Hello everyone out there, I hope you’re all doing your best during these unprecedented times, staying inside and staying SAFE! Being essentially trapped indoors leaves plenty of time to watch movies, well the other evening I’d found myself thinking about the colossal failure of the Disney Star Wars “Sequel Trilogy”. If only they’d have given us fans what they’d always dreamed of, a cohesive compelling story that gave us a truly unforgettable send off to the characters we’d been waiting 30 plus years to see again AND brand new fleshed out characters who we could continue to follow on cosmic adventures for years to come. In many hardcore fan’s opinions we got neither and I was thinking of how awesome it would have been to watch this “sequel trilogy” over and over if it’d had been done with care and not flat out wasted classic characters like Leia & Luke Skywalker.
Mark Hamill in particular really got the short end of the stick and many fans of arguably the most iconic pop culture character, Luke Skywalker left ‘Episode 8’ feeling incredibly underwhelmed. Well many fans might appreciate an alternative to ‘The Last Jedi’ in the form of a largely forgotten sequel to ‘The Watchers’ (the totally 80’s super fun Corey Haim Creature Feature), ‘Watchers Reborn’. The star of the whole show? You guessed it Mark Hamill! Technically the 4th film in The Watchers franchise, it’s the only sequel that’s really worth tracking down and technically more of a sequel to the first movie anyway. Keep in mind this one’s a fully b-level monster flick, it’s cheezy, it’s low budget but it’s got a lot more heart than The Last Jedi! You’ll get a great does of 90’s Hamill front and center in a pretty damn fun little horror thriller. Another plus is that it’s directed by John Carl Buechler (RIP), practical fx wizard behind New World Pictures, who’s done some stellar work right up until his death in 2019 (Hatchet, Nightmare on Elm St 4, Troll, Friday the 13th part 7) .
Hello everyone from the land of self quarantine! Damn!! I really hope all of you out there are staying safe safe, staying home and keeping your damn sanity. With all that being said, I guess some good can indeed come out of all this isolation? On the bright side there’s now plenty of time to watch as many movies, tv shows & read as many comic books as humanly imaginable. But let’s face it, the hard part is finding the quality entertainment to pass the time. So my question to you all: what should I be watching to take my mind off of all of this damn craziness? One can only watch so much of the depressing anxiety inducing news! So please let me know in the comments what the hell I might be missing out on!
I’d say the best thing that I’ve seen since this stinkin’ self quarantine began was a movie called “Good Boys” from 2019. It’s easily one of the best damn comedies of the last 5 years, no doubt about that. It follows the adventures of three tween boys as they go on a “desperate” mission to recover a lost drone they used to spy on their teenage neighbor in hopes of learning how to kiss for an upcoming “kissing party”. Of course along the way they get into a shitload o’ mischief and meet more than their fair share of ridiculously shady characters. It kind of reminds me of ‘Superbad’ with 12 year olds. Make no mistake, this by no means is a kids movie though, but the kids in it are full on comic geniuses. One of my new faves for sure. So check it out if you’re looking for something that’s likely to put a smile on your face in the times of pandemic. It won’t disappoint!
Otherwise the movie pickins have been pretty slim to be honest. I checked out a couple horror movies from the 80s that were filmed in my home state of Wisconsin, both of which ended up being interesting for that reason to me but easily could cause drowsiness to the average movie fanatic. Oddly, both I believe were released by Troma films at some point in time. First was ‘Blood Hook’, a semi-promising 80’s fishing slasher flick and second was the super snoozer ‘The Capture of Bigfoot.’
Both appeared, from their cool VHS covers to be epic horror flicks, but I quickly found myself nearly nodding off or having those wicked thoughts of god damn Corona weaseling it’s way back into my mind. Not a good sign. I am though, very intrigued with movies that were filmed in Wisconsin, especially horror movies which there really aren’t many of in the land of cheese.
