Directed by Yusry Kru
Cicak Man is Malaysia’s first super-hero film and was the first Malaysian film I saw. It is not a straight film, but instead a comedy, something I was not aware of when I watched it. In viewing many films from around the world, one thing you notice is some comedy translates well, and some comedy dies a horrible death under your sink. Usually, the more talky comedy is the hardest to translate, but there is another type that is hard to pass, and that is the comedy of body language. Many comedians throughout the world have their own body language types, and it is often interesting to seen what different people see as goofy comedy. Saiful Apek is a popular comedian in Malaysian and does what I am guessing is his signature goofy style, but to many outside observers I can see how it would translate poorly into some annoying guy with spastic convulsions. I am going to admit it took me a while to get used to how he acted, especially since I thought he was just the wacky sidekick character as Yusry Kru plays the confident ladies man part really well. But Saiful Apek’s Hairi Yatim ends up getting the genetic alterations that turn him into Cicak Man (Gecko Man) and inherits all the problems that entails. And he did eventually grow on me, but this is not a film that will have wide crossover appeal or show the world the wonders of Malaysian cinema.
Super hero comedies are not a new thing in Southeast Asia, the Philippines puts out dozens of such films and Thailand has their own brand of goofy films. Cicak Man tried to be a bit more ambitious than the usual “some comedian gets wacky super powers” route and went for creating a distinct universe for Cicak Man to take place in. The setting is the city of Metrofulus, which looks to be a cross of Chicago and Metropolis, with some San Francisco thrown in for kicks. The weather is snowy, nothing like the tropical climate of Malaysia. The money there is called fulus. There is also taxes on everything. Nothing is free in Metrofulus, from riding the bus to walking on the sidewalk. It is some sort of Libertopia, except Libertopia is threatened (besides from the fact that Libertarianism is stupid) by an evil professor looking to make money off of the cures for diseases he also designs himself. Hey, it’s a free market, baby! Thus, Cicak Man must stop him before it is too late.
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Directed by Ace Hannah (who may or may not be Jack Perez)
Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus exploded on the internet with a title. Buzz grew, because, what a title! Then production art and a few stills appeared, and finally, a trailer that became a viral hit. So here it is! As the film is from The Asylum, who has become famous in recent years due to their mockbusters (such as Transmorphers, Dragon, and The Terminators) which have a sketchy history, thus people were wondering if they could pull of a film with a title as great as Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. I am happy to say the film is not terrible. It is not boring. It could be better, but it is very good considering. There are plenty of ridiculous scenes, and they make the movie.
Why bother writing a big opening statement when everyone just wants to get to the monster action? So let’s get it on! The rumble in the jung—ocean. The motion in the ocean? Who cares, giant monsters fight each other and destroy things! Rock!
When Sea Beast first showed up in the listings on SciFi Channel, no one had any idea what the movie was. Internet searches turned up nothing, SciFi.com had no info about the film at all, people were confused, and many wrote it off as a generic sea monster film that would just be terrible. It wasn’t until a week or two before it aired that commercials popped up and people realized Sea Beast was really a film called Troglodyte that had gotten some good buzz. What looked to be a less than stellar no-name film turned out to be a very entertaining entry into the SciFi Channel movie world. Yes, an entertaining SciFi Channel film. They do happen, people.
I was wondering why some of the sequences reminded me of Snakehead Terror, but then I realized it was because Paul Ziller directed both. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was filmed on the same spot. Snakehead Terror was pretty passable (and only looked bad when compared to Frankenfish), and Paul Ziller has also given us Beyond Loch Ness, which also gets good marks as a SciFi Channel film. I haven’t seen Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon or Ba’al or Polar Storm, so I can’t comment on if Ziller delivers all the time.
One thing that makes Sea Beast/Troglodyte so entertaining is Corin Nemec, who is becoming a regular starrer on the SciFi Channel network. S.S. Doomtrooper, Mansquito, and Raging Sharks are all previous entries from him. When Corin Nemec is on, he’s pretty darn good, and his fishing captain character Will is pretty likable. Just don’t call him Corky!
