Tiny Tapes Reviews – October 2022

So it has been a little while since the last TTR… my bad… but life has been a little… well, you know.
But here we are again with a few more short and snappy reviews! As much as I’d love to delve deeply into each film, time contstraints limit my brain power. But that’s enough of that, let’s get into it!

October’s TTRs consists of: Blue Bayou, The Garden of Words, Incantation, ‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’, The Matrix Resurrections, Don’t Make Me Go, Lightyear, The Gray Man and Pinocchio.

Director: Justin Chon
Writer: Justin Chon
Cast: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Sydney Kowalske, Linh-Dan Pham, Mark O’Brien

This was a truly touching little movie, much of it feeling personal for Chon as well as clear that he researched his subject matter well. Chon plays the main role of Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean-American adoptee and tattoo artist who is struggling to make ends meet, continually turning mainly to crime to keep the money coming in. He is eventually threatened with deportation back to Korea, a country he has never known, thanks to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, and faces the real possibility of never being able to return to the United States again. It brings to light the extremely tough situations many foreign adoptees have faced thanks to the CCA, especially for those who have built a life, including having a family. Chon and Vikander have great chemistry onscreen and convincingly portray the emotional upheaval that forced deportation has on people and their families.

Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer: Makoto Shinkai
Cast (Japanese): Miyu Irino, Fumi Hirano, Kana Hanazawa, Mikako Komatsu
Cast (English): Crash Buist, Shelly Calene-Black, Maggie Flecknoe, Hilary Haag

Only about 45 minutes long, this Japanese anime stands out from other well-known animes thanks to the explicit detail in the art – general Japanese animation is often well-known for its beauty and ability to capture detail, but The Garden of Words takes it to another level. The themes of lonliness and losing oneself are all to relatable, and thanks to the age range of the characters it can be relatable on a wider scale. Based on a manga, it tells the short story of student Takao Akizuki, an aspiring shoemaker who begins to retreat to a public garden during the rainy season to focus on his designs, and Yukari Yukino, a teacher who has been skipping work and heading to the same garden due to being the subject of gossip at her school. As they get to know one another, a range of feelings develop between the two. It does have a big red flag in that, although nothing hugely untoward happens, the growing feelings between an adult and a minor is rather an inapproproate trope, and it really puts a big shadow over the whole film. If you can manage to see past that, there is a lot of human beauty woven throughout the plot and the scenery.

Director: Kevin Ko
Writers: Che-Wei Chang, Kevin Ko
Cast: Tsai Hsuan-yen, Huang Sin-tang, Kao Ying-hsuan, Sean Lin, RQ

If you’re looking for something truly terrifying this Halloween, may I suggest this little Taiwanese gem of a horror. After a woman named Ronan visits her boyfriend’s family and disturbs a ritual, she and her unborn daughter become cursed. After a few years and seeking some psychiatric help, she is reunited with her daughter, only for things to take another turn for the worse. This very basic summation of the plot may sound generic, and perhaps it is, but it is executed very well through the found footage technique and with some great visual effects (expect some gore and decent scares) and framing. It is a genuinely creepy movie that also has a pretty scary realistic vibe to it, particularly thanks to the narrator who bookends the story with some terrifying revelations.

Daniels (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert)
Writers: Daniels (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert)
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong

I am incredibly aware of how popular this movie has been. In fact, it took me a long time to see it because it wasn’t available anywhere (I live in South Korea and, at the time of writing in late October, it’s only just gotten a minimal cinema release), and I was really looking forward to it. Honestly, for me, the jury is still out on it. I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I enjoyed it nearly as much as others. Split into three parts (your standard three-act production, I suppose), it is about a Chinese American immigrant named Evelyn and her family who are going through some… things. Taking a leaf or five out of Marvel’s book, Evelyn is exposed to the Alphaverse, a parallel universe where other versions of her and everyone in this world exist. She is taken on quite the strange adventure, with very surreal characters and “out there” situations that could be interpreted as her having a bit of a mental breakdown. I’m all for surrealism and pushing boundaries, but this felt like something you’d watch on late night television back in the day when there was only a handful of channels available or weird cable channels and you were probably high, drunk, or both. I’m willing to watch it again to try and make sense of what I saw, but I get the feeling that if I didn’t fully “get” what Daniels were doing on the first go round, I’ve probably missed it completely. The performances were most enjoyable though, and I enjoyed seeing an older cast, particularly the return of Ke Huy Quan!