The Midwest was not exactly the epicenter of groundbreaking filmmaking especially in the 80s. But if you’re from “America’s Dairyland” both of these are definitely worth a peek for that fact at least I suppose?
I did though check out a cool movie from 1989 called ‘Vampire Buster'(AKA Ninja Vampire Busters), a sweet Hong Kong horror comedy. It follows an haunted urn containing a wicked demon that mysteriously ends up in Hong Kong after being auctioned off to a rich Tycoon. Of course things go off the rails when the evil is accidentally released from it and wastes no time to begin possessing innocent people. Luckily the owner of the urn, “The Vampire Buster” is hot on its tracks, arriving in Hong Kong with his supernatural abilities and smooth ass martial arts moves in full effect.
Lots of cool 80s visual-effects going on here and some genuinely creepy moments, along with a hefty dose of well landing comedy make ‘Vampire Buster’ one of the standouts in my recent binge of Hong Kong horror viewing. Much of how entertaining it is largely relies on Kent Cheung’s (who stars as the magical demon buster) charisma and highly impressive martial arts skills. For a man of his stature he surely has some truly impressive feats of agility, bringing to mind the legendary Sammo Hung. Track down ‘Vampire Buster’ and I even advise watching it with the English dub track as it’s pretty well done and the voices for once I feel actually enhance the movie’s charm. That being said there was not one damn vampire to be seen in ‘Vampire Buster’….Ok now what have YOU seen that’s worth a watch during the pandemic?
I finally got a round to checking out 1989’s ‘Saga of the Phoenix’, the wildly entertaining sequel to ‘The Peacock King’ from cult classic Hong Kong director Lam Ngai Kai (Riki-Oh). If you’re a fan of ‘Riki-Oh’ I highly recommend checking out the director’s other work and while ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ isn’t as shockingly violent, it’s easily just as wild and crazy as anything he’s ever done. In the sequel we follow once again, the exploits of the two magical monks Lucky Fruit and Peacock but more so this time the “Hell Virgin” Ashura who in the last movie caused some major problems, almost destroying mankind as we know it while under the enchantment of the devil. Ashura though still loves the mortal world and eventually is granted permission to live there for 7 days, only if she makes a promise to stay out of any mischief that might interfere with the human world. She gladly accepts and quickly hunts down a weird gremlin creature named “Genie” when arriving on Earth. Peacock, Lucky Fruit and 3 bad ass nuns are also then sent down to chaperone her visit, but of course the wicked “Hell Concubine” has other plans, to send her evil minions there as well to try and corrupt her once again.
Though I’ve heard many seem to think this one is more “kid friendly”, probably because the gremlin character “Genie”is focused on quite a bit. Though we follow Ashura and him running around Hong Kong in the 80’s having fun (which I totally dug), it’s still got plenty of downright bizarre scenarios to behold that I think places it in a league all of it’s own and quite a worthy sequel. There’s also the inclusion of a brother and sister human duo that befriend the main characters and the brother just happens to be a madcap inventor of an inter dimensional time machine. Go figure! There’s a few hints of romance and of course the three nun protectors all decide to go for a dip in the human’s swimming pool after their outfits get shredded in battle, donning swimsuits for the first time in their rather “sheltered” life. There’s also some pretty perplexing plot choices surrounding the character of Genie that just kind of have to be seen to be believed. The character which is a mix of puppet and stop-motion animation has got plenty to do here and is given more than his fair share of moments to shine and even scare.
Sure there’s a lot going on here in a movie with an admittedly flimsy plot, the good thing is that the majority of it all is one helluva good time. Bleeding sweet 80’s fashion & locations, outrageous characters, wild sets, puppets, stop motion animation, giant monsters and plenty of neon lasers to behold, it’s hard not to at least be enamored by all of the eye candy. There’s also a splash of martial arts action thrown in the mix to keep the action going at a steady pace from Lucky Fruit and Peacock. Sure there’s lot’s of logic issues with the plot & the dialogue (translations likely) can be a bit incoherent at times but there’s more than enough outrageous charm throughout to easily satisfy fans of directors like Steven Speilberg, Sam Raimi & Peter Jackson’s 80’s and early 90’s work.
