Category: Epic Battles

Movie Review: THE LAUGHING DEAD is a Cheezy Ball of Top Notch 80’s Horror!

So if you’re like me, feeling a little blue these days and looking for some solace in cinema to pick you up, I recommend checking out this gory, gooey, giant ball of cheesy 80’s horror goodness, 1989’s ‘The Laughing Dead’ a whirl. I’m always out searching the Golden Era of horror for forgotten gems, and have had plenty of misses throughout the years- but this offering from the Thailand born S.P. Somtow pretty much brings everything that I love about the genre and mashes it into one big package. Somtow’s debut film, which he also wrote, directed, scored and executive-produced is an ambitious project from someone who was first and foremost known for several standout horror novels during the 1980s and 90s. I guess this’d be his ‘Maximum Overdrive’ (Stephen King’s first shot behind the camera).

So he finally took a stab at filmmaking here with the Laughing dead and though the movie was panned way back when, I think it’s time that it finally gets the respect it deserves. The plot is quite a doosie: Father O’Sullivan is a Catholic priest who has recently lost his faith and has arranged a bus trip to the Mayan ruins of Mexico, bringing along a cast of truly hilarious characters for the adventure. However lurking around the ruins is an evil doctor who seeks to transform himself into the Mayan Lord of Death by kidnapping innocent children & ripping out their hearts. Yeah the guy is one evil son of a bitch with major ass maniacal plans for himself and the unsuspecting locals.

Well Father O’Sullivan leaves Tucson, AZ in a cool beat up tour bus and picks up a sweet cast of characters including hilarious new age couple and most importantly an ex-nun whom he had a most scandalous affair with. Oh yeah and her and his unsuspecting son, who’s got the most incredibly filthy mouth you’ve EVER heard on a kid! This kid’s droppin’ f-bombs like nobody’s fucking business making it quite clear from the start that the tone here isn’t to be taken too incredibly serious. Yeah I really enjoyed the characters in this one, the new age couple are a great addition, as I’ve never seen characters quite like this in a horror flick that work so well. They bicker and argue but also dabble with fancy ass crystals and weird-ass meditation techniques and actually add something to the story. Charming characters can make a super low budget movie legit and it’s got some pretty charming ones at it’s heart to root for.

Another thing that’s great about it is every damn thing that’s jam packed into this sweet little production. Firstly the unique plot and setting in 80’s Mexico separates this one from the usual genre fare of the time and when the shit begins to hit the fan you’re definitely in for a spooky unpredictable treat. Exorcisms, zombies, gore, mystical magic and radically cheezy monsters are all on the table here. There’s even a beheading scene that sends said head flying straight into a basketball hoop mid game! Though the tone is quite playful, it for the most part plays the horror and weird ass plot points pretty straight and even manages to give all the characters their moments to shine, at least those who make it out alive! If you dig something like ‘Evil Dead 2’ or say ‘Re-animator’ you’re bound to be charmed by the Laughing dead and all the ridiculous scenarios sprinkled throughout.

They also pull out a trove of sweet 80’s practical fx too, throw it on the wall and most of it sticks. So there’s lot’s of eye candy to behold as well as some great attempts at drama. Nope it’s not all just monster nonsense either, I love how Sumtow manages to give the movie some real heart, even if it’s done with some seriously subpar acting skills, it’s just a giant ball of cheezy fun that hit’s all the right beats and imo has all the right moves. It was never officially released in the USA so I really hope that someone like Vinegar Syndrome or Arrow pick this little comedic horror gem up and give it a proper release. It desperately needs one. The director’s career pretty much ends right here but damn I wish he’d have given it another shot behind the freakin’ camera. I found a decent copy of it on dvd on Ebay or it’s also up on Youtube but it doesn’t look quite as good. Check it out if Covid’s got you down, by the time the movie ends you’re bound to have a smile on your face if you like 80’s cheez as much as I do.  

THE MAGIC CRYSTAL: Hong Kong’s Killer 1986 Cynthia Rothrock Kung Fu Sci-Fi Adventure!

So you’re in the mood for an ass kickin’, science fiction, martial arts packed 80’s adventure? Look no further, ‘The Magic Crystal’ from 1986 delivers the damn goods and THEN some!! It also delivers the iconic action star Cynthia Rothrock in one of her earliest roles doing what she does best, throwing the  beat down on the wise guys. This Hong Kong production filmed largely in Greece, has some truly stunning locations and makes good damn use of them, following a stylin’ cool guy mercenary (Andy Lau) who’s hot on the trail of an alien artifact, you guessed it, a magic crystal. This green crystal which actually looks more like a glowing green glob also houses an alien within it shimmering surface. 

