Lost In Apocalypse (Review)

Lost In Apocalypse

aka 末世人间道 aka Mo Shi Ren Jian Dao
Lost in Apocalypse
2018
Written by Sky Wang, Baiying Wu, and Fei’er Zhao
Based on the comics by Ruibo Cao
Directed by Sky Wang

Lost in Apocalypse
It wouldn’t be a film festival if I didn’t offer up a review of everything I saw there, and the final entry in the recent Another Hole in the Head Film Festival that I went to is Lost in Apocalypse, a tale of zombie attacks set in Mainland China. While the film isn’t bad, it was the least of the three films I did go see, the other two being Ghost Squad and Galaxy Lords, hence why I switched order for once and Lost in Apocalypse got caught in the crossfire. As regular readers of TarsTarkas.NET have probably figured out by now due to the dearth of reviews, but we don’t really watch zombie movies much at all. It just is a genre that got so over-saturated so quickly that I just didn’t want to sit through a bunch of boring ones. So automatically by the fact that I went to go see this one, you know it isn’t a run of the mill zombie story, but something good and worth watching.

We follow a group of characters that have to fight their way out of a zombie-infested hotel only to end up at an industrial plant where the zombies might not be the worst things around. (Spoilers: they aren’t, because Lost in Apocalypse follows the rules of good zombie movies and has people and their failings be more of a monster than anything else going on) There is Jack (Martin Yang) the school dropout working as a driver for Rich (Mingyi Yang), who is a jerk but Jack is loyal because he was the only one who would give him work when he was desperate. There is Helen (E’Naan Zhang) the news reporter who is caught in the trap of the only way her career will advance is if she sleeps with someone. Jack is involved in a business deal with Director Wu (Jia Fengzhu), which has something to do with schools but as we learn Director Wu has his hands in many pots and some of those pots are full of things that grab back. Jack reconnects with his old friend Michael, their paths diverging long ago due to Jack leaving school while Michael going on to become a successful reporter and family man. But before the deal can be finalized trouble bursts literally through the front door as a zombie comes in the room and people start getting chomped. There is a desperate stand as people who don’t necessarily like each other have to work together to try to escape, and due to a plot framing device we know several of them aren’t going to make it to later in the film.
Lost in Apocalypse
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 28, 2018 at 6:35 am

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Galaxy Lords (Review)

Galaxy Lords

Galaxy Lords
2018
Written by Dan Underhill and Von Bilka
Directed by Von Bilka

Galaxy Lords

Galaxy Lords is pure cinema. Galaxy Lords is great fun and a galactic adventure in the stars. A group of friends went and made one of the best movies to pop into 2018 and I loved every second of it. From the Champions of the Cosmos having a starship battle with the villainous Adorastius and his now super powered ship to Commander Helios having a duel with enemy goons on airsleds that are clearly treadmills spray-painted red to Wranthelon flying through the cosmos as a rainbow-trailing star that was just waiting for “The More You Know” to appear on screen, the whole thing is amazing from start to finish.

In the far far future, the galaxy has yet to recover from galactic war. But their brief period of peace comes to an abrupt end when Adorastius (Von Bilka), the last of a band of warlords, is busted out of Space Jail Gargantuan by a cool cardboard robot who laser blasts many of the guards into puddles of red goo! Only Commander Helios (Dan Underhill), the hero who brought the villains down last time can save the day, but he’s retired and in self-imposed exile as a simple farmer, trying to forget the horrors of war. But the same horrors are also why he can’t forget, and why he can’t sit idly by while the galaxy his friends died to protect burns again.
Galaxy Lords
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 13, 2018 at 6:31 am

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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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