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February 16, 2023

Rise of the Ninja and Tales of Time (movie shorts) Reviews

Here we are again, folks. I’m wrapping up the reviews for the short film/shorts that I got from Atomic Swan Films last year in Flint. And, funny story, I ran into Tyler Zickafoose (the man behind ASF) at a convention in Monroe a couple weeks ago. I was a little worried he’d be mad that I mostly trashed the films I’ve reviewed so far. But he was gracious and super cool, and said his friend was actually mad that I gave a GOOD rating to one of the films.


Well, let’s see what happens this week as I review Rise of the Ninja and the anthology, Tales of Time.

For Rise of the Ninja, I think the basic story is about Tommy Toyota, a drug dealer, who goes to sell some cocaine to Mamasan. Somehow, a blind ninja get tangled up in their dealings and vows revenge on the thugs who beat him up.


I mean…

Yes, this film was sixty minutes, the longest project ASF has made. But I think short, Pedie the Clown, raised my expectations too high because I was sorely disappointed with this offering.

The faults, for me, were:

  1. The pacing drags major ass.
  2. There’s a lot of singing going on for a non-musical film, so it felt like filler, making the sixty-minute running time completely unnecessary.
  3. The humor falls flat most of the time.
  4. The dialogue is nonsensical. It felt like while Tuan wrote the story, he may not have developed dialogue and figured, “Well, I’ll just make shit up as I go along.” Please don’t do this.
  5. The audio was mixed - sometimes done well, other times uneven, either too loud or too soft.
  6. While Tuan was hilarious as the solo actor in Pedie the Clown, that set up didn’t really work here. He’s playing multiple characters so he can’t act or react off the energy of another person. That also subjects us to his character explaining what’s going on instead of just showing us.
  7. Because of #6, the editing looked choppy.

The good stuff, for me, was:

  1. The early humor was enjoyable, and I honestly liked how Tommy kept pulling out his gun and aiming it at inanimate objects that didn’t work properly (his phone, the toilet, the briefcase, etc.). As the blind ninja, Tuan did that “mouth moving but no sound is coming out” mimicry of many early Asian action films when the dubbing was truly awful. 

Actually, that’s about it. Except for another joke about a “disturbance in the chalupa” for a couple characters having intestinal distress making me chuckle, most of this movie was a total mess and a total miss. With the disorganized story and dialogue, this was an exercise in futility.

.5 hatchets (out of 5)



Tales of Time

The second DVD I got is an anthology of short films. Y’all know how I love a good anthology. The main problem right off the bat, though, is the listing of film titles. The back of the DVD case only lists three titles and there are four films. And even the films themselves don’t all have title screens. So whatever I list below are just my guesses.

".357 (357)"

The first short shows us two people listening to a radio broadcast. The guy is clearly stressed out about the state of chaos going on outside, while the woman is begging him to listen to her. He argues that she’s been bitten by an infected person and now he’s gotta kill her before she turns.

I actually don’t want to spoil this for you because it was so well done. It’s probably my favorite of the bunch. Sure, it looks like an indie horror and consists of only two casts members. But don’t let that idea turn you off. The story is good, the suspense and tension are well-maintained, and the reveal gave me the sads. I mean, really. If any movie can connect to me emotionally, it’s job is 50% complete. And this one got me.


"20 Seconds (The Longest 20 Seconds)"

Just a guy sitting and having an internal monologue, questioning stuff, while random images flash on screen. For twenty seconds.

I…I don’t get it. Especially since I couldn’t hear one fucking word.


"Experiment 7734 (??)"

A man has kidnapped and restrained another man. Through the dialogue we come to learn the kidnapper is having an affair with the kidnappee’s wife. Seems the wife is sick of her married life and wants her lover to get rid of her husband.

Seems like a simple story, yes? Sure it is. But the way it’s delivered is smart. We watch a hybrid of a split screen and one scene overlaying the other. One shows us the lover driving around in his car, the other shows us the exchange between him and the husband. Once you realize what’s happening with the lover in his solo scene, it’s actually genius. I honestly got chills and said, “Whoaaaa”, out loud while I was watching. So good and definitely my second favorite.



"Seven/eleven (??)"

We watch as a clearly distraught man arrives home. As he guzzles some beers, one roommate on the easy chair just stares at him while his other roommate is blasting loud music. The man is clearly distressed but the loud music roommate doesn’t give a fuck and in fact, flips off the man. Well, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back as the man goes to the kitchen and grabs a giant knife.

You can guess how this ends, right? You’d probably be mostly correct. What’s great about this short film is the style. It’s black and white with no audio. We can’t hear the blaring music; we can’t hear the man screaming in frustration; we certainly don’t hear the murder. We have to go on facial expressions, movement, and emoting. The main actor, Dustin James, did such a great job of showing emotions throughout the story. The audience knows exactly what he’s going through. I’m not sure how this guy is in speaking parts, but for this film, he was great.


So, surprisingly, this collection of films was my favorite. Despite that head scratching 20 Seconds one, these were solid offerings of indie horror.

 4 hatchets (out of 5) – sorry, Tyler’s friend. I liked this one, too.

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