Of course there’s an evil mastermind named Karov (Richard Norton), who’s also head of the KGB and also full on martial arts maestro who’s dead set on acquiring the magic crystal for his own villainous plans. This huge dude is so bad ass it almost always requires at least two kung fu masters to take him on and even then he usually ends up on top. He also wears some awesome evil black studded outfits while he does his sinister business and is just a plain awesome bad guy here.

Andy Lau soon meets up with a small cast of colorful allies, Cynthia Rothrock being one of them, who help him on his pursuit for the alien artifact. Luckily for the mysterious crystal it ends up in the hands of a little boy who quickly discovers what’s actually inside of it. From here the movie goes in another different direction as the kid forms a bond with the alien and we end up with a sorta E.T. type of thing going down. Yeah the crystal even grows a creepy glowing finger and shares some of it’s “ancient wisdom” and “power” with the kid leading them on a bit of an adventure of their own.

The whole movie is simply a delight to behold. With it’s fun sets, beautiful greek isle locations, endearing characters, pulpy villains and that oh so sweet era of the mid 1980’s for it’s ambitious story to take place in. The action is top notch as well and though the movie is jam packed with bone breaking stunts and martial arts it’s definitely not simply just a kung fu flick. In fact the final third of the movie plays out more like an Indiana Jones adventure as our band of heroes delve deep into trap filled caverns and tunnel slides for our characters to glide down to more even more danger.

It actually kinda feels like this flick might have been where Spielberg got his idea for ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’! Hey you never right? There’s so much fun here to be had, the classic 80’s fx in play and a ridiculous paper mache alien that could have used a bit more work still come off as charming. Cynthia is also right on top of her game here as well and it’s fucking awesome to see her in some of these Hong Kong productions where she looks right at home in their frenetic bone breaking action sequences. The kind that US productions never could seem to replicate but never stopped trying. I checked the movie out on Blu Ray, though it sadly wasn’t an official release (it desperately needs one!), you can watch the English Dub on Youtube and get the scoop about the flick from Cynthia herself right here below,   

 

Why Mark Hamill MUST Appear as Luke Skywalker in The Mandalorian!!

Mark Hamill surely got the short end of the stick in Disney’s lackluster and uninspiring “sequel” trilogy. All hope was lost to ever see the iconic actor appear again as the iconic hero in Star Wars ever again….then along came The Mandalorian season 2, episode 5!! With Baby Yoda (or ‘Grogu’) now on his way to an ancient Jedi planet called Tython (to call out to the force in hopes of a Jedi sensing him), we’re now closer than ever to a possible Luke Skywalker return to Star wars! And not Jake Skywalker this time!

Videos all over YouTube are speculating about this, but instead of Mark Hamill reprising the role they’re for some odd reason overeager about shoehorning Sebastian Stan into the iconic role as quickly as possible. Um…Ok, I know there’s been talk on the internet about him someday portraying a younger Luke Skywalker but maybe these peeps fail to remember ‘Captain Marvel’ where they perfectly de-aged Samuel L Jackson?! Hello everyone? Why are you all so damn quick so quick to “Alden Ehrenreichthe hell out of Luke Skywalker?!! Jon Favreau and his crew would have to be crazy to NOT utilize the same technology for Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker! Hell, they even did it already in the ‘Rise of Skywalker’. We’ve got a living breathing Mark Hamill ( Yeah the REAL Luke) here and all these Youtube nerds can think about is giving up his role to Bucky?!

I think if we’re going to do this shit for real in the Mandalorian with Luke Skywalker and most likely have it a one-off episode or two why the hell not get Hamill back in the role for one last hurrah? IMO this would be the perfect “redemption” for Mark AND for Luke Skywalker. Sure it won’t fix everything that the “sequel” trilogy destroyed about his character but at least it’ll give us what we’d all been waiting for, for over 30 plus years. Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson, just to make it that much more unforgettable, how about Luke AND Mace Windu both show up to meet Baby Yoda? How incredible would that be? And while they’re at it, give us an epic battle for the season 2 finale where we really, truly get to see Luke Skywalker in all of his Jedi glory one last time? This whole Sebastian Stan thing can be done a couple years from now, so guys get off your high horses here, fans want the real deal, meaning we want Hamill in the role at least here and now. He deserves it more than anyone after the abomination of the “sequel” trilogy. Putting Sebastian Stan in the role is not going to take away that yucky feeling we all had from ‘The Last Jedi’.

