Category: Epic Battles

VHS Verdict: ‘Saga of the Phoenix’ Brings the Monsters & 80’s Mayhem!!

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.  

Forgotten 80’s Cyborg Mayhem: Step Aside Robocop Here Comes MARIA!

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!

Movie Reviews: Shatner Kills Demons with a Bazooka?! Killer Clowns from Wisconsin?!

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

Will The Original Ghostbusters Actually do some Ghostbustin’ in Ghostbusters: Afterlife?!!

So some interesting plot info finally dropped about the upcoming “Ghostbusters 3” now officially known as ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’. If you missed it here’s what was recently released:

“The Third installment centers on Callie (Carrie Coon) and her kids Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) as the move to Oklahoma into a haunted house that reveals their family connection to one of the original Ghostbusters – though which of the four is Phoebe and Trevor’s grandfather remains unrevealed. The Ghostbusters’ 1984 stand against Gozer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man has all but faded from the memory of modern day teens (as tends to happen), so Trevor and Phoebe will need to get some contextual help from an older guide: enter Paul Rudd’s summer school teacher character, Mr. Grooberson. Grooberson was a kid during the events of the Ghostbusters original adventure, and has been an obsessed fanboy ever since. It will be Grooberson who helps guide Phoebe and Trevor toward dusting off the Ghostbusters mantle – hopefully in time to save the town from whatever is in that haunted mine.

 

 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife a direct sequel to Ghostbusters 2, following up on the events of what is now called the “Manhattan Crossrip,” in which ghosts and other apparitions (including the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man) materialized in New York City. “

 

So this all sounds great right? There’s been some images released showing the younger cast of kids, who are assumed to become the new Ghostbusters. I’m hoping this one’s not going to try and give us a yet another “Stranger Things” type of scenario, as much as I was thrilled with the Netflix show I’ve been feeling like there’s been a bit of an overflow of movies and tv shows trying to do the same thing due to the it’s success. What worries me the most here is the lack of mention of the original cast, even in the photos released. Sure we all know they are going to be in the movie, but they also made appearances in Ghostbusters 2016. So for as a fan of the originals, I’m pretty damn interested in seeing just what the hell our favorite characters are up to these days. Am I alone here on that? I think the movie needs to give the original cast ample screen time and a decent part of the plot should be dedicated to them. I’m growing tired of these “sequels” sidelining the original characters, they’d better no pull a  “Luke Skywalker” on old crew.

So my one desire for this new movie is that we see the original Ghostbusters actually bust some damn ghosts just one last time! Please don’t give them all just the obligatory cameo. I wanna see the old crew actually have something important to do before they pass the torch for good. Otherwise I feel this sequel is going to end up pissing off fans once again in the way ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ blew it’s second chance opportunity to be something fans would never forget as a direct sequeL to T2 . I’m hoping that in the trailer (which drops Monday) they indeed show the original cast too, if not I’ll be guessing they’ll likely have very small roles. What do you think? Wouldn’t you love to see the original cast actually be a real part of this film? What do you think their role will be? 

It’s directed by Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman who directed both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2.  So I’m cautiously keeping my fingers crossed he’s going to give us the sequel we always wanted…

Pissed Off Fans & Plot Leaks Galore: Is There Any Hope for Star Wars: Episode IX?!

It’s been quite a wild one for Disney “Star Wars” over the past couple years, that’s for sure. It seems ‘The Last Jedi’ ignited some serious controversy that many people blame for ‘Solo’ underperforming massively at the box office. Me personally? I’d be a liar to say I wasn’t legitimately let down by The Last Jedi (and the Force Awakens to a certain degree) but then over the last couple years it became very clear: Disney Star Wars is really just high budget fan fiction, at least the sequel trilogy. It’s really no more legit than the ‘Expanded Universe’ stuff at this point, especially upon learning that Disney had the option to use George Lucas’ original treatment for Episodes 7-9. We all know now that they opted for a lesser original JJ Abrams & Rian Johnson helmed retelling of the original trilogy with ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’ which both follow the similar beats to the original trilogy. So in my eyes, not at least lightly following George’s treatment for the sequel trilogy is somewhat blasphemous and inauthentic. That all being said, I just don’t care as much knowing we’re not getting the creators true vision for the finale of the Skywalker saga. 

