Movie Reviews

Ghost Squad (Review)

Ghost Squad

aka ゴーストスクワッド aka Gôsuto Sukuwaddo
Ghost Squad
2018
Written and directed by Noboru Iguchi
Ghost Squad
G-g-g-g-g-ghost Squad!! Sorry, just getting the “g-g-g-ghost” joke out of the way early! Ghost Squad is the latest from splatter auteur extraordinaire Noboru Iguchi, who has been covered by TarsTarkas.NET many times and will be covered many more times, as his films are usually filled with fun dumb energy and lots of ridiculous effects and plots that manage to entertain and occasionally comment on various aspects of society in the warped way that only exploitation cinema can. Ghost Squad joins the pantheon of his fun films, with plenty of crazy action and weird effects. Splatter fans might find little to be excited about, as the gore is subdued for a Iguchi film. But there are ghost ladies beating a guy in the junk with a meat hammer arm, a ghost with a dog for an arm, a ghost with a Machine Girl-style gun arm, and a gun with a baby face. So embrace the ridiculousness of a squad of murdered ghosts coming together to get their revenge with Ghost Squad!

Rika (Anna Yanagi) is your normal teen girl with an abusive father (Iguchi regular Yûya Ishikawa) who also sees ghosts. She explains this to her scoffing boyfriend Yosuke while also observing a ghost named Keiko Furukawa (Sumire Ueno) who struggles to write a letter to her father while slipping between being aware and unaware that she is dead. Rika goes to work as a waitress, but Yosuke follows her to harass her. But he didn’t count on Keiko also following along, as well as another ghost named Akari (Minori Mikado), who soon spring to action just as Yosuke is slashing Rika’s wrist. They beat him down and give him a few extra holes due to impalements, but let him survive enough to be in the hospital later.
Ghost Squad
Rika awakens at home with her wrist bandaged, and soon learns from the ghosts that they can only interact with the physical world when she is close to death (she learns this as she tries to hang herself from depression and guilt!) She quickly makes friends with Keiko and Akari, and also a third ghost named Yoshie who at first is a story telling framing device but quickly joins the main story as a fellow ghost. The three ladies need to get revenge on the men who attacked them in order to pass on to Heaven. It’s the law, Ghost Law. As we see later when Naomi Ohishi (Asaka Nakamura) shows up, it actually is the law and there is a whole bureaucracy set up to make sure they get revenge on everyone. Biggest critique here seems to be only lady ghosts have to get revenge, as we see a male character murdered later who goes directly to Heaven. That is totally unfair, we need to reform our Ghost Laws!
Ghost Squad
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 11, 2018 at 6:51 am

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Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı (Review)

Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı

aka Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı aka Pink Panther and Popeye Against Gangsters
Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
1975
Written by Muzaffer Hepgüler
Directed by Oguz Gözen


One of the joys of watching weird and obscure movies from around the globe is finding things that not only make no logical sense but also make perfect sense. Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı is one such beast, because the concept of Pink Panther and Popeye teaming up to rescue a woman kidnapped by the mob not only seems like low tier fanfic but also seems completely acceptable as a live-action movie coming out of Turkey! If you wanted to see a live-action Pink Panther which is basically a guy in a Pink Panther onesie wandering around with a guy in a saior’s costume who looks way closer to Bluto than Popeye, then this is the perfect movie for you, person who doesn’t exist! Pembe Panter is basically a live-action cartoon, in fact it is pretty close to a children’s movie except for a few examples, like the nude photos in the background, some risque jokes that cause a female character to sound like she’s having an orgasm, and both of our heroes trying to look up her skirt. But that’s probably perfectly acceptable in a world that regularly produces movies like Pembe Panter in the first place!
Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
The copy we have is recorded off of a television broadcast, appears to be missing a bit near the end, and has most of the major instances of smoking blurred out. It’s probably the best copy we are going to get without a major miracle happening, as I probably don’t have to tell you this isn’t exactly a 100% legal use of the characters. Or even 1% legal use! There is also no subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! And it helps that the film is low on dialogue in the first place. I guess the Pink Panther theme song also has lyrics? Or at least this Turkish version does during the opening credits, which play over a slideshow featuring a stuffed Pink Panther toy being posed. Poor Popeye isn’t even even acknowledged in stuffed slideshow or music form. Sometimes the title I see in articles/databases about the film is listed Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı, and sometimes it is Pembe Panter \ Temel Reis: Gangsterlere Karşı (it is the latter on this print!), I’m not sure if they just renamed the film later or what is the deal.

