Now this was welcome surprise to brighten up the dark days here, a recently unearthed Cynthia Rothrock KFC Commercial from the 1980s! I just saw this today and just having watch the ultra weird 1990 Hong Kong adventure fantasy flick “Prince of the Sun” she starred in made my day!
Anyway if you don’t know who Cynthia is and you’re a fan of 80’s & 90’s action movies or someone who thinks the “strong female lead” in movies is some new phenomenon, you’d better track down some of her movies. You’ll get a heavy dose of wild martial arts action and plenty of bone breaking stunts! She did some sweet lesser know Hong Kong productions early on in her career that are also a blast. Anyway check her out as she sells her soul to Colonel Sanders!!!
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.
I’m not real familiar with with Indonesian cinema, but last night I watched a dvd (yeah a DVD folks!!!!) I got in the mail from Netflix that’s been in my queue for well over a year. The 1984 Swords and Sorcery fantasy martial arts adventure, ‘The Devil’s Sword’ from director Ratno Timoer. I really didn’t have any expectations, in fact I was fully prepared to turn this one off after 10 minutes, however that was most definitely not the case. Nope! Instead The Devil’s Sword immediately won me over with some impressive joyfully bad choreographed magical martial arts battles taking place in a truly stunning exotic jungle location. If you’re a fan of cheezy fantasy movies from the 1980’s then this one’s gonna be right up your damn alley. It’s also alerted me to the Indonesian action star Barry Prima, maybe I’m late to the Prima party, but a quick look on Letterboxd at his filmography revealed what appears to be an overload of action, fantasy, horror hybrid gems just waiting to be leaped into.
This one has pretty much got it all, wildly stupid martial arts, sword battles, magic, monsters, babes & hunks galore! All of it 100% ridiculous, macho man Barry Prima stars as “Mandola”, basically “Rambo the barbarian” looking remarkably similar to Sly Stallone (with a smooth fully stupid dub track that seems like it might even enhance viewing pleasures). He’s also got a radical bad ass female co star, who right out of the gates lays a smackdown on a gang o’ goons & who aids the mighty Mandola in his epic quest to destroy a wicked witch, the sultry and seductive Crocodile queen! She’s indeed quite a woman and has tons of male sex servants one of them the kidnapped husband of Mandola’s female ally! She’s also got a gang of some of the worst, most idiotic looking, crocodile/human minions that really just have to be seen to be believed. Some of these fights too go on for way, way too long but in that sort of “They Live” sorta way. I mean check this out if you think I’m full of shit!
Mandola ends up on this epic quest when some of The Crocodile Queen’s assassins injure his master’s legs and he himself is forced to saw them off! The Devil’s Sword definitely doesn’t skimp on some wild gore either, limbs and heads are chopped off, accompanied by sprays of blood. There’s also a dab of indiana Jones thrown in as Mandola explores caverns filled with hordes of bats and one supremely stupid looking giant cyclops! I guess they were lucky that Indonesia is such a beautiful place, because some of the locales add a solid a layer of legitimacy to the whole experience, suddenly I’m eyeing Indonesia as a future dream vacation.
The Devil’s Sword has really energized an interest in not only the country but also in some of the wild cinema it had to offer back in the 70’s & 80’s as well as a strong curiosity in it’s main man, Barry Prima! Check this flick out, it’s the perfect watch with a case of beer and some friends to enjoy all the unintentional wackiness strewn about the screen. There’s a dvd out there that Mondo Macabro put out years ago I think you can still snatch, or hey if you’re like me just put it on the dvd by mail list from Netflix!
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.
I’ve been hearing lately that the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie franchise is going to again be rebooted after the shit show of the Michael Bay era of the reptilian heroes in a half shell. So it sparked me to revisit the original 1990 movie the other night which I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years or so. I was amazed at how well that movie has aged, seeing it in theaters back in the day I’d enjoyed it but kind of dismissed it as “kid stuff” at the time as my older brother in the 1980’s collected the original indie comic series and I’d had the chance to read them as a kid. If you’re aware of the TMNT early beginnings you’ll remember that it started off as a dark, gritty & violent comic series. I was blown away back then at the sheer oddity of the characters and the equally bizarre story lines of the originals. When I decided to revisit the 1990 TMNT film I’d forgotten just how dark that original movie actually is, especially considering today’s climate of safe moviemaking. The movie is almost closer to an R-rating than it’s original rating of PG. There’s kids smoking & drinking alcohol, robbing people, the foot beating up April O’neil, Raphael beaten into a near coma by The Foot and a badly beaten and bloodied up Splinter strung to a fence. It’s actually a pretty dark and gritty movie with the addition of the comedic surfer dude Turtles to lighten things up.
