Secret Undercover Agent: Wild Cats in Strip Royale
Secret Undercover Agent Wildcats in Strip Royale continues the tradition of having weird microchips in fashion accessories that do amazing things started in the previous film. Wildcats in Strip Royale also continues the tradition of the film looking freaking gorgeous. The cinematographer should be doing mainstream work in Hollywood, not Japanese DTV exploitation trash. But Hollywood’s loss is our gain! In fact, a lot of directors in Japan get their start doing trashy exploitation work. That’s partially why a lot of the 1970s Sukeban films look so good, along with the hundreds of detective films and pinku films.
The biggest news of the sequel is that Haruna Yabuki left, and was replaced by Reon Kadena. As Reon Kadena has a much higher profile, this announcement caused a large amount of internet buzz that the first film just didn’t have. Although the internet buzz was pretty much “Hey, Reon Kadena is in a movie!” it was enough to raise the profile of the film far above the nothing the predecessor had.
Wildcats in Strip Royale does have a few other things going for it. It is obvious the actresses are having more fun in this one, Yuuri Morishita especially. Some of the costumes are pretty ridiculous and funner than in the original (the cats suits are actual cat suits!) and the plot is easier to follow without subtitles. Yes, that’s right, TarsTarkas.NET doesn’t need no stinking subtitles! I still don’t know the name of their agency or of some of the minor players, but such is life.
Quick lesson for everyone: In Japan, there are these supermodel girls called Idols. Some of them are just models, some do more than that such as singing and/or acting. The big Idols pull in a ton of cash, then marry some rich guy and retire. The lesser Idols do car shows and mall openings and marry midlevel accountants. Most of the bigger Idols have followings all over the web, and there are guys who just scan photobooks of models all day, or host websites that just catalog Idol pictures and news. Idols can specialize in certain genres, like the gravure Idols that star in the film, there are also AV Idols which is a nicer way of saying porn stars. This film will talk of Pure Idols, which is another term used but I don’t know exactly what it means. And let’s not forget the Idols who are thrown so whips can be received.
Secret Undercover Agent: Honey & Bunny
aka Himitsu Sennyuu Sousakan: Honey & Bunny
Directed by Keiichi Kobayashi
Written by Yoshiyuki Morita
From the land of Japan comes the first of the Secret Undercover Agent films, what is basically a showcase for two gravure idols. For those of you who don’t speak Japanophile, gravure idols are models that pose almost naked, but not quite naked. Thus we have no nudity and have to make due with implied nudity. Don’t blame me for the lack of naked chicks, this is purely a Japanese phenomenon. The two gravure idols are Haruna Yabuki and Yuuri Morishita.
The plot of this and the sequel is there is a secret organization whose name I haven’t ever figured out that does James Bond-type work in the fashion industry. So I am guessing Zoolander was also an inspiration. This allows for the girls to wear lots of skimpy outfits, while at the same time there being action and other things happening. What makes the Secret Undercover Agent movies stand out is they are beautifully shot. They seriously have some of the best cinematography I have ever seen in what is essentially an exploitation film. The film was written by Yoshiyuki Morita and directed by Keiichi Kobayashi, so they get the majority of the credit and blame.
The DVDs come lacking English subtitles, so there will be certain things we are guessing at. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Another guess is at some of the character names, our rudimentary translation skills were put to the test and found lacking (partially because I didn’t want to devote three times the amount of time trying to find out a character’s name than I was spending writing the whole review!)
Now, we must try not to let exploitation films speak for a culture as a whole, though it does speak for a subculture of the main culture. Do you want Japan judging us based solely on The Hills Have Eyes 2? As far as exploitation flicks go this is pretty tame and would barely even qualify, if it wasn’t so blatant on showing off the gravure girls it could even pass itself off as a comedy.
No, no… NOOO! Not more Bratz movies! Okay, the live action one wasn’t terrible, but the cartoon ones are simply awful. And now we have them in Muppet Babies form! Yes, instead of teenage girls dressing as slores with giant eyes, now we have two year olds dressing as slores with giant eyes. What wonderful toys for your young daughters!