My excitement level for the next Star Wars film couldn’t be any lower honestly. I’ll still go and see it, but I’m not rushing out opening weekend anymore for them. Over the years I’ve come to realize that Star Wars (for me) isn’t the cinematic “event” it once was after stepping out of The Last Jedi. It’s become a level of Hollywood sequel on par with ‘The Predator’ franchise, recent ‘Alien’ movies or ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’. Just bloated big budget remakes disguised as modern day “sequels” to beloved nostalgic franchises. Movies that end up quickly forgotten after leaving the theater. The more I’ve read and seen of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, the less excited I’ve become. One of the biggest problems facing the movie are the “Jedi Paxis” leaks, which dropped a couple months ago and now appear to be perfectly matching what’s been shown in trailers and tv spots for the movie. I checked the leaks out and I’ll admit, I’m not incredibly excited to see it all unfold on the big screen. In fact the inclusion of Palpatine furthers the fact that these sequels are not much more than disguised remakes of the OT. I’m fully open to the leaks being false and perhaps Disney has pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes with some new form of marketing, but it’s really starting to all look pretty legit. But the ‘Game of Thrones’ leaks ended up true, ‘The Predator’ leaks, ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ leaks ALL ended up true as well. This presents a pretty damn big problem for Star Wars and JJ’s “mystery boxes” he seems to love so much.

Now I’m sure Episode IX will make a billion dollars, but I’m not sure what effect this movie will have on the cinematic future of the franchise if it further divides fans. If it fails to provide a proper story for the beloved original trilogy characters then it’s truly failed the fans. So far my gut feeling is ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ might end up being more divisive than The Last Jedi. On a positive note, ‘The Mandalorian’ seems to have fans all on the same page somehow? I’ve loved the first 5 episodes and I really wish that THIS would have been the movie we got instead of the sequel trilogy. At this point I think they should’ve just left the old characters alone and let the story rest with Return of the Jedi. None of what we’ve been served up in my eyes has been compelling or innovative storytelling and if you’re unable to pass the torch in a way that’s truly rewarding for fans, then it probably should have all just been left as was.

So my guess here is that this last installment from JJ is going to problematic for Star Wars cinematically. I think the Disney+ platform is where Star Wars will rule for the next few years or so. I mean how exciting will it be to see ‘Baby Yoda’ grow up?! So it’s sad that so far the return of Star Wars wasn’t at all what I’d hoped for and I really don’t think it’d have been all that difficult to send the old characters on an incredible adventure along with a set of new ones who could carry the torch into their very own trilogy. As far as fan fiction goes I’ll stick with the expanded universe stuff for the moment, but also happy that these new movies don’t bother me anymore. I’m fine with accepting them for what they are, big budget fan fiction from JJ & Rian….. 

Star Wars Episode IX: Why Luke Skywalker is Likely Still Alive!

Ok folks, in just under two months we’ll be getting the final installment of “The Skywalker Saga”. Yep, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is going to wrap up the whole damn story whether you like it or not. Many people (as I’m sure you know by now) have huge problems with the “Disney Star Wars” stuff, for quite a while I was pretty damn perturbed about it all too. Especially with The Last Jedi. Then I’d read about how Disney bought the rights to the franchise and also got the drafts for George Lucas’ version of Episodes 7-9. Instead of fulfilling the iconic creators vision for his saga they decided to go with a more familiar plot, JJ and Rian Johnson delivered movies that are essentially soft remakes of the ‘Original Trilogy’.