So currently we’ve got these new “TMNT” flicks, a big bloated Michael Bay produced, soul-less mess of CGI, uninspired storytelling and poor character development. The current franchise just hasn’t been connecting with fans the way they’d hoped, mainly with the amount of money that the films have made. Now they’ve got plans for a brand new reboot and it’s never been more clear just what this franchise needs to do: go old school.
So first off let’s address the obvious big issue, imo the latest Michael Bay era CGI Turtles look terrible. They’re massive 8 foot tall green hulking humanoid turtles with creepy ass faces and not in a good way. Compare the newest incarnations with the very original designs. They couldn’t be more opposite. Even the Turtles of the 1990 movie do essentially look pretty much like what you’d hope for, sure they’ve been made much cuter but they stay fairly true to the original vision. So let’s face the facts, the original designs of the 80’s weren’t broken so why try and modernize them by making them the opposite of what they were intended to look like? Bring back the smaller classic versions of these characters, go simpler with their general design. It’s a lot easier to digest and most definitely not rocket science folks.
Next I’d say you could go the similar route that many movies are taking by making the next movie a direct sequel to the original or at least setting the movie in the late 80s’ or early 90’s, it’s clear people love that era of film today (Stranger Things, IT anyone?). That being said bring back the suits!! Put real actors in real costumes with modern day animatronics the Turtles could look absoluterly mind blowing. The 1990 movie Turtles STILL look great and that was with a micro budget of 13.5 million dollars for the whole damn film. What they could do now would be incredible, we all want to believe that the TMNT are actually living breathing creatures and the latest movies sadly look like fakey cgi rendered cartoon characters inserted into the “real world”.
Lets get real here and let’s keep the budget low, we don’t need a TMNT movie to be on the scale of an Avengers film, we need a smaller more personal, more heartfelt movie with high stakes like the original. Next let’s get some real martial arts, real choreography and some real stunts again. One thing that blew me away revisting the 1990 movie was the actual real on screen martial arts that were displayed, it was pretty amazing actually and I’d love to see something in that vein in a brand new Turtles movie. It’d be like nothing out there in the mainstream that’s for sure. Lastly I’d love to see a darker more serious storyline, of course an “R-rated Turtles” movie would be my first choice, one that evokes the original comics would be absolutely insane. However, I know that’ll never happen so I think at the very least going as dark as the original movie would be more than good enough. Let’s see the Turtles roaming the city streets at night, jumping from rooftop to rooftop and roaming the dank sewers. Bring on the amazing real life set pieces, puppets and crazy creatures once again, I think fans would go bonkers for a throwback style TMNT. However I doubt Hollywood has the courage to try something as unique and inspired as the original movie. What do you think?!
I had the stupid pleasure of checking out ‘Kick or Die’ a karate infused thriller from 1987 I found on VHS a couple nights ago and damn was it jam packed with a boatload of dumb shit to revel at. Basically what we got here is a psycho serial rapist who’s preying upon women at college campus and to solve the ongoing problem they hire a karate expert with PTSD to come to the campus and teach the women how to kick…..OR DIE! Yeah, this one also has a secondary sub plot with one of the college girls on campus trying to become a superstar pop singer, good thing that the karate expert teacher dude who she quickly falls in love with has friends in high places! Yeah he knows another big shot karate expert who owns a powerhouse record company!
Anyway I got ahead of myself, let me back up a bit, so things naturally get a bit crazy when PTSD karate guy arrives on the campus, it seems trouble follows this guy everywhere as naturally an evil punk ass motorcycle gang arrives pretty much the second he gets there to beat everyone up in the campus restaurant. So karate teacher dude steps in on the action and “kicks” their asses and in doing so pretty much demolishes the small business owners restaurant, but it’s the 80’s and people are usually fine with that! We’ve got a ton of absurdly ridiculous characters here in this one, for instance the biker gang dudes are way way over the top and of course make another appearance later coincidentally at the most inopportune moment.
The main character karate guy is really given his share of overly dramatic layers as a character as well and his sensual “chemistry’ with the pop star college girl feels fully forced in a great way. The movie at one point seems to almost abandon the whole psycho rapist plot entirely with a new side plot of the college girl’s sudden rise to fame as a potential pop superstar. But don’t fret it’s all part of Kick or Die’s bigger better plotline that’s sure to shock viewers at the film’s stunning finale….
