls. For more Woo Gam films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Green Waitress (Seung-Goon Yin-Ngai) – The fourth waitress, she’s given the least amount of characterization except her character is hinted to be a con artist.
Wang Chun (Pai Ying) – A rebel sent to help, pretends to be Madam Wan’s cousin helping look over the books. Pai Ying was also in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and Lady Whirlwind
Sha Yuan-San (Han Ying-Chieh) – Wandering singer and annoying rebel sent to help pretends to be Wang Chun’s assistant. Another King Hu regular who was in Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and the non-King Hu film Sword of Emei.
Tsao Yu-Kun (Roy Chiao Hung) – High-ranking bodyguard to Lee Khan but also plotting against him. Roy Chiao had a prolific career including The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa, Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport.

The Fate of Lee Khan
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 9, 2017 at 7:45 am

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