But enough talk, let’s get to the magic that is Pink Panther….and Popeye….teaming up and taking down the mob!

Pembe Panter (Ahmet Sendil) – Pink Panther is a guy in a Pink Panther Onesie, and is actually Pink Panther, not a detective or a diamond. He loves hanging out and doing goofy stuff, but is also girl crazy like every character in every Turkish movie ever made. Unlike the cartoon, he talks, but as he’s played by a comedian being funny, he’s also often shrieking or making other weird noises.
Temel Reis (Muzaffer Hepgüler) – Popeye is the least Popeye looking Popeye I’ve seen in a live action film, and I’ve seen the Popeye in Dragon Lives Again! Don’t worry, it is all planned, as actor Muzaffer Hepgüler also wrote this film, so he obviously loves these characters and made this goofy tribute film.

Pembe Panter Gangsterlere Karşı Pink Panther Popeye
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 3, 2018 at 7:13 am

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The Brink (Review)

The Brink

aka 狂獸 aka Kuang Shou
The Brink
2017
Written by Lee Chun-Fai
Directed by Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun

The Brink
The Brink is a return to old school Hong Kong action complete with huge brutal fight sequences and piles of bodies. The hook is this film largely takes place on and under the water, with the final battle sprawling across a ship rolling in the waves of a massive typhoon. I can’t recall an action film with anywhere close to this many scenes that involve water, and the choreography takes advantage of all the rocking boats and waves and characters. The action scenes alone are fantastic enough to make this a recommendation, and the story and tone is perfect for those of us who grew up renting dodgy Hong Kong action VHS tapes long ago. In fact, it might be a bit too on the nose in that aspect, with some of the characterization not really translating well into a modern setting.

Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun makes his directorial debut here, having spent 15 years serving as an assistant director on a number of high-profile productions (Infernal Affairs III, Love Battlefield, Blind Detective) and now ready to make his own mark. The Brink is a strong debut with plenty of distinctive action that you won’t see anywhere else.

Police detective Sai Gau (John Zhang Jin) plays by his own violent rules, and has to live with the consequences of those rules when tossing a guy out a window causes the victim to land on a police cruiser and kill the patrolman inside. Despite being acquitted in the resulting investigation, Sai Gau still has a violent reputation and often taunts his boss as a pencil-pushing fake cop. Sai Gau is raising the daughter of the man he accidentally killed (played by Cecilia So Lai-Shan), and doing such an attentive job that she’s 18, pregnant, and alone. This leads to some awkward scenes that normally would provide some characterization, but here just seem to be characters sitting around in near-silence.
The Brink
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 6, 2018 at 6:58 am

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Vampire Cleanup Department (Review)

Vampire Cleanup Department

aka 救殭清道夫 aka Gao Geung Jing Dou Fu
Vampire Cleanup Department
2017
Written by Yan Pak-Wing, Ho Wing-Hong, and Ashley Cheung Yin-Kei
Directed by Chiu Sin-Hang and Yan Pak-Wing

Vampire Cleanup Department
SFFilm had their annual Hong Kong Film Festival and due to the power of having two tickets leftover from the last festival I went to see two films in this festival! This time, all the films were at the fabulous Vogue Theater, which is a bit of a headache for me to get to but at least parking around there isn’t terrible (also a skunk sprayed my car as thanks for me stopping in time to not hit him as he ran across the road, lol!) While my car now stank, Vampire Cleanup Department did not, but it wasn’t a new paradigm in Hong Kong horror comedy, either. Unfortunately it is one of those middle of the road flicks that are hard to write about, due to me not wanting to slam it too hard due to the parts that were good, but not wanting to praise it to the heavens due to the parts that were bad. It’s sort of a modern take on the Mr. Vampire flicks, except imagine if the one-eyebrowed priest was employed by the Hong Kong government in a secret department. The squad takes down vampires when they pop up, and since this is a Hong Kong film they are of the hopping variety.