When I’d heard this news something just clicked and I suddenly wasn’t upset with these new Disney Star Wars films. I realized they’re all essentially just high budget fan fiction films and that I’ll always have the real movies to watch. These new Star Wars flicks actually aren’t any different than the (much more superior in many ways IMO) Star Wars EU (Expanded Universe) material, or what they’re referred to as now, ‘Star Wars Legends’. Essentially all the non movie fiction stuff. I realized whatever Disney comes up with next really doesn’t matter much at least to me, in any real way anymore. Star Wars IS George Lucas, at the very least the sequel trilogy, 100% should have utilized his story for the final installment of The Skywalker Saga. Otherwise it really is just fan fiction with some big bucks behind it.                  

That all being said, I’ve still been wondering for a while just what this last installment has in store for Luke Skywalker, if anything at all. I then remembered JJ Abrams, a fan of Star Wars was co-writing the movie and it got me thinking, is he really going to sideline Luke? He’s got the chance to play with Luke Skywalker in his sandbox, one of the most iconic characters in pop culture. One last real chance to utilize the original actor as the character, c’mon is he really going to just have him show up as force ghost in a cameo?! Even though people swear up and down Luke is dead I really cannot fathom Abrams not giving Luke the excting moments, likely he himself and the rest of the OT fan base had been waiting for 30 plus years to witness on the big screen. How could a guy like JJ resist?

                                                       

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U-Dork Politics: Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura to Run for Prez in 2020?!!

Ok so I don’t normally cover politics much here at Universal Dork and I really don’t plan to in the future! However I heard recently that former 80’s icon wrestler, action hero, Navy Seal and former Governor of Minnesota Jesse “The Body” Ventura is considering a run for President in 2020 with The Green Party. This upcoming election year could get a lot more interesting as Ventura is well known for not holding back his political views….whether you like em’ or not. For me Ventura’s been a big part of my childhood, I mean the guy starred in some totally awesome movies like Predator, The Running Man, Demolition Man & the largely unseen but awesome ‘Tag Team’ with Roddy Piper. Oh yeah and for those bad movie fanatics he also starred in Abraxas!

Anyway, in the last few days he’s been starting to talk once again about running for President in 2020, some months back he was asked at an airport by TMZ about it and had a few brash words for Trump if he runs, but then hasn’t mentioned the possible 2020 run again until now. Politically he’s always been an independent and has devoted a lot time presenting arguments on why The Democrats & Republicans are the true source of many of the country’s problems.

His political leanings are similar to Bernie Sanders in many ways and he’s always claimed if you are given a chance to debate the Democrats and The Republicans you can indeed beat them. He states they keep out all other political parties for a reason, so the two can continue on their two party dictatorship. I’d love to see Ventura enter the race, in this most recent interview he described Donald Trump as a “draft dodging coward” and I’d love to see that presented to Trump face to face in a damn debate!

Ventura’s an interesting guy for sure, many know him for heavily researching conspiracy theories and his most recent book ‘Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto‘ favors the 100% legalization of cannabis across the USA. I’ve been intrigued by Jesse since I was a kid watching the WWF and Predator was the first R-rated movie I saw and snuck into in the theater. So yeah I’m ready for “The Body” to enter the 2020 field with The Greens if he’s really serious about it that is. If anything it’d be one helluva spectacle to behold! The Green Party has had zero luck getting the attention needed to be allowed onto the debate stage over the years and the hope would be that Ventura could finally generate enough hype in the media that the people would demand to see him included. If Jesse continues speaking with no filter it just very well could indeed happen. Imagine a third or even 4th voice in the debates-I think more perspectives are desperately needed here in the USA. It’s been a while since we got a third voice on a Presidential debate stage (Ross Perot 1992!) and I think if there was anyone out there who could gather enough controversy to be included on one it’d be Jesse “The Body” Ventura! 

Now let’s keep in mind this isn’t the first time he’s mentioned running for prez as the amazing comedian James Adomian clearly shows in this awesome comedy skit about Jesse’s contemplation about the topic!