If you’re a fan of weird 80’s fantasy, action & horror you definitely need track down The Peacock King & The Saga of the Phoenix. It’s jam packed with all the things I love so much about that era of film making. Lam Ngai Kai (aka Ngai Choi Lam) is easily the best cult director out of Hong Kong for the time, it’s a shame he completely disappeared from film making after 1992. Perhaps he decided his body work couldn’t be topped? Thankfully he’s left behind a truly unique legacy of outrageous films that have yet to be explored by a huge portion of American cinemaniacs.
So way back in 1988 Hong Kong had their own awesome version of Robocop, an ass kickin’ lady cyborg named Maria! Yes, the action/sci-fi flick ‘I Love Maria’ aka ‘Roboforce’ is easily one of the best 80’s movies I’ve seen coming from that region of the world since I started going down the rabbit hole of odd ball Hong Kong cinema a while ago. I must admit, a lot of Hong Kong films during that era are usually pretty hit or miss, many with confusing, nonsensical plots & often weird slapstick potty humor that likely loses something in the often rudimentary english translation provided. However ‘I Love Maria’ definitely hits the right beats on the humor, action & plot to make it stand out as not merely a foreign remake of Robocop but a uniquely charming little sci-fi adventure all of it’s own. The plot’s indeed pretty outrageous, but to a large degree that’s what makes it a so much damn fun. It’s also filled with some memorable characters that at the end of the day, leave you with some warm fuzzy feelings about friendship & the importance of true camaraderie. So what’s it all about you ask?
So the vicious “Hero Gang”, is a downright nasty criminal terrorist organization (I know odd name for the gang then huh?), hell bent on wreaking all out havoc upon the streets of Hong Kong with their unstoppable killer robots: Pioneers 1 and 2! While Pioneer 1’s a giant hulking armored unit, Pioneer 2’s been modeled after “Maria“, the Hero Gang’s devious second in command. When Pioneer 2 gets damaged during a secret assassination mission, it’s taken into the custody of a curious hi-tech weapons inventor employed by the police force named “Curly”. He secretly repairs & reprograms her with new coding that triggers changes to her logic center. Pioneer 2 begins to develop her own unique heroic personality and soon Curly finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly battle against The Hero Gang. Banding together with a drunken ex-gang member named “Whisky” & “T.Q.”, a bumbling news camera man, the four of them embark on a dangerous mission with the fate of Hong Kong in the palm of their hands!
‘I Love Maria’ is a must see for fans of odd 80’s sci fi, the three main human characters have some great chemistry together, one of which is cult director Tsui Hark (Detective Dee, Double Team, Once Upon a Time In China), who hams it up thoroughly as the heroic alcoholic ‘Whisky’. The special effects work is pretty stunning as well, especially when it comes to Maria battling the ‘Pioneer 1’ robot. They bash though walls, fire rocket launchers for their arms and fling eachother around like rag dolls on the streets of Hong Kong. They never skimp on spectacle here either as there’s a plethora of explosions, Hi-tech weaponry, martial arts battles, car chases & of course awesome robot beat downs to behold here. There’s also a pretty interesting duo of villains, the brother & sister leaders of The Hero Gang who also happen to be in love. Throw in “Mr. Vampire” himself, Lam Ching Ying in the mix to showcase his always amazing kung fu and you’ve got yourself a frenetic sci-fi action flick here that never lets up.