We follow Tim Cheung (BabyJohn Choi Hon-Yik) as he moves from hapless schlub to member of the Vampire Cleanup Department. It helps that he is the son of two former members who were killed while on duty, his mother’s last act was giving birth to him after a vampire attack. This makes him a legacy hire but also means he’s got some vampire immunity that is explained just well enough when needed for plot purposes. As the new guy he gets all the garbage details including cleaning up the office via constant sweeping and also memorizing and making the different vampire amulets (the strips of paper with writing on them that the priests put on vampire heads to freeze them or control them.) This framework lets them follow the traditional hero’s journey arc, except with some extra films stuffed along for the ride.
Vampire Cleanup Department
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2018 at 6:38 am

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A Surrogate’s Nightmare (Review)

A Surrogate’s Nightmare

A Surrogate's Nightmare
2017
Written by Darcy Meyers
Directed by Vic Sarin

A Surrogate's Nightmare
A Surrogate’s Nightmare tries, but it can’t escape the fact that it is just pedestrian fare for Lifetime Channel. If you’ve spent decades watching the Lifetime Original Movies and the various twists and turns, you’ll be ahead of the curve here. There are lots of secrets that characters keep alluding too even though some of them seem pretty obvious, most of them don’t get explained until we are near the end of the movie.
A Surrogate's Nightmare
Still, the film isn’t bad, there are good performances from the leads, it’s still a serviceable Lifetime movie. I think I’ve just been spoiled by all the exceptional Lifetime films that come out maybe 3-4 a year, and just need to return to the joy of fun drama movies that aren’t the kind you tell people about later and they don’t believe you. You got murder, mystery, someone carrying their sister’s child, a stalker, and drama drama drama.

Shelley’s mother killed by a mysterious stranger while screaming that she’s sorry the second the credits end. As this mother was earlier buying clothes for a grandbaby that Shelley (Emily Tennant) is unable to carry, this mom seemed like trouble from the beginning. To further continue that thread, Shelley has a much older estranged sister named Angela (Poppy Montgomery) who the mother rarely mentions. Angela is much more worldly than Shelley, she left their small town to be a writer in New York City and travel the world. There is obvious tension with the memories of their mother, and Angela is 15 years older than Shelley. Hmmm…
A Surrogate's Nightmare
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 24, 2018 at 8:50 am

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China Heat (Review)

China Heat

aka 中華警花 aka Zhong Hua Jing Hua aka 霸王花之中華警花
China Heat
1992
Written by William Cheung Kei, Goo Siu-Yin, and Naam Fung
Directed by William Cheung Kei and Yang Yang

China Heat

I stop watching The Office after Steve Carell leaves and suddenly Dwight Schrute is a mob boss!


China Heat gives us Girls with Guns, lots of people getting shot, kung fu battles, and an big injection of 80s-90s American cop movie, complete with the cop who doesn’t play by the rules. There are a lot of Western actors in this movie, but they don’t really ruin the movie, the ones depicted as smart let the women take the lead, while the ones depicted as dumb try to get in their way or are working for the other side. It all results in a weird hybrid movie, but also gives China Heat a nice, unique flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the action enjoyment.
China Heat

This takes private jet to a whole new level!


Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung) is a tough as nails leader of an anti-drug task force that not only engages in major firefights across Asia, but she pilots a fighter jet between countries (!!!) Someone got permission to shoot on an airbase in Asia and took full advantage of the situation! Her squad is massive, which is good because so are the resources available to the drug cartels and smugglers they are chasing. Madam Wu’s biggest assistants are Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey. They are after a squad of drug smugglers lead by Henry Hung, Henry has the amazing powers to be able to escape from gigantic shootouts as the only person from his side left alive. He uses one of those escapes to go to America, where the local mob bosses praise him and give him a special mob ring right before the police arrest him.

Madam Wu sends Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey to go escort him for extradition, and the American police Chief assigns the cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Michael to help guard the prisoner. We all know Henry is going to escape, lots of people are going to get shot, Madam Wu is going to have to arrive to help sort things out, and Michael is going to get thrown off the case. The joy isn’t in the story, but in the action sequences. There are large shootouts, long fight sequences in an airliner, warehouses, construction zones, and a giant shipping crane over the water. The villains even stoop to sending a squad of guys in dresses to attack the women in the ladies restroom! China Heat is not afraid to have obvious dummies with exploding heads used in some of the fight scenes, and I salute them for it.

China Heat

When you’re lucky this movie was shot while McDonald’s still served the McJordan Special!


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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 16, 2018 at 6:16 am

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