Enter The Fat Dragon

It is not, I have noted, that all Korean and (particularly) Chinese movies are great. It is, however, true that they’re capable of attaining greatness and that even when they’re simple, mindless fun, they aren’t in the American mold of hammer them to pieces with focus-group approved stimuli, patient zero for which I think I recently identified. They’re still allowed to have fun in the East. And pathologies are not enshrined and protected.

Which brings us to this film: Enter The Fat Dragon.



Martial Arts Master Donnie Yen (Ip Man 4, and 3, and 2, and 1, Rogue One) plays a supercop whose high-octane antics result in excessive property damage and embarrassment to his superiors and him be reassigned to the property room. Meanwhile, he’s pissed off his fiancee (native Angeleno Jessica Jann, Easy A) by saving a bunch of bank robbery hostages on the day they were to have their wedding pictures taken. (Note, Jann is 30 and Yenn is 56, though the age disparity is curiously not as obvious as it would be with Caucasian stars.)

So, Yenn, down on his luck and stuck in the property room for eight hours a day, depressed over his break-up, well, naturally he starts snacking. And snacking. And gets fatter and fatter and…well, actually not that fat by American standards, but fatter than one expects a kung-fu-master/action-hero to be. He gets sent on a busy-work run to Japan with a villain where, sure enough, he runs into his ex- and discovers the only good people in Japan are displaced Chinese.

But in a loose top.

While he’s still skinny.

I’m not kidding about that: Every Japanese person in this movie is criminal or complicit in crime. There’s even a scene where the police turn a blatant blind eye to Yakusa shenanigans because they’re Japanese, what do you expect? The Boy and I were amused because our view of Japan is that it is a very mild-mannered place with a very low crime rate. But I guess the Chinese aren’t over the Rape of Nanking yet. (And the Koreans clearly aren’t over the attempted genocide, as we saw in The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos.)

Whatever the veracity of it, our hero is on our own as his busywork mission becomes complicated by his ward being murdered, and a criminal conspiracy that reaches…well, not to the top, but high enough.

It’s fun. It’s funny. It has a lot of kick-ass action scenes, and Donnie and Jessica have a kind of complicated reconciliation/breakup/reconciliation/rescue that gets you in the feels despite the overall absurdity of many of the situations. Again, there are tonal shifts here that don’t work in American movies, typically. It starts out as a straight-up action/comedy film, then goes into pretty much straight comedy, then there’s an actual murder with dead body, then there’s more action/comedy, then there’s a pretty strong romance theme, and it kind of plays out action/comedy/romance/mystery.

Probably Chinese. I dunno.

We make pretty Chinese girls here in L.A.

It’s amazing what you can do when you respect your characters. (Well, except the Japanese characters.)

The Boy and I enjoyed it. We were surprised (and maybe a little disappointed) that there really weren’t a lot of fat jokes. I think we were expecting something broader—though Lord knows there are sharp limitations on “Fat Man Fall Down” humor, and it perhaps would have seemed a little unkind, given that I’m pretty sure Donnie Yen rolls around with a 4% body fat most of the time.

But, honestly, they make him up to be fat and virtually nothing else changes. He does all his signature moves perfectly, just with a gut. Yeah, alright. It’s kind of a low-key visual gag that doesn’t wear out its welcome and makes his character strangely sympathetic. I think, on an aesthetic level, it speaks to all of us who were in good shape once, and never changed on the inside. Heh.

Anyway: Fun action/comedy flick worth your attention. Check it out.

Whoa, Fat! North Korean review.

“Look, Fat.” — Joe Biden

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words

“I was born…a poor black child.”

Of course, Thomas is way too dignified to have started his movie like that, but he really was born into abject rural poverty at a time when racism was still a real, institutionalized thing. Even so, his memories of those times are pretty positive, until he was sent off to live with his mother in Atlanta. (Urban poverty being a wholly different thing from rural poverty.) When her place burns down, he ends up moving in with his grandmother and grandfather, who end up shaping his life.


He’s seen some things.

His path from there is a fascinating one: Working hard and keeping his nose clean to stay on grandpa’s good side, having a calling to the seminary which ends when his fellow priests cheer and gloat over Martin Luther King’s assassination—which departure alienates him from his grandfather—falling in with radicals and realizing the horribleness of the mob mentality from the joiner’s side, success in law school followed by an inability to get a job as a black man, ending up in the D.A.’s office, marriage, child, divorce, then re-marriage and of course all culminating in a high-tech lynching.

One thing I think is very important in these days of SJW grievance mongering is remembering that racism used to be routinely more than casting the wrong ethnicity character in a Disney movie, and institutionally speaking, racism among Democrat politicians was an issue into the confirmation hearings of the ’90s—and how much has changed since then? Destroy someone insufficiently woke for making a joke comparing a black person to an ape? Absolutely. Make those insults and far worse yourself, perhaps accompanied by threats of violence? Hey, whatever gets the job done.