This one also has some plot points that clearly wouldn’t be very well received in today’s climate of things, the villain of the movie is described as early on as a “black male” and mentioned again several times again in the movie that way. The psycho guy is a vile over the top filthy talkin’ monster of a man, so much so that it’s pretty hard to take any of his words or actions presented onscreen seriously. With all that being said, things take quite an interesting turn near the third act with a bonafide d-level M Night Shyamalan style twist that turns the movie upside down in a pretty ridiculous way. Actually if you stay with it to the end you’re likely to have a completely different view of the movie’s intentions as a whole. It really does make this one stand out a little more from the sheer absurdity of it. There’s some decent, dumb, over the top action & kung fu fights along the way as well, one confrontation with the college frat boys and PTSD karate teacher guy is pretty awesome to behold. For stupid movies this one’s a gem, it’s got a good fast pace to it and rarely loses steam with it’s ridiculous plot. If you’re searching for a fun, dumb movies to watch with a group of friends this one’s worth hunting down for sure. The title too, ‘Kick or Die” I must admit is pretty damn excellent as well…
I’m super duper pumped about the recent addition to the “Phase 4” of Marvel’s cinematic universe, they’ll indeed be introducing none other than Shang Chi: The Master of Kung Fu to audiences around the globe! This really did kinda catch me by surprise, I mean who’d have ever thought Shang-Chi would get his own blockbuster film? I understand the Black Panther, as he’s easily in my opinion, one of Marvel’s most iconic, at least to any real collector of superhero comics. He’s a legend. However Shang-Chi (who as a kid I was a collector of his titles) is a pretty obscure character whom I never thought got enough credit. He’s been around though since the early 70’s and was Marvel’s direct reaction to the popularity of Bruce Lee.
Now in 2018 Shang-Chi once again has an advantage, as Marvel searches for it’s next big hit, cashing in at the box office on diversity in their movies, they’re aiming at lightning striking again with a movie that features an all Asian cast & director in a similar fashion as the Black Panther. I’d have been more impressed honestly if Marvel had introduced The Black Panther movie years before it’s release in 2018, but it seemed like they waited until the right time though to make as much money as possible with diversity being a hot topic. That being said better late than never for The Black Panther and now Shang-Chi I guess.
So being a fan of the greatest martial artist in the MCU I’m hoping they do indeed pull this one off and pull the character into the A-List category! What do we want from a “Master of Kung Fu” movie? Well how about the exact opposite of what we got from the Iron Fist series? This movie needs to bring on a superhuman kung fu spectacle unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Iron Fist was a giant disappointment, it’s terrible fight sequences/choreography, mixed with it’s ultra bland plot & unappealing lead character made for a truly tough series to sit that many hours through. Shang-Chi should be a full on action adventure movie, something like a mix up of Indiana Jones & Enter The Dragon but with the most insane martial arts battles put to screen, To pull this off they need someone who’s a true veteran to do the choreography/directing duties like Wilson Yip of the ‘Ip Man’ franchise or the legendary Sammo Hung. Continue reading
So the news just dropped that the Netflix Iron Fist series has officially been axed. I can’t say I’m sad about the news, but what I can say I’m sad about’s how badly they dropped the ball on what should have been a live action series that set a new bar for hyperactive kung fu mayhem. Not only did the series NOT deliver the impressive kung fu choreography I’d hoped for, but it was actually some of the most uninspired melee combat I’ve seen put to screen in quite some damn time. As I’ve said before, this show had the potential to feature Danny Rand as one of the best superhuman combatants (Let’s not forget about Shang Chi too) the world has ever seen. Rand should’ve been doing crazy ass stunts, breaking bones left n’ right and flexing his Iron Fist power on the bad guys like it was nobody’s goddamn business!
Instead we got a seriously weak ass plot, an annoying, whiny version of the character and some pretty pathetic action sequences. We never even got Iron Fist in his actual costume either, which in the end is a good thing cuz I don’t wanna watch some craptastic kung fu being performed by a dude wearing the classic IF duds. Add in some utterly forgettable villains and the supporting character of Colleen Wing being more bad ass and like-able than the series’ lead and you’ve got a major problem that finally caught up to leading to it’s ultimate demise. It actually blows my mind that some of these comic book adaptations can have such a hard time coming up with something fans would dig, Iron Fist should have been an easy sell. Somehow out of touch people in the industry always seem to think they know better than the fans? What gives with that these days?!
Anyway the good thing about the show being cancelled is that we don’t have to endure the torture of watching an epic character like Iron Fist being drug through the mud any more. Though it was a true utter failure, this actually frees things up somewhat for the superhero. Though it’s likely that we won’t see another season of the character, as reported we’ll maybe see Danny Rand making cameos in other Marvel Netflix shows, I think that it might eventually lead to a new Iron Fist altogether. Look how fast other properties get the reboot treatment-Spider-man, Fantastic Four, Hulk and most recently Joaquin Phoenix as The Joker. So why not Danny Rand?!