That all being said the real star of the show is clearly the charismatic cyborg Maria, who not only lights up the screen with her robotic butt kicking but also with her curious charm. A largely forgotten rad 1980s female action hero that more people need to discover. Hunt this one down, especially if you dig over the top, 80’s, sci-fi action stuff that really fires on all cylinders: unique characters, stunning practical fx, sets, locations and just pure cybernetic mayhem a’ plenty . Stick around all the way through the end credits as well, where you’ll some of the sweetest scenes of the movie. Someone needs to jump on releasing and cleaning up some of the amazing Hong Kong horror/sci-fi stuff out there from the 80’s & 90’s, there’s so many forgotten, rarely seen gems for fans of cult cinema in the USA. Until then this one’s actually pretty hard to find, but definitely worth the effort!
I headed out to the local video store the other night (yeah in Portland we still got an amazing one called Movie Madness) to rent some movies, just like we used to do back in the good ol’ days. Let’s face it folks, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the bland streaming services like Netflix and physically roam around a video store in hopes of stumbling across something entertaining. I decided this time I’d check out some new stuff I haven’t seen streaming out there.
First up was ‘Gags The Clown’ a movie I’d wanted to check out for quite some time now, being a Wisconsin native for much of my life & knowing this horror flick takes place in Green Bay (a place I’d personally hung out so many times in my teens & twenties) made this a no brainer rental. The cover art alone is pretty awesome and would look lovely gracing an old VHS.
Anyway I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a giant fan of “found footage” horror movies and it’s been pretty played out these days in my opinion at least. But in this case I was lured in mainly because I’m just downright intrigued by movies made in ‘The Dairy state’. So the idea of ‘Gags’ was inspired by the whole creepy clown roaming the streets in real life viral video phenomenon a few years or so back. The interesting thing here is that creator of ‘Gags’ actually took advantage of this using his character to supposedly fool local Green Bay residents and the local news to report on it, eventually gathering up some worldwide interest in the creepy clown. A pretty brilliant marketing move to say the least. Continue reading
True Believers, it’s never been a more perfect time for the ‘Great Lakes Avengers’ to make their grand entrance into the MCU! Ok, I know many of you casual Marvel movie fanatics out there are likely wondering just who and what the hell I’m talking about, but the “GLA” as they’re also referred to have been around since the late 80’s and have on a couple occasions attempted to actually replace The Avengers, most notably when they tragically disassembled in 2004 in the comics. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based team are most well known as the ultimate gang of blundering misfit superheroes and when the Avengers disbanded they figured they’d simply take the mantle of the team for themselves to reap all the glory for themselves. Of course they quickly found out they weren’t quite qualified when it came down to taking out major threats to the planet. So why introduce these guys now into the MCU huh?
Well at the current moment in the movies The Avengers aren’t really a thing anymore, at least for the moment. With Cap old & retired and Tony Stark dead, it’d be the perfect time to check out the origin story and rise of ‘The Great Lakes Avengers’. In fact with the ‘Disney+’ streaming service there’s the platform needed to tell their ridiculously madcap story. Since 1989 when writer/artist John Byrne introduced the underdog team to the Marvel Universe (West Coast Avengers #46), I’ve been a big fan. In fact I listed them before as one of the obscure Marvel teams I thought would make a great movie or better yet today a comedic Disney+ series after the success of the D-listers The Guardians of the Galaxy. To me the team has so much more potential than GOG, with their origin story alone being a helluva good adventure, if even at times more of a dark comedy.
The name of the team alone would spark immediate interest and originally back in the comic books they’d even been coached by Hawkeye and Mockingbird who desperately tried to whip them into shape. You could even have Jeremy Renner make a cameo in an episode as Hawkeye to do just that. Considering the team’s ranks were filled from a classified ad in the newspaper would open the door to so many great comedic scenarios as well.
Then there’s the team themselves, which consists of Mr. Immortal, a mutant with a super-superhuman healing factor and the ability to survive the most gruesome deaths, Bertha who’s the most popular fashion icon in Milwaukee WI who has the ability to bulk up like the Blob, Dinah-soar the flying female reptilian, Doorman a mutant who can create doorways using alternate universes to pass through solid objects and finally Flatman, the team’s current leader & openly gay two dimensional version of Reed Richards. But wait the team was also home to the now iconic Squirrel Girl and this would be the perfect place for her to make her official MCU debut!