Politicians seem to inevitably be the worst of us, but to see Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy smirking their oleaginous way through this politically-orchestrated slander was infuriating. Kennedy’s shamelessness notwithstanding, you just wanna punch Biden in the face. Seems like too many of the faces were familiar. Either still in office or just recently stepped down.

The creep...creeps.

“Sniff my hair. I dare you.”

Point being, a modern lynching isn’t much different from the old kind, even if the TV cameras make the hanging unnecessary, and the lynchee doesn’t care how “woke” his assailants are.

If Thomas were on the Left, he’d be getting the Full RBG treatment: There’d be movies and (more than one) documentary, tchotchkes, workout- and cook-books, but instead it’s: “He’s Scallia’s lapdog,” “He’s so dumb, he never asks questions,” “He’s an Uncle Tom”. That’s why he needed his own documentary.

Thomas has long been my favorite Supreme Court Justice for the simple reason I can understand what he writes. I can follow the logic. I usually agree, but whether I do or not, I don’t feel like he’s riding some hobby horse. (Scalia sometimes seemed to be twisting himself into what you might call pro-government positions, by contrast. And I didn’t always understand his logic even when I agreed with his general conclusion.) This movie talks almost none at all about his decisions, however, content to end with his arrival at the Supreme Court. (Though there is some coverage of the continued attempts to invalidate him.)

But what a ride. What an interesting person. He’s kinda pissed, and I don’t blame him. But you also get the sense he’s living his best life, and is kind of bulletproof now from the dirt kicked up at him because he knows his enemies have no shame and will stop at nothing.

On the three-point documentary scale:

  1. Subject matter: Obviously worthy.
  2. Presentation: Straightforward. Interview/narrative by Thomas himself, basically, with some segments from wife, Ginnie. Good enough photos and some relevant stock footage. Video of the hearings and a couple of other occasions exist. Appropriate music and for the interstitials there were low camera shots of the swampy island where Thomas spent his early childhood. Good music choices.
  3. Slant: Well, it’s his own story, in his own words. In that sense, it’s not slanted at all from what I can tell. Any biases or prejudices are Thomas’ own. There isn’t any apparent commentary around that.

On this last point, you could say it’s biased, obviously, because Thomas doubtless has his own. Anita Hill (speaking of leftists given tonguebaths by the media) is not given any more due than she actually deserves, though she isn’t dragged either. She’s just a slightly more emotionally stable version of the loons they dragged up for Kavanagh.

It only played a few days here in Gomorrah and it was only because I was down in the OC that I had a chance to see it: It’s a definite recommend, if you have any interest in the man, or even just want to get a sense of what this slice of American history was like. Even if he weren’t a Supreme Court Justice, his story would be a worthwhile one.

Say my name, mofo!

“They call me MISTER Supreme Court Justice Thomas!”

Secret Zoo

Young lawyer-man has a chance to get out of his inferior internship and into a real position, and all he has to do is make a go of a client’s newly acquired zoo. One catch? When he arrives, all the big draw animals are being carted off, and he has no way to get any new ones within his deadline. Solution? Have the ragtag bunch of remaining employees dress up as the animals to draw customers to the park.

That’s what we would’ve called high-concept back in the day.

Judging the sloth.

“High concept” back in the day also meant you were high whenyou came up with it.

This is a cute ensemble comedy of mostly TV actors—nobody I know—which begins with an absurd premise, goes off on a more absurd spike, but always treats the characters with respect.

The idea for costumes is floated when the crew is drunk, and the young lawyer is scared by a stuffed lion. They find a movie effects guy—a twitchy old dude—who assures them it can all be done: lions, tigers, giraffes…dinosaurs… They pass on the dinosaurs and the first actual costume the guy makes is a giant sloth. (The lazy girl gets to wear that, though it’s much harder hanging on trees than it looks.) The ugly guy with the crush on the sloth girl gets the gorilla suit. The vet ends up with a lion outfit. And the old guy who used to own the zoo (and who “ruined it into the ground”, which I wasn’t sure was a translation error or a joke) ends up being the polar bear.

They’re bad at it, of course, but they get better with time. This allows for a lot of good sight gags.

Beats Dr. Doolittle.

The polar bear is pivotal.

The turning point comes when the lawyer, who’s been running the show from the comfort of the control room, has to spend the day in the polar bear suit because the old man is not well enough. Well, sure enough he gets ridiculously hot and uncomfortable and he runs out of water. Koreans (in this movie) think its funny to pelt him with Coca-Cola so when he thinks nobody’s looking, he chugs it down.

But of course, someone is looking and video taping, and sure enough the Coke-drinking-polar-bear goes viral. This (temporarily) saves the park but you can see the other problems it might (and does) raise.

In other words, it’s a kind of screwball comedy. But there’s room in there for the lawyer to develop feelings for the doctor, and the gorilla-guy to console the sloth-girl when her jerk of a boyfriend dumps her, and for the old guy to get a little redemption in, too. The lawyer ends up with the real moral crisis.

