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,
Here’s something else inspiring on the Star Wars front, as everyone’s talking about ‘The Mandalorian’ lately and how damn good it is, we’re getting more cool fan content that simply needs to be seen at this point. As a fan of the Timothy Zahn Star Wars book trilogy from the early 90’s, (the one which many fans had considered the real episodes 7-9 for many years), we get another animated episode from Darth Angelus chronicling, the first installment, Heir to the Empire!!
If you’re a fan of the original trilogy, were underwhelmed with the Disney sequel trilogy, love The Mandalorian and never read those ‘Zahn’ Star Wars books, then I highly suggest checking them out to get the ultimate old school fix of Star Wars! OR simply start with this cool fan animated series! Recently Darth Angelus dropped episode 9 of Heir to the Empire, choosing to render it in the vein of ‘The Clone Wars’ & ‘Rebels series’. With all the hype of Grand Admiral Thrawn from Mando season 2, episode 5, I recommend giving the animated ‘Heir to the Empire’ a look! Thrawn’s on track to be the next live action Darth Vader so get hip to his true origins!! Here’s the new episode:
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 Ehrenreich” the 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!
‘Hiruko The Goblin’ from 1990 has got to be one of the best horror movies from Japan I’ve ever seen. It hits all the right beats for me in what I personally love from the late 80’s early 90’s genre movies. Directed by the iconic Shinya Tsukamoto, most well known for his epic, bizarre cyber punk horror oddity ‘Tetsuo: the Iron Man’ he delivers another slam dunk here a couple years after with this. However, this particular movie of his has gotten a lot of criticism for being so totally different from ‘Tetsuo’. Haruko spends more time on character development, humor and over the top monsters, as well as a heavy dose of heart. For me this is a much better formula than the grimy bleak mood of most of this directors other work.
This plays out way more like ‘Evil Dead 2’ meets ‘The Ghostbusters’ then his cyberpunk Cronenbergian/ David Lynch tinged outings. The story is simple yet truly bizarre: a school has literally been built on a gate to Hell behind which hordes of demons await the moment they will be freed to wreak havoc on the physical plane. Hiruko is a powerful and cunning creature sent to Earth on a reconnaissance mission, he decapitates humans in order to assemble their heads on demonic spider like bodies and command them to do his wicked deeds. Eventually this gory predicament falls into the lap of an archaeology professor, who’s dramn to the abandoned school during summer time to investigate the supernatural shenanigans and stop this demonic onslaught.
One of my favorite aspects of this movie are the two protagonists a teenage high school student and his odd demon-lore obsessed archeologist uncle. When the boy’s father goes missing while exploring the caverns beneath the school, his eccentric uncle arrives on the scene to help him search the school armed with some nifty demon busting equiptment. From here it leads them on an epic surreal journey facing off with creatures in the creepy empty corridors of the school. It also explores family dynamics, all with a slightly light-hearted comedic edge to it amidst the mayhem.
The other big star of the show here is most definitely the special-effects showcased, if you’re a fan of 80s monster movies this one will definitely be right up your alley Hiruko and his minions are a true sight to behold and the director uses almost every 80’s style effect in the book to bring them to life. From animatronics to stop motion animation, it’s all here and the creepy aesthetics and setting of the film are the perfect place for this all to unfold. Also the movie’s got a relatively lean run time I’d less than 90 minutes, so it’s not something that’s going to put you to sleep. A true visual treat as well, with a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s ambitious horror film from what I consider the tail end of the golden age of the genre that more audiences in the U.S.A need to view. A cross between Ghostbusters, Evil Dead II, Poltergeist & The Thing done by way of Japanese brilliance. Also a perfect movie for this Halloween season that you might not have seen before! Physical copies of this can be pricey and hard to track down but I’m certain it must be streaming somewhere?! This need a deluxe blu ray release badly!!