This team and their story would make for the perfect superhero series, there’s so many interesting angles to explore. From forming the team, to training to be the new “Avengers”, to their many failed missions and their attempt to square off against a real superhuman threat. There’s something truly charming about exploring an underdog group of down on their luck superhuman characters. The comedy practically writes itself and they’d be a surefire win in a series of their own as there’s nothing quite like them out there yet. So what do you think? Do you think now’s the time for this weird-o gang of midwest superheroes to enter into the fold?! If I’ve peaked your interest a good launch point of the team is the six issue mini series from Dan Slott from 2005 called “GLA: Misassembled”, I think that would be a perfect blueprint for a Disney+ series….
Well it’s the Christmas season yet AGAIN! One of my favorite times to watch movies and every year I always try and hunt down the odd or forgotten Holiday themed horror movies to throw into the mix. Who doesn’t love a good holiday horror movie on rotation during this time of year right?! Well this season I’ve got 5 horror films I’m givin’ my stamp of Universal Dork approval for holiday viewing. That doesn’t mean that the theme of the movie is related to Christmas or the Holidays directly, but more so the events at the very least occur during this festive time of the year!
So here they are for 2019, track these down and pair ’em with some candy canes and spiked egg nog to get the damn party a started!!
The Oracle (1985)
Here’s a great 80’s supernatural horror flick from Roberta Findlay that takes place during the holiday season. It showcases a cold, snowy and mega sleezy NYC during Christmas time. There’s Christmas lights everywhere, holiday parties going on and christmas trees. It’s a pretty sweet little low budget horror movie that’s also pretty fun stylistically (it looks like it’s 1975 instead of ’85) and fully ambitious fx wise. Ouija boards during christmas is NEVER a good idea! It’s a movie it seems most holiday horror fanatics have missed out on over the years, so if you dig grimy supernatural holiday cheer, track this one down!
Dangerous Game (1988)
This awesome Aussie movie is brought to you by the director of Judgement Night, Predator 2 & Nightmare on Elm St Part 5. It takes place around Christmas time and features a gang of teenagers who decide to spend the night inside of a mall after one of them pisses off a mentally unstable psycho cop! The mall is decked out in X-mas decorations and makes for the perfect place for a tense game of cat and mouse! This one’s a ton of fun, filled with awesome action, great characters and even a healthy heroic dose of Christmas scenery, a crowd pleaser for sure!
The Day of The Beast (1995)
A Christmas Tale aka Cuento de Navidad (2005)
This is a great little Spanish Christmas horror flick from the director of ‘REC’. If you’re watching it for the first time in 2019 it might seem like it’s trying to capitalize off ‘Stranger Things’. However this one came out well before the craze of the Netflix series. It takes place during the 80’s, features a cast of kids who cruise around on their bikes who discover a woman in a Santa Suit stuck in a hole in the ground. They soon figure out she’s wanted by the police and refuse to help her out, things get interesting when voodoo magic is added to the mix and the kids find their holiday turned into a walking nightmare!! Track this one down, it’s so much fun!
Tales from the Third Dimension (1984)
So this is a rare horror anthology from 1984 that’s trying to do a Twilight Zone / ‘Tales from the Crypt’ mash up type of thing as evident by the awesome second rate “Cryptkeeper” character we meet at the start of the movie! Now I’m not going to recommend that you watch the entire movie as the first two segments really aren’t much to write home about, but the third and final 40 minute segment is definitely worth checking out. A full on Christmas themed horror story featuring two kids who stay at grandma’s house that kind of reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Visit’. But wait there’s more, as Santa himself shows up in the flesh to push the story to wild holiday extremes!! A uniquely bizarre, largely lost and forgotten Holiday horror movie….here’s the whole thing on youtube if you can’t find a physical copy!