If Star Wars fans truly want to heal, this would be the best remedy to correct the wrongs of the “sequels”. At the end of the day, as much as they all want Sebastian Stan to be Luke, I can guarantee that Jon Favreau, as the true fan that he is, knows for sure: if he’s going to put Luke in his damn series he’s going to give Mark a call! Bet On It! However I wonder if all of this talk of Luke Skywalker and some famous Jedi appearing might all just be hype? And what’s with all this shit talk about some random Jedi dude from a Star Wars video game appearing to take Baby Yoda? Who’s going to think that’s bad ass? We’ll see, but I’m going to say it here, don’t think baby Yoda is going to leave with any Jedi, we heard it was his choice to choose this path. My bet is that he chooses to stay with the Mandalorian! What do you think? Give me one reason why they shouldn’t just de-age Hamill in the same way they did Sam Jackson!

Charlie Brown & The Peanuts Take on John Carpenter’s THE THING?!!

As if 2020 couldn’t get any weirder!!! Charlie Brown & The Peanuts have come face to face with their greatest threat this winter! Snoopy has been replicated into an alien monstrosity ala John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’! Oh the horror Charlie Brown!!!

 

Hong Kong Halloween: 1987’s ‘Vampire’s Breakfast’ is FANG-tastic!

This Halloween I’m gonna make a few obscure retro foreign horror movie recommendations that you may have missed out on from that oh so sweet era of the genre: the 1980’s! I just checked out a rad little Hong Kong Horror movie from 1987 called ‘Vampire’s Breakfast’!!

This forgotten little horror gem is a load of fun with a heapin’ dose of spooky settings, comedy, romance and action in the way that only Hong Kong cinema delivered back in the day. I really enjoyed how for the most part this one plays the horror pretty straight, keeping the all too usual Hong Kong “slapstick potty humor” out of the equation entirely. For me some of the 80’s Hong Kong stuff can be completely ruined by crappy potty humor and comedy that just plain hasn’t aged well (and keep in mind I’m not normally easily offended either). Nope, here we have a cool cast of characters and genuinely nasty “American/European” style vamp on the loose rather than the traditional Chinese hopping kind. We’ve got some funky footage of Hong Kong in the 80’s here and totally sweet fashion of the era in full swing.

The iconic Kent Cheng stars as a newspaper reporter who’s hot on the trail of a serial killer and after poking around a police crime scene begins to suspect that the killer might actually be a living breathing vampire. No one takes him seriously except a boozed up car stereo thief, who he reluctantly teams up with to track down the suspected bloodsucker. Along the way though he interviews one of the killer’s victims who barely escaped with her life, the oh soooo cute Emily Chu looking as stylee as ever.

Of course it’s love at first sight and we’re then treated to a full on 80’s style Hong Kong “John Hughs” cheezy romance, which is a total charm amidst the horror. The thing I really dig about this is movie, are the horror elements, unafraid to get nasty when it needs to as well as some action sequences that can be pretty exciting as well. No kung fu here though, which is kind of nice actually as it plants this one in a more believable horror setting, but that’s not to say the portly Kent Cheng can’t deliver the kicks, check out 1989’s ‘Vampire Buster’ to see his skills.

There’s a lot to love here if you’re looking for something different this Halloween, the vampire here is plenty fierce as well. He’s got a pretty sinister look and raises plenty of Hell on the foggy streets of Hong Kong. There’s also some unexpected moments of gore as well that ramp things up nicely in the finale. I’d say this one definitely deserves more love and most definitely a cleaned up blu ray release with more fleshed out subtitles. A colorful, creepy tale full of endearing characters and a brisk pace make this one standout viewing this Halloween for those who love uncovering hidden gems from horror’s sweet spot era of the 1980’s.

The Retro “JUSTICE LEAGUE” Movie I Wish was a Reality!

The Snyder cut Justice League movie is I guess all the rage for the HBO Max, but to me I think it looks like more bad DCEU stuff that’s not aging well! Luckily for me someone decided to make this cool retro trailer for the Justice league, featuring some of my favorite faces from the past! This one is a ton of fun and I wish it was the movie they were premiering! I’d be signed up for sure! So maybe in the mulitverse alternate reality this is a real thing?!! 

Cobra Kai: Season 3 & Interviews for HARDCORE Karate Kid Fans!

How excited are you for season 3 of Cobra Kai?!! Well we don’t have too much longer to wait, very soon the first two seasons will be on Netflix and I’m about due for an epic rewatch. I honestly have a tough finding much of anything to watch on the streaming service these days so this is most definitely great news. The upcoming Season 3 has a lot of people speculating on nostalgic plot points, like Ali’s return, Daniel returning back to Okinawa, the return of Chozen and maybe even Mike Barnes from the third film coming back?! So many fun ideas out there for fans of the Karate Kid mythos.