Bring. Back. Hamill. There I said it, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and now that I’ve accepted the fact that in reality Disney “Star Wars” is really nothing more than big budget fan fiction, my feelings on the sequel trilogy aren’t quite as enraging as they once were. That being said, I was pondering the one major thing most disgruntled fans were livid about in the “Sequel” trilogy and it’s hands down the portrayal & underwhelming demise of Luke Skywalker. I don’t need to explain anything at this point, it’s been talked to death over the last couple years. However I think you could really soften the blow of the “Sequels” if one bold move with a Disney Plus mini series, bring back Luke Skywalker from the Force in the flesh for one final curtain call.
Ok, of course I know it sounds like a total long shot but why let the opportunity pass by without giving Luke a one last real adventure, with Hamill in the damn role?! Lets say, something like a 4 episode series like the proposed Obi Wan show? What if Luke had unfinished business, learned that he could return from The Force or was pushed back out of it against his will? We could finally have one last real adventure with him, R2, 3P0, Chewy, Lando and maybe a sequel character or new ones altogether? Is the Disney Star Wars universe really better without Luke in the flesh? Perhaps the series could go deeper into the lore of The Force entirely, focusing on more of the mystery behind it in a dimension jumping adventure?
Luke being forced to wield a lightsaber once again, perhaps living his older years on the physical plain? Something akin to the ‘Picard’ show but with more action and a more compelling reason for Luke to return? Maybe he gives up his right of entry back once he returns? What if he returned to reunite or help Mara Jade, perhaps she’s out there still and he was unaware of it? The possibilities for an ‘Old Man Luke’ mini series could be very compelling and it’d be a great way to right the wrongs of the sequel trilogy. It’d be a wonderful way to continue the current timeline having Hamill return for what fans were truly hoping for. I think it’d be the most epic tale and it’s a shame that our limited time with the character in the “sequels” was such a disappointment, so there’s still time to correct the Luke Skywalker problem, but it’d be a bold move. As it’s really just all fan fiction without Lucas, I’d see no harm in letting Luke come back for one last REAL adventure-what fan would not have a total blast with this? C’mon Disney make it happen, the Star Wars universe is a more exciting place with Master Luke getting to walk among the living one last time!! Let’s get this idea out there!!! Below is the one scene from The Last Jedi that imo makes the case for more Mark Hamill as Old Man Luke…
It’s come to my attention that Wilfred Brimley has sadly passed away, many knew him as simply the man telling us all to check our blood sugar in those vintage diabetes awareness commercials. However the truth is he starred in the fourth greatest Star Wars movie, ‘Ewoks: The Battle for Endor’. That is not a joke either and many others have also agreed when it actually comes to the Star Wars movies recently after much deliberation. It turns out that in reality, after the original trilogy, 1985’s ‘The Battle for Endor’ is indeed not only better than the Prequel Trilogy but also superior as well to all of the Disney “Star Wars” films.
Wilfred co-starred in the movie along with Warwick Davis (Wicket) for the George Lucas penned epic adventure, which I hope some day gets a blu ray release. Again, I am not kidding, ‘The Battle for Endor’ has aged extremely well, so much so that John Favreau even put a nod to the movie in The Mandalorian. Wilfred starred as Noa Briqualon and aided the Ewoks in an epic battle against evil forces. Wilfred also had an iconic role in 1982’s epic monster movie ‘The Thing’ & also another of my favorite 80’s films ‘Cocoon’. Wilfred had been sick for two months with a kidney ailment and his fight finally ended today. He was an icon in his own right and even appeared in a cool 90’s alien horror movie I just watched for the first time a few nights ago, ‘Progeny’. Rest in peace Wilfred and thanks again for your role in the 4th BEST Star Wars film of all time…..
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:
The world is a crazy place right now, so you might want to take a moment to disconnect from the madness just for a minute to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of ROBOCOP!!! Ok that is all for today!! You may now go back to the regular scheduled programming!
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.