Movie Reviews

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (Review)

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
2016
Screenplay by Michael Jelenic and James Tucker
Directed by Rick Morales

Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
I was super excited to hear about Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders when it was announced that Adam West and Burt Ward would be reprising their roles from the 1960s series, even more so with Julie Newmar also around as Catwoman. As you have probably guessed from the large amount of campy super hero flicks TarsTarkas.NET has covered over the years, the television series that inspired many of them is a big deal, so any thing that means more of the cool magic that it was is great. It turned out better than I imagined, it’s one of the best animated films DC has put out, and they have put out a few good ones! (and a few….not so good ones!)

The film is jam packed with the flavor of the original series – wild alliteration, pop-up word balloons during action scenes, random labels on object, Robin declaring “Holy ______” every few seconds, all sorts of random bat gadgets, Batman and Robin figuring out the most obscure Riddler clues in the universe, and the ever-present incompetent police force. There are cameos from almost the entire era, really the only thing missing was Batgirl.
Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s quiet evening at home is interrupted with the big four villains – Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin – hijack a television show just so they can leave a Riddler clue behind. From that, Batman and robin deduce that the criminals are out to steal a duplicating ray, while Catwoman schemes to turn Batman just slightly evil so they can be united in love. But her plan fails and after one thing leads to another suddenly everyone is fighting in outer space to stop the villain’s schemes of duplicating more Earths so each one can control a Gotham City.
Batman Return of the Caped Crusaders
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 15, 2017 at 7:33 am

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The Fate of Lee Khan (Review)

The Fate of Lee Khan

aka 迎春閣之風波 aka Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo
The Fate of Lee Khan
1973
Written by King Hu and Wong Chung
Directed by King Hu

The Fate of Lee Khan
King Hu’s works are amazing, and he is one of the most influential artists in martial arts film history. That being said, The Fate of Lee Khan was made after Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, and the biggest flaw is it just doesn’t live up to those classics. It is a good story, full of intrigue and great choreography. But it just feels smaller scale and lacks some of the smaller character moments that a smaller story should have. Lee Khan just doesn’t seem as dangerous as he should be considering he is supposed to be this big ultimate villain. The best way to describe him would be as the mediocre villain of the second film in a super hero series who bridges the gap before the more memorable villain in the third film.

The word is The Fate of Lee Khan was one of two productions of King Hu’s under his company, Gam Chuen (the other was The Valiant Ones). The films were to be distributed by Golden Harvest, who would gain the rights to Lee Khan while Hu would own The Valiant Ones. As usual, Hu’s films fell behind in filming, Lee Khan was barely finished by 1973, while The Valiant Ones wasn’t completed until 1975, and Gam Chuen then petered out.
The Fate of Lee Khan
It is a time when the Mongols have overstayed their welcome and General Zhu leads an army to fight them, spies are rife and everyone is paranoid. Lee Khan is a local overseer of two provinces and prince of the royal family, with his sister Lee Wan-Er as his loyal assistant. He found a member of General Zhu’s army to sell out and leaves to personally receive a map of battle plans. But this leads to opportunity and intrigue at a local inn, as these matters often do…

