Three Filipino Films at LA’s Asian Film Festival in Review

30 Sep

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Playing at the Regal L.A. LIVE: Barco Innovation Center will be a treat for those looking to expand their horizons with Filipino produced works. One is actually Canadian because that’s where the director is from (Fanny), but as for why this county matters, it’s easy to see how their influence is shaking things up in the art house cinematic world. Sadly, these works run nearly back to back with each other, and this guide can help those locals decide on which work deserves to be seen.

Lumpia with a Vengeance #1 - Comics by comiXologyLumpia with a Vengeance

Oct 1, 8:30 pm

It’s rare to find a movie that mixes superheroes up with food. Lumpia is one of those rare films not very widely known, but somehow it gained a cult recognition. It was a sophomore work of Patricio Ginelsa Kuya and its Filipino-American representation made this work unique.

The sequel shows this superhero is back with even more egg rolls! Normally, I’d be all over this like I am to this deep fried goodness it extols. There’s so many flavourful regional variants, and I’d eat them all up. In this sequel, perhaps a second serving isn’t needed. While it’s fantastic to get caught up with the people from the first film decades later, including seeing this avenger take on a side-kick, this story needs editing. 

The world has gotten bloated. The lengthy run time is the problem and we’re dealing with a lot of unneeded subplots. Part of the tale includes Kuya taking on a side-kick. Rachel (April Absynth) wants to help in the fight. Her high school is flooded with bad guys selling drugs hidden in the egg rolls.

It’s terrific to see a few big names, like Danny Trejo, become part of this narrative, but I think this film doesn’t need all this this added celebrity support. I’d fare better on its own merits than further world and character building.

3 Stars out of 5

The Monsters Without (2021) - IMDb

The Monsters Without

Oct 1, 2021
9:00 pm

The Monsters Without is a fun action-fantasy-adventure that delves into the folklore of the Philippines.
Here, the monsters want to reclaim the world. The only organization able to do something about it is P.H.A.S.E. They operate much like M.O.N.A.R.C.H. in Legendary’s Godzilla. The cast are specialists from different countries and the hope is that they can come up with a way to save the planet.

When a rogue Yablo decides it’s time for a new future for his species, it’s up to Setsuko (Christina Yr. Jun) and her fiance, Rommel Romero (Jake Macapagal), to do something about it. They have a lot of friends to help, but is it enough?

This film by Randal Kamradt has a lot to like. It’s a loving tribute to the monster films of the 80s. Anyone who thinks we don’t have enough Filipino genre style films will be in for a treat. It’s tough to keep track of all the creatures, and a checklist is required. There’s a vibe that’s recognizable for those who love Harryhausen’s stop motion films and Ghostbusters.

Plus, there’s a familiar enthusiasm from Yr. Jun’s performance. She’s like Sydney Fox (Tia Carrere) from Relic Hunter, and a woman to be respected. Her resiliance on the field is what kept me interested. I’m hoping for a sequel after this film gets picked up for a proper theatrical release after its debut at this festival. I wouldn’t be surprised for WELL GO USA to pick up the title, but that’s not likely to get a home video release until next year.

4 Stars out of 5

Fanny: The Right to Rock (2021) - IMDb

Fanny: The Right to Rock

Oct 1, 2021
7:00 pm

For upcoming screenings, please visit the official webpage.

The music industry has forgotten about Fanny, a Filipina American garage band who shot to fame in the early 70s. In the excellent documentary, The Right to Rock, their legacy is examined with a fine-tooth comb to understand the life and times of the founders–June and Jean Millingtonand the world they left behind since they folded in 1975. Just what they dealt with was not restricted to the racism they faced. There was also misogyny.

Their carefree LGBTQ attitude makes any movement of today look like a third attempt for proper recognition. Bonnie Raitt, Joe Elliott, Kate Pierson, and David Bowie loved them. A few visited their retreat and got to jam. This group predated later acts who would emerge from the same decade. On this list includes Joan Jett, Go-Gos and The Bangles. Most of them cite this group as their inspiration. 

This work by Bobbi Jo Hart suggests they’re planning a massive comeback. These musicians still got it, and as for whether there’ll be another album, it’s hard to say after the release of Fanny Walked the Earth (2018). This documentary was filmed during the making of and was released early this year.

5 Stars out of 5

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