Lana Wachowski
Writers: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci

Who asked for this movie? A genuine question, because I really want to know who was so desperate to further ruin what was one great movie twenty three years ago and also so I can admonish them for this decision. The two sequels were disappointing enough, but this was just a travesty. Frankly it was boring and unecessary and a complete waste of good actors. I can barely recall what even happened, I zoned out too much. It follows a similar plotline to the first movie, though this time it’s more about Neo waking up Trinity. I think the only aspect keeping it from being awarded just 1 star is the nostalgic feel of having Neo and Trinity back together, though the lack of Laurence Fishburn’s Morpheus is keenly felt. I don’t really have much else to say about it, other than please just the leave this franchise alone now, unless there’s to be a really good complete reboot with new characters and a new angle.

Hannah Marks
Writer: Hannah Marks
Cast: John Cho, Mia Isaac, Kaya Scodelario

This movie does its best to pack an emotional punch, but it lacks some depth and real meaning, which is a shame considering its subject matter. Cho plays a single father to a teenage daughter who finds out he has a terminal brain tumour. He decides not to tell her immediately and instead drag her on a road trip to get in some bonding time and try to bring her up to speed on being an adult. It boasts some humourous moments and many touching scenes between father and daughter (as well as those caught in the orbit of their relationship), but it shys away from really getting into the raw human emotion that comes not only from having to go through this kind of situation, but also that contentious father-daugher relationship. Much of it feels superficial, and there are plenty of times where Marks could have gone further in her writing. Having said that, it’s still completely worth the watch for what it is on the surface as a family drama, as well as having compelling performances, particularly in scenes featuring Cho and Isaac.

Angus MacLane
Writers: Angus MacLane, Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley
Cast: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, James Brolin, Dale Soules, Bill Hader

Much like The Matrix Resurrections, I neither remember much of the plot of this movie nor do I think it was a necessary movie. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000) was the perfect standalone animated Buzz movie, and the resulting TV series was also so much fun, as far as  I remember. I still watch that movie from time to time, and still very much enjoy it. This movie felt too far removed from the Buzz we actually know, but maybe that’s because of the lack of Tim Allen. Evans takes over as the voice of this Buzz Lightyear in an adventure that sees Buzz trying to return his crew home after they are marooned for many years on a distant planet. Perhaps I am not the intended audience, but as someone who grew up on the Toy Story movies and, as mentioned, very much enjoyed Buzz’s animated outings, I would say I am somewhat invested in the character. If I had to recommened a Toy Story spin-off though, I would stick with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, thank you very much.

Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Dhanush

If you ever see the Russo brothers’ name on anything, you’re more than likely going to want to watch it. The guys who gave us some excellent MCU moments deserve some attention when it comes to their other projects. The Gray Man, however, doesn’t quite entirely measure up to Russo standards, in my opinion. It’s a fairly decent action movie that sees Gosling as a nameless (other than a code) CIA agent who is on the run from other CIA agents after discovering some secrets revolving around corruption within the agency. It’s not the most unique of stories, and there’s nothing that really stands out, but if you enjoy a good mystery with a couple of twists and turns, it could be your cup of tea of a Saturday afternoon. Based on a series of novels named Gray Man, it looks like we’re set to see a few more movies based on the adventures of Gosling’s Sierra Six character.

Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Chris Weitz
Cast:  Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Cynthia Erivo, Angus Wright, Sheila Atim, Keegan-Michael Key, Giuseppe Battiston, Lewin Lloyd, Luke Evans

Much like Lightyear, I highly recommend you stick to the original movie this was based upon. As darling as it is to see Tom Hanks in the role of Gepetto, something felt off about the performance, as though he knew it wasn’t really the right move to adapt it into live action. The movie tries to stay close to the original while trying to add some new elements and fresh faces, but ultimately it doesn’t quite capture that same magic that the 1940 classic exudes. The character of Pinocchio himself is technically still an animation, and he is voiced very well by Ainsworth to the point where he does feel rather familiar, but the surrounding live action is quite off-putting in contrast with the familiarity of the main character. It was risky trying to create a live adaptation of such a beloved movie, and unfortunately it just doesn’t pay off, not even with the level of talent in front of and behind the camera.

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