The Greatest Animated Movies of All Time: 1982’s The Plague Dogs!
I finally checked out an animated movie I’ve been curious about for years! ‘The Plague Dogs’ from 1982 is from the same team who brought us ‘Watership Down’ so if you’re familiar with that you know right off the bat that you’re in for something quite special. Like Watership down The Plague Dogs is hardly a children’s movie, it deals with some pretty damn heavy stuff. We the follow two dogs Snitter (John Hurt) & Rowf (Christopher Benjamin) who’re caged in a lab where they’re continuously abused by scientists for testing purposes.
However one day, one of the “white coats” (as the dog’s call the doctors) accidentally leaves Snitter’s cage door ajar and both him and Rowf escape to the open countryside. In the wild they struggle to find food and shelter and find help from a mischevious fox named the Tod (James Bolam). The three of them go on an epic journey. where the two dogs long to find a new kind family to take them in, but once the Government tell the locals that the two of them are infected with the bubonic plague, it becomes a race for survival as true danger lurks around every corner.
The Plague Dogs goes in some shockingly dark directions, some sequences so surprising I’d paused the movie to double check the rating. Much of it’s admittedly depressing and bleak but done so beautifully with it’s animation and painted backdrops that’s it’s really worth the effort. It’s the morning after and the movie still weighs heavily in my mind so much so that I’d really rank this in the top 10 best animated features I’ve seen. There’s so much heart in it’s characters and by mid point in the movie there’s nothing more I’d wanted than to see these characters get a happy ending. Be warned though, this one doesn’t play out like a Disney movie of the 80’s, no one remains safe here and some of the directions it goes in will literally have you on the edge of your seat. At least it did for me. All that being said I’d wondered who they made this movie for back in the early 1980s, as most kids seeing it might be fully scarred after viewing. I suppose ‘Watership Down’ follows this same formula and has a similar reputation. I’m surprised it took me this long to finally view as it’s clearly in a league of it’s own, one that nearly had me in tears several times, unlike anything I’ve seen in recent years. Continue reading
VHS Verdict: 1988’s Bizarre Horror Fantasy ‘Magic of the Universe’!
1988’s ‘Magic of the Universe’ (Originally released as ‘Salamamgkero’ in 1986) is one HELL of a bizarre horror adventure! Shot in the Philippines and chock full of dark creepy tropical locations, you surely get a lot more than you bargained for with an odd film that clearly must have had a pretty decent budget to work with. The plot itself is pretty sweet & simple, a talented circus magician named Jamir while doing his seemingly routine disappearing act to an eager crowd, accidentally makes his assistant/daughter disappear not only into thin air but from our reality entirely.
Perplexed, Jamir decides to search for answers, heads off in search of a creepy, mysterious shaman whom he’s heard rumor of residing deep in a nearby forest. The Shaman mixes him up a concoction of some sort from the severed head of a monkey (some serious ‘Temple of Doom’ tones here) and then ventures into a danger filled alternate dimension, to try and rescue his lover & kid sidekick who also go missing shortly after his daughter does. I’m guessing the monkey brain drink (some sort of DMT type concentration) opened some sort of portal, enabling Jamir to cross over. Once on the “other side” he discovers his loved one are captives of a powerful witch named “Mikula” who’s got a huge, sweaty pulsating head and commands a grotesque army of freakish animal people minions, swamp monsters and a plethora of gooey, gross things that go bump in the night.
