SF Asian American Film Festival 2012: “The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom”, “Ninja Kids” and “No Look Pass” Reviews and Trailers

The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom

Lucy Walker is no stranger when it comes to directing quality introspective documentaries.  Now, having more than proved herself as a capable director with a filmography that boasts films such as Devil’s Playground, Blindsight, Waste Land, and Countdown to Zero she turns her attention to mastering the art of the short documentary.

The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom is a fine example of the effectiveness a short film can have when executed properly.  Using the devastating Tsunami that crashed on Japan’s coast on March 11, 2011, Walker is able to capture mother nature at her most cruelest and most nurturing, and really, what more can you ask for in a short form non-fiction film?  Maybe that all the film’s participants be portrayed and treated with the respect and humanity that they deserve – which, of course, she does.

Ninja Kids!!!

Highly prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike makes movies at rate which makes Woody “one film a yearAllen‘s work output look like Terrance “5 films in 38 years” Malick‘s.  To put it short, the dude is always making movies – and at a breakneck pace too.  Miike has released 72 movies in just 21 years, and that’s not including the 6 television episodes, 2 short films, and 7 other movies made directly for television.  For those of you not wanting to do the math, that’s 87 directorial projects in just 21 years!  Can you say workaholic?  With an output like that he’s bound to have his share of stinkers, hence the PG rated attention deficit disorder mess that is Ninja Kids!!!

I think a good way to describe this movie is to think of it as a carbon copy gone terribly bad version of just about every Harry Potter plot.  Here, Potter’s school for magic gets replaced by a school for ninja tomfoolery, and a ridiculous amount of exposition and bad CGI bombarded my senses for the singular intent of adding grand amounts of confusion to my already overstimulated and dumbfounded noodle.

What it really comes down to is that I don’t think this movie was made for any adult to like in any way.  I know I’m pompously speaking on behalf of every living adult in the world when I say that there isn’t one aspect of this film for any grownup to enjoy.  My advice, as if you’re really going to take it based on my previous haughty self-important sentence is; Parents, drop your pre-teen ninja obsessed boy, or girl off at this movie, go see Harry Potter in The Woman in Black, and pick them up when it’s over.

No Look Pass

On the surface, this coming-of-age story has all the tropes of an engaging documentary.  Closeted lesbian living out what her traditional Burmese parents deem the “American dream” – graduating from Harvard on a basketball scholarship.  Then, after facing adversity in her four years of academia, she must then face it again when she moves to Germany.  There she will play professionally and meet her new partner, a US military women whose very participation in the movie threatens her Army career.  The movie was shot before the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was shut down.

Unfortunately, the movie never rises above the made-for-television documentary humdrum and winds up coming across as a special hour-and-a-half long episode of MTV’s True Life: I’m a closeted Lesbian Burmese-American living in Germany.  Sure, it makes for a good television show, but I expect more from a cinematic documentary.


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