Well for true fans here’s a new poster from Netflix and if you haven’t already check out Cobra Kai Theory on Youtube, he’s got some super fun interviews with some cool guests some of them obscure in the best way possible. Here’s a fun one with Sean Kanan (Mike Barnes) from Karate Kid III!

Also a sweet interview with Darryl Vidal, who’s legendary to fans as one of Johnny’s top contenders in the “All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament” from the first movie!!

 

VHS Verdict: BLACK SAMURAI is Over the Top 70’s Pulp at it’s Best!

Well I was able to check out the 1977’s ‘Black Samurai’ for the first time and I’m not quite sure why I put it off for so damn long, I think it might have something to do with the shoddy looking cover art on the VHS copy I had. Being a HUGE fan of ‘Enter the Dragon’ and having such an amazing time seeing ‘Black Belt Jones’ on the big screen here in Portland Oregon for the legendary Hollywood Theater’s Kung Fu Theater a few years back with a packed crowd I should have certainly done it sooner. Yep Jim Kelly is once again a total bad ass in some of the most outrageous scenarios of his whole career! The proof is in the poster alone…

So I really wouldn’t say he screams of a “Samurai” per say here in any real way even though there’s a brief scene of him messing around with a samurai sword. Here’s really more of a 007 James Bond type of guy here, an Agent of D.R.A.G.O.N. to be exact, who’s using his crazy kung fu skills to annihilate any asshole who he can get his damn hands on! And boy do throw some real wild ones his way for a total ass whooping. The whole plot revolves around Kelly hunting down a satanic black magic cult who’s kidnapped his lover, lead by the most geeky unthreatening, snake obsessed, white guy, villain boss I’ve surely laid my eyes upon. Kelly’s challenged by all sorts of his evil minions, tuff guy street thugs, tribal type warriors, insane little people with whips and most bizarre, the cult leader’s evil giant pet vulture! Yes he has a hand to hand battle with a damn vulture and also flies around in a jet pack, has a couple rad car chases and hangs at a mariachi party all while looking the most stylin’ and ripped as Bruce Lee while doing it all.

That’s not to say the sleazy cult director, Al Adamson makes it at all flow smoothly as there’s some seriously ridiculous yet fully satisfying martial arts battles here to gloriously behold. Jim Kelly still has the kick ass moves, but the crazy choppy editing and some of the perplexing overdubbed dialogue thrown into scenes has just got to be heard and seen to be believed! This certainly has got me on a Jim Kelly kick lately because this one was so satisfying, after this pandemic cools down I’m sure this one needs another play with a group of friends. It’s a full on train wreck of fun that plays out just like a grimy pulpy comic book adventure.

Jim Kelly’s one of the coolest 70’s action heroes and here in Black Samurai he proves once again exactly why he can’t be messed with especially if you decide that kidnapping his girlfriend is somehow a good move (it’s NOT). It’s well paced, throws everything but the kitchen sink at you and to be quite honest most of it sticks to the wall. From his rad track suits to his flashy sports cars, Kelly displays a suave, cocky swagger that never gets old. Let Black Samurai take you back to the 1970’s for on hell of an over the top adventure! Check this trailer out if you’ve never seen it before if you’re in doubt!

   Here’s a great interview with Jim Kelly:

 

Movie Review: Old Dudes STILL Kick Ass in VFW!!!

I just checked out VFW, the latest from director Joe Begos (Almost Human, The Mind’s Eye) who returns with, in my opinion his best film yet! This sweet little gritty love letter to John Carpenter, which calls back to his classic ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ in big way, is also a blood soaked love letter to some older actors/action stars of yesteryear. We’ve got icons Fred Williamson, William Sadler, Stephen Lang, Martin Kove & even George Wendt from ‘Cheers’ to make this bar room brawl even more authentic!

The story kicks off on a special birthday night for VFW bar owner “Fred” and his tight knit gang of bad ass war veterans. The evening quickly turns into wild all-out battle for their lives when a teen punk rock girl crashes their party with a sack full of ‘hype’. This new drug basically turns people into demented maniacs, with a hunger for more hype at any cost. The evil punk drug dealer, desperate to get his valuable stash back, sends his gang of gnarly addicts on a rampage to get it back. When these mutant punks on a rampage storm the bar looking for the teen, the old vets along with a younger soldier get to relive the gory glory years of war one more time. They unleash their pent of rage and fury using every weapon they can get their hands on to protect the girl and try annihilate the horde of drug addled maniacs. However these messed up punks have hype running through their veins and want more, risking anything to their grimy paws on it.