The whole romp is a giant, cheezy ass fever dream, full of fog, colorful yet dark sets draped in blue & pink lighting and of course some unsettling puppet creatures. One in particular is “Globo”, a weird ass gremlin type puppet with a tv screen for a stomach. Globo’s even featured in the opening credits as “himself” as they decided to show every actor in their role, with their characters names in the opening credits of the movie, something you’d expect normally at the very end. There’s so much weird shit going on here once Jamir heads off into the alternate dimension that whatever story it’s supposedly trying to tell becomes utterly lost, making the whole thing seem even more dreamlike with every minute that passes. There’s even a weird ass party / dance scene with a full band that curiously resembles GWAR in all their monster glory. I guess I’d say this flick also brings to mind a more demented & confusing version of ‘Labyrinth’ and I mean that in the best way possible. Also at a lean running time of 84 minutes the pace rarely lags, there’s easily enough eye candy to go around here to keep horror fans guessing what oddities will present themselves next onscreen. It’s main villain, (the witch Mikula) is pretty damn entertaining too, I never got tired at looking at her fleshy bulbous head bubbling and come the end of the movie you get some great gooey, 80’s style neon action in the final battle.
If you’re a fan of weird ass cinema ‘Magic of the Universe’ definitely won’t disappoint, it’s tropical, humid nightmarish sets are worth the price of admission alone. Director Tata Esteban is fully ambitious here with his grand horror fantasy vision, perhaps not the most easy to comprehend but hey, this is a perfect movie to check out with a few too many drinks & a gang of trashy cinefiles on a Saturday nite! No one will need to pay too much attention to plot either! It’s available to watch on Youtube or you can also hunt down the dvd version of the movie on a horror double feature! I’m certain there’s a VHS copy of this one out there somewhere still but it’s probably a challenge to track down. I watched this one from my Netflix DVD service (yeah, I still do that! For movies like this!) Check it out if you’re feelin’ crazy..
An “Old Man Luke Skywalker” One-Off Movie: Would Fans Have Dug It?
I’ve been hearing a lot of explanations recently from Rian Johnson concerning the great divide between Star Wars fans & just why people feel the way they do about ‘The Last Jedi’. The most divisive part of the movie appears to be, hands down, the handling of Luke Skywalker. Sure some hate the Marvel-esque humor recently added to the franchise, some hate the Rose & Finn “Casino Adventure” and of course some did really legitimately love it all. Wherever you stand on this, most do actually agree, they’d have liked Luke Skywalker to have stuck around for a while longer, Rian Johnson however has recently stated the reasoning for killing off Luke was to put the main focus on Rey, Finn & Poe. The legacy characters still, according to him, were standing in the way of the new younger generation. Because we all know of course, that’s what the people really wanted, the younger characters front and center in the spotlight….right? Hmmm…..
I’ve wondered myself for a while if this is indeed actually the truth? Of course there’s plenty of room for a new generation of more hip, younger heroes to take the cinematic Star Wars main stage- That’s a no-brainer. I’m all about that, but still there’s a part of me that wonders if there was still room for an older Luke Skywalker, C-3P0 & R2 in the Star Wars universe? As a long time fan I of course will admit, this new series held a lot of excitement because of the return of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, C-3P0 & R2D2 and then secondly the new characters. As I think about The Last Jedi, as the Blu-Ray is coming out soon I’m curious what fans would have really preferred, Luke to have died or lived on?
I’m seeing a lot of rumors and news lately about the solo anthology films, we’ve got Rogue One in the bucket, Solo on the way, rumors of an Obi-wan solo movie & even murmurs of a young Yoda movie. One thing I think would have been amazing would’ve been a one shot movie similar to the ones planned I mentioned that featured an ‘Old Man Luke Skywalker’ starring Mark Hamill. Imagine if Luke had lived and had a smaller role in Episode 9 but wasn’t killed off. I think an “Old Man Luke” movie might have been a dynamic idea to present afterwards. For instance what if Luke had created a new Jedi academy and embarked on one last epic adventure with a couple of his pupils and of course C-3PO and R2. Hell, you could even add in Finn or Chewy to the movie as supporting characters.
Just because a character is older doesn’t necessarily mean that people are totally done with them. Especially in the year 2018 and especially when dealing with Star Wars. Ash returned in an ‘Evil Dead’ Tv series, Indiana Jones returned & a much older Wolverine & Co returned for one of the best superhero movies ever in 2017’s ‘Logan’ that was based on the hit comic series ‘Old Man Logan’. Fans for the most part have dug them all (Except for Indiana Jones 4 maybe-damn!) My question is would Star Wars fans have returned for a Hamill fronted older Luke flick? Did Disney Star Wars underestimate just how much people still loved Hamill in the role of Luke Skywalker even though he’s now an older Jedi? I think they dropped the ball big time-I think a Hamill fronted Luke solo one shot movie would have crushed at the box office-am I crazy? What do you think?