The Asylum makes a living producing mockbusters, which are DTV films with titles deceptively similar to films that have hit the theater the same week the DTV film hits video store shelves, thus people rent it by mistake and get enraged at what they saw. It is a strategy that works, gets them lots of press, and on occasion produces a film that’s better than the film it is mockbusting. TarsTarkas.NET has covered the mockbusters Transmorphers and Dragon (and will be covering more soon!), though those two films were done long ago when Leigh Scott was responsible for most of The Asylum’s output and better mockbusters. He has since left to do his own thing, and I haven’t really seen any post-Scott films from Asylum until now. Does it measure up? Read on and find out!
On first glance, you would think that The Asylum would get their pants sued off for the title alone. The Terminators? That doesn’t leave much room for error in what they are trying to mockbuster. But as The Asylum got lots of free publicity when they were threatened over the title of their The Day the Earth Stood Still mockbuster The Day the Earth Stopped, it is understandable why they would want to push the envelope again. From the trailer, it became obvious that they were using both the Terminator films and the remake Battlestar Galactica series as inspirations for the story and design, and that became even more obvious upon seeing the completed film.
What did happen is if you went to The Asylum’s Website, you saw no mention of the film. Sources say they did receive a cease and desist, but released the film regardless while scrubbing all promotion of it on their own pages. Sneaky, and calling someone’s bluff. The information was returned about a week later and is still up as of the time of writing this review.
One of the major problems with the film is the pacing. I am generally forgiving when it comes to bad effects (even if I point them out I find them charming) but as the Terminator franchise is generally known for fast-paced action, The Terminators is more on the lines of jogging action. A few sequences have brief bits of excitement on the scale of a bigger production (the van chase, the space battles), but most of the film is just the same robot guy walking along and killing people. Granted, there is no way that a small budgeted film like this could pull of complicated car chase sequences, nor are they expected, but when you are using all CGI for space shots, just go for broke and fund a few thousand dollars worth of cooler shots that will get people talking more.
This is Xavier S. Puslowski’s first film, though he has been the assistant director on many Asylum films (and if the rumors are true, he was basically the director on at least one of them thanks to the real director not doing anything!) Writer David Michael Latt is the current writer for what looks like everything the Asylum has done in the past few years, though this time he was working with story elements from lesser Asylum player William Morey. One common theme on Asylum productions is thinking big, so you can’t fault them for wanting to be able to do awesome stuff. The problem lies in their ability to do awesome stuff, which doesn’t always work with tiny budgets.
It is the future, and everyone owns a robot slave, called a TR4, all of which look identical, some bodybuilder. Yeah. I can totally see a sinister-looking model like that getting bought by families in the suburbs to cook breakfast. Of course, this movie would have not looked like the film it is mockbusting had the cyborgs all looked like Mrs. Doubtfire, but it would have been insane. Also, in this future where we have cyborgs and space stations and starships, everything else is modern day. In fact, the cars are all older model cars, probably because most of them are destroyed and a buying a new car would eat up the whole budget (it’s not like Chrysler is going to give them free cars, but maybe they should since they are broke and could use the publicity The Terminators could give them!)
Directed by Fred Olen Ray (as Nicholas Medina)
Bewitched Housewives is a take off of Bewitched except as a softcore flick. As a Bewitched movie came out around the same time, that may have been the inspiration for the script getting made. This is not the only Retromedia take off of old TV shows as erotic entertainment, Erotic Genie being another example. I would rather these old shows get made as parody softcore flicks instead of terrible big budget films that bomb at the box office.
The TV series Bewitched actually spawned three Turkish movies, one of which was Tatli Cadi (The Sweet Sorceress), and it was followed by the sequel Tatli Cadi’nin Maceralari (The Adventures of the Sweet Sorceress). Minik Cadi (The Cute Witch) turned the main star into a little girl and went cute, in contrast to the Sweet Sorceress films which tended to emphasize women in skimpy clothes. I am sure we are all familiar with the remake with Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, so let’s leave well enough alone.
As we’ve done a whole bunch of these Fred Olen Ray bikini films, I’ll just list them all here instead of over and over again in the Roll Call: Super Ninja Doll, Bikini Girls from the Lost Planet, Girl with the Sex-Ray Eyes, Tarzeena: Jiggle in the Jungle, Ghost in a Teeny Bikini, Voodoo Dollz: Lust Potion #9, and Bikini Airways. Yes, more will be on here soon!