A reboot in this case, in the form of a movie would be exactly what I’d love to come to fruition, one that takes an entirely new approach. I’d love to see Iron Fist portrayed by someone who’s got the real skills and choreographed by someone who’s ready to knock kung fu fan’s socks off. I’d posted before how the Iron Fist action sequences should have been something more like Tony Jaa’s stunning performance in “The Protector”, for one second imagine Tony had a cool Iron Fist costume on in this scene:
So Yeah I’m glad Iron Fist is over for now, bummed they fucked it up so bad, but hey eventually someone who knows how to make excellent kung fu action on screen AND provide a compelling story for the character WILL indeed come along to give Rand some redemption, at least for now we can hope for that. Now at least I don’t have to sit through another 10 hours of mediocre / subpar Netflix “superhero” programming…..
One of the most wild & unpredictable filmmakers of all time hands down has got to be Hong Kong’s Lam Ngai Kai aka Lam Nai-choi, Most well known for his mega cult classic ‘RIKI-OH/The Story of Riki’ it’s clear this guy is, in my opinion one of the most underrated directors in the horror genre. Imagine if Sam Raimi made movies as consistently awesome as the Evil Dead trilogy, well that’s a good way to sum up this guy’s catalogue of crazy ass films. I’ve been fully surprised at how many people love ‘Riki-Oh’ yet aren’t familiar with anything else this guy’s done.
It probably doesn’t help that he completely disappeared off the movie map in 1992 for unknown reasons. Perhaps he realized he’d unlikely ever be able to top the craziness of his back catalogue of bizarre flicks. I’d love to know what he’s up to today and what I’d love even more would be his return to filmmaking. There’s however, literally zero info on why he stopped his film career and what the dude’s been up to these days. That being said let’s take a quick look at some of his coolest flicks you may not have even known existed! First if you’ve never seen Riki-Oh from 1991 it’s easily one of the wildest action/horror hybrid movies out there and totally on par with the awesomeness of Evil Dead 2. It features some of the most over the top action/gore of all time:
Next is another equally crazy ass flick from 1986 called ‘The Seventh Curse‘ which is like Indiana Jones on acid fighting monsters and exploring some truly epic locations. It features Chow Young Fat in a small role and continues with totally frantic action sequences that never slows it’s pace right to the very end. A true hidden gem of a movie that many 80’s horror fans have completely missed out on over the years. Seek this out asap as it’s more proof this guy’s got chops on par with the likes of early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi & Don Coscarelli.
Kai’s got more under his belt too if you want another horror adventure that’s a true spectacle to behold check out ‘The Peacock King‘ from 1988. A totally unique movie that’s also a full on FX extravaganza. This one literally utilizes nearly every 80’s special fx in the book, from stop motion monsters, to animatronic creatures etc. etc. etc. you name it, this movie will take you on tour of the bizarre set to a super fun, dark yet equally light hearted adventure. Check it out: Continue reading
So last night I got a sneak peak of the first two upcoming episodes of Youtube Red’s new series ‘Cobra Kai’ AND ‘The Karate Kid’ side by side on the big screen! Yeah, I’ve been super pumped about the new series as The Karate Kid still remains in my top five favorite movies of the 1980’s and maybe even of all time. I like it that much, so as a big fan I’m gonna give it to you straight. The first two episodes of Cobra Kai are everything you’d hope them to be and then some especially if you’re a fan of the original 80’s classic. If you’ve somehow never seen The Karate Kid, you really should do so first to fully appreciate this series, but if not I still think it’s got just as much to offer to those who don’t know the history of the franchise. Here’s some of the basic story set up in the first two episodes without spoiling anything, as a good deal of the stuff I’m about to tell you about the plot is in the trailers for the show…
Original stars/rivals Ralph Macchio as ‘Daniel LaRusso’ & William Zabka as ‘Johnny Lawrence’ return and both look amazing in 2018. In fact they look so eerily similar to the way they did in the 80’s at times it’s a bit surreal. The story here picks up in the present day & former high school mega bully karate champion Johnny is no longer the rich “cool guy” he was back in the 80’s. He’s a jaded, down on his luck alcoholic who still spends a fair amount of his days reminiscing about the glory days of his high school years. Despite all of that from the very opening he also displays he can kick ass just like he used to just as well. He ends up accidentally saving a high school kid from a major ass kicking from a bunch of bullies. Not out of the kindness of his heart but because they’ve possible messed up his 80’s sports car in the process of doing so. Continue reading