Comic Review: Quantum Teens Are Go!
I just checked out the debut issue of ‘Quantum Teens Are Go’ out now from Black Mask & as far as first issues go it’s got some pretty good things going for it. The book’s tone is super light hearted (which is a nice break form the grit) and if you’re a fan of those old 80’s teen sci-fi flicks movies like “My Science Project” you’ll likely dig this more updated take on the genre. The story starts out with a bang as our two daring teen characters are raiding a mysterious abandoned research facility in hopes of stealing something special. The place is guarded by robots and soon we see them running for their lives with their high profile stolen goods.
We soon realize the teens are anything but normal as they seem to working on some sort of odd hi-tech machine in their garage carefully adding the mysterious stolen parts to the equation. We also come to find that one of the characters named “Nat” (formerly Brandon) is transitioning to a female gender clearly with some resentment from her parents. Hey boyfriend who’s kinda like a nerdy mad scientist has been hard at work on some sort of time travel machine and his grades are suffering. He’s also got issues with his “parents” who’ve taken him in as their own as we realize something has happened to his real family for unknown reasons as of yet at least to us.
‘Quantum Teens’ has some great modern day teen issues going in the story along with of course a bully in school who’s clearly got a problem with the two and the fact that Nat was once identifying as a boy. It’s got the current atmosphere of the times, which seems to be all the rage in the comics these days fitted in with a sweet little opening to what might just might prove to be an epic time travel adventure. Only problem is they’ve reached a point in their garage based science project that’s got them stumped. So they hit the streets in search of some answers from some pesky bandits who’re in a similar business…
Hence we’re introduced to some other interesting supporting characters, one described as a poor man’s “Matthew Mcconaughey” who’s there to help the teens get their machine in working order. We’ve got a cute, bright and intriguing story set up here in the first issue that looks to be headed for some fun times. I totally dig simple stories like this that have a bit of a throwback feel to them harkening back to similar vibes like “Back to the Future”. The characters are witty, vibrant and the artwork is decent enough. Though this issue didn’t reinvent the wheel it’s a nice fast paced story so far that’s likely to put a smile on your face in these gloomy times as of late. Check it out if you’re looking for something that’s not going to depress the shit out of you!
The Top 10 “Stranded On An Island” Movies….Part 2!!
So my first entry I did on the top ten “stranded on an island” movies has easily been my most popular post here at Universal Dork, sooooo naturally I am giving a sequel to it right here, today! I simply love the idea of being castaway to a remote island, far away from the bustle of everyday life. There’s something about this idea that has always captivated audiences and it remains to be a situation I often think about every damn time I get on an airplane. So let’s not waste any time and get right to one of the most romantic, exciting and frightening movie topics of all time. It’s time to take a look at the other movies that deserve to be on this epic list!
10. Swept Away, 2002
Yeah this list is going to have some cheezy ass movies on it and this one here is a guilty please to start it off. It’s also likely the most well known of the bunch. Of course this movie was a box office mega bomb and totally panned by the critics.
However if you’re looking for a fun time on a stranded island with the legendary icon Madonna then look no further!
9. The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, 1980
Here’s an interesting Disney movie with Silver Spoons star Ricky Schroder – Bonus right there folks! It seems that Disney was all in on the whole desert island theme as this was just one of quite a few that follow a similar storyline.
While this movie isn’t bound to blow your mind it’s got a pretty cool premise of flipping a B-29 bomber over on it’s back and sailing it to civilization! Continue reading
Comic Review: Rise of the Black Flame #1
Rise of the Back Flame #1 is another totally solid debut straight from the Mignolaverse. This one traces the origins of the legendary villain, The black Flame from the pages of Hellboy/BPRD and gives us an excellent set up for an intriguing jungle horror adventure that I’m sure Indiana Jones would most certainly sign up for. The setting is Burma and there’s been a series of disappearances of young girls that the locals believe to be the devilish work of a near by cult.