Madam Wan Ren-Mi (Li Li-Hua) – Runs the Ying Chun Inn, where Lee Khan is rumored to be staying at when meeting with a traitor that works for rebels. Is friends with benefits of the local governor Magistrate Ha Ra-Ku (Wu Jia-Xiang). Hires the waitresses who are all members of the rebellion, as is she.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) – Leaves the safety of his palace to personally receive a map of the battle plans of the rebel general (the spy would only deliver to him personally) The map is legit but it is also an opportunity to attack Lee Khan out of the safety of his palace and numerous guards Tien Feng excelled at authoritative villainous roles in the 50s-80s, appearing in films such as Black Falcon, One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance of a Snowgirl, King Boxer, Fist of Fury, By the 90s he had reduced his screen appearances, though still managed to appear in Green Snake and Sex and Zen.
Lee Wan-Er (Hsu Feng) – The sister of Lee Khan. Deadly villainess in her own right, including much more of a violent streak of wanting others to die for their crimes than Lee Khan. She seems to be the only person he cares about besides himself.
Black Peony (Angela Mao Ying) – Waitress dressed in black clothes. A former infamous pickpocket, Black Peony has mended her ways (sort of) by helping the Chinese resistance to the Mongol rule, and becomes a waitress at the Ying Chun Inn. I think she’s the only waitress whose character gets a name spoken on screen. Had her character been born rich, she’d probably be robbing from her rich friends and distributing it to the poor while wearing a super hero mask. For more Angela Mao films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Blue Waitress (Helen Ma Hoi-Lun) – A former bandit whose past makes her a poor choice as a waitress, but a good choice for someone you need in a fight. For more Helen Ma films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Red Waitress (Woo Gam) – A former street performer who now works for the rebels, she is adept with dealing with customers who have naughty hands than the other girls. For more Woo Gam films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Green Waitress (Seung-Goon Yin-Ngai) – The fourth waitress, she’s given the least amount of characterization except her character is hinted to be a con artist.
Wang Chun (Pai Ying) – A rebel sent to help, pretends to be Madam Wan’s cousin helping look over the books. Pai Ying was also in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and Lady Whirlwind
Sha Yuan-San (Han Ying-Chieh) – Wandering singer and annoying rebel sent to help pretends to be Wang Chun’s assistant. Another King Hu regular who was in Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and the non-King Hu film Sword of Emei.
Tsao Yu-Kun (Roy Chiao Hung) – High-ranking bodyguard to Lee Khan but also plotting against him. Roy Chiao had a prolific career including The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa, Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 9, 2017 at 7:45 am

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Slipstream (Review)

Slipstream

Slipstream
1989
Screenplay by Tony Kayden
Story by Bill Bauer
Directed by Steven Lisberger

Slipstream
Ever wonder what would happen if Mad Max was set in a world of airplanes instead of junk cars? As directed by the director of Tron? Well, you obviously have some sort of mental illness and should talk to a professional therapist, I’m just a guy who watches bad movies. Odd as it may be, your bizarre craving has been provided, and stars Mark Hamill and Bill Paxton to boot! Bob Peck from Jurassic Park appears as the Data-ish character, While Mark Hamill is a feared bounty hunter/cop named Tasker. Bill Paxton plays Bill Paxton, here named Matt Owens. Paxton has fought Aliens, Predators, tornadoes, and Terminators, but here he has his greatest challenge: acting with giant hair. My Lord that’s a big mullet. Giganto-mullet. It must be aerodynamic, helps with the airplane flying or something. Maybe he uses it as a hang glider or parachute in case of air trouble. Big hair, bad movie, actors from both Star Wars and Star Trek (hello F. Murray Abraham!) and Harry Potter (Robbie Coltrane!) make this a genre melting extravaganza. Oh, almost forgot–they filmed in Turkey! Our friend Turkey, well known at TarsTarkas.NET from their numerous additions to crazy film libraries, provides background sites and extras. Set up your prop plane to go for a ride on the Slipstream…

It’s the future! The world has been so environmentally messed up that at the turn of the century the whole thing started destroying itself, earthquakes split continents and floods were everywhere, then a river of wind wiped the whole thing clean. This river of wind is called the Slipstream. It is not to be confused with Starscream, the traitorous lieutenant of Megatron from the Transformers. Starscream guest stars on Beast Wars, but Slipstream will never guest star on anything, even Beast Machines. The lines about “split continents” is so they can use location shots from all over the world without bothering to explain how they are so close together. As well as the foreign extras, noticeably from Turkey. Heck, the whole “Slipstream” concept is so weak we probably didn’t even need it in the movie. They talk about “riding the slipstream” to save on gas, but fail to explain how they are doing it both ways. I think someone’s favorite part of Mad Max: Roadwarrior was the gyro captain, and wanted a movie full of them. With Mark Hamill. Not a bad goal in life. Director Steven Lisberger (who made the brilliant Tron and not much else of consequence) has his world set up, but seemed to run out of money halfway through, as we’ll soon see.