We need an update as to the status of The Bratz toyline since out other two reviews. Bratz was the center of a lawsuit where Mattel filed suit against MGA for infringement claiming the Bratz concept was developed by employees of Mattel who were still working at Mattel at the time. Mattel eventually won, and it was announced that the Bratz line would be pulled from store shelves after the Christmas 2008 season (the ruling was appealed and the Bratz line will be on shelves at least through 2009.) In 2009, Mattel came out with the Moxie Girlz line, which is an attempt to replace the Bratz. But then more lawyers showed up as artist Bernard “Butch” Belair declared the Bratz design was stolen from him and he sued both Mattel and MGA. Bernard “Butch” Belair claims to be from Brooklyn, NY, but I have it on good authority he is from West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where he spent most of his days…
The Bratz Babyz line was brought in as part of the Bratz strategy of flooding the market with everything Bratz in order to suck up every last cent from Mommy’s pocketbook. Bratz Babyz were epecially designed to hook young girls before they can even form complete sentences into the world of Bratz. They also were the target of several criticisms over the Bratz Babyz toys, including the “Babyz Night Out” fashion pack, the “Brattoo Parlor” playset (where your three-year-old can give herself a tramp stamp tattoo!), and the Big Babyz toys wearing what looks like thongs (but is just some plastic molding designed to prevent their skirts from riding up.)
This was the first Bratz Babyz movie, followed later by Bratz Super-Babyz, where the babies are superheroes.
Hey, that stuff was far too serious! How many of you were truely interested in the history of the Bratz Babyz franchise? Really? Well, all of you are freaks.
Bratz Babiez does us the disservice of not saying who voiced who in the credits. It’s like they are mocking me, personally. Damn you, Bratz Babiez!
Is it sad I know these four main characters without cheating by now? They all have a pet or something, including Cloe’s pig with wings, Yasmin’s frog, Jade’s cat, and Sasha’s rabbit.
The Merciful Buddha
aka A mi de dao
Directed by Tyrone Hsu Tien-Yung
Merciful Buddha is a Taiwanese fantasy film with a lot of crazy effects that aren’t like anything you have seen recently. Unless you are the kind of guy who watches a lot of these films. Crazy fantasy effects, fairy girls, immortal dudes, horses with human heads, giant monkeys, shape changing, earthquakes, and
This is a pretty confusing film with a bunch of wacky, crazy, goofy stuff going on. So the summary is filled with best guesses at times, but unless you are an expert in the film Merciful Buddha you will probably be just as confused as we are. Just my luck and some guy who wrote a doctoral thesis on Merciful Buddha will soon write complaining of the film’s representation on TarsTarkas.NET. Well, screw ‘em!
This copy of the film is from a VHS tape (because there is no way this will be on remastered DVD because the world hates people like me.) It is also dubbed into Thai, but it has subtitles! Subtitles that are cut off because the movie is fullscreen while it was filmed in widescreen. And often the subtitles are white on white background so they are even more unreadable. But this is a common complaint, as regular readers and regular watchers of random foreign junk are well aware. Tyrone Hsu Tien-Yung directed several other Taiwanese fantasy films including Golden Nun and The Demons in the Flame Mountain, which I am namedropping because I have copies lying around somewhere.
aka Zhui ying
Directed by Marco Mak Chi-Sin and Francis Ng Chun-Yu
Tracing Shadow hit the scene when a trailer with cool shots floated around the net and got people all exited it was a cool martial arts action film. But it is not a drama, is an action comedy fantasy reportedly inspired by the classic King Hu film Dragon Inn. And it does have some gorgeous shots, but it suffers from some plot weakness.
One thing Tracing Shadow does do that is unique is the use of look-alikes. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Andy Lau are all represented by not the actual performers, but by look-alikes. Eventually, more look-alikes show up, and we have a who’s who of Hong Kong celebrities running around, often in multiple instances. If this becomes more common, then we might have modern day versions of Brucespoiltation films! But, I would watch Clones of Jet Li, because, why the heck not? If it has dancing naked girls and bronzemen, all the better!
Let’s get on with the show….