On the case are two Brittish detectives who’re on the case searching for clues, quickly meet Sarah Jewell and Marie-Therese Lafleur who tell them they’ve got an expedition set up to find the Temple of the Black Flame. Sarah Jewell goes on to tell them of some of her incredible supernatural adventures she’s shared with The Witchfinder himself Sir Edward Grey. I’m getting the feeling we’ll be seeing much more of these characters in the future of the Mignolaverse….if they can survive this expedition that is.
Here we have again everything I love about reading comics, grand adventure set in exotic locales with a supernatural mystery brewing. Like I’ve said before Mignola’s books to me are the best on the scene, whether it be Hellboy, BPRD, Witchfinder or Lobster Johnson. They’re always a helluva great time to read and are all connected by a deep lore that’s been running strong for decades. So here we have the opening of another chapter in the saga and a true prequel for fans of the villain of the BPRD’s ‘Hell on Earth’. I’m certainly going to be back for issue #2 as it’s bound to be filled with some excellent storytelling and some creepy jungle adventure, for a good time check out this debut!
Comic Book Cover of the Week: Adventure the Dungeons with Peter Hsu!
Back in 1986 a cool little series came out from Aricel / Adventure Comics for those D&D nerds called The Adventurers! It was a great comic book jam packed with swords, sorcery, monsters galore and yeah…ninjas. My brother collected this series and though I was a Marvel & DC kid at the time I’d often sneak his much more daring and graphic indie comics any chance he’d leave the house. It was interesting as a kid learning that there indeed was more out there than the “big two”. This rad cover is from the first issue of The Adventurers by Peter Hsu and make no mistake each issue had incredible painted covers. I’m going to have to dig these out again cuz I’m feeling the need for some serious adventures lately!
VHS Verdict: The Further Adventures of Tennessee Buck!
I’m always and I mean ALWAYS down for an Indiana Jones rip off movie! There are a few out there that reared their heads back in the 80’s and this week I had the pleasure to find “The Further Adventures of Tennessee Buck” on vhs and give it a watch. This one’s actually pretty damn entertaining, if you can get past some of it’s non PC-ness that would today surely have people in a wildly frantic uproar. Basically what we have here is a kind of Indiana Jones meets Romancing The Stone meets Crocodile Dundee with less of budget and a far more crude trashy style to it. That being said the flick actually visits some pretty awesome locations and it’s sets are top notch as well, which is always nice for a movie trying to rip off Indy!
This one has a little star power too with David Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman) in the lead swashbuckling role also directed this one and Sydney Lassick (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). Yeah Tennessee Buck is a crude dude alright, a boozing, womanizing jungle guide who’s hired by a young yuppie couple named (Barbie & Ken) to help them find and hunt a white tiger. The woman just happens to be Kathy Shower, former Playboy playmate of the year, so I knew there was going to be some senseless nudity in this one and boy is there a ton of that here! I also knew that she’d most likely leave her husband for Buck and though I was right the way it played out was like nothing i was expecting!
But the movie actually took some odd twists and turns that in a way shocked me a bit. Tennessee Buck starts out as a comedy but around it’s third act it gets pretty dark suddenly. Characters endure some things that seem quite out of place with the movies otherwise fun loving, wisecracking vibe. I guess it’s what you expect when they become pursued by a crazed band of headhunters with a horny chieftan as it’s leader.
This one kinda played out a bit like “The Last American Virgin” which started out like Porky’s and ended up a bit of perplexing shocker. Buck here is an odd movie that’s most definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of the jungle adventure style movies, trashy 80’s schlock & weird out of place plot twists!
Grand Holiday Adventure With The Krampus?!! You Bet!