Tormenting caged animals seems particularly degenerate.

I would like to believe that the trash-throwing thing is just for the movie but I wouldn’t be shocked if it were true.

It’s nice. I’ve realized in the past three or so years that a lot of these movies aren’t as great as they seem to me at the moment, except in that moment. But it reminds me that we used to see (and enjoy) movies like this all the time out of Hollywood. And this is not a movie that could be made now in this country. Think about it:

The cast would have to be diverse, of course. But then there’d be implications about what race went into what costume. You’d have to have a black person, for example, but you couldn’t put them in the gorilla suit. You probably couldn’t put them in the sloth outfit, either. You couldn’t put a hispanic in the sloth costume, given stereotypes there. And then the simple love story of the not-so-handsome guy who is strong and stable and dependable and thereby wins a cuter girl? Even to the point of carrying her when she’s tired and burned out? That’s problematic. Then you gotta wonder if the animal rights people would complain (they would) about demeaning animals or cultural appropriation, maybe even.

It’s exhausting just to think about, but you know they do, and that’s probably why American product seems so exhausted. But I guess as long as we have Chinese and Korean movies to fall back on, we’ll be okay.

Sweatier, too.

More exhausting than wearing giant fur costumes all day.

Gretel and Hansel

Look, there’s\re just not a lot of options for even bad movies that are at least somewhat interesting, and while the trailers for this film smacked of “wokeness”, The Boy and I both thought there was potential here. Which, ex-post-facto doesn’t matter much, since this movie doesn’t really realize much of it. Tonally, it’s a bit like The VVitch meets Mandy but it lacks the stark realism of the former and the surreality of the latter. And it’s yet another horror which didn’t seem particularly good in the atmosphere department.

A steal at $979,000!

“Evil witch house” or “cozy fixer-upper with gobs of potential”?

In this version, big sister Gretel and her baby brother Hansel are thrown out of their house by crazy widowed mom, and wander around in the woods until they come to a…I dunno what it was, a manor house, maybe?…where they, for some reason figure they can crash, so they do, but they’re chased out by a zombie who’s murdered by a black dude with a super-crossbow who talks all Old Englishy and feeds them and tells them to go cross the forest to hang out with the lumberjacks.

Black Ranger is the second United Colors of Benetton moment in the movie, the first coming in the prologue, which itself is set up as a fairy tale where colonial-looking peasants, black and white, are living together as…well, I dunno, maybe it happened somewhere at some point in the 18th century.

It didn’t bug me much. It’s a little weird, but I’m willing to cut a fair amount of slack for something that isn’t meant to be real or realistic. There’s a later (repeated) incident that really jangles, though.

Anyway, the deal is they have to stay on the path, but they get hungry and stop to eat some hallucinogenic mushrooms. The film clocks in at around 80 minutes, not counting credits, so this is what’s known as “padding”. After the mushrooms comes finding the witch’s house.

Oh Mighty Brosis!

Cool hat, bro…er, sis.

The witch (Alice Krige!) invites them in to eat all the great food, for which there’s no non-spooky explanation, and the two kids settle in, with Hansel learning to lumberjack and Gretel learning witchcraft. The tension comes from Gretel’s awakening power, which coincides with her increasing awareness that being a witch is not an entirely savory (heh) matter.

At one point, we get a view of the witch’s previous child victims and this is the third UC of B moment: There’s an Asian kid, a couple of black kids, several brown-skinned kids who may have been some mix of Amerind, Indian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern…who knows. They all just happened to wander into the witch’s forest. I probably wouldn’t have cared but I (and I found out later, The Boy) was having a hard time caring about this. I was having trouble staying awake, even.

It didn’t grab us, is what I’m getting at.

Quite the hottie.

Alice Krige is good in everything. Like 1981’s “Ghost Story”.

There’s a good story to be had here: That of Gretel struggling with the decision to “sell her soul”, essentially, by sacrificing her little brother. The kid actors are good enough, but the director (and possibly the writer, though who knows how much of the screenplay made it on screen) seems to have one basic trick. Much like The Turning, you’re never really sure whether you’re seeing literal action in the real world or just a dream. Unlike The Turning, however, where this plays into the question of the governess’ sanity, here when it’s not literal, it’s premonitory or at least symbolic. In other words, it’s as good as real as far as real goes for this movie.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t make enough literal sense to be engaging, or enough poetic/aesthetic sense to compensate. Some good imagery, though again, we found ourselves underwhelmed by the atmosphere. Music seemed very ’80s, synth-heavy, which isn’t necessarily bad. This is just one of those movies where you can point to a variety of things, some good, some bad, some odd, but end up feeling like nothing quite gelled.

Is that a spoiler? I don't think it's a spoiler.

They should’ve crossed-over with “Ratatouille”: “Shut up and eat your brother!”