Weird aircraft fly in the air, oddly shaped because they are different designs of light aircraft, for one or two people, and made to be as portable and light as possible. The craft we focus on is chasing a suited man on the rocky terrain below, including a shot that looks remarkably like a shot from North by Northwest. If you are going to steal, steal from the best. That’s the motto of Slipstream, though it concludes”yet still put together a mess!” The suited man is harpooned in the arm by Mark Hamill. Harpooned meaning Hamill is armed with a grappling hook/harpoon looking weapon that I’ll just be calling a harpoon. Mark Hamill is a cop named Will Tasker, who still looks like Mark Hamill despite being bleach blonde with a full beard. We’ll just call him Mark Hamill, because he’s typecast anyway. After all, you can only make so many “Does she have any job duties? Well, let’s Task Her!” jokes. Mark Hamill is partnered with a no nonsense female partner Belitski. Belitski? Did Dr. Seuss name her? Together they take the suited man played by Bob Peck back to the local settlement, what looks like a trailer park and a local diner.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 2, 2017 at 7:48 am

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The White-Bone Sword Part 4 (Review)

The White-Bone Sword (Part 4)

aka 白骨陰陽劍(四集) aka Bai gu yin yang jian, si ji aka Ingenious swords, part four
White-Bone Sword
1963HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun

American elections in gif form!

This is it, the final chapter of the saga of The White-Boned Sword, the thrilling tale of some powerful swords that everyone wants so of course it attracts a bunch of jerks! Don’t leave yet, we still got one more brand new monster showing up later in the film, but first we have the amazing battle of the undead happening! When last we left, Wong Tin-ho had been poisoned, so Wu Sheung-fung was in search of the rare White-bone Grass to save him, but there was a pack of dancing skeletons in the way! Luckily, Luk Fong-fei and Vampire Lady were also around so Vampire Lady could send her pack of hopping vampires to fight the dancing skeletons. Thus the battle is joined…
White-Bone Sword

Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Poisoned at the end of the last part, after Wu Sheung-fung rescues him by getting the antidote, he can help the group with several adventures before the final fight against the villains!
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Spends the first half of the film questing for the White-bone Grass to save Wong Tin-ho, and impresses Taoist White-bone with her bravery that he gives her the Grass. Later helps the gang battle against he Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – She’s certainly around and probably does stuff, but nothing exciting enough to get a blurb.
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady and her vampires return to kick butt of both the skeleton and normal variety!
Kam Yan-kit (Yu Kai) – Still looking to avenge his father against Chung Ching, but he’s not so avengful that he doesn’t have time to hit on Luk Fong-fei! Stay focused, buddy!
Chung Ching (Sek Kin) – Evil conspirator who works with the three devils Heaven, Earth, and Man to possess the White-boned Swords and thus rule the martial world. Also has a dragon, which seems cooler than some swords, but what do I know?
Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon (Himself) – A dragon who hangs out at Devil Mountain, he’s either part of Chung Ching’s group or he just chills on Devil Mountain and is angry when people bug him.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – Everyone’s favorite tree monster is back, this time to fight the Fire-spitting Deadly Dragon in a battle of the sparklers!!!

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 26, 2017 at 7:55 am

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The White-Bone Sword Part 3 (Review)

The White-Bone Sword (Part 3)

aka 白骨陰陽劍(三集) aka Ingenious swords, part three aka Bai gu yin yang jian san ji
White-bone Sword
1963HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun

Me after seeing the Kong: Skull Island trailer!

It’s now SOME UNKNOWN TIME LATER, a few things have happened. Okay, mainly one thing happened, which is Black Girl ran off and possibly recovered the White-Boned Swords only to hide them somewhere else. Exactly what happened to her will have to remain a mystery as the actress doesn’t appear in the series any more and there are no subtitles, so we can only assume she got on a bus to Mars. But who needs Black Girl when we got Wong Tin-ho, Wu Seung-fun, and Luk Fong-fei to wander around looking for Black Girl and/or the White-Boned Swords? Plus, if you are a fan of Vampire Lady, you will be happy to know that she is back as well, with an even larger squadron of hopping vampires to command! This leads to some amazing fight sequences later on with skeleton men. And there is a cool gorilla, which is all you need to know that it’s time to watch!
White-bone Sword

Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – At one point Wong Tin-ho dresses up as a pregnant woman, and later he gets poisoned. And he’s the main star!
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – She doesn’t get poisoned, and goes on a journey to get to cure for Wong Tin-Ho. As well as getting involved in more martial intrigue and searching for Black Girl and/or the White-boned Swords.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – Now a martial arts veteren, but uncovers that Chung Ching is up to no good and that the White-boned Swords are loose once again and need to be tracked down!
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady now has a full dozen hopping vampires, ready and able to take down the biggest threats! All hail Vampire Lady!
Kam Yan-kit (Yu Kai) – The son of Kam Tin-fung, who is killed by Chung Ching. Chung Ching convinces him that Wong Tin-ho and Wu Sheung-fung killed his father, which causes Kam Yan-kit to seek revenge against them.
Chung Ching (Sek Kin) – Sek Kin 3.0! An evil guy who does stuff that appears less evil and gains friends, though he really does what he does for more selfish reasons. Appears to have the missing White-boned Swords, killed Kam Yan-kit’s father, and conspires with his partners Heaven, Earth, and Man to poison Wong Tin-ho!
Old Devilish Eccentric (Ling Mung) – The mad wondering monk is still around and still helping people in need. This time it’s Kam Yan-kit.
Awesome Excited Gorilla (Himself) – Excited gorillas are the best gorillas, especially when they are excited to find wounded people that their master can then rescue. Awesome Excited Gorilla belongs to Old Develish Eccentric, because of course he does. He’s far too awesome to be owned by anyone else, and you can bet he’s only owned voluntarily.

White-bone Sword
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 19, 2017 at 8:11 am

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The White-Bone Sword Part 2 (Review)

The White-Bone Sword (Part 2)

aka 白骨陰陽劍(下集) aka The Yin Yang Blade aka Ingentious Swords, Part Two aka Bai gu yin yang jian, xia ji
White-boned Sword
1962HKMDB Link
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Ling Yun

Dancing with the Trees never took off like Dancing with the Stars did…

The magic of The White-boned Sword continues with Part 2, which features slightly less monsters but slightly more martial intrigue. Which means the entry is less friendly for watching without subtitles. There is some nice sword fights, nice animated martial effects, and the return of the Tree Spirit. But there is also a bunch of people arguing, a pointless martial tournament, and weird pipe fighting that sounds cool but gets old really quick. A disappointing second entry, but the next two parts give us some more monsters so I’ll take this brief break in the fun.
White-boned Sword

Wong Tin-ho (Walter Tso Tat-wah) – Helping Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl train along with Wu Sheung-fung, but is drawn into more sword-related martial intrigue. Doesn’t really do much amazing stuff in this entry.
Wu Sheung-fung (Yu So Chow) – Still helping Wong Tin-ho train Luk Fong-fei and Black Girl, she proves her martial superiority early in this entry, and even tricks some of the dumbest villains in martial history.
Luk Fong-fei (Connie Chan Po-chu) – Daughter of a murdered family and training to get revenge, while also being a rebellious teen who sneaks out to do more martial arts stuff. Like teens do.
Pak Ha-mui aka Black Girl (Yip Wai-Ngai) – Daughter of a murdered mother and possessor of magic swords. She also is easily offended when you blame her for people being killed. She’s so over being part of a franchise and being responsible for magic swords
Vampire Lady (Kong Bo-Lin) – Vampire Lady is back in domino form. This is probably her weakest appearance in the series, but she makes up for it in the other entries.
Tree Spirit (Himself) – He’s dead but he’s back, because you can’t kill a spirit. Or at least a spirit that is connected to the sword via magic and it can summon him to fight evil.
Ghost Mother (Kam Ying-Lin) – The nefarious Ghost Mother returns, now teamed up with a new group of baddies who don’t give her any respect. She’s graduated from being the big bad to being the person killed by worse villains just to show how evil they are. At one point the synopsis calls her Blue Flower Ghostly Mother so that’s probably her full, legal name for you trivia buffs out there!
Pipe Guy (Chow Gat) – Part of a pipe-based martial sect who briefly orchestrates posession of the White-boned Swords before his group is easily tricked out of them. That must not be tobacco they are smoking in those pipes!
Sek Kin 2.0 (Sek Kin) – I never figured out what his character name was, but Sek Kin 2.0 keeps up the tradition and dies just like his identical twin brother did in Part 1. He works with the Five Element Taoists in a sword-snatching scheme that backfires because they are the villains and not the heroes in the story, you see. His name might be Three-hand Lohan Mak Tin-lung, which is a cool name but as I couldn’t prove it was him, it will go unassigned until I use it in a story I write years form now…
Old Devilish Eccentric (Ling Mung) – A mad wondering monk who is good and trains Black Girl after she runs off after fighting with Luk Fong-fei. The world needs more crazy martial guys who wander around and live in trees, so I support him 100%!

White-boned Sword
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 12, 2017 at 8:07 am

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