Ho Ho Ho & the horror of it all! I just finished the novel “Krampus: The Yule Lord” by Brom the other evening and it was an awesome holiday journey! Now this could in fact be old news to a lot of you out there, but I was only recently turned on to Brom by way of this here book. Even though I LOVE the Krampus mythology to death I wasn’t quite sure about delving into the book until I read one of the endorsements on the back cover by easily one of my favorite comic book writers and artists of all time, Mike Mignola. Yeah the man most well known for Hellboy was quoted saying “Terrific. A wild ride–the idea sounded like a stretch and I’m not sure how many guys could have really pulled it off, but Brom sure has. I loved it. It hooked me and I couldn’t put it down. Plus, the illustrations are amazing.”
At that moment I knew I was going to love this book to death. Turns out Mignola was dead on (of course), the book is simply an incredible epic ride. It reads more like a comic book and in my mind I had grand visions of Guillermo Del Toro adapting this one to film. It tells a the story of a man named Jesse who’s a down on his luck, boozin’ musician in West Virginia who lives in a trailer and longs to win the love of his ex-wife and daughter back. On Christmas eve though this year, after a night of drinking he spots something quite strange in the sky above, what appears to be “Santa” flying in his sleigh trying to fight off some sort of demonic men. As Jesse is no believer in Santa, he’s downright perplexed until this sleigh from the sky crashes nearby and he’s face to face in the dead of a cold winter’s night with the creatures himself. As he fights for his life he also stumbles upon something else that has fallen from the mysterious sleigh, an odd bag that seemingly has no bottom to it.
This begins a tale full of mystery, monsters, folklore and grand adventure. Don’t be fooled by the whole “Santa Claus” aspect of it though, this isn’t a kid’s book by any means. This story is filled to the brim with gore, scares, suspense and foul backwoods language. It’s also got a some great twists and turns in the plot that will have you guessing ’til the very end. And it doesn’t hurt that Brom has a truly unique way with words that puts you right there in all of the creepy action as he paints the perfect picture quite literally. Yes, Brom is also quite an amazing artist getting his start with Dungeons & Dragons way back in the day(yeah how cool is that!), this book has some truly breathtaking art within. I’m eagerly awaiting checking out more of this guy’s work.
I’ve gotta say it- now is the time to pick this book up it’s a must read this holiday season and appeared first back in 2012. Once you jump into the first chapter you won’t be able to stop reading, especially if you’re a fan of Christmas horror and Krampus mythos. The story is huge, Brom did his homework on the vast Krampus folklore but it’s kept to a very personal level following Jesse (who I picture in my head as kind of like Nick Stahl in Carnivale every time the character opens his mouth). I hope Mignola adapts this to comic book form or someone picks this up as a movie. I’d love to say more about this book but alas I wouldn’t dare want to spoil all of the surprises-Pick this up now, grab some spiked egg nog, a candy cane and curl up by the fire this season you won’t be disappointed! The Krampus is on the move this holiday season!! Here’s a cool interview with Brom:
New Norwegian Movie “Ragnarok” Gives Indiana Jones a Run for His Money?!
Check out this awesome looking trailer for the upcoming Norwegian adventure flick Ragnarok! This one looks like a ton of fun and has that old Amblin style Goonies type adventure thing going on. I wish there were more movies these days that could pull off this style of film. So far this one seems like it hits on all cylinders and has been described as an adventure that “Indiana Jones in his prime could never quite achieve” by Twitch Film.
There’s no release date yet here in the USA but Magnolia pictures recently acquired the right so we shouldn’t have to wait to long. The plot sound like a great time too: ‘When the archaeologist Sigurd can’t settle on the myth about Ragnarok, the end of the world in Northern mythology, he decides to go on an expedition together with two colleges and his two kids. This adventure leads them to Finnmark in the Northern most part of Norway, and into “No mans land” between Russia and Norway, where no one has been in modern times. Old runes gets new meanings, when they unveil the truth. A truth bigger and more spectacular than you would have dreamed.” Be on the lookout for this one!