If you’re a fan of old school action flicks from the 70’s & 80’s you’re going to really get a kick out of VFW. The gore is pretty over the top, done in a such a cartoony way that people literally explode on screen. As a fan of practical fx Begos always delivers the goods with some wild splatter, he also keeps the vibe placed firmly in the golden days of the action era, with not a cell phone in sight. It also feels like an 80’s flick, with stunning neon lit sets within the walls of the cool old dank dive bar.

The real highlight of this is the cast of old codgers who do the majority of the ass kickin’. It’s absolutely delightful to see the likes of Fred Williamson & The Karate Kid’s Martin “Sensei” Kove in full on action mode as well as Stephen Lang, William Sadler and the younger soldier played by Tom Williamson. They’re all great here and give this film the cred it deserves proving age is just a number when it comes to cinematic butt kicking. I really enjoyed VFW, it’s the perfect modern midnite movie and gets so much praise for bringing in some old icons into the mix of onscreen mayhem. Check this out if you’re a fan of 70’s/80’s cult action horror flicks- And here’s to hoping VFW gets a sequel bringing even more of the bar’s patrons into the fold, hand picking some more old nearly forgotten bad asses to do some damage one last time! 

VHS Verdict: 1980’s Japanese Robot Craziness – CYBER NINJA & MIKADROID!!!

Well the quarantine rages one! So naturally I’m taking advantage of the situation by watching as many cool movies as I can get my hands on! I checked out some pretty excellent Japanese movies from the late 80’s/early 90’s the other night and I won the jackpot as somehow BOTH movies delivered the damn goods! I mean that rarely ever happens when blindly grabbing two oddball movies I’ve never heard anything about.

First up was was 1988’s “Cyber Ninja”, which obviously by the title showed some true promise! This wild sci-fi action film tells the story of a cyborg ninja who’s battling an evil empire that uses giant dinosaur like robots along with a gang of robotic ninja’s of their own to wreak havoc upon a kingdom of samurai warriors. Yeah basically that’s the story, nothing fancy here just a bunch of wild action and robot ass kicking for a lean 80 minutes. There’s some cool martial arts as well and really sweet robot designs at play here that mix feudal japanese elements into their look. There’s these giants mechs in particular that have a sort of Japanese tree house melded as the control center, kinda of like a play on a Star Wars ATST walker. There’s also a ton of that ultra colorful hand painted laser/electricity/energy blasts fx that accompany the martial arts mayhem. It’s a ton of fun and it seems this was perhaps an inspiration for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? The movie was release by Namco, which later merged with Bandai, both famous for their video games. Cyber Ninja is must watch if you dig weird, 80’s action and fantasy stuff & was great little viewing surprise that doesn’t require your attention span to be in full swing either.

 

Next was 1991’s Mikadroid, also known as “Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disoclub Layla”. With a title like that you know you’re at the least in for something quite unusual and yeah it brings quite an intriguing little tale of terror to the screen. It’s super lean run time of 73 minutes also makes it much less of a commitment and the perfect companion to Cyber Ninja in more than one way. I’d say at it’s core, it’s really more of a horror movie, and go as far to even call it a “proto-slasher”. It follows a World War II soldier who was experimented on along with two others for a super soldier program.

However they went a step further in a secret underground bunker to transform him into a cyborg/droid and ends up looking like something straight out of a Hellboy comic. We flash forward to 1991 to a discoclub that was built on top the hidden bunker where some electrical issues awaken the WWII super solder robot from his long slumber (I guess a real Captain America kind of thing going on here more than I originally realized). The droid heads up into the parking garage where he conducts his killing spree on the oh so stylin’ Japanese party animals after their wild nights of drinkin’ and dancing the night away.

This movie’s certainly a unique slice early 90’s cinema. It’s quite beautifully shot as well as having a pretty kick ass looking robot and some really stunning underground locations. I was hoping for a bit more from some of the kills but the strange story is the true highlight. Enough so that this little oddity by it’s end unfolds into something truly unique for it’s time and relative obscurity. Released by Toho, it was originally intended to be a full on horror film for the straight to video Japanese Market. Originally set to be a a zombie horror film having the WWII soldier an undead killer instead of a robot . The day before filming began a child murderer was arrested, who had an open passion for horror films, and it resulted in almost all horror movies being essentially blacklisted from production at the time. The film’s plot was frantically reworked into a “sci-fi” film while still keeping the basic premise intact. That all being said, the changes made I think likely added to the movie’s bizarre but ambitious plot. If you go into the movie with few expectations you’ll find a truly charming little feature that firmly lands it in a league of it’s own for the time.